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Interview on experiences in World War II

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RICE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

WORLD WAR II VETERANS ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

INTERVIEWEE: MAXINE ALEXANDER INTERVIEWER: MARIAN POE DATE: MARCH 15, 2006 HUTCHINSON, KANSAS

POE: And we are now on the air. And this is interviewer Marian Poe here in the home of Maxine Alexander in Hutchinson, Kansas. Today is March the 15th, 2007. So Maxine, may I ask where you were, when and where you were born?

ALEXANDER: Well I was born in my parent's home at Sloan, near Sloan, Iowa.

POE: That's S L O A N E?

ALEXANDER: No E.

POE: No E.

ALEXANDER: SLOAN

POE: Okay. And what was the state?

ALEXANDER: Iowa.

POE: Okay and when?

ALEXANDER: Long time ago. August the 2nd, 1916.

POE: Okay and, so then uh, Maxine, you were in the American Red Cross during World War II, right?

ALEXANDER: I was, I worked, I was paid by the Red Cross and I did hospital recreation. We were attached to the military, to the Army actually.

POE: And were you attached to a certain regiment or battalion or division or anything.

ALEXANDER: No. That depended. I was attached to the hosp.. .1 was registered under the hospital wherever I was transferred but that unit would be attached to the military where we went.

POE: Okay. And you were, okay, you were born in Sloan, Iowa, did you grow up then in Iowa?

ALEXANDER: I grew up on a farm in Iowa. I, course graduated from the local high school and then I attended what at that time was Iowa State Teacher's College. It's now the University of Northern Iowa. And I think my granddaughter's gonna go there this year. So, that's, and then I did teach for 4 years in Iowa schools. Then the war came along and I decided that this is what I wanted to do. So I went to, I was interviewed first at St. Melissa's office and was accepted. That was in April of 1942? When was, when was

POE: Pearl Harbor?

ALEXANDER: Yeah, '41 wasn't it? Christmas in the.. .December

POE: Yeah December yeah.

ALEXANDER: '41. Yeah so by, it wasn't April. By June of '42 I was, when I went to Washington D.C. for training, acceptance and training. And was first assigned just as a interim to Scott Air force Base out by St. Louis. And after I did that, then in September I was assigned to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin. That was an old town army base from World War I and they were in the process of rebuilding it to accept the people coming in. So for the first month at least that we were there, maybe a little longer, we had to stay in local, with local families and watch what they were doing out at camp. It was a beautiful September in Wisconsin. And I had a, a Red Cross Unit which consists of a social worker and a recreational worker and then usually office personnel. And I can't remember anything about the office personnel there. They were.. .but the Red Cross had their own building. And so the Red Cross business was conducted in the lower floor. There was a recreation center there. And then upstairs were rooms for visiting spouses or people in particularly if GIs were injured or in the hospital or if they just came for a weekend I think maybe they could stay there. But, and that was a really nice experience. The man who was head of the Red Cross Unit there had been in World War I and he was, I think an oral man in Illinois. And he signed up to do this and he was just a wonderful person. I mention him because you'll hear more about him later.

POE: Do you, what was his name?

ALEXANDER: His name was Alf Thompson. And uh, I'm trying to think. He was from Illinois. I can't quite remember the town. But he was just a super person, which made for a, for a really good operation for the whole unit. And, I suppose we would've said my immediate supervisor was a lady from Minneapolis whose husband was stayed home in Minneapolis and came every 2 weeks and brought us wonderful picnic food. And she was a very special person so I had a good break to start what I was doing. And the hospital did get open. And the very first people, the first soldiers they sent were from Hawaii, to spend the winter in Wisconsin. But, course then the base really filled up because it was a large base. And I remember the wives would come from Florida or someplace with their children and they wouldn't have warm enough clothes for, for the Wisconsin winters. But, course the Red Cross knew that on the base was the go to place

for the soldiers that had, from the military that had special needs. If they needed a special furlough or not a furlough, but somebody in the family needed them and they needed to go home temporarily, the Red Cross would take, make the initial contacts for all those things, and also help 'em through it. And as I say, if families, if they were in the hospital and families came, they could stay there. And Red Cross was the go between between the Army and the soldier, and the families. It was a service that was really appreciated. And even more so I imagine overseas, probably. So my job was recreation. And, we had facilities for entertaining and that was both for the ambulatory patients and the bed patients. And, so you racked your brain sometimes what to do. And that also more later. But we had dances and we had course lots of games. Oh the inevitable Bingo game. And there were church services available. That actually was through the military. We had nothing to do with that particularly. Let's see, the snow was beautiful in Wisconsin that winter. The story I tell, and I tell it with embarrassment, but it's one I will never forget. Course being really untrained in this sort of thing, you learned as you went along. So the first time I went into a ward where the patients were in bed, I didn't know how to introduce myself. I guess I told 'em my name. But then I said, what can I do for you today? Which I only, I never said again cause it was not taken in the way I meant it to be. Anyway, that was just one of the learning experiences and I expect there were plenty others that I many have chosen to forget. But I really enjoyed that winter. And, by the time spring came I was thinking I wanted to go overseas. So I applied and I was accepted. And then I went to Washington to train for that. Well, it wasn't so much training as it was, well it was partly training, getting everything in order and lined up. And there was a large group of ladies that were there at that time. Now I don't know where the men trained, I mean, because there were men attached to, not, I suppose we must've had one in our unit in the States but overseas, all the military units, all the big one I think had Red Cross personnel. So, after, let's see we went into and I was accepted in June and I guess I went home to take care of business there first and then went back to Washington. And pretty soon, well of course at that point, when we knew we were gonna be going someplace, we were eating like were never gonna eat again. We were shopping with what little bit of money we had. And, had a good time in Washington getting acquainted with the people we were gonna be associated with for awhile. And, the time came in August I think. No, no no no. Here. In July, I was accepted it says here. And, no that was the first, 1943. We left Washington by train for San Francisco. Stopped in Chicago, Omaha, and Denver. That was the first time I had been west to see the mountains. It was awesome. We had sleeping cars and I can remember looking out the window in the moonlight at the mountains. So that was kinda neat for me. We had, then we got to San Francisco and 7 days of instructions, physicals, sight seeing, shopping, and dining.

POE: Again.

ALEXANDER: But we were all quickly going broke so it was a good thing we got going. We sailed from San Francisco on the Dutch Liner New Amsterdam. First class cabins, a steward service, sailing west to we didn't know where. And it was exciting. But, maybe, by that time you wondered if you made the right decision but not really cause it was, it was exciting. It was a Dutch, a real large passenger liner. And I say, maybe 5000 men

on there but maybe not that many. But the GIs, the soldiers, were on there too. And I shouldn't use that term all the time because it included their officers too. But, one thing that happened on that trip, well we were assigned cabin mates. Maybe I shouldn't even tell this story. But there was a gal who had been assigned to Red Cross to make the trip and she was not really qualified. I think she may have been qualified but not emotionally qualified. And she didn't last the whole way. She got sent home. Anyway, so that was that. The captain of the ship really didn't want these women among all those men so he limited us to exactly where we could walk to the dining room, when we could do it. We stayed up on our deck and pretty soon the soldiers were saying, well it's the Red Cross girls, what are they doing up there. Why aren't they down here talking to us anyway? And so eventually he gave us permission to go down on their deck if we'd stay out, not under the, not in the shade but we had to be out where he could see us I guess. This, we called this ship the Flying Dutchman. And we did have a newspaper. We had I think three well known newspaper reporters on this ship and they published this paper. And I was able to get some, here I say 5000 troops so, including the Red Cross and civilians and crew and all that. And we didn't know where we were going but eventually they told us we were going to dock at Suez, and go into Egypt. What do I want to say? Cairo.

POE: Cairo, Egypt.

ALEXANDER: Anyway, you can see how old I am. Anyway, we did have shore leave in Wellington, New Zealand. That was, we left May 3ld so that was May 17th when we got to Wellington. And then we sailed off to Australia and May 25th, we were at Perth, Australia. And June 13th, I think that was 42 days from the time we left San Francisco, we disembarked at the Suez Port. And probably the most dangerous part of the trip was the trip there up into Cairo. But, it was June 13th, 1943. So we crossed the equator of course and had festivities that they do then. And, really had, of course we were blacked out every, every night I think but in certain areas, certain of us. And there was only a time or two that we thought there might be somebody close. But it was uneventful really. We had, then we did have visitation up by States. Well, they had certain days that everybody from Iowa and everybody from you know and it happened I met an old boyfriend, one day. But that was just a coincidence cause he was lived close to where I had taught. But anyway, we went on, and let's see, this is just, I don't think anything in here. Anyway, we really enjoyed the paper and we enjoyed actually the whole trip cause we had good food and didn't have to worry too much. If I can get this over before, I might have some more things to say. It so happened, when I got home, I found a copy of the National Geographic that had been published during the war and I was able to get a hold of it. And these are some pictures that I took from that. That's what we looked like when we came off the, oh here's what we looked like when we came off the ship. Oh yeah, there's our newspaper with the cartoons. But, I was...

POE: I'm just going to share this with the camera. ALEXANDER: Okay.

POE: I'm just gonna put this up here. And there's Red Cross, you're not in this picture I assume.

ALEXANDER: No. My back may be somewhere here.

POE: And that's National Geographic. It's the front page here. And then over here is when you're coming, uh, getting off the boat and you're all heading out it looks like to, is that a building or a bus?

ALEXANDER: Let's see.

POE: Up there at the, up there.

ALEXANDER: Oh, that's a building.

POE: It's a building, okay. That's where you're going.

ALEXANDER: Well, I don't know. I bet that's a bus.

POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: You're guess is as good as mine.

POE: Well, yeah it kinda looks like a bus.

ALEXANDER: I think it is.

POE: And so this was taken from the, it doesn't say. The National Geographic magazine but it doesn't have a date on it.

ALEXANDER: I have some more pictures from there so I might be able to, I don't seem to have any dates. So then we went into Cairo and what did I say? That was June 13th that we went there. And I can't tell you exactly how long we were there. Course there was more instructions and you still didn't know what you would be doing because when we picked up some wounded soldiers that were coming from India I think, then we picked up some seiks. Big, tall. And then we let some men off, some of the GIs off in various spots along the way, going to India, I suppose. And so, that was, then we were starting to be assigned to various places. And I drew, well there would be club workers and there would be office workers in the large recreation. Red Cross maintained R and R establishments for the soldiers. And there would be personnel there to ran them, because big hotels were made available for the use of the military. And some personnel would be assigned to the larger bases, or the larger hospitals. This, yeah, I guess you would mainly say hospitals or club, club places that they had or the hotels. And so there would be places Red Cross places in you know like Cairo and Naples and Rome and all those or there would, you might get an assignment in the boondocks. And I got the boondocks.

POE: Oh, lucky you.

ALEXANDER: And course, since I was a hospital worker, recreation worker, I, well recreation workers would be other places too, but I got one of the smaller, not the very smallest hospital unit because there were field hospitals. Those were the ones closest to the front where the patients would go first of all. And then there was the one where I was. A field hospital. And this was out in Libya. And so it was...we flew out. Course this happened just, about, just after I would say, the fall of the Axis in Italy or in Africa. They were just getting cleared out. But all that long battle had been going on from Cairo almost on west to the, to Algiers I suppose. I don't know just exactly where it ended. But, by the time we got out there, they were gone. But you could see skeletons and carcasses and carcasses of planes all the way when we were flying out there. And Benghazi has, was Italy's Mussolini's camping area in Libya. And Benghazi was really beaten up with, with all the stuff, all of the fighting and everything. And I do have a couple of pictures here somewhere, of what Benghazi looked like. I'll show you that in a minute. There's some others here. Anyway, I went out there and this hospital unit was assigned to the, to an air corps group of medium, no, heavy bombers. B 24s. Yeah B24s out there. And the first night I was there, I was assigned to a tent. We were to live in tents. But the British were very familiar of course with that part of the world and they'd had the good tents with the second roof over the top to keep the sun out or the heat out so much. And so that helped to have the good tents. Let's see here's a picture of.. .And, one of my, I really experienced a lot I'll never forget. There was a man assigned, a Red Cross worker assigned to the 24th, or to the bombers. And so when I got out there, of course I was, I was with the hospital personnel which consisted of near 10 nurses I would think and that many doctors and then the rest of the personnel to run the hospital. But there I was -so the Red Cross man who was attached to the military, air corps unit, called and said would I like to come over to their club that night? And this was all new to me of course, but I was happy to see anybody that wanted to see me. So I went and just spent the evening with, you know, meeting the various people, whoever came around. And there was. a pilot there who had been, who had been attached to the British Army, the British Air corps in Canada. He had trained there and then when the States got in the war, he came and joined the Americans. And he said would you like to see, see the B24? Well I'd never seen a B24 so we did that. And then he said, would you like to go swimming tomorrow afternoon? Course we were right on the Atlantic, or on the Mediterranean. Well that sounded good too. He said, well I'm test hopping an airplane in the morning tomorrow and when I get back, I'll call. And so, bout 4:00, somebody came and said he had been killed in the plane that day. You know, he was not, I was not well acquainted with him but he was, he was my first experience of that type of thing. And it really.. .and so then they later said, would you like to go to the funeral? So somebody came and took me to the funeral and we picked all these rocks and bare ground. Three little blooming, blue flowers blooming. At this cemetery where they went, where they had the funeral had been a British cemetery, a German cemetery, now the Americans were buried in it. And it was just rocks and hard dirt you know. And it was, it was a sad, sad thing. But that was my first experience at that. And then, I don't know what day, but shortly after that, it was June 26 when I went out to Benghazi. And July 11th, my coworker came. There would be 2 of us. She was a social worker for the

unit. And she was from New York City and just, just a delight. She didn't have anybody there.

