By Andrea Sutherland
In an aged photograph, Erve Turner sits, writing. On the table next to his writings sits his coffee mug and framed photographs of his wife, Carlene Turner, and his son, Wayne. Brandi Cook, Erve Turner’s granddaughter, doesn’t know when or where the photograph was taken, just that it pictures the young Soldier, sleeves rolled up, focused on his writing.
“I found his letters in the attic,” said Cook, who photocopied her grandfather’s letters and donated the copies to the Mountain Post Historical Center. “It was like getting to know him in a whole different way.”
Although her grandfather died when she was only 6 years old, Cook said she remembers him spoiling her with sodas and candy.
“Nobody ever said anything bad about him,” she said. “I asked my grandmother why she didn’t remarry. She said, ‘Once you’ve had the best, you don’t mess with the rest.’”
Cook’s grandmother kept the letters her husband wrote while he was away at Camp Carson for basic training and deployed in Europe at the end of World War II. She kept the love notes scrawled in chicken-scratch cursive, the envelopes addressed to Mrs. Erve Turner and the postcards of Pikes Peak describing the scenery of the Rocky Mountains.
A barber before enlisting in the Army April 1, 1944, Erve Turner left his hometown in Florence, S.C., for Colorado. Throughout his weeks in basic, he wrote dozens of letters to his wife, whom he refers to as Corky.
In his letters written on Camp Carson letterhead, Pvt. Erve Turner describes life at basic training, badgers his wife to write him longer letters and provides a glimpse into the loneliness a Soldier experiences being away from his loved ones.
Many of the letters ended with the same parting salutation, “Lots of love, Erve.” Below are excerpts from his letters.
This place that we are in is so high that we boys from (South Carolina) can hardly get our breath. But I guess we will get used to it in a little while.
Tell Wayne to be a good boy and not to forget me.
Well we went to bed last night and woke up this morning with everything covered with snow.
Pikes Peak was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw (except you).
Our top sergeant talks hard, but he is really a nice fellow, I think, but the other one under him should be shot.
This is some country we put out here. Just a few minutes ago it was pouring down ice and now the sun is shining. You never know one minute what to expect.
If the Army didn’t have any sergeants, I think that would be alright.
Every time I think about leaving you, I just wish I had kissed you about fifty times instead of one.
Sure wish you were out here. But I am not so sure you should or not. They say Colorado Springs is not such a nice place for a lady. Of course, you can hear all kinds of stuff around here.
They told us we had to go to the dance. They told us if we didn’t go we would have to work so I went, but I came right back so that I could think and write to you. There was a good many girls at the dance. But I don’t care two cents for all of them because I got the prettiest and sweetest girl in the whole world and as long as she loves me, that is plenty for me.
I want you to send to me the picture of the best wife in the world and picture of our boy. It sure would help a lot. Sometimes it seems so long since I saw you all that I can’t remember how you look.
No date (written between April 20 and 22)
I didn’t get a chance to mail this until now so I will write a little more. First, I want to tell you that I have met mail call twice and didn’t get a letter. You had better not let this happen again or it won’t be good for you when I do see you.
Corky, wouldn’t it be fun to go off somewhere together? Just anywhere. To the show and out for supper. It wouldn’t make any difference just so you were with me. Don’t go getting any notions about going out for supper at first because you got to cook me some biscuit before we go anywhere. But if I could see you now, I would squeeze you so hard I would feel you crack. Sweet thing, I think I’ll stop until you start writing every day.
Well sweetheart, are you about ready to come out here? Sure do wish you were here now. I could get off. But since you are not, I don’t think I will go anywhere, just lay around here and think about you.
When I start thinking about you I just wish I could see you and tell you how much I do love you. I bet you don’t really know how much I do love you.
I just finished another week in the Army and it isn’t so bad after all. The worst part of it is being away from you.
Just started having mail call but I am not going because I really got popular today. I got three letters from my best gal. And I don’t think I will get any today or this afternoon.
I went to town last night and it is a big place. I didn’t think it was as big as Florence, but you could put three or four towns the size of Florence in it and then couldn’t find them. I got up town and eat a steak, it sure was good. But I missed you across the table from me. The steak cost only 85 cents.
Boy wouldn’t I like to squeeze you one time. I bet you would hurt for a week.
I just counted the letters that I have gotten from you. There was fifteen. I want you to double that amount next month.
I read a letter the boy that sleeps next to me got from his wife. She told him that she was through with him and for him to forget her. It was just about to run him crazy. He went to the chaplain today and the chaplain is going to try and (get) him a furlough so he can go home and straight her out if he can. You had better not send me no letter like that. I don’t want that kind of furlough.
I got another letter today. I can’t see why you get yours four at a time. I wish I could get yours the same day you write them and not three or four days late.
I sure would like to get some of your cooking. I believe they are trying to starve us to death. We didn’t get anything for supper but the bread that was left over from dinner with onions in it and it wasn’t very good for even a hungry person.
If I ever get home you won’t have to worry about making beds. I am really good and washing dishes too. I washed dishes for fourteen days straight last Friday.
I wouldn’t give a sack full of sand from S.C. for the whole state of Colorado. We have a good bunch of officers but the weather is enough to kill anybody. If you run five steps you have to sit down to get your breath. One minute it is hot and the next it is cold.
The boy I told you about his wife quitting him has got his furlough starting tomorrow to go home and see about getting his little boy.
She told him how good she loved the other fellow. The other fellow must be a fast worker. He hasn’t been in the Army but five weeks.
Corky, I bet you don’t remember the Sunday in the garage apartment that we were by our self or do you? Boy, those were sure good old times wasn’t it? I hope it won’t be too long before we can be together again if it isn’t but one day.
If I just could see you I would love you more in one hour than I did in a year before I left. (If you would let me).
Weather report — hot in the day and cold at night. Rain every thirty minutes. Mud two feet deep.
The pictures got here in good shape. … The sergeant said if he was me he would go over the hill and stay. The sergeant’s wife has got a baby but it was a girl and he wanted a boy. He sure liked Wayne. He said he wanted to take the picture home and show his wife what he wanted the next time.
I don’t know if I should write or not. I have been mad all afternoon for no reason at all. … I don’t know why I should feel like I do unless it is because I didn’t get a letter. I went to mail call twice today and didn’t get a thing. I am telling you that’s enough to make you mad. I bet you didn’t even write.
In a second letter May 12
I have been laying on my bunk looking at yours and Wayne’s pictures. If I had enough money I think I would go over the hill. But since I haven’t got any money, I will write you again. I am not as mad now as I was this morning. Bet that letter this morning got you plenty mad.
If it did just forget it because you know me. I just have to quarrel with somebody once and while. If it made you feel bad just think of how much I love you instead.
My Dearest Corky,
I just want to tell you how nervous I am about what I said in that letter yesterday. I got both of the packages today and three letters and boy was I glad to get them.
I believe I am about to get well of my cold and I feel pretty good. Honey, this all I have time to scratch, but I will tell you tomorrow just how much I love you if there is enough paper in camp.
Lots of love, Erve
Sweetheart, why don’t you take a little more time and write me more? I bet it don’t take you two minute to write the letters you send me.
Don’t be mad and stop, but try to tell me more. I don’t ever get tired reading them from you.
PS: I still love you a great big heap
I got your letter tonight and every time (I) read one of them I love you just that much more.
After completing basic training in August 1944, Erve Turner deployed to Europe, earning two Bronze Service Stars and a World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged March 18, 1946, and returned to South Carolina. He died in October 1977.