Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'May the Sun Shine Bright as the Dickens'

(Photo: March Field, Riverside, CA)

Reading letters from 1918 is a bit like reading a much earlier form of English. Just like reading the Early Modern English of Shakespeare, or even more so, the Middle English of folks like Chaucer, I think the ever-changing language is slowly starting to see a shift from then and now. I can only imagine how the dialect will change by the next century.

After reading the below missives by our fair prince Ernest, one is left thinking, "Huh?" I am confused by much of what he says, except for the continued fawning. Part of it is because I don't know details about the events he speaks of, and part of it is just how he uses language. What I do understand, makes me smile; describing one's self as a "restless bird all aft" is so last century. And I just might have to steal the phrase "all a-jumble." Priceless. Where it gets fuzzy is when he says things like "pussy-footed son of a sea look." Okay, dude. Back up. Slow down. Translate for 2010, buddy. That's all I'm sayin'.

A few points stand out here, as you will see:

1) Mamie is either sick or hurt at the time.

2) Blatant racism in 1918 is tossed around like shiny pennies without a second thought. Ernest uses a word that made me suck in my breath, but he says it like it's an everyday word.

3) Ernest talks about getting letters from Mamie, and I don't have possession them. It finally dawned on me that many of the letters she mailed him somehow were either tossed or misplaced. It would be just like a guy not to keep them in a box like she did. Obviously most of the ones she kept would be from him. That only makes sense. Duh.

4) Ernest writes a letter in a plane!

Happy 2010 everyone. See you in the new year.


The Grammar Nazi

Barracks 3 also Squadron A

March Field

Riverside, Calif.

Nov. 13, 1918

Dearest sweet girl of mine:

Please dear, I’ve tried to write tonight but can’t write as I wish. Tore up letter after letter. It’s 11:45 now. It’s orders to be in bed, but am in the orderly room with the blinds down secretly burning midnight zzzs. And yet guess I’ll have to wait – a million years – till Sat. eve to see you dear. Didn’t get my mail this morn and believe me I was some restless bird all aft. Wondering wondering were you real sick and I know you weren’t happy. O girl of girls I so want you to be. Rec’d your dearest letter this evening. Honey, my thoughts and mind and heart and soul are all a-jumble. Have had several close calls and can crack a joke with death staring me in the face.

Yet tonight I don’t feel like joking. Earlier this eve several of the fellows tried to get me to let them see what I was or wasn’t writing. I told them to chase themselves.

One of them a kike showed me a letter he just got from a girlfriend.

It started out soft as the dickens and finally wanted to ask him a very intimate question. One she had lost sleep and everything over. Wanted the pussy-footed son of a sea look to lay down his friendship and tell her from the bottom of his heart would Jeff ever be as big as [?].

Gee I sure remember sitting there on the sofa with you dear and we saw him when he was. O girl! Girl! O gollie!

What’s that ditty about? If I were where I would be. Then I would be where I am not. But I am not where I want to be. So I must wait till I can be…or something. 1000 years like that.

It’s after 12:00 and I can hear all sorts of noises outside. Snores and snores.

Anyway dear, God bless you little lovely blonde heart, and may the sun shine bright as the dickens for you soon.

Night xx. Night, night and again. God bless you honey and keep you from getting hurt in this cruel world. Xxxxxxxxxx.

With a heart full of love dear, as ever your own.


Aero Sqdrn. A.

November 16, 1918

Riverside Calif.

Dearest Sweetheart:

Am scribbling this in the field. Will not have much time. Am studying to take exam for 1 cls. sergeant. It will be rather a severe one. May not pass, but was recommended, so here goes. Rec’d your dearest of letters yesterday.

Well, here come the ships …

P.S. am writing this bit 3000 ft up over Hemet. It looks so pretty. Couldn’t talk about it to the St. in the rear seat so this. Such a variety of color, autumn leaves, etc. and the clouds and their shadows, the Eucalyptus and the rugged hills and mountains surrounding the whole and grayback with snow on it in the background. We are circling now, all the ships chasing us, we are in the lead. Well, I’ll finish this on the [?] things are so at home. Gee I wish you could see it.

O girlie of mine, tomorrow is Sunday and I can’t see you – wanted to buy a pass but none of the fellows would part for love – or money. I sure feel awfully heart-hungry for you, you, u! Dear sweetheart! Gee but the coming week will seem ages long. And my little girl all crippled up. Dear I hope you are better when this gets there. Oh how I wish I could hold you close and kiss you o so lovingly and tenderly.

