By now we have all landed safely in the New Year of 1954. Boy, that was a long ride. Are all hands safe on this first day of 1954?
I am sitting in my room; the radio is playing some popular tunes. Everything is to my satisfaction. Yesterday we had a new addition to our room. It is standing on the table – a beautiful vase about eight inches high. There are willows, pine branches and artificial tulips in the vase. It looks very pretty. I love it very much. The vase is so pretty and was given to me with so much love that I will take it with me to the States if it survives 1954.
I spent New Year’s Eve with my friend Ed who sleeps next to me. We browsed together through Nuremberg making a short visit to all the American cafes and one German café. At 12 midnight we were at the Hospital’s Enlisted Men’s Club. We had our New Year drink, dance and kisses. As I had no date I borrowed a friend’s girl. I surely took advantage of his generosity. I used my gentleman like tactics, my German, and some smooth dancing to win the girl. I was taking her by the hand and in my arms at first during the dance. But it was not too long and she was taking my hand and putting her arms around me during the dance. When the going was good and I had seen that I could win the girl, I brought her back to her rightful owner.
At 1:30 I went back to the hospital. Then as we say, we shot the bull till three. We slept till 12 noon today. My New Year’s wish is to do my duty in this coming year, to keep smiling and not to let sentimental feelings sway me from one extreme to the other. And if it is supposed to be, I would like to be state-side-bound a year from now. I wish for everyone in our family, well I have thought about what I wish you all, but I hesitate to tell. I wish you a balanced life and that you not will not have to go through what I went through. Broad interests, not to be pinned to a single idea, not to let feelings alone guide you.
I received the two pictures from Hellmut. You are very handsome. That report is confirmed by a girl. Try to mix; just because it is hard for the Laues to mix does not mean than it is not good. You don’t solve the problem by running away from it, by putting your whole attention on some other thing.
Don’t send me new music yet. I can’t play well enough yet. I can use a good accordion school.
Tonight I will see the Marriage of Figaro. I hope it is nice. Monday evening at 21:40 I am leaving for Bad Pyrmont. The picture is from downtown Nuremberg at Christmas time.
Best wishes for this New Year.
Bad Pyrmont, Germany, January 14, 1954
(Translated from German – postcard from the city in which Peter’s Brother Ruth lived)
Your letter, Mutti, with Papa’s picture arrived this morning. If I have sufficient peace to write, you will receive a letter from me.
Greetings from the heart,
Your Dieter (Peter)
January 17, 1954
My dear Mutti, Papa and Hellmut,
I just came back from furlough. I cannot tell you how nice it was by Ruth because there were no words to tell this. It was wonderful and we were very happy together. A greater love a sister cannot have for her brother and a greater love a brother cannot have for his sister. Ruth knows how to make everything so nice. If Ruth would not be my sister and be a few years younger, then I would no longer have to look for a wife. That puts everything in a little nutshell. That was very thoughtful of you to send Ruth twenty-five dollars to make everything extra nice. She surely used the money to do this for me. With Nati I also had much fun. We went sleigh riding together when there was snow. We all played games together. As big as I am, I still love to play little games. Together with Mr. Pfennig it was also wonderful.
Now I am back at the hospital. It is also a nice place to be. I doubt if I could be at a nicer place. All my friends were very happy when I came back. I am not a big joker, but I am just a good guy they like to have around. This afternoon a friend brought me two bottles of beer along just to make me happy. I did not say a word about beer. On my night table there stands now a potted flower – a primel. It looks very nice and brings so much warmth and hominess into our room.
When I came back from furlough I got a different job in the office. It is much less work. I have nothing to do with the typewriter now. I am working with statistics connected with the patients in the hospital and the number of cases of each disease. I am satisfied with the change. I got to be because I am in the army – ha ha ha. I am a soldier. Isn’t that something! The other day I met a colored fellow who was not getting along with himself and the army. When I came back he had been sent to the hospital in Stuttgart. He wrote me that he is getting a discharge shortly. Poor boy, he is really having a hard time.
