Voyage to California (40) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlap (Irwin) Guion, (5) Judith Anne Guion.

The following are transcriptions of John Jackson Lewis’s diary and journal of his voyage to California in 1851. He was travelling  from New York to visit his older brother William in San Jose.

Excerpts from a letter dated San José, March 30, 1851

The day before yesterday I saw a coyota, the first live one that I have seen.  The Texan tells me that they are precisely the same as the prairie wolf of our Western States; so as you have a description of them in Godman’s Natural History, I need not attempt it.  At any rate this one was too far off for me to give a very accurate description of him.  The creek which passes between here and the Pueblo, I suppose derives its name from this animal.  The term “creek”, when applied to this stream, implies something very different from what we are accustomed to see at home.  The stream of water at present, is somewhere near the size of that at the bottom of our meadow in New Garden, but the bed of the stream is another affair.  I have seen none of it as yet, except so far as I could see up and down from the place where we cross it in going to or from town, that I think I can safely say that it is from 50 to 250 yards wide, and from 10 to 25 or 30 feet deep in different parts of it; a deep gulch dug out of the plain, and the dirt all gone somewhere, forming a channel which when full, would contain a fully as much water as the Christiana Creek at Wilmington.  This channel was full last “rainy season”, this one there has not been rain enough to raise the streams.  From the depth of the channel, the stream is useless for the purpose of irrigation, unless pumps are resorted to.  At the time I came here, tho’ nominally the rainy season, the ground was hard and dry, cracking in some places, and the grass beginning to die.  Since that time we have had several fine showers, and the prospect is much more encouraging.  I suppose from what I have heard that more rain has fallen since my arrival, then in all the former part of the winter.  Wasn’t it a lucky thing for the Californians that I came?  When it rains here in the Valley, it frequently snows on the mountains.  We can see considerable bodies of snow to-day cresting the mountains on either side of us.  The altitude of these mountains is not sufficient to retain the snow for any considerable length of time; – it generally vanishes in a day or two.  We have heavy frosts nearly every morning, and the air is rather keen.  After the sun gets up a short distance, it becomes warm and pleasant, and this continues until the latter part of the day, when the wind rises, and by evening becomes quite disagreeably cool. This is the usual state of the weather, but on days immediately preceding a rain it is frequently calm all day.  I suppose this may be accounted for in this way.  The regular winds are from the North West; the winds which produce rain are from the opposite direction.  The countercurrents produce an equilibrium, which lasts sometimes a day or two before the South East finally prevails.  Take the weather altogether it is much more pleasant than in the same month at home.  The ground don’t freeze; the grass grows, the flowers bloom on injured.

I will post the rest of this section next Saturday.

Tomorrow, the second half of Army Life, Marriage and the Army, about Lad and Marian Guion’s travels shortly after they were married and before Lad is shipped overseas.

On Monday, I’ll begin posting more of “The Beginning”, Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion, the story of his early life, marriage, the birth of the children and the early years living in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Judy Guion

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Trumbull – Dear Sheiks (4) – A Note From Elsie Duryee – August 13, 1944

This is the final segment of a letter written by Grandpa to his sons scattered around the world.

Elsie May Guion, summer, 1946

And now here is a rather pleasant surprise – – the “outside viewpoint” in these weekly letters which has been absent for some time. I have the honor to present a veteran of the last war, an ex-Red–Cross worker, Miss E. M. Guion:

Hello, Folks! – a la Mickey Mouse. New York got too “hot” for me so I ran out on it for a week until the heat is off, and now I’m in hiding in Trumbull. When I arrived at the door last night, there, right on the mat before the door, was a hand-lettered welcome to me from the Guions, in stunning great big black letters. I felt really welcome.

Speaking above of me as a veteran of the last war, I am thinking that if Dan should somehow get to St. Nazaire, he might walk along the waterfront where there are dwelling houses and in one of them I lived for about three months while working at base hospital # 1 just outside the city. It was one morning in December, I remember, when the maid of the house came to bring a picture of hot water and as she closed the window she said she couldn’t understand why Americans wanted to keep the windows open all night. All this to say that if Dan gets to St. Nazaire, he might see if anything has happened to that row of little houses. I enjoyed my work there and had fun too.

