Letter from Peg to Vennie, dated 14 October 1943, Postmarked Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Returned unopened and marked – “Returned to sender, from APO NY” Addressee 1Lt. V. Stoneman, USA Nurse Corps Missing in Action 3 Nov ‘43

Dear Vennie:

I was so happy to hear that you managed to visit your family after successfully completing your special nursing course. I don’t suppose that you can tell me anything more about it, so I will not even ask. I presume that since the front has moved to Sicily and the Italian mainland that you are there, as before. I hope that you are as safe as can be, under the circumstances. This bloody war has been going on for four years now – honestly, dear Cuz, I can just barely remember peace, or what seemed something like peace at the time. Food unrationed, plenty of beef (!) and plenty of petrol, and the only uniforms that one saw commonly, unless one visited Fort Sam Houston were those on policemen and bus drivers! What was it like then, not to hear an air raid siren without your heart in your throat, or having to know where the closest air raid shelter was, or carry a gas mask, or even be afraid to turn on the radio of a morning or open the newspaper … I’ll write about more cheerful news now – about Tom and Olivia. Tom will begin school in January, and Edith and I have been sorting out what he will need to have by way of proper school clothes. Fortunately, she and Stanley have friends whose sons are at “Churchie” in various grades, or forms as they call them here. They have made outgrown school coats and trousers available to us, so all that we need to was to save coupons for white shirts and for shoes and socks. Tom is terribly excited about going to school. He is quite a gregarious little boy, and completely fearless. Any books that you have sent to us for his Christmas prezzy will be gratefully received and devoured … probably even before Christmas dinner is served. Did you realize that our mid-summer in Australia comes during November? Never a chance of a white Christmas here, even less of a chance than there was in the Texas Hill Country. Edith and I are scrimping and saving our food coupons, as she says that we should have a real plum pudding, and if we must sacrifice the oldest of her chickens to the cause of Christmas dinner … well, I am in favor of trading with one of her friends who has geese. It seems quite against the spirit of Christmas to eat one of our chickens, especially since the children have named them all. According to Mr. Charles Dickens, it was goose that was the centerpiece of a rare old English Christmas dinner anyway! I really cannot contemplate the horror of telling Tom and Olivia that we have just eaten Bette, Vivian, Margaret or Hedy! It would ruin Christmas entirely, since the children are so fond of all of our hens; their tears would practically flood the house, even though it is on tall pilings! I’ll try and talk Edith out of this, Perhaps we can procure an enormous Spam loaf and carve it into the shape of a chicken or a goose.

How curious; on the ranch, we all knew that some of the yearlings would be slaughtered for beef. Daddy often gave them names like “Sir Loin” or “Lord Hamburger” or “Baron Roast”, just to keep it all firmly in our minds what they were intended to be. It’s just not the same with Edith’s chickens, I suspect.

Anyway, I have been reading in my wedding-present cookbook, which has practically no milage on it, since Mr. Song was the cook at Longcot Plantation and brooked no interference in his way of doing things, and Edith is the same, regarding her kitchen. It’s almost an exercise in nostalgia – again, for that time which seems nearly out of memory. Whole roasts of beef, pork, chicken and unlimited quantities of butter, sugar, white flour, cream, eggs … it’s an exercise in hunger nostalgia. The thing is that Australia could and would provide all these good things in quantities which would make a horn of plenty look niggardly … it’s just that most of these good things must go off to supply England. There’s a poster which makes much of this; our food production must go marching dutifully off to England. Just as Australian soldiers must do … because obligation to Empire and all that.  Honestly, every time I sit down to a skimpy meal of rationed foodstuffs and think of that poster, my blood fairly boils. Americans fought a revolution over all that; sometimes I wonder if Australians have the nerve to do the same. But not during this war – which everyone and everything reminds me that we ‘are all in this together.’

Well, some of us are in it more than others.

Your devoted Cuz

Peg

Postcard from Peg to Mr. Charles Stoneman, c/o postmaster Deming New Mexico, dated 10 December 1943, postmarked Brisbane, Queensland.

Dear Uncle Charlie:

My latest latter to Vennie has been returned by the postman, with a notation that she is ‘missing in action.’ What has happened? Have you had that awful telegram delivered from the War Department? Please let me know soonest.

Love, Peggy Becker Morehouse

2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Elaine Thompson

    I’ve posting here because I can’t find a ‘contact’ link… I’m reading your Adelsverein trilogy (omnibus edition), and it would be really nice to have a functional table of contents in the Kindle version. Right now as far as the reader is concerned it’s one huge (17+ hours of reading) lump of text. Also the text is defaulting to microscopic. Yeah, the ereader resizes things easily, but … it looks unprofessional to have it not default to a decently sized font, and not have a good ToC. Besdies, then whenever I leave it to look at something else, i have to resize *again*.

    I’ve poked around for an easy fix to this I can do in Calibre, and did get a ToC, but haven’t been able to fix the font size yet. And would like to stop trying.

    And, while I’m asking for things… in the latest Luna City, when Richard goes to the holiday with his lady’s family, was it Christmas or Thanksgiving? The text indicated both. It felt more like Thanksgiving, though.

    Thanks for the enjoyable reads. I’ve been following your work since Truckee’s Trail.

    • Celia

      Thanks, Elaine – I’m still wrestling with the Kindle thing myself. I’ll look at re-editing for a TOC.
      For Richard – it’s Christmas at the Heisel house. Because of the pudding. We always had pretty much the same dishes for Thanksgiving that we did for Christmas, and the Heisels do the same.