October 31, 2010

Feeling Good

San Pedro, California
September 12, 1918

My dear Mother,

Got your package yesterday and used the powder and stuff right after I shaved, and there were at least a dozen fellows yelled "Perfume" when I passed. You needn't have gotten such expensive powder, but I'm certainly glad you did now.

Am on mess duty again today and on guard tomorrow, worse luck.

We've had several good meals lately -- don't know what's the matter with the cooks. One had meat, potatoes, cheese, fresh tomatoes, beans, bread & butter, and pie. Last night we had fish, stuffed peppers, sweet and Irish potatoes with gravy, hash, bread & butter, and a small piece of watermelon, but this morning they got lazy again and gave us beans.

I bought a trench mirror and toothpaste yesterday, and have already gotten laundry and toilet soap before.

My vaccination is taking and is sure itching, but will be over in a day or so I suppose. I took my third shot yesterday afternoon, and it hasn't made me sick -- just made my arm a little sore. I'm glad all three are over though. Will have to take a throat culture (which is having the doc stick a crooked wire down your throat with some medicine on the end, which he puts on your tonsils), and blood test, which only means they stick a needle in an arm and draw a little blood, so the worst of my problems are over.

Didn't get a letter yesterday so will be at the head of the line today waiting for one.

I'll write again as soon as I hear from you.

Your loving son,

(Postmarked San Pedro, California, September 12, 1918)

October 30, 2010

A Day in the Life of Texas Red

San Pedro, California
September 10, 1918

My dear Mother,

Am a messenger at the Adjutant's office today and it's a snap -- on from 8 til 12 and 2 til 4, and off all the rest of the time. While on guard we have to be on those hours in the daytime, and also guard 4 hours straight at night.

Was just vaccinated and they don't do it like Dr. Yeakley did. They smear the dope on your skin and then take a sharp pointed instrument like a needle and jab holes in your arm through the dope. I hope mine takes the first time, for if it doesn't they make you take them over until it does.

I think we get out Saturday. Will look up Cousin Mabel at the first opportunity, but am especially invited to go home with one Californian, and have been asked repeatedly by others. Everyone in the camp seems to know me, and they call me Texas Red -- what do you know about your son being called red? It's not on account of my red face, because everyone in Goofie Camp have red faces. It must be that my hair is getting sunburned while it's short.

I wrote Father yesterday. Worked in the kitchen yesterday and although it's hard work, we are paid for it by them giving three of us a whole pie, and believe me, pie is a luxury in this camp. That is, to anyone except the cooks. They eat what they want to cook. Last night they each had a thick T-bone steak smothered in onions. I was tempted to take my big bar of hard soap and bean one or two.

Expect a letter from you this morning because I haven't gotten any for several days from you.

A letter would undoubtedly help out here, because there are so many they can't notice individuals (but just pick a man at random, and he makes good -- all right -- if not, they try another). But any such thing should be sent to "the ship" or permanent camp, and not to Detention.

I failed to lock my neckerchief in my sea bag for a few minutes last Friday, so someone stole it. Now I'll have to be issued another which will take $1.20 out of my list -- of course I don't have to pay the money, but we have $100 worth of clothes coming, and when we have gotten that much we have all others taken out of our pay. I still have $44.00 to get yet.

The YMCA is still closed so my "knee writing" is still bum.

Love to all of you,

(Postmarked San Pedro, California, September 10, 1918)

October 29, 2010

A Letter to Dad

San Pedro, California
September 9, 1918

Dear Father,

Got your letter day before yesterday but have been too busy to answer it until now. I have an hour and a half off from my duties as a pot washer -- a noble occupation for one of my intelligence, but it just lasts one day so I won't be bothered.

Am due out Monday, but hope they let us out the Saturday before -- they did one bunch that way, so we may be out two days sooner than expected, and you may believe I won't object.

I don't think there is a chance in the world for advance merit by having good work recognized, for they don't put you to doing anything that is even halfway important.

Some fellows have an awful time here because they fuss if they get put on mess duty or anything that's unpleasant, and are always worrying about their shots or something. It's not so bad here, I don't think, but I just let things rock along and take whatever comes. I hope we get better things after we get out of Goofie Camp, and I think we will.

Our meals here haven't enough sweets in them but anyone surely won't starve. As I was working in the kitchen today, the cooks gave me hotcakes for breakfast (they eat what they want), and tonight they promised me a piece of apple pie, which will be greatly appreciated.

Have been invited to go home with several California boys when I get liberty, and think I may do so, although sailors can get cheap places to stay at some hotels that give rates to men in uniform.

