People are sooo… interesting. I love to listen to people and their stories. I talk to authors, musicians, play writes, , factory workers, and other people who inspire me. Sometimes I meet people through mutual acquaintences; some I meet in restaurants, standing in line, or taking a vacation. If you know someone interesting, please send them my way.
The greatest gift we have is our time. – Meditation from St. Francis Xavier
It’s cold and winter is here; summer still clings with all her might. Sometimes, that’s the way I feel. I love summer. Still, there’s something invigorating about a brisk walk in crisp air.
My friend Geri gifted me with a day in Chicago with friends. Of course I can go anytime, but I don’t. I wait for a reason. What better reason than time with a friend.
This is Day 5 of Frank Zyber’s memories of WWI. This is the last in the series. If you’ve missed Day 1-4, you might want to click on the related articles. You won’t want to miss what I think is his visit to a cat house. Today’s recollection continues with Grandpa’s experience at Fort Custard.
It was a cold round ride and what seemed like ten mils before we reached a place that had what looked like new buildings and very dark everywhere. We were told to get off and find a building that was open and get in and make the most of it. We found one and after getting in and by the light of a match now and then we found a hot air furnace, but no fuel or beds. Looked around out of doors, but all we found was a stack of iron beds along side of the building and they were covered with ice and snow. They were of the folding type and had to be jerked, pulled and pried to get them apart and taken in and set up. No mattresses or covering of any kind and we Continue reading
My grandfather, Frank Zyber, got recruited into the military band during WWI. These are his memories, typed by him when he was in his nineties. This week I transcribed them for all to read. Today, I added a few paragraph breaks just to make his writing a little easier for on-screen reading. If you are new with this post, please go back to the “related posts” to catch up on the Spanish flu and Grandpa joining the military.
[The military band] was a group of forty two musicians and there were four of us in the tuba section and two of us were from Flint. Originally, I played the E flat tuba, but the army only used the double B flat, which is a larger and lower tone and it worried me a bit at the fingering was different and it was a slight change in the music. The armed services were all equipped with Conn band instruments and the tubas were all of the helicon style and very good instruments. The director told me not to fret about the change and said that I did produce a good tone and with all the rehearsals, it would be only a few days and I would be in the groove. Most of the music that we played was semi-classical, but there was all sorts, marches and some contemporary. It was nice during the rehearsals, comfortable and the selections were of the better kind. Once in a while the band would play reveille and that meant getting up earlier and that sure was a break for the buglers. Then every evening there was the guard orders given, guards are assigned and the flag is taken down exactly on the hour. About every other week the band would go to Baltimore to take part in a parade or a concert in one of the auditoriums.
All of a sudden there was a rumor that an armistice was being signed and the war was over. That night throughout the entire camp every soldier rolled out in the street and formed a great unorganized parade and as the parade moved through the camp streets, singing every song that they knew and gathered more marchers and despite orders to disband, it went on till sometime after midnight, ignoring the nine o’clock lights out and the sound of taps. But to everyone’s disbelief, the word came out that the signing was a false alarm.
This is Day 3 of transcribing my grandfather’s memories of World War I, the War to End all Wars. These are Frank Zyber’s words, as he typed them somewhere around age 95. My last post ended when Frank said goodbye to his dad and boarded the train.
We were going to Detroit to the Delray Station, then change to the Pennsylvania Central and to Baltimore. It was not a troop train but an elegant passenger train with club car, diner and sleepers. The food was good but I was wondering if I would be able to sleep in the sleeping car. That turned out to be the easiest of all because I konked out quickly with the clicking of the wheels and the next thing that I remember the porter pulling my toe and telling me that breakfast would be served in twenty minutes. I had to hustle and shave and it wasn’t the easiest thing to do and the car rolling and with a straight razor waving in all directions and a few of the others doing the same.
This was September, and looking out the window as we were eating, the trees almost in full color and we were told that we would be in Baltimore in an hour or so.
There was this little thing that kind of amused me as the four of us at the table were giving out our menu order. The menus were written in a way that made it hard to figure out what the tings were and especially as seldom that i ate in restaurants. We got our orders in and we waited and after what seemed like a long time a tray of celery was brought in. All started nibbling on it and I hardly knew what it was but they all seemed to enjoy it so I started at it. I was very disappointing on the first bite bout did manage to nibble it up. Still no food and I was wondering if we would be in Baltimore before we got the rest of it or was there more to come.
