I was in my senior year of college in 1943 at Springfield, Missouri. We were at war, and many of my male contemporaries had joined some branch of the military, so school was not as interesting as in prior years. I had been cramming for term finals and felt that I needed a break, so I opted for a movie, On the Shores of Tripoli. It was a story about a selfish fellow who joined the Marines as a lark, and the Marines made a man out of him. I enjoyed the movie, and it made one think of patriotic duty - especially since we were at war.
At the end of the movie there was a newsreel showing one of the first graduating classes of Navy women - all nattily attired in navy blue and marching sharply along. This was followed by a huge screen-sized picture of Uncle Sam pointing straight at me with the words, I need you. I made up my mind right then and there that I would join the Marines, thus releasing a man to fight at sea. I jumped on a bus to get to the post office and locate the recruiting office. I announced that I wanted to join the Marines.
A very patient recruiter explained that the Navy trained the Marines, but upon completion of training, one had the option of joining the Marine Corps. That was OK by me, so I filled out the papers he produced and left with some forms for a doctor to fill out after giving me a physical. Two days later I returned these papers and was told that they would start processing my application. A few weeks later I received orders to take a train to St. Louis for pre-processing. I was amazed to find three train cars crammed with jabbering women, all going to St. Louis for the same reason.
A bus met the train, and we were whisked to a big federal building. We were ushered into a large room where we were given a battery of tests - reading, math, English, geography, history and a smattering of physics. We got back home late that evening tired, but with high, expectant hopes.
I continued with school but kept in touch with some of my new friends. Before long, one by one received orders to a Navy training school, but none came for me. I began to worry, so I journeyed to the recruiting office, but they told me to stop fretting, my orders would get to me eventually. Time marched on and still no orders. I kept pestering that poor recruiter, until he finally agreed to investigate the status of my application.
After a few days the recruiter called to tell me that I had been selected for officer training, and orders would be issued after I had graduated and furnished the Navy with my graduate credentials.
When I finally received my orders to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, I left two days early. I had heard that war-time travel was unpredictable, and I didn't want to run the risk of being AWOL. I arrived early, and no one knew what to do with an early arrival, but I was finally given a room.
When the rest of the girls arrived, we got acquainted fast since we knew we were going to spend a lot of time together. They all thought I was a real Missouri square when they learned that I had joined the service for purely patriotic reasons. Others, we learned, joined to get away from home, to change jobs, to do something different or to find a husband. Despite their snickering I stood by my patriotic feelings, and I still stand by them. I cannot listen to our national anthem without getting all choked up, goose pimples on my arms and neck and a queer knot in my middle near my heart.
Some think I'm a sentimental fool, but it makes me feel good to think it's just that old black magic of patriotism.
Cmdr. Evelyn N. (Dene) Sooy
U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)
San Diego, California
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.