Jacob Lewis -- a Memoir
(Jacob and Sylvia Lewis -- circa 1930)
I was born Now. 5, 1892, above a store at 37th and La Salle St., Chicago. Dr. Hector delivered me. I was the third youngest of 10 children, the sixth son. I had two older sisters. My Father was Solomon Lewis, my Mother, Toba Esther Lewis, maiden name of Mother - Schiff. My Father had two brothers - Harris, Moses. My mother's brothers were Sam, Charles,. Casseel and my Mother's sisters were Fanny (Fromm) and Jennie. My Mother had a cousin in Dublin, Ireland - his Jewish name was Pesach Cohen. They called him Sam Aim Patrick. Harris's sons were Abe, Julius, Gordon, Ben and Ike. Ben was an artist and decorated many churches in Wisconsin. Abe aided Harris in his store. Ike was a Civil Engineer. Harris's daughters were Lilly, Agnes, Edith and Lena. Agnes's specialty was newspaper reporting.
I entered kindergarten at Horace Mann Grammar School, 37th and Princeton Ave. in 1897 at five years of age. My eldest brother Charles Tibias Lewes took me to school that day in 1897. I cried a lot. I was scared to pieces. I can still remember first grade and going to the blackboard and drawing stems(lines) and singing golden crimson tulips, lift your bright heads up, catch the golden raindrops in your dainty cups, at which the flower was drawn onto the stems (lines) etc.
I was in a play abut third grade, I believe, about little Jack Horner. Mother Lewis made a prune (plum) pie and had one raised under the crust so that when I sang, "he stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum," I was able to do so pronto and felt quite proud of myself. Mother made me a black sateen costume that fit tightly. In the fifth grade in 1903, the teacher was Miss Mulunhill. Real pretty and sweet. I had a real affection for her. She lived on Vincennes Ave., I believe, at least east of the store and on her way to school would pass our pace and I would accompany her to school.
In early summer of 1900, my Mother, Sister Ida, then an infant in arms one year of age, and myself went on a journey to Linden and Highland, Wisconsin. We rode to Mineral Point on the Northwestern Railroad. I can remember the swaying oil lamps which hung from the roof of the cars (guess they could be called ceilings) and the shower of cinders or soot that rained down steadily on :the passengers. When we arrived at Mineral Point, which was in Iowa County in the Southwest corner of the state, we waited for the stage. That was the term used by the natives for the stagecoach. Viola Tredinick of Linden Wisconsin who had helped my mother take care of the members of the family born in Linden, was at Mineral Point to greet us.
We boarded the stage and the luggage was stowed on the roof and lashed securely by the driver. I rode on the right hand side and could look out the glass in the door. Mother with Ida in her arms was on my left and Viola sat on the cross seat opposite us to my left facing my Mother. We rode over hill and dale, very rarely if ever on roadways. Thus the stage swayed and rolled like a ship at sea. It was remarkable we didn't get seasick from the motion. Once Viola answered a question which I asked her about an odd sound (new to my city ears). "It's a crow," and I, like a city born boy, asked if that was a snake. She said, no, it's a bird. I shall never forget how silly I felt. We finally, after what seemed ages, arrived in Linden. There is little that I can recall of the visit there.
We visited the store where Father had been in business in the 80's. It was small and had a beating stove in the centre of it. The town men, who were mostly miners in the zinc mines (blackjack the raw ore was called) gathered around the stove on cold days and swapped yarns. Typical of small town life in early days. They were mostly of Cornish (England) or Welsh extraction.
One day a town boy tried to teach me how to smoke corn husk and Viola Tredinick caught me puffing it and gave me a scolding which I never did forget. We visited my father's brothers Harris and Moses in Highland, Wisconsin around the 4th of July. It stands out in my memory as there was a "ragamuffin" parade part of which we saw on our waxy Highland riding in a buggy. We visited their drygoods store and home. While at Uncle Moses' home a violent thunderstorm erupted. And Wisconsin can really get them.
We were gathered in the kitchen and my Cousin Lena fell off a chair in fright at one heavy clasp of thunder. Lightning had struck a tree right outside the kitchen door. So it seems. All of which can only be guessed at after so many years. We returned to Chicago after a few days. Uncle Moses visited us in Chicago afterward, when I cannot recall. In 1905, I had my Bah Mitzvah at South Side Hebrew Congregation which my Father was President of at the time. Later, while in my second year of high school (1912) I took my brother Ben on a visit to Linden and Highland. The stage had given way to a railway called "The M.P.&N. (Mineral Point and Northern). It has a puffing engine and a car, half baggage and half coach. Very cozy and very sooty.
We were wonderfully well-treated as on the first visit of the Lewis's there. We visited a cheese factory which was a large shed with the cheese vat and a cheese curing room. The man making the cheese had a milk can filed with fresh milk immersed in a barrel of cold well water. He treated us to crackers and cheese and a cup of ice cold milk. All of this was delicious on a hot summer day. The town stores would take no money for candy and such. We were treated royally and never forgot our visit to Linden or Highland. We enjoyed meeting our relatives immensely.
I must return to events which occurred while we visited Highland. One day, Mother and I went with Uncle Harris to visit his blackjack (zinc) mine outside of Highland. We stood at the head of the mine and when the lift came up and I prepared to go down, Mother said, emphatically, "you aren't going down into that mine." Argument was useless and although I was very disappointed, I had to forego the experience. We did get to visit the mill and saw the ore being shaken and separated on the jogger beds (or whatever they call them). Water ran over these beds causing the heavier ore to fall out.
In WWI, Uncle Harris aided the government in getting supplied with "Galena Lead and Zinc." Uncle Harris was quite a distinguished looking man, rather burly and with a neat beard. He was a quiet and vigorous, capable individual. Unfortunately, all he strived for in worldly goods went down the drain to a great extent in the depression of the early 30's. His eldest son Gordon once went on a training trip with the Chicago While Sox as a pitcher. He broke his arm which ruined his chances to play on that team. Gordon had played on the Wisconsin University team. Later on the Three I Circuit. Also was an umpire at times. He loved baseball.
Speaking of baseball, my Father's dry goods store being at 37th and LaSalle was a short few blocks from the original White Sox Park which extended from 39th and Shields Ave. to 38th St. We played scrub baseball in the adjoining field. Charles Comiskey and son was with us. The stands were all crude wooden and the fence around the outfield was a wooden board fence about six feet high. Like all such fences, there were knot holes through which we kids could peak and watch the games. This we only did when we did not have the money to pay admission, which was l admit not too expensive in those days. When I clerked in the store, it was interesting to see some of the White Sox players purchasing items. Sometimes they purchased celluloid collars which surprised me. When the World Series was played one autumn I remember standing on the parkway at 39th St. while some of the spectators in the stands called out to those outside what was happening on the diamond. It was all wonderful excitement.
From our home or store we could hear the crowds yelling and could get an inkling of how games were going. One summer day, when the White Sox were away from the park, a balloon was launched from the park.This sticks in my mind as I was one of the persons to hold it as it was filled with gas. This same balloon flew over the Chicago loop later, fell through the opening on the dome of a bank and exploded on the bank floor. Need I say more? It was horrible. It should be a lesson to kids to be careful what you partake, harmless as it may appear at the time.
It was while I was in fifth grade that brother Ben took ill with Scarlet Fever. I recall we were gathered in the kitchen which was at the north end of our group of rooms. Dr. Hector told the folks that we younger children, Ethel, Ida and myself would have to go away and live somewhere else for a while. Harry Lapp and Sara took us under their care. They lived on the north side on Larrabee St. which incidentally was a short two blocks from the Montgomery Company warehouse and main building. Sister Lena acted as a nurse for Ben and her memory is forever blessed for that.
Harry and Sara were wonderful to us. Sara was an excellent cook and baker.- In baking, her specialty was lemon cream pie. Yum, Yum!! Harry was a driver for Brinks Express and a union executive of the Teamsters Union. Later, he was a streetcar motorman. He came home from work around 9:30 p.m. and Sara had a dinner cooked for him and for all of us. So it was four meals a day. Harry would hang pans on a line running from the pantry door to the rear kitchen door as a sort of burglar alarm as the neighborhood had its marauders.
We would go to see melodramas at the local theatres, drink melisse, etc. We hissed the villains and cheered the heroes. Uncle Berman, Aunt Jennie and their family lived only a few blocks from the Lapps and it was nice to be able to visit so many relatives while we were exiled from home, so to speak. On December 30, we heard of the Iroquois Theatre fire in which 602 people lost their lives. The play, a Xmas specialty, "Blue Beard," which attracted many children. Exit doors swung inward and panicked audience crowded against them. Brother Abe was engaged to marry Gisella Eger. But losing several close members of her family in the tragedy, the wedding was postponed to March 17, 1904. (perhaps the 1904 is incorrect but March 17 is correct - it was St. Patrick's Day, a chilly day with melting snow.
We were permitted to return home in a few weeks and I recall the awful odor of disinfectants in the house and paper stuck on window (flat) glass. Ben was well and for that we were all duly thankful to G--. Gathered together around the long dining room table, we were all happy to be home, but much subdued by the sad event of the 30th. On my return to school, having lost (I believe) three weeks of the fifth grade, Miss Mulvihill was sacrificing enough to stay after school and help me make up the five weeks of lessons lost and so at the end of the school year, I was able to pass to sixth grade. In eighth grade My teacher's name was Schimek, a very capable teacher, firm but just. In grammar school all through, classmates were nice. There were exceptions, but not many. I was goaded into fist fights, but not too many. It was a normal boyhood.
I entered High School 1907. The high school was at 39th and Prairie Ave., Chicago and it was named Wendell Philips, after the great educator. The principal was Spencer Smith and the Assistant Principal Terrine, both very capable men and very just. While in grammar school I had been very impressed by a quotation from Russkin which went something like this: "All are architects of fate, working in these halls of time, some with massive deeds and great, some with ornament of rhyme." Then and there, mostly because I liked to draw, I decided to become an architect. And this quotation by Russkin inspired me.
When I entered High School, I consulted some of my teachers for advice on what subjects I should take up that would be needed to attain my ambition. It was a great help to me. I also took up manual training. I had a year of that in Grammar School as well. This gave me a practical basis for the construction work entailed in the profession of Architecture.
About that time of my life, my Father purchased a three-story fashionable house at 3519 Wabash Ave. from a Mrs. Byrne. It was fashionable in the 1890's. The lot was only 21.5 feet wide, but the house, although narrow, was long and well-built with ix numerous fireplaces which were greatly needed as the house was frigid in winter. The heating was water radiation, but it did not work well and I can remember a large "Daily News" thermometer which was attached to a third floor door registering 32o when it was below zero outdoors.
Many events occurred around that time, such as the marriage of Charles, eldest brother, to Valentine Spitzer. She had been a school teacher in Honolulu. Her Father Maurice Spitzer was a merchant in Honolulu. My Brother Charles’s marriage is not clear to me. Before Abe's marriage and before the move to Wabash Ave., Charles was a mechanical Engineer. He graduated in 1899 from Armour Institute of of Technology. One event is real clear, and that was the marriage of Elijah, third eldest brother, who was an electrical Engineer and 1902 graduate of Armour. 1902 is correct as far as I can recall. Elijah married Grace Crockett, related to the pioneer Davy Crockett. They resided in Des Moines.
Charles and Val resided at 47th and Vincennes while Charles was employed by the Link Belt Company which company is now absorbed by a larger business. While employed there, Charles designed the mechanical ditch digger which is a belt, bucket and scoop conveyer now so commonly used on construction jobs in digging trenches. He and Val moved to 63rd and Dorchester later. They had two daughters, Helen and Rhoda. Later, they moved to Honolulu where Charles obtained employment as mechanical Engineer for the Hawaiian sugar planters Association where he designed the "Lewis Loader," an improvement on the older can loader which required several laborers, whereas Charles' designed loader was a more efficient machine.
My father and mother were born in Mariampole, Lithuania which town is not far from the west border of Germany. Actually, it was known as Russian Poland, having been invaded by the Russians and like many countries in Europe today, there is confusion of origin. Certainly, in my mind the history of Lithuania has become greatly confused. The people who come from that area are called Litvoks, so what is a person to think about it all.
My Father was preceded by his brother Harris, both stopping in England on their journey to America. Harris was established in Wisconsin before my father arrived in New York City. There he went to a night school (as he was working days) and took up the study of English. He peddled out of Chicago thru Wisconsin to Green Bay, using a horse and wagon; the goods he bought in Chicago were traded for Farmer's produce at times. Father later opened a store on the West side. When the great Chicago fire occurred, he was living close to where it started on Pekwen Street. He fled to the lake front and with thousands of others watched a great part of the city go up in the flames.
Father was deeply religious and it was that quality that kept him rising up again against adversity. My second eldest brother Abe worked in the store. He walked with a perceptible limp. When the folks lived in Linden, as a young boy he hitched on the rear of a wagon. He caught a leg in the wagon wheel and fractured the one leg. It was reset by a town physician but did not heal properly. While father was away at the time, Mother took him to Chicago and a teen girl, Viola Tredinick, took care of the other children. In Chicago, the leg was reset but the harm was done and Abe had the limp all his life.
I can remember plodding through snowdrifts in midwinter and getting rides on sleds, sometimes drawn by coach dogs which a neighbor Edgar Fromm owned. His father was a physician. Another neighbor had a billygoat who when hitched to a sled went in all directions and gave anyone riding on a sled a very rough time.
Two short blocks west of our store and flat at the S.W. corner of 37th and Wentwork stood a 2-story building occupied by a saloon on the corner and Walhalla Hall above it. We enjoyed many a gathering in the building - concerts, political events, and on the first floor to the rear in a hall there, Punch and Judy shows. It was great fun.
A block North of Walhalla Hall, on the West side of Wentworth Avenue, there was a Nickelodeon. There I saw Broncho Billy in the picture (silent, of course) "The Great Train Robbery." Some names of neighbors are McKeowey, Taylor, Metcalfs, Beck, Kidwell Levin, Peacock (the State St. Jeweler).
