Valentine’s Day

In 1919, Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday. Around King City, Missouri, people were exchanging cards and hosting parties.

Valentine cards

King City Chronicle, 14 February 1919, p. 8.

The King City Chronicle ran this simple question in the February 14, 1919 paper. And the next week, they ran notices of parties like this one.

Valentine party

King City Chronicle, 21 February 1919, p. 3.

My grandmother didn’t attend a party. Instead, she stayed home and wrote a letter to Grandpa, one of only two letters that survive from their wartime correspondence. (*)

14-Feb 19, Gma, 1Her letter, which runs in full at the end of this post never found its way to Grandpa. The envelope records the long and unsuccessful journey–to Europe and back, over four months–as the military attempted to locate my grandfather.

14 Feb 19, Gma, envelope (front)In the middle of the envelope runs the address Grandma thought was correct: Private Thos. W. Alderson/Evacuation Hospital No 24/American Expeditionary Forces/A.P.O. 798. The American Expeditionary Forces presumably sent the letter to France, as did the A.P.O. number, 798, which belonged to the area of the Mesves Hospital Center, where Grandpa had been convalescing. But the Evacuation Hospital No. 24 was incorrect, and that mistake belongs to Grandpa. He thought he wasn’t getting his mail as regularly as his buddies and decided to have Grandma send letters directly to him; but No. 24 was not the number of a hospital, but rather the number of a unit of a larger base hospital (whose number he didn’t have).

Over his name, notice the postmark (in purple) with the date of April 17. I’m unable to read the complete postmark to know if this was stamped in France or after the letter’s return to the U.S. I’m guessing in France, as letters took weeks to make the trip across the ocean and to the military camps.

In any case, on the postmark (or beneath it?) is a pointing finger and “RETURN TO WRITER” stamp. That return trip included a stop at Camp Funston, stamped in all capital letters in purple. And then, on the left edge of the envelope, a handwritten note states, “No Record, 6/12/19.”

14 Feb 19, Gma, envelope, back

The back of the envelope carries still more information. May 15, 1919, stamped in that same purple as CAMP FUNSTON on the front, makes me believe it was received there on that may date. And the postmark of June 10, may indicate the day the letter finally started back to Missouri, to Grandma.

So, where was Grandpa? By February 1, two weeks before Grandma wrote her letter, he had already begun his long trip home. Notice the location he gives, St. Agnan, France. This was the first time he’d identified his location during his service in France. The letter begins on the right half of the page.

feb-1-1919.jpg

Thos W. Alderson

Co C 356 Inf

Feb 1, 1919

St. Agnan, France

My Dear Inis, again I will drop only a line. You will see I have made a move, hope I have started home. I am in a large camp living in tents, having some winter. Had the first snow about a week ago. I have a pair of over shoes and am doing very well. Have nothing to do only sleep and eat. Go out twice a day for exercise. I am feeling good, although I miss the warm food and good bed at the Hospital. They wanted to attach me to the “Hosp” unit and let me stay but I preferred moving—as I think we are homeward bound of course we know not when but hope soon. I got my Xmas box the morn before I left the Hosp. Every thing was fine. I am sure holding on to those socks and the little knife. I expect it will be hard for you to read this as I holding the paper on my mess kit.

So I close with lots of love and kisses

Tom.

In this letter, Grandpa included cartoons he’d clipped from the newspaper, The Stars and Stripes. Military humor.

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The Stars and Stripes, 24 January 1919, p. 7

Here’s Grandma’s Valentine’s Day letter (although without a mention of the day). I haven’t transcribed it, since her handwriting is legible. Her letter is what my family refers to as “newsy,” and it is that. Notice her references to housekeeping and motherhood, which she seems to be looking forward to. The baby she writes about, the one that earned her the title of “Aunt Inis,” was born to her older brother Charley. Join me in wondering about the expression, “busy as a cranberry merchant”! But mostly, enjoy getting to know my grandmother.

