Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ella Fitzgerald 100 -- April 25, 2017

Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, was born 100 years ago today, 25-April-1917.  I grew up hearing her sing on the radio and television.  When I had enough money to buy albums, I bought her American Songbooks.

We saw her in person once, at the Marin Civic Center.  I don't remember what songs she sang, but I remember her trading licks with Joe Pass.

I love her stuff with Chick Webb, who became her legal guardian.  

Ella developed her talent for scat singing while working with Dizzy Gillespie, 

I bought copies of the songbooks for my fiancee.  We had some of the songs played at our wedding reception. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Summer of Love 50 -- Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights -- April 23, 2017

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters by artist Deborah Aschheim.  "The Zeitgeist" is part of a larger series for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.  The posters in The Zeitgeist represent people involved in the Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam on 15-April-1967. 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a poet and publisher who founded City Lights Books. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Railroad Inspection Car -- April 21, 2017

Scientific American, 03-December-1904
The Olds Motor Works produced this railroad inspection car.  I suppose "O.M.W.R.R." stands for Olds Motor Works Railroad. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sells-Floto Circus Special -- April 19, 2017

San Francisco Call, 28-April-1912

The Sells-Floto Circus visited San Francisco in May, 1912.  It purchased a full-page ad in the San Francisco Call.  "If Laughing Makes You Sick, Take a Doctor With You."  Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

1939 Lagonda Rapide V-12 Drophead Coupe -- April 17, 2017

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos.   WO Bentley designed the beautiful 1939 Lagonda Rapide V-12 Drophead Coupe and its powerful 4,480 cc engine. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter, 2017 -- April 16, 2017

Vintage Graphic Design and Poster Art

Happy Easter, everyone. Here is the cover of the 01-April-1961 New Yorker, with a cartoon by Pete Arno. 

Wilbur Wright 150 -- April 16, 2017
Wilbur Wright, who with his brother Orville, built the first airplane capable of fully controlled flight, was born 150 years ago today, 16-April-1867.  The two brothers grew up in Ohio and showed a great talent for mechanics, building a printing press and building and selling bicycles.  They became interested in flying machines and approached their work using scientific methods.  They build a wind tunnel and test airfoil sections and realized that a propeller was a rotating wing.  They build gliders to test their mechanism for three-axis control.  On 17-December-1903, they flew the heavier than air Wright Flyer under control, taking off and landing without external assistance. 

The brothers worked to improve their flying machines and build a business.  Wilbur toured Europe and made many demonstration flights.  Wilbur died of typhoid on 30-May-1912. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Vigil -- April 15, 2017

Happy Easter, everyone.  We went to Easter Vigil at Good Shepherd.  Here is a fuzzy shot of Father Lu with the Easter candle freshly lit from the fire before we all processed in. 

Classics Illustrated -- April 15, 2017

Classics Illustrated adapted literary classics.  I always thought their illustrations were stiff, but I enjoyed some of their issues.  I first read The Prisoner of Zenda  and The Count of Monte Christo.  in Classics Illustrated.  I wish I could have found this issue, which featured The Octopus by Frank Norris, a San Francisco author. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Black Mask -- April 13, 2017
Race Williams, created by Carroll John Daly, is considered by many to be the first hard-boiled detective. He was known for shooting first. "My conscience is clear; I never shot anybody that didn't need to die."  Here is the cover of the December, 1925 Black Mask

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Richmond Lots -- April 11, 2017

San Francisco Call, 03-April-1895
I grew up in San Francisco's Richmond District.  Prices are higher now.  The "California-street cars" were a steam line that went to Presidio Avenue, where riders could transfer to a cable car heading downtown.  The "Sutro electric-cars" ran on Clement Street and Euclid Street to Presidio Avenue. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Battle of Arras -- April 9, 2017

Philadelphia Ledger, 10-April-1917
100 years ago today, on 09-April-1917, British troops launched an offensive against the German line of trenches near Arras in France.  The Battle of Arras lasted until 16-May-1917.  Despite good initial British gains, based on lessons learned in the Battle of the Somme, the situation soon developed into a stalemate.  April, 1917 became known as Bloody April.  The map is from the 10-April-1917 Philadelphia Ledger.  The article is from the 09-April-1917 Butte Daily Post.  

British Smash German Lines on New Front 
Teuton Positions Penetrated on Ten-Mile Stretch, From Arras to Lens.
Military Operations of Still Greater Importance Are Expected.

London, April 9.—The British early this morning attacked the German wide front from a point south of Arras to the south of Lena, thus opening what is believed here to be a general spring offensive. The move has been looked forward to eagerly for some days. The offensive of the British flying corps in the latter part of the last week, the attack on Zeebrugge Saturday night and the activity of the French in Belgium, as shown in yesterday's official statement from Paris, were considered a prelude to important military operations.

The British commander, General Haig, whose reports are always moderate, says the German line has been broken everywhere and that progress was made in the direction of Cambrai. The extension of the attack northward to Lena doubtless was intended to give the British more elbow room for their operations from Arras to the point of juncture with the French around St. Quentin.

Referring to the attack on the front between Arras and Lens, the statement says:

The Statement.

"We are making satisfactory progress at all points."

The statement, which is timed 11:25 a. m., is as follows:

"We attacked at 5:30 o'clock this morning on a wide front from south of Arras to south of Lens. Our troops have everywhere penetrated the enemy's lines and are making satisfactory progress at all points.

"In the direction of Cambrai we stormed the villages of Hermies and Boursies and have penetrated into Havrincourt wood.