Summer vacations were spent in the Max Beuttner playground near the Webster School at 33rd and Wentworth or in the swimming pool in Armour Square nearby, or in the outdoor gymnasium which had a good racing track and well-equipped gymnasiums, shower baths, etc. At 37th St. on the South Side of the street was a candy store owned by two sisters (widows), Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Atkins, where for a few pennies one could get a small bag of molasses candy or peanut candy. My favorite was a chocolate-coated cocoanut cream candy and my mouth would water as the candy was sliced and placed in the bag. Both women had as it appeared to me, pleasure in their child customers.
Almost every Summer a circus would pitch its tents at 37th St. between LaSalle St. (our home street) and Wentworth Ave. One summer or more than one, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus was there, another time it was Barnum's or Ringing Brothers,
or Forepaw. It was great fun watching the men pitch the tents, or to help give water to the elephants. It was a boy's delight. At 40th St. and State St. was a candy store owned by a man whose name was Charlie. We called him Cheap Charlie. He was an expert at candy-making and each day he made fresh batches in large copper kettles and the small store would open around noon. This candy was delicious. We would line up in front of his store and as it was a small place, file in and make our purchases one at a time.
Armour Square also had a branch of the Chicago Public Library. It was a rather small room on the 2nd floor of the building which housed all recreational facilities. It was a very comfortable place in which to sit and read on a cold winter day. The name Armour was also used for that of a street to the East of LaSalle St. The member of the Armour family who was the founder of Armour Institute of Technology in 1892 was Phillip D. Armour and he was the founder of Armour meat packing Co. and the Armour whose name was given to these other places. His son Ogden Armour made an address at an assembly in Armour Mission.
It was said in the Lewis family that our eldest brother Charles fell off of his bicycle in from of the Armour mansion located at the S.W. corner of Michigan Ave. and. 37th St. and Philip Armour saw him fall, came out of the mansion and helped Charles back onto the bike. At that time, most of High Society people of Chicago resided on Michigan Ave., the Valentines, Kollsatts, and practically the whole roster. In later years, they dispersed to the North Shore of Chicago.
When I attended Art Institute, as part of the Armour Architectural course, I rubbed elbows (so to speak) with the famous social elite of Chicago whenever special social events occurred in connection with special exhibit openings. It was highly exciting a and a healthful diversion from the normal exacting course of school studies and design. The wealthier class known as high society were the donors to art and other cultural pursuits as they have been in many countries for centuries. Without them, it is doubtful that the original masterpieces, paintings and sculpture, could have been obtained for the Art Institute collection. For there was exhibited Rembrandt, Van Dyke, Rubens and a host of wonderful and famous works, paintings and sculpture.
In my sophomore year at Wendell Philips High School, ex-President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt visited Chicago. He rode down Grand Boulevard. At 37th St., I was there to wave to him as were many other citizens. Teddy had a great flair for traveling around the country and letting the people know what he thought. He was an energetic and deeply patriotic person. His noticeable feature was that of flashing an infectious smile and displaying his teeth.
I had the opportunity a few years later to hear him address an audience at Orchestra Hall on Michigan Ave. It was my good fortune to have a front row seat directly at the rostrum position where he stood. After the meeting ended, I think I shook hands with Teddy. When he spoke, his speech was soft and he had a drawl. But he always believed as he said very often, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." That was his creed and he meant and used it. Witness the fact that he was known as a trust buster. No foreign nations ever dared to infringe on America's rights while he was in the White House.
Later, when I was working as a draftsman in The Board of Education Office, I marched in a parade with the architectural division down Michigan Avenue. It was known as a "preparedness Day Parade." It was a demonstration of our loyalty to the U.S. The Preparedness Day was inspired by a suggestion that Teddy made that the day be observed. Later, he said that those men who were of the age and ability to do so should further show their sincerity by also joining the armed forces. This suggestion was instrumental in my joining the Infantry of the Illinois State Militia in 1916.
I had graduated from Armour Institute in may of 1915 and had taken an examination for Architect's license at the University of Illinois and received my license on May 12th 1916, and not much later I took my oath and joined Co. M of the First Illinois Infantry.
The sequence of events falls apart here. I graduated from High School in 1911 and entered Armour Institute of Technology and took up the study of Architecture. Most mornings my studies were at Armour and afternoons at the Art Institute of Chicago at Adams and Michigan Avenue. Frank W. Gunsaulus was head of Armour Institute and pastor of Central Church at the Auditorium on Sundays. At the Armour classes, we mingled with students of the various technological groups, Civil Engrg., Mechanical, Electrical, etc.., whereas at the Art Institute we were all preparing to become Architects.
The Dean of the Architectural Department was a Mr. Shattuck who was Architect for the YMCA, a genial and excellent instructor. Our immediate Design instructor was a Professor Kibby, a very fine, capable instructor. A Robert Ostergrew was the instructor in graphic statics (design of roof trusses and such). Dean Shattuck was succeeded by Andrew Rebori who had been employed by Cass Gilbert, Architect who drew the plans for the Woolworth Building, highest in the world for many years. Andrew Rebori was succeeded by Prof. Campbell whose specialty was that of watercolor. He had toured Spain and his collection of watercolors of Spanish scenes was truly outstanding.
However, much as the genius of our various instructors varied, we were well educated to become practicing architects. That was true of those at Armour Institute and at the Art Institute. Frank Gunsaulus was President of Armour Institute - I worked in his office to earn tuition. At Armour at various intervals we had assemblies at the Armour Mission where we heard famous speakers, singers and actors.
In our senior year, President of the United States William Howard Taft paid the school a visit. His speech I do not recall, but I do recall our senior class acting as guard around his automobile as he departed from the school. We all I believe had the opportunity to shake his hand (I may be wrong here). Chic Sale whose humor is well remembered by most of the citizens of the United States in bygone days appeared at an assembly. He played the part of a civil war veteran and was just perfectly realistic in the part. He sat at a table and reminisced in a very unassuming and natural manner which kept us in a state of utter absorption and amusement.
It is needless to say that when assemblies were announced we were very happy indeed. Sometimes these assemblies were strictly for school curricula announcements but in general quite interesting and entertaining. I recall now that Chic Sale gave a very realistic portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. He donned a shawl over his shoulders, silk hat and a beard. This was a very solemn and dignified act which one could respect and admire. Charles (Chic) Sale could be very solemn as well as amusing on occasion. Once witnessed, one could never forget.
This reminds me of the old phonograph which stood on a small table in the centre of our living room above the store on 37th St. One record was that of Joseph Jefferson in Rip Van Winkle. He was a very great actor and I recall his saying, "My little Mimic looks at me and doesn't know me." Then the last words were, "Nobody Knows me now." It was so sad.
To indicate the civilian-soldier nature of the militia in those days, let me point out the professions and trades of some of its officers. The Regimental Commander was Joseph Sanborn of the Sanborn Tea and Coffee Company; our Battalion Commander was Major Abel Davis, President of the Chicago Title and Trust Company. By the way, the Davis's were relatives of my Mother. His Aunt was Superintendent of the Sunday School I attended and his Cousin Cherry Davis was my Sunday School teacher. All of this I kept to myself while in the regiment, even though on one occasion wile on evening drill at the old Armory at 16th and Michigan I was detailed (as a private) to act as a runner for Battalion Headquarters.
Major Davis was an excellent military man who later, in France in World War I, became a General. Our Company Commander, Captain Francis M. Allen was the proprietor of a paint and putty business. It was true of the other men in the militia, they all were truly civilian-soldiers in all respects. (General Abel Davis)
About that time, Pancho Villa was committing grave acts of terrorism against the ranchers and ranches, also towns along the Mexican border in Texas. Murder, arson and pillage were the order of the day with him and the men whom he led, and finally President Woodrow Wilson mobilized the various state militia units for service on the Mexican border. The First Infantry was ordered to Station at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.
We assembled at the old armory at 16th & Michigan Ave. just a day or two after we had gone to fire on the rifle range at Camp Logan on the North Shore of Illinois. We entrained for a campout at Logan on a Friday evening, if I remember correctly, and pitched pup tents on a camping ground adjacent to the range. We fired the old Springfield rifle, an excellent one for firing individual shots but not to be compared to the M1 rapid firing rifle of World War II. We took turns going into the target butts (trenches) and pulling targets to call scores when we were through doing our firing. It was quite a thriller calling the hits, such as Magpies Drawers. This name was applied to a total miss of the target which we would wave a red flag or thrust a disc on a pole out of the trench if it was a deuce (2) or a tray (3). It was all quite exciting for some of us rookies. One had to be very careful to avoid ricochets and there was a constant "wang" as the shots hit the targets. For protection, we kept close to the bank Of the target butts close to the targets.
On our return to the armory that Sunday evening, some of the men were assigned to drive or ride the trucks back to the armory and some of us rode street cars part of the way to the city. It was while we were on the street cars that we saw the large headlines in the newspapers reading "Militia called to the border." We arrived at the armory
amidst a lot of excitement. Things were happening fast. Some of us were green rookies and not skillful at manual of arms or drill. But we soon caught on when we arrived in San Antonio. Illinois troops were federalized.
Our pay there was $15.00 a month and we were always broke. We made 10 mile hikes to Leon Springs where we fired on a regular army rifle range. At that time the 14th U.S. Cavalry had some units stationed there. We traded at their canteen, now known as PX. The regular army was small, comprising about 50,000 men at the time of the border mobilization.
General Tasker Bliss was in command of the 12th Division, Illinois Militia, and he kept us occupied with long hikes and plenty of drillwork and instruction by West Pointers. General John J. Pershing was in command of cavalry troops and led his men into Mexico on a hunt for Pancho Villa. He led a hot pursuit of the bandit and gave the latter no rest or opportunity to gather strength.
We returned to Chicago and gave an exhibition mass (Regimental) calisthenics drill with our rifles in Grant Park. This drill was performed in unison to the music of the Regimental Band. We also returned to our once a week evening assembly and drill and other military instruction. As state militia, on being mustered out of federal service we had returned from the border much better equipped, disciplined and trained soldiers. What was of great importance was that of the exit from publicity of the criminal acts of Pancho Villa. For this, we claimed very little credit; this credit goes to General Perching and his cavalry. However, we were on the border to replace the regular army troopers and if needed to go into Mexico, which of course we did not have to do.
On my return to civilian life, I returned to employment in the architectural drafting room of the Board of Education where I had worked as a draftsman for a short while before going to the border. I had my license as an architect, but desired to gain as much practical experience as possible before going into independent practice. Mr. A.
F. Hussander was the architect for the Board of Education, a capable and kindly gentleman. We made plans at that time mostly for remodeling or additions to such schools as Medill High School, Englewood High, Crane Tech, Lanes High, Lakeview High, and many others.
One draftsman, McKnight and I, associated as though a magnet drew us together. He was a tall slim sandy-haired individual of Scottish origin. He had an accent like Harry Lauder. I remember finishing a lunch at Harmony Cafeteria and Robert McKnight stood and counted his change. He finished counting and he remarked, "Nu wha' d'yuh think of thot, short changed me 2 cents." I didn't laugh then but later and even now, 57 years later I can still hear him saying that in his inimitable Scotch accent. He was a loveable chap.
A Ben Winslow worked at the drawing board too. He was closely related to the Winslow of the LaFayette Escadrille, a unit of American flyers attached to the French Air Force in France. The war had started in 1914 while I was a junior at Armour Institute and many Americans had volunteered for service in France where the war was red hot at that time. Some of the students like Leo Harschfield would march up and down at times with "T" squares over their shoulder, acting like they were rarin' to go. Later, when I was stationed in Washington near the White House in a branch of the Engineer Depot, I ran into Leo and Maurice Rissman, another fellow student, at a drugstore soda fountain. These two men were working for a civilian agency of the government. I am getting ahead of my story.
On June 2,1917, I went into WWI service. The German Kaiser Wilhelm had done what he had been threatening to do, started a war on all shipping. German "U" boats had sunk the Lusitania, of British registry, with a loss of more than 1000 lives of whom 114 were Americans. This occurred off the Irish coast on May 7, 1915. The Kaiser had kept on threatening and finally announced unrestricted submarine war on all shipping in 1916. What with interference from his representatives in Mexico and his constant
waving of the sword, so to speak, exhausted the patience of President Woodrow Wilson and the people of the United States.
Woodrow Wilson was a peace loving man who had once said, "There is such a think as being too proud to fight," but when the chips were down he led his country into what we all now know was a truly "just war." I was still in "M" Company of the 1st Illinois militia and when war was declared against Germany on April 6, 1917, we were mustered again into Federal service. We assembled at the 16th St. Armory and when we lined up on the armory floor, we were informed that all those men who were willing to take the Federal oath should take three steps forward. No coercing was used whatsoever. Most of us stepped forward and took the oath of service. Afterward, Captain Allen suggested to me that as I was an architect, my opportunities would be better if I joined the engineers.
At that time, there was only one company of that branch of service in Illinois. It was known as Co. A Engineers. I then transferred to "B" Company which was expanded to Regimental size on the municipal pier in Chicago. It received the designation, "1st Illinois Engineers" and Colonel Henry Allen (no relation to Capt. Allen as far as I know) took command of the regiment. I was made 1st Sgt. of Headquarters Co. and acted also as my own Company clerk.
(Insert slightly out of chronology). It was in late march of 1917 (I think) that our Regiment , 1st Illinois Infantry, was ordered to various posts. Co. M in which I mentioned before I was serving war time, was ordered to guard a lift bridge at 22nd and Archer Avenue, Chicago. It was a railroad bridge over the Chicago River. We patrolled up one side of the bridge, crossed the tracks and then patrolled back down the other side. The weather was typically bad Chicago March weather and the footing was slippery. We had to be very careful how we tread as we could see the waters below us. The value of the bridge militarily was that over it went trains to the East Coast carrying sailors from Great Lakes Navy Training Station. We had to be very wary of any trespassing or sabotage.
Teddy Roosevelt visited Chicago to make a patriotic "rallying" speech as the day of our entering the war in Europe was approaching. The train he was on approached the bridge and stopped. He came out on the read observation platform and some of our noncoms not on patrol at the time walked over to the platform and shook hands with Teddy. All I could do was just look at them and envy them.
