34. GREAT FALLS
Dick tells me you are tucked away in the pest house. The Gramp
In the fall of 1942, Richard Worstell and his family rented a three-story house with a basement at 920 Third Avenue North in Great Falls, Montana. The family lived on the first floor and the bedrooms on the upper floors were rented to single men, as was a room in the basement. The front room or parlor was separated from the living room by double doors and was the bedroom for Richard, Wilda, and Cameron. The family did not bring the iron hospital beds with them and purchased a new blond art deco bedroom suite. There was a narrow glassed-in porch on the east side of the house accessed through the dining room, which was Ann Jean’s sleeping room. The upstairs bedroom furniture came with the house. It was their first home in Montana that did not have a kitchen range but a gas stove instead.
It was an opportune time for the family to get into the rental business. The civilian airport on Gore Hill became a military installation and an Air Force base was under construction east of the city. Known as East Base, the name of the Air Force base was later changed to Malmstrom Air Force Base. The labor force at Anaconda, military, and construction workers made housing a premium. Just as important for the operators of the rooming houses was the fact that the custom in those days was for young men to share beds or bedrooms in rooming houses and eat in boarding houses or restaurants. It was Wilda’s job to make the beds daily, change and launder the sheets weekly, and clean and tidy the rooms. Dick purchased a mangle, an electric ironer, to ease the job of ironing sheets, as it was the practice to iron sheets by hand or have them done in the laundry when you rented rooms. Actually, many people ironed their own sheets in those days before “perma press” fabrics, or at the very least the top edge. Line-hung sheets, dried out-of-doors, got most of their wrinkles flapped out of them.
Some of the bachelor renters were young and good looking and would stop by to visit with the Worstells. One was a young man who liked to play the piano; another had a small accordion that he played. An older gentleman, who was a long-time resident of the basement room, often stopped by to visit with the family in the kitchen. He loved to rail against the stale donuts in the average cafe, “You can throw them up against the wall, and they just bounce off. You know what I mean? You know what I mean?” A good number of these young men were drafted during that year.
Ann Jean had made an easy adjustment from a small school to a city high school. She joined the band and her grades improved. Then late in the fall, she caught a cold and the colder temperatures forced her to move her bed inside to the dining room. By Thanksgiving, there was infection to the inner ear. Dr. Gaylord Worstell was consulted and Dr. Hurd, a local eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist, was called and she was taken to the hospital. The doctor lanced the eardrum to allow the infection to drain and relieve the pain. However, Ann Jean continued to complain of an earache. Gaylord’s opinion was that the pain should be gone after the pressure was relieved. After consultation between the doctors, her parents were advised to watch for complaints of headache, or pain behind the ear. When that occurred, Ann Jean was taken to the hospital for a mastoid operation. Gaylord Worstell was allowed to be present in the operating room. On New Years Eve, Ann Jean was sent home to complete her recovery. She missed school from mid-November until to mid-January, having spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital. Although she was not in school, she was not always sick and was able to do the homework assignments. Because of the ear problem, she was forced to drop band for the remainder of the year.
Gaylord Worstell, now 80 years old, was not yet through with the practice of medicine. Dr. Robinson, Fern’s husband, was in the military and stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Fern and the children, Jane and Tom, went to live in Big Sandy. At least part of the time they lived in the hospital with Gaylord. When the active six and two year olds got to be too rambunctious, he pulled them up to attention by the ears, making a lasting impression upon Jane. During the time there, Jane contracted meningitis. Dr. Worstell had treated meningitis patients before and watched them die in his arms. Jane remembers being able to keep her eyes open only a slit and that she had to hold her head back in order to see out. She remembers hearing Gramp say that once her eyes closed the brain would be gone. With Jane, he was able to use the new sulfa drugs, and to oversee her recovery. It was his first use of the drug and it was a wonderful experience to be able to use it to save her life. Even after sulfa drugs and antibiotics, meningitis continues to take its toll. Several years later, Jane Robinson added her name to the list of family women who taught in a country school near Big Sandy; she taught a summer term there in the late 1940s.
