Sunday, October 25, 2009

How the letters got from the box to the blog

It is interesting to me how these letters have traveled in the last few months. For 60 some years they have sat in boxes at my grandparents house or at my parents and then lastly at my sister's house in Tennessee. I brought them home in May and started copying them and reading them, not quite sure what to do with them. Then a friend of ours Becky Richman decided to take a change of direction in her life and came back to Las Cruces for the summer as she was figuring out which way to go. Having time and better keyboarding skills than I do we made an agreement on her typing up the letters, so many each week. I was glad that she finished the project before she moved on.
Next I thought that maybe I could do an article for Friends Journal, using parts of the letters and I tried it but the letters seemed to want to stick together, so now I have started the blog, which seems to be working well. My goal is to post twice a week. So below is the third letter from Coshocton which includes an interesting discription of an evening of entertainment at the camp.


August 29, 1942

C.P.S #23
Coshocton, Ohio
Aug. 29, 1942

Dear folkses,

It hasn’t been long since I wrote to you but I thought of a lot I forgot. Some things I wanted you to send me. I’ll bet I keep you sending me stuff for the duration. You’ll run out of things I forgot tho. Well, you see, I’m working in the kitchen washing stuff and we scrub the floor every day and the little room where we wash the pans and dishes we wash down after each meal so my shoes are wet all the time. I though if you could send me my old zipper overshoes I could get a lot of good out of them and save my shoes too. So if you can find a box and send them as soon as you can I’ll appreciate it a lot.

The other things I forgot is about the money it costs me. I guess it is supposed to go through Ella B. so Papa can just give her a check each month and have her send it in my name and then the cirtificate can be made out to me. I understand it is to be given just like any other contribution to C.P.S. I sent Ella the 35 that I brought with me and maybe she told you all about it.

Say father, that was sure a nice long letter you wrote me I let Ab read some of that about Chick and Claud. He got a big kick out of it. You asked about the examination. We had one allright but it wasn’t quite as good as the Jeff Drs. gave and that isn’t much. We were examined the next afternoon after we got here and got our typhoid shots and small pox vaccination which I didn’t need. The first typhoid shot made me real sick for a couple of hours but the rest just made me a little tired and gave me a stiff arm. Some of the fellows said that they had very good examinations before they left home. A couple of them were “X”-rayed several times in hopes that the bord wouldn’t have to send them.

I’m learning. I washed out my wash pants and that light jacket and pressed my pants myself. One of the fellows that work in the laundry pressed the jacket, we get one shirt each week ironed for us and I had worn a “T” shirt that didn’t need to be ironed so the owed me an ironing. The washing machine is sort of hard on good things so they say that’s why I washed them out by hand.

I will probably have several P.s.s so I’ll leave this letter open till Mon. when I send it.

They changed the address to Coshocton cause they have to go there every day any way for something or to buy groceries, so we are going to get our mail there now. All Fresno mall goes through Coshocton anyway so they will probably stop all C.P.S. mail anyway even if it is addressed Fresno.


P.S. Sun, 4:00 P.M.

I’d like to tell you a little about the recreational program they had last night. They always have something on Sat. night. They had a indoor track meet, that’s what they called it. All games to represent different events in the track meet, on was the “furlong race” We had 8 teams and each team entered 2 people. Then they measured the combined length of the two contestants hair, get it? No one know what it was till they started to measure and the team that won had entered two girls that happened by be visiting their boyfriends or husdbands. On weekends there are always a half a dozen or so girls visiting. There were about 100 people in on the games most of them boys of course, can you imagine 80 or 90 boys ranging in age from 22 to over 30 really enjoying playing games like that? The big feature of the evening was the auction. There had been a lot of clothes accumulating at the laundery that had no mark on them so they auctioned them off. Most of them sold from 10 to 40 cents, and some of them good too. There were a couple of pairs of girl’s slacks and a pair of silk stockings, no one knew how they got there. Then we went to the dinning room and had grahm crackers and milk and all-day suckers too. After that some of the fellows got to singing and about 50, I’d say, stayed till 11:30 I sure enjoyed the singing even tho I didn’t know a lot of the songs. That many boys singing is something. There was something wonderful about the way they sang together last night, men that had been educated to teach in colleges and men who had only a high school education who were simple farmers, from as far west as Kansas and as far east as New York City and New Jersey. They sang and were happy, it must be because thy believed in God.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What is CPS?