We bunked in the battery room of the bridge operators setup. When a boat went thru the river, a bell would ring to warn that the bridge was to be raised and we had to get off in a hurry. Riding the bridge up to its full height of lift was a dangerous experience. To be in the militia in those days as in the National Guard today, meant dropping your personal affairs at any time one was called out for military duty. It gave one the satisfaction of showing a real sense of patriotism and love of country. Teddy Roosevelt deserves the undying gratitude of his country for his constant efforts at rallying his countrymen in a time of great need, He had three sons in France in WWI, Teddy R Jr., Kermit who lost his life there, and Archie, whom I met in later years in Chicago (End of Insert).
I made up the roster, first payroll, recruiting the Regimental band and other duties. It was arduous but interesting. As I like activity, I really found it there. Captain O'Connor was the adjutant and a very fine gentleman who was a great help. He asked me one day, "Why I hadn't gone to Plattsburg which was the first WWI Officers Training Camp. I didn't have an answer to that. Frankly, events piled up so fast it was all bewildering. The Regimental band led by bandmaster South, a graduate of Chicago Musical College, was an excellent band and I am proud to say I had much to do with its makeup. In France, it became the champion band of the American Expeditionary Forces which were led by John J. Pershing. I am again jumping ahead of my story.
I had known something about musical instruments having attended concerts at Orchestra Hall in the days when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was led by Theodore Thomas and the Orchestra had a different name. Being a lover of music had led to my being a supernumerary in the Chicago Opera at the Auditorium at Congress and Michigan Av.. I must go back to my school days at Armour Institute where many of us supered at the old but much respected architectural masterpiece of Roger Sullivan.
About stage time, we presented ourselves at the stage door to see if we were needed to supe as Egyptian soldiers in Aida, or some such activity in Lohengrin or La Boheme in Cafe Monis etc. It was highly exciting and broke some of the monotony of school studies I admit. When not needed on stage, regularly attending supernumeraries were permitted to sit in the audience and quite often we occupied main floor seats.
Seeing and hearing Tito Ruffo in Rigoletto, Tettrazine, and Geraldine Farrar in Carmen and many other great artists was a great treat to us all and a nourishes of our cultural pursuits. So when I departed from Chicago and the aforementioned pursuits, my Brother Ben took my place as a supernumerary at the opera. Ben was at the railroad station with a boyhood chum Charles H. Bournstine, who later went into service in WWI. Memories of events while supeing in the Chicago Opera still linger in my mind like this, for example.
One evening, my older sister Lena, and some women friends with whom I was well acquainted were in the audience at a performance of Aida. They spotted me in their opera glasses and they surely had a great laugh. I was no lovely sight in poorly fitting brown tights and my skinny legs. In one performance of Aida, when we were finished partaking in the opera, I stood in the wings watching the Nile Scene.
The Nile waters were rippling and the music was very solemn and beautiful. Suddenly, one of the paid supernumeraries who had been a litter bearer came across the stage on his way to the exit with his winter overcoat on his shoulder and walked right over the rippling Nile (just flickering lights on the stage floor). He saw that he was facing the audience and when they let out a gale of laughter, he fled in mad haste. In a way, it was funny, but the poor man was frightened as he feared punishment for upsetting the Nile scene. Litter bearers in those times received $6.00 each for their work and this poor man didn't relish losing opportunities of getting that assignment again in Aida. The most fun was in the Cafe Scene in la Boheme: we walked around and talked to the others, chorus, etc.
After drilling at the Municipal Pier at the foot of Grand Ave. for a few weeks and getting organized, the Regiment entrained for Camp Logan, Houston, Texas. The Division of troops composing these from Illinois at Camp Logan received the designation 33rd Division and went into heavy training. The 1st Illinois Engineers became the 105th and were equipped and received instructions from West Pointers. I did not know it at the time, but the late Dwight D. Eisenhower who became a 4-star General in WWII was assigned as an instructor to the 33rd Division. I have in my possession a clipping showing him standing by a practice trench and looking down into it. I remember one day I was giving instruction in the manual of arms and General Bell came along.
The Chaplain of the 108th Engineers was Captain Caward who had been minister of a church in Englewood, a section off the South Side of Chicago. Chaplain Caward had his son with him but being rather young, the son had to have a guardian in order to remain in the regiment. As I was then top (lst) Seargent of HQ Co. the Chaplain asked me to keep an eye on his son. My duties were ample enough but I agreed to do as he requested. It was not easy.
Many things happened while I was performing my duties as "Top" Sgt. of HQ Co. I had had Psoriasis while I was a freshman at Armour Inst. and it was stubborn resisting all medical efforts to relieve it. At Camp Logan it became much worse and although I was able to carry on my duties, I was a sorry mess and I had to treat it. After a few months, I received orders to report to the base hospital. While there, I was transferred to a unit known as 437th Engr. Depot Detachment.
The medic at the hospital gave me a note which I have to this day which reads as follows, "This soldier has Psoriasis, a skin condition which is of no danger to anyone." or words to that effect. At the Depot, Captain Carl Heinze was in command, He was a short man with a very friendly attitude, a skillful, efficient and capable engineer. Before going into the service, he was a city engineer for Los Angeles, Calif, so I was informed. He assigned me to be the shipping and receiving clerk of the depot.
When material for the regiments of the 33rd Division arrived by freight car on the siding at the depot from the Engr. Depot located in Washington, D.C., our men would unload it all. I would take the bills of lading and check the items off. The materials would be stored in bins of non-explosive type. Explosives such as TNT and dynamite were trucked over to magazines away from the camp in small frame sheds about 7x6 feet. Blasting caps were kept in a chicken wire partitioned room in a corner of the one-story Pram warehouse. We thought we were real adventurous riding the wagon loaded with explosives out to the storage sheds.
Captain Heinze set up a crude but clever schoolroom in the warehouse made of plank benches and gave us instructions in army engineering. Some days he would take us out and instruct in the handling of explosives and magneto exploders. The former were demonstrated by him while we stood behind trees at first. The magneto exploders were a plunger operated device which stood on the ground which activated the fuse with an electrical map charge which detonated the blasting cap. This knowledge came in handy to me in World War II when we then had a small hand operational magneto exploder at Camp Claiborne Louisiana. That I shall relate further on.
We received loads of lumber and sandbags to build revetments and shore up trenches for trench war training outside the camp. This was mentioned previously in connection with "Instructor Eisenhower." 0ne time a load of lumber was delivered and the owner of the lumberyard came to the warehouse and introduced himself. He was quite prominent in that part of Texas. By the way, the population of Houston at that time was 125,000. A Brigadier General Wolf came to the warehouse for sand bags. I heard that he had been in command of troops at Vera Cruz when there was trouble there about 1916.
Two civilians worked in the warehouse. They were of course local residents and were very strong. Some of the boxes containing bolts and kegs of nails also were very heavy and it was a good thing we had these men to help out. They liked to shoot craps when no work was at hand and one of our enlisted men, knowing it was unlawful to shoot craps on government property, did so at times. When I ordered him to stop, he persisted. It finally erupted into a vicious bare knuckle fight outside of camp between myself and this soldier and I got the worst of it: 2 black eyes and a broken nose. However, although I suffered trying to get my orders obeyed, it accomplished the purpose of stopping the nuisance. In later years after WWI, this same former adversary visited my architectural office in the Garrick Building in the hope of selling me some building product. You can bet that I had no love for him at any time. Now to this day, whenever I get a medical checkup, the medic examines my nose and reports "permeated Septum." I can't estimate how many times I have heard this said.
Right after this knockdown fight the Officer in charge, Captain Allin who had taken over from Captain Carl Heinze a few weeks before, gave me leave to go home for a visit. I certainly didn't look very good with two shiners and a swollen nose, but I enjoyed going home. It was during this visit home that a terrific heat wave struck Houston and some of the men said they had lost a lot of weight during the heat spell. This they related to me when I returned to duty. They had much more respect for me for having fought to get orders obeyed.
Shortly after this, I received orders to report to the Engineer Depot in Washington, D.C. I took the Southern Pacific route along Southern Texas, transferred it New Orleans, La.. The train entered onto a railroad ferry. At New Orleans, I had a few hours to wait for a train to Washington, so I went for a stroll along Canal St. enjoying the sights of that colorful city. My baggage was in the baggage room at the depot. I decided to take in a Vaudeville show at Lowe's Pantages Theatre as I had plenty of time. I do not recall staying to see the full show, but it was very enjoyable and I was thankful to have had time to see it. Later, there was another visit to view Orleans, which I shall relate further on. The train ride through the Southern states was very nice and sitting on the observation platform in warm summer temperatures was a real treat. In Washington, I was assigned to a branch of the Engineer Depot established in an old two-story residence an a street near the White House. Our unit wade up of architectural draftsmen was detailed to make up plans for an army coffee roasting plant to be built at Bordeaux, France.
The army found me a billet with a family on U Street, the Nasahls. The man there was of Swiss origin and worked as a civilian employee at the army quartermaster Depot in the food supply section. His wife was an excellent cook and I shared a room with a soldier by the name of Peterson who was from New Jersey and an architect like myself. We got along fine.
One day I went for a walk along the mall that leads out of the gate of the White House. It was early in the morning before time to report for duty on "G" Street. A large limousine came out onto the mall and when I saw the Presidential flag on the hood of the car, I froze at attention and saluted, for President Woodrow Wilson was riding in the front seat. Colonel House was in the car as was Capt. Archibald Butts if I remember the name. The car had proceeded only a short distance when it stopped and the President opened the door of the car as he was seated on the right of the driver and I was standing at salute on the sidewalk also on the right of the car. He beckoned me to come to the car and I just stood on the spot, stiffly at salute , absolutely frozen to the spot. Finally, seeing that I was not going to move, he clasped his hands together and smiled and the car departed. That was to me an unforgettable experience.
After a few weeks, I received orders to report to Camp Lee, Virginia, Engineer Officers Training School at Petersburg, Va. It seemed that I was constantly on the move and my experience in that direction was duplicated in WWII which I shall relate later on. At least I did not grow stale and did gain much varied experience.
The plans for the coffee roasting plant had been completed and there had been much conjecture as to who was to deliver prints to General Pershing. All this was the old stuff of army rumors so we thought. It was not pleasant saying goodbye to Peterson, and the Nasahls with whom I was billeted rode the train to Petersburg arriving there in time to get habitation for the very hot night in an old hotel in town. Gosh, was it a hot night! And the hotel was not a palatial one by any standards. I had luggage and a barracks bag filled with clothing.
I arrived at the camp next morning and was walking across the parade ground toward the HQ Building of the Officers Training School when a 2nd Lt. who was approaching gave me a bracing down for not saluting him. At the time, both my arms were occupied with the burdens. After he had passed me and was quite a distance away, I put down the burdens and gave him a different kind of salute (one not according to army regulations). He must have been what was known in the army as a "90 day wonder." I arrived at the HQ only to find a deserted place: there was a sign on the door which read, The Army Engineer Corps School has moved to Camp Humphries Virginia. Boy, was I disgusted. My morale at that moment was lower than a rattlesnake's belly. Well, finally I pulled out of that setback. I went to Camp HQ with my story and received transportation permission to Camp Humphries, Va. Arriving there, I was assigned to a company at the school. The instructors were West Pointers in most cases, but a sprinkling of hard boiled regulars were there also. One of them was of the type so often portrayed in the movies, unrelenting as well as being a real character with a quaint manner of expressing himself. It was difficult to keep a straight face when in the ranks.
The West Pointers did all the stunts and issued all of the orders that would keep the men jumping. The school could have been called "Instant West Point" (if you get what I mean). It was a case of making officers fast and furiously. After a few days, the instructors seeing that some of us were well drilled had us helping in instruction. Unfortunately, an affliction of so many years, Psoriasis, played against me. When the course was ended and commissions in the army were awarded (I had been a Master Engineer Junior Grade for many months), the officer in command of the school called me into his office and informed me that due to my psoriasis not showing any improvement, I was refused a commission by the board passing on such promotions. So I soon found myself out of the school and in the newly formed 215th Engineer Regiment commanded by Colonel Harrington who, during the depression of 1930, was Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt's appointment to command of Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Washington, D.C.
Col. Harrington was a very fine person. Strange as it may seem, although a West Pointer, he held been a Mathematics instructor at Annapolis Naval Academy (so I heard). The Regiment was organized at Camp Humphries and entrained for (of all places) my old stamping ground, Camp Logan, Houston, Texas. We rode the same route as that by which I had come, through the South. At New Orleans, we detrained as a car axle had had a hot box and the car had to be serviced. So it was our good fortune to be entertained by some of the citizens of New Orleans for a few hours. It was a great experience not to be forgotten, as it was in the old French Quarter where we were treated like long lost relatives, dancing, food and generally good treatment.
When we arrived at Camp Logan, the Colonel would have me report to him each morning, ask me what I had on tap for the men of the Regiment that day, and usually I received his O.K.. and took the Regiment out for work, drill, etc. Some days, it was bridge building or demolition instruction, drill, felling old trees, etc. The latter was quite exciting one day when a huge old tree leaned dangerously toward some camp power lines. There were some West Virginia woodsmen in the ranks and they really knew most of what one should know about felling trees. This tree was sawed and of course a heavy rope had been tied to it with all the men pulling on the rope. When the tree fell, it landed right on an empty mess shack and cut it in two. However, that could hardly have been prevented. It was better than cutting off power or phones from the camp.
A few weeks later, I was ordered to appear in Regimental HQ before a board of three Regimental Officers. It was for the purpose of giving me a verbal examination for promotion to Master Engineer Senior Grade. The questions were not difficult for me to answer as I remembered what I had been taught at Armour inasmuch as it was almost entirely technical subject matter. One question Which clinched the promotion was "how much weight will a steel cable lift, the cable being of a certain diameter. I made a good guess on that one so it seems as their eyes lighted up and they excused me from further examination.
I received the promotion. There were only two other men of that grade in the Regiment and it was a respected grade to get. It came from the Corps of Engineers in Washington D.C. At that time, the Signal Corps had its Master Electricians, the Artillery its Master Gunners. It was a rank not easy to obtain.
