Monday, April 18, 2011

The J.T. Fairall WWI Letters: (8) December 26, 1917

Jack and fellow pilots in a wintry photo
Christmas Day has just passed, and in J.T.'s eighth letter written during WWI, he describes the Christmas activities he and others have had in France.  One can picture many of these pilots staying warm in their decorated barracks with the two Christmas trees that would remind them so much of home.  Indeed, Jack recalls with a sense of nostalgia the holidays in Baltimore and the last-minute holiday shopping at the bustling Lexington Market at Lexington and Eutaw Streets (one of the largest markets in the U.S. at the time).

Jack describes the gifts provided by the Red Cross to the military, some of which might raise eyebrows nowadays, like cigarettes and tobacco.  They enjoyed a traditional holiday dinner and were treated to a white Christmas.  Of course, with the wintry weather, Jack also was met with an "inconvenient" cold. 

Jack's brother Campbell is also serving in the military, but the brothers haven't been able to keep in touch thus far.  Mail delivery has not been the best, and Jack mentions the curious delays his family appears to experience in receiving his letters from France.  Perhaps the delay is due to the need for the U.S. government to meticulously censor any military information in all of the soliders' letters, an act demonstrated in this particular letter from Jack with sections cut out from the second page.

This is the last letter that Jack wrote in 1917, but many more are written in the next year.     

 12/26 [1917]

My Dear Mother

As an Xmas preasant I received 2 letters from you.  The letters from home are always events.  We had a white Xmas one that would surely make the kids stay awake all night waiting for Santa.  We had two trees in our barracks one in each end.  We made a pool of 10 F each and had our stockings filled.  Beside this the Red Cross gave out a bag to each one containing 1 towel tooth brush 1 bar soap toothpaste 1 pr socks 1 handkerchief and cigarettes and tobacco.  This was very nice but when I pictured Lex and Eutaw Sts on Xmas Eve about 7 P.M. when all of late comers are pushing and shoving to finish their purchases.  Then look back a little further to the time when the family was younger.  How there was one grand rush for Xmas presants.  This all comes into my mind.  How lucky we have always been.

I was sorry to hear that Bernice had taken the baby down to Mrs. Howards for Xmas instead of staying with you.  It surely would have made up at bit for Campbell's and my absence.  I often wonder where Camie is at various times.  I hope that he was at least be able to be ashore in the U.S. for shipboard wouldn't be any idea of a wonderful time for Xmas.

Our dinner was very good turkey cranberries fried potatoes, and coffee with nuts and figs on the side.  That is doing pretty well when you consider the number of men in the Army on this side and it is a pretty safe bet that they all fared alike.

In your last letter dated about Dec. 3 you say that you haven't received any mail from me.  This is rather peculiar as I mailed a letter at [censored] just before the boat left also one just before getting off of the [censored].  Both of these letters should have arrived before Dec. 3.  There are of course others that could not have arrived.  You say that Marguerite hasn't heard from her Jack.  She should have heard from him if he has written for he left about 1 mo before I did.

The weather has been pretty cold and snowy and I have managed to catch a slight cold of course.  I could hardly go through a winter without something of the kind.  It doesn't amount to much but is surely inconvenient.

I suppose that you often wonder why I don't describe the country over here.  Well I have been in France more than a month and have only been to one city the rest of the time I have been cooped up on camp.  So you can see that [missing words] very little about anything on this side.

I [missing words] for this time.  Hoping that all enjoyed their Xmas and that all have a prosperous New Year.  I am

Your affectionate son

Address J.T. Fairall
Aviation Sec. Sig. Corps
American Exp Forces
American Air Service
% B.M.C.

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