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Letter from Matt Mahlum, Franklin Tribune, 9-19-1918

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Camp Lewis, Wash., Sept. 5, 1918

Friend Julius,

After another week of patient waiting I again received the Tribune and it sure was a welcome as ever. I was kind of worried about it not getting to my new address but see you knew I had been moved. Yes, I am now in the 1st Inf. Band and am just as happy over it as I can be as I like it fine. It sure is a real outfit and as all the fellows are old regulars it is a great pleasure to be in a bunch like it, as they are right up to the minute in everything in the military line and can sure do all the drill stuff in swell style. Have a large band composed of 50 pieces and amongst them some real musicians. Some of them have been in the army band as long as 15 years and of they are professionals. Have all kinds of band instruments in the outfit and most noticeable to me was the Saxophone Quartette, which sure is swell in the dandy overtures they play. We played at Tacoma two weeks ago, also Labor day. Big parade that day and an awful crowd there. Played and marched for nearly four hours and I was nearly all in as it was a warm day. Only 30 of the 50 men picked for that day and I was lucky enough to be in on it. Being a holiday we got extra pay and of course that didn’t make any of us sore. Play at the hospital on afternoons a few times a week and try to entertain the sick boys there. They sure seem to enjoy it as they are always waiting when we get there. Notice extra order today that all companies of the 1st are to get 9 hours drill each day now instead of 8 and I suppose that means we will soon be on our way. Well, the sooner the better. We are all ready and anxious to go. The band don’t get any drill at all, only a little marching while playing to keep in shape. Heard yesterday that we were going to tour Oregon and California on War Stamp drive and I hope it comes thru. We never know any thing for sure until it really happens as orders are so apt to be cancelled or changed in some way as they often are.

New men coming in every day, but we never see any from the East, so don’t feel very excited as we know they are all strangers to us.

Cora Steen was out here at camp to see me last week and I just couldn’t believe it when I was called out as seeing anyone from home here is quite out of the question. Had a dandy visit with her and asked her so many questions concerning home and all the folks back there, I feel quite well posted in that respect now. Sure is great to meet someone from back there and I enjoyed it immensely.

Have a whole company of Pros. And C.Os. here as they refuse to drill or carry arms we keep them busy digging ditches, sweeping pavements and all such work and I’ll say the camp is kept in tip top shape at all times as that is their job and are kept a going at all times and I am sure some of them would just as soon drill now if they could but they can’t now and must take their medicine.

Had a dandy experience with one fellow here as he was in my company while was at Depot Brigade. He was a foreigner of some kind and it happened that I was detailed to help the supply sergeant issue guns to the new men and while doing this, we came across this fellow and he told us he didn’t want a gun and we decided we would not report him at once but give him a few days to decide and in the meantime talk to him. I had heard a couple of trials concerning cases similar to this and knew what the fellows got and I talked and talked to this fellow but all in vain and of course he was reported. I went to his trial and he got 20 years hard labor and upon the stand he promised to take arms and be as good a soldier, but it was too late then and he was put in the guard house. The guards were taking him to different guard house one day and he threw himself in under one of the big U.S. trucks here and was badly bruised up. He is at the hospital now and is getting better but is very sorry for his foolish moves made by not taking our advice as he knows he has 20 years ahead of him and that is enough to make any one stop and think a little. So many cases like this here and it seems strange that people can’t get wise to the fact that they can’t get away with that stuff for very long. I know quite a number of fellows around camp here who were C.O’s, when they got here but reconsidered the matter and changed and now are good soldiers and very happy that they did make the change as they now see where they were mistaken. They are all used fine by the other fellows and get along fine while these C.O’s have to be on the lookout all the time as all the fellows have it in for them and no one knows what may happen to them as everything is against them.

While at Tacoma the other day went thru the soldiers and sailors club there and it sure is a fine place where we are always welcome. Dany lounging and writing rooms and all conveniences possible and is sure is appreciated by us all. When we want to stay in overnight we can get rooms there and if we want to go out to private families also can get that there and I don’t know what we would do without the place. Tacoma people are very sociable to the soldiers and their homes are always open to them and all possible is done for them in the way of pastime and amusement. Free dances at the club and drives thru the city and along the bay and thru the ship yards.

Well, Julius, as I must get ready for concert at the hospital, at it is about time, I will close for this time with a hello to you all and hoping you are enjoying the best of everything as usual back there,

As ever, Matt, H. A. Co., 1st Inf. Camp Lewis, Wash.