Autobiography of Mary E Wilson (5) – Leaving England – 1925

Mary's Mom and Dad

Mary’s Mother and Father

Mary’s mother had sent money from America to their father to pay for passage for her children but Mary’s father had spent the money on other things. Mary’s mother, Hezabinda, tries again, but this time she sends the money directly to a Travel Agency. It looks like Mary and her brothers, Jim and Arthur, might actually make it to America this time.

DEPARTING ENGLAND

Meanwhile, my Mother had accumulated more money for our passage again but she sent it to a travel agency this time. My father was furious and very angry because my mother had not trusted him with the money. He seemed willing to go to America but my Mother had tried to get us to America without him. We had our passport pictures taken again and we were vaccinated. My brothers were so excited but I had mixed feelings because I was so hurt. Our Mother had left us and would not return home. I felt she did not love me and she had been away so long.

My wardrobe was awful and my brothers had only the English type of clothing. When the time came for us to embark for America, I was really frightened. Grand-da went with us to the railroad station and he quietly gave me some money for myself before we got on the train.

En route we stopped at Uncle Dick and Aunt Isabel’s house. She was such a beautiful woman and what thrilled me was that she had been a dancer and actress before she married Uncle Dick. They had three children but I was so envious of them because they all seemed so happy together. Aunt Isabel danced for us and I thought she was so pretty and dainty – so unlike the average mother.

Why were Uncle Dick and Uncle George so different from my father? I did not know that they were not in the war like my father.

We proceeded to Southhampton where we took a room near where the boat was docked. My father decided he wanted to go out for a while and I think I started to yell bloody murder. All I could think of was my father had in his possession my Mother’s $100 “lending money”. The landlord came and wanted to speak to my father because we were too noisy. I got a slap across the face but he did stay in the room until morning.

The next day, we boarded the President Harding, which was an American ship and finally we were on our way to America. The second day of our voyage, our father left us and “camped in” with a large Irish family and we did not see him until the day we landed in New York.

It was November and it sure was cold and we did not have the right kind of clothing. The sea was so rough that I was so seasick I felt I wanted to die. There was a stewardess who evidently felt sorry for me. She washed my hair and really cared for me and brought me food that I could keep down.

My brothers were natural sailors and explored every inch of the ship and had a marvelous time. For once they were getting enough to eat. We had what we called Thanksgiving dinner and I did not know what it meant because I did not know anything about American history and customs.

Next Sunday, Mary tells us of her experience landing at Ellis Island . It is quite a story.

Army Life – Dear Turkey Eaters (3) – A letter From Ced And Thanksgiving – Nov., 1944

CDG - Ced with mustache at his wedding

Now Ced, heartless Ced, with no regard at all for the feeling of new postmistresses, addresses a letter to

The publican Guion

Do we Rose Ave

which by some miraculous chance was delivered to the undersigned. There is something wrong with that boy. While the postmark on the envelope is November 17th, his letter is dated October 16th and still he has the effrontery to ask right under the date “(Is that better)”. I’ve have asked him to date his letters and now I begin to understand why he neglects to do so – – he simply doesn’t have any idea of time. He told us a while ago Big Ben was failing, but I did not realize he’d flirt with the international dateline in such a manner. I suppose the antics of the midnight sun is rather hard on the tempis fugit cells in his brain, if any. However, Ced goes on to say: Ski season is now in high gear. The temperature today is up around 40 but it has been down as low as 12 out at the airport and while a little snow has fallen on a couple of occasions, not enough to ski here in town, but one more good storm and we’ll have it. The trip to the mine two weeks ago was a grand success with 56 people out and enjoying themselves. I skied down to Fishhook at the end of the day and only fell twice. The rally last Friday went over with a big bang. Following movies of the ski competition last year when I was in Trumbull, there was dancing and a skit depicting a group of comically garbed novice skiers, all on barrel staves, taking lessons from a mock Norwegian ski instructor. One of the students, the dud, wore a pair of white silk gym shorts, a huge fur muff tied around his waist, resembling an old-fashioned bustle, a stupid looking pack on his back, and bare legs. Twice during the evening a wheel was spun and the person holding the new membership card with a number corresponding to that at which the wheel stopped, was the winner of a $2.50 award. Liquor, contrary to other years, was totally absent, due mainly to the fact that we had a different hall where no liquor was sold. Crackers and cheese and an excellent punch was supplied by the club. The punch was made in two big dairy milk cans. Each one was filled with about 5 pounds of sugar, six or eight dozen each of oranges and lemons, and about that many jars of cherries all sliced and mixed with ice cut by some of the members at Lake Spenard. Just before serving time we carried the cans out to the ladies room, and attaching a rubber hose to the faucet, filled the cans and then mixed the mass by pouring back and forth many times. It turned out as fine a fruit punch as you ever tasted and when it was gone, we poured the residue back into one of the cans, added another three or 4 gallons of water, mixed and mashed it with a hammer handle and there was so much fruit left that the flavor was as good as the original. This process was repeated once more, later on, but at some cost to flavor.” He mentions also working on the Buick while Art Woodley is a way in an effort to sell one of their planes, the fact that the people he is living with now intend to leave Anchorage, which will make it necessary for him to find other living quarters, and the list of Christmas needs for which I am very grateful.

