Saturday, December 31, 2011

More Tentative Than Resolute

’Tis the time to turn attention to that most traditional of traditions, the making of New Year Resolutions—and yet, I hesitate. I hesitate because, having learnt from experience, I habitually fail to do that for which I put my most earnest energy declaring ’twill be so.

And yet, it is admirable to peruse those declarations when coming from the mouths of others. Many write in such glowing terms about their intentions that I nearly feel compelled to stand to my feet and shout out a fervent “hurrah!” for their noble plans.

Having succumbed to such calendar-conquering attempts in my past, I’ve since been persuaded to adopt the sage advice of the Apostle James, who in near-antiquity warned:

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.”

At least I can vouch for that—not much further than the week before Christmas, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that I’m about to board a plane to visit a cousin who is unexpectedly facing her last moments of battling cancer. Who would have known when she presided at her daughter’s wedding less than six months ago? Who even expected such a trip a month ago?

So I learn to be circumspect about this calendar thing. How can I say with certainty what I will accomplish in 2012?

And yet, I can dream. Not pie-in-the-sky dreams, mind you, nor the carefully-calculated “dreams” called in the business world “goals” or in the mom-at-home world “to-do lists.” I’ll take my dream inspiration from the type of star-following journey of some wise men long ago. They took their cue from a specific star: following it as long as it was moving, but having the good sense to stop when it hovered and to then seek further direction from details closer at hand.

And so, on this starry (somewhere!) eve, here are my New Year’s Tentativities.

First of all: For all the blessings, help and encouragement I’ve received along my way, I wish to give back. I’ll start this promptly with a New Year’s Day greeting of gratefulness on my first post in January. I’ll follow up with some action to support my words by volunteering to help make more archived source documents available online for the genealogy-searching public. I’ve already started on this one by indexing for on records I’ve wanted to see online (Catholic Church records in Chicago, for instance) and for local goodwill (our county’s Genealogy Society’s joint project with to make our county’s obituary notices available online for all). Thanks to a blog I frequent, I see that a county my Stevens line claimed as home in the 1850s has yet to be indexed for its marriage records, and it will be a simple matter for me to join the fun there, as well as to discover other indexing projects as my time allows through the rest of the year.

Second, I want to pick up some loose threads from my wish list for 2011, and pursue family history details for some potentially historically-significant family members in my McClellan line in Florida. I’ve received an e-mail from a reader with some details about this family and I can hardly stand the wait to blog about it. I also want to fulfill my wish to write up some of that data for a Wikipedia entry that is currently a mere stub for lack of willing writers to elaborate on the topic.

Third, of course, I want to continue unfolding the accumulated hundred-year-old memorabilia I acquired about the Chicago Tully and Stevens family and related lines. Believe me, there is much more to cover, and though I have much of the raw data on hand, it will require quite a bit of background research to round out. That journey will take us through some post-World War II adventures, then step back in time to explore a branch of the family that, through a story-book courtship and wedding, brings us from Chicago to rural Ohio. It will include exploration of young ladies’ letter writing ministries of encouragement for the seriously ill during those times of isolation before health-restoring and life-giving medicines. And it will eventually bring me back, squarely face-to-face with the Tully brick wall that keeps me from addressing our roots in Ireland.

Finally—and this is my grandest, though most timorously-voiced goal—I wish to further organize this material as part of a book to be written for our business. That book will provide the background story for a message my husband has been giving to teenagers over the last decade on valuing their own life enough to comprehend its impact on others—especially if it were carelessly tossed aside. That presentation has grown out of my husband’s own life message and leaves an indelible mark wherever he has spoken. We are hoping a book which encapsulates this message will enable him to reach even more young people.

Dreams? Yes.

Achievable? Possibly—although I can’t vouch for my ability to be task-driven and focused at all times. (I tend to side with Lorine McGinnis Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy when it comes to “frenetic.” And I’m okay with that.)

But as a friend of mine once reminded me when I considered, at my age, going back to college for another degree: at the end of the year, whether I do this or not, it will still be the end of another year. Why not make it count?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cat Genealogy and Dog Tags

Sitting here at my keyboard, having just finished the series of World War II era letters from my father-in-law, Francis X. Stevens, I could possibly succumb to a sense of driftlessness. After all, the point of the series has nicely come to a close and, wrapping it up, I now can be permitted to roam through a wide open field of possible next topics. The mood is mellow—after all, it is that wonderful holiday lull between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day—and I am accompanied loyally by my ever-present feline companion. What more could I ask, slipping up to the eve of a New Year, for a pressure-free moment to select this blog’s next direction?

