One hundred years ago my maternal grandfather wrote a letter to his brother. His brother kept it, and eventually it became an item that was photocopied and dispersed to descendents. There’s nothing particularly thrilling in the letter, but it probably qualifies as having at least causal historical significance outside of family interest, so I’ll share it here.
Before delving into the letter, here are a few prefaces:
Alvin T. Anderson was born in Lamberton, Minn. in 1888 and moved to Moose Lake in 1900. He was part of the U.S. Army Band until he was sent to Europe after the United States entered World War I.
At the time he sent the letter the war was winding down, though it wouldn’t be formally over for another four months. Meanwhile Moose Lake had been devastated four months earlier by a fire that is still considered the greatest catastrophe northern Minnesota has ever known. Alvin’s parents and siblings escaped the fire, a story told in the post “Moose Lake Forest Fire of 1918.” Alvin was a carpenter, so that’s why he references “building up the town again” in his letter.
The letter also refers to a pilot “looping loops” in an airplane. Apparently my grandfather witnessed a fairly significant moment in aviation history when Lt. Belvin W. Maynard, a test pilot at the American assembly plant in Romorantin, France, was thrilling crowds with his flight stunts. He set a world record on Feb. 12, 1919, by doing 318 loops in 67 minutes without losing altitude while flying a British Sopwith Camel. Newspapers called him the Flying Parson and “the greatest pilot on earth.”
My grandfather’s letter is dated five days after the record-setting loop day.
On active service with the American Expeditionary Force
Feb. 17, 1919
Haven’t written for some time so will get busy while chances are good.
I’m still in France and haven’t the least idea when we’ll be sailing. Our hopes for an early return are about gone but we’ll probably get there some time this summer. Anyhow, we’re doing the best we can to make time fly faster. It gets rather tiresome waiting, but everyone can’t go first.
I was down to Romorantin a few days ago and accidentally collided with Arnold Sorinson while in a hotel for supper. It sure surprised me to see him as I didn’t know he was over here. It gave me a chance to hear a little more about Moose Lake too — about two and one-half months since I heard from anyone around there. Their camp is only two miles from here and trucks running up and down all the time so it will be an easy matter to see each other after this.
I also met Frank Gregerson if you remember him. He went through here on a truck a month or so ago.
Last month I saw an aviator make a new record in looping loops. He looped 318 times in 67 minutes and would have kept on longer had not his supply of gas run out. Machines are flying around here all the time and they sure do some wonderful stunts in them.
When will they start building up the town again? Suppose carpenters will be scarce and hard to get. I sure would like to be there in the spring but chances are I’ll have to wait until summertime.
About all I can think of just now so will quit for this time. Best regards to all and write again soon.
From your Bro
Alvin T. Anderson
Co. F. 2nd 55 Eng.
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