The shop in New York is getting along. We serve many servicemen and when they buy things we absorb the tax ourselves – and 20% and 1% sometimes loom big, but that’s our bit that we can do for those who are doing so much for us. Well, so long and victory soon. From Elsie.

And that about brings us to the end of the page, with the usual goodbye and good luck, from                                      DAD

Tomorrow, another excerpt from a letter written by John Jackson Lewis about his Voyage to Caifornia and what he finds there. On Sunday, I will continue the story of Lad and Marian Guion as Uncle Sam moves Lad hither and yon before sending him to France.  

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Sheiks (3) – News From Dave – August 13, 1944

This is the next section of a letter written by Grandpa to the boys away from home.

From Dave:

Next Saturday – – the 12th – – we will all move from this company over to some company in the 34th Battalion. And then on Monday we will go out to the field for our final phase of training. CPX (command post exercises) is a sort of small scale maneuvers. The boys in cook school go out there and cook for us. Signal center clerks run signal centers. Radio boys completing their course run radios. Field linemen set out and maintain their wires. Poll linemen do likewise. The same is true for the teletype operators, motor mechanics, chauffeurs, truck drivers, engineers and anyone else I might not have mentioned. This final phase of training is three weeks long – – three weeks of Missouri woods, ticks, chiggers, rattlers and various other species that don’t hold too much interest in my mind, but I think it will be fun and anything would be better than school. You see, after I got back here from my furlough, although I still liked signal center clerk, I felt as though I knew all that they had to teach me in school (conceited) and I still feel that this last four weeks has been a waste of time. After CPX – – who knows? All I can do is to make a few wild guesses which would be based upon nothing but the Army’s ceaseless rumors – – which are more prevalent than ever before right now. The most likely thing that will happen is that they ship us out of here to a port of embarkation (maybe Reynolds in Pennsylvania, but more likely Beal in California) where we will be prepared to get on a boat and “see the world through the carbine gun sites”. If this is the case I may get a delay–en-route, and I may not – – who can tell? The other night I was on guard duty when a sergeant came out of his barracks with another man and called me over to him. He told me he had seen this man come into his barracks and pick up the sergeants pants. We questioned the fellow and he told us that he had moved into the company that morning and as he wasn’t thinking, due to the fact that he had had a few drinks in Neecho — he got in the wrong barracks. His story was very impressive and the Sgt. told me to let him go. The culprit left and I once again started walking my post. On an impulse, as I passed the barracks where the accused claimed to actually live, I decided to take a peek in to see if he were in bed. I went in to see and much to my dismay found that he wasn’t in there. I went back and told the Sgt. about it and then when I got to the guardhouse I told the Corporal of the Guard about it. The next day I found out that he was a crook and doing pretty well in the business throughout the whole post. For the offense which I committed (not turning him in) they could have court-martialed me – – not a pretty thought. As yet the culprit has not been located again.”

This sort of thing seems to be rather prevalent in this man’s Army. When I visited Lad in Aberdeen they had just had an incident of the same sort; and both Lad and Dick have lost valuable personal belongings. They should have a Sherlock Holmes detachment connected with each battalion.

Tomorrow, the final portion of this letter.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Sheiks (2) – A Note From Marian – August 13, 1944

This is the second section of a letter from Grandpa to his boys – wherever they are.

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Now for some extracts:

Marian writes: “I knew that the minute I put down in writing the fact that we thought we were going to stay here for a while, the Army would change our minds for us. Maybe I’ll learn some day that I’ll never know what the Army is planning from one minute to the next. Lad is supposed to leave here Wednesday or Thursday for Flora, Mississippi. I am going to drive the car and meet him there – – or rather at Jackson, Mississippi, for there is not much more than the Army post at Flora. Jackson is about 20 miles away from the post, and as it is the capital of Mississippi, it can’t be too awful. Some people must live there. But every report we’ve gotten so far from those who have and have not been there says that Flora is nothing more than a h___ hole in the very worst degree. Not very encouraging, is it, but if we get there expecting the very worst we might be pleasantly surprised. I hope so, anyway.

