Josh was a dancer. All young men and women were in those days, following dances from Coalville to Wanship to Salt Air to Salt Lake to Hoytsville, staying out far too late for their work days following. Once he recorded coming home at 3:30 AM and rising for school at 6:30 AM. Ah youth!
He was a popular dance partner and often escorted young women home after a night of dancing. Suddenly a young woman's name, sometimes in exasparation, was mentioned more than others, Rena Smith. His writing revealed a lovesick, tormented soul, wondering where this serious feeling would lead. At one point it appeared that they were not seeing each other. I say "appeared" as his writing about love was cryptic at best, and gentlemanly. As he felt more hopeful he drew a small house with a fence and smoke coming from a chimney in the corner of a page, hope of a future home with Rena perhaps.
When he had kept the journal for a year, he mused about the entry of the United States in The Great War, noting that all of us will probably be involved. By June 1917 he and his friends had registered for service and by September the canyon hamlets threw a farewelll party in their boys' honor. Josh spoke at it. Gifts were given. The boys boarded the trains. Mothers hitched horses to buggies and trotted to train stop after train stop to glimpse and kiss their boys another time. Parents pilgrimaged to Camp Lewis in Tacoma to see their boys, take photographs, and enjoy Tacoma while they could. See, these parents knew that chances were high that they would never see their sons again. Bodies were the primary technology of World War I.
I shared Josh's story through primary sources with my U.S. History students the last five years. There is yet to be a group of students who are not touched. They are not the only ones. With each year, I become closer to this uncle who even my mother never knew.
A link to this teaching experience can be found on the homepage of this site.