This is the first in a series of letters in the possession of my Uncle. It starts with my Great-grandfather’s letter of advice to my Grandfather when he joined the Navy in 1940. I provide them as they were written (unless auto correct caught it).
July 16, 1940
To my Son Ken:
Ken, I just want to talk to you a little while, now that you have made your decision on your future career. It is only natural that sooner or later a boy leaves his home environment and steps into his heritage as a man, a heritage given to his father and to all the fathers before him. I would not want you to do or be otherwise. How you use your man’s heritage depends entirely upon you now, to build of your own pride a career reflecting honor and respect to yourself, to your father and to those who love you and have known you, that they may at all times point with pride to you and say, “I knew that boy.” But above all else, let it reflect honor and credit to the Navy, your Country and Flag that have made it possible for your man’s heritage to be held sacredly in escrow for your claiming; that have made it possible for the pleasures of youth, the council, guidance and education toward your final meeting of the problems of manhood.
Don’t forget my counsel to you of the respect to womanhood, remembering always your mother, and that some day some good woman (and see that she is good) will be your wife and the mother of your children. Keep yourself morally and physically clean of any filth or disease, so that you may hand on to them the clean heritage I have endeavored to give to you.
I don’t expect you to be an angel, Son, but I do expect you to be a man and that your life be a clean, open and fearless one, remembering always the duty you owe to yourself, your career and to those who love you. Be true and honorable to the men about you and your superiors. Be industrious; know your stuff. Endeavor to know the men ranking above you and make them your friends, for they can do good for you. Leave alone the dregs at the bottom, for you will find them there too, and they can do you no good, but harm. Look carefully for the man you will make your buddy, for he can make or break you.
Think for yourself within the rules and regulations of the Navy and lend yourself willingly to them. Don’t allow yourself to become morose, sullen and resentful of them, and don’t listen to the crabber, the malcontent, the knocker and the squacker. If you do they will break you. Try to get a kick out of the most distasteful filthy duty you may have to perform and although you may not be able to enjoy it, at least do it willingly and well, and when they find they can’t get your goat they will like you and find other and better things for you and you will like the Navy and the Navy will like you.
Don’t try being a sea lawyer too soon. That will come as time goes on. Let your mouth be a little smaller than your fist, in that way you will never be troubled with having to swallow your fist, and above all else, Ken, never do anything that you would be ashamed to tell me about, and if you ever do, tell me about it anyway, for you should know that I’ll understand.
You are going to miss home and I will miss you, which is quite natural. I went though the same thing myself and now I’m on the other end, as was my father and mother then. But you must bear in mind, son, you have a duty to yourself and to me to perform and so be strong; look to the future and to a man’s career. Nineteen years of your life are already behind you. The future holds everything you don’t already have, so each day, each hour, make the best of it. Do your duty; be industrious. By keeping busy time will pass quickly and as you grow stronger and bigger in the fullness and rights of your manhood, so will my compensation become greater for the loss of you to your own success. I would not have you do other than that which you have done. Ken, a father’s crowning joy is his son’s success in whatever career he may have chosen. The Navy will take you to pieces to see what you are made of; show them Son! and I’ll be the proudest father in the land.
Let me hear from you often and I’ll do my best to do likewise, and so, with my best wishes and love for your success and happiness may Gods blessings be yours ever your Dad – K.W. Rhoades.