March 7, 2011

Fin De Blog

Yesterday's post represents the last of the personal correspondence to and between an older generation of family. Many of these people I remember from childhood, but some, like Great-Uncles Edwin and Donovan, and Great-Aunts Katherine and Elizabeth, I know only from snapshots. I've enjoyed the posting of daily letters, and hope that those relatives who stumble on this blog will have fun reading them.

My grandfather's Navy days ended shortly after returning to the US in 1919. He presented an affidavit stating his talents were needed in Texas, and as the war was indeed over, many enlistees were being released from service. Enlistment terms at that time were variable, and it was not uncommon for men to be discharged after only a year or so.

I learned a great deal about my grandfather from these letters. I knew him as a successful, middle-aged man who smoked cigarettes and drank with gusto. I never knew him as these letters' relatively naive Texas teen, leaving home for adventures in the Navy during World War I. At that time he was impulsive, and a spendthrift who was always in debt. Like most young men his age, he would rather have been off having fun and being entertained than working full time. He was self-centered and somewhat spoiled, being the oldest son of an upper-middle class family. He was a small town fellow learning about the Real World in a hurry. His opinions about other people and countries were somewhat cavalier, but understandable given his age and upbringing.

The original letters were given to me by my father, whose grandmother (Mrs. H.F. Weldon) had kept them in cardboard shoeboxes, a very acidic environment. The letters were all written on cheap pulp, which was highly acid, and with the corrosive ink characteristic of the early 20th century. They had been exposed to extreme heat conditions in my grandmother's Dallas home and my father's upper crawlspace in Florida. I had the letters only a few weeks before I began transcribing them in the late 1980s. At that time home scanners did not exist.

A combination of factors has made the letters untouchable today. Heat, moisture, and acidity have damaged them beyond recovery. The paper falls apart into confetti and dust the moment it is taken from an envelope. After consulting with an archival librarian on the best way to preserve them, I got the bad news -- the best option was to transcribe them because there is no way to preserve them. Even before they reached this state, when I could actually handle them to transcribe them, photocopying was not recommended. I was told that the light from a copy machine would only damage the letters further.

This blog will be the only record available of my grandfather's teen-aged naval adventures. The originals, such as they are, will be passed on to another generation, who sadly will not be able to read them unless it is from this blog. Nevertheless, it has been time well spent to get them online and available in some form for posterity.

I suppose this blog will stay intact as long as Google/Blogger keeps the site active. Nothing lasts forever, though. If you want to save the content, it would be best to download posts and save them to a file. There is a link to the source folder for all the photos and illustrations in the slideshow. Interested parties can also download and save any of those images easily.

This material is copyrighted but may be used for any nonprofit purpose. For permission to use the material for profit, please contact me through the site.

March 6, 2011

The Only Letter From Mother

Mrs. H.F. Weldon
1548 Parkland Drive
Lynchburg, Va.
May 15, 1943

Dear Heywood,

The records I am sending will be of interest to you. I thought you'd like to have them for Little Heywood [Ed. note: Little Heywood was my father]. The experience of getting them was interesting to me.

The sailor-attendant offered to get your private record -- which no one else can handle -- and gave me dates, etc., and said your record was clear all through.

The modern Radar [sic]must be the improvement on the listening device.

Last night we went to the picture show and in the newsreel saw the Blakeley still in commission. I'd heard over the radio that she'd been torpedoed in the North Atlantic while with a convoy. She was badly damaged but still afloat and will, they say, "live to fight another day."

Worlds of love,

(Postmarked Lynchburg, Va., May 17, 1943)

March 5, 2011

From The National Archives

The National Archives
Washington, DC
March 9, 1943

My dear Mrs. Weldon:

There are on file in the National Archives records of the Navy Department relating to the installation of listening devices on the USS Blakeley in 1919. The log of this vessel shows that Heywood W. Weldon served on it, and his service records show him to have been a "qualified listener." This material is available for your use should you care to examine it.

