Sunday, December 14, 2008

Letters from My Father

Can you imagine! You are a young man in your senior year at Haverhill, MA High School and war breaks out!

Dad was just 18 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Can you imagine the conversations in his History classes with the Class of 1941.

Dad earliest job was delivering groceries. He used to walk 3 miles over to Groveland, all the way down Salem St. in Bradford, to deliver groceries. He'd earn 10 cents for his efforts.

Alice Boocock lived at 76 Chadwick St. From her bedroom window, she could look over to Fred's house. One evening while they were dating, Mom was a little miffed at Dad. When he came home with 6 or so friends, as everyone collected at Dad's house, He knew Mom would be watching him from her bedroom window. Dad was so smart. Even though he couldn't see her in her bedroom window, Fred turned on his front porch light and boldly waved toward Alice's house for her to come over and join them.

As an aside, if you stand in Linwood Cemetery, at the intersection of Water and Mill St in Haverhill, MA, on the Boocock lot and look across Mill St. , you will see the house that Mom and her parents first rented when the came to the US from England.

While in High School, Dad worked at the Paramount Movie Theatre on Main St in Haverhill, across from Haverhill City Hall. Mom would go there on Friday nights with her date, Paul. Mom remembers one time when she and her date entered the theatre after everyone was seated. Daddy , the usher, led them by flashlight to their seats. Years latter, Mom realized it was Dad, who she didn't know at the time, who showed them to their seat. He wore a Bell Hop style uniform in greys and blues, with a mandarin collar shirt and double rows of buttons on the chest of his jacket. He also sported a jaunty cap. Mom said he looked like a little "elf".

Paul wanted to marry Alice. In 1942 he joined the Air Force and became a Lieutenant. Once Mom went to New Orleans to see Paul. Paul spoke to a preist about marrying Mom, but the priest talked him out of it as he was Irish Catholic and she an English Protestant. Paul was later killed in the war.

After High School Fred worked at Pope Machinery Company in Haverhill as a draftman and junior engineer. A reference from his boss is linked.

Dad registered for the war just after his 19th birthday on June 15, 1942.

It wasn't long, as I'm sure Dad realized, after he enlisted, before he recieved his orders in July 1942 to go to Atlantic City, NJ for basic training.

Here's letter showing some of Dad's good sense of humor.

Postmark: Atlantic City, NJ

Aug 29, 1942 8:30 AM
United States Army Air Forces
991st T.S.S.T.C. D3
A.a. force R.T. C.
Atlantic City, NJ

To: Mr. & Mrs. Arthur W. Smith
79 Chadwick St.
Haverhill, Mass

Hi folks.
Just a line to keep up civilian morale and cheer up you civilians what with your rationing, trial blackouts and all. I pity you. I live it easy, work 16-18 hrs. a day, get all my food clothes, entertainment, salt air, and sore feet all for the glory of it but honest it ain’t bad. I am really enjoying myself. We have passes now and go out every other night untill 11 imagine it we consider 11 late! I am off tues, thurs, sat this week so I loose Sun. but next week I will be off Sunday. We have no work anyway so that gives me all day and evening. There is plenty to do. All restaurants, shows, nightclubs, are at reduced rates to servicemen and we get free tickets to all dances, and parties in the whole city. The people are swell. I live a very uneventful life. Eat, march 10 miles a day to and from the drill field and drill six hrs when we get there. That’s all. We took our classification tests Wed. to determine our I. Q. and adaptibility for different types of work. It took from 8 to 12 A. M. for tests and then that night at 6 P.M. 50 of us took special tests untill 11 P. M. There are 520 in our group and I don’t know why the 50 of us had to take them. They tell us nothing until they decide and then I believe we have our choice of 3 schools. I’m only guessing so far.
I feel better than I have for months, no headaches or hayfever, my face is burned black and the exercise is doing me good. All seven of the fellows are here along with others from haverhill but we are so split up I never see them.
My arm is sore now from the vaccination they gave us at Deven’s but the effects of the shot are over. Untill a couple more days when we get one 2 times as strong as the first and then 3 times as strong. They don’t bother mutch here though for thats all we get. Before we get thru we have about ten more. Some fun. We are able to go to the doctor or dentist every morning if we feel sick in any way for any reason. They take good care of us.
The weather has been swell no rain yet. Its a week to-night. Time flys. Thank Art for his letter. I won’t have chance to write individually so this will have to go for all. I was terribly surprised to get a letter from Aunt Gladys. I really appreciated it. She is the only Shanahan to think except South Groveland. There is nothing I need but if there is I’ll holler. Have heard from Eddie Davis, Aunt Helen, Milly and am trying to answer all. The papers coming every day and haven’t been without mail yet. I’m enclosing some postcards of this little place. I don’t know yet about allotment but I’ll see if I can’t send you something. Well its 8:50 and lights out at 9:00 so see you later.


I've learned my father didn't spell "much" correctly. He writes "mutch."

"Aunt Gladys" (Sansoucie) Shanahan was married to John Shanahan. Gladys and John Shannahan lived on Middlesex St. in Bradford, MA. Alice Boocock was aquainted with their daughter Dorothy. Alice once went to a party at Dorothy's as a Freshman in High
School and played her first "kissing game" . She never went back. Mom was a prude.

Eddie Davis was Fred's friend from Haverhill High School. He was older than Dad. Everyone called him "Bum". Alice Boocock was friends with his younger sister, Shirley Davis. When Fred once visited REdwood City, Northern California in the early 60s , he looked up Bum Davis, who was working as a bartender. Dad just surprised him by showing up at his bar, sitting down and ordering a drink.

The picture below was taken just At the Smiths before sitting down to Christmas dinner , without Fred, in 1944.

From right: Uncle George Parker (Grammy's only brother who is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Haverhill, MA) and Aunt Eva (Guilmond) Parker (wife 2, French Canadian), Fred's brothers Eddie and Arthur, Ma, Dad, Isadora Agnes Buckley (Grammy's Mom), Uncle Al Hatch and Aunt Helen (Parker) Hatch. Aunt Helen, Grammy's sister, had no children. She died of lung cancer.

On the end right is Helen Clark daughter of Grammy's sister Ruth,who died young. Helen eventually married John Buzzell. Helen introduced Alice Boocock to Fred Smith after the war .
Other children of Ruth Parker were John and Alice Clark. Alice married Bill Haubrek who lived in Claremont, NH. John Clark married Millie (AKA Aunt Milly in Dad's letter.)


  1. This is incredible stuff, Andi...thank you so much for sharing it. Can't wait for the next installment!

  2. Andi-
    I love reading these--you've put so much work into all the geneology stuff=I love the voice Daddy uses in the letters--"he was a swell guy"so 40's!! You are right about the picture-it's hanging in my bedroom-I got it after Grammy died-I remembered it from every visit to Grammy and Grampa's! Keep posting! Nancy

  3. Aunt Marion wrote me a comment:
    From: []
    Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 7:44 PM
    To: Donnelly, Andrea J
    Subject: Re: [It's Always Something] Letters from My Father

    hi, what a lot of relatives your mother had. i remember just a few as i was younger then alice. by 3 yr, i remember the war years tho. the boys in my sr. class got their diplomas early. in 1943. while in nursinfg school we were able to get our white stockings from rations. i was in the cadet army nurses core all grey uniforms & cape. a long time ago, as we age we remember more of the past than present as you will find out some day.

    merry christmas to all in the icy north!!

    luv, aunt marion