Monday, May 07, 2007

Lives in Letters: Postcard with Marine Slang

I know I promised to post more postcards from the District Attorney but in a cleaning frenzy last week I put my camera somewhere very safe and now I can't remember where that is. So I've fallen back on an older card that I've had ready to post for months. Wish me luck finding the camera, and all the other things I hid in the last minutes of "cleaning."

This card struck me both for the picture on the front, and the timing and message on the back.

Enlisted Men’s Barracks,
Camp Lejeune, Marine Base
New River, NC Marine Barracks
October 15, 1943

Addressed to

Mr. & Mrs. Howard S-
Slatington, Pa.

I’m sure enjoying
myself. It is a
beautiful camp. The
Hostess House where I’m
staying is 3 blocks from
Marvin’s barracks.
Marvin said
“hello.” Ellen


The first thing that struck me about this message is the date. Right in the middle of World War II. Ellen's message is so cheerful, almost jarringly cheerful, considering all that was happening at the time. Of course, cheerful optimism was a standard of the time.

Here's some World War II timeline information for the months leading up to Ellen's postcard. A few highlights, if you'll excuse the term:
  • Battle of Kursk
  • Battle of Kula Gulf
  • Allied invasion of Sicily
  • Battle of Vella Gulf
  • Bombing of Hamburg
  • Firestorm in Hamburg
  • Allied invasion of Italy
  • Italy declares war on Germany
What was a "hostess house?" Quite simply, a hostess house is a hotel on a military base. Luckily, I found this glossary of Marine slang to help me out there. I must add that the glossary was much more polite than I expected. I may have to searching for a more comprehensive glossary to get some of the fun acronyms and catch phrases. For now, I enjoyed seeing the definition for JOB (junk on the bunk), which is field gear and uniforms laid out for inspection and gungy, which means enthusiastic, or I imagine, gung-ho.

So, my guess is that Ellen is Marvin's wife, and she was staying at the Hostess House while Marvin was in some sort of training at Camp Lejeune. The postcard is to Marvin's parents, and it's cheerful because 1) Ellen is a naturally cheerful sort; 2) Marvin is not in Europe or the Pacific, but relatively safe stateside right at the moment; 3) Ellen gets to see Marvin regularly; 4) Ellen doesn't want Marvin's parents to worry about where Marvin is going next.

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Next week I really will try to get those family postcards up here.

No comments: