Friday, December 19, 2014

World War II Letters Home December 19, 1939 - Estelles Wickenkamo

                                                                                               Royal Air Force
                                                                                              King's Lynn, Norfolk
                                                                                              December 19, 1939

Dear Esther:

I am afraid I haven't been keeping up my writing very regularly - It is the same old story - so much "flap" and duties that it is a bit hard to take time off.   I am living in one of the rooms in a married officers block and it is a way from the mess so it isn't very convenient to run back and forth.

It doesn't look as if this Christmas is going to be much like the last one, but I guess it is no use complaining.  Last week-end I spent a few days at Oxford with Renee and then we went to Bedford to Roddy Ross'  wedding, where I was best man.  After the wedding, Doug, Renee and I went to London, as that was the only way we could make train connections and we stayed there over night in the Strand Palace Hotel, which is a very nice place.   Renee went home alone to Oxford and Doug and I caught the train back here.

I think I will be getting a 3 day leave at Christmas so I am going to spend it at Oxford,  Oh yes, I meant to mention that Roddy and his crew went down somewhere Helogoland yesterday.  Some of the crews of the different aircraft that wee lost have been rescued - that is - the ones that were still alive but Ii don't know whether he was one of them or not.  Pretty tough on his wife.  I have lost so many acquaintances and friends during the last week that I can hardly keep track of them.  Most of them are scattered around at so many different stations that it is almost impossible to find out who doesn't return - that is, when all of them don't do so. Until lately we have been quite fortunate as all of the formations nearly always returned, but the last few days this Heligoland and Whilhelmshaven business has wiped out a big percentage of our aircraft and crews.  Maybe it should be left alone for awhile until the "big bugs" think up a better scheme of attacking it.

I guess I had better lay off these war stories.  I don't suppose you want to hear them or do you?  As usual the papers are a lot of lies and propaganda - you can't believe half you read.  They give vivid descriptions of all sorts of heroism's, cut our casualties in half and double our victories of the enemy.  News is published about a week late if it manages to get past the censor.  Three weeks after the first Canadian army contingent came over here it was made known publicly.  I suppose all this is typical of the English press.

I am on duty in the operations room tonight - that is why I have time to write.  I suppose you wonder what the operations room is,  well, it is the headquarters for all our orders and information during the war.  Each station has an operations room and each command (bomber, fighter, reconnaissance, etc.) has a controlled operational center, and of course the whole thing being controlled by the Air Ministry.

We often get called at 5:00 or 6:00 o'clock in the morning to standby for a raid or patrol upon an hours notice.  Half of nearly all the time we just keep standing by all day and don't get out though.  When we leave the station, which we may do every night, we have to leave an address, eg. Royal Cinema, pub or where ever we might be, so that we can be recalled within 2 hours.  Generally when the crews are wanted back the local police give us their full co-operation and go around to all the cinema and pubs and chase everyone home.  It is not very often anyone gets recalled at night though because our group is all day bombers,  so we don't go on night raids.

We haven't had any air raids since I have been at this station but they are bound to come sooner or later - anyhow, let 'em come!

I have managed to get all my Christmas cards sent away the other day but I haven't been able to get any parcels mailed yet.  I am afraid there won't be much in the line of presents for anyone this year - I find it so hard to think of anything that is worth sending - seeing how shipping and mail is so uncertain.  I am going to write my bank and try to send you a monthly payment until I get straightened out.  It seems to be a next to impossible to pay each months mess bill.  I never spend much money but it sure seems to go.

This has the markings of a very morbid letter but I can't really think of anything funny to write about tonight - probably next time.  My bed is right next to this desk here and the telephone switchboard is at my elbow so while everything is quiet I'll try to catch up on my sleep.

Try to drop me  a letter, even if it is only one line,  each week because it seems that I never get any mail any more.

By the time you get this you most likely will have finished celebrating the New Year - anyhow I hope you have a swell time.