"In the direction of St, Quentin we captured Fresnoy Le Petit and advanced our lines southeast of De

"No estimate of the prisoners taken can yet be given but considerable numbers are reported captured.


The fighting from Lens to Arras is approximately 10 miles in length and lies directly north of the field of the retreat which the Germans have been conducting for the past several weeks. 

The fact that the line has been penetrated by the British all along this wide front indicates that the movement there is a general offensive.  That it is proving a successful drive is indicated by the statement that "satisfactory progress" is being made "at all points." 

An entire new phase of operations on the western front is opened up in this new battle of the Lens-Arras line.  The field of attack represents the greatest danger point for the Germans, as in the recent fighting at a sharp salient was driving into the German line southeast of Arras. 

In the Lens region into which the British are driving is a rich coal field which the Germans have been exploiting since their occupation of this territory early in the war. 

Aerial Activity.

The opening of the new offensive had been foreshadowed in the intense aerial activity of the past two or three days in which hundreds of airplanes have been engaged on both sides.  This work, as the British statements have indicated, has given General Haig's staff photographic reproductions of the German positions for long distances behind the fighting line. 

Further south, the British have continued their progress in the field of the German retreat, the advance report at Hermies and Boursies being particularly important.  Boursies is directly on the road from Bapaume to Cambrai, about eight miles from the latter place.  Hermies lies just to the south of Boursies. 

In their drive toward St. Quentin the capture of Fresnoy Le Petit puts the British with two and a half miles of St. Quentin's outskirts.

17 Entente Airplanes Shot Down By Teutons

Berlin, April 9 (via London) -- Seventeen entente airplanes were brought down yesterday on the western front, the war office announces.

The statement says that the battle of Arras, begun this morning after several hours of strong fire, continues.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Two Derelict Vessels -- April 7, 2017

San Francisco Call, 03-April-1895

The drawing is from the 03-March-1897 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. The Matson Navigation Company is still in business. 

How the Archer arid Annie Johnson Were Rebuilt and Reflagged. 

The only iron sailing vessels on this coast flying the American flag are derelicts, rejuvenated after terrible ordeals of storm and disaster. One, the bark Archer, was baptized into her new national faith by water; and the other, barkentine Annie Johnson, by fire. Both were English and lost their colors and registry while floating for months lost waifs alone on the ocean.

The Archer was built in Sunderland in 1876 and was of 855 tons net burden. She was abandoned in a fierce gale off Cape Flattery about two years ago in a wrecked condition. For months she. drifted a dismantled hulk and was finally found and towed into Puget Sound. 

The Annie Johnson, as the Ida Iredale, was built in England in 1874 and was of 998 tons burden. She was abandoned on fire in the South Pacific about fifteen years ago. Her cargo of coal burned for months as she drifted, consuming everything combustible on board. When picked up ten months after she was literally an empty iron tank, lifting herself high above the surface of the water, inhabited by hundreds of sea birds, which had found the drifting hulk an excellent roosting place.  The metal plates above the water line had been warped by the fierce heat into a beautiful wavy surface, but otherwise the hull was uninjured. The vessel, was bought by an American firm, repaired and with a new flag at her masthead took a new name and number in the commerce of the great republic. She is now owned by W. Matson and Co. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Killed the First Day of the Somme -- Alfred Ratcliffe -- April 5, 2017

On 01-July-2016, I missed the opportunity to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  More British soldiers died on that day than on any other day in history.  I thought to make up for it, I would write about some of the poets who died that day.  There were a lot.

I can't find much information about Alfred Victor Ratcliffe except that he went to Cambridge, was a friend of Rupert Brooke and was in the West Yorkshire Regiment.

The image is from the movie The Battle of the Somme.

June Song

It's sweet to love, ah, very sweet
But then, God knows,
The thorn climbs swift to tear the hand
That loves the rose
But if the heart's dear blood shall touch
The gathering flower,
It will but make a redder rose
A rosier hour. 

 This is the last entry of this series.  Many poets died in the war.  I may write about them later. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Our Film Capital is Air-Minded -- April 3, 2017

The International Photographer, June, 1930
This article, from the June, 1930 International Photographer, talks about the popularity of aviation in Southern California.  The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Machine Operators were having a convention in the area. 

Why Our Film Capital is Air-Minded
Delegates to the I. A. T. S. E. Take Notice) 
Written for The International Photographer by WILLIAM WAGNER, 
Curtis Wright Flying Service 

In no section of the country has aviation development been more marked than in Southern California.

So often has this statement been made that it seems unnecessary to repeat it again here, but in spite of the wide publicity given aeronautical progress in this section, the great majority has not yet been fully appraised of the rapid strides made here.

With pride California points to the fact that this state is easily the leader in number of pilots, mechanics and licensed aircraft, but with greater pride does Los Angeles County remind the rest of the world that more than two-thirds of the state's aviation activity is concentrated in this area.

Of the state's 2076 licensed pilots, 1461 licensed mechanics and 1476 licensed aircraft, approximately 70 per cent are in Los Angeles County.

By no means has this section's rapid growth been wholly in the actual opertion of aircraft, for last year a total of $5,500,000 in aeronautical products were produced in the county. At the present time there are 18 airplane and 11 aircraft engine manufacturing companies engaged in business here.

In the transportation of passengers, mail and express by air, Southern California has fully contributed its share in developing this phase of the industry. Every day 19 scheduled commercial runs are made in and out of Los Angeles. The planes used on these airlines are flown 21,000 miles daily, bringing into and taking out of this section a steady stream of rapidly growing air commerce.