Dear Ced:

In view of the fact that my campaign to obtain a decent electric refrigerator has resulted in absolutely no result whatever, I guess Fate will decide the question for us. It is getting rather late in the season anyway to ship to the frozen North, which fact was bothering me a bit. As I wrote you last week I did credit $10 to Dan’s account and I did receive your most welcome birthday remembrance. It was well worth waiting for and is one of my most prized possessions.

Don Whitney stopped in at the office the other day to pick up the latest mailing addresses of you boys. His address is AGF Replacement Depot #1, Armored School, Fort Meade, Md. He expected to leave for that place yesterday.

Oh, I haven’t told you about our Thanksgiving party. The girls were debating the other day which was best, to tell you boys about the things we had to eat and make you homesick or to say nothing about it and make you sore. To be or not to be: that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them. I don’t know what Dick and Lad have learned from their respective spouses, but for the rest of you there were present four fe and one he male (me), if we might exclude Butch and Marty who were suffering the aftermath of a tonsil operation and didn’t feel so hot. Aunt Elsie was unable to get up. Marion made two delicious pies. Biss contributed to chickens, and of course we had Burrough’s cider. (I can hear Dan’s groans). Most of all, we missed you boys. Oh dear me, here’s the end of the page. Anyway, that’s about all.

DAD

Tomorrow, a Special Picture and on Sunday, a Special Treat. On Monday, letters written in 1940 to Venezuela and Alaska. Judy 

Trumbull – A Father’s Pride – Dec., 1940

R-104    December 1, 1940

 

Dear Boys:

This note is like to be a brief one because it is now 10 o’clock and I have just sat down to the typewriter. Dave was invited to a party in Westport this afternoon, from 2 to 8 P.M., and after leaving him there I went over to call on Bruce. The party was over later than anticipated and I have just reached home.

Blog - Lad in Venezuela walking in field (cropped)

The most noteworthy news this week was a letter from Lad in which he informs me that he is now in complete charge of the garage and transportation, has under his charge eight foreman and 49 men. To a father, news like this, evidencing what according to the world’s standards is an evidence of material success, is one of the most important and stirringly pleasing things that can happen and while I tried not to be too obvious in my pride in front of others, I did go around hugging the thought to myself with a great deal of satisfaction and if anybody had heard me chuckling to myself after I got in bed the night the letter came, they would have thought I was either crazy or having a pleasant dream. Congratulations, old sock, and while it was not unexpected, it is great news nevertheless.

Wednesday night Dick and Dave drove down to New York in the Buick to pick up Aunt Betty and Aunt Elsie. I filled my usual role as chef. Elizabeth and Butch were also present, and the meal must have been good because Bissie, who is not given to complements, said it was the best meal she had had in six months and even mentioned it next day to David when she came down again. We had jellied consommé with breadsticks, salted nuts, celery and olives, Turkey (15 lbs) with mushroom stuffing and Alaskan cranberry sauce, mashed white potatoes with giblet gravy, fried mushrooms, green peas, lettuce salad, French dressing with cheese wafers, plum pudding with a special brandy flavored sauce, Burrough’s Cider, nuts and raisins and fruit. Dave made up a fancy piece for the center of the table – – an Indian tepee scene, and after dishes were washed we had a private showing of Lad’s Venezuela movie colored films and some rented scenes, and later Barbara brought down Helen’s machine and showed colored films including some Dan had sent which were really beautiful. There was one of an Alaskan sunset and some two or three other woodsy scenes which were veritable art gems and as paintings would have taken first prize Academy awards.

Dick seems to like his job with the Underwood people but still thinks he prefers outdoor work.

We had a white Thanksgiving Day here, the snow being a blanket, or perhaps I should say tablecloth, over all the ground. It is still with us although the roads are clear now. Col. Weeks has been called back to the Army again and has been assigned to Jacksonville, Fla., and in stopping in at my office Saturday to say goodbye, asked to be remembered to you boys. He is selling his place in Trumbull under the circumstances but says he wants to come back here when and if conditions will permit.

