Thursday, March 5, 2020

Pieces From The Past - The Mayflower

The letter from Gerd Hechler was short and sweet  as he recalled the time working on the farm and shared a few details of his journey home that just over two months.  The conditions that Gerd returned to don't seem too terribly bad... with the exception of food and clothing.   

If you take a look at the envelope you will notice several things...

1 - The mail was censored for content.  The censorship tape on the back of the envelope has a crown on it, which would indicate that it had been opened by the British.  Perhaps Gerd resided in the zone of Germany that was controlled by the British.

2 - The postage stamp used to mail it has been pilfered... my Grandpa Teegarden was a stamp collector and had started collections for me, my brother and our three cousins.  I'm uncertain where the stamp ended up, but no doubt in one the books. 

3 - Gerd Hechler's simple address with the name and Trinidad, Colorado was not sufficient.  In fact, it is stamped and marked to be returned to sender because the recipient was "unknown".  Trinidad's population in 1940 was 13,000+... not a huge town by any means, but not a tiny drink water either.  However, the Post Master was willing to forward the letter to Model, Colo.  

Many times that this same service is not provided today... sadly, going the extra mile is nearly unheard of with the USPS.  **Edit**  Just the other day our mail carrier saw us going into the post office.  She waited for us to return to the parking lot to deliver a package that she would have had to pull into the driveway to deliver to the door.  Hmmm... maybe the USPS service isn't so bad!

The men held in the Trinidad POW camp arrived on "ships to Boston or New York (where they gaped in astonishment at the gleaming Manhattan skyline, which, according to German news reports, had been decimated by Luftwaffe bombing raids). Then they were hauled onto trains and carried into the vastness of the American heartland for four days and nights.  Now here they were, ordered off the train at Beshoar Junction, a windy whistle-stop in the nowhere of Las Animas County, a few miles northeast of Trinidad."

"As several prisoners would later explain, at reunion gatherings and in letters to friends, the camp in Trinidad was not a place to run away from, but rather a refuge. A place, far from the horrors of the war, to gain a new understanding of your enemy and begin to face the darkness at the heart of your own cause."
 From Andrew Pendergast 

You will learn in the coming letters that many of the men were saddened to leave Trinidad and longed, some even begged, to be able to receive sponsorship from Phillip & Katie Schleich and return to the US to become citizens.

While there were a few escapees from the camp, "after some initial trepidation about the possible security risks involved, the War Department began allowing prisoners to be assigned to menial duties around the camps, then set up a network of smaller work camps near agricultural and industrial centers, making the POWs available for contract labor. 

Prisoners harvested sugar beets in the Arkansas Valley under minimal guard.

Denver Public Library Western History Collection >>

The Trinidad camp sent hundreds of prisoners to a side camp in Lamar to pick beets for Holly Sugar, to another camp in Monte Vista to pick potatoes, to another to pick corn in Springfield, to yet another to cut mine supports in Stonewall. The prisoners got eighty cents a day for their work, but the government charged farmers several dollars a head, making a tidy profit in the bargain."


<====Here's a cartoon to offer a little humor...  

The men loved getting to go to the Schleich Farm... in fact, they were known to fight over being able to go there.  On one particular day one of the prisoners had enjoyed a homemade doughnut that had been covered with powdered sugar... there was a little on his shirt.  Phillip went to brush the sugar off and the prisoner said "nein, nein"  and continued saying that he was proud to have the sugar on his shirt for all the other prisoners to see he had doughnuts at the Schleich's that day and be so envious!

What is your favorite kind of doughnut?  

When the girls were younger we would occasionally buy a tube of biscuits, poke a hole in the middle of the biscuit and deep fry them.  They were so tasty.  And when warm irresistible! They enjoyed mixing in a tablespoon of cocoa powder in with powdered sugar to make chocolate powder sugar doughnuts.  Easy Peasy!

While not really a doughnut, I have always preferred apple fritters.  Yum-O! 

Leave a comment... I'd love to hear from you!

Given the distance that the men traveled by ship I selected The Mayflower Block.  It is a simple block that will be 9-1/2" unfinished.  The original pattern indicates that it is a two color block, I thought that it looked better with the water portion of the block in a print.

Remember, when your block is complete you can share on instagram, tag me (@MelvaLovesScraps) and use hashtag #PiecesFromThePastSewAlong or post on my fb page - Melva Loves Scraps. And don't forget about the opportunity to link up for a chance to win a fat quarter.  The linky will be open until March 25th.  If you want to simply email me a picture of your completed block you can do that too -

Quilt Happy!


Need the first two blocks??? No problem!  
You can find the link for the Signature Block here.
And the link for The Lost Goslin' here.

Linking with:
BOMs Away at What A Hoot Quilts


  1. Thanks for the block Melva.
    I am really loving these stories of the prisoners and enjoying the letters. I think it was a lot better for them to get to work on the farms. It gave them something to do.
    BTW: My favorite doughnut is a strawberry cream filled one.

  2. Good Morning Melva! I was tickled pink to see your email early this morning as the first one I opened. I just adore reading these letters. What a fabulous part of history you are sharing with us. How wonderful to wear a powdered sugar badge of honor! This looks like a fun and easy block. I've already downloaded the instructions and hope to get to it this weekend. This block is a little smaller than the two previous ones - it will be interesting to see how these all come together. Happy Thursday! ~smile~ Roseanne

  3. These letters are so interesting. I always look forward to your posts with them! Thank you for sharing them and thanks for the new block!

  4. I am also enjoying reading your posts with the historical letters! Super interesting!

    I am so happy that you had a good experience with USPS! I have worked for USPS for several years and, at least in my little corner of the world, my co-workers and I do our very best for our customers, even in very tough conditions.

  5. I so enjoy reading the letters from the German prisoner back to the American farmer who obviously won his respect and friendship. They offer something the history books leave out...the human connection! Thank you for the new block!

  6. One of my favorite blocks, and I agree with you about the print. What wonderful people your relatives must have been, so kind to these enemies who were really just men far from home and missing family. That is such a wonderful legacy they left their descendants. I'm so glad you are sharing these letters.

  7. Reading the letters from Germany I note that they(confusing to me) use the letter J rather than I. Is it just that one fellow above, or do they all?

    1. I know it is confusing, but this is the only letter (that I recall) that used a J instead of an I.

  8. Thanks for another block. I am realling enjoying the letters and stories that you include with each block. It is a part of WWII history that I know very little about.

  9. Thank you~ Loving all the blocks and had fun making them. I like the chocolate covered donuts :D