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The Bygone Rural Wish Lists: Montgomery Ward Catalogue

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1934 Christmas catalogue from Montgomery Ward 12

Back in the days before internet was even a twinkle in the eyes of a Star Trek script writer and television wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye but an inventor’s, and regional economies were largely either agriculturally- or industrially-based, people out in the rural parts of America contented themselves with a rare trip to “the big city” (which might have been a one-horse town, but was big compared to isolated farm life) for basic and limited supplies.  But in 1872 that began to change, when Aaron Montgomery Ward conceived of a mail-order business for dry-goods.  Gradually, as his business grew and survived the Chicago Fire of 1871 (which consumed his first inventory), and survived the attacks of small-town stores who’d had a monopoly on customers, the concept became popular.  Extremely popular, to the tune of 3 million catalogues of ~4 lbs. each by 1904 (not bad, considering the first “catalogue” was a one-sheet price list).  You could order everything imaginable, including a complete DIY house kit and live animals.

My father’s parents, born 1899 & 1901, were Kansas farmers (my father was born 1941); I remember the “Monkey Ward” catalogues stacked up with their rival company, Sears, Roebuck & Co, on a small wooden table in the living room of their farm house.  What didn’t get ordered got used as kindling for the cast-iron potbelly stove.  The illustration above is a page from a 1934 catalogue; I know from stories that my grandmother ordered chicks like this on more than one occasion.  Honestly I couldn’t tell you more than Longhorns as far as chicken breeds go; and there were no less than eight breeds offered through the catalogue.  Back then you paid $1.90 for 25 live chicks to be delivered; now (here in Switzerland, anyway) we pay $6.50 for 12 eggs.  Times have changed!

Here are a few more photos from the 1934 catalogue for your edutainment.

1934 Christmas catalogue from Montgomery Ward 2 1934 Christmas catalogue from Montgomery Ward 5 1934 Christmas catalogue from Montgomery Ward 8 1934 Christmas catalogue from Montgomery Ward 9 1934 Christmas catalogue from Montgomery Ward 11

Family History: A Moment of Profound Change, 1899

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Family histories are fascinating, and each one is unique:  They mirror the changing times, the cultures in which they form, and here in Switzerland they often represent the international, innovative and traditional yet open mindset of the Swiss.  I was born and raised in America, immigrated to Scotland at the age of 20, and eventually met my Swiss husband there.  So “my” family history spans from the frontier plains of Kansas to the Highlands of Scotland to the Swiss Alps.  A few years ago I put together a Swiss family history and photo album, digitalizing faded, torn, close-to-extinction photographs.  Here’s one of the family stories.

1899 - Tochter Elisabeth, Vater Josef German, Tochter Josephina Steinauer

1899 – Tochter Elisabeth, Vater Josef German, Tochter Josephina Steinauer

The photograph above was taken in 1899, on the occasion of the imminent emigration of Elisabeth Steinauer from Einsiedeln, Switzerland to America.  Her widowed father Josef and sister Josephina would never see her again; emigration was a permanent change back then, with only the extremely wealthy ever making a return voyage back to Europe to visit relations.  Elisabeth met a Mr. Schönbächler in Sacramento, California; they were married and settled down on the far side of the new frontier; up until at least 1960 she was still alive and well, writing letters home from America.  She was not without family, however; her elder sister Meinrada had emigrated to Sacramento 4 years earlier; incredibly she had done so as a single woman of 30 years old!  There she met a Swiss man by the name of Birchler, with whom she had actually gone to school with as children in Switzerland, and they were married.

By the time this photo was taken, Josephina had married Franz Xaver Hüsler of Einsiedeln, Switzerland,  and had had six of their eight children (only two of which preceded her in death).  One of her surviving children, Josef Hüsler, became my husband’s grandfather.