No letters from Alaska last week which I hope means I will hear from the division of the north this week. And that’s all the news until my next broadcast.

DAD

Over the radio tonight it was said the Italian army put up signs during their March on Greece, “The Italian Army cannot be stopped”, to which the Greeks, who were chasing them, added the words, “When retreating”.

The rest of the week will be filled with posts of two letters from Grandpa to his three sons away from home.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Awayoffs (2) – Thanksgiving – Nov., 1941

Page 2 of 11/15/41

Biss - with Butch and family - 1940Dan, this morning, about finished up getting up the storm windows. This, with the insulation and furnace ought to keep us comfortable this winter. We still have had no cold weather.

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DPG - with Zeke holding Butch

Between Lad and Dave at the office we have now put the old automatic feed in condition and are turning out Wheeler labels in fairly good shape. Lately we have been busy with mimeograph work on architect’s specifications, 50 to 100 pages, each run off from 40 to 50 stencils.

There is some talk about the Remington-Rand dry shaver building a factory in Trumbull in that big empty field opposite Rakowski’s store, running from the railroad by Iron Ledge back to the rear of Noyes house, provided the Zoning Board will grant the necessary permission.

I took some more chances for you, Ced, on a 1942 Nash to be raffled off last night but as I did not receive a phone call by midnight telling me you were the lucky man, I guess we’ll kiss that goodbye also.

Next Thursday is supposed to be our Thanksgiving this year. I have already ordered a turkey from Kurtz’s and have invited Biss and her family over to dinner. Elsie writes it is very questionable as to whether she will be able to get up on that day and Sylvia will also be working, so I guess we won’t have to put a couple of extra leaves in the table as we have on some occasions in the past. There is one thing you can be sure of and that is that we will be thinking very much of you two boys and wishing you were home with us.

My car is not running as well as I would like it to at present. When I slow down in high and step on the gas it has a tendency to buck, and this morning I found most of my antifreeze had leaked out. Carl had put in new hose connections and I guess they were not tight. Otherwise we’re doing pretty well.

As you may surmise from the rambling tone of the foregoing, there is again not much news of interest, but I am writing it anyway for what interest it may have, as I know from experience how disappointing it is to look, week after week, for the expected letter and not have it materialize. This has been the case here for the past two weeks but I am hoping the spell will be broken on the morrow when I twist the dial on P.O. Box 7.

Aunt Betty has asked me to send her love to both of you. As far as the writer is concerned, you probably know what to expect along this line from your    DAD

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting two post cards from Helen (Peabody) Human from Guatemala and on Friday, another letter from Grandpa to his two boys in Alaska.

Saturday and Sunday will be more Special Pictures.

Next week, I’ll be posting letters from 1944 when all the boys (and Marian) are dealing with Uncle Sam.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear GOOD Boys (2) – Nov., 1940

Dan in white jacket in Alaska

Pge 2 of R-103   11/24/40

Dan: In days gone by, every time I planned to pull some sort of surprise on you, you sort of sensed it in advance and it now seems that either your senses are getting a bit dulled with age or else the old slogan of “keeping everlastingly at it brings success” is proving its truth. Even if I did not have to wait until you went to Alaska to see the fruit of my efforts ripen, I am glad I succeeded once, although after I learned you were the very one, by an odd chance, that brought the letter and check that set the wheels in motion, I gave up hope that this would be a surprise. Am much pleased that it worked out so satisfactorily and must give due credit to Ced and the dear old Sears Roebuck catalog. In addition to the uses of this book immortalized by Chick Sale in “The Specialist”, this marks a new chapter in its utility value.

Your definition of the historical novel being like a bustle – – a fictitious tale based on a stern reality, reminds me of a statement to the effect that steel wool comes from sheep raised in the Iron Mountains. With your note, I also received the check, and as you requested, I immediately acknowledged receipt by postal. Suggest you reread (or read, maybe) my former letter trying to answer very fully your previous inquiry as to the best way of remitting money. I still feel there is not enough risk involved in mailing a check to warrant the extra expense or registration. To make it even safer, as long as it is deposited in my bank, you might endorse it, as follows: “For deposit only to the credit of Alfred D. Guion”, and then sign your name; then if anybody else got hold of it, it would not do them any good.

Dick believes he has finally landed a job at the Underwood- Ellicott- Fisher  Co. on Broad Street. He passed a physical exam they required yesterday and is going down tomorrow to see if he can start in as stock clerk at a salary of $18 a week. He is planning to save every cent of it he can with the Alaska trip in mind.

