Military Postcards, Postcards, United States

Keep ’em Flying: Writing on the Move [“Camp Boardwalk” – Atlantic City, New Jersey – 1942]

Atlantic City, NY 1945 Keep 'em Flying Air Corps Image lg

For the two years my husband was in Army flight school, we dated long-distance. Then, cell phones had slide-out keyboards, Taylor Swift was a pubescent country artist, and the quest to post the coolest AOL instant messenger “away message” often occupied a corner of my thoughts. I sometimes wrote him letters, even though such a thing was, by then, terribly old fashioned for people our age. I remember occasionally writing to him while trying to stave off boredom in my Strategic Management class, as I worked toward finishing my senior year in college. Much of my correspondence is tucked away in storage somewhere, but a few months ago, I came across one letter with a large jittery squiggle snaking across the page.

The caption I had written for the doodle explained the jagged line to be evidence of turbulence. I had been writing while on a commercial flight (one I was probably on after a weekend visiting my favorite young pilot), and held the tip of my pen to the paper as the plane bounced about.

It seems military facilities popped up in every hamlet and metropolis in the entire U.S. during the early 1940’s, and resort towns were certainly not spared. Cities like Atlantic City, New Jersey provided unique assets suited to housing the glut of new trainees. The federal government leased a whopping 45 hotels to accommodate service members assigned to the Atlantic City Training Center, as well as took over the Atlantic City Convention Hall, the largest structure of its kind in the world at the time. The military presence in Atlantic City became known informally as “Camp Boardwalk.”

For recruits, indoctrination included all of the aspects of basic training one would expect: drill, weapons use, military conduct, etc.. For trainees who were, upon arrival, unable to competently read and write, instructors taught them the rudiments of literacy to a 4th grade skill level. Such men would have obtained a sufficient education to send a postcard before being transferred to their next duty station. However, in October 1942, Private Antone “Tony” Blahnik did not need to be taught to write. He needed only a stable surface on which to steady his pen, a circumstance which seemed to be in unfortunately short supply.

Because Pvt. Blahnik mentions traveling in an eastward direction, included no assigned unit under his name, and mailed the card from Atlantic City, I would guess he mailed this little note shortly after arriving there for training. Tony explains to Bee Schaltz that he attempted to write her a letter the previous evening while en route, but the motion of the train rendered his words illegible. And, he barely scratches out this postcard before his lurching transportation thwarts him again. You can see the crude squiggles his neat cursive was reduced to has he signed his name.

Though most of us now enjoy the absurd luxury of real-time two-way video communication, I think none of it quite compares to the intimacy of capturing motion and emotion on scraps of paper. I mailed my thoughts and turbulent pen marks to my sweetheart when I arrived home. And upon his arrival, Tony sent this message marked with the tumult of the train and of the times which he would continue to endure.

[Read more about Atlantic City during World War II below.]

Atlantic City, NY 1945 Keep 'em Flying Air Corps message lg

Dear Bee,

I started a letter last night when the train was moving, its so bad I don’t think I’ll send it. We are moving east, we passed through Pittsburgh (some hilly country). Got a letter from home, they had a party for Edward [?] Sun. afternoon. Train is moving again.

tony

To: Miss Bernice M. Schaltz | 8811 W. Grant St. | West Allis, Wisconsin

From: Pvt. Antone T. Blahnik, U.S. Army Air Corps

Postmark: Atlantic City, New Jersey – October 21, 1942

Image: “KEEP ‘EM FLYING, featuring U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Army Air Force World War II aircraft. Printed by Curt Teich & Co.


The Atlantic City Training Center

Interestingly, researching this particular initial training hub, “Army Air Forces Basic Training Center No. 7“, is difficult. The Wikipedia page for this installation states that its official military records were destroyed within two decades of the close of the war because the location was not associated with any particular fighting unit. The local newspapers have retained some photos of the wartime activities, but the training center reverted back to civilian use immediately following the war. Virtually no trace of its existence is still evident in Atlantic City, except that the convention hall, once used for military drills, remains as an official historic landmark now known as Boardwalk Hall.

