Cecil Ross

Cecil J. Ross

The author of this document was Cecil Ross' father-in-law, Reverend Archibald G. Baker   The narrative below is comprised of excerpts from an extensive family history he prepared.  The focus is on his time in St. Helens, his military service, injury, recovery and family during and immediately after WW I. This transcription contains many modifications and is not intended to duplicate the language in the original document.  You can view the original here.

According to Cecil, his mother had grave misgivings about settling in St. Helens as the town did not seem to provide the most wholesome environment in which to raise a family of two vigorous boys.  The following incidents make it evident that the mother's fears were well founded.

For example:  there was a wooden flume built in the shape of a large trough which descended from the hills above past the back end of the lot where Cecil lived, and on down to the river.  Part of the way down the flume was level with the ground and part of the way it was twenty to thirty feet above.  Down this flume cord wood was floated in order to supply the wood burning steamers with fuel. This proved to be too great a temptation to the boys of the neighborhood, Cecil included.  They would anchor themselves as best they could on a good sized piece of wood about four feet long and ride the thing down to the river.  We have no account of the skinned fingers, the bumps and bruises, and narrow escapes, but at least it was great fun and the boys managed to survive.  Needless to say it did not add to the peace of mind of the mothers of the neighborhood.

The family rented a new house which uncle Ed had just built.  This was equipped with electric lights, a fully furnished bathroom and other modern improvements.   This located on block west of  the Congregational church.  Between the church and house was a convenient pond of water.  Even at this early age young Cecil could not resist the attraction of water, and each day he would rush home from school to ride about on a crude little raft which he himself made.  (However he soon graduated from the innocent little pond to the river which was another matter.)  It was while living in this house that his father gave him a mustang pony to ride about the town.  This he kept in his uncle's barn just north of the church.  About this time a new sidewalk was laid in front of the Courthouse.  Of course, the boys were quick to take advantage of this civic improvement and soon turned it into a skating rink, much to the inconvenience of the adult population. 

The river itself became an irresistible attraction.  Gathering together enough drift wood and enough old rusty nails to make a raft, the boys would pound the thing together with stones and set adrift, pushing themselves up and down the shallow bank of the river.  Later on Cecil and his chums found an old abandoned life boat.  They calked it up where it had sprung a leak, sewed together a make-shift sail out of gunny sacks, improvised a rudder, and set out to cruise the Columbia.  It should be noted that in those days there was no island off shore as is the case at present.

 Cecil at age 8

170 Columbia Blvd., St. Helens  

Teenage Cecil in St. Helens

Inside John Gumm School in St. Helens

Upside down  Cecil with friends

Cecil took his first year's schooling in Jamesville, his second year in Gresham, and entered the third grade on coming to St. Helens.  After graduation from the grades, he enrolled in the High School.  But in the spring of his Sophomore year he got into difficulties with the principal, which led to  a change in the future plans for his education.  One Saturday afternoon, not having anything better to do, he and another boy got into the gymnasium when the place was supposed to be closed, and began to amuse themselves playing basketball.  Evidently they were making quite a commotion, for the principal discovered the intruders.  This was taken to be such a serious offense that he straightaway expelled them from the school, which meant the loss of the year's credits.  Quite a disturbance was aroused in the town.  Some people supported the principal in his ruling while others felt that the discipline was too severe for the offense.   The School Board gave the matter consideration and decided not to override the authority of the principal.  Fortunately for Cecil, the School Superintendent came to the rescue.  He told Cecil to continue his studies at home and, when the time came for the examinations, made arrangement for him to take them in his office rather than in the school.  Thus Cecil won credit for the year's work and a certificate was issued to that effect.

Armed with this certificate, he entered the junior year at Washington High School, Portland, that September, which meant that he had to leave home and go to Portland to live.  As an added inducement for him to do his best, his father promised that if he graduated with his class he would take him to the San Francisco Fair.  In due time Cecil, his mother and father attended the Fair in 1915, making the trip down and back by boat. 

That fall he entered as a freshman in the University of Oregon at Eugene and finished the first year, intending to return in the autumn. But the death of his father, October 17, 1916, brought about far reaching changes in Cecil's plans and in the fortunes of the family.   Instead of returning to Eugene, he spent the winter in Seattle staying with his aunt Minnie and working several places.  Spring found him back in St. Helens again, and on the 17th of April he enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps which later came to be known as the Air Corps and finally the U.S. Air Force.