Though this will likely only be of interest to family members, below is the Hüsler Family Tree, from 1600 to present; I put it here so that it can be accessible to those who would like to see it.  It is incomplete, so if anyone has more information to add, please contact me in the comments below!  Click on the images to enlarge.Hüsler Stammbaum 1, 1600-1770sHüsler Stammbaum 2, 1780s-1930sHüsler Stammbaum 3, 1940s-Gegenwart

The Liebster Award

liebster_awardI am very honoured to have the opportunity to pass on a wonderful blog award recently given to me: The Liebster Award recognizes blogs that currently have fewer than 200 followers.  My blogs are gradually reaching a wider audience, which is encouraging, but could certainly use more exposure – anyone who writes knows it’s nice to be heard, and if it’s appreciated by others, all the better!  And if, like me, you invest time and care into the research that goes in to making a blog worth reading, it’s reward in itself to know that others enjoy it, and benefit from the investment of time and energy!  Awards are a way of honouring that hard work, as well as a reciprocal form of networking.  So here’s a nod to a few small blogs that are worth noticing.

The Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

2. Answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.

3. You must nominate 10 blogs that interest you but have fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.

4. Pass on the ten questions for your nominees to answer (or come up with your own).

Thank you very much to Sarah Angleton over at thepracticalhistorian for nominating me!

Ten Questions:

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

Every summer holiday, I would find some way to earn money; one year I made a killing with fur-covered golf balls as “pet balls” (pet rocks were all the rage, and I added the golf balls to my stock):  My father worked in the police evidence department, and someone had robbed a fur coat store; rather than be caught with the evidence they had shredded the coats into small pieces.  We got a bag of the scraps (once they’d been released) and they were perfect for my pet scheme!  My first official job was in a Dunkin’ Donuts; the first week I worked there all I wanted to eat was Nacho chips to counter the sugary air I inhaled all morning…

WHY DID YOU START BLOGGING?

I started blogging because, as a writer, I had countless ideas and wanted an outlet, as well as a place to get the word out about my books.  To date I have five blogs, and I also run a forum fielding grammar/syntax/linguistic questions from (mainly) British writers, on a writers’ website called the Writer’s Workshop.

WHAT KIND OF FAMILY DID YOU GROW UP IN?

A typical middle-class Kansan family in Bible-belt America.  Think Superman, Ma & Pa Kent; those were my grandparents.

AS A CHILD, IS THIS WHERE YOU THOUGHT YOU’D BE AT THIS AGE?

Nope!  I thought I’d be in Scotland (I emigrated there in 1988); and I would still be there if I hadn’t met my Swiss husband in a Scottish castle (where we were living at the time).

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT?

The Scottish Highlands!  Norway comes in at a close second.

IF YOU COULD TRAVEL ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?

As soon as Star Trek beaming technology becomes reality I’d like to take my husband back to Hawaii with me (I was at school there in ’86), to visit old friends.

WHAT’S THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE EVER PURCHASED?

Officially, my husband purchased it:  Our home.

CAT OR DOG PERSON?

Definitely cat.  All three of ours would ignore a dog until it went away.  I love all animals, but I don’t have to take a cat on a walk in the rain at 3 a.m. to do its business… I can continue writing!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?

Ooh, that’s a tough one.  It depends on my mood.  I have an extensive collection, and study them with a writer’s eye.  Science Fiction, CGI, Rom-Coms, Historical, Action / Adventure, as well as Documentary… you name it.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MUSIC?

At the moment, that would be a compilation of instrumental pieces from the Twilight Piano Series, and instrumental pieces from the various Twilight films.  It varies according to my mood, but I’ve listened to a lot less music since I started writing than ever before in my life!

 

I’d like to pass on this nomination to a few blogs that have caught my interest, but that don’t have a large following yet. A few are just getting launched, and others haven’t been found by their wider audience yet.  I decided to choose mainly historically- and archaeologically-focused sites:

  1. Electric PuppetMatrix White Rabbit
  2. Archaeotutor
  3. Dave Weldrake:  Heritage Education
  4. where in the hell am I
  5. The Prelusive Cat
  6. History and Archaeology Blog
  7. The Feast Bowl
  8. archaeologyntwales
  9. Surgically Surreal
  10. History Echoes

To my readers, enjoy perusing these little gems!  To the nominees, have fun exploring and being more exposed to the world of WordPress!  Just follow the white rabbit and see where it leads!

