'SWEETIE' 1ST LETTER
A rush note gives me a chance to tell you how well I am fixed here. It really isn’t bad at all–for a man–but for you and ‘the rats’ and for Toots it would be tough so stick to the original plan to stay out, in sickness or account of keeds or whatever you can. Better on the 3rd of May to send someone or for Toots to come with Dr’s letter re children and your anemia.
I am living in the mezzanine temporarily–with the two Saleeby girls as my room mates -?
Life for me is ideal: plenty of food, no work, lots of loafing, sun bathing–mucha habla–time flies. I slept like a log last night. Very comfortable.
Re sending food, it really is not necessary–a bit of fruit perhaps as none is served at meals–but otherwise I shall be okay.
Lots and lots of love.
Notes to first letter: Our best guess for the date of this letter is around April 22; Parsons had been first detained and questioned in Fort Santiago, then released. There he had been in a cell next to the one containing members of the Chinese Consulate. Parsons tells, in his oral history (U.S. Naval Institute), of seeing the Chinese leaving one day and not returning. When he asked the Jaspanese guard where they had gone, he drew his hand across his neck and warned Parsons that he would suffer the same fate if he did not tell the truth. According to Sam Boyd Stagg, Parsons had been picked up on April 21 and taken to Ft. Santiago. He claims that Parsons’ fingers were severely damaged during questioning. Parsons has only said that they hurt him but not too much (although he commented somewhat wryly that the Kempetei were about the worst people he’d ever met). He once told me that the disfigured fingers on his left hand were self-inflicted from a wood-chopping incident he suffered as a young kid in Chattanooga. Other people who have mentioned Parsons’ finger to me include Bill wise, author of Secret Mission to the Philippines; and our cousins, Fred and Patricia Parsons of Chattanoog, TN, who said they noticed that Parsons nearly always kept his hands in his pockets, especially during photo sessions.
At some point in time (April or May, 1942) Katsy, Mike and Peter visited Parsons in a hospital, apparently near De La Salle College. It was there that they witnessed Japanese soldiers, most of them in g-strings and shirtless, throwing garbage and other items at a white man strung up on some galvanized roofing material; they were also taking turns running at him with sticks and whacking him. The man was not reacting to anything being done to him. Stagg tells me that Parsons was placed in hospital after his visit to Ft. Santiago.
So as to the dates of these various events, we can only guess that Parsons was first taken to Ft. Santiago, then released to either home or hospital, and then finally taken to STIC. We are fairly sure of the date of this first letter being April 22, 1942. Although what I can’t understand is why he doesn’t mention the passing of his birthday there.
The letters are handwritten and there does not appear to be any problem with his writing, nothing that he has to apologize for to the reader.
The “rats” are his children, at that time, Michael, Peter and one-year-old Patrick.
The “Toots” reference is to Parsons’ mothe-in-law, Blanche Walker Jurika. These letters from Santo Tomas Internment Camp are all written to Katsy, Parsons’ wife. Mrs. Jurika was living with the Parsons family in their home on 1928 Robert St. The back yard faced due west onto Dewey Boulevard and Manila Bay.
The Saleeby girls are: Sally and Ann Saleeby. One of them has confirmed to me the story of sharing the mezzanine space at STIC. She also told me that Parsons was already aboard the Japanese truck cruising Dewey Boulevard when she and her sister were picked up and all of them taken to STIC together.
I think my dad referred to children as “keeds” after he heard Babe Ruth use this word a lot—which would have been during the visit of the Babe Ruth All Stars in 1934.