Said feline companion can even provide inspiration for my next move. He, making his online debut as Luke the Narnia Kitty, has seen his career trajectory rocket to self-fancied position of Senior Editor of A Family Tapestry in short order. Yet for all his illustrious accomplishments in life, he hails from a mere commoner’s background. There is no paper trail at any Fédération Internationale Féline to document his genealogy—nor, alas, any mention at the more plebian American Cat Fanciers Association. Truth be told, though his accomplishments are impressive, he is only the great-grandchild of a humble jail cat, a domestic short-hair rescued from G Barracks at the County Honor Farm. Beyond that brief familial history lies genealogical research’s proverbial brick wall.

And with that, we pause for Luke’s sake to contemplate the unfairness of life which doles honors upon, and which prefers recognition of, Blue Bloods and Silver Spoons.

Perhaps, if the talented and literarily-refined Luke* had been more like his arch nemesis—Folly*, the household’s carefree Sealyham Terrier—he would have been more fortunate in his genealogical pursuits, for Folly is represented by a constituency boasting interest in such matters. You see, Folly (as well as her predecessor—and distant cousin, by the way—Ego*) simply need do no more than contact her representative at the American Kennel Club to certify her lineage. Should she have cared to do so, she could produce documentation linking her all the way back to the line’s origin in those first generations in Wales in the mid 1800s.

It does seem that the all-important link to a constituency with a vested interest in preserving vital documentation is key to being able to persevere in family history research. I know that, in my family’s case, if it weren’t for government records such as birth and death certificates or religious documentation in church organizations for which such information bears eternal significance, I would have precious few resources from which to glean the slightest inkling about my ancestors. I would be no better off than my feline friend Luke—who is, after all, merely of a common domestic sort. Without such organizations providing genealogical resources, I would find myself, too, resigned to Cat Genealogy.

And in the case of Frank Stevens, a Chicago boy in the 1940s who is also of a mere common domestic variety, I am fortunate that he, too, is part of a constituency for which record-keeping holds a high importance. He became part of a military organization from which I can extract many more records than his doting mother ever thought to tuck away in her dresser drawer.

In Frank’s case, I can access his Official Military Personnel File from the National Personnel Records Center in Saint Louis, the designated branch of the National Archives tasked with delivering these files. With an online application, followed by a faxed copy of the appropriate next-of-kin’s signature, and a wait of about ninety days, I will become another recipient benefiting from being part of a constituency for whom record-keeping is highly valued. In accessing Frank Stevens’ military records, our family will then step from the breed of unrecognized domestic commoners—the realm of Cat Genealogy—into the streamlined research world of institutional documentation, for which I will be able to show much more than just his “dog tags.”

And for this New Year’s Eve’s eve, that sounds like a likely resolution to add to my list.

*As a literary postscript, it might be of interest to note the source of each of these monikers. Luke is the namesake of Luke Skywalker of Star Wars. Folly's name is inspired by the original story of 101 Dalmatians. Ego took his name from a line of a poem attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche ("I go through life followed by a dog known as Ego") which I heard set to music in an a cappella piece by Lars-Erik Larsson—having once heard, I was, of course, obligated to follow suit. How much each of these personas may be adapted to illustrate types of genealogy researchers might be an interesting diversion to contemplate on a New Year's Eve....

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just An Orphan Sailor

Now that Frank Stevens has returned home to Chicago from his tour of duty in the south Pacific during World War II, and before we find out what is to happen to him next, we may as well take a look at a piece of paper that was tucked into the envelope along with the letter to his parents dated March 22, 1945. It is my guess, based on the mismatch of this paper with that of the actual letter, that perhaps his mother mistakenly tucked this one into the wrong envelope for safe-keeping.

Whatever the sequence may be, the sentiment on this page may represent Frank’s own ambivalent response to his last few years’ experience aboard that lesser-known vessel called the Landing Craft Infantry.

U.S.S. LCI (L) 707
C/o. Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California


You’ve heard of the Air Force and the Paratroops,
You’ve heard of the Army and other groups,
But think now as hard as you can,
Have you ever heard of the Amphibious man.

