Tag Archives: transportation

No Wheels? Go By Horse, Of Course.

I’m sitting here at the computer, trying to decide if I should get up and go outside for a little rain dancing.  It’s either that or break out the garden hose and start watering.  We do have an 80% chance of rain this afternoon, and while the sky is overcast – in an on-again/off-again way – I’m thinking that maybe our local meteorologist declared the Happy Hour open just a little bit early today. His prediction doesn’t seem to be based on hard science.

Speaking of happy, my inbox has been a very happy place to be this week.  Cousins have been sharing some very cool family photos, and I’m finally getting around to posting some of them.  (I know what you’re thinking and it’s nothing that I haven’t said to myself… slacker.)

Louise Saucier O’Donnell

First up is a photo from a Thomas cousin.  The photo is labeled, “Bernard, Don, and myself in front of our house in East St. Louis”.  On the back of the photograph, “Aunt Lulu” is written.

Aunt Louise Bernard and Don

Bernard and Don Saucier were Aunt Lulu’s nephews, sons of a younger brother, Eugene Field Saucier.  Bernard was born 17 December, 1915 and Donald was born 23 September, 1917.  Best guess on a date for the photo would be the early 1920s, which would have made Aunt Lulu forty-something – some twenty years or so after the Saucier Family photo was taken.

The information I have on Louise “Lulu” Saucier, is a little hazy: born 25 November, 1880, died 19 March, 1956 in an automobile accident at Times Beach, Missouri.  Aunt Lulu married Thomas O’Donnell, had a large family, and was a long time resident of East St. Louis, Illinois.

I’ve compared this photo of Aunt Lulu to the Saucier Family photo, and I do have a couple of likely looking suspects picked out, with a strong first choice.  That straight nose and determined jawline are very distinctive.  Anyone else care to make a guess?  Leave a comment, or drop me an email.

Eugene Field Saucier

The next two photos came courtesy of a Cardwell cousin, both are photos of Eugene Field Saucier.  Please note that in the first photo, there is equipment hanging on the saddle horn, so Uncle Gene wasn’t out for a leisurely ride in the country.

Uncle Gene Saucier on horseMy dad used to tell stories about his uncles, the Saucier Boys, and how crazy they were for the game of baseball.  I’m pleased to say that I can move the stories from the family legend column, to the fact column.  The next photo shows Uncle Gene, again on horseback, on his way to or from a baseball game, and in uniform.

unclegeneinbaseballuniformCan anyone identify that second man?  He has the deep-set eyes, and a certain look about him suggests, to me anyway, that he is family.  But who?

Francis Field Saucier

If baseball is mentioned at one of our family gatherings, the conversation will soon turn to Frank Saucier, Uncle Stumy’s (Alexander’s) youngest son… but I’ll save that cousin for a future post.

Frank Saucier[Edit.: The rain is pouring down!  Mea culpa for those earlier bad thoughts I directed towards our terrifically smart weatherman – he’s an absolute genius.]

The Great War, A Biplane, & Damson Plums

Ben Saucier Ree Heights South Dakota 1920

The following is the transcription of a letter written by my granduncle, Benjamin Harrison Saucier – that’s Ben in the photograph above – addressed to his younger sister, Josephine (Saucier) Cowan.  The letter came to me through a Howell cousin, who was also the source of the bios written by Henrietta (Saucier) Pace.

Dear Jo,

Yes, I hear from you from time to time but not as often as I’d like, so get on the job and show your class – Am writing this in a greenhouse that is attached to a chateau that’s surrounded by the most beautiful grounds you ever saw.  We are in a small village 6 or 8 miles from Nancy and about the same distance from St. Nicolas – both good towns.  

With the possible exception of the day I was born, yesterday was possibly the biggest day of my life.  Two of my corporals & myself were strolling around a little and wandered over to the aviation field – going down I remarked that all I needed was to take a fly over Nancy.  They ran out a light bombing plane and one of the assistants asked – Who’s going along.  I said – “I am” first, so we soared for awhile — He started straight for Nancy and reached it at an elevation of 5000 feet.  The view was something that I shall not soon forget.  

