Friday, September 19, 2014

A Baseball Mystery in Five Post Cards - Part Five

Finally a post card where the sender and recipient are both evident.

Ben Christianson has joined the army and been shipped to Europe.  The year is not given but is known to be 1918.  The address appears to be in Ben's hand.  The more elegant writing on the opposite side is presumably that of a Company Clerk in the 341st Infantry Regiment.

Bertha is almost certainly his wife.  Lots of changes for our Pal Ben.  Perhaps the wild days of hanging out with "Cy" and "I.No." are just distant memories for this now settled man.

I can add a few details thanks to the wonders of the internet, particularly the genealogy buffs of cyberspace.

Our first correspondent Carl Christianson married a woman named Bella.  They had a daughter, Drusilla, in 1919.  Drusilla lived until 2006.

Benjamin Christianson was born on 27 February 1888.  He died in Knapp Wisconsin on 1 February, 1978.  His surviving The Great War is not all that remarkable, his division debarked in France late in the war and never made it to the front lines.  They turned around and came home.  Another fellow from Viroqua, Bertina Christianson, was less lucky.  He died in action.  Christianson is a common name in the Viroqua area - there is even a Christianson Road - so this might or might not have been a relative.

Bertha Christianson was also born in 1888.  She died in 1976 but seems to have lived her last days in Omaha.

So much for the facts.  I suppose I could glean a few more by chasing down obituaries.  But the real story here is what is implied.  This exchange of cards is probably between a group of young guys who grew up together.  I would bet money that the Christiansons were brothers and that they along with the mysterious "Cy" Roberts and "I.No." - and maybe Josie- were team mates on a small town baseball squad.

In their early 20s when these cards go back and forth they are still speaking of an innocent, earlier day when playing ball, swimming down at the local creek, and casting eyes upon school marms were their main interests.  It seems quaint.  In fact it seems so corny that Norman Rockwell would roll his eyes at it.  But we are looking back on it from a jaded and battle scarred perspective. Between 1900 and The Guns of August in 1914 it was indeed a fine time for optimism and progress.

I doubt that the 30 year old Ben Christianson was shy at this point in life.  I imagine that he thought of those idyllic times down at the swimming hole as his troopship neared the bloody shores of Europe in the summer of 1918.  It sounds as if he settled down to rural life upon his return. So, common wisdom notwithstanding, I guess you can keep 'em down on the farm, now that they've seen Paree....

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