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S.B.Butler's AEF Scrapbook: Some Local color from St. Amand-Montrond

Excerpts from "The 301st Supply Train in the World War"

From the 1918 diary of Allen Swift

Yesterday we were free from nine in the morning till retreat, an unexpected holiday, and eagerly taken. There were parts of the town still unknown to me, the day was cool and clear, and much to be seen. In back of the big mill, the oldest parts of the town lie, a tangle of narrow streets, so small that the great Norman horses, with their cumbersome carts and heavy loads of grain, loom gigantic ahead, like a picture from Gulliver's Travels. It seems impossible that they get thru without scraping the tiles off the roofs, or crushing innumerable babies or sending aged women backward thru open doorways, in which they seem to stand or sit all day. In this quarter the old church stands, its XI century doorway worn or chipped beyond all beauty, except that which comes as a part of a beautiful whole, softened, chastened by age. The interior, high, dim and cave-like, is built with that love for perpetuity which belongs to the Gothic as it budded from the Romanesque, and while practically undecorated, is not a bad example of that early school. About the church are very old houses, many of them harboring flourishing rosebushes high on their stone sides and miniature turrets.


The grand millworks (Grands Moulins), To the right you can see the spire of the XI century church. See other scenes of St. Amand.

The canal runs near this part of town, a dirty bit of water, especially this year which has been without rain for many weeks; and the water is low. The long, even planted line of towering poplars, along the tow-paths, threw welcome shadows across the water to the opposite bank where, as far as one could see, the eternal fisherman sat on camp stools, long bamboo rods in hand, patiently waiting for the carp that are reputed to live in the canal.

The Frenchmen are enthusiastic over fishing, and even in this small town, have several stores devoted entirely to fisherman's outfits. The tackle, such as lines, gut, hooks and bobs are good, but the artificial bait, spinners, reels and rods are not high grade, particularly the rods, which are of unsplit bamboo, poorly wound, of great length and weight. From what I have seen of the fish here, a dollar Bristol steel rod would handle anything which swims here, and perhaps the fisherman live in hopes, as all good descendants of Isaac Walton do, of one try at the giant carp, supposed to live in the waters near all ancient French towns. It is hope that keeps all fisherman in the game, therefore, the fisherman is the true philosopher. And the natives of this town are to be particularly praised for harboring great patience, for in the face of unlimited competition, brackish water, dirty and unsavory, day after day these devotees are seated in favorites spots, bobs floating quietly on the water. The sun makes the circuit and rarely a fish is caught, a hook rebaited, yet none seem disappointed, all report good fishing, and after all that's all that is necessary.

Marie Louise Sedrin

Marie Louise Sedrin will always remain in the memory of many of the members of Company B as a true friend. She was the daughter of one of the men on whose property part of Company B were billeted while at Les Grandes Villages near S. Amand. By her many kindnesses and winning personality she so endeared herself to the hearts of men that she was termed "our sweetheart." Being a girl of perhaps nineteen, attractive, and having a rather refined personality, we were quite amazed by an incident that happened one Sunday morning.

The Sedrin family had a number of rabbits which they raised for food purposes. On this particular morning, Marie Louise was asked by her mother to kill and dress one of them for dinner. Most of Company B was "off duty" and several of the men offered to do it for her, but she politely declined to accept the offer informing us that we didn't know how to do it properly. Of course we laughed at this, but our laughter turned to amazement because she went at it in a way that would make most girls, back in the States, faint away.

Mary Louise still keeps up her correspondence with several of the men in Company B, and she is regarded by all as a true but bloodthirsty friend.

Les Grandes Villages

Who was ever in Les Grandes Villages that does not remember the pretty young demoiselle with the bright red sweater? She was captured for life by Sergeant George B. Tobey of Company A. After the war, they lived in Bridgeport Connecticut, his old home, for a while but are now back in France.

 

 



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