Letter Home from Signal Corps Telephone Operator in France - 1918
Miss Merle Egan, former Northern Division Associate Editor, en route to the front decided to stop off a few days in England and investigate the hospital facilities. Whether from excessive indulgence in "tripping the light fantastic" on shipboard (and what girl wouldn't with half a dozen good-looking officers from whom to choose a partner?) or some other cause, Miss Egan developed a troublesome toe and had only gotten a few tantalizing glimpses of park-like England when pop! she went into a hospital for repairs.
The following letter will give us all the cheerful conviction that the young lady's spirits are still high and bubbling, and we trust that ere now she can sprint with the old-time velocity and has joined her compatriots on the big job in France.
I've gone into the war with a vengeance. Less than a month since I left Helena, and here I am in a hospital already. Some record, I claim. Of course, it isn't very romantic to have to admit that my only trouble is a bum toe, but a shot in the heel would be worse. At that, I have a grudge against someone besides the Germans; it's the man that sold me a pair of full weight shoes—I'd much prefer to have him Hooverize. I'm quite sure that one shoe would be enough for six Belgium women, but maybe when I learn to navigate it, I can wish it on some Heinie and earn a Croix de Guerre; I'm sure I would deserve it.
Well, it's not very exciting to sit around here when I started out to do such big things in the world, but, anyhow, it's a good vacation, about the longest I've had for some ten years, and I'm going to make the best of it. About all we do is eat and sleep. My appetite is about as large as the whale's that swallowed Jonah; only my digestion is better. The only thing I'm worried about is how I will get to France —we are only allowed 300 pounds, you know, and I haven't weighed since I got here.
I really don't think Babe had better come over, but it might not hurt Hazel and Reta any. As for men—you know there are so many that while you are trying to figure out which one you like the best, someone else has probably grabbed him.
On the boat, we had about six officers apiece, and then there were a few left over. I couldn't help but wish you were* there to help me take care of the excess, although to be real truthful, I rather liked it. I needed some consolation, for the fact that my bum toe didn't seem to agree with my desire for dancing, and as a consequence, the last two days, I did no dancing.
From all of this, you will no doubt rightly conclude that crossing the Atlantic is not so bad after all. We should worry about the submarines when the band is playing "The Long, Long Trail," "Missouri Waltz," etc. Of course, it's rather difficult hanging onto your partner over the wide abyss of two life belts, but it can be done.
Those life belts were our one joy killer—we wore them every minute after we left New York harbor, and hereafter I'll have all the sympathy in the world for a fat man; no wonder the real fat ones can't be sentimental; they can never get close enough.
Those life belts were the greatest little chaperons in the world. Of course, we got rid of them after we were in our stateroom, which, by the way, was 8:30 every night, with the exception of the last when, because we had been good little girls, we were allowed to stay up until ten, and then one other night when we had an entertainment given by the enlisted men.
Considering the fact that they turned the clock up on us every night, and that we rolled out with first call (5:30) every morning for fear we might miss something up on deck, that 8:30 business didn't bother us much. Over here, the girls seem to have more freedom.
Of course, I don't know how it will be with us, but the nurses don't have to be in until ten, and they are allowed to entertain officers, providing there is no "two-ing." There must be either two girls and one officer or two couples. Fair enough, I claim, especially as I had an idea that we would have to view them through cages or something of the sort.
And now I'd like to tell you something about England, but all I have seen of it has been from the car window as we came across just before my "internment." The customs, of course, are queer, but I rather like them, and the trains would compare with ours just about like a tin Lizzie would with a Packard, but like the Lizzie, they can get there just the same, and they are queer, but they are cozy, and they sure do travel, only you can never tell just where you are going to land. We would whizz into a station with the engine on one end and whirl out with it on the other, which gave us the sensation of going right back to where we came from, but we never did, so I guess the idea works, if you know the combination.
The hotel where we stayed overnight was a dandy, and for once in my life, I had a bed big enough, because the first night there were four of us in a room, and then when the girls went on, I stayed there alone one night and had the fun of sleeping in two beds all alone.
As I write this, an airplane is whirring above my head, and I haven't even looked up to see it—a mere trifle already. Of course, I might not be so blasé if there were any chance of it being a Boche—but there isn't.
Must write a few more letters, so please consider this to all of you and write when you can, each one of you.
Love to all,
Miss Merle Egan, "[Letter to the Folks at Mountain States from a Telephone Operator in France,]" in The Mountain States Monitor, November 1918, pp. 19-20.