Cecil Ross  (starting in 1917)

America entered the war, April 6, 1917, and eleven days later Cecil enlisted in the Air Corps of the U.S. Army,  and in a short time all the recruits were loaded aboard trains for San Antonio, Texas.  In spite of the fact that the soldiers from Vancouver had been five days on the train, evidently the authorities in San Antonia had no word of their coming.  Consequently, when they disembarked and marched out of Kelly Field, No. 2., they found nothing awaiting them but a barren desert field, a single water faucet for all purposes, and one lone corporal from the regular army.  No tents, no food, no blankets, "no nothing."  The corporal apologized for the state of affairs with the remark:  "Believe it or not men, but until you appeared over the hill I had no idea that you were coming."  However, he soon got in contact with the base at San Antonio and by nightfall some of the more urgent equipment had arrived.

Cecil's company remained in training here until August, and then they were shipped to Toronto, Canada, and placed under The Royal Canadian Flying Corps which had seen plenty of action in Europe.  Three months later they were back in Texas at Forth Worth.  In February, 1918, they were dispatched to Long Island, and month later were placed aboard the White Star liner, Olympic for England.  While in camp on Long Island, Cecil got a guide book to the city of New York and whenever he could get leave he went sight seeing in the city.  About seven thousand men were crowded aboard that one liner, and Cecil found himself stowed away on G deck, seven decks down in the hold of the boat.   Their hammocks were hung from the ceiling, but this was so low that the boys could climb into them from the floor without difficulty, and the hammocks were so close together that they rubbed elbows as they slept.  The steamer travelled across the Atlantic without a convey because it was felt that the speed of the boat was sufficient protection from submarines.  After landing in Liverpool they travelled south to the town of Romsey about sixty miles southwest of London there to await further orders.

Cecil on leave visits his mother Fannie at their home in St. Helens

Cecil had the foresight to keep a diary from the day the men boarded the Olympic.  The book itself is a small pocket volume of some 80 pages.  It consists of brief and concise annotations of daily events, with no elaboration of details.  The opening pages describe the trip across, but we will begin with the entry dated March 4th, as they were nearing the shores of England sailing up the Irish Sea. 

"March 4:  All glad to wake up and find our ship flanked by four U.S. destroyers.  We zigzag all day.  In the afternoon a destroyer drops a bomb.  In the evening we are issued emergency rations.

March 5:  Sighted land on starboard side, close enough to see buildings and fields.  Destroyer drops depth bomb and oil appears on surface of water.   One of the Olympic's guns fires at object in water once and misses it.  Before dinner the destroyer leaves us.  We pull into Liverpool at 3:30 P.M.  Were ready to get off the boat, but were told to prepare for another night on ship.  Didn't have life preserver pillows that night, as we were safe in port.

March 6:  Ate early breakfast and disembarked.  Walked to train.  It looked like a joke to us, but surprises us by making 45 miles per hour a lot of the time....We pass through Oxford and see German prisoners working along the road under guard.   See first planes flying in England.  Leave train at Winchester about  4 P.M.   March three miles to camp Woodley, near Romsey and about 60 miles S.W. of London.  My foot gets pretty sore.  We go into "tin" barracks.  In the evening Hickok and I go to the "Y" and also to the telegraph office and send a cablegram.  We go to bed on boards and straw mattresses.

March 7:  Reveille 7.30:  breakfast 10.00:  diner 2.00; supper 5.00 (English fashion).  This is rest day.  In the morning I go all day.  We have English ration at mess......

March 9:  Hike with platoon to Winchester.  Go through cathedral.  Building was started in 1039.  Isaac Walton's tomb is here.  Cardinal Richard Fox buried here in 1447.  He left beer and bread for all who call at saloon in Winchester....Winchester was capital of 400  years.  Go the "Y" in evening and see amateur program.  Next day hear sermon by Fosdick and Y.M.C.A.....

March 12:  Squadron hikes to Romsey.  I ride on truck with a few others.   All I had for breakfast was bread, butter and cheese; and for dinner a beef sandwich.  We are all in the tents here--officers as well as men.  We men have straw ticks and three extra blankets.  I saw a small plane do stunts this afternoon for the first time.  It was a small plane with rotary motor.  Very fast,.  Stunts wonderful.  For supper, bread, jam, cheese.  

