Friday, December 27, 2013

Excerpt from "Letters from the Pacific"

These are two of the many letters written between Norma and Reinhart Kowallis while he was stationed on the island of Okinawa in 1945.  In these letters she talks about her sister's Audrey and Phyllis and Ruth and Glena, her brother LaMar, her parents, her brother-in-laws Wayne and Spence, her daughter Cheryl and nephews Jay and David, along with assorted other relatives and neighbors. The letters are currently being compiled into a book.

Left to right: Jay Butler, Audrey (Jensen) Garner, Norma (Jensen) Kowallis, Joseph M. Jensen, Ethel Jane (Chamberlain) Jensen, Glena Jensen, and David Butler. Cheryl Kowallis and Karla Garner are in front of the group in the wagon. Photo take in October 1945.

[1st letter]
Pleasant View, Utah
29 October 1945

Dearest Reinhart,

      Again I haven’t written for two days. Saturday morning we cleaned & in the afternoon I had to visit Sr. Wade & help her with her talk for conference. Friday night Audrey & I went down to the Singer Sewing Machine Co. We are starting to take a sewing course. It lasts 8 weeks & it is every Friday night. You get the course free when you buy a sewing machine. I have never taken advantage of mine so now that Audrey is buying one we decided to go down together & take the course. I will need to know all I can about sewing if we have any sized family at all & it is really a money saver if you can do it. Sunday afternoon I spent at the church practicing songs for our Singing Mother’s Chorus for Conference & then practicing for our play. We then received word that Mrs. Harris our neighbor had died, So we had to visit the family & make arrangements to fix lunch for them to eat on their way to Snowville–as the buriel was to take place there. They surely decided to have the funeral in a hurry–it was today. This morning I went down to Grace’s at 9 o’clock. She wasn’t ready so I started making her sandwiches. Mary Case came & helped me. Then Amelia Dickamore came & we packed six boxes of lunch. Amelia left & then Sr. Roylance came & we rode down to the Malan Mortuary with her. The funeral was held there. They wanted us to take care of the flowers & be the flower girls so we had that job too. Sr. Roylance had to go to the Doctor after the funeral so Grace & I shopped around, On the way home I had them stop at the Paramount Ice Cream & I treated them to malts. They won’t ever let me help with the gas so I repay this way. We got home about 4:30 this afternoon. We stopped & visited Mrs. Tennis. She has been sick. She is a Catholic, but we visit her just the same. She says if she wasn’t so old she would join our church.
      When I got home a package had just arrived from you. It was the neclace & the pins & turtles. Oh honey, I’m just so happy about this neclace. I like it even better than the other one. It is just so dainty with all of them the same color. Mom was glad to get the turtle too. She has is sitting on her little nick-nack shelf. I think it tickled her to have you remember her. I am not going to give the kids theres until Christmas. LaMar is sending three chains. They should be here about tomorrow & then I’ll send them on to you. I hope they will get there before you intirely give up hope of receiving them. Thanks so much for making them.
      Already the kids have started Halloweening. They are busing soaping windows & doing the usual pranks. But Mitzie has them buffaloed–they don’t dare come up here.
      Today we have also been busy gathering up as many articles of clothing as we can spare. The Church has sent out an urgent call from the people. Our Saints in Europe are going with only rags to cover them. Some only have rags that they put around them when they come to the door. If we do not help them, they will starve this winter. It is really wonderful the way everyone is responding. Dad was over at the Church tonight & they have all kinds of stuff. We sent two huge boxes of stuff. I put in that old brown fur coat that I used to wear so long ago. We put in sweaters, dresses, two men’s suits. About 4 old coats, several pairs of shoes & all kinds of stuff. The telegram came to the Church Saturday morning & they sent out the call Sunday & then stuff had to be in to the store house tonight. That’s fast work isn’t it–but they say it’s imperitive that they get it at once.
      Sunday night 4 of our returned Soldiers spoke. I can truthfully say I was a little disappointed. They just gave that old – “On such & such a date I was here & then we moved here & so forth.” They didn’t even end with “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen” but just sat down without bearing a testimony or anything. One fellow, Glen Christofferson, who was on Gwam when you were & was on one of the pictures you sent home told about the Church services on Gwam & told how much the Church had ment to him. Everyone was thrilled over his humble & sincere testimony & he was the least active when he was home, but while he was away he tried to learn more about the church. Maybe it’s just that we are tired of the war & all we want to know is that our boys still have that faith in God & a testimony of the Gospel. Don’t think I don’t want to hear every little detail of what you are doing & so will the people here at home. I know you wouldn’t give a talk like they did but I couldn’t help but think how I would feel if I was the wife of one of those fellows. For instance, the one fellow said, “I guess it was luck or something else that brought me home, but I ain’t talking.” That was Howard Berrett. [Here there is a crossed out and scribbled over line] I’ll be so glad when you can be up there giving you welcome home talk. Nearly everyone is coming home now but you. I keep thinking every day a letter will come saying “kill the fatted calf–put on the glad rags–your one & only is coming home.” Maybe I’ll get that letter tomorrow–I hope.
      Here are a couple of snow Goose feathers from the goose Wayne got when he went hunting Friday. He gave us two ducks he also got. I thought you could sort of imagine you were duck hunting if you saw these feathers. [See photo of feathers on previous page]
      LaMar has started taking his R. T. training now & he’s plenty happy. Mr. Seely’s boy has his bunk right across from LaMar.
      When I got home today, Mom had some more tales to tell me about Cheryl. David & Jay have been staying out over the week end & David of course loves the water. He had turned it on & let it run down the road. Cheryl, who followed him around, thought the mud & water was especially for her benifit. When Mom found her she was black from head to toe. Her shoes were mud inside & out. Her dress was black & her sweater was black. Her hair had mud all over & through it. Then her big eyes looked up at Mom through the blackest face you ever saw. Mom had to strip her & put her in the tub. Her shoes had to be washed inside & out.
      When I came home she was so sweet & clean. I went in the house & in a few minutes I dashed out. She & David were at the back of the house & over in the young peach orchard. A pile of rotten peaches had been thrown over there. Cheryl was sitting in the middle of them. She was squeasing them with her hands & then rubbing her hands on her dress. David had the hose sprinkling her hair & I think he was trying to get her clean. What a mess! She’s in bed now & sweet & clean, but about five minutes after she gets up she’ll be black as coal. Goodnight my Sweetheart.
Love, Norma

