Letters to Esther

Letters to Esther is a collection of letters written to Esther Munro of Geneva, Indiana. The letters span from 1900 to the 1960s, with the bulk of them coming from the 1920s.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

January 7, 1919, From Richard

148 Sheety Street
W. LaFayette, Indiana
January 7, 1919

My dear Little Girl,

Whether it be of any great interest to you or not, I wish to say that I am once more back on my old job of seeking and acquiring (some) knowledge. The first few days at the beginning of school is for me a discouraging and blue project. Especially at that time, but rarely any other, I feel an inclination to jump the track of the straight and narrow way. No doubt you had plenty to aannoy you also; but if you had any sympathy to spare I would have gladly appreciated it. I have surmised that if I did not write to you first, then our correspondence might have ceased, perhaps over nothing but a mere little formality which does not apply to all cases at all times. Any kind of waiting usually is successful for a time, there grows monotonous and useless; nevertheless I may be able to wait long enought to give one a fair trial, to satisfy or not to satisfy my longing for a true and lovable "somebody." Years separated me from my goal, and although I expect many pleasures and disappointments, I do not feel any lack of confidence. Social problems do not worry me much; that is, I find it harder to do other things.

Luella said you all got back to I.U., so I suppose you are alone yet. How did you enjoy your trip? Sorry you went that way?--I got here about 9:00 P.M. Monday night and surely enjoyed a sleep that night. Last night I went to a dance at Allens despite all my lessons. It served to revive my waning good spirits anyway. I hope you have had a better time. What a queer thing to notice how rapidly a good time passes away. Is it because we are all too much in love with pleasure; and each other? Tell me this. Yet I know what people do not usually love one another so much as all that. This is a hateful and cruel world for that.

Good cheer and success to you.


November 17, 1918, From Richard

My pen has been injured, therefore the bad writing.

Interlaken School,
November Seventeen,

Dear Esther:

This is a swell afternoon at Silver Lake and if I were not so busy baking for my hungry "buddies" I would wish for your company this afternoon. Of course I would be pleased by a meeting anyway. It certainly seems queer, the way and the power that circumstances have upon determining the position of a person, both socially and mentally. Although I have been here only about five weeks my affectionate friendship may have become changed to certain different degrees. Perhaps you are liable to misunderstand me, depending on how you feel about the situation. I have heard that in every person's life there is a psychological moment when certain romantic things are suddenly brought to light and understanding. The fountain of youth is perhaps not so mythical as might be supposed. Did you ever know that Ponce de Leon spent his life trying to find the "Fountain of Youth" supposed to be located on the island of "Bimini," and just before he died on his ship at see he wrote the following words on the edge of a book leaf: "The island of Bimini is in every man's heart and the fountain of youth is in it. And the hand of a woman shall touch it and cause it to flow."

Speaking of songs, I remember of a list of extra good ones that you said you had. And to be sure, that stammering song of "Katy" in its reformed condition has been very popular hereat this camp. We had a very happy & singing bunch of boys on the train coming down here to Interlaken and they still sing, when they get a chance. We dare not sing on K.P. or the mess Sergeant threatens to put us on for a week if we like it so well. So you see we have to pretend that we do not like K.P. Ha, ha! And no singing in bed either. Sad, sad!

The camp is open now, and yesterday, (Sat.) most of us got a pass to La Porte. I left here at one o'clock and spent the evening too in town. I had a fine time and the freedom seemed like old times. Saw the "Hearts of the World" there and it was a fine show, taken of war scenes similar to "My four Years in Germany." The people of La Porte use we soldier boys fine. Co. C suscribed over two hundred twenty dollars for their war fund the other night.

This army is not my business so I do not know when or what I will do. I passed the examination Friday all O.K. So no hopes of a discharge from that source. Ha, ha! I do not want any however anyway. the captain said the other night that we would all get a chance to go across yet and yesterday the report came out that most of us would be sent out immediately to go home. At any rate this camp is soon to be abandoned. So I cannot accurately make any statements concerning my future here or elsewhere. With my truest bet wishes,
Yours Sincerely,

November 7, 1918, From Richard

Interlaken School, Nov. 7, 1918, 7:00 P.M.

