E. S. Church, France 1919, Chapter 3, Intervalle

Letters Written by Elsie S. Church of Ithaca, NY to Her Family and Friends from France in 1919.

Re-transcribed by W.C. Atkinson, her son, in 2000

In 1919 my mother was 29 years old.

These letters were originally transcribed from the handwritten by Elsie’s elder sister Edith mainly for the purpose of their subsequent publication by the Ithaca Journal in the winter and spring.
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Chapter Three
Intervalle: Valdehon, Battlefield Tour, Paris (flying!)

19061506_LeBourget
Le Bourget

A.P.O. 704
Le Valdahon, April 6 1919

Dear Family:

I am certainly living under changed conditions.  I no longer inhabit a cold upstairs room with a high French bed and a boar-skin rug.  I am living in a barracks called the “Women’s Annex” which is built of homely boards within and without and resembles a bath house as much as anything.  The rooms are very comfortable with army cots and blankets and I have a mirror that I can see my neck in for a change.  I certainly do miss the local color afforded by life in a French family and, if it weren’t for the fact that a French madame takes care of our rooms and comes in to build my fire for me every morning, I would have no occasion to talk French any more at all.

I wish I could describe this camp to you.  It used to be a French artillery school and has now been turned over to the Americans.  Various artillery outfits come in here for practice with the guns and they send for infantry regiments to practice with them.  Various divisions are represented and there are many different insignia to keep straight.  I don’t know how many thousand men are here; and the place is simply teeming with officers.  Some of them belong to the outfits and some of them are here at the school.  The place is like any camp—rows of uninteresting looking barracks, stables, kitchens, etc.  They say there are some wonderful saddle horses so my equestrian education may have a chance to be continued.

As for how I happen to be here of course you know.  The 2nd Battalion considered me part of their “Lares and Peanuts”, as Dr. Davidson says, and wrote to Mrs. Cottle in Chaumont to see if I couldn’t be transferred when they moved away from Bay.  At first it seemed impossible, especially when the M.G. Co. was going to move into Bay.  So I stayed on in my little Hut on the hill and gradually, after the first strangeness, began to like the men in the Machine Gun outfit.  Anyway, I was getting along very well and liking it as usual, and had given up all idea of rejoining the Battalion when, like a bolt from the blue, I got my orders from the “Y” to proceed to Chaumont and Valdahon.  They sent down a Miss Neville from Colorado to take my place in the Hut at Bay [1].  She came on Monday, and as I didn’t leave ‘til Wednesday we had a very nice time together.  I wish you could have seen my chess mate when he found I was going.  We had such fun playing together and the last day while I was straightening around in the Hut he kept begging me to play him a farewell game.  So we each won one, and played off the rubber at 10:30 in the evening.

I got off Wednesday morning, trunk, duffel bag, and all.  Juliette went with me to do some shopping in Chaumont.  We traveled 60 miles in a Ford truck, bumping around on top of the trunk.  Chaumont is a most interesting place.  Of course, you know G.H.Q. is there and we passed Gen. Pershing’s chateau, and saw so many black-and-gold braided officers and Cadillac cars and giddy divisional insignia that we were quite bewildered.  We stayed with Mrs. Cottle in a funny little French city house with a rez de chaussee and deux etages.  The poor little madame who rented it [out] was a refugee from the St. Mihiel district and had such a sad, sad tale, and yet not as many imprecations against the sal Boche, as you might expect.

All day Thursday I rushed around getting my transfer papers fixed up, doing some necessary shopping and getting my hair shampooed.  A real shampoo and wave; the first since Versailles.  Thursday afternoon I was on my way to the station to see about my trunk, preparatory to a long and tedious train ride to Besancon, when whom should I meet but Mr. Peacock, the secretary from Valdahon, who had been at a meeting in Chaumont and was on his way to Valdahon the next day.  Wasn’t that luck for you?  He had a Ford car with no one else to take along but me and my trunk and duffel.  I thank the day when I sent home all my extra stuff so I may travel as easily as that.

On Friday morning there was a big event in Chaumont.  Big that is to us country girls, though it is an everyday occurrence at G.H.Q.  Field Marshal Haig was to arrive in town on the 9:15 train from Paris, and Gen.  Pershing was to meet him at the station.  So down we piled and the girl we were visiting, being a great friend of the M.P.’s [2], we got a fine place of observation.  The drum corps and guard were lined up on one side of the road leading to the station and on the other was a straight row of M.P.’s. Pershing’s car rolled up amid much ceremony and soon the train whistled.  After it had come into the station and the Marshal and his escort were ready to march up the street, the band swung their horns into the air and blew a very impressive welcome.  Presently out they came.  Pershing and Haig and behind them another imposing American dignitary and Gen. Lawrence of the British Army.  They were splendid looking, all of them, and I sure was proud to be an American and have the privilege of being so near our great General.  I wish you could have seen the guard as they passed.  Absolutely frozen to attention, without a muscle moving, those fine American soldiers made one solid, motionless line.

Well, after that excitement, I beat it for “Y” headquarters, Mr.  Peacock joined me in a few minutes and we started our 150 mile ride southeastward.  The trip was wonderful.  We saw so many interesting sights such as German prisoners and French Colonial troops and a dog-cart and a queer craft pulled by a team consisting of a donkey and a camel; and a Dodge truck straddled across the ditch with its nose in a tree and three wheels off—whose driver, after having recovered from the shock of a broken steering rod, we fed cream puffs; and oh, I can’t tell you in one breath.  We arrived in Besancon about 4:30.  It is a wonderful city, resting in a great elbow of the Doubs River and surrounded on three sides by great hills.  On the tops of the hills are Roman fortifications, in fact, Besancon was Caesar’s citadel when he was conquesting Gaul.  You can read about it, I believe, in the 48th book of Caesar’s “Gaul”.  At Besancon I ran into one of the Co. F men who is now driving a truck and he brought me on out to camp that night, trunk and all.

So now I have a different job—all under canteen work and yet I am still with the 2nd Battalion.  There are three other girls here, one a Mary Crissman, a Kappa [3] from Minnesota, who is a perfect dear.  We are going to have an awfully good time together, I am sure.  She and I are in the big Hut with Miss Pretlow, an older woman, and Miss Locker is in the officer’s Hut.

One thing I do miss and that is the homey atmosphere of my little Hut in Bay.  The one here is so huge and rather hard to make homelike.  To be sure there are about 2,000 men to serve and that makes a big difference.  In the afternoons and early evenings we serve chocolate and cakes and the rest of the time we are with the men, just as it was in Bay.  There are more regular hours, however, and in a way I have more time to myself; from 1 to 3 P.M. is practically my own.

I took a walk this afternoon and potted a lot of daffodils and brought them back to the Hut.  Imagine daffodils just growing wild in quantities all through the woods!  And among them, the most adorable little blue flowers like stars.  Am sending you some of the blue flowers and others.  The woods are a wealth of them now.  They come up under the snow for the ground is higher here and it is still cold for April.

Love,

Elsie

[1] Elsie revisited Bay while on her honeymoon on Sept. 27th, 1921.
“Mon. Got a Ford (in Langres) and went to Bay.  Mongin’s to lunch.  Mme. Delaume(?) entertained us royally.  Great fun seeing everyone.  My Hut was still there, ivy and all!  Took a train at Langres for Dijon.” See 1921 photo’ of roman church and “Hut”.
[2] Military Police.
[3] Kappa Alpha Theta; my mother’s affiliation at Cornell.
[4] It was at Valdehon that Elsie met Joy Hawley who became one of
her closest friends in life.

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A.P.O. 704
Le Valdahon, April 14 1919

Dear Family:

My minutes for letter writing seem to get fewer and fewer.  At present I am taking the noon hour since I had a very late breakfast with Sandy Crews in the company kitchen and am not hungry.

I just received letter 14 with all its clippings and things of interest.  You don’t know how I enjoy them.  The letter was sent direct from Paris and didn’t have to be forwarded from A.P.O. 777 [1].  On the whole it is better to send them to Paris if I am going to be on the move continually.  We hear now that the 6th [Division] is on the move to Allemande.  If I had stayed on a week longer I might be on my way too.  Of course that may be the usual army rumor, since Bn. H.Q. hasn’t an official news as yet.  At present the 2nd Bn. may stay in camp here ‘til June or July and then may be detached and sent home separately.  In that case I shall be S.O.L (simply out of luck) but maybe I can get back to the 6th Division.

This is a great life in the S.O.S. [?].  It’s almost like civilian life as far as activities are concerned.  There are many traveling entertainments and two permanent movie machines so one doesn’t have to tax one’s ingenuity every minute to think of things to amuse the men.  Anyway, it’s very different from living in a town where only one company is stationed.  You really couldn’t reach all the men if you tried.  Mary Crissman and I are in the Hut all day serving chocolate twice and selling cakes, fruit and sandwiches.  That is all we can have now that the army has taken over the canteens.  At present a new plan of decoration is being formulated and the Hut is in a stage of transition.  By the time we get it fixed up they say the camp will be breaking up.

Yesterday I had one of the most beautiful auto trips of my life. Mr.  Peacock, our Division Secretary, let Mary and me have a half a day off and three officers took us on a trip through the valley of the Loue River past Pontarlier on the road to Neuchatel in Switzerland.  Of course when we got to the border [2] we could do nothing but step over the line into a little chocolate shop where we bought beaucoup Swiss milk chocolate.  Of course it was fun to get into Switzerland but the ride up that valley was the gorgeous part of the day.

The Loue River gushes out of the rocks at its source and follows a blue-green course broken by white rapids and dams and bordered by fir trees and nestling villages and busy lumber mills and factories.  But even the factories are built on artistic lines and fit right into the landscape.  The sides of the gorge rise hundreds of feet and the road follows along the top of one cliff so that you can look right down into the water.  The colors were magnificent, gray, red, yellow, brown rocks, green fir trees, budding undergrowth—and in the distance blue and purple hills and peaks.  As we approached the border there was snow in the crannies and the wind was bitter cold.  We also passed through a forest of primeval pine trees as tall and gigantic as the pines in the Palmaghat at Minnewaska.

Just as we came out of this forest into the open, what should dash across the road but a wild boar, big as life.  My, how he could cover the ground on those small hoofs of his!  We were so excited looking on his side of the road that we almost missed a whole flock(?), six of them, on the other side, just beating it for the woods.  One boar led and the other five followed all along in a string.  They are strange looking creatures with their coarse shaggy hair and great thick heads and necks.  I was so excited to think I really saw some after having eaten boar meat and seen their skins and heads on the walls and floors of the French houses.

Another interesting sight was just before we reached Pontarlier.  The road led through a regular canyon and on either peak, commanding the pass both going and coming, stood a great fort or castle built out of native stone and looking like a part of the bluff on which it stood.  The enclosed sketch is supposed to give you a very poor idea of how it looked.  They were grim relics of medieval days, if there ever were any.  It positively thrilled me to see them.  You might almost expect to see a knight riding down the steep road that led up the hillside.  If we had had time we would have gone through them but we were bent on getting to Switzerland.  On the way home we had dinner at a little hotel in Ornans.  French style: potage, omelette a mousseron, petits pois, viande, du pain, gaufres, fromage, etc., each thing almost on a separate plate.  There is a darling lace store there but we were too late to buy anything.  Some day I am going back to get some Cluny lace.  You can also get Rose Point there, I believe.  Wish I knew more about laces.

Well, I must get to work.  Soon I am going to send you some pictures Mary and I had taken on horseback the other day.  I do hope that package comes through all right, and [that] I get my camera.

Loads of love to all,

Elsie

[1] Letters, of course, traveled by ship and delivery from the U.S. to France might take as long as two weeks.  ‘Phone calls were not even an option.
[2] Probably at les Verriers.

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A.P.O. 704
Le Valdahon, May ?? 1919

Dear Family:

This will have to be a short letter since for once in my life, I have a chance to go to bed early and nothing will deter me from my fell design.  I have never had such a gay time out of Canteen hours since I came to France.  Every day there is some new and interesting experience before me.  Guess I told you about firing the guns [1] last week, well this week Joy and I were invited to lunch at the Balloon Camp nearby and there we witnessed the launching and landing of the great unwieldy creature which looks like a cross between an elephant and a catfish.  How I would have loved to have gone up—but that is defendu [2] for ladies, even when attached to the A.E.F.

