Lad’s Army Life – California by Train – Sept., 1943

Blog Timeline - 1941-1943Now Grandpa knows that Lad arrived safely back in California. In his typical analytical style, he tells the whole story.

September 22, 1943

South Pasadena, California

Dear Dad:

I arrived in LA at 4:10 AM and, so help me, Marion was there to meet me. In fact, I’m writing this at her house and this is her pen and ink. Here is the story. Bridgeport to New York – O.K.  –  left Grand Central at 6:30 PM and after a pretty good rest arrived in Chicago at noon. I had till 6:30 for the train to LA so I went to the Santa Fe-Harvey office. Got a job in a few minutes on a train leaving on Tuesday at 7 AM. So I went back to the Y and slept all afternoon and evening.

About 10 PM I got up, wrote a letter to Marian, had something to eat and returned to bed. Got up at 5 AM and went to the station. I was 4th cook and did nothing but dishes from 10:30 Tuesday morning until 11 PM Thursday. Boy, I don’t think I ever worked so hard. It was terrific – but, at least I wasn’t bored by the trip and I had very good meals and an upper. Slept from about 12 or one o’clock till 5:30 each night. We were five hours late arriving in LA, but she was there, with a smile, as usual, and my spirits rose perceptively. She had made arrangements for me to stay at the USO dorm, so I had something to eat and went to bed. I slept from about 6 AM till after 4 PM.

I had a key, which Marian had given me for her house, so I went there for a shower and then reported back to camp, got my pass, and took up where I had left off 16 days

Lad at Camp Santa Anita

Lad at Camp Santa Anita

earlier. As I look back, those five days at home were some of the most enjoyable days I’ve ever spent, but they went far too fast. I went to the rationing board here and they gave me the ration points, but said that in the future to go to the local board at home. So take a mental note of that. It is a new O.P.A. regulation.

For two days now we have had typical Southern California September weather, hotter than hell. The air so hot, that desks and chairs or anything else is almost uncomfortably hot to touch. It was 116° today, and this is supposed to last until the middle of October. However, I really don’t mind it at all. Marian doesn’t like it too well. It has cooled off a little now, and we’re going to an open-air theater tonight to see “The More the Merrier”.

Give my love to Aunt Betty and anyone else and I’m expecting to take your suggestion and write to Grandma.


Tomorrow, we’ll read a long letter from Grandpa to hos four sons in their various locations, filled with news about each of them. Friday will be another letter from Lad . On Saturday A Tribute to Arla and on Sunday, another installment of Mary E. Wilson’s Autobiography, giving us the perspective of a child growing up on England during World War I.


Guest Post – gpcox – American Family Life in the 1940’s

I’ve invited gpcox to share another post with us. This one concerns the life of an American Family during the 1940’s. I learned a few things myself.

Gpcox of

Judy’s collection of letters from her grandfather is an excellent example of what the American family endured during the Second World War.

With the onset of war, patriotism certainly skyrocketed as well as marriages, job opportunities and salaries.  But here, fresh out of the depression, poverty, divorce and taxes soared.  Twenty million people bordered on starvation.  There was a shortage of shelters, hospitals and child care facilities.  Many youngsters quit their education to help support the family.

Ration Coupons

Ration Coupons

Food rationing began.  The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was constructed to handle the rationing regulations.  Since most

Save Oil

Save Oil

everything went to the military, Americans at home had to tighten their belts once again.  If the readers have seen my father’s first few letters home, you know that money was of great concern.  Dried, powered eggs were sent to men in combat and also on the market.  Liquid paraffin was often used as cooking oil. (If oil was available, it was saved and recycled.)  My mother often told me of the start of “margarine,” the make-believe butter was basically a white grease with a yellow capsule.  As you “kneaded” the bag, the pill broke and colored the grease to look like butter.

The government pushed to sell war bonds and war stamps.  Movie stars promoted them and small children often took the job of selling them.  The main problem was that only about one-third of the U.S. could afford to buy them.  The war wrapped itself around every aspect of their lives, from newsreels shown at the theatres to the music and news on the radio; even their job, whatever it may be, was somehow involved in the war effort.  Approximately 16.1 million were in the U.S. armed forces as opposed to approximately 1.6 today.

1940's 2-piece bathing suit

1940’s 2-piece bathing suit

On the brighter side of things – the two-piece bathing suit was developed out of the need to conserve cloth.  Nieman Marcus stores advertised the apparel as

“patriotic chic.”  Victory gardens sprouted up wherever edibles could be grown.  And – recycling, which many today consider a new and enlightened concept, went into full swing.  Americans saved everything and the government called them “salvage drives.”

The recently  posted memories of Aunt Biss are indicative of the times.  The children used their imaginations and ordinary objects to conjure up toys and games.  Children and adults alike generated their own amusements; it was not solely the military that required creativity, but those of each family.  This was a necessary characteristic for survival; something that is not a requirement today; TVs and videos produce entertainment without any effort on our parts.

What is so obvious in Alfred Guion’s letters is the unknowing.  To have his sons away from home while the entire world seemed

Price (stamp) cost

Price (stamp) cost

upside-down leaves a feeling of helplessness that borders on grief.  Whether in combat or not, the son’s return is not guaranteed.  The little boy you once said, “No, no,” to when he went near a hot stove is out of your protective control.  Mr. Guion dearly loved his sons and their letters were as close to them as he was going to be.  His love and concern is shown in his words and between the lines.

The military was not equipped to deal with military families.  WWII families lived with the war 24/7 and it was a full scale confrontation that touched everyone and whose consequences are still being felt today.  The stress could become unbearable.  All they were able to do was pray they did not receive the next telegram that began – “We regret to inform you …”

I am not attempting to downgrade what emotions today’s military families are going through, as I experienced those same feelings myself during the first Gulf War when my son joined the Marines; I am trying to clarify the extraordinary circumstances of the country for the WWII era.

Should any of you have additional examples of this time, please comment.  Judy and I enjoy hearing from all of you.

This is a pretty clear picture of what your parents and grandparents were living with on a day-to-day basis. Because the war was world-wide, families all over the world had to deal with shortages, deprivation and the added horror of bombing in their country, their cities, towns and villages. This was their life, for YEARS, something hard for some of us to imagine.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated.

Take care.

Judy Guion