Camp Devens - En Route to the Camp - WW1 Cantonment 1918
"Gee, what a hick town !"
With this announcement the Boston men greet Ayer. Many of them have never before been in the rural districts of the state, and the lack of movement and excitement is to them inconceivable.
The few pedestrians — natives, for the most part — stare curiously at the new arrivals, and the latter in turn stare back. The curiosity of the people of Ayer is only natural, for the draft men have an astounding variety of clothing. Here is a machinist with a flannel shirt and woolen suit stained with grease ; next to him is a college man, who, disregarding the advice that old clothes be worn, has dressed himself in the height of fashion.
There are all kinds of hats : derbies, straws, caps, and soft hats of every style, color and degree of antiquity. Conscript Thorndike of Boston chats amiably with his former boot-black, Tony Peroni, of Summer Street. And at the end of the line is a taxi driver who has often driven the rich man about town.
Some of the men have been soldiers before and wear their old uniforms; others, desiring to "cut a dash" in a military way, have purchased ready-made uniforms of doubtful quality and fit.
The men regard curiously every soldier whom they see. The only soldiers now at camp are members of the regular army. They are perfectly uniformed and precisely correct in their every move. It is only natural that they should regard the novices with the slightest bit of disdain; they cannot realize that within a year these men will occupy the same trench with them, "Somewhere in France."
And similarly, the draft men look up to the soldiers as demi-gods; their perfection is only too obvious to the "rookies," and they understand that these soldiers are trained men, those who have carried the colors in the Philippines, in Cuba, or even in Mexico.
"Is that feller a colonel ?" asks Jones of a companion who has seen service with the militia. He points to the leader of the line.
"Naw, of course not, he's only a private. You don't suppose a colonel would bother about us, do you?"
Photo: En Route to the Camp - Camp Devens, Next!