|Photo courtesy of Alice Hafen|
World War II
World War I Years in Mt. Pleasant
Dorothy Jacobs Buchanan
Second Place Personal Recollections
Kaleidoscopic memories surge through my mind when I recall those busy years in Mt. Pleasant during
World War I. I am grateful that I retain mental pictures of another era that is significant in our historical world.
On a sunny day in August, 1914, Mama and I were preparing lunch at noon for my father who came
from his work downtown at that time0 However, he was a few minutes late that day, which was unusual;
but suddenly he hurried into the room and stated in excited tones, "We've just had word that Germany has
declared war on Russia. I'm afraid we're in for real trouble." And he was definitely right. Our lives changed
perceptibly. New patterns and problems engulfed us, as was true of the whole country. We were frequently
urged to direct our vigorous energy toward the War Effort. The Red Cross became activated, where many
women met to roll bandages and do necessary sewing and fashioning of medical supplies„ We were aware of how much the European Allied countries needed our help and we heard many sad stories of privations and casualties they were experiencing.
In school, we sewed many grey flannel petticoats and underwear suits for needy Belgian children.
Every Monday morning we bought a twenty-five cent Thrift Stamp and pasted in our small booklets until
we acquired $5.00 which we were supposed to save until we had enough to buy a $50.00 Liberty Bond.
School boys were directed to gather fruit pits, grind them up and burn them into charcoal which had
marvelous power of absorbing gases in the cannisters of soldiers' gas masks„ Another task that Mt. Pleasant
boys were assigned was to collect spokes from old wagon wheels, sand them well, then scrape them with
broken glass to make them very smooth, and finally, whittle them into knitting needles for the ladies to use0
For most women owned large knitting bags equipped with knitting needles, yarn, and items of clothing
that they were frequently knitting for soldiers. Thousands of socks, sweaters and scarves were sent overseas.
This gathered momentum after the United States entered the World War on April 6, 1917.
We were all thrilled to know that General Pershing made the remark, "Lafayette, we are here!" when he landed the first troops in France.
Now, we had to redouble our helpful efforts„ Flour and wheat were badly needed by the troops and
Allies. We experimented using substitutes for white flour by using corn meal, oatmeal, graham flour and some
people even tried grinding up alfalfa leaves to mix with other ingredients to make a rather questionable type
I have a letter which gives us an idea of the importance of wheat and the action that was taken to
acquire it. The letter came to my father who was Bishop of the L.D.S. North Ward, and is as follows:
UNITED STATES FOOD ADMINISTRATION
Kansas City, MO
May 28, 1918
Bishop of the Mt. Pleasant North Ward
I wish to express unto you my appreciation for your promptness in replying to the letter sent you by the
Presiding Bishopric and General Board regarding the sale of wheat owned by the Relief Society of your ward.
There has never been a time when wheat was so valuable. The crying need of the hour is food. The manner in which the Relief Societies responded to the call is indeed highly commendable.You can be assured that the wheat will be used in the manufacture of flour for the Government to be used for our soldier hoys or our associates in the war.
Thanking you very much for your cooperation in the matter, I am,
United States Food Administration
Agent, D. F. Piazzek
Then there was THE PLEDGE, which was a big hurdle for us children„ Our principal came into our
school room one day with a paper in hand and made a short but fervent speech about the pressing need
for everyone to save sugar, after which he read a pledge that he felt all patriotic children should sign and
passed it around the room. The pledge stated that each one of us would abstain from eating candy for a six week period. I was a choco-holic and loved candy in any form Could my patriotism go that far? After the class, one of the boys approached me and announced that he didn't think that I could possibly keep that
pledge. The next day he brought me a box of those thrilling Pink Lady Chocolates to my home and told me that if I could keep the pledge the box would be mine at the end of the six weeks. I knew he was enjoying tempting me, but I decided I'd accept his offer by giving the box to my mother and instructing her to hide it until the time was up. Of course she collaborated, and I passed Poker Pete's candy shop with averted face.
But how I did enjoy those Pink Lady delights! (I even treated the donor to some.)
Young men of certain ages were required to register their names and important information, and they
were given an oblong metal badge to wear showing that they had conformed. Men were drafted, others
enlisted, but when a group of soldiers left to go into training for war, many townspeople assembled at the
depot and gave them a rousing sendoff, though I remember seeing tears shed.
Organizations prepared boxes of goodies to send to the boys overseas. I have a postal card picturing a
street scene in Paris, from where it was mailed on February 26, 1918. It was addressed to the North Ward
Y.L.M.I.A. and bore the following message: "I wish to thank you for the box you sent me some time ago. It was a real treat. Best wishes. P. C. Jensen.'
Musically, it has been said that World War I was a "singing war" in the United States„ Phonographs
of various types were becoming popular around that time. Tin Pan Alley was purchasing patriotic songs in
great numbers, and sheet music was constantly rolling off the presses. We knew the words of most of the
songs and sang them in school, at parties, in the streets on moonlit evenings while we strolled along--in fact,
almost everywhere„ "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" and "Over There" were two great favorites; also "Just a
Baby's Prayer at Twilight." I could produce a giant list. It was special fun to hear and sing some humorous
songs such as "Will Dey Let Me Use Mah Razor in de War," and "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The
Farm?" I often think of one line which has always impressed me as being distressingly true: "I don't know what this war's about; but, by gosh, I'll soon find out."
BYU President George H. Brimhall composed a beautiful patriotic song entitled "Old Glory," which our
school class usually sang in our morning opening exercises„ It was a favorite. President Heber J. Grant taught himself to sing just one patriotic song that had great appeal, called"The Flag Without a Stain." He proudly sang it on many occasions, usually by request.
We had numerous bond rallies" where people pledged to buy as many bonds as possible., We'd often
have leading people from other cities give urgent pleas for help At times we would have a band play and
always patriotic songs. I'd like to give a few lines from one song, which I think are apropos:
What are you going to do for Uncle Sammy?
What are you going to do to help the boys?
When you're far away from home, fighting o'er the foam,
The least that you can do is buy a Liberty Bond or two.
We had new words and phrases emerge as an outgrowth of the war, some of which are still in use
today. Such words as "camouflage, "Ace," "slacker," to name a few. One phrase stands out because of its
frequent use and strong appeal-- "Doing your bit." A "bit" adds up to a great amount if consistently given.
On that sunny day of November 11, 1918, my brother and I were enjoying a moment of inertia by
lying on our stomachs on the warm earth at the beet dump between Moroni and Mt. Pleasant where we
weighed beets. Suddenly, a cacaphony of sound exploded around us. A long procession of cars hurtled by
bearing dozens of people shouting, singing, honking. We heard the strains of "It's Over Over There."
On the back of the last car, tall, red painted letters spelled out the word PEACE!!