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THEY ALSO SERVE
“Oh, Kitty, look!” Little Billy Carter jumped up and down in delight beside his tall sister. “There’s Daddy!”
“Where?” Kitty asked as she searched the files of marching troops for a look at her dad.
Billy pointed with his chubby finger. “Yonder! The straightest, bestest of all!”
Then Kitty’s heart swelled with pride, too, as she watched a tall man with the other medical officers from the Naval hospital. They were all wonderful, those rhythmical, moving lines of blue, green and khaki, but for the two Carters the heart and soul of it all was the Chief Pharmacist’s Mate they called Dad. They were sure the war could never be won without him.
It was a gala day in Bayport, for every organization had turned out to boost the Community Chest drive. Now a military band was passing, while Billy’s small feet kept time, and scuffed out the
soles of his shoes. Kitty had had no idea a six-year-old could wear out so many shoes till she had come home from college a short time ago. Was it really only a few weeks ago? To Kitty it seemed ages, for her whole program of life had been changed in that time.
“There come the WACs, to give Hitler whacks,” Billy prattled.
“And there are the WAVES, our American braves.”
Kitty laughed though her heart was like stone as she repeated the silly rhyme she had made up for Billy at Christmastime when she told him she was going to join the WAVES. How little she had dreamed during that happy vacation that Aunt Nina would be gone in another month, and Billy would have no one to look to except his big sister.
But Kitty couldn’t keep back the blinding tears as the WACs and WAVES passed in their trim uniforms, their heads held high, their eyes bright in the knowledge that they were doing their share to help win the war.
“When are you going to be a WAVE, Kit, and wear a pretty uniform?” Billy wanted to know.
“I’ve decided not to be a WAVE, darling,” Kitty looked straight ahead for fear he would see her tears.
“But you said you were going to help win the war. Dad says we all must.”
“Look, there come the tanks!”
Billy forgot his puzzlement over his sister’s change of plans, for the tanks were followed by jeeps, trucks and more lines of marching men and women. At last the parade went on down Bay Street, but Kitty still stood staring at the moving stream of passenger cars in its wake, though she really saw nothing that passed. Somehow she felt cheated, out of it all. After a while an insistent, small hand tugging at hers brought her back to the present.
“Aren’t we going to see the ducks in the park? You promised.”
“Yes, of course. It’ll be fun watching the ducks. Let’s go across to the bay walk.”
They succeeded in crossing the street finally, and hurried down the path curving around the bay shore. In sight of the water Kitty’s spirits always lifted. After all it was for such as Billy that this war was being fought, that they might be free to go to parks and feed ducks, and walk along a bay shore without fear of bombs overhead. As Dad had said, she was really doing more than her bit, giving him a start in life.
Bayshore Park was a lovely spot of green under magnificent moss-draped live oaks. By the time they reached it the parade had broken up and marines, soldiers and sailors were scattered about the green slopes, resting after their long march.
At the duck pond Kitty took a small package of bread crumbs for the ducks from her purse and handed them to Billy.
As she sat on a bench near by, her attention was suddenly caught by a group of Canteen workers serving a lunch to the tired soldiers. There were young girls in the Corps, some even younger than she, laughing and talking with the men as they served them coffee, doughnuts and sandwiches from a long table under the trees. How hungry the boys seemed and how appreciative of having some girls to talk to!
Now she recognized one of the girls from near her home over on Palmetto Island. Why Sally Bright was still in high school! How could she get into the Canteen Corps?
“Look, Kitty, the sailor made me a boat!” Again Billy’s voice recalled her from her abstraction.
She discovered a young yeoman squatting by the pond with Billy as they launched a magnolia-leaf boat, with an oak-leaf sail. Billy was gobbling half a sandwich the sailor had given him.
“You shouldn’t have given him your sandwich!” she exclaimed.
The young man sprang to his feet, apparently seeing her for the first time.
“They’re so good,” he explained. “I couldn’t eat with him looking on.” He had brown eyes that twinkled as he spoke.
“They do look good,” she admitted.
“Let me get you one? These Canteen girls sure have a genius for making sandwiches.”
“Oh, no, don’t bother, please. I’m not hungry.”
“I’ve a kid sister who’s learned lots about good food since she’s been a Canteen worker.”
“Kid sister?” repeated Kitty, puzzled.
He laughed. “Well, she’s not such a kid after all, I guess. Junior in college.”
“How can she be a Canteen worker and go to college, too?”
“Oh, she has plenty of extra time to get in her Canteen quota of hours. A girl can do Canteen work anywhere she happens to be living.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. You mean they don’t have to sign up for full time or go away from home to do that work?”
“Oh say, why didn’t I know about this before?”
The sailor’s face grew serious at the desperate way in which she spoke. “Why? Would you like to do Canteen work?”
“I’d like to do anything to help.”
“Well, gal, nobody’s keeping you from it! There’s Miss Pearson right over yonder. I’ll introduce you to her. Heard her say she’s going to start a new nutrition class next week.”
He caught her hand and started across the green to the end of the long table where an efficient-looking
woman, in a blue uniform with spotless white collar and cuffs, was pouring coffee. Within a few feet of her the sailor stopped suddenly.
“What is your name? After all, introductions are awkward without having the names of both parties.”
They laughed self-consciously.
