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On Common Ground


The recent campaign tells me that we’re weary of war.  

Lots of sabre rattling was heard from the Right. So I hope we can read the presidential margin as a vote against inviting conflict with other nations—excepting, of course, those countries with the technical ability to create nuclear weapons and the childlike naïvete to think they can resist the temptation to use them. There is a difference betwixt a readiness for war and the wanton craving to start one. 

As our troops come home from Afghanistan and other theaters, I wonder how they will be welcomed home. Better, I hope than the veterans of Vietnam who suffer yet from the long-term consequences the follow from killing. Agincourt will, I know, welcome home her sons and daughters with open arms and thankful hearts. And will also have, in the meantime, cared for their families at home during their sacrifice. Such was not always the case, however. 

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m) helped the “greatest generation” rejoin the post-war peacetime economy and adjust to the world that they, in effect, had made. All service men and women since have enjoyed those benefits. (Or at least they should have. In the present recession, I wonder how secure those benefits will remain.) But what of earlier generations?

How, I wondered, would Agincourt have acknowledged the personal sacrifices of soldiers and sailors in World War I, the Great War, the war to end war, the war they wrote songs about. Howard has been writing this piece for several years and it is still unfinished. But I can tell you this much: Agincourt’s citizens collectively honored their doughboys (and girls) with a substantial reward.

The Commercial Club took the lead, forming a “Veteran’s Committee” which created a stock company. Shareholders received one point below current interest rates (a comparable sacrifice on the home front) to build housing for returning servicemen. A block in the southeast quadrant, with few existing houses, was purchased and replatted. Twelve lots became twenty-seven, and thirteen duplex homes were constructed in the 1919-1921 building seasons. Veterans were able to purchase these homes at below-market rates. The modest lot sizes were balanced by shared garden space in the center, a place for family activity and a safe haven for children; a place to build community. A small grocery at the corner of Fifth and Alcott served the surrounding neighborhood and also became a trolley stop for the NITC cars.

Howard has been trying to interview families who settled there, especially children who had grown to maturity in such a nurturing environment. Perhaps I can nudge him to get the piece written at last. 



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