Frieda's Files

World War I Took Toll on Valley

Frieda’s Files are a collection of historical short stories about Carson Valley by Frieda Cordes Godecke, published in The Record-Courier. Reproduced here with permission from the Cordes Cousins, and their book “Frieda’s Files”.

April 24, 1980: World War I took toll on Valley

 

“Over there, over there — the Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming…”

How well we remember the words to the song that was one of our favorites during the years of World War I. 

This and other war songs were usually part of the program when young men, who were about to enter the service, were asked to appear at the courthouse for a patriotic send-off. From the courthouse, the men were escorted to the Minden depot for sad farewells from friends and loved ones. 

War is horrible at any time, but when one is forced to say goodbye to lover, husband, father or son, it really hits home. There were many such scenes in Carson Valley during the days from April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, while our country was at war with Germany. 

William Lampe Army photo
CPL. BILL LAMPE

William Lampe, now 85 years old, was one of the young men from Gardnerville to do his part in that war. Bill received his army training at Ft. Lewis (Wash.) with the 91st Division. He sailed with a convoy of nine ships and landed in Scotland. From there the men were taken to France where they spent the winter at the front in the Argonne Forest. He returned to Carson Valley in June 1919.

Looking back, we think of these men as “mere boys” of 18 to 21 years of age when called up from colleges, farms, factories, or offices, having never before been far away from Carson Valley. Then they just become a part of a big machine, training to fight when fighting was about the last thing they wanted to do. 

We think especially of our young Washoe Indian boys who gave a life of freedom to hunt and fish and roam the hills and were forced to live in crowded barracks. 

There were few complaints from any of these young men, but sometimes we at home could read between the lines when the going was rough. Eating hard-tack and beans was quite different from raiding the cookie jar at home. Cleaning sticky fish pans while on “KP” aboard a lurching ship, and at the same time fighting sea sickness, was far from sitting at the family table. 

And what about the home front? In our small way we tried to do our part. We bought Liberty Bonds, wrapped bandages for the Red Cross, and knitted sweaters, helmets, and mufflers. What perhaps meant the most to our boys were the letters and cookies we kept sending their way. 

Older men took the place of the boys, now in the service, by working in offices, stores, on farms, and in other places. In many places, women filled in as best they could. Perhaps it was the farmers who were most handicapped in this respect when one or more able-bodied young men left the field to go into the service. During this time, power-driven machinery was not yet used extensively. The plow, the mower, and the rake were all horse-drawn and needed strong hands to guide them over the fields. Cows were milked by hand, and separators were hand-turned to separate the milk from the cream. 

This writer has good reason to remember that winter of World War I. It was my senior year in high school, and two of my brothers were in the Army. Then came the influenza epidemic. Another brother, who was at home because he was too young to enter the service, contracted the flu. It soon developed into pneumonia. We were fortunate to get a trained nurse who saved his life. Miss H., the nurse, saw much good in the nourishment of eggnog, to which a generous amount of brandy had been added. My brother insisted he have several each day. Those were the prohibition days, and the purchase of liquor was possible only in a drugstore and then only if it were to be used as a medical aid. Since only a small flask could be purchased at one time, it meant a trip to Gardnerville almost every evening to replenish the supply. We were sure most of this brandy was enjoyed by our good nurse, but no one complained, as we all realized she was under a terrific strain in caring for my brother. 

All public gathering places including schools and churches were closed during the epidemic. No one went to town without a good reason and then only if he wore a “flu mask.” These were handsome hand-made gauze creations that fit over the nose and mouth and hooked behind the ears, making the wearer look like something from outer space. Unless the sound of a voice was familiar, one could meet a best friend on the street and not recognize him. 

During my brother’s illness, I milked his twelve cows and chopped eight cords of wood for the kitchen range. 

Housewives had their problems with shortages of many things. I think what plagued my mother most was the shortage of wheat flour. She was most unhappy with the heavy, dark bread which was the result of baking with the substitute barley flour, and of which she often said even a mouse wouldn’t be interested in nibbling on. 

World War I tank at Minden depot
In 1919, the Army brought a tank to town to help promote sales of Liberty Bonds. This tank performed at the Minden train depot to help raise money for World War I. (photo courtesy of Bill Johnson)

We were proud of our Carson Valley boys in the service, and also proud of our state. Nevada was the first state in the union to fill its quota of volunteers by enlisting not just the quota but eleven times its quota. It was also the first state to subscribe its quota to the First Liberty Loan, over-subscribing ninety-two percent.

When Kaiser Wilhelm Hohenzollern fled to Holland on Nov. 18, 1918, and the armistice with Germany was signed, there was happiness unbounded. Carson Valley arranged an impromptu celebration, with prayers of thanksgiving in all the churches. Speeches were made by dignitaries who addressed the crowds from bandstands and fire trucks. Bottles of prohibition “bootleg” were dug out from hiding places to add a happy touch to the dances on the street of Gardnerville. 

All was happiness, except for those families whose loved ones were asleep in American cemeteries in France. We who had the good fortune of seeing our loved ones return safely were, and still are, deeply grateful for their supreme sacrifice. 

 

 

 

Frieda WWI Pinterest

 

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