World War I in Lawrence: Couples share brief visits during military training

The unwritten rules of many facets of social behavior, including public displays of affection, began to shift during the Great War. This is demonstrated by a report from Camp Funston, Kansas, where women visiting their husbands or sweethearts would indulge in what the Journal-World called “open and aboveboard” hugging and kissing.

From November 8, 1917: “Hundreds of soldiers in training for the national army are visited each day…. and on some days thousands of women are in Manhattan to get a brief visit with their men folks. The only place in camp where these men and women can meet is the Y. M. C. A. hostess house and when that becomes crowded the other couples must perforce meet and greet each other in the open. And when wife or best girl has crossed one, two or three states to see you and you have only an hour or so from military routine to visit and say goodbye, your greeting is not likely to be very formal. So it happens that boys and girls, men and women, kiss each other in the street in sight of hundreds of other people, without embarrassment, for other couples here and there are doing the same. They sit down wherever they happen to be, on a curb, beside a road, near the street car tracks or on the side of the big hill facing the camp and indulge in such displays of affection as are usually associated in the minds of the home folks with the hammock in the side yard or the ‘cosy corner.’ Nobody pays any attention to them and the only result of these intimate little glimpses into the affections of strangers upon observers, indeed, is likely to be a wave of homesickness.”