|Waiting for Charley Chaplin” (library.unc.edu)|
Chaplin’s first appearance of the day was at Camp Greene, a U.S. Army facility located outside of Charlotte, NC.
“Hi, Charlie!” and “Hurrah for Charlie Chaplin!” rang out from the throats of thousands of soldiers at Camp Greene between 12:30 o’clock and 2 o’clock yesterday, when the famous comedian of the movies paid the boys there a visit and rode through the camp. Chaplin made short talks to the boys at various intervals. The soldiers were at home, for the most part, and Charlie was given a rousing welcome.”
Chaplin & his tour entourage, which included Rob Wagner, press agent Carlyle Robinson, and Charles Lapworth, formerly of the London Daily Mail, visited the camp headquarters and were escorted through the camp by Major Hines of the ordnance corps. “Chaplin was in the leading machine” [aka car]….”The machine would drive along the road, pass a crowd of soldiers loitering about, and one man would happen to recognize Charlie as the man who has made millions laugh.” The boys would swarm about the car and urge Charlie “ole boy” to pay them a visit. And he would.
He visited one company at mess and had a picture taken with the boys circled about him. In the picture, Chaplin holds a plate of dollar bills in place of food, calling attention to the fact that it took money to put something to eat in the soldiers’ pans. “When he started back to the machine, the soldiers began to roar. Charlie had spread his feet out and was walking the way he does in the movies. He didn’t walk that way long, however, for he straightened himself up, and just then his hat flew high into the air. The familiar expression on his face seen in the movies could be observed as he glanced up at the hat and caught it.”
The boys of the motor mechanics regiment gave “Charlie, ole boy,” as the soldiers liked to call him, a slice of pie, which he “gobbled up, as he stood in the automobile, this bringing much laughter from the soldiers.”
|Chaplin at Camp Greene. (Lisa Stein Haven)|
Following his appearance at Camp Greene, Chaplin’s next stop was at the City Auditorium in Charlotte where more than 6,000 people gathered to hear him speak and “get a good look” at him. Between $20,000 and $25,000 in subscriptions to Liberty Loan Bonds were secured. Chaplin offered to kiss any woman who subscribed to $5000 worth of bonds but there were no takers.
He spoke for ten minutes…
“It was not so much what Chaplin said at the auditorium meeting that was responsible for the enthusiasm of the meeting and the subsequent securing of subscriptions to the bonds for such a goodly amount, but it was his actions. No, he didn’t get funny but he was full to overflowing with vivacity and energy…the consensus of opinion among those present was that Chaplin is a wonderful man.”
Chaplin also led the Seventy-Seventh Field Artillery band in two selections
“No one had any idea that Charlie was a band leader–he had always been looked upon as a leader in the comedy section of the screen world. But the comedian took the baton and inspired the band to wonderful efforts. Occasionally he would make a slight gesture, which the audience remembered having noticed in some of his pictures. This brought a laugh, but Charlie remained serious and drifted back into a disguised posture again.”
Thousands more gathered at the old Presbyterian college to see Chaplin in his final appearance of the day. “He stood up in the machine, and waving his arms high above his head, he called upon the crowd to give three cheers for the success of the Liberty Loan. The cheering was weak, and Chaplin reprimanded them in a witty manner and called for three cheers for the army and navy. These two strong arms of Uncle Sam then were cheered heartily. Charlie said he had understood that he had come to the college building to see children, and, finding more grown-ups than youngsters he asked in a half sarcastic manner: “Where are the children?”
Charlie did make one faux pas during the meeting at the auditorium when he forgot the name of the town he was visiting. After asking someone in his party to tell him, he explained to the audience that he had visited so many towns he got the names mixed up.
Members of the Liberty Loan committee who were with Chaplin estimated that between 25-30,000 civilians and soldiers saw and heard him speak during his visit to Charlotte & Camp Greene.
Charlotte Observer, April 15, 1918