Loch Eriboll

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Loch Eriboll & region

Loch Eriboll & region

Loch Eriboll is a sea loch along the northern coast of Scotland, roughly 16 km (10 mi) long.  It’s been used probably as long as it’s existed as a safe anchor from the stormy seas off of Cape Wrath and the Pentland Firth.  Bronze Age remains can be found in the area, including the souterrain I wrote about recently.  There’s also a well preserved wheelhouse on a hillside above the west shore, and on the small peninsula jutting out into the loch, you’ll find the ruins of a small scale lime industry that developed there in the 19th century.  The shores around the area are fascinating, as the geological composition in that area is a conglomeration of an amazing variety, split along the eastern shore of the loch by the Moine Thrust.  Even along the roads you’ll find chunks of pink metamorphic rocks glittered with mica.

In 1945, thirty-three German U-boats surrendered in the deep loch, ending the Battle of the Atlantic.  Eilean Choraidh, the largest island in the loch, was used as target practice for aerial bombing due to its size and resemblance to the shape of a ship.  Along the western hills you can see words written with stones, near the settlement of Laid:  They are the names of warships, such as the Hood and Amethyst, arranged there by the sailors of those ships.

Loch Eriboll

Loch Eriboll, taken Summer 2012, © Stephanie Huesler

152 - Tràigh Allt Chàilgeag, 20 July 2012

Tràigh Allt Chàilgeag Beach, taken Summer 2012, © Stephanie Huesler

Not far from Loch Eriboll, on the way to Durness, is a treasure:  Tràigh Allt Chàilgeag is a beach of vertical walls of stones layered in colours ranging from black to pink.  When the tide is out the beach is endless, and when it’s in, climb the rocks!  The beach was created as the Ice Age sheets began to melt, pushing the walls of rocks upward as the island actually rose, no longer being held down by the massive weight of ice.

On a clear day, you can see the southern-most Orkney Isles, and the waters around the coast are still busy highways for ships of all sizes.

Atlantic Iron Age Souterrains

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Day 8, 1.149 - Souterrain, Loch Eriboll, 21 July 2012  A Souterrain is a type of underground construction mainly associated with the Atlantic Iron Age.  Built near settlements, they were used as storage for food or for protection through hiding from raiders.  After being dug out they were lined with flat stones, with staircases down into their depths.  Of those excavated throughout the UK and Ireland, artefacts are rare, indicating that they were merely in use temporarily.  Some are very small, while others resemble passageways; my guess is that it would depend on the size required by the settlement, and how much time they had to prepare it.

Day 8, 1.141 - Souterrain, Loch Eriboll, 21 July 2012I came across a souterrain along Loch Eriboll in 2012, as I was in the area doing research for a novel I’m working on.  In these photos you can see that, if you were walking out there at night or dusk, they could be very treacherous.  My husband crawled down inside to take a picture back out; it was roomy enough for him to stand once inside (in this particular souterrain even the ceiling was lined with large stone slabs), though the narrow stone stairs and proportions in general indicated a much shorter population than modern humans.  you can see from the photo of myself how overgrown the bracken and heather is; it was nearly completely hidden; we were looking for it based on a geological map’s markings, but if we hadn’t known it was there, it would have gone completely unnoticed.

Scandinavian Scotland

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An ancient broch along the road near Ben Hope, Highlands (taken July 2012,  ©Stephanie Huesler)

An ancient broch along the road near Ben Hope, Highlands (taken July 2012, ©Stephanie Huesler)

Having lived in Scotland, I have a deep love of all things Scottish (except the freezing cold horizontal winter rains).  My husband’s and my wedding rings were handmade in Orkney, and are covered with runes that translate as “Dreams of Everlasting Love.”  And of course we had to go to Orkney to pick them out…

A novel I’m working on between my more pressing projects (an 18th century English historical trilogy) is set in 8th century Scotland and Norway, as well as modern Scotland.  It’s a great excuse to go on holidays to those places, and I’ll be heading to Norway soon for a research trip.  If you’re unfamiliar with ancient Scotland, here’s your chance to learn something new:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_Scotland has a great article, covering quite a few aspects of history.  Enjoy reading, but don’t forget that the best way to experience history is by going to that place and imbibing in the atmosphere itself.  It’s my invitation to you, to go on holiday to the Highlands of Scotland!