Am glad to hear your oil stock is doing so well and hope the oil field makes the law business pick up.

Got a letter from Donovan today and will answer him tomorrow -- am always glad to hear from any of you. This post office at detention certainly does a big business.

Have had lots of fruit to eat in the last three or four days, for half of the fellows lived close to San Pedro, and their parents come over and give them boxes of food. They always include Texans, for we are so far from home they know we won't get anything til we get out of detention.

Will write again in a few days,

Your affectionate son,

P.S. Excuse writing -- YMCA is still closed and as the only articles we have in our tents are our sea bags and hammocks, my lap had to do for a table.

(Postmarked San Pedro, California, September 10, 1918)

October 28, 2010

Supernumerary = Extra Men

Friday, September 6, 1918

Dear Mother,

Did not have a stamp yesterday when I wrote and today I couldn't get off to get one, so will write a little more and mail tomorrow.

We had a pretty good supper tonight -- bread and butter, two hot dogs, meat loaf, fried potatoes, tomato sauce, and an apple, with coffee to drink. They always have meat and potatoes, but I like potatoes. Am feeling frisky -- my little sickness didn't hurt me any.

Had to be on guard duty today, but I got to be a "super" (don't know why they call them that), and so only had to guard from when I relieved somebody until another guard came -- but I'll have to sit up tonight from 8:00 to 12:00, and go through the same performance. However, that's a better watch than from 12 to 4 o'clock.

Tell me where Aunt Hattie was that she didn't receive my telegram and didn't get to see me -- I've forgotten her address now too.

It's nearly eight and I have to change into my blues so will stop.

It might be that I could see Price while I'm out here if they don't move all the regular Navy men. This is a reserve training camp and they may make us go somewhere else, but I hope not.

Would love to be at home tonight, but if we look at it in the right light it won't be long til I'll be there.

Your loving Son,

(Postmarked San Pedro, California, September 8, 1918)


San Pedro, California
September 5, 1918

My dear Mother,

Got two letters from you this morning -- the first I've had -- and they were addressed all right.

Have taken my second shot but an hour ago so haven't had time to get sick -- the first shot didn't hurt me at all but they say the second one is the worst of the three.

I ate my first meal in mess at noon today since Monday noon -- have been here in the hospital since Tuesday. The whole camp is sick with influenza, and at every muster a few "drop over" in a faint and are carried off, and after a day or so of chills and fever they are back again. My fever was up to 103 1/2 but we got splendid treatment at the ward, so I got out after staying two days. I only ate four bowls of soup from Monday morning til Thursday morning, when I got out. I'm still pretty weak, but am feeling better because I've eaten two meals since.

Got a letter from Cousin Mabel also this morning and she said for me to consider their house mine whenever I get liberty. The fellows who went out of detention camp last Monday got eight days liberty, but when we get out we will be lucky if we get 24 hours. I sure will be glad to get out of here and away from all the confusion of detention camp. If Jesse Parish is in San Pedro, he is within a hundred yards of me, but we can't mix so haven't seen him, but will try and find him as soon as I get out. Mare Island is pronounced just like it's spelled (so Californians say) and not Marie.

I haven't been vaccinated yet. One good thing about my getting sick and getting to go to the hospital is that I got out of guard duty. Some of the fellows have been on for four or five days because detention camp has so few fellows in it now. It had 1100 at one time and not over 250 to 300 -- every day some going out and no recruits coming in. To tell the truth there are not enough in camp to properly run it, and they have suspended drill altogether.

Our meals have enough to eat in them, but sometimes they are not exactly what we'd like -- every once in a while we get a real good meal though. But I'm going to buy me a T-bone steak covered with butter the first night of liberty. We have meat almost every meal and I believe that's one reason so many are sick. There has never been a fatality from sickness since the camp was built 16 months ago so there doesn't seem much danger after all.

I'll be sure and look up Maude's cousin the first chance I get.

Another camouflaged ship is lying at anchor over by the make-believe ship, waiting to take a bunch of sailors on their first cruise -- they set sail tonight I suppose.

We will have another chance to go swimming Saturday but I'm not going -- I don't like to swim in the ocean, regardless of what people say. The water tastes like salts to me.

Darned if I wouldn't keep at least one share if not all of my oil stock -- something might come of it, and even if a little would mean a great deal to you and Father. They haven't given us a chance to make out our insurance yet but will before we get to "the ship."

Will look for a letter every day or so, and you know how I enjoy them, but don't write me when you have anything you had rather do.

They furnish us with needle and thread so you needn't send that. I meant to ask you to send pictures and albums, for I got away without a picture.

