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Gerald R. Rees Papers: Transcripts - MS 1007
City College of New York
Nov. 4, '43
Have to keep poking myself to remember that I've really in New York City. It certainly seems good. We left Monday evening on a troop train-Pullman all the way-going through Oklahoma, Kansas City, crossing the Mississippi at Hannibal (Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn), through Springfield, Ill. to Chicago. I was asleep from Decatur, Ill. to Lima, Ohio, so you can see we made good time. Pullman beds are really comfortable. Came into Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon, getting a fine view of the steel town and the Allegenies (?) beyond. Philadelphia at 10:30 P.M. and Penn Station, New York, at midnight. The dimout is officially over with, but there aren't as many lights as there used to be.
Our location couldn't be better. Last night I received a pass at 6:30 and stepped out on Times Square at 6:45. We are a few blocks from Riverside Park, Columbia University, St. John's Cathedral (remember?) and just across the street from Lewissohn Stadium, where I went to hear the N.Y. Philharmonic when we were here the last time. Little did I think then that I would be living here!
Army Hall is a huge old brick building with an indeterminable number of stairways, towers, wings and hallways. They say it was an orphanage before the army came. That worries me-what has happened to all the poor orphinks? They are very strict about arrangements of clothing and rooms, passes and other red tape. No one can forget he is in the army. We have from 4 P.M. Saturday to 5 P.M. Sunday off, and a couple of hours in the evening. All the rest will be classes, supervised study, drill, and (maybe) sleeping. Courses include physics, chemistry, algebra, trig, English, and geography.
The meals are something to dream about. After army chow, it is heaven. Civilian cooks and waitresses-no K.P.-and plenty of milk, ice cream, etc.
I called the Frosts last night and had a long talk with them. Justin's voice is as deep as Burt's, almost. They are going up to Vermont this weekend to visit Winnifred; the following Sunday I'm going over to Leonia to spend the day. This Sunday I'll try to see Reyn, although I probably won't if he works seven days a week.
I went to the Service Men's Recreation Center last night, and it has to be seen to be believed. You just stand in line and at a desk they hand you tickets-free-to any thing that's going on. Best seats to all the plays, movies, and concerts. I didn't have time for any of them, but did get a ticket to go up on the roof of the R.C.A. building for a while. From now on you can start listening for my applause when you hear the symphony on Sunday afternoon, 'cause I'm going to be there! Carnegie Hall is about fifteen minutes from here.
I want to take full advantage of my time here, because it is very easy to be kicked out of the program, and I may not be here long. The rating of A.S.T.P. and the quality of work is comparable to West Point or O.C.S. in spite of people's idea that "the army is just sending us back to college."
If I had any money, Christmas shopping on 5th Avenue would be fun this year; as it is I can window-shop, anyhow.
Any progress on the radio? if it's too much bother, forget it; I would be glad to have it, though.
Add interesting maladies: just before I left Maxey, I got a little poison oak on my hand. It's under control now, but boy, does it itch.
Does Rev. Haslam still go to N.Y. occasionally? And is Mrs. Brown still at Temple U.?
Classes start Monday, but I'll try to write occasionally.
City College of New York
The first day is starting out slow-issuing books and other red tape. My schedule is much better than I had expected; there is quite a bit of free time. During the week when we are not in class or regular study periods we are allowed outside the campus between Riverside Drive and Convent St., and 135th to 146th streets, which includes a fairly complete business section besides a park-like area along the Hudson. On weekends, of course, we can go wherever we please. So there is more freedom than I expected. Yesterday they pulled a dirty trick on us and kept us in all day on the claim that they had to have us around in case something came up. We were pretty mad about it, but I guess it won't happen again.
The classes this first term appear fairly easy. The math will just be a repetition of that which I took the last semester at B.G. Likewise the English. Physics seems to be very similar to high school physics although a little involved. Chemistry will be the only new subject, and there isn't much of that since the chemical engineering branch of A.S.T. is closed anyhow. So the only thing that will make life difficult here is the army's idea of how we should keep our belongings-demerits for clothes hanging in the wrong order on the rack, or toothbrush in the wrong side of the footlocker, or some darn thing. They think it's part of the training, but it's mostly nuisance value.
Can't remember what I told you in the last letter. did I tell you about going to the Cities Service broadcast at Radio City Friday night? It was a real thrill. Lucille Manners and a pretty good orchestra; beautiful studio. Also went to the Stage Door Canteen. Can't get over how many things the city does for service men. Our passes were only good for greater New York so I didn't get to see Reyn. I'll try next week.
They are advising people to shop and mail for Christmas in November. It sounds silly, but if you know of anything I could buy for Eleanor or Pop at Saks Fifth Avenue or somewhere (ahem!) I'd appreciate suggestions. As far as I can see just from window-gazing, the Fifth Avenue shops are as well-stocked as before the war, but that may change soon.
So send on the ideas for Christmas and I'll go to work on them. don't know how much Christmas spirit there'll be around here; we may get the day off.