1940s Atlantic City Postcard showing hotels and convention center
Attribution: Newberry Library’s Curt Teich postcard archive.
Looking from Ocean, showing Atlantic City Auditorium and Convention Hall circa 1940
Attribution: Boston Public Library via Flickr

Hospital on the Beach: Thomas England General Hospital

Beginning in September of 1942, the U.S. Army Air Force took over multiple resort hotel properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey for use as a military hospital facility. The newly commandeered complex boasted space for 2,800 patients for surgeries, rehabilitation, and prosthetic fitting, as well as housing nursing staff.

Thomas England General Hospital Atlantic City, N.J. circa 1944
Attribution: U.S. National Library of Medicine Digital Collections

Sources:

Press of Atlantic City, April 2020
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_City_Training_Center
https://www.irishbrigade.com/blogs/http-www-irishbrigade-com-blogs/resorts-was-formally-wwii-military-hospital-thomas-england-general-hospital
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resorts_Casino_Hotel

Looking for more?

Check out these other vintage “Lost Greetings” postcards.


Comments are welcome!

Let me know you stopped by, or share what you found most interesting about this card.

6 thoughts on “Keep ’em Flying: Writing on the Move [“Camp Boardwalk” – Atlantic City, New Jersey – 1942]”

  1. You know I just love this blog: mystery, history, and vintage postcards. At first, I thought: Bee? Did he spell Bea wrong? Nope, Bee for Bernice. I love that. The old names, the forgotten places. In the early 60s my dad went off to the Navy and spent some time in Norfolk, VA, and undoubtedly Virginia Beach, before being stationed in…Hawaii. Poor guy spent 4 of the best years of his life in one of the best spots!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We love all the same things about these cards! My family’s deep military roots adds to my fascination too.
      Coastal Virginia (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, NAS Oceana, Langley Air Force Base, and more) was crammed full of people during the early 1940s. In subsequent decades it has definitely been an “easy” place to be stationed, and I grew up there because of the military. I plan to write a future blog post about Miami as well, where they also used resort hotels to house service members during World War II. I also found it interesting that Atlantic City, Norfolk, and Miami all had blackout restrictions during the war because of their location on the coast and the threat of U-Boat attacks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that you added a bit of personal info to your latest post! It’s amazing to think of what these East Coast towns must have looked like with the military presence. I admit one of the fun things about living near Annapolis is seeing the midshipmen around town (I mean, the guys look nice in those dress whites!). I’ll be interested in your Miami post. I never think of Miami as a military town, but then a lot’s changed since the 40s!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, Kate! Nice blogpost. The stories behind the short messages on the cards are exciting, but what I probably like most about old postcards is the way they are looking on the front page. You don’t see cards, that look like a comic novel at the front, these days anymore. The “Keep’em Flying” postcard for example, with all the classic planes on it, just looks so cool. The postcard from the Atlantic City Training Center reminds me a lot of a movie poster in a cinema.
    Do you know anything about the Curt Teich copyright stamp on it? Is that the name of the artist or is it the name of the publisher or maybe something else?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dennis! I enjoy your posts as well, but they usually make me miss living in Germany!
      Though I focus on collecting cards which have been used as correspondence (rather than blank ones kept as souvenirs), I find the artwork of the 1930’s through 1950’s stunning and cinematic as well.
      Curt Teich was a German-American publisher/printer based in Chicago whose company made high-quality “offset printed” cards with the distinctive graphic style we love. Many other smaller publishers and printers existed throughout the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century, as well. Occasionally, the individual artist or photographer who created the image is credited by name on the cards, but usually not, due to the commercial nature of the work.
      I recommend browsing the Newberry Library’s postcard collection (mostly Curt Teich cards). It is favorite pastime of mine, and I pin a lot of my favorites over on pinterest. You can find the archive here: https://archive.org/details/newberrypostcards

      Liked by 1 person

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