(From "In the World War")
BY THE TIME war was declared in 1917, twenty-four year old Joseph Maurice Meyer of Sheridan had already been in the service for four years. Enlisting in the Wyoming National Guard in June 1913, Meyer was commissioned as a second lieutenant when the Guard was nationalized into the 148th Field Artillery.
Working as a freight clerk for the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad provided Meyer with the perfect background for his work with the supply section of the army, which he did after getting mildly gassed.
In the summer of 1918, Meyer lived with a civilian family near the front lines. In his letters to his mother, he describes life at home with the family (he could not provide the location due to being in an "advance station").
After the war, Meyer returned to Sheridan and worked as administrator for the Works Project Administration, a Depression-era organization set up to provide work opportunities for the under-employed.
August 10, 1918
As I have nothing to do until after dinner and not so very much then, I will write you while I have the time. Things are rather quiet now for a few days, but am expecting them to pick up soon.
My work in the Burlington office has helped me out the last couple of months in regard to the claims I handle once in a while. You see the government has to pay the French for everything they use. When the soldiers are living in houses we have to pay for the usage; we even have to pay for the use of the trenches. What do you think of that?
I am enclosing a little picture of a baby which its mother wanted me to send you. I am living at their house now. They are mighty fine people. They have a son and we have fun together once in a while. They all send you their love and "best thoughts." They think I'm pretty good. But I tell them they don't know me like I know myself.
August 18, 1918
Now I want to tell you what I had for dinner yesterday within sound of the cannon. It was a special occasion. I was invited by the people where I am now staying - and they think I'm "some punkins." The mother is about your age, mom, and she sure is a dear soul! Her husband is a dandy man, too. He is a school teacher here. They have two daughters, both have been married; and one son my age who is a sergeant in the aviation. The husband of one of the daughters, a captain, was killed in the battle of the Somme in 1916, leaving a sweet little girl now six years old.
Well! here's the dinner:
A swell fish, vegetable salad; potatoes, beans and peas from the garden; sauce, nice bread and butter, a little gravy (you know how I like a lot); some dandy baked young chicken with French trimmin's and all. I can't name the dessert. But it sure was a "cookoo" - a sort of an egg and milk custard affair with floating icing on top, served with some nice light cake and fruit. What do you think of that for a Sunday dinner within hearing of the roar of the guns and the dropping of bombs? I say, it's one to be remembered! And last, but not least, but most common - was the champagne which here takes the place of water, you know. But you know my limitations in that regard; and am always informing them that my mother and my people in America were brought up on water. They think it a most idiotic thing that I like water and milk. They even consider it barbarous to drink milk unless it is warmed and has sugar in it. Oh! what a funny old world this is.
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