Whether this is to be a training center or a staging area or both, we don’t know. Last month the “Battalion” was very “hot” and practically on its way overseas, but things cooled down considerably and we heard that another battalion had been sent across instead. So, as usual, we don’t know very much about what we are doing, but are hoping for the best. It looks as though I am going to have to postpone my very muchly anticipated return visit to Trumbull. May I have a rain – check, however, so that I may arrive at a later date? The only bright spot in the idea of Lad’s going overseas is the prospect of being with you again – and not just because of the snow, either! Perhaps I’ll be a little late, but I might show up yet. We are not sure of Lad’s new address. As soon as we know it, we will send you a card. Although we expect to move from Pomona on Wednesday or Thursday, don’t be too sure of it. Our next letter might come from Pomona, because knowing the Army as we do, I am not leaving here until I know for sure that the fellows are on the train and actually on their way. Mother’s operation was very successful (for cataract) already she can see 50% better than before and the doctor hopes that in three months time when she gets her glasses, she will be able to see 100% better. I’m still planning to stop at Orinda on my way to Flora although I won’t be able to spend very much time there.”

Many years ago while on a lecture tour for the Bridgeport Brass Company, I went to Jackson, Mississippi and was not very much impressed with the country. As I recall it, the country was flat and uninteresting. There was of course a large Negro population  which made a portion of the town seem squalid and dirty. It was also very hot which is to be expected. I don’t know Flora but I think you are right in not expecting too much. Incidentally, I am holding this letter until I know where to send it, which applies also to the package I had all ready to ship to Lad. That was great news about your Mother, Marian, and I know how glad she will be to SEE you. And you don’t need any rain check for Trumbull. You are down in the records as one of the charter members.

Thursday and Friday I will post the last two portions of this letter.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Sheiks (1) – Local Weather and a Memory – August 13, 1944

GUION OASIS

Trumbull Desert

Principal products – dates

(This one is August 13, 1944)

pp pic 1

Dear Sheiks:

Prevailing temperature for the past week was 95°. Still no rain. Laufer’s corn has dried up on the stalk – – no tomatoes, beans, peas or other fresh vegetables we used to look forward to serving newly gathered from his farm as a special delicacy to regale the pallets of our favored guests (Aunt Elsie is now with us for her vacation week). I have not had to use the lawnmower for over six weeks. There is a touch of green in the grass only beneath the shade trees – – the “lawn” is just a patch of bare, brown, dead grass. The brook is as nearly dry as I have ever seen it. However, due to the new reservoir, there is as yet no scarcity in the city water supply. Victory Gardens hereabouts are sorry looking affairs – – reminders of what might have been. We now call them “Defeat Gardens”. One redeeming feature is that it has been too dry for any mosquitoes to hatch out so one can sit on the porch evenings without slapping. (Jean has just walked into the room with a nice tall glass of cold grape juice, and gee, does it taste good.) A nice long ocean voyage would go well just now.

And speaking of ocean voyages, a wounded Negro soldier was about to be landed from a hospital ship just reaching port. A medical officer asked if he had any personal belongings to be taken ashore. He shook his head. “What, no souvenirs from the fighting front?” “Captain,” said the boy, “Ah ain’t got no souvenirs. All ah want to take home from dis here war is just a faint recollection”.

And apropos of recollections and Dan’s reference in his last letter to putting his French into use, reminds me of our famous trip into the Gaspé country when I went up to one of the farmhouses to see if I could wrangle some fresh eggs. They couldn’t understand my English and I couldn’t understand their French. I finally made with my hands what I thought was the shape of an egg. With a gleam of understanding the girl rushed into the kitchen and brought me back a spoon. In desperation I imitated the sound of a hen and pretended to break an egg on the edge of a frying pan. “Oui. Oui”. ouf, ouf she said and proudly brought forth some eggs. So then I learned that the French for eggs was ouf.