POE: Yeah I was gonna.. .there's a picture of you over there. ALEXANDER: That's the office tent.

POE: Let me just get kind of a close up of that if I can. I hope that shows. It's reflecting a little.

ALEXANDER: Anyway, it happened at one time I had taught my first teaching assignment was in Knoxville, Iowa. And in Knoxville, there was a large veteran's hospital. When we, Sylvia and I had got to talking, she had worked in that hospital in Knoxville, Iowa when I was teaching there.

POE: Oh.

ALEXANDER: So that was quite a coincidence. And began to realize how small the world was. Anyway, this was a, dare I say, a 15 field hospital was a small mobile unit usually within transport range of the front. 15 fields served air corps groups flying service over Italy and Sicily. Two platoons of the 15l field were in Bizurli. I think that meant Benghazi. Eight nursers, doctors, support personnel, plus Sylvia and me. And we spent the summer, the rest of the summer and into the fall at Benghazi It was a time of finding supplies because, there were limited supplies but you had to get a hold of 'em. And we found, there's a good word. I don't know if it's just an ornery word or it's used otherwise, I first heard of it, the word was scrounge. You went scrounging for the things you needed. And we got acquainted with the, some of the British. I don't know how exactly. Well, I do know because if you wanted something, the British knew where it was. So you made yourself acquainted. And there was a burly, British captain he said, we knew if we just lasted long enough 'til the Americans got here, we'd be alright. So that endeared him to us. But he was helping us to find things. Well, we had some movies but you needed something to sit on so you sat on bomb crates. And he helped us find those. Maybe some of our GIs did too. And we had movies and we had whatever entertainment we could have which wasn't too much out there. But we did, I remember one of the things was a group of Indians, from India. I don't know how else to distinguish. But, there, they were camped out there and maybe the old British captain might have introduced us I don't know, but this young Indian captain had a group that did Indian dances. And so he brought his group to do that. As a result of that night, he invited us to dinner, Sylvia and me. And so we went. He lived in the British tent you know. But he had linen, silver, china, and he had a cook. So we had a, I can't remember now what we had but it was Indian food largely. And when it came to dessert, no, yeah, when it came to the dessert, it was a fruit dessert and the captain said something to the cook. And he thought that was pretty sweet, that dessert. No, it wasn't sweet enough. And he said well I noticed that the ladies didn't use sugar in their coffee so I thought they wouldn't like the dessert so sweet. So that was a nice experience. We did get some trips to Cairo because the air corps would fly people into the R and R in Cairo and course,

maybe we faired a little better, or they did, then the GIs out in the front because they could bring back wonderful things from Cairo. And so, we didn't have so much of that. Well they did, the air corps did. But we did get, I did get a trip into Cairo to, well it was kind of a vacation I guess, or a leave. And that's when I got a wonderful trip through the Holy Land. The Red Cross had scheduled tours for the GIs. And, I shouldn't use that word so much. That's just habit I guess.

POE: Well just, we understand.

ALEXANDER: Right. But military. And, so that was a wonderful trip up through the Holy Land. And there's a picture of one of the nurses hanging with her mirror hanging up on a tree.

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: That was kind of, I thought that was a picture to have.

POE: Yeah it is.

ALEXANDER: And then this is the club-mobile, and the club-mobile girls would have their doughnuts and coffee. And they would be there every time a mission returned for coffee. And then they also had a small club house. And eventually they got one opened in, in the desert. And, so that's that bunch.

POE: I'm reading, I see a picture here of Jack Benny. Did you see Jack Benny.

ALEXANDER: Oh yeah. He came and went through the hospital. And there were some other U.S.O. troops that came. And they, course, they, I think I might, I wrote that I took Jack Benny through the wards but I don't have any great, great memory of it. Maybe I do that's just connected with all the other memories I have of Jack Benny.

POE: I noticed that the, you have a note, note from diary, August 12,1943 opening of ARC club for EM.

ALEXANDER: EM, enlisted men.

POE: Enlisted men. 15 girls, 2000 men, tired feet.

ALEXANDER: Oh, that's one of the experiences that a lot of people I suppose wouldn't have. The thing about being attached to the air corps, they had more ground time you know, in the front, they wouldn't have any good times. In the air corps people usually got back or they didn't get back. So, it turned out that they, hold on I gotta get out of the desert first.

POE: Okay, sorry.

ALEXANDER: So maybe it was, wrong about September. Let's see. These are pictures of the, these are later pictures now. I think it's about September, we got orders to pack up the whole hospital and move. So that included all the equipment that they had. And the nurses rode in an ambulance. So there were six, well counting, inaudiable I think maybe about six or seven, I can't remember exactly. And then Sylvia and me. And we'd have all out luggage in the back of the ambulance and we sat on top of the luggage and we started across Africa. And we went from Libya then right along really right along the Mediterranean practically. All the little towns that weren't really town anymore. Wasn't much there. Although I've never seen Coca Cola signs and Singer sewing machine signs. Uh, we'd camp, and I really don't remember but we had to sleep in tents at night I'm sure. I just don't remember too much about, thought of that often whether we had to sleep in tents cause I think it was possibly a week or more that we traveled across the desert 'til we came to Algiers. Course we didn't know where we were going for a long time. And the rain set in. And we sat in Algiers for quite a while. And, anyway, when it came time to go, let's see, we went to Corsica, yeah I went into Corsica which is west of Italy and east of France, right out in there. And, so all the while, the point being that the war had progressed away from North Africa and now they were going to take and bomb Italy from there. So, I think the air corps had not, was not really there yet but they came just about that same time. It took moving anyway in the fall. And I think if I can remember, it was probably about November when we got to Corsica. And we went to the, but we sat there and sat there and sat there in the rain. And we were in the tents 'til we could, 'til we could get out. And I, yeah that was a trip. The French, no that wasn't it, anyway, whatever it was that took so long for us to get out, here came Thanksgiving. And we always got the stars and stripes, the army paper. And all the GIs were gonna fare well. They were gonna have turkey and all the trimmings. And these were the ones in Algiers. And well probably wherever else they could. And what were we gonna have? We were sitting there in tents. Well finally they got us on the ship. And then the ship couldn't get out for some reason. And we were going on just a little, little ship. Course it was just our unit this time. And but it had been a vacation ship of some kind because it had, finally they said we were gonna get turkey also, and I remember the ship personnel were all dressed up, the dining personnel. And they were just the most polite, we had the best service and the best food. We had our Thanksgiving dinner too. Finally we got out and I never heard of Corsica I don't think before. Cause I wasn't the best geography student in those days. And, didn't take too long to get to our camp, can't quite remember. One night maybe, two nights at the most but I don't think that long. And so we landed on the west side of the island which was Ajacio. And Ajacio is, is Ajacia yeah, yeah, it's the city that is home of Napoleon's birthplace.

POE: Oh, okay.

ALEXANDER: And we disembarked there and I suppose for over night or, not too long. Then we started out for our destination which was to Bastion. Ajacio was on the west side of the island and then you went through the mountains over the northeast side. And that was where Bastion was. And it was, both of these were fairly good sized cities, but not, course it was war time. And Corsica was a pretty small, pretty, that word, I use that word lightly but I mean it was not developed like the cities. And uh, here it is.

