A Wartime Letter To The Boys At The Front

By: Cape Cod Chronicle

Topics: Local History

The government takeover of Acme Laundry during World War Two left owner Leo Vernon Eldredge with time on his hands, some of which he used to write letters to friends at the front. CHATHAM HISTORICAL SOCIETY PHOTO

During World War II, Leo Vernon Eldredge sent periodic letters to local men serving overseas. One of the men he corresponded with was his friend Edwin W. Taylor, father of Selectman Seth Taylor. Edwin Taylor saved the letters sent to him by “LV” and brought them home with him after serving in the South Pacific. Seth Taylor recently shared one of those letters, printed here, which he said “discusses or adds some contemporaneous color to significant events, including the 1944 hurricane, and puts some 'life' into the 'uneventful' personal histories that were the foundation of our rural seaside community in 1944.” With his Acme Laundry taken over by the government for the duration (as noted in the letter), Vernon, as he was known by his friends, appears to have had some time on his hands, and the letter provides a fascinating insight into life in Chatham during the latter years of the war.


Oct. 1, 1944

Hi Boys:

Well, here goes another installment on the Eldredge serial of facts and fiction and nonsense. This installment goes to the following:

Leo (Eldredge, L.V.'s son), Italy; Eddie Taylor, Pete Dunbar, So’west Pacific; Johnnie Eldredge, Roy Gregor, France; Ernie Bridges, England; Eugene Hanson, Italy.

Believe me, since Uncle Sam put me out of business, it is very little letter writing I’ve done except to you boys, and I guess that hasn’t been too often, which certainly is no credit to me. As I sit here typing this letter with the house nice and warm, the fire going in the den fireplace, and the radio on Jack Benny’s program, I wonder as I sit here with all the comforts of home, just how this letter will find you boys. Certainly I hope you are possessed with the comforts necessary to keep life in your bodies. It certainly makes me feel sort of guilty not to be permitted to participate along with you boys in this scrap, but I guess the only thing I’m good for is to buy war bonds, although I still think I’d make a fairly good sniper. To wind up the serious of this epistle let me say that the letters I have had from you are interesting and Fanny (L.V. Eldredge’s wife) and I think of each of you and hope and pray for your speedy return to Cape Cod and home.

Well since Monomoy is prohibited to us forever as a hunting ground, and because of the urge in me to keep on enjoying duck shooting coupled with camp life on the beach for the rest of my days, I have constructed a camp of my own on North Beach, just north of Seymour’s at the end of the deep water that goes up to the beach channel just where the lower mudhole begins (or used to – most of it has been filled in with sand coming over the beach). I used the old red camp I had up at Goose Pond, flaked it over and set it up on a concrete foundation (with a small cellar), insulated the whole business with homosote, put in a bunk room, hardwood floor, stove, sink, closets. Pump, back entry, storm windows, and everything else I could think of for personal comfort including some damn nice mattresses and radio; I’ve got the place stocked with grub and other incidentals, fish poles, guns, decoys, clam hoes, quahog scratchers, boats, gunning boxes, oil cloths, so’wester, dishes, kettles, pots, pans, and toilet paper. Yesterday I completed the johnny, which I have christened, “SQUAT INN.” Measuring about nine by nine, Squat Inn besides serving its usual purpose necessary to the convenience and refinement of man, also acts as a repository for miscellaneous equipment, decoys, etc. Last week Friday the camp itself was duly broken in without the convenience of Squat Inn. The festivities were concluded with GUSTO in more ways than one, as you can imagine when I tell you I baked my first pot of beans on the premises and they were enjoyed with relish on Saturday night – most of the Gusto followed up to the wee hours small hours of the morning. However, the weather was good and keeping most of the windows in the camp open helped out some. Yours truly advised his guests that the camp had not been named and after about four rounds of rummed water we mutually decided on the name of “Backlash.” You see the camp is ideally located for bass fishing and I thought Backlash would be appreciated as a good name for a fishing camp by the bass fishermen.

