Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: April 30-May 6, 1918

April 30th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

Highlights from this week’s letters include a report on muster day (“all Signal troops were inspected by the Colonel; the first time since I’ve been here. It sure was some big doings alright and I wish you could have seen it”) and a thorough explanation of Morse code and telegraphy (“you say you are crazy to learn but I want to caution you that it takes practice with lots of patience – the same as music or anything else”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 30, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

April 30, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I sure am mighty sorry I didn’t write to you oftener this month, You are one real little sweetheart to continue writing and I will remember that. I wish you could just belong to me, for there isn’t another girl in the world as lovable as you. I am going to do my best to write at least twice a week next month.

Here are a few snapshots of “A”-men. The ones of the Battalion at Retreat are not good because they were taken late in the afternoon, against the sun. The one of M.S.E. McKelvey gives but a glimpse of the elaborate radio equipment on the radio tractor. We are very proud of our band and it has been highly complimented by outsiders.

I am not in the Photographic Section yet and will consider myself lucky if I get there during May. My application has to go to the Chief Signal Officer at Washington, and then a lot more red-tape I’m afraid.

Today is muster day and all Signal troops were inspected by the Colonel; the first time since I’ve been here. It sure was some big doings alright and I wish you could have seen it.

Well I must cut this short or I won’t be able to get in my pictures, but will write again very soon.

With love,
Forrest.

Please tell me if these pictures don’t come in good condition when sent this way.  FWB.

 

May 3, 1918.

Dear Marie,

The Company has been digging trenches this afternoon and I am a little tired from the snappy pick swinging, so will only write about telegraphy this time. You say you are crazy to learn but I want to caution you that it takes practice with lots of patience – the same as music or anything else. And here is the point:

If you try it at all do your best – not simply to be able to tap the key like some “ham,” but really strive for some degree of perfection. If you don’t want to go at it seriously the same as you do your elocution, do not waste your time – for no time is so utterly wasted as time spent doing a thing half way.

I don’t want to scare you away from learning to telegraph but simply want to warn you not to start something that you haven’t the interest nor enthusiasm to see through.

So think it over and let me know if you want to learn to be as good an operator as the average commercial radio operator. Girl radio amateurs have shown real ability, and right now the government has women teaching telegraphy to Signal Corps recruits.

And again let me say that you have the “stuff” in you to make a first class operator, not a “Morse butcher,” as we call one who chops out the dots and dashes in ragtime.

Telegraphy is similar to playing the piano in that one has to consider “time” and rythm, also one must hold the fingers, wrist and forearm correctly to send well with the key. When you hear the clatter of telegraph instruments in an office, did you ever stop to think that every little combination of dots and dashes forms a letter? Take the word “receive” for instance:

R|E|C|E|I|V|E|

Morse =  · ··|·|·· ·|·|··|···-|·

Radio =   ·-·|·|-·-·|·|··|···-|·

The American Morse is a little harder to receive because if the letters are run together an R (· ··) can’t be distinguished from EI (·|··) nor a C (·· ·) from IE (··|·) However the European Morse (radio) is better because there are no spaces between parts of one letter. R is (·-·), C is (-·-·), Y is (-·–) instead of (·· ··).

Of course I am taking it for granted that you know what a dot or a dash, or a space is; if you don’t be sure to speak up.

The slightest error in time length of the dots, dashes, and spaces makes one’s best efforts a jumble of unreadable Morse. So you see one must cultivate that sense of time and rythm the same as you do in music. It is easier in telegraphy than in music but at the same time more important

“And” (·-|-·|-··) will sometimes sound like “p’d” (·–·|-··) if it is sent rapidly without proper spacing.

Well you see I am making an awful fuss about accuracy and clearness in transmitting (sending) because anyone with enough practice can read telegraphy at any speed when it is sent properly.

Suppose you were learning to read and write in Greek or any language in which the writing is absolutely different than English. You would first have to learn to draw (not write) each letter, which would be similar to “sending” in radio; and then you would have to learn to recognize each letter, written by another person, which would be similar to “receiving” in radio.

If this is too big a strain on your imagination, then just consider how a 1-B pupil learns to read write.

I am pointing this out to make you see how very simple receiving in radio is.

At first you will think of C as dash, dot, dash, dot (-·-·) but after awhile you will forget the dots and dashes and think of the sound of the combined dots and dashes. For instance when you read you don’t look at each separate letter in a word but you see the whole word at a glance and recognize it without thought of the letters composing it.

I am analyzing these steps in one’s progress in learning telegraphy simply to make you see that it is simply a matter of time and patient practice.

Now for the amount of practice for best results. I wouldn’t advise practising too long at a time – and only when you are “all keyed up” for it. If you feel that you can spare a half an hour or forty minutes each day you will learn fast, and I believe you will like it and find it well worth the effort.

If you decide to try it, I want you to use my telegraph key, as it is a J.H. Bunnell key, which is the best on the market, and is almost “brand new.” Also you may find that sending board of mine useful – do you remember the thing I mean? Well I have a lot more to tell you if you want to go ahead so tell me one way or the other in your next letter.

When you get started, if you do, you will be surprised to find how easy it all is.

Will have to call ten pages enough this time. My next letter will be “nice.”

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Throwback Thursday: Union Dedication Edition

April 26th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Next Monday, April 30th, marks the anniversary of the 1926 dedication ceremony to lay the cornerstone of the Memorial Union. Along with the stadium, it was built to honor the 129 KU men and women who died in World War I.

Photograph of the dedication ceremony for the Kansas Union, 1926

Dedication ceremony for the Memorial Union, April 30, 1926. Note the
construction materials in the foreground. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54 1926 Dedication Prints:
Campus: Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The building across the street from the Union is Myers Hall, the home of KU’s religious studies department before the construction of Smith Hall at the same location in the 1960s.

In its coverage of the ceremony, the University Daily Kansan student newspaper estimated that “3,000 students, soldiers, families of soldiers who fought in the World War,” and alumni were in attendance.

Here is another view of the ceremony, looking the opposite direction.

Dedication ceremony for the Memorial Union, April 30, 1926.
More visible is the platform for the speakers. Note Strong Hall in the background.
Photograph by Duke D’Ambra. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54 1926 Dedication Prints:
Campus: Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The April 1926 Graduate Magazine provided a preview summary of the event, which followed a parade down Jayhawk Boulevard, from Robinson Gymnasium (located where Wescoe Hall now stands) to the Union site.

Image of a description of the Union dedication ceremony in the Graduate Magazine, 1926

Description of the Union dedication ceremony in the Graduate Magazine, April 1926.
University Archives. Call Number: LH 1 .K3 G73 1925-1926. Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: April 23-29, 1918

April 24th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

Highlights from this week’s letters include updates on Forrest’s transfer request (“I guess I may hope for a transfer, some day”) and advice to Marie about learning to telegraph (“to an experienced ear, there is as much beauty in good, accurate, clear cut ‘Morse’ as there is in a sheet of fancy writing”). “My life before I came here,” wrote Forrest on April 27, “seems more and more like a dream every day.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 25, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

April 25, 1918.

Dear Marie,

The letter I wrote to you from the City “Y” was returned unstamped – I can’t see how I overlooked it – but anyway that’s why you didn’t get it. Well it wasn’t a nice letter anyway – all about telegraphy.

I don’t think you ought to bother to learn to telegraph unless it really interests you very much. Otherwise it would be a waste of time. The International Code, European Morse Code, and U.S. General Service code all exactly the same. You will find it given in the drill book in the chapter on Wig-Wag. Now if you really want to learn – learn right. The proper way to hold the key knob, the position of the fingers and the movement of the forearm and wrist are all very important. There is as much difference in different operators’ “style” of sending as there is in their writing. Generaly a good penman is a good transmitter, and vice versa. A good arm movement is essential in both “pen pushing” and “key pushing.” To an experienced ear, there is as much beauty in good, accurate, clear cut “Morse” as there is in a sheet of fancy writing. It is usually thought that receiving is much harder than sending, but I’ll always say that the cultivation of a snappy, easily-read style of “cutting out the dots and dashes” is just as hard as learning to play exercises on a piano or learning to typewrite. However I really think you could learn to send perfect “Morse” if you want to. So if you would like to try it let me know so I can tell you more about it.

My application for transfer has at last left the office but Lieut. Kilbury warned me it may be blocked by the Major of the Battalion. Well if it is I sure will be some disappointed. Things have calmed down a little and I will probably have to “mark time” for awhile yet. Last Friday we did some rough weather maneuvers. It rained hard all morning with a cold, chilling north wind. We had to set up two Radio stations in the field – one was the tractor set and the other the old type sets we had last Summer. The 4th & 5th Sections set up the tractor radio & the 1st & 3rd sections operated the pack set.

We (1st & 3rd) had a truck to take us out in the field and the clay was fierce. One hill stalled us and we got out and got behind. Well we set up our station by the Engineers’ trenches – the big tent and all. It sure was an awful morning and I thought my fingers would freeze while we were putting up the antenna. Everything went like clockwork and in record time. When we came in at noon we had the thick yellow clay up to our knees. I had to scrub my shoes, leggins and raincoat and shelter tent.

The visual signaling was not very efficient as the wind would tie up the wet flags about the sticks and it was very hard to see very far in the rain, even with the field glasses.

We just had another “all-around” physical exam yesterday and a couple “one-lungers” found. I guess they will not be discharged though.

Guess I’ll have to call this enough for this time, or I won’t have enough to write about next time.

With love,
Forrest.

 

April 27, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your little note came this morning. I don’t blame you a bit for feeling that I ought to write oftener, for I guess I haven’t written much to anyone lately. Please don’t think that I haven’t thought of you much lately. And Marie, whatever you think don’t get the idea in your head that I might think myself too good for you or that I ever tire of your letters.

