World War I in Lawrence: Train car filled with treats for troops

As U.S. soldiers approached their first “Great War” Christmas, a joint effort by the federal government and local citizens was created to bring a holiday feast to the approximately 620 Lawrence men training at Fort Sill. According to a late-November Lawrence Journal-World article, “Uncle Sam has arranged to give the soldier boys at Camp Doniphan, Fort Sill, Okla., a fine Christmas dinner, with turkey and cranberries, and through the efforts of patriotic Lawrence citizens to this will be added, apples, cider, fruit cakes, candy….” Because of the “usual congestion of the holiday season,” organizers asked that packages be sent to Oklahoma in bulk rather than through the mail. To that end, it was arranged that a Santa Fe railroad car would be reserved to transport the Christmas goodies, free of charge. “Some of the church ladies are going to send a fruit cake to every boy in the service from their church, others desire to send gifts of various natures and altogether it is probable that the car’s side will bulge with good things when it leaves Lawrence a few days before Christmas. It has been suggested that the car should have banners reading ‘Good things for the Soldiers from the home folks in Lawrence.'” Soldiers without friends or family in the area were to “receive a box just the same from the people of Lawrence collectively.”

Lawrence and Douglas County people were invited to bring their packages to Red Cross headquarters (the basement of the Watkins Bank) by Dec. 18 for inclusion in the special train shipment. The Lawrence Paper Manufacturing Company agreed to donate cartons, measuring 10x10x14 inches, for the packages. In addition to the items already suggested, bakers were encouraged to include cookies and smaller cakes as they would “last the boys longer and can be carried in their knapsacks on a hike.”