‘Letters to Our Boys’
(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment of The Express’ weekly “Letter to Our Boys,” written during World War II to let “our boys” know what was happening back in their home towns. We will bring the letters to you weekly, thanks to the efforts of Fred and Anna Snyder, who compiled the letters over several years of research and donated a full copy of them to the Clinton County Historical Society.)
Saturday, November 28, 1942
Sugar has long been rationed, coffee is about to be rationed soon but that did not interfere with a good observance of Thanksgiving Day but war brought home deeper thoughts this year.
Twenty-four Renovo area boys passed their draft examinations on Monday and 33 from the Lock Haven area were Oked last week, making 57 to go from Clinton County in early December.
From Fort Sam Houston, Texas, came a letter to “Col. O’Corn,” The Express’, columnist and in it Pfc. Charles H. Strump Jr. said: “Read your first communique. It was quite interesting; so it is now in a bundle with other good ‘Expresses’ on the way to Australia where another of Uncle Sam’s doggies will appreciate them if he can beat his buddies off long enough to get a chance to read them.
“Some of the gags are good; others as corny as jpw’s. However the first thing I read in the Saturday Express is Sideswipes. I don’t know why. I guess I have been in the Texas sun too long.”
Charley has been transferred from Texas to Camp McCoy, Wis., since that was written. His father, kindly Charley, Sr., died after a long illness and through the efforts of Mrs. Fred E. McEntire, hard-working local Red Cross home service secretary, Pvt. Strump was located but, unfortunately, not until after the funeral.
Incidentally, Charley post-scripted that one of Lock Haven’s early selective service men died on duty — Sgt. James E. Anton, formerly of Piper Aircraft, was killed in a bomber crash at MacDill Field, Fla., according to a Pittsburg paper of a Sept. date.
S/Sgt. John Coffey, Camp Phillips, Kas., writes an interesting letter. “Red” was transferred from Fort Custer, Mich., on Tuesday. Sgt. Coffey says : “The nearest town is 15 miles. No movies, no barber shop. Half of the time you can’t get beer which is 3.2. Whiskey is $3 a pint and bootleggers are plenty scarce. The ground is dry except when it rains; then it is ankle deep with mud.”
Writing home to his grandmother, Cpl. John J. Shade said: “We left Australia and moved to an island called New Guinea. It has been eight long months now since I have seen civilization. I am writing this in the middle of October, so the 28th will make a year’s service for me. I expect to be home by Christmas in ’43.”
Lester D. Livingston, recently promoted from staff to technical sergeant, is stationed in Africa and writes: “Well the country is nice; in fact, it looks something like the hills of Pennsylvania. We are only a few miles from the ocean and we have to wear sweaters or jackets at night. Our beds are single with box springs and inner spring mattresses. Each has a bed light. We have closets for our own clothes and a bureau. (20 men to a barrack) Also tables to write on and mahogany foot lockers. Mahogany is about the only wood used here. It is as common as pine. Backhouses are even made of it.
“We have Ballatine’s beer, some other kind and Coca-Cola. Cigarettes are scarce right now.” Later Sgt. Livingston wrote that cigarettes were easily obtainable at the post exchange and that those sent from home sometimes did not arrive.
New sailors — Eddie Draucker, Wes’ son and the only state champion wrestler Lock Haven High ever had, and Paul Sampsell Jr.; new soldier — George Honetor of Castanea, in coast guard; new WAAC — Anna M. Croak, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Croak.
Clinton County folks got a big kick out of Tuesday’s Express which had a pair of three column pictures of local boys at the fronts — Lieut. Edwin Rodney (Bill) Weaver, of Lock Haven, with the Army Air Force fliers before an attack and Pvt. Harold F. Finnefrock, of Renovo, shown sitting in a jeep in Africa while an Arab, smoking a cigarette given to him by Finnefrock, stood alongside.
These were the first war front photos of local boys to reach Lock Haven. The war is now striking home to your folks and all the others hereabouts. Pvt. William F. Zeigler, of Flemington, a marine, was killed in action in the Solomons, and Pvt. Donald R. Flanigan and Pvt. Harry R. Weaver, both of Mill Hall, were wounded. Earlier Pvt. Guy R. Baker, Jersey Shore R.D. 2, was wounded in the Solomons. They were the first known casualties since Sgt. Frank DePolis, of Renovo, was killed in the Japanese attack on Hickam Field, Hawaii, nearly a year ago.
Home on furlough — Lieut. Bill McCollum, (and wife) Camp Blanding, Fla,; Sgt. Ken Rote, of Dunnstown, Army Medical Center, Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C.; Pfc. Truman K. Meckley, Fort Myers, Fla. and Seaman Lloyd Mitchell, Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Ill.
Decorated — S/Sgt. John E. Treon, of Renovo, one of 26 Army Air Force men awarded the Air medal in England for conspicuous service in raids on Nazi occupied Europe.
Well, as for news of the town in general — Beloved Levi J. Ulmer, 67 year old retired Lock Haven Teachers College instructor, who is fondly recalled by hundreds of T.C. grads, died of angina pectoria at his home Nov. 25, after returning to Lock Haven from visits to his son and daughter; the Sons of Italy bought $5,000 worth of War Bonds, making $10,000 for the lodge here in addition to $50,000 pledged by members, the officers reported; hilltop folks used to be resigned to a water shortage during a long, dry summer, but got a jolt when spigots yielded only drops the other day, but cleaning of leaves from McElhattan Dam intake gave a normal supply; Christmas savings clubs net thrifty Clinton Countians $86,000 next week.
On the sports front — Lock Haven Teachers footballers ended the season claiming the state title along with East Stroudsburg which the local boys, unbeaten and once tied, did not meet; Lock Haven High finished eighth in the Western Conference with six wins, four losses and a tie; basketball and wrestling are due soon; Billy Conn, leading heavyweight title contender, and his brother, Jack, are stationed in New Cumberland Army Induction Center, where hundreds of local boys first entered the army; the bear kill was very light (only six in eight North-Central Pennsylvania counties) and sportsmen said that the nimrods were too few — particularly the younger hunters who had gone off to hunt two-legged varmint in foreign lands.
Main Street is getting its face lifted by some changes in the boulevard lights. The side arms projecting to the street and sidewalk are being removed. So far, Pete High has broken only one globe.
Mill Hall staged a swell show in dedicating its Honor Roll. All the major places in the county are now sporting these fine outdoor displays — that is, all but your old county seat.
To be or not to be is now being debated in the sun parlor of the Elks. But debates don’t win wars.
This may not have covered the home front any better than a pup tent would blanket a jeep but that’s all I can think of now.
— Col. O’Corn