WWII Letter From A Buddy

To all veterans, thank you for your service.

WWII FranceExcerpts from a soldier’s letter written from France to a stateside Army buddy (my Dad), 3 March 1945.

          We had a beer ration the other day, our first since we’ve been over here, and it was good, what there was of it. We got two bottles each.

          The “chicken” is worse over here than Ninth Headquarters ever was. The chow varies, sometimes we fare pretty well, and on all our moves, which is mighty frequent, we resort to those delicious “K” rations. Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?

         As for the girl situation on my part, it is kinda fifty-fifty as usual. I hear from Ada pretty often, but I think Aileen is pretty sore at me right now. I met a mighty swell gal in England. I hear from her quite often now. If I can get a furlough to England, I’ll sure rush back there. George got himself a gal back there too. We were never stationed in the states at a town better than the English town we were in. It was really swell.

           I did see my brother over here. He is in Maastricht, Holland. I hadn’t seen him for five years.

                                          Sincerely, Larry


Confusion of Places

300px-Barnum's_American_Museum-photo_1858A story is told about Joaquin Miller, the poet, who stayed at Barnum’s Hotel–Broadway and 20th street in New York City– in October, 1875. While there, he wrote to a friend in New Jersey. He ended the letter: “Come and see me whenever you can. I’m at Barnum’s.”

The friend was not familiar with city hotels and thought only of P.T. Barnum’s famous American Museum, a combination zoo, museum, lecture hall, wax museum, theater and freak show. The friend replied to Mr. Miller: “I am sorry you had to exhibit yourself. If you had stuck to literature you would have made your mark and fortune. Whereabouts is the show now.?”

(From the Pueblo Chieftain, November 2, 1875)

Miller’s full name was Cincinnatus Heine Miller (September 8, 1837 – February 17, 1913). Joaquin Miller was his pen name. He was called the “Poet of the Sierras” after his 1871 work Songs of the Sierras.



Published in: on September 7, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Harper Lee Would Enjoy This

image mockingbirdIn my 1950s childhood, Dad was a salesman who wore suits to work. We lived in a rural area and our house was a regular weekly stop for the dry cleaner’s truck.

In those summer days before we had air conditioning, our screened windows and front door were open for any hint of a breeze. Mother hung the bag of clothes for dry cleaner pickup on the front screen door. The cleaner’s driver took the to-be-cleaned pieces and left the clean suits in their place. He would whistle to let mother know he was there but did not wait for her to come to the door.

One day in mid summer, mother heard the cleaner man’s whistle. When she went to the door, the to-be-cleaned pieces were still there. A short time later she heard his whistle again but found he had not made a pick-up or delivery.

After the third useless trip to the door, Mother waited nearby but out of sight. The whistle came again. She stepped to the door. No one in sight. Then, she looked up under the front porch awning. There sat a Mockingbird, carefully perched on one of the struts that held up the awning. He had learned to imitate the cleaner man’s whistle and was enjoying his “cat-and-mouse” game with Mother. He continued his game until summer’s end.

Published in: on June 22, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Remembering Dad

model TFather’s Day is a time when I like to recall stories about my father. This one is a favorite of mine.

While visiting Dad’s family in Wisconsin, the five Simmelink siblings and their spouses went out for dinner one night. I was about 16 at the time and, since we had come from Indiana to visit, I went along. During the meal, an old buddy of Dad’s happened into the restaurant. He spotted Dad and came over to the table to say “hi.” He began reminiscing about their youth.

“Say, Harvey,” the old buddy said, “remember the time we had your father’s Model A and we were racing another guy’s car backwards up a hill?”

Dad looked blank.

“Oh, you remember! It was that steep hill over past the schoolhouse. Your older sister and her date came along and saw us. Your sister got out and scolded you real good for racing with your Pa’s car.”

Dad frowned and shook his head. “No. You must have been with somebody else.”

The buddy looked across the table at Dad’s sister, Etta. “You remember that, don’t you!”

She, too, frowned and shook her head.

The old buddy patted Dad on the shoulder. “Well, anyway, it was good to see you again Harvey.” He moved on to his own table.

Dad immediately began reminiscing about the old schoolhouse.

Etta’s husband sat quietly beside her with a “cat who ate the canary” look on his face that told me he had been her date on that long ago day and the story was true.