We had not been in camp many weeks when the Regiment received its Regimental flags from the Washington Depot. The rumor then going the rounds was that we were being outfitted to go overseas. Colonel Harrington ordered an assembly in the Camp Theatre. I was quite pleased to act as color bearer for the Regimental flag and placed it in a holder on the platform. After a few remarks from the Regimental Commander, we dispersed. A short time later, perhaps a few weeks, we were awakened in the early morning by a roaring commotion from the main part of Houston. We learned from people who had come to camp from town that an armistice agreement had been signed with Germany and the war was ended. That day, November 11th, 1918 was one of great excitement. Crowds of celebrators jammed the main section of the city.
Reports appeared in the newspapers of the celebrations in all cities and towns in the country and overseas. We who had been preparing to go overseas were of course disappointed, but very happy that the carnage was ended. It was said to be the last of the great wars, which has since been found much to our sorrow to have been a false prophecy. We have since found that man is not yet ready to turn his sword to plowshares, and live in peace with his fellow man for constructive purposes. Our military training was terminated and we awaited orders for dissolution of the Regiment and discharge from war service.
While awaiting further orders, various activities to keep us occupied were allocated to us. A gentleman out of great patriotic motives came out from Houston to give us instruction in the Gregg System of shorthand. He had several business schools in the city. There were other activities which cannot be recalled now. Finally, we had our last standing at retreat, evening lowering of the flag, and we entrained for camps around the country for final physicals and processing for discharge from the army.
February 11, 1919, I had my last physical exam at Camp Grant, Illinois and that was one event I can never forget. I appeared before the medical officers, naked of course, to show them as I was ordered so to do, my psoriasis lesions. They were all over my back and other parts of the body. Amidst Oh's and Ah's, because of the perfect examples of the affliction, photographs were made and most likely to this day are in the archives of the Surgeon General in Washington. However, there was this to be thankful for - that otherwise I was in good physical condition and had not suffered the terrible afflictions that beset the combat heroes of the war, those who had survived but were maimed for life.
I received an honorable discharge, number 100578, as of the day hitherto related, signed by Dale 0. Wise, Major, Infantry, U.S.A., and returned home. When I arrived at the front door of our residence at 5712 Indiana Ave., Chicago, Ill., I rang the doorbell and my dear Mother answered the bell, opened the door, quietly kissed me, and officially
I was home from the war to stay for a while, without any excitement such as one would picture.
It was not easy getting readjusted to civilian life and moreover some of my boyhood pals had perished in combat. Fortunately, I was reemployed in the Board of Education drafting room. The Board had moved from the old Tribune Building at 7 S. Dearborn to their own building on Wells St. Most of my former associates were still working there and that was nice.
The Lewis family was quite scattered with the eldest brother and his wife and two daughters in Honolulu. Elijah and his wife Grace were living in Des Moines. Ben, my younger brother, was working with Dupont in New Jersey, and other members of the family in other parts of the country.
In the autumn of 1919, the American Legion which had been organized, announced the forming of posts. There was one organized at Sinai Temple at 47th & Grand Blvd (Chicago). I joined that post and did what I could to help make it successful, but while acting as Commander, it gradually became inactive and folded up. Many of us in Sinai Post joined Eaton-Priddy Post #111 meeting in the former South Side HQ of the Park District of Chicago. Actually, it was called HQ of So. Park Commissioners. We had some very interesting meetings. At one meeting, Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis made a very interesting address. We also had a fingerprint expert from Northwestern University and many other notable guests there. After 54 years, I still hold membership in Eaton-Priddy Post, as this is written on April 12, 1973.
Many of my male friends of boyhood days had gone to war and many had not returned. It seemed very difficult to readjust to normal civilian life, but after some months, this feeling wore off. I joined the Masonic Order in November of 1920 and took an active part, which was of very great interest to me. As I desired to gain as broad an experience as possible, I worked in various architectural offices. Sometimes it was a case of an architect having a building plan to get out quickly and nothing to follow up that for a while.
One office I worked in wad that of Walter Burley Griffin. My work was to make the outlines for perspectives of buildings, mostly churches. One morning as I was working at the board, &-. Griffin came into the office very excited and happy, To make an ' announcement to me. He said, "I have just received work from Australia that I have won the international competition among architects, for the design of the new capitol ix of Australia at a new site, to be known as Canberra. He had excellent cause to be excited. I congratulated him. He had a rather small office ands as I thought very highly of him as he was a humble, capable, hard working architect and very thoughtful and considerate of me. At that time, I was the only employee he had in the office.
After working for the various architects, I decided in late March of 1922 to strike out for myself. I rented half space in the office of a structural engineer in the Garrick Building, 64 W. Randolph St., Chicago. That building by the way was one of the great works of Dankmar, Adler and Louis Sullivan who also were architects for the Auditorium on Congress St. and the Woman's Temple on LaSalle St.
Occasionally, work came to me especially from friends and associates of earlier years. When there was nothing of my own on the drawing board, I went next door and worked
on an hourly basis for my my old schoolmates Maurice Rissman and Leo Herschfeld. This arrangement worked out fine for them as it did for me.
While occupying Frandsen's Office one day, the German Dirigible Von Hindenburgh sailed through the sky over the downtown area from the East and as this office faced in that direction, the ship was very visible. It was quite a sight.
Work gradually picked up activity and it became necessary for me to rent a larger office on the 7th floor of the same building. There were many architects in that same building, but competition was not keen as each had his own clientele. The fact is that we all had friendly relations and even paid visits to one another.
At that time, in early 1922, my sister Ida had a girlfriend by the name of Sylvia Hollander who resided close to the Lewis Residence at 5712 Indiana Ave. Sylvia worked in Her Father's office in the old Tribune Building at 7 S. Dearborn St. Sylvia's Father, Max. T. Hollander, represented a label Company, Kirby-Cogeshall Co. of Milwaukee. I started keeping company with Sylvia and while at Lincoln Cabin Inn in Pawpaw Lake, Michigan, on August 19th of 1922, we became engaged. Sylvia's Mother, Dorothy F. Hollander, at an earlier period in life, had been courted by my older brother Abe. So my engagement to her daughter Sylvia was quite a coincidence and seemed to have met with her parents' approval as a wedding date was set at once for June 2, 1923
In the meantime, as the romance was building up, so was my architectural practice. I had learned while drafting for Rissman and Hershfeld that much of their activity was due to publicity they received in the real estate section of the Chicago Tribune, Sunday edition. There would be a writeup on Sunday, and the next day the resultant effect was that of more business coming into their office.
Al Chase was the editor of the Tribune Real Estate Section and a very capable and conscientious reporter of every detail of the project as reported by the architect. Whenever I later had a project of fair size on the boards, I called Al Up and gave him the writeup and a perspective of the same. He was just as anxious to get the news as I was to obtain the publicity. Architects could not advertise - it was unethical. To become known by the building public, one had to get the publicity the newspapers offered. It was a very great help in getting business.
It would not be very appreciative if I omitted mentioning Mr. Beardsley, the Real Estate Editor of the Chicago Daily News and a reporter, Mr. Bock, who came regularly through the years from "The Economist." The latter was an interesting brochure that was delivered weekends by subscription and had financial news, real estate and an accurate list of building permits as issued by the Chicago building department.
While I had space in Nils Frandsen's Office, I read his copies of Engineering News. I read at one time of a competition for Engineers and Architects of the country that Methodist Book concern was running. The design was for a new printing plant to be constructed on the Near North Side of Chicago. I entered the competition and although not a winner, I received a fee for my sketches which I thought was generous on their part. Competition in this Methodist Book Printing Building Program was great. James Gamble Rodgers of New York was powerful competition as I recall. However, I can not remember who was the architect picked to design the building.
The only other design competition that I entered was that of the Tribune Tower on Upper Michigan Ave. Chicago. I did not do much work on that as I soon discovered that there was too much time and expense entailed 1n the carrying out of all the requirements. I must say that the winner of that competition certainly designed a notable building. The drawings were beautifully executed.
Then various architectural jobs started to come into the office. Usually these came from friends of earlier days. Sam Bernbach, a realtor whom I found very friendly in Sunday School as a young boy, was very well acquainted in the South Shore. He sent me many fine clients. Then there were clients whom I had met while worklng in other offices in earlier days. Gradually I built up a steady business.
On June 2, 1923, Sylvia and I were married at the Chicago Beach Hotel. It was a humid hot day which started with a rain in the early morning which raised the humidity to the saturation level. Temperature was 90°F. Max Hollander, Sylvia's Father had provided rooms for us in two different locations on the upper floors of the building.
Unfortunately, steam heat was kept on for the older people who lived there. This did not help one little bit to make the few hours before the wedding celebration tolerable. Every so often, Sylvia would call me on the phone or I would call her, and tick off the time. Then came the important time and as the wedding march was struck up, my Father was standing and waiting to escort me in. He was lost in a reverie, evidently thinking back to his wedding of many years before.
The ceremony was very beautiful. Rabbi Marogues of the South Side Hebrew Congregation performed the ceremony which was followed by a very fine dinner and dancing. While the guests were still dancing and enjoying themselves immensely, Sylvia and I left to go on our honeymoon which was started by a one night stay at the Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Avenue. The next morning we took the North Shore Electric to Milwaukee, Wisc. The honeymoon was a short one and we returned to Chicago where we had rented an apartment of two rooms at 6728 Chapelle Ave. in the South Shore. It was known as a kitchenette apartment in those days.
Mr. Hollander had filled the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator with food and everything was set to go into housekeeping. We were very thankful for all the display of love on the part of the family, on both sides. Useful wedding gifts, furniture and all were just beautiful. Sylvia wanted to go back to working in her Father's office, but I was obstinate and said no. So Helen, her only sister, took over and worked for many years in that office which was relocated at various places through the years.
I had become an officer in my Masonic lodge and attended every meeting which was on every Monday evening. Sylvia was very nice about my being away those evenings and attending the sick, all other activities of the Lodge. We had many friends and relatives at out apartment whenever we could conveniently do so.
On September 27th, 1924, our first son, Charles Morris Lewis, was born at Washington Park Hospital. It was a normal birth and I was allowed to witness it. Dr. Kaufman delivered Charles and gave me the surgical masque and gown to wear. After the normal stay at the hospital, Sylvia came home with our first son. A registered nurse, Miss Jensen, took care of her for a time. She was an excellent nurse and of great ability in preparing food and doing everything to keep the patient in good condition. At that time, we were living on 62nd St. Hear Eberhart Ave.
In the spring of 1925, Armin Reiss, our sister-in-law Gisella's Uncle, brought in two nice large building jobs into the office in the Garrick Building. One was a 21-apt. 4-story building for the partners of the Queen Anne Candy Company of Hammond Indiana, Glickman, Weiss and Martin. This plan was completed, contracts signed and the building was constructed and occupied at the SW corner of 69th St. and Jeffery Ave., Chicago.
The second building was a 25-apartment building for Jacob Abelson. This building was adjacent to the Northeast corner of 71st and Constance Ave., Chicago. This too was completed and occupied. Then Mr. Abelson had me design a one-story store building for the Northeast corner of 71st St. and Constance Ave.
Business was improving and various jobs came into the office and of course this required hiring draftsmen to make up the plans developed from sketches which I prepared and presented to the clients. The draftsmen were very good and faithful workers whom I deeply appreciated.
On January 1, 1926, Howard, our 2nd son, was born at Washington Park Hospital. This delivery I also witnessed with the permission of Dr. I. Kaufman. Witnessing these events gives a man an appreciation of what a woman goes through in childbirth, and what a miracle it all is.
The construction business was improving right along and I was getting my fair share of it through writeups in the newspapers, friends, relatives and one client recommending me to another. The jobs were located in various parts of Chicago, suburbs and out of the city.
On February 17, 1928, our third son, Richard, was born. This delivery I did not witness as it took place early of a morn when I was still asleep. But all was fine and as with the other sons, there were no problems.
The economy was heating up and my share of the building business was still good and very promising. There were larger building plans in the mill and in general the outlook was very good. All kinds of good forecasts were being made by economists when suddenly the whole fabric of the economy went into collapse and it was a shocking event indeed. By 1929, there were practically no jobs coming into the office, or any of the architectural offices. This was only a small segment of the declining economy. The stock market was crashing, real estate bonds losing value, and the depression was under way.
I had expanded my office, so in order to shore up my expenses, I advertised space to rent. This helped as I had a sub-tenant mho was in the insurance business. In quick time, others followed. Finally, I terminated the lease on the office and moved in an adjoining office. It was a difficult period as millions of Americans can testify. The hardest blow was when the banks started closing. Of course, the hardest blow to the construction business was the discrediting of real estate mortgages at the time. It looked as if they were destined never to arise from the ashes. They did, however, in later years as did the stock and bond market in general.
I tried going out and selling but there was very little success to that effort and it was not very beneficial to the morale to say the least. On December 8, 1930, I was installed as master of Apollo Lodge No. 642 A. F., and M. Chicago. This lodge has since been merged with Sidney Z. Schultz Lodge No. 642, Chicago.
On August 5, 1932, our fourth son, Theodore Solomon Lewis was born. Also delivered by Dr. I. Kaufman. This son was the last child born to us and there was no problem encountered. We had moved to E. 78th St. in the South Shore, a nice new modern apartment. Then we moved to 79th and Burnham Ave. when I received employment as Project Engineer at Midway Airport. We soon had to move to an apartment at 78th and Colfax Ave., and moved again to 61st St. and South Park Ave. The apartment was just around the corner from where Sylvia's folks lived and not too many blocks from where mine lived. With Washington Park nearby, it was a very convenient location.
When the Works Progress Administration (WPA) became the Civil Works Administration, I became Project Engineer at Jackson Park where we built a bird sanctuary, a recreation building on the site of the old nine-hole course and improved and changed many roads throughout the park. The nine-hole course was one that I had played on in previous years many times and it was difficult to see it go out of existence. The random stone work on the recreation building was a work of art performed by a man who while working on the labor force, had obtained a job as union mason with the Parks District of Chicago. This was one of many instances of men being out of work of talents during the depression and being on the WPA rolls.
