Entertainments at Sea

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F-6396 -- Phonograph kit, detail.
F-6396 — Phonograph kit, detail.

What do you do when you’re on a weeks-long trip, wedged into the hold of a Liberty ship? The inevitable boredom was apparently enough of a concern that the US Army made up crates of amusements for soldiers embarking for overseas service. Some of them make perfect sense, like small, portable musical instruments, or a collection of books. One wonders, however, where is there enough space to have a baseball game without losing the ball? Here is a selection of some of the more interesting sets pictured, with descriptions in the captions.

F-6936 Musical Kit
F-6936, Phonograph kit. Includes a phonograph and records, a radio, and an assortment of books.
F-6934 Music set
F-6934, Music kit. This version of the music kit (there were several) has guitars, a violin, a banjo, harmonicas, ocarinas, and tonettes, with an assortment of sheet music. Other sets had ukuleles, and one had a set of drums and an accordion.
F-6933 Music kit
F-6933, Music kit. This kit combines the musical and theatrical kits, with three ukuleles, dozens of harmonicas and other small instruments, stage makeup, western style shirts and hats, and a single paper top hat.
F-6932 Library kit
F-6932, Library kit. A soldiers’ library, many of these books are apparently aimed at the WACs and Red Cross nurses who were also being sent overseas. These libraries contained a good mix of reference materials, classic literature and poetry, and pulp novels.
F-6930 Athletic kit
F-6930, Athletic kit. This crate contains equipment for various sports including baseball, table tennis, and boxing, and several deflated footballs for more efficient shipping. There are also several decks of cards and a “Chinese checkers” board.
F-6931 Art kit
F-6931, Drawing kit. This smaller crate holds sketchbooks and nicer paper, bottles of ink and special pen nibs, and charcoals and conte crayons for the artistically inclined. Given the photos we have of soldiers’ art shows, this kind of creativity was not uncommon.
F-6929 Theatrical Kit
F-6929, Theatrical kit. This kit mainly includes the sorts of materials that are needed behind scenes — hammers, saws, screwdrivers, and heavy gloves for building sets. There is also a set of what appears to be theatrical make-up in the pockets of an apron, and an array of costumes, including a rather creepy pirate mask.

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