Thank you for sending my other suit away. It will come in handy. Next Tuesday my dancing course is beginning. A dark suit is more suitable than a light one. In Germany everything is still much more formal. I will let you select the accordion school. If you go to a good store there will be someone to advise you. You can’t tell when Sonni will get around to it. Please see to it that Sonni will rest first before she begins anything. She really needs a rest. Ruth, Sonni and I were together for one day and Nati was there also. Sonni will tell you about it.
I am so interested what will happen to Hellmut after he leaves school. Are you going to be drafted, Hellmut? If you should be sent to Germany, then I would extend for nine months. My time is only half over. I have even thought of extending nine months because I can be with Ruth longer and I can also go 1½ years longer to college. I am not sure yet what to do. Maybe the time will change the picture around. I am going to let this day decide for the next.
I am happy to hear that you received the check again. Tell me sometimes what you are doing with the money. That is what would interest me. I know that you must be doing something else besides buying ice-cream sodas and corned beef sandwiches. Maybe there will be a beautiful home waiting for me when I return? I hope you will make it real nice for Sonni. She is anxious to go up to the mountains with Hellmut. When I told her that he is going up in February, she right away said that she will go along. At this moment she is on the water. If it is as windy on the sea as it is here at the moment, the America will really be rocking.
The shirt that you sent me, Hellmut, I wore most of the time on furlough. I have three shirts of that type now. Thank you Hellmut.
I am thinking of you in love,
Your Dieter (Peter)
I received the letter with the different papers this morning. Thank you, Mother. I would like a nice pipe for my birthday. The book you mentioned I have not read yet. And some nice music for my accordion I would also enjoy.
Would you like me to come home in a year or stay here a little longer and be able to see Ruth once in a while?
I love you all
Your son – Peter
I will probably also type up birth certificates. Always learning something new! That is fun. You said you would not send the letter air-mail, but you did anyway.
January 20, 1954
My dear Mother, Papa and Hellmut,
Hello Hellmut, is there any mail in the mailbox? Yes, there is. A letter from Dieter arrived today. Does he write anything important? No, nothing special, just a nice letter; I’ll let you read it when you come home. “Okay,” says Mother, I’ll be home early tonight. I am anxious to read what our Peter boy writes; whatever it is, it is all important.” ---- So it goes maybe at 128 N. La Jolla Avenue. So I sit down at my typewriter tonight that Hellmut will say to you, “We got mail.”
That is quite a cute flower you made. Whoever gave you the idea? Is it your own? Then it is fine. I like original ideas. Two days ago I bought myself for 75 Pfennig a funny green hat. I usually wear it when I practice the accordion. I got a lot of laughs out of it already, because no one has done it before. I enjoyed reading Nellie’s letter. She writes very nice. She is a smart girl to do something like that. I did not think she had it in her to undertake a trip like this.
Things in the office are becoming more interesting as I go along. The German girl who works here is going on furlough for two weeks and I was told today that I would do her work which cannot be held over for two weeks. She transfers the patients to the other hospitals, usually the one in Stuttgart. I can concentrate a lot better on my work and make less and less mistakes.
Today we got two big new typewriters. I don’t have the direct benefit. I got another person’s typewriter that is better than mine. And I told the supply sergeant that as soon as he gets a new small carriage typewriter in, he should let me know. It is a lot more fun to work on a smooth operating typewriter.
Yesterday I went to my first dancing class, the first of ten, one each week. It was a lot of fun. First we all received instructions on good behavior. I had forgotten a lot of the formal German customs. You should not cross your legs when you sit, keep your legs and feet together, when you stand do not have your legs apart, do not cross your hands in front or in back of you, have them hanging to the side, make a small bow when you come into the dancing class if there are pupils present already, but do not look at the people, make a small bow when you ask a girl for a dance. There were still other things, maybe Papa knows the right way yet. At the end of the dancing class we bring any one girl home if she does not live far from where we live, otherwise we just bring her to the streetcar.
Poor toothy, poor Mother, but you will forget about it sooner than you think.
I just came back from supper; we had turkey, corn, celery, olives, ice-cream, and oranges. Now I am enjoying my after-dinner pipe. It is my “Schnuller” (pacifier in German). Big babies also like to suck on something. Sometimes I put the pipe in my mouth without lighting it.
