How One Woman Made “WAVES”

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Category : Community, Meals-On-Wheels Staff, Senior Spotlight

imageIn the midst of terror and destruction, World War II ignited a positive movement that would forever change the world: women in the workforce. While the men were away fighting battles, women stepped up to do factory work and other home front jobs. Iconic figures, such as Rosie the Riveter, rose to the top of pop culture.

Through the urge of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, women’s service branches were also established. In May 1942, Congress instituted the Women’s Army Corps (WACS) where hundreds of women worked in non-combatant jobs. In the Navy, members of Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES) held the same status as naval reservists.

In honor of Veterans Day earlier this month, the Aging and Independence Services November newsletter spotlighted one of our local seniors who was a member of the first WAVES. Evelyn Coy (pictured left), talks about her experiences through World War II and how she made an impact on the Allies victory. Read the full story below.

Thank you to Coy and all of our veterans for their service to our country.

Vivian Huang

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She Made WAVES in WII

November 2013 | Ellen Schmeding

Evelyn Coy, 92, loves “when a strapping Marine comes up and wants to shake my hand.”

She is often saluted that way at Veterans Day parades and other public venues where military veterans are recognized. That’s because she served her country before women gained permanent status in the armed services. Evelyn was one of the first WAVES, the Navy’s Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services in 1942.

The Navy didn’t have uniforms for the WAVES at that point, but she didn’t care. She was so angry about the attack on Pearl Harbor: “When I saw what the Japanese did to our Navy, I was flabbergasted. My heart ached to give back. What way could I help prevent further attacks? You could say it was a calling.”

Her mother was against her daughter leaving their Chicago home to participate in the war effort and hid her birth certificate, but Evelyn bought a duplicate at City Hall and signed up on her 21st birthday. She ended up working as a cryptologist in a Washington, D.C., communications center. She learned to crack coded messages using floor-to-ceiling computers. She worked there until the end of WWII, about three years. She says she would have continued if she could have, but that wasn’t permitted at the time. The Navy officially ended the WAVES in 1948, when women were allowed to enlist into the military.

But belonging to the WAVES wasn’t the end of Evelyn’s involvement in the Navy. She met and married a career Navy officer, moving with him to San Diego in 1946. “Serving your country influences your life forever,” says Evelyn, who has created deep bonds with other Navy families that served her well as her son grew up, as she worked 21 years for the City of San Diego Planning Department and later after her husband’s death in 1963. “There’s always been a feeling of belonging.”

She has remained closed to other WAVES who are still alive, and talks about the friends she has lost: “They were my buddies. We were buddies until the day they died.” Evelyn is a charter member of the WAVES National, saying there were 160 units and are now down to 16.

Evelyn doesn’t let these losses slow her down, however. She remains upbeat, enjoying her life. She belongs to two golf clubs, goes to Gold’s Gym twice a week for water exercise classes and continues to do her own cooking and cleaning. She makes new friends through the many veteran-related and other organizations she has joined.

She just attended a seminar for women veterans and didn’t mind that she was the oldest woman there. She loved the speakers and enjoyed seeing the younger veterans getting help to find jobs.

“The opportunities now for learning and earning power were not available when we were there,” she says.

She’s excited that women have made progress in the military, including promotions. “Now 17 percent of the Navy is women. And they’re going to be on subs.”

She’s preparing to participate in the Veterans Day parade as she has every year: “There are eight or nine girls (WAVES) who go. We used to walk, but now we enjoy the convertibles.”

And she’ll be waiting for some strapping Marine to shake her hand.

Autumn Interlude

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Category : Just For Fun, Senior Spotlight

I hear the sound of a shotgun. I quickly grab the jacks, drop them in the small bag along with the little rubber ball and race from the front porch. I head for the field behind the garden and the chicken house. Those tall fence posts make wonderful grandstand seats – just right for seeing what’s going on. This Saturday afternoon is much like the others except the weather is getting cooler. It is October 1920. Halloween will soon be here. Knee socks and a pretty blue hand-knitted sweater mother finished just yesterday keeps me warm enough to play outdoors. More shots ring out. I hurriedly pick out the tallest post and climb the wire fence.

The local hunters are shooting at clay pigeons. The fall hunting season is fast approaching. They want to be out there on the first day with a sharp eye. My brother Clarence has gotten a new rifle and this is the first year he is old enough to get a license. Howard Webb, the undertaker, is giving directions. He is probably the most avid sportsman in our small rural village of Fawn Grove in southeastern Pennsylvania. He must have organized this contest. His recent purchase of a contraption for throwing out clay saucers (called pigeons) to be used as targets for practice in shooting birds really made a hit with the local hunters. I have watched this demonstration before and found it exciting.