Bruce Lee, with his young daughter and her Westport chum, a girl of about Pat’s age, came up to see us last night. Barbara (Plumb) and Jean (Hughes), Red (Sirene) and Donald (not sure which one), and of course Dick and Dave were here and they seemed to enjoy themselves between bouts with the old player piano and a showing of Lad’s colored movie films. Neither Bruce nor I have heard a word from Rusty for several months. Maybe he is still trying to sell a story to earn money enough to join you both. That course you are taking, while apparently very elementary, sounds interesting, and will at least introduce you to the several topics enough to enable you to decide whether you would like to follow up the acquaintance. I would like to hear further reports of your talk with Mr. Dorsh and his South American experiences.

And thanks, very much, old son, for your authorization to deduct $12 from your check each month. This will help out considerably, and particularly so at this time of year. I do hope your next letter will bring a definite answer to my inquiry as to what you want for Christmas. I’d so much rather send something that you really need or desire than in ignorance, purchase some article that either duplicates something you have already bought for yourself, or proves to be inappropriate for Alaskan use. As you said once before, I can order from Sears Roebuck, Seattle store and save transportation charges. But please answer at once if you have not already written on this point by the time this note reaches you. I suppose you boys celebrated Thanksgiving last Thursday. I am interested to hear how the customs differ in Alaska from the old New England way. Do they have turkey there or some other typical Alaskan dish?

Trumbull – Alaskan Cranberries and the Draft (1) – Nov., 1940

APG - Flor Wiliams with snakeskin - 1945

R – 102    November 17, 1940

Dear Lad:

The first sample snowstorm of the season visited us yesterday. The flakes disappeared as they reached the ground but coming down they were big downy flakes and looked just like a real snowstorm while it lasted. This storm followed what was practically a week of steady rain. Even today is overcast and Dave, who has just come in from a tramp up Long Hill way, says it is trying to snow again. I suppose the boys in Alaska will greet this news with a superior smile and wave it aside with a condescending air, but you who have not seen the teeniest, weeniest bit of a snowflake for over two years will be duly appreciative.

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I have not yet started the furnace due to a lack of coal but now that the furnace is ready as far as repairs are concerned, I suppose I shall have to see how good my credit still is with Mercer. There is one thing sure and that is that we will have to have it in operation on the 28th which by the proclamation of Gov. Baldwin, is Connecticut’s Thanksgiving Day, and I have invited Elsie and Aunt Betty to be present for the autopsy on the turkey. I have been saving the Alaskan cranberries for use on that day. (Maybe I forgot to tell you that the boys were instrumental in having sent to us a pound coffee can full of little Alaskan cranberries which are said to be superior in flavor to the Cape Cod variety, although much smaller in size, probably because they grow wild.)

By the way, Lad, along about the 1st of September, I inserted a page of confidential matter in which I sort of let down my hair, and while you have replied to other items mentioned in my regular letter of that date (No. 91), you have never made reference to the matters referred to in this supplement.

Thank you muchly for the interesting 5-page letter received this week telling about your trip to Cubagua. You cleared up most of the questions I was wondering about, except the route you followed from Pariaguan to Guanita. My map, or at least the Shell map Dan brought back with him, does not show Guario, nor does it show Lecheria, but does give Punta de Piedra and Guanta. Did you ask Mr. Senior if he had any relations in Bridgeport?

I have been expecting to have you say something in your more recent letters about draft registration. Helen Plumb said she thought the procedure was that your Company would send to Americans in foreign countries, blanks to be filled out, but I do not know if this is true. I have heard nothing from the Alaskans either so I do not know what procedures they had to follow. In Connecticut there have been more volunteers than the state’s quota so no one will be drafted until the first of the year and maybe not then, if the number of volunteers continues to exceed the quota. I believe volunteers have the privilege of choosing the branch of service or the kind of work they prefer, and while I do not suppose you would be called anyway, being in what I presume would be considered an essential industry, I can come pretty near guessing that you would select diesel engine work of some sort, either in the engineering service of the Navy or perhaps, as you are experienced in transport work, you would head up some mobile division of the mechanized force in the Army that used diesels in their tanks or big gun transports, if you ever were called upon to work for Uncle Sam’s defense.

I cannot think of a thing in the way of news that would interest you, and as I haven’t heard from Alaska for some time there is nothing to report from that end.

I am glad you are keeping at your Spanish. Are classes held at camp and lessons given by regular instructor?

DAD

Tomorrow, I’ll post the second half of this letter, addressed to the Bimbos in Alaska. Grandpa’s not-so-subtle attempt to shame Dan and Ced into writing.