My Dear Friend:

I received your very welcome letter Wednesday evening. And that box was thrice welcome. It came right along with the letter. You know we have to be in our bunks at 9:30 o'clock and the lights go out then. I did not get the mail until about that time on account of being too busy with the military affairs here. I also got a letter from Kathryn and Luella who sent me a pocket dictionary and note-book.

So I read your letter swiftly first, and just started on the others when darkness prevailed. This was the first time I ever read my letters in bed. Ha, ha! Of course I ate a cream-puff and some of that candy after that and certainly enjoyed the treat. Cream-puffs have always been my favorites so you see I was not sick of them and am not yet. Ha, ha! They were just fine and I shall have to admit that you are the better cook. I certainly appreciate your kindness in sending such good things and thank you many times. And I shall continue to hold an optimistic view of life. Ha, ha!

I still possess the same old address. It does not seem to me like Thanksgiving is soon to be here. I doubt if those girls come up here. I believe Kathryn said something about you liking to come up here too. Of course I should be glad to see you. I presume I might be here yet but I do not know.

They have discontinued that first chosen class in the M.T.C. and put only Co. A men in it. So I am out at the present but I hear that men will be picked from the other two companies as soon as they are examined. I can get in on that I think because thy only want fellows who are high-school graduates and have had at least three years experience as drivers or mechanics. I hope to pass the examination all right. These picked men will get to go to school and will soon pass out of this place. If I do not get in on this I am out of luck about right and may have to stay here longer than I want to. We hear tonight that old Kaiser Bill has surrendered. The boys are glad but I guess we will get about two years in the army if we get any at all.

This school had about forty a.[cres] of potatoes planted and the boys have to dig them. They shucked a field of corn too. I was out with the "sand" gang today. Will be on guard duty tonight too. And perhaps K.P. tomorrow. Ha, ha. That keeps us going, "I say."

I guess the war will keep us going for a while yet and I may get to go across. I think I will like to do that if I get a chance.

Tell Clark I got his letter and presents O.K. and shall write as soon as I can get time. Do not forget my gratitude towards you and write when you can.

Yours Sincerely,

November 4, 1918, From Richard

Interlaken, Rolling Prairie,
Indiana, On November
Four, nineteen Eighteen.

Dear Esther:

I received your letter yesterday (Saturday) and was surely glad to hear from you once more. The post-office is a popular place with me, like all the other guys, and a fellow certainly likes to get letters. I live in the canteen building now with my old Company C. The place is a three-story and the canteen is in the portion of the lower story or rather basement. We are only about one hundred yards from the Post-Office and the same from the mess-hall.

What picture was that you showed Luella? The one you took. It must be fine. Any way all pictures taken of me are me and I should worry. "I'm in the Army now." Ha, ha! That annual business reminds me of old times gone never to return. I think that philosophy was written by the superintendent. I got a letter from mamma yesterday and she says Bland is in France now. I think he is in the heavy field artillery. Bland is only about a year older than I am.

There may be a few gentlemen here in camp but as a whole the fellows are a hard set. Nevertheless all are good in some way for something. I have found no desire to find any intimate friends among the men and my affection for Achleman and McCollum has not grown much. For one thing I am awfully busy here and another is that I can live happily alone if I so choose. It is easy for me to fit myself to any strange surroundings and put my whole self into any work that I have to do. Army life is none too easy, too.

I am in the M.T.C. (Motor Transport Corps) now, being chosen for the first class here organized. We will have to go through several months work in two weeks time, I guess and if we make good get a chance to go to another school at Purdue perhaps where we will be made into truck-masters or officers. It is hard I tell you.

I am on K.P. (Kitchen Police) today (Sunday) and have to report back at the mess-hall at 4:15 o'clock or in about fifteen minutes. I got off at about 2:30 and I had to help the baker. We made pies, cakes, jelly-rolls, and cream-puffs until about 2:00 P.M. Cakes and cream-puffs are for officers only. They get a little better than the men. Believe me, I am some baker. Ha, ha! This is my first experience in the Kitchen here, but one thing is good, I get some of all the extra good things to eat.

