It’s 1943 and we have followed Lad from home to Aberdeen Maryland for Ordnance Training School where he was chosen to be trained as an instructor of vehicle mechanics and maintenance. After that he traveled with three friends to Flint Michigan for a week of further training in diesel mechanics. The last post in this story thread left the Four AJ’s leaving Chicago and heading to Camp Santa Anita in Arcadia, California, all by different modes of transportation. This is Lad’s first letter home.
January 9, 1943
Well, even if you have not heard much of my progress across from Chicago, I’m here and according to my speedometer, 4200 miles have been successfully manipulated. Other than a bad condenser just outside of Pittsburgh on the Turnpike and a clogged radiator somewhere between Flint and Chicago, the car performed admirably.
The camp here – contrary to what it’s name implies – is far from comfortable. No sheets or pillowcases, no heat (yes, we need heat) , no hot water and no organization as yet. It is still very much in the process of being renovated and rebuilt after being used as a Japanese holding area. In a couple of months it will, in all probability, be much nicer.
Now, I’ll tell you a little about Southern California as seen from Arcadia, Pasadena, LA, Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Here is how things have gone. I got into Arcadia early on Monday the fourth and since I was not due to report until the seventh I just used my special orders to get into camp to leave some of my stuff and then went out again. While in camp, I looked for and found Art Lind and Vern Eddington (both from Aberdeen and Flint) and tried to borrow some money from them. No luck but I learned where there were USO houses and left.
In Pasadena I found one, had breakfast and then cleaned up in a house maintained for servicemen for just that purpose. Then I went into Los Angeles. Not much doing there so I came back to Arcadia, left some clothes at the cleaners and again when into Pasadena. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening dancing, playing bridge and snacking.
That night I spent in the car on the front seat. I discovered that when California is advertised – the land of sunshine or sunny California – they mention only the times when the sun is shining. During the day it is always quite warm but – – – the nights – – –. I have been told that antifreeze is not needed here, but observation and records show that the temperature during the early morning at this time of year usually drops to somewhere below 37° but never lower than 30°. Well, that is mighty cool when the days are so warm. There have been days when I have perspired as I drove along with the windows open.
Well, to get on with my narrative. Wednesday morning it was nearly noon and I went to the Y and cleaned up and then went into LA for lunch. I wandered around a little but it is too big to get very far on foot so I went back to the car and was just driving aimlessly toward camp went four soldiers asked me if I was going to Hollywood. I had not thought of that, so I said “Sure” and off we went.
At the USO there I talked with some of the hostesses and found out what I could about the town and then decided to go out to the Beverly Hills Hotel where there was another USO. I tried to get someone to go out with me and show me some of the prettier places and views, but was unsuccessful.
I went back to Hollywood to the Hollywood canteen and stayed there the rest of the night dancing and snacking (new word here in LA and vicinity) until the place closed at 12. With a fellow I met there, I went to the Palladium and did some more dancing to Tommy Dorsey, he really is very good.
That night I drove way up above the Beverly Hills residence section and again spent the night in the car. The view was gorgeous and I spent quite some time just sitting in the sun and looking. Then back to the Beverly Hills Hotel USO to clean up and eat. I spent the early afternoon there reading and talking with various women and soldiers and then went back to Hollywood and saw “Random Harvest” which I enjoyed just as much as the book.
Then I went back to the Hollywood canteen until 12 and then to Florentine Gardens for more dancing. After a cup of coffee at about 2:30 I drove back to Arcadia. I had to report here on Friday but at that hour of the morning there was nothing doing so I slept, again in the car.
I reported yesterday morning and spent all afternoon getting arranged. The camp is in quarantine for the “Flu” so I did not go out yesterday evening but went to a show put on here at the post by a bunch of Hollywood stars. It was very good.
Today I spent all morning getting acquainted with the camp here and trying to get my car registered on the post. I ate just before starting this letter. So that brings the past week up to date. Oh no, one more thing. Tell Dick that if he heard Harry James on the Chesterfield Program Tuesday, I was one of those fellows doing the clapping after each piece. I rather enjoyed it, even though I don’t particularly like Harry James.
Well I still have more to do in order to complete the car registration so I think that I’ll be on my way now, and until the next letter I shall remain
I am well, still, and I’m hoping the quarantine will be lifted this afternoon. Give my love to Aunt Betty and the rest (and even the dog).
In my next Lad’s Army Life post there is a special mention that may lead to some important developments.
On Saturday, I’ve invited a Guest Post from gpcox, writer of the Blog pacificparatroopers.wordpress.com. We are both Blogging about the same time frame but from very different perspectives. I hope you’ll enjoy it and comment after you read it.
Click here to go directly to my website.