We circled over the city rising to 8000 feet in doing it, then went out in the country.  It seemed more like a dream than anything I’ve ever experienced – We went to 11,000 feet high and came back over Nancy at that height at a speed of 96 per.  Could only see the earth then in spots for the sky was cloudy & the clouds were all below us.  

The only thing I regret is that I did not enlist in that branch.  It’s too late now to think of transferring.  We were up for about an hour and I wouldn’t exchange it for any other hour I ever spent.  It sure was great – The clouds as seen from above with patches of mother earth here and the mountains in the distance etc. etc. is the most wonderful picture I’ve ever seen.

We came back from the front lines again a few days ago and will most likely be back for a month or 6 wks.  We are altogether yet and feeling fine. – We are out of the mountains – in a beautiful rolling country almost level and for a change it looks pretty good.

There are worlds of damson plums in this vicinity.  I wish you might see this country – Pass this on to some of the rest for I’ve neither time nor stationery to write to all – been writing to Mother at Stanton today — Haven’t seen anything of Eugene’s bro. yet.  Would like to run across him.  Write – Good luck & lots of it to both of you —

Ben — Cack is right with me & is ok.

Sleuthing: It’s Not Just For Hard-Boiled Detectives

Many happy hours I’ve spent daydreaming while reading this letter.  Besides the letter being a cherished piece of family history, I’ve often wondered what kind of impact it may have had on my father, who later became a pilot.  Dad would have been eight years old at the time this was written, and it’s easy for me to imagine the family gathered to hear Uncle Ben’s letter from France being read.

What’s hard for me to believe is that this letter has been on my ‘to-do’ list for well over a decade – funny how time gets away from you.  My goal was to date it as closely as I could with something other than “Sometime during WWI: April 1917-November 1918”.

I was recently provided with a new clue from a Cowan cousin that rekindled my interest in the letter.  That one item, along with the clues supplied in the body of the letter itself have allowed me to narrow down the date considerably.

the clue

For a dove of long standing, I find it just a little embarrassing to admit to an interest in military history, but it helps that I’m aided and abetted by a husband who shares that interest.  Sifting through source material is an engaging pastime for us – so here’s hoping that you don’t find the journey a dry one.

Look Out… This May Be Your MEGO Moment

Shoulder Insignia of th 35th "Santa Fe" Division, WWIBenjamin and his brother Charles ended up in the 138th Infantry, Company E of the 35th “Santa Fe” Division made up of National Guardsmen and draftees from the states of Missouri and Kansas.  They trained for over seven months at Camp Doniphan near Fort Sill, Oklahoma (which by the way, is located less than fifty miles from my back door).

Those seven months must’ve been eye-openers for a couple of farm boys hailing from a green and ‘water fat’ state, finding themselves just a stone’s throw from the 100th Meridian, the onset of the great American desert (only about sixty miles from my front door).

As mind boggling as southwestern Oklahoma may have been to them, the pair probably had little time to gape – the infantrymen of the 35th were drilled intensively by British and French instructors in the use of bayonet, hand grenades, and gas masks.

I’ve provided a few online sources below that you may find interesting, but what it boils down to is this: the 35th division was mobilized, leaving Camp Doniphan in late winter, 1918.  They were moved to the east coast by train, embarking from New York Harbor arriving at LeHavre, France May 10, 1918.  The infantry received additional training in Amiens until June 6, 1918.  Then traveling by rail – 40 men and 8 horses per boxcar – the destination was the Wesserling sub-sector on the Western Front in the Vosges Mountains where they remained through mid-August.  On September 1st, the 35th moved forward to St. Mihiel where they fought their first battle.  Between September 12th-16th, the American Expeditionary Forces liberated the town of Nancy and the 35th bivouacked in the Foret de Haye just a few miles west of town.  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began September 26, 1918 lasting until the Armistice, November 11, 1918.

