Way Back When … 1919
Published 1:26 pm, Friday, November 10, 2017
Many young people — men and women — from Fairfield served overseas during World War I.
Florence Jennings Burr, a Fairfield librarian, served as part of the YMCA’s support operations in Paris in 1919, organizing the voluminous files at the YMCA headquarters with the American Expeditionary Forces. YMCA workers provided key support to American troops in France, organizing “canteens” for soldiers, and providing entertainment, education and religious services, as well as coffee, doughnuts and writing supplies.
When Burr was not busy with her YMCA duties, she took the time to tour sites in France, including Lourdes, and attended dances with American and French soldiers. She is pictured in the photo at right with several friends also serving with the YMCA in France. (Florence is second from the left.)
Her distant cousin, Theodore Bentley Burr, volunteered at the age of 17, enlisting in the Coast Artillery Corps in 1917. He served at the Second Battle of the Marne, the third offensive of Verdun, Battle of the Meuse. Writing home in January 1918, he spoke of feeling depressed sometimes, but being cheered up by mail and pay that would let him get “some real good cooked food.”
He said, “the only thing missing then will be Fairfield and home.”
Benjamin Bulkley Wyrtzen, of Fairfield also volunteered, leaving high school at 17 to enlist with the Army’s ambulance corps. He served in the 102nd Ambulance Corps in France in 1917 and 1918.
In honor of Veterans Day, visit the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition, “Uncle Sam Wants You: Fairfield and the Great War” to learn more about those who served. Visitors can see Florence Burr’s YMCA uniform, read Theodore Burr’s letters, and view Benjamin Wyrtzen’s dog tags and the engraved canteens he got from a soldier who had been in a German prison camp.
On Friday, Nov. 10, the museum will host a free Family Focus program, “Dogs, Doughnuts and Doughboys,” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., sponsored by People’s United Bank.
The museum will also be collecting items for American soldiers serving overseas.
The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, 370 Beach Road, is open every day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members and children under 5 are admitted free. For information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org.