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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Jean Holdridge Reeves to parents, 1945

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Object ID: WV0383.4.007

Description: Jean Holdridge Reeves is preparing to leave for her new assignment, and has spent the day teaching English to Chinese children. Other topics include a meal with "looly water"; Australian beer; her pets, a cricket and a lizard; a variety show; and the low morale.

Creator: Jean Holdridge Reeves

Biographical Info: Jean Holdridge Reeves (b. 1920) of Marion, Ohio, served in the Pacific as a member of the Red Cross from 1944 to 1946.

Collection: Jean Holdridge Reeves Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text: Dearest Folks,

Now that my assignment is near and work about to really start I don’t exactly know what to do. We’ve been so spoiled. They haven’t decided yet whether Betty and I will remain in this locality or move several miles away. I was on my way here by air as I wrote the last letter to you. We stopped at several bases along the way having tea each time. But it tasted very good since we had had no food since breakfast and that meal was a cheese sandwich and water. Transportation arrived before the appointed hour and we didn’t dare go to breakfast. Thank heavens the Red Cross had some-thing in the canteen.

Yesterday was probably one of the most profitable days I’ll have because I got to go teach Chinese children to speak English. These children from about 5 to 16 walk 4 miles and there are transported the rest of the way in a truck. Naturally I had the 5 to 7’s to teach among several were very quick. Two little boys had such a sparkle in those big brown eyes. Two girls had lavender voile dresses just alike but whether or not they are twins I can’t say. They can’t grasp the idea either as yet. Their clothing was in good repair and looked just like ours. None of them wear socks but all had some kind of shoes.

Never having taught children to read or write I was at a loss especially when little preparation had taken place. They know some of the flash cards with sit, stand, walk, run, touch, see, and smell and can act out the word. They also know the parts of the body. Even those children can write the numbers from 1 to 20 and know the alphabet. We have no books for them to use, however so it is difficult— no black boards either and they be so much help. We had great fun kidding the Australians about the children learning English instead of British.

The children were late and soon the morning work was cast aside for lunch with this other girl and I ate with several Australians. The food was good— roast beef (cold) sauerkraut, mashed (dehydrated) potatoes, cucumbers and fresh tomatoes. That very tiny variety of tomatoes. Root vegetables do no grow so well here and get a woody bitty taste but those which grow above ground develop rapidly. For desert we had bananas and papayas… Yes. Tea after dessert but “looly water” with the meal. “Looly” water tastes about like ginger ale. It’s put up in quart bottles of the dark brown variety. They also bottle their beer in such. It is at least twice as strong as American beer. The fellows say that you drink a couple bottles and never feel a bit of effect until maybe an hour later when it really hits.

We had heard about bugs and miniature animals but had never had but slight dealings with them. Now Betty and I have two pets. Oscar is a huge cricket— or from that family I believe. He’s at least an inch and a half long and there are those huge legs. Archibald slides around more quietly and is more beautiful in his coloring. As he sunned himself again this morning his was a vivid blue-green while his back contrasted perfectly by being gold. Archibald, if you haven’t already guessed is a lizard— baby too.

For the last two nights we’ve gone to the ARC Club to help. The other girls don’t mind since they’ve been getting a vacation out of it. The first time there was a variety program going on. Several Aussies were taking charge with accordion, saxophone, clarinet. The ventriloquist was pretty good too as was the boy who gave imitations. His best was a radio broadcast of a hose race. Had cake and cookies that night along with coffee but it was a special treat. There are no doughnuts here since the power load is not strong enough. Last night we played cards and sang. Betty is an excellent piano player although she doesn’t think so. Her whole family is musical. Her father teaches music— supervisor of all music in Chillicothe, Missouri. She has just one sister who is younger and she has won the national violin contest twice. Her mother is also musical.

The attitude of the staff is poor and they blame it onto the mess. It isn’t the most thriving post but they all have to go through that complete cycle of birth and death and if you aren’t enthusiastic it’s pretty hard for the men who have been overseas any where from three days to three years to be entirely bubbling over. Maybe they’ll try us out here to see if the programs and attendance is betters itself but most of the talk tends toward another move.

Guess I’ll tell you all about our quarters in the next letter

Lovingly, Jean