The 35th Division collapsed after five days of fighting in the Battle of the Argonne, which has been described as the greatest battle in the history of the American military.  In little more than four months, the division casualty list totaled 7,296 (killed in action – 1,018; wounded in action – 6,278).

It saddens me when I think of Ben’s last line: Cack is right with me & is ok… less than two weeks later, Cack was killed in action.

Charles Clide (Cack) Saucier born April 6, 1895 in Sullivan, Franklin County, Missouri – died September 27, 1918, age 23, in the Argonne Forest during the second day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Chas_Saucier Headstone App

Sources:
United States, Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 (p. 191-2)
The 35th Infantry Division in the Great War
The Diary of a Doughboy
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive
From Vauquois Hill to Exermont by Clair Kenamore

Froggy Went A-Courtin’

I’m in the mood this evening for old folk songs.

I like to say that I grew up in a car, and that’s really not very far from the truth.  My family crisscrossed the American southwest when I was young and we nearly always went by car.  My very first memory of a car was our family Nash Rambler.

Over the years, as both our family and the concept of American transportation changed, the family “beater” changed with us; we eventually graduated to a full-size Country Squire station wagon.  But before we acquired that behemoth, I can remember times when my sisters would stuff me up into the rear deck of the sedan so they could ride more comfortably in the back seat.  (Note: seat belts were not in common use at this time)

In those days AM radio was king.  This was long before the FM band came standard in a car, and the music and chatter would fade in and out as you traveled along the highways.  After sunset was the best.  It was then when many of the AM stations would boost their signals and you’d be able to hold a station far into the night.

SaucierOccasionally there would be times when we couldn’t find a station at all.  At these times my dad would chime in, keeping all of us kids quiet by singing old folk songs in a very acceptable baritone.  Froggy Went A-Courtin’ was definitely the front runner, with The Crawdad Song and Bill Grogan’s Goat finishing in the money.

Personally, I always favored the latter (nothing like a little blood and gore to get, and keep, a child’s attention).

I don’t know why I started thinking about those songs tonight.  All I really wanted to do here was to let you know that I’ve got the final part of Henrietta’s Story posted.  I won’t say that this is the last of Aunt Hattie’s stories, new items turn up from time to time, plus I’m constantly surprised by things that I’ve squirreled away and forgotten.  For now at least, you can find the latest segment here, Henrietta’s Story: Part Three.

Block Thirteen: Everybody’s Favorite

Still motoring along with Barbara Brackman on her 49 week quilt block project.

Some weeks the quilt patterns give a really smooth ride – interesting and challenging.  Other weeks I’ve felt like a participant in a demolition derby.  Y-seams and hand applique´… (sigh)

English: Competition at the West End Fair Demo...

Competition at the West End Fair Demolition Derby, Gilbert, Pennsylvania. Photograph by Bill Lowenburg.

Knowing that the upcoming block was the 13th in the series, I anticipated some kind of new and inventive vexation – not that I’m superstitious in the least.

After filling up with high-test caffeine on Saturday morning, I strapped on a virtual crash helmet, cranked up the computer, idled over to Barbara’s blog, and… butter my buns and call me a biscuit!  To my delight, Saturday’s block was more along the lines of driving a tricked out 1970 black over yellow El Camino SS454 with a 4-speed box – fast and fun.

Barbara Brackman Grandmother's Choice Block 13

Oh, Those Crazy Americans And Their Cars

September already.  The weather is finally starting to turn, and like a lot of Septembers, I have a tendency to take a Sunday kind of drive down memory lane thinking about summers from the past.

I remember the summer my father died.  So many firsts during that long summer that I moved to Missouri.  The very first ‘first’, was when I inadvertently declared my independence by lighting a cigarette in front of  the family after the funeral.  ‘Nuff of that.

My first job.

My first car.

My ’60 Starliner was white on white with a Y-block V8.  It was long and it was wide and it could fly.  I proved that late one night trying to lose my first, but regretfully not my last, blind date.  Yeah, he really was that bad.  I finally shook him loose when I opened it up and ran that car nearly flat out on the Nebo Hills road.  I’ll swear that all four tires left the blacktop a few times.  I really miss those flat fins.

