State Historic Site

Trail End

Letters Home - Roy Leon Haywood

ROY LEON HAYWOOD was born in the mining town of Cambria, Wyoming, where his English-born father was a mining engineer. After the family moved to Sheridan, Roy grew up in a house on Loucks Street. 


As soon as he was old enough, he went to work as a timekeeper for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, and later trained for the position of machinist. 


Roy joined the Army Air service in May 1918, where he rose to the rank of corporal. After the war, he returned to Sheridan, married a local girl (Mary Pelissier), and went back to work for "the Q." He died in 1929.


The following excerpts are from a pair of letters Roy wrote while stationed at Camp Lewis in Washington state. While other missives in the "Letters Home" series address basic training itself, Roy's letters describe the wartime Seattle-Tacoma area as he saw it from the vantage point of a sightseer in uniform. 


Undated letter published 26 July 1918
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The Pacific Highway runs through here all the way to the coast, and it is real nice traveling to ride over a good road like the one I was on. The road is made of concrete about eight inches thick and one-half inch of some kind of preparation laid on top, and it is wide enough for cars to pass one another at a high rate of speed; and when riding it seems more like one is flying, for there are no jars or bumps. ... [Going to Tacoma] we passed cars both coming and going, and for several minutes I tried to count the cars we passed, but got only up to 670 and then stopped, for it is almost impossible to keep track of them all.


After eating [lunch in Tacoma], I ran across two of the boys from my company. They told me they were going to go to Seattle by boat, so I decided to go along, for I had never been on a big boat before. On one side of the sound (Puget Sound), I saw very large shipyards, and counted 43 ships in the course of construction. Some had only one or two braces of the keel laid; others were ready to be launched, but all of the ships in this one yard were built of wood. Thousands of men were working on them. In the water, in front of the yards, there were 29 ships that had been launched, but not finally completed. Some were painted, and some not, and none of them had their smoke-stacks on yet. 


We passed a big ocean liner going to Seattle. This was a real big ship. ... One thing I noticed, there were not many passengers, people are not traveling across the ocean now so freely. 


Just before docking at Seattle, we passed another large shipyard. Here, the different ships were being painted the new way, or camouflaging. One I noticed in particular was a large ocean liner. It was painted at the front end of the ship - from the deck down to the water line - it was painted a dark gray, for about ten feet back; then a light blue, then a white, dark blue, black, white, blue, and so on, the whole length of the ship, and when we drew away from it, I could hardly see it at a distance of one mile. 


[Once in Seattle,], myself and the other two boys got a nice room at the Hotel Burke, and we got there just in time to rent the last room. Some of the soliders were unable to find a room and had to stay up all night. 


I walked around for three hours seeing everything I could; I went down to the dock where the big fishing boats come in and saw them unload tons and tons of fish. Here also were big sailing vessels; two, four and eight masts, some with their sails unfurled, while others had their sails all furled up. Small donkey engines were running up and down the dock, and with their whistling and wheezing, squeaking of pulleys from cranes overhead, along with the shouting of men, it seemed to me I was in some kind of a crazy man's paradise. 


From here I went back up town and went on top of the tallest building on the Pacific Coast. From the top I could see for miles and miles, and it is a wonderful sight to stand there and look all around over the city and bay; only there can one realize what a wonderful country we are living in. I looked across the bay and counted all the vessels I could see ... over 300, so it does not seem as if Germany could ever sink all of them. In Seattle I saw thousands of sailors on leave from their ships, and they sure are a fine looking bunch of boys.


Undated letter published 2 August 1918

I went over to Tacoma again last Saturday, and went over to Seattle. Passing by the shipyards, I noticed most of the ships that were in the "ways" last week were mostly all finished, and some were already launched. Shipbuilding in Seattle must surely by progressing satisfactorily for the government. 


I went to the Y. M. C. A. rooms and on Sunday morning ... after breakfast, I and my chum went down to the docks. Civilians are not allowed around the docks if they are not working there, and even then, they must show a photograph of themselves on demand from any of the soldier guards. I, being in uniform, had only to show my pass, so I was permitted to see everything I wanted to. I went on board one of Uncle Sam's newest merchant ships, which was just being loaded for its first trip across the water, and walked around the deck, went in the engine room, etc. The government is building this class of ship in great numbers; everything is standardized on them so it makes it easy to build them at such a fast rate. 


The people of Seattle sure treat a soldier first class. Why, even the Japs, selling fruit, give the soldier the best of the deal. The only ones that take advantage of us are the hotel keepers. 

(From "In the World War")