I suppose you start to school again in the morning. Wish you good luck and a good time. Write when you can. I shall be glad to hear from you.

Yours Truly,

October 30, 1918, From Richard (Includes Esther's Reply)

Interlaken, Indiana,
October Thirty.
Ten A.M.

Dear Friend Esther:

Both your letters have been received and welcomed. And since nature is again replacing me upon a normal basis of health and happiness I shall write a little to you. It is a fact that nearly all human beings find great pleasure in getting letters, anticipating their contents and enjoying the missive itself, but that these same persons do not find the same amount of enjoyment in writing letters. However this last is hardly true of me because of my peculiarities. I take lots of things like that for granted, am surprised at nothing, and able instantly to decide and adjust myself to any situation without the least trouble. Did you ever hear of Richard Newman Glendenning before. That is me. In the Army a man only has one name and it's of not very much importance. The address I gave you will do yet for a while, except that I am in Co. C now instead of F.

I think that I understand you well enough that I won't worry you with any more silly questions. Of course you are not to blame for anything. I venture to say that two or three years from now you will be quite changed. For myself, war is a remaker of men and the veil to the future is opaque. So let it be. Yet at the same time friendship of youth is a necessity and without it life would be more unhappy. A true friendship has something inspiring and worth while beneath the smooth surface of that which is seen by the eyes of the world. It tends to elevate and make easy living for those involved.

I have yet a little space in which to answer most of your questions. I have been for the last three or four days living upstairs in a nice little room with three other men of my squad, but we had to move back down to the Gym. again today. Several hundred all in one room. L. Achleman is in my Co. He was just over here and I get to see him every day. McCollum is in Co. A., in the new barracks and I see him also quite often. Achleman says "it" could bet better. Life here is not so hard yet, but we are not started yet as we soon shall be.

I could not see any of your folks that Tuesday morning except someone waving. Ha, ha! Many thanks for those pictures. They are cute. The one of Ruth surely did make me smile. Ha, ha! I heard once that she said she would be happy if she had freckles. She don't seem to be very unhappy now tho. tell Clark I shall write to him as soon as I can do so. I'm in the Army now. Hoping to hear from you I remain,

Yours Truly, Richard.

[The envelope included a reply from Esther, written in pencil on the back side of her German vocabulary homework.]

Geneva Ind
Nov. 1, 1918.

Dear Friend:

I intended writing to you last night but didn't get to so I am writing this morning. It is a good thing you don't dislike writing letters for I imagine you will have a plenty of it to do. I don't know that I actually dislike it still I would much rather talk. Talking seems to be more my forte. I haven't done enough writing to be good at it yet. Perhaps, if the war lasts several years, I will be able by that time to write a letter that is a real letter.

Luella was over yesterday afternoon and she told me several things that I would otherwise have asked you about. I showed her that picture of you and she said "Well, what is the matter with him?" I don't suppose I will get to see her very much more if her school begins Monday. I guess mine begins then. I do dread starting again. That is why I didn't want it to stop. Hollingers are going to have the class meeting tonight tho the ban is not off. That is one thing at least that the girls will get to go to during their vacation. Clark and I were over there sunday afternoon and stayed for supper and all evening. Just think! I suppose you have heard all about this before. While at your place I saw the annual published the year you graduated. I heard some one say once that that was the best picture they had ever seen of you. It is very good I think. I saw Bland's picture too. He looks so old in it. Who was it wrote those sayings after each picture? Whoever it was musth ave had a pretty high opinion of your wisdom and Bland's character. Speaking or rather writing of Bland reminds me, have you found any one there yet whom you would care to have for a friend? Or have you had time to get acquainted wiht any one yet?

