Rich’s and my move to Coupeville has been monumental for several reasons. First, we took the contents from our houses in Tualatin and Sherwood, Oregon and moved everything to Round Rock, Texas in 2002. We then accumulated more “stuff” and moved everything into our houses in Kirkland and Mount Vernon, WA, starting in 2006.
Then in 2014, my mother passed away, and I inherited “stuff” from her house. Last year, Rich’s step-father Ted passed away, and he inherited “stuff” from his mother’s and Ted’s house, including forty or more huge photo albums, and dozens of framed photos, plaques, and pieces-of-art.
Some items, like my collection of Bill Bell plates, have been packed away since 2002. They’re now happily hanging from the soffit in our kitchen.
Because we have so much “stuff,” we made a commitment to carefully consider every items as to whether we wanted to keep, donate or sell it. We’ve been successful at dispensing with excess furniture, dishes, pots, and duplicate items.
We’ve also been gleaning through photos, letters, and cards. During one of these purging sessions, I came across a letter written by one of my maternal grandmother’s brothers, Teddy Powell. At the time, he was serving in Africa during World War II.
The letter is on onion skin paper, which is lightweight, and nearly transparent, making it more economical to send via military airmail. Here’s the letter, just as it was typed:
Somewhere in the wilds of North Africa
April 6, 1945 Army Day
Dear Rose, Morris, Doris, Allan:
After long absence and hiding behind the Arab robe, I find myself in the sunlight once more and on the way to catching up on all back mail. To tell you something about the wilds of this ancient of lands would take me from now until I hit the Pacific area, which I doubt will happen. How are you all. Fine, I presume and in the best of health. I hear a lot about California weather due to a boy in our bay coming from there.
But so much for that, things are going fine and I can’t complain too much. The real warm weather is coming around fast, and I hope before many moons, to be swimming in the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea, not so far from here. Or climbing the mountains that overlook the sea and give one a beautiful feeling of security in this way off land. Due to the censorship, I still can’t say where I am. Although, not anywhere near the front lines. I have seen enough of the effects to know that the past few years have not been kind to some of our American boys. As you can see by the news it looks to be about over in this section of the world, we are only hoping so and that it gets over soon.
Excuse the bad typing will you please. By some quirk of fate, I have gone east instead of west last August. When orders came that we were leaving they didn’t give us time to pick up a toothbrush before we were on the train going north. I did have a few days at home, and then into a lovely big four-engine aircraft, winging our way over the Atlantic Ocean to Casablanca, North Africa. It was my first long hop, and was a most enjoyable one. The feelings that come to one when he is 9,000 feet up and three thousand feet above the clouds where the sun is shining and below you see mountains of white clouds, and once in a while the sea below. One feels like a poet who is lost for words.
Since that last time, I have learned a lot about the Arabs, the French, and many other mixed faces. One looks on in wonder at these people and tries to figure how they live from day to day. But, you are surprised when you are told from reliable sources that the Arabs or the Mohammad religion saved our present day culture for what we know it be now. When the world was undergoing different changes in Europe, during the renaissance era and even before that these people were up in the world. Today, they just exist and seem to be happy.
We have weekly dances here on the post, and the girls from town, French, Spanish, Jewish, and mixture of others, come out to our post, and we dance with them. Some of them are good looking and built pretty nice. But, when the food is put out on the table, do they dive for it. They are all chaperoned of course, by their mothers and kid sisters, just for the food.
We have a Red Cross in town where we can go and get a bite to eat, and see a show, read or write letters, and play games. Of course, here on the post, we have our own recreational facilities, tennis, baseball, and other sport activities. A show to go to and a service club on the post. Also in town, there is an opera house, which I have gone to, have seen three operas so far this season: The Barber of Seville, Rigoletto, and Faust, very enjoyable they were too.
Since the first of the year, and even before I have been busy. Otherwise, we spend enough time on the jobs, and will be spending more the closer this war comes to a finish. Even when V-Day comes in Europe that will only be a sign for us to step up our jobs to get the material through the Pacific theater so that we can help to get the enemy out of his caves and haunts.
Years ago, I thought I left school behind, but until February 1945 did I know that I didn’t. I have attended two schools since then. They are called school; although, they did not last over a week and two weeks. The first school I went to was our Base NCO school. It was a refresher course in our line of work and took in all other departments as well. I did alright in that school, and was then selected to go to the division school at headquarters for two weeks.
Both the schools have to do with our present and future status over here and so we had things a little rough. But, it was nice and I did enjoy it just the same. In two weeks, I had an excellent review of our military activities, such as drilling, courtesy and all that goes with it. Along with lectures of different kinds on our jobs and other phases of our work that affect us indirectly and directly. We had 18 hours of public speaking, orientation on our purpose in this war, an all-around picture of why we are in it, and how we hope to end it Many things came up.
But, along with the rough stuff, we had pleasant things too, such as two dinner, dances, a banquet or two, and sport activities. Our dances were one each week, the first week we had French girls of the very best class, and they were very nice looking, could speak very good English, and were nicely dressed. They were a very good refined set. Our second dance, we had the WACs for our guest and of course you know you can’t beat the American girls no matter where you go. That was the best time we had, especially when some of the boys did not see an American girl for a year or possibly two, and I for seven months. It was a treat to be able to speak to someone who understood your language and used the same American slang expressions. For that evening, I had two girls to talk to and danced with Kelly from Pennsylvania, and McAndrews from Ohio. We had a very fun time that night, singing all the Irish ditties one could think of.
The banquet we had was also very interesting. We had about 20 correspondents and writers for guests, and at my table sat Kay Boyle, who wrote Avalanche, Rex Stout, author of Nero Wolfe stories, Carl Carmer, who just finished Stars Fell on Alabama, Marquis Childs who replaced Raymond Clapper, Toni Feizzel, official WAC photographer, Mary Cameron Disney, Mary Cookman, and many others. So we mixed with the celebrities and the brass also.
By the way, we lived in an hotel on the Atlantic Ocean, right on the beach, we had nice beds, when we ate, we sat at small tables and had waiter service and French cooks. In the hotel was a bar which we frequented every night, and before dinner I would have my small glass of red wine, which was most delicious and it would add zip to my already large appetite.
If my plans mature, which I have made for myself and can convince a few people and of course one particular officer, I may get a change to go to China some day before this fracas is over, with the very high hopes of going home by way of the Pacific coast and California, and note in the least, but Burbank. If I can do that, then I can say I have gone around the world, and also will be able to stop in and say hello and see you all.
I haven’t seen any of your for about 15 years now, I know the last time I saw Doris she was about three and Allan was still a baby, am I right! So for a while, I shall have to close our paper conversation and go downstairs and work all night.
Take it easy. Don’t work too hard.