[1] 155mm Howitzers
[2] Forbidden.

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A.P.O. 704
Le Valdahon, May 16th[?] 1919

Dear Papa:

This is going to be a very scrappy letter. I haven’t had one minute to write or even to sit down.

Everything is much upset here at Camp.  The Artillery School has rec’d orders to go back to the States and already the paraphernalia belonging to the establishment is being shipped away.  The artillery outfits are also moving and the latest is that the 52nd Infantry shall not rejoin its Division but go home toute de suite.  Of course the men are tickled to pieces and I am so glad for them.  You can’t imagine how it breaks the strain of uncertainty and waiting.  They are as happy as kids.  As for what will happen to me that is a different matter.  If the 6th Div. is recalled from the Army of O. [1], which is the present rumor, I will be completely out of a job.  In that case I shall no doubt go with the 2nd Bn. to its port of embarkation and then try and be reassigned.  But Mary [Crissman] has just come down from Chaumont with the news that both “Y” and R.C. [2] workers are being shipped home in great numbers, and unless we can get some place in Germany, we may have to come trailing back to the U.S.A.  So my “year” in France may resolve itself into a 6 month’s sojourn.  Anyhow I can wear one service stripe at least!

So—we live in the present and await developments and my how strenuous that living is!  And to fill in the spaces between the regular duties and good times, I have been having lots of fun with a violin.  It belongs to one of the men in G Co. but he keeps it down at the “Y” and lately I have been using it every day right after lunch.  The man who accompanies me was a music teacher in St. Louis before the War and reads like a streak.  We certainly have had a good time together.  I had the nerve the other day to play in church service and after getting into it once, have been asked to play for various occasions.  It’s a crime to do it when I am so out of practice and add to that the fact that I suffer from my usual attacks of stage fright—but even so I manage to “get away with it” and that’s all that’s necessary in the army.

It certainly is funny what different things you are called upon to do in this work.  Last Sunday morning the men had assembled in the Hut for service and no preacher appeared at all.  So we sang hymns for about 20 min. and then in sauntered one of the “Y” sec’ys and a singer who had given an entertainment the night before.  So I grabbed them and with their aid managed to lead some kind of a service myself.

I have been having such fun with one of the sergeants [3] from the Radio Detachment of the school.  He takes Joy and me down to the radio station and lets us “listen in” on messages being transmitted some from Paris, some from Lyons, New York, Tokio, Berlin—anywhere.  Then they give us the messages so they are all taken down directly on the paper.  They started to kid us about sending a radio graph home, and even got us to write the messages and then faked an answer.  At the rate that cable went, we decided that the wireless message could go clear around the world and catch up with itself and still be ahead of itself.  Joy and I went out on the range again the other day, but this time it was pistol practice, not 155s.  They have promised to give us a ride in one of the Baby tanks before it leaves.  Honestly, the men take so much pleasure in showing us girls things that you’d think that they were here to entertain us and not we them.

Yesterday and today we are making ice-cream at the Hut.  It is a laborious process.  Frank has to go 20 kilos for ice, and then we have to freeze the cream by turning a huge milk can around and around in a [wooden] barrel of ice.  But believe me, these days, it is most too hot for anything else.  I have never been jumped so suddenly from winter into real summer.  Il y a dix jours [4] there was over a foot of snow, and now everyone has a coat of real sunburn from playing base-ball, etc. in the heat.  This morning was so wonderful that Joy, Miss Arnold (another R.C.  girl) and I got up at 5:30 and rode horseback over to the Balloon Camp where we had breakfast out of a mess kit.  Besides the regular slum [5] and oatmeal, they insisted on our having oeufs and, of course, the inevitable jam.  I really don’t blame some of the men for saying they don’t ever want to see jam again.  I am really getting so I love to ride horseback.  Lieut. Waters lets me have his mare most any time and she has a fairly gentle trot and a wonderful canter.  Tonight we are going to ride by moonlight.  The nights have been simply gorgeous all this week.  You can almost see to read by the moonlight over here.

I have been more than busy this last week.  Frank had a chance to go to the Front in a machine and was gone four days, as was Mary who had to go to Chaumont to see about being reassigned.  So I was on the job both day and night.  But I enjoyed it immensely.  There are such nice men in this man’s army.  We had such a time at the Hut this morning!  A Sgt. in the 140th F.A. just got his commission yesterday and today came in as usual only resplendent in a new uniform, a Sam Browne belt and bars.  The men kidded the life out of him saying he should report to the Officer’s “Y” and accused me of having “Sam Browne-itis” (which is the ailment of some “Y” girls) because I was just as nice to him today as I was yesterday!  They hollered “’tenshun” when he entered and he was a rather fussed “Louie II” for a few minutes.

By the way, one of my good friends among the officers is a Lt. Church from N.Y.C.  His family came from the South and his father is now living in California.  We tried to find a bond of relationship somewhere.  His name is Oliver.  See if you can find any track of him in the genealogy book.  He has taken us riding several times and is a very good dancer.  I have about worn out my dancing slippers.  There is an officer’s dance once every week and so far there has been one for a certain group of enlisted men, and then the Band comes to the Hut often and plays for stag dances and, even when we girls can all be there, we are about danced off our feet among the many men.  At present the supply of girls is getting low.  Four nurses left on Sat. for the U.S.A. and the rest of us don’t expect to be here for more than a week anyway.

Later:
The 52nd has just rec’d orders to proceed to Le Mans on their way to a seaport—so my dreams of Germany are all shot.  In a way I envy Juliette Whiton who had a chance to go up through the Front on her way to Treves even though they don’t stay there at all.

Tell Edith: I certainly am glad she sent the violin music.  I have played the little Italian Tre Giorne twice, and it has been quite a success.  It will be great when I get my package.  Yesterday I almost cabled you to hold it, but I imagine we’ll be in France for another two months anyway and the things will come in very handy.

I know there are some questions you want answered but I haven’t your letters at hand and if I don’t send this letter now it will never go.  I almost wish I didn’t live in such a rush but it seems to be my fate wherever I am.

Lots of love,

Elsie

[1] Army of Occupation.
[2] Red Cross.
[3] Sgt. R.A. McGuire
[4] Ten days ago.
[5] Sloppy, non-descript army food.

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[Note: Readers of Eric Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” will have been given a real understanding of the scenes described in the following letter.

A.P.O. 704
Chaumont, June 9 1919

Dear Family:

This is the letter that I have been waiting to write for so long about our wonderful trip to the Front last week.  We came to Chaumont on Sunday night and were told that a trip started Monday morning in four Ford automobiles and that we stood a good chance of getting one.  So we went over to the transportation office (“we” being Mary Crissman, Joy H.  and myself [sic]) and by dint of jollying and persuasion “managed” a car.

1919 Driver
Our “affable” driver

We started at 10 A.M. Monday with an affable soldier to drive for us, making a very jolly party of four.  We were armed with one blanket and a pillow apiece and beaucoup food, having been told that it would be hard to find places to eat.  It was a gorgeous day, the Ford spun along like a breeze, and we could hardly contain ourselves under such a wonderful combination of circumstances.  We reached St. Dizier in time for lunch which we ate at a little hotel by the roadside.  You can get the most delicious meals in France in sometimes the most out-of-the-way places.

We did not reach the devastated district for a long while.  It was hard to believe that there ever had been a war.  The country seemed to be just smiling and the people in the red-roofed villages seemed all to be happy, despite the fact that there was a great preponderance of black dresses and you saw few, if any, men working in the fields.  [One] thing we noticed several times as we would pass a house, and that was a bunch of flowers or herbs hung from the eaves, usually over the front door.  We learned that that was a notice to the outside world and to possible suitors that there was a marriageable daughter dwelling within!

From St. Dizier we went to Revigny and St. Menehould.  Here signs of the great conflict began.  We plunged suddenly into a road sheltered on our right by a hillside and on our left by what remained of elaborate “camouflage”.  Our first sight of it.  A web of wire, shaggy burlap and dead branches rose for about 12 feet, supported on poles about every 15 feet.  Of course the burlap was faded and the leaves dead but at one time it must have presented to an enemy a front of elusive, quivering underbrush.  And behind it you could imagine all sorts of trucks and ammunition trains and guns winding their way to the place of action.

Soon the country lost its happy, smiling aspect.  The trees looked clipped, there was no cultivated ground, rank weeds grew everywhere and we began to see great shell holes, bare piles of rock, barbed wire entanglements, dug-outs and even the remains of trenches.  We were getting up into the Argonne Forest where the Americans did much heavy fighting.  Piles of ammunition and hand grenades lay by the roadside and here and there were helmets, German and American, an old boot, part of a coat, all the riff-raff left by a fast advancing army.

By this time there were few trees left standing and those that were so battered and torn that nothing remained but their bare distorted trunks.  I could think of nothing but the pictures of the Front I had seen in the New York Times and all the papers last year.  And the graves, with their pitiful little white crosses standing out against the dark scarred earth and stones!  And the little dog-tag tacked to one arm of the cross—all that is left to identify the poor lad who lay down in that awful waste to give up his life for an ideal.

And everywhere poppies and buttercups and daisies and, around the edges of some shell holes, lilies-of-the-valley—as if the tiny flowers were doing their best to cover up the scars of the torn, wounded land.  We even saw some human skulls and bones, and the bones of a great many horses.

The roads by this time had become frightful and we got out and walked a bit over the fields, stumbling on all sorts of gruesome things.  We entered a valley where was lost a battalion of the 77th [Division]—the famous “Lost Battalion”—and stood where many bodies had been buried in a great grave with one cross for them all.  All through the valley the ground was strewn with mess kits, rusty rifles, and bayonets and here and there a doughboy’s coat or a wrap of legging, or a canteen.

It was rather late in the afternoon when we entered that part of the Argonne which was practically “settled” by the Germans under Max Baden, under the misapprehension that they would not be disturbed.  They had been living there four years and the hillside was one mass of dug-outs and cliff dwellings built with every sign of permanence, and with attempts at decoration.  It was on the east side of a great hill and in one spot there were as many a 500 “cliff-dwellings”, some of them extending way back into the hillside.  We entered one through a rustic porch.  Here was a mess room, a bedroom with bunks in it, a living apartment, a rude fireplace or a stone stove whose flues ran upward and opened into the underbrush that covered the ground above one’s head.  Doors opened into black staircases.  We ventured down one flight whose steps and wall were covered with ooze and slime and a deathly chill enfolded us.  By the aid of a candle we descended three more flights, flashing the light into all sorts of subterranean passages and rooms, some of which were lined with bunks; followed long winding passageways, ascended some other stairs and found ourselves in an entirely different “house”—almost half a block away!  It certainly was uncanny.

But the most interesting of all was Max Baden’s own apartments.  The walls of the rooms were covered with paper, one with burlap with a stenciled pattern, and the bathroom had marble walls all cut in a diamond pattern.  There were graveled walks leading to his front door edged with wine bottles stuck, nose down, in the sand, and just below his front porch was a beer garden with a pergola roof.  It was so incongruous here in the midst of the forest, such a sheltered, quiet beautiful spot— like a deserted anthill which had once been teeming with life and activity.

After clambering up the steep paths of this queer village we went through more torn country, over horrible roads which never seemed to phase [sic] the Ford, past deserted dug-outs, mess tables, field kitchens, broken-down trucks, piles of ammunition and general salvage dumps: and rolled into the remains of a town—such a desolate pile of stones with a few deserted army barracks and one “Y” Hut. A “Y” man greeted us saying that the 28th Engineers has just pulled out and that he was going to join them soon.  But we were going to stay all night in Varennes so I thought we should be pushing on.  So when the car stopped and our driver “Pat” started to climb out, we said: “but why don’t we wait until we get to Varennes to stop?”  Why, “This is Varennes”, he said.  That is, all that is left of that once flourishing town where Louis XVI was turned back on his memorable flight from Paris [1].

