Section 4 (Final)
January 10, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
I am again in the town of Commercy, Meuse, after seven days leave at Aix-les-Bains of the Savoy leave area. Arrived here early this morning after thirty-six long tedious hours on a French train. If you want to get anywhere in France, walk, for it is always surer. I had nine letters waiting for me when I came in, three from you of December 3, 6, and 10. I was more than anxious to get some mail as it had been a week or ten days before I left since I had received any and of course I had none while away. The others were two from Mother, one from Clarence, two from Aunt Jess, and a Xmas card from Louise D.
I can tell how you feel about wishing for the companionship of a boy after my trip south. For there were numerous pretty, well-dressed girls in and about that town and often I wished I had a nice girl just to chum with again but I always think of you & how true and faithful you have been since we were together last and I always determine more strongly than ever to wait until the time we can again live those happy days. Many of the fellows did have French girls there but I was with Orvie S. and if there ever was a boy loyal to a girl, he surely is to Bernice. It is wonderful what strength of character you find in fellows you least expect it in. I am glad I can name Shoey as one of my friends.
Well, I must tell you more of our trip. Sunday we took a carriage (we means Shoey, 'Chub' Fraker, Carl Kiel, and myself -- I guess you know the other boys) to the gorges and after spending something like an hour there, taking in the beautiful sights that a place like that has, we came back by a road over a mountain. The view and scenery from this way was marvelous. Looking down on the valley in which the town is situated and then at the snow-capped hills all around. The hills and mountains are not all tall enough to be snowcapped all the year in this immediate vicinity, but it is only a short distance to where they are. Mt. Blanc is only thirty-five miles from Aix. I never saw any of our own wonderful Rockies so you can easily imagine how wonderful it all seemed to be, looking upon the sights in the French Alps.
Tuesday we did a little mountain climbing by the Cog railway route. Mt. Resard was the one explored. It has an elevation of something over five thousand feet and the trip up took about an hour and a half. It was real winter up there. The snow was drifted over the railroad about four feet deep on a switch that was not used. And cold; gee! But it made me think of Kansas on a blizzardy day. It was real clear and the view around was splendid. Old Mt. Blanc was plainly visible all day and it was a wonderful sight to see it shining and glistening in the distance. It really did not seem more than fifteen or twenty kilometers away. Then the other mountains about. Really I did not know we were in such a mountainous country until I got to a place where I could look out over them. We were only a short distance from Italy and Switzerland both. Two hours would put us in Geneva itself but of course our presence there is not desired right now.
Down the other side, just across Lake Bourget which is, by the way, the largest lake in France, we could see Hannibal's pass. You know more about Hannibal's crossing the Alps than I, I am sure, but it gave me quite a thrill to know that I was looking at a place so well known to all students of ancient history.
Over just beyond another range of mountains we could see the Rhone Valley and in one place the Rhone itself was shining in the sunlight. Well, after taking all this in, Shoey and I started in to enjoy some winter sports and coasting was fine, too. I looked like I had been rolled in a snowdrift after a few trips down the course. Then we tried the skis and, take it from me, that is real sport besides being wonderful exercise. I made it down the hill all right the first time without a tumble but I ran into a drift at the bottom and I went into it head first and after that, tumbles were in order for skis are wicked things for a beginner. We took our dinner at a hotel on the summit and after dinner we were skiing again. This was when I took a real fall. Shoey found a hill that beat them all for steepness and length so nothing would do but we should coast down it. Shoey started and about halfway down he took his fall. I could not see anything but a big cloud of snow where he hit. Well, I made a start and got off in bad shape. A little way down when I was going about sixty per minute, my feet flopped up, skis and all, and I went into the snow head first. Head first, too, for I had to dig snow out of my eyes and ears for five minutes. I guess it was a good show alright for Shoey laughs every time I mention it. After a few more slides, we went back to the little station and got back to our hotel in time for supper. It was indeed a strenuous day.
Wednesday we took a boat ride on the lake on the excursion boat Savoie used exclusively by the Y.M. for its parties. We got a closer view of Hannibal's pass and a glimpse of an old Roman road through the pass.
But the real part of the trip was the visit to Haute Combe Abbey, an old medieval (I can't spell that durned word) monastery that is now the private property of the King of Italy. It was built in 1157 & is a work of art that would please Aunt Carrie, beyond a doubt. The paintings on the walls were of marvelous beauty and one could spend hours studying them. Some of the ancestors of the present King of Italy are buried near the altar. I never remembered my history of Italy well enough to recall just who they were. Anyway, I feel that it is something to know I have seen a place of this sort. After a little cruise up the lake on our good ship Savoie, our excursion was ended as was also our stay at Aix-les-Bains for, when we got back to our hotel, we found we were due to leave at 7:30 that night. We were pretty gloomy over it for a while because, as Shoey said, we wanted more than ever to go home. It gave us a taste of real civilized life again and it was hard to leave.
I wished more than once you could have been with me for, with you there, it would have been fairyland. And the place seemed just made for lovers. It was my one real view of what France was like and will be like again, I am sure.
I have taken six rolls of film pictures of our trip. I hope they are successful so you can get a good idea what it was like from these pictures. Orvie had the Kodak but all we could buy was French film and I can't say how they will work in an Eastman Kodak.
I am sending you a bunch of postcard views that I can tell you all about when you and I are sitting before the fireplace with nothing to hinder the conversation we like best. So, goodnight, dearest, the truest little sweetheart that ever a man had.
Your own Lloyd
P.S. A French one-franc note from the capital of the province of Savoy, Chambery. This is what we have to use for money. Excuse this bloomin' pencil, my pen is "fini."
Commercy, Meuse January 14, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
Just finished reading two of your wonderful letters for about the third time, I think. These were dated December 13 and 17.
I am extremely sorry to hear of your aunt's death. Although I knew her only a short time, I can say she was surely a nice woman. How many times I have crossed the courthouse square she has called to me from the window. I went into her office several times, too, for a few minutes of conversation. Well, such is the way of life and we can never tell just the why of everything. It is not for us to know, I guess.
