Camp Devens - Town and Camp - Ayer Massachusetts - WW1 Cantonment 1918
The little town has changed greatly since June, 1917, when business was humdrum and life was unexciting. Now the soldier-population of 30,000 men has removed from this street many traces of its former rusticity.
Boston merchants rented stores and equipped them in the true metropolitan fashion. The town merchants, fearing this competition, brushed the cobwebs from their windows, stocked up with every necessity and luxury, and installed electric milk-shakers and cash registers.
There now seems to be a race between the natives and the visiting merchants to see which can charge the highest prices for their wares; at last reports the local tradesmen were miles ahead.
The prospective visitor at Camp Devens, upon arriving at the station, falls prey to that species of vulture commonly known as the jitney driver. These motorists were formerly the farm hands, station agents and second-story men of the vicinity. When the troops came to Ayer, they purchased jitneys which were in every stage of dilapidation and inaugurated a motor service to and from the camp.
At first, they charged the soldiers atrocious prices, but eventually the various units purchased huge 'busses of their own and ran in competition. The stranger will do well to assure himself before embarkation that he will be charged only the fixed price of twenty-five cents, and to renew his life insurance policy before venturing on the perilous journey.
It is a common thing to see the heavy, rumbling supply wagons in the streets of Ayer, bringing rations and other necessities to the camp. They are drawn by the most efficient, yet the most vicious, beasts of burden on earth — the government army mules.
If the visitor arrives by trolley at the camp, he leaves the car at this gate; practically all traffic enters and leaves here, with the exception of the Sunday rush, when the upper gate is pressed into active service. Military police, wearing the blue arm band inscribed "M. P.," are constantly on guard.