City College of New York
Your first letter to this address arrived yesterday, and sort of established this as a residence-I never feel as if I'm settled till mail starts coming. We have been moved three times in the last week, and I'm now in "A" company, so note the change of address.
Burt came over Wednesday afternoon and ate supper here, so we had a good time together. Then yesterday I heard from Jack, and he and Burt are both planning to be in N.Y. next weekend, so we should have quite a reunion. Jack says that Bill Kirk is in A.S.T.P. in William & Mary College in Virginia, which is a beautiful place, so I guess he's in luck, too.
Tomorrow night I'm going over to Newark for the evening, and Sunday the Frosts have invited me to dinner, so it should be a pleasant weekend.
We still haven't been issued books, so of course there is no studying to do. I've just been wandering around the post area, and find that it includes some pretty interesting sights. The view from Riverside Drive is especially good. It looks directly down on the West Side Express highway, and it is possible to see a long way up and down the Hudson. There is a perfect view of the George Washington Bridge and the Palisades about two miles upstream; directly across is the Jersey shore with the 125th St. ferry chugging back and forth, with the huge Palisades Amusement Park in the background; downstream lots of freighters all scarred up from knocking about the world. They say that there is a huge liner anchored in the harbor with a torpedo hole in its side, so I may ride on the old Staten Island ferry tomorrow and see if it's there. Also in sight of Riverside Drive is the tower of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is really impressive. The nights are very cold and clear, and I like to walk down along the river and just look at the sights.
Do you ever look at the list of draftees in the Blade? The last I heard from Hoffy the draft board was hot on his heels.
Not long till Thanksgiving now, it it? I don't imagine there will be much of a crowd this year. Hope you can get a good big turkey and celebrate properly. Burt says there has been a lot of snow in the Middle West, and I'm wondering if you've had any yet. None here, although it feels like it in the air.
City College of New York
Because of all this shifting around, your Thursday's letter just came. I'm really sorry to hear that you are doing the house-cleaning; it always makes you feel worse, and doesn't seem worth it.
As for the radio, I hadn't counted on any repair work because it played O.K. just before I left. I guess the best thing to do will be to get along without it until (and if) I get home in February and then bring it back with me. I still want to see that "Key", though. Two things could easily prevent my getting home at the end of the 12 weeks. (1) transfer to another college which is sometimes done, (2) flunking out, which is more often done. As far as I can see, I should pass all my subjects all right. An important change came about when I moved to Co.A I am now specializing in civil engineering, instead of a general basic course. It means elimination of unnecessary stuff such as chemistry, and starting in right away on special subjects like surveying. I always had a little idea in the back of my head that I wanted to learn surveying, so this change pleased me very much. I probably will study only nine months now and then go right into practical work. Since I am foolish enough to hope that the war will end in another year or so, this arrangement will be very satisfactory.
Saturday night I went out to Newark and saw Reyn, Grace and the kids. It was swell to see them again. They all look very good; all in good health. Fran is still thin but is growing fast so the doctor says she is doing all right. Grace is a master sergeant now, and a very militant one. She drills the other air-raid wardens with an iron hand.
I stayed there overnight and left for Leonia about 9:30, getting there just too late to go to church with the Frosts. Mrs. Frost also looks fine, and is very chipper and full of fun. We had a fine dinner, and Mr. Frost, Lindy II, and I went for a hike through the woods, ending on top of the Palisades above the Geo. Washington Bridge with an unbeatable view of the river and the whole city of N.Y. Then I walked across the bridge and got back to Army Hall at 5:00 to end a very fine weekend. Next week Burt and Jack may be here. I hope so.
Yesterday we were issued books and started studying in earnest. The subjects are all interesting to me, so it won't be any hardship to work on them. Tomorrow we go up to Van Cortlandt Park for work in surveying. I'm anxious to see how it is.
Will try to write to Mr. Haslam. Hope he gets along all right. Who's preaching? Thanks for clipping about the Cincinnati concert.
[Along left margin]
Has Lee moved yet? and is Vernon's address still the same?
United States Army
Now things are going in full swing and we have to start planning our time very carefully. During the day all time not spent in classes is supposed to go towards studying, but I guess we cheat a little on that. Wednesday was pretty interesting. We loaded into an open truck and went up the river to Van Cortlandt Park for the first work in surveying. The ride itself was quite something. The Henry Hudson Parkway goes right at the edge of the river and there's a lot to see. The park is very large, and it was hard to realize that we were still in the heart of New York. The instructor said that we wouldn't miss any outdoor work until icicles form on us and the instruments froze up, so we will have some pretty cold work, I guess. We were just measuring straight distances this time; when I say that we have to compensate for the effect of cold on the measuring tape and use a spring scale for the exact tension, you can see that the work is pretty accurate.
Jack is coming tomorrow night, and probably Burton. We are invited to stay at the Frosts' and probably will, although I don't know what Jack has in mind. I'm anxious to see him again.
