Bachstelzenweg 11, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany.
18 August 1946
Eleven o’clock Sunday morning. John has gone to Mass, Hilda is bustling around with her housekeeping duties, Hans and Erika are somewhere down stairs with Schnappsie and Pat, Ahyaks is stretched out at my feet, the weather is touch and go and the sail which John, Phil and I planned for this afternoon has been postponed until more auspicious times – and the stage is all set for a visit with you folks before I dress for the day. Breakfast is always a contemplative, relaxed affair here, set for ten o’clock Sundays and enjoyed to the full. Last evening we spent a most unusual Saturday “abend”, sitting around talking and ruminating, no excitement, no drinking, and no company, until about one this morning – a most unusual relief from the usual schedule.
But there was some excuse for it this week, for Friday John, Charlie Something-or-other-across the street, and I were guests of our British cousins at the Club 400 in the British Sector with Pat Finlay and Reg Mortimer as our hosts. We drank, ate and danced most pleasantly, caught the last U-Bahn train home (11:30), and ran afoul of two parties back here, first across the street and then in our own billet. We turned in early enough (about 1:30) but both of us were sufficiently pooped the next day to justify a good nap most of the afternoon. Now I’m full of food and well-being and a bit listless but ready to go. I’ve just finished a letter to Eleanor Rankin, started yesterday, replying to one received from her Friday, the first I’ve heard from her for many months. She’s in Manilla with the Office of Foreign Liquidation Corporation and seems to be getting quite a thrill out of it. Strange that the three of us from 808 S. St. Asaph should be so widely separated now, – Cece in Italy, El in Manilla and I here in Berlin. If it can be said that any good comes from war surely one good result has been the breaking down of the provincial isolationism of our too-over-self-satisfied country. It is hard to believe we can ever return to it.
Letters received this past week from Uncle Warren and Nancy have given me a little of the more recent Montclair scene and bring word that things seem to be going well with you folks. Here, the situation changes little. Last Saturday (a week ago) the Vadneys had Harold, Peg and me in for dinner – and the night. Monday John and I entertained the Vadneys, Sarles and Fosses, both of them most enjoyable parties with excellent company. I’m very fond of the whole crowd – and I wish you folks could hear Ken Foss tell the story of Queen Victoria and Harry Houdini – it’s worth the price of a round trip ocean voyage. I think that and Bob Snyder’s recounting the tale of the “gold pletted collapsable ash tray that fits in de pocket and only costs a dollar” are two of the outstanding experiences I have had in the field of stories. But the stories must be told by those two entertainers only. Bob is converting and is now in the States on R, R & R. I hope he returns soon.
I’m still awaiting my various packages from the U.S. with some impatience. This includes some orders I have placed with Willoughbys direct. I asked them to mail the stuff first class – and with true economy they finally shipped them parcel post, thus creating a delay of about five weeks. My lovely new camera lies idle while I wait the receipt of 127 film, which can’t be procured here. If they had mailed it promptly first class I would have had it by the 2nd or 3rd of August – now I’ll be lucky if I get it by the second week of September. By that time I should have the enlarging paper and chemicals from you folks – and then I can go to town. Waiting may be good for the soul – but it’s awfully hard on the patience.
It looks as though I am at long last to have the help which I need so sorely. Word comes that my Regulations and Procedures gal is now on her way from the States (en route from Honolulu) and I’m hoping that my Reports and Statistics Chief will appear from Switzerland sometime this coming week, a former chief yeoman of the regular Navy who has been down there for the past month with his Swiss bride. When I get them broken in I can begin to step out in advanced planning work, which has been impossible as long as I have been tied down to the detail which they should have been doing. And then I’m going to take leave and go on one of the tours. And I’m even tentatively exploring the possibility of finding a job in one of the Laender offices. I’ve learned enough about the work here, I’ve seen enough of Berlin, and yearn for the greater freedom of wing-stretching possible down in the Zone, where one can get a car in his spare moments and cruise over the countryside. There the whole broad aspect of southern Germany, from the Rhine to Austria and from the Hartz Mountains to the Alps – Bodensee (Lake Constance), Garmish, Berschtesgarten, and all of the lovely mountain lakes, are yours for the taking. The boys down in Stuttgart go hunting for roebuck or boars nearly every week end or go trout fishing in the clear streams which come down from the mountains. We have more comfortable living and working conditions here in Berlin – but that lets us out, completely. Soooo, I’m doing a bit of thinking. I believe Stuttgart would be my choice, but I wouldn’t turn down Munich or Wiesbaden. After all, one of my objects in coming here was to satisfy my lifelong desire to see Europe and much of that must be accomplished without taking leave to do it.
Right now I’m deep in the process of setting up I.B.M. locator records of all military and U.S., Allied and Neutral civilian employees of OMG (all offices), and German civilian employees in Berlin, a matter of gathering vital statistics of approximately 16,000 souls and putting them on machine records – this in addition to my regular work, nothing difficult but a rather demanding mechanical workload. When it is accomplished the multitudinous and multifarious reports which haunt me will become matters of routine procedure. We have at Templehof Airport a very complete I.B.M. set-up which is only working to about 60% capacity and we might as well put it to work. Working to deadlines in turning out complicated personnel reports for the Chief of Staff and USFET has become a nightmare for me the past few weeks and I crave relief.
I mentioned Pat at the beginning of this letter. She is a darling little ten weeks old daschshund bitch which Erika has acquired during the past week – which means three dogs in the house. I’m now threatening to get Ahyaks a Frau, but I’m afraid the added responsibility will be too much, not to mention the problem of feeding another big dog. Guess I’d better let well enough alone.
I’m enclosing the Observer for this week because I think you may be interested in the Barter Store. The problem of trading with the enemy is one of the most worrisome over here. It is impossible to buy much that we want in the open market, as the prices (in marks) are in direct proportion to the desirability of the commodity. But by using blue stamp cigarettes, which are preferred by the Germans to money, we are able to tap the market. The authorities have been in a quandary as to how to control the situation, and are now doing it thru this Barter Market. The Germans bring in anything they have to sell, from bird cages to cameras, and the Americans bring in commodities which are acceptable for exchange, mainly cigarettes. All articles are valued by the authorities and a fair swap results. It is beating the Devil around the stump, for the results are the same as in the black market, except that about three zeroes are knocked off of the trading prices of both incoming and outgoing items. When my cigarettes arrive I plan to stock up on china and glassware, for the exuberant Russians smashed most of the supply of each which we have in the billet and we are extremely hard put to make out when we have company. I presume you have read about the scandal which has been unearthed here, resulting in the suicide of Lt. Col. Linck, who lived in the next block to this place. He was a really big operator in the black market, even to the extent of U. S. currency, and had two houses full of ill-gotten food, liquor, German commodities and what have you, with prospective profits of well over a half million dollars. It is thought that a number of others, both large and small fry, were mixed up with him, and the chase is now in full cry. We are all awaiting with great interest the outcome of this investigation. But the Army must take their share of the responsibility, for they have never come out with a clean-cut statement of what is and what is not permissible, and, lacking that decision, have been afraid to investigate and prosecute. Most of us will be much relieved when the whole matter is clarified and we know just where we stand.
12:30, and there are more letters to be written. Best love to you all, and – WRITE SOON!!