Grandpa was born and raised in New Hope, Kentucky, a tiny farming town. Everybody in and around New Hope not only knew everybody else, but the chances that they were cousins were very high. Ken met and began courting Mary Ethel Peake of New Haven (six miles from New Hope) before being drafted into the military.
Grandpa corresponded with Ethel while he was away–she kept all his letters and postcards. He closed his first letter to her written from boot camp with "lots of love & kisses to my sweet little Wife" and addressed her as "Dear" and "Deariest" in all of his correspondence during the War. Although he tended to tease her about flirting with the French and German girls, it was obvious from his letters that he was lonely and was anxious to return home to marry her.
GOOD-BYE, SWEETHEART he wrote "Until this war is over over there." At the bottom of the card he wrote "From your little one Dear excuse writting [sic] as I am on the train and cant steady my arm." On the other side of the postcard, he wrote:
"Hello Ethel how are you. Well I am on my way but I don't know where. We just passed through Paducah & sure had a nice time there. The Red Cross girls gave us all the ice cream we could eat & the best of all they gave us there addresses & told us to be sure & write to them. haha"
The next card we see is a Safe Arrival notice postmarked August 1, 1918.
"...if the girls keep marring [sic] like they have been, there won't be any one left for me, for I know the next marriage I hear of, will be you. I am ...
"...looking every day for some one to send me the clippings saying you have gotten married, so then I know I will be out of luck. But dear, dont forget me, for I wont always be in this God forsaken country, I'll be coming back to you some day, or at least I hope so."This letter was four pages long and across the top, one word per page, he wrote: "I'll Keep My Promise."
Ken was discharged from the Army on May 21, 1919 and, after a short visit home with his family, he went to Copley Township, Illinois, to work as a hired hand on a farm where he had often worked before being drafted. Ethel's father moved their family to St. Augustine, Illinois, in 1920, which brought them within 35 miles of each other. Ken would travel to St. Augustine by train and Ethel would come into town to spend the day with him. They were married on December 29, 1921.
I never met Grandpa–he died at the age of 48, when my father was ten years old. If it hadn't been for the Soldiers' Mail, we would not have known him at all.
Visit the Sepia Saturday blog to see other letters home from the front, or from school, or from summer camp.
Thanks for dropping by.