Published in: on June 15, 2015 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
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WWII Ration Books

Ration CouponsInstructions from the back of Ration Book No. 3 issued during World War II:

1 This book is valuable. Do not lose it.

2 Each stamp authorizes you to purchase rationed goods in the quantities and at the times designated by the Office of Price Administration. Without the stamps you will be unable to purchase these goods.

3 Detailed instructions concerning the use of this book will be issued.

4 Do not throw this book away when all of the stamps have been used, or when the time for their use has expired. You may be required to present this book when you apply for subsequent books.

Rationing is a vital part of your country’s war effort…” If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.”

From the back of Ration Book No. 4:

IMPORTANT: When you have used your ration, salvage the TIN CANS and WASTE FATS. They are needed to make munitions for our fighting men. Cooperate with your local Salvage Committee.

Drafted in WWII

4.2.7The United States entry into World War II was a difficult time, especially as the draft board began calling up men for military service. This appeal letter was written on behalf of my father by his employer.


January 16, 1941


          I am asking for your consideration in classifying Harvey Simmelink, who is in my employ as manager of the Manlius Milk Products Company of Manlius, Illinois. My reason for doing so is that I am not in a position to replace Mr. Simmelink with a man that will be able to operate that plant as he is.
          It takes years of special training to learn to make a quality cheese which the trade demands today. Besides that, Mr. Simmelink has the acquaintance, personality and the respect that is required of a manager to make a plant like the one he is in charge of operate successfully in its respective community. The experience and qualifications Mr. Simmelink possesses are outstanding in his profession and he would not be very easily replaced, if at all.
          I would be the last one to claim exemption for any of my help which could readily be replaced, but in this particular case it is otherwise. Harvey Simmelink has been in my employ for better than five years and it is through his efforts that the Manlius Plant has served that community as well as it has.
          In view of the fact that Mr. Simmelink’s work consists of manufacturing food product which is of vital importance, I trust you will consider my request in classifying Mr. Simmelink so he will be allowed to remain in his present position.

Respectfully yours,
Axel Madsen

The letter and an appeal hearing delayed Dad’s induction but he was eventually drafted into the Army in 1942.

Photo from National WWII Museum


Penguin Lessons

UE Back to school time always reminds me of teachers. Let me introduce one of my favorites.
          The first college class of my freshman year, Honors English, met on the third floor of the massive old stone administration building. I climbed the well worn stairs with trepidation.
          The classroom door stood open. Coming from a sleek, modern high school, I was shocked when I peeked inside. The room was tiny! A battered desk faced rows of wooden seats with attached writing plates. The last row of chairs touched the back wall and the front row pressed against the professor’s desk.
          The one redeeming feature in the tiny room was the bank of tall windows that filled the far wall. The well-worn wood floor squeaked and groaned as I stepped inside. The chair creaked when I sat down. Other students arrived, but no one spoke.
          The professor arrived right on time. He was short and compact. He wore a shapeless black suit with a white shirt and plain tie. He walked with a Chaplinesque waddle. I stifled a laugh when I saw his bulbous-toed shoes that looked like small versions of circus clown footwear. His bald head was shiny as the capital dome. Wire-rimmed spectacles perched on his beak nose. He looked like a penguin!
          Placing his black briefcase on the battered desk, he continued across the room to raise the sash of the forward window. Fresh air filled the room. Returning to the desk, he carefully centered a small lectern and stepped into position squarely behind it. He surveyed the class. Slowly. Solemnly. Silently.
          “Hello,” he said at last. “My name is Archie.”
          Okay. I expected college to be different from high school. Maybe college professors liked their students to address them by first names.
          He continued. “I am a cockroach.”
          Whoa! I hit the weirdo jackpot in my first class. Frozen in place, I lowered my eyelids and shifted my eyes to the right. The student beside me sat wide-eyed and sphinx-like.
          Without a hint of a smirk, The Penguin proceeded to recite the full opening poem from Archie & Mehitabel, Don Marquis’ book about a little cockroach who lived in a newsroom and hopped from key to key writing poems and messages to the editor. One by one, we let go our held breath as we realized this professor did not really think he was a cockroach.
          Honors English turned out to be a writing class. Three mornings a week, with windows open, we watched the seasons change from our tiny aerie as the Penguin and a fictional insect trained our minds.
          He used no overhead slides, no video presentations, and no handouts. Thought-stimulating quotes from Archie the cockroach looped across the blackboard in the Penguin’s neat handwriting. We simply wrote. We wrote in class. We wrote in the library, in the shade of campus trees, on busses, and in dormitory rooms to complete our assignments.
          The Penguin critiqued our work with a red pen and read selected papers aloud to the class. We discussed structure, word use, and overall effect. While some of our papers came back looking bloodied, the Penguin never failed to write notes of encouragement on each paper. The exercise opened mental windows to the diversity of thoughts and writing styles among class members and the value of divergent ideas and expressions.
Most class members returned for a second term with the Penguin. A sign on our third floor doorway informed us that Honors English had been moved to the much touted—and very expensive—new academic and theater complex. It had kept the campus in mud and construction fences most of the fall.
          We trouped down the stairs together, tiptoed over slick sidewalks and found our room in the center of the new building. It was spacious, freshly painted, and brightly lighted. Polished metal desk-chairs faced a sleek professor’s desk with a formidable lectern positioned beside it.
          The Penguin arrived right on time. The floor did not make a sound as he entered. He set his black briefcase on the desk and surveyed the room from side to side.
          “Well, what do you think of this room?” he asked.
          In unison we replied, “It has no windows!”
          He nodded in agreement. “I’ll see what I can do about that.”
When we met again two days later, we were back in our cramped third floor room with open windows and creaky floor.
          The Penguin taught me that brand new bricks and mortar, fancy equipment, and the latest textbooks are not the essentials of an exceptional learning experience.
          The teacher makes the difference!