The next thing to do was to find a place to sleep.  Joy and I went out scouting and found a little cottage-like affair near the barracks of the departed engineers.  It had “belonged” to two corporals and on the door was a sign “to let”.  We immediately decided to lease the house, found there was just room for three beds and so we got Mary and all moved in, bag and baggage.  We took down the names of the corporals on the sign and are going to write them telling how we enjoyed our stay in their house and enclose a picture I took of it the next morning.  We were so sleepy and even the hard wire “springs” of those beds looked good despite the lack of mattresses.  But it wasn’t quite time to turn in yet and in our wanderings through the sad remnants of the town we found the most interesting group of people.  They were refugee workers, their organization being under the American Red Cross, but their personnel was composed of Friends and Mennonites and two charming English women.  They were very hospitable and gave us some real milk (I hadn’t seen milk  that wasn’t in a can for so long [2]) and one of the men, a delightful youth from Pennsylvania, told us where we could get a hot bath!  Joy and I looked at each other and licked our lips.  We thought he was joking, but he led us to a dug-out (similar to the ones in the Argonne Forest) which had been made of cement but the Germans had equipped it with white enamel tubs and showers, and a big boiler to heat the water.  Well, Joy and I went to it.  Imagine! in the most devastated of devastated villages in France, to be able to have a bath in a white enamel tub!  It isn’t exactly table talk but it certainly has furnished conversation to Joy and me, ever since our trip.  On Tuesday morning we left Varennes and rode to “Split Hill” on which once stood the

1919 Vauquois
Vauquois

village of Vauquois [3].  (Possibly you can follow [all] this if you have a good map.)  The hill has been riven absolutely in two by continual shelling, partly by the Boches, partly by the Allies, and is a picture of utter desolation if there ever was one.
As you climb up you pass more dug-outs and tangles of barbed wire and shell holes and the remnants of a “dinky” little railroad line.  In the top, like a great crater, is a shell hole at least 100 feet deep, full of dank, stagnant water.  There was not even one stone or a piece of metal or anything that looked as if human hands had ever built a village on that site.  Yet everywhere you saw the poppies nodding in the breeze and some lovely corn  flowers.  I am enclosing the flowers we collected on our trip; they were the only sweet living things to be found in all that desolation.
From Vauquois to Romagnes the roads were still bad, but improving.  You see they had German prisoners at work “policing up” all that territory for  many months.  We passed squads and  squads of them in their queer green and brown suits and flat green caps.  At Romagnes we had a chance to see the great work that the Grave Registrations Department is doing.  They are gathering in the bodies from the Argonne battlefields and are placing them in a huge cemetery.  They bury 1,000 a day, we heard.  The place was just teeming with labor battalions, both colored and white, fixing up the cemetery for a big service to be held on Memorial Day in which Gen. Pershing was to take part.  We had our lunch there and went on, as there was much to see.

At Montfaucon we saw one of the most interesting sights of the whole trip: the Crown Prince’s Lookout—a solid concrete structure built inside of an innocent looking chateau.  The walls were at least three feet thick, of solid concrete.  Inside were three flights of stairs and in the very tip-top under the cupola of the original building was an observation room with slit-like openings at the height of a man’s eyes which commanded a magnificent view of the country ‘round.  Of course we climbed to the top and as we gazed out over the battlefield from the security of this supposedly bomb-proof shelter, I felt more than I ever had the atmosphere of the “mailed fist” that I used too feel sometimes in reading war books.

1919 Forges
Forges

After leaving Montfaucon we got absolutely lost.  There were few signs along the roads and they seemed to be contradictory.  But it was interesting and we knew that we were going in the general direction of Verdun.  Finally we found ourselves (on the map) at Forges—of which there is nothing left but the road sign and two arches of a ruined church.  From there on we skirted around “Le Mort Homme”, or Dead Man’s Hill where so many thousands lost their lives in 1916.

Here the desolation was indescribable.

There wasn’t a stick or a tree or a flower: just ploughed up earth and stones, yawning shell holes, rubbish, barbed wire and ruined dug-outs.  Once in a while to or three gaunt and shattered trees stood out and remnants of “camouflage” hung from the stumps along the road.  There we saw a pitiful little procession—a peasant woman riding a horse and a man plodding by her side—the only sign of life in that dead countryside.

Arriving at Chatancourt (why our trusty Ford wasn’t knocked to pieces over those shell-torn roads I shall never know) we found some French refugees living in a deserted American barracks.  At the moment we came by, their two children were decorating with flowers the graves of two American soldiers.  They had been dug, along with some French graves, along the roadside.  Getting out to get water, we took a picture of the children, as they bent over the graves.

We arrived in Verdun just at twilight.  I did not expect to find as many houses standing as there were.  Of course there are no complete structures standing, but there were many tottering walls and a few city blocks were very habitable.  We went through the underground citadel where 20,000 reserves could be housed and fed, and had dinner at a hotel to which the concierge had only just returned.  We then looked for a place to sleep, found some “Y” men who said it was absolutely “defendu” to stay there and that we should have to go on.  It was late, however, and, what was more, we wanted to see Fort Douaumont nearby and were not to be deterred from our purpose.  Finally one of the men, a bluff doctor from Kansas City, beckoned to Joy and told her not to worry but to come back to his billet in half an hour and he would fix us up.  So he literally smuggled us into a little back room in his house (the only house in Verdun, by the way, that hadn’t been hit).  So by candlelight we fixed up three bunks with some blankets that he provided for us, in this musty old room that had once been used as a tapestry workshop and whose windows were covered with glazed paper, there being no glass in the city.

It was at Fort Douaumont next morning that we shook off that feeling of depression that the sights of the battlefield had given us and really acted foolish once more.  It was absolutely incongruous and we felt guilty all the time; but we did have such a funny experience!  You approach the fort by walking for a mile along a queer little narrow-gauge railway, up a gradual incline.  We, however, found a little flat-car sitting on the track and had the happy idea of pushing it all the way to the top, in order to ride back on it!  Which we did, taking turns riding while the others pushed.  In fact, we made such good time, and seemed so in earnest about it, that as we approached another little car on the track ahead of us two German prisoners rushed out, grabbed the other car and took it bodily off the track, in order to get it out of our way!

Arriving at the top, we removed our car from the track, left it upside down on the ground, looking very much like a beetle with its feet in the air.  A French poilu took us through the fort.  It is a second Verdun only it can hold more than twice as many men in its underground recesses.  It was taken by the Germans in Feb. 1916 and retaken by the French the following October.  From the depths of the earth we went to the top of the fort and saw the “Tourelles de Canon”, like so many armored helmets, sticking up out of the rock.  We picked [up] many fragments of the German 355mm shells which had practically rained on it for so many weary months.  The top was just one mass of shell holes and shattered rock.  The view of the surrounding country was marvelous.  No trees to be seen—but fields on fields of buttercups again, doing their colorful bit.

The ride down from the fort must certainly have been a funny sight.  “Pat” fixed two brakes by means of stout sticks held against the back wheels of the car through a crack in the top.  The four of us clambered on and off we went.  In fact we presented such a funny sight that half way down the slope we saw a lonely sight-seeing captain waiting for us with his camera all set!

From Verdun to St. Mihiel was the usual succession of dug-outs, trenches and barbed wire.  The roads grew better, the trees less battered, cultivation began again and the houses in the villages, instead of being reduced to ruins, were merely peppered with holes made by machine gun fire and shrapnel.  In fact the country began to smile again and from Toul to Nancy was perfectly enchanting.  The fields stretched out in a pleasing pattern of cultivated, ploughed and grass-covered strips.  Dark, cool forests rose and crowned the hills, deep bells tolled the hour from picturesque church steeples, cow bells jingled, and the Front with all its horror seemed far behind.  At Nancy we went to a lovely hotel where there was music with a delicious dinner and billowy mattresses and nice hot water.  My! how dusty and tired and hot we were!

Next morning we started off again, ate lunch in the car by the roadside, and just at one o’clock chugged into Mirecourt where Joy’s little war orphan lives.

Joy was certainly all a-flutter to see her, and what should greet her but the [sad] news that the Cunin family had left town months ago.  The whole village turned out to see us as if we were curiosities, there having been no Americans in that section.  A neighbor of Joy’s god-child was very nice to us and took us to the house of a friend of the Cunin family; and what should Joy see but a picture of herself on the wall, in a velvet frame.  It was the very one that Joy had sent the child last year and for some reason it had been left with this other family.  Wasn’t that strange? If you could have seen our car, surrounded by eager, curious old women and children, just literally swarming all over the running board, you certainly would have been amused.

From Mirecourt we went to Domremy and saw the birthplace of Jeanne d’Arc, and sat in a cool, sleepy little garden where she is supposed to have seen great visions; and peeked into the quaint little church where she used to worship.  It is all so old-worldly and quiet and untainted.

Thus ended or trip to the Front.  Do you wonder I waited ‘til I had time really to write it up?  Am sending you some postal cards in a package.  The piece of burlap came from the wall of Max Baden’s dug-out in the Argonne.

Lots of love to all,

Elsie

[1] Attempting to escape “incognito” during the French Revolution.
[2] And, reader, how long since you’ve seen milk that hasn’t been commercially packaged?
[3] Vauquois seems not to appear on later detailed maps of the 1930s. I visited this site in the summer of 2000 and was able to send the director of the musee a photo’ that Elsie had taken there.
[4] A French, WWI army private.

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Hotel Roblin
Paris, June 16 1919

Dear Edith:

I don’t know if you have been able to keep up with my many movements, but I am finally back in Paris applying for a discharge from the Y.M.C.A On this side of the water mind you.  Don’t faint.  It’s simply because Joy Hawley and I are transferring over into the Friend’s Society so that we may stay on over and work among the French refugees.  You see, neither of us had served the terms we promised ourselves when we came.  I am willing to spend a year here and this other work will make a much more worthwhile summer than lying around at home, pleasant as that would be.  As far as the work is concerned, we ourselves don’t know a great deal about it except that you visit around among the families who are coming back into the Regions Libere, find out their wants, sell them clothing, household utensils, etc. through “Co-op” stores, and make yourself useful generally.  I think it will be very interesting, We have promised to stay until September anyway, and it might be longer if we are needed.  The Friends will assume my expenses and the responsibility of getting me home and by that time the sailings will be less crowded and things will be better.  I know you have all been expecting me home and in one way I am so homesick I could get on the next boat, but in another I really want to stay on if I can be of use.  After our visit to the stricken villages, and the sight of the work that the Friends were doing, it made us very enthusiastic to stay.  I can give you no further details now, but will send the address on when I’m all transferred and settled.  For the present, 12 Rue d’Agresseau will get me.

Do you know, I only just got the packages when I came to Paris.  Four of them! It was just like Christmas.  The shirtwaists have been a godsend, for it has been very hot in Paris, and I couldn’t stand my high-collared waists.  The magazines I gave away but am hanging on to the music, though everyone laughs at the thought of “Ja-da” in a Quaker settlement!  It’s too bad I couldn’t have arranged for the plays and things sooner when I really needed them in Bay.  Of course, now the Welfare work is practically over and there is little time for such things.  Anyway, it’s perfectly wonderful to have the camera [1].  I’ve been like a child with a new toy.

I have seen a lot of Freddy [2] in Paris.  On Saturday night we dined and went to hear “Louise” at the Opera Comique.  I never thought when I first heard it in Boston that the next time would be in Paris itself.  The very City.  On the way home we met Grace Bird with two officers.  She was looking splendidly.  We could only see her for a few minutes, but I hope to have lunch with her soon.  Last night we heard music in the Gardens of the Tuilleries and walked down to see Notre Dame and the Seine by moonlight.

The chief object of the letter this morning is to introduce you to Joy Hawley.  I am with her now, she is my dearest friend in France and a perfect peach.  She is planning to come to Cornell in the Fall to do special work in English and Psych. and wants a room as she tells you in her letter.  Her credits from Rockford College, Ill., are being transferred, so perhaps she can enter in a real class.  Will you please send to her address here in France “toot sweet” a catalogue of the Arts College 1919-20 and also an illustrated circular of Cornell.  Also, if Papa isn’t doing much and is interested he might look up her record at the Registrar’s office and help her along from that end and get her in the way he did me.  You can imagine how difficult it is to do at such a very great distance!

By the way, have rec’d no Sat. Even. Posts and guess something is wrong.

More later,

Elsie

[1] It is possible this is the Vest Pocket Kodak that I still have— it is like the one that was lost on Everest with George Leigh Mallory in 1924.
[2] Felix Fredericksen.