So Mable snubbed you. Are you ever so sure girlie? By gollie girls are funny. If a fellow, my chum were to do ditto, I’d just say lovingly hello, ya big stiff, whazza matter? Come on and kick thru. Why, please tell me why? Ah! Mamie, a fellah has gotta forgive lots of things in this world. Sure dear, it does hurt like the dickens – and it’s a queer predicament to get into. One is shocked and doesn’t know what to do. And at the moment forgetting, one’s power to hate is as great as one’s love was before. Huh! O I hope yet the way it happened it seems, well, funny. I hope you have made up. My sis and her chum used to get too thick and then they would get thin again. Then make up, etc.

Don’t honey. I’ll try not to spoil you, and I don’t think you’re spoiled. But I sure love to give sweet things to things sweet. Trouble is one can’t get real extra fine sweets at present. It’s all camouflaged. What was it on the margin of that letter? Wait till I see you dear and I will, again unless. Huh! – unless nothing.

I see they are going to let the fellows out of the army and maybe in quantity and bulk, etc. pretty soon. I don’t know yet what I’ll do. Whether I’d rather go or stay.

I would give a pretty penny to stroll around through the woodies with just you dear. Don’t tease me about making faces at you. Wish I could right now and sniff. There!

I wonder will I tear up this letter and everything and just write another and then tear it up, etc.

That one picture is my sister-in-law where I was Sunday. Well I must do some studying tonight. It seems so quiet in here right now. Most of the fellows are at the Y.A. We had our boisterous singing awhile ago.

Night darling girlie of mine and I just love you o so much!

X. Night.


Monday, December 21, 2009

That Town was 'Wild Ditto'

I'd say Mamie is happy the war is over, wouldn't you?

November 12, 1918

Oh Earnest, isn’t this a wonderful day! Think of what it means for the world. I wish you could understand just how I feel today dear. But you can’t I guess. I want to shout and sing and yet I want to cry. I wish I could be with you today.

I got up at 2:00 last night and Zella and I went up town. Of all the noise and fun. There was a [?] a mile long formed in less than fifteen minutes and we were second to the head. Fire truck led. We went all over Ontario and Upland and shouted and sang and screamed and blew horns and pounded tin cans till I can hear it yet. It lasted till 5:30 and then we came home almost froze to death and hoarse! I couldn’t speak! I went to bed and got up at 9:30. Ha ha! Am cleaning and decorating the machine to be in a big parade at 2:30 today. I only wish you could be here with me. Wouldn’t it be great tho?

Well, I’ll see you – Sunday? And don’t forget that I am thinking of you today and loving you.

Bye bye dear & love, Mamie.

She also must remind Ernest she's thinking of him and wishes he were there. Looks like they are making plans to see each other again. She's still engaged to Clarence, but she doesn't want ED to go away just yet.

She gets what she wants. He can't bring himself to say goodbye:

November 13, 1918

At home

Aero Squadron A., Riverside, Cal.

Dearest Dear Girl:

I wrote you last night and wrote that I did not at the moment know would I mail it or not. I did not. Gee gee gee, that was an awfully dear letter you wrote, but it sure got me. It made me feel worse than the whirling chair.

I read three letters – one from you, one from an old chum and the other from my sister-in-law. Read theirs in a hurry and wanted to keep yours of all the letters till I had a bit of time alone. Sis said some day someone would address me thus Dear Ernest oof! Chum says that town was wild ditto, as Ontario. Methinks all the towns in the world went wild. It’s certainly great that that hell has burned itself out.

Then I read your loving letter and re-read it several times since. O dearest of girls, ya give a fella an awful thump. O God! O girl! O you, forgive me darn sweetest darling girl. I almost wish I had never seen you, and yet I wouldn’t take the world for having seen you. I am afraid I haven’t added much toward your happiness since I’ve known you dear. But I wanted so much too. Yes, we ought to be engaged. Wish we were. Gee I used to think lots of those lovely things, but I guess it’s bye. Goodbye to the dearest most loving sweetheart an unworthy fellow ever knew. And those laughs and that hair that I was more crazy to have brush into my face (and nestle into) than you know. But g-bye and O sugar!

They informed us the other day that the quarantine was definitely on indefinitely and tighter than before. O Maim’! The more often I see you, the more it hurts me to leave. And were I ever to see you again, I would never let you go! Huh!!! But I want you to be happy to if you care for him so then bye.

But if he ever mistreats you and I find out … I can’t help it. Wish I didn’t love you so much. But I cannot help it. C. has stopped smoking. Guess I’ll start in smoking and ____. Our memory is what we forget with if necessary to forget until I’m an old old Batch and reflect. How you used to thrill me in so many many ways. O Geee whiz. Forgive me, I do not blame you dear. You have added much to my life and have taken (heart shape) away. You couldn’t help it. Such is life and love. But gee it hurts.

About 60 of the bunch are leaving for Honolulu soon. No I’m not in it, but I wish I were.

O Mamie, I can’t say goodbye – xx to you. Guess I’ll just have to do something awful and be confined indefinitely. Gee it’s getting late so goodnight darling and __________.