Best Wishes and Love
Your Brother

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Tuesday - American Legion Nonstop Goodwill Trip


After Running to Canada Last Night, Nonstop Car Heads for Mexico.
Left Spokane, 6:30 p.m.  Friday, in Colville, 10:05 p.m. Crossed Canadian border shortly after midnight. Arrived Spokane, 6:30 a.m. Arrived Colfax, 10:00 a.m.  Arrived Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
   The Spokane American Legion international good will tour began promptly at 6:30 last evening.
    By midnight the car reached Canada and arrived in Spokane, southbound, at 6:30 this morning.
     On to Mexico
    Now Mexico and return is objective.  Grant Ware, former Adjutant of the Spokane Post, and Frank Smith are drivers of the Dodge car being used.
     Enroute Mr. Ware is writing special articles for the Chronicle.
    Well, here we go rolling along as pretty as you please.  Never heard a motor sound sweeter and the old Teico time and motion recorder is doing its stuff.
     Pulling out of Spokane behind four speed cops was a thrill.  Usually the wail of the siren is one of those things the motorist doesn't like to hear, but this time it was music to our ears.  Traffic melted like magic and we cruised along at 20 to 25 miles an hour out Monroe and Wall to the city limits.  Here our good convoy quit us.
    Looking back in the mirror it was another thrill to see our good friends McGoldrick and Lambert in
 the endurance car, until we hit the foot  of the Monroe hill. This was too much for their veteran contraption and we parted company.
Start With Rations
    Before starting, L. R. Knipe, commander of Spokane post, put his signature on our Teico sheet and as we started it was sealed and locked.
    Vic Dessert, of the Dessert hotel, gave us two boxes of rations. This is appreciated and the jar of coffee is great.
     Jumping back a day, we had an experience that gave us some good knowledge.  We decided yesterday to fill our tank under actual conditions.  We pulled into a service station and circled the lot. Everything was fine and clear. Frank went out on the rear deck and we took on three loads of gas.
   About five miles south of Colville, Dr and Mrs Goetter picked us up and with them was none other than Past State Commander Rafils, who acted as master of ceremonies, leaning far out and waving us on.  In the car also were Mr and Mrs J B Rogers. Colville was cleared at 10:05 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  Then through Myers Falls.
   A few miles south of the line we saw the car of one of the border patrol and were careful they got a good look at our car so they would not stop us as we came back.  At the line we were met by  W M Kartzmark and Arthur Clark, both legionnaires, of the customs.  They cleared us in a circle over the line handed in a certificate to that effect.
   We are driving three-hour shifts.  When I am off, the bearings on the typewriter smoke, or sleep is in order.  When Frank is off he gets the gas up to level in the main tank and fusses with the mechanical details or sleeps.
   Daylight hit at 5 a.m. and at 6:30 we were in Spokane again where a convoy of speed cops again took us through.  Frank says we are now on our way from pines to palms.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill Trip

Spokane Daily Chronicle March 28, 1930


Nonstop Canada to Mexico Drive Ready for Start at 6:30 Tonight.

"Everything is ready." This was the report from Grant Ware Frank P. Smith, who will leave Spokane at 6:30 p.m. today on a proposed nonstop good-will  American Legion auto tour from Spokane to Mexico and return to Spokane.

Final checking of the car today proved to be in satisfactory condition.  Special refueling and oil changing apparatus were given a final examination and mechanics pronounced the machine ready.
  Plan Week's Drive
The car will be home for the two overseas veterans from the start this evening until 2 p.m. next Friday, if the schedule averaging 20 to 21 miles an hour is maintained.

American Legion members will be out in force this evening to give Ware  and Smith a rousing sendoff.  When the car starts, the legion membership drive to get a member for each 10 miles the car makes will be launched.
    Drivers Are Confident
 Both Ware and Smith were confident today they successfully make the 3700 mile trip without letting the wheels of the machine come to a momentary stop.

"Suppose," Ware was asked, "you had to stop for an instant because of a traffic jam, a train or something from which you could not turn and avoid?"

"We just don't figure on stopping," said Ware. "We haven't given it enough consideration to know what we might do if we had to stop; whether we would continue or come back and start over.  We just aren't going to stop."
"We are going to tell obstacles we meet, how they are overcome and conditions  which hamper or help us in exclusive telegrams to the Chronicle."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Census Sunday - 1900 US Federal Census, Chicago, Cook, Illinois - Joseph C Smith househould

Twelfth Census of the United States
State: Illinois
County: Cook
Township or other division of county: West Town
Name of incorporated city, town or village within the above names division: City of Chicago Ward of city 28.

