This is just a quick update-y sort of post to let you all know that . . .
My daughter survived the 14-hour drive from New Orleans and is safely home. Can’t even tell you how good it is to have her home for a while. Her cat is very happy too and is having fun showing off her newest trick: opening cupboard doors and exploring inside. [sigh]
My son and his girlfriend are settled into their new place and everyone is still speaking to each other after having experienced the joy and frivolity of moving day. At least no one got hurt. And it didn’t rain.
In between daily stints of working, there has been much talking and cooking and laughing and grocery shopping and baking and several hugs and more talking. And eating. Not much writing at all, but I don’t have a deadline and that can just wait. It will be quiet again soon enough.
I’ve posted a few more of my Great Aunt Mabel’s letters, the ones she wrote while stationed at Stark General Hospital in Charleston, SC in the fall of 1943. You can find them by clicking HERE. I’ve also added a convenient link over there on the sidebar.
And that’s about it. I’m enjoying the break from the internet, even though I feel as if I’m missing all sorts of things. But I’m not missing the important stuff.
Need a day brightener? My daughter emailed me the link to this very funny cat video:
I laughed so hard I had to wipe away tears. Enjoy!
Here is the next letter in the ongoing series of letters from my Great Aunt Mabel, written while she served as an Army Nurse during World War II. I’ve now posted all the letters from Camp Hale (seven new ones, including this) over on a page in the WIP section, which you can access HERE. [The only editing I’ve done is to shorten last names to an initial.] There are many more letters, from different locations around the world, and I’ll be posting them in weeks to come.
March 10th, 1943
Don’t laugh but I’m a patient again! Me who never used to get sick! Well I don’t ever seem to get anything very much but with the rest of them I get colds – Had one in my head last week but it didn’t bother me until Friday when I didn’t somehow seem to function like I should. I was so cold and was sure it must have turned much colder out. Was busy that day – had a ruptured appendix, broken vertebra and several other jobs needing constant Mabel attention so I didn’t take my temperature till in the evening when I got over to the barracks. 102o Imagine me – who never could raise one much above 99.6. In the morning it was still up so I went to the A and D office where everything has to go that comes into this hospital and they in turn sent me to Ward 16. My throat was good and sore by then so I expect I had picked up some sort of a bug – we have plenty to pick from here! Sat. night my temp. was 103.4. They gave me sulfadiazine and pretty soon I was O.K. You see you are either sick or well – you are either in the hospital as a patient or you work. The ward is isolated on account of the scarlets and several measles, so no one is supposed to come visit us. So many nurses are ill – guess that’s Camp Hale! [continue reading…]
These letters from Camp Hale were what inspired the premise behind the story I’m currently writing. Read the new ones I just posted and then come back here and let me know what you think. I’m curious as to whether you can tell at what point I made a sharp left turn and began to wander merrily down Conspiracy Lane.
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!
U.S. Army Ski Cantonment
February 11, 1943
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”.
My Great Aunt Mabel was a nurse who trained at the Mayo Clinic and then enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. I thought about her, and about all those who served or are currently serving in the military, during this past week while reading the many tributes related to Veterans Day. And while it is right and fitting that we remember the brave men who fought and died in service to our country, it saddens me that we so often overlook the women who also played a role. They too left behind families and loved ones to travel to foreign lands where they endured hardships and made great sacrifices in the name of patriotism. More than a few of them died serving our country. They deserve a place in our remembrance of history, as well as in our hearts when we pay homage and give thanks.
Mabel wrote dozens of letters and sent them back home while she was in service. We’re not quite sure to whom they were addressed — so many of those who might have known are no longer living — but we assume they were sent to one of her sisters, one of whom was my maternal grandmother.
The letters begin with her first assignment at Camp Hale, CO in January 1943 and take us from there as she was deployed to Charleston, SC to San Francisco, CA to crossing the Pacific Ocean to serve in Australia, New Guinea, Manila and finally Luzon in October 1945. I’ll be posting them here occasionally over the next several months as a tribute to one of the many strong women in my family, but also as a means of remembering a part of history too often overlooked or forgotten. As a celebration of women whose stories are seldom told but whose role was of immense value to our troops and to our country.
Camp Hale, Colorado
Jan. 12th, 1943
This is the army sure enough and it is everything they said and more. So far we have gotten a tremendous kick out of it all – certainly is different. The place is so new it isn’t completed by a long ways. They are beginning to get more and more supplies now so expect the worst is over. The first nurses came about Nov. 26th and there wasn’t a thing they say. They really started from scratch! All they had was aspirin. They were so happy when they finally got some sulfathiazole. The Corpsmen are a great help and do much of the work and help us raw recruits out of many tight spots. I landed in a surgical ward and we have a little bit of everything.. hernias, orthopedics, appendectomies, obstructions (I don’t wonder they get such, some of the food is very heavy) spinograms, skull fractures etc. etc. All these ornery mules here raise havoc with many of the men. I didn’t know there were so many mules! We see them go by on the way up the mountains every day. The altitude is a bit rough on some of the newcomers. It is so dry that we about crumble. The water isn’t too bad but is quite highly chlorinated so we have to get used to that. Most everyone get sore throats and colds. “Pando throats” and “Pandomonia”.
Note: Pando is a railway stop town in the mountains of Colorado near where Camp Hale was constructed. More information about Camp Hale and the famous 10th Mountain Division that trained there can be found HERE.
Note: Sulfathiazole is a sulfa drug once commonly used to treat bacterial infections; it has since been replaced by less toxic sulfa drugs (sulfonamides) and other antibiotics.