Due to climatic conditions principally we have been able to accomplish much which would not be possible to undertake in any other section of the country.

Particularly has this advantage been shown in the development of our splendid airports and in the training of students. In this line have our own organizations -- Curtiss-Wright Flying Service and Grand Central Air Terminal -- been unusually active.

Of the county's 67 airports and landing fields, none is better equipped or more active than Grand Central, which is ideally situated with relation to downtown Los Angeles. Due to a great extent to the operation from this field of T. A. T.-Maddux Air Lines, this airport now handles approximately one-fourth of all scheduled air transport operation in the country.

This modern air terminal, owned by the Curtiss-Wright Airports Corps., is also the headquarters in Southern California of Curtiss-Wright Flying Service, the world's oldest flying organization, which operates 42 bases throughout the country.

During 1929, Los Angeles county's five leading airports spent in excess of $1,500,000 each on new developments. Grand Central during February of this year celebrated the opening of its new $150,000 terminal station on the airport.

At Los Angeles Airport, the municipal field, Curtis-Wright Flying Service conducts its flying school, which holds the government's highest approved rating. This school has just been approved by federal immigration authorities as an institution of learning for alien students, placing it on the same level with leading universities and colleges. This is the first aviation school in the country to receive this sanction.

In Los Angeles County there are now more than 1600 registered aviation students, with every indication pointing to a rapid increase in this number during the summer months. Due to its excellent climatic conditions and geographical location, Southern California bids fair to become an international aviation training ground.

Already a steady flow of aviation students are coming to this section for advanced flight training from Central and South America, Mexico and Canada, as well as from Japan and China across the Pacific.

One of the most novel and successful experiments in stimulating the use of air travel was recently put into effect by Curtiss-Wright Flying Service at Grand Central Air Terminal.

This new idea, credited to the fertile brain of Major C. C. Moseley, vice-president and general manager in the west for Curtiss-Wright, is now the much-talked of "Penny-a-Pound" flights.

Knowing that once people have made an initial flight in an airplane they are almost certain to be won over to this newest and most rapid method of transportation, Curtiss-Wright put into effect new low rates of "penny-a-pound" for men and a flat $1 for women and children for short scenic flights.

During a single month nearly 5000 persons were carried at these novel low rates, without the slightest mishap of any nature, nor a single report of air-sickness.

Due principally to the interest shown by Col. Charles A. Lindbergh during his and Mrs. Lindbergh's recent visit to Southern California, glider flying has shown rapid progress during the past few months. Today the county boasts more than a dozen glider clubs, composed of from 10 to 30 active members in each club.

Not only is this section favored with a semi-tropical climate, which makes flying and student training throughout the year possible, but high winds that prevail in other states are almost unknown. Records of the local weather bureau reveal that the highest wind ever recorded here was 48 miles per hour, and that in January forty-seven years ago.

Aviation in Southern California is now represented in all of its phases by four of the dominant groups in the industry -- Curtiss-Wright, Western Air Express, United Aircraft and Detroit Aircraft. In addition there are a great many smaller concerns who are doing their share to see that this state maintains its impressive leadership of America's Fastest Growing Industry.

The International Photographer, June, 1930

Sunday, April 2, 2017

President Urges War to "Rescue Humanity" -- April 2, 2017

Washington Herald, 03-April-1917

100 years ago today, on 02-April-1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against the Empire of Germany.  

President Urges War to "Rescue Humanity"
In Address to Joint Session of Congress, Mr. Wilson Declares for Immediate Entry into Strife.
Sets Forth Plan for Financing Entente Allies and Flays Perfidy of the German Government. 

President Wilson last night demanded that the United States recognize the state of war which Germany has thrust upon the nation and exert all of its powers to bring the government of Germany to terms and end the war.

Before the Congress, in joint session, the President bitterly but dispassionately arraigned the German government for its "warfare against mankind," and urged the representatives of the people to act at once to put an end to the destruction of "men, women and children" in the submaine zone.

In calm silence, but with determined faces, the Senators and Representatives listened as the President told them:


 "I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of a belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a state of defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all of its resources to bring the government of Germany to terms and end the war."

Brought face to face with the fateful plunge into the maelstrom of the struggle which for three years has convulsed the world, the Congress immediately took, calmly but enthusiastically, the first steps toward declaring the existence of war and making ready for its prosecution.


A joint resolution, worded almost exactly in the President's phraseology, was introduced in both the House and Senate immediately after his speech was concluded. Congress leaders called the proper committees together for this morning, to take up the resolution for immediate action.

The leaders declared last night that both houses would be prompt in making the declaration recommended by the President. and in providing legislation to mobilize the man power, money power. and all the resources of the nation for the coming struggle. The spirit in Congress was calm but determined, and it evidenced itself in a wild outburst of enthusiasm when the President in the course of his address declared:

"We will not choose the path of submission."


For minutes the Congress, and the spectators who jammed every foot of space in the House galleries, cheered and applauded this statement. Cheers greeted the President's review of the long line of  German violations of American rights, and his declaration that the government which followed such
methods "we can never have as a friend."

"We enter this war only where we are cdearly forced into, and because there are no other means of defending our rights," he asserted, and Congress and the galleries once more voiced theit approval.

The lawmakers of the nation sat in attentive and determined silence as the President laid down a program of war legislation which must be enacted to enable the United States to take its place among the enemies of Germany effectively.


