Sunday, November 08, 2009

A memory of an old friend ..Chris Patchier ...WWI vet and a good old friend of my youth.

I was looking through some papers as I was boxing some stuff up and found a memorial card from Chris Patchier's funeral in 1979. I was there for it as I had come to know him well in his last years. Chris used to call me "Jacker", and I would spend hours with him asking him questions on what the great war was like.

He had been born in 1895, and was in his 80's and I would come over to his home in Rockaway, New Jersey and cook for him and talk with him. I had used to come over earlier to see Chris and his wife Jennie. But she died in November 1976 and Chris was pretty much alone after that. So it was fun to join him and have dinner with him now and then. As I would learn a lot from him.

It was through him that I got my first early phonograph in 1972. It was a Victor Victrola VI from around 1918. I learned much of how to work on early phonographs by taking this one apart and putting it back together.

He told me how he joined the army in 1917 as soon as Wilson declared war. He was with a special unit in the war. He was a messenger.
In 1917-18 there was no radio in the field and there was no way to get messages to others in the battle unless you had it delivered. Chris was one of those young men who ran faster than hell to deliver a message. I remember he showed me his helmet from WWI, on its sides it had lightening bolts to show that as a messenger he was as fast as lightening. He told me he had to run in between the trenches with messages. Now if you can think of a scarier position to be in with bullets flying at you in every direction I cannot think of one very readily..Needless to say many messengers were killed in the great war.

He died 30 years ago and I of course was there at his funeral. Today we do not even know much about WWI and all of its parts. But one should always remember the messengers who brought the news back and forth. I am sure that the efforts of the messengers saved many lives.

Thank you for your friendship Chris ...and of course that first phonograph.