Camp Devens - The Arrival at Ayer - World War I Cantonment 1918
When Jones and his companions get into the cars, they find many others from adjacent districts with them. Some cannot speak English well; but nevertheless, they all talk at once.
"Did you claim exemption?"
"Are you married?"
"What do you do with these checks?"
The last question refers to the tags which had been distributed by the board official. They bear the district number and the number which has been assigned to the prospective soldier. These were given out for identification purposes, so that the camp officers will know where the man comes from if he forgets his district, or is unable coherently to express himself.
"I haven't got a ticket," declares someone.
Then it is explained that tickets are not necessary, as the government has provided transportation facilities without charge to the draft men.
"This is the first free ride I ever had," announces another with a broad grin.
One man produces a pack of cards and starts a game of "pitch." There is soon a group around the players, watching critically every phase of the game. Other men follow this example and shortly there are several games in progress. Then comes singing.
After an hour the brakeman enters the car and cries:
"Ayer. All out, boys."
There is a wild scramble for the bundles and suitcases. Eventually the men are out on the platform. A sergeant comes up to our group and asks Jones:
"District 21 ?"
"Yes, sir," answers Jones, saluting in Boy Scout fashion.
"Don't salute and call me 'sir,'" says the sergeant, one of the regular army men. "I'm not an officer. Better wait until you know how, anyway."
"This way, boys," shouts a cavalryman, mounted on a spirited Western horse, which bears the brand "U.S." on its flank. "Fall in line and follow me."
Then he leads them majestically from the station.
The Arrival At Ayer: Leaving the Station at Ayer