The rest of the week will be devoted to this letter Grandpa writes to his boys scattered from Alaska to California to Brazil to Missouri to France. Each portion is a little shorter than usual but that is the way the natural breaks occurred.  

Judy Guion

Army Life – Dear Dad From Marian – August 7, 1944

At this point, Lad is expecting to be sent overseas and Marian will drive the Buick and trailer to Orinda, California, to have a short visit with her parents and then she will head to Trumbull for a reunion with Grandpa and the rest of the family there.

Monday

(postmarked 8/7/1944)

Lad and Marian - Pomona, CA

Lad and Marian – Pomona, CA

Dear Dad: – –

I knew that the minute I put down in writing the fact that “we thought we were going to stay here for a while,” the Army would change our minds for us. Maybe I’ll learn some day that I’ll never know what the Army is planning from one minute to the next. Lad is supposed to leave here Wednesday or Thursday for Flora, Mississippi, and I am going to drive the car and meet him there – or rather at Jackson, Mississippi, for there is not much more than the Army Post at Flora. Jackson is about 20 miles away from the Post, and as it is the capital of Mississippi it can’t be too awful. Some people must live there. But every report we’ve gotten so far, from fellows who have and who have not been there, say that Flora is nothing more than a h___ hole in the very worst degree. Not very encouraging, is it, but if we go there expecting the very worst we might be pleasantly surprised. I hope so, anyway. Whether this is to be a training center or a staging area or both we don’t know. Last month the Battalion was very “hot” and practically on its way overseas, but things cooled down considerably and we heard that another Battalion had been sent across instead. So, as usual, we don’t know very much about what we are doing. But we hope for the best.

It looks as though I’m going to have to postpone my very muchly anticipated return visit to Trumbull. May I have a rain – check, however, so that I may arrive at a later date? The only bright spot in the idea of Lad’s going overseas is the prospect of being with you again – and not just because of the snow, either! Perhaps I’ll be a little late, but I might show up yet.

It is going to take all our available cash to move, Dad, so once again we are going to have to ask you to wait for another payment on our loan. We never seem to have a chance to save for these unexpected trips. They come much too suddenly and often for us to adjust the family budget! We are not sure of Lad’s new address. As soon as we know it, we will send you a card. And although we expect to move from Pomona on Wednesday or Thursday, don’t be too sure of it. Our next letter might still come from Pomona, because knowing the Army as we do, I am not leaving here until I know for sure that the fellows are on the train and on their way.

Mother’s operation was very successful. Already she can see 50% better than before, and the doctor hopes that in three months time, when she gets her glasses, that she will be able to see 100% better. So that is very encouraging, and now that the mental strain and worry are over for her, she should improve quite rapidly. I’m still planning to stop by Orinda on my way to Flora, although I won’t be able to spend very much time there.

With all our love,

Marian and Lad

The rest of the week will be devoted to a letter Grandpa wrote to his five sons scattered all over the world. They will be shorter than usual postings but the natural breaks in the letter worked out this way.

Judy Guion

My Ancestors (33f) – Alfred Peabody Guion – Marriage and World War II (1)

(1) Alfred Peabody Guion; (2) Judith Anne Guion.

Alfred Peabody Guion and Marian (Dunlap) Irwin were married on November 14, 1943 in Berkeley California, with a reception at Marian’s home afterward.  About 5 weeks later, Lad received an early Christmas present from Uncle Sam.

Excerpt from a letter written December 21st from Marian to the family in Trumbull:

“Dear Dad, Aunt Betty, Jean, Dave and anyone else of the Guion clan who is present — Last Wednesday Uncle Sam gave us a Christmas present that we find rather hard to take.  Lad has been transferred from Camp Santa Anita to Texarkana, and he left this morning to drive there in the Buick.  It isn’t an embarkation depot (Thank God) but as far as we know now, he is in a cadre that are being organized and trained for overseas duty…..