December 2n when we got to Bastion. And, three wings for a, oh we were to have our hospital in a villa, a count's villa outside of Bastion. And we had this, this big, well that big house and the house had of course lots of room and it had, I remember pretty drapes. They were kind of old and all that sort of thing. Didn't, no heat. But it was you know different then tents. Different, and here I say, the 2nd Platoon set up the tents set up in the count's villa near Bastion. 3 wings for a hospital and 1 wing for living quarters. A fourth wing, oh no, 3 wings for the hospital and the living quarters, and the fourth wing for the mess hall. That fourth wing had been the, church for the, and the count provided worship for the people on his lands. And so that became our mess hall. It says it was disconcerted to have the childlike form at the altar. The hospital provides short term care for the air corps units on the islands and if they needed other care then they would go back, well there were station hospitals on the island and if you needed more care then the field hospital could give you, you went to the station hospital. And then if you were probably if you were gonna have to go home, then you would be transferred to a, oh a big hospital in the cities. And you could tell how old I am when I can't think of the words I want to say. Anyway, so we had the short term people. And we were there in Corsica for about a year. Maybe not quite a year. And we had a place to have our parties and our entertainment. And the biggest problem here was landing, getting there the 2n of December and what were you gonna use for supplies? I mean you brought what you had left you know. And occasionally you could order things from, well from Cairo or Naples I guess, wherever. Yeah the headquarters was Naples for the Mediterranean. And, the interesting thing I wanted to say earlier was that when we got to Algiers and had this time that we would get to go into town and to the city and things like that, I remember I got a permanent I think in Algiers. And there was Alf Thompson. He has, he was ya know, back overseas. So, it was, and it was just, ya know really good to see him because he was such a neat person. And later when I got to Naples, he was in Naples. When I later got to Paris, he was in Paris. So that was just, really neat. And I'll have more about that too. Anyway, we had to really scrounge around and after we moved, I don't know what this is. Oh that's France. I've heard that story. Anyway, we managed somehow and we had, of course, we had this building so we could have a big recreation. And we had really some good times there. That's the one where they had the beauty show. The nurses scrounged around and found for the patients and you just, course you had bingo forever. And, just it, I really can't think of all the things really. In Corsica, we had dances. Course the man had to, I didn't finish the Corsica story did I? When the men, for the dances that we had, we had to be prepared to, each girl had a chaperone when she came. It was very small, but they had a good time. And I noted in my diary once that we had that more then once. And that included all the GIs and just about anybody who wanted to come. So that was, that was a nice thing to do I think. And there's a picture of the nurses, well that's, wait I won't get there yet.

POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: And so the winter went by and summer was pretty much the same but we did have some troops to, down in, the south of France. Oh, I'm not in France yet. I was still in Corsica. Sorry. Yeah, we did have some trips to Cairo and place from there too. So, we really like Corsica cause it was, it was great. One thing I did want to say, we

about the 4000 men or whatever it was, because the pilots had time off, then they wanted things to do and they wanted to have dances. So we was to come. Well course they would have some French girls, but they would, or Corsicans, but they'd have to come with their chaperones. And then any of the nurses, and there was a Red Cross club in Ajacio and eventually there was one in Corsica, in Bastion. So that's who used to come the nurses and the Red Cross people. Plus locals did, could. So that's why I say when we went to those dances. And finally, all the units wanted to do this. It wasn't because a few girls were so special but they were the only ones. And the GIs would want to have a dance here and a dance here. We'll send the weapons carrier, we'll send a plane for you. And finally the nurses said we just can't do this anymore because we have to work. We can't run around everywhere. So, one unit that was close decided they, our hospital. I've already moved I'm sorry.

POE: It's okay.

ALEXANDER: Anyway, spring came. Oh, April. So I was only up in Bastion for about three months. Then the war had moved on enough that they didn't need the field hospital up in Bastion. And there was already a 35l station hospital on the road. I don't know how many miles. But it was, if you rode in a weapons carrier, quite a ways. But that was the town of Cervione where the station hospital was. Cervione. And this was the group that, there would be about 35 nurses. You know I can't, you don't have to count it but there were quite a few nurses.

POE: Oh, okay.

ALEXANDER: And course that many. And this is all tent hospital. So it was at the feet of a mountain, a small mountain, a big hill. And the town of Cervione was up here on the hill and we were down here. And here's, here's Corsica. There's Bastion up here some place and Ajacio was over here. And this lower part of Corsica is extremely interesting from the standpoint of really ancient history. I mean it goes, the Waldens and the, that was really, and course this is all mountains in between. At that time it was, France is over here. Italy is over here someplace. Sardinia and Sicily are in there too someplace. So this was a really nice hospital. They had been overseas a long time. And, they were, well established. And, let's see. Oh here, it says we got to Corsica the 1st of December '43 and we left 16th of September. So it wasn't so long as it seemed. But it was, it was a good summer. And, we had all the dances and then this one unit then when the nurses said they couldn't, these are pictures of Corsica. Here's the officer's grub. And, we had some furniture that they took mattress covers and covered the furniture so it looked pretty good. This gal came out from, Algiers to do a story and, about the Red Cross. She was a Red Cross photographer. And she had been on our ship too. And when she went back on the plane, she was killed. The plane went down.

POE: Oh.

ALEXANDER: So, this is the sort of thing, there's the seat covers and the bar they fixed up. They loved the bar.

POE: The bar.

ALEXANDER: As I said, just the bar, yeah.

POE: Self-explanatory.

ALEXANDER: Everywhere the GIs went you had to have a bar. You had to have a club. You had to have an officer's club, you had to have a GI club and so that's, that's about the first thing they did was get the club going. And this is one of the gals I worked with. This is, I remember, anyway, we did move. And the, this is when we just took a little ship. This was a little boat to get over to France. And we landed it just south of France. San Trope which is a really famous resort these days. And it was a resort then. And that was the roughest ship we had. Everybody, I didn't ever get seasick but a lot of people did get seasick. And, it's not a good crossing but it wasn't so long either. So we survived that. And we were put up in a hotel, a big hotel that didn't have any heat 'til we could get out of there. And we were assigned then, I forgot the first place. This is in France now. And again, we're getting there in order. Oh, I didn't show you all the pictures from the field hospital. We had good equipment there. We had a big recreation tent and a good office tent. This is the three of us I guess. Winifred was from Syracuse, New York. She was a social worker and Katherine is the office girl. Yeah, she's in the middle. She was the office girl and she was from New York City. They were a great bunch to work with. Katherine was kind of a poet, the artistic type. If we wanted a poem about something we would send her to the latrine and tell her to write a poem. And, so, and this is, this is our craft tent. And we really had, this was a good set up. Course it was larger and had more equipment. And while we were there, let's see, I don't know. Before we left, one of those dance parties, that we had in Corsica, that's where I met my future husband.

