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Friday October 21, 2016
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The Washtenaw Polar Bears



Most of the letters home sounded cheerful. Corporal Frank Brewster wrote that he was "quite a bit heavier and hard as nails ... this outdoors is great stuff ... so if I sidestep the whizbangs until the last inning here, I will have done what 'bit' I can and gained several things besides."

Robert Granville's letters reflect the gaiety enjoyed by the few soldiers who stayed in Archangel, a town flooded with wealthy tsarist refugees and internationals fleeing the chaos of civil war in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Granville, a teacher in Ann Arbor, wrote to his niece, Nora Frisbie, announcing his evening plans to "step off a few dances. We are teaching the girls the American style of dancing and they are getting quite proficient." (These letters are available, along with an array of other materials, in the Polar Bear Digital Collection at the U-M's Bentley Historical Library.)

Even one of the civilians in the theater wrote positively about it. Frank Olmstead of Ann Arbor was local secretary for the Young Men's Christian Association. In a letter published by the DTN in February he writes that the audience for his talks and prayer meetings included British, French, and White Russian troops--and maybe even the Reds: "Now I've got a small phonograph and will give concerts in all the dugouts, the Bolsheviks can also enjoy the music ... provided they're not shelling."


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