Sunday, November 27, 2016

All finished – I’m coming home!

I’m jumping around a bit but I wanted to get back to the letters my grandfather, Sig Levy, wrote to my grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer, as the end of World War I approached and, finally, he was released to go home.  I first wrote about it HERE.  But now that it is almost exactly 98 years later, I wanted to include the letters they wrote back and forth as he finally came home.

Sig wrote on November 28, 1918 that he was hoping to be released from March Field soon.  Here’s some excerpts from that letter.

Riverside, California
November 28, 1918 - 10:30 AM 
Wednesday night  

My dear Lover:

I have a few more moments to myself tonight. Almost everyone went to Riverside this noon to stay over Thanksgiving but I didn't go because the flu is running wild over there and there is a possibility of me getting out tomorrow and I don't want to lose my chance.

I was quite disappointed today as they drew out the first lot of names to leave tomorrow but I missed it. Gee I haven't had any luck but I think I may get in as a substitute or else I'll be held over another day. We have everything turned in but our blankets and are just waiting for the quartermaster to make out pay checks but the whole thing is a big job. We had our turkey dinner today and they loaded us with food but as luck would have it, they made so many announcements on the line that by the time we went in to eat all the food was cold. But that's the way we eat all the time and one has to be tough here to live.

And sweetheart you dear girl - that wonderful cake arrived this afternoon - it certainly looked pretty and I treated the office force. Tell your dear mother that it was delicious and I thank her so much. I didn't open the other box yet as we have eaten too much today but thanks a lot dear for your everlasting thoughtfulness.  

Love, I haven't had time to write about our future in the last letter or two but I agree with you to decide on things when we see each other and talk it all over. I'll have to go direct to Fresno as Herb is up against it. Just had a letter from him that two more in the office are leaving and he needs me badly. So I'll go there and get things in order and my sweet I'll get up to see you and be with you to love as soon as possible. I'm so anxious to be with you, so I'll do my best even if at first it will be just for a tiny while. But I'll write you just how things are. From the papers it appears that Fresno is getting ready for a boom and we sure want to get in on it. Our firm sold about six homes within the last two weeks.  

All for tonight my sweet little lover. Thanks so much for all your wonderful love. It just makes me long for you in my arms - and then you know how that feels - would you like to be there now? A big hug and a lot and lot of kisses to you, sweetheart.  Hope my next letter will be from Fresno.  

Always your lover

Boy, this guy is SMITTEN with her!  The love just oozes off the page.

And then the most glorious thing happened – Loraine received a telegram telling her he was all finished and leaving for Fresno!  I can only imagine how excited she must have been to get this news.  Who says telegrams are usually bad news?

All Finished

Somehow he’d managed to get on a train and was headed home.
And the next day, Loraine received a special delivery letter with a Fresno postmark – Sig was home!

November 29 1918 envelope
Fresno, California 
November 29, 1918 - 11 PM 
Friday night 

My sweetheart

I'm late tonight as I've had a strenuous day. Honest darling I'm just worn out from shaking hands with everybody, almost, that I met on the streets and of course I had to answer a million questions. Herbert was delighted that I came back as he sure needs me. I found the office very busy and badly in need of help so I'll have to dive in and do my best in the emergency. The man who is running the rent dept is leaving so that makes it worse. But it will all work its way out.  

At any rate I'm home again and I really can't believe it. Sweet it seems like a dream and everything seems so strange but I sure received a royal welcome from people even who barely know me and congratulations of our engagement were showered on me. If you were with me tonight you could help me calm down - and mainly love me a lot.  

John Mallon came up the valley with me and we caught the first train out of Riverside - changed at L.A. making close connections and arrived here early this a.m. I am feeling fine sweetheart but naturally very tired and might say a trifle excited. Am staying at Herb's house - he wouldn't allow me to stay at the big home all alone so I'll stay with them a while at least. The babes are so cute and I'm having a lot of fun with Herbie Jr.  

And I first just left Dick and Helen - poor kid leaves at 3 a.m. for Virginia. He is on a furlough and tried to get discharged while here but nothing doing. They wouldn't allow him an extension or anything - wired him to come right back.  

Was a little worried tonight when the papers said Kaiser was trying to start again. Wouldn't it be awful if things would open up for another fight. Dearest I hope not but I think it is all newspaper talk. 

Naturally I missed your last letter. I didn't know definitely about my final discharge until the very last moment but I wired you the first moment possible which was in L.A. We traveled so fast we couldn't get to a telegraph office until then. Are you glad dear it's all over. I'll get things running more smoothly here and then I'll come up to be with you. Gee I wish Leon or Ben was here.  

Well sweet what do you know - and how are you? Think of it I'm going to sleep in a real bed tonight - and I must hurry home as I don't want to wake the babes. I'll try and write my letters to you in the afternoon hereafter.

I'm hoping for a letter from you tomorrow. It will sure be welcome because I haven't had any of your love in writing for a couple of days and I miss it so much.  

Helen and Dick send their very best to you - and she certainly said nice things about you.  