SQUAT INN now completed just in time, as a few more bean suppers would have changed the dry sands of North Beach into unusually fertile ground from observations. It seems that during the absence of a common repository every man selected his own spot to perform his daily duties, but the hell of it is that no one man selected the same spot twice, as a result of which I rather think I shall have to engage Elnathan Eldredge, Jr. to come over with his tractor and plow the whole damn beach under. AND SKUNKS – cripes there are black, half black, half black and white, all white, half skunk half cat and vice versa, wild cats, flat cats, and tom cats. Saturday night of the party I went to dump the swill in the swill hole, and my flash light showed seven skunks in the middle of it. I dumped the swill bucket on top of the whole business and ran like hell…the skunks did likewise in more ways than one. The combined odor prevailing in the sands adjacent to the camp reminds me somewhat of that prevailing around a fertilizer plant, but I guess the first nor'easter will carry it all away. The Old Harbor Coast Guard Station is closed, which [I] think will prove rather convenient for some out of season duck shooting this winter. A fine flight of shore birds is along, and I can recommend broiled Jack Curlew, also yellow legs and beetle head fried in butter (if you can get it). In fact this last Saturday Donnie went over with some boy friends of his, they had roast wild duck for supper that they killed with a twenty-two rifle. AND BASS – Right in front of the camp all day and all night – they flip and flop and chase bait all over the place, but you can’t catch one right now with anything I got in my kit. I can, however, recommend a certain location near the camp where seining of bass (much to my disgust) is taking place with considerable success. This next week I’m going to build some gunning boxes and get them into convenient spots. The hunting season opens on the 15th of October and I still got a lot to do – I suppose the minister Dr. Linfield will be down again during Thanksgiving week as he usually does for duck hunting and I’m sure he will enjoy this spot. I sure hope when you guys get home you will too.

Speaking of ministers reminds me of a story I recently heard, as I recall it goes something like this: The old minister had lost his bicycle that he used to call on his flock and he strongly suspected that someone in his congregation had appropriated it. So he called in one of his deacons – tells him of his suspicions and asks him to help him find the miscreant, which of course the deacon assured the minister of his willingness to cooperate. So the minister says to the deacon: “Next Sunday, I’m going to deliver a sermon on the Ten Commandments, and when I get down to Thou Shalt Not Steal, I want you to take a good look at all the faces in the congregations as I believe the guilty party who took my bike will show his guilt in his face.” “OK,” says the deacon, “I’ll be on the job.” So Sunday came around and the minister started out to deliver his sermon on the Ten Commandments (the whole idea being to locate his bike) but when he got as far as “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery” he seemed lost, floundered around with his sermon, said Amen and called it a day. The deacon who was all set to watch the congregation for the guilty face that took the bike was astounded and approached the minister after the sermon and said, “Parson, I was all set to get a good look at the faces in the congregation and I can’t understand why you didn’t get down to ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ in your sermon.” “Well deacon,” said the Parson, “I’ll tell you, when I got down to ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery’ I remembered where I left it.”

Any of you guys that feel like using the sign language to tell this story to any So’Pacific gals or Italians or French belles, have my permission, but be sure and don’t go too far.

Ma (Fanny) has gone up to Louise’s to take care of Beverly (my granddaughter – S.T.) while Ernie (Baker) and Louise go to to the movies, Donnie is upstairs doing his homework, and I’m keeping house and trying to mother Biff (Bang’s pup) who I think has got distemper. I’ve give him four sure shot worm pills, a dose of castor oil, and half a bottle of Pertussin. He seems kind of loggy and hot and shook some, but when the combined treatment hit the jackpot he started out the door, s**t all over the yard, puked up what he ate three days ago, and now is lying in the kitchen covered up with a blanket. He still breathes and I imagine his vent hole is kind of sore as he has been draggin' it on the ground most of the afternoon, but he is still sick.

Bevvy was down this p.m. and Grandpappy crawled around on the floor with her, helped pull her over all the books and papers, to the general disgust of Grandma and the child’s parents but to the intense pleasure of yours truly and said Granddaughter. She sure is full of pep – and I’m going to make a duck hunter out of her yet.

The hurricane we had here which no doubt you heard about sure did a lot of damage along the Cape. Even the Goose Pond caught hell. A lot of the pig pines blew over.

Sure glad that Eugene and Leo could get together in Italy. Roy the d.c. (dry cleaning) business in Providence is still fair, but when you get back and Acme-Robbins returns from war, we will sure give them hell – heh Leo. Pete this sure would be a good time for you to start a boat way down here as Alton Kenney’s place was wiped out by the hurricane, and all the (boats) were over in Wight’s field including Kenney’s buildings, what was left of them. Eddie sure hope the day will come soon when you can show me how to crawl up on a flock of geese again. Sure enjoyed your letter re: Monomoy and had some of it put in the Cape Cod Standard Times. When you boys come back from war, I think a good fight may get the point (Inward Point – Monomoy) back again for us duck hunters if you team up and handle it right. Ernie – hope this finds you well, and pardon my not answering your letter sooner.

Well, guess that’s about all for tonight. Keep your chin up and give them hell. Some day this mess will be over. I’m saving a case of Scotch in the cellar to have a drink with each and every one of you when you get home. So long and – good luck.