An old photograph taken in 1919 has long been in my possession. This picture says so much and for a long time, it told me so little. One can easily identify a wounded soldier visiting with a woman wearing summer colors. The background appears to be an institution, perhaps a hospital. He has his arm casually leaning on the back of the bench.
Just today, more clues have surfaced and I can start to add more pieces to my family puzzle and to the photograph.
CE Simmons enlisted in the draft for World War I June 1917. He was called to duty and served in Co. C of the 11th Infantry. This unit was shipped overseas in June 1918 to France and participated in 43 days of combat with 348 wounded. Charlie was one of the wounded and was returned to the US.
A Pittsburgh Press article dated February 17, 1919, tells us he, along with 65 other wounded soldiers, arrived at the US General Hospital #24 in Parkview Station. The article says the wounded arrived with the "air of schoolboys on the last day of school" and "were joyful their lives had been spared."
No doubt, they were.
The picture, which I had guessed was taken at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh actually is now confirmed to have been taken at US General Hospital #24. General Hospital #24 was located in Parkview Station on the north bank of the Allegheny River in the old North Side Home and Allegheny Workhouse about 9 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The old abandoned buildings were rented to the government at a nominal fee and the government spent $205,000 in the reconstruction of the buildings. It opened in October 1918 with 200 beds. During its tenure before closing in July 1, 1919, the hospital's maximum bed size was 856.
By comparing my photo with the photo of the hospital in the Office of Medical History by the US Army Medical Department, the background matches. The lack of coats and the summer color dress give us the impression the weather was nice. Adding the history of the General Hospital #24 to the newspaper article, we can now make an educated guess that the photograph was taken between April and June 1919. Was this when the spark sprung between the young people? Was this when they fell in love?
Their marriage took place in May 1920, so there was adequate time for the relationship to fully develop.
I don't know how long he was in the hospital after part of his leg had been removed, but I do know he returned to the business he and his father had started back in 1915. In 1920, they paid off the loans for the business and cousins had told me he had lived above the store before marrying his fair bride.
Ahh, genealogy. Sparking on the ole Parkview bench. Kind of romantic, don't you think?
Domestic United State Military Facilities of the First World War 1917-1919, Robert Swanson, pg 201
©2011 AS Eldredge