March 24, 1918: Letter written by Emery Porter who was “Nowhere in France”
This letter was written and mailed by my grandfather, J. Emery Porter, to his sister, Lois Bayley. Forty or so of Emery’s WWI letters to Lois have survived (read more about these letters here). On the back of the envelope (shown above), he included a return address: “Pvt. Emery Porter, 646 Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces, via New York.” I never met my grandfather, but I heard he was a life-long French speaker and unabashed Francophile, primarily due to the experiences he had while stationed in France.
“Nowhere in France”
March 24, 1918
I was the happy recipient of your letter today. It is the second I have received from home folks. I received one from Mother two weeks ago this morning but nothing since. Evidently you have written others which I may yet receive. This one was dated March 2nd or 3rd. Emily K. has written six but I have received two so far so you can judge why I don’t respond often.
I am well and happy. The country is fine and the weather great. I wouldn’t trade for a dozen Kelly Fields.
I received a letter from Miss Kelsey and one from Emily this morning, making three in all.
Yes! As I have said, never describe in detail any of those [dinners] you, Mabel, or Mother, or Josephine used to put up unless you wish to cause me intense emotional agony. Just the same, we did have a wonderfully fine dinner to-day. We actually had chicken and cake and hominy and greatest of all, real fine butter. I tell you, butter is a great thing.
I am working hard at my French, real hard, studying regularly and having regular hours of meeting with my instructor. I talk just enough to make her task much easier. She has had a great amount of war experience about which she told much to me the other evening. I wish I could tell it to you — it was a romance but a sad one and a sad girl as she told. She told me frankly that the inhabitants of the city where she lived would have starved but for the efforts of Mr. Hoover and his food efforts in Belgium and Northern France. If you could only hear them tell you their story, and see them as they tell it, and hear their frankly expressed gratefulness to America, it would do many an American good.
I don’t know whether or not I have written to you of Mrs. Morineau and her family with whom I have become quite well acquainted. She and her children, Henri, a boy of eleven, and Madeline, a girl of twelve, have made several evenings more pleasant for me by inviting me to their home and treating me cordially as a guest and the conversation which ensues I have a fine opportunity to put my French into practice. All are very eager to help me and best of all, know how to help me. Several times I have been exhibited to friends in proof that not all Americans are mal a la tête [translation: a headache] as they describe the Americans who have difficulty with their language.
I haven’t been writing much of late as I have had nothing to which to respond. Now if I receive a few letter I can write. It is just impossible to write when one receives no mail. Of course, it looks as though I would not receive all my mail or else some is delayed so that a letter written two or three weeks after another may beat the first.
This afternoon is Sunday. Mrs. Morineau and family and a group of friends are going to a picturesque bit of terrain beauty here [sic] so have invited myself and a couple of others to go along.
Note: Herbert Hoover was the Director of the United States Food Administration from August 1917–November 1918. Read more here.