Rachel Jane (Harnden) Mauerhan, the eldest of Gaylord’s grandchildren, served in the military during the war. When Gaylord visited the Mauerhans in California in 1939, Jane was a graduate of the University of Southern California. She worked as an advertising copywriter in San Francisco, and was in the Ambulance Corps, which was meeting in the Ferry Building. Then in 1942 she joined the WAAC. Special Orders Number 51 from Headquarters Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Training Center, at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa, dated August 29, 1942 reads as follows:
By direction of the President, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved May 14, 1942 (Sec I, bulletin No. 25 WD 1942), the following named Officer Candidates having successfully completed the course of instruction for Officer Candidates (1st Class) at the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps School, Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and having been appointed Third Officers, Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and having been ordered to extended active duty, effective August 29, 1942, will report to the Commandant, Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Training Center, Fort Des Moines, Iowa, this date, for duty. Each Officer will rank from August 29, 1942.
Mauerhan, Jane L-903001 736 Coventry Road, Berkeley, California.
This was the first class of officers in the corps. After a year, the corps went from being an auxiliary corps to being a part of the army, the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Jane Mauerhan had good family support while she was stationed in Des Moines. Emerson’s daughter, Miriam, and her husband were living in Des Moines and invited her for dinners. When Mauerhan’s Great-Aunt Mary Carnes and daughter Corabelle visited Miriam in Des Moines they saw Mauerhan as well, and all four women took a trip to Kansas City to visit Great-Aunt Jane Bradford.
Jane was in command of the initial WAC contingent sent to England. She was assigned to an intelligence office in London where she received, sorted, and forwarded intelligence reports. The blitz to conquer England in the Battle of Britain was over, but Germany continued bombing raids into 1944. Jane interviewed captured women WAC and intelligence counterparts. She knew of the death camps and hoped to receive confirmation from those she interviewed. Instead she learned of the horrors of Dresden.
Shortly after D-Day, Jane was told to report for transportation to France. She was not allowed to go to her quarters first, so could take only what she was wearing and had with her. This was the first group of WACs to land in Normandy. Jane spent the first night in the open in light clothes. At first light when she could see through the fog, she saw a fire and walked across a field to it. The men attending the fire were startled to see a woman walking toward them out of the fog. Jane had crossed a minefield. During the Battle of the Bulge, the officer WACs were sent into the tent hospitals to help with the wounded. Jane went on to serve two years in the Intelligence unit in Europe. The following quotation and picture are from the cover of Electronics in the West by Jane Morgan:
After the war she married an engineer and became interested in the men who had made electronics possible. She has written a biography of Lee de Forest and continues today to study and write in the field of electronics history while serving on the Board of Advisors of the Foothill Electronics Museum to be built at Foothill College on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Jane Morgan married Robert A. Morgan, graduate engineer from the University of Southern California in 1948. Jane worked for David Packard after he and William Hewlett formed their company. Mr. Packard encouraged her to write the book that was published in 1967. The Morgans had three children: Carol Lucille, later called Carolisa; Susan Jane (later called Lethe) who has one daughter, Yolanda Johnson; and Elizabeth Ann.
Jane Morgan was working on the story of the Women’s Army Corps during the 1980s. In the 1990s, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc. was formed to raise money for a memorial recognizing the contributions of women in the military and to create a registry of women who served in the military. Jane Mauerhan Morgan’s name was submitted.
Dick and Wilda were active in the Masons and Eastern Star while living in Big Sandy. Richard had first become a member while a senior at Valparaiso. After moving to Great Falls, they moved their membership to the Great Falls chapters. Great Falls had an active chapter of Rainbow Girls and Ann Jean joined and kept her membership for three or four years, although she was not particularly active. When Cameron became old enough he joined De Molay. He was active in the group and probably received more satisfaction from his membership than the others in the family.
The rental business had proved to be a good source of income, and Richard looked for a house to buy with extra bedrooms to rent. He purchased a house and the family planned to move the end of May. Then just before they were to move, Ann Jean contracted scarlet fever. Since the city quarantined a family that had scarlet fever, which would prevent the Worstells from moving into their new quarters, Ann Jean was admitted to the Detention Hospital. Gramp Worstell wrote Ann Jean on May 22, 1943. Besides his condolences, Gaylord also mentioned his son Ben and Jane Mauerhan:
Dear Ann Jean, Dick tells me you are tucked away in the pest house. My! what a place for a young lady to be. One rarely has scarlet fever but once. I must take this occasion to tell you that scarlet fever and scarlatina are exactly one and the same thing. I don’t mean that scarlatina is a mild form of scarlet fever. I mean they are simply synonyms. Too bad that you had to go away from home and spend a few weeks just to learn about this.
