52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Valentine

On this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to talk about the love my grandparents shared for each other. Popo and Granny loved one another very much. They worked through  difficult times early on, including frequent moves and financial insecurity, and eventually became one of those sweet older couples that so many younger couples hope to be. I remember when Granny passed away in 1995, Popo was so heartbroken that for years he would sit next to her grave and cry. That’s how deep their love was.

The following is a letter written from Popo to Granny while he was a seaman in the Merchant Marine. As you read this, imagine how hard it must have been for him to be so far away from his wife and children. Imagine how hard it must have been for a farm boy to be at sea for weeks at a time.

January 30, 1945

Dearest Lillie and the Kiddies,

Well, we arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today. Only 50 some-odd miles away from New York city. We docked at 5:00pm.

It is very cold up here, everything is covered with ice and snow. We came into sleet and ice when we were on the Atlantic Ocean, then entered into the Delaware River and came up the river into the city here. Delores and Bernhardt can show you in their Geography book where that river is and then you can see how far I am from home, practically 2,300 miles apart.

We ran into some rough water, winds were strong, and the waves were very huge—at times, the water waves were over the top of the ship. Then you can imagine how we were sailing up and down, up and down like a bird sitting on a weak limb of a tree on a windy day.

There were a number who became seasick and we have had one man who has been sick since we got into the Atlantic below the state of Florida. They plan to take him to the doctor tomorrow.

How are you Sweetheart and all my little kiddies? I hope you all are getting along fine yet I am thinking of you all hours of the day and wondering how you all are.

Sugar, I don’t know when we are leaving from here but there is only one thing that I do wish and that is we were on our way back to Port Arthur, where I could be with the ones I love most and be in your arms every night.

Well, I hope that the war will be over soon so that we don’t have to live in a strain all the time.

It certainly does feel funny to go out on the ocean and see no signs of land for 10 days. There is water every place you look. Never will I forget the last look of the Southern shores when we went out into the deep water and see the land go further and further away then at last it’s disappeared, and water is the only view. Then on this side, when they told me we are in the Delaware River and I had a chance to go on deck, the first thing that I spotted and saw was a church in a small town

Tonight, many of the crew men are going ashore to have a good time or drink. I don’t think that I am going to get off the boat at all. It is too cold.

I am planning on sending you a telegram tomorrow although I don’t know what kind of connection I can get to go to the Western Union station. I only wish I could hear from you but there is no possible chance.

I am going to close for tonight. May write a few lines tomorrow before sending this letter off so until tomorrow, “night night.”

Jan 31st

Well Sweetheart, you can be glad to be in good old Port Arthur and not here. It is 20 degrees below zero up on deck of the ship and ice everywhere.

Delores, I congratulate you for your birthday and wish I could give you a kiss for every year of your age.

I have to close for this morning but will try to write again. Oh yes Sugar, call Embie about Monday or Tuesday and she will know from B where we will go from here. He said for you to keep in touch with Embie and she will tell you exactly where or about when we will arrive.

Your loving Daddy.

PS: Many sweet kisses to you all and a great big one extra for each of you.

Your own Daddy

A few notes:

Merchant Marine seamen serve on vessels that transport cargo and passengers during peacetime. During World War II, they became an auxiliary to the United States Navy and delivered military personnel and war materials. Although they were a civilian group, many mariners were killed during the war when their ships were torpedoed by German-Boats. Mariners died at a rate of 1 in 26, which was the highest rate of casualties of any service. Popo was a mariner from 1943-1945. My mother said that when he was away, Granny would pray every night for him to return safely.

Emma Rose (identified here as Embie) was Alvine Jaeger’s sister. She was married to J.B. Rose (identified here as B), who was the captain of the ship Popo was on when he wrote this letter.

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