Baker, James

Letter
Date:
November 23, 1940
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
Somewhere in England,
November 23rd, 1940

Dear Mom,

Just a short note to let you know how I'm getting on. We have been working pretty steadily since I last wrote. I have been on so many guards and pickets now that it has become like a mechanical movement (marching a beat I mean). I wake up at night and find my legs trying to march up and down under the bed clothes. Some of the posts where we go are pretty awful too. They are set right up on top of the highest hills with absolutely no cover or protection from the winds which blow here nearly continuously from the Channel. We have only a tent over our heads and it threatens to blow away at any moment, and it makes so much noise flapping that it is nearly impossible to sleep. And then on my "off night" I go out to the dances or to the show or friends or relations and never get home till midnight, so - what between posts and passes, I'm nearly dead for sleep. I saw Aunt Minnie and Tony last night. Tony and I went to see Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in "Babes in Arms". I enjoyed it immensely. Tony has got a new job as office boy in a furniture remover's office. He is a wonderful kid - full of spirit and fun, very intelligent and grown up for his age. But he is terribly small and scraggly. I would love to take him back to Canada with me and put him under your expert care for awhile. You and the great open spaces, Stan and Burt would make a new man of him. He has quit the choir after nine years because his voice has begun to break at last. And speaking of voices reminds me that I am enjoying a slight measure of popularity at the present moment. I told you I was going to sing at a club didn't I? Well I did - last Wednesday. I never enjoyed myself more and the people must have enjoyed it too because they simply wouldn't let me get off the stage. I sang till I couldn't sing any more and I have to go back and sing some more some time next week. I sang "Old Man River", "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", "Deep River", "Shortin' Bread", "Trees", "Annie Laurie", "Danny Boy", "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "Sierra Sue", "Love Is All", "Old Black Joe", "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square".

If I ever do sing over the radio, I'm sure that you wouldn't recognize me, for my voice has become much fuller and rounder now and I have learned to control and place it better. My top notes still bother me a little and I still have difficulty getting volume in my bottom notes, but it is much easier than it used to be. I wish I could take singing lessons though. Whenever I think that now, the best time of my life is slipping by - I almost regret I joined up. But then I think of all the delightful experiences I have had and I cheer up again. At least I have realized many of my ambitions but instead of being satisfied, I find I have developed new ones. Right now I want to sing on one of the programs home. One: because I want you to hear me and two: because I think it might be a break for me. I only hope I can make it sometime this winter.

I have just fitted out a questionnaire from the War Office regarding my education past and future so maybe something is beginning to break in that line at last. The only difficulty is that there is nothing in a University line as yet. I have just asked for a brush-up of past work and a thorough re-grounding in English. I also asked for Typing and am considering Shorthand. I know they are two subjects that are very very handy to have a knowledge of and I only wish I had been able to study them instead of French and other useless subjects I did study.

Who is Mrs. Fraser? Received a bundle of paper OK. Thanks a lot.

And now for a list of things I would particularly like to get if I could. A pair of leather dress gloves, not too expensive but good-looking. A khaki shirt with collar or even two if possible. Size 18 neck I think. A pair of oxfords not more than $2.50 or 3.00 - size eleven: for wearing army boots has spread my feet terribly and I can't wear a ten anymore.

Keep on sending socks the same as usual and of course food. The coffee, sugar and milk which you sent last time was lovely. I enjoyed it immensely and so did my roommate. We had some for breakfast this morning. By the way you better not label the shoes as shoes or the clothing either for they might not get in. Use my money for them please because they are so dear in this country that I cannot possible buy them on the little bit of money I get. No, I don't smoke and I never intend to start. And I drink very little because I have found that it is very difficult to sing after even only one glass of beer. The other night down in the club I must have had nearly 30 beers bought for me: but I never had a drop. I gave them to the boys who were with me.

We had a meeting to decide what to do about Christmas dinner this year. We have nearly 25 lbs. in Coy funds so are planning on having a lovely dinner. Personally I don't intend to be here if I can get leave. I have about seven offers for Xmas dinner and I don't know which to accept. But I think I'll go to see Mr. and Mrs. Lees in Brighton and Aunt Minnie.

Well I guess that's all the news for now. Next time I may have a surprise for you.

Love to all,
Jim


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