March 13:  Slept fine last night; twenty in tent; no drill.  All the squadrons here at Camp Woodley paraded on drill ground.  A British staff officer tells the 28th squadron (Cecil's) that we will be a day bombing squadron... Flights will be trained in France under Royal Flying Corps, and then be under U.S. control.  We are getting very little to eat here.  I went to canteen in the evening and spent about three shillings on bread, jam and coffee.

March 15:  Drilled in morning.  Hiked to Romsey with squadron in afternoon.  Went through Romsey Abbey.  Part of building built in 907.  Wrote my name in register.  Saw Kaiser Bill's name written in 1907, the 1000th anniversary of the abbey."

RMS Olympic -  Sister ship of the Titanic

Cecil Ross WWI diary.pdf

 Diary of Cecil Ross


Pictures of his parents that Cecil kept with him during his service

17 year-old Cecil

As the boys will be leaving for France in a day or two. We will record here one or two little matters that still stand out vividly in Cecil's memory from the experiences at Romsey on arriving in camp. They were met by a bunch of American soldiers who had come over on the Tuscania, which had been torpedoed. 

The men had to take to the lifeboats with whatever clothing they happened to have on. And in some cases it was very little. In the emergency, the British had done their best to complete the uniforms out of their own stock. Consequently, American soldiers were found walking about camp clothed in American pants and British tunics, American shoes and British caps or American underwear, American shoes and British caps or American underwear and British outerwear;  a motley group. But happy to be alive, the American boys got a glimpse of how the British disciplined pacifists, who refused to bear arms.  On their tunics they were labeled with the insignia N.C.C.  Non Combatant Corps so that the rest of the soldiers knew at a glance who they were and looked down upon them with a certain amount of disdain. However, there were strict orders that no one was even to speak to them except the officers in charge.  To these men was assigned all the more menial jobs about camp, all of which had to be born for conscience sake by those who were sincere in their religious convictions. 

We now follow the American boys on their journey to France.

March 17 Reveille at 4am left camp. Woodley at 7:00 am March to Romsey. Took train to Southampton, rode, second class, instead of third as before.  Lay around dock till evening, then boarded boat and left harbor at 6:00 pm, Moonlight evening with water very smooth, many ships in channel saw two convoys.  Dirty cattle ship this, so I stayed up on deck or in engine room all night. We were issued gas masks at Southampton next morning, anchored in La Havre at 4:30 am,  An observation balloon, and a dirigible came close to the ship during the morning. Saw three dirigibles at one time, patrolling the harbor, waited, till 2 o'clock for tide and then went through the locks and docked.  Then a 4 mile hike to camp at top of hill, bordering harbor, had beans, and white bread and butter for supper.  March 19. Reveille at 5:30 left camp in truck about 7:30 and went to pier to get our barracks bags. Then went on truck to train where we got our rations, train left, Le Havre at 2 pm, 21 men in our box car, 34 in another car. There were Canadians Australians, and Americans on board. Slept fair, considering.  Arrived at Hazebrouck at 10:30. A.M. went to reinforcement barracks,( i.e. housing, reinforcements); ate our rations for dinner. then returned to station to get bags and meet truck. Six shells were dropped and we moved out of town along with the civilians.  Trucks picked us up and took us the 12 miles to our camp near Aires. 

We were billeted in Inns.  Hun plane visited us that evening, but was driven off.   Next day planes bombed the town killing people with a big raid in evening. Huns fired down with machine guns, as well as dropped bombs watched our barrage fire Anti-aircraft guns, machine guns and shrapnel. 

