Carl Frederick, born October 23,1895 was nicknamed "Brownie" because of his swarthy complexion. The name has stuck through the years; it's only proper he be called this in his story.
Elsie Hefty, one of the kids in the neighborhood, tells it was the Bechtel's that were great for putting on shows, Brownie in particular. Brownie had a way of advertizing the coming event, and the charge for admission was common pins. A common pin in those days wasn't "common," and to take them from your mother's pincushion wasn't the best idea. So with advance notice of the coming shows, all the kids would go up to the Catholic church and dig in the church sweepings thrown out bye the Sisters. Brownie was the writer and producer and the kids were the puppets. He also was the best reader, stopping at an exciting part, telling the kids it would be continue the next day. Elsie mentioned that the ticket taker's mother was the only one who never complained about not having enough pins.
Brownie must have continued his love of shows as he worked at the Germania Hall. This hall was built for a group of men that came over from Germany. A few of these old timers were Boeckh, Brockhausen, Nulander and Kerndt. This was a private athletic club called " Herrn Verein" ( Men's Club) used only by these members for bowling and playing cards. In later years it was used by the puplic for plays, dances, bowling and movies.
Brownie operated the projector, and was the usher and the "cleaner upper" with the help of Ted. ( brother) Ted said they were the first to bring sound pictures to Lansing. In this particular movie, there was a super train wreck. With a little persuasion( getting in free) from Brownie, he convinced Ted to get a few boys in to help make this scene real. The boys with pots and pans got behind the curtain' and at the right moment, they made an awful clatter, making it truly a sound picture. This place burned down after a dance, which was too bad as it was the showplace of Lansing.
Brownie was the first member of the family to graduate from high school which was in 1914. This building still stands and is being used for special classes. The Fiftieth Class Reunion was held in 1964 with only a few members present. Mother was very happy and proud when this goal was reached as it was her ambition to see that her children received the education she didn't have the chance to receive.
Brownie worked in an ice cream parlor in Lansing; so when Oluf Hanson moved to Waukon and opened the Red Geranium Restaurant, Brownie was hired to manage it.
War was declared in 1917. Brownie didn't wait to be drafted but enlisted, taking his boot training at Camp Greene, North Carolina. When this was completed, the troops were shipped to Southhampton, England. Crossing the English Channel to Calais, France, he was assigned to the British at Flanders Field. Later there was more training with French Blue Devils. In this war Brownie was in the thick of things and must have witnessed all the horrors of war. It's over fifty five years since this was fought, and I know when he came home, war or battles weren't discussed. So I feel in writing these battles up for me, Brownie must have relived them.
At the battle of Neuse Sisne, which lasted for many days and where casualties were great, this is where he wrote:
"A week in the field an three days with no sleep, we were exhausted. There was only one officer that hadn't been killed. He left for the rear to receive his orders, leaving me in charge. How I kept awake is beyond me. I was finally relieved by French Blue Devils. Eventually we returned to a reserve station , where we found the rations have been stocked ( much more than need as the casualties cut our number almost in half). No one seemed to have an appetite, although we had not eaten in a long time. Later, taking out a detail of 300 men to scour the battlefield for equipment, we witnessed all the casualties after this battle. It make the Quote " War is Hell" a mild comparison. Since after this battle most of the officer personnel were killed and they needed replacements, I received a commission as a Second Lieutenant and was assigned to Infantry 35th Division. Harry Truman was in this division. The fighting "35th" was holding down the trenches in front of Verdun. This location was the farthest advance the enemy made."
It was after this battle that Brownie received the promotion First Lieutenant. They left for the Argonne, but he had been notified that an Armistice would soon be signed. About 10 minutes be 11 A.M. he received the cease fire order.
" When this hour came, everything became quiet and we just sat. Pretty soon someone had gotten in the bell tower at the church and the bell started ringing. The ringing of the bell reminded me of an incident which occurred in my school days. We were required to memorize a passage of poetry, which none of the boys cared to do. The teacher advised us that there would be no lunch until we did. I think the passage was take from " Thanatopsis."
" Down the dark future, thru long generations,
The echoing sounds grow fainter, then cease.
And like the solemn and sweet vibrations of a bell,
We hear the voice of Christ say "Peace."
"I felt I was extremely lucky to be alive. I also felt proud to have fought in a war to end all wars, which has proved to be untrue."
I don't know in which battle it was that Brownie felt close to death. As I mentioned, war wasn't discussed too much, but one particular battle was.
Mother, I feel, must have possessed what some referred to as sixth sense or what could be called ESP. She seemed to know when her children away from home were in danger or ill.
Brownie, telling of this battle, said, " I was in this shell hole for three days and nights. There were men lying dead around me and the flash of the shells, like lightning in a severe thunderstorm was continuous. I felt I'd never live, when a great peace came over me, and I felt the presence of the Lord and my Mother."
Mother told her dream of witnessing this battle and being there. This wasn't the only occasion she spoke of the "dreams." Receiving word of a member of the family being seriously ill or at death, she said," Yes, I know because I had this bad dream." What this dream was I don't know. We would tell her she was too superstitious, and after that, she kept these things to herself. Over the years I felt these omens or feelings were far more than incidental.
It was some time before he left France as he was put on the staff at Bordeaux to help with the embarking of the troops to the states. He was honorably discharged from the service on August 19,1919 and returned home. That, too became complicated before he reached Lansing. returning from France by boat there was a terrible storm. Everyone got seasick and he felt so rotten he was afraid he was going to die. When it got worse, he was afraid he wouldn't. Reaching New York with the puppy "Louve' ( German Police) he had a hard time finding a way to Des Moines to be discharged. Arriving in Chicago, he became suddenly ill while waiting in the depot for the train to take him to Iowa. He was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, consenting to it only if the folks were not notified. So soon after Billy's death ( the same operation), they would worry. He'd forgotten all about the telegram he sent from New York saying when he could be expected home. Every day the folks met the train and no Brownie. they didn't know what to think. Finally, getting in touch with the Red Cross, they found he was in the hospital in Chicago, found him very ill, found out what had happened, and brought back the dog, "Louve."
Returning to Lansing, Carl worked as cashier in the State Bank. He was Postmaster of Lansing from 1929-1933. May 4, 1929, he married Leota Hand who was a teacher in the Lansing schools. Bill and the twins, Carl and Caroline were born while they lived here. Through the years in Lansing he served as Councilman, Secretary of the School Board and Kiwanis Club, Commander and Adjutant Commander of the Beck-Strong-Glynn Post of the American Legion. In 1934 he received a Civil Service appointment working in the government service for 34 years. The following are some of the agencies for which he worked and places he lived: Home Owners' Load, Federal Housing, Veteran's Administration, Waco Savings and Loan. He lived in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, and Council Bluffs, Iowa; Wichita, Kansas, Fort Worth, Texas and Waco, Texas, where Brownie has been retired since 1967, enjoying life and the grandchildren.
Taken from the Tree and Thee, by Adeline Bechtel Kerndt
Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa