November 21, 2010

Pelham Bay Park

October 24, 1918

Dear Mother,

Well, we're here -- got to camp about 8 o'clock yesterday morning frozen stiff, and after another physical exam we were assigned to a regiment and company. We are to stay here until time to start to school at New London, Connecticut, provided we pass the examination today or tomorrow. They say it's pretty hard to pass, but I certainly hope I get in.

Some of the fellows got letters from friends in New London, and they said the first thing that happened after they got there was that they were given an oath of secrecy, and told not to ask for furlough home after they get out of school. No Eastern fellows are allowed to enter the Listeners Class because being close to home, they might give away some secret while with their people. The invention is quite new so they take no chances on fellows telling when they get home, so no furloughs are given.

They advance you fast and give good pay because of the "dangerousness" of the Listener position. If a torpedo explodes anywhere close to a ship's listening room, the listener's eardrums are broken, and in case the ship is sunk, so is the listener -- at that I'd give anything to get in. When you finish you are immediately put on board a destroyer or submarine for active duty.

The camp is so different from the one we came from that we hardly know what to do or say. And so large -- I walked over an hour yesterday in one corner of the camp, and never got off cement roads. Barracks are everywhere. There are about 18,000 men besides the officers. Five Y.M.C.A.'s and four K. of C.'s.

Our sea bags and hammocks didn't get here yesterday so we had nothing to sleep in, but they gave us two mattresses and one blanket apiece. We tried sleeping on two mattresses and covering with the blanket but froze to death, so we used one mattress for cover -- and kept warmer anyway. It was sure funny to see some fellow trying to manipulate his narrow hammock mattress into covering all of him.

We stood in mess line for 30 minutes before we got in the building this a.m., and all our hands were blue. Of course the fellows from N.Y. stand it very well, but the bunch from southern states who have been playing in "sunny California" have a hard time getting used to it. We have met several we knew in Pedro.

Fellows who may become listeners are given no liberty until they get to school, so until we leave for New London we will have to stay in camp. I can't see the idea at all, but I suppose they know what they are doing.

The bunch that left for school yesterday had been here one month, but we think if we can pass we'll get out lots sooner. Hope so, for they have three big coal piles -- in fact one of them alone would cover the main business block in Bowie easily -- and it must be shoveled. We came by one yesterday morning when there were 2,000 men on it, and every one of them were singing the "coal pile song." The song was made up of several different tunes, and words written for it by a sailor, and it's great. Haven't learned it as I don't go to the coal pile yet.

The uniform of the day is blues all the time here, and we haven't any undress blues so have to wear our dress ones. We will get some clothes issued shortly I suppose.

I will get your letters written just to Pelham Boy, but will get them sooner if you put it down like I will at the end of the letter.

The fellows of California are much more congenial than these fellows seem to be. Think I'd rather live in California than any other state except Texas. However am glad to get to see something of the U.S. My trips will be worth far more than one year of college would, I'm sure.

Give my love to the kiddies.

Your affectionate son,

Address: Pelham Bay Park, Barracks 7-M, New York. Am in the 7th Regiment, Company M.

(Postmarked New York, New York, October 24, 1918)

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