100 Years Ago: Memorial Day of 1917

Pre-WWI Memorial Day Postcard; from the collection of the blog editor

On May 30, 1917, almost 2 months after the United States joined in WWI and declared war against the German Empire, Memorial Day arrived. An important part of this day was teaching school children about patriotism.

There were oratory contests with speaker titles such as “What Our Flag Means,” and “Hats Off“–all intended to educate in addition to help a future public speaker to hone their skills. If you took a close look at the classes you would see a strong mix of immigrant children, first generation residents and descendants of early settlers. To some of them, these topics would have been new. A salute to the American flag was included in every class, along with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Continue reading

New Hampshire WWI Military: Yankee “Hello Girl” Agnes Theresa (Houley) O’Brien of Groveton

Sketch from Sonnets of a Telephone Girl, 1903, illustrated by John C Hill; from Hathi Trust.

From the cratered Hells of No-Man’s Land
To the switchboard where you sit,
There are none who serve so loyally,
We know that you do your “bit.”
For the world’s bound round with a copper wire
With you on the outer end,
Each flashing light that you plug in the night
A message of hope you send.

You sit all alone at a magic loom
And weave from out of the air
The words of faith, of home, of love,
That go to our boys “out there.”
For the war’s not won with bursting shells,
Shrapnel or cannon alone,
You’re doing your part with all your heart,
Little girl of the telephone.
— Telephone topics, “To the Telephone Girl,” By Frances A. Johnson, Philadelphia Toll Operator

Continue reading

New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Groveton – Northumberland

The first World War I Memorial in Groveton New Hampshire. This photograph would have been taken in front of the current Post Office building, facing the street.

Groveton is a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Northumberland in Coos County, New Hampshire, United States.   In 1920 the town had 2,567 residents, more than they do today.  Yet in 1918 they sent a large number of their young men and women to war.

I recently purchased a photo postcard that shows a World War monument. The look of the card seems to place it in the mid to late 1920s, and, after conferring with Betty Craggy of the Groveton Town offices (and to whom I owe a great deal of thanks), I agree with her that the location in the photo is not where the monuments are now situated.   This earlier monument would have been located on the island parking lot where State Street veers off to the left at Church Street. Continue reading

New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Canaan

Canaan NH’s first WWI Honor Roll sat on the front lawn of the Baptist Church. Photograph from old postcard of Donna Zani-Dunkerton, town historian & Canaan Historical Society.

Canaan is a small town in mid-western New Hampshire, situated just east of Hanover in Grafton County. Even today its population hovers just under 4,000 people. The town is proud of its veterans and plans have been made to update the town’s war memorial to include more recent military men and women.

Everyone I spoke with from Canaan was helpful in writing this story. I was fortunate to speak first with Harry Armstrong of the American Legion Weld-Webster Post 55 who pointed me in the right direction.  Mike Sampson the town administrator allowed me to use his photographs (credited to him here).

I owe a GREAT debt of gratitude to Donna Zani-Dunkerton, the town historian, for hours of her work to collect then provide me with photographs, news clippings, grave site locations and other details I would not have otherwise known . Continue reading

100 Years Ago: New Hampshire’s WWI Trench Art

Trench art man made from a bullet. WWI. Purchased from the estate of a retired Coral Gables police officer, and former patrol agent. Now in the possession of this blog’s editor.

Most people have seen a war souvenir. They take many forms from a postcard mailed from ‘the front,’ to a pillow with a sentimental message for a sweetheart. Today they are sought as collectibles.

Trench Art is a specific subgroup of these war souvenirs. John M. Ford, a photographer with a strong interest in the military, has some eye-candy photographs of trench art on his web site, along with detailed definitions of what professional collectors consider it to be. I paint the trench art category with a broader brush.

WWI soldiers sometimes had free time and little entertainment, so they took to creating and carving.  Some soldiers engraved their names or designs on their mess kits.  Others created letter openers, rifle shell desk lamps, altar pieces, candle sticks, match box covers, cups, ash trays, umbrella stands, vases, water bottles, book ends, cigarette lighters, “piggy” banks, pitchers and jugs, spittoons, toys, and vehicle models (to name just a few). Continue reading