Episode 3 of Irene’s Story

Irene loved the routine and the intellectual stimulation, but her petite stature, at five feet one and one half inches, gave her some grief during her training. Of course, the women were to be issued uniforms, but because her group was the first, there was no readily available inventory. These included both winter and summer dress uniforms, along with caps, shoes, and blouses. The Marines had Lord & Taylor working hard on it, but what they eventually got was for taller, larger women, so tiny Irene had to have hers altered significantly, delaying her uniforms’ delivery and nearly scuttling her chance at further training.

            She did well, finishing in the top of her class. All that hard work and her native intelligence paid off. She was chosen to go to First Sergeant’s School.  Those Marines were no dummies. They knew a good thing when they saw it. She also picked up a lot of Navy and Marine jargon, like MMRLH, which was posted on envelopes. It meant Marine Mail Rush Like Hell. Once she learned it, it appeared on the bottom of the envelopes for every letter she mailed back home.

            Best of all, First Sergeant’s School was in Philadelphia, at the U.S. Navy Yard, less than two miles from her family. Although she couldn’t stay with them, it was closer than the Bronx, and she had some spare time to spend with her mother and father during that two-month training period. The Marines put their candidates up in the Ben Franklin Hotel, so they had a pretty nice place to stay.

            The Clerical School at the Navy Base published a little paper back then called The Pen & Bayonet. The troops trained in the Clerical School would go on to become Clerks reporting to a First Sergeant, exactly what Irene and her fellow classmates would become. When she and the other First Sergeant candidates arrived, Irene and a friend wrote an article called “Hello, Fellow Marines.” In it, they introduced the “girls” and penned a little ditty to be sung to the tune of the Marine Corps hymn that summed up these pioneering women perfectly:

You can tell a girl in the Marines,
You can tell her by her walk.
You can tell a girl in the Marines,
You can tell her by her talk.

You can tell her by her manner,
By her attitude and such.
You can tell a girl in the Marines,
But you cannot tell her much!

4 thoughts on “Episode 3 of Irene’s Story

  1. Steven Malone

    Thinking on it, I felt that I saw a couple or three novels (potentially) in your memoir, as well as a slew of short stories. You might even gain some authorial distance by fictionalizing an amalgam of you and your mom an do a retell of the life of a female Marine during the war. And another of the life of a female single parent in the 40s, 50s, & 60s. Give it a thought. S. 

    Liked by 1 person

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