On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Money all gone

In Frank's letter to his Mom, below, he refers to "boilers." These were the furnaces in the many buildings my grandparents cared for. In this era, and for many years afterwards, they burned coal, requiring lots of coal shoveling when the weather was very cold, often several times a day, even overnight. They could be finicky and required a good deal of attention. 

Ebner gives a detailed description of Keesler Field, MI, where he's stationed. He even includes a drawing of his barracks) 


Dear Mom:

How is everything at home? Please don’t work too hard on those boilers. I still want to see you standing up if I ever get home. Your letters get here in about 2 days and packages take a day longer.I have been writing you every other day or so. I don’t know why my letters haven’t been reaching you. Today I received the package from Powers and I want to thank you for sending me those cookies; they were delicious. The Mississippi miserys are almost over for the time being. [The "Mississippi Miserys" is apparently some illness the boys came down with at Keesler].

I’m waiting for that picture [of Cookie, his girlfriend] impatiently. I wish the time was up to collect that $5.00 from Lillian because my money went too fast down here. I bought a garrison hat last Saturday which cost me $5.00 with the pin and rain cover and seven arm insignia at 15 cents apiece. I bought more shoe polish and an almanac which cost me 98 cents. Now all my money is gone. I was shopping for the boys who couldn’t leave camp and I over ran my money so I owe three dollars to one of the fellows. He trusts me but I hate to owe anyone money.

[Note: Lil and Frank made a bet about Fred or Frank losing more weight, and Frank, apparently is winning. See 2/15/43 letters]

There is a nice U.S.O. down here, but I didn’t stay long because I wanted to see the town. Then I started drinking, first Boilermakers and ended with Tom Collins. It was my first drink since I left Chicago and it tasted good. They have military beer in camp but the stuff isn’t even 3.2.

Thank [Fred] for changing his letter just for my sake. [Fred, my dad, had written a letter in German but after Ebner's request to send no letters in German, Fred rewrote it in English. This letter is coming up soon]. I really appreciate it. As I told you in my last letter, I have received that $20.00, but I haven’t a cent left. If you could send me $10.00 soon I could really use it.

John Hetzel and I have been together ever since Camp Grant and are still very near. I owed him seven dollars before I received your money order and promptly paid him in full.

I’ll give you a detailed description of Keesler Field. It’s about a mile away from Back Bay on the Gulf of Mexico near Biloxi, Mississippi. In fact it’s on the outskirts of town. The terrain is sandy and the roads built in camp are based with clam shells. We live in huts which house a maximum of 28 men at the present time. See diagram on the back of this sheet.

The weather down here is mild. At night it’s cold and during the day it’s warm, but not hot yet. The last three days the moon has been so bright that you don’t need a flash light any more. It even casts a shadow. I must close now but I want to ask one more favor.

Please send my camera in a well protected case for the mail is mistreated something awful. The cookies were broken but most of them were in good shape. The boys down here are talking about girls and it takes concentration to keep on the beam. Please protect my camera well and send my equipment with it.

I must close now but I’m very happy here and I’m fighting a clean battle for leadership. In about 10 or 12 days I hope to get shipped to Chicago? If so, I’m going to show the boys that come with me some Northern hospitality. I must close now so goodnight. It’s 10:45 now and I must turn in so till I write again I’m just

Your Loving Son,


P.S. I’m going to send my watch home soon. You can tell [Fred] that it’s losing time one day and keeping it another. I can’t figure it out. Still, Frank.

Below is the original letter and the drawing Frank sent along of his bunk house, "hut."


Jacqi Stevens said...

I imagine receiving letters in German would create quite a problem in those times!

It gives one pause to remember those little details of how life was different back then. The work of shoveling the coal just to stoke the boiler all day and night...something we thankfully no longer have to contend with! Not to mention...what a mess (and health hazard!) that must have been!

Linda Gartz said...

Right, Jacqi--
That's what my grandparents AND parents had to do--keep coal-burning furnaces going day and night-- often during the night in frigid weather. When my Dad was out of town for weeks at a time, my mom had to do it alone. Crazy hard.