When I left employment on CWA, I opened a small office at 30 N. Dearborn St. This building was demolished some years ago, along with the adjacent buildings like the Chicago Title and Trust Building and others. They were replaced by a large high-rise office building. My office then opened onto the outer office of Kirby-Cogeshall Co. managed by Max I. Hollander, my Father-in-law. Helen, Sylvia's sister was his secretary and also took my calls. I reciprocated by taking Kirby-Cogeshall calls when necessary.
As my business improved, I moved into larger offices in another part of the same building. Fortunately, these offices were on the same West side of the building. A telephone connection could be made conveniently to catch my calls as before. This I deeply appreciated. An answering service such as this was of great value.
A friend, Mendel Flanders, was in the Real Estate business and was acquainted with Clarence H. Morgan who was in the grocery business. Mr. Flanders recommended me to Mr. Morgan who awarded me several store planning and construction projects. The first was located at 4710 Dorchester. As the streets there were lowered to allow of an underpass beneath the Illinois Central tracks, all grades pertaining to the construction of the building had to be carefully checked. This was done by engineers on the street project. This street project was not only of some magnitude, but quite complicated, and also quite worrisome. As an example of the problems involved, when the building was almost completed, the old sidewalk passed across that space in which the plate glass windows were located. The streets were finally excavated and regarded and paved. The new cement sidewalks were laid and everything in the Margin Building worked out to a perfect condition. This was indeed a relief. Everlasting gratitude was owed to the Civil Engineers who had marked the new grades. The street and underpass project was a government project (PWA) which was quite an improvement in every way when completed. It practically transformed that section of Kneepad in Chicago.
Then Mr. Morgan had me remodel his store at 1516 E. 53rd St. The original store was a small one located on the first floor of an old stone front building. This building had a common dividing wall with the building to the west. The new store took in the one to the west and the front wall and dividing wall had to have heavy steel beams to carry them over the open spaces on the front and for the open area of the store. The front dimension was 48 feet and the dividing wall above the store lengthwise had columns and beams to support it every 10 feet or so. For this structural problem, rather than tackling it myself, I called in a former Armour Architectural classmate, Louis Lurvey, to work on it. He did a very masterful job. The front above the first floor was supported by a 36-inch Bethlehem Steel I Beam, 120 lbs. to the foot, 48 feet long, the heaviest steel beam they made at that time, carried on two heavy I beam columns on the west and east piers with strong foundations. The beams lengthwise 24" I beams running north and south carrying the old 12' walls on second and third floors.Fortunately, an alley ran parallel to the position in which these beams had to be
placed. Thus a hole was made in the rear of the building. These 24' I beams were snaked through this hole and erected by structural steel workers from A. F. Anderson Iron Works who had the steel contract. Thank G-- for these competent workers without whom none of the buildings of the world would now exist.
The evening that this Morgan store had its grand opening was marked by a very nice gathering of guests hosted by Clarence Morgan. Mrs. Snyder of the candy company of that name was there. Her original store was S. Dearborn St. across the street from the old Tribune Building where I had worked for the Board of Education. I usually purchased candy there each noon and she waited on the trade personally in those days. It was nice meeting her again after these many years under better circumstances. She looked beautiful and was very gracious, as she always had been.
Work came in steadily to keep me occupied. Weekends there were journeys to the sand dunes in Northern Indiana or to the Rosenwald Museum in Jackson Park, or rowing on the lagoon there. It was fun to go to the quadrangle at the University of Chicago at the midway and sit on a bench and feed the squirrels peanuts in the spring. They would crack and eat the peanuts, but in the fall they would bury most of them for food for the upcoming winter. Sometimes, birds would swoop down and snatch a peanut before the squirrel could get it.
In the late 20's, most of the architectural work that came into the office was that
of apartments. In the late 30's, the biggest percentage was the individual residence. There were naturally occasionally other types of work coming in.
In September, 1939, I received the work of designing and constructing a research laboratory for Wishnick-Tumpeer Inc. This was built at 6200 W. 51st St. in Stickney Township Chicago. This company in later years took on the name Witco Chemical Co. Construction continued through the winter and the building completed and occupied in the late spring. It was a very interesting assignment. In later years, additions were designed and constructed. A pilot plant was added to the west. An addition to the laboratory was constructed to the east.
1941 was a fairly active year, and various types of work kept coming into the Dearborn St. Office. Most work came in the spring and summer and autumn, and the winters were very inactive. In the autumn of 1939 (to go back two years), Adolph Hitler, in a raging mad mood, declared war on Poland and ordered his army into that country. His threats had bean mounting in intensity and the United States had made various moves to prepare for eventualities.
The army was quickly expanded by the induction of the National Guard all over the country into the army of the united States on March 5, 1941. The 33rd Division in which I had served for a time in World War I, went to Camp Forest in the South. The 131st Infantry, having departed Chicago, Left Chicago without a military unit to guard it. We former members of that regiment received word describing the condition that existed. We were asked if we would volunteer to join a home guard regiment to take the place of the departed 131st Infantry. After giving it some careful thought and discussing with my wife Slvia, I decided to join.
At that time, a new very modern armory had been constructed on the northwest side of Chicago. It was known as Northwest Armory. There was one drill night a week. The Commander of "M" Company was Captain Sven Carlsen who had received decorations for bravery in WWI, in France. Our instructors were all veterans of the old 131st Infantry and very well qualified in their respective military activities.
There was a small firing range in the basement. Special instructions in signaling codes, etc. An excellent course of instruction was given on riot formation and general military formations and marching. I would do my regular architectural work during the day, stop off somewhere for a meal, and go directly from the office to
the Armory. I became a Corporal and then a Sergeant, also a member of the regimental drill team. All this kept me in good condition and brought me up to date on modern army work.
On December 7, 1941 we received the very shocking news on the radio of the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. Two Japanese envoys were on their way to Washington D.C. to discuss a new treaty when the attack came. Some of the most powerful units of the Pacific fleet were docked at Pearl Harbor. They were either sunk with all the crews on board or left in a state of ruin. On the morning of December 8 Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation and told the story of the disaster and declared a state of war existed between the United States and Japan. Congress convened the same day and formally declared war.
I received a letter from the Adjutant General of the Army in the spring of 1942. This letter asked me if I would be interested in accepting a commission in the Army Corps of Engineers of the U.S. If I was interested, a Colonel Hulen would be in Chicago as of an early date to interview applicants. This was all discussed with Sylvia and I went downtown to the interview when Col. Hulen arrived in Chicago. We all had army physical examinations after the interview.
Many of my school associates and other friends were there. Late in April 1942, while drilling at the Northwest Armory, I was informed that my wife had phoned and wanted me to call her. This I did and Sylvia read to me a telegram received from A. J. Ulio the Adjutant General of the Army informing me that I had been commissioned 1st Lt. in the Army of the United States as of May 8, 1942 and that confirmation and oath of office would follow. Signed also by G.C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. The temporary appointment confirmation and oath of office arrived dated April 30, 1942. Then the orders came assigning me to the 347th Engineer Regiment at Camp Claiborne, service to start May 8.
The days before I departed for Claiborne were very hectic. I had to pack up my office files, equipment and furniture and have them moved home. Arrange for travel to Camp Claiborne, buy military uniforms at Baileys, shoes, etc., obtain army luggage and pack up my clothing. All of this was done as methodically as was humanly possible. My comrades in Eaton-Priddy Post #111 American Legion were excited and staged a surprise going away party for me two nights before I departed. They were very good to me. They marched into our apartment carrying food of all tempting kinds. At the head of the procession was the Commander, Walter Leamon. It was a real thrill to see this outpouring of friendliness.
It was difficult for Sylvia to see her husband getting ready to depart for a great war. She was very brave and took it all nicely. There were four young boys to leave behind also but I felt that I could carry on with the protection of our country at least until they were old enough to do something too, for their country. They did later enter the service one by one. Sylvia had obtained employment with Princess Pat, Beauty Supply Company, and late with the U.S. Army Medical Depot on the near north side of Chicago.
On the morning of May 7, we rode down to the Illinois Central Railroad Station and when we arrived there, found several comrades of my legion post waiting there to see me off. The departure was emotional and almost difficult to realize. All had taken place very quickly and this fast pace was destined to continue with me for a while. The train arrived at Alexandria, Va., the town closest to Claiborne, on the morning of May 8. I took a cab from there to the headquarters office of the camp and reported for duty, presenting my orders.
After signing in and getting copies of my orders for future army use, I reported to the HQ office building of the 347th Engineers and to Col. Hulen whom I had met in Chicago. It was a hot and humid day in camp and there were many such to follow, but it was all to be expected for the time of the year and soon I was accustomed to it. It was very much like it had been in Houston in WWI and in Wash. D.C.
My assignment was as executive officer of Co. C. Capt. Johnson was in command of Co. C and being a veteran of the Marine Corps of WWI was a good soldier and strict disciplinarian. We had the usual following a program set by the regimental commander. After a few weeks, I was assigned with other officers to camp engineer HQ. Out of HQ, we were assigned to a tank range to construct tank traps. Men came from various regiments to do the construction work which we directed and on which we contructed them. When the tank traps were completed, we staged a graphic demonstration before all of the engineer regiments. The viewers sat on the hills surrounding the demonstration area while we officers exploded charges before advancing tanks. It kept us very much on the run as the tanks were manned by very wild cowboys as we named them. We used hand operated magneto exploders.
After this assignment, I instructed in the use of the gas mask and protection from tear gas. I was in a small tent similar to an indian tepee and when a soldier came into the tent, I instructed him to put on his mask. Then a pellet of tear gas was ignited, the soldier was ordered to lift his mask, take a sniff, and get out fast and remove the mask and face into the wind (if any). After being in this hot stuffy tent for a few hours, it was heavenly to get out of it and go back to my quarters. Unfortunately, the tear gas permeated my clothing and the odor hung on for hours.
We had some reviews in which all of the engineer regiments partook. The company commanders were in the reviewing stand with the regimental officers and camp commander. We next in company command took command and marched our companies in review. As this was a rather sudden assignment, it surprised us. The review went off nicely but it was one of those cloudy, threatening days and we all wore ponchos. With the heat and the humidity and the long periods at attention, some of the men collapsed and hit the ground. Along toward late July, 1942, some of the engineer regiments were alerted for overseas duty. The first one was the 342nd engineers. I remember watching them stage their final review while standing on the sidelines. A group of regimental commanders were there watching also. One of them introduced me to the others. I believe it was prompted by the tank trap demonstration we had staged a few weeks before that.
As some regiments were short of full company officer complements, we were assigned to conduct clothing inspections. There were numerous inspections and every item of clothing had to be laid out in one certain pattern. It was necessary that every man should have certain items of clothing. When we were prepared for entertainment, we first had what was known in the army as a dry run. This was a drill in which we went through the motions of boarding a train and then returning to camp. Finally, we did load our battalion, supplies, luggage and men and departed for our new locations (unknown to us at the time). We traveled northeast to Tennessee.
I was quartermaster on our train and had the duty to see that food was ordered delivered to the train at certain stops. The railroad had an official assigned who sat with me through the journey and took orders for meat, ice cream bars, etc. At Nashville, Swift and Co. had a truck loaded with Swiss Steaks, etc. when the train arrived at the depot. Everything went with clockwork precision. When we rode through the Smokies, the scenery was awe-inspiring. The train official described everything and told stores regarding early plantation owners watching their slaves working in the fields from vantage points on the hills. It may have been just folklore but it helped pass the time.
We finally arrived at the camp that was destined to be a staging area for the regiment for overseas duty. It was camp Joyce Kilmer located just outside of New Brunswick, NJ. There, we had numerous inspections of all kinds and made the final preparations to go overseas. Naturally, no hint was given as to our ultimate destination. Secrecy was exceedingly important as German "U" boats roved the Atlantic trying to hunt down all shipping to our allies on the Atlantic.
On the weekend before we departed for the port of embarkation, we obtained passes to go to New York. I was sitting in my quarters idling, when a car drove up to the door. It had about five of our men in it and the driver invited me to go along with them to New York. It was a pleasant surprise to me and I packed up a few items in a wad and rode away with them. We finally went through the Holland tunnel. After traveling over well known highways and bridges, we came out of the tunnel and for the first time in my life, was in the great metropolis of New York.
After eating in a delicatessen type cafeteria, I strolled around that part of the city. Some of the streets reminded me of the section near the loop district of Chicago. I visited fourth avenue, then walked over to the Public Library, Macy's Department Store, Radio City, and browsed around at the various shops along the streets, then rode up to the 53rd floor of the empire state building on 34th St.
Standing in front of a shop near Macy's, it became a problem as to what to do next. In fact, it was a case of boredom. Having lived in a large city most of my life, I had not seen anything yet to excite me. It was just then that a New York policeman came up and addressed me in a sympathetic and kindly manner. He said, "Soldier, are you looking for something interesting to do," or words to that effect. I said, "Officer, you read my mind," or something similar. He said just walk over to the next street ( I think it was fifth avenue) and follow the elevated to its terminus. Then cross the street to the ferry docks. You can get a Staten Island Ferry ride past the Statue of Liberty to the island.
I thanked the officer profusely as I thought it was an unusually nice gesture, and followed his instructions. When I boarded the ferry, I remembered that my wife, Sylvia, had a cousin by the name of Walter Kuhn who, with his wife and children, resided on Staten Island. As we rode past the Statue of Liberty, a deep and lasting impression was etched on my memory of that great, majestic and impressive sculptural figure. To all sides ones could see the high buildings of the city. That ferry ride was one to be everlastingly thankful for. It would not have been enjoyed but for the kind advice of that New York police officer.
The ferry docked at Staten Island and I immediately went to a telephone booth, obtained Walter Kuhn's phone number and called his home. His wife answered the phone and was very surprised and happy when I introduced myself. She said Walter was due home from work shortly and that I should await his return call (Walter worked fn the Bell Laboratory). He called me shortly and said he would drive over and pick me up. Everything was working out remarkably well.
Walter arrived and picked me up and took me to his home. We had a great time discussing all the latest news of the family, and my appointment to service, etc. It was Saturday and there was the usual Saturday evening activities that the folks engaged in. They went out to play cards at a friend's house and I went along. While they were playing, cards, I sat in the front room just resting.