Very truly yours,
P.M. Hamer
Director of Reference Service

P.S. Enclosed is a Card of Admission to Search Rooms for Mrs. H.F. Weldon.

March 4, 2011

Letter From Donovan Weldon To His Father

[Ed. note: Donovan and Edwin were my grandfather's brothers]

Donovan Weldon
The Corpus Christi Times
Corpus Christi, Texas
Tuesday, May 17, 1927

Dear Dad:

Was surely glad to get your letter. Have read it half a dozen times. Got one from Mother with it. While I know I don't write any too much, I jump on letters from you and Mother as soon as I can get my hands on them, and they help to keep me going. It isn't all sunshine being away from home, although I am awfully well pleased here. I keep busy enough that I don't get homesick, but I sure get lonesome sometimes.

I am sending you a couple of pictures taken on our fishing trip last Saturday and Sunday. They aren't really good, but they show what we catch down here, once in a while. The fish is a red grouper (I think that is the way you spell it), and I caught it on a redfish line, which is meant for a fish a lot smaller. He weighed over 40 pounds, and was a tough one to get in the boat. We managed to get him up fairly easily, but when we started to get him in the boat I thought we had lost him, he thrashed so. The line was not nearly strong enough to hold him when he got a direct pull, but Vance Griffith, who was with me, got a gaff hook under him and hauled him in. Vance is publicity manager for the Chamber of Commerce, and a good fisherman. He took the picture with the Graflex camera he carries with him, but for some reason they did not show up well. This fish was caught near the jetties, nineteen miles from the pass, where we fish for redfish.

We had a lot of fun on this trip, going down Saturday and coming back Sunday afternoon. Only the two of us went, but we caught more fish than on any previous trip. Van had a run-in with a shark while we were fishing in the surf. The pass is right on the Gulf [of Mexico], and you fish in the surf off of a sandbar where the water is about 4 feet deep. We had caught a half dozen big reds, and Vance had them on a stringer tied to his belt, floating about 6 feet away from him. They weigh so much you have to let them float out that way. About 1 o'clock at night (you fish at night for the best ones) I heard him yell about 100 feet from me, and began thrashing the water with his pole, and a shark about 8 feet long had the fish.

It was as moonlight as day and we could see the shark in the water with his back sticking up. Vance had the stringer tied tight and couldn't let go, and it dragged him about 20 feet before he scared it away by whipping it with the pole. It got our best fish, and just left us the head. The sharks won't bother a man, but if you have any fish in the water outside the bar, they will sure get them. We are going to try a stunt with them by putting a fish on a stringer and trying to harpoon a shark. I never heard of it being tried, and neither did Vance, but the fishermen say it might work, so we are going to try it the next time we go down. One of us will carry the keg, attached to one end of the line, and the other will take the harpoon and bait fish. Vance will try the harpooning stunt, for he can throw one. He harpoons porpoise from motor boats a lot, and there is really an art to it. What will happen when we hit one, I don't know, for Mr. Shark will probably take keg and all out to sea, but it will be a lot of fun, anyway.

Aside from working, fishing, and swimming, I live a mighty simple life. I leave the office every afternoon and go straight to the beach, after dressing at home, and swim for an hour or two. I have gotten accustomed to the salt water now, and can swim all right in the waves, though at first I was a total loss. Then I go home, take a bath, shave, and go to town to eat about 7:30. At night I read, having only about one date in ten days or so. I know a lot of people here, but have not gotten interested in most of them. Spend a lot of my time at Vance's house, or riding with him and his wife. They are fine people. Also spend some time with Ralph Bradford and his wife; he is manager of the Corpus Christi Times. They have been mighty nice to me, and have invited me to dinner a couple of times.

The exercise I take has sure made me feel better, and I am brown as a Mexican and hard as a rock. Tell Heywood I will take him on in a scrap now. There really has been a mighty big change in me. I weigh 170 and am not a bit fat. I go to bed at night early, and am usually ready to sleep, for after we swim we always run down the beach to the beacon, which is a mile away. Usually we run both ways, making a two-mile jog, and I have gotten so used to it doesn't bother me a bit. And I row a lot. An hour's steady rowing is just good exercise when you are used to it.

