***Bringing the Past to Life: A Local Historic Biography Series***
We are very excited to present to you the second digital monologue of this new series. Thank you to
Humanities Kansas for giving us the opportunity to share this work in digital format for the very first time. Our second monologue honors Lerlowe E. Howard.
Lerlowe E. Howard
Private 1st Class Lerlowe E. Howard reporting for duty!
Well---not really--- but I thought I would say that just one more time to see how it sounded. And it sounds good to me. You see, when I was 18 years old and just graduated from high school, I enlisted in the Regular Army to fight in the “war to end all wars”, World War I.
My parents, William and Minnie Howard, were not eager to see me go but they supported my decision. You see, I was their only son and my father, in particular, had big plans for me. He was in the monument business, the valued employee of John Milligan who had established the business in 1887, 12 years before I was born in 1899 (as you see here--- motion to monument). He dreamed of the day that he would own that business with me as his partner and he encouraged me in that effort ever since I was a youngster. That dream might have come to pass except for that “Great War”, the beginning of my story tonight
I was proud to do my part for the country and, truth be told, my time in the military was an education and experience that enriched me.
I enlisted on May 7, 1917 as a member of Company A, Second Division, Second Engineers. We trained in El Paso, Texas at Camp Bliss. I was expecting a longer training period but things were heating up across the pond and we were shipped out of there early in August to Washington, D.C. We spent seven days in transit; a trip that I thoroughly enjoyed and I saw some beautiful country. I sent my folks a map and outlined the route we took. We had a two hour stop in New Orleans, crossed the Mississippi on a large ferry (it could carry over 18 passenger train coaches at one time) went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, took a boat ride at Mobile, Alabama and then went on to Washington D.C. We lived on the American University grounds in tents with dirt floors but the time there more that made up for any discomfort. I went through the Capitol building, the Congressional Library, the theatre were Lincoln was shot and the house across the street where he died, several museums, the log cabin in which Lincoln was born that was moved to D.C., the Washington Monument, the original inaugural papers that Lincoln wrote (the one where he erased the three and wrote it over), some letters that George Washington wrote his wife and the original signatures of all the presidents of the United States. I even saw President Wilson and he looked just like his pictures! I got acquainted with several girls and did they treat us soldiers fine! I met a special girl, my “best” girl and we attended church together. She lived in a beautiful home (I had never seen any house in Hutchinson that would compare with it) and we went riding in her “Super six” automobile and took a boat ride on the Potomac River. Even with all that, I was ready to finally go across and was sent to France in September, barely a month later. From March to May 1918, I served in Verdun sector and, after that, I was on the move. I was the first Hutchinson man to reach the front trenches in March and now I know that I was rushing to the end.
As I mentioned, I enlisted on May 7, 1917 and on May 2, 1918 (not rvrn a year later), I wrote a letter to my folks. I had just received some long-awaited letters from them and was glad to hear that Papa was doing lots of business but I knew he would be much happier when I could get back to help him with it. It was beginning to look like Spring in France which brought to mind how I liked to help Mamma with yard work, doing all the hard digging for the flower beds and making things look nice around the house. I told her that she would not have to do that as I could take care of it when I got back.
A little over a month later, on July 21, I died. I was wounded in the first days assault in a counter-offensive launched against heights of Soissons and laid for eighteen hours on the field before I was discovered, insensible from the pain of the injury.
That spring, Mamma planted those flowerbeds by herself. The American Legion was in charge of my funeral and it was held later that spring in my parents home at 924 North Main. In 1920, my family was proud to be at the dedication of the bridge memorial in my name on 2nd avenue over the canal.
Now, you would think that was the end of my story but there’s more!
With the death benefit from the Army, my father was finally able to buy the monument company and, a year later, in 1919 he was the proud owner of W.E. Howard and Son Monuments, named in my honor. That name was not changed until 1960 after he passed on and my mother sold it to Charles and Esther Wagner. It became Wagner Memorial Company and still stands at 202 North Maple today.
But what many people Hutchinson people just might associate with and remember me for?
Lerlowe’s Puppy! Even though they may not know who carved this little guy (actually he weighs over 1,000 pounds and stands over 3’ tall), when I was just 10 years old, in 1909, as an apprentice stone cutter, I cut this dog from a large piece of limestone with hand tools. For many years, he stood watch outside of Wagners but in 2009, his 100th birthday, he was moved into the building. When Mamma sold the business, part of the agreement (which remains in place today) was a promise to take care of “Lerlowe’s puppy”.