Robert C. Daniels

Author / Adjunct History Professor


Interview conducted as part of research for the writing of World War II in Mid-America

Gladys (Jolly) Hritsko  © Copyright 2005

Interview by Robert C. Daniels

Gladys was interviewed at the Union-Congregational Church in Waupun on 28 November 2005 starting at 2:30 P.M.  The interview lasted 49.19 minutes.  At the time Gladys was eighty-six years old and very articulate.  She had brought along some papers that she would refer to at times.  Gladys’ story is especially interesting since she was one of the first females to have enlisted and served in the military during the war.  Gladys was to passed away on 23 July 2010.


What is your full name?  Gladys May, my maiden name is Jolly, J O L L Y.  Gladys May Jolly.

J O L L Y?  Yes.

Okay.  I was wondering where you got the Jolly from.  Yes, it stayed with me forever.

Okay.  And what is your last name now?  Hritsko, it’s H R I T S K O.  It’s Hritsko.  It is, um, Russian-Slovak type background for that name.  I married a fellow from out East.

Oh, okay.  I know a lot of people born in the twentieth century were not born in a hospital, but at home.  Where and when were you born?  I was born in Green Lake County (Wisconsin), in what you call right now—it’s a very well known area—called the Green Lake Baptists Assembly.  Originally [it] was owned by the Lawson Family.  Very, very extended history to it.  And I was born on the estate, my brother and I, because my father and mother both where under the employment of Mrs. Lawson and Mr. Lawson.  I came into the world with a midwife.  What you call a mid-mother…, well, whatever.

Yeah.  In the middle of the winter in about twenty feet of snow.  The doctor never got there, I guess.  I beat him to it (she laughs).

And what day was that?  December the 26th.

What year?  1919.

Okay.  Who were your parents?  My mom and dad came from England to this estate.  And my dad’s name was Arthur Richard Jolly, and my mother’s name was Rose Tidy Jolly.  T I D Y, Tidy Jolly.  Both born and raised in England.  They came over here by boat.

And Tidy, was that her middle name or maiden name?  Her maiden name was Tidy.  She held that, you know.

With a hyphen?  I think so.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?  I have a brother, Henry Charles Jolly.  He was in the service.  We were both in together.  And he passed away.

I’m sorry to hear that.  Where did you go to school?  Ripon High School and Green Lake High School.  And I loved Green Lake (Wisconsin).

Did you?  Well, it was sort of a poor rent little village, and nobody had any money and all, so we gelled together, you know.

Did you attend college at all?  No, I did not.  I attended my schooling in the service.

Okay.  I was sent up to Ames, Iowa, for transportation school.

Okay.  I was the second highest in my class of one hundred fifteen girls in mechanics.  I was a driver.  And I knew more about mechanics than I did about pushing a baby buggy around.  Like my mother said, “Don’t put any good clothes on her.  Throw on a dress and send her up by her dad.”  But my dad was a kind of a guy that taught us.  And I loved mechanics, and I still do to this day.  It’s really odd.  I can fix everything, you know.  It’s just a natural, see.

What was it like for you growing up?  What?

What was it like for you growing up?  What was it like?

Yes.  Scary.

 Scary?  The anticipation of, well..., did I do right or did I get mad enough to holler, “How did I get into this mess in the first place?” you know.  I used to say to the lord, you know, “Lord,” you know, “I got myself into this, now you get me out,” see.  And he did.  I’m a great believer that…, it’s just, you know, the first time away from home, a very comfortable home, you know…, a job.  It’s just that I’ve never was satisfied inside of me.  I didn’t know that.  It’s just I’m the kind of person I don’t like to be ridden, you know, be on my back!  And, of course, Herman, he never did get over that that I did what I did.  He went all to pieces to think that he sent me to the war (she laughs).  But it was the best thing that he ever did, because it was there and I took it.

Herman was your boss?  He was my boss!  Herman Woodloff.  He was one of these kind of guys that go, “Humph,” (she crosses her arms over her chest) “you do it or else” (she laughs).  Maybe that’s what helped me through my whole career, see, you do it or else.

