February 16, 1946

Photo: Jenny Bristol

Photo: Jenny Bristol

16 February 1946
Berlin, Germany

Dear Kids:

How do you like the tasty new stationery I had made up for myself. Not bad, sez I…… Well, another rainy Saturday afternoon. The weather here has been about the most unpleasant part of the entire experience. I doubt whether we have had over twelve days since I arrived when the sun has shone,- even for a wee space of time during the day. And fully two thirds of the other days have majored in rain, either a drizzle as at present or an honest-to-goodness downpour. And most of the remaining days have brought showers. Most discouraging to perambulations around Berlin to view the ruins. I’ve only been off the Compound and out of the billeting area once, and that was to visit the Army Quartermaster Store. However, to-morrow, rain or shine, we three musketeers have tickets for the Red Cross Sightseeing Bus Trip around the city, and I hope I’ll have an interesting tale to tell you as a result. I understand that the trip is pretty inclusive. Most of the interesting ruins are in the Russian Sector and the Russkys are a bit touchy about much strolling about in the ruins. However, I already have a couple of momentoes which friends have picked up in the Reichschancellery (or isn’t that the way to spell it, purists), some medals struck off in 1939 and quite a collection of the “Mickey Mouse” Reichsmarks which were used in the inflationary period of the early twenties, one of them being for One Millarde marks.

I don’t think I have yet acknowledged receiving your letter of February third, sweet, (#5), but it came through well, – mailed on the 4th and received on the 12th. I’ll not complain if mail transportation maintains that standard. However, Nos. 1, 2 and 3 have yet to arrive from the phony APO. What a shame that my grand-daughter is keeping you waiting so much longer than expected – a feminine trick, I might add but won’t – but I sincerely hope that the suspense is over by now, even though I haven’t yet heard about it. Incoming cables from Z-I (Zone of Interior, meaning U. S. A.) have a habit of being delayed unless they have military priority, so you may have been trying to reach me without success through that medium. I’ll be looking for your next letter with the greatest of interest and hope it will bring the best news in the world for me. I know that delay past the appointed time means a bigger baby and consequently more woe, and I want that to be avoided. The best of wishes, sweetheart, now and continuously.

I’m glad Rog is settled with what seems as though it should be a comfortable room pending the time you can all get together in the home in Clifton, – for I presume that deal went through smoothly and that you are set for the next few years. I hope you can get together frequently over the weekends in the meantime. …… Anent your question re. anti-Nazi protestations of the Germans in our neighborhood: it is impossible to know just how sincere they are in their statements without searching out their background history of participation in Nazi activities. This is carefully done before any Germans are hired for work with OMGUS, but it is not done for owners of the billets we have taken over. Naturally, they want to stand well with the Americans and all of them – except the unreconstructed rebels, of whom there are many – waste no time in letting you know what swell guys they are, after all. You just have to accept their statements, gauge their honesty and keep your fingers crossed. But I believe the Schaefers and the von Elverfelts are telling the truth…. I wish there were some way of getting a line on Ellen Vezin, and wonder whether her family in the States is getting any word from her, Poor girl, she certainly headed into something when she fell in love with a German….. Travel, no, not yet. Shortly I expect to get through the U.S. Zone on business, when and if the pressure on me lets up here to some degree, but travel for fun is definitely out for the present. All means of transportation are under control of the occupying forces and the only billets and eating places are military. All of these facilities are chuck-a-block, and no leave travel is permitted for U.S. military or civilian personnel at present unless it can be pretty well justified. Heath Onthank is just home from the hospital after a hard siege of several weeks of illness, and it took some handling to get him a priority to fly to the Riviera for a recuperative week, even though he is a chicken colonel and rated as a VIP (Very Important Person). When we can travel we shall probably be pretty well restricted to the established tours which are run by the authorities. Mebbe next year……….We Civil Service employees accrue a total of 26 days of leave a year and I had about 35 already to my credit when I came over here, so I’ll have plenty of leave by the time I’m able to use it…… My little secretary is a civilian, from Lexington, Ky., and pretty capable. I’m terribly handicapped by having no procedural assistant, which means that I have to sweat out all of the detailed work myself. But I’m training Dotty to do some of the analyst work. She loves it and is doing quite well. Maybe I can get a German typist soon and put Dot more and more on the more advanced procedural work. At first, she was dissatisfied with the type of work my office had to do, but as she has gotten into it, and as I’ve oriented her, she has developed quite a zest for it.

