WAC Obstacle Course

obstacle courseSource: United States Army in World War II: The Women’s Army Corps by Mattie Treadwell (Published by the Department of the Army in 1954)

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words–

Whew, Times have changed since the 1940s. Woman’s cloths back then could be so limiting (though they obviously didn’t totally prevent WACs from doing rigorous physical activities during boot camp).

Aunt Marian went to Fort Oglethorpe for boot camp. This photo was taken at another base, but it gives clues about what her boot camp experience would have been like.

I remembered seeing this picture when Shore Acres wrote a comment several days ago that included a link to an absolutely incredible video showing WACs at Fort Oglethorpe wearing dresses while practicing judo. Be sure to take a look at it.

First Day at Fort Oglethorpe

Fort Oglethorpe WAC barracks
Old postcard with a picture of the Fort Oglethorpe WAC barracks

What did Aunt Marian do and think during her first day of basic training at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia?

Unfortunately I don ‘t have any letters or journals that record her thoughts, but here’s what another WAC named Aileen Kilgore Henderson wrote about her  train trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee which is just across the state line from Fort Oglethorpe—and her first day or so there.

. . . arriving in Chattanooga about seven last night. Ate an elegant supper in the train diner—ham again, thick and tender! We recruits had a U.S. check for ours, but the WAC private chaperoning us had to pay for hers. But the guy in charge of the diner refused—he said her dinner was on the Railroad.

So here I am at Fort Oglethorpe. . . . Half an hour from now recruits assigned to Beds#11 through #20 are ordered to scrub, dust, polish, shine windows, and otherwise clean up the Orderly Room.

Any minute we’re expecting the fire drill whistle to blow. Last night’s drill unsettled us quite a bit. Another unsettling thing was the steady stream of new girls arriving in the night, stomping through the dark to find their beds.

I got this diary entry out of a book called Stateside Soldier: Life in the Women’s Army Corps 1944-1945 that was published in 2001 by the University of South Carolina press. The book contained the diary of Aileen Kilgore Henderson, who was in the WACs during World War II.

WAC Enlistment Clipping

Marian Solomon enlistment clipping

Aunt Marian lived the first 45 years of her life in central and northern Pennsylvania. When she enlisted in the WACs she was living with her sister Ruth in  northern Pennsylvania at Lawrenceville. After her enlistment she headed south to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for basic training.

map-Fort Oglethorpe

Aunt Marian had lived with her parents on the family farm near Montgomery Pennsylvania for most of her life. The executrix’s notice that was posted in the paper a year or so before this clipping indicated that Aunt Marian lived in Antes Fort after her father’s death (with a different sister—Martha). She apparently had moved from the home of one sister to the home of one sister to the home of another prior to enlisting.

Fort Oglethorpe is located in the northwestern corner of Georgia near Chattanooga Tennessee.  I think that trains generally transported troops during World War II, so Aunt Marian probably took a train the 800 miles or so from Pennsylvania to Georgia.

Was this the furthest Aunt Marian had ever been from her home state? Was she excited? . . . scared? . . . a little of both?

Old-Fashioned Date Cake (Date Nut Bread) Recipe

Date CaleAunt Marian was living with her sister Ruth when she enlisted in the WACs. I have a cookbook that I think Aunt Marian compiled right before she joined the WACs

One recipes in the book, Date Cake, looks like a last minute additional. It is written around other recipe which had been pasted into the book—and it says that is a recipe of Ruth’s.Handwritten Date Cake Recipe

Did Ruth make Date Cake while Aunt Marian was living with her? . . . . and did Aunt Marian love it and insert it into her cookbook?

The many food spatters and stains clearly indicate that at least one of the recipes on this page was a favorite of Aunt Marian’s. I’m guessing it was the Date Cake—though I haven’t yet made the California Upside Down Fruit Cake, so I could be wrong.

The handwritten recipe is a bit sparse on details. Here’s how I made the Date Cake:


Date Cake

  • Servings: 7-9
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup chopped dates
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Stir baking soda into the water and pour over the dates. In another bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and butter; then add the date mixture and stir. Add flour and stir until all ingredients are combined into a batter. Stir the walnuts into the batter. Put into a loaf pan that has been greased and floured. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

This recipe is super easy to make and delicious—though I would consider it to be more of a date nut bread than a cake. It is definitely a keeper, and I feel certain that I’ll make it often.

Photo of Ruth—She was Aunt Marian’s youngest sister. This photo was taken 15 or 20 years before Aunt Marian enlisted in the WACs.
Photo of Ruth—She was Aunt Marian’s youngest sister. This photo was taken 15 or 20 years before Aunt Marian enlisted in the WACs.

World War II Enlistment Records Available on National Archives Website

Marian Solomon enlistment record National ArchivesThe National Archives has an online database that contains World War II Enlistment Records. I found Aunt Marian’s records and discovered that she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) at Elmira, New York.

Aunt Marian probably lived with several of her sisters after her father died. She was the executrix of the estate and the newspaper notice listed her address as Antes Fort (Lycoming County), Pennsylvania, which is where her sister Martha lived.

She apparently later moved from Lycoming County to the home of her youngest sister Ruth in the northern Pennsylvania town of Lawrenceville (Tioga County). According to Wikipedia, about 450 people lived in Lawrenceville at that time.

The nearest enlistment center to Lawrenceville probably was across the state border in Elmira, New York.

A mystery has emerged. Did Aunt Marian attend high school?

My previous post described the requirements that women had to meet to join the WACs. One of the requirements was two years of high school, but it could be waived if a woman did well on a Mental Alertness test. In that post I described how her sister Martha wrote a brief biography of Aunt Marian which said that Marian didn’t attend high school:

She attended the Mountain Grove Country School–an elementary School. She did not attend high school.

Yet the enlistment record indicates that Aunt Marian attended high school for two years.

Was her sister wrong? Did Aunt Marian actually attend high school?. . . .or did Aunt Marian lie on the enlistment form to increase the likelihood that she’d qualify to be a WAC? . . . or were the enlistment records of women who did well on the mental alertness test altered to indicate that they attended high school even if they hadn’t?

Is the Word Executrix Archaic?

Executrix notice

Before Aunt Marian could join the WACs, she needed to tie up all the loose ends in Pennsylvania. After her father’s death she was no longer his caregiver—but she still had another responsibility. She was the executrix of his estate.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, an executrix is “a woman who is an executor.” Is executrix an archaic word?

We no longer have firemen or stewardesses–are there still executrices? (Did I spell that right? It looks odd, but I think this is the plural of executrix).

I’m pleasantly surprised that Aunt Marian was the executrix.  She had 8 living brothers and sisters when her father died.

Aunt Marian was the middle child, and I think that she had the least formal education of any of her siblings. I believe that all of the others were high school graduates–and that many of them also attended post-secondary schools. In spite of her low educational attainment,  Aunt Marian must have had a solid skill set that her father recognized when he identified her as his executrix.

I’m a little foggy on why Aunt Marian’s father’s final address was listed as Antes Fort (Lycoming County), Pennsylvania since his farm was farther east in the county in the Montgomery area. However, one of Aunt Marian’s sisters (Martha)  lived at Antes Fort and maybe that was the official residence of Aunt Marian and her father when he died. . . . sign. . .there are so many mysteries that need to be researched.

Martha (She would have been 15 or 20 years older than the girl in the photo when Aunt Marian lived with her)
Martha (She would have been 15 or 20 years older than the girl in the photo when Aunt Marian lived with her)

Marian Solomon's midlife transition from the farm to the Women's Army Corps (WACs)