Posts Tagged ‘WWI’

001American Lake Camp

The photo is from a news clipping in my great-grandmother’s scrap book.

Eugene,Ore. Sept. 4, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

      We got orders yesterday to report at Eugene immediately and so we came down last night. We found that we are to leave here about Thursday morning for some training camp. We don’t  know where but we think it is American Lake, Wash. which is just a little distance from Tacoma.

     I didn’t get to see anyone in Portland while I was there except a few fellows I met on the street.

     I sent my blanket and the comfort to you this morning by Parcel Post. I would not be allowed to take any baggage with me except a few things like towels and soap etc. so I couldn’t take the blanket.

    I paid the premium on the Insurance and will send it to you to take care of for me. The amount of the premium is stamped on the outside of the policy and is due in February and August. I you send my February premium, send it to Eugene. You won’t have to do that is I am in this country, but if I am not, I wish you would keep it up, because it may be hard to get money to this country.

      I will write more next time when I am in Camp and can tell you about conditions there.

Your son

Dale D.


That insurance policy was the smartest thing Dale did in his short life!


Camp Lewis, Wash. Sept 6, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

      We left Eugene at 4:30 this morning. We ate breakfast in Portland and got up here about 2:30 this afternoon. We have got one meal and have signed a receipt for one cot, one canvas and two blankets.

      We are quartered in large two story buildings, the lower floor is used for mess and assemblies and the upper one is for sleeping. About a hundred men are on single cots in ours. We haven’t had our uniforms issued yet but probably will have them in a few days.

     This camp is over nine miles long. There will be 15000 men here before Sunday for the drafted Army.

     I don’t think conditions will be half bad. We have a fine bunch of fellows. The grub is not as bad as it was in lots of camps I have been in. The sleeping quarters are airy and are roomy enough. But thn I’ll tell you more about it later on. The only bad thing about the place is the black dust and that will soon be taken care of because it is raining tonight a little.

    You write soon and let me know how you all are coming

Your son

Dale Melrose

Camp Lewis Wash

c/o Ambulance Corps #14


Because those are such short missives, I have opted to transcribe a third one which describes life at Camp Lewis a little. In this one, Dale mentions a “housewife”. I knew what he meant, but did a little search on the internet to see if I could find a good definition for the reader, and came across a little blog on the subject by The Costume Historian. I can only assume the young lady mentioned is Norma – but that is an assumption based on the letters I possess. I do not know for certain who he means (but when I get to the letter of 1944, I think the Reader will agree with me).

Camp Lewis, Oct 20 ’17

Dear Mother and Dad

       I am sorry that you didn’t get the letter that week because I know what it is like not to hear from people <from whom> you are in the habit of getting word regularly. I am not doing anything now but teaching French. The study of French was made compulsory in this company last week. That makes me teacher of over 100 men here besdie about 30 at the Y.M.C.A. The Director of Ambulances, a Major Southmayde asked me a few days ago if I would teach a class for officers. I told him that I would do so. It seems that I ought to be able to get something better than the job of a common “buck” private. I may use that as a card later on to draw a transfer with.

     Pruett has been sent over here and has his bed right beside me. He is in Tacoma tonight seeing his wife who has come this far with him. This draft does work a good many hardships in cases like that. Pruett doesn’t look forward to our leaving with a great deal of enthusiasm.

     I dont know whether we have had all of our shots yet or not, but I think we may have for the present. We may get more before we leave for the front.

    I wish I were a sergeant or something so that I could afford to take a trip down to Eugene and around before we leave, but it would cost me two thirds of a month’s wages to make it. “Scotty” has gone down to Eugene on a 72 hour pass.

    I was surprised to get a housewife in the mail the other day. I still have the one you made for me when I came out here, but this new one wraps up and has a fine pair of scissors, pins needles, buttons, and a lot of junk. It was from the one that wanted me to marry her a while ago. She sends me magazines all the time too. She is a valuable possession.

   Have you had any snow yet? I hope you dont have as hard a winter as you had last winter.

   I had some pictures taken yesterday and as soon as I get them I’ll send you some. They ,ay mot be very good, but they are cheap.

   I’ll quit writing for this time and go to bed.

Your son



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Eugene, Ore. July 7, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

      I was wondering what had happened to you folks when i didn’t hear from you, but your letter came yesterday today and I was glad to get it and hear that you were all right.

      We are to leave sometime after the 15th because they are full up at Allentown now. I guess I told you about it though.

     I am studying French, drill, and first aid and having a good time. I am having the best time I have had in years. I guess it is because I have nothing to worry about.