Now the hunters are standing next to each other in a line. I can’t hear what is being said. Gene Devilbiss and Harold Manifold, both in my class in school, sit on the ground behind a wooden shield next to the target thrower. They are busy loading a stack of clay saucers on what looks like an arm extending from a metal holder. A strong spring will release the clay pigeon when the signal is given. It will sail into the air at an angle. The hunters take turns shooting. The angle is different with each target so they must be alert.

I look down the line. From my vantage point on the fence post, I see the postmaster, the barber, the teller from the bank, and, of course, the undertaker and other hunters from our town. I see my Dad. I thought he was going to work in the garden this afternoon covering the celery for winter! Clarence is standing next to him. He has joined the other “hunters” to practice his marksmanship with the new rifle.

Some one yells “Pull”. The hunters, one at a time, aim and fire. The targets keep coming. If a clay pigeon is shattered there is a loud cheer by the fellow shooters. The clay pigeons they miss fall to the ground to be picked up and used again. Waiting for the next command, I hear a distant “honk.” I peer into the sky. The sound is familiar but I have not heard it since last spring when Canadian geese were returning to their home up north.

There they are, high above me, the first flock of Canadian geese I’ve seen corning south this fall. Another faint “honk.” They seem to be saying, “Hello, here we come to spend the winter with you.” They fly in a perfect “V” – a joy to behold. I am enthralled and strain my ears to hear more. No stragglers up there. They have come all the way from Canada – a long way from Pennsylvania .They are headed for farms, marshes and broad fields that line the banks of the Susquehanna River where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. That is not more than 30 miles from where we are right now. Their journey will soon be over. I know about the Chesapeake Bay because Dad and my uncles go fishing there in the summertime.

Our teacher talked about this just a few days ago. I know the geese have been on their way for weeks stopping off at broad fields, lakes and marshes along the way to rest and eat. I am lost in the wonder of how they can find their way, flying thousands of miles and KNOWING when they have reached their destination. They have been doing this for hundreds of years! Our teacher says it is one of the marvels of nature. This part of Pennsylvania is along what is known as the “flyway” and they follow the same route every year.

Straining my ears to hear their last greeting, I am startled by my mother’s voice at my elbow. I didn’t hear her coming.

“Where’s Clarence?” she asks as she peers through the fence.

“Over there, next to Dad.”

“I came to gather the eggs. Then I heard the geese. Aren’t they beautiful?”

I hear “pull” and look up just in time to see Dad raise his shotgun, aim and fire as the clay pigeon hurtles through the air. It shatters into hundreds of pieces. I am so proud! Mother and I both clap. Clarence is next in line. He misses his shot but mother applauds anyway. “He is learning. This is the first year he is old enough to get a license. He has to become familiar with his new gun. He will do better next time.”

I never questioned the practice of hunting for squirrels, rabbits, birds, pheasants, wild geese and groundhogs when I was growing up. It was a way of life in the country. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hear once again that plaintive and distant “honk” of those beautiful wild geese. Instinctively I hope that every single one in that perfect “V” will keep flying high and make a safe landing on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, their winter home.

The End

Dorothy Coleman is an author and Meals on Wheels client.

 

Nell’s Bells

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Category : Community, Just For Fun, Senior Spotlight

Our excellent storyteller Dorothy Coleman delights us with another tale of adventure. In this story she tells us of her journey in a one-horse sleigh.

Nell’s Bells

By Dorothy Coleman

Nell stands impatiently waiting for Hanson and me to get settled in the sleigh, stomps her feet from time to time. Every time she paws the ground, the sleigh bells on the harness give off a delightful shudder of sound. Now, she shakes her head to show her desire to get moving. This produces another ripple of bell tinkling with a different sound. “Let’s go”, she seems to say. The snow had been swirling down all night with high winds creating drifts in the roads, making it impossible for automobiles to navigate.

Our normal method of transportation to the consolidated high school in the center of the township was by carpooling. Not today! However, we knew that Fawn Township High School would be in session no matter what. The principal would be there to open the building and the twelve students who lived in our town were expected to be there, too. On snowy days, one of the boys who lived on a farm would come to the rescue by providing a horse drawn sled accommodating at least ten persons. We climb in, sit on the hay covering the bottom and cover ourselves with the blankets provided .. The school was only three miles away but the road was unpaved. Some places had steep banks on both sides of the road with a hollow where the road meandered up the hill. Here the wind driven snow collected making it impassable.

This day, Hanson Street drives up in his one-horse sleigh. Good old Nell, head held high, shaking out bright notes from the bells on the harness, seems to be in charge. I immediately hop out of the sled and clamber into the seat before anyone else has a chance. I love riding in a sleigh. It is so much faster and lots more fun. The sound of the bells makes everything sparkle for me.

“Hanson, is it OK if ride with you?” I say.

“Sure. We can take the short cut, going the back way and be there before anybody else.”

“Good!”

