Advice for the New Recruit at Camp Dix - 1918
“YOU’LL LIKE IT!”
First registration, then a searching questionnaire frication, followed by anxious expectation, and finally the realization that you can drop your little everyday work and worries and take part in the Great Adventure.
Maybe you have never been “from home” and don't know how to act out in the world, or maybe you have. In either case the parting from home and loved ones will probably not affect you as much as will the anxiety of not knowing exactly what is “coming to you” when you reach Camp.
You have a vague, nervous dread that you may show yourself a boob when you land amid strange scenes and fellows and try to fall in with a method of life entirely new to you.
You wonder also what you ought to take along to Camp; in fact, a multitude of questions crowd into your busy mind, and maybe no good friend is at hand to put you wise.
A New York organization recently asked us to give them some information on “What a man needs to know” when about to leave for Camp. We publish this below, with the hope that it may be helpful to some.
FOOD AND CLOTHING
What is the average daily menu at Camp ?
Each company has its own mess sergeant, who plans the meals so as to give as much variety as possible from day to day. We asked the nearest mess sergeant to give us his menu for the last two days, and this is what was served :
Breakfast—Boiled eggs, two to a man; plain fried potatoes, a piece of honey dew melon, bread and coffee, with plenty of milk and sugar. The second day’s breakfast included hot cakes with syrup and butter, corn flakes, sliced bananas, bread and coffee.
Dinner—Roast loin of pork, with apple sauce and brown gravy, browned potatoes, cocoanut pudding, bread and tea. A typical Sunday dinner — Fricassee of chicken, baked sweet potatoes, fresh string beans, boiled rice, ice cream with lady fingers, bread and coffee. A Friday dinner usually includes some kind of fish— say, fried codfish with tomato sauce.
Then along about 5:45 you hear the bugler’s welcome call again, and although it may sound like:
“Soup-y, soup-y, without a single bean;
Pork-y, pork-y, pork, without a streak of lean ;
Coffee, coffee, coffee, the weakest ever seen,”
what you are likely to find is roast beef with gravy and browned potatoes, fresh peas and bread and coffee.
You will be well fed in the Army. Most men gain in weight after a few weeks in Camp. Those with too much soft fat, the result of overeating or underworking in civilian life, will, of course, soon find themselves with less fat and more hard, healthy muscle.
Notwithstanding the high cost of living, the cost per day of feeding a man in Camp Dix with the kind of food that builds him up and puts pep, spunk and fight into him is $0.4865— less than fifty cents a day at this writing. Yes, Uncle Sam makes his contracts in the open market, but he buys in immense quantities, and the company cooks serve 250 men at a time.
Some civilian stewards of big hotels and restaurants might profit by the Army system if they didn’t try to cater to the hundred different taste whims of people who want a wide choice at each meal, war or no war.
But the management which raises the price of milk five cents a glass when it costs it only five cents more a quart— well, what we would line to say about such would break our printing press?
Any of the boys in Camp would like to shoot them with bullets made from Liberty bond buttons.
Can men buy food outside or own mess, and it so, where?
Yes, at the post exchange or canteen, which is the Army name for regimental store, where you can usually buy some kind of soft drinks, milk, coffee, pies and cakes; fruit, like oranges and apples, candy and tobacco, in these exchanges may also be bought everything else that may be wanted by the boys — pencils and fountain pens, stationery, daily newspapers and magazines, anything necessary for shaving, toothbrushes and paste, soap, Army insignia, and so on.
Is there any substitute provided tor those who do not drink coffee?
Usually cocoa and tea, and very often milk, may be had. Good, pure water always.
Should a man wear his own uniform (if he has any), or should civilian clothes be worn until equipment is furnished?
A man should leave for Camp with an old suit of clothes, a change or two of underwear and socks, an old pair of comfortable shoes, an extra towel and plenty of soap, patience and good nature.
Your uncle will furnish you with uniform and everything you need, and in a few days you will probably be able to send back everything you brought along.
The less "truck" you have in Camp, outside of what your barracks bag is supposed to hold, the less your troubles will be. Of course, you may have your own tailored uniform, but it isn't good politics to push your officers too hard on style.
In the Army the tailor does not make the man. The wise ones with a tailored uniform keep it at home to doll up in when home on pass or furlough. But it is hardly patriotic to have such an extra uniform, considering the need of Khaki cloth.
In what form should money be taken?
You can get along in Camp without any money whatever. But few care to. Ten to fifteen dollars in cash is a fair amount to bring along, and should last you till your first pay, except in case of emergency, or until you have bridled your extravagant tastes and habits. It is best not to have too much money with you.
You can open a bank account in nearby towns. Money from home should be sent in Postal or American Express money order; the first can always be cashed at the Camp post office, the second at the YMCA huts, on proper endorsement from your commanding officer. Do not bring any Canadian money.
Advise your folks and friends not to write to you until you have sent them the number or letter of the company and the regiment or battalion to which you are assigned; otherwise, their letters may never reach you.