I thought as I publish the second letter, I would write a bit about CPS camps. I grew up hearing about CPS and whenever we traveled there seemed to be one of Dad's CPS buddies in every town. However a lot of people do not know anything about CPS (Civilian Public Service) camps. As World War II began the selective service act of 1940 allowed for Conscientious objectors to war but only 'Religious objectors' . The Conscientious Objectors had some choices, they could serve as noncombatants in the military, or serve time in CPS camps doing 'work of national importance' or for some both of these seemed like too much cooperation with the war and they did time in prison. Others such as my Uncle on my Mom's side of the family did not qualify as a religious objector and was sent to prison.
The CPS camps were under the US government but the 3 traditional peace churches, Friends, Brethern and Mennonite were given financial and administrative responsibility. During World War II there were 52,000 government classified CO's. Close to 12,000 of these served in 151 CPS camps.
My father's background was as a member of a Friends (Quaker) Church in Iowa. He applied for and received CO status after appealing the first decision of the draft board. As he entered CPS and as this letter shows, he was a bible based Christian.
Others mentioned in this letter are his brothers Charles and Harry and his sisters Eileen(Toots) and Evelyn. Dad was the oldest of the five and was 24 in 1942.


August 25, 1942

Dear home folks,

First off, a weather report for father. It rained most of yesterday---no that was Sunday---The sun is shinning very brightly today and as one of the fellows said, we are having a day of October’s bright blue weather in Aug. It has been quite cool at night and we had a fire in the dorm last night and this morning too. Some of the sleepier guys complained about getting up in the cold. But me---I loved it. I arose at 5:30 and went out to meditate there were only 4 out this morning tho, it seemed that the weather affects peoples religion here the same as any where.

Paul J. Furness was in camp from fri. over the weekend. He is a very opptomistic man and he thought that C.P.S. men had nothing to worry about at the present, even tho the Am. Legion is trying to stir up a stink. He says Gen. Hershey doesn’t want to turn the camp over to the Gov’t. And if that was to happen there would be about two thirds of the fellows go to jail. Also there is still a good chance for detached service and there will be a lot more states open up after the election. Paul Furness is the head of all the Friend’s camps.

Col. Kosh was here too last Fri. he is the fellow that Hershey put in charge of all C.P.S. camps. He looks almost like the pictures of German army officers you see in the comic magazines, short hair-cut and everything. I guess he didn’t say much here tho, but Paul Furness told us that Kosh had bawled out some of the camps quite severly but they didn’t pay much attention. The way Furness put is Kosh was learning a lot about C.O.s and Quakers.

It won’t be long till the kids go back to school. I sort of envy them, but I guess this is my school here, there is plenty to learn too. I’m figuring on starting to go to the Old Testament class. It is taught by a refugee named Mosche’ Calner (Moa shay)

I’m still washing dishes. Not a bad job. We have a new Diettition and her standards of cleanliness are somewhat higher that what the boys were used to, so we have work a littler harder then we used to. You see, we have to scrub the kitchen and sweep the dinning room and that sort of stuff. I guess our official name is the kitchen cleanup crew. Diettician, is that the way you spell it? Well she has much better meals and all the fellows like it so much better that it is worth a little extra work.

Thanks for the addresses. I received the shirts and flashlight today. I still wish that I had that little blue notebook. I looked in my stuff here again and couldn’t find it besides I don’t think I packed it. It must be around there somewhere. The Library table or the bookcase, or some where. But I suppose you looked allover by now. Well, if you happen to find it stick it in an envelope.

E.J. Haines and her folks and two younger brothers were here Sat. and Sun. and I had a very enjoyable chat with her and met the family. They invited Ab and I to come home with Willard some time when he goes home over a weekend. Willard has his car here and his tires are good.

Say Toots, I’ll write you a personal letter some time but don’t look for it too soon, you ain’t much better than the rest of the family.

This is for Harry or Evelyn: If they saved those SS Times’ and stuff that kept coming to me at Penn, will one of you kids please send it to me. Maybe you brought it home or they threw it away. I have time to read them now any how. Thank you.

I’ve read two fiction books and I read the Bible more and my “Living Prayerfully” too. This is great to have time to read.

Work of National Importance? I guess so.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

August 14, 1942

Dear family,
There are just gobs of things to tell you. I’ll probably forget a lot of them and have to write them next time. To begin with this camp is about 9 miles from Coshocton, and 4 miles from Fresno, hence the address. We are in the foothills of some mountains, I don’t know what ones tho. The camp looks much like any CCC camp, long green buildings. The country is very rough and the camp is built on sort of a hillside, so one end of the dorms have been built on stilts or legs.