One of the boys here has a French grammar he is studying. It is my old college book, too, the Chardenal. I have often wished for it and our old Major who was in charge of the office for a while left it here. I have to stop every few minutes to enter a discussion about a word. I never was any good talking to these French because I am not much for getting out and holding harangues with them. I know a few sentences and that is all I care much about. I will know how to talk to a certain little girl in K.C. and that is what I am looking forward to now. But getting home right soon doesn't look very favorable just yet. I wish they would get a move on at the peace conference. We are doing nothing but just staying here. The boys of the regiments are drilling, the engineers are fixing roads, and the rest of us are just doing the necessary things to keep them doing what they are. That is the whole thing in a nutshell.
I suppose the fellows who were left in the States are being mustered out right along now. More than likely Glenn is home by this time. Well, he should be. I guess I can afford to have a few more months of army thrust upon me better than he.
I have it on him anyway if he is a 1st Lieutenant. I saw some real army and he hasn't. We never knew how nice a place Camp Doniphan was until we were here a few months and everyone knows it wasn't easy pickings even there. Well, when Uncle Sam says he is through with me, I can at least be proud to know that I have done all that he has asked of me. I will have the personal satisfaction of knowing I was there from start to finish and I did not wait to be shoved in, either. Don't you know I am glad to think I enlisted after all maybe I did not use the best judgement in the world about doing it.
I hope and really believe that the bad news of Doug is not true. I know I have not heard from him in a long time but I think it is neglect on both of us. He will turn up O.K. soon, I think, and I know it would be hard to lose old Doug.
James is having it hard -- less than a year and a chance to be at home for a while. Don't worry, tho, here is one fellow that knows what a home is now and the public is going to have a hard time getting me to get out of my own front yard when I do get back.
Well, 'spect I better call it off for a little while and only you know how much I would like to be saying goodnight as we did so long ago. Goodnight to you, the dearest little girl in U.S.A.
With deepest truest love, Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse January 18, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
I was indeed a lucky person today. When I received five letters all at once, I think it is a cause for great joy. Three of these were from you of the dates of December 23, 25, and 29. Of the others, one was from Mother and one from Aunt Jess. Also I had seven Heralds so you can see there is at least one happy soldier in the A.E.F. tonight.
I am glad you received the little package. I was afraid it would not reach you anywhere near Christmas time. Rather a joke on me that there was so much duty on the things but surmised as much for several of the boys in the office have had similar experience. I can surely say that it is lively perfume. When I first opened the envelope I wondered where all the fragrance came from but it was not long in making itself known. I am glad you liked the little gift and how much I wished I could send something really deserving of you.
So you had real snow there for Christmas and while the strike was on, too. Snow has been real scarce here so far. The only snow I have seen was on the mountains. The weather here has surprised me. Really I expected some very cold days. I only hope the cold stays away in the future as well as it has in the past the rest of this winter.
I am having some Kodak pictures made that Shoey and I took while on leave and if these French live and I am patient enough, I will send you a pictorial of our trip. It seems like they are so slow at such work over here.
Speaking of pictures I must tell you again how much I value the folder you and Mother were so thoughtful in sending me. The fellows in the office all complimented me on having such a good looking girl waiting for me in the States and I assured them she was all and more than her looks implied, true blue in every way.
I certainly rather envy a lot of the fellows who are at home already or have had a chance to be at home for a little while. It seems so long since we have been together and it has been almost a year and a half already. Well, some of these times, some of those fellows will have to step back and let us enjoy the fruits of victory, won't they? You will be all the more sweet and dear to me for our having been so far separated so long. It will be the real thrill when I can again clasp you in my arms and kiss those dear lips that are mine and mine forever. I hope that it won't be long now, dearest, but after all it is hardest to wait when you know all real action in the field is over.
There is some agitation for a divisional football team and I have sent my name to the powers above. As yet I have not heard whether the plan is going through or not but I would like to try a little of the old game, my old failing again, you see. It looks like a great time for such a sport, doesn't it, but the weather is about right except for so much rain. Anyway, the A.E.F. makes its own rules as to when we do anything. This is some crowd, this conglomeration of American citizens over here.
I am sending you a couple of copies of the Stars and Stripes, one of the latest issue and one of an older issue. The older issue has a pretty good write-up of the Argonne fight. Save it for me, won't you, as I would like to keep it. Am sending one home, too, so one ought to get through safely.
Well, I must say goodbye for a little time. So God bless you and keep you for you are the dearest girl in the world and I love you so!
Your own Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse January 28, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
I have been indeed fortunate since I wrote you last. Really more than I deserve, I am afraid. Yesterday I received five letters and four of them were from you. They bore the dates of January 2, 4, 5 and 8. The other was from Mother of January 5.
So many letters from you written in so short a time really makes me believe I deserve that scolding you gave me and then so sweetly apologized for. I have been rather slack in writing lately and I know some of my letters are not as interesting as I would like for them to be. I am no letter writer anyway, I guess, and you know how much I talk. You know it wouldn't be me if I just cut loose sometime and gushed over as some fellows do. Whatever comes I can never forget you or grow tired of you, I have found that out. You know once not many years ago how miserable we both were for a long two or three weeks. You know what time I am thinking of. I just can't help but care for you and everyday you mean more to me and become more and more a part of my life. I am so careless at times about writing that a little calling down does me good.
I am glad to hear of your new increase in pay. Getting to be a regular occurrence, isn't it? But that is what I would expect of you. I remember that you were always interested in such work in school. We certainly had a lot of fun out of our play news-gathering there and I know you go after news with far more interest now.
In my last letter I said there were rumors of our starting for home soon. Well, that wave of hope is rather on the decline now. That is the way it goes over here, first one rumor after another. I never believe anything anymore but there is always hope, you know. This waiting business is getting rather tiresome already and nobody knows how much longer we will have to stand for it. I guess the thing isn't settled yet by any means so all we can do is just hang around and wait. What good we are doing is more than I can say, however. I don't like to sing the blues, but some of this "stuff" that is going on looks so useless to me. I never was much of a soldier anyway, I guess.
