On May 1, 1918, he writes Mabel. “Have given my stenographer all the work she can handle for an hour or two and, having nothing particular for an hour…shall try to get off a decent letter.” This probably explains the handwritten five pages that follow.
He refers to her letter of March 31st that reached him April 27th “which wasn’t so bad.” Her letter got through in less than a month.
He is surprised that anyone “back home” has the idea that he is “an interpreter” and decides “to clear the air on that” by giving a description of what he is doing. He recently had a conversation with the “Chief Censor in France” which results in his understanding that there is “no objection” to writing about what he is doing.
He then describes the evolution of his job beginning with the “Lease and Contracts Dept.” attached to the Chief Quartermaster. “When Hq. was ordered to leave here in late December…I was left in charge of that department for three weeks—some job too as it included the operation of all our Paris buildings.” After some further shuffling, he is “in charge of the making of all leases for Paris and vicinity and also in charge of some 25 buildings.” He enumerates a French architect “attached to my office” which also includes a stenographer and an interpreter. Plans are under way to extend his leasing duties to all of northern France and to diminish his role in building management. This suits him because he cares “little for the repairs and alterations and operation of buildings.” And he sees an opportunity “to get out of Paris from time to time and see something of other places.”
He is already getting out a lot within Paris. He and the architect “chase around the city” every afternoon “for one to three hours” in his designated and chauffeured automobile. This has given him a good sense of the city and he is “constantly in contact with the French.” He describes the architect as “one of the best in Paris.” “We get along beautifully together and he calls me his “élève,” or pupil, in French and it’s quite true that I’ve made most of my progress in French because of being forced to speak it with him.” Monty also conducts his business in French with the officers at the Ministry of War, “and you ought to see me ‘parle’ing with them in French. They are very forbearing of my bad French and we get along nicely.”
The weather is still grim—“a rotten April here, either rainy or cloudy nearly all the time and always cool.” Looking for “decent days,” he is forecasting that May will be the best month. “Practically all the trees are in full leaf and you get some beautiful views riding around the city, particularly along the Seine or the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, probably the most beautiful street in the world so it is said.” All he asks for is “a little sunshine.”
He closes with his apartment news. “Ten of us are moving today into an apartment, or rather two apartments.” He expects to gain proficiency with his French since the “cook and two maids” speak no English.
c/o Q.M.U.S. Troops,
A.P.O. 702, A.E.F.
May 1, 1918
Dear Mabel –
Have given my stenographer all the work she can handle for an hour or two and, having nothing particular for an hour until some of my French friends will be coming in, shall try to get off a decent letter.
Your letter of March 31 reached me last Saturday, Apl. 27, which wasn’t so bad. Enjoyed all your news and glad to get the pictures of Olivia and Bell. Sorry to have missed Charlie and Ernest but they must have gone to the wrong place or some “bonehead” soldier at the information desk in this building gave them bad information for have been in the same office & same building ever since I came to Paris Nov. 28th, nor have I been any further than the suburbs during that time. Don’t understand how anybody back home got the idea that I was an interpreter and, to clear the air on that will tell you what I am and have been doing – having talked to the Chief Censor in France recently and finding there is no objection to it. When I came to Paris I was attached to the Lease and Contracts Dept. of the office of the Chief Quartermaster, Lines of Communication. When Hq. was ordered to leave here in late December, my Chief in the department was ordered to the place where they were to move to lease the necessary buildings and I was left in charge of that department for three weeks – same job so it included the operation of all our Paris buildings then when Hq. left, my boss and I being the only ones who knew anything about Paris leases and buildings, I was left here in charge of the making of all leases for Paris and vicinity and also in charge of some 25 buildings and have so continued.
Have a French architect attached to my office – who speaks no English – a stenographer and an interpreter. My superiors are now planning now to divorce me from the management of these buildings, which includes repairs and alterations on all buildings occupied by our army in Paris, and use me all the time on leases and contracts, both in Paris and Northern France. May say this doesn’t peeve me at all as I like the lease and contract proposition all right and care little for the repairs and alterations and operation of buildings. Also it will give me a chance to get out of Paris from time to time and see something of other places.
Have had an automobile assigned to me and nearly every afternoon this architect and I chase around the city for 1 to 3 hours investigating buildings we are thinking of leasing interviewing proprietors of said buildings and booking our repairs and alterations in progress. Consequently I’ve come to know the city pretty well and also I am constantly in contact with the French. Usually have a stream of providers and contractors from 4:30 to 6:30 every afternoon, these being our hours for receiving such people. This architect is one of the best in Paris and particularly has business ideas more in accordance with ours than most of the French. We get along beautifully together and he calls me his “eleve”, or pupil, in French and it’s quite true that I’ve made most of my progress in French because of being forced to speak it with him. My work also brings me into contact with French officers at the Ministry of War from time to time, one of them pretty often, and you ought to see me “parle” ing with them in French. They are my very forbearing of my bad French and we get along nicely.
We’ve had a rotten April here, either rainy or cloudy nearly all the time and always coal [sic]. However, now that May has come I’m hoping to see some decent days for a change, this being the month when Paris is supposed to be at its best – and it is – but a little sunshine would be a great help. Particularly all the trees are in full leaf and you get some beautiful views riding around the city particularly along the Seine or the Avenue des Champs Elysees probably the most beautiful street in the world so it is said.
As stated in the previous letter ten of us are moving today into an apartment or rather two apartments on the same floor, where we shall be housekeeping for ourselves. We’ll get some exercise in French there too as, of our cook and two maids, not a one speaks any English. Will have more news of that in my next letter.
Love to all, Carl
Address mailing until further notice to c/o. Q.M.U.S. Troops, APO 702, and think maybe it’ll reach me more easily. Note also it is now “Inf.R.C.” meaning “Infantry Reserve Corps” instead of “Inf U.S.R.”.
O.K. Thomas C. Montgomery
2nd Lt Inf. R. C.