POE: Ahh.

ALEXANDER: Except I didn't know he was my future husband. And so when we got to France, his commanding officer told him he knew where I was. So, Okan is the part of France where we were some distance north of there. And our first assignment, oh we got there just after the Germans were all in France now, or that part of France anyway. And, that they didn't know what other Navies might be running around with guns so they didn't let us out of the hospital grounds for about a week. Finally the day came that we could, cus we, we were moved into an area that was a hospital. They'd moved on for whatever reason. And maybe they went home by this time. Some of 'em had been over a long time. And so I didn't get to go into town that day and I think that was a fright to remember. There were two places and I should've looked that up. Probably could've here pretty soon. But, some of 'em went into town that day, the nurses and the doctors and they came back that night telling us, it was a fairly good city that we were accustomed to being close to or anything like that. So they were talking about it. It was always a joy if you could sit at a doctor's table. Because most of 'em were bored to death because well, they were not in their fields. I don't mean they were bored with being there. It was just being away from their practices. And so it was fun to be at their table

because they had pretty lively conversation. And this particular evening, it was a, it was a, but there was one officer who was the ladies man and he came back or when they came back they said he had a French girl on his arm right away. He was really living it up. And then there was another delightful, awful doctor. He came back and he said I saw the neatest little French girl. Big brown eyes and curly hair. She was 4 years old and I've got her picked out for my son. And that's the story I remember that introduced me to him. And so, time went on and we did move then another time. Let's see, I sure cannot ever forget the names of those places but right now. There's Corsica. Umm, next town we moved, we moved into another area where a hospital had moved out. And there were two men. Course here it was getting Christmas time again and we hated to, get something lined up. So these two men were wonderful. They just hung around our office all, they were in pajamas or robes like everybody else and patients. But oh they were there. They could help us with so much stuff. And when it came Christmas, then we really needed 'em because we needed to take, we'd take the gifts to whatever we had. We might break up a pack of cigarettes and give a few in each pack and M&Ms and that sort of thing. And a razor. Whatever we had. But they would, we'd put those on a litter and then they would carry whatever we had, the refreshments and stuff to the wards. And after it was all over, we were, and then we also had a Christmas program in our recreation area. And, after it was all over we would gather down in our office and one of the, those two men were there and we had some, German prisoners in this hospital.

POE: Can you hold that thought? ALEXANDER: Oh yeah. POE: Good.

(Camera off) (Camera on)

POE: Okay capture, recapture your thought. You're back on the air.

ALEXANDER: Let's see. What was it? Oh. This Christmas we had a celebration and we were sitting down in the office talking. Course we had to, had to decide what we were gonna do about those German prisoners for Christmas. And we decided well, we really had no choice. We would do for them what we were able to do for any of the rest of 'em. So one of these two men, we were sitting down there talking about the program and everything. And he said all of the sudden he said, I want to know what the hell kind of a ward this is. He says, last week or two weeks I was up in the front wanting to shoot everybody. And he said tonight I'm down here in the ward, I go in there and they start to sing Silent night and I begin to cry. He said, what in the world is going on here. I do remember that. Well, we enjoyed those two men. But the summer went on and the spring went on. And, this is 1944 by this time. This is '43 Christmas but '44.

POE: Yeah. I think that's where you were.

ALEXANDER: Well that's where I was but "m trying to get the time straight. Anyway, actually it would be '44. Christmas of '44, yeah. As time went on, we begin to notice we had socks hanging in our office, office ya know. Men's socks, drying. Well how come that? Well finally, we decided they belonged to those two men and they were not legitimate patients. They had just stayed on after the other hospital moved. Well Winifred was our director, our social worker, went to 'em and said you guys have to go back. We know you're AWOL. And the rest of the men are up there fighting this war and you have to go back. I have to turn you in. It broke our hearts because we really liked 'em so, she did. She turned 'em in and they had to leave. And it runs in my mind, I think this is right that sometime later, one of 'em did come back again. He'd been injured again. But that was one of the stories that didn't happen everyday I think. So we then went to France, or were in France and we moved another time. And we were, I want to say, which town were we in? I'll tell you about the rest of these pictures in a minute. A lot of these go back to, there's our Christmas cards that you had to, your letters were v-mail which were just that. And I just, was able to save some of those. I guess that's because I'm a saver. It's all catching up with me now. And, we had, we had a chance, we had a trip to the, the south and when, that time just went. I mean, oh the difference between being in France and being in the Mediterranean, we were in Elsenhower's command in France. And that's, ya know, it was really rationed. One of the signs in the mess hall said, use one spoonful and stir like hell. And so that was the main difference. We did one day get over across the border into some, I don't remember where it was but at the second place. It was inaudiable on the Riviera is where we landed. If I can get these, but I guess I can't get it straightened up in my mind today. I should've looked it up in the, my diary. But we were at the second, second hospital when the war ended. And I got a picture. There. And I don't have that journaled. Goodness me, I didn't know I didn't have that finished.

POE: Maybe that was, maybe that's all you need was V-Day 5-8-1945.

ALEXANDER: We were sitting out under the tree reading the newspaper. I remember that. Look what I found in a Time Magazine.

POE: Ohh yeah.

ALEXANDER: That was a, that was a new Time Magazine that was just marking that event.

POE: Uh huh.

ALEXANDER: But I thought that was kinda neat to have that.

PEG: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: So from then after 15th field hospital or I mean 35th station had been overseas a long time and so they were disbanded. And they all went home. And the Red Cross girls were assigned into Paris, and to a big general hospital. You had to live in

town, and in the city and you traveled by subway out to the hospital. And, one of my most memorable events there was that, I went, was coming back from the hospital one night after dark. It was getting very close to the end of the subway time when the subway would run. And I made the mistake of getting off the subway at the wrong place. Came up here, dark, nothing, ain't nobody anywhere around. I didn't speak French. I didn't know what in the world would've happened to me but I hightailed it out and caught the last subway. So that, if I ever want to be scared sometimes, I think of that one. And course we did have chances to see various things in Paris. I think, a lot of, we went there after the 8th of May probably I guess. That's what, so we weren't in Paris too long, and before we got to come home. We did get ya know some good trips to see some things. But still we had to travel out there. And, now the Red Cross girls were, the other two from the station hospital, or the, yeah, were old timers so they had long since gone home. So anyway, to go back, when we were in Corsica, I met this young man that I didn't know was gonna be my husband. All of the sudden we decided we wanted to get married. And the thing was that we didn't know the war was gonna be over. It could've been you know forever. And, we decided, we set June 20* that's the date we were gonna get married. And I had two friends that lived in that had gone to Detroit to work in the war effort. And one was a home ec teacher and the other was a grade school teacher. She was a very organized gal. The other one was too I think. So I wrote to 'em and said if I send you some money, will you buy me some clothes to wear for my wedding. So they did. It happened that they went to one of the finest shops in Detroit and told 'em the story. And so I had a beautiful dress. They, and then they sent me a letter all on, you had to write on onion skin you know. Page after page of what they were sending me. Course I got the letter before I got what they were sending. But anyway, it happened that, well of course by that time, I was in Paris and Bill was in Italy and they had left too. Well they went to Italy when we went to France. So, where was I? Anyway, he was gonna bring, oh a Red Cross girl, there was a big Red Cross hotel on the, across from the Concord, an old Concord tail and that was the Red Cross R and R place. And Winifred that I worked with knew two of the girls that managed that hotel. So they said we could have the reception more or less up on, in their quarters clear up on the top. So that was neat. And before we could get within, Bill came to Italy and he brought some of his cronies with him. And they brought all of the ingredients for the wedding cake because we couldn't get, they could get 'em easier in France or in Italy then they could in France. So we did have a wedding cake. They made it at that hotel I think the girls did. And when we, but before we could get married, we were gonna get married at the American Cathedral, and before we could do that we had to go out to an outlying municipality and get permission, I, sort of get a marriage license. Yeah, I guess that was it. Bill had done that. I got it on a board. But, so we did that in the morning and then we went from there, or after the wedding we went to the hotel up here. And those girls had a little dog. Well I took this manuscript thing and just laid it on the bed with whatever else was, whatever else I didn't want. I mean for the afternoon cause it was summertime so you weren't cold. But, oh those dogs got a hold of that paper and tore it to shreds. And I'll, let me show you this. A little French girl, little old French girls, was just heartbroken. And one of 'em took that paper and before the afternoon was over had it all glued together.

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: Up on a board you know. And, then course that was the day of decoupage.

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: When I got home, I decoupaged it but I needed to use clear varnish I guess. Cause this has really yellow. But anyway, that's the event there. Well by this time, Alf Thomson is in Paris. So we'd go, course we'd go to see him anyway. So he'd got a little car for us. I think they called it a two cylinder or something. It was just a little tiny thing, and so we could have a honeymoon.

POE: Oh.

ALEXANDER: Course we stayed at all the Red Cross places. Got our gas at all the military places. So that's how we could do that. And we went down to, we went down south.

POE: Is that your wedding picture?

ALEXANDER: That, I don't have any, it's all this snapshots.

POE: Okay, well yeah.

ALEXANDER: And then I have those.

POE: I just thought I'd get a shot of your wedding picture here. And your, your reception

ALEXANDER: Well that was done after I got home.

POE: Oh, okay.

ALEXANDER: But anyway, that was a nice event. Course then he went back to Italy, and I went home.

POE: Oh you did? You got to go home. You were... ALEXANDER: Went home then. POE: Okay.


ALEXANDER: Oh the interesting thing about my wedding is, that's a picture of my wedding dress but one of the girls was getting married before I did in one of the little towns so she wore my dress.


POE: Oh, okay.

ALEXANDER: And so it's a better picture of a, and those are just about the only pictures I have of the, of the wedding, of that day. Let's see. Here it is where we went. Grenoble. It's the southeast part of France. That Alps is what you see in the background for the, at Grenoble. And it is just a small place. So then it was time to come home. And, it happened that Sylvia had been stationed in the Ajacio and she had been in navals a good part of the time. And we ended up coming home on the same ship.

POE: Oh.

ALEXANDER: And this is our picture I think.

POE: Yeah. Sylvia, one last time.

ALEXANDER: So that was...

POE: And there's a picture of the Statue of Liberty from the boat.

ALEXANDER: Oh yeah. Yeah. It says around the world in 821 days. So that, so then we were back to civilian life. And my husband was from Emporia, just happened that he was. So that's how I happened to end up in Kansas.

POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: And we, he had taught before the war, of course Emporia was quite a railroad town and he had taught before the war that, he'd gone to Emporia to school, but course he didn't have any money, it came the time he didn't get to finish. And so he decided, he worked for the Crest chain store chain and he decided if you're gonna go to war, you wouldn't, they wouldn't have any jobs for you when you got home. They wouldn't hold your jobs. So he'd better find something else before he went. So his parents were friends of a man on the railroad in Emporia. And so he went to work for the railroad before he left so he did have a job to come home to. But he still, any chain store person always wanted to have their own store. That was the goal. And, so it just happened that a man he had worked with before the war came to Emporia and, to work, to manage the store there. And so it happened, they got the mission to a long term plan now. The other man didn't have any children and we had one. We had Dan, which we weren't in Emporia that long. So since we had a child, if we found a store, we would run, Bill would run the store and Donny would stay with his job cause he had a pretty good job I guess. So that's how we happened to go to Osawalee. And, I do have a story. This, I think this is a wonderful story cause it never happened again in this world I don't think. Between the two of them they had some money but they lacked something too. They needed a little bit more cus they found this store in Osawalee. And so, what were they gonna do? Well they could've gone to a bank I imagine, I don't know where, Emporia maybe. But they decided what they were going to do. Boy I think Ben Franklin would've probably managed something but they were, decided they wanted to borrow the money in Osawalee. So one Sunday afternoon, the four of us drove over to Osawalee.

And my husband saw a policeman on the corner and he said, we need to find a banker. And the, oh he said you want to go up here to so and so. That's the one you want to see. He lives such and such. So we drove up there. And his name was Mr. Brown. The two men went up to the door and introduced themselves and said they would like to see Mr. Brown. And she said, oh Mr. Brown is in bed with the flu. She said, she said you aren't from Osawalee are you. No. And maybe that's when they told him what they wanted. Oh, Mr. Brown would feel so badly if he didn't get to see you. She said, you just come in and you stand in the doorway and you can talk to Mr. Brown. So the end result was, he said we'll loan you the money, or the bank will loan you the money and if the lady that owns the bank doesn't want to loan it to you, I will. And he says, if Eldon Brown tells you something, that's all you need. Now that won't happen anymore.

POE: No.

ALEXANDER: Whether, whether you know that length of time after the war and stuff maybe might have had something to do with it, but I think it was just that man and the small town you know. Well as somebody said the other day, you didn't have all the restrictions then too I suppose. All the red tape.

POE: No you don't.

ALEXANDER: So after we had been there for a time, then we eventually ended up in Hutchinson.

POE: Did you have a store here too?

ALEXANDER: Yeah we had the Ben Franklin, no we sold the one down there.

POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: And we had the store downtown, one at 13th. When we first came, we had one in South Hutch. And then we ended up, we sold the one downtown to, close to 13th, we sold the one downtown to Mr. Slawyer, Frank Slawyer. And then we had this little one at Kingman for about three year and then my husband wasn't well. And so that's the end of the Ben Franklin story. And my husband lived about a year after that. But we've enjoyed Hutchinson. It was a good place to come. We have five children and thirteen grandchildren. But no great grandchildren.

POE: No great grandchildren?

ALEXANDER: Not yet.

POE: Not yet. Okay. There's hope.

ALEXANDER: Well, the oldest one is, went to Annapolis, graduated from Annapolis. Then she decided she wanted to fly so she bid her time in Persian Gulf. And her husband

is a Marine and he has, his assignment is Hawaii. I mean that's where he lives, where they are stationed. So if she stayed in flying for the Navy, she would have to leave Hawaii and she didn't want to do that.

POE: Oh yeah.

ALEXANDER: So she took a, course she said it was a desk assignment. But what she's doing is digging for bones in Vietnam and Laos for the MIAs.

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: So she has lived in our house at one time. And now, she was in the Persian Gulf, and now she will go shortly to Vietnam and dig. And she loves it. So she's too busy I guess. But anyway, that's the story of my life.

POE: How bout that.

ALEXANDER: These are just Paris pictures.

POE: You mentioned Sylvia. Did you stay in touch with her or anybody else over the years?

ALEXANDER: We came home on the ship. Yes. I kept track with Sylvia and Winifred and Katherine for quite awhile. And then, with 5 kids, I kind of got amiss. And, I know that neither of them is, well I knew when Katherine died because she had a lady send me a note. She had moved from New York into a nursing home out in Pennsylvania. And I visited her there once. But Winifred, I just lost track. Well, I didn't lose track, I just didn't keep it up like I should've. And Sylvia, I still keep, now I didn't hear from her this Christmas. She had a wonderful life I think. She did, her family was in New York City. So when we landed in New York, we had planned that I would stay a few days and see some shows and see a little bit of New York. And, coming off the ship, I have never, if I ever got sick while I was gone, I couldn't get into the hospital because it was full. So, when we landed in New York, oh my husband flew B25s.

POE: Oh, okay.

ALEXANDER: That's what he flew. So I caught I, scratched my heel on the metal steps coming down off the ship. By the next day I had infection in my foot and ended in the hospital.

POE: Oh no.

ALEXANDER: And after I was in the hospital about three days, I got so homesick, I went home. It took me 44 years to get back to New York City. But by this time, Sylvia had migrated to California. I just don't know that part of it. But she lived in Los Angeles and she had married a man whose wife had died and he had twin daughters. And they

were, I don't know if they were college age when they first were married. I think she was some younger then that. But we took a trip to California. I think that's when we took, went to Disney World I think, Disneyland it was then. But anyway, we got to visit in their home. And they were Jewish people and wonderful hosts. In fact, way back then, she had a microwave oven. And she'd been fixing to entertain you know, but they invited us to dinner. Well, Bill's dad wouldn't go. He was well I, they were tired out you know, just, six people. Seven people and that's a story in itself. Anyway, I know he was just tired out by the time we got there because we went down to breakfast that first morning and grandpa was grumpy as all get out. And he says, by god if I knew where the train station was, I'd get on the train and go home. My husband said, well by god if I knew where it was, I'd take you. Then they went to visit some relatives and then they rested and everything turned out alright. But anyway, we were invited out to Sylvia's that night, and Sam's. Grandpa wouldn't go but grandma went and I tell you, she was a queen. Sam just treated her like, she had the best time of her life. And I was so glad she did. But they were just, then Sam died and the next thing I heard from Sylvia, she was friends with a retired doctor. They were not married at that time. She said, all our friends tell us not to get married. I don't know whether money or you know what, but they did marry and they had some wonderful trips. And I hadn't, didn't hear from her this Christmas but John got on the, John or Greg got on the computer and found where they live, in Beverly Hills and even found the area. And so I've got to write and she might not be living or he might not be. And then he found all this through some references to, contributions to some democratic club. I thought, boy I wish I could do all those things. So we maintained a nice, in fact I still maintain contact with the first people I taught with, and my college friends. So, they were supposed to, I got word we were supposed to have some kind of something. I went to University, Iowa State, I told you that. But UNI they call it now. University of Northern Iowa. And they were to have something for all the graduates of 50 years or more. And it's supposed to be in May I think but I haven't heard. Maybe it fell through. But that would be my 69l anniversary, graduating. So, I don't know whether I'll go or not.

POE: Does the Red Cross units ever have any reunions of any...?

ALEXANDER: Yeah. They had a big organization in the east, in New York, or Washington.

POE: That's where their headquarters are.

ALEXANDER: Yeah. Washington D.C. is their headquarters. And I don't know that they had, if they had any out in this part of the country. I didn't know about it. Course I had five kids so...

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: I couldn't have gone anyway. But, Alf Thompson lived to be over 100.

POE: He did?

ALEXANDER: And he was still working for, I mean not attached to the Red Cross but he was still doing things for the Red Cross when she could. And his wife was a delight. She was, kind of a democratic lady you know but just, they were both just down to earth people. So, I think I have, I think I have his picture. I went to the, when my sisters, my little sister was in the Navy and my youngest sister was in the nurses, she flew to air evacuation in the Pacific. So this is a friend of mine that went with Red Cross. She was in England. And, I've got a inaudible over here.

POE: Are you, a picture of Alf?

ALEXANDER: Yeah. I thought I had it in here. Maybe not. Yeah. There it is.

POE: Yeah. Okay.

ALEXANDER: That's what they called...

POE: Alf R. Thompson, 1885 - 1997. He's not been, he's not been around so long, I mean not been gone very long. I mean...

ALEXANDER: 85-97. That's more then 100. POE: Yeah. 102.

ALEXANDER: Yeah. So uh, he was, I guess that was written when he died. But he was quite a, quite a Red Cross person or quite a man really. He just was.

POE: I think I've heard, I think I have heard his name associated with Red Cross on national news.

ALEXANDER: I'd forgotten all.. .you know he used is money to do, let's see, Alf s efforts to show appreciation for service was deep seeded. He was often asked if the fact he was born on November, Veteran's Day was what gave him so much great love for the U.S. But he headed a long career of good causes. He led the charge to honor Korean veterans in his home town and throughout the country. The monument they had put up I guess probably in Illinois, was the first monument in the country to honor the Koreans. With Alf s diligence and contacts with public relations people in the oil business, he called representative of 50 major oil companies together, initially induced some oil company to be a major contributor to the veterans, the vets in Vietnam. Results 1.5 million for the Vietnam memorial.

POE: That may be where I heard his name mentioned

ALEXANDER: Yeah.

POE: Because that sounds familiar.

ALEXANDER: We went to the, my sister and I went to the, there's the picture? I look so horrible.

POE: Oh this one here?

ALEXANDER: Yeah. It was in the paper.

POE: That's not you.

ALEXANDER: It was me. It was the way I looked like that night.

POE: Well it does not look like you by any stretch of the imagination. But we'll take a picture of it anyway. There you are.

ALEXANDER: Oh a horrible picture.

POE: Okay. But now we have a picture of you as a young, beautiful young woman.

ALEXANDER: That's better.

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: Well I was sitting in the chair and just talking away.

POE: And the camera's kind of like looking up your nose.

ALEXANDER: Well yeah. But she did it.

POE: Right.

ALEXANDER: Anyway, that's the story of a part of my life.

POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: The rest of it belongs in Hutchinson I guess.

POE: I guess so. And now you, oh, we don't want to get this mixed up. Now when you got out of the service, did your husband join the American Legion or veteran's organization so you weren't a member of the auxiliary or anything?