The Penguin, aka Dr. George Klinger, died in 2010 at age 81.

Password Plague

whispersSecret passwords were a fun part of childhood. It felt special to have a secret shared by only a few friends.
          On the popular 1960s TV game show Password a contestant had ten chances to guess a secret word. Before the game began, the password was shared with viewers at home. In those days of low tech communication, there was little chance of the home audience slipping the secret word to a contestant.
          Lately, passwords have become an aggravation.
          For many years my husband and I had one password for the few places where a password was required. If one of us became incapacitated, the other could easily access bank and investment accounts. But cyber hackers have changed all that. Passwords have become complex. Our one word no longer fits.
          Today’s advice from the security experts: Create a password containing eight or more characters in a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Use a different password for every account. Then, change your passwords often.
          The number of my passwords now exceeds my age (remember, I was watching the original Password on TV) and fills two columns of a page!
          Yes, I can store them in The Cloud. Of course, I’ll need a new telephone with Internet access so I can look them up–assuming I can remember the password.

An Old Book Still Speaks

Old Books

I came across the following verses, excerpted from a slender collection of poems, The View From Pike’s Peak by Bernard L. Rice, published in 1898.


Silent friends are the books we read;
Yet they speak with note sublime,
Oft in the august voice of praise,
Oft in the sweeter tones of rhyme…

They tell us strange legends and stories old
Of the far-off days of the long-ago,
And we’re sitting beside the tavern gray
While the village clock strikes long and slow.

And often they tell us a merrier tale
Of revels and glittering banquet halls,
Bright glimpses we catch of faces gay
And a mirthful laugh to the pleasure calls…

There’s a world of wealth in the printed page,
There are hoarded treasures, rich thoughts of gold,
There are diamonds of wisdom from every age,
The well-gathered wages of labor untold.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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What We Write About

WCWhile browsing the many bookshelves in our house, I came across a little brown volume titled Water-Closets. The inside cover is signed by author Glenn Brown, an architect. A little tab of paper bound in front of the Preface page notes, “Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1884, by John Phin, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D.C.”
          Yes, this intriguing little book is about toilets. It begins with history and includes many illustrations drawn by the author.
          The ancient Romans had four types of toilets. “Close stools (lasana) in which rich ancients used gold or silver bowls; vases (gastra) which were stationed on the roadways; public privies (cloacina) [Mr. Brown says there were 142 in the city of Rome]; and privies (latrina).” Mr. Brown concludes that the cloacina and the latrina were water-closets, or private rooms with water for drainage. He offers details of various designs and construction through history.
          According to Mr. Brown, one of the earliest mentions of a water-closet is found in a poem. “Metamorphosis of Ajax,” by Sir John Harrington, published in 1596, is about a water-closet that the poet invented for his house.
          I suppose this simply reminds us that anything can be the subject of a book.