Lisi Gartz, my grandmother, struggles again with English, writing in her tortured spelling and syntax to Ebner, her youngest son, who’s in basic training at Keesler Field, Mississippi. She enlists my mother, Lillian, to take over midway through the letter to help with the writing.
My father’s family seemed to prefer their son’s middle names to their first ones, so just Grandma addresses Frank Ebner as “Ebner” my father, Fred, is often referred to as “Sam” in the letters. I’m going to transcribe his name as “Fred,” so his identity won’t be so confusing, but he’s “Sam” in the original, which is, again, at the end. About midway through the letter, my mother’s handwriting appears, clearly taking dictation from Grandma to ease Grandma’s English problems. Mom refers to herself by her middle name, “Louise,” which no one called her. I think she does it tongue in cheek, repeating the “Middle name syndrome.” Again, I kept her name “Lil’ in the transcription to avoid identity confusion.
Chicago, Il Feb 14-43
My Dear Soldier Son Ebner,
Here I come with my best, as always. I am allone, father on his Work. We have today a bitter cold strong wind from north and west. Will is on the Field [flying]. They have there many new members from a Chicago school so he hat to go.
My Dear Ebner you never know how I was sick for a few line from you…to hear what you are doing. Now I am so happy I don’t know if I am shouting or lafing or crying. Don’t leave me watching for so long for one word from you, I beg you, or I come there. Or like father said, send a telegram and find out what it happening to him.
God bless you and be all right with your miseries? Get cough drops and Anacin tablets. You know how we do it for coughing. If you got turpentine (?) take two drops if you can in sugar once dayly.
[My mother’s handwriting continues the letter so Grandma must have dictated the rest for her to write.]
My Dear Franz,
I took the picture of LaVerne (aka “Cookie”) and you to Ebert’s [a photography studio] to have a print made to fit into your bible. As a matter of fact, on one side, the picture of LaVerne and you will be printed and on the other, the family group picture will be printed (two for the price of one).
Then if you like, you can send the group picture you now have on to Frank Von Arx, or home, whichever you prefer.
[Fred] is very busy working overtime and Lil is kept going keeping Sam’s stomach from shrinking. (It looks like you will win that $5.00 bet from Lillian [This is obviously my mother’s personal comment about a bet they must have made about who could lose more weight, Frank or Fred].
Franz, you don’t know how happy it made me to receive that lovely Valentine. I felt very blue and sad not having heard from you except for the telegram. So when I received the Valentine, I suddenly felt happy again for it seemed you were with me in spirit.
Below in my mother’s handwriting, writing for Grandma:
[Lillian] and [Fred] just dropped in now so [Lillian] is finishing the letter for me so that you will have less trouble reading it.
Also, on the 11th I wrote you if you received the $20.00 money order and underwear I sent you immediately upon receipt of your telegram. Did you get this all right? As to the letters I wrote you in German, I hope sincerely they did not hurt your standing in any way.
Congratulations on becoming a flight leader; we are very proud of you and hope you keep right on going up the ladder. We are glad you plan to finish or complete the radio course before going to officers Training School. That, we are sure, is the best thing.
Sam started a long letter to you in German and was aboutt o mail it when he heard you would rather not receive anyt mail written in German, so he will write you soon in English, as you wish.
Both Father and I are working long, long hours each day as you well know is the case in this weather.
Are you in the same company with any of the boys you knew in civilian life? Also please let us know near what city Keesler Field is located.
We know you are busy, but if you knew how much cheer your letters would bring, you would write once a week.
Yesterday (Saturday) Lil ordered a box of cookies from Father and me to be sent you via Parcel Post as a Valentine Gift. Please let us know if you get this in good condition. We would gladly send you a package once a week if we were sure it reachs you o.k. Let us know.
[Then my grandmother’s handwriting again]:
Pleas wen you get [this letter], how many day it took to reach you?
A big hug and love from your Father and Mother
P.S. [Will’s (the oldest Gartz son) handwriting
Have you made any arrangements to take the $10,000 insurance policy available to service men? Let us know.
Note: Per Ken Burns’s documentary and book, “The War,” parents would receive $10,000 in the event their son were killed, and this must be the policy that provided that “benefit.”
Note: the underlines, circles, and notes were mine to note important parts on xerox copies I made of the letters before I had a scanner.
Your grandmother had much better English speaking/writing skills than I had Spanish when I tried to learn that! I think her skill is quite good for someone who must have learned via immersion. I love these letters. Not only do you get a good sense of your grandmother, but their whole family. Such a treasure to have.
i don’t know anyone currenly serving in the military but it’s so easy to see why parents worry all the time about their absent kids (even if they never hoist a rifle!) Our children are so dear to us. All my valentines come via email…as long as they come, it’s wonderful.
RE: your life insurance note.Yes – the life insurance was offered to WWII service men/women – often denoted on discharge papers or with discharge papers was the paperwork to keep as civilian or discontinue. A copy of my Dad’s beneficiary was found with his discharge. Great assurance for those that were in harms way – of which so many did not return. Further more, many vets kept it once returning to civilian life. Others even converted it from term to life to get dividends many years. In some way, taking care of ” The Greatest Generation”. Great benefit to keep… Read more »
Parents have good reason to worry about their kids even in training. Thousands of young cadets were killed before they even got to war. And Chriss thanks so much for the info on the insurance andn how it evolved after the war. Like any life insurance, one hope one doesn’t have to collect, especially for a young son or daughter.