Simply Mr. Reuben Green, Camp Dix, N. J. is not enough. When Mr. Green joins the Army he becomes Private Reuben Green and should be addressed as such, Company — (letter or number), — Regiment (or Battalion No. —, if in Depot Brigade), Camp Dix, N. J.
What minor operations is it desirable to have performed before reaching Camp? (Teeth fixed, eyeglasses fitted, hair cut, etc.)
Some haircuts we have seen brought to Camp we would class as major operations. If your hair is frowsy, have it trimmed. A neat appearance, even if in old clothes, on your arrival in Camp will give your new comrades and your officers a better impression.
There are barbers in Camp, but— well, have you ever put off that haircut until the last thing before seeing your girl!
Also, there are lots of dentists in Camp, and these drill masters usually have lots of work; but they will do the work free for you. However, if you can have your teeth fixed by your favorite dentist, so much the better. "Fixed" they will have to be, if they need it.
If you need glasses or a change of glasses, oculists in Camp will examine you and fix you up with proper glasses at cost.
How soon do inoculations take place? Are prior inoculations accepted as a substitute for inoculations after arrival?
The new men are usually inoculated on the day of arrival or the day following. Prior inoculations are not accepted, except when properly certified to by an Army doctor; and this is seldom practical.
Furloughs and passes.
A pass may mean anything from a few hours to a week. A furlough is usually ten days. A furlough only endues you to the cent-a-mile railroad fare, a "midnight pass" is the easiest to get, and generally permits you to leave Camp from retreat or suppertime at night to reveille in the morning.
Weekend passes, good from noon Saturday until reveille Monday morning, are generally limited to a certain percentage of the men one week, other men to a like total being allowed off the next week.
On holidays sometimes as many as one man in four, or even more, are given passes. In granting a pass, your record is generally considered, the purpose for which you want a pass, passenger traffic conditions on the railroads out of Camp, and so forth.
Furloughs in the Army are a gift of the gods, seldom granted unless you have been in the service several months, and then entirely dependent on a great number of conditions and circumstances.
Should final naturalization papers be taken out before going to Camp?
Get your final papers, by all means, if at all possible, before coming to Camp. Being a full-fledged citizen will help you a lot in a number of ways.
However, if time and other conditions make it impossible for you to obtain your final papers before going to Camp, as soon as assigned to a company bring the matter to the attention of your commanding officer, and he will pave the way for you.
Naturalization court sessions are frequently held in Camp.
What kinds of cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, etc., are obtainable at Camp?
Practically all popular brands of each may be bought at the exchanges. As the boys sing:
“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust;
If the Camels don’t get you, the Fatimas must.”
But if you do not use tobacco in civil life, you can certainly also get along in the Army without it.
Are there obtainable at Camp medicines, books, games, candy, chewing gum, etc.?
Do not bring any medicine along; neither Peruna nor bitters. Your health will be more carefully looked after than it ever has. Whatever treatment or medicines you may need you may be assured you will obtain. The bugler's “sick call” in the morning will soon sound to you like:
“Come and get your iodine, come and get your salts.
Oh, come and get your iodine, come and get your salts!”
As for books, there is a big library in Camp, under the management of the American Library Association. This contains nearly 10,000 volumes, on almost any subject you may be interested in. Books can be drawn without any red tape.
In addition to this, the Y. M. C. A. huts and K. of C. buildings have each a fair-sized library entirely for your use.
You will probably find more opportunity for reading, study and self-improvement in Camp than you have had in civilian life, if you will but take advantage of it.
In the line of games you will find everything from checkers to pushball.
Candy, especially of the chocolate bar variety, may be had at the exchanges. A great many fellows soon find they get more of a hankering for candy than they ever had in civil life, due partly to the lack of jellies and sweetened preserves, of which they may have had their fill at home. When on guard or similar duty a bit of chocolate somewhere about you is often a big comfort.
The sporting of a mustache depends largely on your temperament. If it is a natural part of you, well and good. But woe unto you if the fellows decide it does not fit.
Most of the boys shave clean, and shave every day; for you are in the Army now. Beards are not becoming below the rank of colonel, and even then sparingly indulged in.
How often may one receive visitors ?
Usually every Saturday afternoon and Sunday visitors may come to Camp, and you will have time to be with them; except, of course, in cases of quarantine or other emergencies.
Are Notaries Public accessible?
Generally some one at Camp Headquarters in the Judge Advocate’s office can act as such. Ask your officers.
Yes, there are public pay booths in Camp, but the service is usually swamped and delays frequent and annoying. For long distance, “appointment” calls are best. Put in a call, advising the other party to call you up at a certain time.
Finally, When you get to Camp you will find your arrival was expected, and you will probably be met by men in uniform wearing white bands on their arms.
Thereafter it will be a personally conducted tour. Keep your eyes and ears open, obey orders, “pack up you troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.”
"You'll Like It!," in the Camp Dix Pictorial Review, Philadelphia: I. L. Cochrane, Vol. I, No. 10, 20 October 1918, p. 4.