The President urged the utmsost practical co-opration with the entente powers, and the extension to them of the nation's liberal financial resources.  He declared the material resources of the nation must be organized and mobilized for military purposes. He urged the complete equipment of the navy to combat submarines. And he declared for an immediate army of 500,000 men to be raised on the principle of universal liability to service, and subsequent armies as soon as they are needed. Finally he demanded "adequate credits" for the government to finance the war measures. He promised detailed drafts of legislation and estimates of expenditures from the departnets in charge of war preparation, to carry out his recommendations.

The Presidnt made it clear that the war the United Staets is about to embark on was not a war of conquest, but one for "the rights of mankind."

He pointed to the democratization of Russia and declared the new Russia was a fit partner for a "League of Honor."  He declared that the war was against the Prussian autocracy and not against the German people. 

"We are the sincere friends of the German people," said the President.  "We have borne this present government through all these bitter months because of that friendship -- exercising a patience and forbearance which otherwise have been impossible."


He declared that the United States proposed to fight for "the ultimate peace of the world, and for the liberation of its people, the German peoples included." And he placed the entrance of the United States into the war on the broad humanitarian basis that "the world must be made safe for democracy."

Cheers resounded in the crowded chamber as the President declared that one of the convincing arguments that the Prussian autocracy could not be the friend of the United States was the fact that "since the outset of the war it has filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government with spies, and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot."  The President again and again emphasized the fact that the United States was in no way responsible for the present state of war, and he was roundly cheered at tack attack on the German submarine policy.


All the pomp and ceremony of government was assembled in the hall of  the House to hear the President make his history-making address.  The diplomats representing the entente powers, taking advantage of an ancient privilege of the House. for the first time in years sat on the floor of the House.  Beside the volatile Frenchman, Jusserand, sat the phlegmatic Britisher, Sir Cecil Spring Rice. Russian Ambassador Bakhmeteff was not present.  But Senor Riano, the Spanish Ambassador, and a group of South and Central American diplomats, headed by Senor Calderon, the Bolivian Minister, sat with the representatives of the American people.  Ignacio Bonillas, the newly-named Mexican Ambassador, rushed to the Capitol, as he arrived in Washington during the evening, and was in time to hear President Wilson relate Germany's efforts to embroil Mexico and Japan with the United States.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Scott Joplin 100 Years -- April 1, 2017
One hundred years ago today, on 01-April-1917, the father of ragtime, Scott Joplin, died at the age of 49.  Joplin had played piano at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  In 1894 he settled in Sedalia, Missouri, home of the Maple Leaf Club, and taught piano. I could not find a reference to his passing in any contemporary newspapers that are online.

In 1899, he published his first ragtime composition, "Original Rags."
"Maple Leaf Rag," also published in 1899, was Scott Joplin's most famous and influential composition.  I once put together a mix tape made up entirely of recordings of this tune.

In 1911, Joplin published Treemonisha, an opera.  Joplin was able to produce it once, in 1913.  Since 1975, it has been staged several times.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Over the Top -- Chapter XXVI -- March 31, 2017

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright. 

From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:    
"Strafeing." Tommy's chief sport—shelling the Germans. Taken from Fritz's own dictionary.

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations
CHAPTER VIII -- The Little Wooden Cross

CHAPTER IX -- Suicide Annex  

CHAPTER X -- "The Day's Work" 

CHAPTER XI -- Over the Top CHAPTER XII -- Bombing  
CHAPTER XIII -- My First Official Bath    
CHAPTER XIV -- Picks and Shovels
CHAPTER XV -- Listening Post
CHAPTER XVI -- Battery D 238
CHAPTER XVII -- Out in Front  
CHAPTER XVIII - Staged Under Fire CHAPTER XIX - On His Own CHAPTER XX -   Chats With Fritz
CHAPTER XXI -  "About Turn"
CHAPTER XXII -  Punishments and Machine-Gun Stunts
CHAPTER XXIII -  Gas Attacks and Spies
CHAPTER XXIV - The Firing Squad
CHAPTER XXV - Preparing For the Big Push


AT Brigade Headquarters I happened to overhear a conversation between our G. O. C. (General Officer Commanding) and the Divisional Commander. From this conversation I learned that we were to bombard the German lines for eight days, and on the first of July the "Big Push" was to commence.

In a few days orders were issued to that effect, and it was common property all along the line.

On the afternoon of the eighth day of our strafeing, Atwell and I were sitting in the frontline trench smoking fags and making out our reports of the previous night's tour of the trenches, which we had to turn in to headquarters the following day, when an order was passed down the trench that Old Pepper requested twenty volunteers to go over on a trench raid that night to try and get a few German prisoners for information purposes. I immediately volunteered for this job, and shook hands with Atwell, and went to the rear to give my name to the officers in charge of the raiding party.

I was accepted, worse luck.

At 9:40 that night we reported to the Brigade Headquarters dugout to receive instructions from Old Pepper.

"All I want you boys to do is to go over to the German lines to-night, surprise them, secure a couple of prisoners, and return immediately. Our artillery has bombarded that section of the line for two days and personally I believe that that part of the German trench is unoccupied, so just get a couple of prisoners and return as quickly as possible."

The Sergeant on my right, in an undertone, whispered to me:

"Say, Yank, how are we going to get a'couple of prisoners if the old fool thinks 'personally that that part of the trench is unoccupied,'—sounds kind of fishy, doesn't it mate?"