Shipboard Journals during the Second World War: May – June 1945

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1995 - Raymond Dale Kuhns

Raymond Dale Kuhns, 1995

Here’s the final installment of the Shipboard Journal, from May to mid-June.  It is noted at the bottom that he had written more, but the rest was evidently lost – whether while he was still in the military, or in the subsequent years.  Raymond Dale Kuhns passed away 8 February 2004.  I saw him for the last time in October of 2003 when I went back to America for a visit; I told him at the time that I knew it would be the last time I’d see him this side of heaven, and that I would not be able to be there for his funeral (I live in Europe).  His response was typical:  He said, “Well that’s alright, I won’t be there either!”  I loved him dearly, and I miss him; but I did give him one final warning:  God had strict instructions not to allow him anywhere NEAR my mansion until I get there… no booby trapping allowed!

Shipboard Journals, May – June 1945

25 April 1945 (sent mail/received mail)  Received Easter pictures.  Just love the ones of my wife.

26 April 1945 Saw 10 carriers of British Fleet which was a  big encouragement.  Firing practice.

27 April 1945 (mail sent/mail received)  Underway to Okinawa.  More firng practice.  New war cruising watch.  Now at G-2.

30 April 1945.  G.Q. at 0200.  3 planes.  Did not close.  Started dusk and dawn alerts.

Summary:  What a Month!!  Interesting at Manila.  Sailboat incident.  Lost wedding band. Made Rate (grade of official standing of enlisted men). Dry Dock (Whooie).  Headed for Okinawa.  196 days since I have seen my family.  Sure miss them.

1 May 1945 –  Rolled D.C. (damage control?) at good contact. At 1305, called to G-2.  Exploded a mine.  We were headed right for it when lookout sighted it.  Explosion sent water 150 feet in the air.

2 May 1945. Arrived Okinawa.  No suicide raids.  Shelling beaches.

3 May 1945.  1000 left Okinawa in company with BB Tennesee.  Heard of suicide raids 6 hours after we left.  One DD who was stationed 3000 yards from us was hit with 5 suicides.

4 May 1945.  Big suicide raids on Okinawa and Jap reinforcements landed.  Believe God definitely answered prayers of protection on this mission.  It was too rainy all the time we were in Okinawa for raids.  Numerous ones feel we were fortunate and lucky, but as far as I am concerned, God gets the credit.

6 May 1945. (mail sent/mail received)  Arrived back in Leyte after  sinking floating nets earlier in the morning. Received 11 letters – more than I deserved for the ones I wrote this trip.

7 May 1945.  Liberty.  tramped through hills of  Samar.  Rest of day uneventful.  May 8 or 9- V.E. Day!!

9 May 1945  Into Dry Dock again.  Sound dome came loose.  Oh Me!!  Manicani Island.

10 May 1945.  Water hours.

11 May 1945.  Left dry dock.  Reported on ping line between Homonhon Island and Dinagat Island in Surigao Straits.  This is point of big Philippine naval battles.

12 May 1945.  Firing practice.  Shore bombard on Dinagat Island.

13 May 1945.  Firing Practice.  Held Vesper service in accordance with President’s request for prayers. Remembered and offered thanks for V.E. Day.  Mothers’ Day.  Sure miss you, Wanda.   Picked up loose sono buoy.

14 May 1945.  AA (anti-aircraft) Practice.  Knocked down sleeves, which indicates we could hit airplanes. Returned to Leyte.  Movies.  I played checkers.

15 May 1945. (mail sent/mail received).   Received 5 letters.  On liberty in Samar.  Boys couldn’t get over seeing WAC Camp – white women.  First group we have seen.  Played checkers again.

16 May 1945.  Starting on mail run.  Best and safest duty we could have gotten.

17 May 1945.  Arrived Zamboanga, Mindanao.  First stop on mail run.  Natives came out to ship in droves.  Bought large seashell.  Left at 1300.

18 May 1945.  Arrived Panay, second stop mail run.  PT boat came out so we didn’t go into port.  Left 0700.  Arrived Mindoro at 1900.  Showed movie.  Left 1000.

