Clinton W. Parker papers  1917-1919
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Biography

Clinton W. Parker was raised in Wakefield, Massachusetts spent most of his life in the Boston suburb where he was born. Parker was raised a Baptist but around 1910 he experienced his first healing in Christian Science and became a student of this science. In 1916 he moved to New York where he worked for The Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn until the spring of 1918 when he was called to Washington D.C. to work in the Legal Bureau of the Procurement Division, Office of the General of Ordinance, at the War Department. On May 11, 1918 he received a letter from the Local Board 124 in New York City informing him he would be inducted into the service on May 25, 1918. Clinton was stationed at the Machine Gun Training Center, Camp Hancock in Augusta, Georgia for the next nine months.

The teachings of the Christian Science Church were very important to Clinton while he was in the army. He spent many hours with the Stinchfield's who ran the Christian Science Camp Welfare Room. During one service Stinchfield encouraged the Christian Science boys to make the "work a success in camp" (6/28/18), which Clinton strove to do. He also read The Monitor and other Christian Science literature, corresponded with other Scientists, and sought out Scientists in the community of Augusta.

Camp life was positive for Clinton at first. He was willing to endure the heat and poor conditions for patriotic duty. He hoped to go "over there" and was ready to sacrifice himself for the cause. Rumors about men going overseas and about changes in the draft continually circulated through the camp. Clinton's work seemed to be in the offices of the camp. Although he was not trained as a machine gunner, regular drills also seemed to be a part of his day. As the war neared its end in the fall of 1918, he only wanted to be released to return to New York.

Camp Hancock and Augusta were quarantined for several months during the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. Clinton credited his faith in Christian Science beliefs for saving him from the flu and from death during this period. His opinions were strong about those who relied on doctors for cures rather than on right thinking. Clinton finally admitted that the epidemic was "very bad" but still felt some people overreacted. He quoted Mrs. Eddy's teachings on infectious diseases and believed that the way he thought protected him as much or more than medicine. In January 1919 the flu returned to the camp. He wrote to his worried mother that "it is nothing more than a cold with an extra amount of fear attached" (1/17/19).

A memo dated November 2, 1918 encouraged men to ignore rumors of peace. "All the fighting brain-cells of the mind must be wide open, and all the peace brain-cells closed" (11/2/18). On November 7, believing that the war had ended, the city of Augusta celebrated. "The whistles blew, automobiles rushed up and down the streets with flags flying and horns blowing..." (11/8/95). Following the official end of the war, things began changing rapidly for Clinton and for Camp Hancock. Uncertainty about when he would be sent home or if he would be transferred to another camp filled his letters. The Army's plans for converting Camp Hancock into a permanent army base ceased.

As the war neared the end and after it was over, the tone of Clinton's letters changed regarding camp life. Without patriotic cause, he became more vocal about his distaste for the South and for the army. Now he watched men being sent home ahead of him while he remained in camp without much purpose and no hope of attending Officers Training School. Throughout his enlistment he had no furloughs but this did not seem to bother him until the war ended.

He was promoted several times and eventually reached the highest rank for a non-commissioned officer. In a letter following his last promotion, he told his mother that he worked quietly at his job and had not pushed for promotions like other fellows had. As a result he succeeded where others had failed.

Clinton enjoyed an active social life before and during his army days. Activities took place both in and out of camp. One captain threw large parties and banquets for his men, which caused them to wonder about their futures. Clinton saw these extravagances as a waste of money since men went hungry or had poor food the rest of the week. Frequent visits, usually including entertainment and a meal, were also made to families in Augusta and Aiken, South Carolina. Some seemed to be connected with the work of the church while others did not.

Clinton occasionally mentioned Papa but concentrated on his mother's financial and spiritual well being. Alma C. Parker had moved into her son's apartment when he departed for Washington, D.C. Her son encouraged her to attend lectures at the Brooklyn Institute and Lecture Series. He also encouraged her to register to vote as part of the Prohibition Party and to vote for Wilson. She did neither.

Carroll, Clinton's brother, was another concern. In August 1918, Clinton wrote his mother, "If Carroll is still going under an assumed name it will be a good chance to drop it and take up his right name..." (8/19/18). Finally, in the fall of 1918, Carroll enlisted in the Merchant Marines and was stationed in West Seattle. One long letter details his life there. Following the end of the war, Carroll was sent to Siberia.

Parker returned to his job at the Dime Savings Bank in Brooklyn and to life in New York City following the war.