November is the appropriate month to let you see the full image of this blog’s current header featuring my great grandfather and four of his five sons in uniform in 1918.
They are at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, better known as Fort Devens, but originally a temporary spot for quick training military troops from New England. The likely scenario is that the boys were awaiting, or had received orders to ship out to their respective duty stations.
Their widowed father, John F. Roane, Sr., made the journey from Lowell to say goodbye and every man looking toward the camera was acutely aware that war meant this might be the last photograph they would ever take together.
I read warmth and pride on the face of my great-grandfather, who is dressed in his US Post Office uniform. The three army enlistees look appropriately serious, but, under the seaman’s cap, John Francis Roane, Jr. looks kind of excited to me.
When John registered in the 1917 draft, he was a single man employed as an ice cream tester, which sounds like a dream job to me, but John may have wanted work with a bit more weight. He certainly found it, as he served on a submarine chaser out of Newport, Rhode Island.
John’s twin brother, Francis Roane, (on the other side of John, Sr.) had more reason to look serious look. His year-old son died of meningitits in 1916, and he was supporting a wife and infant daughter as a machinist in the US Cartridge factory at draft time. The army sent him overseas.
In 1921, Frank went back to Europe with a group of American Legionnaires who were feted by the king of Belgium. Frank famously struck up a conversation with the monarch himself (Albert I), who remarked he liked Frank very much. The incident became legend of “the Peach,” as he became known in Lowell. There is plenty of evidence that Frank Roane shook off his early tragedy and knew how to have a good time.
Paul Roane is the short fellow on the end in the cloth cap and was the eldest of this generation of Roane men. When he registered for the draft, he was unmarried, and a secretary at the offices of the Harvard Brewery. I know little about his service, but that he was proud of it, as he had been elected commander of American Legion Post 87.
James P.H. Roane, Sr . is the tall man on the left in this shot and my grandfather. I have not delved into his service record yet. He was single and out on the road as a representative of the Loyal Order of Moose, and in registered for the draft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Though, like his older brothers, he was a member of the American Legion, I suspect his military experience wasn’t satisfying.
I recall my dad, James P.H. Roane, Jr., telling me that his father advised him to enlist in 1942, the year he graduated high school, rather than wait to be drafted, because he would have no power to choose the job he’s do. Consequently, my father enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force, and was a flight instructor stateside for the duration.
We must not forget the service of women. My dad’s sister was a WAVE, which stood for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, but the branch was officially, the US Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), and I’m delighted to report she recently celebrated her 90th birthday.