Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: April 2-8, 1918

April 2nd, 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 Bassett’s letters 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 Forrest arguing for the importance of sleep to good health (“that is one reason why all of us here gain in weight and health”), discussing new service radio equipment (“it is all for use in the trenches, while our training radio apparatus was all for open field service”), and advising Marie about his sister Blanche (“don’t let a few little sharp words hurt your feelings”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, April 7, 1918

April 7, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Well, I haven’t written for quite awhile but still I can’t think of much to write about.

I am glad you can have a bed of your own and hope you will stick to that rule of going to bed at 9:00 P:M. Then, if you get too much sleep – why get up earlier. Perfectly simple, isn’t it? That is one reason why all of us here gain in weight and health – we get little rests after breakfast, dinner and supper. Our bunks are right handy in our “parlor” and a half an hours “bunk fatigue” is fine after each meal. (The army name for work is “fatigue.” Overalls are called “fatigue suits.”) Stick to the advice of Doctor Fox. However, I wish you would read every article by Alfred McCann, that you see. There is a good one in April “Physical Culture.” Did you try to read any of “Starving America”?

Well I am waiting for your Easter snapshots now.

I hope you join the “Campfire Girls,” it sounds pretty good to me. Be sure to tell me all about your doings, if you do.

Has Cashus got a key and buzzer like I had? Why don’t you get him to teach you? I sure do wish we could be “fixed” so we could telegraph to eachother. I passed the 20-word per minute test which, in civil life would qualify me for a Gov’t license as a commercial operator. I may set up a long distance receiving set if I ever see Beloit again. Our trip to France has apparently been called off for awhile. We were supposed to get part of our service radio equipment at the Port of Embarkation. It has been shipped to us and it is all for use in the trenches, while our training radio apparatus was all for open field service. The new sets are run by storage batteries and a part is carried on each man’s back. The transmitting sets are not very powerful but the receiving sets are extremely sensitive.

Well this isn’t a very “nice” letter, is it? Guess I’ll have to wait until you write some more nice letters, send a box of stuffed dates, and your pictures. That ought to be enough to make most anyone write a “nice” letter wouldn’t it? Even if it wasn’t to “S.M.A.” Don’t forget all packages are opened by the Captain or the Lieutenant, so don’t enclose any notes.

I am still working in the office doing duty on the typewriter. Friday I wrote a regular book; five copies at a time, using four carbon sheets of course.

Now, about Blanche [Forrest’s older half-sister]. I know positively that Blanche loves you very much, and that my few days home hasn’t changed her a bit. Don’t let a few little sharp words hurt your feelings. That is just her way, and I know she doesn’t realize that they hurt. I understand how you feel, alright, and know Blanche well enough to see just where the trouble is.

Also Blanche hasn’t been in the best of spirits after the trouble she has been having – and you know that makes a little difference. Marie, just act as if you thought Blanche loves you just the same as she always has, and you will soon find out that she really does.

With love,
Forrest.

(Give the enclosed typed letter with note to your Father.)

Please: Tell Lou I received her candy O.K. and will write later.  FWB.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: March 19-25, 1918

March 19th, 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 Bassett’s letters 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).

In this week’s letter, Forrest gives Ava advice for dealing with boys: “Please believe me there, little sweetheart – be the goodpal sort of girl, a “tomboy” if you like, for all boys love that type, but let them see ‘Hand off,’ and that you mean it. You may think you will have fewer friends, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Thursday March 21, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Well what do you think of the hair? I let it grow about as long as the law will allow, and now nearly all of it will come off or the “cooties” will get me if I don’t watch out.

Now Marie don’t judge boys too harshly. You will find that your boy friends will be just what you make them. No matter what a boy may apparently think of you, he will, way down in his heart, respect you all the more for being a sweet, clean-hearted girl. Please believe me there, little sweetheart – be the goodpal sort of girl, a “tomboy” if you like, for all boys love that type, but let them see “Hand off,” and that you mean it. You may think you will have fewer friends, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I am not giving you any purely personal opinion of my own.

For the last eight months I have heard men of different types and character discuss “Girls.” (Lots of times it’s the only thing they talk about). So I believe I know something of what others think, – as well as myself.