ALEXANDER: No. Bill was, Bill was not a joiner.

POE: Okay. Did you stay active with the Red Cross after...?

ALEXANDER: No. I was too busy.

POE: You were too busy. ALEXANDER: I had five kids.

POE: Right. Well I know that you are active in at least one organization now. And were there others that you've been active in over the years?

ALEXANDER: Not too much. Mostly church. Now and there was a, well, RSVP, you could do whatever.

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: Comes along.

POE: As a volunteer, right.

ALEXANDER: You could do that. But, mainly, well then let's see, after, after my youngest child was, my kids were strung out. I had three families. One husband but three families. So I was raising kids forever. And, but after my youngest child was in 4th grade then I went to work at the store.

POE: Oh, okay.

ALEXANDER: And worked then. So that was quite a few years that I worked that I couldn't do too much you know. I did volunteer at Wesley Towers when it was just first started, when they needed volunteers out there. That was kind of fun. For about 9 years I did that. That was on my day off. And, now mainly I did belong just a small club it was not, it had strong value years ago. It was uh, an affiliated club, what was the word for that? They had to put all these women's clubs were part of a national, I say affiliated, there's a different word that women belonged to. And they had a big program for women to do a lot of things. But this club decided after quite a few years that they didn't need to be doing all that, they could just be a club. And it was a nice group. They had a nice membership. And people that I wouldn't have known otherwise and so after my husband died, I did that. And you know what? Last time we met, we had four people. They're gone you know. Because we were, we were an old club started years and years and years ago. But it was a nice opportunity for me because I wouldn't have known these people otherwise. And I've really enjoyed it. And the church.

POE: And Soroptimist. ALEXANDER: And Soroptimist.

POE: I know you're very active in Soroptimist and you have your Hutchinson women's shirt on.

ALEXANDER: Yeah. By accident. And I've enjoyed that group. Yeah I've been, I'm the oldest member.

POE: Are you?

ALEXANDER: Well, I'm the oldest member, I'm not the most long time but I've belonged 25 years or 26 years. But I've enjoyed that because there again, it's a group of people that you wouldn't know otherwise.

POE: Uh huh. It's a wide variety.

ALEXANDER: Oh it is. Yeah. And we had quite a few new young people.

POE: That's good.


ALEXANDER: And it's, they're newer you know. So that's nice. I can sit at the table and take registrations. But umm, that is the story as I remember it.


POE: Yeah. While you were in the Red Cross though, I forgot to ask you, I know that you had equivalent ranks as a Red Cross, you had a military equivalent rank. Okay did you have an American Red Cross rank? You just...


ALEXANDER: We had a, we had, well if you were a hospital worker or if you were a field, the other men were field directors. You went by your job.


POE: Okay. So you were an athletic director, athletic... ALEXANDER: Recreation. POE: Recreation. Okay. Sorry. ALEXANDER: Hospital recreation. POE: Hospital recreation.

ALEXANDER: Cause it was, really important particularly, well it was in the smaller hospital because you did those little things, but uh, and you did 'em in out of the way places you know. But, for the long people that would stay maybe 3 months and then they'd go back to duty. And they would be bored to death you know. That's why we had that big recreation tent and that sort of thing. So it was an important thing.

POE: It was. And I failed to get the date that you, that you were terminated from the Red Cross.

ALEXANDER: Well that was be when I got home.

POE: Yeah. When did you get home?

ALEXANDER: When was it? Returned to, sailed France on the 25th of July.

POE: Is this your certificate? Does it have dates on it?

ALEXANDER: No it doesn't. That's uh, yeah that's from the...

POE: Overseas service certificate. It doesn't have a date. It's issued though October 16th, 1945.

ALEXANDER: That's when I, when I guess you'd... POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: You don't know if that was termination cause that's pretty close cause it was, I landed on my birthday, 2nd of August.

POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: 1945. So that was, I think, 27 months that I was overseas. Course I did the time in Wisconsin...

POE: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: Before that. Anyway, it was a wonderful opportunity. And people say, how come you did that? Well it was a different time. It was the thing to do. I mean, well I suppose you had to be a little big adventuresome, I mean, you had to want to do it. You had to be willing to go.

POE: And make the sacrifices you did.

ALEXANDER: But, you felt you were going for a purpose too. So, well just like my sister, when she was a nurse my younger sister, and she was assigned some place up in Wisconsin, up in South Dakota, Sioux Falls, up in a hospital up there. She said it was such a horrible winter. They just, the nurses were just, I don't know if they were bored or they worked too hard. I don't suppose they worked to hard but anyway. She was gonna do anything to get out, out of Sioux Falls I guess and so some recruiter came and said you know, we're gonna start, how bout being a flight nurse. She wanted to get out of Sioux Falls so she ended up in the Pacific. But, she tries, one time we were talking about it and she said her experience there was quite a big different from mind because I worked directly with the patients. And, they would fly from their base up to where they were picking up the patients and then they would bring them back to the, probably where they were gonna go home, or else go to some other hospital. And that was the only time they saw the patients is when they were in the air you know and they let 'em out. So it was a different experience then I had. I prefer mine.

POE: And you had the one sis, there was another sister. Did you just have two sisters?

ALEXANDER: She was a teacher. And she was not in so long and I can't, see I was gone and I don't know. I remember she came to see me when I was in the hospital in New York. I remember that and I don't know where she was stationed. I think it was, I think she was stationed in Chicago for awhile. But her, and I don't really know what her length of time was, but, probably, well not more then two years. I just don't, because, and she is not living now.

POE: Did you have just the two sisters? You didn't have any brothers?

ALEXANDER: No.

POE: And you were all fairly close to the same age.

ALEXANDER: Oh yes, we were.

POE: Were you like the middle?

ALEXANDER: I'm the oldest.

POE: You're the oldest.

ALEXANDER: Yeah.

POE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: And we're less then 2 years apart from the three of us. And, so I love that picture of my sister.

POE: Isn't that a really nice picture?

ALEXANDER: But she has been dead, she had cancer. She was 65 when she died. So that was a sad time for us. And then this is, Helen got decorated for something, for heroism in the line of duty. I don't know if she did something special. Now in a mass presentation together with 20 other nurses, singled out for the honor. Anyway, that happened in the Pacific I guess. So that's, that's World War II.

POE: That's World War II. Okay then. Do you have anything else to add?

ALEXANDER: I think I've talked enough. You're time will be run up. But I'm glad I did it. You know, it was, it was, I always said the dished washed just the same in Kansas. But it was lots of things I remember you know that nobody else would have experiences. So.

POE: Well, I want to thank you very much for inviting me here... ALEXANDER: You're most welcome. POE: .. .to, to do this interview with you. ALEXANDER: Glad to do it.

POE: And so this is Marian Poe, interviewer, concluding the interview with Maxine Alexander here on the 15* of March, 2007 in her home in Hutchinson, Kansas.

(Camera off)

TRANSCRIBED BYJULIE SCHUESSLER



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