     I may have to get to work before long is we are not called, but I am going to study as long as  possible for a sergeancy (sic). I have great hopes of getting one the longer I work. You know $60 per month will be better than #36 and the satisfaction of being boss will be worth a lot too. “Doc” says that French will be a great asset to us after we get there and I am picking it up so fast that I surprise myself. That is what comes of college training. It doesn’t take long to learn a new thing, no matter what it is.

     I had a letter from Uncle Harry. We won’t be able to come this way before I go. He is not very enthusiastic about this war, and no sensible person is. I’m glad that I am in a position to witness the struggle from a vantage point. Just think of what I’ll learn! Believe me, I’m going to profit by it too, if anyone does.

     I believe I go into a thing with my eyes more or less open, and that is what most of these fellows are not doing. When I come back, I’ll have yarns that will put the old professionally bull-slingers in the deep, cool shade.

     Well, I am going to down to see “Doc” this afternoon. I write more next week.

“Bon soir”


~~~~ Getting feisty there, I think. I think that if his life had not been cut short, he would have been true to his word in profiting from the war and what amounts to a forced enlistment (“beat the draft – enlist”).

Throughout this time of transcribing my great-uncle’s letters home, I have come up against letters stuffed into the wrong envelopes, out of order, or missing parts. It’s a little frustrating. I found yet another such letter in the envelope for the above letter, but this one is a true bonus. It is a letter to Dale from Norma Harvey. Norma attended Pacific University (a Quaker college in Newberg, later changed to George Fox University) and graduated in 1917. My first online search for any information regarding her pulled up that she was elected “May Queen” in 1917, an event she alludes to in her undated letter to Dale. She also embodies the anti-war movement that existed in the States at that time (should any of us be surprised that there was then, is now, and possibly always will be – a group of people to whom war will never be the answer?):

Dear Dale,

     Your letters have of late been so chillingly forward, that were I not possessed of a most amiable disposition, I should write only after long intervals, and might even suggest that since the effort put forth in accomplishing the aforesaid letter was manifestly so painful, you could at your own discretion quit.

     I don’t want to say that tho, and I won’t till I get even a more belligerent attitude toward life that I’ve entertained this week.

     Ethel has, I s’pose told you that thru the political machinations of about 5 people, I was made MayQueen. Please don’t congratulate me. It was a rotten deal anyway you look at it. To be sure, I rejoice that the proletariat are victorious but ~

     You are enjoying spring Vacation now aren’t you? Would that we had another one coming soon. Half an hour’s work tires me to death – I think I shall tell my doctor when I see him next Saturday that if he can’t do more than he’s been doing of late, I’ll have to cease my trips to Portland and save my money for a wake.

     Which indirectly reminds us of war. You won’t, I hope, abandon still further you Socialistic principles and yield to any “Youn man, your country needs you” persuasion – It would be interesting, but I’m infused with either Quakerism or Socialism, to me, it is wrong to kill. Newberg is rather slow in the formation of a company – Mothers of H.S. boys are extremely anxious and I presume those boys can get anything they want now.

I have to go



Will you be up to see us this week?










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Military Rule #1 (as I have heard) goes something like this: “Hurry up, and wait.” My son often complained of this when he told me about early morning drills and the like: his unit would arrive and wait an hour before anyone showed up. Dale’s impatience is in the waiting: when he enlisted in June, he was under the impression that his orders would arrive by the 20th of the same month.

Newberg, Ore. June 25, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

       I am still fooling around here, but will soon leave for Eugene, orders or no orders. So many of the boys have enlisted that this town isn’t like it used to be. I was in Vancouver yesterday and saw Jack. He hasn’t changed a bit. He has eight bulldogs, counting the pups. He said to tell John that because he never came to Vancouver while he was out here, he wouldn’t get a bull-pup; — No sir! It tickled him to death to think about me going to France. He said that if I didn’t come back and stay a week with him when I come back that he would raise hell,–yes sir! He is going to enlist in the “Calvary”(sic) in a year or two and furnish his own horse. His wife wants him to go right now, by Gawd! He has a great life.

     I got a letter from Uncle Harry saying that he missed me as he was going thru Eugene on way to Frisco. He is coming back in two or three weeks. I guess I’ll be gone then though. As orders ought to be in any day now.

     The Red Cross is greatly oversubscribed in this state. I guess it was all over the nation.

     I want to thank you for the offer of money, but I don’t need any now. I appreciate the offer just as much as I do the coin, but as soon as I get Orders I get $36 per. from then on and I ought to be able to live on that all right.

    I am going to send you my insurance policy to keep. I’ll send $25.00 per year to you to pay the premium on it. I was lucky in taking it when I did because the rate is not raised for war. Most of the policies issued now require 1/3 of the policy advanced upon enlistment.

