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Nov 10

Currency Keeps Memories of Veterans Alive – contributed by Carol Brooks

Posted on November 10, 2022 at 12:21 PM by Tamara Vaughan

The first observance of what we now call Veterans Day marked the first anniversary of the cessation of hostilities for World War I – when, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month an armistice was reached between the Allied nations and Germany. Congress officially recognized the national observance for the World War I veterans as legal holiday, “Armistice Day,” in 1928. After World War II and the Korean War, President Eisenhower and Congress proclaimed the day a national observance to honor American veterans of all wars. The national holiday now commemorates all those who have served their country in the military. Carol Brooks remembers her father for Veterans Day this year through some interesting memorabilia kept by him from his service in Africa during World War II. To find out more about the veterans in your family, visit the Heritage Research Center at the High Point Public Library. 

It started with a death and a safe deposit box.

I was going through the safe deposit box after my mother’s death and found a pouch of old coins and currency. Thinking I’d trade them in for “current” currency, I was surprised to find some foreign paper money my father had when he was stationed in Africa in World War II.

Upon closer examination, I realized that on one 10-shilling West African note were the handwritten names of men in his unit, along with their hometowns. I recognized the names because Dad sent Christmas cards to these men when I was young.

What I didn’t know was the significance of the writing on the money.


white man in military uniformArmy Sergeant James Howell Brooks served in Africa during World War II. Photograph courtesy of his daughter, Carol Brooks. 


My father, Jim Brooks, was a sergeant in the Quartermaster Corps in Africa. He must have been in Casablanca at one time because on a 50-franc Banc of Marac (Bank of Morocco) note is written in Dad’s handwriting, “Brooks, Casablanca, 11/1/1945.” Now, whenever I see the movie, I imagine Dad mingling with Humphrey and Ingrid. [Ingrid Bergman is my favorite actress, by the way.]

While this is very interesting, it is the other piece of currency — the 10-shilling West African note with all the names — that is the most fascinating. You see, this piece of money is what is known as a “short snorter.”


green and yellow paper currency with palm tree in center

white paper with writing all overWest African bank note signed by men in Army Sergeant Jim Brooks’ Quartermaster unit during World War II. Photograph courtesy of his daughter, Carol Brooks. 

According to, bank notes were signed by people traveling together or meeting up at events. The tradition was probably started by bush pilots in Alaska in the 1920s. (A different website said it could have started in the Civil War.)

But it wasn’t just the signatures that made it interesting, it was the drinking game associated with it. If you had signed a short snorter and the other person could not later produce it upon request, they owed you a dollar or a drink (a “snort”). A “short snort” is less than a full shot of liquor. The term could have come from aviation regulations, knowing that alcohol and airplanes don’t mix, pilots began having smaller drinks, or short snorts.

Soldiers competed against one another to see who could compile the most names, taping additional notes to the existing ones to make a long string. One short snorter was reported to be 200 feet of bills taped together. The soldier with the longest short snorter or with the most famous name was treated to a drink – or two. 

Many prominent people of the time signed the bills, including Eleanor Roosevelt, actor James Cagney, Dorothy Lamour, Dinah Shore, General George S. Patton, New York Govenor Averell Harrimon, Bob Hope, the Duchess of Gloucester, Admiral Richard E. Byrd and General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Today, there is a penalty for defacing U.S. currency, but the same rule may not have held for foreign money or for war-time. 

I never knew my dad to be a drinker, but with 21 signatures on his 10-shilling note, he may have had to buy quite a few rounds at the bar.

Short snorters are not worth much for collectors of anything but memories, and there’s no one famous on Dad’s short snorter as far as I can tell. However, every short snorter, whether a single note like my father’s or one that is 200 feet long, is valuable for the story it tells: the story of strangers thrown together in war, comrades who didn’t make it home, famous people, locations traveled.

While the short snorter note tells an interesting story of my dad’s time in the military, I cherish most the Moroccan 50-franc note because the only name written on it is my dad’s name.


Contributed by Carol Brooks. Carol is a lifetime resident of High Point and a lover of the area’s history. She is a member of the High Point Historical Society and volunteers at the High Point Museum. She is on the board of directors of the Historic Jamestown Society. Carol serves as historian for the First Baptist Church in High Point and has co-authored the latest history of the church, which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2025. After several years of full-time reporting and serving as editor of the Jamestown News, she is currently a freelance writer for the Jamestown News.

Get started learning more about veterans in your family through the Heritage Research Center’s guide to military records:


Check out these timelines on the Museum’s website, highlighting High Point veterans:




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