The Last Trip Home

 

Train postcard

A postcard Grandpa sent earlier in the spring.

Grandpa’s last trip home ended badly, in a misunderstanding with Grandma. When he boarded the train to go back to camp, he knew he’d have some explaining to do.

This trip home, from April 6-14, had been organized by the Army. They sent nearly 30 soldiers to their homes in northwest Missouri to drum up support for the war. As the King City Chronicle noted, April 12, the “soldier boys” came with “their guns, tents and all camp equipment.” Big crowds gathered to marvel at “bayonet charges” and the speedy way the soldiers set up their tents.

The soldiers went, like a traveling show (seems to me), from one little town to the next, staging their exhibitions first at Maysville, then Osborn, Cameron, Union Star, and finally, on Saturday, in King City. At each location, patriotic speeches were offered, bands played familiar all-American tunes, and townspeople bought Liberty Bonds.

Bond ads

These ads ran in the April 12 King City Chronicle, the same issue that described the military drills. Both ads capture the point of view of this newspaper–that the war in Europe was fought to protect freedoms at home.

That Saturday in King City, on the 13th, the last day of the tour, Grandpa sat down at a dinner. I don’t know if Grandma attended, only that Grandpa was finishing up when his buddies told him to hurry up and join them. He looked for Grandma but couldn’t find her to say goodbye. First thing he did, back at Camp Funston, was start apologizing.

First apology, 2 cropped

April 14 letter, written at 9:30pm, after a long trip back to camp. As he often did when he was anxious or in a hurry, Grandpa used a pencil and messy, loopy handwriting.

The “lot of things to tell you” was explored in an unusually long letter he wrote the next day, across five pages. He opened with a note on guard duty, followed by an update on the weather, and then moved right into a reference to his sister Ethel . . .

4-15-18 apology, 1 cropped

April 15 letter

Maybe he’d done the wrong thing?? Who was this “lady?”

In the letters that followed, Grandpa never named her. He tried to explain that she needed a ride home to Clarksdale (south of King City), and that he (along with his buddies?) obliged. He also made it clear that she had taken a train from there to St. Joe, and he traveled the other direction, to Maysville, to catch the train back to camp.

The last time he mentions the episode was in a letter dated May 9.

Apology, 5-9-18, cropped rev.

May 19 letter

Grandpa was ready to move on, put this behind them. He argued, in an earlier letter, April 28, “I sometimes think that was a good thing in some ways. My people sure did hate it, but given things will happen in love or war and this was in both, so I guess that was the reason there was the trouble.”

How did Grandma feel? I wish I knew. I can only imagine the strain the war put on her, keeping up with a boyfriend who could, at any time, be sent to a war that might claim him. How did her family feel about the “lady” episode? There’s only one clue, and that’s the appearance of  Stanley Brown in their correspondence. He had been introduced to Grandma by her paternal aunt, Susie Dykes Frank, who lived east of them, in Madison, Missouri. Grandma wrote Grandpa that her “friend” Stanley Brown had been inducted and was training at Camp Funston. “I will try my best to entertain him,” Grandpa wrote back, “as I know he is nice fellow or you would [not] have had anything to do with him, course saying nothing about me, HaHa.” Their first meeting came, not in Kansas, but months later in a hospital in France, where both men were recuperating after the war. That’s when they shook hands and both pulled out pictures of Grandma.

img006

An undated family picture of Grandma, about the time of the war.

Troubles in love or war. Grandpa got that part right.

One thought on “The Last Trip Home

  1. This ‘episode’ really provides fuel for the imagination. There is so much written ‘ between the lines’. Grandpa could really talk his way out of tricky situations. And to think Stanley had Grandma’s picture with him. What a ‘tender’ story. Grandma was very lovely indeed .

    Like

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