How to Help
How to Help
Capt Joe L. Norton
926th Engineer Aviation Regiment (EAR)
6 June 43
Every English home has its flower garden in full bloom, and many are certainly a riot of color. Poppies, both oriental and otherwise, are particularly brilliant with lupine and/or some magenta shade flowering shrub as the main background. Other flowers, and also the stone walls, make me think how lovely yours must be by now.
An afternoon of answering letters has left me with nothing new to say. Except that at times I wonder what has become of our English teachers! They’re not bad really, but the comments seem repetitious to us. We shouldn’t give away state secrets, but one man sometimes writes, word for word, the same letter to three people. I still stick up for my carbon copy system.
I’ve seen my first practical water wheel, and one dating from the 1760’s, at that. Beautifully moss-covered, it drips water as it rises, and the rustle really cools its little valley and makes one think of the days of Robin Hood. Make no allusion to its location from that, however. The mill is run, of couse, by the turning wheel, and its rumble and thump (to dip further into practical fancy) made me think of the bowling of the elves in Rip Van Winkle.
Another item of interest was an old castle ruin. With stone walls in places 6 ft thick, and huge vault-like rooms, it stood in an ancient wood atop a man-made hill. I couldn’t help be fascinated by it, even though it be in ruins. It does make me think of the days of Lords and Ladies of leisure, but also of hopeless plumbing.
The country homes or estates of today, if still extant, hide really behind the hedges along the roadsides. Yet, there are lovely homes to be seen in the towns and villages. And one cannot expect to barge into everything just because, as Lewis Baker says, we have been made gentlemen by an act of Copngress.
I have not written Tante and Uncle John, as I don’t know if they are at the farm or still in Washington.
One thing the letters today reminded me to tell you was that our cable address is just "amfyma platform" added to my regular address.
If I hear one more crack at the British monetary system, I shall yell. Personally, I find it works just as well as ours, although figuring out a 10% tip is something of a problem.
Hope you all got the birthday cable to Peg.
Note: Captain Norton was the paymaster for the 818th EAB and went to the bank in Dunmow to get the proper pounds, shilling and pence for the payroll
818 Engr. Btn
12 June 43
Dear Mother & Dad
It seems I haven’t said much lately about how I am, so I thought I would enlighten you about my state of super-health. Since arriving I have gained 26 pounds, and am now about 160 pounds - more than I have ever been in my life. Bicycling and walking keep me in pretty good shape, too. So I feel fine. My mail has not yet caught up with me, but Elarth’s has. _____________ wrote she had a fine letter from you. I’ve lost Hank Parrish at least temporarily, but hope we may meet later.
The Stars and Stripes keeps me up on news, but I’ll certainly be glad to get the Index and a few letters for local news. The S&S actually gives the Albany and Binghamton baseball scores. Just seeing them in print is cheering.
818 Engr. Avn Btn
5 July 1943
Dear Jack and Billie,
It seems to me I have moved again since I last wrote you, but I may not have. In fact, I don’t know exactly when I last wrote. It’s far too easy to loose track.
I’ve been in to London to visit, and have had a grand time. It’s lots of fun to see all the sights of which I’ve read so much. Also have had a chance to get to the theater, and enjoyed Noel Coward immensely. It was a new play of his own writing. The best thing of all, however, was running into a college friend and fraternity brother from school. We really had a grand time, only cut short by my inevitable last train home.
I must confess I regret not having obtained an inflatable rubber mattress. Are such things still available in the States? I can have one sent over if they are and are small enough. Here we use their so-called “bisquites” in place of a mattress. Can’t decide if the lumps inside or cracks between are worse!
A letter from Hazel only one I have received since arrival. I am fine, however, and getting into my work.
8 July 1943
Your letter of June 25 (airmail) came in today. And was I pleased. I’m writing the A.P.O. 625 to inquire about the other letters.
By “being demoted 50 numbers” I meant I moved from the 868th to the 812th Engineer Avn Bn - a drop of 50. The job I have here as Personnel Adjutant is just one step below that of adjutant. (Note: which I had been in the 868th)
I have finally tracked down all the other eight I came over with (note: on a freighter 21 days), and plan to meet them when I get leave to go to London.