14-Feb 19, Gma, 114 Feb 19, Gma, 214 Feb 19, Gma, 314 Feb 19, Gma, 414 Feb 19, Gma, 514 Feb 19, Gma, 6

Happy Valentine’s Day, Grandma and Grandpa! This is my love letter to you.

 

(*) The second letter returned to Grandma is dated February 16, 1919. More on that in an upcoming post.

President Wilson and Dreams of Peace

“Most every morn someone will say I dreamed of home last night. And it is true as I know from experience and especially since the little peace talk started,” Grandpa wrote October 12, 1918.

In Grandpa’s letters, I find simple truths like this to be profound, that peace kindled a soldier’s dream. He and his buddies, understandably, were homesick. When Grandpa wrote this letter, he’d been in the army for one year, in Europe four months, and in the war zone 70 days. Of course, they longed for an end to the misery. But a soldier’s dream ran through the much larger and hugely complex desires of politicians trying to secure world peace.

“Now Monday morn,” he wrote on October 14. “We got the big news this morn that Germany had accepted all of Wilsons peace terms, so we had to read the papers through and through.”

Whatever papers they read didn’t tell the whole story. Yes, Germany had reached out to President Wilson on October 4, seeking an armistice. But peace wouldn’t materialize until all the Allies were on board, and they wouldn’t come to the table with Germany for another month.

This overture of peace came after heavy German losses in September. Some of the German leaders, seeing the costs of battle and the unlikely prospect of victory, considered the “14 Points” (conditions of peace) Wilson had announced to Congress on January 8, 1918. (1) But others refused to imagine a truce that would erase their territorial gains. As for Wilson, he had, by this time, convinced himself that the German people had a right to decide their future; he insisted that Germany replace imperial rule with a democratic state. The war continued.

And as it did, what opinions were my grandparents and their families forming? Did they support Wilson? Did they understand the magnitude of the moment, of how the ideas Wilson espoused might change the role of America on the international stage?

They all read newspapers, especially the King City Chronicle. Grandpa received it at Camp Funston and also in France. This weekly newspaper with its small rural readership regularly published news from the war, including letters from soldiers. They also ran, as did many papers across America, the full texts of presidential speeches.

Wilson

Headline, Chronicle, October 4, 1918, p. 3.

On October 4, the Chronicle published the text of a speech Wilson gave in New York City, on September 27. In a nutshell, Wilson spoke of a certain “clarity” that had come to him during the long years of war, how he could now see the war as a “peoples’ war,” whose voices demanded, he believed, a new world order.

Peace would only come, he argued, when all nations—small and large—agreed to interact as equals. The powerful few, Wilson believed, had no right to rule over the weak. Only a league of nations could prevent another world war. As for this one, he concluded his speech, no terms would end it, only “the final triumph of justice and fair dealing.” (2)

This idealism came, as we know today, from a president who supported segregation and opposed women’s suffrage. But in the days of the war, did Americans consider those ideas problematic? My grandparents never spoke directly about World War 1, but they did call themselves “Missouri Democrats,” the party of Wilson. And a few years after the end of the war, in 1924, Grandma’s older sister, my great Aunt Mattie, visited Europe. Her traveling companion (a friend and mentor name Trix) wrote about Wilson in a letter home.

“Coming thru Annecy (France) this a.m. we discovered that the most beautiful street was the Pres. Wilson. We met a Dutchman who said, ‘Fighting is so stupid.’ He also said if the U.S. had come in as it should when Pres. Wilson had all Europe thinking his way, most of the troubles would now be over; and if we would come in now it would give the people of Europe so much hope that all the little nations would rally around the U.S. and England and then the world could soon be put right. That is the feeling I have constantly encountered.” (3)

After the war, Americans rejected Wilson’s program for a league of nations, choosing isolationism instead. I sense in Trix’s note, with her mention of the “beautiful street” named after Wilson, that she (and I’m certain my great aunt) disagreed with that decision.

And Grandpa? In the final weeks of the war, in October 1918, I imagine he hoped Wilson would succeed, if that meant the end of fighting. In the meantime, he was too busy with the daily matters of war—cooking, writing letters, waiting for orders, and moving—in the mud and rain—from one spot to the next, under nearly constant enemy fire. He also, as you’ll read, engaged in a bit of looting, which the army strictly forbade. But Grandpa thought Grandma would like a “Boche” (German) apron he’d found in a town they’d captured.

