Letters Home: Francis Jenkins

The 1917 Skidmore News made sure the Skidmore boys serving their country in World War I received a copy of the hometown paper, and they encouraged them to tell the home folks how they were doing through letters to the editor.  The November 1, 1917 edition published the following from Francis Jenkins:

From Francis Jenkins

Charleston, S. C. Oct. 22, 1917
The Skidmore News,
Dear Sir: I will drop you a few lines while I am at leisure.  I received the Skidmore News and I see by Rouser McClain’s letter where he said that most all of them in the Navy used profane language.  That is the fact.  Of course you take a man that don’t use it, it makes it pretty bad.  It don’t effect me any.  The officers at Norfolk were all hard boiled fellows.  After a fellow is with them a while he gets used to it.  Most of our officers here are nice fellows, yet we have got a few hard boiled ones.

I have changed camps since I wrote.  Have been here close to two months and every day I stay I like it better.  I was moved from detention camp up to main camp two weeks ago Friday.  There is not very many of us left in either camp now; about 500 in both camps.  They have been drafting them out of camps and putting them on board training ships.

Emmett Littler is on board the U.S.S. Kentucky.  I received a letter from him this morning.  Tobe Weddle is working at the Navy yards in a blacksmith shop for Uncle Sam.  Tobe is up at main camp now.  The bungalow that he is in now is quarantined for the mumps; Tobe is quarantined in with them.  Their meals are carried to their bungalow.  It is hard to stay in that way, but directions say take it.

Well I have seen two English submarines and one English destroyer and a French cruiser here in the harbor at Charleston since I have been here.

Well I am going to the radio school now, but don’t get to go to school very much.  We are on guard every other day down at the water front.  Our company is on for twenty-four hours at a time.  Every man in the company gets eight hours watch out of twenty-four and it is a little cool down on the water front these nights.  When we go on guard at the water front, we are all sleepy the next morning and the chief has quite a time getting us up.  He comes in of mornings and throws open the door and raises the windows and tries to freeze us out, but when we are in camp we roll out at six bells every morning.  If we don’t they put us on extra duty.

There are twenty-five hundred laborers that work at the navy yards.  There are seven hundred girls that work in the clothing factory at the yards.

This is some country down here.  I don’t think they have built it up any since the Civil War.  I think half the population is negroes.   There is lots of pine timber down here.  Charleston has about the same population as St. Joseph, Mo.  I hire a negro woman to do my washing by the month.  I pay her three dollars a month.

There are fifteen hundred recruits coming here this week from the Great Lakes training station.  There are three hundred second class seamen leaving this camp tonight.  They are going to New Orleans and will go on board ship there.

Well if nothing happens I will be going to the Harvard University.

Yours truly,
Francis M. Jenkins
Co. 1, Sec. 1, First Reg., U.S.N. Training Camp, Charleston, S.C.