Monday, May 5, 1941
Took my piano lessons and “Prof” at the city hall. I wanted to get home and then dreaded it if I didn’t have a letter. I had two when I got home. Both from Jakey. Gosh he wrote the same day he got there and another a few days later. Said he missed me. I sat right down and wrote back. Spike and I visited Zosh after choir.
Finally! It’s priceless to hear Jake’s voice finally join Babu’s. The one, (and only!) bummer is I have yet to find Babu’s letters to him and its so unfortunately like being able to hear only one one part of a phone conversation. Maybe I’ll find them someday in some corner of the house or maybe he lost them in his wartime travels. Let me not focus on what I don’t have. These letters are wonderful.
Here we go!!!
April 30, 1941
Arrived in Tuscaloosa at 11:00 AM and this is the first minute I’ve had to myself. I learned: how to march properly, stand at attention, make square corners, left and right and about face, eat a square meal, make a bunk hospital style, shine my shoes properly, hang clothes in a locker properly- (a separate hanger for each item), how to address and officer, etc, etc, etc.
After the officer got through giving me all there instructions he also made the remark that we fly planes too in our free time.
I am sitting at a small table in my room in my bedroom slippers because I am a very very tired boy. We ran and walked and marched around the airport in a half-hour a distance of about 3 ½ miles. I’ve had a drink of water every time I came near a fountain since the “hike.”
I can’t tell you I miss you and home because I’ll start to think and I’ve been told the best way to avoid home sickness is not to think about it.
I am certain I will like this life, there is something doing every minute. Maybe your pen can’t stand the heat down here as the ink is not flowing too freely.
I don’t remember whether I wrote to you about our train but here goes: the accommodations on the front half of the trip were swell. We traveled in soft upholstered chairs in the club car.
May 1, 1941
I’m sorry I couldn’t finish this letter yesterday but lights out rang before I could finish. I better stop now and mail this or I won’t be able to do this until tomorrow.
P.S. Disregard the second sentence in the fifth paragraph.
My address is:
F/C John J. Stefanik
Air Corps Detachment
I cannot handle both how snarky: “we fly planes too in our free time” and how detailed he is. The detail continues and we are going to learn so much. Despite not personally feeling all the aches both literal and spiritual, I almost feel like I am there when reading his letters. He certainly let’s his cheerful and polite demeanor slide a bit and no wonder he requests that Babu “disregard the second sentence in the fifth paragraph.” I wholly forgive him. Basic training is no joke. Oh how I wish I could read babu’s half of these letters. Is she as sparse in them as she is in her diary pages? Or, given more space, did she lavish detail and emotion the way Jake does?
May 2, 1941,
First of all I would like to apologize for that fast letter I sent you. It seemed to me that I would never have time for a good letter and I wanted to send you one so I did the best I could. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you some questions so that you would be sure and write: 1. How are you? 2. What did you do this week? (You don’t have to answer this one if you don’t want to but I hope you do, I would like a long letter). 3. Let me know where Stretch and the boys are going when they go South? 4. How is my terraplane Is it still running? 5. I hope you miss me??
Tomorrow afternoon and evening is our time off and a few of the boys are going to a dance given for the reserve officers at the Tuscaloosa Country Club. I’m not going because I’m too tired. Another good reason is that they gave me a haircut-it’s almost a baldy. I haven’t been too near an airplane yet so I didn’t take any pictures. In fact it’s almost impossible to take pictures here during the week as we are bound up in all kinds of restrictions. We can’t sit or stand around outside unless we are in platoon formation. When one is in formation one can’t do anything anyway.
I felt pretty blue today. Every boy I know has received at least one letter and I didn’t get a solitary one. I never realized before how much a letter-even a postcard means to a person who is away from home. I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things all ready but I’ve made up my mind more than ever to be a pilot. The last class that started here over 6 weeks ago numbered 57. There are now only 30 left-and they aren’t through yet. Do you think I still have a chance?
I wrote a letter to “Chet” yesterday and told him a few things I wouldn’t tell to my mother. One of the things is the fact that I received seven (7) gigs for having my locker arranged improperly. I will list the things I did wrong so that you can get an idea how strict they are here. Every button on suit pants ect. has to be buttoned before anything is put into a locker. The inside button on one suit was unbuttoned so I got one “gig” there. I had a book of matches in one pocket – that’s taboo-another gig. The brass buckle on my coveralls (they look like convict suits) was not polished properly-another “gig.” A little drop of dust in the corner earned me another gig. It went on like this until I had a total of seven which was one less then the fellow that received the most gigs for the evening. By now I suppose you are wondering what a “gig” is. It is something like a demerit. 10 gigs in one week will be punished by a ½ hour walk on Saturday afternoon which is our time off.
We were inoculated this afternoon for smallpox and other diseases. Everybody has a stiff arm and it is quite difficult for some of the boys to do a good job cleaning the tops of their lockers and the windows both inside and out.
At the present time the captain is examining my locker (This is an informal inspection made by the upper class of flying cadets. Each class has a number of flying officers who take charge of us dodos.) He didn’t say much so I guess it was O.K.
Don’t be too critical when you read this letter I’m all over the lot-no consistency. I’m just a “dumb John” “Gross Mister” and a “dodo.” These are some of the names we are called here.
I wish you were here so that I could tell you everything that has happened. I’m not much of a letter writer and can’t say half of the things I want to say. In case you have forgotten what I said in the first part of the letter, I will repeat. Please write.
P.S. I miss you and I ain’t kidding Please write. My address is:
F/C Stefanik, J.J.
Air Corps Detachment
I forgot to ask “Chet” but if you see him ask him to let me know Harry Taylor’s exact address. Maybe you could find out yourself-he has a telephone.
These are just too stinkin’ precious. While Babu has been trying to find ways to fill her time at home, and Jake has been kept raggedly busy in training, they both have been fixated on the same goal – receiving letters from their loves.