-o0|0o-

Hotel Roblin
Paris, June 18 1919

Dear Edith:

Excuse this pink paper.  I am sitting at the “Y” waiting for my final discharge papers which will make me a free woman.  For a whole day I shall be a civilian in Paris, since I don’t actually sign up with the Friends until tomorrow.  Last night I put on civilian clothes (my voile dress and a hat of Joy’s) and went out to dinner with Lt. Olaf Osnes of the 52nd Infantry.  You can’t imagine how strange you feel out of uniform in the street.  You don’t feel that you can speak to every man you see in khaki, the way you usually can, and when I was introduced to any “Y” girls I always hastened to add that I was one of them animals myself, but didn’t have my uniform on.

It looks now as if Joy and I will be in the field again on Saturday.  We are to go to small towns between Reims and Epernay right in the section of the country that was devastated in the process of the big Soissons drive.  I am sure it is going to be more than worthwhile and there’s no telling how or in what we will live.  Maybe a German dug-out.

19061501_ECA Caudron
Elsie and “her” Caudron

But in the meantime I must tell you what I have been doing in Paris.  Besides relieving myself of beaucoup francs in their perfectly fascinating stores, I have managed to see quite a few of the sights and, from a strange angle for, let me announce to you the fact that on Sunday I was 700 metres above Paris in an aeroplane!  Yep, its the actual truth.  Joy and I were in the Hotel Petrograd for lunch on Saturday and found that there was a French aviatrix who would see that people went up in her plane for the small sum of 60 francs.  She herself didn’t take them up, but her pilot [did], a Capt. in the Escadrille [1]. So—along with four other adventurous souls we went with her to the airfield on Sunday afternoon.  After waiting from 3 until 8 P.M. we all six got separate rides of about 20 min. each.  The only time I was really scared was when they hoisted me up into the little front seat and clamped a seat belt around me.  After the propeller started with a whirr and the machine actually moved I lost all fear entirely and just enjoyed every minute.  You can’t imagine

19061504_LeBourget
Joy Hawley & Caudron (will it fly?)

how wonderful it feels to go soaring over the country, to look down on buildings, fields, roads, trees, gardens and mere mortals stalking around on the ground.  It was a wonderfully clear day and the view of Paris was superb.  We went towards the city and turned around just about over Sacre Coeur.  Underneath us lay the Seine winding along, spanned by bridge after bridge, on the left was the Eiffel Tower, and on the right was the Place de Concorde, The Louvre and all those lovely public buildings near the river.  It was a sight I will never forget.  You had the whole city before you in a mass and at the edges stretched fields which were finally lost in the surrounding hills and they in turn in the haze of the horizon.  The ride was over all too soon, but I would have paid twice the price I think to go.  Joy is about to go on a trip to Brussels with two other people this afternoon in a fighting plane.  The one I went up in was a Caudron.

Have just been talking to Mr. Coleman.  He took me over to look at a picture in a Sunday paper of Mrs. Vernon Castle with four strings in her hand.  On the end of one was a former admirer, and on the ends of the other three were two dogs and Bob Treman [2]! Ithaca certainly is on the map now isn’t it?

I must run along and shop for gray chambray dresses with white collar and cuffs—my future uniform.

More later, Loads of love,

Elsie

[1] The LaFayette Escadrille.
[2] Bob Treman was an Ithaca boy and Cornellian who married Irene Castle the famous stage and film dancer—he built a stone mansion for her on Cayuga Heights road which later became the Sigma Chi fraternity house.

-o0|0o-

Hotel Roblin
Paris, June 25 1919

Dear Family:

It’s all fixed an I am to become a “Friend” and go out to a little village called Nanteuil-la-Fosse to begin an absolutely new kind of work.  Imagine my feelings when I got all your letters saying you expected me home in July!  It sure did make me homesick and I certainly do feel low tonight when I realize that I leave tomorrow and am all signed up for at least three months more.  Of course there’s the possibility that I may like it well enough to stay on in the winter, but I imagine I’ll be _good _ and ready to come home in November.  I will have stayed out my year and had the satisfaction of really living among the French people.  My French is going to undergo a good stiff test.

Speaking of French, I met Mr. Pumpelly in the Red Cross Headquarters yesterday and he came to lunch with us at the Hotel.  He has been to the Balkans and wants to go to Poland for a month or so but fully intends to get back the Ithaca to teach in the fall.  Grace Bird took dinner with us too, on Sunday, as also did Ruth Skinner, Elizabeth Skinner’s older sister.  She is on her way home.

I must tell you the tragedy about this work with the Quakers.  Joy Hawley and I of course planned to go together, in fact neither one of us would have actually gotten into the work without the other.  Well, after we were all signed up, Joy got a letter from her mother telling of illness and an operation and Joy began to get worried and homesick which, combined with the fact that she was more tired than she thought, upset her terribly and she has been released by the Friends and is going home as soon as she can get a sailing.  That leaves me high and dry to go alone.  I’m terribly disappointed, but I suppose it will do me good.

Since I have been in Paris I have been having the most wonderful time.  Between Freddy F. and Lieut. Osnes of the 52nd Infantry, both of whom are here in the Sorbonne, I have been introduced to most of the pleasures and palaces of the great city.  I have been again to Versailles, to the rose gardens of the Bois de Boulogne, have been down the Seine on a boat trip to St. Cloud, have seen opera as well as the gay musical comedies made for the benefit of the A.E.F., and have eaten in every imaginable kind of restaurant including the outdoor kind where you sit at a little table on the sidewalk and watch the world go by.

And shopping, my heavens, there isn’t a thing I haven’t bought.  I have had to pay out so little for my keep since I have been in the army, that I find I have saved a really great deal.  So I haven’t stopped at lovely underwear and even some inexpensive jewelry and beaucoup lace.

Well, I must run along.  Freddy has come for me and is going to take me as far as Reims where we are going to look at the cathedral and the city on my way to Nanteuil-la-Fosse.

Will write again when I am settled.

Loads of love,

Elsie

                                                                             -o0|0o-


 

E. S. Church, France 1918, Chapter 1, En Voyage

Letters, Journal, & Diary Entries Written by
Elsie S. Church of Ithaca, NY to Her Family and Friends from France in 1918 and 1919.

 Transcribed by W.C. Atkinson, her son, in 2000

In 1919 my mother was 29 years old.

These letters were originally transcribed to typescript from the hand written by Elsie’s elder sister Edith mainly for the purpose of subsequent publication by the Ithaca Journal in the winter and spring of 1919.  Such journal and diary entries as are included are transcribed from the handwritten by W. C. Atkinson.

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Chapter One
En Voyage: New York, France

RMTSS Grampian
RMS Grampian (Allan Line)

Journal:                                    November 26th, 1918 [1]

Here I am, finally on my way to France!  I am on an English boat, the Grampian [of] about 11,000 tons.  At present a calm sea is running and life on shipboard holds out a promise of great peace and enjoyment.

This second attempt to leave the U.S. has been successful.  The first attempt was on last Saturday when I was told that there was a chance that I could find a place on the Orduna, a splendid Cunarder.  So I was put on the “possible” list and Kate VanDuzer was booked for the same ship as a sure thing.  On the strength of this, Kate and I called a taxi at 8:30 A.M. and started on a mad rush from the office to the Customs House where we procured our War Zone passes; to the French Consulate where we parted with $200 and some of our great supply of papers; to the Bank where we spent several moments at the Foreign Exchange window; and finally [to] the boat-landing at least a half hour before the ship was scheduled to leave.

Kate got her stateroom assignment and checked her baggage.  I could not do this, so merely contented myself with tagging my bags with my name, and waiting to hear my fate.  Suddenly I saw some stupid porter taking all my baggage on board regardless of the fact that they were not checked.  This made me a trifle nervous but Mr. Haggerty, the SS agent for the YMCA, was very optimistic and assured me that this mysterious list would soon arrive from the British consulate telling us of available staterooms.  Presently stentorian whistlings and wheezings gave warning that the ship was desirous of leaving.  At this very moment, the purser arrived with the list which announced that there were three vacant berths and, alas, these were to serve the four of us who were on the “possible” list.  This predicament very much resembles the game of “Going to Jerusalem”, one fellow coming out minus a chair.  Mr. Haggerty was desperate and, not wishing to be responsible for keeping one of the four of us at home, announced that there was but one thing to do: draw lots.  So saying, little papers were torn and we four drew; the long piece falling to the lot of your humble servant.  Imagine my feelings!  But since Fate had decreed, there was nothing to do but grin and bear it.

But, as I before said, my baggage was on board ship!  This meant that it simply had to be procured, so the sailing of the Cunard liner was actually held up on my account.  Picture me with Mr. Haggerty clutching one arm, and some other portly dignitary clutching a large chart and my other arm, crossing the gangplank followed by a negro porter.  It is no easy matter to pick three bags and a trunk out of a melee of other bags and trunks which exactly resemble them.  As a result all but one of my pieces of luggage were recovered, but this one, a shawl-strap containing my steamer rug, blanket and warm underwear was almost as necessary to my comfort as all the others put together.  For a few moments pandemonium reigned and everyone on the ship, I am sure, was conscious of the loss of a certain red-haired canteen worker.  Finally its recovery was given up as a bad job and I was deposited on the dock just in time to see Kate’s face smiling at me as the steamer slipped out of her dock.

I shall never forget that vision and just how it affected me.  But here more trouble arose.  When fumbling in my pocket for change to tip the porter, I suddenly realized that all my money had been changed into foreign currency.  I was obliged to borrow from one of the members of the committee in order to get myself and my remaining possessions back home again.

In the meantime word had been advanced to the baggage master on the steamer to see that my precious shawl-strap was deposited in Liverpool whither I was to be sent on the very next boat in hot pursuit…

The pursuit, however, has begun under thermal conditions which would not exactly be characterized as hot.  Though the weather is calm, there is a sharpness in the air which penetrates all my layers of extra clothing.  Just how I am to fare when the supply becomes exhausted I do not know.  I sadly lack my steamer rug and will be forced to keep moving while on deck and do my sitting within doors.

The officers and crew of the boat are very British.  Our room steward is a little Scots boy who is very solicitous of our comfort.  In a way I should prefer going on a French liner so as to absorb some of the language and atmosphere, but since my luggage has gone to England, the really sensible thing seems to be to follow it up.

P.M.  The afternoon passed in a pleasant manner; most of the passengers being seated in their deck chairs.  Precisely at 4 o’clock the stewards came dashing up with great trays of tea cups steaming in the cold, crisp air.  “Biscuits”, plain crackers to us, were served with the tea and when everyone was finished the same stewards came as quickly and whisked the cups away.  Our dinner was served at 7 o’clock.  I say “our” meaning the “Y” secretaries and women workers, a few men in khaki, the ship’s officers, and a few civilians.  At 6 o’clock the Red Cross contingent have their dinner.  There are several nurses and canteen and social workers.

After dinner, finding no one who cared to pace the deck, I fared forth alone.  I hadn’t been out five minutes before the assistant purser joined me.  He is a fair-haired Britisher with a nice accent and is very nice.  We walked ‘til about nine when I went not up, but down to bed.  My two roommates are feeling pretty punk.  How long, I wonder, before I [too] shall succumb.

About ten I crawled into my funny little 6×2 berth.  It took a long time to get comfortable but finally I realized that it would be impossible to change my position all night-long and resigned myself to my fate.

[1] This date is only two weeks after the Armistice of November 11th when the fighting ended.   As a matter of interest: nowhere in the letters or the journal is mention made of the great influenza pandemic that raged from September 1918 through the winter killing 20,000,000 people worldwide and 500,000 in the U.S. (0.5% of the population!).  Elsie’s future father-in-law, Prof. G.F. Atkinson, was one of its victims.

Journal:                                    November 27th, Wednesday

Sat on deck all morning, reading, dozing, watching folks pitch rope quoits or play shuffleboard.  My appetite has been good all day.  After lunch I tried my hand at shuffleboard.  It takes more strength than you would imagine to push those disks along.

I miss Kate terribly.  I see a good deal of Miss Connable and Hazel Stewart but somehow I don’t feel so much at home with them.  Not having been thrown much with them before, “don’t chew know” and all.

Tonight at dinner there was a two-inch rail around the table.  It has become quite rough as I discovered when walking on the deck ’til 7 o’clock.  The ass’t. purser joined me again.  He reminds me of Mr. Putick at Cornell.

