Showing posts with label WAC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WAC. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgivings of the Past

Happy Thanksgiving! I looked back in diaries, postcards, meeting minutes, and other bits and pieces of my genealogical collection to get a glimpse of what happened on Thanksgivings of the past in my family and my husband's family.*
  • The strangely-colored postcard at right, from the 1910s, was received in East Cleveland by hubby's uncle, Wallis W. Wood. The sender was "Aunt Nellie" (Rachel Ellen Wood Kirby), who lived in Chicago and never missed an opportunity to send holiday or birthday greetings to her nephews and nieces in the Wood family.
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1959, my late father-in-law (Edgar J. Wood) received the exciting news that he would be a grandfather for the first time during 1960. How do I know? He wrote about it in his diary!
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1950, my grandma's Farkas family gathered at the C&L Restaurant in Manhattan for dinner and accordion entertainment, at $6 per person. My parents, Daisy Schwartz and Harry Burk, told the family they were buying a TV set to celebrate their wedding anniversary (they married on November 24, 1946). I read about it in the minutes of the Farkas Family Tree.
  • The Farkas Family Tree and spouses and children pitched in to have a photo taken of everyone who attended the Thanksgiving Day dinner at a Manhattan hotel in 1956. It was a large group! Again, the story of planning this dinner and the photography is straight out of the tree's monthly minutes, which I scanned and indexed a few years ago.
  • My aunt Dorothy Schwartz worked on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with her long-time friend and partner, Lee Wallace, from 1950-1952. Lee was then the head of public relations for Macy's, and Dorothy was her assistant. Then my aunt got her teaching license and left the world of retail to teach typing and shorthand at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. Yes, this is the same aunt who was a WAC during WWII.

 *Not including hubby's Mayflower ancestors celebrating Thanksgiving, of course. That's the oldest "Thanksgiving of the Past" story I can tell to my family for the holiday.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Family History Month: Sgt. Schwartz, "The Woman Behind the Man Behind the Gun"

Excerpt from my aunt's published letter in With Love, Jane by Alma Lutz
The year was 1943, and my aunt Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001) was only 23 years old when she arrived in England as a WAC. She wrote home to a friend about her feelings as a servicewoman and her satisfaction at having a meaningful role in the war effort.

Auntie Dorothy's letter was one of several dozen included in With Love, Jane, a compilation edited by Alma Lutz, a "leader in the fight for woman suffrage and equal rights" (quoting Vassar College's biographical note).

Happily for me, the interlibrary loan system enabled me to put my hands on a copy of this 199-page book, published in 1945.

Carefully turning the pages, because the binding is a little wobbly after 72 years, I read my aunt's thoughts about being in the Army during WWII and her pride at being "the woman behind the man behind the gun." 

Here an excerpt from the first half of Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz's letter as printed in Alma Lutz's volume. And to borrow my aunt's words--you're darn right I'm proud!

Dear ___,

It is close to 0400, Army time; in anybody's time, when life is at its lowest ebb. I'm not writing because I'm unable to sleep. I'm writing during a pause in my work, for my shift is from midnight to 0730, and I'm writing because of a real desire to talk to you. This is the only way it can be done, for we are thousands of miles apart and I can't call you over the phone and hear your low, clear voice reaching me across the miles . . . But I can see you so well in your letters, I know you can read into these lines my own facial expressions, my movements, my very tones, and that you will understand full well what I am trying to say.

I don't know what it is like outside since I came on duty, for my job is to stick at this desk no matter what happens and not leave it. But probably it is deep, dark night with heavy, low clouds, and the thick mist which obscured everything more than a foot away is burdening the earth. You can believe everything you read or see in the movies about English mist and fog and rain--none of it can be exaggerated. It isn't always like this. I guess I've seen every kind of weather at every hour of the day or night by this time, and England would be beautiful to me whatever the weather.

England! Even now, when the initial excitement has long since passed off, when we have been here long enough to have settled down completely--even now, I say, to use "England" as a return address is still startling at times. And how I revel in this piece of fortune! To be able to visualize myself finally and easily as the woman behind the man behind the gun--could any dream come true be more satisfying? You're darn right I'm proud.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Family History Month: Auntie Dorothy in "With Love, Jane"

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) was a WAC in WWII, as I've written before. She enlisted on September 11, 1942, the only female member of the family to serve in the military. She finally returned from overseas postings three years after enlisting.

During my Gen Go-Over, I've been searching newspapers for mentions of my ancestors, including Auntie Dorothy. Eureka!

I discovered my aunt's name at the end of a book review printed in The New York Times on Sunday, November 18, 1945. Her letter home was included in a compilation of letters written by 37 female service members. The volume, edited by Alma Lutz, is titled: "With Love, Jane." I've requested that my local library obtain this via inter-library loan so I can see the letter in its entirety.

The brief quote from Dorothy's letter, as excerpted in this book review, reads:
"There is no advantage in war except what the individual makes for himself. In the army we lose eccentricities, prejudices, pettiness, because they cannot survive in the face of matter-of-fact and non-luxurious living." - Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz, WAC

Monday, August 15, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Mail from Staffordshire to the Bronx

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy Schwartz, was a WAC in WWII, serving in England and receiving the Bronze Star for "meritorious service in direct support of operations against the enemy." She was the historian for the WAC detachment, 9th Air Force, having joined the company in spring, 1943 and leaving it in summer, 1945, when the war was winding down.

At 24 years old, Dorothy was far from her parents' apartment in the Bronx, NY, for the very first time. It was a difficult separation for my mother, Daisy Schwartz, because she was so close to her twin. (Frequent letters to and fro helped ease the separation, I know.)

On August 11, 1943, Dorothy's parents (my grandparents), Theodore and Hermina Schwartz, received an unexpected but very welcome letter from Edna S. Griffiths at Mayfield House, Stone, Staffordshire, England. She wrote, in part:

I have had the very great pleasure of meeting your daughter Dorothy and I thought I would like to write and tell you how we enjoyed seeing her. Ours was the first English home she had been to and that makes me very thrilled.

I was taking my little Scottie dog for a walk and met Dorothy and her two friends. I was so anxious to meet them and we finished the evening at my father's home. I really think they enjoyed themselves and they were most interested in all we had to tell them. Since that evening we have met so many of your country women. How we do admire them! We all "fell" for them...
I am sure you all miss Dorothy but she will be happy with the English people, we're to make them feel at home but of course we are not so easy to know, that's what I think. I think we are all beginning to feel the strain of this terrible war...
I hope if Dorothy is ever short of a house during her leaves I hope she will come to us. My home is always hers while she is in England. She is really  a beautiful girl and I am sure you are both proud of her.
 My best wishes to you both and may we soon see the end of this awful war. Yours very sincerely,
Edna S. Griffiths
Edna and my grandparents exchanged letters a few more times until 1945, when Dorothy returned home. How lovely it must have been for my grandparents to know that their daughter had caring people she could visit and talk to during her time in England! Thank you, Edna Griffiths.