$26.95 – $36.95
When the United States declared war on Germany in April, 1917, the Army immediately authorized the construction of 16 cantonments across the country to be used for training new recruits. Camp Devens, the first of these bases to be established, was the point of induction and training of recruits from New England and eastern New York. The Army urged citizens living near Camp Devens and other new cantonments to provide a like-home atmosphere and help maintain morale among the soldiers.
Frank and Anna Lawton and their 20-year-old daughter Shirley stepped forward early with an interest in the transformation that their neighborhood was about to experience and a willingness to open their arms and home to the soldiers stationed nearby. Over the years that followed, as new soldiers were trained, injured soldiers were brought back for medical attention, and veteran soldiers awaited discharge after the end of the war, soldiers from Camp Devens were frequently in the neighboring towns and interacting with the residents – and personal friendships developed as a result.
Water for Soldiers is Shirley Lawton Houde’s richly detailed account of the thoughts and experiences of her, her family, and her community as they interacted with the many soldiers during the war years and, as well, of the influences those experiences had on her later in life. Shirley’s memoir provides a rare view of a community’s involvement in a national war effort at a venue geographically far removed from the conflict itself.
Unlike many books written about World War I, this memoir provides a young woman’s perspective on the changes in her community and her life brought on by the establishment of a large army training center in her town. It brings this unique time in our history to life in a personal and special way that is seldom told. The spirit of patriotism and belief in duty in both the recruits and the communities is repeated throughout the book. The reader will soon appreciate that this was a different time and that our country’s military experiences since the Second World War have changed our view of war forever. On this 100th anniversary of World War I it is valuable to have this firsthand record of the experiences of the soldiers with the communities they were fighting to protect.
Available in two bindings: perfect bound, 6” wide x 9” high, list price $26.95, 978-1-935778-43-1; case bound, “ wide x 9”high, list price $36.95, 978-1-935778-44-8; viii+302 pages; 121 b/w figures; released August 2018.
Shirley Lawton was born on July 9, 1897 in Shirley, MA, and received her post-secondary education at the Cambridge School (now Cambridge School of Weston, MA). The author grew up during the height of Shirley Center’s summer colony of artists, musicians, and writers. As an only child, she was always included in adult conversation with her family and artistic neighbors. In addition to being a typist for the correspondence and dramatic works and poetry of Percy MacKaye, she assisted her father who was a pioneer in the collection and sale of early American antiques. In 1925 she and her father entertained Henry Ford and his wife Clara in their Shirley home. That visit resulted in the Lawton’s selling their entire collection of early American furniture and antiquities to Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan museum.
Shirley met her future husband, Billie Houde, when he was stationed at Camp Devens after the war. They married in 1933 and had a son Frank and daughter Emily. Their stately colonial home in Shirley was always a haven for the homeless and minorities. During World War II they rented rooms to soldier’s families, but only to African Americans who were suffering discrimination in seeking housing. Billie died in 1947 and Shirley thereafter made her living as an artist who stenciled furniture in the colonial style and sold antiques. She passed away in 1986.