I feel so queerly tonight.  Is it because I have no kindred spirit around that I can really go to without reserve?  I feel very much alone tonight and a little fearful of what’s before me.  The year seems to have stretched out interminably [ahead] and I am sure something is going to happen to make me much older before I ever return home again.  If only the real work will begin.  It is this continual dragging out of the preparation to begin, the mental inactivity, that it entails, is rather getting on my nerves.  And yet this ocean voyage is a novel and interesting experience.  This is the first voyage the Grampian has made with the deck lights on and with permission for people to smoke there.  The glass of the cabin portholes has been covered with a heavy coat of black paint.

Journal:                                    November 28th, Thursday

Hazel Stewart and I were on deck before breakfast.  I confess I descended to the dining room with many qualms but, after some good sour fruit and a cup of coffee, I quite relished my breakfast.

The wind is ferocious and the starboard deck is the only comfortable place for steamer chairs.  The wind makes shuffleboard impossible.  Many people are very ill but as for me, if I keep outdoors I seem to be all right.  I sneeze continually, as with a cold in my head, but don’t seem to be particularly uncomfortable.  We are gradually getting acquainted with some of the “Y” men.  Had a game of bridge with two of them this afternoon.

Thanksgiving on board ship!  I can’t think what I did last year, but I don’t think I shall spend another such Thanksgiving as today.  Our dinner was at 7 o’clock.  It was delicious, including fresh oysters on half-shell and a real turkey and dressing and English plum pudding with wine sauce.  I certainly pitied the poor unfortunate who couldn’t eat such a wonderful repast.

It is getting much warmer.  They say we are just about in the Gulf Stream.  Tonight after dinner we piled out on deck again.  The girls wanted to sit but I preferred to walk and was presently joined by my little friend the purser.  We had such a grand walk.  A mile or more, in the glorious wind with the spray breaking over the deck and the clouds rushing by, disclosing now and then a blurred and fuzzy star.  At 9:30 I came in.  I am glad enough to go to bed if it weren’t such a nuisance dressing and undressing with two other people in our more than tiny stateroom.

Journal:                                    November 29th, Friday

I forgot to say that Margaret Cornell, formerly of Ithaca, is on board.  She is with the Red Cross in canteen work.  She and I have had some good walks on deck.  Today was so warm that we could play s’board and quoits with our coats off.  We are in the Gulf Stream.  The water was 60 degrees and the air 40 degrees according to the man who came along and let down a little canvas pail and took the temperature of the water he hauled up.

In the P.M. I walked miles with Mr. Hauley from California.  The air was wonderful.  Gulls follow the ship all day and all night.  They never seem to tire and soar either with or against the wind with the same poise and grace.

The bridge foursome met at 4 o’clock and we played ’til dinner.  In the evening I walked again.  The girls, Miss Stewart and Miss Connable, are not fond of this walking game.  It is such fun gazing over the side of the boat where the water churns and lathers.  In the midst of the foam appear phosphorescent lights, sea organisms they tell me, like fireflies.

Journal:                                    November 30th, Saturday

Rain and mist and slippery decks.  Notwithstanding, I walked all morning; first with Anderson of Wyoming and then with [a man] from Cleveland.  In the afternoon Mr. Blodgett took me way out over the bow where the big anchors are.  It was most awfully rough and every once in a while a wave broke over our heads, simply drenching us.  The salt stung our faces and it was wonderful.  Presently a little boy came with a message from the look-out asking us to leave: “Ye run a great reesk o’bein’ swawmped”.  So back we came.  Later, when the wind went down, we were talking to the Captain: “The sea’s away you know.  She’s running smoother now”.

I forgot to say that at eleven in the morning the deck steward came ‘round with beef tea and biscuits.  He is so deft at tucking people in and making them comfortable.  Noting this Hazel remarked to him, “Your wife must love to have you around, you are so handy”.  “My wife:”, laughed he, “Her mother isn’t born yet!”.

In evening the Red Cross gave another entertainment.  Dr. Bayne, who has been at a hospital in Romania, told of his experiences.  Then a Canadian captain in aviation spoke of reconnaissance patrol and bombing maneuvers.  Later Miss Stimson, the first girl aviator to loop-the-loop who is going [over] with the Motor Corps told of how she happened to learn to fly.  She looped at Los Angeles once at night with fireworks so that her picture might be taken in the darkness…

Journal:                                    December 1st, Sunday

Glorious day.  Sunshine and blue-green water with a network of white foam.  Church in the dining-room.  The minister, in speaking of the fashionableness of certain churches asked how many of them ever took in the outcast or the socially impossible?  Wherever you find a congregation that considers itself the “cream” of society you usually find that it’s the ice-cream.

Journal:                                    December 2nd, Monday

Our first experience with a storm.  Not a bad one as storms go but sufficient to give the ordinary land lubber a thrill.  A howling wind, a fine cutting rain, and a sea that stands the ship’s deck at an angle of 45 degrees [?] and more.  Everyone was out, despite the rain, walking.  It was most exciting between skidding and hanging on to rails and landing bump against the deck rail.  The boards were soaking wet and there was more than one thud as someone sat down and slid down the incline.  In faring forth I got soaked by a wave that came clear across from the starboard side (we were all gathered on port).  In the midst of the excitement a large Englishman, in trying to cross between hatches, slipped, fell and crashed against a big metal windlass.  Four men rushed to his assistance.  He was a very pale man as he lay there and when it was found that his knee cap was broken he might well have become paler.  They carried him off on a stretcher; the first casualty.  After that the Captain forbade us being on deck and it was a very disgruntled group of people that flocked into the small quarters and close air of the writing and smoking saloons.  There were very few ports open, but through them you could watch range upon range of water mountains.  And how the old ship did ride them!  She stuck her nose down into the valleys and pushed right up through, shaking off the foam as a horse shakes its mane.  The day wore on, everyone chafing to be inside, but the decks were impossible.  The waves washed over them like cataracts.

In the evening the “Y” gave an entertainment.  I seem somehow to have developed a soprano voice and took part in both a quartet and a duet.  Afterwards everyone hated to go to bed.  The boat was pitching frightfully and there was a certain anxiety in the air.  There was little rest all night long.  It was hard to sleep with the effect of bracing one’s self in order not to fall out of the bunk.  Every other minute there would be a sickening roll, a dull crash where the sea hit the wall of your cabin, and the slithering sound of receding water.  In the morning we found that two life boats had been lost off the stern and a companionway had been demolished on the upper deck.  The barometer, so they said, preceding the storm went down clear off the paper…

I forgot to say that on Sunday Mr. Stone took H. Stewart and me down into the engine room way below sea level.  We saw the twin propeller shafts, the great cylinders working, and the big furnaces; seven of them.  We also saw the wooden bunks which had been built in the aft saloon for accommodating soldiers when this had been used as a [troop] transport.  They were triple deckers of plain, hard boards.

In the evening the ships crew sat out on the hatches aft and sang to the accompaniment of a mandolin.  It must have been great to hear them for it was the first time in four years that they have been allowed to gather on deck and make a noise.  Among other songs they sang “Ovah theah, so beweah…”.  It hardly sounded like the same song.

The purser has just told my fortune.  He is the cleverest person at palmistry and cards.  His name is Duckham.  The deck steward’s is Billington.  The evening was devoted to card tricks and fortunes.  Mr.  Duckham is most interesting and the most obliging person that ever was.

Journal:                                    December 4th, Wednesday

Much planning and committee meetings apropos of the sports that are coming off on deck tomorrow.  The wind is still pretty stiff, but it is clear and there is actually a horizon line that is reasonably level.  Mr.  Connell and I walked and wrote letters during the morning.  In the afternoon the usual group gathered around Mr. Duckham in the lower saloon while he taught us some of his tricks.  Later Miss Lewis, Mr. Stone, and another man and I got into a game of bridge which lasted until 5 o’clock.  Then I came out and walked the deck for some fresh air and it was time for dinner.

[In the evening] three very good talks in the dining saloon.  One on Russia and the frightful conditions there, one on English munitions workers—both by a very cultured English woman—and one by Major Walkley of the British Army in telling of his experiences in London…

Journal:                                     December 5th, Thursday

Clear weather still.  Mr. Hauley and I walked at least a mile on deck.  The sports have been given up.  Too windy and pitchy.  In [the] afternoon Miss Stewart and I were allowed into Mr. Duckham’s office.  We had a lovely time adding up columns for him.  He showed us pictures of his six sisters, lovely looking girls.  Three of them have been working in munitions factories without a salary since the war began.  Later he took three of us all around the ship.  Saw the six-inch gun on the stern and the smoke arrangements that put a black screen between a following submarine and a fleeing boat.  We saw the big rudder that is worked from the wheel on the bridge.  If this breaks there is an electric rudder, and if this fails there is a big hand wheel taller than a man.

In the evening Miss Dadds and I walked the deck and then I wrote letters.

Journal:                                    December 6th, Friday

We are in sight of the Welsh coast, but it is so misty you can hardly see a thing.  Mr. Hauley, Miss Dadds and I took a trip up to the bow to watch the waves.  Then I did my packing.  There is doubt as to whether we will get off the boat but will be in Liverpool tonight.

P.M. Had a foursome at bridge.  Early dinner.  Walked with D. and Mr.  Hauley.  We landed about 11 o’clock.  Miss D. and I watched the pilot come on and all got so interested that we stayed on deck ‘til midnight when it came to the point of a tug towing us in and ropes being thrown to make us fast, etc.  Alongside of us were several great liners which loomed up out of the darkness.

Journal:                                    December 7th, Saturday

But the loveliest sight of all was those same liners in the early morning, purple against the ghostly mist with orange lights shining in their portholes.

They got us up early enough, but the customs man didn’t come on board ‘til 9:30.  We hated to say goodbye to our nice little stewardess, Mrs.  Stewart.  It happened that, by some mistake, she had lost six handkerchiefs of mine yesterday.  She felt so badly about it and came to me with a little parcel with such an appealing manner that I accepted it!  Inside was a pongee collar that she had made and embroidered herself.  I was so sweet of her and will be a nice thing to remember my voyage by.

After going through customs formalities we got on the pier about 11:30.  Had to wait for ages ‘til our trunks could be recovered.  While we were standing around, about frozen, who should come along but one of the little deckhands all dolled up in civilian clothes.  He was so tickled to be free for a week.

Finally all was set.  The YMCA Sec’y. who had us in charge lined us up and marched us along the RR tracks under the “Overhead” to the nearest station.  The cars of the O’head are dinky and not very comfortable.  We got off at the main square of Liverpool and walked to the Hotel Crompton on Church St.  Miss Dadds and I are rooming together.  I found Kate VanDuzer’s name on the register and can hardly wait to see her.  After we got settled I went with Misses Stewart and Lewis to tea at the Midland Adelphi.  Kate came in while we were there.  They had an exciting voyage.  The Orduna rammed into another ship in the fog, killing seven men.  We had a grand old talk and then I went out to dinner with her and two other girls at the State restaurant.  It was a regular place like Churchill’s or Murray’s, very gay, good music and delicious eats.  Saw lots of uniforms of all kinds.  Our dinner was only five shillings and was marvelous.  We were there ‘til 9 o’clock and when we got back just fooled around.

Journal:                                    December 8th, Sunday

I slept very late.  Saw Kate off for London.  Had a solitary lunch at the Crompton.  Afterwards Helen Heffron and I went to help serve at the American Officer’s Inn.  It was so homelike.  Met a lot of nice men, gave them tea, and later served supper.  Worked with two very sweet young English women.  I love to hear them talk.  “Are you shuah?” with a regular Pennsylvania Dutch twist to their inflection.  “You’re right”, “Right oh”, “I’m sorry”, “Oh it’s quite all right”.

Liverpool, Dec. 8 1918

Dear Family:

This will have to be just a short letter merely informing you that we have arrived in Liverpool [after a steamship crossing] and may be held here a day or two.  The London office [YMCA] is congested and they can’t accommodate us yet.  This is a mighty interesting place to be interned in, however, and I guess we won’t care only so long as we can spend Christmas in Paris—I have set my heart on that.