I have a ticket for "La Boheme" at the Metropolitan on November 27, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it-both the opera and the opera house.
I believe I'll have my horn sent home. There's no place to keep it or use it here. I had my money's worth out of it at Barkeley, so it's all right. Don't know how long it will take to get there, but I'll send the money for postage soon. (It'll come collect $1.27) We are very limited for space here and everything is inspected so thoroughly that I' can't hide anything. May have to send a couple of books home, too.
United States Army
I just left Jack and Burt at Grand Central after a very pleasant weekend. Jack came in at 8:30 last night at Grand Central after telling us to meet him at Penn Station, so it was a real job to locate him. Finally after leaving messages at the U.S.O. and phoning around we found him and we went to a movie and stage show on Broadway. Then we went out to Leonia and slept till late this morning, went to church (five Baptists and one Congregationalist at a Methodist church.) This afternoon we drove up the same way we did on the way to West Point that time. Went to High Point (Palisades) where the best lookout is, and climbed down the cliff on a little path chiseled out of the rock. I had almost forgotten what a remarkable spot this Palisades Park was.
Yesterday afternoon I satisfied another ambition by riding a bicycle through Central Park. It was a lot of fun. The roads are just hilly enough to make it interesting without being too much work. There is a good-sized lake there, with tame ducks of all kinds swimming around. Then of course there's the famous Central Park Zoo, the Art Museum, Hayden Planetarium, etc. The park was filled with kids of all ages, all having a wonderful time. There are also horses to rent and bridal paths, but that was out of my class. Another ambition was realized last night when I went down and wandered through the Bowery and China town. I ate at a Chinese restaurant at the famous corner of Mott and Pell Streets. The Bowery is a pretty sordid part of town, not much to see. I guess it was different when its reputation was made.
Back to another week of work now, but there's another weekend to look forward to.
Letter writing is taboo in study hall, so I'll have to write this on notebook paper and pretend it's an English theme. We had a good afternoon in the park today surveying. The truck which was to take us back to Army Hall was on hour late, so we looked around a bit. The pare was in revolutionary times the upriver estate of the mayor of N.Y., Van Cortlandt, and his home, built in 1748, is still standing. It is preserved as it was at that time, with all the rare furniture, clothes, dishes, etc. in their places. It's really fun to look thru it.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but it's just another day here-with one exception. There'll be a huge feed in the evening. They have 600 large turkeys, which partly explains shortages elsewhere. But they aren't kidding anyone. Most of the fellows would rather eat beans and bologna at home than all the turkey they can hold here in N.Y. The feed is just a tradition that they have to follow.
Time goes faster now as we get in the daily routine and get interested in the work. I wasn't meant to be a civil engineer, but I enjoy studying it anyhow. We have something to keep us busy from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. every day, which certainly teaches us how to budget time.
You needn't worry about young Frannie not being normal. She has practically limitless energy, and does stunts that would do credit to any kid-such as climbing to the top of a large billboard by the house and scaring her mother half to death. Her obsession is to be a commando, and she sure has a good start.
Any more indication that Mr. Haslam will have to leave? Pretty tough break for him and the family. Rev. Frost will be leaving Leonia for the Buffalo Council of Churches sometime in January. I guess his work here is about finished.
I'll have to leave you now for a coupla physics problems. Where are those Christmas suggestions?? I'll have to do my shopping early, they say.
United States Army
As you can see from the enclosed, our Thanksgiving dinner is delayed a little. We stood in line for two hours only to find the turkey and trimmings all gone, so we waited some more while they burned some steak for us. They took the trouble to print these apologies for all of us, so I guess it really wasn't intentional. We'll see how it comes out tomorrow night. Tomorrow is also the first payday since September, so it will be a real thanksgiving.
This weekend was another busy one. The C.O. (commanding officer) was good enough to let us out at 2:30, so I did a little Christmas shopping, and went to a radio program with Glenn Miller and his A.A.F. band. It was a fine show. Then I went over to the opera. My seat was not good according to the usual standards, but I thought it was perfect. I could see all of the stage, looked straight down on the orchestra, and could also get a good look at the opera house itself, which is something to see. Saturday is popular night, so there weren't so many blue-bloods, but there were enough to make it interesting. The music, of course, was excellent, and I was close enough to see the acting too. The people next to me had a libretto which they let me use, so I could get the story pretty good.
Sunday morning I went to Riverside church and rate it as one of the most memorable things I've ever seen. The building is beyond description, Dr. Fosdick's sermon very good, and the music was what they call almost celestial. The building is huge, but the choir and organ were big enough to fill it; the result was tremendous. I went back in the afternoon and climbed up in the tower-22 stories-and saw the carillon. Wandered around Grant's Tomb, Columbia U., and then went to an organ recital at St. John's Cathedral. It was a disappointment; the place is too big and the acoustics are lousy. The organ echoes so much it's hard to tell what is being played. They haven't done much building since we saw the place two or three years ago.
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