While I have been writing the beet pullers wife brought her little boy here to stay while they work in the beets. He stayed out in the field with them before but it is too cold to-day. He is a cute little boy about two years old but rather shy. He acts like he wants to hide every time mamma looks at him. Warren and Lloyd have brought out every plaything they ever possessed and every one is racking their brains trying to think of some way to intertain him and make him feel at home. His mother had quite a time tryint to slip away without his seeing her and crying. He won't take his coat and cap off. We thought when they first came that it was a little girl. Warren had been playing with him in the beet field yesterday and whenhe came in we asked him if he had had a good time playing wiht that little girl and he said, "She isn't a little girl. She's a little boy and she can't talk plain." Ruth and I had intended working in the beats and were somewhat disappointed when just in time to keep us from doing it.

Do you get the Geneva Herald?

I am glad you understood me for that is more than anyone else has ever been able to do. Even the folks sometimes say I am a hopeless case. You speak about being peculiar but I think that is one thing at least in which I out do you.

October 18, 1918, From Luella

Bloomington, Indiana,
Monday, 10.20

Esther Dear:

Just got back from class. I am feeling fine, considering every thing. Arrived here at 7:30. Did not leave Indianapolis until five. Did not wait in Muncie at all, but we made up for it in Ind. , had to wait over three hours there.

Did not go to bed until eleven last night and was up till 10:30 at night so you can imagine how sleepy I am.

Lessons! Lessons! Have so much to do. Did not look at a book last night, but studied this morning before the 8 o'clock class. So I got up rather early.

As far as I know, we do not have to make up any school at all.

The "flue" situation is not very favorable in the city yet. But they have it under control at I.U. The bow is still on here. One of the doctors here said, probably it would be on all winter. How do you suppose we can get along without going to church or to movies? Ha.

There were 212 cases of "Flue" among the S.A.T.C. [Student Army Training Corps], with only one death. The hospitals are overflowing with students and people of the town. Common and High Schools have not opened up yet here.

We got another girl in our house and also a new family. There is a regular moving time here. Will not have time to write more about this now.

I was certainly sorry you did not get to come Sat. eve. I do not blame you thought for not wanting any fortunes told.

I have so many letters to write, but will try to write you a letter the latter part of the week. I have not time to write much now. Will take this down stairs so I will not have to take it to a mail-box.

Write when you can.

March 29, 1918, From Orlo Woods

Camp Logan, Houston, Texas,
March 29th, 1918.

Dear Cousin Esther,

I received your first letter quite a while ago and I waited so long to answer it that I now have two letters to answer at one time. I believe though that I can make up some good excuses for not answering it sooner and ten days more.

We went out o the trenches for a three-day stay last Thursday a week ago and Friday it rained so hard that we had to move out. We carried almost the same equipment that we will have in France if we ever get there. When we left the trenches the water was waist deep and the dugouts were full. It quit raining Friday night so Saturday we had to go out and start cleaning up. We pumped water out on Saturday and Monday and we didn't get all the water out.

Tuesday and Wednesday we drilled as usual and the [...] commissioned officers had school in the evening. Last Thursday we came out to the rifle range and we are still there. It rained this morning but it dried up and we were able to shoot this afternoon. I haven't shot any yet. We are going to be here for two days. I am writing by candle light.

You spoke about a nice wind in your first letter well we have a big breeze too. It is generally duty when the wind blows but it rained too. It got quite cold here for this locality. Corn is eighteen inches and more above the ground. Potatoes and a number of other things are up too. The weather most of the time is quite warm. Around 90F about noon.

The basket ball season is over and the Fairberry T.H.S. team sure pleased me. It was the Livingston County Championship and came out fourth in the central part of the state contest.

We are receiving quite a few orders every day now. About two weeks ago an order came out for all the officers to stay in for four nights a week and study and now an order has arrived for everybody to stay in except Wed. Sat. and Sunday. We are supposed to study an hour every evening. Of course we study. I haven't even brought my book out here with me.

Well as the lights are poor I will close for this time

Your Cousin
Orlo Woods.

November 16, 1917, From Orlo Woods

Camp Logan, Houston, Texas,
F. Co. 129 Infantry,
Nov. 16, 1917.

Dear Cousin Ruth;

I received yours and your mother's very nice letter this evening and a will right away. I have been going to S.S. and church quite a bit since I have been here.