(Writer Rev. Baker's note: from here on, I take the liberty of condensing, the contents of the diary)

The entries for the next month, tell of the daily round of duties and occupations while the squadron is stationed in this camp near the town of Aires -- duties such as servicing ships in the drone, putting in time as best they could when the weather was bad and there was no flying, taking occasional trips to Aires or  Serny. One evening they walked to three different towns showing how congested was the population; signing up for the supposed periodical payroll (but actually no cash arrived until April 24th) travelling here and there to salvage a plane that had crashed;  dodging an occasional bombing.  On April 3rd Cecil gets his first mail since leaving New York, a letter from auntie written Feb 23rd;  on April 26th he receives a comfort kit from brother L.G.  He is inspected for scurvy and has his head shaved.  Begins to study French in spare time; serves as room orderly and helps K.P.;  bathes as best he can when facilities are available.  The officers burn down their hut during a booze party. Watches a balloon brought down by Fritz. His friends Stewart brings down three Huns, making five, during the week, ball game with Canucks  livened up by parade, band, etc.; score, 21/7 favor of Canadians; invited to concert at Canuck YMCA in evening. It sure was a great show with all-star Vaudeville sets. Nothing of importance today.   Went to C.C.S. to see Ray Faubion,  but he had been sent away; scrubbed pans for our mess etc.  Such was the camp life of a private in the 28th Squadron, who was restricted to ground duty. 

However, on June 24th, Cecil and his squadron traveled by train through Calais, Estaples, Abbeville, Rouen and Versailles on their way to their new camp at Isscidun. At about this time, the Americans passed out from under the R.F.C., and we're organized as the USA Air Corps.  They celebrated the fourth of July, with a track meet and baseball game and then entertained the French soldiers as guests for dinner.

After two weeks they boarded a “40 hommes” freight car and wakened up in the morning at their new camp located at Orly some 14 miles from Paris. As the days go by, Cecil works on motors, lorries and planes as they need repairs. One day’s record runs as follows:  Worked in the morning.  Bath. Fumigation of blankets and clothing in the afternoon; many thousands of cooties must have passed on, danced in the evening.  He takes several trips to Paris with the following interesting experiences, saw Bastille monument, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower; went up in Ferris Wheel, had a good feed and ran around in a taxi, visited Saint Germain Church with its beautiful colored windows of the seventh century, saw the Louvre and Napoleonic tomb.   Had some supper at Soldiers and Sailors Club. Back in camp again.

(About this time the Big Berthas begin to make themselves heard and felt about Paris.  Little actual damage. But they did confuse and frighten the populace.  The Germans had by now reached their deepest advance to within 17 miles of Paris, but were turned back at the Battle of the Marne). 

By August 15th, the squadron was transferred again this time traveling south east and then north to Toul and from there by truck to an aerodrome near Vaucouliers, some 34 kilometers from Toul. Here, the boys seem to have got into real action for the first time. The camp itself needed considerable improvement and Cecil was put to work with others, building hangers and huts, and repairing buses (planes that had broken down or had crashed).  On September 12, the big drive begins. We sent two patrols with bombs.  Number eight, had engine trouble, and had to come back. One machine was forced to land over the line. He waves to returning pilots.  September 13, big day again. Number eight missed the first patrol, but went on the second and the engine works fine. Lieutenant Stevenson was shot down over the line. Howard and Saylor were hurt with props.  September 14- hard day at hangar, again, September 15th, big day. again, work till 9:30 and so the days go by until September 28th. 

When we find the following brief entry written sometime after the accident with his left hand, “I was hit by prop, went by ambulance to hospital, then in afternoon to Base 66 at Nue Chateau arriving there at three a.m.”  From Cecil we now learn the details of his accident. It seems that the planes of those days had to be started by hand.  With a switch turned off, the attendant would stand on the ground and grasping one of the blades of the propeller, give it two or three turns to prime the carburetor, then at a given signal, the switch was turned on and the blade was given a quick pull taking care to keep out of the way. 

But on this occasion, when Cecil undertook to turn the propeller, the pilot flight commander, Cassidy reported this switch to be off when in reality it was turned on, with the result that when Cecil grasped the propeller it suddenly started to spin.  It caught him on the right arm above the elbow, breaking it in several places, and at the same time, hitting him on the hip with sufficient force to paralyze his leg. He was then placed in the sidecar of a motorcycle and taken to the hospital.  To this day he never saw or heard from Commander Cassidy who was responsible for the accident. 

As will be easily understood, from here on the entries in the diary are written in lead pencil and are partially blurred with the passing of time.  They tell of being transferred from one hospital or camp to another, of x-rays, of splints being applied, then being replaced by plaster, bandages, and finally, by a heavy plaster cast. 

