May 18, 1918 – I guess we will be Dough Boys from now on

One hundred years ago today, May 18, 1918, Jay wrote again to Rinda about life in Camp Devens.  He still hasn’t been given a permanent assignment and sounds frustrated.

The soldiers at Camp Devens primarily came from New England.  As a midwesterner, Jay’s having a hard time fitting in.  From everything I know about him, however, I believe he was quite introverted, not very outgoing.  I know that in his later years, at parties, for instance, he kept off to the side, didn’t mix well in large groups.  His son, my dad was nothing like this.  Ray was in the middle of things, very engaging.  Jay’s grandson, me, is much for like Jay though.

Jay has found some new places to go at Camp Devens.  I believe he went to them alone.  He never mentions friends or fellow soldiers.  I think he is the guy at a table by himself or off to the side alone, writing a letter.  Or sitting back, listening to the music, oblivious to anyone around him.

He mentions sitting in a restaurant (at the Soldiers Club) listening to a young lady singing.  At the bottom of this post are recordings of those songs though not by that young lady of course.  They were popular songs in 1918.

1918.05.19 147


Dear Rinda,

Saturday afternoon about four o’clock and a hot one.  We do not drill on Saturdays.  Therefore, I have a chance to do a little writing was planning on washing but it’s too hot.

We were again examined after dinner but no word given us as to what they will do with us.  Sure have handed us Engineers a rotten deal and are still keeping it up.  Don’t seem to want us in Depot Brig and not much of a chance to get out.  But we will undoubtedly be transferred this week.

Some of the engineers were issued Infantry hat cords today so I guess we will be Dough Boys from now on.  We were not good enough to go overseas as Engineers but good enough for infantry.  But such is life of a private his chances are very rotten.

Get about one good meal per day the other two are rotten.  Talk about good army eats no such thing.  No chance for a western man around this company.  All eastern men and they are very clannish.  Some what discouraged no chance to land anything like mess sergeant job and the drill is nearly killing me.  Haven’t received a gun and when I do will be all the harder for me.

Your good letter of 9th came in this week and was sure pleased to hear from you and glad to know you were getting along as well as you were.

Some beautiful scenery around this camp and have seen a little of it on some of our marches.  Would enjoy riding around this country in auto.  But guess what I see of it will be in our hikes, my legs are aching most of the time.  Was going to Boston this afternoon if I had drawn a pass but was not one of the lucky ones.  So will remain in camp over Sunday.

There’s a restaurant in camp and believe I will go over and eat some real eats for supper.

You are right can honestly say I have been slipping in last year or so.  Never could stand the work I once did in the Falls.

Don’t worry about not being able to send me anything because I have lots of friends much better situated than you are who can easily send me what little I want.  Have received some boxes and letters if recent dates tell me there are more upon the way.

Better put a rope around the young man if he gets too foxy about the water tank ha ha. Bet he is looking good.

After supper at the Soldiers Club.  Had a nice lunch and have been sitting here listening to a very good orchestra and a young lady singing has a beautiful voice and sure enjoy it very much.  Room is a very large one and nearly filled with soldiers.

Really one of the most pleasant places in the cantonment. Nice piazza running along one side with an awning the full length of it.  Faces out upon a little lake and it sure is pleasant.  But it is nearly one mile from our quarters and I don’t come over very often. Sat evening and Sunday is about all.  The young lady is now singing “Keep Home Fires Burning”.  She also sang ‘Just a baby’s prayer at Twilight’.  Both are very pretty.  Perhaps you have heard of them.

Mothers health is very poor and she seldom goes over town unless Dell takes her in the machine.  Father seems to be keeping up very well upon his nerve.

Would like to be out there in country and have all the fresh milk I could drink.  Had milk for supper but it was about half water.

I am enclosing a little something for Raymond’s birthday.  Sorry it isn’t more.  But receive a very small salary now you know.

Good bye and love to you and R.

The Soldier Willie

The Soldiers Club


Recordings of the songs Jay referred to in this letter:

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