Society News: Brownsdale Study Club

Published 7:16 am Sunday, August 7, 2016

Brownsdale Study Club met on July 20 at the home of Fern Paschke. The meeting was called to order with all members reading the Collect.

July minutes and treasurer’s reports were read and approved. Eleven members answered roll call by sharing a “Household Hint.” There was no old business. In new business Sarah Hatten and Hazel’s daughter Joan both thanked the club for support and prayers during recent illness. A motion was made to adjourn the meeting by Beryl and Sarah. Hostess for the August meeting will be LaVonne Skov. The outside reading given by Leone Peters was the story “Floating with John.”

Neshama was ill; really sick. Her husband of 35 years had died nine months earlier. They had two grown children and a granddaughter. Her sister, Kathryn, a nurse, was always by her side. She promised Neshama a trip to the Grand Canyon.

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A short time later, they were finally on a plane to Arizona. She still didn’t feel well. Now they had to antibiotics, so Kathryn gave her peeled garlic cloves known as “Italian Penicillin.” Finally, they got to the raft near the river. While the group went off on side hikes, Neshama chose to rest in the shade. As she rested, she realized that she had done her grieving, but needed to feel the weight of presence and the weight of absence.

Nobody knew that she and her sister had brought John’s ashes to scatter over the Little Colorado River. When Kathryn returned, they sloshed upstream. It was a windy day, but Neshama still wanted to empty the ashes from the bag. Then, when she did, they flew back and coated her. She was covered with John. All that she could do was dunk and weep and dunk and weep.

However, she soon washed off the ashes and then went back down the shoreline. Neshama put on her life jacket upside down and then they floated down the Little Colorado. One of the guides looked at her and saw the beautiful expression on her face and he asked “What is going on?” She replied, “I was traveling with my husband John and I was learning to let him go.”

Shelley Vogel gave the mail topic on “The Lost Underground of World War I”

In a secluded woods in northeastern France, Jeff Gusky, a photographer and his companion, were exploring dozens of underground tunnels. The entrance was a wet hole no bigger than an animal burrow. They slithered through the muddy hole into darkness. Soon, a passage opened up. The glow from their headlamps showed a century-old tunnel. There were other tunnels that ended with a little cubicle hewed out of chalk. Most all the walls had beautiful artworks on then done by the soldiers after the outbreak of the first World War.

One hundred years ago this summer, German military engineers would listen for the sound of enemy tunnelers. The deadlock of trench warfare led both sides to tunnel beneath enemy positions and plant explosives. In the Oise Valley, German engineers dug this secret network of tunnels beneath the French front lines. If they heard muffled voices or scraping sounds it meant a mining team was digging an attack tunnel. If there was silence, the charges might detonate a blow apart or blow you up. On Jan. 26, 1915, they detonated a charge that killed 26 French infantrymen and wounded 22.

Going on in the tunnel walls, the headlamps illuminated much graffiti. In fact, the chalk and limestone bedrock in the French Picardy region was ideal, not only for mining but for the soldiers to pencil in signatures, make sketches, carvings, and beautiful sculptures and religious symbols.

But the underground war was not confined to only tunnels. Beneath the Picardy fields are century-old quarries, which could shelter thousands of troops. The U.S. troops of the 26th “Yankee” division billeted in an underground quarry at Chemin des Dames carved 500 engravings during six weeks in 1918.

Both sides of the war converted the largest quarries into underground cities with telephones, electricity, and all the furnishings. Under a potato field they found a quarry that stretched for seven miles. It was like a substation connected to the frontline trenches. Guiding the entrance of one quarry was a monumental carving of Marianne, the classic French symbol of liberty. There are many chapels with many carvings. An unknown artist had carved the image of a French soldier praying one hundred years ago. Artwork covered many passages. It gave the soldiers mental relief from the battlefields nearby.

Many of the quarries today are safeguarded with gates and padlocks. Upon leaving, they asked a mechanic why the art and American names were important today in the tunnels and quarries. He said “By reading the names down there, we make them live again for a moment.”