11 November 2009

Free extract from "Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII" by Lois Herr

Lois Herr has kindly provided an extract from her new book “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII”. Lois has also written an introduction to the piece, which I hope you will find of interest:

In “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” I’ve compiled together a variety of the letters mom and I stumbled across in the attic written to dad, with pictures, scrapbook clippings, newspaper articles and a wide variety of historical information from the time to paint a picture of what life must have been like for these small-town college men and women as not only their country went into war, but so did their friends and family. I hope you enjoy the following excerpt from Chapter 5 of “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” entitled “Campus Exodus” and featuring the events that occurred with Coach and his Elizabethtown College athletes during the year 1942.

“Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” excerpt from Chapter 5 – Campus Exodus

“In 1942, Coach hears from his athlete soldiers in Maryland, California, Alabama, Arakansas, Virginia, New York, Arizona, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Spread around the country, they still follow the fortunes of Elizabethtown College teams and try to keep playing ball themselves, though Gene Shirk confesses he plays more ping-pong than baseball. Having heard about Coach’s new daughter, he starts his first letter of 1942,

Say, how does it feel to be a Pap? Did you pass out cigars yet? I was asked today when I am going to pass out the cigars because I made PFC December 10. I now have a First and fourth with total $51.00 a month. Not bad only I sure wish I could have made Corporal. Maybe I will by the time the war is over.

Many of the athlete soldiers mark time, waiting while Uncle Sam figures out what to do with all the new recruits. There’s even star entertainment while things get organized, according to Rudy Rudisill, who sees a three-hour show at Hamilton Field – Kay Kyser’s orchestra with Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Phil Reagan, Desi Arnez, and Linda Darnell. Emory Stouffer and Rudisill hold jobs where they work with troop deployments, and both are getting busy; still they make time to stay in touch and both are stationed close to home. Stouffer writes,

Ft. Belvoir, Va.

January 11, 1942

Dear Kathryn, Ira, and the Daughter,

How is everyone? Haven’t heard from you in a long time…

Since Christmas a lot of activity took place in this Training Center. Troops, troops and more troops in and out, all ready for a new experience. We transferred all of last group during the week of Christmas, and during the past week we got another group of 200 or more. This time we will have all available rooms taken up and in fact maybe we’ll start stacking beds. We expect another hundred men in the morning and 6:00 A.M. Our capacity is supposed to be 250 including cadre [staff] but the way it looks we’ll have over 300. Beds were moved closer together and all vacant rooms are being activated. Rooms that normally have two men will have three, etc, so you know the U.S. means business…

How are the basketball teams Coach? Of course, the girls should be winning as usual and make the boys feel a bit blue.

Well folks, it’s getting late and I still have to write my few lines to the “Round Robin” letter. The Round Robin is the roommates of 212 last year – John, Charlie, Perry, and Bob. Just heard from them so I’ll have to pass it on to the next receiver.

Best wishes to all.



The chapter continues on featuring letters from not only Emory but several of his fellow athletes now deployed to various air fields, training centers, etc. Their words to my dad, Coach Ira Herr, paint a picture of what life must have been like for these small-town college men and women as not only their country went into war, but so did their friends and family. I hope you have as enlightening of a time reading “Dear Coach” as I did writing it.

Follow the rest of Lois Herr’s virtual book tour by stopping by her official blog to see where she’s headed next.

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