The Amphibious gob is of real rugged sort,
But unlike the fleet, He has no home port;
Goes where he is needed, does what he can,
This poor orphan sailor, the Amphibious man.

You might be a Battleship sailor, from a Cruiser or off a Tin Can,
Maybe fresh out of Boot training, or perhaps a second cruise man,
They pick the men at random, how else could they provide,
A few might choose the duty, but mostly they are shanghaied.

You’ve heard plenty of the navy, of ships both fore and aft,
But we’ll bet you a pretty penny you’ve never heard of Landing craft,
They’ve built a few already and are building plenty more,
For they’ve got to have the LCI to win this blasted war.

They come in with the Transports in the middle of the night,
Sail around to rendezvous, can’t even show a light,
Find their way in the darkness, and land upon the shore,
Through bombs, discharging their cargo and going back out for more.

Bringing in the first wave doesn’t end the job,
For the troops upon the beach can’t live without this gob.
He brings in reinforcements and everything they use,
His job is full of danger but he never makes the news.

For when the beach is taken and the radios start to tell,
You’ll hear of Marines and Soldiers and how they went through Hell.
You’ll thrill to front page stories of their heroic job,
But you’ll never hear a word of praise for the poor Amphibious Gob.

And when this war is over and he’s back in Civilian life,
How in hell will he explain to his kids and to his wife?
They know he was in the Navy, but he’s the subject of a gyp,
He’s just an orphan Sailor - - -, A Gob without a Ship…….

                                                            Anonymous and Unanimous

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Separation Anxiety

For the last two months, I’ve been working my way through the collection of letters sent during World War II by my father-in-law, Frank Stevens, to his parents, William and Agnes Tully Stevens in Chicago. After the letter dated October 26, 1945, I have no more letters from Frank prior to his arrival home—and not that many letters after that point, either. I did find some documents showing his intention to acquire further medical training while in the service, but no indication as to whether his application was approved or denied. It did, at least, indicate his intention to remain in the Navy.

But now I find a document showing his “date of separation” as December 21, 1945. That leaves a very slim margin, indeed, for his hoped-for arrival in Chicago in time for Christmas from his jumping off point at San Pedro, California. While a young man full of determination can sometimes work miracles, this doesn’t explain what has become of his career plans.
That date of separation leaves me quite perturbed. I, of course, know the rest of the story—at least the gist of what is yet to come. But I don’t know the details of the hows and whys. All I know at this point is that, despite evident hopes of further training in the field of aviation medicine, Frank Stevens now has a piece of paper filled with bureaucratic words like “separation” and “discharge.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On To Better Things

It appears that Frank Stevens is now asking for additional training in the medical field in which he is already serving—and that his Commanding Officer is endorsing his request. I wonder if he has his cousin Joe McGonagle, fallen with the crew of his Flying Fortress over Germany, in mind as he makes his request.

U.S.S. LCI (R) 707
C/o. Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California

                                                                   6 September, 1945.

From               :   STEVENS, Francis Xavier, 300 77 85, PhM1c, USN.
To                   :   The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

Via                  :   Commanding Officer.

Subject            :   Aviation Medicine School, Request for assignment to.

Reference        :   Hospital Corps Quarterly, Vol. 18 No. 1, 
                           dated January, 1945.

Enclosure        :   (A) Recommendation of Medical Officer LCI (R) 
                           Group 48.

   1.                  It is requested that I be assigned to the subject school for a course of instruction.

   2.                  I am 20 years of age and have completed three years of high school. I have 43 months naval service, 36 months of which have been outside the continental limits of the United States. I attended Hospital Corps School, Great Lakes, Illinois, completing the course of instruction in May 1943. I attended Property and Accounting school for amphibious craft at Oceanview, Virginia. I have had experience in general hospital duties and dispensary work. I have been on independent duty for 15 months.

   3.                  I believe if assigned to the subject school for a course of instruction I will be of more value to the naval service in future assignments.
                                                            FRANCIS XAVIER STEVENS.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
FIRST ENDORSEMENT                         U.S.S. LCI (R) 707
LCI (R) 707/P16-3/MM                        Fleet Post Office
                                                        San Francisco, Calif.

                                                        6 September, 1945.

From               :   Commanding Officer.
To                   :   The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

   1.                :   Forwarded with strong recommendation for approval.