We landed yesterday morning and walked two-by-two through muddy streets to the Overhead R.R. Station where we took a car to the main square and then walked to the Hotel Crompton.  After getting settled there we went to tea (it was 4;30 by that time) at the Midland Adelphi, the finest hotel in England.  There we saw many interesting uniforms and people.  There, also, I saw Kate VanDuzen whom I had to leave so abruptly at the steamship wharf [in New York] that fateful Saturday.  I went out to dinner with her at the “State” restaurant; a very gay place where we had a wonderful turkey dinner for only five shillings.  Then I saw her for about one hour to-day and she was shipped off to London where I hope to follow her soon.

This afternoon Helen Heffron and I served both tea and supper at the “American Officer’s Inn” near this hotel.  We met some nice American men and the place was so homelike with a coal fire burning in the grate and flowers on the tables.  We worked with two attractive English women.

I love to hear them talk; their inflection is so funny and they mouth and twist some of their words but otherwise don’t seem so different.

Liverpool doesn’t seem much different from an American city.  The railroad coaches and engines, of course, look like toys and the double-decker trolleys are funny, but the shops and buildings look very natural.  There is a Woolworths “3 d. and 6 d.” store near by and Charlie Chaplin is to be seen in “Shoulder Arms” at a cinema ‘round the corner.  To-morrow we are going out to Chester to see the Gothic church and the old Roman walls.

-o0|0o-

Journal:                                    December 9th, Monday

Miss Dadds and I shopped around.  She is a very earnest, and interesting girl and I like her better all the time.  In the afternoon we rode on top of a tram out to Knotty Ash where there is a debarkation camp for American boys.  The camp was very dismal on that rainy afternoon.  Row on row of barracks with mud puddles in between.  It always rains in this “rahwtton town, ye know”.  Well, we found our way to the “Y” Hut No.6 and relieved the girl there who was making and serving cocoa.  We worked all afternoon and then stayed to dinner at Officer’s Mess.  At 7:30 the “Y” girls from town came out and they cleaned the cement floor and we had a dance.  A dusty, fatiguing dance it was, but it certainly was worth it when you think what it meant to the boys.  Some of them hadn’t danced with an American girl in eight or twelve months.  The “Y” here won’t let them have dances with the “limey” girls as they call them.  And they were, most of them great dancers too.  Only, one man, a rancher from Texas, couldn’t dance well and [he] asked if I would “learn” him.  He was the one who, in the afternoon, had shown me photo’s of his two sisters and offered me a postal picture of President Wilson.  The dance broke up about 10:30 and we piled on the trams and came home.

Journal:                                    December 10th, Tuesday

Bright and early Bess Dadds, Helen Heffron, and I caught the train for Chester.  We missed connections at Rock Ferry and were on the town for ¾ hour.  In our walk down the street we found a messy little florist’s shop.  But what attracted us were the bunches of flowers in the window.  They were like everlasting, but in all sorts of beautiful pastel shades: rose, violet, orange, blue, etc.  Since they were unfading and packing couldn’t hurt them, we had some sent to our respective families for Xmas.

Chester at last!  And oh, the ride was fascinating!  Little red brick houses with tiles or moss covered roofs and chimney pots and steep gables were clustered in the most charming little groups.  But Chester!  There is nothing to compare with it on our side of the Atlantic.  It breathes age and quaintness.  Moss and lichens peep out of every cranny and everything is covered with glossy English ivy.  Holly trees grow in neatly trimmed rows, their cheery berries dripping from the last rain which was never very long ago.  But how green everything is even in December.  The place we sought out first was St. John’s church outside the walls.  One end is a mass of ruins of such a picturesqueness!  The stones are rounded with age and the outlines of masonry softened with ivy.  In the crypt are fragments of old Saxon pillars, crosses and vault bosses.  In the nave are the three styles of arch, the lower tier being Roman and round headed, the second more pointed, and the third early English [Gothic?].

From St. John’s we went into the town proper, had lunch at Blossom’s Hotel, and went to the Cathedral.  My first cathedral!  All dim, pointed arches, rich colors from shafted windows and a vista down the apse of marvelously carved choir stalls.  We started with the old abbey, the abbot’s rooms, the cloisters, the refectory, etc.  An old man in a black robe showed us around.  He was well versed in the history of the place and made things very interesting.  The cathedral shows two periods of architecture, the early Norman and the English.  The latter is again subdivided, the vaulting of part being Gothic or perpendicular where the lines springing from the vaulting are carried up to the boss unbroken, the other being the decorative early English where the lines are broken by cross lines and distracting traceries.  The decorative also had a water line at the base of the columns while later practice smoothed that down to a water shed[?]…

Out on the streets again we made our way to the Roman wall that surrounds the town.  On the way we met two flocks of sheep and a very recalcitrant cow that kept two men chasing all over the block.  Just as we reached the wall the rain, which had continued all day, stopped and the sun streamed out over the tiled roofs and the glossy shrubbery.  We walked all around the town on top of the wall.  I was simply lovely.  At intervals there were towers and arches all of stolid Roman architecture and all half hidden with green ivy.  Everything is surprisingly green for December.

We got home from Chester at suppertime and then started out for Knotty Ash to dance with the U.S. soldiers there.  It was lots of fun and we felt as if our presence was really appreciated.

Journal:                                    December 11th, Wednesday

More shopping.  You can buy wool and linen so cheaply here that collars and hosiery are the great temptations.  Got some lovely blue stockings for three and six.  In the evening dined at the State restaurant and then went to another dance at Lincoln Lodge for the enlisted men.

Journal:                                    December 12th, Thursday

Word received that we are to leave for London today!  Much packing and getting of baggage downstairs.  Got to the station and into our train by eleven.  Traveled in 3rd class coaches but very comfortably, six of us in a coach.  Lunch on the train.  Little meat pies that you had to eat your way through to find the meat.  It was a glorious day and the country was beautiful.  Little villages clustered in the valleys, sheep standing in vividly green hills, brooks with stone arched bridges crossing them with here and there a gray castle, or a thatched roof.

Arrived in London after dark.  Taxis met us and rolled us to the Thackeray Hotel near Russell Square.  In the register I found the name of Ruth Skinner from Holyoke, Mass [1].  I wonder if I’ll meet her.  Also Grace Bird is just ahead of me; and will I ever catch up with her?  Hadn’t been in London an hour before I ran into Kate VanDuzer in the hotel.  Gee, but I was glad to see her!  She was with Belle Richards.  Arranged to meet her for dinner and where did we go but to the Savoy Hotel where we trod upon velvet carpets and saw many stunning uniforms.  In fact, Axel, Prince of Denmark, passed by, as we were sitting in the lobby.

We felt a little out of place when we were ushered into the dining room where women were in evening dress.  But the waiter stowed us away in a corner, a little too far from the music to suit us.  While we were there two other “Y” girls came in but they did not notice us.  Belle wrote a note and sent it over [to them] by the waiter and we awaited developments.  The note said, “The two officers in the corner want to know what you would like to drink”.  After the meal was over we joined them, they showed us the note and really seemed to [have been] taken in.  They even pointed out the men, much to our amusement.  When we came out through the long dining room we had to rescue Katherine [Kate] who was making for the kitchen.  Afterwards we tried to get into “Hello America” –with Elsie Janis—but the whole house was sold out.

[1] An old friend.

Journal:                                    December 13th, Friday

Started out early to Westminster.  Wandered through the cloister where little boys in broad white collars and mortar boards were hurrying in to service.  We attended a service near the high altar at 10:30 and then a guide took us around.  There was so much to see.  The tombs of the Kings, the wax effigies, the Poet’s Corner, etc.  The Coronation chair with the Stone of Scone was much less resplendent than I had imagined.  There is also another chair with a rather broad seat built especially for William and Mary.  I won’t even begin to describe all we saw.  I’ll try and keep it in my mind.

After we’d finished (or rather just begun; for you could spend a week there) we walked past the Parliament Buildings towards the Thames.  Then we walked on the Mall to Buckingham Palace. Saw airplanes and guns that had been captured from the Huns.  Then Miss Druderdale and I did some necessary shopping and it was dark and time for dinner.  We sought out a    little place called the Chanticler in the Soho district.  We got a delicious dinner for three shillings.  Came home, packed for our departure for France tomorrow.

Journal:                                    December 14th, Saturday

My birthday! [29yrs]  A wonderful way to celebrate by going to France!  Such a time as we had getting off!  Pouring rain and a dense fog.  I began catching a glorious cold but there was nothing to be done but to go on.  Bess Dadds and I registered our trunks and came back to the hotel, walking both ways.  Had a late lunch and got back to the station for the 4 o’clock train.  And such a journey, but it wasn’t a circumstance to what was in store for us the next night as we discovered later.  We arrived in Southampton about 6:30 and stood in line for ages in a stuffy little station.  We were labeled “aliens” and had to give our pedigrees for about the s’teenth time.  Finally we got on the channel boat.  There was a damp fog and the lights in the harbor were beautiful.  We slipped out about 10:30 and the passage over was very calm comparatively speaking.  The night was rather uncomfortable, as four of us had to sleep in one small cabin.  The berths weren’t even made up as it’s not meant to be a night boat really.

Journal:                                    December 15th, Sunday

Arrived in Le Havre early in the morning.  Piled out of the boat and into a great big army van to come to our hotel.  We must have looked like immigrants.  The “Y” Sec’y. who met us had more pep and organization that any we have yet encountered.  Miss Woodruff, Bess Dadds and I took a lovely walk up the waterfront to the fort on the hill where you can look out over the harbor.

The street is lined with the most beautiful little summer villas each with its little garden.  We had our first experience with French cooking at dinner.  The hors d’oeuvres are so nice and surprising and they certainly know what to do with meats!  In the afternoon we walked through the city trying out our french on shop keepers etc.  Met a 1st Lieut. who was in the army of occupation.  He said the German people were just fine to the men.

Orders to leave came at 7:30.  We piled into the van again, bag and baggage, and piled on a stuffy train where seven of us had to be in one compartment and try and sleep.  Such a night!  Without exception the worst I have ever spent, but our sense of humor saved us.  At first we tried sitting up.  Then Isabel (with us were two maiden ladies, i.e., Mary and Isabel from Maine) remembered that sailors on these trains sometimes slept in the baggage net.  So up she got and disposed herself leaving only six below.  We six piled all the luggage between the seats and prepared to lie down.  But, alas, suitcase handles are not the most comfortable things to find in one’s mattress and sleep was not.  Presently Isabel’s arm went to sleep (lucky arm!) and down she popped off the baggage rack making us seven again.  Well, somehow or other the night wore on.  We had a lunch at 12 o’clock consisting of cookies, jam, fruit, and olives.  The latter were stowed away after the repast in the rack above my head, and all night long kept dripping down my neck.  “Isabel, don’t push as you’re hurting my arm, etc., etc.  Mary and Isabel usually purr at each other but once in a while the claws will out!  Towards dawn, Kate and I in desperation disentangled ourselves from the mess of luggage, capes, shawl-straps and human beings and went to the end of the car where we could watch the country.  The train just crawled and stopped every fifteen minutes but we finally reached Paris at 5:30.

Journal:                                    December 16th, Monday

Waited until almost 11:00 A.M. in the station.  Many interesting sights.  Saw a pitiful Belgian woman who was going back home to begin over again, having lost three sons near her old home.

At last the “Y” came for us in Ford cars.  We flew out to Versailles, as there is no room in Paris.  The ride out was indescribable.  I have never seen such woods as the Bois de Boulogne.  And the avenues and l’Arc de Triomphe.  It took my breath away with its beauty.  The trees in the Bois are completely covered with the most wonderfully vivid green moss.  It makes the whole place look like fairy-land.

At Versailles, they put us up at the Hotel Vatel which is a charming place all glass and mirrors and gold and white paneling.  Kate, Bess Dadds, Edith Woodruff and I are together.  We have a bath (grand bain) and an apology for a register[?] which makes us feel like millionaires.  The dearest little maid brings us de l’eau chaud in the morning.  Her family was driven from Soissons, her brother killed in the war, her little girl injured and later died.  Her husband, however, is still living; they don’t know when he will leave the army.

Right off there was a conference and we met Mrs. Meade.  She had separate interviews with everyone and is charming.  If it weren’t for this darn cold I have contracted, I should be the happiest person alive— to think I am really in France!  And at Versailles where, just a block from the hotel is all the magnificence of Louis XIV.

