One Doughboy who came, saw, and remembered...
is Sergeant First Class Claude Harmon Wakefield, of Shelby County, Illinois,
Anthony, Kansas, and Waco, Texas, 55th Sanitary Squad, American Expeditionary
Forces, France, 31 July 1918 - 11 May 1919. He did a number of jobs, some of
them particulary nasty, in a particularly nasty war, and didn't complain about
anything but being away from home, family and business. He was my grandfather,
and a very, very special man.
hen war clouds were
brewing over America in 1917, C.H. Wakefield was a partner, along with Ed Hofmeister
and Pope Eckels, in the Walk-Over Boot Shop, located at 617 Austin Street, Waco,
Texas. In a letter to his Aunt Gertie in Illinois dated December 31, 1916 he notes
that it was "really very hard to realize that shoes could advance as fast as they
do. We have shoes in the house now that 4 months ago cost us $6.50 a pair wholesale
and to-day they are $10.00 wholesale, retail for $15 or $18 a pair. But I guess
we should not worry as long as the public keep on buying them." He notes further
that "There is quite a smallpox epidemic in Waco and I took the safe plan and
was vaccinated to-day. We have something like over 100 cases and about 20 or more
deaths, they say it is a very bad kind." It's easy to forget that at the beginning
of the century universal childhood vaccination was quite unknown, and influenza,
yellow fever, smallpox and scarlet fever were major killers of young and old alike,
along with typhoid fever and tuberculosis. There were more dangerous times coming.
was born August 6, 1891 at Cowden, Shelby County, Illinois, the second child of John Wesley and Mary Elizabeth Wakefield; he would be joined over time by
three more brothers, Edward, Rexford and Ross. Carl, the oldest, born in 1889, would
die just after his sixteenth birthday. He grew up on a farm outside Cowden, going
to school in town and spending most of the rest of his time doing chores, which
began before dawn with the milking of the cows and ended sometime after sundown.
In 1906 John W. Wakefield joined several other Illinois farm families
in moving to the Kansas-Oklahoma border area near Anthony, Kansas, to acreage
which was then part of some of the last Government lands in that state given out
(left) Claude Wakefield, 1900
(right) Claude Wakefield, on stool, 1892
new farm prospered, and Claude finished his education in Anthony, where he graduated
from Anthony High School in May of 1911. By this time he was a strapping, athletic
young man, six feet tall and strongly framed; he was on the Anthony High football
eleven and with younger brothers at home to take over the bulk of the chores,
he enjoyed a fair amount of free time with his classmates; he told me that he
and his particular cronies were known as the "Anthony Apes." A flavor of that
time can be gotten from this excerpt from a letter he wrote his Aunt Gertie in Cowden, dated March 10, 1911: "I have been real busy since Christmas. I have had
to prepare and give one oration and prepare
another. They were swell of course ha ha. Then we have got our Class play now
and it is terrible. The title is "A Message From Mars." Say I will copy and send
you my oration if you wish but I would advise you not to wish it. For it don't
shine too bright. Oh say it is sure great to be a Senior and have all the school
to look up to you and be the pets of the whole Faculty. (nix)...I suppose you
want to know that I am a great athlete as well as a noted scholar. I played foot-ball
last fall and am playing Basket Ball now. And will soon begin work for field meets.
At left, An Anthony Ape in his Good Suit, cigar in pocket, 1911/12
Well don't you think now that I have did a real good job blowing myself up? ha
ha." [I have the Anthony High School 1911 Commencement Program as well as the program for the Class Play; he was quite correct about the merits of "A Message
From Mars." - MWF] He understates his scholarly case, however: the next fall he
the University of Kansas.
Edward, Rex and Claude Wakefield, 1913
© Copyright 1996-2010 by Mark W. Fowler. All Rights Reserved.
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These pages are dedicated to the memory of Claude Harmon Wakefield, 1891-1984
For more information on the Great War, visit Trenches on the Web, Mike Iavaroni's splendid, encyclopedic site, the best going - and don't forget to check in with Mike Hanlon at The Doughboy Center for a fresh look at the AEF!