   2.                    STEVENS, Francis X. Has done excellent work in performance of the duties of his rate aboard this vessel. His initiative, character and personality merit the very highest of recommendations.
                                                                        William R. Person.

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Brings Frank Home

Sometime after Christmas day, the weather clears up around Kansas City and Frank Stevens is able to finish his long journey from somewhere out in the Pacific to the port of San Francisco and across over half the country to finally arrive at his parents' new home in Chicago.

So what brings him home now? To reconstruct what must be happening in Frank's world, I have to rely on some other documents, as I have (at least at this point) no more letters prior to December 1945 from Frank. Come September, however, there is a memorandum issued by the Medical Officer heading up the LCI group which includes Frank’s ship, recommending Frank to the Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. In this now-postwar world, things are starting to change, but Frank is evidently intending to continue in this military way of life.

 U.S.S. LCI (R) 772
C/o. Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California

                                                                 6 September, 1945

From       :  Medical Officer LCI (R) Group Forty-Eight.
To           :  The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy
                  Department, Washington, D.C.

Subject    :  Francis Xavier STEVENS PhM1c USN 300 77 85, 
                  Recommendation of.
   1.         Subject named man has served on independent duty under my supervision for 12 months. He has demonstrated unusual devotion to duty and complete competence in the field of general Hospital Corps duties.

   2.          I recommend strongly that subject man be given every consideration, particularly in view of his youth, ambition and excellent record under fire. I believe he is well qualified for the responsibilities involved in aviation.
                                                  R. A. Aldrich. Lieut  (MC) USNR.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Getting His White Christmas

KANSAS CITY MO 25 900A                1945 DEC 25 AM 10 28



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Guess Who’s On His Way Home?!

After lots of false starts in the direction of home, after plenty of shattered hopes about being home for his twenty-first birthday or even for Christmas, it looks like Frank Stevens will indeed be able to run up the steps and “plant a smooch” on Will and Agnes Tully Stevens on the front porch of their new home in Chicago. As anyone can imagine, Frank is ecstatic.

                                              October 26th, 1945
                                              Okinawa Shima (Island)
                                              Ryukyu Rhetto (Chain of Islands)
Dear Mom, Dad and All:
            Received Dad’s letter of the 16th and Mom’s of the 18th today. Very much relieved to hear that everything is okay with Dad and the bunch. The news that Gerry is on the mend didn’t go bad either, guess we’ve lots to thank the Lord for.
            I’ve been using a lot of penicillin lately Dad and I was told and later found out for myself that it is most effective when given at three hour intervals, keeps it at a level that is most beneficial. We have had quite a few ear infections in this area in the past few weeks and the wonder drug is really doing a wonderful job in fact it surprised hell clean out of me.
            By the time you Folks get this I will be on my way HOME, don’t run and look out the front window now cause it will be at least a month and a half before I run up the steps to plant a smooch on all of you. Chances are good that I’ll be home for Christmas, can hardly believe it myself but our skipper was ordered over to the port director’s office to pick up our sailing orders within twenty four hours and though our first port can’t be told at present we know it’s in the right direction. Guess you know that the crew is really all hipped up about it, I’m a little cloud bound myself so if this doesn’t make sense just take it for granted I’ve blown my top, slightly of course!!!!!!!!
Despite the excitement of the good news, Frank always keeps in mind the health risks his dad has been facing lately. He is tempted to make some contingency planning on his father’s behalf—anything to gain even a minute’s advantage may be what saves his life. Frank is persistent in doing everything he can to assuage any worries on his dad’s part. He’s adamant that any “reward” his mom talks about "going on to" does not happen any time soon—especially any time before he can get there to be with them, himself.