I don't know about you, but I am kind of getting tired of the sappiness of his letters. I might barf if I hear one more "oh gee" or "darling girl." I just want to tell Mamie to sh*t or get off the pot. Marry Clarence and let poor Ernest go, or dump poor Clarence and make this lovesick, pathetic man happy. Let's get the show on the road, lady. What do ya say? Stop toying with these men. I know you like the attention, but it's not doing anyone any favors. Now that the war is over, what's next for these long-distance lovebirds?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


A woman writes to Ernest about the end of the war:

Nov. 11, 1918

Dear Ernest:

I am still in bed but rejoicing over peace being declared and thought of you and am sending you these few lines to tell you so. Everyone in Exeter acts as though they were crazy. Closed everything up and just parading the streets in every way shape and form. And making all the noise they can. I don’t blame them if I was able to I would be among them and doing my bit. Can’t write very much but want to let you know I thought of you. Best wishes and hoping to see you before long. I remain as ever Your SST.

Mrs. E. Patten

Ernest writes to Mamie the day the war ends:

Nov. 11, 1918
Aero Squadron A., Riverside, Calif.

Dearest little girl of mine:

Rec’d your big little letter last week. Sure was glad to get it. Poor lil dear. Fellow sure feels helpless. Wants to do something and I can’t. Hope honey that you are alright again when this gets there and that it doesn’t take it long to arrive. Mail sure must go around some to get there.

That bit that you wrote on the margin seemed kind of funny. One of the words from the lines dropped it in two and I read the first part and then I saw. Ha ha. One half. Ha ha. Must be a dear sweet smile. Did you give the other half to Mabel?

We are still in quarantine but managed to get a pass and went to LA. And O boy I went on the stage Cadillac, and it was all I could do to stay on the stage office in Ontario to change. Hecktopinkus! Whatever that means – and everything. Visited one of my brothers for a while, rode around in their machine. Bummed around the rest of the time. Took a few pictures, etc. And now I’m back and the war is over and everything. Am awfully lonesome right now. A big bunch of fellows were to have gone to France and Honolulu from our squadron but they suspended it, as they did the draft.

Well I haven’t written anything. Did some washing and now it’s getting late again. Some of our things we can wash better than the laundry. Then have the post tailor presses them.

One of the fellows just made sergeant and he has [?] on his overcoat, coveralls and shirt. And they all kid him and say he has them on his underwear.

I just rec’d a letter and package from sis in Ohio, sent me some more socks. Gave several pairs to several fellows to wear at night. It’s been real cool here the last week. Frost every morning.

Well dear dear girl

I wonder wonder wonder wonder about so many things.

Hope darling that you will and can ½ ha ha yet – and not think I’m writing too often.

Honey if you do, I’ll just write anyhow.

And then tear up the letters. XX

I guess.

And when I just want to see you sooo, I’ll look at your sweet self in a picture and then say sugar oh sweetheart.

I want to say things but don’t know how. Wish I could write like you. Night and all the love in the world as ever. E.D. XX

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Drown Your Sorrows in a Piece of Candy

November 1918

Aero Squadron A.

So darling girlie –

Well I don’t know very much to scribble. Only that I miss you and O how I wish I were with you dearest, and I love you more than ever. The boys have been playing the pianola all evening, but it does no good. There is someone missing. You you you!

It seemed to take the stage an awful long time to get there Sat. evening – and then only a few moments and I had to leave. See I don’t think eternity would seem long at all…with little…dear little you.

Made another trip today dear to Hemet. O why wasn’t it Ontario and the only visitor we had was a young lady? A very modest one. Reminded me of the picture I have of you in overalls. She must have come half a mile but wouldn’t come up to the ships. About a hundred yards is as close as the dear would come. When we took off she waved and we circled and dove right down and waved.

Oh boy why wasn’t it Ontario – and different. It was pretty cold coming back and is pretty cold here. Now again I wish somebody was here and with cold that I could keep warm and lovely. Hope dearest that you get a good place at the Hot Point so your time will not be so miserably chopped up. And so full of unhappiness (what a very big word and how very much it means), huh! Was just going to the canteen a bit ago to drown my sorrows in a piece of candy when one of the fellows in my section sprung a box he just received. It’s g-gone now – (the candy is).

Mc. Jimmie (?) just asked, was I writing you? Said he rec’d a letter from mgnt (?). Hope it is lifted by then. On top of his four days of grace after quarantine, he is in charge of quarters Sat. evening. Poor boy – he said he was going to be away if he had to see the General. If he gets away with it, I’ll see the General too.

Dearest, that was just the most lovely treat to be with you darling and to leave so quickly just a wave and gone. O sugar! (but then – sugar is sweet, isn’t it?)

And Mamie. That is some chum you have. And please Mrs. Cod, don’t g-give Mamie the dickens the next morning.

