This is the first installment of a very long letter Grandpa writes to his sons, Dan and Ced in Alaska and Lad in Venezuela, following his birthday. This section covers all of the happenings involving Grandpa’s birthday – September 11 – when he turned 56. He has followed the strange custom of sending presents to his sons on HIS birthday, maybe his way of giving back.
September 15, 1940
Dear Partners in Crime:
Gosh, but you boys certainly did make me feel good on my natal day! It started before I was up on the morning of the 11th. I had my radio going as I lay in bed trying to
learn what had occurred in the intervening 12 hours in the way of war news and thus did not hear the phone ring, but long-legged Dick, clad in his pajamas and with sleep still in his eye, said Western Union wanted me on the phone. And this was the message: A nite letter from Anchorage Alaska for A.D. Guion. Congratulations to O D A. birthday greetings we joyously sand, to pop on whom we can always depend, to see to it we are always presented, with swell birthday gets – kinds not resented. The man who the deep in troubles steeped, has always thought just of our welfare replete. (Signed) Sourdoughs, Dan and Ced.”
This was getting off to a good start. With a warm glow in my heart I shaved (without cutting myself), H my usual frugal breakfast, started the old Plymouth, which quite surprisingly started without the usual trouble, sailed down the drive and made my first stop at the store. P.O. Box 7 was bursting with mail. Yes sir, believe it or not, letters awaited me from Aunt Betty, lad, Dan and Ced, all with birthday greetings right on the nose. (And this has no reference to hay fever).Aunt Betty the usual card with the usual dollar bill parked underneath the first sheet, lad with a nice letter accompanied by a blank check, as it were, to get me something for myself, Dan with a $25 money order together with a letter and verse, and Ced with a four-page letter willingly his entire bank balance here. Dick offered to blow me to the movies, which offer I could not accept because I had a job I had brought home from the office which had to be completed by the morrow and Dave donated his service in getting supper and also with a birthday greeting card. As soon as I poked my head in the office door George and Miss Denis burst out singing ”Happy Birthday To You” , and Mr. Coville dropped in during the day and left his solicitations and asked to be remembered to Dan. I splurged a bit on the supper which consisted of a thick, juicy beefsteak, delicious green asparagus (a frosted food), potatoes and apple pie à la mode. All in all, a most momentous day. My little contribution took the form of a box of writing paper each to the Alaskan contingent, a photo album to Lad, a waterproof, windproof jacket made of airplane cloth to Dick and a book of complete Gilbert and Sullivan operas for Dave. I hope the parcel post packages reach you “Outsiders” promptly and in good shape.
Lad’s three-page letter, just to hit the high spots, mentions the fact that because of high costs of everything done there, he is losing his perspective on the cost of things and the value of money, and sites as an instance, the fact that his watch, which Arnold had repaired here in Bridgeport for him cost six dollars, whereas down there it would have cost $16-$17 for the work. The smallest denomination in paper money down there is 20 bolivars (about 6.50). The movies he gets down there are two or three years old. He has seen Robin Hood and Juarez. It looks now as though at long last, some of the oil wells they have drilled our coming through in the Guario field and they are starting another — the fourth — in the same location. His two years under contract with S.V. is up May 31st but that does not mean necessarily that he is coming home at that time. His boss, Chris, may be leaving early in November when his contract expires and Lad will probably get his job. Lad and the new airplane mechanic have struck up a friendship and he spends quite a bit of his spare time at the airport. He is thinking of the possibility of buying himself a small plane when he gets home and says they can be run more economically than even my little Willis that was.
Incidentally, both stock transfer blanks were received, duly signed. Thank you both.
Dan’s letter, enclosing the money order was a lollipaloosa. It starts:
Father dear, I sadly fear, this letter will come late.
But what the hell! You can’t foretell the vagaries of fate.
Uncle Sam don’t give a damn if ponies can’t express,
The tidings here, of luck and cheer, your natal day to bless.
Sing hey to oats and barley,
And give this cheque to Farley,
The old fifth wheel
To Frank’s new deal
Will cash it without parley.
After that it is up to you and may it bring you as much fun as it is bringing me to send it to you.
Well spoken, me lad. It will. (Note by the editor)
He mentions going to Matanuska for the Colonist’s Fair on Labor Day and enjoyed himself in spite of the rain.
Ced’s long Labor Day letter was quite interesting. He gave quite a detailed account of his first ride over Anchorage and vicinity with the boss in one of their big 5 ton ships, which experience makes him all the more eager to learn to fly. This he has a chance of doing if one of the members of the local flying club gives up his membership as he is apt to do if present plans to leave Alaska materialize. This will cost said about $200 cash. They have invested member’s money in a jointly owned Aeronca Chief (four-cylinder, 65 h.p., air cooled, Continental engine, two passenger, dual control, a year-old). He related several interesting anecdotes of the dictator-like manner in which Col. Olson manages the affairs of the Alaskan R.R., and also on the crime situation. Because of the cost of prosecution, most murders are labeled suicides. Robbery is practically nonexistent. Cars are left by the roadside for two days with keys in the glove compartment, untouched; gasoline, in 50 gallon drums, left in airway ramps unguarded, is untouched; houses are seldom locked and the two banks in town have stored type plate glass windows, no bars.
I finally learned that the Willys brought about $190 on a forced sale, but under the circumstances they were facing, it was undoubtedly the wise thing to do. Both Dan and Ced are thinking of joining a ski club and also a singing group.
Tomorrow, the letter will continue with local news of boiling politics and what he plans on doing with his birthday money.
A ton of information in this letter!! And grandpa sure ate well for his birthday, didn’t he?
gpcox – believe it or not, this is only the first of 3 posts for this letter. He really went all out.
On his birthday meal, because of the war and rationing, “a juicy beefsteak” might not have been quite up to par with what they would have had before the war, but it was probably about the best they could get at that time. I love “a frosted food” – meaning frozen.
Your grandfather is really enjoying his day!
Yes, and I’m glad he did. Things weren’t very easy as we’ll read in the 2nd part of the letter. This day was a special treat.