Supervisors District: 1  
Enumeration District; 854
Sheet: 14

Enumerated on 12th Day of June by John T. Robertson

line 74 Smith, Joseph C Head W M Oct 1873 27 M 7 IL, IN, IL
line 75 Smith, Josephine Wife W F Mar 1873 27 M 7 2 2 IL OH IN
line 76 Smith, Mary Dau W F May 1894 6 S IL IL IL
line 77 Smith, Francis P Son W M Dec 1898 1 S IL IL IL  

Francis P Smith is my grandfather, Frank P Smith.

Unfortunately I could not read the occupation on for Joseph C Smith on the Census. I would really love to know what he was working at and what brought from the Chicago.

The family lived at 2626  W Polk St.

According to the Census, this is 2626 W Polk St, Chicago Illinois. I went to Google Earth and put in the address and this is what I got.  If this is true, I assume that in 1900 there were houses here. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill trip

March 27, 1930 Spokane Daily Chronicle


Work Out Novel Device on American Legion Good Will Car

    Oil-changing apparatus on the Spokane-Canada-Mexico-Spokane nonstop American Legion good-will automobile was tested today and found to be in readiness for the start from legion headquarters tomorrow at 6 p.m.  It is estimated three or four changes will be necessary before the car completes its trip of more than 3700 miles.
        Fill From Running Board
      A valve has been placed in the lowest point in the crankcase, and is controlled from the driver's seat.  When an oil change is necessary,  the plan is to utilize a long grade, stop the motor, close its valve and refill from a gallon can which one of the two drivers will handle on the running board.
      "We are all set," said Grant Ware who with Frank P. Smith will pilot the  car. "Tonight we shall get all possible sleep to be ready for the long grind."
       Drivers to avoid stopping have been worked out.  Railroad crossings will be approached slowly, to insure against a train blocking the pathway and forcing the wheels to stop turning.  Should a traffic jam appear invisible,  the car must be turned on the road to avoid it.
Must Anticipate Trouble
    "It means looking far ahead to try to anticipate trouble which might force a stop," said Ware.  "An instrument in the car is sealed and makes a complete record, showing beyond any doubt if the car is kept going or whether is has stopped." An improvised bed in the tonneau will permit one driver to sleep while the other proceeds.
    Daily wired reports will be sent to the Chronicle for exclusive use in Spokane.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill Trip


 Success marked the refueling at Main and Monroe today of the American Legion's nonstop border-to-border automobile drive.

 Frank P. Smith and Grant Ware clad in white work suits, rode while an employee of the Richfield service station poured gasoline into the tanks as the car moved around the station.

A valve is being placed  in the bottom of the crankcase, worked by a lever near the driver's seat, which will permit emptying and refilling while in motion.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Nonstop American Legion Goodwill Trip

Smith and Ware Both War  Vets - Both Got Shrapnel  in Legs

    Guns were booming ________ German armies were driving forward.  Americans were arriving to stem the tide Tenton advance.
     In the Argonne Grant Ware was doing his bit while in the equally famous encounter on the Meuse-Champagne Frank P. Smith was using his Springfield on Germans whose helmets showed above the trenches. Strange Coincidence
    October 9, 1918, saw heavy encounters in both sectors and on that day both Ware and Smith were shot down by shrapnel, each hit in a leg.
     Both had enlisted in Spokane, Ware with the 361st infantry of the 91st division and Smith in the 161st infantry of the old second Washington.
     Now the two buddies, whose careers have been marked by events so coincidental, are working together on a  Spokane-Canada-Mexico nonstop automobile tour under the auspices of the Spokane post of the American legion.
      One will drive while the other utilizes specially arranged sleeping facilities, and they will take turns in refuelingand oiling.  The six-cylinder car body will be their home for a week while the trip progresses, it they are successful in their efforts.
    Leaving Friday night, they will go to the Canadian line at Laurier and then back through Spokane, to California by way of Portland on the Columbia River highway and to old Mexico.
     Legion posts of the Pacific slope are cooperating with them to insure they will not be forced at any time to make a momentary stop which would be marked on the sealed recording ______ "failue" for the journey.  The two men know they have a hard battle ahead, but say after what they have been through it isn't going to seem so tough.
    Daily reports of the trip are to be published exclusively  in the Chronicle.