Oh, thank you for the package with my suit and the coffee. I like it. When you send me the next time a package I would like two more ties and a tie clip. A belt I am going to buy myself here now. I looked at the suits the other boys in the dancing class are wearing and mine fits in just perfect.
I received from Trossing a letter recommending me an accordion teacher. I got in contact with his wife only – the teacher’s wife. Her husband is on vacation just now; but when he comes back I will see what can be done.
I am rooting with you when I hear that you are improving the looks and comforts of the home. I’ll be twice as anxious to come home, when I know that there is a cozy corner waiting for me. In the evening I will put on my comfortable slippers, turn on the radio, take a book from the shelf, sit back in an easy chair, light my pipe and really relax; and next to me will be sitting my good girlfriend Mother, or maybe some little girl my own age. I see that I am really the homey type. And on the table will be standing a vase with some carnations.
Here is the way I see the picture now in a philosophical way. When you are a man of flesh and blood, then make it as nice for yourself and the people you are with. The next world will also in its own particular way, that I do not know about now, offer its opportunities to make it nice. Mr. Pfennig considers his stay here on the earth as an assignment which he wants to fulfill as good as he knows how. I like him very much. I have never heard him speak about his troubles.
I wish you, Hellmut, the best of luck as you now with all seriousness and strength undertake the next step, going out of school and going up to the mountains. I would like to go with you. I could use the fresh air and the exercise. I bet you are going to develop a strong body when you work on the mine. I surely like to see people with such a daring spirit. You have to have confidence to undertake something like that; and you got it and I see it in you.
The girl question will settle itself with time. It’s nothing too be concerned about. Nature takes its course, if you are not unnaturally unnatural. It’s quite natural to have a family and a wife. But you know, don’t shove the girls back just because they eat and drink a glass of wine --- I mean eat meat naturally. You do not want to marry a diet. You want to marry someone who has the ability to really love you. That is foremost; the girl should also share your interests, but need not share them all the time. You got to expect that the other person is not your replica. But you got time, and you also have the mountains which are now more important.
And so we close another chapter in the life of the man they call “Peter.” It is an interesting story, is it not? Especially when you compare one chapter with another, and when you compare the first one with the latest one.
Welcome Sonni, welcome to America and to California and welcome to our home at 128 N. La Jolla Avenue.
Are you all sad now? Are you just so, so, or are you happy? I don’t know what I am. I wonder if anyone else knows? I haven’t told anyone.
Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye my dear Trio plus one
Your PFC Peter
I would like a nice, nice pipe with an extra special good filter – something original, but not so odd that I can’t use it in the office.
January 29, 1954 – the last Friday of the month
Dear Mother, Papa, Sonni and Hellmut,
How are you all? I am fine. I received your letter from the 23rd of January. It sounds good. I am surely glad that you are fixing things up at home. No use to store everything up for a rainy day. It probably will never come. Now is the time to make it nice. Deciding what pipe you should send me is your baby. I can buy a lot of fancy pipes in Germany. But it is no fun for me to by it myself; I like someone to select one for me and give it to me as a present. When you are all alone at home, you don’t bother to cook a dinner for yourself. That is the way I feel about the pipe.
What happened to Arthur is a shame, but no catastrophe. It will make him and Hellmut much more level headed. In this age we boys are in, we often go overboard in one way or another. That is youth. You cannot do anything about it, but just let us be. With time we will calm down and strike an even pace. In every young boy who is growing into manhood one finds a big drive for one thing or another. Arthur, just don’t sorrow after it. We often and we all make some miscalculations.
I have been having a busy, busy week in the office. In fact, everyone has had his hands full of work; and still we are not getting our report out in time this month. Last month we sent out a bad report, so we have to be doubly careful this month. I have been awfully tired at night, but happy despite. These last few days there was so much to do, that the time flew like a jet. The pipe and coffee kept me right on the ball. Last Tuesday I was not able to go to my dancing class; and the way things look right now, I might have to skip the next class also. But I am not putting in any overtime that is not required. When I am told to work, then I work. But otherwise I only will come into the office when I want to write letters.