My cable address, by the way, is Amihag instead of Ambyma. You, too, might try the V-mail forms available at the post office, as they do seem to be transmitted quite quickly.
Was sorry to hear about Sally V. S and the disruption to peaceful bliss at 37 Grand St. What do they hear from John H? I do hope everything goes O.K.
Was both glad and happy to hear of the shutting down, but I do think it was best for you. Another winter like the last would be too much.
818 Enr. Avn Btn
26 August 1943
If you note the new APO number, you will know why it has been so long since I wrote. I really have kept pretty busy. Your letters have come through, and I am certainly pleased about the block stone. It will make things a little easier.
Do let me know what were the findings on your visit to Dr. Dodge. I really want to know.
I am very well. We’re out living in tents, and tonight is the first we’ve had lights for some days. The fresh air has increased my appetite, and I’m eating more than you and Dad, Peg and even Tante and Uncle John, do eat among you. I’ve had a lot of fun making a sort of dresser from a crate, putting some rough shelves in the box to store things on. Each officer has a separate tent with room for a bed, a chair, the box and my foot locker. And the tent does NOT leak - better than any I ever struck in Louisiana.
Tonight we had a shower rigged up, with hot water, too. Of course, it was a bit chilly, as we were out in the night air, but it was good to get clean again. I couldn’t help think of the cold showers Mother used to take when the heater was out, but we did have hot water at least.
Andy Elarth was here for a few days and I enjoyed seeing him. We spent a couple of pleasant evenings together. I’ve also run into a couple of the boys I met at Jefferson Barracks, and enjoyed talking with them a while. It’s fun to talk over all the things we did together and can remember.
The officers have been playing baseball evenings, but I must admit that mine has not improved with absence.
Tell Mary I’ll answer her swell letter shortly.
Something I do want, and you can mail to me by showing this letter, are cellophane or other light (not the heavy roll, with proof) coat hanger covers - that is, to put over my clothes hanging on coat hangers, to protect them from dust.
Everything goes along so nicely here that, keeping busy, I never know just how fast the time is flying. Certainly, it doesn’t seem possible that August is nearly gone, yet it’s time for another payroll.
I can’t say I’ve had much use of my tropical worsted suit - but we have had some “fall weather”. And now and then just a taste of the English weather of which I had heard so much. Love,
926 Eng Avn Regt
9 September 1943
(note I’ve moved)
Just how long it is since I’ve written I’m not sure. I’ve kept quite busy, so the time has gone along. The Cobleskill paper comes in quite regularly.
I was sorry to find the Champlins had moved to Albany. I know you will miss them a great deal. The final blow came with the ad for Carlin’s raincoat, though. It made me think of my own habits. And I read all the article on Mrs. Franklin without ever discovering where the “Young” came from, why it was her middle maiden name. I was sorry to hear of her death. I did get around to writing the Coles.
On completing my first quarter-century the other day I couldn’t help but think of what a different future we all as a nation had expected back in the first post-war days. But then I don’t feel that we should regret too much the present. Perhaps it’s just a super-pollyanna-ism, but things could be so much worse, at least so far as we as individuals are concerned. Actually, I have no serious regrets and an certainly thankful for a great many happy times in an interesting life. As long as a life is not dull or uneventful, I consider it as having been worthwhile. Love,
926 Eng Avn Regt
24 December 1943
T’was the day before Christmas and all through the hut
The turkey was waiting, with knives to be cut
It’s all in, ready to be cooked today, and reminds me of the times I used to come in and smell ours cooking in the kitchen
My not writing is due, I’m afraid, to my getting into a rut more than to my being busy. Our fire in headquarters is out this morning, so I am writing with my gloves on.
The men had a Christmas party for some children yesterday, and everyone seems to have had a fine time. They had the men’s candy rations for some weeks back (and ours), toys sent by the men’s families and lots of gay spirit. It was a most gala affair.
926 Engr Avn Reg
24 March 1944
Your letter of 7 March came in today, and so makes me feel badly about mine of last night complaining of not hearing from you. I FORGOT TO PUT THIS IN CAPITALS. I THINK IT IS EASIER TO READ THIS WAY.