             Do you have to go to Mercy hospital Dad? How about the Evangelical? Lots closer to home and a better neighborhood, suppose you are thinking about the cost?
            Don’t say another word about my giving you my dough as it’s not mine, it’s ours and if it weren’t for Mom and Dad I wouldn’t be here to earn it so let’s not hear any more about it, Okay?
            I haven’t received the cable as yet so call up the red cross and make with the Bronx cheer, that outfit is food for the birds as far as I’m concerned anyway.
            I was in Buckner bay for the first typhoon and it was plenty rugged, for the second one we were up at the northern end of the island at a place called Unten Ko, you have to go up a river to reach it and it is fairly well protected, had we been in the main anchorage for the second one we could have scratched one LCI off of the navy register, know we would have ended up on the reef. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a lot of the Saints looking out for me otherwise I’d be a dead pigeon now. Wish I knew what Ship our cousin Bill is on, he is very probably right up here at Buckner bay now.
            I never heard from John acknowledging receipt of my last money orders so I don’t even know whether or not he received them, well I’ve got the stubs so I’m not going to worry about them. Too bad that he has been ill, infections can be such nasty things.
            The news that Bill has been upped is swell, the kid rates the best and that’s for sure. I’ve never met Sister Pat, think I would like to though, I’ve heard so much about her, I wonder if Sister Attracta is still at Mercy?
            I don’t like Pat being on the night shift at work, the neighborhood isn’t the best to be out in after dark, tell her I said to be careful. 

By the way, Pat owes me a letter, I thought I was the world’s worst letter writer and procrastinator, she has the title and it’s unchalanged. Hope her jaw is better now and the trouble mended. Is her boy friend home from the ETO as yet???????
            Quite a few of the original crew have left the ship and we have had boot replacements now, seem like nice boys but all beat their gums because the[y] were taken so close to the end of the war of course that makes me feel just grand and every time one of them opens his mouth I proceed to shut it for him, I call them delayed 4F’s and it makes them very unhappy. They sit around and tell about the big money they were making on the outside and then beat their teeth about the navy. One of them told me the navy handed out too much crap and that on the outside he wouldn’t take it, on the outside he was a foreman and he gave out all the guff so he said, So I told him that first he isn’t on the outside any more, second I didn’t gave a damn what he was out there cause in here he was just a boot and so green that we would have to hang him out to dry before we could burn him and third the lad cleaning the head needed some help and I thought he was just the man for the job. Since then he has been very cooperative and has ceased to flop his chops at least when I’m around.
            Well I’m going to bring this to a screeching halt and get in a little sack time. By the way if any mail is delivered to the house for me please hold it for me and don’t forward it.
            So long for now all take care of yourselves and keep writing.
                                              Loads of love;

P.S. Mom I hope that reward you all talking about is delayed 50 years or so.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Swell People and Tough Breaks

Always a people person, Frank Stevens rounds out his five page letter to his brother Ed and his young wife in Chicago with comments about their mutual relatives—mostly siblings, especially those whose darling babies are starting to take center stage around the old Stevens household. Frank’s been gone from home so long that he has not actually met these grandchildren of his dad and mom, but he sounds just as present in their lives as if he is right there with them, instead of half a world away in the south Pacific.

            [One of Will and Agnes’ grandsons]  must be pretty good looking with his hair cut like a boy’s, I believe he has a lot of the old nick in him—should turn into quite a lady killer, make his uncle Ed look like an amateur. So me little god-daughter is a good baby huh? Well she just takes after her uncle Frank, ask your mother in law I was the bestest baby ever. Too bad I had to grow up. From Mom’s last letter it sounds as if the kid is allergic to damn near everything, maybe he will snap out of it later on—of course mom always did baby him too much and that might have a lot to do with the way he is now. His brother Frank is allergic to just two things: wild women and Canadian club.

While Frank is running away from wedding bells as fast as he can, it sounds like plans may be afoot for his sister, who has been writing a few letters, too.

            Pat stops me, she never has known just what she want to do, that’s just what she needs though—a house full of kids and a husband that doesn’t beat her too often. Is the proposed victim that shavetail that has been over in Europe? Don’t know the lad myself but I’ve heard that he is a pretty nice chap. Well Pat is a good kid and I hope she knows what she’s doing, she’s sort of a feather-brained character though

I had to chuckle at the insight Frank had into his brother’s predicament in his new role as father. And Frank remembers some relatives on Ed’s wife’s side and wants to keep in touch with them, too.

I see that Dee-dee is now known as daddy Ed, guess he proved himself with the last addition. Never knew Ed to go this long at any one stretch before without a car, incidently I hope that Pat hasn’t thrown the clutch out on the Chevy as I’ve got a lot of running around to do when I get home again.
            The wash job that little [one of Ed’s children] gave the house must have really been something, I trust that Ed (Daddy) had a man to man talk with the offspring when he came home that night, it must be hell trying to bawl out a kid for doing the same thing that you probably did yourself as a youngster. If that’s one of the thrills of being a mother I for one am glad that I am physically incapable of becoming one, washing didies and cleaning up after a three foot tornado aren’t my idea of a lot of fun. I’ve been meaning to write to Tom and Elsie for quite some time, think I might get a letter off to them tonight, they sure are swell people and I think a lot of them.