Vance and I are going to get up in the morning at four and row out to the light, two miles past the jetties, and try for trout. We go out often, getting back in time to dress and get to work by eight, and sometimes get some nice fish. But you never can tell when they will biting there. The mackerel fishing is just starting, and I want to try that too. That is the sort of fishing you would like, trolling for them in a motor boat. They are supposed to be mighty game.

I started this to be a short note, and wrote on this short letterhead, but it seems to be a rather long treatise on recreation in Corpus Christi. It is also novel to me, and I am so interested in the sport here that I could keep on by the hour. I can't get used to catching fish that pull like a mule.

Will have to stop and get out some copy, so give everyone my love, and tell them I would surely like to see them. And ask them all to write me often.


P.S. Mr. Lewis just phoned that they have put me on the committee to draw up a constitution for the Junior Chamber of Commerce, which was organized here last week. They have a mighty fine bunch of young fellows here. There is another banquet next week -- I get to meet a lot of people that way.

March 3, 2011

Wielder Of The Goose Quill

Ancient and Honorable Order of the Blue Goose
Office of the Wielder of the Goose Quill
Hall Building
Little Rock, Arkansas
May 31, 1924

Dear Dad:

Although I started this letter on the above date, it is now Monday morning and I am taking a few minutes before digging into a week's work.

You will find enclosed a blank note in the amount of $250.00 signed by me, and I'm wondering if you would mind once more placing your signature below mine, and see if the Wichita State Bank will make me a 90-day loan. I'm not broke, but am a little short on cash in view of numerous expenses such as doctors, dentists, etc. However, the main reason for the loan is that I want to be fully prepared to make a long vacation this summer, perhaps a month, beginning sometime the latter part of June. If for any reason you do not feel like doing the needful, don't hesitate to say so. I can get it in Little Rock but I'm not much on having to get an endorser other than the Dad of me.

Our weather has been cool for over a week and I guess you have had the same kind. Saw a double header ball game between Little Rock and Atlanta Friday. The southern league is not as fast as the Texas, regardless of much talk to the contrary. I surely wish you and Mother could drive or come up for a little visit before I come home. If you can get away, come on. If not, you must come in the fall sometime. I'm getting to be a regular Arkansan and want to show you the sights around these parts.

I hope Donovan is getting along better -- he's had a harder time than we realized last year. I hear you have purchased a boat and outboard motor -- did you ever get an island to rule over?

Must halt and get out some mail. Will be in El Dorado and vicinity again this week. Reports reaching me indicate that V. Allred is not on the right side of the fence, and will be beaten in the coming race for District Attorney.

Love to the family and lots to yourself from
Your son,

(Postmarked Little Rock, Arkansas, June 2, 1924)

March 2, 2011

Man About Town

Ed. note: Yesterday's post was the last letter from my grandfather's stint in the Navy. There are a few more family letters to read.

November 9, 1923
Southwestern Adjustment Company letterhead
524 Hall
Little Rock, Arkansas

Dear Mother:

Returned to Little Rock yesterday at noon after being gone two days, and will remain in town until Tuesday morning. We are experiencing such wonderful weather that I don't mind traveling, but business has been light the past week.

We have been settled in our new office over a week and it is certainly a great improvement over the Gazette Building. The building has just been completed and is so much cleaner and lighter.

Earle just came in to ask me to go to a football game with him, but I refused. Little Rock College is playing the State Normal, and I'm not interested in either team. I'll be on hand tomorrow, though, to see Little Rock High play East St. Louis High. Little Rock has won from all Arkansas teams as well as the leading high school teams of Memphis and New Orleans, and if they can win from St. Louis and Birmingham, Ala., they will be in a position to claim the southwest championship, for there is no question but that they have a better team than Dallas has. They play Bryan High on December 8 at Dallas, however.

