American “Hello Girls” in France Enjoy High Life - 1919
Exterior View of Women Telephone Operators Home, Signal Corps, Chaumont, Haute Marne, France. Photograph by Sgt. Abbott, Signal Corps, 19 February 1919. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-52739. NARA ID # 86710683. GGA Image ID # 199ba4fdbf
BOSTON, Mass., April 13. —"Hello Girls" In France, soon to be on their way home, have had the times of their lives. '‘Home was never like this. Gee, we live like queens," one girl from Boston writes home.
Steaks and chips for diner, beautiful hotels and quaint, old-fashioned French chateaus to live in, handsome officers for sweethearts and Paris boulevards for promenades are only of a few of the things that have contented Uncle Sams telephone operators In France during that great war.
How good the first undeniable American "Hello" must have sounded over the wires in France; the same "Hello" that we heard from pretty "Miss Murphy” in Boston, from girls In New York city, in Kennebunk. Me.; "Hello," with a pleasing questioning. If the is good natured, “Hello" If she's cross.
But the telephone operator In France was quite too busy to lose her patience. When she was putting through vital connections, locating a major for a colonel, she kept so constantly aware of the Importance of her mission that her eagerness not to fall was Interspersed only with thrills of excitement over messages coming in.
Another View of the Reception Room in Signal Corps Women Telephone Operators' Home at Chaumont, Haute Marne, France. Photograph by Sgt. Abbott, Signal Corps, 19 February 1919. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-52742. NARA ID # 86710689. GGA Image ID # 199c2dc04e
Have Military Status
Very little has "been said of the American women telephone operators work In France. Although they have seldom In great danger, their importance was vital.
The first group of American women telephone operators reached Paris In March 1918, and up to the signing of the armistice several other units arrived.
They have a military status equivalent to the "Waacs," the British Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and their businesslike navy-blue uniforms, blue trench caps, and white arm "bands, with a telephone Mouthpiece embroidered in blue, tell their work.
"Keeping house In France for American girls.” write Sarah Watson, a Y. W. “Big Sister,” to a Signal Corps unit, "may be the least romantic work that any American women are doing here, but It Is certainly full of variety and most Interesting experiences. I have bed my pet theories changed over here.
View of the Reception Room, Signal Corps Women Telephone Operator's Home, Chaumont, Haute Marne, France. Photograph by Sgt. Abbot, Signal Corps, 19 February 1919. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-52743. NARA ID # 86710691. GGA Image ID # 199cb8c626
Always being a school marm, I thought the endless talk of servants and the health of children and kinds of food was a most unnecessary and boring form of amusement for many women.
Now I know that unless the cook comes on time and the steak isn't burnt, and the children are well and happy, life can hold no Joy for mother, and she is vitaly interested in the price per kilo of ‘pommes de terre’ and carrots and in receipts for deserts and farm more than this she is vitally concerned in her children’s pleasures and friends.
“My family, or the girls under my care, has grown considerably, and I am now the proud possessor of twelve girls, with the prospects of six more very soon coming from a station near the firing line. Our house has grown too small for us, and we are moving in a few days to the Riverside Drive of this city, within a short distant of the spot where the first American troops landed in France.
Rest Room for Women Operators at General Headquarters, Signal Corps, Chaumont, Haute Marne, France. Photograph by Sgt. Abbott, Signal Corps, 19 February 1919. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-52738. NARA ID # 86710681. GGA Image ID # 199cc4c294
Victrola Kept Busy
“The salon commands a glorious view of the ocean and the equally large slle-a-manger opens on a delightful little garden. We are next door to the Knights of Columbus and have the privilege of coming on Wednesday night to the band concert that they have in the most beautiful garden in town.
The Victrola is kept going over there all day, so we have the advantages and disadvantages of living next door to a continuous concert. This house has a bath, and bids for the first bath in a real tub, one of the very few in this particular town, are many.
We joke continually about the tub. A real bath, however, is no joke in most parts of France, but a solemn and seldom enjoyed ceremonial.
The Reading Hour; Melanie Van Gastel and Elenore A. Brown, Signal Corps Telephone Operators, Second Army, Toul, Meurthe and Moselle, France. Photograph by Lt. Fox, Signal Corps, 15 January 1919. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-49626. NARA ID # 86705358. GGA Image ID # 199cdd4792
“Then there is gas in the kitchen, and only the housekeepers can appreciate that. The though of being able to cook more than one article of food at a time and being able to have enough hot water for all the gallons of tea that we like to drink rivals the prospect of the magnificent view that the two great windows in the salon afford of all the boats going to and from America with troops.
“The secretaries in charge of the telephone groups see to it that the girls meet and entertain the American Soldiers under jolly, wholesome circumstances. In the headquarters town a reception was given to the officer stationed there. Real American “honey” parties are often staged. One crowd of boys had an unbelievably good time at a Signal Corps girls’ party.
To Give Farewell Party
“It was the first party with girls they had had over there,” says Miss Watson, “and their appreciation was touching. Some of them hadn’t had a late pass in the months they had been here, and we could scarcely get them out of the house at half-past eleven, so novel was the experience of being with American girls and out of camp after half-past nine.
Bedroom in Women's Telephone Operators' Home, Signal Corps, Chaumont, Haute Marne, France. Photograph by Sgt. Abbott, Signal Corps, 19 February 1919. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-52741. NARA ID # 86710687. GGA Image ID # 199ce4dd07
They ate sandwiches and drank lemonade with the same enthusiasm they displayed on picnics at home when they were smaller and younger, but no more small-boy-like than now. The American man never grows up. He is always ready for play and fool and music. Our last night in our house is to be spent in having a party for the line men, etc., of the Signal Corps.
“The girls are staying at home in the evenings more and more, and all of us have good times together in the salon or garden, and now that the cool weather has come, we can have games in the evenings and songs and make pull candy.”
Dining Room in Women Telephone Operators' Home, Signal Corps, Chaumont, Haute Marne, France. Photograph by Sgt. Abbott, Signal Corps, 19 February 1919. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-52740. NARA ID # 86710685. GGA Image ID # 199cfec7ff
“American “Hello Girls” in France Enjoy High Life in Quaint Chateau in France,” om The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, Monday, 14 April 1919, p. 8