When Frank gets to this last part of his extraordinarily long letter, he touches on a subject for which I had meant to provide more background information (and will in the Spring when we move on to that side of the family). It is indeed a sad conclusion to a now many-months-old story. And Frank awkwardly tries to inject some humor into a situation that perhaps hit him too close to home for his personal comfort.

The young man, Joe, that Frank refers to here is a cousin serving in the Air Force (at that time, part of the United States Army). Joe was part of the crews flying missions from England over Germany. In 1944, Frank’s aunt and uncle in Ohio received word that their son was missing and presumed dead—but evidently a search for confirmation was still being conducted. Yet one sad additional part to the story was that Joe’s young bride, Harriet, was expecting their first child.

I’m not sure who told Frank the news about Joe, but considering Frank’s own situation in the war at that time, it may have been just too difficult for him to take. One sometimes develops a tough exterior to survive the waves of devastating news that keep hitting. That’s how Frank sounds now as he awkwardly tries to cope with the confirmation about his cousin—the news that the family now knows, at long last, what has become of Joe McGonagle.

            Kind of a tough break for Harriet but at least she knows that Joe is really gone, did she lose her baby or did she finally have it? From the way Bill McGonagle talked she is a pretty good looking girl. Ad. Stevens F. X. USN make a special study of young widows low rates call after six. Really shouldn’t kid I guess but what the hell tears never fixed anyone and a good time would probably make the kid feel a hundred percent better.
            Johnny just came up and said “Sugar Report.” I said, “Yes, but don’t tell my brother Ed. We’re trying to keep it a secret.” So anyhoo Irish said “Sure and give Mutzie me love and a little regards to her old man.” See baby we all loves ya like mad. Haven’t got a group picture of the three of us but will see what I can do and some singles. Have to wrap this up now as its beginning to take on all the aspects of a book, won’t tell you to be good but as always be careful, take care of yourselves kids and I’ll do the same at this end, night now
                                                            Your affectionate brother

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Before ’46 Rolls Around

Oh, the many small celebrations of life that keep slipping by, even when big brother is away in the Navy!

“The Kid,” as Frank Stevens usually calls his younger brother when he isn’t calling him “Chip,” is actually Gerald Anthony Stevens, the youngest child born to William and Agnes Tully Stevens. Gerry was only eleven years of age when his next-oldest brother left home for the Navy Training Center at Great Lakes early in 1942. With a birthday occurring late in the year, so not quite fifteen at the time of this letter from Frank to their older brother Ed and his wife, Gerry must have just graduated from grade school—yet another special occasion Frank is not able to attend.

            Glad the kid graduated ok. I can imagine he was excited, as I know I sure was, felt sort of like the first dance—at least it did to me. Got any idea of what high-school folks are going to send him to? 

The signant ring you give the kid sounds ok but of course I like diamonds, you know me champagne appetite and a beer pocket. I’d like to have seen Ma presiding at a fun fest for the club gala at the new shack, there’s just one

thing I know for sure about that crowd and that is that they won’t be holding any more baby showers for the members. Check on that Miss Blue! All kidding aside they are a swell bunch and I’ve still got a blanket coming. I could really go for one of those old time parties that mom knows how to throw ninety percent of those and ten percent of one of my type really turn into something big. Check with Father Davidson on that. The way you describe it the new house must really be nice hope I see it before ’46 rolls around.

Frank seems to feel much more freedom to be, well, frank in his letters to his brother and his wife. He brings up one sore spot in the family—something that I’ve yet to figure out, as only with the receipt of this stack of papers from last August’s trip to Chicago have I even encountered the names of this next-mentioned couple. Often referred to as if part of the family, the wife is not someone I can find in any of the usual genealogical research places. And yet, much later in a letter home to Agnes, this woman refers to her as “Mom.” Since the elder Stevens family took in students as boarders from time to time, I wonder if this was her link to the Stevens family—or perhaps the family took in whatever that decade’s equivalent of foster children might have been.