Well, during the 1939, 1941 timeframe, you were working at, ah…, what were you doing then?  Just before the war.  Before, I was in the knitting mills.  We were making army gloves, or any kind of a glove, a driving glove or something like that.

Okay.  This was in Ripon?  Yes, it was.  And it’s tore down now, and they moved part of that plant over here to Waupun.  Of course, that’s long gone now.

Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard about Pearl Harbor being attacked?  A gang of us, of the old timers, used to get together on a Sunday, and we used to go find a park or something.  The guys would go fishing and we were just all together.  We were on our way to a little lake, ah…, Princeton (Wisconsin) area called Fever Lake.  And we stopped in Wautoma (Wisconsin) and we went in to a restaurant to whatever, and it came over the radio, you know, "War has been declared and Pearl Harbor has….”  And, you know, it just seemed like whole….  See, these fellows were in the National Guard.  They were…, they knew they better get back to Ripon and train.  So we went back with them.  And, of course, they had their orders.  So we just sort of…, us women sat in the back ground and said goodbye to the boys, you know.

Do you know what time of day it was?  It was morning.

Morning?  It was in morning time because it took our Sunday, kind of like…, none of us were talking.  We were quiet.  Maybe we were crying a little bit because we felt like we’re gonna lose these boys, and that was true.  It was the 32nd Division at that time in that area that moved them out.  

On a Monday morning we all went up to the train.  These boys came with the gear and stuff, and we said goodbye, you know, to them, never realizing I was doing the same thing a couple months later as I was [boarding the ] train…, goodbye (she laughs).

What were your thoughts and feelings about the United States being attacked?  Well, when you really look back at it, you know, how would you say that, ah…, we were bickering back and forth.  We knew that Hitler’s on the move and the Japanese Emperor, whatever he was, they were on the move, but we really didn’t seem to realize it.  We just lived our lives being Americans, enjoying ourselves, you know.  They’re over there and they’re having their fight, see.  But I think when Pearl Harbor hit it hit us home.  

And you go back and you see the stories now what they were doing when they looked out the window and thought it was our own planes out for maneuvers, you know, and here it was the Japanese planes.  I think that’s when it hit us home.  I guess we sort of lived in our own little worlds, or nothing’s ever gonna hit us, see, but it has.  And it’s hit Paris.

What were the general feelings of those around you about the attack?  The same, I think.  All of them unhappy, their sons were going.  I know my mother just had a fit when dad came and said, that when I called him, he said, “Where are you?”  And I said, “I’m in Milwaukee, just call me PFC (Private First Class).”  Dead silence, you know.  “What did you do that for?”  And, ah, then he had to tell my mom, and, of course, my mom heard all of the bad stuff, you know.  “What is she going in the service for?” you know.  To take good care of the men, you know.  It just poisoned her mind, you know.  And so, you know, it left kind of a downcast feeling, you know; although my dad carried my suitcase to the old ford Model-T and said, “I brought you up right, and I hope you do what is right.”  So there, you know, it was just more or less the kind of person I was.

Can you tell us the story about when you decided to join the military, how that came about?  How it came?

Yeah.  How I did it?  Well, it was on a weekend, and I went to work Monday morning, 7 o’clock we had to be there.  And I guess I was out having too much fun.  Dancing—I was a great gal for dancing—roller skating.  And I guess I was tired, probably, ‘cause my dad did say that when I passed him on the second floor, he said, “If you’d go home and get some sleep nights,” you know.  “Why don’t you go home and go to bed,” you know.  I said, “Whoa, I’m gonna join the Army!”  And when the screwman came in, you know, and had this pile of mittens, menders—he always knew I could do a good job fixing the menders—and he handed them to me and said, “Well, when you got time I want you to fix these.”  And I looked right at hi—and I put them down on my table—and I looked right at him and just that quick (she snaps her fingers), I said, “I’m not fixing ‘em.”  He stepped back and said, “What?”  “You know, Herman, what you can do with your gloves!”  And I said, “I am gonna join the Army.”  