Will try and write things more interesting tomorrow love but I certainly have been thinking a lot of my sweet girl - and as soon as I can my dear I'll be in your arms. I'll write again tomorrow so goodnight my dear girl and more love than ever tonight and a big lot of kisses.

Your own boy  


After Loraine received the telegram, but before she received Sig’s letter of November 29, she wrote her own letter to Sig and mailed it off to Fresno.

November 29, 1918 – 3 pm 
[1933 Fresno Street]

My Sweetheart  

My, how wonderful it must feel to you to be at home after an absence of nearly five months. After receiving your wire early this morn I thought of you and how busy you must be greeting all your old friends again.  Your letter written Tuesday eve didn’t come until this morn and with the special delivery I received it at 8 o’clock.

Your letter written Wednesday also came this morn so I had the good luck to get two letters and a wire.  

Am so glad that you could leave yesterday and am anxious to hear how you finally got on the list. I can just imagine how fine you feel to be once more free. It is a “grand and glorious” feeling, isn’t it, dear?  

I believe March Field is one of the first camps to demobilize and after all, love, it was for the best for you to go into aviation. How beautifully everything has turned out!  

Am glad the cake reached you before you left and that it was good. Guess my letters written Wednesday and yesterday will be forwarded to you or returned to me. Now that you are home let me know if and when you want your racquet, knife and Shrine pin and I’ll send them to you.  

We spent a very quiet day yesterday. Drove over to Salinas in the afternoon. It was a very pretty out but quite cold. We had a very nice dinner all by ourselves and had just finished it when Uncle Col phoned to wish us a pleasant day. Uncle Milt, Aunt Chas. and Wilt were there also so we talked to the whole family. Wilt won’t be able to come home until Xmas. Cal won the big game yesterday by a score of 67-0, which doesn’t speak very well of Stanford’s team.  

Hallie came down yesterday but I haven’t seen her yet. Expect to have her for dinner tonight and we may later go for a ride. And tomorrow night I am going to have all the girls at my house for a little reunion. Hallie goes home Sunday so it is just a flying trip.  

Dear, I didn’t mean any harm when I sent you that spec. del. Stamp. Didn’t know if you could procure one and I wanted to experiment. It didn’t work very well, however, as it didn’t come until this a.m. anyway. There will be no need of you sending my letter for Sunday special as I found out that Sunday evening’s mail doesn’t come in until the following morn.  

Sweetheart, do you still want to write every day or would you rather cut it down to every other day now that you are “safe and sound” at home? Tell me when this letter reaches you so I will know how to mail them.

I really didn’t expect you to come here before you went home as Fresno is so much nearer than Monterey. I sort of hoped you would come but now I’ll know not to expect you until it is possible and that will probably be some time as you will have to stay home now and get everything into running order.  

Did you notice the envelope? It looks quite different minus Cadet and means different, too.

I’ve told you all I know for today, dearest, and if I write tomorrow it will just be a note as I am waiting for your letter telling me all about everything.  

Please give my very best regards to Herbert and Madeline and thank Herbert for me for sending my picture, etc. Haven’t had a chance to write to him yet. You’ve seen the new baby by now and is she cute?  

Sweetheart, I am sending you a whole lot of love and kisses. I’ll admit I’d rather have the latter real ones than on paper, they would seem different to me, so I’ll save most of them. The folks thank you for your love and send theirs in return.  

Always fondly
your Loraine

I just love being able to put all of these letters together and understanding what their responses to each other were.  How many people have an opportunity to read these back and forth letters between their grandparents nearly 100 years ago?

It’s official – SIG IS HOME!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Your boy is a real flier

Sig Military 2

As we approach Veteran’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandfather, Sig Levy, and the time he served in the military as a “Flying Cadet”.  I’ve also spent a great deal of time over the last few days organizing all of the letters he wrote to my grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer, from 1916-1919.  I’ve already transcribed the letters she wrote to him but now I start the arduous (although interesting) task of transcribing his.

So I decided to start with his letters in November, 1918 as he transferred from Berkeley to March Field in Riverside.  I know he’d been sick with influenza and then wrote to his future in-laws asking for Loraine’s hand in marriage – you can read about that HERE – and then it was off to March Field.  From his letters, it looks like his first day there was just before Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.

Here’s his first letter which was mailed on November 8, 1918.

Nov 8 1918 Envelope Front

Nov 8 1918 Envelope Back

By the looks of the envelope, Grandma was pretty anxious to get it opened!

Nov 8 1918 Page 1 Nov 8 1918 Page 2
Nov 8 1918 Page 3 Nov 8 1918 Page 4

My dear sweetheart:

I'm in a hurry as usual- gee but I've been busy since my arrival. We have been stepping around like so many flies, ever since we came. This is regular army life - no mattresses just straw - no pillows or sheets. Up at 5:45 A.M. and work starts in. I've been house-cleaning all day until 4 P.M. and then we had an hour of drill. They picked me out right off the bat to command the company.