Though the young woman is well thought of by family, for whatever reason, her husband, Lee, is more coolly received. Whatever he has been up to during these war years meets with downright disapproval from the uncharacteristically outspoken Frank. Though Frank doesn’t say so, the war has evidently taken a lot out of him. Even so, this and more comments (which I’ve removed) were meant only as sibling-to-sibling confidences; perhaps their mom has reason to see things vastly different than do the brothers.

            So Lee is finally being caught up with. If he has any doubts as to what branch of the army he is going into I can clarify them for him. All uncle Sam needs are Infantrymen and his next address is going to be fort footblister somewhere USA. Yea verily I say unto you quote You can fool some of the people some of the time but where does it get you? In the end???????? End of quote. T. S. That boy has been spoofing the draft board too Damn Long, not that I like to see homes broken up or anything like that but this chile has been getting parts off of old fords thrown at his POSTERIOR just about long enough to want everybody else I know out here for company Period. …(This is all on the QT Mutz lets keep peace in the family if possible) Friday the thirteenth is a hell of a day to start in the service.

There are kinder words for other members of the family. Although Frank was very close to his brother Ed, he also seems to have quite a warm spot for his older brother Bill as well. Though I don’t know what financial or health strains the couple are under at this time, Frank fervently but realistically hopes the best for them.

            Mom told me that Bill and Max are expecting again. Can’t see it myself but if the doc says its ok well, I guess she’ll be all-right. Do know that she isn’t strong enough to undergo much of a siege, poor kid she hasn’t had much fun—has she? I feel sorry for both Bill and Max, if I ever saw two people any more in love than those two I can’t remember. They really have had some tough breaks. I’m afraid it will be just a little more than Bill can take if anything happens to her. All we can do is leave it up to the man upstairs, he usually straightens things out in his own way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can’t, Don’t Want To, Can’t Afford To

When I found the stash of additional letters home from my father-in-law, Frank Stevens, I guess it rattled me so much that I bolted straight into posting those new finds while I was still in the middle of another letter. Since I’ve finished the series on the letters from that third discovery, let’s pick up where we left off: in the middle of a letter from Frank to his brother Ed and his wife. Dated July 15, 1945, it picks up in our timeline right where we left off with Frank’s last letter home on July 9. This one reveals a bit more of Frank’s thinking about plans for his future, and what is to become of his relationship with Jeanne. I wonder how much of this is the result of his parents’ advice to remember he is still only twenty years of age.

            You’re right in thinking that I want to get home but I think civilian life is going to be a bit tame for this kid when it is all over, besides I’m strictly a sad sack when it comes to having a trade or being interested in anything but what I’m doing right now. On top of that I kind of like to travel 

and see the rest of the world and I’d never be able to do that if I were a civilian, I’d just never have that much money. No kidding Mutz I haven’t saved a damn cent since I’ve been in this outfit and I don’t think I ever shall, the folks sort of keep me drained, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitching or anything but that’s the way it stands. I know that I owe the folks a lot and I also realize that Pat is going to get married some day and she rates that much out of life. I’m sort of holding the bench down till Chip gets big enough to support Mom and Dad. Wish that I could help them out with more than I do but right now its out of the question, just so they are comfortable and happy is all that I care about at present. Now I find that the little woman is starting to dream of hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet and they aren’t mice. Mutze just howinhell does a guy go about giving a gal the brushoff by way of letter. I don’t want to hurt her feelings because she really is a nice kid, in fact one of the nicest girls I’ve ever gone out with BUT I can’t get married, I don’t want to get married, I can’t afford to get married and last but not least I happy the way I am. Love em all is my motto, can I help it if one loves back. I might have gotten a little ardent but not that ardent. I mean no feeling hurt on either side and I was always a (I blush) gentleman if a Stevens can be one. If you don’t believe me ask me older brudder but then again I have always been called wilder than he, at least that’s the way I heered it. Suppose you give me your version of that?

One other piece of news that Frank included in this letter has me puzzled. 

            Yeah it too bad about the skipper and I have the unhappy task of writing his parents a letter, really don’t know how too start it or for that matter how to write any of it, guess I’ll blunder through it some way.

I’ve tried to examine names on the Navy Muster Rolls included at, but can’t locate any changes that would indicate a death or serious injury on board his ship at such a ranking level, nor any reason why Frank would be the one tasked with sending a personal note. Perhaps, in addition to the official notices, there might have been a tradition of making a more personal contact from among those who served alongside the man—something I’m entirely unsure about. At any rate, someone thought that Frank’s letter-writing skills would be adequate for the sad occasion.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Type of D-Day

With the battles in the South Pacific behind him, Frank Stevens seems to be fixated on returning to the paradise of his first post after joining the Navy: the Virgin Islands.