I had no anticipation.  Really didn’t!  I packed up my stuff, my little old scissors, and—I was on the third floor—passed my dad on the second floor.  He couldn’t figure it out.  At 9 o’clock in the morning and I’m going down the steps, you know.  He said, “Where are you going?”  I said, “I’m gonna join the Army.”  And he said, “Yeah, well,” you know, “you go home and get some sleep.  Out tearing around all night long.”  

I traveled with a group of my employees, the ones that worked with me, you know, we were like a big happy family.  And I was the youngest of the bunch in the age limit, and they said “Well, we’re gonna take care of her,” you know, “well, be good,” you know.  And we got on this black, little old black engine train at the northwest depot, about two bucks in my pocket.  In the story (referring to a newspaper article she had written) it says $5, but I didn’t have $5.  But I got on that train, went through little towns of Brandon, and…, here in Waupun, all the way down.  Never been in Milwaukee in my life.  

I was lucky I got out of Ripon, but I got off that train absolutely looking at these big buildings of a…, boy, oh, boy!  But I was always the kind of a girl…, asked questions.  So I probably met somebody else, but then there’s other young people, including the girl that I met, she was going to join the Army.  And see, that time the national (guard) army is still there yet, by this…, you know, camouflaged.  So her and I went into this building, and they started processing us, you know.  We were there all day.  

Went through physicals, went through interviews, going…, you know, everything.  And then they posted us around about, oh, I think it was about 4 o’clock or 5 in the afternoon, who was to be accepted.  Well, naturally you are scared.  Well, geez, if I don’t join I have to go back home to the needle works or something.  But I was accepted.  And so was my girlfriend, Eddie.  So we were at that time good old privates.

  Well, I had to call dad because they were going to send us back on our trains; well, dad because the trains came into Ripon.  But on the way back it came into Fond du Lac.  It seemed that was the stopping place, so dad had to come over to Fond du Lac and get…(she laughs).  He wasn’t too happy with me.  But yet he said, “If that’s what you choose out of life, then I’ll except it.”  But he said, “It did the world…, it was hard to lose you and your brother.”  He said, “We were proud of you.”  

So when I came home on my first leave, which was 3 months….  See, they put us in training, then they moved us into the category that we chose; transportation would be Des Moines, Iowa, or Ames, Iowa.  And they separated us then, you know.  I went [into] transportation, but I was shipped up to Ames, Iowa.  But before they did that they let us have a ten-day leave, more or less, just to be out of basic training and then going into your schooling.  And so when I got off that train at Fond du Lac, I had my uniform.  You lived in that uniform.  Even your underclothes were green, you know (she laughs).  

I could still see dad and mom standing there.  I don’t know what to say.  So then I went the next….  Well, I think they let me sleep for a couple of days or something, and then I went down to the needle works.  Dad had said, “Are you coming down?  The girls are all asking for you, see.”  And so I went down.  But I think I took about three hours because I wanted to make sure I was perfectly dressed.  Perfectly.  I had my little stripe on my shoulder, you see.  

And they said…, you know, I think they expected I was gonna be coming home and I…, you know, they had nothing good about it.  It was all, “Well, give her three months and she’ll be home,” and this and that, see.  But I proved ‘em wrong.  And dad was very proud of me, you know.  

And there was a fellow in Ripon that thought the world all of me, and we used to call him Peanuts.  He had a tavern down where the Sprinkles is now.  And I sent him a little picture about this big of me and my jeep (Gladys motions with her hands the size of a normal 5x8 picture).  He blew it up about that big (she motions about the size of a two- by three-foot picture), put it over the bar.  He was so proud of it.  So, that’s the way it happens.  So you know. 

What was training like for you?  Huh?

What was the training like?  My training, whatever they threw to the boys, they threw it to us.  Sometimes we didn’t quite make the what-cha-ma-call-it course they put us through.  Fell in a puddle a couple of times, fell in the hole a couple of times if you wasn’t watching what you were doing.  We were trained and trained hard.  I think it was trying to…, what? separate the sheep from the…, I don’t know.  It’s just, you know, we were trained hard.  Everything, even on the rifle ranges with the big M1’s (Garand rifle).  The first time I ever had one of those, because they weighed heavy, and I was laying on my stomach, or I don’t remember what position, and knocked me flat on my…, you see, when I pulled the trigger.  