I had a funny sinking sensation in my stomach, and my tin hat felt as if it weighed about a ton and my enthusiasm was melting away. Old Pepper must have heard the Sergeant speak because he turned in his direction and in a thundering voice asked:

"What did you say?"

The Sergeant with a scared look on his face and his knees trembling, smartly saluted and answered: "Nothing, sir." Old Pepper said:

"Well, don't say it so loudly the next time."

Then Old Pepper continued:

"In this section of the German trenches there are two or three machine guns which our artillery, in the last two or three days, has been unable to tape. These guns command the sector where two of our communication trenches join the front line, and as the brigade is to go over the top tomorrow morning I want to capture two or three men from these guns' crews, and from them I may be able to obtain valuable information as to the exact location of the guns, and our artillery will therefore be able to demolish them before the attack, and thus prevent our losing a lot of men while using these communication trenches to bring up reinforcements."

These were the instructions he gave us: "Take off your identification disks, strip your uniforms of all numerals, insignia, etc., leave your papers with your captains, because I don't want the Boches to know what regiments are against them as this would be valuable information to them in our attack to-morrow and I don't want any of you to be taken alive. What I want is two prisoners and if I get them I have a way which will make them divulge all necessary information as to their guns. You have your choice of two weapons—you may carry your 'persuaders' or your knuckle knives, and each man will arm himself with four Mills bombs, these to be used only in case of emergency."

A persuader is Tommy's nickname for a club carried by the bombers. It is about two feet long, thin at one end and very thick at the other. The thick end is studded with sharp steel spikes, while through the center of the club there is a nine-inch lead bar, to give it weight and balance. When you get a prisoner all you have to do is just stick this club up in front of him, and believe me, the prisoner's patriotism for Deutschland ueber Alles fades away and he very willingly obeys the orders of his captor. If, however, the prisoner gets high-toned and refuses to follow you, simply "persuade" him by first removing his tin hat, and then—well, the use of the lead weight in the persuader is demonstrated, and Tommy looks for another prisoner.

The knuckle knife is a dagger affair, the blade of which is about eight inches long with a heavy steel guard over the grip. This guard is studded with steel projections. At night in a trench, which is only about three to four feet wide, it makes a very handy weapon. One punch in the face generally shatters a man's jaw and you can get him with the knife as he goes down.

Then we had what we called our "come-alongs." These are strands of barbed wire about three feet long, made into a noose at one end; at the other end, the barbs are cut off and Tommy slips his wrist through a loop to get a good grip on the wire. If the prisoner wants to argue the point, why just place the large loop around his neck and no matter if Tommy wishes to return to his trenches at the walk, trot, or gallop, Fritz is perfectly agreeable to maintain Tommy's rate of speed.

We were ordered to black our faces and hands. For this reason: at night, the English and Germans use what they call star shells, a sort of rocket affair. These are fired from a large pistol about twenty inches long, which is held over the sandbag parapet of the trench, and discharged into the air. These star shells attain a height of about sixty feet, and a range of from fifty to seventy-five yards. When they hit the ground they explode, throwing out a strong calcium light which lights up the ground in a circle of a radius of between ten to fifteen yards. They also have a parachute star shell which, after reaching a height of about sixty feet, explodes. A parachute unfolds and slowly floats to the ground, lighting up a large circle in No Man's Land. The official name of the star shell is a "Very-light." Very-lights are used to prevent night surprise attacks on the trenches. If a star shell falls in front of you, or between you and the German lines, you are safe from detection, as the enemy cannot see you through the bright curtain of light. But if it falls behind you and, as Tommy says, "you get into the star shell zone," then the fun begins; you have to lie flat on your stomach and remain absolutely motionless until the light of the shell dies out. This takes anywhere from forty to seventy seconds. If you haven't time to fall to the ground you must remain absolutely still in whatever position you were in when the light exploded; it is advisable not to breathe, as Fritz has an eye like an eagle when he thinks you are knocking at his door. When a star shell is burning in Tommy's rear he can hold his breath for a week.

You blacken your face and hands so that the light from the star shells will not reflect on your pale face. In a trench raid there is quite sufficient reason for your face to be pale. If you don't believe me, try it just once.

Then another reason for blacking your face and hands is that, after you have entered the German trench at night, "white face" means Germans, "black face" English. Coming around a traverse you see a white face in front of you. With a prayer and wishing Fritz "the best o' luck," you introduce him to your "persuader" or knuckle knife.

A little later we arrived at the communication trench named Whiskey Street, which led to the fire trench at the point we were to go over the top and out in front.

In our rear were four stretcher bearers and a Corporal of the R. A. M. C. carrying a pouch containing medicines and first-aid appliances. Kind of a grim reminder to us that our expedition was not going to be exactly a picnic. The order of things was reversed. In civilian life the doctors generally come first, with the undertakers tagging in the rear and then the insurance man, but in our case, the undertakers were leading, with the doctors trailing behind, minus the insurance adjuster.

The presence of the R. A. M. C. men did not seem to disturb the raiders, because many a joke, made in an undertone, was passed along the winding column, as to who would be first to take a ride on one of the stretchers. This was generally followed by a wish that, if you were to be the one, the wound would be a "cushy Blighty one."

The stretcher bearers, no doubt, were hoping that, if they did have to carry anyone to the rear, he would be small and light. Perhaps they looked at me when wishing, because I could feel an uncomfortable, boring sensation between my shoulder blades. They got their wish all right.

