November 9, 2010


Same Day
October 4, 1918

My dear Mother and Father,

Two letters in one day look foolish, but I wanted to tell you that I have passed the Listener's exam and will leave for Pelham Bay, N.Y. in two or three weeks if everything goes O.K. I took the first exam last Tuesday, and went up today to see if I passed. I had, so they gave those of us who got by the first the finals -- Boone (a fellow I knew in Dallas) and I passed. There were about 50 or sixty started, and only 3 passed the finals, so you can see how hard it was.

A Listener is one who has an instrument on his head like a wireless man, and another instrument for hearing the approaching submarines -- you have to know wireless, too. It pays pretty good money after you take 3 months training, and I figure I can get active just as quickly that way as by waiting for a draft. There are several fellows who waited and have been here 6 and 7 months. To pass, you have to be almost absolutely perfect in both hearing and seeing. My left ear is slightly better than my right, but my percentage is nearly 100%.

In sight, they have a circle with the 360 degrees marked off on it, and we sat about 30 ft. back, and he turned an arrow to a space and we had to see it in a second. The dial looked like this [sketch]. Next they put us in front of a cloth screen with numbers on it -- he got behind it so we couldn't see him. He then rattled behind certain numbers, and we had to know which one, although the numbers were only 1 foot apart. The screen looked like this [sketch]. He then got off and whispered some words, and we wrote them down. They tested our memories by giving us a string of ten numbers, like 7-9-3-1-2-4-5-9-1-8, and made us wait a while before we wrote them down. All this was the first exam.

The second was only one thing, but that was sure hard, for they all but we three failed in a minute. You know what one of those things the doctor sticks in both his ears, and has rubber tubes attached with a stethoscope or something on the end? We had one with only the ear pieces and a continuous tube -- like this [sketch]. He puts it in your ears, and then takes a toothpick and scratches all the way from A to B. If on the left you raise your left hand, and on the right your right hand, and if the middle, both hands. If one ear is much better than the other, all the sound will go to it and you raise the wrong hand. Of course when he got within a quarter of an inch to the center, I made a few mistakes, as did the others, but the main idea is I passed.

They asked all men who were not going in for other ratings to try, for it is as Listeners were hard to get. A funny thing -- more Texans than about all of the others put together passed. All three today were Texans, the average about 5 out of a hundred passing, and 2 or 3 of those all Texans.

Will write when I know when I leave -- won't be for two weeks anyway, I don't think, so you can keep on writing.


P.S. My rating automatically changed when I passed, so I'm now Seaman 2nd Class instead of Apprentice Seaman.

(Postmarked Los Angeles, California, October 4, 1918)

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