Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Introduction from "I write therefore I am"

The essays, stories and commentary of this book were written over a long period of time from the author's young adulthood to his eighties. His most prolific period was in the 1990's when he was attending a senior writers group in Grass Valley, California. The weekly meetings and publication of their magazine We Write provided the motivation and the reward for producing many of the essays that were a natural form of expression for him. Letters and news items in the local Grass Valley Union newspaper sometimes sparked eloquent diatribes, which he sent to the Letters-to-the-Editor section. His correspondence with friends and relatives were sometimes an occasion for interesting exploration of ideas. As far as knowing a little biographical background of Douglas Simpson he speaks for himself in this book and there is little need for additional information. Autobiographical material is usually presented in chronological order but here you will find the author weaving back and forth between descriptions of his roots, early memories, historical commentary and the particular event or place that set him reminiscing.

In social situations when getting acquainted with new people most of us ask, "Where did you grow up?", "What do you do for a living?" or "How did you meet your spouse?" The first question is answered by Douglas in the autobiographical section. His work history is less obvious. His first job was as a paperboy and in partnership with the rest of his family he did a variety of jobs for the Salvation Army throughout his school years. He served in World War II in the Army Air Force where he taught instrument flying. After the war he was engaged in home construction and then attended the University of California, Berkeley where he majored in economics. Following that he engaged in home construction again and "property management" which in his case meant evaluating and buying old houses, remodeling and reselling or renting the property. He also worked as a consultant of troubleshooter on the problems of old houses, their foundations, plumbing, wiring, and how to satisfy the local code requirements.

How did he meet his wife? She was a tenant in a studio apartment in an old brown shingle house in Berkeley. After buying the house Douglas found out that the kitchen in that apartment was illegal and he must remove the stove. By the time he explained this to Elaine and apologized thoroughly and helped her move to another apartment across town, the landlord-tenant relationship had ripened into something else. They were both the youngest of five children and had many interests in common and by the following year decided to marry.

Many years later when Douglas had a recurrence of cancer and was given a poor prognosis his identity as a writer gained new strength. He could accept death but first he wanted to see his writings assembled and published. Being terminally ill was also a new adventure and stimulated new ideas to write about.

The writings in this volume have been assembled under six categories. The reader is free to start anywhere that strikes his fancy. We hope you find enjoyment and perhaps some new ideas of points of view.

Elaine Simpson, Oct, 2002

Saturday, January 21, 2006

November 21, 1941

Dad,

Disgraceful - aren't I? Have been marking time waiting on the Illinois deal and have written no one for a month. Am enclosing evidence of intention as of two weeks ago - Tonight I'm trying to bring everything up to date.

Mother wil doubtless tell you more detail from her letter, so I will default here for the nonce.

Got the camera (nice) a few days ago. Thanks.

And lookit, pop - Can you think of any little gadget that mother could use about the house for xmas ---? Suggestions appreciated.

Good night
Doug

November 5, 1941

Dear Dad,

Oh, but this army can be disgusting some times. Went to see the Lieutenant this a.m. about the Illinois deal, only to find that some rat has decided to establish training facilities here for 3 or four of us - Needless to say we don't like that a little bit. Of course they are unpredictable, so I can't be sure one way or tother yet. Even if we stay here, my interest is aroused and I may try to arrange for a few days in the house town. (Janesville)

Just got your Halloween note and Animal Crackers - I shouldn't have mentioned Illinois 'til I was there. Am almost tempted to put in for a transfer _____hence.

Went to the Methodist Church Sunday, and again last night to their hobby night - It's a very large place - and filled to the doors. Last nights program started with a chicken dinner. (25cents) Next came singing, then hobby groups, finally games on the eighth floor. Attendance: about 200.

Speaking of government agencies - and the speediness and alacrity thereof:_____ I understand that the USO is being held up solely because the buildings promised by the gov't. have not yet been built. It's fantastic. Meanwhile our purely voluntary Bureau in Houston does a magnificent job and seems to be in perfect harmony with all the other ongoing - atious in town. Each week a different church provides vast quantities of refreshments and lots of help. I have visions of the USO coming in some day like a bull in a China Shop ___ But maybe on the other hand - in as much as they are so late - they will sneak in quietly. Best of all they should give these folks some money and keep out.