    Oh, I’ll take care of myself all right. Don’t worry about that. In the Ambulance work there is not the chance for risks that there is in other lines of work. We may never see the firing line at all. We work back of what they call the “postes de secours” or emergency hospitals. We may be used to man hospital trains too. I heard the other day that we stay in Paris for a time after getting across and study hospital and field conditions and methods before going to the front.

    Well, I’ll write again after I get to Eugene.

Your son



I don’t know why he thought ambulance work would not leave him just as scarred, but I have the knowledge of how it came down and he did not.

I am trying to publish the rest of Dale’s letters before Veteran’s Day, and the one above segues neatly into this letter mailed the following week:

Eugene, Ore. July 2, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

     I am here at Eugene again and am drilling every night with the Corps. We expect to be called out this week, because the Captain has been instructed to wire for transportation which he did yesterday. We ought to be away by the 8th of the month, at least. I am hoping we move soon because it is tiresome business waiting here as I am.

     We drill every night from 7 to eight. I have a corporal’s job, and I am going to try to beat some of these sergeants out of their places. If I can it will mean more money for me.

     I go to a class in French every day now and am picking up all I can of the grammar and pronunciation before I go.

     The latest rumor though. is that we are to be sent to Russia. That will be all right too as far as I am concerned. A person can learn a lot in that country these days.

     While I was in Newberg Mrs. Wilkins said she was looking for a card from you, Ma.

     Those pictures are kind of poor. I wish you would get some good ones taken. Who is the kid in the car with John?

      We are having some hot weather out here. How is it there? I hope you can find time enough to use the shade once in a while.

      Say Dad, I am sending my Policy to you to take care of. If you will take care of the premiums for me, I’ll be very glad. I’ll try to send you $25.oo every year to cover them. If I cannot I’ll pay you for them when I come back. All I want is to have someone to see that it if kept up. It is the best war-time policy there is on the market now and I would hate to let it go back.

     How is the fishing back there now? They are catching lots of trout in the Mckenzie near here. I’ve seen some big ones in some of the windows down town.

     Well, there is not much news. Everything is quiet as possible around here. I put in most of my time studying drill regulations, first aid, French and writing some poetry.

Your son


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I apologize for posting two posts in one day, but I looked at the calendar and realized that if I timed this right, the most important letter of all of these could be posted on Veterans’ Day 2015. I did not intend for this to go into Veterans’ Day at all, but now that I amm sitting here and looking aty a calendar, a lot of thoughts are going through my mind, the foremost of which is: why not post the end on Veterans’ Day because Great Uncle Dale deserves that honor!!?

Therefore, I am in a bit of a crunch to post the last few letters written in my great uncle’s hand. There are more letters after that – the story is not yet over! – but Dale’s own words should end on the appropriate “day of remembrance”.

Newberg, Ore. June 18, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

       Your letter came today. I will answer thanking you for the draft. I may not need it very badly but it is good of you to send it.

     I dropped down here a day or two ago to put in the time until I am called which I expect about the 20th. The “Doc” our captain, told us all to beat it and do our visiting before the 20th so most of the boys did.

    This is a good bunch we arw in. We dont have to go on the line at all, and still we can see how things are done. Don’t worry about German atrocities. There is no such thing. The word is used for a recruiting device. I have seen the same thing in the German papers about he English and French atrocities.

      Then the subs cant get us because a convoy of battleships always goes with the transports.

     It is hard to make you quit worrying by saying “Dont worry” I know, but you are braver than I expected. That’s the old fight! When I come back I’ll have some great old yarns to spin.

     I have left my stuff with Mrs. Harvey in Eugene, but if you want it I will send it home, although she said she would send it if you people wanted it. There is not much of anything valuable in it. I’ll send my suit-case home from Allentown when I get through with my clothes. I am going t try to take a jersey and some woolen socks along in addition to the army allowance.

     I saw Ray Andrews for the first time in about 4 years. He is going into the Navy with Earl who has left Canada and is in Colfax, Wash. on his way home.

    They wont get out of draft! Dont let them tell you that. The ones enlisting voluntarily make no difference in the size of the National army. And besides that, they are talking of filling up the regular army by draft as wall as the National. I know about that than most of these nuts, for I have information from the inside through Prixy Campbell of the U. who has talked to the big bosses of the thing at Washington.

    There was a kid here, who went to high school with me who has registered all the ways he could to get out of draft. he said he was a Quaker, which he isn’t. Married and that his wife is his wholly dependent upon him. It will go hard on him if he is caught at it.

     I thank you again for the draft.

     Oh – Doctor Rankin sends his regards to you folks and says to tell Dad that he still has his electric treatment. — He is going to France too.

I’ll quit now.

So long



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