Veterans Day: Part 4, Recollections of a WWI Veteran

But a few days later the official news that it was now signed and again the celebration but not near as noisy.

A few days later, there was a rumor that we all were to be discharged. It was the first week in December before we were told that were were to be sent home.  A few brief physicals, and what little gear we had we were on our way to the depot and ushered to a marked car with sprawling chalk marked Camp Custer.  This was a troop train of many cars marked for different states and pulled by two large locomotives.  Before, each member of the band was given a small suitcase packed by our mess sergeant and the others not in the band did not get one so when it came time to eat we divided with them and before long it was gone.  There was a wooden bucket of jelly that someone brought in and also a very large loaf of bread, maybe a foot or more across and four inches thick and they were trying to slice it and some were banging on the bucket of jelly trying to open it.  There was only water to wash it down with.  Soon that was gone and it left most every jelly eaters with sticky faces and hands and they were using the water container to was their faces.

To make matters worse, the door of the car at the front end slammed hard breaking the glass and shattering it out.  The smoke from the locomotive rolled in through the opening filling the car with thick black smoke and could only see part way in the car so the others had to be opened to keep from strangling.  There was no heat to begin with and it was beginning to get cold.  Then the train men would lock the toilet door when stopping and most of the time would not open it till after the next stop.  We had to find some way to keep the door open so the lock had to be jimmied to make it useless.

Sometime the next morning after a cold and fitful night, we were in the eastern part of Ohio when it was light enough to see.  We looked at each other and it really was a scream.  With some of the jelly that wasn’t washed off and the sooty smoke sticking to it, we were smudgy black.  It was funny for a while but we had to find a way to get the black off but the water was gone.  We tried to use our own saliva to get off what we could but could find no one to complain to.  Hoping that the train would come to a stop, which it soon did.  We got out of the car and looked around for a place so we could get washed, but that was not to be as we were ordered not to leave the train.  We did see the Salvation Army Lassies on the platform of the depot and they were passing out donuts and coffee.  This stop was so short that many of us didn’t get any.

In an hour or so the train pulled into the city of Mansfield, Ohio, which was a railroad center.  Here our car was uncoupled from the train and switched to a side track.  We now saw the rest of the train leaving and our car was left sitting.  No one could tell us how long it would be before we were to be hooked on.  So regardless of orders, four of us decided to leave the car and find a place so we could at lest wash our faces.  Looking out, we saw numerous tracks on one side and on the other was a fence with what looked like old houses just across but nothing that looked like a gas station or a cafe.  We hopped the fence and decided to go to the first likely looking house and ask for a few buckets of water and something to wipe with.  When coming to the first house, we pushed the bell and soon the door opened and a good looking gal smiled and asked if she could do something for us.  We explained our predicament and she called a few other gals and we told what happened.  They all got a big laugh and asked us to come in and showed us the wash room but we still had to tell  them how we got so dirty.  We took turns getting cleaned up then we were ushered to a large well furnished room and with lookout to see if our car was till alone, we had a good time visiting.  Then [they] started to make preparations so we could take a bath, but we explained that we skipped off the car and for now washing our hand and faces was all we needed.  There was a lot of small talk and rolling of eyes and now they wanted us to have lunch and we told them that as there was a big rush to discharge us we were not going to get our pay till later and for the present we were flat broke.

They did insist that at least we still had time to have a cup of coffee and a platter of sandwiches appeared.  All of the girls were extremely nice to us and at no time was anything said by anyone that caused any feeling of discomfort, better still, lets say that they were ladies and we were gentlemen and all enjoyed every minute of it.  So with many thanks and hopes of seeing each other again, we did sneak off a little kiss and hopped the fence and were back in the car.

Someone suggested that there was still time to get a couple pieces of card board and a few tacks so we could patch up the door of our coach.  So a couple of the guys skipped off and it was not too long and they had what was needed.  Still we were waiting for the locomotive and we felt kind of sorry as we still had a lot of time with the girls.  As to the other groups, some done good and some not too well, but all were much cleaner.  It was late afternoon before we hooked on and became a part of a train going to Detroit, we began to move.


Camp Custer, Michigan, photographed from kites...
Camp Custer, Michigan, photographed from kites, camera elevated 500 feet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another stop and a switch in Detroit to a train to Camp Custer.  Arrived in Custer at three o’clock a.m. and it was cold and the gang felt miserable and hoping that soon we would find ourselves in a warm bed.  We expected someone to be there to get us but no one was around except a couple of M.P.’s and they had no knowledge of our arrival.  Beyond the gate there was what looked like a waiting room and maybe a place to get warm but that was deserted.  Our group leader took off somewhere and when he came back, he told us that he met another M.P. and contacted headquarters and told them of the situation.  A wait of an hour or so and while waiting some started to tell a joke but no one was in the mood to listen or laugh and then one of the guys with a disgusted snarl said, “You and your shitty cracks.”  Then we heard a rumbling a a pair of headlights around a corner and a dump truck squeaked to a stop and we were told to get in.

…..One more day of rememberings from Grandpa….






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