Windham Life and Times – December 29, 2017

Edward Searles and Angelo

Camp Crane, Allenstown, PA Army Ambulance Training

In New York and the Army

“After I began to work for Mr. Searles he rented a suite at the Murray Hill Hotel, on Park Avenue. It was an old-fashioned hotel, and he liked it because it was just one block from Grand Central Terminal. It was a family hotel, and we had an apartment there. He could take a cab or the subway to his office down on Broadway, near Wall Street. Arthur Walker ran the office for him. Mr. Searles would meet there with businessmen who came to see him about his properties…”

“He liked to travel and visit his properties. I went on trips to those railroads and coal fields he owned in Pennsylvania. He would always arrange to travel in a private railroad car for those trips. He was treated like a dignitary because he owned a railroad himself; the Pittsburg and Shamut. We each had our own rooms, and a parlor; half the car in those days! On those business trips he would always call me ‘his boy’! He would introduce me to those officials, who ran the railroad and coal fields, with ‘I want you to meet my boy, Angy.’ After I was introduced I would go off to the side, so I wouldn’t interrupt their business, but I could hear him speak about me like I was his own son! One time we stayed in Philadelphia, and he was going to see the Rowlands. I asked him who they were, and he told me they were cousins; he said, ‘I try to help them.’ One time he took me to see the castle he owned in Great Barrington. I was only there once with him. But I knew he went there himself, from time to time. We stayed there, in the castle. There was furniture in it; but it was a big place! He told me he had built it for his wife. Some of the furniture in Pine Lodge, and the castle in Windham, came from there.

“While in New York we would go all over town. It was on one of those walks that he told me he was buying a place in upstate New York, for Arthur Walker; as a place for him to retire. One day the old gentleman and I were in front of one of his buildings and I said that maybe I could have an office in it! He said, ‘Don’t bother with that building; I’m getting rid of it! It’s too old-fashioned. Not up to date at all; besides, you’re going to have a lot of buildings some day!’ At that time New York was his legal residence, but at some time in the future he planned to make Massachusetts his legal residence again. He said he was selling off his New York property. It was at this time he told me that I would have the castle in Windham someday. I was surprised, and asked him how I would be able to afford to keep it up! He told me I would also be getting enough money to keep it up. I knew he was telling me the truth because I felt that he would do anything for me. He used to give me spending money, and he bought me a gold watch at Tiffany’s. Another time we stopped there and he bough me a gold ring, with a big green stone in it, for a thousand dollars; he picked it out for me… Mr. Searles would have me go to his tailor, and all my clothes were made special for me. On Sundays, in New York, we always went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Mr. Searles gave money for some of the work there because his architect, Henry Vaughn, designed a few of the chapels. Inside you see those lanterns; he spoke to me about them. They are beautiful and I think he gave those to the cathedral. He built many churches and gave money to the National Cathedral. We went to Washington to see it, he and I, and they were building it at that time. His architect, Henry Vaughn, designed it, and after Vaughn died he was buried there, right at the cathedral.”

“In 1917 I went into the Army; I wasn’t drafted, I enlisted. Afterwards, I realized that Mr. Searles was pulling strings for me behind the scenes, to keep me from going to Europe. All my pals went over but the old gentleman had me transferred from camp in Allentown, Pennsylvania to New Jersey so he could see me more often. (Camp Crane) When my pals went over to Europe, and I stayed behind, I cried like a baby. I was in the Army for two and a half years. During the winter I was in Allentown, where there was a training camp for the ambulance corps. I knew how to drive; it wasn’t everybody who could drive at that time. Some of those boys had never been in a car before, let alone drive one! They had me teach the men how to drive ambulances and trucks. All the while I was in at Allentown, Mr. Searles used to come out to visit me every week. He gave me spending money so I could eat out anytime, because the Army food was poor; just beans and beef stew. Later when I was stationed in New Jersey I really ate good! I don’t think I ate regular Army food more than twenty times in all. That’s what I was doing when a truck backed into my arm and broke it. I couldn’t drive anymore, then, because you had to use a clutch and a big floor shift.  So I was transferred to Hoboken, New Jersey, where I was a dispatcher. It was right across the river from New York City and when I was not on duty I could go into the city and stay at the Murray Hill apartment. I’m sure Mr. Searles used his influence to get me transferred there.   When my arm was better I was assigned as driver for a General Shanks; later they named a camp for him. Camp Shanks, up in New York. He was a rough guy; he wanted me to run down people in the streets! People would be walking and I would have to just crawl. He said, ‘What are you doing? You’re crawling! Get going; they’ll get out of your way!’  Well I spoke with my officer there, he was a nice guy and he told me that he would get me another duty. So I became a driver for a Navy captain that planned ship movements from New York harbor; it was a security operation. Only he knew when they would sail; and I knew too because I was stationed in his office. I would drive him out to Staten island, or Long Island: all over!… I was still driving for him when the war ended in 1918. It was almost the middle of 1919 and I was still assigned, and the old gentleman was as mad as the devil! He wanted me out! I think he went to his friend, Major General Edwards, to get me out, and he did.”

 

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