I settle back with my books and lunch box at my feet, pull the blanket over my lap ready to go. I love the sound of the sleigh bells. The bells are part of the harness and I havethe feeling that Nell feels special to be in control of the orchestration of her bells. Right now, as we wait to begin our ride, she seemed anxious to get on with the concert. Finally, Hanson is ready. He picks up the reins saying, “Come on, Nell, giddy up.” Off we go!

Now, Nell really has a chance to show off her techniques like a tame maestro. As she walks, bobbing her head up and down, she seems to be creating a marching tempo. She had already shown what she could do as she pawed the ground. Shaking her head gives a ripple that fades quickly away. The sound I like best is when she trots – every bell participates giving out a constant loud tinkling sound – jingle-jangle-jingle-jangle.

We skim over the new fallen snow, moving at a fast clip, listening to the bells, the wind in our faces. The narrow runners of the sleigh seem to whisper and sing along with those tinkling bells. This gray day is now one of exhilaration. Soon we leave our small community behind. The snow is getting deeper but Nell does not seem to mind. She keeps moving at a steady pace keeping her bells jingling and our spirits soaring.

All goes well until we come to a hill that has steep banks on both sides. Nell moves slower because the snow is getting deeper. As she slows, the bells quiet down to a staccato beat, steady but not the lively tempo her trotting produces. The wind had driven the snow into this pocket between the two banks and filled it. It was beautiful to see – but utterly impassable. We see a trackless area that extends from the top of one bank to the top of the bank on the other side of the road. We’ll never make it through there. Nell slows to a halt – the bells are silent except for a tiny quaver.

“Hanson, what do we do now? We can’t even walk in that if we wanted to!”

“Well, I guess we will have to go up the bank and stay in the field until we find a place level enough to get back on the road.”

“Can Nell do that?”

“Of course. She is strong and the sleigh is not heavy. You’ll see.”

Nell obviously puts her mind to the task ahead. She struggles mightily up the embankment dragging us behind. Ah, steeper than we thought! We almost reach the top and the open field when suddenly the sleigh lists to one side and tips over completely. You know what happened to us! Out into the snow bank – books, lunch boxes and all. Hanson manages to hold on to the reins. It is a good thing he does because Nell keeps moving right along. She clears the top of the embankment and would have kept on going with the overturned sleigh behind her. The bells are clanging wildly.

Hanson manages to stop her, get the sleigh upright and helps me retrieve the books, lunch boxes and blankets. We shake off as much snow as we can with Nell waiting patiently. We climb back into the sleigh looking like snow men. Nell, once again, is in charge of her bells as we regain the snow covered road bed. The going is not as easy but she coaxes sounds from her bells like a true maestro. Music to my ears!

Hanson still has to unhitch Nell once we reach the stable on the school grounds. He brushes her before he leaves her to come to class. I’m sure he gave her an extra pat. Whenever I hear “Dashing through the snow – in a one horse open sleigh,” it brings back vivid memories of one memorable day in 1927 with Nell and her bells when “we got upsot”.

To this day, the sound of sleigh bells is magical for me. At Christmas time, I hang my bells on the front door where they delight me every time one jingles. I often think of Nell who was able to coax such a medley of sounds from her bells. A true virtuoso!!

Dorothy Coleman is an author and Meals on Wheels client.

101 Pilates Style

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Category : Community, Health, Just For Fun, Senior Spotlight

According to Ari Seth Cohen, who roams the streets of New York looking for the most stylish and creative older folks, style doesn’t deteriorate with age! He professes one should “Respect your elders and let these ladies and gents teach you a thing or two about living life to the fullest.” If you haven’t visited his blog ( http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/) or seen his book, you are really missing a great dose of inspiration (let alone elegant examples of fashion and individual style). I know I want to be this stylish as I grow wiser. See how Ruth, 101 year young Pilates advocate sets an example for us all with her commitment to Pilates AND to style!

 

 

 

Luanne Hinkle

 

Fasching

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Category : Just For Fun, Senior Spotlight

In her latest adventure, Dorothy introduces us to the Austrian Carnival season, known as Fasching.  She takes us through her magical evening with her husband Lester at the “Ball der Weiner Philarmoniker” on January 19, 1953 in Vienna, Austria.  The evening was an angelic one, filled with dancing the Viennese Waltz and listening to the classical music selections of the Weiner Musikverein Orchestra.   Her vivid descriptions of the opulence of the venue and extravagance of the occasion are enough to make you wish you were there with her all those years ago, dancing the evening away!

Fasching

Carnival Season in Austria

By Dorothy Coleman

The season between Jan.2 and Shrove Tuesday is a magical time in Austria known as Fasching. This is Carnival season and a time for special celebrations for everyone. It is celebrated to the last schilling (their currency) – no tavern is too small or too remote to have some kind of celebration. There are literally hundreds of balls during this gala time – sometimes as many as forty a night from the most glittering and elegant affairs hosted by the Vienna Symphony and the Wiener Philharmoniker to the masked balls of all the tradesmen’s organizations plus parades, and dancing in the streets.