 

Notes

(1) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/wilson14.asp (full list) and https://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/fourteen-points (summary)

(2) https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1918Supp01v01/d258

(3) Letter by Beatrix “Trix” Ford, August 16, 1924. Courtesy of the Archives at Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, Missouri

 

This letter is actually a running letter written on three separate days: October 12, 14, and 18, enclosed in an envelope with a postmark of October 26.

October 12, 1918

Some place in France

My Dear Inis, Now almost three weeks since I have written you, but never the less I have my mind toward you and ever my dreams. It is amusing to listen to the boys. Most every morn someone will say I dreamed of home last night. And it is true as I know from experience and especially since the little peace talk started. But during this three weeks I have saw and hear so awfully much I hardly know what to write.

We moved back of the line about twelve miles a few nights ago and only stayed over night and got orders to go to another front. I didn’t go with the co. [company]. Stayed to go with the stove, so we are still here as they haven’t came after it yet and this makes four days. There is eight of us here so we are having it pretty soft. Got plenty to eat.

We boiled two quarters of beef (4) and made about a thousand doughnuts so as to have them ready when we got to the co and we are still here and don’t know where the rest is.

So all we can do is to stay until they send for us.

We are in a small town but only two miles from a large town. I have been over there yesterday and today also. They have several civilians there.

We were on the front line about a month and this makes over seventy days we have been in the war zone. But being as we are in the forth army chore [4th Army Corps] I suppose they will give us plenty do. We had lots of mud and rain to contend with all the time we were on the front.

Just about the time we would get dug in here would come a rain and run us out of holes, so you can imagine how we slept with that and plenty of shelling to boot but I have got so that the shells don’t bother me much at all. I figure if they don’t hit me they don’t hurt and if they do I am unfortunate.

I am feeling fine and weigh as much as I ever did I think. I was just looking over my bunch of pictures. They are sure interesting, the last letter I had from you had the little picture of yourself. It was good.

I have a little Boche Lady’s apron I got out of a store in a town we captured. I am going to try and send you, but we have an awfull poor chance for anything like that.

I read the letter that Mary (5) wrote Key Ring. Well as they are doing so awfull much talking I will quit and write more later.

(October 14)

Now Monday morn and we are still in the same place and haven’t heard from our co yet.

But we got the big news this morn that Germany had accepted all of Wilson’s peace terms, so we had to read the papers through and through.

Key Ring, I, and a couple more boys walked over to another town for a while last night but after we have saw one French town we have saw them all as they are all alike, only the ones close to the line where there is nothing but the Ruins. On the big drive after artillery would finish shelling one of the German towns they would turn their own artillery on them. I sure have saw some destroyed property but I think it is to an end.

I saw Jack Spence one morning about a couple of weeks ago. He is a first aid man in the 342 Machine Gun Battallion Sanitary detachment. So I went on down to the next town and saw Chris Cummins and told him so he went up and found Jack and we moved out of the timber [?] one night about a week ago and was relieved by the second Bat. They had hardly got in when the Germans started shelling and Gassing them and they suffered heavy. Co. E alone had 64 casualties and I heard that Co. J. had more than that.

We have been awful lucky. Have had no gas at all only two small attacks but not effective.

(October 18)

Well it is now Oct 18 and we have got to the co. Got here a couple of days ago and they were sure glad to see us. All are fine and I am better than that but we are sure having some rain and mud. Tell my parents that I haven’t time to write them now will write soon so I close with love & Kisses

Thos. W. Alderson

Co C. 356

American E.F.

Via New York

 

Notes

(4) A quarter of beef is roughly 85-100 pounds.

(5) Mary is, I presume, Grandma’s younger sister Mary.

10:12, 14, 18 (1)10:12,14, 18 (2)10:12,14,18 (3)10:12,14,18 (4)10:12,14,18 (5)10:12,14,18 (6)10:12,14,18 (7)10:12,14,18 envelope

 

 

 

Write Home! That’s an Order!