I bought my first stereo.  How many times did I listen to Joe Walsh on vinyl that summer?

I helped my sister stain the exterior of her house – one particular highlight was climbing down the ladder and stepping (barefoot of course) into a paint pan of red stain.  Sweet… one redwood colored foot.  That was a slapstick  first, and spending the first few weeks of summer not being able to wear my favorite pair of water buffaloes was another.

After a childhood spent outdoors year-round in the Southwest, I peeled for the first time in that Missouri humidity, just like a snake.  Nice.  So much for my carefully cultivated tan, for that summer at least.

Speaking of snakes, I had my first encounter with a copperhead that summer.  After an ineffective attempt to slice and dice it with a lawn mower, which by the way, merely managed to make it righteously pissed off, I dispatched it with a set of post-hole diggers.  Oh, and incidentally, another first – I learned how to tan snake skin.

That summer I read William Peter Blatty’s book, The Exorcist, and I recall one night spent babysitting my nieces and cleaning up after them.  I’ve never been sure if the cause was my first attempt at cooking an entire meal, or a 24-hour bug, but either way, the result was the girls doing their level best to outdo Regan from the book – whip-saw vomiting while still in bed – when one would leave off , the other would begin, then they’d start all over again.  A whole lot of bedding ended up being hosed down in the bathtub that night.

Thank you little baby Jesus they didn’t start spider walking.

Back then, the legal drinking age in the state of Kansas was eighteen.  It was a quick trip to cross the state line for a beer run.  Now I’m not saying that I was legal, but I was close, and that was the summer of my very first hangover.  On waking up the next morning chilled to the bone from the air conditioner, I decided that the only place to hide out and sleep it off was in the backseat of my brother-in-law’s Chevy.  Was it a ’56 or a ’57?  Whatever it was, it just felt so darned good to be finally warm.

I placed my first long distance call that summer.  One call to an ex-boyfriend out in Arizona who wanted me to come home for a Doobie Brothers concert.  I didn’t go home that summer, and I didn’t see the Doobie Brothers either

I did see Elton John in a fabulous concert at Arrowhead Stadium instead.  I went with a cousin who, I’m fairly certain, had been assigned the task of shepherding me that summer.  I don’t know how many times I was introduced to his friends as his fiance.  He eventually got over the embarrassment of having me tag along, and for the first time we became less like relatives – more like friends.

An odd first, nearly surreal, was the night I went to the Twin Drive-in and saw a double feature re-release of a couple of movies I’d never seen: Gone With The Wind and The Green Berets.  What were they thinking when they screened those two movies together?  I loved one, slept through most of the other.  You guess which.

I discovered In-A-Tub and the taste sensation of a taco salad topped with their proprietary blend of powdered cheese.  I know it sounds bad, but really, it was good.

One of my favorite memories of that summer was driving home from town with my sister in her ’73 Ford pickup (I believe it was Mill Valley Green).  We were talking about – oh, everything – and working around to a discussion of a neighbor who had been out to her house for a barbeque earlier that week.

The guy had the most incredibly, wonderful belly laugh.  He was one of those people who sincerely laughed, from way down deep inside.

We wondered: how did he do that?

The two of us ended up parked in the driveway, sitting there in the cab, trying so very hard to imitate his belly laugh…

Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!

Wait, had anybody seen us?  Then completely cracking up over the craziness of the situation.  Our own laughter ringing out, loud and true, laughing for the joy of being silly together.

That summer began with a death in the family and by the time the summer ended I had a job, a car, a stereo, a worn out Joe Walsh LP, one slightly pink foot, a patchy tan, a much cherished snakeskin, and semi-permanent emotional scarring from reading one of the scariest books ever.

Some might describe that as a so-so summer, some might even consider it pretty tame, but to tell you the truth, it was one memorable summer – time spent in some great cars, having a few laughs, and making that first conscious move towards adulthood.