The cooking here is wonderful; I shall continue to stay fat I’m sure.

-o0|0o-

Le Havre, le 16 Decembre 1918

Dear Family:

We were shot right through London, spending only a day there, for which we were glad in a way since it brings us nearer Paris; but there is so much to see there and we had to pass it by, all in the dark as it were.  But then we’re not here for sight-seeing and we are so thankful to have had even a morning in Westminster Abbey.  To think that I have stood over the very place where Dickens and Browning and Tennyson are buried!  The place is so full of tablets, busts, and memorials that you really cannot take it in all at once.  You need a week to browse around.  There are the tombs of the kings, the Coronation Chair, the wax effigies of Queen Anne and Elizabeth, Nelson, Pitt, etc.—all clothed in their original garments.  You wonder how the lace has held together, how the gilt ornamentation is no blacker than it is.  There is the grave of Ben Jonson on the North side of the nave.  He said before his death that he wanted but 18 inches in Westminster Abbey so they buried him standing up in a floor space exactly 18 inches square.

The cloisters and choir school are part of the old Abbey and date back to Norman times.  While we were there a service was held which we attended but there was no music, for which we were very sorry as they say the Abbey choir is one of the best in London.  In the afternoon a beautiful London fog settled over the city and all we took in was Buckingham Palace.  The Horse Guards at the gate in their resplendent gold, black, white, and red made us realize that we were in a monarchy with some of the attendant splendor about us.

Journal:                                    December 17th, Tuesday

Today more conferences.  I went to see the doctor and he told me to go to bed for a while; which I did.  The maid comes up and talks French to me.  Her name is Yvonne.

Journal:                                    December 18th, Wednesday

Nice day.  Got up and walked through the Jardins and Parc de Versailles.  Went the length of of the longest lagoon and back.  The glimpses you catch into the deep of the damp woods are fascinating.  You might almost expect a satyr to jump out.  Almost got lost in the glades and avenues but finally made my way to the Petit Trianon.  There I found Kate and Edith Woodruff.  The Petit Trianon is darling; we couldn’t get inside.  Came back to the little inn by the main lagoon and had a delicious lunch.  Roast meat and fried potatoes and confitures.  Later were shown through the Chamber of Deputies where they elect the President every seven years.

Journal:                                    December 19th, Thursday

More conferences.  At noon hour went through Versailles Palais.  It is too gorgeous to write about.  The egotism of the great monarch is exemplified everywhere.  He is pictured in all his martial and peaceable pursuits on all the walls and ceilings of all the rooms.  He likens himself to Apollo and everywhere you see the great Sun with its surrounding rays.  The interwoven “L”s are in the door panels and the windows and even in the stained glass of the chapel.  The color of the paintings and the brightness of the gold leaf do not seem to have paled with the years.  The chapel was one of the most marvelous parts of the building.  The arched windows have a stained glass border and the leads are decorated with gold work [ormolu].  It looks more like a theatre than a chapel to me.

More conferences, then a delicious dinner at the Vatel.  All went to bed early, partly because the room was cold and partly because we had had a very strenuous day.

Our struggles with French are very amusing.  One of the girls who had had her breakfast in bed wanted some “dessert”—fruit, etc.  She told the maid about it and presently [the maid returned] with two fresh eggs and a puzzled expression asking how to have them cooked.  “Dessert” vs. “deux oeufs”!  Alas, my dictionary is in my duffel bag—everything I want is in my duffel bag and it has not appeared yet.  In the meantime I shiver around without my bathrobe, my slippers, etc.

Versailles, Dec. 19 1918

Dear Family (continued):

Had a break-off at Le Havre so took a walk all around the waterfront.  It is lined with summer cottages and villas, some of them of the most beautiful architecture.  It was like a continual picture book.  At the end of the street was an old fort looking out over the harbor.  Everywhere were the most resplendent uniforms and on a few of the children we saw little black pinafores that were made in the United States for refugees.  We practiced our French on the chambermaids and shopkeepers and found that we could get along pretty well from our side, but you just have to strain your ears to understand what they say.

Between Havre and Paris we spent the funniest night I ever expect to experience.  The train left about nine and we had to sit up all night; seven of us in one compartment.  We tried just sitting for a while on the two seats facing each other, then we conceived the brilliant idea of piling all the baggage between the seats making one continuous bed.  There we disposed ourselves, half sitting and half lying, and awaited dawn.  But dawn never seems to come in these grey North countries and we certainly thought it was never coming this time.  Katharine VanDuzer (by the way I met her again in London, and we have been together ever since) [and I] were next each other with our heads on each other’s shoulders.  There were two little old ladies with us from New England who almost convulsed us all night long.  One of them had heard that sailors, when spending the night in such cramped quarters, simplified matters by climbing up into the luggage rack to sleep, as in a hammock.  Therefore the first thing we knew she had clambered “en haut” and disposed herself in the net [1].  All went well for ten minutes, but she soon found that one arm went to sleep and that she was unable to turn over, so down she popped and there were seven of us again in search for comfort.  How we ever lived through that night I don’t know except that our sense of humor saved us; and also the knowledge that people in real war time have undergone discomforts a hundred times worse.

Kate and I wandered to the back of the corridor about 2 A.M. and watched the country, I was going to say “fly” by, but since we just crawled and stopped every fifteen minutes that would hardly be the proper word.  We bumped into Rouen and having heard there was a cathedral there and tried to imagine we could see it through the feathery trees.  At 5 o’clock we rolled into Paris and got tidied up as best we could without any lights or room to move about and were dumped, bag and baggage, on the platform.  (Speaking of baggage, the steamer-roll that I lost on the Cunard ship I found waiting for me in Liverpool.) We waited in the station for a long time but it was most interesting to see the people.  One poor little old lady in black was sitting in the midst of her luggage.  We talked to her in French and found she was going back to Belgium, where she had lost three sons, to try and begin all over again.  Finally a lot of Ford motor cars came for us to take us to Versailles, as Paris was too congested with Wilson’s party, causing much excitement.

It was a shame to be right here and not see the President, but there was no time to linger in Paris.  And the ride out to Versailles!  Never have I seen anything more wonderful.  We passed under the Arc de Triomphe and then rolled into the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne.  It was just like fairy land!  The tree trunks are covered with a brilliant light-green moss, the most vivid I have ever seen, rows upon rows of them stretching off into a blurry distance of interlacing branches.  The ground is covered with leaves and mossy stones and low evergreens and there are traily vines everywhere.  The houses along the road were so picturesque and stolid with their tiled roofs and long French windows; in fact, everything was so new and wonderful that I simply couldn’t grasp it all at once.

Our hotel here is on a street running at right angles to the avenue leading to the king’s palace.  Last night I walked by moonlight to the palace court and stood under the statue of Louis XIV and tried to remember all I had read about the “Sun King” and his court.  We have been having lectures and conferences again in the Hotel des Reservoirs which, by the way, is the old home of Madame de Pampadour.  How “Mitz” [2] would revel with me in the exquisite paneled walls, the gold-framed mirrors, the delicately carved Louis XIV furniture, and the crystal chandeliers.  Yesterday they lit up the sunbursts in the ballroom and it was positively enough to dazzle your eyes.  The mirrors at either end made the lights march on in an unending procession-line.  Even in our little hotel, nothing incongruous in the way of furniture, wall paper, etc. has been introduced.  I am writing now at a console table of polished wood, sitting in an Empire chair upholstered in cherry-colored and gold satin.

But this isn’t going to last long.  Next week we get our assignments and they may take us to a muddy camp in the Vosges, or the damp discomforts of a port town.  There is plenty of work; in fact they are calling for more women.  As long as the troops are here they need canteens so we don’t feel as discouraged about things as we did in London.  I asked Mrs. Meade about Bernice White and she says she is doing perfectly wonderful work with another girl and is going forward with the army.  We who have just arrived cannot hope for anything like that, they say, but I don’t care what I do so long as they put me to work.

[1] I spent a similar night in 1949 on a train from Paris to Brussels, sleeping in the baggage rack.
[2] Possibly Helen Talbot, mother’s friend from Pratt Institute. She became the mother of Arthur Gilkey who died on K2 in 1953.

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Journal:                                    December 20th, Friday

More conferences.  This time we handed in expense accounts and got measured for our new waists.  We washed our clothes and tried to locate our baggage, but with no result.  In the evening we had a fire built in our room and had a spread.

Versailles, Dec. 20 1918

Dear Family:

Please excuse this measly paper.  I am so excited to-night for we have all got our appointments!  I am to go to Dijon, near Switzerland.  At present, of course, it is nothing but a spot on the map, but think what it will seem to me after I have seen my canteen?  There will probably be snow and much mountains.  If only we can so much as get there by Christmas Day and use the decorations that we have slipped into our duffel bags!  But duffels and trunks just now are a minus quantity and we can only hope to get them before we receive our marching orders.  Once they come, we go, as we are now under strict military rule.

They say the 77th and 78th [1] Divisions are there at Dijon, both of which have seen heavy fighting.  My! I wish I could run up against someone I know!

We all feel so much better about the work now that we are here.  “See England” everyone said, “Oh they won’t need you now the war is over” but here they say they are sending for more.  Military discipline is being imposed more than ever and things are on a real war basis.  As things stand now, I guess there is no chance now of passing through or seeing the devastated districts.  Horrible as it would be, I should not feel as if a visit to France at this time would be complete without a sight of it.

In absolute contrast to war and devastation were the wonderful sights we saw this morning.  We started out for a walk in the “Parc du Palais de Versailles” and found that one avenue led to another, one path to another, one fountain to another, one lagoon, one statue, one garden, to another and another, until we were lost in a maze of beauty and gorgeous coloring—even in December.  The trees, though leafless, are covered, to the tiniest twig, with the most vivid green moss and, as they are planted in rows in all directions, wherever you look you gaze down aisles of green.  Never, naturally, in my restricted life have I seen landscape gardening on so grand and formal a scale.  Yet it isn’t all formal.  The Petit Trianon and the little Swiss farm yard and the darling little village with its mill and bridged streams are in surroundings just as wild as possible.  Every turn invites you to wander down a new and fascinating path.  I can’t begin to describe it all, but since we almost went wild with the beauty of it in winter you can imagine how indescribable it must be in the summertime [2].

Holly trees grow in profusion and everywhere you see the mistletoe hanging, just out of reach, from the great gnarled branches of the oak trees.  We lunched at a little restaurant on the shores of the great lagoon where we had delicious “hors d’oeuvres”, meat, French fried potatoes, cheese, and coffee.  I wish I had had my domestic science course of a French cook.  They can even make snails attractive though perhaps some people, more epicurean than myself, have a fondness for snails anyway.

While we were in the restaurant it began to rain, then it changed to hail and finally to snow so that when we resumed our walk the dead leaves, the tops of the stone balustrades, the statues of Bacchus, Hermes, David, etc. were all covered with a light powdering of white.  By the time we reached the Palais the sun was out again and the snow disappeared.

Oh? I could rave for hours I have seen so much and can hardly grasp it all.  Am sending some things I don’t want to carry with me—postals of England and the harbor at Le Havre as it looked from our port-hole at 6:30 A.M., minus the color.  Someday I shall make a sketch of it for my bunkmate of that night.

[1] The Lightning; my father’s Division.
[2] In November of 1999 an unprecedented tempest destroyed ten-thousand of the trees of  Versailles.

Journal:                                    December 21st, Saturday

The other girls went to Paris but, as I still felt on the bum, I was lazy and stayed in bed.  It was cold and wet outside but after a while I felt better and fared forth to see what I could see.  Had dejuner all alone in the hotel and then walked toward the Parc de Versailles.  Fell in with a party of Red Crossers who were making a tour of the Grand and Petit Trianons.  I followed along and heard the guide explain all the treasures that are contained in these beautiful little buildings.  There are some wonderful paintings of Louis XIV in the Grand Trianon and a darling bust of Marie Antoinette in le Petit.  Also in the latter you may see in the dining room the central section of the floor which sinks down into the cuisine below.  The table was lowered thus and the meal set on it and then raised so that no servant ever entered the room in which Mme.  de Pompadour should eat her meals.  The Petit Trianon was started by Louis XV for Mme. de Pompadour and was occupied later by Marie Antoinette.

