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Love Letters from Camp Gordon

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

“I have an idea that this is what enduring love really means. Your memories of a girl at seventeen become as real and vivid as the middle-aged woman sitting in front of you. It is a happy sort of double vision, this seeing and remembering. To be seen this way is to be known.”

–William Landay

Last January I posted a letter I wrote to my Grandfather that I read at his wake. It was about his life – his small mannerisms of drinking tea with lemon in the mornings, reading the paper while listening to Frank Sinatra, feeding the birds in his yard, going for mile long walks, and watching old black and white Westerns in the cellar. It was also about my experience of living with him for six months after Hurricane Sandy; the only time in my life that I really got to know my Grandfather as a human being, rather than just as my Pop Pop, my mom’s father and my grandmother’s husband.

After his passing, my aunts and uncles went through his belongings before selling the house they spent their childhood and teenage years in. They came across a bundle of letters my grandmother had saved from him during the war when they were just dating. I didn’t know this until now or I probably would have taken some for myself, as I love old love letters, but I was finally able to read some of them last night and they are beautiful in their honesty and simplicity.

I believe it’s human nature to always look at things from the past as holding more value – everything that is now our history is always referred to as “the good ol’ days.” There is always a sense of nostalgia when coming across old articles such as photographs, journals, letters, and cards – they all embody the power of reminding us that our time here finite. But when reading these letters, I can’t help but feel that in some regards, the way love was in the early nineteen hundreds, is now a relic of the past – something that can be referred to as “the good ol’ days.”

Why is it that when reading my grandfather’s love letter from the 1940’s, it feels as though the love that exists in our world today is missing a key ingredient? This is not to say that this kind of love is no longer present, but I would say the majority of people who read his letter would agree that there is a part of themselves that longs for a simpler time. Outside of war and conflict, there was a pure, genuine candor in his words that is not found very often today. There was much respect in his love for my grandmother too.

I write this post today not only to share a letter pure in its authenticity, but to begin a discussion on love.

How do you feel after reading his letter? Do you believe that love has changed from the 1940’s to today? How is love the same or different?

This topic is one of great interest to me as our world today is constantly changing and moving faster by the minute - how do we slow down, if just for our own love, and ourselves, to recapture the qualities my grandfather so effortlessly captures in his words to my grandmother? This kind of love is not and should not be lost; if anything, it is we who have gotten lost, with this now antiquated love seeking to be found.

March 5, 1944

Time 8:30 P.M.

My Dear Doris,

Here it is, another Sunday night, but quite different than three weeks ago. My thoughts keep drifting way back there. Yes, way back to a certain girl, in a certain room, by a certain fireplace. What I would not give to have that night, or the nights previous to that back again. Life was just about perfect then, but sure is a pain now. Just think, only eight hundred miles apart.

Tonight Camp Gordon is even more quiet than a grave yard. Everyone is on pass to the local town. It’s too crowded there over the weekend. I found that out last night on my third visit.

I don’t know what to do with myself tonight. The movies are out, as I saw all of the pictures or don’t care for them. Do you know there are seven movie houses in Gordon? As far as I know, about fourteen P.X.’s, eight chapels, two service clubs with nothing in them. That is, the one near us. Just opened up last week.

Tonight I’m catching up on my fan mail. This is about my last letter. You know for some reason or other, I always save your letter till last. After all, it’s the most important and always longer.

Anyway, I always like it to be my last act before hitting the hay. Do you realize something serious might happen between us? You know, before I always knew where I stood and had pretty good control over myself. Now I’m getting off course and heading into danger. Probably because I’ve never met a girl quite like you. Your frankness, wit, and well! You like to do about everything. Believe me honey, one very seldom finds a girl like that. Doris, I think you’re one out of a hundred.

Now honey, I do hope you are getting my humble notes. There is something on the fire some place. Please let me know every letter you receive. Maybe someone is getting them by mistake or something!

I am jealous of all that swimming you are doing. After two years of that pleasant past time, I do miss it now. There is a pool in the YMCA down in town. Haven’t tried it out yet but I must. Why the heck didn’t we go when I was home? Gee but we did nothing! If I ever come home again, I’ll have a schedule all made out. Sometimes I think I made things boring for you. When I sit here and think of all the places we did not go to, well I could kick myself in the pants, only I’m not double jointed my dear girl!

Not much I can say for the Army. Believe I did put in one of the longest and toughest weeks of my Army life. Things do not look too good. Especially with all this special training. Tomorrow I go on the rifle range to fire my Carbine. The other day I ripped my pants on that barbwire. Boy it seamed awful low. It’s so dusty around here it’s like the dust bowl. All those tanks, etc., running around. It’s heaven when I hit a hot shower at night. Hot water is something I will never quite get used to.

Enough of Army talk. This is my night off, with soft music on the wireless. Ah! But no girl in my arms. All I can do is dream of Doris with the light or dark brown hair. Then say, “By and By” as Frank Munn is singing it now. Gee don’t music talk for you. Maybe you are listening too. Really is a nice song, and very appropriate. Now it’s, “When My Dream Boat Comes Home.” Ah me! Such is life!

Say, what is happening to me tonight? Here I am on my fifth sheet of paper. See you must rate a little. Do you believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder? There is something to it. Nothing could make me write so much before. The best the nurse ever got was four. Then the paper was small too!

Then as I said before, writing to you cuts the distance. Seems like I’m almost talking to you, or something, or such. Why in God’s name did I have to be put way down here in the Georgia Hills? Honestly Doris, you can’t imagine how dead it really is. Now they are singing, “All Through The Night.” See how the music fits in with my words? Do hope you are having a much nicer evening than yours truly.

Now I should not have said that. Honestly, I don’t mind writing, especially to you. But every night it’s the same. Just like down on the island. Maneuvers would even be better than this. But why worry about them. Soon enough I’ll get plenty of that. Now we only go out on short problems of a day or two.

Doris, I do not think I’ll be here in June. Let’s hope we move in the direction of New York. Camp Dix would be nice. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, or Washington would also be fine. Don’t you agree, my dear?

Must close now as the end of paper comes fast. Hello to Mom and Fred. I always think of how swell they were. I’ll write to them tomorrow. Good night, Doris honey. Take good care of yourself, “for me.”

With Loads of Love,

Jimmy


#war #letters #warletters #oldromance #relationships #loveletters #loverelationships #grandfathers #memories #grandmothers

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