Even the chambermaids, chimney sweeps, street cleaners, and butchers – the list goes on and on, a carefree time for all. Invitations for the select balls were coveted among the military personnel since only a few were allotted to the American Headquarters stationed in Vienna. So the day Lester, my husband, Postal Officer for the Vienna Command walked into the living room flashing a large white envelope, saying, “Guess what’s in here”, I was prompted to say, “Not an invitation to the Wiener Philharmoniker Ball?”

“Yes, it is! However did you guess?”

I laughed as I answered, “That was not what I really believed. Just a wild thought! Wunderbar!”

Knowing this was one of the most formal affairs with evening attire required, the next question was “Do you want to go?”

“You must be out of your mind if you think I am going to turn this down. Of course, I want to go. Just give me the date.”

“Jan.19.1953 in the Musikverein Saal.”

We had attended several concerts in the Musikverein Saal – the most recent being The New Year’s Day Concert and were familiar with the interior which is very impressive as a concert hall. We could only imagine how this beautiful setting would be on such an elegant evening. There is a balcony around three sides with raised box seats directly below, extending into and above the main floor. Directly behind the boxes and clearly seen from anywhere in the great hall were statues of golden goddesses, appearing to be supporting the balcony. The front of the balconies were decorated with carvings covered with gold leaf. The magnificent paintings on the ceiling were surrounded by squares of intricate carvings, also covered by gold leaf. A back drop for the stage were the golden pipes for the immense organ stretching upward, topped by alabaster figurines. The ornate crystal chandeliers made everything sparkle. Great musicians have performed in this setting for years and years. Ah! this leaves one with a sense of awe and reverence.

As we learned more about the affair, we were told it was a time for debutantes to be presented to the social circle. This made it more intriguing. From the American Military community, General William Fitts, our commanding General would be the chief representative. Others of lesser rank were included and we were one of the lucky ones. We had no problem with meeting the dress code, I had several formals to choose from and Les would wear dress uniform.

On the day of the ball, snow had fallen since early morning. No let up by the time we must leave for the festivities. The snow was wet and quite deep by this time. What to do about my silver slippers? I couldn’t get from the car to the entrance without soaking them – perhaps we would have to park some distance away which was even worse. I know! I’ll wear my snow boots, carry my dancing shoes and put them on after we enter the building. That is exactly what I did.

The hat check girl never batted an eyelash when Lester handed her my bright red snow boots along with my fur coat. As we gathered with our Army friends in the balcony area to await the beginning of this glittering affair, we saw the main floor had been cleared of seats. There were flowers everywhere – banking the stage and the base of each pedestal. Guests were quickly filling the area below as well as our viewing spot in the balcony. An air of gaiety, excitement and expectancy was all pervasive.

Then came the crash of cymbals followed by an announcement, in German, welcoming everyone.

The Ball was about to begin. A hush settled over the assembled guests. A young couple stepped onto the dance floor near the stage – SHE in an elegant white ball gown, bouffant skirt, elbow length white gloves; HE in full evening dress with tails – pausing for their presentation to the guests of the Weiner Musikverein Orchestra who were assembled. Then came the lilting strains of the beautiful Viennese waltz “Weiner Blut”. They moved as one to begin the most delightful of sights to behold -the Viennese Waltz- moving always in one direction with a great swirling motion, circling again and again.

Now they are joined by another couple and another and another until the floor is filled with the whirling dancers all going in the same direction, looking for all the world like a picture from a fairy tale book presenting a picture that was entrancing to behold. The orchestral music filled the great chamber with such a volume of sound of those enchanting Strauss tunes that we were caught up in this presentation and wanted it to never end.

Of course, it did!

After one or two more waltzes, we were invited to join the dancers on the main floor and did so with great excitement at being a part of this historic event. We, too, dipped and whirled around that beautiful concert hall with abandon enjoying each new Viennese Waltz as it was presented. The hours passed so quickly and before we knew it the evening had come to an end. Almost like being at Cinderella’s Ball! I do not remember what we had to eat and drink but I am sure it must have been in keeping with everything else – delightful.

Each lady received a beautiful handkerchief as a memento of this auspicious occasion. In the center is a large white circle with a beautiful bouquet of flowers – the ribbons flowing from it show notes and music of Strauss Waltzes. It is edged with the words “Ball der Weiner Philharmoniker ’19 januar 1953″.The circle is surrounded in pink with pictures of instruments in each corner. A beautiful reminder of a fabulous evening celebrating Fasching in Vienna, Austria. An unforgettable experience!

Orchestra photo credit here.

Dorothy Coleman is an author and Meals on Wheels client.

 

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