Genealogy of Caleb W. Lawrence & Family
I don't know why Father got so excited about the war, but for the second time he hired a two-horse carriage and came all the way to Yoss Tepey to fetch me home, when he learned that war had been declared. I never did go camping again until after our return to Smyrna in the spring of 1919, Turkey was on the side of Germany, along with Austria-Hungary.
At first the war did not affect anyone too much. But soon, since all exports and imports were halted, a great depression set in, business was pretty much at a standstill and many foods were impossible to get. Fortunately, the college, which still had boarding students, was able to buy staples in quantity and enough for the faculty families. We were able to buy, that way, large bags of flour, sugar, tea and coffee. Eventually the stores of imported sugar and coffee were used up and we made a sweet syrup by boiling raisins, and coffee from roasted figs.
The staples raised in Turkey were reasonably plentiful, though; rice and dried beans of various kinds, flour, cured olives, olive oil, figs, raisins and goats* cheese, to name most of them. Meat we had, though it was never abundant, and milk, fruits and vegetables. We certainly didn't suffer from malnutrition, though none of us was fat.
But I felt particularly sorry for some of our Greek friends and neighbors. I don't know how they managed to stay alive. It got so bad that I persuaded Mother to start a relief soup kitchen to which the several destitute natives could come once a day at noon with a tin bucket and get a large helping of thick bean soup or whatever else we could get together for them. I guess we gave them some home-made bread, also. There were three in particular whom I remember. The crazy barber who came to the house with his comb and scissors and cut our hair., an old gray-haired guy who tried to make a living trapping wild song birds and selling them in Smyrna, and Yani, our old milkman' s son and my bird-trapping companion.
The old bird trapper lived in a stone and mud, single-room cabin with dirt floor, in the foothills going down from Paradise to Smyrna, and I used to visit him. I remember once being there, they had a few sticks going in their fireplace and all they had to eat were some mustard greens his daughter had boiled. She was about 20 and had an illegitimate, one-year old child she was trying to nurse.
Yani's father had been drafted by the Turks, but being of Greek ancestry, he could not be trusted with a gun, so he worked on a road-building gang. I don't know whether his wife ever got any money from the Turkish government for herself and her children's support. Anyway, I got Mother to give Yanl a part-time job our gardener and he was plentifully supplied from our soup kitchen each day.
In 1915 the British launched the Dardanelles campaign, against the Turks which turned out most disastrously for them. The Straits were heavily fortified by the Germans with heavy shore batteries and many of the British ships were sunk with serious losses, until they gave up and called the whole thing off. Before they did, however, several British battleships bombarded the Turkish fort at the entrance to Smyrna Bay, some 10 miles away, and we thought, hopefully, that the British were going to land in Smyrna. We could hear the shells exploding, but the British gave up.
However, we had some other excitement from bombing raids. The British occupied the Island of Mytilene, built an airport there and raided the railroad tracks near Paradise several times. They always missed, but some of the bombs came pretty close to our house. On one occasion, Edward and I were watching a couple of British biplanes maneuvering around almost overhead, about 1500 feet up, when I noticed a black speck fall from one -it was a bomb! As it gathered speed it started to shriek like a high-pitched siren. I turned and ran for the nearest building, but it exploded before I got there. The anti-aircraft guns were going off from some Turkish battery nearby and we could see puffs of white smoke as the shells exploded. A piece of shrapnel from one fell a few feet from where Edward was standing. It was the size of a plum and if it had landed on his head, it probably would have pierced it. After an air raid was over, we used to go over and examine the bomb craters, picking out bomb fragments for souvenirs.
I don't know why Father usually took me along whenever he had some business to take care of - for company, I guess. Britain, France and Italy all declared war on Turkey, so those nationals of the three countries who might serve as spies or saboteurs were rounded up and interned in a concentration camp. In the meantime, the American consulate in Smyrna took over the duties of the three that were closed and Father was given a part-time job by our consul general helping him with the extra duties he had taken over. One was going to the concentration camp once a month to pay certain allowances to the internees for their support, provided by the foreign governments involved.
Actually, the concentration camp was quite elegant. It was a swank resort hotel the Turks took over, two or three hours’ drive by two-horse carriage from the consulate, inland from Smyrna. The big danger in the operation was being waylaid by brigands and robbed. So the Turkish government provided us with two carabineers, one sitting next to the coachman and the other in the front seat facing us, each with his carbine cocked and ready. At our feet in the carriage were several large bags of gold and silver coins. The road wound through some desolate, mountainous passes and I would peer ahead looking for places where brigands might be hiding in ambush, but if there were any they never showed up. I have always wondered what would have happened if we had been attacked.
When we got to the hotel, the carabineers would carry in the money bags, Father would sit at the end of a table in the reception room, call out the names of the people on his list, give them the gold liras and silver coins they were supposed to get, each would sign opposite his name on the list and that was it. Father spoke French quite well, which for most people was a second language, so there were no problems. We then all got back into the carriage with the empty money bags and didn't worry about brigands on the drive back to town.
About that time, either just before or just after the war started, my grandmother's two youngest sisters who were nurses, Aunts Grace and Althea, started a small private hospital called the Clinic in Smyrna, at the Point opposite the station. Granny and their mother, Nenecka, gave up their home in Boudja and moved in with them, Granny to supervise the cook and servants, the meals and the housekeeping chores.
Since we had no telephones or local mail service, the only way we could communicate was either to call in person or to send a messenger. It was practically a weekly assignment to take the train from Paradise to the Point, usually Saturday afternoon, have tea at Granny's - quite an elaborate affair with anywhere from six to a dozen people dropping in - give them the news about us all and take any news back that they might have. I went down on Saturday, March 1917 after a pleasant visit and took a train that got me back to Paradise after dark was I surprised to find Father at the station to meet me! "Arthur", he said, "the United States has declared war on Germany and the State Department has ordered all American wives and children in Turkey to leave. I won't be able to go with you but will catch up with you in Switzerland in a few weeks. Mother, your four brothers and you, Mrs. Caldwell and her four children will leave by train early in the morning for Panderma and Constantinople. Mr. Caldwell and I have carriages hired to meet us here and all the baggage your mother can take is four suitcases between you." I was then eleven years old and Ralph had his first birthday several days later in Panderma, where we were held up for a week because of a mix-up over our passports.