For the present, until he sees what the post is like and what housing conditions are, I am going to stay here.  As soon as he can find a room, a tent or a packing-box, I’m going to join him.”

From “Life history of Alfred P.  Guion, dated April 11, 1946:

Santa Anita, California – 7 months – Diesel Engine Theory Instructor,

4 months – Instructor, automotive electricity, engine tune up

Texarkana, Texas – 8 weeks – N.C.O. – activation of 142 Ordinance Base Automotive Maintenance Battalion

Excerpt from a letter written by Marian to Grandpa Aunt Betty and Jean, on a Monday in January, 1944:

“I am so excited that I don’t know whether or not this is going to be a legible letter – but I know you’ll understand when I tell you that I have my train ticket and am leaving on Feb. 2nd to join Al in Texarkana.  Isn’t that wonderful !?!”

Excerpt from a letter by Lad to “Everybody”, dated Jan. 9th, 1944:

“From Santa Anita 25 good men were sent here as the parent cadre for the 3019th Co. 142 Bn.  We are an engine rebuild company attached to the 142 Bn.  which contains two engine rebuild co., one powertrain rebuild co, one Hq. & supply co. and one base depot co. we will work as a unit, always, the 5 companies being in close contact at all times and performing 5th echelon or Base Ord. work.”

Excerpt from a letter written by Marian on a Tuesday in February:

‘Here we are “deep in the heart of Texas”, and altho’ it isn’t a place that we would choose to build our own home, at least it isn’t too bad….. And as long as it is possible, I intend to stay with Lad, no matter where he is sent.”

NOTICE OF CHANGE OF ADDRESS, dated February 20, 1944: Lad’s new address is in Pomona, California again.

From “Life history of Alfred P.  Guion”:

Pomona, Cal. – 26 weeks – setting up and operating base shop electrical department

Excerpt from letter to Grandpa from Lad, dated April 30th, 1944:

“Sometime after the middle of May, and possibly before the 20th, I can take a 15-day furlough with 6 or 7 days traveling time.  Or, I can wait until about 10th of June.  However, if the Bn. moves from Pomona before I take it, it might mean a cancellation of furloughs.  Therefore, I think it is better to take it as soon as possible.  However — “the catch”.  In June we can possibly finance the entire trip alone, but before June 1st, to make it, I shall need about $150.00.  We have estimated that we can make the trip on $300, which gives us a leeway of about $35.00 for spending, exclusive of traveling expenses.”

A note at the end of the letter from Marian:

“Isn’t it exciting about our Furloughmaybe”?  I refuse to believe it, however, until we actually arrive, but I find myself giving an extra “hop, skip and jump” every once in a while just thinking about it.”

Excerpt from Grandpa’s letter, dated June 4, 1944:

Dear Braves from the Trumbull Reservation:

“Old Ham in the Face greets you and says “How”.  The Children of the Setting Sun have come and gone, leaving this wigwam quite desolate at their departure.  Laughter-in-Her-Voice and Young Willow Tree, my two daughters-in-law got along very amicably and there was not even one hair pulling match staged for the amusement of the bystanders.  He-Who-Fiddles-with-Engines is as tall and rangy as ever and has developed no hint even, of a front porch.  Pistol Packin’ Mama Aunt Betty has been worrying all the week for fear they would not get enough to eat and returned to the Land of Sunshine and Oranges looking like shadows, but this happily was prevented partly through the generosity of the neighboring Ives Tribe bravely invited us all over to a cow-wow and feast Friday night, which as usual was most excellent.”

Even though I kept the excerpts as short as possible, the adventures of the “Roving Guion’s” from November, 1943 until November, 1944, when Lad shipped over, my post was over four and a half pages.  Therefore, I have divided it and will post the second part next Sunday.

Tomorrow I will begin posting letters written in August 1944.  The letters include much more detail regarding the travels of Lad and Marian Guion, as well as other news of the family. 

Judy Guion