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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

WACKO
10/6/2012 5:20:24 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

No, Virginia, Fox News and other unqualified pundits notwithstanding, there was no clear-cut winner in last Wednesday night’s Presidential Debate. Perhaps Alexander Pope said it best: “Like following life through creatures you dissect, You lose it in the moment you detect.”

Anyway . . .

When was the last time you heard or read anything about the WACs? Or the WAVES, or the SPARS or WASPs, etc.? 20 years ago? 10, 15? Ever?

Certain service branches were relegated to obscurity by President Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps in 1961 — an innovation the candidate Richard Nixon had earlier dubbed “a refuge for draft dodgers”. Clever of him, the crook. He should have waited. The WAC was finally disbanded in 1976.

Last spring I got an email from an old high school flame, and she told me about her sister, Mary Louise, who joined the WAACs during WWII so she could accompany her Army husband into battle — a ploy that had not gained much notoriety since the Civil War.

(In fact, I was once so mesmerized by the concept I referred to it in a novel called “Mate!” — currently under contract to a publisher.)

Anyway, Mary Louise, known for getting all dolled up to the 9s to occasionally go to Sears Roebuck to buy a ball-ping hammer (“One never knows whom one will run into!” she explained, while chomping on a wad of Blackjack), brilliantly figured that by joining the WAACs she would be deployed to Europe or wherever, where she could be with her husband (his name was Rocco, and they had been high school sweethearts).

There were, of course, two things she did not consider (one is so obvious I cannot belabor it here; the second is much more interesting). It never occurred to her that the WAC dresses were as horrible and fashionless as were most of the frumpish and dowdy women who wore them. Although many considered the recruits as just lesbians and prostitutes, a number of WACs actually landed on the beaches of Normandy a few weeks after the initial invasion. Look it up.

(By the way, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps had dropped the second “A”, the Auxiliary, just after Mary Louise enlisted.)

Getting back to garb: the GI clothing exceptions were smart, neat uniforms for officers and professional models who posed for recruitment posters. In fact, Mary Louise, being a remarkable beauty in her own right by 1940 standards, was, believe it or not, appointed the WAC ‘poster girl’ back then, and she often marched in parades touting the rewards of military service.

“Over there! Over there! If your lover’s over there and you wanna be with him, joins the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps! Show your support! Do it today! Yea, yea, sis boom ba!”. . . or something like that.

So, how did Mary Louise, who never rose higher than private 1st class, circumvent the uniform ordeal? She went to a renowned seamstress in Philadelphia (Betsy Ross? I don’t think so) and had her uniforms customized and tailor-made, that’s how!

She was certain that if Rocco ever saw her in the standard general-issue WAAC attire he would gladly surrender to the Germans and spend the war as a POW. After all, Mary Louise had once paid $1,000 for a gown she could have bought for $5 from any of a dozen Granby Avenue shops in Norfolk!

As it turned out, of course, she never was deployed to Europe (or anyplace else her husband might have been sent) and they were both honorably discharged in 1945. Rocco remained an item in Mary Louise’s life, but after a while the dauntless lady became disillusioned; she divorced Rocco and married Robert.

“Lady Luck” was still not comfortable with Mary Louise. Robert, who had been at Normandy on D-Day, survived the war and remained in the reserves — but he came home and was killed in an auto accident in West Virginia at the age of thirty-three. By then, he and Mary Louise were the parents of two kids, now partial orphans.

The hapless big sister met her third (and final) husband on a Greyhound Bus, going to visit her mother and little sister at Christmas-time. She told him her sad tale of woe, and by the time they arrived in Norfolk, they had agreed to see each other again. Eventually, they got married to “keep the family together.”

That husband, never revealed to me by name, was around for the rest of this story, however long that may have been (Mary Louise passed away in 1980). I have learned that the husband is now remarried and 88, which, according to the little sister, is slightly older than she; the little sister is now the reining family dowager in Ohio.

Funny how our ages seriously mattered back in the ‘40s! Now, they are hardly worth mentioning. By the way, Mary Louise’s birthday was July 17, same as mine. She musta been a helluva gal!

Come to think of it, I may write a full-length novel about Mary Louise. If I could only come up with a title . . . Any ideas?


Copyright©2012 by Robert A. Mills, all rights reserved


































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