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Looking Back to WWI in 1918: Letter from local soldier, snapshots of local support 

Looking Back Paso Robles

This look back at Paso Robles history comes from local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. News for this column is selected with the assistance of the society’s Vice President Nancy Tweedie and Research Director Jan Cannon.

Excerpts from the Paso Robles Leader, Friday, October 11, 1918.

Letter from Ben Kiler from Camp Fremont, Sept 5, 1918

T.F.B. Excelsior Lodge No. 126
Mr. L. Hawley Sec.

Dear Sir and Brother:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the arrival of your letter of Sept 4th in which I find enclosed a smilage book.

I want to thank the lodge for this present and remembrance so appropriate for a soldier’s use, and to say that upon opening the letter, a contagion struck me that won’t wear off, its “Smile! Smile! Smile!” I will continue to do so, to the last check in remembrance of the T.F. Brotherhood.

Looking Back Paso Robles

Click here to read the full front page of the October 11, 1918 Paso Robles Leader.

There have been a number of Paso Robles acquaintances here to see me. The Spargo boy who has just gone to Siberia; also the youngest Givens boy is just two rows of tents from my company. Expect the new draft will hit a number of those who I am acquainted with and I welcome them to Camp Fremont (if they should be so fortunate as to be sent here) in the new American game to get the “KAISER,” it is sure a great game, and after taking the firs pill, which consists of being entrained, landed in camp, physical examination, (being handled by number something new) getting used to camp life and mess kit, getting over the soreness from upsetting exercising muscles you ain’t got and getting used to things in general which of course is all new!

I have been transferred into the kitchen, a very appropriate place for one with such an enormous appetite as I have had since coming here. They have decided to make me a cook and it looks like I have drawn the short straw.

Well Lew as there are several other letters to do to-night, will close for this time hoping this finds you O.K. as it leaves me. I am ever your friend and Brother

Benj. F. Kiler

Saturday Night Pandemonium Reigned

“Saturday was a very quiet day everyone was getting ready for a very quiet Sunday, expecting to be ready for a grand rush to go over the top during the coming week, showing the Kaiser and all his sympathizers that Germany would be shortly left in the maelstrom of the great rush of bond sales; but even if the people of Paso Robles and other places were awakened and spent gasoline freely and made a loud noise and showed their joy, the news of the following day did not follow up to the great point expected of the Germans laying down their war weapons etc. and giving up and quitting. Not so!”

Looking Back Paso RoblesLoosen Up, Turtle

“The Fourth Liberty Loan is the first item on the program of national war finance since the announcement of our intention to put five million men in France and finish the war next year.”

This advertisement, encouraging locals to purchase Liberty Bonds was donated by BELL’s Big Department Store.

Historical Note:  WWI ended on Nov 11, 1918, one month after this edition of the Paso Robles Leader was published.


Read previous Looking Back articles


Thank you to sponsors of Looking Back

Paso Robles Pioneer Museum – Come take a real look back into local Paso Robles history. Open Thursday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 2010 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles, CA 93446, www.pasoroblespioneermuseum.org (805) 239-4556.

Estrella Warbird Museum is an aviation museum dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles, and memorabilia. Woodland Auto Display is also open. Hours: Thursday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. 4251 Dry Creek Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446, ewarbirds.org, (805) 227-0440.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.