I must have been looking at a magazine as my attention was diverted. A surprising thing had happened. A phone call had come there and the caller was my wife. She had heard from some officer's wife that we were at Camp Kilmer, had taken leave and would arrive at New York Grand Central Station the next day, Sunday. Sylvia had no inkling of my being on Staten Island and was not so informed. The next day we all rode down to the station and awaited the arrival of the passengers from Chicago. As Sylvia came opposite us, I gave a family whistle and she was terribly surprised, could hardly believe her ears. So I told her the whole remarkable story of how I happened to be there.
We had a joyous reunion, a very fine Sunday dinner and slept at the house that Sunday night. I took the electrified New York Central train back to camp. After a tearful farewell, Sylvia visited the camp for a while. before the regiment entrained for the port of embarkation at Brooklyn. Arriving at the port and its network of rail tracks, we detrained and lined up for roll call. After roll call, we immediately marched over in single file to the docks where the ships were anchored and awaiting our embarkation.
The battalion of which our Company "C" was a unit was assigned the Monterrey, a luxury Hawaiian cruise ship of the Matson Line. The commander of the regiment and staff boarded the USS Mariposa of the Matson Lines. As we went up the gangplank an embarkation officer called the roll and as we answered "here" we quickly strode up the gangplank and boarded the ship. We were given a letter from the White House and signed by Pres. F.D.R.
All the ships in our convoy were boarded at the same time on all decks. With this activity, one could see men boarding at all deck levels and this was a very interesting sight. The Monterrey had beautifully decorated salons and the mural decorations were boarded over for protection. The salons had tiered bunks for the enlisted men while we officers shared other quarters. The ship was well air conditioned as it was early August when we embarked. There came a time in the voyage when we were happy to have warmth.
We did not sail until midnight. No meals were served. We delegated a couple of sailors of the crew to shop for food in delicatessens and other sources. These men were gone for what seemed to us as hours and finally returned with good sustaining sandwiches which we swapped around. As mentioned before, the convoy sailed at around midnight, August 5. This date was easy to remember as it was our youngest son Ted's 10th birthday. We slept through the night and had a very delicious breakfast the next morning as the Monterrey was stocked with all the fine foods the passengers received on regular cruises to and from Hawaii. We were to be given the same food through the voyage.
The next morning, that of August 6, we hove into view of the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia. As the convoy arrived at the entrance to the harbor, the submarine net was withdrawn and we steamed in. The net was quickly closed when all the ships were safely in. As mentioned previously, the German subs were prowling the entire Atlantic. The destroyers of the U.S. Navy were of course guarding all our shipping.
We slipped out of the harbor of Halifax again under cover of darkness and headed due East for what was destined to be the British Isles. An assignment was given to me to be the ship's security officer. My duty was that of pacing the open deck and watching carefully that no lights showed. The first night I saw a light showing through a porthole and I rapped on the glass and the porthole was quickly covered. Also all openings had to be curtained off completely. The ship's course was toward the North Atlantic and the nights became colder with a touch of snow as we headed toward the Arctic Circle and past Iceland. That was a new experience for most of us for the early part of August.
We held evacuation drills simulating the torpedoing of the ship. The men lined up and ascended to the decks. All this was done orderly but time was kept by the officers on how rapidly the men arrived on decks. There were heavy scaling ropes slung over the rails of the ship. Down these ropes we would slide and into boats in event of disaster. While I was patrolling the ship, I arrived at the helm's wheel cabin. The helmsman invited me to man the wheel for a moment. It was quite a thrill.
After some days we steamed past the north coast of Ireland and we could see the beautiful green of the emerald isle. The ship crossed the north channel past Prestwick to Greenock on the Clyde River. At that time, the river was very active with shipbuilding going on at a furious pace. The convoy steamed up to Clydebank then to Glasgow where we disembarked on August 19, 1942. Strangely enough, this was the 20th anniversary of Sylvia's and my engagement to wed. We entrained for Wishaw, Scotland in early evening of the 19th and, arrived at Wishaw at midnight.
British non-commissioned officers took command of our men and marched them in silence except for the thud thud of the feet on the pavement. It was all very weird as there was total blackout and utmost caution in moving troops to a billet. This billet turned out to be a large brewery storage room fitted out with British army cots equipped with sectional mattresses known as biscuits in the British Army.
I was unaware that my fellow officers had marched off in a group to the police station of Wishaw where a billet was set up on the second floor. Having marched off to the brewery billet I slept there for the night. The next morning I went to the billet at the police station where breakfast was served. we stayed there until midnight August 22 when the battalion entrained for Whales where arrived August 23 at 10:30 a.m. We camped at Llanover, Wales in the shadow of the ruins of an ancient castle. The only part of the castle still standing was a large hall which became the non-commissioned officers club room and an adjoining attached more modern addition.
This later addition became the regimental post exchange about which I shall later relate. The assignment was given me to act as regimental security officer. When all the command was bedded down in their tents for the night, it was my duty to patrol the area and see that all lights were out and all was secure. This duty I performed. Then Captain Max Lowenberg, also an Architect from Chicago, and I drew up a plan of the regimental area. It was quite an experience setting up the drawing board in the narrow confines of a tepee shaped tent.
Along in September 1942, Col. Hulen informed me that he wanted me to be regimental Post Exchange Officer. He said that money had been contributed voluntarily by the men in the regiment to purchase supplies for the PX. I was to get transportation, I believe it was one or two large trucks, and drive up to Liverpool. Arrangements were completed. The drivers and myself packed up clothing and were given rations for at least a two or
three period. The money was in a cloth bag and I had my colt 45 strapped on my belt. We travelled a very unfamiliar route as we knew practically nothing about the map of England. Yes, I admit being given a military map but unfortunately for us, all road markers and identification marks of all kinds had been removed by the British. England was a besieged nation and anything that could aid the enemy was out.
So I resorted to stopping the convoy at intervals and requesting information from pedestrians en route. We drove north through Wales enjoying the sights along the way, the mountains of Wales, the quaint thatched roof houses, cattle grazing in the fields and such. It was quite an experience. Finally in the dusk of an evening on the 15th of September we arrived in Wolver Hampton. Where to stay for the night, the drivers and myself, that was the question. It was getting close to blackout time, and cool and damp. An air raid warden came by and told us we could find comfortable lodging in a church hostel. He gave us directions, how to locate it. The British were completely cooperative at all times. We were allies and as such they did all they could to be of assistance to American troops.
We registered at the hostel and had a very comfortable night's sleep. I will admit that occasionally my sleep was disturbed if I heard the slightest sound as the bag of money was under my pillow along with my weapon. Before going to sleep I had a tub bath in an adjoining bathroom and had the money with me. It was cash from the men in the regiment as I have previously stated and I could take no chances whatsoever.
Taking the tub bath was an unforgettable experience. I turned on the faucets and the water poured out copiously, happily. But it went down the drain. The room was not very brightly lit and I was puzzled what to do. Finally, I discovered an old fashioned cast iron window weight which dropped into the drain and sealed it. It was a happy discovery and my bath was assured. A good night's sleep and we had a breakfast at the hostel and set our for Liverpool.
Traveling through Birkenhead, we arrived at our destination. There we saw for the first time ruins of houses as the result of Nazi air raids. There was one row of houses, for example, completely demolished. It was up to us to make our purchase and get out of Liverpool as quickly as possible. The date was September 16, 1942. The U.S. Army exchange service cashier, a Mr.. E.A. REA was located at the exchange hotel in Liverpool. He was presented the cash and made out a receipt. This receipt lies before me as I write this information. It is dated September 1942. It is made out as follows;'received of 347th Engineers, Lt. Jacob Lewis, the sum of six hundred and forty six pounds, 1 shilling and eight pence.' His signature and address Exchange Hotel Liverpool. Translated into American money at that time, the total cash amounted to approximately $2,500.00
At the PX warehouse, there was a very good stock of available items. Purchase was made of a large bale of bath towels, 6 cases of canned Planters Peanuts, candy bars, shaving cream, cigarettes, and numerous other items. It was all packed on the trucks. The receipt for the cash to cover the purchase was all in good order and we departed for the return journey to camp. Arriving at the hostel, the drivers slept on their trucks and guarded the loads of PX supplies. They were very careful. Traveling on the return journey was not as difficult as it had been going to Liverpool. Arriving at the Base Camp of the 347th Engineer Regiment we received a rather joyous welcome. With severe rationing in England it was nice that we could sell the items purchased at Liverpool. The men in the regiment were very happy when the PX was all set up to go.
The one-story building attached to the remains of the castle was a natural for a small PX. This building was evidently constructed in recent years of brick and stone. It was about eight feet wide and forty feet in depth. The entrance was that of a pair of hinged doors about 7 feet in height. The left wall was that of part of the castle and along the right wall were a series of casement windows with sills about three feet high . There were enough empty bases from the peanuts to make a counter down the right side of the room and under the windows. There I arranged the goods for display. At the rear the remaining full cases were piled up to provide a partition with an opening at the right side 2.5 feet wide, thus making a small sleeping quarter in the rear about seven feet in depth.
A cot was placed on the left hand side parallel to the castle wall. An old fashioned wooden table was found and on this I kept an oil lamp partly covered at night during blackout. At night, I slept with my weapon under the pillow. Col. Hulen was quite happy with the PX but questioned, "How was I to sell all these bath towels." I told him they would go like hot cakes. He looked at me quizzically and finally let it go at that. Well, they sold out in a big hurry.
It was a common sight to see the men carrying cans of peanuts as they worked digging and setting up quonset huts in what had been a beautifully landscaped park. I must state here that our regiment was the first to arrive in England and we were preparing camps for the thousands of troops who followed. The peanuts, candy, etc. were a blessing as rations were meager and we all enjoyed having these to eat.
Near the PX were growing tall fir trees and evergreens. These were a beautiful sight and we were warned never to chop at any of them. It would take a King's order to do so anywhere in England. The large hall previously mentioned was part of the castle still standing and must have been a banquet room. At one side, there was a very large open fireplace, high enough to stand in and rather wide. It had a heavy sill spit strong enough to take the carcass of a wild boar. The ceiling was rather high and vaulted.
Our camp here at LLanover was not far from the town of AberGavenny. Abergavenny had a huge castle in fair condition. One day when I visited Abergavenny, I went into a Woolworth of England store to make some purchases. When I cam out of the store, the castle was visible back from the street down a narrow alley-like street. I visited the castle and first looked at the dungeons. They were uninviting to say the least and evidently had been padlocked for scores of years, perhaps centuries. I roamed the upper reaches of the castle and came upon a squad of British home guards, all veterans of WWI, so I presumed.
This was their guard room and I exited as quickly as possible. At the base of the castle moat which could have been approximately 4.0 feet down from where I walked later the guards had a rifle target range set up. This was the one and only visit I made to this castle, but it stands out in my mind vividly as it was so interesting and austere in its appearance. England and Wales have so many of these historic edifices.
Near the camp at Lllanover, there was an exit to a tunnel to the castle. At this exit, was located a stone basin just large enough for a slightly built person to bathe in. The story connected to this was that Lady Lllanover came through the tunnel and bathed there in spring water, surrounded by her lady retainers as a guard. How true this story was we'll never know, but it sounded very romantic and factual. She could have been very young or if mature, of child-like stature as the tunnel was not of great height.
These surroundings were very interesting and not to be enjoyed for any length of time. Capt. Johnson was not happy with the condition that existed of having an Executive Officer assigned to regimental PX duty and thus occupied with duties away from the company. Thus a transfer was effected and to another company I was temporarily assigned. Finally another transfer was effected putting me on duty with allied forces, Infantry HQ Command located
at Shrivenham Barracks outside of Swindod, England on September 19, 1942. This was a barracks setup built and composed of modern brick buildings. The whole group of buildings were primarily constructed by the British for their own army but not occupied by them for any great length of time as their forces were sent to other fields of action. There were facilities for mess on the first floor and sleeping quarters above.
The Officers quarters were in modern type two-story billets just at the edge of the camp. These billets were also constructed for British officers who as per British Army custom resided away from their men. Custom is different in the U.S. Army but the billets were thus located and that was where we slept.
My assignment was that of executive officer of the HQ detachment of the allied forces HQ command. The company was rather large having men experienced in typing, telegraphy and all abilities necessary to staff the HQ of the commanding general of an army. Later in North Africa this company did just that for General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Units of the HQ command were as follows: an engineer company, a truck company, antiaircraft unit, etc. These units were to protect the HQ and did just that also for General Dwight D. Eisenhower in North Africa.
Again I was given an assignment to set up a post exchange for this organization. There was a nice commodious building in the center of the area suitable for this purpose which became a rather large post exchange. Having four large trucks at my disposal, I drove down to Bristol, into London to the docks and various other sources of post exchange supplies and stocked the PX in a good manner. Permission was given me to sell some items to British soldiers as shortages were great in England. It made for good feelings amongst our allies.
One night on returning from a trip to London we made a mistaken detour around a lake near Windsor Castle, or perhaps it was a branch of the Thames River. Swans were paddling around and it was all very scenic. We found that we were in the shadow of Windsor Castle. It was all so interesting but unfortunately blackout time was fast approaching as we had lost time wandering in a bombed out area of London. We had passed the ruins of the Lewis Department Store and with all signs and identification of streets destroyed, it was a "no man's land." We managed to get back on the correct route and returned to camp. when I arrived at my detachment mess, I found that the cook had left kettles of tasty food simmering in the kitchen for me. It was a beautiful gesture and being very hungry, was a pleasant discovery.
At headquarters, I was informed that the officers of our company had been assigned different sleeping quarters at No. 4 Medlar Road. Ordering transportation, I packed up hurriedly and rode over to what was supposed to be No. 4 Medlar Road. Knocking in the door and receiving no reply, I found the door unlocked and walked in. Looking around, I found what was a nice large bedroom with canopied beds and the bath was just next to it. The driver unloaded all my dunnage, blanket roll, barracks bag and a lot of other things and departed. I thought this was just great. I took a refreshing bath and returned to the bedroom with my robe on.