Going up this trench, about every sixty yards or so we would pass a lonely sentry, who in a whisper would wish us "the best o' luck, mates." We would blind at him under our breaths; that Jonah phrase to us sounded very ominous.

Without any casualties the minstrel troop arrived in Suicide Ditch, the front-line trench. Previously, a wiring party of the Royal Engineers had cut a lane through our barbed wire to enable us to get out into No Man's Land.

Crawling through this lane, our party of twenty took up an extended-order formation about one yard apart. We had a tap code arranged for our movements while in No Man's Land, because for various reasons it is not safe to carry on a heated conversation a few yards in front of Fritz's lines. The officer was on the right of the line, while I was on the extreme left. Two taps from the right would be passed down the line until I received them, then I would send back one tap. The officer, in receiving this one tap, would know that his order had gone down the whole line, had been understood, and that the party was ready to obey the two-tap signal. Two taps meant that we were to crawl forward slowly—and believe me, very slowly—for five yards, and then halt to await further instructions. Three taps meant, when you arrived within striking distance of the German trench, rush it and inflict as many casualties as possible, secure a couple of prisoners, and then back to your own lines with the speed clutch open. Four taps meant, "I have gotten you into a position from which it is impossible for me to extricate you, so you are on your own."

After getting Tommy into a mess on the western front he is generally told that he is "on his own." This means, "Save your skin in any way possible." Tommy loves to be "on his own" behind the lines, but not during a trench raid.

The star shells from the German lines were falling in front of us, therefore we were safe. After about twenty minutes we entered the star shell zone. A star shell from the German lines fell about five yards in the rear and to the right of me; we hugged the ground and held our breath until it burned out. The smoke from the star shell traveled along the ground and crossed over the middle of our line. Some Tommy sneezed. The smoke had gotten up his nose. We crouched on the ground, cursing the offender under our breath, and waited the volley that generally ensues when the Germans have heard a noise in No Man's Land. Nothing happened. We received two taps and crawled forward slowly for five yards; no doubt the officer believed what Old Pepper had said, "Personally I believe that that part of the German trench is unoccupied." By being careful and remaining motionless when the star shells fell behind us, we reached the German barbed wire without mishap. Then the fun began. I was scared stiff as it is ticklish work cutting your way through wire when about thirty feet in front of you there is a line of Boches looking out into No Man's Land with their rifles lying across the parapet, straining every sense to see or hear what is going on in No Man's Land; because at night, Fritz never knows when a bomb with his name and number on it will come hurtling through the air, aimed in the direction of Berlin. The man on the right, one man in the center, and myself on the extreme left were equipped with wire cutters. These are insulated with soft rubber, not because the German wires are charged with electricity, but to prevent the cutters rubbing against the barbed wire stakes, which are of iron, and making a noise which may warn the inmates of the trench that someone is getting fresh in their front yard. There is only one way to cut a barbed wire without noise and through costly experience Tommy has become an expert in doing this. You must grasp the wire about two inches from the stake in your right hand and cut between the stake and your hand.

If you cut a wire improperly, a loud twang will ring out on the night air like the snapping of a banjo string. Perhaps this noise can be heard only for fifty or seventy-five yards, but in Tommy's mind it makes a loud noise in Berlin.

We had cut a lane about halfway through the wire when, down the center of our line, twang! went an improperly cut wire. We crouched down, cursing under our breath, trembling all over, our knees lacerated from the strands of the cut barbed wire on the ground, waiting for a challenge and the inevitable volley of rifle fire. Nothing happened. I suppose the fellow who cut the barbed wire improperly was the one who had sneezed about half an hour previously. What we wished him would never make his new year a happy one.

The officer, in my opinion, at the noise of the wire should have given the four-tap signal, which meant, "On your own, get back to your trenches as quickly as possible," but again he must have relied on the spiel that Old Pepper had given us in the dugout, "Personally I believe that that part of the German trench is unoccupied." Anyway, we got careless, but not so careless that we sang patriotic songs or made any unnecessary noise.

During the intervals of falling star shells we carried on with our wire cutting until at last we succeeded in getting through the German barbed wire. At this point we were only ten feet from the German trenches. If we were discovered, we were like rats in a trap. Our way was cut off unless we ran along the wire to the narrow lane we had cut through. With our hearts in our mouths we waited for the three-tap signal to rush the German trench. Three taps had gotten about halfway down the line when suddenly about ten to twenty German star shells were fired all along the trench and landed in the barbed wire in rear of us, turning night into day and silhouetting us against the wall of light made by the flares. In the glaring light we were confronted by the following unpleasant scene.

All along the German trench, at about three-foot intervals, stood a big Prussian guardsman with his rifle at the aim, and then we found out why we had not been challenged when the man sneezed and the barbed wire had been improperly cut. About three feet in front of the trench they had constructed a single fence of barbed wire and we knew our chances were one thousand to one of returning alive. We could not rush their trench on account of this second defence. Then in front of me the challenge, "Halt," given in English rang out, and one of the finest things I have ever heard on the western front took place.

From the middle of our line some Tommy answered the challenge with, "Aw, go to hell." It must have been the man who had sneezed or who had improperly cut the barbed wire; he wanted to show Fritz that he could die game. Then came the volley. Machine guns were turned loose and several bombs were thrown in our rear. The Boche in front of me was looking down his sight. This fellow might have, under ordinary circumstances, been handsome, but when I viewed him from the front of his rifle he had the goblins of childhood imagination relegated to the shade.

