Wednesday, January 24, 2007

27 June 1956

Dear Folks

This afternoon I tried to spell Connecticut; whether I spelled it correctly or not is another matter. I tried it three different ways, & none of them looked right. A trip to Webster’s showed the above to be correct, but even it looks funny. Massachusetts I can manage, after quite a struggle.

Mother mentioned in a recent letter—recent being 1956—that my first word after Mom & Dad was "Constantinople.". Doesn’t it strike you as a little odd that out of 600,000 words in the English language—among them such commonplace gems as "dog," "cat," & "the"—I should come out with "Constantinople"? Maybe it was just baby talk that sounded like Constantinople.

Which brings us to the subject of penmanship, for no particular reason. I have the feeling that somewhere, deep in my subconscious, I have a hidden loathing of my Penmanship teacher, & am showing my resentment every time I take up a pen or pencil.

Penmanship, as I recall, was a class squeezed in between History & Mathematics (or, as it was known in my younger days, Arithmetic) twice a week. For this class we were issued thin, blue paper bound books about half the size of a comic book. On its cover was a beautifully written "penmanship" with a pen trailing off the last "p" as though someone had just dashed it off. It became increasingly obvious that no one just "dashed it off," but that it had been written with a pair of calipers & several fine machine-tooled instruments. The idea being given by Miss Hines that we were all supposed to write like that, with improvements.

Now, to make things worse, we had all been raised on pencils, & pens were as cumbersome as trying to write with a crowbar. The pens we were to use were only one step above the sharpened ostrich-plume stage, & the points looked like someone’s buck teeth from our habit of dotting our names on our desktops with them. Inkwells were in the upper right hand corner of the desk, at the end of the pencil trough. Most of the inkwell holes were without inkwell, though which we pushed pieces of paper & shreds of art gum erasers. What few inkwells there were were dry, caked with a blue smudge.

Upon opening our Penmanship books, which we did grudgingly, we saw wide, blue-lined pages like an enlarged section of a sheet of music. The paper itself was something of a marvel—in the middle days of the war, the paper available for our everyday use was coarse & rather yellowish—the Penmanship book’s pages were smooth & white. I hated to louse it up.

At the top of each page was the exercise for the day. The first page was circles—sort of like a compressed steel spring.

Again, it was machine-drawn, & don’t try & tell me it wasn’t. The object was to repeat this exercise, using swift, circular motions. Mine, I’m afraid, left something wanting. It was a rare thing if my circles even resembled circles to begin with, & if they somehow touched either line, it was a miracle. And to think we were graded on that stuff! To this day, I doubt if I could make a passing mark.

The remarkable thing about it all is that not once since I left fourth grade have I been called upon to make freehand coiled springs.

I have finally figured out how they’re working that "Three-Room Suite" bit at Northern. Two rooms next door to each other will have four bunks each, for sleeping. One room across the hall will be a "Study Room" for the eight men. Frankly, I think it’s a lousy idea & I wish now I hadn’t enrolled there again. I think also that one semester will be plenty, & then I’ll drop out & look around for another college—if I stay at Northern sure as hell I’ll end up teaching & that is far down on my list of Things I Would Like to Do.

What I would like to do is write to Pensacola & see about buying an SNJ—they’re changing from SNJ’s to T28’s, & have literally hundreds of them sitting around down there. Some of them are in excellent shape, & the J is a good little plane all-around. They should be fairly cheap, as the Navy now has no further use for them.

Mmm—a quick calculation throws a thin blanket on things—the J uses 110 gallons of gas in about four hours. Now, I don’t know the cost of Aviation Gasoline, but at, say, 50 cents a gallon, the price is a little prohibitive. Well, let’s face it—on my income almost everything is prohibitive.

Today we had "Battle Messing" which means feeding 2,600 men during General Quarters. The result was a little like a picnic—I laid on a large bag of laundry & sipped pink lemonade (Fruit Punch) from a paper cup, while munching on a ham sandwich, a beef sandwich, & a piece of cake—simultaneously. I had an orange, too, but didn’t like the feel of it so didn’t bother eating it.

Cannes is our next port, where we arrive 8 July, & I have that old "Gee, maybe I’ll be leaving" feeling again. Like 9/7 of my premonitions, though, I’ll end up riding the ship back.

On sale in the Ship’s Store are some beautiful pieces of Wedgwood China. I fell in love with all of them but can afford practically none of it. It is, in my humble opinion, the most perfect china in the world—the simple, clean lines with the white figures on the blue of the china. Today they offered a dinner set of 109 pieces—serving for 12, for $228.00. It isn’t like the other in color, design, or anything but the name—it’s called Florentine Wedgwood. I don’t particularly care for it.

Haven’t heard from Lirf for some time now. Tell him to get on the ball.

Say—what do I do about voting? I’m eligible, you know, but I won’t be home in time to pre-register, or will I?

Just had a surprise mail call—one letter from Dad & one from Mother.

Now it is I who feel slightly sheepish—I would like to say that I planned down to the minute when the package would arrive, but unfortunately the Navy doesn’t work that way—I mailed the package Aunt Thyra got about a week after I mailed the binoculars. Besides, they are your Christmas present (last Christmas, that is). Still, I’m very glad they got there when they did. I am also pleased to hear that they met with your approval; I was pretty sure you’d like them.

Now that I know the other packages got back all right, I think I’ll send the rest after the 1st of July (taking no chances with Customs—relieved that they didn’t charge for that last batch). All told, they made pretty good time.

Well, this should hold you for one night. Till tomorrow or so.



1 comment:

Eric said...

Constantinople? One of Joshua's favorite words too!