Now if you will also remember that a “fracture” is a “break.” Synonyms again and also to say “gums” and not “gooms” when speaking of the gums of your jaw, I’ll be happy and count the time well spent.
Ben writes that he heard by radio that Jane Mauerhan had arrived in Europe. That is the first word I have had about her since she wrote me from N. J. that she was about to sail. I think I’ll soon hear from her....
You will see Siebrasse’s notice of sale in the paper. I think they are going to Washington....
Well, well! here it is 5 o’clock Sat. evening and I am scratching away as though I had all the time in the world. I must get a move on me. Love from The Gramp.
Ann Jean was in the detention hospital because of the possibility of contagion, not because she was particularly ill, yet the nurses insisted she spend her time in bed. After the rash disappears, a certain amount of peeling skin can be expected. The nurses were watchful during this stage, as it was believed the disease was still contagious during this time. Both rash and skin peeling were minimal; however, all medical precautions were taken with visitors as the following news item on May 27, 1943, made clear:
It was a big day for Ann Worstell, a Great Falls High School freshman confined in the county detention hospital with scarlet fever. First, she read in the Tribune that she was among 77 students named to receive $50 Heisey Foundation awards for citizenship. Near noon, there appeared at her bedside a muffled white-robed figure that voiced congratulations and handed her a $50 check. It was Gov. S. C. Ford, dressed in the white antiseptic robes prescribed for detention hospital visitors, completing his task of delivering all the 77 checks. Miss Worstell said it made her feel better.
Millionaire Heisey established his foundation to award cash to students recognized for “definite improvement during a school year in citizenship, leadership and service. Scholastic effort also is a qualifying factor but not necessarily a requirement,” reported the Great Falls Tribune. “Nineteen hundred forty-one was the first year the awards were given.... Ten thousand dollars is appropriated yearly for this fund and the purpose of the awards is to stimulate improvement throughout the schools of this area.... Approximately one of every 20 students receives the awards.” The health-imposed absence and seclusion during the year, along with completed homework and make up of tests, were likely considerations for Ann Jean’s recognition. She received the award again in 1945. That year they honored seniors who had received the award twice by allowing them to “officiate at the assembly and ... present the awards.” In 1946 “Ann Jean Worstell, mistress of ceremony, gave a brief history of the awards.…”
During her stay in the Detention Hospital, Ann Jean received correspondence from Aunt Lois Augustine. Their daughter, Martha Jayne, suffered from various allergies and had undergone an operation for removal of tonsils and adenoids. She also wrote that the family had gone to West Chester, Iowa, to attend the funeral of Aunt Lou, Al Augustine’s sister. Grandfather Al’s rheumatism was getting worse and his ability to get around was diminished. He was rather upset and reported to Lois that everything went wrong at once. “A tornado hit the barn on the farm two weeks ago tomorrow and uprooted two apple trees, and demolished an open shed. It knocked in some windows on the house and knocked the chimney down. A well went dry. Aunt Lou [his
sister] took sick and died and then he heard you were in the hospital.”
Richard got the household goods moved into their new home at 315 Second Avenue North. He had purchased the former home of a well-known retired dentist by the name of Dr. W. F. Guy. Dr. Guy purchased the house in 1926 from Shirley S. Ford, who built the home in 1907. When sold to the Shrine Club four years later, it was described as “one of the finer homes of the city.” The 300 block had become commercial in nature, with the old brick library on the west and a garage and car dealership on the east. Richard purchased it with all the furnishings included. It was a good home, with a partially screened porch across the front and balcony above. The front door opened into a double living room extending across the front of the house, only slightly divided in the middle. The east end had a fireplace with a painting of Square Butte above; the west end could be used for formal dining, but was also furnished with davenport and chairs for living space. The room behind the fireplace was designed to be the formal dining room but became the bedroom for Dick, Wilda, and Cameron. The kitchen was behind the other end of the living room. The renters came in the front door and crossed the living room to the stairs. There were three large bedrooms and bath upstairs, a bedroom and private bath behind the kitchen, originally designed for live-in help, and two or three bedrooms in the basement, all rented out to single men. During mild weather, the front porch was Ann Jean’s sleeping space. Accommodations for indoor sleeping were made during the winter months, and by her senior year she had a room of her own up-stairs.
When Ann Jean was released from the detention hospital, the first order of business was to spend the $50 award money. Newspaper ads made it easy: one for a used wood Conn clarinet, another for a second-hand bicycle. The fifty dollars covered both.