April 3, 1944
I have kept the Robin about 4 days so hasten to send it on its way. We are having warm days after a cool spring. We had a nice ten days visit with Tom Mitchell, Sue, and Roy Morton while Roy found an apartment for them in San Diego. Aunt Emma stayed with Dick, who has a wife and 2 children. He may be drafted and if so she will go to Nashville and live with Lee. Lee is a nurse now. Hester’s Bobby will leave soon for the army and she and Henry may go to Tennessee too. Mary Lee and her son and daughter will come to live with Tom and Roy when her husband is drafted, which they expect to be soon. While I’m on the subject I might add that Leonard will begin to carry army mail in about three weeks. He and Mexie have gone to Texas for a visit and they plan to bring Uncle Ala back with them if they will come. His wife died about a month ago.
I had the pleasure of taking Dad, Uncle Carl and Aunts Ida and Ada to San Diego where we spent one night and saw all the kinfolk. Glenn Copeland has gone into the service. Wiley made some snapshots of the Sprinkle brothers and sisters and if they are good I will send you one.
John, I read “I Was Born in Paradise” some time ago and I have read a lot of Jesse Stuart’s writings. An especially fine story about his family, especially his mother, was in the March Household (a magazine). I enjoyed “Taps for Private Tussy” in a recent Ladies Home Journal, too. Some of the first things he wrote were in Country Gentleman several years ago.
I promised to write some of Esther’s experiences in the Robin. (The Robin letter went to Mom’s family, the Sprinkles. Aunt Esther was a Kramar). Her birthday is December 6 and as a sort of special celebration they went to market and bought their supply of food for the winter. Since they lived about the latitude of Chicago the winters were very cold. On December 8 five armed Japs came to the house and told them that the U.S. and Great Britain had attacked Japan and they wanted the car. Esther said they did not believe them but had no choice but to unlock the garage and give them the key to the car. They lived in their home until March of last year. Their bank account was “frozen” and I don’t whether they were ever able to get it, but they did sell out to a Chinese when they were taken to camp and had money to buy food and other things from the canteen in the camp and also from the “black market.”
The camp they went to was one of the best. It had been a Presbyterian mission. They had a room 9 ½ x11 for the three of them. They ate in a community kitchen. There were 1752 people and about 40 acres in the camp. They had good bread, some meat, vegetables, and occasionally a little jam or margarine. They did all of the cooking themselves and grew some vegetables. Esther found 5 grains of corn in her button box and she carefully cared for her five little plants and grew a few ears of corn. I have some of it in my garden now from seed she brought me.
They felt well off compared to the Chinese from whom the Japs are taking everything and who are starving by thousands. Clothing is impossible to get.
The Jap ship was built for 500 and 1500 were on it. They had water only a little while each day and only for drinking. Esther was very ill with amoebic dysentery and says she thought she would die. There were doctors on the ship but they were not allowed to bring any equipment and it was some time before they found just what was wrong with her. All of them had lost weight in the camp and Esther was very thin. Of course, she has never been fat.
When they reached the Gripsholm she was able to walk on board, and seeing a chair she asked a steward if she might sit down. He saluted and said, “You are welcome,” and she says those were the sweetest words she ever heard. That evening they had turkey with all the trimmings including ice cream and it was a real Thanksgiving for everyone. They were never in sight of land except when they put into port for the exchange at Elizabethtown, South Africa, and Rio de Janeiro.
They received no word from home all those months, though several of their letters came through the Red Cross to the U.S.A. They are living at 24 Beacon Street (Grandpa and Grandma Kramar, Esther’s parents’, home in Redlands and will stay there I think. (We visited them there several times, once when Ellen was a baby, later, in 1962 or 1963, before we went to Peru, and other times.)
I have eight little turkeys and more than 100 little chickens. We have a few ripe strawberries too. I should add that Charles never saw or heard of his car again.
With love, Lois
(Notes in parenthesis were added by Janice Kramar. In 1944 Beth and Noel were married and had Ernie and perhaps Ron, Glenn was in the Navy stationed in Minneapolis. Stephen was 16, Anne 11, Bill 9, and Joel 2 years old.)