by Albert W. Sylvestre

Scarves, Sweaters & Poetry:
A Soldier’s Encounter with Newport Red Cross Ladies

Since 1942, I have had a book of poems titled, “The Desk Drawer Anthology.” Printed in 1938, it is a fond remembrance of a event long ago.

In February, 1942, the war was barely two months old, and I was stationed in Little Compton, Rhode Island, manning the “Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay.” As the Supply Sargeant of Battery “E”, 10th C.A., I drove to Fort Adams in Newport almost every day for supplies. My driver was Mike Sposito, from Revere MA. Together we drove a ¾ ton Dodge truck with no doors or heater and a canvas roof. Some comfort!

One day in mid-February, Mike and I were waiting in traffic on Bellevue Avenue in Newport, when a woman got our attention. She explained that she was a member of the American Red Cross, Newport Chapter, and asked if we could use some warm hand knitted sweaters and mittens. I said we could!

In the Red Cross building nearby, ladies were sitting at bridge tables, having afternoon tea and knitting sleeveless sweaters, caps, mittens, and all in O.D. (olive drab) or Navy. For the service men! Between the warmth of the room and the generous ladies, we were sure we were hallucinating!

We explained that we were headed to Base End Station, where they were in dire need of warm clothes. So, out came the boxes! They even helped us load the truck. All of these ladies were from Newport Society, and yet they understood that these were difficult times, and they were doing their part for the service men.

As I drank my second cup of tea, one lady asked me about myself, then handed me a book she said she had enjoyed. I accepted this fine gesture, and have enjoyed the “Desk Drawer Anthology” for almost sixty years.

We left the Red Cross ladies and headed to the Station. All were awaiting us, because I had promised additional blankets and rations, but when we brought in the sweaters, mittens, and scarves, it was Christmas all over again, only much better!

The light was fading fast, so we had to hurry. As we pulled away, all I heard were loud cheers. I guess we, along with the fine Ladies in Newport, made a difference.

Albert Sylvestre is 82 years old & lives in New Hampshire.