My life before I came here seems more and more like a dream every day. When I look at those two portraits of you (I have them back again) I can hardly believe that I ever held you close in my arms. It seems as if the days when we were together were years ago, and you seem like a big precious thing, altogether lost to me.

Well I don’t suppose I ought to write to you this way but I love you so much I can’t always hold back the feeling it causes.

Lietenant Kilbury is now a Captain and is our Company Commander. He has been in the Army all his life and has seen considerable active service. He is known all over the Fort as “Hard boiled Willie” and the title fits to a hair, for I don’t believe any officer could be any more rigid in discipline than he is. He sure is just plain “Hard Boiled.” He gave one man in our section five days in the guard house at hard labor for not marking his shoes with initials and Co. number. His favorite theme is absolute unyielding discipline – also that “non-commissioned officers will win the war.” Woe to the private that dares to speak to a non-com without addressing him as either “Corporal” or “Sergeant.”

He made a little speech this morning in which he said that Co-A of the 6th was the crack signal outfit in the Army and that he was going to make it a Company that never need have fear of meeting anything superior. Well there may be some “bunk” in that , but the Personnel Officer from Washington, who examined us for qualification as Signal men, told Captain Murphy that the men of “A”-Company were of the highest class he had worked with yet.

I guess my application for transfer passed the Major alright. Captain Kilbury marked my character “Excellent,” and the Company Clerk told me it was very unusual to get higher than “Very Good.” So I guess I may hope for a transfer, some day. Sergeant Baber, my Section Chief, has been recommended for the Officers traning Camp. Sergeant Williams, who used to be my Section Chief when I was in the 5th Section, went to the Officers training camp last January and is now a lieutenant. Well it’s a gay life and I can’t be worried, and lose my Milwaukee shape.

What kind of work do you intend to do this summer? I wish you would write more fully. I hate to think of you working outside, especially during a vacation.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

The Hippie Cookbook

April 20th, 2018

Just when you might think you have a solid understanding of the range of materials in the holdings at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, they surprise you. A recent addition to the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, which brings together U.S. political literature and documents, is a terrific (and somewhat humorous) example: The Hippie Cookbook, or, Don’t Eat Your Food Stamps was authored by Gordon and Phyllis Grabe and published in 1970 by the Paisley Shawl Publishing Company of Forestville, California.

Image of the cover of The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

Cover of The Hippie Cookbook, or, Don’t Eat Your Food Stamps, 1970.
Call Number: RH WL AK105. Click image to enlarge.

Recipes in The Hippie Cookbook range from average fare such as cheesecake (page 25) and stuffed bell peppers (page 57) to hippie lifestyle-specific dishes such as “Paddy Wagon Rice Patties,” which are “good hot or cold and can be carried with you as quick snacks for emergency eating” (page 11). Other dishes are unremarkable in their ingredients but have intriguing titles such as “Peace Pancakes” (page 14) and “Good Karma Casserole” (page 67).

Image of a recipe for peace pancakes in The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

Recipe for peace pancakes in The Hippie Cookbook. Call Number: RH WL AK105.
Click image to enlarge.

Included in The Hippie Cookbook are sections offering advice on hippie food preparation, including “Brown Bagging for Peace Marches” (page 10), “Cooking in the Nude” (page 24), and “Presentation and Composition of Care Package Requests from the Folks” (page 2).

Image showing information about care packages in The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

Instructions for requesting and receiving care packages “from the folks”
in The Hippie Cookbook. Call Number: RH WL AK105. Click image to enlarge.

In addition, shorter “hippie hints” are included throughout the text. As an example, Hippie Hint No. 9 advises that “if you burn your dinner put butter on it” (page 90).

But perhaps my favorite feature is the book’s dedication, which reads: “TO PEACHES: A four ton African elephant at the San Diego Zoo who has so far eaten a pair of glasses, two sweaters and a raincoat and is still grooving.”

Image of the dedication in The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

The dedication to Peaches in The Hippie Cookbook. Call Number: RH WL AK105.
Click image to enlarge.

Sarah Polo
Public Services Student Assistant

Throwback Thursday: Kansas Relays Edition

April 19th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

The 91st Kansas Relays began yesterday and will be underway through Saturday. Are you attending any of the events?

Photograph of six athletes running the hurdles at the Kansas Relays, 1936

Six athletes running the hurdles at the Kansas Relays, 1936.
The event took place at Memorial Stadium, which hosted the Relays
from 1923 through 2013. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 66/19 1936: Athletic Department: Track (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Note the campus buildings seen in the background of this week’s photo; from left to right, they are the Kansas Union, Dyche Hall, Old Green (now Lippincott) Hall, Old Fraser Hall, and Watson Library.

Additional photos of previous Kansas Relays are available online through Spencer’s digital collections.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services