Cast of Characters

Grandpa’s Book, Part 2

You may remember that at the end of “The Forgotten Bandsmen”, I said there were interesting stories about quite a few members of the Augustana Band/123rd Field Artillery.

Some of the stories are kind of humorous, like the one about draftee Frank Vasco, who refused to be told when to use the “latrine” and so got on a train in France and later had a problem. It was up to Emil to put in a good word for him at the next station, as they had been expressly forbidden to get off the train. Others were heart-warming, like how Joe Two Eagle, along with others, “adopted” an undernourished three year old child from a French village, giving him food from the mess hall every day. The men were pleased to see the little guy gain weight and grow healthier. For Christmas of 1918, Theodore Lenz dressed as “Le Pere Noel” and the men gave a Christmas party for the local children in Doulaincourt, France. These are the stories that didn’t make the newspapers, but keep reading to see some that did.

When Paul Johnson (pictured above, no relation) came down with measles while they were in training at Camp Lowden, it not only made it into Grandpa’s book, but the Moline, Illinois Dispatch and the Rock Island Argus as well. The date of both articles is May 21, 1917. The Moline article says that Johnson was “peeved” because he had caught the “German” measles, although he wasn’t suffering much and didn’t mind being quarantined. The Rock Island article talks about how Paul’s father noticed a rash on his face when he was home visiting and called the doctor, then let the camp officials know of the diagnosis.

This is from Emil’s book, (using information from the rough and final drafts combined): We had barely moved to the regulation 16×16 tents, when Paul Johnson, son of the well known state politician, living in Springfield, got the measles. At least the doctor said so, and Sgt. Craftow sent him home. He was a member of my squad, and the entire squad, (consisting of C. Mart Carlson, “Quart” Himes who became our cook, “Jug” and Art T. Johnson, and myself) was quarantined. We lived the life of Riley. We did our own cooking, and good steak was served quite often. We spent the days doing “bunk fatigue” and practicing our music. After supper each evening the men would sneak out and visit Springfield. As squad leader, I was the only one left in camp. I was the only non-com, and would risk losing my stripes if I went to town.

Arthur T. Johnson (no relation) was also in the “quarantine tent”. According to his obituary, he was one of two men from the 6th Illinois Infantry to be selected to attend aviation school in Oklahoma. He was also the first of the Augustana bandsmen to be killed in action. Emil wrote: Arthur T. Johnson from Indiana was a member of my squad. He played the baritone saxophone. [While in quarantine] he would sit for hours, all by himself, practicing his music. His favorite was “Back Home in Indiana”. Art left the band and became a lieutenant. He was the first to make the supreme sacrifice.

In “The Forgotten Bandsmen”, I said that I didn’t know who the men in suits were in this photo, taken at Camp Lowden, Illinois on August 31, 1917. It turns out that the photo appears Emil’s book, and he explains it on pages 11 and 12 (which I was supposed to have read, but apparently missed it). President Gustav Andreen and Professor Andrew Kempe of Augustana visited us while we were in Springfield, August 31, 1917. This was a festive time for all. We gave an elaborate banquet in honor of our distinguished visitors in the Leland Hotel. Sgt. Hugo Gibson was toastmaster. Sgt. Jesse Crafton gave a vocal solo. Sgt. Clarence Trued gave a piano solo.

There were speeches and enthusiastic repetitions of “Rockety I, Key I, Key I”. As usual Dr. Andreen’s speech was enthusiastic and challenging. He said many people would be praying for us and the eyes of many in college and in the church would be upon us. Inwardly we resolved to justify this moral support.

What awaited the Augustana bandsmen in France would be both fascinating and terrifying. It will take another post or two to get us that far. Which we know will probably take me awhile…

“Mom, aren’t you done with that blog post yet?”

8 thoughts on “Cast of Characters

  1. So much rich history. We might know something about the actual conflicts but it’s the little personal anecdotes which bring it all to life. I’m glad you’re not done yet, Debra. Looking forward to more! 🙂

    1. Oh good, I’m glad to hear it. I agree with you about the personal anecdotes. In reading, researching and writing all this down I kind of feel I know / understand my grandfather a little better than

  2. As always, your posts really amaze me! The part about them feeding the child was absolutely sweet and admirable.

    “What awaited the Augustana bandsmen in France would be both fascinating and terrifying.” This is how I feel reading military/war history books ~ it’s fascinating and terrifying.

    But it’s the very last photo that cracked me up 😄

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