He was confined to a wheelchair, but on October 10th, he takes his first steps.  On October 14th he sits up for three hours, walks a few steps and writes to his mother.  At last, November 7th he gets a letter from his mother. The first one from the States since the middle of September.  As we shall see her letters have been returned to her.  On November 11th, we find the entry “Armistice Signed Today.”  On November 16th, we read “rose at 3am ate and entrained.  Arrived at Savinay early and was sent to a new camp."  The eight days from Nov. 17th to Nov 25th are covered with this terse comment:  "Mere existence in mud and cooties."  However, the following day he met Ernest and then entrained for the sea coast where we boarded the S. S. Kroonland "for the good old U.S.A."

Each night, they sailed towards home in a complete blackout.  There were 700 wounded soldiers aboard. The food was poor, but the Navy men themselves fared well.  Among the wounded were 19 jaw cases, that is men whose jaws had been wired up, and special food was prepared for them. Cecil caught on to this the first day, so he set his own jaw tight, got in line and ate well during the rest of the trip. 


Let us now leave Cecil with his feet finally planted on the American soil and turn back to St. Helens to learn how the mother is faring in her lonely home.  Family, letters, written spontaneously are amongst the most reliable sources of information that can come to hand. After Cecil enlisted in the army, in April 1917,  his mother was a faithful correspondent and took the precaution to number each letter as it was written. None of the earlier letters have been preserved. But beginning, with letter number 28, addressed to Cecil in France, and dated, September 18th, just a few days before his accident, some half dozen will return to the writer because they arrived in France after Cecil had been wounded and the army post office had lost track of his whereabouts. These letters tell of what was transpiring in St. Helens.  The letter of September 8th runs thus: (slightly edited)  My dear son Cecil, This is Sunday PM. I went to church and Sunday School.  I believe we have two more Sundays before Conference.  Conference is in Portland and I hope to go up for a day or two. Anyway this evening at 6:45, there will be an Epworth League Rally. It will begin early as there is to be a meeting for the drafted boys at City Hall.  She goes on to give the everyday news of the family in town, in which any young fellow might be interested. Amy has gone to Saint Vincent's Hospital to have her tonsils removed. I have done as much canning as usual and still have to put up pears and beans.   Don't think we can buy canned stuff this winter as the Army will need it. I expect to work in the cannery as they can't get help and have had to throw away quite a lot of beans on that account. God bless you, my darling and make you a blessing. I keep pretty well.   Lots of love to my darling soldier boy, Mother.

The next letter we quote from is number 33, and dated October 13. My dear Cecil boy. This is Sunday PM and it has been quite a full day.  Yesterday. PM, I went out to Amy's and stayed till about 7:45 and helped them then came home.   Slept and went out this morning to help them till time for church. And then after that went out and helped them with dinner, (evidently Amy had not yet fully recovered from her operation or else was down with the flu.)  

SS Kroonland

Ross Cecil WWI ltrs all b.pdf

World War I letters

Today at noon, all public places were closed. Portland is closed.  Also at schools, influenza is the cause.   I had a letter from Harold today. He said he would go to Vancouver tomorrow, (That was to enlist. He had been visiting Aunt Minnie in Seattle)  It looks now as though the war would soon be over.  Harold said he hoped to see you by Christmas. 

I hope he may, but I hope you will still come this way. Instead of him going that way.  (Later) Harold went to Vancouver Monday. This is Wednesday and very late for your letter, but I have been helping to care for the sick and did not have time to finish my letter. 

I would like to see you with all your new toggery on.  Bet you look fine... your September 6th letter was the last one received. Now that there are two of you in the Army, I will probably wear two stars. I am hoping that you both will be home to eat Christmas dinner. Lots of love, Mother. Apparently little did she dream that within a day or two Harold would be dead. Cecil was wounded September 28th, but it was over a month before news of the accident reached St. Helens. We have a letter written by Amy. The date cannot be deciphered which reads as follows: My dear, the news of your accident came to us last night and we were so sorry and grieved to hear of it. It was the first word we've had of it. Just think that has been over four months since you were wounded or about that time and we just received the word. Of course, you have received Verna and Momma’s letters, telling of Harold's death. Momma is so brave and is keeping up wonderfully. 