The Good Girl is the only kind that any self respecting man loves. She is the kind of Girl that makes the world move.

And take my word for it these are no personal views of mine.

Please dont think that what I’ve said is altogether uncalled for – I just want you to know that allowing too much freedom on the part of the boys you meet, will never win you more real friends. And don’t be too quick to condemn a boy because he seems to expect the things you know are not quite right. Other girls – that didn’t care – let him go just a hair too far, – and he doesn’t know you real good – yet.

So forget it if you think the clean, decent fellows are few and far between. I don’t know what you think of my telling you all this; – most boys don’t write to little girls in this way do they?

But, Girlie, you are my Little Sweetheart and little sister, all in one, and I love and worship you as I never have anyone else. So please believe I am just trying to help you to be the kind of a girl that “makes things move.”

The Y.M.C.A. is about to close so I will have to finish this.

Sincerely,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: March 5-11, 1918

March 7th, 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 Bassett’s letters 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).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Monday, March 11, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your letter of the 9th came this noon. I have told you that I shall not marry and that is the very good reason why I can’t call you “my little girl,” and why you should “look ahead a few years.” The thought of marrying a French girl is furtherest out of my mind, so forget that clipping.

Marie, I always want to be the very best true friend to you that I possibly can be. I want to help you in every way I can. If there is a single thing I can do to make you happier, I want to do it. If there is anything I have written that you don’t understand, tell me. I have never known and never hope to know any girl so perfect in every way as you are, so you may be sure that you are in no way responsible for what I said in the first of my letter.

I will surely send you a lock of my hair in a few days.

We are not drilling very much now as there is so much other work to do in preparing to leave. Last Saturday Major Sanger gave us a formal inspection with full packs and shelter-tent pitching drill. Lietenant Killberry told us when we returned from the parade ground that we had done “excellently.” It will be impossible for you to see me as we may get orders to go any day now. There is nothing I would like better than to see you but we might just as well shut the thought from our minds.

Did you get the picture (vest pocket size) of me shooting the pistol?

Later I may send one of me with full pack as we go in the field.

Within the next few days I will probably send several packages home; will you please tell Mother to drop a card acknowledging receipt?

Here is what Sgt. Brown’s girl wrote to him:

“If my kisses to you had weight, I would have to send them by freight.”

“How is it by you?”

Won’t you please tell me that?

With love,
Forrest.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell me if you got the picture. When I say that I believe you are by far the most perfect girl – I mean it in every way.

No other girl can ever approach the place you have in my thoughts.

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: February 26-March 4, 1918

February 26th, 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 Bassett’s letters 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 letter include Forrest receiving a fruitcake and singing book from Marie, clearing the air about their relationship, and advising Marie against purchasing a rifle.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 3, 1918

Sunday March 3, ’18.

Dear Marie,

The fruit cake came this morning with your letter. Gee, but it sure tasted good although it was a little fresh to cut. Sheridan, the one who took Stock’s place, got the first piece and he said “Gosh, Bassett’s cakes are getting better and better.” I am not kidding you either for “them’s my sentiments,” too. So you see Blanche is going to have to go some to beat your cooking, according to the impartial verdict of those that help eat “Bassett’s cakes.” I will send you further instructions by radio.

I got the book O.K. and while I don’t sing and don’t care much about singing I am going to keep it for the fellows at the “Y” to use. Marie you are doing everything for me that I can think of and I will always remember what I owe you too. The way in which you answered the questions about Rockford made me feel a great deal better – for I have often thought of it. Don’t think for a minute that you have ever offended me in the slightest way.

I do think it was wrong for me to kiss you when we said goodbye Thanksgiving – for your sake – because you know I can’t always call you my little girl. Things like that make me love you all the more Marie, but I must think ahead a few years. If you don’t understand me perfectly please say so.

I am mighty glad that you have broken that habit and to say I am more proud of you hardly tells it all. I will send the hair in a few weeks.

