A West Point Plebe, Circa 1930 – Part 3

Letter from John L. Schaefer to Dorothy Wilson
Letter from John L. Schaefer to Dorothy Wilson, continued


July 8, 1930

Dearest Dorothy,

I just received your letter this noon and was sure glad to hear from you. I am through here if it can possibly be arranged. I have not received an answer from my aunt as yet but as soon as I do I will take action and will let you know just what I do. I will do something definite this week end. I will either clear out of here for home or go somewhere else to see if I can make my way in the world.

I don’t think you will have to worry about coming down here this summer as I have my mind set on leaving here. I will not stay because I was not made to be a soldier and it would ruin me to stay here. No I can’t being separated from you and I don’t intend to be unless you do not want me after leaving here. I am going to swear off all military as soon as I can clear out of here. The riding I get is not bothering me but I didn’t like all the rest of the work.

About the key, I do not know what to say for certain but I think when we came home from the lake and stayed at your father’s place that I gave him the keys. I would not say for sure but I am positive that I have not got them. I am most positive that your father has them. I hope that you have found the keys by now. I hope I will be home soon to help you finish the cottage. I would like to stay out there a couple of weeks when I get back to be away from the city people.

I hope we can go swimming together soon. Even though I come home I do not intend to give you back “my heart” that I took from you. Yes I say “my heart” because it is mine now. Maybe soon we will be able to canoeing, and have all the other good times to-gether. Maybe my trouble is that I left my heart back with you but I doubt it.

I have thought over the question of leaving from every angle I have even prayed but I seems I am fixed on going home. I am going to write another letter home to-day to let them know I am set on quitting this place.

I love you, honey – you know I do and I will be home to you soon if you will accept me. Please write soon.

Your sweetheart is
Lonesome & blue, and needs
Comforting arms. Will he 
Get them

John L.

P.S. I’ll teach you to paddle soon, Love & kisses John L. 

John was a big fan of canoeing, it seems. Which lake was he talking about? Lake Erie is the most likely, I think. Buffalo is situated right on Lake Erie, which has played a huge role in its modern development. The 1930 edition of the Polk City Directory says of this topic:

  • The first steamboat on the Great Lakes sailed from Buffalo in 1818
  • The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 made Buffalo an important stop on the New York route to the West
  • One-fifth of the grain in the United States comes through Buffalo, which has 29 grain elevators and is the “greatest grain storage center in the world.”
  • Buffalo is a big mill city, even bigger than Minneapolis
  • Buffalo is the second largest inland port in the United States and is one of the 10 largest ports in the world 

Another high point in Buffalo’s history is the invention of the buffalo wing. According to the National Chicken Council, the spicy-hot buffalo wing originated in the city in the 1960s, missing John et al by a few decades.

What’s missing from this letter? I would have expected to hear about the Independence Day celebrations at West Point, for one. As an invaluable military fort, I would have though that there would have been quite a bit of pomp and circumstances on the nation’s birthday. Perhaps there was, but John was too forlorn or worked up to write about it, instead concerned about the fastest way out of West Point–and where Dorothy’s dad’s key went.