19 May 1945.  Arrived Manila 0600, left 1130.  Arrived Subic Bay 1500, left 0630.

21 May 1945.  Arrived Leyte 0600. Trip very uneventful.  No mail.  I was sort of disappointed.  Attended U.S.O. show on beach.  Oklahoma – very good under conditions.

22 May 1945.  Left 0930 for Guivan Roadstead.  Arrived 11:00.  Got stores, had movie in PM (I played checkers).

23 May 1945.  Left 0600.  Arrived Leyte 0800.  Left Leyte at 1000 for San Bernadine Straits.

24 May 1945.  Arrived on patrol station in straits. Boiler trouble, so we head back to Leyte.

25 May 1945.  (mail sent/mail received).  Saw 2 water spouts.  Arrived back home.  Received 3 letters.

26 May 1945 (mail sent/mail received)   Received 2 more letters today.  Got 2 Cokes off Medusa, Oh Boy!  2 for a nickel.

26 May to 9 June 1945.  Tied up alongside Medusa.  Enjoyed being able to get Cokes, Ice Cream, liberty every third day, and movies every night.  One  fellow went nuts and run off in the woods.  Not such a bad idea.  It got him back to the states.  Good church services on Medusa.

10 June 1945. Underway 1800 for Calicoan to get supplies.

11 June 1945.  Helped get stores on beach.  Missed good turkey dinner.  Left for Leyte about 1800.  Just got outside nets when we discovered 3 men left behind, so we turned around.

12 June 1945.  Headed for Leyte with full crew. Then headed out for patrol halfway between Leyte and  Yap. Firing practice.

15 June 1945. Dropped hedge hogs [A type of depth charge employed against U-Boats which were thrown ahead of the ASW ship. These devices were designed to explode on contact.].  Probably scared fish.  Sub reported sighted in our area, but we didn’t get any good contacts.

17 June 1945.  FATHERS’ DAY.  Oh me!  Here I am way out here. Headed for tropical storm area to investigate storm.  This navy is NUTS at times!!

and he signed off “This is all I have”  – apparently there was more that somehow got lost to us.

Shipboard Journals during the Second World War: March – April 1945

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1965 - Raymond Kuhns, age 45, DH - on joining State Farm Ins

Raymond Kuhns, age 45, taken in 1965.

Here is a continuation of the first post, journal entries from November 1944 to February 1945.  I will add a comment to the first post with a few pieces of interesting trivia from my mother relating to that post.

Back in the mid-1980s I was in the Philippines for two months, living near the Subic Bay Naval Base just across a bridge from Olongapo.  I saw up close and personal the temptations men in the military face, and for a Christian man such as my grandfather, he had to try and find alternatives to “going out with the boys” on liberty, though often the Red Light District was (and is) where the restaurants were, so it was a Catch 22.  When I was living there I was working with a Christian missions organisation among the prostitutes, drug dealers and pimps, as well as those who worked in street shop/booths (I’m still in touch with one or two!), and our home was a place for the Christian military men to come and hang out when they were off-duty; nearly every day I’d come down to the living room to find strangers there, reading or talking.  I don’t know if he had such a place back then, but fisherman’s missions and military missions are far more common now, because the temptations (the sex industry, drugs, alcohol, etc.) are more rampant than ever.  When I returned to the States he enjoyed talking to me about Subic and the PI as he knew it, and I think it was special for him to talk to his granddaughter who had seen some of the places and things he’d seen so many years before.

Journal Entries, March – April 1945

 

1 March 1945.  This month started off with a bang.  Dropped D.C. (depth charges)- 5 of them in the middle of the night.  I was on helm.  Boys sleeping really thought we got it. Entered Mindoro.

2-5 March 1945.  (mail sent/mail received) A/S duty Mangatin Bay.  Got mail, which means they transferred us here for duty.

6 March 1945. Off Manila Bay A/S duty, then returned to Mangatin Bay.

7 March 1945.  Entered Bay for fueling.

8,9,10 March, 1945. Another A/S* sweep to Luzon. (*anti-mine sweep)

11 March 1945.  Back to A/S Mindoro.

12 March 1945.  (mail sent/mail received).  Got mail via ship that had been in Port.  Proceeded into Bay and got more mail.