Then came a flash in front of me, the flare of his rifle—and my head seemed to burst. A bullet had hit me on the left side of my face about half an inch from my eye, smashing the cheek bones. I put my hand to my face and fell forward, biting the ground and kicking my feet. I thought I was dying, but do you know, my past life did not unfold before me the way it does in novels.

The blood was streaming down my tunic, and the pain was awful. When I came to I said to myself, "Emp, old boy, you belong in Jersey City and you'd better get back there as quickly as possible."

The bullets were cracking overhead. I crawled a few feet back to the German barbed wire, and in a stooping position, guiding myself by the wire, I went down the line looking for the lane we had cut through. Before reaching this lane I came to a limp form which seemed like a bag of oats hanging over the wire. In the dim light I could see that its hands were blackened, and knew it was the bcdy of one of my mates. I put my hand on his head, the top of which had been blown off by a bomb. My fingers sank into the hole. I pulled my hand back full of blood and brains, then I went crazy with fear and horror and rushed along the wire until I came to our lane. I had just turned down this lane when something inside of me seemed to say, "Look around." I did so; a bullet caught me on the left shoulder. It did not hurt much, just felt as if someone had punched me in the back, and then my left side went numb. My arm was dangling like a rag. I fell forward in a sitting position. But all fear had left me and I was consumed with rage and cursed the German trenches. With my right hand I felt in my tunic for my first-aid or shell dressing. In feeling over my tunic my hand came in contact with one of the bombs which I carried. Gripping it, I pulled the pin out with my teeth and blindly threw it towards the German trench. I must have been out of my head because I was only ten feet from the trench and took a chance of being mangled. If the bomb had failed to go into the trench I would have been blown to bits by the explosion of my own bomb.

By the flare of the explosion of the bomb, which luckily landed in their trench, I saw one big Boche throw up his arms and fall backwards, while his rifle flew into the air. Another one wilted and fell forward across the sandbags— then blackness.

Realizing what a foolhardy and risky thing I had done, I was again seized with a horrible fear. I dragged myself to my feet and ran madly down the lane through the barbed wire, stumbling over cut wires, tearing my uniform, and lacerating my hands and legs. Just as I was about to reach No Man's Land again, that same voice seemed to say, "Turn around." I did so, when, "crack," another bullet caught me, this time in the left shoulder about one half inch away from the other wound. Then it was taps for me. The lights went out.

When I came to I was crouching in a hole in No Man's Land. This shell hole was about three feet deep, so that it brought my head a few inches below the level of the ground. How I reached this hole I will never know. German "typewriters" were traversing back and forth in No Man's Land, the bullets biting the edge of my shell hole and throwing dirt all over me.

Overhead, shrapnel was bursting. I could hear the fragments slap the ground. Then I went out once more. When I came to, everything was silence and darkness in No Man's Land. I was soaked with blood and a big flap from the wound in my cheek was hanging over my mouth. The blood running from this flap choked me. Out of the corner of my mouth I would try and blow it back but it would not move. I reached for my shell dressing and tried, with one hand, to bandage my face to prevent the flow. I had an awful horror of bleeding to death and was getting very faint. You would have laughed if you had seen my ludicrous attempts at bandaging with one hand. The pains in my wounded shoulder were awful and I was getting sick at the stomach. I gave up the bandaging stunt as a bad job, and then fainted.

When I came to, hell was let loose. An intense bombardment was on, and on the whole my position was decidedly unpleasant. Then, suddenly, our barrage ceased. The silence almost hurt, but not for long, because Fritz turned loose with shrapnel, machine guns, and rifle fire. Then all along our line came a cheer and our boys came over the top in a charge. The first wave was composed of "Jocks." They were a magnificent sight, kilts flapping in the wind, bare knees showing, and their bayonets glistening. In the first wave that passed my shell hole, one of the "Jocks," an immense fellow, about six feet two inches in height, jumped right over me. On the right and left of me several soldiers in colored kilts were huddled on the ground, then over came the second wave, also "Jocks." One young Scottie, when he came abreast of my shell hole, leaped into the air, his rifle shooting out of his hands, landing about six feet in front of him, bayonet first, and stuck in the ground, the butt trembling. This impressed me greatly.

Right now I can see the butt of that gun trembling. The Scottie made a complete turn in the air, hit the ground, rolling over twice, each time clawing at the earth, and then remained still, about four feet from me, in a sort of sitting position. I called to him, "Are you hurt badly, Jock?" but no answer. He was dead. A dark, red smudge was coming through his tunic right under the heart. The blood ran down his bare knees, making a horrible sight. On his right side he carried his water bottle. I was crazy for a drink and tried to reach this, but for the life of me could not negotiate that four feet. Then I became unconscious. When I woke up I was in an advanced first-aid post. I asked the doctor if we had taken the trench. "We took the trench and the wood beyond, all right," he said, "and you fellows did your bit; but, my lad, that was thirty-six hours ago. You were lying in No Man's Land in that bally hole for a day and a half. It's a wonder you are alive." He also told me that out of the twenty that were in the raiding party, seventeen were killed. The officer died of wounds in crawling back to our trench and I was severely wounded, but one fellow returned without a scratch without any prisoners. No doubt this chap was the one who had sneezed and improperly cut the barbed wire.

In the official communique our trench raid was described as follows:

"All quiet on the Western front, excepting in the neighborhood of Gommecourt Wood, where one of our raiding parties penetrated into the German lines."