You will be interested to know that I am having a much better time here than before. The last month I've been making quite a few dances and the fellows of the younger crowd seem to have taken me up. Just received an invitation to the coming out ball of Alice England, who is the "queen bee" deb this year. Also, of course, will be at the "Boat House" debutante cotillion on the 18th of November (which is also formal). However, the boys and girls don't compare with the crowd I know in Wichita Falls and Dallas, and don't have the clannish crowd of girls like at home. Am going to a dance tonight and dragging quite a social light [Ed. note: this is a pun on socialite] who is also a pretty little button. I suppose by 1925 I will have made my own debut into Little Rock society. One thing is certain -- I've never asked for an introduction to anyone, anywhere, an if I'm taken up they will certainly do the advancing.

Went to the Majestic last night and saw an exceptionally good bill -- the famous Arkansas Travelers were a knockout.

Don's and the other fellow's paper is OK. Earle came up, read it, and made very favorable comments. Tell Dad I congratulate him on his victory in re picture shows. Hurrah for Wichita; she is finally trying to make herself act like a city instead of a town.

I think you are absolutely correct about having a quiet Christmas, and I don't want anyone to get me a thing, for my Christmas present will be in being at home for a few days.

Since I have some dictation to give the lady, will have to call a halt for this time, but I'll try not to neglect writing for so long again.

Love to you and the family from
Your son,

(Postmarked Little Rock, November 19, 1923)

March 1, 2011

The Guardian Of The Perch

Southwestern Adjustment Company letterhead
Gazette Building
Little Rock, Arkansas

My dearest Mom:

I think this is the first time I have ever missed your birthday, but that does not lessen the regret I feel for doing it now. I knew it was sometime in October but the time slipped up on me. I won't ask you to forgive, for I know you have forgiven -- as you always do when your sons are neglectful and thoughtless. I wish I could make you as happy on your birthdays as I always am when I think of you, which is often. I wish it were in my power to put into words my thoughts of you so you might know that your son loves you all the time, even though he tells you very seldom.

It's now 10 o'clock and I have been in the city only an hour, having spent the day in Hope, leaving there at 5:30. The last four nights I have slept an average of about three hours each night, due to many night trains, but I shall sleep in tomorrow until about nine, and possibly feel better for it. I find a wire on my desk to meet a president of an oil company in Smackover Monday morning, so I shall be forced to leave town Sunday evening. Losses are picking up and we are both on the road quite a bit now. Frank won't get in until tomorrow night at eight. Earle is in Fort Smith attending a field conference but I feel sure he will return tomorrow morning. Rice plays Arkansas University and we are both going. I intend to look up J.J. Campbell the first thing tomorrow and then I'll see him at the dance tomorrow evening.

You asked about the Blue Goose election [Ed. note: Honorable Order of the Blue Goose, International, a fraternal organization for those working in property/casualty insurance industry]. It went badly. We had everything fixed so an older member of the firm would nominate an opposition slate to the old guard, however, they forestalled that by putting over a vote to appoint a nominating committee of three, and our bunch were so surprised that they didn't vote en masse -- not having been instructed as to that feature. My name was not on our list, though Earle's was, and the nominating committee didn't put any of our list on. They did, however, nominate me for the Guardian of the Perch (not the highest office but the next) and I was so elected and took the oath.

Of course I feel highly elated personally for it is more of an honor to have gotten it that way than by strong arm methods, but I feel that had I not been on the road the last few days preceding the meeting, we could have foreseen the places of the opposition and thwarted them. I am glad, however, that I remained so much in the background during Earle's and my planning, for it would be most embarrassing to officiate with the other officers, who are older, had they known I was "agin" them.

Note the writing. I haven't slept in so long that I'm so nervous I can hardly scribe.

The verse to Dad is wonderful and I'll keep it in a safe place so I'll never lose it. I wish I could get all your work together sometime and have it published -- may, too.

Much happiness to you, Mother.

I love you,

(Postmarked Little Rock, Arkansas, October 19, 1923)