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Grandma kept the letters from Grandpa in a shoe box. Envelopes marked with “Soldiers Mail” (upper right corner) identified mail from France, which didn’t require postage. Photo (c) Charlene Reichert.

The army encouraged soldiers to write letters, lots of letters. Staying in touch with folks back home would keep up a soldier’s morale, the argument went, and also maintain the public’s support for the war. Over the summer of 1918, as more and more soldiers were deployed to the Western Front—including my grandfather, newspapers across the country ran General Pershing’s official order to “write home often.” The New York Times ran the full order, a portion of which read:

Duty to one’s country does not end on the parade ground, nor even on the battlefield, but consists in doing everything in one’s power to help win the war. To write home frequently and regularly, to keep in constant touch with family and friends, is one of the soldier’s most important duties. (1)

Service organizations like the Y.M.C.A., Red Cross, and the Knights of Columbus, provided writing paper and envelopes to soldiers, both in military training camps and also overseas. Postage was waived for all mail sent from Europe.

The army provided rules and advice. For example, once they boarded a ship, soldiers could not mention specific details of location or troop movement, the numbers of troops, and, later, the numbers of wounded and killed in battle. That information, if it fell into the hands of the enemy, posed a danger.

Of course, for this danger to present itself, soldiers had to carry letters with them. And they did. Grandpa once apologized for not answering some of Grandma’s questions, explaining that he’d lost her letters on the front.

Friends and family also received advice. Trench and Camp, the weekly military newspaper, often ran advice columns for the public. In one, the author recommended keeping letters “hopeful” as a way to counteract a prevailing notion that most soldiers would die.

Do not get the idea that our boys are “going over the top” to die. Ninety-three in each hundred will return. Do not let the “Well, if I do not see you again, good luck and God bless you” farewell send a man off with a stone where his heart should be. Keep this idea out of your letters and their thoughts. To be victorious they must be hopeful. (2)

Keep the letters newsy–with stories about neighbors and happenings at home. This would help remind the soldier of the life awaiting him after the war.

Don’t use letters to explore any misgivings about the war. Criticism was seen as unpatriotic and, in extreme cases, illegal. The federal government, under the direction of President Wilson, enforced the 1917 Espionage Act and 1918 Sedition Act against pacifists and dissenters, or anyone it deemed disloyal. (3) These acts were seen at the time as violations against free speech, and parts (though not all) of these acts were repealed after the war. But their role in the national effort to keep things positive, maintain high morale, and support the war that would end all wars . . . informed the public conversation, including private letters written to and by soldiers. Grandpa sometimes mentioned that he was supposed to keep his letters cheery, and in one poignant example from the battlefield, he remarked,

You know we all write home and send the bright side, although you know we are not having a snap. (from a letter I’ll post in October)

The War Department stepped in with restrictions on second-class mail, especially packages. Cargo ships were needed for military equipment and personnel exclusively, not gift packages from home. Also, these packages slowed down the delivery in France of first-class mail–those all important letters.

TC Puzzle Letter

Published in Trench and Camp, January 5, 1918. Courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

“A letter is a gift that is always timely and never in the way,” appeared in another column published in Trench and Camp. The letters need not be fancy, the author noted. “Literary quality isn’t the thing most needful in them, of course.” (4)

This may explain the quality of a poem Grandpa included in the letter I’m posting below, which he wrote in early September. The poem had been written (or copied?) by a girl “back home” and sent to one of Grandpa’s buddies. The rhyming is forced at times, but the ending makes it worth the read!

(1) “Asks Men to Write Home.” New York Times. 9 June 1918: 9.

(2) “Rules and Suggestions Regarding Soldier Mail.” Trench and Camp. 12 January 1918: 3.

(3) For full discussion, see Patricia O’Toole, The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made. New York, 2018: 290-301.

(4) “Home Letters Revivify Soldiers and Play Important Part in War.” Trench and Camp. 23 March 1918: 3.