It is needless to say that we had no use for our persuaders or come-alongs, as we brought back no prisoners, and until I die Old Pepper's words, "Personally I don't believe that that part of the German trench is occupied," will always come to me when I hear some fellow trying to get away with a fishy statement. I will judge it accordingly.

Next: CHAPTER XXVII -- Blighty

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cy Young 150 -- March 29, 2017

Our Young People, July, 1905

Happy 150th birthday to Cy Young, the pitcher who won more games (511) and lost more games (316) than any other major leaguer.  Denton True Young was born on 29-March-1867.  He played in the major leagues from 1890 to 1911.  "Cy" was short for "Cyclone." 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon -- March 27, 2017

Fritzi at Movies Silently ( is hosting the Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon:

Fritzi says that "It’s time to give these talented women their moment in the sun and the Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon aims to do just that. This is a topic that is dear to my heart and I am just tickled pink to be hosting!"

My entry for the blogathon is on my movies-mostly blog, The Big V Riot Squad:
Dorothy Davenport: Her Life and Career

Dorothy Davenport, who was often billed as Mrs Wallace Reid, was an actress, director and screenwriter. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rufus Thomas 100 -- March 26, 2017
Happy 100th birthday to Rufus Thomas, the World's Oldest Teenager.  He was a disk jockey at WDIA, Memphis, who had great success in the south.  He made many hits at Stax Records, often with his daughter, Carla.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 World Baseball Classic -- March 23, 2017

I have been enjoying the World Baseball Classic coverage on the MLB Network.  The US made the finals for the first time.  They defeated Puerto Rico 8-0 in the final. 

Giants players like Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have done well.  Mark Melancon pitched once.  Ex-Giants like Sergio Romo and Nori Aoki have done well. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr 150 -- March 21, 2017

Flo Ziegeld, American impresario, was born 150 years ago today, on 21-March-1867.  Early in his career, he promoted strongman Eugen Sandow.  Then he brought singer and dancer Anna Held over from France.

Anna Held gave him the idea of producing a Broadway revue, the Ziegfeld Follies.

Ziegfeld hired major composers like Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert and Rudolph Friml.
Photoplay, March, 1930

Ziegfeld hired major comedians like Fanny Brice, WC Fields, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers.
Ziegfeld hired many female stars, like Marilyn Miller, Lillian Lorraine and Ruth Etting.
Ziegfeld hired many beautiful girls like Muriel Finley and Peggy Shannon to serve in the chorus.  They became known as Ziegfeld Girls.  The photos are by Alfred Cheney Johnston.
 And of course he married Billie Burke.  Lucky guy. 

The Follies ran every year from 1907 to 1931.  Ziegfeld also produced big musicals like Whoopee, Rio Rita, Show Boat and Sally.

The Great Depression ruined Ziegfeld.  He died in 1932, leaving Billie Burke with a young daughter, a mountain of debt and an elephant.  She went back to the movies to support her daughter and pay the debts.  I think she sold the elephant. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry, RIP -- March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry died.  He was influenced by Louis Jordan and T-Bone Walker.  He influenced everyone.  He kept going and going.  He has an album coming out this year.

Lots of people said he was a miserable sob to deal with, but amazingly talented.

Happy Saint Joseph's Day, 2017 -- March 19, 2017

Happy Saint Joseph's Day to my fellow Joes.

I miss having Joe Biden as our Vice President.  He has a big heart.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

James Cotton, RIP -- March 18, 2017

I was sad to learn of the death of blues harp player James Cotton.  I think I first heard him on a Muddy Waters album.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, 2017 -- March 17, 2017
Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone.

The original Life Magazine was a humorous weekly that was published from 1883 to 1936.  Here is the cover of their 16-March-1922 edition.  Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth -- March 15, 2017

This year, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is calling it quits after about 147 years. PT Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome was formed by Dan Castello in 1875, using Barnum's name and money. Later Castello and his partner William C Coup adopted the tagline "Greatest Show on Earth."The Ringling Brothers purchased the show in 1907 and combined it with their own circus in 1919. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen -- March 13, 2017

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos.They hosted a working reproduction of the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, the first automobile available for sale.  Karl Benz and his associates in Mannheim built the tricycle with a four-stroke, one-cylinder gasolene engine.  It has a single speed transmission with no reverse gear.

Karl's wife Bertha drove the car 106km to visit her mother, demonstrating that a woman, accompanied only by two children, could operate such a vehicle.  Benz sold about 25 Motorwagens.  Later models had reverse gears. 

Single cylinder engines need large flywheels. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Play Ball" in Mutual Weekly -- March 11, 2017

Moving Picture World, 24-March-1917

Here we see the Chicago Cubs taking Spring Training in Pasadena, California.  The players in the photo are pitchers Phil Douglas, Claude Hendrix and Hippo Vaughn. 

On 02-May-1917, in Chicago, Vaughn and the Cincinnati Reds' Fred Toney each gave up no hits for nine innings.  In the tenth, the Reds scored on a hit by Jim Thorpe.  Vaughn lost the game. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Destroyer -- March 9, 2017
With his devil's face, a skull logo on his chest and those awful striped tights, the Destroyer  looks like a bad guy, but you'll notice he is tearing down a swastika flag and attacking some Nazis, one of whom is whipping an old man.  American reporter Keen Marlow went to Germany in 1941 to investigate the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis.  He was locked in a concentration camp.  An elderly scientist who had resisted the Nazis gave Keen an injection which gave him super powers.  The scientist died and Keen broke out of the camp and took vengeance on the Nazis.