About the first thing we done this A.M. was to get a suit of unionalls apiece. These are a one-piece work outfit. Then, they set us to work at pulling the weeds, the grass, and picking all the trash out of our Company Street. We were told that that was policing up, and we had to do a very thorough job of it. In other words, pull that grass out by the roots. It seems to be against military law to have a weed or a blade of grass grow around the quarters.
The didn’t give us any other exercise or drills the rest of the day.
I have not heard from Dearest since I left her in Waterloo. I write every day. I am so very homesick and lonely that I pray for death many times. It’s as if Satan is tempting me. I think of it as the boil of self-destruction. It hurts.
Sometimes I cry at night when it seems my loneliness is more than I can bear. I pray and cry and then feel comforted somewhat. God keeps me from sinking too deep. Though I get terribly discouraged at times, yet I can thank Him for keeping me thus far. At other times, I think were it not for the thought of my dear wife, I don’t know what would become of me.
Our tent was in a row about 30 to 35 rods long and there were thirty four tents in it. (A rod is a measurement that was commonly used by farmers in those days. A rod is 16.5′.) At the head of the company street was the mess hall and kitchen. It was quite a long building. At one end was the kitchen and a kind of counter where they dished up the food and placed it on each mess plate as we passed by in line. The main part of the building was given up to two long board tables with stationary benches built on each side. It could seat almost the whole company at once.
We woke up in TX this A.M. We had crossed the state line sometime in the night. Yesterday, it was trees with little clearings here and there. Today, there are wide stretches of flat plains land and some of it seems very sandy. The farm buildings look different, too. They are built on posts about two feet off the ground. One I saw had a wide hallway through the middle almost like a porch through he midst of the house. Along about the middle of the A.M. we passed through an oil district, derricks in all directions, some being close together and others a bit farther apart. It took us a while to pass through this oil country. It was much different than the country we saw before. Everything seemed to have the touch of oil that made it rather dull looking. Much of the ground was torn up as if they had been prospecting, holes sunk everywhere.
Someone passed the word about eleven that we would be in Waco about two or three P.M. They handed out sandwiches about one o’clock. That was our (lunch). I forgot to mention that I was one of the K.Ps this A.M. and last evening.
We got into Waco about two o’clock and were switched around in the yards for a while, and then hauled out to the camp. It was about three miles from town. I was hot. We were de-trained to stand around in the sun until we were finally marched away. The road was white crushed stone. It reflected the sun back into our eyes. I sweat and sweat and struggled on. Our bags were heavy and kept getting heavier. They let us rest every half mile or so. We traveled about a mile and a half. It seemed like three miles.
We arrived at the headquarters of the recruit camp. Here, we stood in the sun for a time. Most of us put our bags down and sat on them. They called the roll and we were marched away to the row of tents we were to be assigned to. They held us in the Company Street a while and were then called out nine to a tent. They appointed one man to be in charge of each tent. A man named Bradford was appointed as corporal over the men I was with. We opened our tents. My! how hot it seemed! The first thing I did was to get a drink of water. I almost gagged at the first mouth full. The water from the taps was tepid and remained so even after running it for a while. We had to drink it as it was.
The next thing I done was to start a letter to my wife to tell her I was alright, but very lonesome. I wanted to give her my address. A bulletin board informed me it was 21st St., Co. 7 Division, Recruit Camp. I hadn’t finished it before we were called out and lined up two by two to get cots from a truck load sent from the Quarter Master’s Company. I got my cot and hurried back to the tent to post the letter and then make myself as comfortable as possible. I lay down for a rest and almost went to sleep in spite of the heat.
I awoke this morning pretty early. The fellow with the bull horn voice started it again as soon as it was daylight and there was no more sleep for any one.
I washed when I could, which was not for some time as only one person could fit into the washroom at a time. After a while we had our breakfast. About eight thirty we got into a town where the train had to stop. They got us off and marched us about a mile and a half through the town. It did us good, limbering us our muscles and taking the cramp out of our backs.
