Miles Edward Baldwin returned to Providence after his discharge in April, 1919 just in time for the Roaring 20’s. His Army training and injury in France while serving as an ambulance driver were, seemingly, behind him, although the injury would affect his hearing for the rest of his life.
Of the few things that Miles brought back from the war, the one that I think expresses the horror of it best is a postcard from France which he labelled, probably years later. I find it hard to look at this postcard of all those new graves, and his caption seems very poignant to me.
And yet I can also imagine the desire to live the life that all those soldiers were deprived of. An early stop upon his return must have been Aunt Jenny and Uncle Will’s house at 107 Prospect Street, Providence. They took some pictures of the returning soldier:
I know he was looking forward to returning to Providence and starting work. At some point, his uncle who was a trustee of the Narragansett Electric Company used his influence to get Miles a job there. He did different jobs for them over the years, two of which were appliance salesman and coal quality tester.
In the 1920’s, Miles married. But it wasn’t my grandmother, it was a first wife who I can only identify as “Mary C.” from the 1925 Rhode Island Census. My memory of this marriage goes back to my childhood when I was within earshot of Grampa’s rendition of the story of his divorce. This was spoken of so seldom that I have remembered it all these years. Grampa knew that Mary was cheating on him, but divorce in those days was difficult and required actual evidence of infidelity. He managed to know the location of a tryst his wife was planning — whether it was his own apartment or a hotel, I’m not sure. He hired a photographer and they burst into the room, snapping photos. The man jumped up from the bed yelling “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”. Grampa replied: “Buddy, you’re the best friend I ever had.” And so ended that marriage.
Miles enjoyed his Yankee Division, Veterans of Foreign Wars activities in the years that followed. During WW2, he served as an air raid warden. Taps was played at his funeral. I’d like to think that he never forgot those that couldn’t be saved on the battlefields of France. I hope that we don’t either.
A few remaining letters are covered in part 4.