As explained earlier, Dan’s parents, my great-grandparents, were teachers at Storer College in Harpers Ferry. They lived on campus in a large house with their four children, my great-great grandmother (her husband had died in 1910), and at any given time, a teacher or two who rented rooms. They were well-educated, but low income. I am not certain about Dan, but I know that his older sister’s education (my grandmother) was financed by George Willard Wood, Uncle Will, who was my great-great grandmother’s younger brother, a successful businessman with no children. I mention this because their lack of wealth figures into this post.
Dan arrived at Kelly Field in Texas, a new base for recruits to the aerial wing of the Army, sometime between December 14 and December 21, which is the date of the first extant letter from there to his parents. From the beginning, Dan had his heart set on going to France for aviator training and fully believed this would happen. By his letter of 12/26/17 he’d had a rude awakening. He writes:
“I have the full dope on the flying school. My chum has a promise from our lieut. for appointment but I can’t possibly afford or even start to raise the cash necessary for dress that goes with it so all my plans are shot to hell. I’m classed as unskilled labor but managed to bluff into a chance to go with a lumber crew to Vancouver to get out spruce. If I go I’ll be O.K. but if I don’t I’ll have to swing an anchor for a yr. or two until I save enough to amt. to something. Whoever said money does’nt (sic)count is a liar. Most of the fellows who are getting there are the fellows who come from familys (sic) who have cars and a little money. Then you see the fellow already has a knowledge of gas engines and can afford to dress better than the government allowance. That is the kind of fellow the army wants…. Never mind someday I may have a chance yet and then they’ll only see my dust. At present the trip to B.C. looks like the best thing for me.”
So at this point, his dreams of aviator training dashed, Dan hoped to be assigned to the group that would travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, to work in lumbering.