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Daddy after discharge from the Army. San Antonio, Texas, 1918.



 

PRIVATE JARVIS IN WWI - THAT ARMY FIGHT
 


Daddy was forced by Army duty to interrupt his partnership with his brother. He was drafted in 1918 for the final year of World War I and assigned by the Depot Brigade to Company A of 218 Engineers of 18th Division. He entered as a private and was discharged as a corporal.

In the days of Daddy’s youth a frontier psychology prevailed. There was a high premium on manhood; certain personal matters of honor could only be settled by a fistfight. This code also applied to Army life. At Daddy’s station, Camp Travis in San Antonio, there was a boxing ring with enough spectator seats to accommodate several companies of men. Boxing was a popular Army sport; it was also used by some to settle grudges. Many a soldier with time on his hands would turn out to watch a good fight.

In camp, there was always an element of tension between enlisted men and officers, especially the non-com officers. In some divisions it was said that during action in Europe more officers lost their lives by a bullet from behind than from the enemy. In the confusion of war, who ever knew for sure?

Private Jarvis finished his meal one evening and went to clean his aluminum mess tray. He was late and he noticed that the water in the privates’ wash kettle had gotten pretty filthy, but the water in the kettle of the non-commissioned officers was still clean. Since he was one of the last ones through the line, he moved over to the non-com kettle. Just then a corporal from another platoon looked over and said, “Get out of there, Private.”

Private Jarvis looked up. Annoyed and fed up with Army regimentation, he said, “Go to hell.” The Corporal, incensed, said, “You can’t tell me that! Now go report to the Sergeant.”

“Go to hell,” repeated Private Jarvis, expressing the indignity of a real frontier man. Of course in the Army, he was really overstepping his bounds.

The Corporal rushed off and returned with a First Sergeant, who proceeded to take them both into the sanctified quarters of the Captain. After some explanation, the complaining Corporal said, “Captain, this is a personal matter with me. If he didn’t have those glasses on, I’d punch him in the nose.”

“Don’t let these glasses stop you,” replied Private Jarvis.

“That does it, Captain” said the Corporal, “Let’s fight.”

“Is that what you want, Private?” the Captain asked Daddy.

“That’s fine with me,” he agreed.

The Captain said, “Well, all right. You will use our regular gloves and you will fight by Marquis of Queensbury rules.” He told his aide to get out the boxing gloves.

The word sped through camp that there was going to be a fight. “Jarvy,” as he became known to his rooters, was going to fight the Corporal, who was pretty well resented by many in the camp. Some, however, felt sorry for Jarvy and thought the Corporal had set him up; it was known around camp that the Corporal had been the Welterweight Boxing Champion of Colorado.

Jarvy weighed in at 140 pounds—a little lighter than the Corporal. But when the two met in the ring, the difference in experience and training was obvious. The Corporal danced and skipped, feigned and jabbed; Jarvy simply waded in flat-footed, saving his energy.

The camp had turned out en masse and cheered their every punch. There was no set number of rounds for the fight; according to Marquis of Queensbury rules, it would have to go on until one or the other decided to call it quits. Both men took a lot of punishment. Finally, in the fifth round, Jarvy’s strategy paid off. After some jabbing about by the Corporal, Jarvy managed to slow him down with a left uppercut to the chin. Then Jarvy followed with a hard right cross to the jaw and floored the Corporal for the count of ten.

The Corporal was still on his back when Jarvy was carried away on the shoulders of a cheering throng. His pockets were stuffed with candy bars and cigars. Daddy always referred to that moment as the highlight of his life.

Afterwards, when Jarvy encountered the Corporal, there were no hard feelings. Luckily, The Corporal was a good loser and held no grudges..

 
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