 

Sept 1, 1918

Some place in France.

My Dear Girl.

Almost a week has past since I written you although I have thought of you quite a bit of time. I got three letters from you last night, one from Marshall and one from Mother. So you see I was pretty well fixed for a while. One of yours had the pictures of your dogs Jack loving Ruby and the others and a few days ago I got the other one with the pictures. They were sure gladly received even if they were not extra good. So keep the good work going as the letters are the best thing we get over here.

I haven’t been working so hard for the last week as we have been in reserve. But I think we will go up again soon. I am feeling fine. The weather has begun to get cooler here already. I sure am scringing* for this winter as France is a great deal cooler than Mo. But every thing looks bright so far. We have had four men promoted for their bravery already. Rube Dunlap was made Sergeant, for one, and Clyde Findly made Corporal and a couple more. This event of bravery was while the bunch was under the heavy artillery fire I told you in the other letter. So I guess Mr. Moulton was right when he said there was some in this bunch that could give good account of himself.

Ferris showed me a letter with some pictures he received the other day from Loretta. They composed of her and another girl dressed in bathing suits so you know they were keen. Well My Dear there isn’t much I can tell you only that I am sending with this an extra amount of love and kisses being as it is Sunday afternoon.

So I close

Lovingly Tom.

Thos. W. Alderson

Co. C. 356 Inf

American E. F.

P.S. Below is a couple verses of poetry that a boy in our co received from his girl in Omaha Neb.

*scringing is likely cringing, as in dreading the upcoming winter. In 19th-century American folk language, scringe was often used for cringe.

 

To My Soldier Boy

I’m feeling pretty worried over all the things I hear.

Of the Shrapnel and the canons that are roaring around you Dear.

Of the Zeppelins and aeroplanes and the sneaky (?) submarines.

But the worst of all the things I fear

That nearly turns me green

Is the fear of all the damsels you’ll be meeting over there

The Parisiennes and the Belgian Maids with fascinating hair.

So be loyal Honey, don’t forsake the girl back home.

No matter how they smile on you,

Don’t let your fancy roam,

For the French girls are so pretty and the nurses are so kind

But do not be a traitor to the girl you left behind.

 

I know that you are Loyal to the old Red White and blue.

And I hope you’ll be loyal to your little girl, too.

Against the Hun’s they spell with “U” you’ll hold your own I know.

But I fear you may be ambushed by the huns they spell with “O.”

Stand guard against temptations

Don’t surrender to their charms.

And wait until you get back home before presenting arms.

Leave the French Girls to the French men and the Nurses for the Doc’s.

And the soldier in Kaki for the girl who knits his socks.

Tho the French girls may be pretty and the nurses may be kind

Oh do not be a traitor to the girl you left behind.

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Fried Chicken on the Front

By the end of August, Grandpa had seen his first battle and (for unknown reasons) spent time in a field hospital. He was back with his group, resting behind the lines, when he wrote Grandma from a “nice little town with fair accommidations” on August 26. That’s when he fried up some chicken.

Chicken

August 26, 1918 letter to Grandma

Fried chicken is something I remember from my childhood, especially for Sunday dinners in Effingham. But I picture Grandma as the cook. She took the chicken by the neck, chopped off its head on the stump in the backyard (a vivid memory, for sure), plucked the feathers, cut up the parts, and then prepped it for cooking. She put the chicken parts in a paper grocery bag with flour and her special seasonings, and shook the whole bag until she knew every surface was coated. Then into an old cast iron skillet for browning before it went into the oven to finish. It was perfect.

Did Grandpa use this same system in wartime France? He’d been a farmer before the war and certainly knew his way around farm animals (and home cooking). Here’s what he offered for sale before he left for training at Camp Funston in 1917.

1917 farm sale

And, after the war, he and Grandma ran a grocery store in King City, Missouri. My mother remembers hearing stories of how they’d go home for lunch, butcher meat for special orders, and then return to the grocery store in the afternoon. I found a notice in the local newspaper that seems to confirm this family tale.

grocery meat ad

An ad that ran in the November, 1923 King City Chronicle.

