That first month at Camp Funston, October 1917, Grandpa wrote “my dear girl” nearly every day, often using paper provided by the Y.M.C.A. His “dear girl” was Inis Dykes, her first name pronounced EYE-nis (rhymes with iris).
The two sweethearts had first seen each other, Grandma recalled years later, when two horse-drawn buggies passed each other “one rainy, muddy night.” Her brother Charley was driving theirs when they met a “four-horse team hitched to a wagon bringing a load of poultry from Fairport to King City. The driver and Charley exchanged greetings,” Grandma remembered. “When I asked who it was, he said Tom Alderson and he sure is a fine fellow.” Grandma and Grandpa would later meet at the Christian Church in King City. He offered to drive her home after a service, which led to their dating “pretty regularly until he was called for service.”
Grandma’s family had farmed in the King City area since the middle of the nineteenth century. She was born there on December 10, 1892. Her older sister Mattie was five that year, and Charley was three. Four years later her little sister Mary was born. They all attended a small one-room schoolhouse. As was common, Grandma finished school after eight years and joined the larger community–playing piano at church, fixing and serving meals to farm hands who came to harvest crops, and, during the war, supporting their “soldier boys,” by knitting sweaters, rolling cloth bandages, making candy and cakes to send to the troops, and writing letters.
Grandpa answered each letter, writing even when there wasn’t much to report. One Sunday night, October 21, 1917, he apologized for writing “the same thing twice.” He was distracted by a group of his buddies standing over him, kidding him about “that girl of yours you write to every Damn night.” One asked to see her picture.
Grandpa loved to tease and that final sentence is classic. “One fellow said you was too good looking for me, but I don’t think so do you (just right).”
I don’t know which pictures he had, only that he kept them with him during the long months of his service. A year after arriving at Camp Funston, he sent a letter from “some place in France,” probably on another rainy, muddy night. “I have our dugout all decorated up about right and right over the entrance I have a frame with your picture and mine in it.” He also told her to keep writing as “the letters are the best thing we get over here.”
She treasured his letters, too, saving them in an old shoe box for the rest of her life.