Well, she has had so much trouble that it is a wonder she doesn't isn't down sick. She is a wonder, that's all.  Cecil's mother Fannie, later confessed to Cecil that she had kept going through these dark days by devoting herself to the Red Cross and to church work resolved to keep herself in good shape until he might return.  On November 26th, she writes:   My dear boy, you cannot know how much I want to see you.  After your little brother Ray died, I used to cry and tell Harold that he was all I had left. I expect that if you were here, I would say the same to you, as you are the last of my four children, of course, my other children are very dear and good to me and I am very thankful for that and feel that I still have much to be thankful for if we could only be together. It seems as though we could be such a comfort to each other at this time.  

On December 9th. She wrote a letter, number 41.  It is largely taken up with news of the town and friends. She is getting more frequent word from Cecil now, and Minnie and Uncle Dee have invited her up to Seattle to stay until after Christmas. But she explains, I'm looking for my dear soldier boy, whom I have not seen for 19 months and I feel that I must stay here for that and also because I feel that the children here want me.  I hope soon to see you.  Much love to my dear boy, Mother.  In this letter she includes a poem written by Gigi Bennett.

Cecil reached the good old USA, a day or two before December 12th. 1918, the day when he addresses the letter to his mother “writing  with my right hand for the first time since September.” 

USA Debarkation Hospital, number two, Staten Island, New York.  Dear mother,  Just finished a good breakfast of scrambled eggs, cornflakes, bread, syrup and coffee. This is some hospital, clean bright steam heated wards and good spring beds with white sheets and pillowcases.   I am writing with my right hand for the first time since September. 

I guess I had better start back a couple of weeks and tell you a few happenings.  The evening of November 26th, I left Base Hospital number 8 at Savanay, France. Several hundred fellows who were to leave were gathered in the receiving room and the names were called off alphabetically.  After two and a half hours of waiting Ross, Cecil J was called and I fell in line. Now comes the exciting part. The next name called was Ross, Ernest A.  I was looking around to see what this fellow with a familiar name would look like when the original stepped up and tapped me on the shoulder.   After we came to, we had quite a spell before we went to sleep on the train that night. We woke up the next morning in St. Nazaire.  Ambulances came to the train and took us to the S.S. Kroonland.  We pulled out of the harbor at Brest.  We had a fine turkey dinner on the ship.  We lay in the harbor until the next day at noon, and then made for the open sea, and the good old U.S.A.

We had every kind of weather coming across, which accounts for the fact that it took us over 12 days from Brest.  Night before last, when we came into the harbor, a patrol boat with the New York Police band met us and followed alongside serenading us. Sometimes the whistles of the boats passing were so loud that the band was drowned out for several minutes. We anchored in the lower bay overnight and yesterday morning, we made our way up the bay to Hoboken.  Last evening we were landed on Staten Island where the ambulance met us bringing us to this hospital. We were all examined for cooties, took baths and were given pajamas to wear until our clothes, which were being sterilized, were returned to us. I took the cast off while I was on the boat.  Fleming ( a hospital friend wounded in the Tank Corps), and Ernest, Dizzy's brother and myself have beds side by side here.   Fleming  and I have been together ever since we left the field hospital at Bar Le Duc. I'm about to seal a letter for the first time in many moons.  Hope to be home by Christmas.  Lovingly Cecil.

But Cecil did not reach home for Christmas as both he and his mother had ardently hoped  It was about the first week in January, before he and his companions reached Camp Lewis, later known as Fort Lewis, Washington, 14 miles, south of Tacoma. However, he did get a brief leave of absence sufficient for him to run down to St. Helens and spend his birthday, January 9th with his mother. 

That almost universal desire of soldiers once the war is over, is to get back home as soon as possible. But now Cecil had to endure a tantalizing delay of over two and a half months while complying with all the red tape necessary for the discharge of a wounded soldier.  Signing official papers, and then more papers, submitting to medical examinations, and then more examinations,  shifting from hospital to receiving award and then back again, etc.  During this period of waiting, the monotony had been broken by visits from his mother, from Aunt Minnie and Uncle Dee, and also by previous visits to St. Helens, and to the Crandals in Seattle. He also enjoyed occasional motor trips out into the country with public-minded citizens who sought to enliven the lives of the young men, to whom the country owed so much. 

When finally, on March 21st, Cecil was released and returned to civilian life, he was classified as 10% disabled, which entitled him to $65 per month while attending school plus free books and tuition. 