When I first started reading his letters, I became curious about how Grandpa was selected and trained to be an army cook. Was it his farm experience? I wondered, too, if it was common to train cooks to be combatants, and, in Grandpa’s case, barbers, too? I haven’t found answers to these questions, not in military histories or online. I wrote to NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration, which holds military records. The archivist wrote back, “Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any information about the use of cooks as combatants in any of the works in our library’s collection.” He did provide three links.

1916 Manual for Army Cooks at https://archive.org/details/manualforarmycoo1917unit.  This publication, with its detailed descriptions of calories and cuts of meat, etc., seems to have been written for the professionals who trained Grandpa. His job was to get the food on the table.

Two videos show cooks at work during World War 1. Both are available on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQJPQ4YGv4M and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_8kv691fjU .

I’m left to form a picture in my mind of Grandpa cooking along the Western Front, and, on that August day in France, as a man who could put fried chicken on the table like a pro.

Here’s the full letter, punctuation changed but misspellings included. Notes: This is the first letter that has a portion cut out by the censors, perhaps the name of his group. He mentions how he’s getting Grandma’s letters, but wonders if his aren’t getting through.

Uncle Marshall

Grandpa’s younger brother Marshall.

And then he mentions his younger brother Marshall, a man known to all of us as a character, or as Grandpa writes, a “funny boy.”

Aug 26, 1918

Some place in France.

My Dear Inis.

You can see by the date that you are attending the Chautauqua now. Any how it is the time. How are you? I am fine, back to the co feeling a little tired this afternoon as we got up a little early this morn. Our [section cut out by censor] moved back for a week’s rest. We are at a nice little town with fair accomidations. Our boys are all in good shape. They sure were under some artillary Barage one hour last week. The captain made a little talk night before last and complimented the men highly on the way they stood it. I tell you we are lucky to not even have a man wounded.

I got a couple of your letters a few days ago. The one with the pictures was great. I showed it to several of the boys. They all thought it a great letter. The other one was the one you [section cut out by censor] the 4thof July and up untill that you hadn’t yet got any of my letters. I sure think it funny. I am getting all your mail and at a reasonable length of time.

I am going to have fried chicken for supper. A boy brought a couple and I picked and cut them up since noon. And at six oclock, I am going and fry them so you see we will have something unusual in the army. I am at the Y.M.C.A. now. The boys are lining up to buy the candies and tobaccos that they can get, but they don’t have a great deal.

You ask me if Marshall ever mentions Aline. He does not. He never went with her any more after she was up the last time. I sure think he is making a mistake as she is fine. But you know he is a funny boy. Well my dear, news are scarce so I will close for this time sending lots of love and kisses.

Your loving Tom.

 

Thos. W. Alderson

Co. C 356 Inf

American E. F.

Via New York.

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Gooseberry Pie and the 4th of July

Grandpa spent the 4th of July, 1918, “somewhere in France.”

France, 7-3:1 cropped 2

Letter to Grandma, written July 3, 1918.

He went on to explain that it wasn’t really a holiday for him, since the cooks still had to feed the troops. But he seemed happy to report that “some of the boys went out and gathered some gooseberries so made some pies. They were good. The gooseberries here are large, about like our plums and it don’t take long to get enough for a few pies.”

Gooseberries

gooseberry-bush.jpg

Gooseberry bushes, outside my mother’s apartment in Kansas.

Honestly, I don’t remember gooseberry pie from my childhood. Grandma made the best raspberry pie, so I know she (and my grandfather) could make the perfect crust and the perfect filling. But nothing fancy. Here’s the recipe for gooseberry pie Mother got from Grandma.