I haven’t figured out why I asked you for anything. We certainly don’t want for anything at all and I know it bothers you to have to go out hunt for all the things [plus] the expense. I should send you something, but at the moment I am recovering from the event of having about half of my month’s pay stolen a month ago, plus having bought an additional bond for the fourth war bond drive. I’m about to get caught up on this pay day, however, and may be able to send you something. My increase in salary amounts to just eighteen dollars over my earlier pay.
Your weekend in Albany with the Champlins sounds delightful, if you didn’t wear yourself out. I always think such things do you more good than they do harm, from the amount of pleasure you get out of it. I am glad you have not lost contact with them.
Four newspapers came in today, too, getting me caught up on such things. As Johnnie’s fame and fortune, John Coles marriage, Putnam’s continued illness, and the getting of a commisioon by Andrew Empie, who came into the army with me on the same day. His picture in the 27 February INDDX reminded me of a great many amusing incidents in my early army careeer. He was about the only one with a sense of humor in the thirteen who came in that day. And he furnished me great pleasure for some days after we first got in. And he was in Louisiana for a while. He was not too happy as an infantryman, and I am certainly glad he got into the Air Corps. He is a nephew of the Cooks on East Main Street and comes from Sharon Springs. As I think about it, I am not sure it was the Cooks, but then, I guess it doesn’t matter.
Was sorry Jim was perturbed over my letter. It was a bit strong, but then, I can’t say I regret the statements. As I said, I am most certainly am not conerned with what he does, but only with the locale of his doing it. I urged him not to let his homing instincts bring about any more such maneuvers. I do feel very badly about Hazel.
Peg writes very faithfully and interestingly, and gives me a good idea of her life in Schohariem and certainly sounds most cheerful. It is as hectic as it is for you and the hill. I don’t think winter on the flats of Schoharie as hectic as it is for you on the hill. By the time this reaches you, the worst of the season should most certainly be over.
I am ssending by regular mail a picture of the entire staff. You may or may not be able to get an idea of the men I work with from it. The major in the center was leaving that day for the United States, which was the occasion for the [photo]. I miss him considerably, but everything goes along well just the same.
Your letter with enclosures came in some time back, and caught me up a bit on family doings, to a fair extent. Most vacant in the report was news of the outcome of Uncle Francis’ hospitalization. I enjoyed the letters, but Aunt Ella was certainly not in a cheerful mood when she wrote. I had a nice letter from her a long time back, but haven’t done any more correspondence with her. Her bridge playing is doubtless better than her telling. She has always, I guess, decried her ability, but has, no doubt, been am excellent player equally long. I seem to remember some lively bouts once in a while.
The last package of marshmellows came through in in record time and shape. They were amazingly soft and fresh, as if you had just bought them. They went perfectly with the cocoa, some of which is still left, and which we enjoy each night. If you find some more, would you send us some. It’s not that we need anything, it’s just that it’s nice to get something different. And to get something from home.
Must dash off, as I have a chance to see SONGS OF BERNADETTE tonight, and I hear it’s well worth seeing.
P.S. It wasn’t SONGS OF B but Wallace Berry in RATIONALITY (?) Pretty sad.
926 Engr Avn Regt
30 July 1944
According to the STARS AND STRIPES schedule, this should arrive about on your birthday. The paper and radio are about our only source of news. I just finished five INDEXes (Latin “indices”) which caught me up on most of the local dealings. But what was the story behind the “years ago” item about George Palmer’s will? It rather intrigued me. I am just fine and enjoying my work. I get about quite a bit and can compare sections. Some are totally untouched with beautifullines of trees walling the road, just like Mont “pinnnnnnnnnnn-pointed” them in his paintings. And then there are the villages torn to bits. Most impressive are the ruins of a completely demolished church or cathedral or church. The bare remains of part of one wall look so out in the open, as if those dusty arches were meant to be clean and revered -- instead of which they have had their roof torn loose and hurled to bits at their feet.
Well, that as it may be, the news of the house is equally important and more distressing. But just if you can keep yourselves contented and comfortable, I don’t care what happens. Just don’t let yourselves get discouraged. You haven’t up until now so it’s no use now.
My thoughts are of you every day, and my love go you.