More from Camp Hale

I’m busy writing, so here are a couple more letters from my Great Aunt Mabel. For those of you who are perhaps just joining us, this is not “me” writing these, pretending to be Aunt Mabel, these are letters that really were written back in the mid-1940s [see earlier post].

The only editing I’ve done is to abbreviate some of the names as initials, mostly those of officers, though I am sorely tempted to add a few paragraph breaks. But paper was scarce and they used every inch of it — this is exactly what the letters look like. Judging by the dates, I get the sense she wrote each letter over the course of the month, adding on as she found time and had more to say.

Back to writing for me. And hoping that in 60 years or so, someone will find my words to be of interest. Enjoy!

Camp Hale
U.S. Army Ski Cantonment
February 11, 1943
2:45 A.M.

       This is my 7th night on Night Duty. 8 more to go. We stay on only 15 nights at a time and that is long enough of 12 hour duty. It isn’t half bad – in fact I rather enjoy it. The only trouble is you don’t do anything but sleep and work on this shift. Before I went on nights I was a patient in the hospital for six days with a sore “Pando” throat. I had it for several days before and worked but when my temperature was elevated they put me in for a rest cure. Gladie got the measles. We have to be on duty at seven P.M. I have three wards to look after. There is a ward boy on each and I have decided that a good one is worth his weight in gold or silver or whatever else is valuable these days. They really are a great help. Ward 12 is orthopedic.. a back injury – a fellow who got kicked by a mule. Several knee injuries and fractures. Most of them are ambulatory. Ward 14 is a surgical ward.. that had always been my pet ward. Have a couple of new surgicals as of yesterday – a hernia and an ingrown toe nail – big stuff!! Last night we had an emergency appendix – spinal. They do most everything under spinal. They brought a Sailor in off the train with an arm infection.. a Sailor of all things! He needed quite a bit of attention – such as getting his arm all fixed up with hot packs – sulfathiazole – forced fluids etc. Guess the boys thought I was taking too good care of him – they were all more than kidding us. Then to top it all off – he is from Chatfield… so I asked him if he had ever heard of Rochester. Then the boys just knew for sure they wouldn’t get any more attention tonight… the Navy had taken over Camp Hale! Ward 16 is the woman’s ward. Wouldn’t you know it – they’d have one even in the Army! We have 10 private rooms – use them for nurses as far as they reach. I make rounds several times to all three wards – feel like Florence Nightingale herself, walking through those big wards with a none too bright (at times) gov’t issue flash light. Often I expect someone to go “Boo” at me out of the dark but no one has as yet. Guess they are too glad to have a nurse come around. I find them sleeping in the funniest positions – sometimes I’m almost sorry I looked! But the main thing is to find them sleeping. They all wear gray p.j.s (gov’t issue) and red bath robes – when they wear one. I know for sure it will be a treat to see a man with civilian p.j.s on again ! We have so much snow. Everything is covered. Sometimes it thaws a little during the middle of the day and the snow is swell for snowballs. The icicles continue to fascinate me. They are so huge. They say it can snow here all the year around. See where shoes are being rationed. I feel quite at home. I must transplant easily – like a dandelion or some such weed. Wonder if they put me over in Siberia if I’d feel right at home.

Camp Hale Colorado
March 4th, 1943

       Beginning this month the girls on nights have to work a month instead of 15 nights. I went back to my favorite Ward 14 when I came off nights. We had to take an overflow of orthopedic patients on account of having to turn Wd 12 into a nasopharyngitis ward. Yesterday I thought for sure they had had open season on the 87th for we got so many sprains and fractures. Capt. B wondered if some mountain had fallen down on them. One day we actually had a urethral dilatation- imagine! He had a catheter in for a while and when Capt. B asked me if I thought I could fix up something so it could drain into a bottle alongside the bed I sort of chuckled inside to myself. He should see all the contraptions I have fixed for such – in a row! It isn’t so easy here of course for you about have to make some of the equipment yourself. We make our own dressing and keep up the supplies. The patients help… Hernias stay in three weeks and by the time they leave you sort of hate to see them go if they are good. Last night the R.C. had a movie for us – a training picture showing the importance of not telling any military secrets etc. It was rather gruesome. We went to Pando to the only Notary in the place to have him notarize our State Income tax. We found him in the Administration building and he very pleasantly did it for us. We were so happy about having our tax on its way and off our hand that we celebrated by having P.M. coffee in a cafe there. Then we shopped at the General store – crackers and cheese. Pando is some place! Right now it gets very muddy during the day – and I mean muddy! There are no sidewalks – you jump over the bigger puddles. There are several buildings now – low one story affairs – some are tar paper covered. The General store is a pretty good size – they have a little bit of everything. Shoe repair shop in the back – also a beauty parlor but very often the water is turned off – water main freezes or breaks or something. They have funny pot bellied stoves – the post office is not much to look at but it serves the purpose. The Administration building is quite large and looks much like the others on the outside. Then of course the Depot. The places where the Civ. population live are awful. We even saw a few trailer houses. Saw “Random Harvest”.


Filed under Aunt Mabel

8 responses to “More from Camp Hale

  1. Once again, fascinating. Thank you. Hope the words are flowing.


  2. Ditto. It is always fascinating to get a glimpse life Way Back When. I’ll have to see if I can get my mother to do more of this.
    My mother’s wedding dress was made of the silk from my father’s parachute. A friend heard that and sighed “oh, how romantic!” Actually it was also practical — everything was rationed back then (’45) so that was the easiest way to get ahold of enough silk to make a dress.


  3. McB

    These are great. And your aunt had a great narrative style. The letters read almost like stories. Thanks for sharing them.


  4. McB

    Oh and I think I incorporated her letters into a dream last night. I was somewhere and had a sore throat and was told that it was from something in the air that came in on the wind. And I thought, oh yes it’s the throat thing in the letters.



  5. I’m glad you all are enjoying them. I debated about whether to post them here — it seems so many people consider the past to be over and done with and not the least bit interesting. But after having to learn so much in school about WWII history from the political/military point of view, I found it intriguing to read these letters and imagine events from a different perspective.

    The things she doesn’t say in later letters are almost more informative than the things she talks about while serving at earlier non-combat postings.

    And McB, she was a trained nurse. Maybe you should pay attention if she spoke to you in your dreams…


  6. Merry said:

    My mother’s wedding dress was made of the silk from my father’s parachute. A friend heard that and sighed “oh, how romantic!” Actually it was also practical — everything was rationed back then (‘45) so that was the easiest way to get ahold of enough silk to make a dress.

    That is a cool story. And you’re right, it is practical, long as he didn’t try to re-use it after the wedding.

    My mom talked about putting a dark foundation on her legs and having a friend draw a line up the back with eyebrow pencil so it looked like she wore stockings. She also was a nurse and met my father in San Francisco when she worked on the Psycho ward (he was a Navy MP). In retrospect, consideringIwas a product of their union, I guess it’s fitting…


  7. I do appreciate these ‘tales from the past.’ But even more, I am grateful for kind, patient blog friends, who do not use the Delete key even when I leave long and cranky comments on their blog.


  8. SD, are you saying it’s good your parents had experience dealing with all kinds of crazy before you came along? Ours is a writerly kind of crazy, so it’s all good.

    I love it when people leave long and cranky comments on my blog, Merry. Feel free to start doing that, any time…