After we got back to the train it was some little time till we pulled out. I think we were in Arkansas, but not sure. We had our dinner (lunch) in the usual manner. about 4:20 the train pulled into Little Rock, Arkansas. Here it appeared we would stop a while, too. They unloaded us and gave us a sharp walk up from the depot and around the capital. When we re-boarded we had to wait nearly an hour before pulling out again. I should mention that it was at this time I realized that Gilbert was not on the train. I went up and down, going through each train car searching for him. There were two other troop trains, and I thought he might be on one of them. (Mary wrote soon after this to tell me about his furlough)
I was concerned but we had supper soon after leaving Little Rock. So ended another day.
I don’t remember the time I woke up this morning, but I remember I went and had a cold shower just about day break.
The previous evening I had had my arm with the boils on it looked at by a doctor. He told me to go on sick report in the morning. So I went. There were so many there before me. The doctor just put iodine on my arm and bandaged it up again. It must have been nearly 8:30 when I got out. I hustled for the mess hall and arrived just in time. I nearly missed my breakfast. Continue reading My Grandfather’s Words: Monday May 13, 1918 (Part A)→
Was pretty nervous and did not know what time they would call us for breakfast. I did not exactly know how the leggings went on, so I inquired and soon found how to adjust them. The call came to get up. I think I was nearly dressed. Gilbert was next to me. I think he was already awake when I reached over and touched him. They called us out for breakfast and lined us up in columns of four to march to the mess hall. After morning mess we were told by the corporal who had us in charge that as far as he knew there would be nothing doing until after noon mess at least. Continue reading My Grandfathers Words: Sunday May 12, 1918→
If you haven’t been following along, this is a multi-part series lifted from the pages of my grandfather’s diary from the 1918. He has just entered the service during WWI. This is Part 2 of His First Day in the United States Army.
I was taken by the arm back to the place where I was grabbed out of line, and was started past the typewriters again. Certain lines were typed on my cards and papers, which I was to collect somewhere along the line. Finally we got to a man who was stamping names and numbers on a little aluminum disk. We were each given two of these with our names and service number on them These we were told to string on the card string we still had on our necks that we’d been given at the registration hall.
From here, we were passed to a little place in the last corner where one man disinfected a spot on our right shoulder blade, another shot a syringe of anti-typhoid stuff in, and a third man swabbed the place with iodine.
The train arrived in St. Louis about 10 AM, and after being switched around the train yards a while, we were hauled out to Jefferson Barracks. We were ordered to stay on the train until we had orders to get off. This being our first orders they sounded rather harsh.
At the Barracks we were ordered off the trains and lined up two by two and marched to the registering hall. We were registered and given a string with a tag on it for around our necks. The tag had our names and the group we were classified with. After standing there for some time we were taken to a barrack and told to rest a while. They showed us where we could wash and get a drink of water. It was now nearly noon. Most of us were very tired and hungry. Mary girl had given me a lunch and some cake and popcorn and candy. So I fared better than some of the boys who had no breakfast.
About half past twelve they lined us up and took us to the mess hall for dinner. The mess hall was a huge structure capable of seating several thousand men at one time. We were seated at long tables. We ate everything we saw. I guess I don’t remember much of what they offered. But we ate it, whatever it was. Continue reading My Grandfather’s Words: Saturday May 11, 1918 part A→
I was up this morning about 7:30. I guess Mary and I cried a little. It may be the last night we ever spend together on earth. We were both rather sad. I did not feel like going anywhere so read a little, helped Mary fix up my bag – took the black Gladstone bag with me. She, dear girl, had many things for me to take that I knew I could not take. We had gone to meeting (the Plymouth Brethren church service) the evening before and then bought some oranges and apples. We had a time getting home with them as it rained and the bags burst. We carried them in our pockets.
Mr. Leask (Mary’s father) and Ed were coming home at noon to bid me goodbye. They were going to have a kind of extra dinner, but I had to report at two o’clock at City Hall, so had to leave before they arrived.
Honey girl went to the car line with me. I guess we were both near crying.