"Sunday, Aug. 10th/40
A day of rest again. Some of the boys are still indulging in a few hours longer in their bunks. I have had breakfast, porridge, egg & sliced ham, fried potatoes and coffee; washed out my towel, shirt and hung them on the line today and here I am talking to you. We could find plenty of interesting things to do here, i.e. if you wouldn't freeze to an icicle getting here.
Yesterday afternoon half of the crew were permitted to go ashore for the first time since our arrival here. I drew 10 Kronin (the equivalent of eight shillings, or $1.60 our money).
The first thing I did was to look for a telegraph office but on learning it would cost $2.00 to $3.00 to send a short message I could not indulge. I then looked up some similar blood but came across nobody I knew, but had long talks with a few who knew and came from our country.
I then looked around for something that might be interesting and typical of life here but had no luck. All shops were closed, it being Saturday afternoon. I looked over the central part of the city (43,000 people) and saw a very impressive looking parliament building, somewhat resembling an old French farmhouse only a bit larger. A monument or two, statues of early settlers and statesmen are to be seen nearby, and about the only piece of grass in the place is to be seen in front. The streets are very narrow and only one or two are paved. Shopping district is quite concentrated but of course the shops are not at all comparable to modern standards. However one sees the usual classes of business, jewelers, barbers, grocers, bakeries, dry goods etc. and as always restaurants. By the time I had surveyed the major part of the city I came across three of our boys so we pooled what money we had and looked for a place to eat. We indulged in a cup of coffee and something that resembled a slice of buttered brown bread with a very thinly sliced portion of cured fish on it; and half a dozen so-called cakes, which resembled small coils of rope. Plain, unflavoured food seems to be the characteristic. Well, after the 'meal' we looked up one of the two picture houses here. We had to wait until 7:30 before we could get in as 'theatres' only open here in the evening. For the equivalent of 50 cents we got a seat and saw a six month's old picture, so I understand, entitled "In the News" or something like that. It was well acted, and the plot, somewhat similar to a detective story, was interesting to say the least. Oh, yes, just before the show we started to look for fish hooks so as to fish over the ship's side after working hours, a cheap past time for many of the boys. Since all shops were closed we had to do some tall scouting. Finally we came across a sail maker in a little old shack who very kindly took us to a nearby telephone and got in touch with a hardware merchant who very kindly came down to his store and opened up for us. We purchased fish hooks, Lux soap, (2 bars for 40 cents--what do you think of that?), knives, tobacco & cigarettes. I wanted another towel as one of mine had blown overboard, but on pricing towels I could get nothing under three Kronin, so I thought it would be better to see a picture, determined to make the one towel last until we see England. Well, after the picture we roamed about until we came to another restaurant where we had a cup of tea each and two small cakes each for which we paid the equivalent of 45 cents. You can see how small the purchasing power of money is here, no doubt times are not normal in the business field.
There is a hot spring just outside of this city and an attempt is being made to lead it in concrete ducts so that all houses can be heated by it. I shall explain this phenomenal undertaking later. You can have a bath, which two of our boys had, at the public baths, a most unattractive looking building, for 2 Kronin.
The most striking thing I have learned about this place is that very little snow, if any, is seen from year to year (yet the surrounding hill tops are covered in snow almost all year round.). It seems that the small stream which flows through the park, chiefly dead water as there is very little movement to it, has not frozen over for six years. The climate is rainy and quite a lot of wind keeps the air cool at all times. The men are characteristically sandy hair, stockily built, fine features and tidy in appearance,, the girls are predominantly blond and follow American styles quite closely, but much more simply and plainly dressed. The streets are so narrow and winding that two vehicles have to slow down and frequently stop in order to pass, especially when taking a corner. There is not a single tree to be seen anywhere, and in the park the odd flower plot that we saw, displayed plants and flowers similar to our own, pansies, snapdragons, marigold, a species of cosmos, delphinium and the one or two groups of bushes included a very dwarf species of white birch (only three or four feet high) and another bush about the size of a grape vine.
Well, Dearie, I hope I have not tired you with this description. If you were here we would enjoy it even if it appears to be very plain and somewhat drab. No doubt if one became acquainted and familiar with the local customs he would appreciate conditions better. At present life is disturbed and things are not normal. Fishing of course is about the only industry--very few factories are established here, fish canning being the chief.
I have been greatly worried about you Sweetheart. I don't know how you are making out financially and I have no way of getting aid to you until I reach England. My pay is accumulating and so far I have about fifty dollars coming to me. In addition to our regular wages of 10 pounds, 12 shillings, we get a bonus of 5 pounds per month.
If you can managed until I can send you some, which I shall do by cablegram, I shall send it to Royal Bank of Canada, College & Spadina branch just as soon as I arrive. I'm very sorry indeed to have you worry as must be doing.
I miss you terribly Sweetheart and am ever thinking of you. There are two other chaps, Owen Williams, and the carpenter (Peters) who are very find boys, and are happily married. We have some rare old chats. We usually keep together and swap tales.
As yet no letter has arrived from you and before we leave I shall get another chance to enquire at the post office. The other half of the crew are going ashore today and I shall get one of them to post this letter. Heaps of love Sweetheart and a great big hug & kiss.
Note that he never mentions that he is in Iceland, but she knows.