Now for the project. About 40 rods north I believe (everything is built on a slant here) is the experiment station that we work in connection with. It has about 8 buildings all of brick painted white. This experiment station is the largest of its kind in the world. When the CCC boys were here there were about 28 Gov’t paid men that worked at the station. Now a lot of them are gone now and their work is being done by camp boys. These fellows were highly paid technical research men, so you see what sort of education some of the fellows have that are here in camp. Ferinsence the five men that work in the annylisis department are from the camp and they have had from 7 to 9 years of Math. Harry knows what that means. The Gov’t man that they work under doesn’t know as much as they do. They had it all figured up and there are about 59 here and 40 of them are college graduates. Among them is a musician that was working for the New York Metropolitan Opera co. and the fourth ranking Botinist in the U.S. He lives in our dorm and his job is to make a collection of every plant in Coshocton county and index them, so the station is very fortunate in having him in this camp.

The Idea of this whole project I guess is to collect enough data and evidence and find methods of farming suitable for farming this sort of marginal land. They want to prove to the farmers all over the U.S. that they should use certain methods of farming this poor land.

We have an amazing variety of men here, ages range from 22 to 28, 25 different denominations represented, 52 methodists, 24 friends, 18 none and 11 Jehova witnesses. The rest are in smaller numbers 13 of them are the only one of that denomination here. The farmers lead as an occupational group but there are only 19 of them. Next is Lab. Technitians, 17 of them. Most of the fellows are from Pa. NY. Ill. Ind. Ohio and Kan. And some of them sure talk different. 35 men are married and there are 90 colleges represented. The statistics aren’t quite up to date so we weren’t counted in them.

That first page was mostly about the camp. Tomorrow Ab and I both are going to work for the first time, we will be on a camp maintenance crew. They just work til noon on Sat.s . Mon. I go to work washing dishs fro a 6 week term they sort of rotate the kitchen jobs but you don’t have to do anything you don’t want too tho. If you aren’t happy you just tell the personell director whose job it is to keep everybody happy. He is a camper and a really swell guy. He was elected to that position by the rest of the camp. Ab is going to sweep the dorms for a couple of weeks till a fellow gets back from ferlough.

We have met a lot of very nice fellows and a few that seem to be just Objectors. Ab and I talked to E.J.’s brother for the first time tonight. He works with the farm crew. They have 1300 acres of land that they experiment on some of it belongs to the station and the rest to the co-operating farmers.

I intended to write last night but the typhoid shot got me down and I didn’t feel like it. Today We were interviewed by the personell director and the superintendent of the project who is a very fine man and they say he co-operates very well with the camp.

I don’t believe my small pox vaccination is going to take at all they are supposed to only last 7 yrs and its been 9. But we had the disease. We get two more typhoid shots but they tell me that only one of them will make you sick you never know which one.

I got my cloths marked to day too. A fellow had a bubber stamp printing set that uses laundry ink on and I used it.

I think we are going to be pretty hapy here. Ab misses Opal a lot I guess, but that doesn’t bother me any.

They say this is the best camp, best project and best director. The director is Sumner Mills.

I’m going to bed now, its only 8:10 but I’m sleepy blame it on the shots.


P.s. Send me my crooked flashlight, my shirt, and a little blue spiral vestpocket notebook that should be in that little dresser drawer or the bookcase or the library table, it has my correspondence record so I don’t know who I owe letters without it.
Good night. And thank you.

My Father's Letters

In May of 2009 I went to Tennessee for my nephew’s sons high school graduation. While there my sister, Bonnie and I went through some boxes of stuff she had brought back from Colorado when we cleared out our parent’s house. In one of the boxes we found 184 letters that my father had written home to his parent’s in Iowa between the years of 1942 to 1946. The letters begin in August of 42 when my father first goes to Coshocton CPS (civilian public service) camp in Ohio and end in the fall of 1946 after he has married our mother and they are living in Chicago.
I have thought about sharing these letters with others and have wondered if this would be a story of interest to other Friends. This summer as I thought about this and was reading Dad’s letters, I copied them 20 at a time and read them over the summer, I was also reading the small book by Jean Zaru, “Occupied with Nonviolence”. In it she speaks of the value of telling our story;
Storytelling makes the world stronger because stories revel the complexity of our truth. By telling our stories, we resist the diminishing of the reality of our lives. We resist vague and generalized abstractions and we maintain the urgency and intensity of the concrete.
I thought that a blog might be a way of sharing theses letters and also dialoging with people about the letters. The return address of the letters had "Blessed are the peacemakers..." Mathew 5:9 on each envelope, which I chose for the title of this post.
Below I will post my father's first letter.