Someone knocked on the door and I opened it partly to see who was there. An officer was standing there and I remarked, "are you looking for a room, too?" He puffed and exclaimed, "I am Col. so & so, the Commander of the military School here. This house is my home and this room you are in is my guest room. Just then another officer with whom I was acquainted and who was his adjutant, whispered something in his ear, so slightly mollified he said you can stay here tonight but you leave in the morning. I learned later that all of the important officers of the U.S. forces were guests at some time or other and slept in that room. It was lucky for me that Col. so & so and his adjutant had been beneficiaries of my PX efforts. He and myself were WWI vets and had had interesting conversations. My face was a cherry red, yes indeed, for that room was off limits to a lowly lst Lt. was for very high brass.
My activities keeping the PX stocked kept me very busy. Many of the officers of the command were shy of Gillete Blue Blades. One would think that victory in the war hinged on their having these blades. At least it is true we had to keep carefully shaved. So when I returned one evening from a journey to a PX warehouse with a wooden case full of Gillete blades, everyone was overjoyed and relieved. Cases of American beer did not create the excitement that those blades generated. A few weeks later, Oct. 28, 1942 to be exact, orders came in transferring me to European Theatre HQ, in London along with one other officer, Lt. Smith from Kentucky, of the HQ Co.
We packed all of our belongings and were transported to London. Arriving at the European Theatre HQ in Grosvenor Square, we signed the book in the lobby and reported to the Adjutant. We were given a choice of two sections, G2 - Intelligence, or G3 - Operations. Lt. Smith chose G--2, I chose G-3. In G-3, I reported to a Major who was from Pennsylvania. I was instructed to keep up the war maps in a locked room and had care of the key to the room. Every morning, reports of bombings and other activities on both sides were given me to study and it was my duty to mark the locations of those actions on the maps.
At that time, we were having trouble of a sort from the enemy over Iceland. We, on the other hand, were raiding heavily the enemy's railroad yards and other installations. General Barker was in overall command of C-3. These military maps were quite large and quite complete. Iceland's map for example was approximately 3'-6" wide and close to that size in height. We ate our noon mess in a building the opposite side of Grosvenor Square. The first noon mess there found me alone at a table facing Col. (Mrs.) Hobby in command of the Wacs in Great Britain. She smiled graciously and I was just a little too shy to go over and. sit at the table with her. Actually everyone was friendly and inclined to feel a wee bit lonely away from family, friends and country. Walking over to noon mess, I caught up with Gen. Wolf in command of the U.S. Air Force in Britain. He invited me to join himself and a fellow officer in the walk to the mess.
I was billeted to live in the home of a Mrs. Wise at 38 Ovington St. in Kensington. These buildings such as Mrs. Wise resided in were two-story row houses similar to those in many American cities. They all looked alike and it was rather difficult to pick the correct one to enter, especially under blackout conditions. My room was a comfortable bedroom on the second floor. As there was one other officer billeted there in the remaining second bedroom at the rear, Mrs. Wise was using the basement for her quarters very neatly arranged like the upstairs rooms.
I remember the night the enemy raided Coventry. I believe it was a Saturday evening and the air raid sirens sounded off from the Church spire at the very corner of Ovington St. Instead of going to an air raid shelter I visited and chatted with the other officer billeted in Mrs. Wise's home. We sat on the edge of the bed while this officer, a navy officer, told about his experiences in the Orkney Islands from where he had just arrived. I do not recall how long the air raid alert lasted for we had such an interesting conversation we were too occupied to notice the fleeting time. We were thankful that no bombs dropped on London that night.
Just cattycorner from ETO HQ was a bombed out building with only a ruined foundation remaining from earlier raids. Next door to ETO HQ was the American embassy. This had been superseded by a new embassy in recent years on the right side of Grosvenor Square. I passed many times in my walk from 38 Ovington St. past Hyde Park Hotel to HQ. Down the street from HQ was Selfridge's Department Store. The front of the store was identical with that of Marshall Field's store on State St. in Chicago. The interior of the store also resembled Field's closely. One could almost feel as though he was in Chicago.
Not far from where I was billeted was Harrod's Department Store. It was all very interesting. Walking from Ovington St. to HQ it was my usual practice to cut through Hyde Park at the hotel side and come out of marble arch. On a densely foggy day I took that route much to my sorrow. When I was within what proved later to be only a few paces of the arch, I found myself groping around helplessly. When I heard footsteps I called out, I'm lost. A voice replied with directions on where I was, etc. and I soon made it to the outside sidewalk. It was not the only London fog or a fog elsewhere in England that had me groping around. They could be mean to put it mildly.
Returning from noon mess one day, I walked into the lobby at HQ. A marine guard standing nearby said to me in a low voice, "Lieutenant, there is Gen. Patton over there." I looked in the direction in which he nodded his head and saw an officer bent over the counter and writing in the log book. He was no doubt signing out, as he had luggage at his feet and. one could detect a shoulder holster as well as a weapon on his hip. This was the first and only time that I saw General George Patton Junior. Later, he turned up in North Africa.
Not long after this, I received orders to return to Shrivenham Barracks to help the PX officer (my successor) to straighten out his accounts. I packed up again and ordered transportation after signing out in the same book just mentioned. When I returned to Shrivenham, I found my old detachment and comand getting packed to leave. I should add, some of the units had departed. I also found some of my officer comrades had been taken by plane to unknown parts and I was on an unassigned basis for about two weeks. Each morning I would report to the Camp HQ Adjutant to see if my new orders had arrived. I was residing alone in a rather large house and it was a very lonely and depressing situation, and time on my hands.
Finally, my new orders arrived and they were for me to report to Southern Base Section Engineers, Dec. 14, 1942. It was an interesting assignment and my fellow officers were very friendly. My former commanding officer of the 347th Engineers visited the commanding officer of the Southern Base Section Engineers and we visited together for a short time. My billet was in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Morris at 25 Roman Road, Salisbury. This was a very historical city to live in with one of the largest cathedrals of England in the center of the city. It was my good fortune to visit this cathedral and see all of its interesting treasures. The nave was lined with marble catafalques containing the remains of many of England's heroes. These were sculptured with the figures of their contents. In the course of construction of this cathedral, the structure started to lean and it was finally saved from further damage by great engineering effort but still is not perfectly perpendicular.
The Morrises were very hospitable and brewed many a hot cup of tea in front of one of their fireplaces located in the kitchen. I remember that on Xmas eve, Mrs. Morris brought me an apple picked from her backyard tree. The next day I stayed on duty for the holiday to relieve fellow officers. It was however a very quiet day and the mess was unusually good.
Several transfers to Larkhill, England and back to Wilton occurred, too many to relate wherein a Major Moore of Cheyenne, Wyoming and myself did some work in lining up camps and billets for troops destined to arrive in England. At Larkhill was located a Royal artillery school. It was common occurrence daily to hear the whoosh of shells fired overhead to targets beyond the school. Wilton, a suburb of Salisbury, was a very quaint town with a brook running through it, and quaint homes fronting on this brook, some with water-propelled wheels. It is the home of the famous Wilton carpet. That was of special interest to me as my folks had Wilton carpets, not uncommon when I was a youngster.
On January 19, 1943 I received, orders transferring me and other fellow officers to the 92nd Engineer Regiment located at a Church of England. This regiment was composed of well trained all black engineer troops with white officers. In those days, the army had
not trained these men as officers. The commanding officer was a Colonel Hooper. We jokingly referred to the regiment as "Hooper's Super-Duper Troopers." The fact is they were excellent soldiers and it was a pleasant duty to officer them. The rainy season was on in full force while at Aschurch and the camp was flooded so badly that we had to wear hipboots to and from our lodgings. We slept in well constructed brick houses on the edge of the camp at the corner where two interjecting roads met.
These roads were under water while we were there. We would enter the billet after parking our boots on the porch. Our work was to build roads in the camp but it was a losing job. Also, cleaning up the British mess buildings was another job. The British had built gas decontamination buildings and other military structures in the years since the start of the war (in 1939) and it was interesting to see what a realistic view they took of probable events to come.
From Aschurch, the 92nd were moved to Devizes, an enormous British camp on the Salisbury Plain coated with slippery white chalk in the wet weather. There we were staged and fully outfitted for overseas duty once again. On Feb 3, 1943 several of us officers in advance of the 92nd Engineers were packed off one truck with all our belongings to the port at Glasgow and boarded the Windsor Castle of the Union Castle Line. This ship in its regular runs in peacetime sailed from Southern Africa to England. At the first landing of the ship on lower deck was a rather large painting of Windsor Castle (home of the British monarchs and their families).
It was a very fine ship and we were assigned comfortable berths. My duty was again as security officer of the ship. Later, as the remainder of the regiment boarded the ship, it would be my duty to instruct them to man the British Bofors (anti-aircraft guns). They took to it beautifully like a duck takes to water. The first night aboard ship while sleeping comfortably in our berths, we were jarred awake by a crashing bump and almost fell out on the floor. Luckily the door was open, which was of course an order in case of torpedoeing (etc.).
We learned that the British Aircraft Carrier, The Rodney, had broken its anchor chain when a sudden heavy gale blew up. The Rodney, anchored also in the outer harbor as we were but some distance away, drifted speedily and collided with the starboard side of our ship's prow. It stove a hole above the water line about eight feet in diameter. In the morning, we watched Marine Engineers inspecting and conferring on the damage to the ship. The hole was filled with cement and the ship sailed for far distant destination thus patched up.
The balance of our regiment boarded ship after the repair job to the prow and we sailed. As before, the ship had the protection of escorts of U.S. destroyers (bless 'em - a reassuring sight). We sailed down North Channel through the Irish Sea, and St. George Channel past land's end and across the English Channel in fine clear weather. Then we skirted the Northwest shore of Spain and along the southwest shore as safely as possible. We finally entered the Strait of Gibraltor; we could faintly see the town of Cadiz, Spain.
During the night of the 15th of Feb. we sailed past the free city of Tangier and around midnight we sailed past the Rock of Gibraltor amidst great excitement on the deck. There were nurses on board the Windsor Castle and they with all of us on deck were excited at our first viewing of this famous rock. The lights off the town of Lalinea at the base of the rock were twinkling. To the south we could see the lights of cars moving along the beach from Tangiers.
After retiring for the balance of the night and early morning of the 16th of Feb., the ship proceeding steadily on its course docked at the quay of the Port of Mers El Kebir. This was a very modern port built by the French to accommodate all types of shipping. It was connected to the port of Oran by a modern tunnel. Through this tunnel we were conveyed by truck to St. Cloud where we camped in pup tents. Heavy rains, unusual for that part of Africa in Feb, set in and it was very difficult to keep dry in these tents. This area was a battlefield on which U.S. troops had struggled with the Fascist-leaning French Foreign Legion. There also had been a bitter battle in the tunnel previously described.
As U.S. troops had been offered a flag of truce to come out of the tunnel safely, they had been fired on by the foreign legion. That was the story we heard with no official verification. I camped at St. Cloud until Feb. 20th. At that date, I was sent on detached service to Mediterranean Base Section U.S. Army in Oran. This was the nerve center for the U.S. Army in that part of Africa and a very active HQ. It was housed in what had been a department store building know as "Galleries De France," in peacetime. As its name signifies, the floors above the first floor were galleries with rails. The building faced on the most important street of the city, "Rue D'Arzew" which led directly to a street of another name.
My billet was a room at the L'Engleterre Hotel a few city blocks from MBS HQ. On walking from the billet to MBS I passed down Rue D'Alsace Lorraine, a street lined with many multi-storied apartment buildings. My duties took me to all sections of that area in the city and its environs. Having no transportation available for such purposes for quite some time, it was a case of plenty of leg exercise. What with the heat of that climate, it was not pleasant to say the least.
One night, while sleeping in my room at the old hotel, I awoke with great chest pains. I hammered on the wall back of the headboard to alert an adjoining occupant, an army acquaintance. He evidently was not in his room. Finally, I dressed and the next thing I knew, I awoke, it was morning, and I was half out and half in the bed. I walked over to the Medical HQ, back of MBS. After the two medical officers there examined me they said it was not a heart attack and I could go on performing my duties. It took a number of days for me to feel my old self but I traveled around the city as before. The work was that of requisitioning rooms, buildings and property for billets and Army use.
My immediate superior was a Captain Barry from Oklahoma. His secretary was Juliette Perez, a capable worker from a town family. Her father's name was Jacob Perez who had traveled to the arid parts of North Africa and had been a trader. The family was very hospitable and I visited them quite often on Rue D'es Jardienne, a street that led to the port of Oran. One morning I received an assignment to go to a villa not very distant from MBS HQ and make a sketch of the layout. A soldier of our forces accompanied me as interpreter. Having been born in a predominantly French section of Canada where French was spoken, he was quite adept in understanding the language.
As I was standing on a stair landing with this soldier and busying myself sketching, the door at the 2nd floor opened. A man in a woolen undershirt holding a shaving kit said, "Lieutenant, is there anything I can do for you." I answered, "No, thank you sir." The door closed and my interpreter said, "Lieutenant, do you know who that was?" I said, no, I never have seen him before. He said that was General Omar Bradley. I was his interpreter in Tunisia. He was well-liked by the soldiers." It was a short incident, but one not to be forgotten. The villa had been requisitioned by our army as a billet for higher echelon officers and Gen. Wilson in command in our area resided there. General Bradley was just making a short visit to obtain supplies for his troops in Tunisia. He had to dress for the cold Atlas Mountains, but it was hot in Oran at that time.
Around 4 O'clock each evening a cool wind blew in from the Mediterranean, but it died down as quickly as it came and it would get as warm as in midday. One evening the enemy sent planes over the harbor of Oran and penetrated into the city. A few bombs landed on the loading cranes and a few near the Base Hospital in the grounds surrounding the same. Our anti-aircraft batteries went into action and chased them away in a hurry. There were a few alarms after that and the sirens sounded off and sent the people of Oran and surrounding areas running for shelter.
One alert was sounded on a Friday evening while a friend from Chicago, Ira Plonsker, a navy officer, and myself were visiting the Perez's. Mr. Perez retired into the bedroom to say his prayers while the balance of the family ran to the public air raid shelter. My friend Ira Plonsker and I sat and chatted until the alert was ended. This was not so heroic, just a habit. Also, we had decided to keep Mr. Perez company. The area was quite thoroughly surrounded with anti-aircraft guns and all the enemy could do was drop their loads and flee with no damage resulting. The inhabitants of the area in general fled to shelters, shrieking and in deadly fear, for which noone could rightfully blame them.
