Saturday, July 7, 2012

Gray Ladies Cheer Soldiers

Seated (left to right)  Mrs. John Ward Henderson, Mrs. Laurie
Dozier, and Mrs. Frank Shaw; standing (left to right)
Mrs. W. C. Hodges and Mrs. Earl Proctor
Excerpts from an article by Betty Anderson, "GRAY LADIES CHEER SOLDIERS.  First, You Take a Gray Uniform With White Trim, Etc., But The Main Ingredient Is The Ladies Themselves."
A recipe for the Gray Ladies of the American Red Cross--now known all over the United States--begins with a gray uniform with white trim and a gray veil with white coronet.
But the main ingredient, of course, is the ladies themselves.
And here, none of the selective processes were spared in the selection of 10 Gray Ladies who form the newest of five corps of special service volunteers of the Tallahassee Red Cross chapter.
It was no hit or miss matter when executive officers of the Red Cross chose the Gray Ladies to bring cheer into the lives of soldiers hospitalized at Dale Mabry field.  In the beginning, there were more than 100 satisfactory candidates for the corps.  Selection finally boilded down to lengthy detailed analysis.
High on the list of qualifications were temperament and disposition.  A Gray Lady must not only have an even, cheerful disposition, but must be thick-skinned on occasion and able to take it, for in an army hospital she is dealing with all kinds of personalities.
Under supervision of the Red Cross field director and medical and nursing authorities at the air base hospital, the Gray Ladies take orders from Major Jospeh A. Baird and Lieut. Lena Vanderwood.  The Ladies toe the mark, too, and take their work very seriously because they like it.
To qualify for their work, the Gray Ladies had to take a six-week course on such subjects as hospital ethics, ward administration, psychology of the sick, medical conditions, surgical conditions, tuberculosis, dietetics, communicable diseases, neuro-psychiatry, medical and psychiatric social service and occupational therapy diseases.  The 15 hour lectures were given by Dr. Baird and his staff.
... Mrs. Jack Yaegar is chairman of the Gray Ladies.  She was the first of the 10 chosen, and was the unanimous choice for the job.  Having a 19-year-old son eager for military service, two brothers in the armed forces, past service in the Red Cross chapter as vice-chairman to her credit, and an all-round wonderful personality, as all who know her testify, Isabel Yaeger seems an ideal person to head this volunteer corps.
Other Gray Ladies are Mrs. S P Ginder, vice chairman, who has served the organization in other cities, Mrs. Frank Shaw, secretary and treasurer, Mrs. Kenneth Ballinger whi is in charge of publicity, Mrs. John Ward Henderson, Mrs. L L Dozier, Mrs. W C Hodges, Mrs. O E Proctor, Mrs. Fred Lowry and Mrs. Bruce Davis.
All of the women have a personal interest in the war.  Either their husbands, brothers or other members of their families are in the service--several of these men are seeing foreign service.  Personal ties are grand because they make problems clearer to the Gray Ladies who hope that women in other towns, cities or countries are doing as much for Tallahassee men.
Of course the Gray Ladies learn something new about handling their boys every time they visit the airbase hospital where strict rules and regulations prevail.  There's no law against taking the patients magazines or flowers, but food is strictly forbidden since the hospital provides an adequate diet.
The Gray Ladies get together sometimes and buy extra cigarets for the men since they are always appreciated.  Once they even carried a box of snuff to a lad who particularly craved that treat.  On another occasion a man who was practically well was taken a bright red apple as something he apparently wanted above all else.  But cookies and such sweets from the outside are taboo.
... The Gray Ladies are permitted to visit only three wards in the hospital, convalescent and surgical wards and a third where the patients have colds or only slight ailments.  
Officers and enlisted men all look alike in the hospital, for as soon as they enter their clothes are exchanged for the same kind of gray pajamas and maroon colored bathrobes provided by the government.  Frequently the attending 10 have no iead whether a man is a major or a buck private.
According to the Gray Ladies, there is no way of telling if a man is an officer by his personal tastes or preferences.  Most of them like comic and detective magazines, for they are light in subject matter and also in actual weight, two important considerations to a man in bed.  They usually go for the National Geographic magazine, Life, motion picture magazines, and in fact all periodicals featuring pictures.
Rummy and hearts are apparently the most popular card games at Dale Mabry hospital, although occasionally a patient turns out to be a bridge shark.  Several of the Gray Ladies really know how to take care of bridge players.  Sometimes a patient has some special talent, or at least thinks he has.  If it is a good voice, he expresses his appreciation to the Gray Ladies just as soon as he is strong enough to warble.  And, or course, the singer's hospital mates come in for their share of enjoyment.
The Gray Ladies try to keep in touch with their boys even after they are dismissed from the hospital, transferred to other bases or sent to foreign service.  Many of the men write to the women who are quick to answer.  A few of the men who are seriously ill, perhaps have to undergo major operations, are moved from this hospital to the big army hospital in Atlanta.  And the Gray Ladies take the initiative about writing to them.
The 10 volunteer workers go in for nicknames since the turnover at the hospital is fast.  It is much easier and more fun to call a man Baltimore or Kansas City than merely Jim.  And the system is more distinctive and interesting since there are so many Jims in the world.  Sometimes other factors play a part in determining nicknames.  A boy who was slow in recovering from a foot injury became known as "Hoppy."...

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