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January 31, 1945

Letters from Theodore Katz

five men seated outdoors near a tree

The group shot with Jack Gell holding a knife in his mouth

Jan 31, 1945

Dearest Helen –

Another back letter came in today – vintage Dec 17th – with the enclosed letter from RoseRuth. This is the letter you asked if I had received, not so long ago. The letter was written on the Sunday morning of Anne’s departure and page one sets the scene – and a very enticing one it is, indeed. I always liked the way you describe your boudoir writing positions.

Next you mention the Col’s “party” for Anne – and as it sounded like a stinker, I can’t blame you for leaving early – especially when you could be in bed with such a peachy dream. Then you tell of receiving a batch of pictures – and I gather that your favorite is the one called “Waiting at the Gate” – taken in England – Isn’t that one sort of blurry or am I thinking of another. I think the best one is the group shot (with the knife in Jack’s mouth) – though I think the dramatic posture detracts from the picture. He must still be under the Douglas Fairbanks influence.

Then I read on about mail coming in nicely – but a trifle scattered and out of order – Sam – your proposed trip home, which did come through as I ascertained from later letters. Then about a page of impressions of the sketches I sent. I take it that your favorite is the portrait sketch of Margot. She was a girl of about 13 who would take my laundry, sometimes waiting hours in the cold to either pick it up or deliver it, - very poor, underfed – never enough clothes on to ward off the cold – but always cheerful. However, though, I do like this sketch – I must take odds with you again – for, as I remember, I liked the one called “Portable Bed” best. Why? Well it’s hard to explain. I saw one of the men carrying his bed-roll. He was dirty, tired, mud-splattered. I decided it would make a good sketch and the next day sat down and did it in about 3 minutes and the result was exactly as I intended it to be. It was done quickly, without any hitches and the result gave me great satisfaction. Everything is there with a minimum of puttering around – set forth boldly. I can say the same for “Margot” but the problem involved was easier in this case – so, my vote must go to the “Bed.” However, I shall have a cirriculum [sic] of personal Art Education courses set up for the future – as a basis for “serious discussions.” After all, we’ll have to get around to the serious discussion sometime – we never had time before. – And if we discuss Art, my forté and relatively unfamiliar ground for you, I stand a pretty good chance of winning the argument. Pretty smart, aren’t I? O.K.! O.K.! you can get even by cornering me with statistics or economics.

Just before writing this, I conducted a couple of experiments. Feeling that I must of a necessity wash and shave, I discovered, to my consternation that we were temporarily without water. But noting that we still had snow, I gathered a helmetful, set it over the fire and in a short while I had some hot water. Then I decided to brush my teeth, but here was another problem. Today, we are having rain and you know what the snow looks like after rain has been at it. It’s no longer the pure white as when freshly fallen – it’s dirty, etc. Well, it’s alright to wash with – but, for cleaning one’s teeth – abhorrent. So, casting about for an idea, I spotted a can of grapefruit juice. Now, first I must give you an inkling of what G.I. grapefruit juice is like. It looks like any other grapefruit juice – but all is not gold that glitters. First of all it is unsweetened, very sour and eceedingly [sic] strong. It’s usually given to us, on purpose it seems, only on cold dark mornings. (The cold seems to enhance its strength.) One sip is enough to make the strongest man turn pale. It’s like drinking lye full strength. The first shock of it coursing down your throat results in a stiffening of the limbs, a startled expression on the face followed by a horrible grimace, gasping for breath and a clutching of the throat and then – a violent shudder and quick flip of the wrist to rid the canteen cup of its presence as quickly as possible.

But – to get back to the teeth-cleaning. As I eyed this can of liquid dynamite, the above thoughts came to mind, and quickly averting my gaze, looked about for a better idea. But pausing, I reasoned that after all, I didn’t have to drink the stuff and I did very much want to brush my teeth. So I applied a bit of toothpaste to the brush and then gently poured the juice over it and commenced to brush. The result was an odd taste, I admitted, but not bad at all – so I brushed away merrily until the time came to rinse. Confidently, I raised the can to my lips, took a good swig, and began to swish the resultant mass of toothpaste suds and grapefruit juice about the oral cavity. In two seconds, it was on its way to freedom with the alacrity of water from a broken main. I don’t know what the chemical reaction was but, I imagine that it was similar to what happens when sodium is added to water. I am now searching for another method of teeth cleaning, - but hope that the water situation clears up in time to prevent further experimentation.

I’ve just heard a news broacast [sic] saying that Russians claim to be 75 miles from Berlin, and the Germans admit that the Russians are only 50 miles away. This is wonderful news and perhaps it will all be over sooner than we think. It would be superfluous to tell you how it’ll feel to have this mess over with, to be headed back again, to see you again – to start living again. I think I’ll go to sleep on these thoughts.

My regards to everyone.

All my love,

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