Whatever I learned I have learned the hard way.  And if I didn’t behave myself, then we gotta do KP (Kitchen Patrol) work.  And I was on the garbage…, the big garbage racks, or washing dishes.  About fifteen thousand spoons and…, you know.  

We were trained hard because they had to do that because we were in the first fifteen hundred, so they wanted to find out, you know, are they gonna be able to handle and do the job?  And, I guess, evidently the ones that was in my outfit, that was a hundred and fifteen girls, outside the few that….  After we were there a year in Fort Leonard Wood…, no in Ames, Iowa…, no that was the first ten days.  Then they shipped us to Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri) and to the field.  And, you know, that’s where they put us there before they shipped us overseas.

What did you do in the Army?  I was a driver, and handling the big trucks, recons, jeeps, sedans, whatever.  Whatever was out there.  When we were in Ames, Iowa—that was the melting pot for the trucks to come in, be repaired, and then be shipped back to another fort—well, they sent us girls along as drivers.  We would take the truck or the vehicle, we called them vehicles, down, leave ‘em, and then they’d ship us back by another vehicle that needed to be taken care of.  So, actually, we worked both ways.

Were you always stationed in Fort Leonard Wood?  Yes.  I was scheduled to go overseas, I had gotten all my shots and I…, the day….  First they cancelled all leaves, and we knew there was something in the wind.  See, we did not know and you don’t ask.  And we knew there was something because they took our leaves away.  We couldn’t leave the base, we couldn’t leave our area, and had everything packed, you know, our gear.  And we knew then that we was either being ship over to the Japanese—well, that side of the war—or the German side.  But this is mostly geared for the Japanese.  This is the area that our fellows were trained for.  The boys that were trained where down in heavy duty equipment, engineer outfits.  I’ve got a lot of pictures on ‘em driving big trucks and down on the river at night time.  I used to have to take officers down in blackout driving.  A little bit of light about this big (she makes a small three-inch size cube with her fingers).  I always said, “The good lord must have…,” you know.  But we just had to be ready for everything that was thrown at us.  Like everyday living.  So.

What was it like for you in the war?  What was it like?  It was what you made it.  It was the way you made it.

Now, you were one of the first females in the Army, what was that like?  Oh, I don’t know.  We had gotten used to it a little bit as we were exposed along the way that, you know, you were going to be put into the war effort.  Which it was…, Fort Nida was basically one of the main forts in the whole United States that was training two segments.  One was the big tank division, which was on the hill.  And we were in the ASTC (Army Service Training Command) Engineer Corps building bridges and the various things.  That’s what we did. 

So, you know, more or less…, well, we knew after the training these boys would be shipped, and we knew that after being in the field that if they needed five girls over in Germany in their field they were shipped.  So we knew then, back then that that day, that particular day from the day-room ready to start moving out.  And I think it was there…, they put us in there around 5 A.M., kinda….  Well, we could go over to our barracks and to the bathroom and to go to eat.  Oh, I don’t know how to say, we were all just sort of quiet, you know, wondering where we’re going.  

They never told us.  We never even knew when we went to Fort Leonard Wood ‘till we were sitting on this big troop train with our luggage, or our gear. 

And then it came over the big speakers, “War has…,” I don’t remember.  I have an article in my paper.  I saved it.  It’s a little yellow.  You’ll see that.  And how did we react?  I think we all just cried, you know.  But then we had to know where are we gonna go now, which would be the next assignment?  So that’s the reason why….

How long were you out at Fort Leonard Wood?  Oh, gosh, I don’t remember.  About three or four years.  That was my last camp that I was….  I was in the reserves.  After we…, they were gonna ship us down to Fort Oglethorpe where the assignments for the women were taken through there—Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.  That was really the WAC (Women’s Army Corps)….  And they couldn’t ship us because…, I forgot just why.  They told us…, well, they held us right at Fort Leonard Wood until….  Well, my mother had gotten ill and I had to really come back because dad just couldn’t handle it anymore.  Not that I wanted to.  No, I wanted to stay, I wanted to go on into whatever.  But I had to sign up for the reserves, too.  That was a must.