So, friend "Bill" has become a schoolmarm. I ought to write her but I have just neglected it. She was a dandy kid but, just as you say, I never could quite understand her. When I think of her, I can't help but think of old Doug, too, for at one time he was quite strong for her. I wish I could learn something of Doug, if he really is missing yet. "Dog-gone-it," here I am not so very far from him perhaps and yet I don't know, either. I have thought of him a great deal lately. I surely hope someone has heard some good news of him since you wrote of "Bill."
Well, we had a little snow for a change but it didn't last long. It has become a little warmer today. You have had some real winter and I know how cold it gets there at times. I could stand considerable cold if I just had a chance to stop off at the Union Station some morning. There is a little clipping from "Life" in this letter and it is pretty good, at that. If you should ever have any uneasiness on account of the French girls, just forget it and read this.
Well, I must close as it is rather late and work must go on, war or no war. I don't believe it will be so very long until we can spend more of those wonderful evenings together as we did not so long ago. Our wonderful 'someday' will dawn before long, my own dearest little girl.
|To Our Girls
Don't lose any beauty sleep over the possibility of your soldier forgetting you for the first pretty French girl he meets. He'll think of you a lot more often "Over There" than he ever did over here. Every woman he sees there will remind him of you in some subtle way -- the sound of a voice, the soft curve of a throat, the mere fact that she is a woman, and, therefore, like you. You and home are his religion and the things he is fighting for. Don't you worry, girls: the farther away he may be, the more whole-heartedly does he belong to you, and to you alone.
With all the love in the world, Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse February 2, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
It is Sunday evening again and I know you will be writing this evening, too, so I must do my bit also.
I just came in from a visit to old K Company. I went out this morning on the mail truck and ate dinner and supper with them. What do you think we had doughnuts for supper and as Shoey was cooking them, I had a plenty. Shoey is cooking now and he is pretty good, too. He stayed with me last night. A couple of them came into Commercy last night and, as transportation to the Company wasn't good, they just waited until morning before going back. You see we do a little moving about and visiting over here.
From the looks of things right now, our chances for being home this spring are indeed excellent. No doubt you will hear of this before you get this letter for I imagine the newspapers are pretty 'keen' for news of this sort. Well, we are actually getting everything fixed for a move that will put us one step nearer home. It certainly can't be any too soon for me, either. The fellows in the Company were all feeling in the best of spirits today. They had a payday yesterday and good news of going home has been coming along all the time.
By the way, do you remember a Mr. Morton who used to make pretty regular visits to Burke's next door to you on West Fifth Street? He has become an expert rifle shot and is now shooting on the divisional team. I rode back with him on the same truck tonight. He has made a good soldier, alright. Queer, isn't it, what a little elapse of time will do.
I am going to put the pictures we took at Aix-les-Bains in this letter so if they get by alright, you will have a good collection of comedy anyway. They are pretty good pictures, however, so just look them over and before very long I will be back to tell you all about them. I won't say any more of them now. I'll save that until I can really talk to you. My! Won't that be a great feeling. And I know you are every bit as anxious for that time as myself. That makes it a hundred times more sweet. It won't be so very long now and the days to follow. I can't imagine any more love and happiness than will be ours, made all the more sweet by our little sacrifices. The old world looks pretty bright tonight somehow. I believe that the end of this is not so very far away.
Saw Becker today, too. He hears from Robert occasionally. Said something about a proposition he (Robert) had for remaining in the army. Also Robert had sent Becker some cigarettes recently. Becker looks fine, just about the same old Becker. He was asking of Doug, too and I couldn't tell him anything. Wish someone would scare up something of him.
We have been having a little winter weather. Quite cold all day today and has been for several days. There are places where people are skating. The river overflowed some lowland and, as the water isn't deep there, it is frozen over. I have not attempted any skating myself for skates are very scarce articles around here. Hope your winter has broken by now for I know that it is extremely cold going back and forth to work. I don't believe that our cold will last very long. The cold beats rain, however.
Well, I am feeling alright except for a little cold and I am going to continue to feel O.K. for it will soon be time to go home and when I get back, you will find I am just as clean a man as the one you sent away. The army is a pretty good conditioner, alright.
Well, I am getting sleepy. My walk and visit did it, I guess. So I will say goodnight for a little while longer. Soon, my own little girl, we will say our goodnights as we did so long ago.
With all the love in the world, Your own Lloyd
Commercy February 5, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
This was another lucky day for I received five letters. Three from you dated January 10, 12 and 15. The others were from Mother and Aunt Jess. They were all splendid letters and I know I am feeling great tonight for letters like these from you are the greatest cheer givers ever invented. Those little pictures of you and Louise were in one letter and they were some pictures, too. Rather makes me think of some of the stunts we kids, brothers, used to do. Thanks for them.
Am glad to know that the shell vase got to you. It was quite a long time in getting thru, though. Don't ever mention sending anything in return, for these wonderful letters that you so plentifully send me are all and more than enough in return. Letters are wonderful things, as you know. I am sure that we have done quite a little letter writing during our acquaintance. I well remember the first one you wrote to me telling of a class party I could not attend and then the ones you wrote me when you were in Nebraska during the summer. So when you write, just say what you feel like saying and whatever is in your heart. For you don't know how proud it makes me feel to know that you do confide in me. I will always and forever guard that trust and hold sacred whatever passes between us. Isn't love a wonderful thing, dearest. Sometimes when I know I have done something that pleases you, I feel just like proclaiming it to everybody. I just bubble over, I guess. But then I know that can't be done so I just let it reflect from my actions.
Well, from the looks of things now we may be where we can really talk to each other before my year overseas is up. We are now preparing for a move to the embarkation center. Of course it will take some time after we get there before we are actually homeward bound but it is a step. Transportation is the big factor and I am hoping that things are fixed for as quick a return as possible. But I guess we must not be too sure for orders can so easily be changed as I have found out.
But it certainly is a great feeling to even think that we will be going home soon. We will have a lot to do and talk of, won't we. But, say, it will be best of all to go back to you again. A little experience like this makes a great difference in one's ideas about some things. It rather sifts out all the unnecessary things and leaves only the essentials. What stands out most of all is my love for you and, before long, our dearest dreams will be realized. This is a grand and glorious old world after all, isn't it.
