Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Not Just Another Doughboy

My great grandfather, John Lewis Hallman, was born on 29 December 1894 to a farmer father in what is now considered the Philadelphia suburbs. By the time he turned seven he was helping his father support the family without a mother in his life. Nearly a decade late, when he was 16, he was employed as a driver for the Hansell family. While he had no idea what he would face later in life, it is clear that this experience would serve as a formidable introduction to the automobile.

The Autocar Logo, 1912.
Now in his 20’s, John was working as a machinist at the Autocar Company in Ardmore. For those of you, especially locals, unfamiliar with the manufacturer, despite innovative and commercial success of their cars, Autocar retooled their plant in 1911 to focus exclusively on producing commercial trucks. Most likely, this is when John Hallman joined the company as training and new positions with the company were readily available. The largest employer in the township, he would remain with the company throughout his working life. Of course, there was one 19 month period when he was forced to work elsewhere.

John registered for the draft in June of 1917 and proceeded to wait while the conflict intensified. In December of that year, John Hallman was enlisted as a Private in the United States Army. While in basic training, the government was looking for ways to more efficiently support the new mechanical army. This lead to General Order No. 75 and the formation of the Motor Transport Corps (MTC) out of the Quartermaster Corps on 15 August 1918. At the time of its formation, this new corps recruited from within the existing ranks skilled tradesmen who were previously working in the burgeoning automotive industry. My great grandfather was one of those men recruited to serve in the 301st MTC.

The 301st was one of three units of approximately 1,150 men each that worked in the 1,000 acre MTC reconstruction park in Verneuil, Nievre (central France). During the Great War, the reconstruction park was the end of the line for service vehicles. While at the overhaul parks, when the repair of a vehicle exceeded 30% of the initial costs, they were sent to the reconstruction park for salvage. These parks were an essential part of this new kind of warfare as was made clear by the Distinguished Service Medal being awarded to Colonel Harry A. “Bull” Hegeman who was in command of the park during the war. The park was also visited in early 1919 by Generals John J. Pershing and, later, James Harbord. The MTC was dissolved after the war in 1920.

On 18 June 1919, ten days before the signing of the Treaty of Versaille, John Hallman was discharged from the Army and returned home and resumed his employment with Autocar where he would later work with his son-in-law (another story for another day). Later that year he married my great grandmother, Sarah Mabel Ardis, and two years later they welcomed their first child, my grandmother, Isabelle. John Hallman died on 3 January 1957 less than a year after the old Autocar plant in Ardmore was torn down.