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"Hezzie" Goes to War: World War I through the Eyes of a Mid-Missourian

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Daily Life

Paris Encounters

Routine

French Friends

On Leave

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Paris Encounters

June 25, 1917
Dear Mother and Dad:

...I started out alone to get some pictures. I had not gone but a block or so which a rather old French woman came up and grabbed my hand and began it shake it and start out on a long line of French talking which was too fast for me. After she had shaken it very warmly several time, then she insisted on kissing and kissing my hand. I was about to begin to think she was a little off her mind when a Frenchman came up and explained to me that the old lady was in northern France when the Germans first invaded France at the beginning of the war and that she and her folks were left destitute and would have certainly starved had it not been for American assistance which was given them thru the Red Cross and other organizations. And he said that she had said that she was going to kiss and thank the first American she saw, and I happened to be that first American she had seen. I hardly thought I deserved such a reception.

Then the Frenchman, who had done the interpreting for me, began to talk to me. He spoke English quite well and told me he had been in the war during the early part and had been captured by the German and had been kept by them for about a year and came near starving before being released. He still showed the effect of his hard times. He had his wife with him, a very attractive woman, typically French. She could not speak English of course. He then asked me if I had seen much of Paris and I told him not much except between the office and my room, so then he called a cab and we drove all around the principal part of town and then down town and had five o'clock tea. Of course he would not let me stand for any of it, and according to the French custom I understand I should not insist as they feel offended if one does. However, I took some pictures of them and I hope to repay him for his hospitality in this way. Oh, if we had more time to mingle with the French people we would have some wonderful tales to tell I am sure. However, we are having the time of our lives the way it is. . . .

It would be hard to describe the many kindnesses shown to we Americans since we have been here. They seem to have a real sympathy for us and will do everything within reason to help us along. . . .I can now get anywhere and I always avoid the places where they speak English and eat in the little French restaurants and in this way I learn much more about the French and the language. . . .

Your loving son,
Hezzie

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A Joint Exhibit
of the
University of Missouri
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia
and the University of Missouri-Columbia
Museum of Anthropology

Acknowledgments and World War I Links