Episode 6 of Irene’s Story – The Arrival of the (In)famous Clarence

Irene heard that some of the Women Marines in Camp Lejeune would be going to Hawaii. Irene was thrilled since she and her good friend Gerry were slated to go. They made all sorts of elaborate plans and even did a little skit with their fellow Feathernecks to celebrate. Their outfits of straw skirts and leis topped off with goofy masks and signs that said “Honolulu Here We Come” were the hit of the celebration.


Unfortunately, they made plans too soon, and learned that “the Corps” sometimes worked – or didn’t work – in mysterious ways. Gerry shipped out in November 1944, leaving poor Irene stuck in North Carolina with the roaches. But in December, just as she was about to have a Christmas leave with her family in Philadelphia, she got orders that she was being shipped to San Diego. That was the first step.

San Diego was a major disappointment to Irene. The Marine Corps base back then was a staging area for the troops going somewhere else, mostly the Pacific. There were waves of them who had to have muster rolls prepared and payroll records initiated, changed, or updated. Unfortunately, her staff there wasn’t like the top-notch crew she had at Camp Lejuene – or as large. And, the constant flow of troops was as never-ending as the California sunshine.

On top of that, Irene was conscientious to a fault. Because of her exceptional experience at Camp Lejuene, and the fact that she excelled at her job, she suspected that the Corps was keeping her from going to Hawaii. Instead of a workload of the two assignments that she handled at Camp Lejeune, she had three in San Diego: one as Acting Sergeant Major; Adjutant (an assistant to the Commanding Officer, or CO); and First Sergeant. Her feelings were likely well-founded. Those responsible were short-handed and they couldn’t afford to lose her. She began working 12- to 18-hour days again and started to burn out. Her superiors finally told her to slow down – which she reluctantly did. Meanwhile, her good friend Gerry had shipped off to Pearl Harbor, so she didn’t even have a buddy to gripe and share late-night snacks with.

Eventually the workload lightened up significantly, and life got easier in San Diego, so Irene could enjoy a bit of time to herself. She made one weekend trip up to Los Angeles with some other Feathernecks so she could see first-hand what Hollywood was all about. They went to The Brown Derby, Sardi’s, the legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria, and saw Grauman’s Chinese Theater with its celebrity footprints and handprints. In spite of its supposed glamour, she wasn’t impressed with Hollywood, and thought it seemed like any other smallish town. Irene was a big city girl, after all.

But right at home, the Marine Corps base had occasional dances, which she thought were much more fun than Hollywood, and she went to as many of them as she could. At least they were easier to get to, and less expensive. Best of all, they played a bigger variety of songs than “Pistol-Packin Mamma.” There were new tunes too, like “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” that she could jitterbug to and “Sentimental Journey” for those dreamy slow dances.

Among her other duties, Irene scheduled the Marines who were on her muster rolls for physicals and dental checkups before they shipped out, so she had frequent contacts with those who were responsible for scheduling at those facilities. Clarence was now stationed at the Dental Clinic in San Diego, performing duties as a Dental Technician, and one of his responsibilities was scheduling. They spoke to each other frequently by phone. For weeks, in addition to setting appointments, they laughed and joked and engaged in some serious flirting with one another.

On one occasion, Clarence told Irene, “I heard you need to have all your teeth pulled. I’m so sorry to hear that, but I’m just the guy to be the technician to assist when you get that done.”

Irene was pretty clever too, so she shot back at him, “Listen, buster, if you even think about doing that, I’ll send a platoon of my Marine buddies over to rough you up.”

They both enjoyed the verbal foreplay, and worked hard at coming up with more outlandish things to tell each other.

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