Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen



Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen


Mentions death of President Roosevelt and his feelings about it. Writes about subsequent activities on base. Continues letter after break. Mentions getting all the newspapers and comments on president's death. Comments on show he went to see and states he would like to write a play so he could see her to act in. Continues with long ramble about show business and American history. Reminisces about his joining the army and writes about time in New Orleans.




Temporal Coverage



Five-page handwritten letter


This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.






Friday – April 18th

Hello again – Cathie –

I suppose you’ve heard and read about the death of our president – Mr. Roosevelt. It puts me in an unhappy (sad) mood all over again, as though it were a very personal friend who had passed away. He was truly a great man, holding the hope of several countries progress in his hand (note: France & de Gaulle were looking to the President for some solution to their ever-growing problem and desire to be a fully recognized partner of the big three -: source Army & London newspapers.)

I don’t think since Geo. Washington, our very first president, & father of our country, has a man been so esteemed in the hearts of the American people. I wept unashamedly when the news – like a thunderbolt struck from out of the blue. I went all thick inside & my eyes burned & a stray tear rolled down my face when we stood a special reveille this A.M., and Old Glory was hung at half-mast. The entire field (thousands of men) turned out at 6.30 this morning for the ceremony. As he was Commander-in-Chief of the entire Navy, Army, Air Force, & Marines, this ceremony was probably repeated all over the world, because there is hardly a place the entire globe around where a Yank cannot be found. He was tops with service men, and if he could have just lived until the dastardly enemy was finally crushed and destroyed.

April 14th

My dearest little Cathie:

Someday I shall complete this epistle – by that time I shall have grown & extended (probably into a full-length novel, for which I shall ask & demand 8’6 – as a true author should.

I bought all of today’s papers (which I shall send home,) and the tributes given our great leader by every Englishman – from Mr. Churchill on down to the man in the street – were touching. I want my Mother to see that he was well-liked all over the civilized world. The flag is still flying at half-mast

[page break]


and probably will for a month. We are restricted to the base tonight, as this is the day of the funeral, and the supreme commander has issued a warning – or order – that mourning will be in effect for 30 days. I don’t think we’ll be restricted after tonight. It’s damn little to do (to stay in – I wouldn’t want to go drinking tonight anyway – in fact, however much I love it, I’d restrict myself from alcoholics for the duration if I thought it would help).

I went to see “Song of Russia” last night on the base with the ex-heart throb, Robert Taylor, who is now an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Air Corps – Hollywood’s attempt to glorify the Russian cause – which, except for the music – by Tschaikowsky [sic] (Pathetique [inserted] (Doubtful spelling) [/inserted] ‘Symphony, Concerto in B flat minor, etc., etc.) – which was beautifully played, the whole effort fell miles short of its intended goal. Albert Coates made a brief appearance, as conductor in New York’s Carnegie Hall. He, (A. Coates) Dr. Malcolm Sargent, and Sir Thomas Beecham are all in America now, conducting. The U.S. pays fabulous salaries to get these prominent conductors in an effort to make the public more conscious of good music. Anyone would be a fool not to accept such glittering prizes as £25,000 per broadcast – that’s what the National Broadcasting Co. pays Arturo (doubtful spelling) Toscanini for conducting the N.B.C. symphony (he recorded the album I gave you)

“Nuff” about that I’m probably boring you. Sometimes I’d like to see you in one of your acts. I might consider writing a vehicle for you to star in. When you’re a famous actress, and I’m a famous writer (& playwright – very, very doubtful – I mean on my part) I shall seek you for the feminine lead. In New Orleans we have Le Petit Theatre, Vieux Carre, which is known all over the States, & if you can maintain a French accent, I’ll write you a play – where you portray a Louisianna ‘Cajun Like Ingrid Bergman in “Sartoga [sic] Trunk.” If you ever get the chance, see that picture. It hasn’t been released to the public yet, but the forces get the pick of new pictures. Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, and your own Flora Robson (what an actress!!!) – Flora plays a mulatto (half negress, half white) and almost steals