My cold has almost entirely cleared up (since my day in bed) and my cold room problems seem to be over, for my office is one of the warmest in the building and our billet at 7 In der Halde is quite warm enough, though frequently below U. S. standards. By a great stroke of good fortune, particularly for the natives, this has been an extremely warm winter (even though disagreeable) and I brought clothes for a much colder clime. As a matter of fact, I’m not wearing my long 50-50 wool and cotton undies, for, with the wool shirts and the heavy uniforms and interlined field coats they are quiet unnecessary….. There are a number of things I’d like to have, but I’ve never taken the trouble to list them and can only think of a few off-hand. One is automatic pencil leads; HB black, blue and red. I’m all out of black and it is impossible to buy them here. Another is some of that medicine for my ears; saturated solution of alcohol and boracic acid with a touch of iodine. I forgot to put mine in my bag and I really should have some. The airmail stationery you gave me is – in my foot locker, somewhere between Washington and China, probably. I wonder whether I’ll ever get it. But I’m using any old stationery I can lay my hands on and find it acceptable. Oh, I wish you could send me a stapler and about 10,000 staples. They are just not procurable over here. As a matter of fact, all of our office supplies are poor or unprocurable. Paper clips have to be fought for, cellophane tape, rulers, and scores of other things just ain’t. I wish you could see the queer assortment of furniture we have. The plush boys and those who have been here for some time are fixed up with some pretty zazzy offices, but the rest of us have anything we can lay our hands on,- and darned glad to get it. I have yet to get a much needed desk lamp (central lighting in the offices is very low wattage). We have the measliest assortment of typewriters you ever saw, a mixture of American, English and German machines, all in need of repair. And, by a bit of coincidence, just as I was striking the G in German in the previous line, the shift key mechanism actually fell apart and I had to stop and put it together again. Dot and I have an Underwood (this is a Woodstock) and every time you finish a line you have to advance the paper by manually turning the platen. But we limp along as best we can and our troubles in our stride. Our OMGUS pay roll section hasn’t a single mechanical calculator in the shop and all computations must be done in the head. And so it goes, you don’t appreciate your blessings as long as you have ‘em.

No, all of the meals aren’t good. Our food supplies are limited, providing little variety – meats are particularly bad since the packers’ strike in the States started, and the cooks have a great paucity of imagination in serving things up in a palatable form. But the menus are well balanced and there seems to be plenty of the articles which are in supply. We haven’t seen an egg in Berlin since I came, and the unchanging routine of powdered egg omelet, powdered egg scrambled eggs, and bacon is only occasionally varied at breakfast with very good pancakes or very poor French toast. But I have hot cereal every morning, generally the coffee is excellent, there’s always jam for our toast – and slathers of butter -.. At lunch we have the choice of coffee and tea, at dinner it’s coffee and very good hot chocolate. You wonder when you see the salads they bring in whether to eat ‘em or step over ‘em, as Heath says. But this is just a recitation because you asked for it, not a complaint. We have beer (of a sort) with our meal in the evening without extra charge, and seconds appear immediately at the mere wave of a hand. As I said last week in my Circular, things generally are not too bad here, you just have to re-align your sights and adjust yourself to different ways and standards from at home. (Fresh milk, incidentally, is not known here. Milk is either evaporated or powdered.)

I’m glad to get your remarks about Jeff and his progress. Your remark about the absence of clichés in a child’s speech is interesting, I’ve never stopped to think about that. Too bad he and Secundus don’t let you sleep better, but that’s all part of being a mother……. How’s the old Plymouth running – or has it laid down and died? You haven’t mentioned it in your letters. I don’t suppose you have gotten a draft from the bank to cover the loan you made me. My first allotment to the bank will reach them by or before the first of March (unless I’ve been duped) and, if they haven’t already paid you they should about that time. After that they should get $556.12 every four weeks to swell the deposits in my name. And they will be having very few payments to make against the growing balance.

George, Harold and I are getting along famously together. We start our “B” mess to-morrow morning and then shall be eating all of our breakfasts and some other meals at home. Wonder of wonders, the interior of our house is being painted! The maid’s room, bath room and Harold’s bed room are finished, they’re working on the down stairs rooms. We’ll look quite dressed up when it is finished, but the proceedings are not particularly pleasant to go through…..Nothing much happens these days which is out of the ordinary. Unfinished work is piling up on my desk in an alarming fashion and I can’t hope to keep pace with it. I’ve just turned in the Personnel Office portion of the OMGUS Manual, thank Heaven, and am now majoring on a series of personnel reporting forms which the 16 divisions have to submit to us every two weeks. Then comes the development of leave forms and procedure. And so it goes, with no end to the stuff which has to be done. But it is absorbingly interesting.

Lots of love, as always, Dad –