Letters from Oregon Boys in France
Compiled by Mrs. Frank Wilmot 1918
Eugene K. Oppenheimer
Mr. Oppenheimer, formerly an attorney in Portland and prominent in athletics, is a grandson of Mrs. Loeb. As a horseman he won many trophies in the Northwest prior to entering the service. He was formerly an officer in the Hunt, and Multnomah Amateur Athletic Clubs, and is widely known.
A line or two so you will know I remain in the hand of the living. At last I am over here in sunny France—my wish at last having been gratified. The weather is great and what will please you to know is my health is fine. My work was and is strenuous, to say the least, but I am gradually becoming accustomed to it and it certainly has been a great physical development project.
The cities I have visited have been a disappointment—everything very old—but the country is most wonderful. One can see that great effort has been given to its cultivation. Everything is very high and assortments limited. Dates, figs and oranges are the fruits obtainable. Eggs, French-fried potatoes (which only the French know how to prepare) and cocoa are the principal eats.
In the town where I am at present the French people are very cordial and heart and soul with the boys—we are not far from Paris. Sunday night two of the chaps and I went to another town nearby by means of a handcar which a Frenchman was running. There are any number of gin shops where all sorts of liquors are sold (no whisky), but outside of an occasional glass of wine I have spent no time with them. The water isn’t very good here and a glass of good old Bull Run would help out a lot.
There is no way of telling how long I will be at my present location. There are many interesting happenings I could write, but I know the censor would eliminate them. However, I am keeping a diary and on my return will have much to tell. I am studying French with all sincerity and when I see you all again I will be able to talk it well. There is a Y. M. C. A. here, as in every place where I have been, which certainly is great for us boys "over here." There is a fine bunch of fellows here where I am—from all parts of the U. S. Fred Kribs and I had parted at Philadelphia, so you can picture my surprise after two months of separation to find him "over here" again, and both of us reunited in the same camp.
The trains here consist of coaches which I do not believe could be duplicated in America, unless in a museum. I rode in them for two days—the best description of them is a hack, only the seats are longer and each compartment holds about 10 men and each train has about six compartments and each of the above have two doors. We had no place to sleep, so sat up for two nights and carried our provisions. But, after all, the experience is great, and I would not part with it for any luxury. This place is very nice and the food good and we all are well and happy and doing what we can to help in this great cause. The Huns are going to get it so badly they will never realize what struck them. We have occasional rains which remind one of home, but it is only a brief time until ‘"Old Sol" makes his appearance again.
Don't worry should you not hear for several weeks, as mails are irregular.
My trip over was most delightful and the officer in charge of the boys was a prince of fellows, and all the boys liked him and regretted when he parted from us.
In a letter of later date Eugene describes the joy shown by the American soldier over the arrival of letters from home and tells us that whenever the flag goes up announcing the arrival of mail, a mad rush for the distributing barracks is on—that all failing to respond to the calling of names, must take his turn standing in a long, wearisome line. The writer says he has never been late for mail-call and so far has been amply rewarded, which doubtless accounts for the following quotation: "There are lots of pretty French girls over here, but so far I have seen none to compare with our Portland Rose Buds."
Facsimile of Liberty Loan Literature Showered
on American Sailors in France
"The allied drive is paramount to everything at present save the liberty loan," writes Oppenheimer to his grandmother. "From the initial showing, this station will make an excellent record. Yours truly invested to the extent of $150."