14 March 1945. Availability cancelled.  A ship on A/S sweep run aground we had to relieve it.  Just our luck.

15-18 March 1945.  A/S sweep and on 18 entered Mangarin for 2 days availablity.

19 March 1945.  Liberty in Mindoro.  Quite a place.  Rode in a jeep with army captain to San Jose.  Saw sugar mill that was hit by P-47 in morning.  Saw unit of paratroopers who made landings on Corrigedor.  Helped sort mail at P.O.  FINALLY got Christmas presents. Included billfold, leather toilet kit, shower shoes, pictures, and wedding band.  Every gift perfect.  One box of candy had to be thrown away.  Really enjoyed it even though it was late.

20-23 March 1945.  A/S sweep off Mindoro.

24-25 March 1945. (mail sent/mail received)  A/S sweep to Luzon and returned.  Fueled and got underway for Leyte.  These two days were roughest I have seen.  Had to strap myself in sack.  Did not get sick.  36 bags Christmas mail.

26-28 March 1945.  Escorting Army tug with barge at 3-1/2 knots.  No wonder it took us 4 days to get here.  Entered San Pedro Bay.

29-31 March 1945. (sent mail/received mail).  Available for maintenance.  We got 11 bags of mail, but most of it was rest of Christmas packages.

Summary:  Most of this month was spent on ping line of A/S duty.  The first was most amusing.  Christmas packages really helped our moral.  Nothing exciting or dangerous.

1-4 April 1945.  (mail sent/mail received)  In San Pedro Bay.  Received one liberty – had interesting conversation with Philippine guerrila.  Scabby sores on natives pathetic sight.  Still getting good mail service.  Red Light District.

(Note: the “scabby sores” were probably secondary syphillis – sailors often given penicillin IM before they let them off the boat!)

5 April 1945. Underway to Manila.  3 escorts with one troop ship.  15 knots – exceptionally fast convoy.

7 April 1945.  Arrived Manila. Passed very close to Corregidor and got a good look at it.  Liberty in Manila.  What a place.  Harbor full of sunken Jap ships.  Every building in business district damaged.  Most of them blown to bits.  Saw Jap mass-burial place.  Cars that looked like strainers.  Eats very high – 75 cents for one scoop ice cream.  Rode in cart affair (horse-drawn) through town cost us $2.50.  Men came back to ship drunk and not virgins.  People dress very American.  Had to wear whites on this liberty.  Really got my first glimpse of war devastation.  Got stamps and money souvenirs.

8-9 April 1945. Anchored in Manila harbor.  No mail service here at all.

10 April 1945.  Left Manila for Leyte

11 April 1945.  All hell broke loose at 1130.  We rammed native sailboat that was carrying 42 persons.  Called to G.Q.  As I was asleep, I really bounced out of my sack when alarm sounded.   Arrived at G.Q. station and heard hysterical screams of survivors and saw them as we illuminated them.  Picked up 37 survivors.  Continued search.  Picked up 2 small babies floating face down.  Dead when rescued, but boys worked feverishly for 3 hours with artificial respiration, but no luck.

12 April 1945.  (sent mail/received mail)  0330 another G.Q. with fire amidships.  I couldn’t imagine us having another G.Q. and just stood and listened to alarm, but when fire was announced, I tore up to station.  I was not in my sack at the time, as survivors had our compartment.  Two small girls had my bunk.  Fire not serious and confined to drying room.  Had 4-8 watch, so was up till 10:30 next night without sleep.  One small baby died from effects of night before.  Transferred the survivors around noon, as we arrived back in Leyte.  There were 36 alive (one expected to die), 3 dead, and 3 we could not find in the wreckage.  The miracle to me was the number that lived through the ordeal.  Saw anguish in mothers’ faces as they looked at dead children.  Saw and sympathized with those who missed their children.  The native craft was supposed to have been 50 feet in length and cost 10,000 pesos.  A very large native boat.  It was taking natives away from Japs on Mindanao.  We were first Americans they had seen since 1941. Doubt very much if they were happy to see us.  Made Y2C (Yeoman 2nd class).  Received authorization from ComSerfor.  Ship was very nice and did not make me wait for first of month.  That means treats for the boys.