Dear airships fly around here like ants - so many of them that you don't even notice them. They also fly every night until midnight.

Sweet I have felt very good so far - and very much so when we heard the report that Germany signed the armistice - I hope its so & if they will give discharges you know how quickly I'll get mine don't you.  

Oh! the eating here is funny - like so many hogs - one big rush & grab. If you're quick & impolite you eat - if not you are out of luck - I'm learning.

Had a nice trip down & slept great. Saw Herbert at Fresno & everything is fine at home. I gave him the picture & the write-up must have shown up because I have a letter of congratulation concerning it. You most likely have received a copy by now.

What do you think - I fly tomorrow morning at 6:30 For some reason I am the first man on the list. I bought my goggles today & I'll tell you later what I think of the air. They don't waste any time down here getting you started. And tonight we have an hour of lecture. Our retiring time is 9 o'clock. Fritz is already flying - doing his own driving & is crazy about the sport.

This letter will appear as rushly written but I hope to have more time tomorrow & will write a better letter.

Received your sweet letter this morning and certainly enjoyed it. By the looks of things if they keep us moving so fast I won't be able to write as often as I would like to. But Dear you wrote such a pretty letter & I like those kind so much. I wish I could have given you a thousand kisses and next time I see you they will be there. Didn't cough but little today & not at all last night.

We all wear overalls and jumpers all day & look like a bunch of convicts. It seems to be just right to look like a bum & with the clothes we have it is no effort. But we are in quarantine so can't get to the city. We are located away out in the wilderness 10 miles from Riverside with no other inhabitants in sight. It is so different from Berkeley & I wish you could see the rows of planes lined up ready for the flights and officers by the score.

Sweet I have to read all the instructions for tomorrow's flying yet tonight.

I'll tell you I'm lonesome for you - all that is possible. And I'm so glad you are happy & going to be a brave little girl. You are home now and that is fine. I hope you rode with Hym.  

Well I'll rush this to catch tonight's mail. Sweet I love you all that is possible in the world. I'll be very careful & think of you every moment. Be a good dear girl and here is a bundle of kisses to my own little girl.  

Give my love to your folks. Bye-bye sweet - I fly tomorrow - much love Did you get my wire.  

Your own boy 

He really is going to be a flier – I’m sure he was excited to finally get in the air.  I’m guessing, however, that Loraine wasn’t so happy about it as she was always a worrier.  And the next day he described his experience in the sky.

 Nov 9 1918 Envelope Front
Nov 9 1918 Page 1 Nov 9 1918 Page 2
Nov 9 1918 Page 3 Nov 9 1918 Page 4

My Sweetheart:

Well another day is over and I am still alive - and I had my first flight. Sweet it was a wonderful ride and I felt right at home - honest it didn't frighten me a bit. Was up for almost an hour just on a joy ride and went up a little over 2000 feet. I have a peach of an instructor and he is a Mason so that helps. They strap you in tight and away you go - it really is fascinating - and they also have you take hold of the controls and run the ship for a tiny bit now and then. It only takes the least bit of movement to sway in any direction I dressed up real warm and was not at all cold in the air - have my helmet, goggles, etc. & look like the real stuff. Wish I could send you a picture love, but they don't allow them down here. From now on I fly every morning so wish me luck. I have the same instructor every day. I can't reach the rudder control without stretching a lot so I am having a pillow seat made. They seem to think that I won't have any trouble flying and there are a lot of pillow aviators down here. But if I do sweet I'll not venture beyond the proper point so don't worry - but it seems that it is going to be easy to handle the plane from today's experience. The country below looks beautiful & I didn't feel at all sick and took it all in. 

We have classes every hour down here the same as at Berkeley - but I find they are mostly reviews & one don't have to concentrate on them.

Listen sweetheart, did you get the clipping from the Republican. I didn't & am anxiously waiting to get it. I cried to Herb for a pillow to sleep on & it came today - believe me I've had a hard pillow up to now. The eating is rotten I hope I can live thru it - if the war would really stop all would be fine. 

Received your very sweet letter today and thanks for all your love.  I’m writing at the Y.M. tonight & Widelund is sitting opposite me doing likewise. He sends his regards to you. He also bunks alongside me & we are paling together.

Dear I just wish you could see this gang. Honest you would enjoy it - they do everything from pick & shovel to thrilling flying & go around like tramps. I see Seigel every day - he is doing very good he says. But it only takes a little mishap & they throw you out. But I'm not worrying - just taking it as it comes & enjoying it.

Sweet I'm sending you a big lot of wonderful love tonight and now your boy is a real flier. I wish you were here so I could hug you a lot in our own way - gee I long for it & my cough has just about vanished. Bye-bye for tonight - oodles of love & kisses. Also love to your folks.

Your own

Although I am so happy to have a few photos of Sig in his uniform, I sure wish he had been able to get a photo of those goggles!  And how about that description of having a “pillow seat” made?

While I don't have a photo of the goggles, I do have his helmet and uniform.  Not just a photo but the real thing!


More to come on Sig’s adventures at March Field!