It’s almost noon now – but I’ll get this started anyway because I expect to be kind of busy after lunch. We’ll probably be leaving this place tomorrow and we’ll all miss it because it certainly was a comfortable and luxurious spot.
We haven’t had any mail for a few days and because of the situation at the moment – I don’t think much of our mail has gone out recently. That means that you’ll probably be getting a bunch of these letters at one time, dear, so bear with me. (See you later)
Later… Yesterday I took the opportunity of taking a little trip to a city not too far away. I looked around for things to buy – but these cities have really been cleaned and you may think things are expensive in the States, but you should see the prices here. We – another officer and I went into a ladies’ store – or should I say a women’s apparel store? Anyway the price for a handkerchief, not laced or anything like that – came to three dollars, and these flimsy blouses that girls wear – sold for the equivalent of $25.00. The Prince – by the way – told us to beware of things made of cloth – that we might want to buy here because most of the articles are Ersetz and dissolve in warm water.
Well we shopped around some more and I finally found what I wanted. I was looking for a Birthday Gift for you dear, and was beginning to think I’d just have to write you later and then tell you you’d have to wait until I get back. I’m not going to tell you what it is, darling – Naturally! It’s not much – but I just want you to know that I’m thinking of you – and how much I’d like to be with you on your Birthday. I just got cheated on that last year; we were crossing the Atlantic that day – and I was sure lonesome. Lonesomeness somehow doesn’t sum up my feelings now – sweetheart. It’s more than that – it’s a deep longing to be with you in reality and for always. Anyway – the only hint I’ll give you dear is that what I got for you is probably difficult to obtain in the States these days – because it’s difficult even over here – and – No! it is not a bottle of Scotch.
|"Sidewalk Cafe - Charleroi, Belgium - September 1944|
Bruce Silva and I. One beer only and not very good."
[Greg and Bruce are at the far right table, by the striped awning.
His jeep is parked out front, with a red cross on the door.]
|"Sidewalk Cafe - Charleroi, Belgium - September 1944|
Still drinking the same one beer."
|A similar sidewalk cafe today.|
The cobblestone street and streetlamps look much the same!
|"City Square of Charleroi, Belgium (pop. 300,000)|
2 days after liberation - September 1944"
|The Belfry today.|
This is seen on the right in Greg's picture of the square.
|"Belgian Policemen near Phillippeville|
|"Typical of thousands of signs strung across highways;|
typical emotional reaction of the Belgians.
The enclosed paper, by the way, I got to add to our collection of scraps. As in Cherbourg – this is a first edition. This city is much larger than Cherbourg and this looks more like a paper. The city has some fine apartment houses and large department stores. It is a steel city, by the way and about half the size – in population – of Pittsburgh, Pa. Incidentally, I don’t know yet how I’m going to be able to send anything home to you. The ban on packages is still on – but perhaps they’ll lift it soon.
Well – sweetheart – I’ll have to stop now and do a little work. It’s Sunday p.m. and I wish we were in our own home – alone – listening to the Philharmonic and just being with each other. Gosh – will we appreciate things like that when we finally have them. I hope so because I want to enjoy to the fullest all that we’re missing now. So long for now, darling, my love to the folks and
|The industry in Charleroi has left its mark,|
but its cultural history remains evident.
Shortly after its foundation in 1666, the new city was besieged by the Dutch, ceded to the Spanish in 1678, taken by the French in 1693, ceded again to the Spanish in 1698 , then taken by the French, the Dutch, and the Austrians in 1714. The French took the city again in 1745, but it was ceded back to Austria in 1748, starting a period of prosperity. The glass, steel and coal industries, which had already sprung up a century earlier, could now flourish.
Trouble started again in 1790, the year of the civil uprising that eventually led to the United States of Belgium. The Austrians occupied the city, were forced out by the French in November of 1792, but took it back again four months later. In June of 1794, the French Revolutionary Army of Sambre-et-Meuse invaded Charleroi and won a decisive victory in the ensuing battle. The city took the revolutionary name of Libre-sur-Sambre until 1800. After Napoleon's defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in June of 1815, the whole area was annexed to the Netherlands and new walls were built around the city. These fortified walls were torn down in 1871.
The Belgian Revolution of 1830 gave the area its freedom from the Netherlands and ushered in a new era of prosperity, still based mostly on glass, metallurgy, and coal. After the Industrial Revolution, Charleroi benefited from the increased use of coke in the metallurgical industry. People from all over Europe were attracted by the economic opportunities and the population grew rapidly.
Charleroi developed as one of two major cities in the steel industry of Belgium. The other is Liège. Today, one of the largest industrial groups in Belgium is the Cockerill Sambre Group, a medium-sized integrated steelmaking concern. The Cockerill Sambre Group resulted from the 1981 merger of the two major iron and steel groupings of the Walloon region (the French-speaking southern half) of Belgium. From its beginnings, the Cockerill Group had been based at Seraing on the Meuse River a few miles upstream from Liège, while the company Hainaut-Sambre was based at the town of Charleroi, some 65 miles east of Liège on the banks of the Sambre River.
The Sambre flows into the Meuse and provides a geographical link between these two regions, formerly rich in coal. In both areas, iron and steel production dates back before the 18th century, based on the coal mines of the areas, but the majority of the companies that have been absorbed gradually into the Cockerill Sambre Group were originally founded between 1800 and 1838. The Forges de la Providence company was founded in 1838 with the help of an Englishman, Thomas Bonehill, who had also been introducing industrial innovations to the Europeans. His successor, Alphonse Halbou, rose to fame by patenting the rolled I-section girder in 1849, which accelerated the construction of high-rise buildings - undertaken first in Paris and eventually throughout Europe. The origins of the Charleroi-based Thy-Marcinelle et Monceau (TMM) group, which took over the Forges de la Providence, include the forge of Thy-le-Chateau, which had existed as early as 1763, and Marcinelle, on the south bank at Charleroi. During the 17th and 18th centuries the whole region between the Sambre and the Meuse was known for its ironmasters. Many, many mergers and acquisitions led to the existence of the Cockerill Sambre Group - too many to contemplate here.