Am glad June Donald got his commission -- I'm going to write Miss Jettie in the near future.

Will try and write at least every other day.

Love to all of you, your son,


P.S. The reason my writing is so poor today is because the YMCA is closed and I'm writing on a box.

October 27, 2010

Aunt Maude Writes To Camp

Letter from Maude Thomas
Bowie, Texas

September 2, 1918

My dear Heywood,

You may not belong to Bowie and Montague Counties but we won't have it any other way, and I am sending you under separate cover a Comfort Kit, the gift of the Montague County Chapter, American Red Cross. The kit contains a few of the things you will find necessary now to do your mending, darning, sewing on buttons, washing dishes, etc. We hope that you will get as much pleasure out of using it as we have got in fixing it for you.

Your mother spent last Monday night with me and I enjoyed her so much. We talked until the wee hours of the night and until we were both hoarse.

I was down at the station the afternoon you came through to meet mother, and was so sorry that I didn't see you. Why didn't you have your head sticking out? I imagine you did but I just didn't see you. Tommy had a letter from Otis yesterday. He is at San Pedro. June Donald is here and is the finest looking thing in uniform. He is an ensign now.

Hope you like your work and with best wishes, I am,


Maude Thomas

Aunt Maude included the following news clipping with her letter:

A Novel Dinner Party at Silk Home Friday

An exceptionally novel dinner party was given at the W.W. Silk home on Friday evening, honoring the birthday of the man of the house, to whom the affair was a complete surprise. When the guests arrived and the greetings from their unsuspecting and surprised host were over, Mrs. Silk invited them to the dining room, informing them that as the weather had prevented them from going to the center of attraction, Burkburnett, she had tried to bring Burkburnett to them. There, centering the table, was Burkburnett in miniature, the oil derricks, boilers and storage tanks crowded in between cottages and store buildings, while the Katy passenger train was on its way to the station, the midst of the busy scene. This centerpiece was quite apropos, as host and guests alike are interested in the oil fields to a large extent.

A six course menu was served. The place cards contained questions and toasts from Kipling, the men reading their cards aloud. Those enjoying the dinner, and the evening of chat that followed, were: Messrs. Norris H. Martin, John Bland, John O'Donohoe, Orville Bullington, C.W. Snider, T.B. Noble, W.B. Hamilton, H.F. Weldon, and Dr. J.C.A. Guest.

You're In The Navy Now

September 1, 1918
San Pedro, California

Dear Mother and Father,

Haven't gotten any mail yet but suppose your letters haven't had any time to get here yet.

Have drilled a good deal since I've been here, but only in the morning -- they make us do something else in the afternoon. Except when we are on special duty, such as guards, mess attendants, or the like, we get off at 4 o'clock.

One way of punishing men for petty offenses is to give them two hours peeling spuds. I had to peel for two hours the other day, but not for punishment. Each company has a day and it happened to be ours. Am certainly blistered -- my nose and forehead are peeling off. I can't say that a little white or blue cap is much protection. We got our white hats yesterday. I'll tell you what you can send me if you will -- some talcum powder and a little cold cream.

It takes about $10 to get outfitted here besides what they issue -- clothes stops, hair cut, bucket, bag to put your comb and brush, and soap and toothbrush and stuff in, Shinola set to black your shoes, stencil to put name on all our clothes, scrub sand and face soap, lock for sea bag, and a bunch more I've forgotten right now. Also I buy a pint of sweet milk every morning for breakfast -- they sell it at the canteen.

Got my first "shot" Wed. and won't have to be shot again until next Wed. Must be vaccinated Monday though!

Have been sleeping in a tent up until today, when they moved me to "The Jungles" -- which is a name given to a long shed, roof only covered, and no wooden floor (the tent had a floor), about 25 ft. by 150 ft, and a hammock every three feet. I sure hated to move because I can't keep clean out here -- will have to pull my shoes off in bed to keep my feet clean. I take a shower bath every night and today a bunch of us marched over to a part of the harbor set aside for swimming. Stayed in about an hour -- can't say I'm crazy about the water -- the salt hurts my throat.

When do Edwin and Donovan get back from their camp trip -- or have they already gotten back? Tell them to write me and I'll answer, although Monday afternoon I'll have to wash a bunch of clothes so won't write you then.

I'd better get a letter Monday or there will be a wild Texan in camp -- and they consider all Texans half wild anyway.

Three hydroplanes came over the camp a while ago and lit in the bay -- then went slowly over to the submarine base. They all three made pretty landings on the water.

They launched a big camouflaged ship (transport) today and she steamed away to go through the canal and up on the Atlantic coast.

