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Letter From Ralph Heaney, Olivia Times, 11-7-1918

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Ralph Heaney

September 11, 1918

Dear Folks:

We moved and are now in a small village in France and I think we will stay here awhile anyway I hope so as I like it.

This village is nearly a large city. The buildings and everything are very ancient, if I am not mistaken I think Caesar or perhaps St. Johns or some of those ancient historians have at one time treaded upon these grounds. The soldiers are scattered here and there in these buildings and now I must tell you the band was lucky in getting a good place. Which is in a barn now when I say barn I don’t mean one like we had in back of our house at one time but one like wymans, the people across from Aunt Jennie’s only larger and built different. The owner lives in a house which is also very large and built out of stone, this is about 200 yards in front of us. The grounds consist of about 5 acres and is all surrounded by a large stone wall. We have a creek or stream on one side of us which comes from a spring, on the other side is a falls near this falls is three Old Mill wheels which at one time must have been used to grind feed, summing all these things together it brings us near “The Old Mill Stream.” There are gravel walks all around the place, also hedges and trees in fact everything that deals with nature is very plainly shown here. We are surrounded by mountains and hills. These mountains and hills are covered with Vineyards. Well taking it one and all everything is beautiful even though it is ancient, even “Old Stone roads.”

Now the people! They are very peculiar, but very good, especially to the American soldiers and they would do all in their power for them. They nearly all wear wooden shoes and clothes of every description this is because of their poverty. They drive oxen and keep their stock in one end of their house by the way the place we are at belongs to a rich old lady and her son and as I said before everything is beautiful around the place “a Chateau.”

It is gotten too dark to write and as the only light we have is a candle I will have to quit until tomorrow.

September 12th.

Just finished supper so before it gets dark I will try and finish this “book?” As I said before I just finished supper which was a good one. This brings me to the subject on eats. They are very good and if they are kept so there will be danger of us going hungry. We don’t get any candy over here and in one way I am glad of it, as I have an appetite like a pig and eat things I never would eat when in civil life for instance beans. I ate my first yesterday and went back for a second helping and I expect to do so every time I get a chance. That means I like them. This is true with many things learned to like. I never felt any better in my life and am learning more every day even if I don’t or maybe never will show it. I have learned more about notes, scales and other parts of music from our leader in two or three days than I did from any or all of them put together in civil life but as I said, I may never show it.

There is a Catholic church here and I am going to attend Sunday.

Well I must close as I think the Censor (Who is one of our officers) will curse if he has to read much more of this junk, but I will write as often as I can and hope you will all do the same. We have not received any mail yet but are expecting it any time. Give my regards to all. Good bye and good luck.

Your son, Mat R. W. Heaney, P.S. I met Otto Johnson, he is near here also H. Kubesh.