You touched base on this a little.  What was it like when you heard that the war was over with?  What’s it like?  I don’t remember how we really reacted.  I think we all just looked at each other.  It’s like we were on this big merry-go-round, now it’s stopped and now we are gonna get off.  I don’t know.  I can’t remember what I felt and how I acted.

Okay.  What was the trip home like?  Do you remember?  When I went home?

Yeah.  I don’t remember.  Kinda anticipating that I knew that I would be going back home for dad for my mother and where am I gonna go from there?  Naturally, being a young girl in her twenties, I would have to find a job.  

They gave us a three-months period in between.  Like they said, “Now you go home, you get adjustment back to civilian life and get your bearings, what you gonna do.”  

Well, then I went back to work in the knitting mills.  I was called on.  I had my job back there from when I left, so they did let me have it back.  And there I stayed until…, I was going with this fellow from out East, and he showed up on my door step.  So, there you are, twenty some odd years later (she laughs).

What was the area like, what was Ripon like when you got home?  Was it changed from when you left?  Oh, I don’t think so.  The cows was there, the big Speed Queen factory was there.  Oh, I take that back, I went to work in the cookie factory.  I was a floor lead…, assistant floor lead.

After the war you went to work at Ripon Good Cookies?  Yeah.

Okay.  How long did you work there?  Fourteen years.

Fourteen years.  And then you got married sometime in that timeframe?  Yeah.

And you met him when you were in the military?  I met him in the military, yup.  I couldn’t get rid of him.  In the first place I couldn’t pronounce his last name (she laughs).  He always used to say that, “You never could say my name.”

What was his name? John Nicolas Hritsko, of Russian nationality and Slovak.  He could speak it and sing it.  He was very good.

How long were you married?  Twenty-nine years.

Twenty-nine.  How old were you when you got married?  I was…, I used to say if I had to do it again I wouldn’t get married until I was eighty, and that’s…(she laughs).  No, I was about twenty-nine, twenty-nine in there.  My first…, my little…, my first son was Mike, and I was thirty some years old when I had him.  Then I had another boy, Tom, then I had my daughter Mary, my little girl.  And then I had my youngest son Steve in my later years, so.

Did any of them go in the military?  Yes, my son Mike joined the Air Force and he was very good.  He was very well up in, what was it?  I forgot.  Not computers, something electrical.  He was an instructor.

What do you do now?  How do you spend your days now?  What do I do now?  I’m retired.  I don’t do nothing (she laughs).

You said something about going to schools and talking?  I do.  Especially around Veterans’ Day.  I have gone to I don’t know how many schools in this area.  Chilton (Wisconsin), Waupun, Berlin (Wisconsin) and talked to the classification of the young men and women that are in the eleventh and twelfth graders.  And I spoke to ‘em, brought my stuff along and let them look at it.  And I never minced no words.  I didn’t say, “Oh, you are gonna have a ball, you are gonna have this and that.”  No, I told them, “If you haven’t got the guts, don’t go in, because they will throw it at you, and if you buck ‘em, you’re in trouble!”  And then they say, “Why would they do that?”  I said, “Simply because they got to find out what kind of person you are.”  If each one is an individual and they went over the hill to fight, then we wouldn’t have that war today.

Remember that little story about the little rookie that used to get on the old field of battle and his officer would scream and yell at him, and finally get mad at him and say, “What’s the matter with you?  I told you to shoot at will!”  But he said, “But I didn’t know which one was Will.”  Right?  He just sat there and never shot!

And, you know, the German POW boys, when they joined us—and you could kind of visit with us (them), naturally we were always in that area, you know, in that area with our interpreter—we would ask how did you feel?  And these boys were, like you say, fourteen, fifteen years old, and these German soldiers would come in and just…, “You gotta fifteen year old kid?  Okay, out.”  And they used to say they were so scared that when they got done with the training, whatever it was, and they’d kinda come over someplace, here they saw the allies (claps her hands and raises her arms), put their hands up and walked in and surrendered.  And, you know, that after they went back to Germany, like Rich wrote to me, and he said, “We were treated like cowards, because we threw up their hands and we didn’t fight.”  But they were just kids, what where they to do? 