On victory day, celebrating the victorious end of the fighting in Tunisia, the French had a very inspiring parade in Oran. It brought out most of the citizens of the city and the crowds were huge and enthusiastic. Marshall Juin reviewed the parade. After the parade was over, I visited my living quarters. As I was returning to NIBS HQ and walking down Rue D'Alsace Lorraine, I passed Marshall Juin on the narrow street walk. He was accompanied by his aide decamp. His right arm was missing as a result of its loss in WWI and as I saluted him he saluted with his left arm which almost brought us shoulder to shoulder. In later years after WWII when he died, the newspapers commented that he was an intimate friend of President Charles DeGaulle.
Shortly after this, I received the assignment to organize a file of all available heavy duty construction equipment, bridges, etc. in the area. I started work on this file and an army inspection officer, a colonel, came around to interview me and seemed to be satisfied with my work. It was of course a part in the preparations for invasion of Italy, Sicily being the first stage of that invasion. This much I was to learn later.
I developed a severe skin trouble with intolerable itching. I remember being assigned as duty officer for the night at HQ, and what a night of horror that was as I had to stay awake through all the night. Calls came from forces in the field requesting locations of water supplies. I had to check all steel files to see if they were locked. In general, it was a case of being busy through the night and suffering from that intolerable itch. The next day, I was sent to the army hospital and after medical checking and treatment was transferred Aug. 25, 1943 to a hospital at Ain El Turk. This was really a group of French villas about two stories each staffed with capable U.S. Army nurses and doctors. Shortly after this, I developed Amoebic Dysentery of a violent type. There was an epidemic of that virus in the area. The treatment prescribed was sulfa-guanadine pills four times a day.
As this gradually lessened in violence, I learned that I was to be returned to the States. As I became more able to move around, my friend Plonsker took me on a jeep back to my quarters on Rue D'Alsace Lorrain. He and a fellow officer Lt. Ben Sparks helped me to pack up my possessions in a footlocker and other baggage and drove me back to the hospital. I could never begin to express my gratitude to these fine and self-sacrificing comrades in arms for the faithful help. Without this help, I do not know what I would have done as I was not in any condition to do much by myself. I bid farewell to Ira Plonsker and Ben Sparks and hospital staff September 7, 1943 and myself and baggage and fellow patients were loaded on a truck and headed for the ship. It seems that the ship was not ready to receive us and the trucks were turned around and sent back to the hospital at Ain El Turk again.
Again we slept another night at the hospital. At 11 a.m. Sept. 8,1943, we again were loaded onto the trucks and this time boarded the hospital ship, the Florence Nightingale at Hers El Kebir at approximately 11:40 a.m. This was all happening in very hot, very humid weather, Typical of September in that area. Even the sidewalks were wet as though from rain. The ship was a converted cargo ship. It had been used as a landing craft with huge cranes on its decks. Racks of guns were visible around inside of the ship.
We sailed Sept. 10, 1943 at 12 a.m, and then anchored in the outer harbor until 4 p.m. On board there were 1,500 Italian prisoners of war along with U.S. hospital patients. We learned that Italy had capitulated and the prisoners of war were unloaded. As the ship was stocked for food for that many passengers, the unloading of the 1,500 prisoners left the ship with all that additional food.
At 4 a.m. the Florence Nightingale got under way again. During the voyage the weather was mild and we could sit out on the deck and enjoy the sights of the sea life. Dolphins and flying fish were very interesting. We had some very interesting conversations. Some of the patients had been on the Persian Gulf, some in Tunisia, some in Italy. It was a very mixed group, but most of them very congenial. One evening while we were resting in our bunks, an interesting thing happened. A captain remarked that he wished he could get a haircut. I told him that I had a good barber's scissors (it was one from Soligen, Germany). I also said that I could trim his hair a bit.
Putting a Cloth around his neck as he sat on a chair, I proceeded to work on his hair. He mentioned some experiences he had up in Italy and praised a Lieutenant in his company very highly. He mentioned the name of this Lieutenant and it was Oppenheim from Chicago. I mentioned that I knew a Sidney Oppenheim, a lawyer in Chicago. He said that he is the father of this Lieutenant. Of course, both the captain and I thought that this was a great coincidence. The captain was from the state of Washington and afterward we lost touch with one another. Sidney Oppenheim was very surprised and happy to hear of this meeting with the captain.
During the voyage back to the U.S.A. the ship had a few alarms in which the command was given for 'all men to man their battle stations.' As we approached the area near the coast of the U.S.A. a storm brewed. The visibility dropped and it became as dark as night around midday. The waves became heavily active and rocked the ship as the wind rose to tempest force. Among the navy ships escorting the ship we were on, "The Florence Nightingale," was the battleship Texas. What with the darkness, wind and wave action, the Texas was driven so close to our ship's prow as to be very dangerous. Sitting on a ship's locker and rather sheltered, I could see the Texas rather dimly in the gloom. It was a close call and the storm quickly subsided as we sailed out of the area.
On September 22, we approached Staten Island. The various sights that thrill one on arriving off our coast were visible, the beaches, light houses, light ships, and above all the 'lovely' Stature of Liberty. At 1 p.m. September 22, 1943, the ship was unloaded and we were transferred to Halloran General Hospital on Staten Island, New York. As we entered the hospital lobby, we were interviewed briefly by a few army medial officers and assigned to a ward.
As soon as I could, I called Sylvia, my wife, in Chicago and we could have a very happy reunion on the phone. I next explained why I was returned to the states and reassured her that my disability was not too alarming. After this call, I phoned the home of Walter Kuhn. Walter shortly afterwards visited me several times at Halloran. The hospital was located not very distant from the Walter Kuhn home at Randall Manor. I did no visiting as there were various medical interviews, checkups and treatment.
The care at Halloran was excellent as it was at all army hospitals. On Saturday, October 2, 1943, we departed from Halloran General Hospital and boarded a hospital train. Our destination was Percy Jones General Hospital in Battle Creek Michigan. The train was transferred to the B.& 0. Line. We went through Philadelphia at night and then through Baltimore, Maryland. The train skirted Washington, D.C We could see the Washington Monument which I had visited in World War I. On the way, we passed Harper's Ferry, Pennsylvania at the junction of West Virginia and Maryland. These historical places are clearly marked and were plainly visible from the train which was moving slowly preparatory to discharging patients destined for hospitals closer to their homes.
At 2:35 a.m. we passed through Pittsburgh, Pa. On Sunday October 3, 1943 at 9:20 a.m. the train stopped in the station at Toledo, Ohio. As Sylvia's Aunt Bertha Hollander resided in Toledo, I had a letter ready to give to a station attendant to mail to her. There was not enough time to go into the station waiting room and use the phone. The train arrived at Battlecreek on Monday, October 4th, 1943. Mercy Jones Hospital was a high-rise building and was originally Kellogg Battle Creek Sanitarium. It was very well equipped and excellently staffed hospital. On the main floor was located a general lobby, waiting room and PX. The latter was very large and stocked with clothing as well as many items of merchandise. We were given a thorough checkup and on Oct. 7 some of us were given a month's leave.
It was a great feeling to be home again with my wife and sons after all the traveling since May 7, 1942. While on leave, I tried treating my skin disorder with ordinary mineral oil. It was so successful that in one month all signs of the disorder had gone. While I was in Africa, our pet dog, Pal, had become very annoying to some of our neighbors. They had reported its barking to the police and poor Pal was taken away. On my return home, the family told me the story and it had a depressing effect on the homecoming. That effect wore off and we all enjoyed being together again. We dined out, enjoyed radio, movies, going to the loop, etc. After all, there is no place like home. The month passed too fast and I reported back to Percy Jones Hospital Nov. 7, two days after my 51st birthday.
The medical officer skin specialist was amazed that mineral oil treatment had had such a beneficial effect on me. He wrote the fact into my medical record on discharge from the hospital, Nov. 13, 1943 under orders to report to Camp Ellis, Illinois. I arrived home Saturday, Nov. 13 and was met at Roosevelt Road Station of the Illinois Central by my wife, for a joyful reunion. I departed for Camp Ellis that Sunday morning arriving at Camp Ellis 9 p.m. that Sunday evening.
I was attached to HQ of the Engineer Group and was assigned to Engineer Group Supply. Had various assignments to inspection duty and had to make written reports on frozen camp equipment, water pipes that were a shambles and on gasoline equipment. Engineer units had departed for overseas and plumbing had been left turned on with severe cold damaging installations. It was a disgraceful, sorry mess and I so reported it. On Feb. 25, 1944, I was assigned to the Post Engineer's Office. Various assignments were given to the Engineer units and we all had a part in all of them. For example, one night, we all turned out to lay a landing mat. It was raining heavily and a cold wind was blowing. The rain turned to snow and it became very penetrating.
I had developed a cold and was taking the old fashioned "Brown's Cough Medicine" as prescribed by the army medic. My cold worsened and forced me to leave the project and go to my bunk. The various duties that I performed such as routine morning inspections of engineer companies were interesting and enjoyable. In our HQ, there was a Warrant Officer by the name of Leonard F. Morgan. On his desk was a small identifying sign reading W.O. L. F Morgan. He had a good laugh when I starting calling him "Wolf" Morgan. He had an excellent sense of humor. He resided in Berwyn, Illinois and when he drove the Chicago rapid transit with him. In Berwyn, I was able to ride the Chicago Rapid Transit Elevated into Chicago.
That was an excellent deal, to be able to visit my home on weekends. Along in April, the farm lands along the Illinois River became flooded and engineers were assigned to sandbag work to contain the waters which were lapping at our very feet. Some of the farms were completely under water but sandbagging proved to be helpful and we won the fight. I recall having been recruited while at the sand dunes in Indiana years before. We were fighting a brush fire then. Between that and fighting a flood, I would take the latter.
I was on limited service when assigned to Camp Ellis from Percy Jones Hospital. That limited service period ended on May 8, 1944. I was ordered to the Station Hospital, Camp Ellis and thence to Mayo General Hospital, May 15, 1944. After various medical examinations, and doing bunk fatigue, I went before a retirement board of officers. A few questions were asked. A few days later I was informed that I was receiving a retirement for medical disability in my present rank as 1st Lt. Thus was my WWII service terminated.
Although the date of separation from the service was Oct. 21, 1944, I had already returned home and did not delay in hunting for architectural drafting employment. On October 4, 1944, I started work at Schmidt, Garden and Ericson. This firm was busily engaged on government hospital work. I was still in uniform and although Mr. Ericson didn't seem to like that idea, yet I continued to wear it while working over the board. I worked there until Oct. 29, 1944 when I was laid off. I then took employment with a former Armour Schoolmate, Isadore Braum until Dec. 23, 1944.
On march 1, 1945 I received employment in the drafting room of the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. I was assigned to the Manhattan Project. I did not know that it was the name of the atomic energy project, but after Japan's surrender, I learned of it. The drawings at the start were of buildings which later I knew as being for Oak Ridge, Tenn. Then later I worked on mechanical layouts of piping. Various pipes were shown in color. While working in this large drafting room in a building on Monroe St., Chicago, General Groves in command of the Manhattan Project visited the office and stood for a short while at the end of the room, looking over the setup. It was not until the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan that we found out what the Manhattan Project was.
The Chief Draftsman had been as I had been an officer in the Corps of Engineers. He was a Captain Rhinelander and was a very efficient worker. He had been stationed in Leland if I recall correctly. He had been preceded for a while after I started working there by another Chief Draftsman whose name I do not recall but who, although easier to get along with, was a little inclined to go easy on discipline. On the day before Xmas, 1945 the firm gave a party for its employees. Owings was the genial host. Also, a Xmas bonus was paid to all of the employees. It was very enjoyable and considering my short time of employment, a very kind gesture indeed.
The date of my separation from the army was Oct. 21, 1944. It was my hope when I entered the service May 8, 1942, that I could do my part to help win the war while my sons were growing up. One by one, all four sons entered the service. Charles, the eldest, joined the navy May 23, 1944, while I was still on active duty at Camp Ellis, Ill. Howard, the second son, enlisted in the Army August 30, 1944, also while I was still on active duty. Richard, the third son, enlisted in the navy Feb. 18, 1946. Theodore, the fourth son, was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and entered the Meteorological Section of the Air Force July 1, 1953 and served in Korea. I have always been proud to say that our four sons served their country.
As some of my former clients learned that I was out of the service, they started calling my home evenings to get in touch with me. Learning of my employment with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, called me there. It was rather embarrassing to interrupt my work there to answer the phone. Finally, on January 17, 1946, I was informed that my services were no longer needed. I started looking for office space and the office at 6253
S. Woodlawn was just what I wanted. While all the events were happening, my wife Sylvia was working in the Army Medical Depot on the near north side of Chicago. Later, Sylvia worked as typist clerk for Selective Service. After my separation from the service, I rented an office on the second floor at 6253 S. Woodlawn above a Walgreen store.
At that time the Selective Service Office was located at the SW corner of 63rd and Woodlawn Ave. After I moved into my office to practice architecture again, the Selective Service rented the office at the south end of the building. So Sylvia worked in this adjoining office. Some evenings, I did volunteer work of a light nature for Selective Service. My architectural practice was gradually reestablished. Various types of work came to my boards, apartments, residences, stores, etc.
There was one other architect in the building, a Mr. Merman Bruns. He was an affable congenial gentleman and very artistic and thoroughly experienced in the profession. There was no competition, each of us having our own clientele.
As the street along 63rd was lined with shops of all kinds, it was very convenient to do the marketing during noon lunch hour, take the groceries or whatever was needed home, eat my lunch, and return to the office. At that time, I joined the Woodlawn Lions International and took part in their weekly luncheons. It was excellent relaxation and we had some good times together. We practiced to perform a musical comedy and during the cold winter evenings worked diligently to get it under way. Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the event dwindled to zero. However, a minstrel show was put together and produced at Hyde Park High School. I was Mr. Hambone and Charles and Ted, two sons, were in it also. It was successful under the leadership of a man....
End of Memoir