On Saturday and Sunday, more Special Pictures. On Monday We’ll go back to Alaska in the War and June of 1942.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – The Guion Clipping Service (2) – May, 1944

DPG - with Zeke holding ButchAnd Dave was in a left-handed mood when he wrote on April 30th: time is going by faster than ever here. This is the last day of April. Everything here is green. I’ve seen blossoms on the fruit trees here. This is excellent farm country except for the stones. Camp Crowder is filled with apple and peach orchards that the farmers took care of until they were bought out by the government to make the camp. I think this camp is supposed to cover 90 sq. miles. The orchards have been let go since the camp was built – – the government would rather spend thousands of dollars buying fruit from the farmers (and making it so the civilians can’t get decent fruit) then spend a few hundred dollars for spray and equipment to keep up the trees which are already planted and bearing fruit. They’ve got the manpower to pick the apples and keep the trees in good condition. The idea of growing our own fruit, with everything we need for doing it right here, is far too practical for the government or the Army. So, instead, you civilians get no fruit and we get battered and bruised apples, some of which aren’t fit to eat, that had been shipped halfway across the country, taking up valuable shipping space and using up valuable gasoline. This is the Army. The end.

I am in a rut at radio school. They call it a plateau of learning. When you first go to school you start with Z speeds – – Z1 to Z6. These are all to teach the alphabet. In other words when you get through with Z6 you know the complete alphabet and a number of different signs such as a long break (between messages), repeat back, end of transmission, etc. After you pass all of the Z speeds you go to the 5W (5 words per minute), 7W, 10 W, 12 W, 15 W, 18 W. To pass the course you must be able to receive 18 W (18 words per minute) and send 13 words a minute. The course is five weeks long, four of which we have completed already. I’m on 10W and as I said before, I can’t seem to get by it. I have been for two weeks now on that one speed. I haven’t been able to pass any sending tests yet. I have only one week to get 18 W receiving and 13 W sending. This sounds bad but it’s almost average – – but then, too, there are a lot of boys being transferred to other schools. Just keep your fingers crossed – – I’ll work – – you hope and pray for me, and maybe I can make it – – O.K.?

I only received one letter all week long. I’ll bet you couldn’t guess in the thousand years who it was from. Dad? No. Eleanor? No. Jean? No. Aunt Betty? No. One of my brothers? Yes, you’re right. I got a letter from Dick! Am I proud! He wrote me that he saw Nick Halsack (Peggy VanKovics future husband) in S.A. He said Nick is a radio operator in a B-24 and was on his way to Scotland.

Now an explanation as to why I don’t get any other letters, including yours, and any that Eleanor might have sent. The mail clerk up at A-36 (my old outfit) is the sort of guy who would pull a Mortimer Snerd. If you asked him his name he’d say “Duh – duh – uh – lemme tink.” So, naturally you couldn’t expect him to get our mail transferred from A-36 to D-26 for two or three months, therefore, no mail. I don’t know why he sent Dick’s letter through – – he probably didn’t mean to. By the way, the mail clerk I’m raking over the coal is, of course, a Sgt. If a guy is a born soldier and always on the ball, he remains a Pvt. – It’s only these Snerds that can get ahead. Boy, I guess I sound like my old self today, don’t I?

All kidding aside though, they’re retaining all the men not physically fit for overseas duty. These are the men who get the ratings and stay on in the camps as cadre and instructors. It’s logical enough, but it hurts me. (I don’t know how the other boys feel. When I was younger I was pretty puny. I never had any diseases but I was never very robust either. I never did the things other boys did, swim, hike, ride a bike. In general, I didn’t really live until I was 13 or 14. Now I’m healthy – – full of spunk (at least I feel that way) and in general I feel like living. I came into the Army with high hopes – – Air Corps, Cadre, O.C.S. but truly (I don’t want to get cynical again) the jobs I would like best seen either to be taken or are being taken by man who, in peace time, wouldn’t be allowed even to join the Army. It hurts my ego (or sumpin). At any rate I’m Class A (overseas combat) material, and if I don’t flunk out of radio or get transferred to another part of camp (which isn’t likely) I’ll be home sometime in June or July, and then it will be “Over the Waves”. And then I’ll get my rating by doing something really worthwhile. – “A dreamer.”

Two pages – both sides. There is quantity, even if it isn’t quality. Please, will it pass for the negligence on the part of your youngest son last week? I’m to be on guard tonight so I’m in camp this weekend.

Tomorrow, I’ll finish up this letter and add a quick note from Rusty to Ced about his missing bag.  I’ll finish the week with another letter from Grandpa to his scattered family.

Judy Guion