Wayne Red Cross: 1916 interior photo of surgical dressing room of 105 W. Lancaster Ave. (later site of Anthony Wayne Theatre), WWI Packing Committee

16_image01In going through the files at the present Wayne Red Cross headquarters, located in the Masonic building on South Wayne avenue, the writer found some old pictures that would not be recognized by the present generation of Red Cross workers.

It is a different story for Miss Grace Roberts, whose service goes back to the summer of 1916. To her, the picture in last week’s column brought back memories of the first permanent headquarters at 105 West Lancaster avenue, and the picture shown with today’s column will be equally familiar.

In the room shown above, Miss Roberts spent much time during the years of World War I, making the wide variety of dressings to be sent to Army hospitals overseas by the American Red Cross. In contrast to the output of the present surgical dressings group, which is limited to the making or 4½ x 4½” gauze pads, the variety of dressings made from 1916 to 1918 was extensive. Under the joint chairmanship of Mrs. WillIam Allen Barr and Mrs. William Henry Roberts, Jr., the Wayne group was then preparing such articles as T-bandages, tourniquets, slings, gauze compresses, laboratory pads and head bandages, all to be sent overseas.

The packing was fully as important and time consuming. Huge wooden boxes were sent out from Chapter Headquarters in Philadelphia, and Miss Roberts recalls that much of their packing took place in the spacious front hall of her family home on Windermere avenue, with the committee of four often working until midnight. Albert Nichols, son of Mrs. William A. Nichols, one of the founding members, was chairman of the committee. Miss Roberts kept all the records of the work.

In retrospect, a light hearted touch to this scene is added by a humorous verse sent to the committee and preserved by Miss Roberts in her book of Red Cross mementos. The first two verses are as follows:

The Packing Committee consisting of four
Worked like Trojans all during the war.
They worked in the morning, they worked at night,
They worked every minute with all their might.
The Packing Committee consisting of four
Was composed of two men, two women, no more.
One, Nichols, as chairman, was the boss of the show
While the other three members helped make the thing go.