Happy Thanksgiving! Today is the day for family, food and traditions! At our feast today, we made pies with my Nana’s pie crust, Papa’s pumpkin pie filling, my Mom’s Cranberry Apple pie filling, and a ten-year-old cousin’s mincemeat recipes. We also had my aunt’s casseroles, traditional cranberry relish and my sister-in-law’s baked macaroni. It all came together into a delicious feast!
I recently came across this photograph of my great-grandmother Dorothy (Mueller) Jordan making a turkey dinner in the 1950’s! Her small turkey likely fed only her family of four. It was taken in their house in Seattle, Washington, probably on Thanksgiving. Dorothy is hard at work!
My grandmother (Nana), Millie Kaiser, joined the Navy WAVES in April of 1944. As mentioned earlier in the series, she was stationed at Saufley Field in Pensacola, Florida. While much of her time was spent at work, most of her fondest memories were spending time with her friends during their off-hours.
Free Time with Friends
Millie was pretty shy, but she quickly made a few friends. She became very close friends with two girls in particular, Ski and Francis. Fran was from Grand Rapids, Michigan and worked in the office. Ski worked in the mail room, and was from Chicago. Most of Nana’s memories from her WAVES days were centered around the adventures that she had with her friends in their free time. Going to the beach became a favorite on warm days. A woman who worked in the office with Fran had a car, and would take the girls to town to get watermelons or visit the beach. Fran and Ski went into town every Friday to attend mass, and Millie would tag along, waiting in the back pew until it was done, and then they’d spend a couple hours around town or enjoying the sunshine in the park. They also went shopping and sight-seeing with friends in Pensacola and nearby cities. Millie recalled, “We went to New Orleans a few times, though we weren’t supposed to, because it was over 200 miles away, and it was out of bounds, you know. We also went to Mobile and some other cities.” The trio loved to take trips out of town when they had a day off. Luckily, no matter how far they went, they always made it back to the base without a problem. During longer holidays and leaves, they would often visit each other’s families. The three of them stayed close friends for the rest of their lives.
She sent frequent letters home to her family and to my grandfather, Ed Drake, whom she had already started dating before she signed up for the WAVES. Ed was exempt from joining the military because he was a farmer, and farmers were still needed at home to provide food for the country. Millie had a long break for Christmas, so she and Ski took the train from Florida to Chicago, but there was no way to get out to DeKalb where she lived. Gas was rationed, and no one was able to drive her the 60 miles home. Ed was a farmer, so he had gotten a few extra gas rations for his tractor. He had saved up enough gas to drive to Chicago to surprise them with a drive home!
“It was quite an experience.”
After the war was finished, Millie was discharged in February of 1946. She had spent 22 months as a Navy WAVE. She went back home to Illinois and four months later, married Ed. Although she was proud to serve her country, she was also very humble about her time in the WAVES. She knew her service was important, but she felt that she hadn’t sacrificed as much as others did during the war. She highly respected the men and women who served overseas and in combat. WWII was the first time that women could serve in large numbers in the military, and after the war, they didn’t receive the same benefits as the men, such as the benefits from the G.I. bill. Luckily, over time, women’s military roles during WWII have been gaining more recognition. Even though they weren’t always on the front lines, the women serving state-side were nevertheless essential to the war effort and our eventual victory.
To sum up her experience as a WAVE, she said, “It was quite an experience.”
Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Eva Weil, 2015.
Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Rebecca Weil, 2015.
Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Eva Weil, 2005.
Photos from private collection, Mildred (Kaiser) Drake’s WAVES photo album, 1944-1946.
I took a bookbinding course this semester as part of my Library Science degree. At the end, we could create and bind our own book! Of course, I designed a book to showcase our family tree! I wanted to create a book that would include my family tree, and my husband’s family tree, joined in the middle by us.
I made a side-by-side accordion book. The cover opens from the center, and is tied together with a ribbon (representing the tying of our two families together). The green cover, and the silver leaf are also suggestive of a living tree. I found a metal plate that said “Ancestors” and attached that to the front as the title.
Open up the book to reveal the two family trees side by side!
The book opens to reveal our family trees side by side, joined in the center with us. A reader can either “read” page by page through each generation, or can fold out each tree entirely to see it all together. I included photographs and names of each ancestor if they were available, and I left room for them to be added later if I didn’t have it. The generations are not strictly laid out, but you can see who is linked together by following the threads. In the center, my husband and I are together, and join the two sides of the family tree.
This was a fun project for me to explore, and I’m now interested in making another book! This book just includes names and photos, so perhaps my next book project can incorporate a little more information about each family member!
Autumn is in full swing already, and school is well underway. I recently re-discovered this old class photo amongst my scanned family photos. My 2nd great-grandmother, Louise Marie Nahrstaedt, was born in Sandau, Germany, in 1879. As far as I know, her family lived there until 1891 when they emigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago, Illinois. This image is a class photo from 1885, when Louise was in first grade. She is the girl circled in the front row. She seems to be very good friends with the other three girls in the front row, because they are all sitting close to each other, holding hands or linking arms. I wonder if she was still friends with them when she was 12, leaving for the United States, and if they were, did they ever have a chance to write to each other and remain friends? Would she find close school friends here in the United States? Only time will tell!