13 April 1945.  (mail received)  Learned of President’s death (FDR).  Also got news of being 50 miles from Berlin.  Liberty at Pambujuan, Samar.  Pulled joke on chief regarding censorship regulations – very effective.

14 April 1945. LOST MY WEDDING BAND!  Don’t know how or where.  Did not eat morning chow, I felt so bad.  Hope my darling wife isn’t too mad at me for it.

15 April 1945.  (Mail sent/mail received)  Church on USS Medusa.  Memorial service for Roosevelt.  Very good.  Got our first fresh provisions in approx 3 months.  Received  letters from Wanda. Put 3 coats of paint on bottom of ship in 48 hours.  Not bad while in dry dock. Got us up at 5:30 for special sea details, then didn’t get away before 1100.  Purchased treats on ratings*. (Note:  *Rations?)

Shipboard Journals during the Second World War: November 1944 – February 1945

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1939 - 1 August, Wanda & Raymond Kuhns

Raymond & Wanda Kuhns, 1 August 1939

My grandfather, Raymond Dale Kuhns, was a clerk aboard the cruiser USS Metevier for 6-9 months during World War 2, based out of San Diego, California.  His typewriter was bolted to the desk, the desk to the floor, but his chair was on rollers; so he’d type a few letters before rolling away, and wait to roll back; ever after he typed with the hunt and peck method, as it apparently didn’t do much good to learn touch typing.

The document below is the on-board journal that he kept during that time, beginning in November 1944, through May 1945.  This first installment is November 1944 through February 1945, with more to follow in the coming weeks.  There are a few notes for clarity interspersed, written by my mother Connie, of stories he told her; she was three at the time.  While the journal entries are very matter-of-fact, without many personal “memoir” elements, it is still a fascinating historical insight to life aboard a ship during the Second World War.  My grandfather was the biggest practical joker I will ever care or dare to come into contact with; any practical jokes that happened aboard were more than likely instigated by him…

Ray Kuhns’ Shipboard Diary: November 1944 – February 1945

[Note of interest:  On board they slept in hammocks; once the guy above him jumped up at the call for general quarters, and knocked himself out on the overhead beam; needless to say he didn’t make it to his station on time…]

3 Nov. 1944 – Underway in heavy fog.

4 Nov 1944 – Loaded ammunition.  Dropped some down hatch!  Whew!

9 Nov. 1944 (mail sent)  Passed through gate to Limon Bay, Canal Zone, Panama.   Moored Coaling Pier, Cristobal.  Left (Nov) 10th, went through Miraflores Lock.

13 Nov. 1944 (mail sent)  Crossed equator at 0756.  Now a “Shellback”.  (Connie’s note- Dad told stories about the hazing men endured first time to cross the equator. – had to run a gauntlet of fire hoses in action,  a “swat-line” between the “old timers” hitting them with paddles,  all kinds of practical jokes, etc.).  Entered Deolian Cave, Baltna Island, Galapagos.  Saw 2 seals, fishing.  Left 14th.

25 Nov. 1944. (mail sent) Entered Bora Bora, Society Island.  Beautiful.  Purchased 2 grass skirts, bracelet, 2 sets beads.  Were they made in U.S.???  Left 26th  (Connie – “We probably still have the grass skirts – and I know there is a picture of AJ and I with them.  Also, the “beads” were small conch shells – probably also a pic somewhere, I’ll try to find it”).

Summary:  Month was uneventful.  Seasick first night out.  Never set my foot on land.  Received no mail.

3 Dec. 1944.    No such date for us.  Crossed the International Date Line.

6 Dec. 1944.  Missed wife on her birthday.  Great gal.  Made landfall on Solomon.  Skirted NW tip of Guadalcanal.  First liberty.  4 Cokes!!  Left 8 Dec.

11 Dec. 1944.  Entered Humbolt Bay, Dutch New Guinea (“Hollandia”)  Left 19th

14 Dec. 1944.  Connie’s birthday.  Miss the rascal.

25 Dec. 1944.  Miss my wife and kiddies especially.  First enemy contact. Dropped bomb.  One plane.  Undamaged or undamaging.

26 Dec. 1944.  Entered Leyte Gulf.  Left 27th.

Summary:  Looks like business is picking up.  I forgot to mention that Dec. 24th, we made our first depth charge attack.  No luck!  Amazed at mass of ships in Leyte.  No attacks while there.

