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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Mary Lapham, 1918

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Object ID: WV0418.4.001

Description: In this letter to an unidentified recipient, Dr. Lapham recalls WWI Armistice Day and the celebrations in Paris. She describes joy and chaos in the streets, and ponders her future and that of the Red Cross. This memoir is written on letterhead from "Metro & Nord-Sud: Montparnasse" which contains advertisements for Paris hotels and restaurants.


Biographical Info:

Collection: Mary Emily Lapham Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

We were up in the Red Cross when the big guns went off yesterday - Way up in the 5th story - talking about work in Belgium with Major Harris - We rushed to the window - everyone doing the same - In an instant everyone was out on balconies - the whole building covered with flags - the street crowded with cheering - yelling people - and Jeanne d'arc covered with flags - We were at Estampes all the afternoon - but managed to get back about 8 to the Place de l'Opera although it was hard work getting there! The seets[sic] were jammed - not crowded but packed - there was an intense excitement - much drinking - yelling - singing and general rejoicing - One [unclear] half seas over could not quite get in - He begged for room for his face - his leg didn't matter - if it was broken outside he could get another - it was only wood - after a few minutes he said - C'est toujours de bois - Ça ne change pas - Ah, voila, un américain - Ça vous interesse? Etc Etc - and at the opera - just a torrent of humanity surging past - lights - Klaxons - combs - horns - mouth organs - endless processions - cheering - kissing - dansing[sic] - "Have you heard the news? The war is over" - They captured a big automobile - dancing frantically around it so that it could not move - no policemen - their hands on the shoulders in front - they formed long lines and danced in and out of cafes, and around the tables for drinks - singing as loud as loud. We sat at tables or stood at the edge of the walk as long as we could - but finally - like everyone else we were drawn into the current and were soon marching down the Capucueis[sic], the Neadelenie[sic], Rue Royale, Place Concorde, around the German cannons piled up there - with small boys perched up on the tilted ends violently waving French flags - We were headed by a gang of poles - who stopped periodically in front of the blazing lights of cafes - to sing and wave their flags - The English tried to get their flag highest - the Americans, ours - platforms were made of shoulders - and drunk with joy - the flag bearers tetered[sic] along - The uneven steps making their position very precarious - Dancing everywhere in the Concorde. Any man seized any girl - swept her off - and dancing to singing they hopped like crazy fleas desperately trying to escape - As we went through the subway gates - the keepers shouted Ça y est - Ça y est - On les a on les a - and over in the Latin Quarter - all night I heard the old student songs - flocks of students with accordeons[sic] singing J'aime les étudiants - ma mère - J`aime les étudiants - mais l`on s`en fou-mais l`on sèn fou - de la petite femme sans sou - For two nights - guns and racket incessant- but now the shouting is over - We go back to La Rochelle - and back to work with fierce will to do better - to work harder - to relieve more suffering - and presently we shall be transferred, to Louvain - I hope - We have pulled everywhere there was a wire to pull - for I would like my 200 a month and you all over here for a year or more if it could be possible - and Louvain offers more hope of permanency than any other place - For three days we had to go back and forth to Etampes - 6 hours - in all - four hours in train - and the mornings at headquarters - so Paris has not been a lap of roses. The Minister of the Interior has been asked to interfere in my behalf - the Belgian minister - but there is a great tendency to place men in charge of such affairs - which will probably happen in this case - It is doubtful if a dispensary will be maintained in La Rochelle longer than another month - but this has been such a success that it should help get me a good place -

Are you back from Savannah? Is the pain all gone? Are you all right now? And warm? If you were only somewhere down in Florida! You should have seen the Red Cross when peace was declared: no one knows what to do! The train was blocked so suddenly that it threw everyone off their feet! It is a big organization to bring up all at once with a sudden halt - and it threw us all off our feet - I was talking with Major Harris - editor of the War Magazine and that peace gun knocked his job all to pieces - "What are we going to do now?" - says everyone! And so - back to work - and I hope the best of news from you! That you are well - comfortable - and glad that it is all over that either I come back to you or you come to me very soon - Germaine is just Valerie's age - and sends her photo to Valerie - They would probably like each other - She has a good deal of Valerie's temperament - Such a time these last two days - nothing much said - but shaking and trembling until I was fearful of a collapse - She is from Antwerp - never flinched nor fussed through the war - and when peace came - she went all to pieces - "no more dead boys tonight - no more wounded" - she had met the hospital train for 6 months and carried wounded to the hospitals, until her father took her away - and now it is all over - They will be going back soon - and they all deserve happiness - for they stood defeat so beautifully - not a murmur not a complaint - just waiting patiently -