Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Last of the Generation

Two weeks ago today my dear Uncle Bill passed on. He is by far the main reason I have been transcribing hundreds of old family letters and the fact that he is no longer here to read them is a great loss to me. He was the last of the four siblings born to Herman August Ludwig Weber and Susan Rosina Sherwood. He was the first to arrive in their family and the last to leave. We will miss him greatly. He was a generous, warm hearted man. In honor of him, I thought it would be fitting to hear his Uncle's thoughts from the day he first learned of William Philip's coming advent. Uncle Bill -- we will never forget you. (In this photo, Bill stands on the right of his siblings and his grandfather, William Sherwood a few years later. The others, Left to right, are Mary, Robert (my dad) and Carl.) His uncle, George, here writes from Luxembourg after WWI armistice.

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Echternach, Luxembourg
February 22, 1919

Dear Ones ALL
Since reading today’s mail, I’ll never forgive Bill Hohenzollern if I don’t get back by the middle of June. By the way, Mother, this cancels the necessity for answering my “Confidential Note.” Don’t you all think I’m a pretty keen kid. Now Sister, do not blame Mother for in case you didn’t see what she wrote it was only a remark wondering if she could get away to Aunt Nellie’s Birthday Party?!?! Of course I was crazy for more information, for while I had hardly even thot of the possibility before reading that, the first thought that came to me was “I wonder.” But having not even a ghost of a reason to think I was right I searched the letters all carefully and found not even a hint. Then I thot I was probably crazy but occasionally a little bird seemed to whisper, “you're right, you're right,” and then when I read Susan’s letters of the last of Jan suggesting a secret, of course I knew my hunch was right, tho I rushed frantically on to her Birthday letter to get verification in her own dear words. Now I know I’ve got to get home to celebrate the Birthday Parties – How’s that? Oh, folks – you don’t know how proud and glad I am. I feel just like I did a little over a year ago when sister let me in on advance dope of March 12, 1918. Herman, I hope you won’t be jealous or vain either one if I say that the only thing which can make me happier than when I got you for a brother-in-law, will be the safe arrival of a little niece or nephew.

Sister, I’m sure glad to be let in on this too, and as luck would have it the news came just when we were preparing for the usual kind of an Army Holiday plus homesickness & Spring fever. Now in spite of the preparation necessary for the coming inspection, and the work to do, and the rain etc., etc., I’m feeling as cozy and happy as its possible to feel “On this side of the Pond,” when you want to be “On the Other side of the Pond.” Compree?

I think this letter will mean quite a bit to you, but if it is censored very close they will have me up on the medical carpet examining me for Insanity. Oh! Well, probably that is the only grounds I could get a discharge on at present!

Got a letter from Mayme Finnican today too. As I just sent her a rather bum letter telling her I wished she would write, you had better tell her I got it next time you see her, but that I’m just as anxious to get an answer to this last one I sent. I also received Aunt Nellie’s letter, which I’ll try to answer soon.

All I can really say about when we will get home is that things look as bright now as they ever did for us to hit there by the 4th of July. And believe me, you bet if I’m in the US I sure will make an effort to be Home. The longer I wait the more things to celebrate seems to pop up. I guess you’ll have to fat up three or four “calves.”

So my letters prove “intensely interesting.” That is consoling but I’m afraid the General Public will not or rather would not appreciate it. Ha! Ha! Bet if I really did write something good you would all die of delight. By the way, what is the latest news from Ed Schultz. And how is his mother. You know there is a little hitch between the two arms of service, especially the Great Lakes Training Boys and the Army fellows over here. The best name I’ve heard applied to them yet came out this week remarking on them as “Ladies Home Companions.” Of course we realize that many of them really wanted to see some service, but so many of them squeezed into that as a bomb proof job to escape the draft and then were coddled in Chicago during the war that it gets under our skin a little to see the Hero’s praised for the “Terrible Battle of Great Lakes” as we call it. And for every enlisted man you see in an advertisement, or posing by some fair damsel on a Magazine Cover you see forty sailors. There is a little element of truth and irony in it at that for as far as most of the Great Lakes Gobs go, that is about all they did. However, I’d like to know what Ed’s address now is and I’ll try to drop him a line as he doubtless has worked hard. I dropped his mother a card from Aix-les-Baines. Hope she received it OK.

A couple of Dutchmen just came in with a pass to Germany to be vic’d and I had to trail off down to the town Majors with them, but in spite of the rain I was even whistling when I came back all because your letters had made me so happy. If this one to you could only spread as much joy I would sure be glad I wrote it, but I’m having a lot of fun writing it anyway. (Now there’s more reason than ever to be very careful of yourselves so I’ll leave it up to the Webers to keep good tab on the Sherwoods and vice versa.)

(Feb 23rd, 1919)
Just got that far when I had to stop as per usual. But here we go again on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, the sun fairly blazing down on me thru the open window of the office. So I’ll just send my love along with him as the moon hasn’t showed up lately. Say, you nearly ruined me. I went to bed last nite at about eleven P.M. and then I started to think about your letters and going home, etc. and before I knew it I was going over and over the trip from Echternach clear back home to that cool white bed. Bet I made the whole trip at least 20 times, never twice the same. And you have gone and busted one of my fondest hopes. With my little sister threatening maternity, and a mother with heart trouble, how do you suppose I’m going to dare try to surprise you. No, that is another busted bubble. But guess there wouldn’t be much chance anyway as Chicago will probably advertise our return enough. But of course don’t expect me until you hear from me even then as it takes about two weeks to muster out after we hit camp. Gee I’m raving as tho I was there already and there is no chance that I can see to get to Chicago before June 15th or so.

Love to you all again & again

Corp. Geo Sherwood
108th US Engineers
American Exp. Forces

(Censored by) C. L. Thompson
Capt. 108th Engrs
Amer. Ex F