Hearing from one of the old gang still stationed at St. Thomas, Frank discovers that his friend and his wife are expecting a different type of Christmas gift. Jokingly calling it “D Day,” they are looking forward to the arrival of their first child.

While these are not relatives of our family lines, I’m still curious to find out who these people are—really good friends? Acquaintances? Just great letter writers in the face of the day-to-day monotony embedded within the tumult of war?

It will have to be another ten years before I can access any census records on this Tom and Ida Fox and their baby born in December, 1945. There are too many entries in the Navy muster rolls for the name, “Thomas Fox.” I don’t even know if Tom was a friend from the old neighborhood in Chicago, or a coworker met during Frank’s tour of duty.

At any rate, the letter pretty clearly shows Frank’s intentions to return to service in the Virgin Islands when he is done with his first four years in the Navy.

            Also heard from Tom Fox (St. Thomas) and he said they (he and Ida ) expect their “D” (delivery) day in December. Sounds real happy and is having a swell time down on the rock, wish I were back down there with him. Believe I’ll request duty down there when I get back to the states next time. Will close now folks be good and take care of yourselves.
                                                Your aristocratic son

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sweltering at the Recreation Base

Sending gifts home to his mom in Chicago from the exotic outposts of his tour of duty in the south Pacific, Frank Stevens seems to have finally caught a moment to recuperate with his shipmates from the strains of two of the key battles wrapping up World War II on his side of the world. 

How could they help but rest? In this tropical heat, everything—and everyone—seems to be melting!

                                                                       July 9th, 1945
Dear Mom, Dad an All:
            This is just going to be a short note as its too hot (109°) to write or do much of anything.
            Had a couple of snap shots taken the other day and they came out pretty good, I’m enclosing the neg and wonder if you will take them and have a dozen of each made and enlarged to about 6 x 3 in size.
            As you can see two invasions haven’t changed yours truly, I’m still in one piece.
            We are at a rear area recreation base now and are getting a little liberty, managed to pick up a few votive knick-knacks for you. I imagine you have received the necklace by now Mom, I sent it air mail and it should get there in about a week or ten days.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Home for the Holidays?

Almost exactly half a year before Christmas, 1945, Frank Stevens mentions in his letter to his folks that he sure would like to be home for the holidays. It’s been a rough three-and-a-half years in the Navy, especially in these last five months out in the South Pacific, and he’s ready to be relieved.

But that doesn’t seem to be what’s driving him to want to head home. More than anything, he is concerned about his father’s health. Perhaps somewhere deep within that unspoken internal region of hunches and premonitions, Frank is feeling that he might not make it back to Chicago in time.

            Say Dad have you been taking care of yourself lately? If not, why not? Haven’t any idea when I’ll be relieved but hope I get home for the holidays, really would be too good to be true if it happened that way.
            Will be able to give you a pretty good story in the near future, got scads to tell but the censor says no at the present.
            I know this is a poor excuse for a letter so I’m enclosing something that might make with a laugh.
            Really must close now, lots of love to all—will write more later,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Censored Way of Life

After the third week of June, 1945, the battle of Okinawa draws to a close as key islands are declared secured and converted to Allied air bases. The USS LCI(R)-707 and many other amphibious craft remain in the vicinity as part of that occupation. Frank Stevens, now Pharmacist's Mate First Class, snatches a few moments to jot a note to his folks in Chicago, mainly to keep his dad from worrying about how he is doing.

The ever-present censor is hovering in the back of Frank’s mind as his writing style seems to revert to those “incoming” mail reports of his earlier days fresh from the Naval Training Center.

                                                                   June 28th, 1945
Dear Folks:
            Just have time for a few lines as I have to get this censored and in the mail in about 20 minutes. Things are still the same, working hard and not much sleep. Expect things to change and think we are going to get a good rest in the near future. We rate it if I do say so myself, they really have pushed us for the last five months. Had a mail call today, one from Jeanne but none from you folks. Heard from John about a week ago and he sounds lots happier, guess he is getting settled and things are looking brighter. Glad Ed + Mutz have found a place of their own, sounds as if Dee dee has a pretty fair job.
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