One good thing about this country is that there are no flies or mosquitoes to bother with, and the nights are cool.

We had inspection, like they have every Saturday morning, and we had to stand over an hour at attention while the "gold braids" looked us over. There were probably three thousand civilians watching -- the first I'd seen in several days. To tell the truth I wish they were not allowed to visit on Saturday and Sunday, because as long as I don't see anything but whites and blues, I don't get homesick and wish I was out of detention. I'm getting along all right, but the guy who is sleeping between us is some baby -- he cries half the night and he only lives 20 miles away in Los Angeles. But there are only one or two nuts like he is -- the most are just a jolly, happy-go-lucky bunch. There are some of the "prettiest cussers" I ever saw or heard here. They seem to be able to talk all day and never say the same cuss twice.

Give love to all and kiss the girlies for me.

From your affectionate son, Heywood

(Postmarked Los Angeles, California, September 1, 1918)

The Basics

Naval Training Station
San Pedro, California

August 26, 1918

Dear Mother and Father,

Got in Los Angeles at 7:30 Tuesday morning and got out here at camp about eleven o'clock. The first thing they did to us was to cut all our hair off with the clippers. Then came mess -- all this time we didn't have uniforms of course, but about 2:00 we marched over and were issued our mattresses and hammocks.

Next taken to another building and given our sea bags and three suits of whites, 1 of blues, 6 prs. of sox, 6 handkerchiefs, 1 blue cap (they are out of white caps until Monday), 1 pr. shoes, 1 pr. gloves, 1 pr. leggings, 1 whisk broom, 1 hairbrush, 1 comb, 1 scrub brush (think of giving us combs and brushes after clipping our hair), and 5 suits of underwear. All clothes have to be folded and these rolled in a certain way, and each garment tied with strings about 15 inches long called clothes stops. Then everything put in our sea bags. We sleep in tents -- three hammocks to a tent.

Have seen several large American steamships and two foreign ones come steaming into the harbor -- also saw two American submarines go out to sea. Whenever a steamship comes by, all the fellows not from Texas yell "Big ship, Tex" for they make fun of us because we don't know much about ships. All Californians are called "plum pickers." Detention camp is nicknamed "Goofie" (at least that's the way it sounds) and all of us are called Goofs.

We haven't taken our first shot -- in the arm -- but expect to get it this afternoon, also vaccinated.

Standifer and I have met several boys from Dallas we knew -- at least I have met them and he knows them. They are out of detention Saturday so we won't see them much. When they get out, all men go to what is called "The Ship" -- a big building about 600 ft. by 150 ft. and is marked by paint into different parts of a real ship, but it will be many a day before I get on the ship.

You see pictures of blue water. The Pacific is just as blue as can be, and small boats are always going in and out, but up to now I haven't had any time to look at them much.

We get up at 5:30 -- have plenty of time to dress and wash -- then report to the drill ground, where all the companies go through Swedish exercises for about 30 minutes. Then get breakfast and are off until 8 o'clock, and go to assembly when the bugle blows.

We drilled all morning. Aunt Maude said if I didn't get time to write her for you to send her my letters -- you can either do that or tell her I'll write her as soon as I get time.

It's time for noon mess so will stop -- will write every time I get time. Will send my grip home today.

Give my love to all the kiddies.

Son Heywood

P.S. I wired Aunt H. but she wasn't at Maricopa when I went through.

(Postmarked San Pedro, California, August 26, 1918)

The Accidental Tourist

August 26, 1918
Between Tucson and Maricopa, Arizona

My dear Mother and Father,

Telegraphed Aunt Hattie last night from Sanderson -- and hope she will be in Maricopa to meet me. We get in about seven o'clock and stay twenty minutes. I was mistaken when we got into Los Angeles -- rather our government orders were -- for we don't get in until tomorrow morning at 7:30 -- and won't get to San Pedro until about 8 or 9.

Last night we were out about El Paso and were so cool we put two Pullman blankets over us and still Gordon, who was by the windows, said he was chilly -- it was still cool until we came over Stints Pass, which is about 5000 ft. above sea level. After that it has gotten warmer continually and are glad we are going through Yuma in the night, for they say it is hot there. It is now about six o'clock so it will soon cool off again -- at least they say the desert is cold at night. We have gone for miles today and not seen a house in New Mexico.

We seem to be in a sort of valley for we can see the mountains on both sides of us -- probably 20 or 30 miles away.

I almost feel mean about getting this trip when you and the rest are suffering with the heat.

