from the photo albums of my grandmother, Gladys Corinne Walker
Previous posts have told the story of the life of my Grandma and of her children, Virginia (Ginger) and Al, through the 1930s and 40s. My mother, Ginger, had such an interesting life in the 40s that it deserves its own entry.
I believe my mom’s life became much happier when she moved in with her mother instead of living with her father and aunt.
She became engaged to Johnny Barnes, her brother Al’s best friend. As an old woman, she told me that she did not think she was really in love with him; it was more that it was an expected match that pleased everyone. I am thinking Johnny might be one of the boys in group photos in previous albums.
In my mother’s words:
“I was born in Seattle and raised north of the city in Snohomish County. I graduated from Edmonds High School in 1942 and went to an office job in Seattle. In 1944, I had the idea to join the Air Corps in honor of my fiancé [Johnny Barnes], who was shot down in a Boeing Flying Fortress in a raid over Germany. However, the Air Corps wouldn’t even take my name until I was 20 (in April). I walked down the sidewalk and saw the Marine Corps recruiting office. (“Be a Marine and Free a Marine to Fight.”) They signed me up, gave me a physical exam, etc., and told me to come back on my birthday to take the oath, which I did. “
I had my boot training at Camp Lejeune, NC. After about two weeks at camp, they were going to discharge me because I was “not up to the physical standards of the USMC.” When I said I wanted to stay, they sent me to a psychiatrist, who decided if I wanted to be Marine so bad they would let me stay.
[She told me that she had always had a hard time raising her arms up over her head. It was probably some sort of condition related to her being born a “blue baby”. She knew she would be unable to do the obstacle course, so as the women lined up to do it, she stepped from the line of women going in, to the line of women going out and got away with it! However, as you can see by the passage above, she almost got discharged due to lack of physical strength.]
After graduating, I drew six weeks mess duty (to serve the next class). Then I was assigned to Marine Headquarters in Washington, D.C.. I was given a stripe right away because “they didn’t want any Privates walking around the nation’s capitol.” I reported to the Ordnance Division where I worked for the next three years.
The highlight of my time in Washington was when my boss at work wanted to form a rifle team. We competed with any team we could find (even high school boys). Then a group of four or five of us started competing at civilian rifle matches up and down the east coast from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
A big disappointment was not being able to march in the funeral parade for President Roosevelt. (I wasn’t tall enough.) But I did march in the parade for Admiral Nimitz when he came back from the Pacific.
As the war wound down, most of the WRs wanted out. They needed clerks to handle the return of thousand of Marines coming back, so I shipped over for another ten months. After I got home, I joined the action reserves.
After I got home, I joined the action reserves.
Back home again, in the reserves, she got an office job and met a coworker and fell in love. She told me that she had had an idea that someday she would marry a man named Bruce who was 8 years older than she was, and here was that very man.
The policy of their workplace was no fraternization among co workers so in 1949 they eloped to Montesano to get married, and hid it from their officemates for some time.
They began their married life in an apartment on Capital Hill, Seattle. In the late 40s or early 50s, they bought her brother Al’s former residence at 6309 12th NE. Al was doing well financially as an accountant and was able to help them out. It was a great boon to Bruce and Ginger to acquire a house. The mortgage was about $46 a month.
[At the time, the house was on a quiet street with attractive Craftsman houses on both sides. If you were to look it up now, you’d find it is on a noisy one way street with the house to one side removed and turned into a commercial parking lot. All that unfortunate change happened in the early 60s.]
Ginger and Bruce loved to go camping.
In Ginger’s words again: 1950 rolled around with the “police action” in Korea and our unit was called up. I was newly married and I didn’t want to go. I finagled a medical discharge. My husband walked with me when I signed out so I wouldn’t change my mind when they played the USMC hymn.
She told me many times that Bruce talked her into selling her rifle and getting a mink coat instead. She said she liked the rifle better.
next: Gram’s World War II guest book