By this time Cecil was 21 years of age.  During almost two years in the Army, spent both in America and in Europe, he has seen a lot of life.  The carefree and irresponsible days of adolescence have now passed and the time has come to decide what his life work was to be. 

As a growing boy his attention had been turned to medicine through contact with his uncle Dr. Edwin Ross and his half brother. Dr. LG. Ross.  He now decided to follow in their footsteps and to do so without further delay, but it was almost the end of March before he was a free man and much too late to begin work at his alma mater in Eugene.  Rather than lose six months of time, he presented his credentials to the University of Washington for admission to the spring term. 

Beginning March, 31st he was accepted. We get a picture of student life in those days from a letter written to his mother April 5th, from his new quarters at 5243 19th Avenue.   Dear mother. Well, the first week is just gone by and I am all fixed and down to business.  I'm taking zoology, sociology and psychology. If I show my discharge, I will be given credit for military training and will not have to take it this quarter  Board here is very high everywhere and the place that I picked is the best I could do and have a good place. I pay eight dollars a week and room with another fellow. The board includes breakfast and supper, I buy my lunch on the campus, and it costs between 15 and 20 cents. The house is about six blocks from campus. It is well furnished, has a large parlor with lounges, easy chairs, piano, and a fireplace.  About 12 college fellows stay there. 

Cecil was scarcely out of the army when he turned his thoughts to fulfilling one of his long and cherished ambitions, namely to follow his father and other members of the family into the Masonic order. Consequently, one of his first acts was to apply for admission into the Blue Lodge and was duly initiated before the end of the year.  Since then, he has gradually worked his way up to the Thirty Second Degree and also the Shrine.

By taking advantage of the spring and summer quarters at the University of Washington, and by subsequent work at the University of Oregon, he managed to accumulate enough credits to gain admission into a Class A medical school by the fall of 1921. 

And here we run across one of these peculiar quirks in human affairs -- apparently insignificant in themselves-- which gives direction to all that follows.   His first two choices were the medical school at Northwestern University. Chicago, where his brother LG had graduated, or if that was impossible, then the medical school of Washington University in Saint Louis. In order to play it safe, he applied for admission to both in due time. A reply came from Saint Louis accepting his credits, but no word arrived from Chicago. 

After waiting as long as he dared, he registered with the University of Saint Louis. But it so happened that a day or two before he was to leave for Saint Louis, a letter came from Northwestern accepting his application. Consequently, he immediately canceled his application, forfeited his registration fee and left for Chicago. 

If that letter from Northwestern had been delayed a few hours longer, Cecil would have gone to Saint Louis, he would have never met Lucy Baker, and their children Margaret, Jack, Bill, and Donald would never have seen the light of day through all eternity.

Seattle residence

Family home in St. Helens later the home of half-brother L.G Ross and his wife Vena (Shaffer)

c. 1923

Cecil began his work at Northwestern in the fall of 1921, and a few weeks later was initiated into Phi Chi, a medical fraternity located on Michigan Avenue.  Here, he took up his residence.  In the meantime, his mother had remained behind to dispose of the old home, which was sold to Doctor L.G. in October of that year.   Then she went east and spent some months with relatives in Wisconsin before going on to Chicago.  Perhaps you will be interested in learning how Cecil and Lucy happened to meet.  The Bakers were occupying the top floor of a three-story apartment building at 6033 Ellis Avenue. It so happened that a friend of Cecil's from former days, Ray Faubicon and his mother were occupying the apartment next to us on the same floor and Cecil had been invited to come and board with them.  One spring evening of 1922, Claire, and Lucy were playing catch in the backyard, and no doubt making considerable noise when their mother, who was in the kitchen just off the back porch, heard this young medical student say, oh, Mrs. Faubicon, I can't study with these girls playing out there, so down he went.  That broke up the game and Lucy went up to Cecil to show him the fingernail she had just broken.

Later on Cecil was heard to remark that as he looked at her hand, he could not tell whether she had five fingers or six, the lightning had struck. And from then on their fates were sealed.  In October of 1923, Cecil approached us asking Lucy's hand in marriage, even though they both had a year and a half to go before finishing their college work.  As it was, the two lovers were having a hard time centering their attention on their studies. 

So, we consented, provided their marriage would not interfere with the completion of their studies and from then on feverish preparations began for the great event. By this time, Cecil was living with his mother on Minerva Street south of 63rd.