We have been with two soldiers from Kelly Field all the way from San Antonio, and they are certainly nice fellows -- aviation section -- they live in San Jose, California and one is going back in two weeks and go to Georgia in a tank company.

Will stop and try to clean up a bit in hopes I do see Aunt Hattie, although I can't clean much for I couldn't wear my white pants -- my things are soiled.

Will write as soon as possible.

Your son, Heywood

Homesick Already

August 25, 1918
Letter on YMCA letterhead

Dear Mother and Father,

Got here this morning at 7:30 and have just come back from getting our new tickets on to Los Angeles. We leave from a different depot from the one we came in. We checked our grips at the station so I didn't have any paper, so I came up here to write.

Wish I knew what my address would be so I could tell you and be able to get a letter sooner, but will write as soon as I find out. We won't leave here until 1:20 this afternoon -- don't know what we will do from now until then.

I suppose the boys have gone on the camp trip by now. Grandmother wants you (Mother) to come down. Derned if I wouldn't go before school starts.

Love, Heywood

(Postmarked Hondo, Texas, Aug. 25, 1918)

Out Train

August 25, 1918 9:30 p.m.

My dear Mother and Father,

Had to go to the Recruiting Station three times today -- tried to telephone you from town but Central couldn't get any connection so I canceled it. Left Dallas at 8:20 and we got to San Antonio at 7:30 in the morning. We have six hours in San Antonio -- will try to see grandfather but doubt if I can for it will be during working hours. There are only two of us -- a fellow named Gordon Standifer, who is a good friend of Earle's and the Walkers. His father is well acquainted with Kemp and Tell and with the Weldons in Ladonia -- are we related to them? Their family seems exceedingly nice -- live in a big house on Clinton Ave. in Dallas.

San Pedro is a suburb of Los Angeles -- have Mrs. Paul Johnson's (Mabel) address and will call her up. We have one hour in Los Angeles before we leave for camp. We get to San Pedro at 11:30 Monday night. Went in as an apprentice seaman and so did Standifer. He is 18 too. Will keep my white shoes to wear with my white suit.

The doctor at Dallas said I passed one of the best physical exams of anyone in a long time, and they tried to find scars for identification but besides those on the back of my neck from boils, I didn't have any. They took my fingerprints and the ink isn't off my hands yet.

We have a lower berth in the middle of the train -- am glad we ride all night to San Antonio -- also all night from S.A. to El Paso. I think we get to Maricopa about 1:30 Sunday night, so if that's so I won't telegraph Aunt Hattie, for she wouldn't want to get up at 1:30 to see me. They allowed us $4.50 for meals, which is about 75 cents each, and gave us our tickets and Pullman tickets.

Clyde and Earle and I were to play a little tennis if I ever got through going to the Recruiting Station, but got busy and couldn't go so we went to Kidd Springs and got caught in the rain, and I couldn't get back and see Grandma and Aunt M before I went to town to report to Navy Station, as I didn't know when I left so it made no difference. Had left my grip at Clyde's office. When I repacked it was too fat so I left my soiled shirt for Aunt M to send back home -- will send grip when I get there.

Give my love to the kiddies and more for yourself -- am sure glad that the only Wledon who can go didn't register and be drafted.

Your loving Son, Heywood

P.S. 'Scuse writing as we are moving. Notice how I get to sign my name -- got a handle, just had to try it so put it on back of envelope.

(Letter postmarked Denison, Aug 25, 1918)

October 26, 2010


Let me introduce you to my grandfather, Heywood Walker Weldon Sr. He was born in Henrietta, Texas on December 7, 1899. At the age of 18 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, totally unaware of what lay before him as a young sailor at the end of the first World War.

When he turned 18, he left home for the first time, working for the Lone Star Gas Company. He lived at the Bluebird Inn in Abilene, Texas, and traveled the area inspecting gas lines for "steals," or lines that had been cut and spliced "behind the meter."

His mother, Mary Elizabeth Walker Weldon, was the recipient of most of his letters. In one of his earliest missives he wrote to her:

"I'm glad to hear that Q. Squires joined the army. Say, I'm a good automobile driver and can wire a telephone. Did you see what Private Peat said in the American? He said it was the ones that went and not the ones who stayed that will smile. In fact, I don't feel right when they show the flag on the screen and everybody cheers -- I don't feel like I ought to cheer." Within six months he had enlisted in the U.S. Navy and began his correspondence in earnest.

Here are the transcriptions of those letters, exactly as he wrote them in his fluid, old-fashioned hand. The letters are now crumbling, the cheap paper provided by servicemen's charities disintegrating after years stored in shoe boxes. You are invited to follow the adventures of a young man at the most exciting time of his life.