If you have managed to decipher this so far you're pretty good and deserve a rest so,

Bye now,
Doug

Standards for all these writings

  1. I will make all words that I am not sure about the spelling or what the exact word is as a red italic.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

After lunch - August 25, 1941

Dear Dad, Mother,

It's a rainy day at Ellington, so may have a few minutes of peace to write. Found my mail box empty today, so dusted off the flat side of my suit case and sat on my bunk to answer your (mother's) last letter. Just then one of the fellows brought your latest (dads') note up - it had been filed under "D" instead of "S" _____. So now to kill two birds - or obligations, with one note.

Perhaps I should tell you a little about what goes on so you can imagine a little better. A typical day: Up at daylight - 5:30 daily, 5:00 Saturday, 7:00 Sunday. Breakfast half hour later: 6:00 Personal time - (beds, shave, etc.) and barracks police up 'til 7:30. Sitting up exercises 'til 8:00.

8:00
9:00
10:00 Three 50 minute periods - lectures - drill - athletics, etc - 10 minute breaks.

11:00 - 12:00 Free (more or less)

12:00 Lunch

1:00
2:00
3:00 Same as morning. All sorts of variations of course.

4:00 Free

4:30 or 5:00 Supper

6:00 Free - Show (later not free)

9:00 Lights out

11:00 Taps

See!

We have had gas-mask drills several times, which were culminated by an actual exposure in a tear-gas tent on Saturday - It was funny = we went in with masks on, though the gas candle wasn't lighted yet. Of course it is a constant strain to breath rapidly through the canister, so I held the valve open to rest a before the gas started. What I didn't know was that there was a heavy charge of gas left from the last gang, so of course I got a big lung full - It didn't hurt at all, though my eyes were rather sad all afternoon.

Got a note from Mollie Saturday - I still wonder how her writing appeared on the address of my cookies. Or was it her writing?

So your case goes to court tomorrow - I'll be wishing you all the luck in the world - unless they postpone it again. Give 'em hell!

Also am thinking about your proposition at Palo Alto - It sounds swell. That wouldn't be far from Moffit Field, would it?

I can tell from Bob's rather unloquacious ? letters that he hasn't exactly been on top of the world lately. I must ask him next time I write - tonight perhaps.

About coming back to California: I look forward to it - eventually, but not too soon, so don't harp on that too much for a while. This is really interesting for a change - It's the first time I ever enjoyed writing letters and there are lots of things to think about that are new. I must admit that this letter is horribly uninspired - probably because I'm a week behind in answering everyone.

Sincerely,
Douglas

P.S. More about Ellington:
Sleep on upper floor of one of those barracks with two roofs.
Biggest luxury: Lots of showers.
Biggest bother: Keeping everything in order in a trunk and suitcase - We have no lockers yet.

They say our runway is the biggest single slab of concrete in the world - 7500-650 feet - Runways equal to 120 miles of highway if in a continuous strip.

DHS

Pardon all this - I must get caught up though.

The letters

First I want to preface all this before starting by giving a little history.

The man who wrote these letters was Douglas Haig Simpson.
He was born in the year 1919.
His father, Robert Simpson, was a minister and ran an orphans home in Santa Rosa for the Salvation Army. I guess he was a Colonel (if my memory serves me). He was an artillery man in WWI.
There were 5 siblings, Robert, Ellen, Alec, Mollie, Douglas. I think that was the order but I'm not really sure. I'll find out later for sure. I do know my father was the youngest.
He and both his brothers were in the Army Air Corps during WWII. I think Ellen was a nurse.
Later, in 1963 after being married to Elaine (my mother) since 1959, they adopted me. He was a good father, very loving and kind. I hope I can live up to the standard he set.

The letters I will be transcribing in this blog range in date from 1941 to 1945 with some having no date at all on them. I will try my best to put them about where they seem to go by context. I might even scan some of them. The stationary is interesting, ranging from a postcard to thin vellum to official Air Corps paper. I hope you enjoy. I have a hard time deciphering some of them.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The writings of Douglas Haig Simpson

This blog is dedicated to my fathers writings. He's dead now but I think some people out there would be interested in reading his writings. He was a good writer but suffered from low self-esteem and was afraid of being rejected so never persued his dream of being a writer.

As a child and teenager I remember being woke up at 4am to the sound of a typewriter. Tick, tick, ticky tick, DING... That was my fathers style, to bed by 8pm and up at the friggin butt crack of dawn to sit at his typewriter and write. A lot of it I have read, my father seemed to be constantly seeking my approval, some I haven't, like the letters he wrote to his parents and brother during WWII in 1941-1945. Well, until the other day that is.

So over time I will be putting his writings up here as time permits me. Maybe I'll even add some pictures of the man himself.