100 years ago in The Sarato­gian

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - COMMUNITY - — Kevin Gil­bert

Thurs­day, Nov. 15, 1917

Like many news­pa­pers dur­ing the U.S. war against Ger­many, The Sarato­gian prints as many let­ters as it can ac­quire from sol­diers with con­nec­tions to the Saratoga area. Today the pa­per pub­lishes a let­ter from Eu­gene B. Page, a for­mer chemist with the G. F. Har­vey lab­o­ra­to­ries who’s now sta­tioned in an Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tionary Force base hos­pi­tal “some­where in France.”

The hos­pi­tal is “a big stone monastery which has been closed for about eight years” be­fore the war. “The equip­ment for the hos­pi­tal has not ar­rived,” Page writes, “Con­se­quently we have not had any hos­pi­tal du­ties to per­form and have a lot of time to see a lit­tle of France by walk­ing.

“I say walk­ing for we do not have any money to ride, our pay hav­ing been de­layed al­most two months.

“The French peo­ple con­tin­u­ously give us a hearty wel­come; so much so that it is be­com­ing a nui­sance. Ev­ery time we go down town the chil­dren run af­ter us ask­ing for Amer­i­can cig­a­rettes and souvenirs and everybody we pass says ‘bon jour.’

“A great num­ber, anx­ious to dis­play a knowl­edge of English, yell ‘good night’ and ‘good morn­ing’ at any time of the day or night. It sounds funny a 9 p.m. to hear them say ‘good morn­ing.’

“When you stop on a street corner or to look in a store win­dow a large crowd gath­ers about. The more in­tel­li­gent ones who un­der­stand a lit­tle English act as in­ter­preters for the rest. Sun­day night while walk­ing down town about fif­teen boys gath­ered around me and started to talk very good English.

“Upon ques­tion­ing them I found that their homes were near the trenches and that they had lived there dur­ing three years of war, learn­ing English from the English sol­diers.

“One said to me, ‘Do you know Char­lie Chap­lin? We love him here. I think he is very comic.’”

French morale re­mains fairly strong, from what Page sees. “The French peo­ple are not a bit sad or dis­hearted and al­ways have a ready smile. Most of the women, how­ever, are dressed in black and you see very few young men in civil­ian clothes.”

The French aren’t quite as op­ti­mistic about the war as the English, how­ever. Ac­cord­ing to Page, English troops be­lieve the war will end next spring, while the French “will be glad if it is over by 1920.”

Page seems skep­ti­cal about some war­time pro­pa­ganda. “I have been try­ing to con­firm the al­leged cru­elty of the Ger­mans to chil­dren,” he writes, “but those who say it is true ad­mit that they have never seen any vic­tims.”

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