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!


  1. What wonderful letters! He sounds truly in love! And, it sounds like he is trying to reassure her, but he keeps letting little things slip. I bet she did worry! I'm sure it's hard to imagine for those of us who have never been in that situation. And, love the photos! Your grandfather is handsome!

    1. Awww, I think so, too. But there is no doubt where the lack of height comes from in my family - I wonder if anyone else needed a pillow seat?

  2. What treasures you have---not just these amazing letters, but the uniform and helmet. I love how he constantly uses endearments like Sweet and Dear throughout his letters.

    1. She did the same with him - at times she even called him Lover Boy!

  3. Terrific letters, I really enjoyed them and wonderful artifacts, really amazing to have.

    1. I have hundreds of their letters. Thankfully my grandmother "counted" them and numbered them on the outside of the envelope - sure makes getting them into order easier. Thank you, Grandma!

  4. It is amazing to know what one's grandparents were like as young people in love. I knew my grandparents as "old" people who picked and teased and griped playfully at one another. Your collection makes me jealous. And the uniform! Have you figured out the future of Sig's uniform once you're gone (eh, hate saying that!)?