This week it has been very cold here. I pity the units that go out into the field on maneuvers now. This week we had about twenty-five frost bite cases and there are more coming. Some of the boys really look bad. If you see those swollen and blue limbs, you will be extra careful. One of the wards is so crowded that extra beds had to be put into the hallway of the ward.
Last Saturday on a sudden impulse I went to Bensheim (place of Peter’s birth). I had gone out of the hospital with my civvies and with the intention to go dancing. But then I got the idea, and I carried it out. For twelve Mark and sixty Pfennig I bought my train ticket. All the riches I had left amounted to 2.50 Mark. Therefore my supper amounted to three salted pretzels and three glasses of hot milk. And then I bought myself for 15 Pfennig a German newspaper. I was sitting in the train at six o’clock at night. The German newspaper I used as a decoy, because I did not have the proper pass. And I figured that with a German newspaper under my arm the MPs would never suspect and American GI in me. And I figured right. Everything went very smoothly.
At twelve o’clock midnight I rang Klein’s doorbell. Boy, were they surprised. And they were so happy to see me. They always treated me like their son; and that is the way they received me last Saturday midnight. I also saw Mr. Herzberg. I enjoyed talking to him and eating his delicious cake and drinking two cups of his good coffee. Schachners and Hornungs I did not see. The time was too short. I came back Monday morning at four o’clock. And then I walked for forty minutes from the train station to the hospital. Trolleys don’t run at that time and for a taxi I did not have enough money. By no means do I want you to send me any. I have enough money but sometimes I don’t budget it right. It belongs to a soldier’s life to be broke sometimes. I slept for 1½ hours that night yet, and then the busy week started. I got through this week pretty good. I stored up a lot of energy while I was on furlough. And then I did not have any blue spells, which means all the difference.
When I get back to the States, I will really let myself get spoiled by you for a couple of weeks. Breakfast in bed! Mother will bring me my slippers and so on. All I will do is to pick Mother up from business. And then after business I will invite you to dinner, and then we will “take in a show” as we say here. Time is going awfully fast. Six months I have been over here. I am also looking forward to my next vacation with Ruth. During my time in Germany I will be able to take thirty days furlough. That is very nice I have one of Ruth’s pictures hanging in my room. The picture makes me happy every time I come into the room. It is called “Sonnenshein” (sunshine). Papa might have seen it.
I am surely glad that Hellmut’s finals are over. I know they are a pain. It will do him good to rest his brain for a time. I could not stand to study all the time, either. You get a nervous breakdown if you do not relax in some way. Hard and enjoyable work is the best medicine. Since I am so busy in the office and enjoy my work, I am a different person.
Last week I saw a movie I liked, “From Here to Eternity.” It is very realistic, but especially realistic to a soldier. If you should see that picture you will know a lot of things I have also seen and experienced. I have also something to talk and write about one day. I have surely gathered a lot of new experiences. I stiffened my chin and I am smiling. Tra-la-la. I will tell you now – when I get home, we will all sit in our cozy corner; I will light my pipe and you will drink a cup of coffee, milk, juice, water, or wine, and then I will tell you a big story. You don’t know what you have missed, Papa, by not being a soldier for a couple of years. Everyone, I think, should live together with a big bunch of boys under discipline, not to keep an army ready, but in order to make men out of boys. It is the real test of our ideals, to live in a group that you had no previously not contact with.
Good night to you. I have to step out yet to pick up my coat which was pressed for me. Tomorrow we have an inspection and everything has to be ship-shape. I am having my mess gear chromed. You should see how nice it looks. I want to bring it home. Then I have something for my camping trips and something to remember my army days by. I can have my name officially changed to Peter Dieter Laue without cost or trouble. I will have it done when I have a chance.
Say hello to everyone, Sonni included –
I love you all and Arthur too,
Your son, Peter Laue
Please call up Alice and give her my best
regards and wishes.
Caption under the drawing:
WHO FIGURED THIS ONE OUT FIRST?
(Peter saying good-bye, smoking his pipe and piano keys on the accordion for Peter’s mouth.)