Arriving at the station we were met by a sergeant and a corporal. All were introduced and visited for a while then walked some distance to an electric train depot. The train arrived and soon we were high tailing it for the camp. It was about an hour before we reached the guarded military camp gates. On the way coming in the sergeant told us that many died in camp due to the epidemic and on one occasion we met a truck loaded with large boxes and were told that they had caskets in them.
Getting through the gates, we went through the regular procedure and were assigned to our company and barracks. Then we were marched to the supply building to get our issue of clothes. We were taken to the quartermaster’s counter where a surly looking G.I. was scowling at us. As we got to him we could call out our sizes and he stood there and looked at you and growled out that he knew your size just by looking at you. So the items were thrown at us and he would spot the little guys would know just by looking at them that they were far to big and would complain and he would tell them that the army would make them grow up and invariably he would do the same with the big fat guys and tell them that it wouldn’t be long the the blubber would be off. He said he didn’t have time to be fitting anyone. So the only resort that we had was to go to our barracks and try them on and make an exchange with someone.
In our group there were a few short guys and when they put on the undershirts which was winter issue, they were knee length and the same with the drawers which wen pulled up came to their chins. Trying to stuff the extra material into the pants did make one look funny and in spite of it all, we did get a lot of laughs. Finally when no more fitting could be done, we went back to the quartermaster and he would with a chuckle, give us the proper fit. He would tell us that it was much easier to issue and let everyone find his fit by trading. This was all overseas equipment and was ill fitted because of it. A poor fit wasn’t very dressy to be seen especially in town and as our officer wanted us to look good, especially the band. We had no dress shoes, our issue was two pair of heavy hobnailed trench shoes that gave us a lot of trouble with the wrapped spiral puttees. The shoes being a bad fit at the top of the shoe due to the oversize top opening and stiff leather, would cause the wrapped leggings to unravel at the shoe tops and during drilling and marching would undo and trail several feet behind and to make matters worse, the one in the row behind would make every effort to step on it and sometimes wind up with no puttees. Late on we were issued side lacing leggings.
the band would march through the camp streets playing reveille and that was 6 a.m., then breakfast. Then one hour to police the barracks and the grounds, then band rehearsal till 11 a.m. About one hour and sometimes two more drills, then rehearsal till 7 p.m. It was the same every day except Saturday and Sunday. We could get weekend passes to Baltimore or Washington, but that took money and we didn’t have much. The thing that I did like to do was to get a permit and go horseback riding. A group of us would go to the stables and ask the stable sergeant to select a good horse for cross country riding and he would tell us the nature of the horse and give us a few pointers on how to manage it. The only drawback here was that after bringing back the horse to the stables and reporting to the sergeant, he would make us do a thorough job of cleaning and watering the horse and it was seen that a good job was done. I said that I would rather was two cars than one horse.
There were frequent physicals to go through and one day a week we had to go to the artillery range. Then at times during the middle of the night we were aroused and told to line up for orders. The order was that there was to be a brief inspection and we were to get ready as we were to ship out for overseas. I am not sure, or maybe it was only a rumor or as someone said, that during inspection some had the measles. So again we were bogged down in camp.
….more to come.
I am unfamiliar with “puttee” I case you are too, here’s what I found: Puttee (n): 1— a long strip of cloth would spirally around the leg from ankle to knee for protection and support. 2 — a leather legging.
- I Am a Veteran, But I Didn’t Sacrifice (omnipotentpoobah.com)
- Dr. Errol Alden: Another Look at Veterans Day (theblacktortoise.com)
- Veterans Day: Grandpa’s Experience During World War I (theblacktortoise.com)
- Veterans Day: Recollections from a WWI Veteran (the blacktortoise.com)
- 40 (Plus 1) Fascinating Facts about WWI (warhistoryonline.com)
Day 2 of a salute to Veterans. I am continuing with my grandfather’s words, as he wrote them when he was about 95 years old. He’s been gone many years now. I am so lucky his words live on.
Sgt. W. Mills said that all military camps were quarantined and it would be weeks before any new draftees were taken in. We would be notified when the quarantine would be lifted. Sgt. W. Mills was pleased with the number of men that enlisted, and too, we had some top notch musicians, several that were members of the local Chevrolet Band.
A few days later as I got to work, I started to feel sick and feverish and at that time the epidemic was at it’s peek and everybody regardless of where they might be were asked to wear a cloth mask over their mouth and nose. Telling my foreman that I wasn’t feeling good, he said
for me to go home. When I got there I was put to bed and the next day all but Dad and Clara [a younger sister] started getting sick. Doctors could not make house calls because of the many that were sick. Dad stayed home and with the help of an elderly lady who had been a nurse, they did the best of their know how. For the next four days or more, we sick ones ran a high fever but soon we all began to feel better and decided that on the following Monday we would all go to work.
When I got to my department I was told that four in my department died and others lost a couple of children. I still was a little shaky and when I got home that evening, there was a letter for me from the War Department. On opening it I was instructed to report to my group and prepare to leave for Camp Meade, Friday at 8 a.m.
The next day, I went to report and was asked to sign the final enlistment papers they wrapped and pinned an olive colored band around my arm and told me to wear it till I got to camp. From there I went to the shop to let them know I was forced to quit and become a soldier. They thought it was a short notice but would get my check in two days.
There was not much more to prepare, only to say a few goodbyes and when Friday came I was up early and ready to go. Dad went with me and we took the street car to the Pere Marquette depot and there I met the others which there were eleven plus Sgt. Mills.
When the train pulled in and it was time to mount the steps, the goodbye was hard to say.
Many of the others had their hat their folds (sic) to part with an it took some urging of the trainmen to get all aboard. I was one of the last to get on and as I was ready to leave, Dad gave a big squeeze hug and kiss that brought a big lump in my throat. Through the window, I saw Dad waving and wiping his eyes as the train moved off.
….I have a lump in my own throat, just thinking about my grandfather’s father sending his son to fight in a war, possibly in his homeland, and perhaps never seeing him again. More tomorrow…
- Grandpa Rupert, war veteran (thedeepersideblog.com)
- Veterans Day: Recollections from a WWI Veteran (TheBlackTortoise.com)
- Dr. Errol Alden: Another Look at Veterans Day (TheBLackTortoise.com)
- 40 (Plus 1) Fascinating Facts about WWI (warhistoryonline.com)
- Quote of the Day: From WWI Veteran, Former President Harry S. Truman (fggam.org)
I am lucky.
My grandfather, with much urging, memorialized some of his memories in a Kinko’s bound book. This week, I plan to share some of his thoughts leading up to and during World War I.
The only title Grandpa gave his memoir is, “Researched, compiled and written by Frank N. Zyber” (No date, but as I remember, Grandpa was somewhere around 95 when he put fingers to keyboard and memorialized these memories.) I record his memories here, exactly as he did. Where I think clarification or context helpful, I added a few words in [brackets.]
Starting on Page 56:
I really do not know why Louie [Frank's brother] and I took sick with something that the doctor said was typhoid fever, which was as he said quite rare. Louie seemed to get over it much sooner than I. My fever was a continuous 104 degrees and I could not take food and drank what seemed a gallon of water a day, with very little sleep. This went on for two weeks or more until that one night. I did feel thirsty and fell asleep and slept until early the next morning when Dad was feeling my head and told me that my head was cool. But I felt very wet with sweat and fell asleep and slept till late afternoon and found myself wringing wet and the sweat had an awful smell. I changed clothing and bedding and again slept till some time the next day. As I awakened, I smelled something that smelt ever so good, that was Mother cooking sauerkraut. I struggled hard to get down stairs and could hardly wait till supper was ready. So I started eating and it seemed that I could not get filled. I found out later that was the worst thing that I could have done. I was told that during the illness, my bowels were weakened by the bug that was in them and too much food too soon could be disastrous. Anyway, I slowly mended but with a large loss of hair.
There was that war still going on in the old country [Poland] and this U.S.A. was told by President Wilson they would not get involved, but as things were getting bad over there and it looked as if England and France were unable to cope with Germany invading, it could be seen that it would not be long before we were getting drawn into it. Only a few weeks later, was was declared on Germany and our boys were on their way there. The factories became very busy and soon parts of factory buildings were converted to make war supplies. The engine for the Liberty fighter plane was made in the Buick Motor plant and many other items throughout the plants. The factories needed men and they were hard to find. There was the Oak Park just across the street from the employment office and the office personnel went into the part and when they saw any man lounging around, they were asked if they wanted a job. No one suffered any hardship and this went on till the summer of 1918 when things were getting bad in Europe. There was talk and soon the papers said that there would be a widening of the draft age. Also married men without children would be on the next draft call.
All this got me to thinking and maybe it wouldn’t be long and I would be called. Sure enough, before long that those between ages 18 and 40 were to register. Then one day as I was reading the paper, I saw a little item that said that Sgt Mills from Camp Meade was in the city and was trying to find band members that would like to enlist in a military band. He was organizing the “First Field Artillery Band” and needed musicians. He said that he already had a group of players but needed many more especially in certain sections. He also said that the regiment was already fully trained for overseas and were on notice that they could be called on a twelve hour notice. His regiment was stationed at Camp Meade Maryland, which was about half way between Washington D.C. and Baltimore. I told Dad and Mother about this and tried to make them understand that I would soon be drafted and that would be the infantry, and that was a lot more dangerous, but if I enlisted in the band we would be entertaining the soldiers and we would go to the front only as stretcher bearers whenever the need arose. And too, we would have better food and quarters. It didn’t take much talking to get their approval so the next day I went to see Sgt. W. Mills and right ten and there I was signed up and I was told to go to get my physical and I would be told when I was to leave for camp.
It was at this time that a nationwide flu epidemic was raging and it was something that had the symptoms of a severe lung congestion, but much deadlier and was called “The Spanish Influenza.” It spread very rapidly and became the worst plague that this country ever had. It was said later that this epidemic killed more people than the war.
….More to come.
“Yes,” he smiled. “And I believe you are…”
“Yes,” I said. “I thought you looked like you might be…”
“Yes. You too, looked like you might be…”
We both laughed. And so we met at Flatlanders’, a local sandwich shop. He a retired Veteran; a pediatrician; a researcher; a father; a husband; and a man who goes toe to toe with Kathleen Sebalius on budget issues. Me, a retired quality professional in the FDA regulated industry; a mother; a wife; a new journalist; a newish writer; a woman awed by Kathleen Sebalius’s strong conviction at BlogHer 13.
We, Dr. Errol Alden and I sat over hot beverages as if we were old friends. Neighbors meandered in and back out, stopped to say hello and remind Dr. Alden about choir practice at the Methodist Church later that afternoon. On November 11, Dr. Alden will talk to the local High School students about Veterans’ Day.
Dr. Errol Alden, MD, FAAP, retired from a military career in 1987. He explains the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day to me: “Memorial Day is a time to remember those who died defending our country; Veterans’ Day is a time to consider what veterans contributed to their country.”
In 1938 Congress dedicated November 11 “to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’” This new legal holiday honored the World War I veterans and the end of “The War to End All Wars.” In 1954, after both World War II and the Korean War, Congress changed “Armistice” to “Veterans,” and November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans of all wars.
Alden grew up one of seven children in a farming community; I the second of nine, in a similar farming community. We were both nerdy/geeky high-school students, he played the French horn, I the flute, in the marching band. We both participated in student government. We both loved our dairy cows. Dad helped me name my 4-H heifer, Lady Bird. Dr. Alden laughed at the obvious political joke my father interjected into my young life.
Alden went on to play in the Ohio State Marching Band where he graduated with an Agricultural Science degree. So how did he become a military pediatrician? Approaching graduation, Alden pondered aloud to his parents that he might be interested in medical school. They told fellow parishioners, who told friends, who told his classmates. By the time he got back to school, the news was out. He was going to medical school. Alden confesses, “I didn’t want to disappoint my parents.”
Alden became a military pediatrician. Besides treating children of service men and women, and children of Embassy officers, he taught at Madigan Army Medical Center, in Fort Willis, Washington, he served as chairman of Uniformed Services Health Sciences at Walter Reed and he helped establish pediatric standards of care.
Throughout his 25-year military career, Alden experienced many sociological changes. Before the Vietnam war, PTSS (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome) was rarely recognized. “People cannot be in war without emotional strain.” It only took me seeing “The Deer Hunter” to appreciate the trauma of war. Even before I had a son, I hoped never to send one of mine to war.
Alden also saw the military go from draft-status to all-volunteer. This ushered in a shift in strategy. During the Vietnam War, soldier did one tour of combat duty; now, soldiers are re-deployed to war zones many times. Alden explains the difference between an all-volunteer and a draft military, “Citizens who have been to war are anxious to avoid it.” He an I are on the same page, once again. Continue reading
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