What do airplanes have to do with Aunt Daisy? Living in Alsace-Lorraine on the Western Front during the war, and rebuilding Vitrimont after German bombings - she had first-hand experience with these planes, even writing about visiting the airbase near the forest of Parroy. She also knew a few fliers. One pilot married Ethel Mary Crocker and flew over the Vitrimont church on her wedding day "dropping" flowers. More on this gentleman in a later post - for now if you're interested - Aéroplanes of the first world war - believe me your first bike had more metal parts!
This rare war film footage from 1914 to 1917 records aviation before the US officially entered the war and highlights the planes in use with names reflecting early pioneers and designers in the industry (see more airplane WWI history and list below).
Rare World War I Aviation FoOtage
This view from Nob Hill looking up Taylor at Jackson to Vallejo Street - is half a block from the summit of Russian Hill. The true summit lies at Vallejo between Taylor and Jones. Also seen here are the cross streets of Pacific Avenue and Broadway. Ina Coolbrith Park is located just across the Vallejo stairs from this house.
Today the 225 step Vallejo Stairs are on both sides of Taylor Street. "The House of the Flag" is on the SE corner of the Vallejo stairs and Taylor Street. It was named a San Francisco landmark in 1972 and has become part of the lore of this special neighborhood which was home to a coterie of the most creative and interesting San Franciscans of their time. It also largely survived the fire and has many pre-earthquake buildings still standing watch from the top of Russian Hill.
The story of The American Relief Committee (ARC) 1914
Imagine you are on your Grand Tour of Europe in 1914. La Dee Da, life is wonderful. Until it isn't. Uh oh! Imagine, overnight, war breaks out. No phones, no airplanes, no ATM's, no credit cards, most trans-Atlantic ships have ceased operations, and the ones that are leaving - are leaving from England.
There you are in Florence, Italy with 150,000 lire, YOU! The daughter/son of a robber-baron (ooops sorry! Philanthropist) with positively scads of money back home in reliable J.P. Morgan & Co. But your letter of credit is worthless without a bank - and all the London banks are closed. Why does this matter? Because to exchange money and to transact almost any financial matter in 1914 required it to pass through London Banks. You can't get your money, and no-one can send you any.
Eee Gads! All your Lira are worthless outside Italy. So you go to the nearest American Consulate, "Sorry! We are in the same predicament." they tell you. "Maybe you should go to London." And some consulates lent Americans enough for a train ticket. Because in fact, you are in good company with an estimated 120,000 of your fellow Americans all trying to leave from "The Continent". It happened. Want to know how you got home? You can thank the ladies above who are taking a break from their work as the American Relief Committee.
Imagine you are travelling with The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show in Europe in 1914. You are from Oklahoma, completely dependent on the show for your meals, lodging and return ticket home. Now imagine war breaks out. Remember it's 1914 and you have no phones, no airplanes, no ATM's, no credit cards, all trans-Atlantic ships have ceased operations, and the banks are closed. And your Show troop along with an estimated 120,000 Americans are all trying to leave. It happened. This is just one story of one group of stranded Americans. But it's a doozy! The book "Tante Daisy" has a great story about George White Eagle (pictured above left) who marries a Brit in London to be able to bring his new wife and her son back to America. Daisy helps organize an impromptu wedding reception Read how the other Americans got home here.
The Daily Mirror (London), May 27, 1914:
“... at Shepherd’s Bush is the performance which is being given twice daily in the Stadium by The 101 Ranch Real Wild West.’ This representation of life in the prairies is a wonderful spectacle and one which is wholly new to Londoners, and every one of the performers was born and reared on the 101 Ranch, from which the show takes its name."
Now, despite the fact the "Wild West" as depicted did not exist in 1914, or ever, outside of these shows, and leaving aside the narrow thinking of the time and egregious stereotypes, imagine you're Daisy or another ARC volunteer and someone dressed as an American Indian, and identifying himself as such, approaches your relief desk to get help to go home.
Madeleine Marie Louise Chevrillon Saint-René Taillandier was a woman of letters and French philanthropist. Sister of André Chevrillon and niece of Hippolyte Taine, she married the diplomat Georges Saint-René Taillandier. In 1920, Edith Wharton asked her to translate her novel The Age of Innocence. Her book,The Soul of the CRB (original En France et Belgique envahies: Les soirées de la C.R.B.(1919) features a main character named Daisy Folk, a flattering version of a charming American who has lived and studied in France, plays violin and quotes Goethe as she mesmerizes those around her. Sound familiar? It should, she was close friends with Daisy Polk.
The book describes four Americans and four French enjoying a dinner and philosophically discussing the arrival of America into the War. CRB stands for Committee for Belgian Relief, and she has slightly changed the character names to give her poetic license in telling the story, Excerpted here.
It was a woman's voice, clear and full, with a ringing American accent. It was Daisy Folk - "our Daisy," as we called her, who had been in France for two years, one of the first emissaries from the friendship of America. And if we had sometimes doubted, she, Daisy, had always believed, destroyed by fire, a tiny village of Lorraine, on the edge of the forest of Parroy. A generous friend had
Nothing is more fun than digging around the Internet and finding a research gem! This week there have been plenty. Today's find comes from the National Archives, a virtual treasure trove of fun. I was looking for footage of Nancy, Luneville and Vitrimont during World War I. Well I found it! And in a search for General DeBuyer I also found Daisy and Herbert Hoover visiting the Citroen Munitions Plant. She was referred to as Madame La General.
So I found what I didn't know I was looking for ... film of Daisy! It's silent, so don't fiddle with your volume. It starts with an overview of the lunch break, then pans to show the VIP table of visitors at about 1:10.
I also did find plenty of footage of the areas around Vitrimont during the time Daisy was there. Stay tuned! This film is amazing too. For motion-graphic geeks: I added the titles, did some other edits and slowed it down in Premier. In the original they were all jumping around like bunnies.
Want to get lost in history?
Here's where this came from! https://catalog.archives.gov/id/24992
Daisy worked for 3 organizations in 1918 to benefit children and refugees.
Specifically for Prevenatoriums in Luneville and Nancy. In France these were primarily setup for the orphans or children exposed to tuberculosis considered the "white death" at the time.
In 1919, Daisy and Ethel Mary Crocker helped organize Postes de Secours in 18 villages around Moislains, Arrondissement de Péronne, Somme, Hauts-de-France. They also founded and endowed a pouponierre (rough transaltion - childrens nursery / orphanage).
Most of the Somme was occupied and devastated during the war, 1914 - 1918. These four years were even spoken of at times as “the crucifixion of Picardy”. Albert, Péronne and Montdidier were reduced to a pile of rubble. 28,000 hectares of land and 381 villages were included in the red zone, a zone that was considered to be uninhabitable, but as the villagers returned, provisional housing usually in the form of wooden or corrugated iron huts, quickly began to be built. The area was in great need at the end of the war.