I wouldn’t advise you to even think of getting a rifle at all. My rifle cost me $16.00. The marble tang peep sight cost $3.00 extra. And an extra snap-shooters disc for this sight cost 50ȼ more so by the time I was all set for action, the gun cost about $20.00. Of course fairly good guns can be bought much cheaper but I wouldn’t even think of getting one at any price. Forget it. As for care, the small .22 cal. bore requires more careful cleaning than any other rifle.

One of our men was just recently discharged because of nervousness. He just left for his home in Baltimore, Maryland, last week.

Well I will send that radiogram later. F.

Please excuse this awful attempt at writing[.] Will surely do better next time.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: February 19-25, 1918

February 19th, 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 Bassett’s letters 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 speculation that Forrest’s unit will soon leave for Europe, partially based on the departure of other soldiers from Fort Leavenworth, and discussion about the new .45 caliber Colt automatic pistol he was issued (“Now don’t you wish I could come home and go shooting with you? I can hardly wait for the target practice”).

 

Friday Feb. 22, 1918.

Dear Marie,

We are celebrating Washington’s birthday by taking the day off. We are having regular Spring weather after a short cold snap. Every few minutes this morning someone would remark “’Wish we had them durn horses back,” and believe me “them’s my sentiments,” too. You should see our radio class in the new stables. We have big tables and a number of buzzers and a large blackboard nailed on the wall. We have fifty minute periods, the same as in High School, do assigned problems in electricity, and have buzzer practice in here.

The Fifth Battalion, S.C. [Signal Corps] left for the coast a few days ago. There were quite a number of the boy’s mothers, wives and “best girls” to see them off. Believe me, those fellows looked pretty “blue.” Not very much “Where-do-we-go-from-here-boys” spirit in the whole outfit.

We expect to go within the next four weeks. Our mess sergeant has orders to be prepared to provide us with one days rations at the port of Embarkation and five days rations in England. I quit helping the Supply Sergeant Monday with the clerical and strong back stuff. We know now just what we lack and the requisition was sent in last week. We will get our guns in U.S. but new French radio equipment on the other side.

We were issued thirty .45 cal. Colt automatic pistols, yesterday, for practice on the range. These will be returned to the Ordnance Dept. before we leave. They sure are some guns. When you take the barrel of one out to clean it, it looks like a piece of young gas pipe. In appearance the .45 Colt is the same as yours, which is a .25 cal., but the working parts inside are altogether different. The hammer is outside and can be cocked with the thumb.(?) The .45 caliber bullet only lacks 5/100 of an inch of being twice the diameter of the .25 cal., so you can see how large the cartridge is. Now don’t you wish I could come home and go shooting with you? I can hardly wait for the target practice. Did you get the S.C. Drill book yet? I know the package got there alright.

No, I don’t care to learn to dance at any time. To have a share in making the Kaiser dance is the height of my ambition and I don’t care two whoops after that.

Glad you are having good luck with your elocution. Did “Bat” perform, he is “right there” when he does.

Stock is getting along great at Champaign, Ill. I will send his letter to Mother as soon as I answer it.

Say, if you ever get a chance to see Elsie Ferguson in “Rose of the World,” don’t miss it.

Well I must drop a line to Blanche.

Sincerely,
Forrest.

 

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

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

Monday, Feb. 25, ’18.

Dear Marie,

A letter from you this morning and a cake tomorrow, I hope. I know I need not worry about how good it will be if “S.M.A.” [Ava Marie Shaw, backwards] made it.

I don’t remember what day it was when we went to Rockford, but I do remember that game of “rhum” we played before we went to the theatre. I think you wore that silk dress with the big pockets – didn’t you? Anyway, I know how hard it was for me to keep from holding you tight in my arms for just a short second. But I didn’t dare to for fear you wouldn’t understand. What would you have done, can you tell me?

Gee, little Sweetheart I am mighty thankful that nothing ever did happen to spoil your trust in me.

I am thankful too that I can help you in the way you spoke of in your last letter. Please tell me when ever I can help you in any possible way. I am going to try and answer every letter you write from now on. It won’t be very long now until we leave. Tonight another trainload of Engineers pulled out. We could see them from the mess hall windows while we ate supper. It made me think of the last train I took to Chicago and then to You.

Well the “Y” Secretary just said ten minutes till lights out so goodnight.

With love, Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant