11.5 x 7.25” black string-bound album which says “Memory Book” in gold on the front cover. The album consists of several loose pages, alternating between black and white pages. Lucille, likely a teenager from Cedar Rapids, stuffed this album full of memories from around 1918 to 1921. There are around 180 black and white photos and several small photos of faces that have been cut out and placed next to signatures from Lucille’s friends. Photos measure between .25 x .25” and 6.5 x 5” and are glued to the pages, often accompanied by witty commentary that shows the kind of humor Lucille and her friends enjoyed. Along with pictures, there are newspaper clippings about the war, a fire at Douglas Co. Starch Plant in 1919, many marriage announcements and a passing mention of the flu epidemic. Also pasted into the album are music and theater programs, invitations to dances, letters, and lists of gifts received at Christmas every year. Other unusual ephemera include an envelope with a necklace and a spoon.
Examples of letters, including one from a Marine injured in France and another from a family member who tells of life as a soldier in the French countryside.
Letter from Sylvester Row to Lucille (Jan. 17, 1919):
I first received your most welcome letter and was glad to get it.
I must say I was so surprised that I almost fell right through the floor down to the first floor and I am on the third.
You see I hadn’t expected an answer quite so soon. Guess I had ought to know about where those [illegible] are as I happen to be the one who, [illegible] those two pretty ones. I also threw the deck of cards. You see it was like this I and another Marine were on our way from (portsmouth) portsmouth Va. Naval Hospital there to the hospital here so when we started we bought a deck of cards to have a few games on the train to pass the time away, and we lost a couple of them and got tired of them besides. So, we just wrote our names and addresses on some of them. There were some sailors there too, so we let them put theirs on some too.
And now about those two girls fighting once there. I rather think they did too as they both were still trying to take them away from one another when we got out of sight.
But say what card did you choose that had my name on it. Was it the ace of hearts or the five of (hearts) (hearts).
So Marines appeal to you do they, well I am glad to hear that.
You said it. When you said the Marines are the best branch of service, you know there is no Drafted men in the Marines, and we are Uncle Sams best fighters and I’ll say too I am lucky to be one, and I was lucky to get a nice girl to write to me. I just know you are the prettiest girl in Cedar Rapids.
But I am afraid you ask a rather hard favor when you ask me to relate my experiences. In France as it would take hours to do it [illegible]. I will try a few of them at least I remember one time we were marching up to the lines. We started early in the morning and hunkered all day and night and stayed under cover all of next day and had to stay awake. And that night we stood guard all night, and the same thing next day and night so we didn’t get any sleep or anything to eat for three days and then went over the top without getting any.
That time we were in the the lines two days and got 4 meals. And they were cold corned roast beef and hard tack.
What do you think of that now I’ll finish about the battle. When we started over the top, the enemy started to shelling us with big guns and machine guns.
And I began to see my pals fall around me and hear them scream for first aid, and it was nothing to see a man with one leg or both gone, and maybe [illegible] besides.
And I’ve saw them with their head blown off and some of them cut into just beneath the shoulders, or cut into in the (middle or the stomach)
I never got wounded until Argonne Forrest at Verdun, the last battle of the war, you know. I got a machine gun bullet just below my right knee, and it was an explosive bullet at that but am getting along fine now, but say I forgot something. You said your sister said that two soldiers were on the train and one threw the deck of cards. Please tell her she was mistaken for we both are Marines. Of course there were some soldiers on the train but they didn’t have anything to do with the cards. You say you are short and fat it seems so funny for I am tall and slender. I am six ft six in my stocking feet. You know I just adore black hair and brown eyes, and pink cheeks.
You have probably heard of the French beauties over there. Well I can’t see it that way, as they paint and powder too much. And without it they are fierce. Why their faces would stop an eight day clock.
You said something about it being rather bold to someone who you have never seen or heard of before.
In some cases it may be but you don’t see anything bold about writing to a Soldier or Sailor or Especially a Marine who has been in France do you, no, of course you don’t.
And as for my being bored with your Experiences or [illegible] well whatever you call them, why I like to hear of them. You know a young man likes to hear of a
girl’s experiences as well as she of his. So there now, I don’t get bored easy any way.
But I must say your [illegible] or accident, which ever it was, was quite funny.
You know I am a rather queer fellow, as I don’t care for either Basket, foot or baseball. I don’t know why. But I would rather go to a picture (show) show any old time. Well, I wish you luck with your yarn dolls. I can’t quite catch the idea of the dolls but guess it is ok.
Oh, Say tell Miss Mutt Hello for me will you. HaHa you know it sounds rather Funny to hear about Miss Mutt and Jeff being girls. I just been wondering if you would object to my calling you [illegible] instead of Lucille. Would you.
Well as I haven’t any more time I must close so please excuse this YMCA paper as I can’t get any thing else just now.
Pvt. Sylvester Row
Letter from Bob to family (Aug. 4, 1918):
Dear Brothers, Sisters, and all the rest of Maresh’s, Chadima’s [illegible] etc.
I’ll write this to all and you can pass it around as we work early and late over here and when night comes I am ready for bed. Well to begin with we left the old girl (Liberty Statue) on 7th July went to a harbor ([illegible] in Atlantic coast and left there July 10 arrived at— France on 21 and stayed there at Rest Camp until 26th when we boarded cars and arrived at — on night of 28th. Slept in cars till morning then started for this inland town — 8 miles from railroad. Folks pictures can’t paint this beautiful country, gee but its grand, such beautiful fields of small grain all in small [illegible] because they have so few [illegible], most of them use cradles and flail the grain out but its the best wheat barley & rye I ever saw, oats are good but you don’t see any corn, men are all fighting and women and old men work in fields. The hills are grand covered with [illegible] and a village every 2 or 3 miles. The homes are all very old, all made of stone and whitewashed, roofs are of tile, slate or small stone slabs. Roads are all macadamized and the glare from them is awful on sunny days.
The towns or rather villages have no uniformity in laying out streets very irregular, cars occupy one lane of course and [illegible] other, odor is fine. We don’t get any milk what they do with it I’ve never been able to find out, I’ve learned some french and expect to learn more. But, French sure think the world of we Americans, are just grand to us, Everyone here greets us with Bonjour Monsieur, these are 12 of my officers boarding at one lady’s house you know here the Gov’t (U.S.) furnishes us good and we hire a lady to cook it, and then she cooked us many things on side. She is learning English faster than we can master French.
The men are all quartered in homes in town and get beef (fresh), potatoes, flour, sugar coffee and in fact good substantial food. Our food is rationed to us nights are very cool, and town not being very large, we get odor of every [illegible] [illegible] if [illegible] stay out of town for an hour.
There are two hospitals here for French wounded but they have some English here also, surprising how few of wounded die, they have real nurses here (French & English) but they can’t even talk to American contrary to rules. Roads are all lined with rows of trees on either side and where we are there sure to be plenty of timber. Saw a wild boar (dead one) a old man shot the other day, deer are also plentiful here but I haven’t seen any. Saw upper part of Eiffel Tower from a distance of about 12 miles, but didn’t get into Paris. Oh Yes funny thing about —
town where we landed, they have urinals on streets, open ones too. I couldn’t get over that, all French drink wine with their meals and in turn where we landed they wouldn’t serve us dinner at one hotel where we drank wine. At present am staying in a great big house by myself, such a beautiful old furnished bed with feather ticks clean as can be, commode wash stand wardrobe and heater. Those old fashioned heavy curtains around bed, hung from ceiling, you’ve seen pictures of them. They don’t use wash machines here, they take clothes to wash houses, and set them on large flat stones and then use a sort of flat board and pound them. Wish you could see the Engines coaches & freight cars, such little affairs, coaches open from sides generally about 3 compartments holding 8 people each. That’s how we rode for 2 nights and one day. Make about 25 miles an hour when they hurry them up. Kids would laugh if they saw them. At present we are lecturing to men and giving them bikes. Oh Yes our trip over was grand had only one day of rough weather had one incident but can’t write about it, we were fed well on boat only men were crowded.
Matches are very scarce here we use, lighters, Camel cigarettes, we can buy at U.S. Commissary I laid in quite a stink, men are rationed tobacco and paper and matches, they haven’t been paid for over 2 months are broke. Well what do you folks think of Yanks now there sure are fighting fools and the Kaiser’s boasts that we can’t fight is a darn lie. We heard the other day that in a speech he said we didn’t know how to fight, maybe we don’t in trenches but fight in open is out middle name, heard last night Germans were not retreating they were running. Well folks when you see them land here like I did, for five days we were in — you’ll understand that Germany is whipped cur and once we get started we are going straight to Berlin and eat frankfurters in Imperial Palace. Did you notice we take very few prisoners, you ask why, well Yanks shoot to kill and a German said they never saw any Army so handy with bayonet.
Well I guess this is about all I can write. Read a letter from Reggie also two from May marked to me at Camp [illegible] and can’t understand why I don’t receive telegram about that baby of ours. Gee but I am anxious to hear, and if I only knew every thing was all right at home. I don’t think May will need much help as she has money and I allot her $100 a month out of my salary. You see I get 10% increase for overseas duty and commuting too will make it about $106 for myself, but I’ve found out I won’t need that much so will allot her about 35 more. I want her to get a girl but I can’t talk her into it not when I am over here. Wish you folks would, as a little favor to me run down occasionally and see them, because I’ve done or rather am doing my bit over here. Could you please, just to talk to her and console her. May isn’t one to express her feelings in fact she is decidedly the opposite so as a favor from a brother in service I’ll ask that much from you.
So with love to All and write often because they do lots of good.
[Contains address to which to send letters].