[page break]


the show from such an experienced actress as Miss B. & is laid in New Orleans of a century ago, when we still were the most romantic & dashing in the whole U.S. – the center [sic] of culture & society – brave men fighting duels at sunrise under knarled [sic] old magnolia trees over the hand of some delightful femme fatale! But then we hadn’t allowed English civilization (no inclinations) to crowd out our noble French customs, which are now dying a natural death, because where chivalry once ruled, the almighty dollar is now king supreme. Thank God the old French city (the oldest large city in America) is still retained, & the cuisine! Yum-yum! French pastries, breads, boudin, greols, [sic] sauces, oysters a la Rockafellow – I could go on, and [deleted] over [/deleted] and on. People flock from every corner of the State to sample the old spirit still kept in the French Quarter (Vieux Carre). Naturally where you find a lot of tourists, you find the extremes in religion & vice. The Old St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Sq. is a perfect example of old-world architecture, and the House citizens of N.O. built for Napoleon is now a public bar & lounge, serving French cocktails & wines exclusively.

I remember perfectly my last night as a civilian – Oct. 19, 1942. I had been sworn into the Army on Oct. 6, received a 2 week furlough in which I had a perfectly sober time, but on this night I intended to have a “bang-on” (apologies to Miss C. Meyer) time. I was with a Jewish babe, and my good friend – already in the Army, and on leave to help me celebrate, had his girl-friend. We started out about 10 P.M. after seeing a show (being a tourist town, N.O. night life begins about eleven P.M. and lasts until 7 the next morning, the night clubs, etc. remaining open 24 hours a day, except on election days. – then they close & sell no spirits to protect the establishments from intoxicated mirth-makers.
New Orleans is the birthplace of blues, jazz, ragtime, boogie-woogie, and virtually all American music. We went from night club to patio, to courtyard –

[page break]


restaurants – right out of one into another, having thick steaks charcoal broiled at 3 A.M. (what devils we were!!!), wining, & dining, forgetting the outside world & living for the present only. Cathie, you should see that street – you walk out of a Russian night club into a Gypsy Roumanian [sic] one, then to La Lune (Mexican flavor), [sic] then to Jean Lafitte (French) and scores of others. About 5 A.M. we wound up at Club Bali, the foremost of modern American nightclubs, just as the final floor-show was going on. Colored [sic] musicians were literally dripping perspiration over gaily colored [sic] musical instruments, while a young negress came out and writhed & wriggled into contortions while executing a savage, jungle dance that brought forth thunderous applause & deep admirations from the customers. For a second one might think he had been transported deep into the heart of darkest Africa & was witnessing an uncivilized ritual. Then the band played several “hot” numbers, and lastly Jerome Kern’s celebrated “Make Believe” which I love -- This was the last song I heard as a civilian, and so many times have I heard it since, during which time I am automatically carried back to New Orleans, Vieux Carre, Club Bali, and my friends. Stan, my best friend who was with me that night is now dead (as I’ve told you before) – killed in a Liberator crash just one month after receiving his commission in the Air Force, as a bombardier. What has happened to his girl, I don’t know ….

As the musicians fondly packed hot instruments into garish, felt-line cases, I made my departure of the Club Bali – knowing it would be a long, long time before I set foot in here again – possibly never. I was a little saddened at the thought of leaving this behind – this gaiety, this life, this – New Orleans, because to me it represented home, where the old and new worlds met and often conflicted; it represented everything I had ever known and cherished – everything civilian. Even when we were in the taxi, racing out old St. Charles Ave. with it’s [sic] rows of castle-like mansions, where dwelled the rich, near rich, & socially prominent, I fancied I could still hear the melodious strains of “Make Believe,” and for a moment I sat back and sighed.

“Make Believe,” I said, half audible –
“Only Make believe”

[page break]


As I predicted in one of the earlier chapters, this nonsense promises to go own, [symbol] (I keep making that mistake own for on) I simply must write to my Mother, and get out my newspaper column. Did I tell you that I have contracted to do one article (1,000 – 1,500 word) each week for a newspaper back home – a true story of my life in the Army & especially of England. I’m doing a series now & will send them 10 or 12 at a time to insure arrival in time to make the deadline. When they are published, I’ll send you some of them okay?

So let me say Au revoir for the present – and please write real soon (another masterpiece) I’ll be writing you soon, too –

So for now
All my love

P.S. Please remit 8’6 by mail immediately for this special “first edition.”

Mr. H.



F Killen, “Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 20, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/39876.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.