Reader Beware (Roscoe)

Reader Beware! There is language in this letter that is offensive. I was very disheartened when I read those words as it was not something I ever heard my grandfather say, or ever expected him to say. I contemplated removing the language for all of two seconds, and knew that I could not. As a historian, I refuse to edit history in this way. Nor will I make excuses for Roscoe, other than to say that he lived in a very different time. We can not ignore the complicated racial past of our country by pretending hurtful and painful slurs did not exist. As much as I abhor the language in novels like Huckleberry Finn or Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I would not remove those offensive words, and so I do not remove them now. So reader beware!

Letter transcription:

Lieut. R.S. Yegerlehner USNR
Navy 60 F.P.O. S.F.C.
July 15, 1943

Dear Mother,

The second box that you sent – the one you had to divided came at long last. I’ll enumerate the content and you can see if anything was missing – one box of crackers – or rather I should say cracker crumbs. You know what I mean by that. It really was a box of powder. 6 cans of sardines – all in good condition and one package of square candy pieces – plus some papers. The box was battered and torn and half open – So don’t send anything

[page 2] else unless I write specifically for it. I did write for this but it was a mistake except for the sardines. I had given up hope of this box arriving since it had been so long. Maybe that box I sent you while still in Noumea will finally arrive. It had lot of pretty shells and numerous other little trinkets that I wanted you to have but I guess it can’t be helped.

The colored boy was coming in to clean up the tent and I was going into the yard to finish but he went to another tent instead. He is a more or less worthless ‘niggir’ and has to be jacked up about every other day in order to

[page 3] get anything done. I cleaned that table off that I described to you but it is rapidly becoming a source table of many adornments again or do I mean adornments!

I’m now in the front lawn because the boy finally came.

I’ve said this so often but I think now within the next few days I will send a check so be on the lookout. We were told that pay day would be the 15th and if so I’ll send it tomorrow and will follow in a few days with the number, date of issue etc so that if I should misplace my number book here you will have it. I think that is safer than a money order – because if I misplace

[page 4] the slip there is no way of checking on the thing. The check will be a subject of many letters following – just like the uniform check was good for 9 months subject matter.

Back in the tent again, It doesn’t take that black boy long to do what little he does. The main reason for coming back were the flies. They land and crawl pretty hard.

I’m still eagerly awaiting the pictures of D. so that I can compare his beauty handsomeness and personality with that of the beauty of and winning qualities of his mother.

Love Daddy

Russell Islands  Image by Kelisi at (Wikipedia Commons license)

Russell Islands
Image by Kelisi at (Wikipedia Commons license)

©2014 copyright owned and transcribed by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

4 thoughts on “Reader Beware (Roscoe)

  1. davidmadison1942

    Yes, both my parents evolved on the issue, much of it due to their decency as human beings, but also because the Methodist church was very much involved in the civil rights movement.

    I am curious if the lad in question was a member of the armed forces, or a local person employed for menial tasks. We’ll never know.

    “just like the uniform check was good for 9 months subject matter.” LOL

    1. Genealogy Lady Post author

      I would imagine that boy was a military personal member. The African American were often relegated to the menial tasks during World War II, which why units like the Tuskegee airmen were unique.

  2. chmjr2

    Sometimes our relatives disappoint. However I guess your surprise comes from your knowledge of your grandfather’s actions and life he lived. They most likely speak much more to the man he really was. Also I know I do not have to tell you that we do a great disservice to try to understand one period of time by applying today’s values and understandings. The world changes every time it completes a rotation on it’s axis. We have had a lot of rotations since 1943.

    1. Genealogy Lady Post author

      Thank you Charles! My father said much the same thing. We have to remember that Indiana was the birthplace of the KKK. My grandparents grew up there, but they evolved past such sentiments.


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