“Kathryn Carter—Kitty they call me, of course.”
“I’m Yeoman Brad Mason.”
“I knew you were a yeoman—your crossed feather insignia,” she told him. “You see my dad’s been in the Navy ten years.”
His face brightened. “Oh, then we’re practically in the same family. And now that the formalities are over we’ll proceed to business.”
Kitty glanced toward the end of the table and realized that Miss Pearson had overheard their little conversation. The three of them laughed, and the ice was completely broken.
“Since introductions are now unnecessary, Miss Pearson,” said Brad, “let me explain that this young lady has suddenly discovered there’s such a thing in this man’s war as a Canteen Corps.”
Kitty flushed. “Oh, really now, I’ve always known about them, but just got the idea of doing that work myself.”
“It’s certainly the duty of everyone to serve somewhere.”
Kitty felt a slight edge on Miss Pearson’s tone,
and was aware that her eyes swept over her smart sweater suit and the jaunty blue tam.
“I’ve always meant to do my bit the minute I got my degree,” Kitty hastened to explain. “But I’ve thought and dreamed and worked toward going into the WAVES.”
“Well, why don’t you? They’re doing a marvelous work.”
Kitty’s eyes wandered to where Billy poked at his sail boat with a long stick. “I can’t go now,” she said in a low tone. “My aunt who has taken care of my little brother since my mother died, also left us six weeks ago. Dad’s in the service, and there’s no one left with Billy but me.”
Miss Pearson followed Kitty’s glance to the little form beside the pond. Her voice was warm with understanding as she said, “Yes, he’s your first responsibility.” Then she smiled gently as she added, “But I know it was hard for you to give up your dream of being a WAVE.”
“Don’t think I’m bitter about it,” Kitty hastened to assure her. “I adore Billy. He’s worth any sacrifice I could make. But if I could help somewhere to hasten the end of this war, nothing would make me happier.”
“That’s certainly our aim.” Miss Pearson glanced with a comradely look at Brad.
“I’ll say!” he agreed heartily.
“Do you think I could get into the Canteen
Corps? Mr. Mason says you don’t have to live away from home.”
“Of course, they’ll be delighted to have you, my dear. Come over to the station wagon, and I’ll give you some leaflets telling about our work.”
“Wait a minute till I get Billy. He’ll be sure to fall in the pond if I go out of sight.”
“You go ’long. I’ll look after Billy,” volunteered Brad. “I like that boy. He’s enough like my oldest sister’s kid to be his twin.”
As they turned toward the station wagon that had brought over the Canteen supplies, Kitty began to have misgivings.
“Maybe I can’t do this sort of thing at all. You know I majored in music at school.”
“You like to eat, don’t you?” retorted Miss Pearson in that snappy, business-like way she had.
“I’ll say, and cook, too! It’s one of my hobbies.”
“Well then, what are you worrying about?”
She reached to the car seat and took out a brief case packed with notebooks and leaflets.
“This little book will tell you what the Canteen Corps is.”
As Kitty took the blue book with the Red Cross on the cover she exclaimed, “Oh, it’s part of the Red Cross work?”
“Of course. What did you think it was?”
“I hadn’t thought. This will make it all the more wonderful, working with the Red Cross. You
know I think that’s the most marvelous organization. It’s simply great what they do for anybody, anywhere.”
Miss Pearson smiled at the exaggeration. “Well, my dear, it’s not quite so comprehensive as that. But we do stand ready to help in all emergencies, and that’s where the Canteen workers play such an important part. We are ready to feed people after air raids, storms, floods, and disasters of all kinds.”
“Oh, that is important!”
“And we must work under all sorts of handicaps. We often have to prepare large quantities of food right out in the open.”
“I learned something of outdoor cooking in my Girl Scout work years ago,” said Kitty proudly.
“Then you already have a splendid foundation. Some scouts are helping us this afternoon.”
“What must I do to get in? When can I start?”
“First you must take a course in nutrition. I’m starting a new class next Monday morning.”
“Is the class filled? I hope I can get in.”
“I already have a full class, but I can make room for someone like you. You see lots of women take this course, even when they can’t follow it up with Canteen work.”
“When this course is finished may I sign up for Canteen work?”
“You have to follow the nutrition course with a course in Canteen work.”
“Wish I’d started sooner so I’d be ready for work now.”
“The course may seem long, but there’s much more to Canteen work than the foundation course and emergency feeding. We do so many things. We often serve refreshments at blood donation centers. We have Snack Bars in USO halls. Sometimes our Canteen women help with school lunch counters or in day nurseries.”
“There’s one over on Palmetto Island where Billy sometimes goes.”
“So you live on Palmetto Island? That’s all to the good. We’re badly in need of workers there.”
“Oh, I’m so happy to learn about this! And you still think I can do it and not neglect my duty to Billy?”
“Of course, my dear. We have many mothers with several children, who manage to keep up their quota of Canteen hours every year and not neglect their homes. In fact they’re better mothers and homemakers for having taken the courses.”
“I’ve got to hug somebody—you!” exclaimed Kitty, impulsively throwing her arms around Miss Pearson. “It’s so wonderful to find something I can really do to help.”
When Miss Pearson had told her the time and place of the nutrition class, Kitty hurried back to Billy, wondering if she would ever have patience to wait till Monday to begin her training.