We are having a little snow tonight. The first that has stayed on the ground to amount to much. It isn't so very cold or hasn't been so I am hoping this snow is not with us long. We are well fixed here, though, for we always have a good fire in the room where we work. After all we have it much easier than so many of the fellows.
Well, I must stop for this time as some of the fellows have gone to bed so it must be getting late. So, goodnight my dearest little girl.
With truest love, Your own Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse February 9, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
I had four letters in this last batch of mail. Two from you and one from Mother yesterday. One from Aunt Jess today. Yours were dated January 19 and 22. They were both fine letters and I love so much to get them. You surely are very good to me. I am afraid I don't keep up my side of the correspondence as well as I should but that does not say that I do not think of you every day of the week and every hour of the day. One of these days, though, we won't have to write letters, will we? I certainly am going to spend a part of my time immediately after my return with you. It will be the happiest of all my visits, too, won't it, dearest. There are lots of things for us to talk about, aren't there, and we will just talk, talk to our hearts desire. My! How I hope that time will not be far off.
You asked something about our pay and how regular we received it so I will try and explain the system to you. I don't believe I ever did say anything of it before.
We are paid every month. Lately it has come quite regular, never later than the fifth or sixth of the month. Of course, while we were moving and the Division was in action, things could not be so regular. I received my first pay in France the fifth of August. So you see I had three months accumulated for we were paid in Ft. Sill for March. I guess it was four months instead of three after all when I count it up. This delay was caused on account of my duties away from the Company. A man on detached service has a hard time, especially when the system of paying was not organized any better than it was when we first came over. Things are much better organized now, however, and also I am now transferred to this little outfit called the 35th Division Postal Detachment. So we have an opportunity to take care of this matter as a separate unit.
Soldiers overseas get 20% more, but 20% of the pay they used to get before they drew $30 per month privates pay. The pay used to be $15 a month so 20% of $15 is 3 bucks. Three and thirty is thirty-three dollars a buck private's pay for duties overseas. Privates, first class, draw 20% of $18, Corporals 20% of $21, etc. Do you understand now? I don't know whether I am any good at explaining or not. Anyway, as a private, first class, I draw sixty cents more than a Corporal in the States. The extra pay is all there is to being a private, first class, however. Uncle Sam wants to donate a few francs, I guess, so he does it that way. So much for all that kind of army talk.
We are having some dandy winter weather. There is a little snow on the ground and it is just cold enough to make one feel snappy and full of pep. The streets and roads are so slick from the traffic of many trucks that we can hardly walk on them. Sleighing would certainly be fine over here. And it is moonlight, too. Last night we worked rather late getting some mail into a car and when we were through with our work and had a chance to see how really beautiful the night was, gee! How I wished you were with me. You know now what sort of a night it was, don't you? For we have spent a good many about like it together. How well I remember going home from church on such nights. We never minded the cold, did we? There are many, many other happy times coming, though. And we are surely going to make the best of them, you bet.
Well, I can't say anything new about our departure for the good old U.S. We are just here and for how much longer it is hard to tell. We are in shape, however, to leave for the embarkation center on short notice. So we will just sit tight until we have more orders, I guess.
Well, it is getting late and work must be done tomorrow. The mail must be kept moving for I know how much it is prized both in the States and over here.
So, goodnight my own dearest little girl. How much would I give for just one goodnight kiss. They are priceless, dearest, for they mean so much.
With deepest, truest love, Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse February 16, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
We had a little mail today and I was fortunate enough to get two letters. One from you dated January 27 and one from Mother of January 26. They were both dandy letters and I was certainly glad to get them. I surely hope you have had better mail service since you wrote that letter. The letters I wrote about Christmas time don't seem to have been very prompt about getting around. Well, I am going to keep you supplied with letters from now until we see each other once more. It still looks as though we might be home sometime this next spring. At least preparations are being made now with that intention. But things of that sort don't move very fast in the army so the best we can do is be patient and hope.
No, I have not had any chances to visit Paris yet without an AWOL and this is too late in the game to start that now for such offenders are put into labor battalions that are kept over here as long as there is an A.E.F. None of that for me. I want to have the first possible chance to go home. It rather looks like it would be an easy matter to visit a city a few hours ride from here but "General Jack" looks at it differently. I presume he knows something about the place. I would certainly like to see the celebrated places there but outside of that, "nixie" on the gay life. I have seen too many fellows who are following that path and it doesn't look as rosy as it is painted. Some people have a queer way of pursuing happiness. To me it looks like they get on the wrong trail but it isn't for me to judge them. What I am going to do is work out my own salvation in the way that looks right to me.
I certainly would like to see you with that new veil. Really, I had never given any thought as to what the current styles are and I must confess I am a little surprised for it has been some time since veils have been worn, hasn't it?
Wonder what the style makers will have doped out for us fellows when we get back? I imagine some of the boys will have their own ideas.
So Edmonds is back. He always was a good manager. I presume he got a good dose of gas and that stuff certainly puts a man out.
Well, I have about reached the climax in my souvenir game. I annexed an iron cross the other day & if some "gink" doesn't offer me beaucoup francs for it, I will bring it home. The market is good for such things sometimes and a soldier is ever ready to collect a few francs, you know.
France has returned to her own. It is warmer and raining, consequently, plenty of mud. Well, spring will be here soon and I know last spring was fine. I hope I am home by that time or soon after. Spring is our own season, isn't it. I remember as yesterday the good times we had our last year in H.S. and our picnic at the "cut." Just wait, little girl, until we are together again we will have even better times because of the love we have found. The time when we meet again can't come any too soon, either, dearest.
It is rather late so I shall say goodnight to my own dearest lassie.
With sincerest love, Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse February 20, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
Today was again a lucky day for me. I received three letters, two from you dated January 30 and February 3. That is pretty good time, I think. Anyway we can scarcely hope for much better. The other letter was from Aunt Jess. She has been so good about writing. I am afraid I have not written her as much as I should and I know I am long overdue for a letter now. And your letters, I am sure you know how pleased and happy I am to get them for you have the same feeling when my letters finally get in. Letters from you always make our rather monotonous life seem much brighter and they rather tide me over until the next ones come. Things over here are not rushing now and we have more time to think of things at home, so letters mean just as much and more than they did when the fighting was going on.
We have certainly been in this place for a long time, two months and a half. We came here December 10. That is quite a while considering the way we moved about all summer and fall.
Well, we keep hearing and being told that we will soon be on our way home and I presume it is true. But just when, no one knows. But I suppose it will be some little time yet. We have been waiting and hoping for a good many months now, haven't we dear, and as there is an end to almost everything, there will be one to this.
General Pershing and the Prince of Wales were around to call on us Monday. The General of our Division lives just a couple of houses down the street from the office so of course the party stopped there for dinner. So you see, we live on the most exclusive street in Commercy. The M.P.'s wouldn't let us hang around to see the distinguished party at very close range but we did see them as they went by and again at the Divisional review. There were more generals, etc. flying around all afternoon than I knew were in this Army. More generals from other divisions were here than all that were sticking around second army headquarters. The review was about as all reviews but it did look fine to see the whole Division, or practically so, on parade. Of course I wasn't there as our duties don't extend to such occasions and I am not at all sorry. It isn't at all pleasant to just hang around in formation for four or five hours at a time and a good part of that time spent at attention.
So Robert doesn't care about going home just yet. Well, I would certainly like to see more of England for our short stay there only gave us an idea of what sort of a country it is. I was very much taken up with what I saw. It would be great to go over and look Robert up, wouldn't it? That is out of the question, however. Uncle Sam doesn't stand for much running around. Some of these days maybe you and I can see a little of this old world. My how I wish we could take such a trip together. But I know I will be happy to just be with you. You mean the whole world to me now and all my interests and my ambitions are to make things happy for you. Soon, I hope, we will be where we can bring to realization our fondest ambitions. It is almost 11 o'clock now so I must say goodnight to my own dearest little girl.
With truest love, Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse February 24, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
You are the best girl in the whole world. Yesterday I received two letters from you and, as I just had some letters the day before, I did not look for any for at least a week. These letters came over in the shortest time yet, February 5 and 7, just fifteen days -- pretty good time, don't you think?
I am glad to hear that you were baptized. It is the proper thing to do under any circumstances. Although I have always been under the best Christian training, I have never taken the step. I guess it was because such things are not usually thought of very seriously by a young fellow such as I was when at home. Things of that sort have been brought before me in a different light, lately. Maybe it is because I have been able to think more maturely. It is hard sometimes for a person to analyze his thoughts thoroughly and tell from just what motives some thoughts come. Christianity has been the mainstay of all civilization and one cannot put it lightly to one side.
We had a dandy football game here Saturday. Rather a peculiar time of year to be playing football, but the weather over here is good football weather, if a little of the rain was cut out. This game was between our divisional team at the 7th Division. There was a big crowd. The field was lined all around besides all the cars, trucks, etc. that were loaded down. We had two bands and the other division had one so things were lively so far as music went. The game came out rather unsatisfactorily naught to naught. The tie may be played off at Toul Thursday. A couple of boys from the 140th are in here tonight and considerable talking has been going on. These fellows are going to school at Poitiers, one of the French universities that has been opened to Americans. These boys are old William Jewell students.
I see from your letters that our rumors of going home got even over to your side of the big water. I suppose that there are just as many wild tales about us coming home as there are here. The latest date for a move is now the middle of March. So all we can do now is hope that things move along the best possible.
Took a walk out to where Bruce Allison is stationed Sunday. I don't suppose you knew him very well, but, anyway, he is from Ottawa and whenever any of us get a chance, we like to talk over the latest news from home and everything else of interest.
Well, really it is getting rather late for soldiers to be up. I will write a real letter the next time. You know it is hard to write when there is someone talking and cutting up all the time. And evenings are about the only chance there is for letter writing.
I am glad you like the little things I sent you. They are not half what I would like to send you but sometime soon we will be together again and then I can show how much I love you and what you really mean to me.
So, goodnight my own dearest little girl. With sincerest love, Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse February 28, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
I said the last letter I wrote you I would get busy and write a real newsy letter soon. I can't say how this one will be this early in my attempt, but I always do all that I can when I write you. I wonder why it is sometimes it is easy to sit down and write, while at other times it is quite a task. It must be the old gag of being in the writing mood. Anyway, I always write what is in my heart to you for I know you understand.
I have been doing fine at receiving letters this week. One Wednesday from you came over in just two weeks from the date mailed. Not bad, is it? Then Thursday I received one from Aunt Jess and today one from Mother. That is spreading the joy out over a considerable space of time, I think. They were all great letters. I see that the news of our return reached you almost as soon as we knew it. Only one thing was wrong. I am afraid we can't sail by March 1st as this is quite a distance from the deep blue sea and tomorrow is the first of March. Anyway, we are soon to leave this town for the embarkation center at Le Mans and, after a month or so there, we will be ready to sail. A movement order sets our departure sometime between April 15 and May 1st. So, if something out of the way does not come up, we will be home with about a year in France marked against us. So tell Louise that I am counting on that dinner party so be prepared as a hungry soldier of the A.E.F. is looking forward to that occasion. But what I am counting on the most is the time I am going to spend with you. You're going to require that boss of yours to turn you over to me for a few days. What do you say? Do you think that will be satisfactory arrangements? Oh boy, I say it will look mighty good to me. And it won't be very long until you can meet a soldier at the station. Just the other day a postcard picture of the Union Station came through the mail and it did look good.
I suppose this war has made changes in both of us but I believe the change was for the better after all. It sort of took off all the frills and got down to the real person and, although I am now perhaps a little rough in my army life, but this little roughness will wear off pretty quick, I can tell you. We are able to appreciate many of the little things we just took for granted before. I believe that we know each other better and our love is a really true love. We have been away from each other for eighteen months now and I never realized that I could care for anyone as I love you. If this war has done nothing else for us, it has shown us love and that is everything to us, isn't it.
I was playing football today and I am rather tired. It is the first time I have done much violent exercise and am rather tired as a result. Bill Showen is playing with me. He is some boy and a pretty good chap, too.
Well, goodnight dearest. I hope it won't be long until I can take you in my arms to say our goodbyes.
With sincere love, Lloyd
Commercy, Meuse March 3, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
It's rather pleasant sitting here tonight in a warm room and our electric light shining out so cheerily. No, I have not moved. It's the same old room, I guess I just feel comfortable. I guess I never mentioned our billet as all such quarters furnished by the government are called in France. There are four of us in here and we all have iron cots or beds such as the French use in their barracks. Our little old stove keeps the place warm since we fixed the windows by covering them with canvas. Altogether, this has not been a bad place to spend three months if it has to be done. I know of lots worse quarters I have seen in France. I hope the next place is anywhere near as good. As things stand now, we are due to leave here the eighth of March by trucks to Le Mans, France. This is the A.E.F. embarkation center and it is likely we will be there six weeks or more. And then, oh boy! Westward bound!
We had a rather disastrous fire in our town last night. A building occupied by some men of second army headquarters was burned. Fifty or sixty men were sleeping there and the fire had pretty good headway before anyone found it out. As a result, two boys were burned to death and several others hurt. It seems so terrible as it was a rather dinky place and it doesn't look possible just to look at it. It only goes to show again this is an uncertain old world and the unexpected always causes some catastrophe.
It is almost time for more mail from the States and that always means a letter or so from you. You are indeed the best in the world for writing so often. You alone know how much they are to me and one of these times you and I are going to be the happiest it is possible to be if it lies within my power. It won't be but a few months now until we can be together. That will be the grand and glorious feeling, won't it.
Well, I must say goodnight, dearest, as it is rather late.
With sincerest love, Lloyd
P.S. By the way, our clocks were turned back an hour March 1st so 6:30 is quite early. October 1st the clocks are set back again. It is a regular thing in France.
Commercy, Meuse March 6, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
A little more mail from home has reached here and I was lucky enough to get two. One from you of February 14, and one from Father and Mother. You see I mention Dad. He doesn't write often but occasionally he does get busy and he writes fine letters. The letter from home was of the 16th, Sunday, and as you said you would write again on that day, I am expecting another letter from you real soon. I am never disappointed, either, when it comes to getting your letters. You are surely writing often and such wonderful letters. But that is what I expect from a girl like you. It couldn't be otherwise when you are the dearest of all girls.
I saw Becker tonight. What do you think, he is going to the A.E.F. university at Beaune, France, for a three-month course. I really did not look for him to take that up but I believe he understood he could get out and join the Division when we were ready to sail. I am afraid, though, he will have to stay the entire three months. Well, who knows, maybe he will get his school and come back with us too. I certainly hope we can beat that, but you never can tell.
We are leaving here day after tomorrow for Le Mans so I expect we will be pretty busy for a few days and then it will take several days to make the trip overland. We are going to tour France in an army truck. How would you like to go too? The old trucks ride pretty rough but I believe I would rather go that way than by train as most of the Division are moving.
You had quite a celebration for the 65th C.A.C. Well, I would certainly like to be in K.C. but I am not at all particular about the celebrations. It is enough just to be there. Of course the people want to see the 35th or as much of it as possible. I suppose we will be about the first home unit back from the A.E.F. and, as we have had quite a bit of publicity by the journalism route, it will be some time. I can't say a whole lot about the muss a certain ex-Y.M. man is staging. Probably he knows what he is about. Looks like we were the 'goats' in a calamity howl. If that is necessary, alright, but there are so many divisions that have gone through more than we have. I am not in favor of a "crybaby" affair in the eyes of the A.E.F. for they are the boys that know. Maybe that isn't the right attitude, but I feel that way about it myself.
Is Robert going to beat me home after all? Becker said he had a letter from him about a week ago. Again I say I wish I could see more of England. I will let Robert tell of that part of Europe, I guess.
I may not get to write for a week or so, but I will if possible. These moves are rather strenuous at times so if I am a little longer than usual about writing, you will know.
Goodnight, dearest. May our meeting be as speedy as possible.
With truest love, Your own Lloyd
Montfort, Sarthe March 21, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
Everything is as usual. Nothing in particular to do but just work with the mail. This isn't much of a town for anything so I am glad we are busy most all the time. The days move along faster when there is something to do. Just about now when we are just waiting to go home is a time when it is well we are busy, I think.
From the looks of things now, it is quite possible that we will be on the water or almost ready to go on board by the time this reaches you. Of course delays are always in order these times. If things move out as it looks, I may be home by your birthday. How is that for a stunner? I surely hope that I can be with you then. I well remember your last birthday. I was out in the middle of the deep blue sea. I wrote you a letter that day although it wasn't started for the U.S. until we reached England.
I was in to see the town of Le Mans yesterday. It is quite a nice place, large enough to take on the aspect of a city. It is the capital and principal town of the department of Sarthe. I saw the cathedral there and, as it is the first time I have had a chance to see the interior of one of these old structures, I was much interested. It is very beautiful as all these are. There were a dozen or more separate altars and each was beneath a beautiful stained glass window. I don't believe it had the wonderful paintings I saw in the old abbey at Aix-les-Bains, but there were some beautiful tapestries. I went up into the tower by the corkscrew stairway and I can say it was a dickens of a climb. Two hundred and sixty-three steps, just "round and round." It was a wonderful sight, though, after we got to the top. The whole city and surrounding country was to be seen. One of the things that interested me was the lead roof on the tower of this cathedral. I can see now what the Germans took off the big church and school building at St. Mihiel. I could see that something was torn off, but I never could tell what it was from the ground.
I must go to bed as the fire has gone out and it is getting a little cool in the room. That is the best method of keeping warm provided there are enough blankets. Fortunately I am all O.K. now.
Goodnight, dearest. A few more weeks and we will be together all the more happy for our long separation.
With truest love, Lloyd
This postcard was included in the above letter. There was no written text on it.
Montfort, Sarthe March 30, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
This has been an especially good day for me as I received five letters. That is a good many all at one time so to say I was pleased would be putting it lightly. Three of these were from you of March 5th, 7th, and 12th. Then there was one from Mother and one from Aunt Jess. I rather expect this will be the last I will get before we leave France as our office closes on April 2, and at 9:15 P.M on the third of April we entrain for St. Nazaire. So if something doesn't show up to hold us it won't be but a few days after getting to port that we will board a transport bound for U.S.A. I can begin to feel the thrill of "Homeward Bound" now and it is Some feeling. So if this is the last letter you receive from me as a member of the A.E.F. you will know that all has worked out as speedily as I hope they will. I assuredly hope that the next time you hear from me it will New York U.S.A. instead of A.E.F. France.
Another grand bit of news and about as welcome as any I have had for some time came in a little clipping from Mother. Old Doug is O.K. and with an air squadron in Germany. Also he was expecting to go home soon. Probably you have seen the same thing, but I have thought so much of Doug since we heard that report of his being missing. I hope he and I can meet soon in U.S.
I am afraid you will have me on such a pedestal in the eyes of your girl friends that it will be pretty hard for Private Staley to uphold the standard. But all I want is the chance for I will know then that I am with you and that is what counts right now. It won't be very long until we can spend those delightful evenings you were speaking of together. It will be real spring weather by the time I get home and we used to have some wondrous times in the springtime didn't we? Remember the Senior class picnic at the cut and how we rather loitered behind the rest of the crowd? That was a good while ago and we were just beginning to know each other. How much more the hours we spend together now will mean to us. So just a few more weeks and our months of loneliness will all be forgotten in our happiness of being together again.
From all accounts now I presume we will be sent to Camp Funston for demobilization. The St. Louis boys will go to Camp Taylor, Ky., while some others will go to Camp Dodge, Va. So our division as a unit will about be finished when it leaves France.
Must close now as it is rather late and lots to do before we leave here.
So good-night, dearest,
With sincere love,
This telegram appears to have been sent on the same day as the preceding one but later and from a different station. It may be that Lloyd sent the first immediately upon disembarking at Newport News and the second when he arrived at quarters at Camp Stuart. I can well imagine he was anxious that the message get through and sent this second one as a safeguard.
Camp Funston, Kansas Sunday, April 27, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
Home at last and now what is needed to make me the happiest man ever in Sam's army is to meet you and Mother. I intended to let you know what time our train would go thru K.C. but when I found it was to be so early in the morning, I thought it best to let it go by. Sorry indeed that you came anyway and missed me but just the same it will be for only a few days. It is quite possible that we will be out by the middle of the week. But don't look for me until I let you know and I will as soon as I find what time I can get to K.C. after I am discharged.
And, say! It can't be any too soon now. We had a good trip across the states but I guess I'd better wait to tell that. All I can think of now is "when do I go home."
Just wait till I see you!
With truest love, Lloyd
Camp Funston, Kansas May 2, 1919
My Dearest Mary,
Gee, but yesterday was my lucky day. Just found out at breakfast this morning that my discharge will be through today or anyway by tomorrow. I rather suspected something of the sort as our sergeant was working for it. But first, that isn't all. What do you think, I was promoted to sergeant myself yesterday. Guess they did it as a farewell handshake. Anyway, it makes me feel a little better as I have made a little advancement since belonging to this man's army. Wish I had it a day sooner and I would have had another surprise for you.
Well, I really think I will be out soon now and be at some sort of work that is more to my liking. I am going to be a real worker, too, for that is the way to the realization of my ambitions and our dreams. Will see you again soon now.
With all the love in the world, Your own Lloyd
Wellsville, Kansas Thursday, May 29, 1919
My Own Dearest Mary,
You asked me not to answer your letter unless I wanted to. It is going to be hard to do and the letter did hurt because I know that I deserve a lot of the criticism that has been given me. I don't know why I have to be jolted so to bring me around to my senses. I am just a big blundering idiot and nothing else. It isn't right that I should leave any room for fault finding and especially when it falls on you. I did not give you a ring when I left because I thought then that my chances for a return to you were rather slim. Maybe I am foolish but I did not want you to feel that I was tying you down to something that I could not fulfill.
I knew there was something hurting you terribly Monday night for it isn't your way to cry over nothing. And it was I that really hurt you too. Well, little girl, I don't see what there is about me that you should love me as you do, but I know that you do love me as no one else ever could and I am proud to have your love.
Oh! I wish I could marry you right now. I just can't until I can at least have a possibility of the home that you deserve.
You shall have the ring and that will be the next time I see you. I can't write any more now. Please don't be too blue, although you have cause enough.
I have hurt you enough for one letter but I sincerely hope that I have sense enough never to hurt you again.
Always your own Lloyd
Lloyd and Mary's courtship continued for a little more than a year beyond that last letter. The following is excerpted from Lloyd's memoirs written in 1980:
On September 15, 1920, my high school sweetheart, Mary Gray, and I were married at her parents' home at 5409 Cleveland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. The next spring we moved to 57th and Bales Avenue, Kansas City, into a house Mary's father had built a few years before but did not own at this time. We lived in this house a short time and then moved to a house on 62nd Street, just north of Swope Park. Our first son, Warren G., was born July 8, 1921, while we were living in the house on 57th Street. The second son, John D., was born November 2, 1922.
During this time I had been working at various jobs, mostly in the building and construction industry. Not satisfied with the prospects in this business, I decided to move back to my father's farm as he was desirous of retiring and moving to Wellsville. With my small family, we moved to my parents' house in Wellsville in order to do some remodeling that my mother wished to have done before they moved from the farm. The fall of 1923 and the winter of 1924 we lived in this house while I built on two more rooms.
In the spring of 1924, after my father held a farm sale to dispose of his personal property (most of which I bought over the auction block), we moved to the farm. We continued to live on this farm through many and varied experiences of good and bad years until 1928 when we moved to another farm a mile and a half east which was owned by our neighbor, Frank Miller. The farm price depression really hit us here so we held a farm sale in the spring of 1929. We left the farm for Garnett, Kansas, in considerable debt to work for my father-in-law, who was now manager of the Garnett Church Furniture Company. We lived in various houses in this town and did quite well until the depression stopped the church furniture business. Then making a living for the family became really hard. While we never lacked for food and a place to live, it did take considerable scheming and close planning to make ends meet. I might add this was not always accomplished. However, our Lord was good to us and did not allow His own to beg bread. His promises we found to be sure and certain. At one time I worked for fifteen cents an hour. Whatever was convenient to do, if it brought in a little money for the family larder, I did it. So we came through the hard times.
In March of 1936, the U.S. Post Office Department held an examination for the position of Railway Mail Clerk. I took this examination and passed with a high enough grade to be accepted for a position as a substitute clerk. On August 25, 1936, I began my first assignment at the Kansas City Missouri Terminal Post Office. In a short time I was working as a Railway Postal Clerk on the Santa Fe Railroad, known in postal language as the K.C. & Albuquerque. I was more than thrilled to receive my first check for seventy dollars for two weeks' work. However, there were times when the depression reached even to the mail service and, as a substitute clerk, I did not always get to work at a steady job.
The family now consisted of five boys and three girls and sometimes my wife's parents or my father, so it was necessary to have a steady income to keep the family provided for. However, we did quite well and never lacked for any of the necessities of life.
Our first home after moving to Kansas City, Missouri, was 142 South Kensington, in what was known as the Northeast district of the city. We rented a big eight-room house for twenty-five dollars a month and the owner was happy to get it, even from so large a family of children. After living at this address for a few months, we moved to 3231 College Avenue -- another rented house directly west of Central High School. The children were all in school, attending the various institutions of the neighborhood.
In June 1940, with the assistance of an aunt of my wife's, Mrs. Jeanne Thomson, we were able to make a down payment on a house at 2714 East 36th Street. This was quite an experience to be the owner of a home and it was the best move financially that I had ever made. I was now a regular clerk in the Railway Mail Service so that I now had a regular job with a steady income which made things considerably easier than we had had it up to this point in our lives.
World War II was now going on and our oldest son, Warren, had gone into training at Camp Robinson near Little Rock, Arkansas. He had enlisted in the 110th Engineering Regiment, a unit from Kansas City. Our second son, John, after working for a time for the North American Aviation Company in Inglewood, California, came back to Kansas City to work for the same company in the Fairfax district of Kansas City, Kansas. He was called into service in the spring of 1944. He chose to serve in the Navy. Our lives went along very much as most families of the time. Warren decided to transfer to the Air Corps as an aviation cadet. He received his wings as a pilot with the rank of second lieutenant at a training field in Yuma, Arizona. Promptly after receiving his wings, he married his boyhood sweetheart, Bonnie Crippen. They were married at the Air Base in Yuma. After duty at several different air bases in the United States, he left for an overseas assignment in November 1943. He was now serving as a co-pilot on a B-25 bomber.
In February 1944 we were shocked and grieved to get the official news that Warren was missing in action after a mission flown over the Dodecanese Islands of the Mediterranean Sea. We never heard any more officially as to what happened on this last mission. He was later declared killed in action and is so listed now in the War Department records. John served his enlistment time in the Pacific theatre on board the aircraft carrier Thetis Bay. He made several crossings of the Pacific Ocean during his navy career. Robert T. also served in the Navy as a student in officer training but did not receive his commission as the war ended before his graduation. Malcolm enlisted in the Navy, too, but was in boot camp when the war ended. He did serve overseas in some of the Pacific Islands after the war. Benjamin chose the Air Force, serving for a time at a base near Ramsgate, England, and also at a base near Rapid City, North Dakota.
While we were still living at the 36th Street address, our oldest daughter, Marjorie Ruth, was married. She had completed junior college in Kansas City, then planned to finish her college work at Fresno State in Fresno, California. But she met a young man who changed her mind. She and Glenn L. Layton were married at the Troost Avenue Gospel Hall in December 1947. We were pleased that she came back to Kansas City to be married.
In the summer of 1950, we made another move, this time to Johnson County, Kansas, to the town of Merriam (834 Goodman Road). We bought this house new -- the first all-new house that the family ever owned or had ever lived in. Only four of our children were living at home at this time. Two of them, Malcolm and Ben, both left home soon after for military service. This left only Ida Mae and Mary Lou as the remnant of our once large family. These two daughters were both married while we were living in this house. Ida Mae left immediately after her marriage for Fairbanks, Alaska, where her husband, Gerald V. Keller, was stationed. They spent two years there. Mary Lou also married a man in the service, Lawrence A. Bush, whom she met at a young peoples' conference at Hutchinson, Kansas, where he was stationed. They left for Pensacola, Florida, soon after they were married.
Now the family was reduced to my wife and me. Also living with us was my mother-in-law, Mrs. Georgia Gray, who was an invalid by this time and was cared for in our home as long as was possible. Later on it was necessary to have her cared for in an old folks home until her death in the summer of 1962.
As most of our sons and daughters were living in California or Arizona, we sold our house in Merriam. Placing our household goods aboard a moving van, we took up our residence in Atascadero, California, in 1962. Here we expect to live until the Lord calls us home or He comes for us in the air.
Mary Beatrice Gray went to be with our Lord on October 11, 1974. We had fifty-four years of married life and I believe that we both would say they were good years. Times were sometimes difficult but we faced our difficulties together and were strengthened because of them. After we moved to California in 1962, life was considerably easier for both of us and I believe Mary really enjoyed her more relaxed lifestyle.
Now we are waiting the Home call when we shall be together again. "The dead in Christ shall arise first, then we which are alive shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. Then we shall forever be together with Him." Hallelujah.
Lloyd's grandson, Jeffrey Lloyd Staley, wrote on December 16, 1983:
Grandpa was an elder, treasurer (I think), and missionary secretary at Atascadero Gospel Chapel in his later years. He resigned in the late 1970's. He loved to garden, write, and visit his family.
Lloyd M. Staley passed away at the age of 88 on December 15, 1983, at 1:00 p.m. after a two-week illness. He had fluid building up in his lungs due to an irregular heartbeat. Marjanne (Layton) Claassen, his granddaughter, and her two children had just been visiting with him. After they left, he fell asleep and never awoke.
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Lloyd's letters were featured in a program called "Dear Home" on the Arts and Entertainment channel, November 2000.
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