Tell me about the POWs.  You said that you had some assigned to you when you were driving trucks at Fort Leonard Wood.  Could you tell me a little bit about them?  Plain, every day boys.  Did their job, and they did it very well.  Very military, very proud of them being in the military.  We had the boys that were the kids—the SS boys were up on the hill; they had them fenced in.  They were the goose-steppers.  You couldn’t trust them.  I mean, I don’t say trust them, but you couldn’t…, you didn’t really accept them.  

These boys were the ones that were just kids.  They were what? sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years of age.  They were just kids.  Naturally they were scared.  Their parents were upset.  They left their sisters and brothers behind.  They never knew if they were living or dead.  And around the holidays we used to go out of our way and kinda, you know, give ‘em a little extra candy or whatever we could do, whatever we could put in a compartment that would be theirs.  We didn’t have to, but we did, because they were like us, actually.  You know, they looked at us with a lot of love and respect.  

The five drivers that was on my truck, on our trucks….  This fellow I’m writing to now, Rich, Marry Six was his driver, his boss.  And he came from Germany, what was it? five or six years ago for a reunion.  And I had a picture of Mary.  And we were all together kinda talking, so then they took us down to the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) club because I was the only girl that was there for the reunion, hoping I would see some of my girlfriends. 

And one of the German POWs by the name of Winfried recognized me.  Now that was going back thirty years, and he come jumping up and running around, and all he said to the interrupter is “I know her!  I know her!  I know her!”  And he said, “How do you know her?”  And he said.  “I know her.”  And then he said, “Soldier girl (Gladys makes an effort to speak German) no more,” whatever, “pretty blonde haired girl.”  And, “Number one truck on the line.”  And when he said that I said to the interrupter, “Yes, that was my truck.”  

You never saw a man break down and cry like that.  Never!  And then this Rich came up and said, “You know Mary Six, Mary Six?”  He kept saying it, you know.  And I said to the interpreter, “Yes, I know Mary Six very well.  She was number five driver.”  So I had a picture of her in this book, and I took it out and I put it in my hand and I walked…, we were at the cemetery at that time, and I said, “Rich, do you know who this is?”  And he turned it over and he said, “My Mary, my Mary.”  And he took the picture with him.  So we tried to find her, you know.  It would be so wonderful if we could get the…, somehow.  But we just couldn’t seem to locate her, so.  

But I write to Rich today.  And to Winfried, he’s deceased.  And then the other fellow by the name of Fritz, he was on my truck too, and he also used to moon-face me  around all, you know, this and that.  Then Winfried said to me, “Do you know Fritz?”  I said, “Yes, I know Fritz.”  And he had a picture, and I pointed him out and said, “That’s Fritz.”  He’s living in Switzerland…, yeah, Switzerland, and he has some sort of a chalet or something.  This is five years ago.  He couldn’t come, he was gonna come, but he couldn’t.  But he had told Winfield about…, bringing it about me and maybe some of the other girls, I don’t know.  And Winfried, he was so happy he just couldn’t believe it, and, you know, he says, “I go back, I tell Fritzy I meet you, girlfriend,” and, you know.  But…, I don’t know.  

As far as I know, he’s probably still living.  Winfield is deceased.  And we had a big party for him that night.  A big German party.  The German band was traveling, came back, because they were gonna go back with them to Germany, fly back from Fort Leonard Wood. 

And I just couldn’t get rid of Winfried, he just stayed by me.  And if I’d go away he’d say, “Where her at, where her at?”  He’d be running around, you know (she laughs). 

When he got ready to leave on the bus I was there to say goodbye.  He took off his German pin that belonged to his outfit—it had the black cross with a diamond in it—and I’ve got that on my cap today.  He put it on…, to pin it on to me, and he wanted to pin it, but he was so crying because we were leaving.  And I said, “Winfield, I’ll put it on, I’ll pin it on.”  But then I also gave him, I forgot, some sort of an emblem.  And he put that on.  [I] gave him a great big kiss.  But…, I don’t know.  