Letter to Reinhart from Norma, which included two goose feathers. The feathers and the letter all returned from Okinawa intact.

Norma (Jensen) Kowallis holding her daughter Cheryl in the fall of 1945.

[2nd letter]
Pleasant View, Utah
30 October 1945

Dearest Sweetheart,

      Just think–today I received two letters from you–dated the 20th of Oct & the 21st. You say you arn’t getting many letters from me & I’m not getting many from you. Here is one way you can tell if you are getting all my letters. If a day goes by & I don’t write, I always mention it in my letter. I usually say, “I didn’t get to write yesterday,” or something to that effect. I am wondering if you received the letter where I listed all of the pictures the family wanted printed up from those you developed & printed for me.
      So–you are thinking of trading me off for Ruth. Tsk Tsk! I never thought it would come to that. Ruth is still going with that friend of Margaret’s–much to the families displeasure. I do wish she could find a good man with a fine disposition like yours–but then there’s only one like you in the world & I just won’t give you up–no sirree.
      Glena is the bell of the ball. About five fellows call her every night. She is going with a Lee Lollie (who is a Catholic) but he goes to our church & he says he is going to join it. Then of course she is still writting every day to Alma.
      Spence doesn’t expect to get home until February. He has just been writting about his experiences in Switzerland. They could only spend so much while there & he saw something he wanted for Audrey for Christmas so he spent what he had & then sold his shirt, two shaffer life time pens & his eversharp pencil, his rain coat, socks, candy, gum & his insignias. Then he sold some of his American money. He was broke & he had five days left to stay in Switzerland & he didn’t know what he was going to eat. I think Spence will find a way though–he usually does.
      Why couldn’t it have been you coming home–I guess I hadn’t better say “instead of Paul,” because I’m glad he is going to get home, but I just wish you could get a break like that.
      That is pretty nice–you get to go to Church twice in a day & then get pie alamod & ice cream. They must have some pretty good meals down where Paul is.
      Have you seen any more of Delbert? Aunt Anna hadn’t heard from him the last I saw her. Maybe she has by now. He isn’t very sociable, but maybe you could help him a little.
      I went to Relief Society this afternoon. We practiced our play after meeting. Just as we were about to leave it just started blowing & pouring down. I was glad Amelia had her car. As soon as I came in the door at home Cheryl came dashing in the front room from the kitchen & calling “Ma Ma.” She triped & went flat but scrambled up & kept coming. I surely have to laugh at her. She thinks those beads you sent are for her & she just about had a fit when I took them. She wants to take all the letters she finds down to the mail box. They are all for “Da Da.” I tell her to pull her pants up if they sort of hang down & she reaches down & tugs away to get them up & just looks so funny.
      Audrey is going down to Sing for a barn dance at the 6th ward & Dad & Mom are going too. I think I’ll just go to bed & try to get some rest. Cheryl gets me up at 6 o’clock in the morning calling “toe toe” & jumping on my head & pulling my hair. Then she plants three or four juicey kisses on my mouth. Then I usually open my eyes & give her a grin. She is always so tickled when she finally gets me to open my eyes.
      We’ll be looking for you for Christmas so don’t dissapoint us. We are so sure that when Santa comes prancing in with his reindeers it will be you that he will have in that big black bag–so don’t dissapoint us. Of course if you come earlier why you can just skip the black bag.
All My Love & then some

LDS Servicemen's Conference in Okinawa in October of 1945. Over 400 LDS servicemen attended the conference including Capt. Reinhart Kowallis.


  1. Aw, such precious insights into the past..Mother going one hundred miles an hour as always (how'd she manage?) and Cheryl so precocious (she didn't change much). Thank you Bart

  2. Jill -- As I read her letters, I often wonder how she did everything. She seems to have done more in one afternoon than I do in a week and with a 1 year-old to care for as well.