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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Lola H. Ryan to her Mother, Dad, and Stub, 1945

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Object ID: WV0362.4.004

Description: Lola H. Ryan gives a lengthy description of her vacation with "Lamb" in Juan-les-Pins and Cannes, France. Ryan writes of the beautiful scenery, her activities, and an evening they spent with a Belgian woman who described the hardships faced by the French during the war. Ryan explains that American military surplus helps to clothe much of the population in Cannes. She also describes a softball game between navy personnel and army medics when she returned to Marseilles.

Creator: Lola H. Ryan

Biographical Info: Lola H. Ryan of McGraw, New York, worked as an operating room nurse in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II.

Collection: Lola H. Ryan 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:

Well as you can see I have been taking a few days off as far as correspondence is concerned. Now a couple days later I’ll continue this drawn out manuscript.

As I said we arrived in Jean les Pin. Enclosed is a folder from there showing the hotel which is a beautiful structure. We lived in style those 3 days. As soon as we arrived we dashed up to our rooms and climbed out of Class A’s. It seemed so good to wear slacks and a shirt with sleeves rolled up & collar opened without expecting a court-martial for being out of uniform. Every one there wears just any kind of clothes or any part of the uniform and no one gives a darn.

That afternoon we spent browsing about the town, walking along the shore road under an occasional palm tree. I only wish I had had a color film because only then could you realize the full beauty of the place. Can you imagine a bright cloudless sky overhead and a deep, very deep blue ocean below. Along the shore are found the palms, the pastel shades that they paint their houses and of course the bright reddish-orange tile roofs. Skimming along the water were sailboats, kayaks and canoes. We shopped around for postal cards, souvenirs & perfume which will send out later.

After dinner we strolled around some more, watched a French street dance, was invited by a G.I. to see his bar in the hotel where he was billeted as he works there. Finally, as it grew dark we decided to go back to the Hotel. We went into the bar to have a drink while we listened to the dance music. While we sat there a couple fellows came over for a visit and they had just flown down from Germany for a week’s rest leave. Boy, the experiences that had to tell! We watched the floor show and beat it for bed. Next morning I had a curvature of the spine from sleeping on such soft beds. We were a little late getting up the next morning and there 3 of us decided to take the bus into Cannes—a 7 mi. ride. We left about 11:30 arriving in Cannes a few minutes later. First thing we did was to sign up for one of the paddle boats. We didn’t have long to wait and then we climbed into one. You’d love it and it’s loads of exercise too. You just settle back in the seats—two to a boat and peddle the thing like a bicycle. We went out a heck of a way getting a good view of the shore as we did so. The water was so calm it was just crystal clear. We didn’t dare stay out very long because we were afraid Lamb would come back looking like a lobster. We had dinner or lunch rather at the Carlton Hotel where all the nurses used to stay, signed up for the boat trip back to Juan les Pins at 4:30 and started sight seeing, taking pictures and looking around in general. We found a tiny grocery store where we bought cherries and strawberries that are already in season here. Were they ever delicious!

While we were waiting around for the big boat to go back to our place a young air corps fellow came up and asked if we’d like to help make up a party to go out in a Chris Craft speed boat. Well for about 15 minutes we had a swell time. “Frenchie” would maneuver the boat so close to some of the paddle boats you’d swear he was running them down and he succeeded in giving most of them a nice cool salt-water spray. The trip back was beautiful. Again I say you can’t imagine the coloring until you see it for yourself. Before we got to Juan les Pin [sic] we could see the snow capped lower ridge of the Alps peering at us in back of the town.

That night as we sat on a stone bench down by the shore, reading the Stars & Stripes a woman came along and said she must talk to us. She was of Belgian descent and had lived most of her life in France. From what she said she must have at one time been very wealthy because she spoke of her summer home & country villa, also of traveling to England several times as well as practically every other European country. She invited us over to her apartment for some wine. Said she had nothing else to offer but she wanted to talk to us. We decided that as long as the hotel was on the way we’d show her our room and take along some fruit juice and candy that we had there. Also had a brick of cheese that you had sent which I gave her.

Well, we had the grandest visit with her as she spoke almost perfect English stopping now and then to ask us a word or two. She told us about her husband who is dead, about the country before the war, the bombings, the terrible food shortage, the lack of clothing and lots of things of interest. She said that for months all they could get was bread & wine to keep them going. Said she had not seen fish or butter for 5 years. We felt like heels especially when she asked us what we had for our meals. They are beginning to get more food here now but it’s no wonder they resent the Americans because we have the best of equipment, food, and clothing. Everytime you turn around downtown you see G.I. equipment and clothing. At first you may take it to be a G.I. but one word out of him and you find he may be French, Italian, Russian, Moroccan, [Selengese?], Chinese or anything. We clothe the world. She said that she had seen many troop movements of Belgians, Germans, Italians and French but never had she seen the equipment that the Americans rolled over the roads. She said she was amazed and thrilled.

Well all in all we had a swell time in Cannes or Juan les Pin [sic] as that’s where we spent most of our time. Expect to get the pictures back Monday. Have seen the negatives so I know that most of them turned out swell.

Last night we had an outdoor program down on the athletic field. It started out with a softball game between navy and the “Needles” or the medics of the 235th. Of course we beat them 9-3. Then our band played several numbers while we waited for it to get darker in order to have an outdoor movie. All in all it was a grand evening. The few G.I. patients that we have were there plus the rest of the camp and a few French kids.

Well now I hope this makes up for the “no-letter days” a little bit. Will send the souvenirs & perfume on as soon as I get a chance to pack it.

Goodnite[sic] for now.

Love, Lola

Ormand wrote me and asked what one strawberry said to another. “If we hadn’t stayed in that bed so long we wouldn’t be in this jam”.

Note—26 pages and I still have lots to tell you later.

Let me know if some poor censor had to wade through this.