15 Jan. 1945.  Leaving Lingayen Gulf for  Leyte??

16 Jan 1945. Friendly plane came out of clouds. G.Q. called (“general quarters”).  Came near firing.  From angle it approached, we couldn’t hardly of missed.  A real scare.

17 Jan. 1945.  0300 D.Disn. Convoy destroyed Jap barge.  Search light revealed several Japs in it.  Used 5″ and 40 mm.  Did not try to rescue any.

20 Jan. 1945. (mail sent/  mail received)  Entered San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippines.  Hope wife receives letter I wrote today.

26 Jan. 1945. Left Leyte for invasion of Luzon, just north of Subic Bay.

29 Jan. 1945.  14 hours minus 1 or 7:30 naval bombardment of beaches to begin.  However, 10 minutes before, Philippine guerillas came out and informed us territory taken.  So this invasion force of 60,000 landed without a shot being fired.  We are sitting 60 miles from Manila.  It is now mid-afternoon, and Japs have not contested invasion at all.  Things look good for us here.  Left 2000 for Leyte without once contacting enemy.

30 Jan 1945.  Ship in convoy was struck by torpedo.  No casualties.  Ship towed in and repaired.

This month really went fast!

1 Feb. 1945.  Arrived back in Leyte.  No action or alerts on return trip from Luzon.  Too late to go after mail!!!  SHUCKS!

2 Feb. 1945.  Liberty in Leyte.  6 Cokes!!  Learned foot soldiers’ view of our enemy.

3 Feb. 1945 (mail received/ mail sent)  Brought 2 monkeys and 2 roosters aboard.  Had to get rid of them.

6 Feb. 1945.  Left Leyte without getting any more mail.

11 Feb. 1945.  Arrived Woendi.  This is a group of coral islands near New Guinea.  Beautiful.  Like a vacation here.

12 Feb. 1945.  Liberty.  Played basketball, then went swimming.

13 Feb. 1945.  Received special liberty to play on baseball (softball) team.  Defeated tug 4 – 3 in 10 innings.  Won 4 cases beer and got 5 cases from ship.  The boys all came back stewed.  I had to drink one for thirst.  No fresh water available.

14 Feb, 1945,  Left this “rest camp” with memories of best time since leaving dear wife and kiddies.  Going back to front in all probability.  Feeling ready now.  Hope to get mail SOON!!

20 Feb. 1945.  (Mail received/ mail sent)  Arrived back on Leyte.  Trip back uneventful.  Received 24 letters. Boy oh Boy!

21 Feb, 1945.  Liberty.  Sold beer for $1,  gave other 3 away.

24 Feb, 1945, (mail sent/mail received).  Received 16 more letters.

25 Feb. 1945.  Attended church USS Wasatch.  Refused liberty. Stayed aboard and wrote letters.

27 Feb. 1945.  Left Leyte for Mindoro.  Glad to get away.  Poor liberty.

Summary:  This month very uneventful.  Enjoyed liberty at Woendi more than anything else.  Got fairly well caught up on mail.

 

Here are a few extra bits of trivia from my mother:

“4 Nov. ’44 –  the “Whew” was probably praise that the whole load had not exploded when some got dropped!

3 Feb. 1944 – He was probably one of the instigators bringing the monkeys and chickens aboard. ;o)  Knowing him I’d say he was THE instigator…

I only heard your grandpa talk once about the horrors he must have seen. – ships blown out of the water, etc.  He and my uncle Victor talked one Christmas when I was a teen about picking surviving mates off an adjacent ship in the fleet that had been torpedoed – and picking survivors out of the ocean.”

13 Feb ’45.  Your grandpa didn’t drink beer – of course his father (Reverend H.D. Kuhns) wouldn’t have liked it – although before H.D. was saved, he had “owned a dance hall” your grandpa told me after we were grown women.  So I’m sure beer at least was part of your great grandpa’s experience B.C.

25 Feb. ’45 –  Of course “liberty” for most meant finding liquor and women, which were not for your grandpa.  I am so thankful for the Christian heritage we have!!!!!”

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