I walked home through the crisp cool darkness and met Beasie Dadds in town.  We did some shopping and had our hair shampooed by a hairdresser with a silky beard who had just returned on a “permission” from the Front.  He has been fighting for four years.

That evening Kate VanDuzer and I took a walk but it being Saturday night there wasn’t a thing open.  We wanted fruit but could find none anywhere.

Journal:                                    December 22nd, Sunday

Kate and I started off bright and early to look for our baggage.  We met Belle Richards in the Versailles station and we all went to la Gare St. Lazare.  Found our trunks and duffels all safe and by dint of much parley-vous arranged to have them sent to la Gare de Lyons in the afternoon.  Then we fared forth to see Paris.

It was gray and misty and things looked pretty drab.  The one bright spot was the quantity of flowers.  Roses, violets, strange berries, etc.  As we neared the Madeleine Church, which rose sombre and dark through the mist, we could see all around it on the sidewalks booths of brilliant flowers covered over with awnings and presided over by quaint women who called out their wares in an almost irresistible chant.  We went inside the church.  It is vast and dimly lighted and mysterious.  Nothing particular about the architecture stands out in my mind as I think of it now.  They are removing the sandbags from the columns in the portico.  Had lunch at Duval’s which is supposed to correspond to Childs at home.

After lunch we went to la Gare de Lyons where we practically spent the afternoon.  I forgot to say that I have received my assignment to Dijon and hence am taking my trunk to this station.  We have decided to check our own baggage and not trust it to the “Y”.  After much more parleying Kate and I embarked in a huge taxi with three trunks and three duffels rattling around on the roof.  As we arrived at our destination and were waiting for a “facteur” to bring up a charrette two American Captains approached us and offered their assistance.  We graciously accepted it, and ended by accepting also an invitation for dinner and the theatre.  I had completely forgotten the fact that it was Sunday but Gay Paree seems to go on the same no matter the day of the week.  It being yet early we rode around in a taxi ‘til about 5:30 and then held down a table on the trottoir of the Boulevard de L’Opera by ordering drinks (we had chocolate) for the sake of killing time ‘til dinner.  Our escorts, Warren and Cogbell of the 324th Infantry, had ordered a dinner at the Cafe de Paris which was all ready when we arrived there at 6:30.  It was a very gay place, greatly resembling Churchill’s, Murray’s or any cabaret in the U.S.  The only thing lacking was the music and dancing.  But such a dinner!  Fish that melted in your mouth, not to mention consomme.  Chicken, fried potatoes, endive salad, champagne, some kind of chocolate eclairs and last of all—real ice cream, fromage, biscuits and coffee.  Oh yes—and a liqueur which was as strong as anything I ever want to touch and which Kate and I merely tasted as we did the champagne.  While there we saw some very stunning girls, most of them with American officers, and some gowns—well, they were just “some gowns” that’s all I can say.

The theatre was the “Follies Bergere” and every other act was in English.  In fact the audience was just about one-half American.  I’m glad we went, but I was struck by the laxness and the excess of everything.  Everywhere there was continual smoking and drinking and carousal and the Americans were as conspicuous as anyone in it all.  Just to forget, to mark time until they should return home—that was the keynote of it all.  “Let us eat, drink, and be merry” not for “tomorrow we die”, but for tomorrow we must still be here when our one desire is to be home.  And the way Americans spend money!  No wonder prices are high in France.  Paper money they consider soap wrappers and they won’t take change for a franc because its too much trouble to carry so much junk in your pocket.

In the meanwhile it was raining hard.  We got to the Gare St. Lazare and found that we could just make the midnight train for Versailles.  But there wasn’t a seat in any of the regular compartments and we finally had to climb up on top of the double deckers and sit there in the soot, the wind, and the rain.  Of course the men wouldn’t let us go home alone so there we all sat for ¾ hour huddled up in a bunch, the four of us, bumping past stations with dim lights and strange signs, until about 1 A.M. we reached Versailles.  Then there was a walk through the pouring rain to the hotel.  We approached the house expecting to find it all dark and silent but, behold, a lot more girls had arrived and the place was all ablaze.  We asked the Mme. if the men could sleep there until their train left for Paris at 4 A.M.  She said, “mais oui”, she would give them the sofas in the salons and we left them to sweet dreams.  How sweet they were I was to find out later.

Journal:                                    December 23rd, Monday

The whole day spent in Paris [at “Y”] headquarters at Rue d’Aguesseau.  Such a confusion of people you never saw!  The usual process of standing in line began again.  Got my red workers permit with orders to return at 5:30 for instructions.  Had lunch at Palais de Geau [Geare?], now a “Y” canteen, formerly a skating rink.  Saw Miss Fitzmaurice and Miss Dallet whom I knew so long ago in N.Y.C.

P.M.  Shopped.  Bought a blue tam o’shanter for 26 francs.  Walked through the Champs Elysees and Place de la Concorde.  Got a very fleeting glimpse of Paris.

On returning to Rue d’Aguesseau found that my transportation orders had arrived and that I was to leave for Dijon on the following morning at 7:45, as far as I could see stark, sole, alone!  This changed plans considerably.  We all had a hasty dinner at the YWCA Headquarters and caught the eight o’clock train for Versailles.  Kate and I sat up half the night packing.  She leaves for Nice tomorrow evening, and since we go out of the same station she was sport enuf to promise to go with me at 5:30 A.M. on Tuesday.  We said goodbye to our little maid Yvonne Menier to whom, by the way I presented my blue and white bathrobe.  Poor child— most of her belongings remained in Soissons when she evacuated in 1914.

My last impression of the hotel in Versailles is cold.  Kate and I crawled into bed about 12:30 with our minds set on awakening at 4:30.

Journal:                                    December 24th, Tuesday

Which we did.  My but it was dark and cold.  After getting dressed we went down to the hotel office and waked up the little maid who was asleep on a bed in the corner of the restaurant.  All the fox terriers in the place set up a racket and we thought the whole house would be on our trail.  After arousing M. Menier (Yvonnes’s husband who is on leave from the French army) we started up the street in bright moonlight.  Kate and I carried our suitcases while M. M. struggled with the duffel bags which weigh a ton.  We arrived in Paris in the pale gray dawn.  No taxis to be had—only a “fiacre a un cheval”.  In we piled and were trotted at a snail’s pace across the Seine southward.  Passed Notre Dame where we could barely see the three beautiful gothic arches.  In one of the doorways were piled the remains of the sandbags which are being gradually removed.

Arrived at the station, a facteur piloted me around from one bureau to another.  My trunk “etait faire registre” and to this day I don’t know how I ever got on the train.  But I did, bag and baggage, and after saying a fond farewell to Kate, settled myself in my compartment.  Opposite me was a handsome French lieutenant and next to him a Captain, both of them wearing the Croix de Guerre and the Captain sporting the Legion d’Honneur.  There was another French officer, and next to me an American lieutenant.  It was he who told me the sequel to our adventure of Sunday with Capts. Warren and Cogbell.  His name was Castine of the 324th.  We had lots of fun all the way to Dijon…

Upon reaching Dijon I bade goodbye to my lieutenant and made the acquaintance of Miss Stone, one of the “Y” staff who met me.  She piloted me to the Hotel des Cloches where I met Juliette Whiton of Batavia, N.Y.  the only other canteen girl in town.  We hit it off very well.  Got settled in out little room, where we were to share the narrow bed surmounted by a huge down quilt about four feet long, and went with Miss Stone to HQ.  Here we were greeted most cordially by Mrs. Gramberry and her husband.  They live on the ground floor of a house directly opposite the Hotel de Ville—in the quaintest little square all cobblestoned and lined with houses.  Their rooms are delightfully furnished with carved armoires, porcelain stoves etc. and the windows are hung with lovely English chintz.  Wicker armchairs complete the picture of homey cheerfulness.  After an interview with her we had supper at a cute little patisserie where we had omelette and delicious fried pommes de terres, jam and real ice cream again.  We are now on the last outpost of civilization.  After supper they broke the news to us that we are to leave at 5 A.M. tomorrow for Recy-sur-Ource where we will be assigned to the villages where we [will be] stationed.  Various Companies of the 6th Division.  That means setting up canteens, [each alone, by herself].  Imagine our feelings at being confronted with that kind of a proposition!

Miss Whiton and I fared forth to the station to see about baggage.  My trunk had arrived thank goodness and the nicest R.T.O. man checked it for me.  His name was L.C. Woods.  Those M.P. and R.T.O. men have a monotonous time of it.  They stick around all day in a dingy station and direct troops coming in and out…

Journal:                                    December 25th, Wednesday

Christmas Day in France!  Miss Whiton and I arose at 4:30.  Mr. Woods fixed us up at the station and we went out on the platform to wait for our train to be made up.  It didn’t start for two hours so we had ample time to watch the passengers.  The place was swarming with French poilus on leave!  Lots of American uniforms were visible in the half light, half darkness of a winter morning.  Such a chaos—such rushing back and forth, no one seeming to have any clear idea of where they are going.  We collected our baggage and sat on it, and beat a tattoo with our feet to keep warm.  We had no chance to eat breakfast but hoped we’d get fed sometime before the day was over.  Finally the train left.  In our compartment were six American officers—heaven only knows their names and regiments.  We passed the time of day and began to learn things about the 6th Division.  They landed in July, were in the Grand Pre drive—chased the Germans for several days, were then marched to the Argonne Forest where they chased the Huns some more, finally were sent to Verdun , whence they hiked it to their quarters in the southern part of the Departement of Haute-Marne.  They have hiked about 250 kilometers in all.

Arrived in Recy about 11 o’clock.  Dr. Tippett, the “Y” secretary, met us and showed us to our temporary billets, a bare room with the usual high bed and eiderdown comforter, many pictures of the virgin on the wall, a great high armoire of carved wood, and a fireplace.  We then had Xmas dinner with a very charming Mme. who is the school mistress of the town.  After that we went to see the men stand in chow line and the cook insisted that we partake of much chicken, potatoes, gravy, coffee, and pie.  We choked some of it down for politeness sake, but I never was so full up in my life.

Then Dr. Tippett (a minister from Cleveland) took us to his office and talked business.  He showed us the way the boys have been living ever since the war stopped, and how very much in need they are of some kind of a place like a “Y” where they can gather.  The 6th Division is quartered in eighty tiny villages and there is absolutely nothing to work with.  The boys are sleeping in barns and eating where they can and it is surely an approach to conditions near the Front as far as I can see. [1]  In a way I am very thankful I wasn’t sent to Nice or some such place.  I couldn’t have been with Kate anyway as we are to go out all alone!

About 3 o’clock Dr. T. took us in a Ford out to two villages nearby.  The first had a “Y” hut with a Christmas tree in one end, and the whole place was filled with greens.  We stayed there only a few minutes and went on to Aigny-le-Duc, divisional HQ.  Here we were taken to the officer’s mess and had supper.  After supper we danced to the music made by a mandolin and a guitar.  We then went to the “Y” Hut where a concert was given by the 52nd Regimental Band.  It was as fine a performance as I have ever heard…

The ride home was cold as a snowstorm had set in, but it really made things look something like Xmas.  It’s the strangest Xmas day I’ve ever spent, and it was so crowded with new experiences and impressions that I cannot possibly put them all down.

[1] The AEF had to wait most of the winter before going home as it took months to assemble the shipping required to handle the million or so waiting men.

Journal:                                    December 26th, Thursday

Miss Whiton received her assignment to Vitry [-en-Montagne]; Cos. L and M of 52nd and goes this noon.  In the A.M. we went to the canteen here [Recy] where Miss Anderson and Miss Waller serve cocoa to the boys.  Their hut has a partition and a counter and they have a regular kitchen.

After Miss Whiton had left I took a walk to the hospital and then dropped in at the canteen.  Stayed there ‘til suppertime and learned how to make cocoa in a large quantity.

After supper Dr. Tippett gave me my assignment.  It is to Bay-sur-Aube up towards Langres with Co. E and F of the 52nd Infantry.  I went to bed early in my little cold room with a mixture of feelings I must confess.

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See Chapter 2- Bay-sur-Aube; Chapter 3-Interlude; and Chapter 4- Nanteuil-la-Fosse