|Letter from Alfred A. Thelen, Company F, 354th Infantry, 89th "Middle West" Division, to his sister.
July 21/18 In France
Dear Sister Kathryn.
I started a letter for you this morning, had it about half written and forgot to bring it, so I'll write another. Tell Christine I received her dandy letter of June 23rd; tell her I will write her in a few days.
I surely envy you and Margaret being home on your vacation and I over here in France, working hard every day in the hot sun, and we are not allowed to drink water between drill hours-8A. M. to 12 N - 1 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. so you see we are getting our share of hard work. There is one conciliation, that is the nights are very cool, so one can sleep well.
We are quartered in barracks, in a small village in France, the houses are all built of stone, the barns or stables are connected to the house, they are very dilapidated looking. The people are either very old or real young kids, boys not over 13 to 15 years of age. You can't imagine how poorly dressed the people are. Their footwear consists mostly of Felt slippers or carpet slippers, and of very poor quality. Men's shoes that we could retail for about $2.00 cost $10.00 here, just think of it and women's shoes in comparison would cost about $15 to $18 made of all leather tops, these would be of a cheap grade of Kid Skin or light calf mostly ____, of course in the larger cities the women wear lace oxfords, wide ribbon ties, and straight heels about 11/4" to 11/2". We have been in this village 3 weeks yesterday and here's hoping we move soon, as it is getting stale, only it doesn't really matter much, because I am broke now, but I am expecting some money from the store any day or else a pay day which may come any day now.
I was glad to hear you are all well at home. How is Rosemary? Did she get the pennies I enclosed in a letter. I never received the letter in which you enclosed the 2.00, I don't imagine I will either because mail should not be insured that goes overseas. I'm not absolutely sure, but you can find out at the post office.
Where are you going to teach next year? Where is Margaret? Are you helping any at the store, or is there enough business. You can't imagine how much I miss being away from the store, but it may be quite a while before I get back. I'm hoping this war ends soon so I get home for Xmas. Tell me some war news if possible you needn't be afraid to write because your mail is not censored, only the mail leaving for the states from us. How does Lona like her new job? have you seen her lately and how does she strike you?
I've just heard some good news, that the U.S. boys captured 20,000 Germans and are driving them back. You can imagine how glad we all are when we hear something like this, because it's surely the beginning of the end. I am in the bombing squad, we throw grenades or rather hand bombs, when they burst they fly into about 50 pieces and kill at 200 yards easily. One day this week we were out throwing live bombs, and believe me it was very interesting, it was like our 4th of July celebration, only we (were) using some real fire works. I have shot the rifle so much already that it isn't as interesting as bombs. The next thing I get is a revolver, then I'll get some more practice shooting. This war work is hard and very strenuous but interesting especially Bayonet practice, learn how to stick the German, before he gets you. Last Tuesday evening we went on a long hike from 7 P.M. till 12 M. we walk 50 minutes & rest 10 min. You can't imagine how (tired) we all were, because we drilled all day long, hard in the hot sun and marched with
heavy packs, bomb carrier, rifle, Helmet steel, Gas Mask just imagine we walked about as far as from Oshkosh to Appleton some hike. I wear 2 pairs of woolen socks, so I haven't had any trouble with blisters so far, my feet are in good condition, for all the hiking.
Kathryn we have one dandy Lieutenant Klemuth is his name, and I don't fear going to the trenches with him because he is well versed in Army matters.
I just heard that our Company F leaves for the trenches in the morning, don't know what trenches, but will write you more when I know. We leave July 22 on Monday at 8 A.M. I suppose it will be at least one to 2 days hike.
Well Kathryn I only hope I will be as lucky as Father was in 1870-71, I don't feel but that I am coming home again soon. Tell Mrs. Ross this about going to trenches.
There is a Catholic church here, but they have services only on every 4th Sunday. I was expecting to go next Sunday, but now we move tomorrow morning, so I don't know when I will get a chance to go.
I got a letter from Hilarius Thelen New York, inviting me to visit him or if I couldn't do that he would come to see me, but he wrote it on the 6th of June, and we were sailing already then. I just got it on the 17th of July.
I had my hair clipped 2 weeks ago today, you can't imagine how follish I felt, but am getting used to it now, it at least sanes combing my hair.
Has Henry _____ (____) as yet? I'll bet it seems funny around home with no young man left.
Where is Clara Kolf living? Has Ike been called yet? Am glad to hear Art Bloeckner likes army life better, it surely was nice for Margaret & him that he could go home after. I guess I was out of luck. The only wish I have is that I come home safe and that the war ends soon. When I do come home believe me kid we will have some time.
I am now acting Corporal, I will know if I make good, at any rate, I don't care because Army life has no interest for me, and the couple of extra dollars, hardly makes up for the time and trouble of a Corporal. I'll do my level best, but I'll always take good care of myself first, last, & all the time, because I have lots to do in my life when I get home.
This is about all the news I can think of at present so don't forget to write me lots of news and your opinion and news of the war. How about Mexico? Any news.
Give my love to Father & Mother and the girls, not forgetting yourself, and here's hoping this letter reaches you in good health as it leaves me.
Good by and good luck from your loving Brother
Corporal Alfred A. Thelen
Co. F. 354 Inf.
American Exp. Forces
-WORLD WAR I
-Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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