I would [have] liked to have been the school teacher at your school when that bunch came out there to visit you. I would have had some fun out of it and put them in quite a bit of misery too.

You must be quite a big girl now. If you have a picture of yourself you might send it to me. I would send a picture of myself if I had any but I can't keep any on hand.

So far this month I have averaged more than a letter a day that is about all we have to do evenings unless we go up town.

I went up town last Tuesday night and saw Mary Pickford in the picture "The Little Princess," it was a very good show. Last night I went to a show and saw a picture it was "The Retreat of the Germans at Arras" it cost me eighty five cents for my seat. After the show I went to a Cafe and it cost me seventy five cents for my supper. It was a very nice supper though.

We took a nice long hike this morning. There is a big pine forest about two miles from camp. One regiment went out to capture it. I was in a right flank patrol. We didn't get to see the enemy. We left camp at 7:30 a.m. and . . . [The letter ends there. The last page is apparently missing.]

November 14, 1917, From Orlo Woods

Co. F., 129th Infantry, U.S.N.G.,
Camp Logan, Houston, Tex.,
November 14, 1917.

Dear Cousin

I received your letter several days ago and as I have a little time I will answer it. I received the letter while we were out at a rifle range about eight miles from camp. We were at the range from Friday until Wednesday. I have had charge of ten men and it kept me busy watching to see that the men handled their guns right. Of course we are allowed to be as careless with our guns when they are loaded they only shoot three miles. I made the best score of any that were under my instruction. On the 100 yard range I made a score of 46 out of 50. On the 200 yd range 42 out of 50. 300 yd. 41 out of 50. I considered that I made a fairly good score.

Yes, I am still in Texas but I don't know how long I will be here. I have heard that we are to go some place else.

Vern is still here and is a first class Private. He is getting along fine.

I bought a 150.00 Liberty Bond.

Du hast mir gefragt was ich willat für weinachtszeit gebaben. Ich Würich mir ein Stücke von Zücker.

Will close
Your Cousin
Orlo Woods.

[Note: I don't speak German, so I can't tell if the above text is correct. I went a-Googling to double-check as much of it as I could.]

August 22, 1915, From Orlie Penwitt

Carleton, Nebr.
Aug. 22, 1915

Dear Friend--:

Well I will try and scratch a few lines to you this afternoon. Well how are [you] getting along this summer. I am just fine. I suppose the fair will start pretty soon. Well we are going to have a county fair here. It is a week after next. I want to go. You had better come and go along with me. Ha! Ha! I see in the paper that Ill. is having rainy weather. Well it has been awful rainy in Nebr. too. It was so muddie in the wheat & oats fields that the people could not get all of their grain cut. We did not get all of ours. It is just a little patch tho. I suppose everybody is threshing around Piper City. Well just about everybody stacked their grain out here. It was to rainy to thrash it out of the shock.

Do you ever see any of D.M. Lyons. tell them all Hello for us. And tell them to write some time. What is James going to do this fall? Is he going to teach school or is he going to Bloomington again. I suppose you will be in high school this fall. Well I am going to high school this fall. In Nebr. they just [go] up to the 11th grade in some of the town school. But they are going to put the 11th grade in. The school I am going to is 4 mi. from home. But I am going to board. Then there is another town 8 mi. from home where they have 4 yr high school. What grad will Clark & Ruth be in this fall. I suppose Lloyd is going to school too. How is the baby, I guess he isn't much of a baby anymore. I forgot what his name was. I suppose Piper City is getting to be a city.

Say, Esther, do you ever hear from Agnes Cornell. I got a letter from her the fore part of June. She was going to go [to] the Panama Exposition. I wrote and told her to write to me. But I haven't got any answer yet. I suppose she sees so many sights that she forgets about writing letters. We have a neighbor that has 7 girls. Isn't that quite a family. The oldest is 16 yr. and the youngest is just about 3 months. There were 2 boys in the family, but they both died when they were small. The baby is just as pretty as it can be. Well I guess that is all. Write much oftener than you do.

Your Friend
Orlie Penwitt