Gooseberry, 2Just where was Grandpa in France? He couldn’t tell Grandma. But I’ve been able to learn locations from later accounts, especially in George English’s History of the 89th Division, 1920. After leaving England (from Southampton, across the English Channel to Le Havre) in late June, the troops moved under the cover of darkness in box cars, a miserable train journey to what English called “unknown destinations.” They arrived near Reynel, and Grandpa’s group–the 356th Infantry–stayed with families in two villages, Liffol-le-Grand and Villouxel, both in the northeastern part of France, not far from the front. (pp. 42-44)

In this same letter from July 3, Grandpa explained his location, generally.

town in France

The reference to the little girl made me smile at a very special memory. In Effingham, Kansas, where I enjoyed summers with my grandparents, I was walking with Grandpa to their big garden. Just as we crossed the alley, a little boy came running, a big smile on his face, “Hi, Grandpa!” I was indignant and yelled right back, “He’s not your grandfather! He’s my grandfather!” Grandpa laughed. He loved telling that story. And so I can imagine a little French girl having the same affection for a man many of us thought of as Grandpa.

This one letter, written at a time between difficult travels and more difficult battles ahead, seems relaxed to me. Grandpa’s handwriting is neat and even. He covers four pages (a long letter for him) with details that remind me of letters my brother, sister and I wrote home from our trips in Europe. “There is lots of Cathedrals here,” he wrote. “I hear several bells ringing now.”

Back in King City, where Grandma celebrated the 4th of July, there was a daylong program of events, along with pies and refreshments and music. The local newspaper, the Chronicle, noted that a special feature would be included: “Bat the Kaiser in the Eye.” I’m not sure what that meant (a piñata? hit with a baseball bat?), but I do know that the people of  King City, and presumably of many American towns, spent some of their summer days raising money for a knock-out punch. Here’s an ad that ran the last week in June, featuring that target of the Kaiser’s eye.

Paste the Kaiser

King City Chronicle, June 28, 1918, page 3.

On this day in 2018, on the 4th of July, I’ll end where I started, with pies. Here’s my homage to Grandma, a raspberry-peach pie. And following that, a cartoon that captures the special fondness American soldiers had for pies, apparently never getting enough!

Pie on the 4th

Seconds on Pie

From Camp Funston’s newspaper, Trench and Camp, May 11, 1918. Courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

Happy 4th!

Baseball. . . Somewhere in France

Summer, time to read, time to watch baseball. I found this story in Trench and Camp and loved the picture painted by the sports writer. At a baseball game behind the front lines in France, he described fans cheering the game and the aerial combat overhead. Grandpa wasn’t in this crowd, but I bet he would have enjoyed the action!

In case these terms are new to you (they were to me): Archie refers to anti-aircraft fire, boche to German, and poilus to French soldiers.

Baseball game, france (1) headline

Headline of story that ran in Trench and Camp, May 11, 1918. Used here with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

BY FRED S. FERGUSON

With the American Army in France, May 2–The big league baseball teams in the spring training camps at home have nothing on the American soldiers, so far as limbering up the old wing and priming the batting eye is concerned.

It is the spring training season over here too.

Back of the lines, in the rest camps or along the roadside, you can hear the thump of the ball in the mitt, the crack of the bat and all the familiar baseball sounds–as well as a few war sounds thrown in.

A game of “old cat” was broken up recently by an airplane-anti-aircraft scrap overhead. The game was being played in the middle of the public square at Luneville (about ten miles from the German border and nine miles back of the front lines.) There was a good bleacher crowd of mixed poilus and dough boys. The sun was beaming down from a cloudless sky and the war seemed a thousand miles away.

“Archie” Butted In.

But just then an “Archie” spoke and everyone looked skyward. There was the boche. Gun after gun came into action. Fluffy white wings broke all about him. He dodged and twisted and turned.

Within a few minutes the guns had put a complete circle of bursting shells about the plane. Then American rooting began.

“Attaboy! Get him kid! That was a close one. Now, just once more,” were some of the cries that went up.

Everyone was bending back, shading his eyes and watching the sight. The airplane got thru the circle of “cream puffs” safely and darted back toward home, an occasional shell bursting behind him.

“Foller him up, kid, foller him up!” was the encouragement shouted from the American rooters. But the boche out-legged the guns and disappeared.

“Who’s at bat and who’s on base” a sergeant yelled, as the machine disappeared. A minuter later the ball game was on again.