Rich said, “As far as I knew he was deceased.”  I think they get together over there maybe in that outfit, I don’t know.  They were in the African part of it, what’s it called, Rummel?

Rommel.  Yeah.  And that was their outfit.  It was one of the very unusual switches to run into some of them after fifty years of my life.  He always used to say, “Yeah, you were out sailing alright” (She laughs).  But I wasn’t the kind of person that…, well, just because he’s my enemy I ain’t gonna spit on him or something.  He was just a kid, you know, and I was a kid.  What the heck.  But then, you know, that’s the way of life.

Was there anything else you want to say about the war or being in the war?  What?

Anything else you want to say about the war or being in the war?  Oh, many memories.  I find myself at times breaking down.  Kinda wonder to myself, “My God, the good Lord had us….”  When I really look at it now I kinda express it to these kids out there, I did not have it easy.  I did not.  It was rough and tough and hard going, and I was away from home.  

And I saw my friends get…, the one fellow that was on my…, next to me had the big wrecker, the big truck.  The number one vehicle, the big wrecker.  And he was a full blooded Indian.  Frances Heavyrunner, I’ll never forget him.  

They were ready to ship.  Their equipment and everything was going with them.  And he went out the day before—you know, when an Indian gets full of Indian water (she laughs).  They called me out of bed around 11 o’clock at night and told me they had a wild Indian down in the day room.  I knew it was Frances, and I went down with him.  It was pretty rough!  And he said he had a dream that he would not be back.  He was killed in Normandy.  

See, when we was in the post office we had to go through the mail.  I usually would have extra time and I got to be a mail truck driver.  And then we had to look at our causality list, and his name was on it.  So I got a hold of his…, somehow his family.  His mom and dad, they were from Oklahoma.  They got a hold of me or he must have wrote them or something, and I wrote them back and said, “Yes, I knew Frances.”  And that was another one of my memories, see.  But he didn’t came back.  And this was hard because we worked with him, you know.

What did your brother do in the Army?  Well, as I said he was….  Now this is odd.  Sixteen years of age, he got madder than holy….  Because Ripon was a segregated…., the big business that and that.  He was a mechanic with dad in the garage.  He putts-ed around with it.  And he walked out of school when he was sixteen years old, come into the garage and told dad, “I’m done, I’m not going back to school.”  And he went into the Army.  He became a top master sergeant in his outfit.  He was the top man.  He was that well motivated and trained, and that’s just that.  So he didn’t need the education.  “I don’t need it,” you know, “I don’t need it.”  That’s how he did.  Very well trained.

Did he stay in the Army?  Yes…, no.  He didn’t, he came out.  Yeah, he came out.  He had a little hearing problem too, so he came out.  He was a school bus driver when he commenced civilian life.  He had kids all over the place…, bus.  Hank this and Hank that.  Then he dropped dead of a heart attack.  Missed him.  That’s the road of life.

Is your husband still around?  No, I lost my husband twenty some years ago.  He’s from out East.  And he had to come back, he had to come into Wisconsin because I couldn’t leave my mom.  And he used to want me to come out there.  And I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t.  You want to be with me you have to come to Ripon.”  And all of a sudden one day there he was.  I couldn’t get rid of him (she laughs).  

Best thing I ever did when he came here…, he came from the melting pot of the world of steel.  The melting pot would be Pittsburg (Pennsylvania).  Huge steel mills.  Very hard, hard working background, you know.  Very religious background.  And that was a lot of our problems of me being a Protestant and him being a Catholic.  And immediately when he notified them that he was wanting to get married, his mother took a downward swing.  She never liked me because I was not Catholic.  But I was English.  I laid it right there.  I was English.  “Well, don’t you think you could change?”  No.  “Are you gonna change for me?”  “No.”  But we did raise our children and we raised them well, and we got along.  He went his way and [I went] my way in so many of our social lives, but we were always together.  You know, here you are.  So that’s me.

Well, I greatly appreciate you coming in.  This is a fantastic story.


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Last updated on 27 Jan 2013 .   

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