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How An Iowa Waitress Became an Officer's Wife in Texas

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2023 3:00 am

How An Iowa Waitress Became an Officer's Wife in Texas

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 15, 2023 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Joy Neal Kidney share's her mother's story about how she became the wife of an officer's wife during World War II.

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. This is Lee Habib and this is our American Stories and we tell stories about everything here on this show. From the arts to sports and from business to history and everything in between including your stories.

They're some of our favorites send them to ouramericanstories.com. Up next a listener story from Joy Neal Kidney and she listens on WHO in Des Moines. A great heritage signal. Joy is the keeper of her family's stories and today she shares one with us.

Take it away Joy. An Iowa waitress became an officer's wife in Texas. It was the only formal gown my mother ever owned. She bought it for the opening of the officers club at the Marfa Army Air Base in Texas. Doris had just become an officer's wife by marrying Warren Neal, an Iowa farmer who had earned his pilot's wings. Doris Wilson had been a waitress in Perry, Iowa at the McDonald drugstore which had a soda fountain and a restaurant area.

In fact she was serving Sunday dinner there when the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted the background music playing on WHO radio. She remembered thinking that all of her brothers were liable to be drafted. One by one the five Wilson brothers left home to serve. Doris's brother Dale Wilson and Warren Neal were both Iowa farmers enlisted as air cadets in 1942. They were awarded their silver wings and became officers on the same day a year later. Dale at Roswell, New Mexico, Warren at Marfa, Texas.

A few months later Doris was working at Bishop's Cafeteria in downtown Des Moines. Her brother Dale stopped by in his uniform to see her there while a home on furlough. He was sent to North Carolina next for B-25 combat training.

Warren was retained at Marfa as an instructor for advanced cadets. He and Doris had dated off and on since high school and were writing to each other during the war. Doris even wore pilot's wings on her coat.

With four brothers already in the service and calls for women to enlist to help with the cause, Doris collected recommendations from teachers and had begun the process of applying for the WAVES, the World War II Women's Branch of the Naval Reserve. Warren was afraid they would get separated forever so he asked her to get married instead. Doris wearing an aqua suit and Warren in uniform were married in May 1943 in Dexter, Iowa.

Warren didn't own a car yet so the newlyweds caught a ride to Texas with another couple. Their first home was the Cruz Hotel in Marfa since everything else was full. Day after day, while Warren was instructing at the airbase, Doris hunted for a cheaper place to live but so did everyone else.

Billy Cruz, the hotel owner, said he didn't know what people did after he had to turn them away. Even the cots in the hotel halls were all occupied and people even lived in areas of the hospital during those war years. Imagine an army moving in on a Dell, the county seat of Dallas County, Iowa.

Then you have an idea what Marfa is like. Doris asked her mother to send hangers and other things they couldn't buy, like sewing needles. Right away she was invited to a tea for officers wives, then a luncheon.

This Iowa waitress had all of a sudden become an officer's wife. The luncheon was quite a handy affair she wrote home, but not as bad as she'd feared. A few weeks later Warren and Doris found a home. For the next year and a half they lived in the first Christian church. They rented a small room in the front of the adobe church, 13 dollars per month for the room, water, lights, a bed, and two chairs.

The bath was unhandy since it was at the opposite end of the church, but they were so thankful to find someone moving out so they'd have a cheaper place to live. They'd just gotten settled when they were to attend the formal opening of the new officers club. Another pilot's wife invited Doris along to shop for gowns for the dance. Doris's was nearly the color of the suit she'd been married in a few months earlier, aqua, short-sleeved, accented with lots of small ruffles.

She wrote home that she had fun at the dance and felt like Cinderella. With the war ramping up in Europe and in the Pacific, the Air Corps tried to graduate pilots as quickly as they could. Warren worked long hours in the Air Corps and the Air Corps tried to graduate pilots as quickly as they could.

Warren worked long hours, especially when they had night flying and cross-country trips. By then, all five brothers were in the service, so Doris was very busy writing letters. Early that December, she wrote to Dale, then in combat in New Guinea. She ended her v-mail letter, I'm going to let you in on a secret.

We haven't told anyone yet, but we're going to have a boy, we hope, next May. She signed it, good luck and love, Doris. Dale never got her message. The small letter was returned, still sealed, marked missing in action. Decades later, I, the boy she'd hoped for, was the first person to open the little v-letter and read it. Doris lost all three younger brothers during the war. There's no photo of her wearing the Aqua gown.

I remember seeing it as a child only a couple of times. Among her keepsakes in the storeroom of her old farmhouse. But now it's been passed on to Doris's firstborn, who eventually became the keeper of poignant family stories and letters and terrible telegrams. Treasures like the Aqua gown to wonder about. Did she ever get to wear it again?

To feel like Cinderella once more? And a special thanks to Joy Neal Kidney. She lost all three younger brothers in the war. It's unimaginable, that kind of loss. And she became the keeper of the treasures, the terrible telegrams, and everything else.

And there's someone like that in every family. That, by the way, is me and mine. A special thanks to the folks at WHO Radio in Iowa for putting us on their terrific station. It was one of the great honors of our show to be put on WHO. And a special thanks again to Joy Neal Kidney and to Monty Montgomery for putting this story together. And we're looking for your stories too, like this, from listeners all across the country.

Send them to OurAmericanStories.com. Joy Neal Kidney's story, and my goodness, what a family story, here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.

Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to OurAmericanStories.com and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-15 04:16:31 / 2023-03-15 04:20:59 / 4

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