Saturday, Feb. 8
Today a train is speeding southward, carrying 212 draftees from Cleveland to Camp Shelby, Miss., where they will take the necessary military training to become guardians of our liberty. One of these boys thought he wanted to evade the draft. He had a good job - with a firm that is now making munitions. When I learned of his attitude, I was astounded at the temerity, and filled with an overwhelming contempt. I was certainly ready to "tell him off." Then the thought came, "Maybe he has never been taught to love his country. Maybe he hasn't learned - really learned - of all the moral and physical courage, the hardships, the self-sacrifice, the bloodshed that went into the making of his country. He certainly never learned it at home - and maybe his teachers taught the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and perhaps the Gettysburg address, as so many items to be memorized before he could pass the test in social studies. Who knows? I don't know who changed his mind. If I were called upon to give one or both of our boys to the cause, then I could plead much more eloquently. But, in my own feeble way, I tried to show him that if all young men took his attitude, there wouldn't be any good jobs; and pretty soon there wouldn't be any United States of America. He knew full well that argument wouldn't hold water - that plenty of older men - and even women - could do his work. When he came to tell us goodbye, there was a new light in his eye, a perceptible squaring of the shoulders, and such a manly hand-clasp! He was glad he was going. And now he will have a very different story to tell his children and his children's children. When the great celebration of our independence comes in 1976, he can get out his old uniform, and tell his offspring, "Yes, I've had a share in preserving this great nation of ours."
I am vitally interested in all the defense program, because my nephew is at camp. Now only nineteen, he joined the National Guard a year ago last summer. When he went away, his mother's (my only sister's) only comment was, "I hope they make a man of him." (I didn't ask her permission to quote this statement, because it is one of the real things - straight from the heart, that is somehow spoiled by being "granted" publication). She has generously shared two of his letters with me, and I did ask permission to share a bit of them with you. Joe is with the 11th Regiment at Camp Bowie, Texas. In expressing the hope that his family might soon visit him, he writes: "Right now they are not allowing anyone except soldiers and workers, in the camp without special permission. I guess this is because of the tremendous amount of sabotage going on in this country at the present time. "Our camp will have football and baseball fields, tennis courts, and picture shows, etc. The Army provides the type of schedule that is wholesome, invigorating, and thorough. You get plenty of sleep (but not too much), plenty to eat (and ours has been very good - our cook was the head chef at the Longhorn (hotel) in Austin), and you stay busy." A letter, dated Jan. 23, says, "Our regular training schedule is in full swing now, and I mean they are really putting us through. I go to a drill school in the morning, and we drill for an hour and a half, with very few pauses. After this exercise we really feel like we have had some exercise. After this we have mass calisthenics, and we do some coordinating exercises. After the drilling I go to the office and work until noon, eat, and go to a supply school. After this school I either go to some other school or work in the office in the afternoon. Once in a while I get time to make the recreation period, at which time we play football or do some physical test. I have been putting all my energy into these schools, because I figure if I am going to be a soldier, I might as well be a good soldier. (And is his old auntie proud of him for that!) Also, at the end of a year's training there will be a lot of promotions to commissioned officers. The men that have shown up the best through the year will be asked to stay, and probably given a commission." ***
What about these boys - the flower of our country - when they come home again? Are we going to let them walk the streets, looking for jobs, as they did after the World War? Heaven forbid! We, who stay at home - surely it is our job to see that these young men who give up home and home-making plans, their good jobs, everything, just to protect us - that they have the rest of us back of them to fight for their rights. ***
One opens the Saltsburg Press almost with trepidation these dys. So many old friends passing - beyond our ken to "the greater glory." The births and the marriages are so often among total strangers. But the death list - all too often - carries a name with fond association. Two years ago this month my dear friend, Mr. Daniel Kennedy, passed away. And now his eldest daughter has gone to join her husband and parents. The close circle of ten sisters is broken. The Little Porch by the Side of the Road will seem strangely empty this summer, with Mrs. R.B. Pearce gone. She always had a word of cheer and friendship for the passerby. I met Mrs. Posterelo only once, but I well remember the light of pride in her eye, when I told her I had come because I wanted to meet Mary, the author of those nice poems in the Press. May the Comforter be with all these bereaved families, and with the families of the victims of that tragic mine disaster.
Florence B. Taylor
Next -2/20/41 - No rest THAT Sabbath