Saturday, September 02, 2006

mamie i in france

Here's a great letter that Mom submitted --

I discovered this letter while sorting through boxes of my Mother’s papers---(Winona Stevens Leonard). In light of the many young people being sent off to wars over the past ninety years, I thought this letter written to her sister Ruth Nye Leonard by my aunt Mary I Leonard was a meaningful memoir---a young farm girl who studied nursing and chose to go to France to serve her country. I couldn’t help but think of the nurses in MASH during the Korean war, their flirtations, their impromptu parties, their dedication and hard work in a field hospital.

Susan Leonard Loomis
Pembroke, Mass. August, 2006

France, Dec.1, 1918

Feel like a full fledged war nurse now..have found 5 cooties on me and have seen these huge rats..Boo!!

Dear Ruthie,

Am going to rub it in still not a word have I heard from you yet nor from mother. I have written you twice a week, have you received them?

Must tell you about our Thanksgiving party. It was so pretty, 150 officers and sisters attended with an eight course dinner from soup to nuts and plenty of liquids. I was accused of being a little tipsy but don’t worry, had two prim and proper old maids at my side. Am still on night duty so had to report immediately after one dance, which I had with Chan Lewis. You’ll be surprised when I tell you he is here as Captain of the Dental Corps. Isn’t it funny he should be in this same unit. He is most popular and quite good looking in his uniform. The first dance I went to I recognized his face but just couldn’t place him as I haven’t seen him since he was a barefoot boy in Long Plain, but he is a nice boy and a slicky dancer. Perhaps we didn’t show ‘em. We had a real jazz band and he does everything so we were quite the talk. Oh, such a good time as I had. Oh, Ruthie, these Englishmen! It’s worth your life to dance with them, not to mention dodging them in the hall…and the girls are awful. But I met one Padre who was a divine waltzer, ooh! La la! Chance for talk….

We all went to a dance given to us by the Machine Gun Officers. They sent a lorry for us and you could have seen these two or three dozen men assemble to boost me in. Much to their surprise I was quite light on my feet.

When we got there I waited until the last one to get out and without a bit of warning just opened my arms and said “Here I come!” There’s but one man left to tell the story. They don’t know what to make of me. I can jolly them off their feet. All of them dying to kid me about being fat and when I start it they are in their glory.

A Major Mac Kaye calls me “tiny”. At the dance I went around the hall once with him and when I saw two empty chairs I stopped and told him he was hopeless, he not only laughed but shrieked and admitted that I had a lot of courage to go that far.

As I wrote, I was going to have a dancing class—front liners have red ribbons, second have blue, third white. When he came up to have tea with me the other p.m. he had three bows of all three colors. He’s about forty but the best looking old sport. He’s been in the army for years and is a wonder at telling stories.

The first night I get off night duty we’re all going to the Du Lac for dinner where they have a piano. They all sing like birds and I can manage to bang it through, look forward to quite a grand party. I told them I didn’t drink or smoke and they’d have a miserable time, but I’d promise to see them home, probably lead them to Paris.
About Chan Lewis—Cybil is married and has two boys, lives in Melrose near her mother and Mildred is instructing at Sargents…call her up sometime and ask her over, perhaps Sally could run over and see her and visit her class. It is quite interesting. I used to go…Chan has been very nice to me, am going to the village to have tea with his Major and wife this week. Am having lots of fun, but the nursing isn’t very exciting. I got here just in time though to get some real war nursing. Most of the boys are sick now with the “flu” but very mild. I have some cute Yankee boys, one I tease awfully. Sewed up his trouser legs last night and the night before made him a French bed. I have two young Irishmen who are always doubly ready to help me, and you should hear the boys in their beds laugh, right in their glory when we are teasing someone, especially Yankees.

I have one devil who groans all the time, selfish, and doesn’t care who he wakes up. But believe me he got his last night. About 10 o’clock we threatened to put him out of doors and my word, I left the ward to go into the other to give some cough syrup, and upon returning those boys and orderly had him out of doors. Of course I never dreamed they would do such a thing. I made them bring him I, he hasn’t said BOO since. Everyone of them had their ammunitions ready to fire at him tonight---pillows flew in every direction. He makes a noise exactly like a dog and one of the boys who is wounded and can hardly move hollers out, “How much do they have to pay for your license?” and “Why didn’t the King let Kaiser Bill use him as a target?” Funny, you’d die at their expressions.

Write to me often, and when you get this read it to all as I can’t write everything two or three times.

I am fine, I hope everyone else is. Call Kittie up and give her my love, am going to write her a long letter very soon.

Wasn’t it awfully sad about Leita? I wish you would send Kittie some flowers for Christmas from us both or if not, then it is her anniversary Jan. 1st, just let her know I remembered it. Will write her so she will get it about then, poor old soul.

Hope to hear from you all real often, letters are better than food.

A Merry Xmas to all. Sorry I won’t be there. Don’t feel sorry for me ‘cause I am having it pretty soft, and heaps of fun.

Tell Sally and Al to write to me. BOOBS!!

…..Mary I.

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