Memories of World War I by Robinson Shepard (my grandpa) – page 3: Where Math wins the day and Grampa joins the Masons

Once in a while, you could get a pass to go to Ayers. There in the basement of the Odd Fellows Hall, were a couple of pool tables. If the soldier, or his father, was an Odd Fellow he could use the tables. By virtue of Father’s being an Odd Fellow I played pool several times – the only times I ever have.

In the spring, we went on a hike to Still River, Mass., the artillery range and camped in pup tents, under artillery fire. One night it rained hard and the boys who hadn’t bothered to lie a “traunch” as per directions, got soaked. Glad to say my tentmates and I stayed dry. Coming back to Devens, 5 miles or so, I got a ride iwth a motorcycle carrier. I rode behind him on the baggage rack; I stuck on, but wished I had walked.

Our mess sergeant was a fellow named Carroll, from Lawrence, Mass. Among other things, he had to figure on an allowance of 37-1/2 cents a day, per man, for food. Once I happened to see him scratching his head on his figuring, so I did a little very simple figuring for him. He was amazed and wanted me to keep on. I pretended it was very complicated (as he thought) but said I’d try it, if I was free of other duties (fatigues, KP, etc.) As the company was doing nothing but moving a big pile of coal, in wheelbarrows, from one place to another and back again to take up the time, I didn’t feel I was shirking anything. Carroll jumped at the chance and said I could be “dining room orderly” and have nothing to do but figure out meals. So I strung out a 15 minute job to about 2 hours, accompanied by considerable sweat, which he thought was normal. I kept this job for about 6 weeks, until I got sick of it, and went back to moving the coal pile. Another thing during my tenure as DRO, the company was quarantined for measles, with only the officers being allowed to leave camp. (Apparently the officers wouldn’t spread measles!) Since I had to go to Ayer to the bank every week, I got a pass. This, by the way, was one of the inducements to taking the “job.” Prior to the DRO I got the German measles and was in the camp hospital for a while. I don’t remember how long. In the hospital room were two rows of beds, probably 12 to a row. About all I remember is that early in the morning basins of water were distributed and everyone had to get up and wash (scrub) his bed.

Out at Still River I am sure Harold Holliday saved my life. There was a Lake and everybody had to go swimming. I got a cramp, or something, and couldn’t swim and sank, then came to the surface and yelled for help. Harold was about 10 feet away and grabbed me as I was going under and towed me to shore.

I was initiated into Masonry while I was at Camp Devens. Getting a pass to go home was uncertain, so the Master (Dunbar Seamans) got a special dispensation in order for me to have the 2nd and 3rd degrees the same night. The Lodge at Ayers, by request, “worked” many soldiers for other Lodges, therefore had a meeting at least 5 times a week. After I became a Mason, I could, and did, visit their lodge a good many times. Which was more pleasant than staying in the Barracks if you weren’t on duty – such as fatigues, KP, stables, etc. After the War during our last year in Harvard College, Harold Holliday’s father was District Deputy Grand Master for the district around Boston. He had a visitation twice a month or oftener and always had two extra tickets (for banquets no doubt – he [Grampa] stopped there. steno [this might have been my grandmother)]

Several times I got an overnight pass to go home and would take the trolley to N. Chemsford and the train from there to Franklin [New Hampshire]. The trolley was always packed and the train always stopped at N. Chelmsford for the soldiers. Towards the end of spring I got a 3 day pass to go to Bangor [Maine] and see hte folks there. That was a “furlough pass” and 1 cent per mile was in effect, and a form had to accompany the request and there was only one form available, so I paid $2.50 one way and nearer $10 to come back. Great! About June we turned in the heavy woolens and got khaki uniforms which felt fine and lasted two weeks, when we went back to the woolies for overseas. Of course, all sorts of rumors were around and it was understood the quartermaster’s corps was the only ongoing overseas so I applied for a transfer. However, the whole division went, so I withdrew my application.