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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Catherine Katopes to Dena and Jimmie, 1942

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Object ID: WV0122.4.001

Description: Katopes relays the details of the first leg of her train ride to Des Moines for basic training to her sister and brother-in-law. Most of the girls she has met were teachers. In the second half of the letter, Katopes is waiting to check in. She and the other women rode into the camp in trucks.

Creator: Catherine Katopes

Biographical Info:

Catherine G. Katopes (1912-1979) served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women's Army Corps from 1942 to late 1945.

Collection: Catherine G. Katopes 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:

Dear Dena and Jimmie:

Here we are in Chicago at the LaSalle Street Station. We arrived almost an hour late. Stayed up until about 12:30. Some of the girls played bridge. Didn't sleep soundly at all. The train rocked and rocked and it was not a Simmons mattress by any means that we all slept on.

We had breakfast on the train and then, some of the girls went to Church. Five of us took a walk up to Michigan Lake and then over to the Aquarium. Spent an hour and a half there and came back by cab as we were quite tired of walking by that time.

Our train leaves at 1:55 for Des Moines and we will get there about 8:00. Just think we probably will have to be up at five o'clock in the morning.

The girls are all pleasant and we are a bit excited about tomorrow. Quite a few girls from different parts of the country will probably ride with us on the "Rocket" the name of the train we are taking.

It's quite windy out here and a bit chilly today. However the brisk walk we took warmed us up.

Traveling in groups as we are doing, people immediately guess we are Waac's. Most of the girls I came out with were teachers.

One girls, a Constance Courage, has three brothers in the service, one on reserve and another wanting to get into the Navy. Her mother said she of course expected her sons to get into the service but never expected her only daughter would, too. Her father is a minister.

Later Sunday night.

It is 9:30 and we are in a large room waiting for them to check us in. By them I mean the officers in charge. There are about sixty auxiliaries and twenty officer candidates.

The weather when we hit this town was b-r-r-rh. (cold). There were four trucks that met the train and we rode in one of them for about six or seven miles. Anyway it seemed six or seven miles. A few Waacs were on hand to take us in hand.

There was utter confusion regarding our baggage. The conductor took my case and stuck it away in a corner in the corridor of our car. I thought it was under my seat. When I went to get it to get off at Des Moines, a girl said they had taken the cases.

We got off the train and I saw no suitcase like mine taken off the train. Finally, I got on again and fortunately I spied it right away.

There were soldiers on hand who drove the trucks and took care of our baggage.

We had a nice trip down here. Most of the people from Chicago down here knew we were Waacs.

Just before we reached Des Moines Gertrude Norris, the tall woman from the "Y.W.C.A." and I had a snack to eat. We had cantaloupe and ice cream and coffee.

We sat across from a middle aged couple form Rockford, Ill. who were quite interested in hearing about the Waac's.

You should have seen the diamond rings on this woman's fingers. They were big and beautiful.

P.S. Say hello to the Gang and thank them for being so nice to me until I am able to get to it myself.

Am getting sleepy and we still have to wait. They had snow here Friday. Hope the weather warms up.

This will be all for now. Will try and mail this tonight.

Love, Cathy