Everyone is going to bed to keep warm, so goodnight deardeardeardearest girl! Hope you are well. Lots of love,


And remember I wouldn’t take anything for a Hello from you.

Wait, they are going to bed because it's cold? They are in Riverside, CA. How cold could it possibly be?

Ah yes, the pianola. My grandmother has a player piano we kids used to torment the family with at every gathering. We'd pull scrolls out of long red boxes, slide the wood panels open in the front of the piano, hook the paper to the player and spend hours pedaling for dear life, while we watched the keys go up and down like the ghost of Beethoven was at the helm. The braille-like pages whizzed before our eyes, and we got such a kick out of it. I will always have a fondness for ragtime piano music because of this. I'm sure the songs we "played" were much like the ones Ernest refers to here.

That he has a photo of my great-grandmother in overalls makes me smile. I used to wear overalls all the time.

I want to know what Hot Point is. Sounds steamy.

He's going to a canteen to drown his sorrows in candy. Sorry, a piece of candy. Not whiskey, not gin. A piece of candy. So Adorable and innocent.

Here we finally hear something quite substantial from the lady in question, and it comes just one day before the end of the war:

Sunday night, 11:30

Nov. 10, 1918

Dear, did you have a good time today without me? I hope you didn’t get lonely. I did. We got all ready for that blamed company and they never came. We were pretty well disgusted. My brother and family were out tho. Dear Ernest boy. I haven’t the heart to write a decent letter to you tonight. Know why? I’m so miserable. My heart aches so and there is no cure for a long time. I can’t answer your sweet letter either. I want to talk to you instead. I’m tired and sleepy and it’s late too. I wish you didn’t love me so desperately and both ways because it will be so hard to say goodbye to each other when the time comes. I hope that time never comes tho. Oh Ernest! I’ve got to be true to Clarence! My love and life means the world to him he writes, and he is so happy and proud of his little sweetheart. (So true!) Oh Ernest! If he knew how I love you it would break up his whole life. And I can’t do that after being engaged for almost three years and almost as close at times as if we were married. I mean mental and spiritual and – never mind. I can’t say it now to you dear. But you can guess. He loves me that way, but if he knew that I loved someone else better than I did him he wouldn’t hold me a minute, but would tell me to go to the man I loved and be happy because that is what he wants me to be – happy. Oh he is so unselfish and good. I ought to be too.

Side note - Yes dear I could trust you to be good to the end of this world!

Another side note – 2:00 Monday morning – Oh Ernest! It’s come really and truly this time. Peace is declared!

He is coming … soon … not far away and we will be married. But there will be part of me that belongs to you and he can’t fill the empty space in my heart. I ought to be happy with him and I will try to be for the sake of being as brave as he.

I am afraid that the longer you and I know each other, the more we will love each other and I can’t bear to think of us parting. Can you? We ought to be engaged right now – the way we love, etc. But a girl can’t be engaged to two men at once can she, dear?

Clarence wrote me a beautiful letter and I received it Friday. It was a love letter right from his very soul and heart. And it made me feel like following him on my knees all the rest of my life.

I will admit that Clarence knows more about me than is right for him to know until we are married, but we have acquired a great and beautiful understanding thru any passionate love. I can’t write about it to you. You might misunderstand me and think me a bad girl. I am not, dear. I believe I could tell you all about it safely. But I can’t write it.

Don’t feel badly now. Maybe I’ll mark off this spell in a day or so and be willing to give myself all to you. I don’t know which love I love best - yours or “C’s.” They are so different yet so beautifully sweet. Good night dear and write soon, and I’ll see you soon and we can talk things over. I love you dearly, dear. Your Mamie.

It's no wonder he continues to pine for her when she's engaged to Clarence. She provides him with so much hope in this one piece of correspondence. She says it will be impossible to say goodbye, but she must because she is going to marry Clarence and be true to him. However, she then says she loves Ernest more than Clarence. Then she says she loves him differently. She's one confused woman. What does one do when she loves two people at the same time? No, really. What does she do?

It appears Clarence is overseas and will be home soon because the war is over. (Now I understand her request to Ernest to love her in his place.) I wonder if Ernest ever felt inadequate as a stay-at-home soldier, while Mamie's other love was actually fighting, if indeed that's what he was doing.

Mamie has shared three years of engagement with Clarence and he "knows" her more than he should. How is that supposed to make Ernest feel? Why is she so open about this with him? Is she trying to hurt his feelings or make him jealous? If so, it's working I'm sure.

The engaged one ends her letter with "your Mamie." The word "your" signifies belonging. One last way to hang onto to Ernest and not have him walk away just yet, not that he would. He's in this for the long haul, until she walks down the aisle with Clarence, whom she wants to follow for the rest of her life, or does she? The Queen of Mixed Signals has spoken and befuddled us all. What's next?

My head spins,

The Grammar Nazi