Letter from "Hello Girl" Miss Adele Hoppock - 1918
Third Unit of Telephone Operators to Go to France to Serve with General Pershing behind the Allied Lines and Help Carry on the Business of War. The Telephone Review, May 1918. GGA Image ID # 19225056a1
Miss Adele Hoppock was a member of the third group of operators selected by our Company for service in France. She left San Francisco on April 9 and sailed early in May 1918. Her sister, Miss Eleanor Hoppock, was in charge of the fourth group of Pacific Coast operators, and was appointed supervisor. By the kindness of her mother we are permitted to publish the following letter:
Somewhere in France,
May 16, 1918.
We have been in France about a week now, but I am not settled in my permanent location. We have been traveling most of the time, and have seen quite a bit of the country.
We came from England in some sort of an ambulance boat which carries the “Blesses” from France to England. Of course it was empty on our trip, so we occupied the room where the most serious cases are kept.
The whole affair was delightfully informal. We ate, slept, played, and did everything in one room. There was a piano which was going all the time.
Some soldiers of the British Medical Corps waited on us. We certainly had an interesting time and the Channel was very calm, contrary to expectations.
We were so glad to arrive in France at last. Everything looked familiar and I couldn’t help but remember our experiences four years ago. I wish that you had been along with me this time.
We stayed at the city where we landed until the next day. That afternoon three of us girls were taken out for an auto ride all over the city. There was an American encampment near there and it was fine to see our soldiers again.
We also visited the telephone office and saw the oldest switchboard in France. My fingers just itched to get hold of the plugs, but of course they wouldn’t allow us to do anything like that. Our commanding officer in France is Captain Vivian, and he came to meet us at the boat. He certainly is a fine man. and we all like him so much.
We arrived in Paris at 10:30 pm, where I spent the night at Hotel Petrograd with a girl friend from Seattle of the Second unit The next morning we took the Metro and landed at the station again. From there we were taken to another city.
I can't mention any names of places (except Paris) so you will have to be satisfied when I tell you that it is a beautiful place and we all loved it on the spot.
Some of us lived in a convent for a couple of days, which experience was quite novel and interesting. The place was thick with American soldiers and we felt quite at home.
There are quite a few telephone girls who are located in a large camp there. I saw several whom I knew in San Francisco. Captain Vivian gave us several lectures on the telephone system, so that we could understand how things are handled in France.
They had our pictures taken for about the hundredth time, to stick on some more identification papers. My money bag is almost bursting from too much strain—not money (believe me), but papers, etc.
The system here is very interesting and I can tell you a little about it Every important place where headquarters and large camps are located has a switchboard operated by our girls.
This arrangement allows the officers to be connected with any one in their own camp, and also with other camps and cities all over France. The lines connect up with the French lines, and we have to deal with the French operators as well as our own.
Many of the calls are long distance. The system, I think, is remarkable, and it will be a great pleasure to work. There are from three to about thirty girls in each place, according to the amount of business.
Our unit of twenty-seven girls is to be separated and we are to be mixed with those of the first two units. Of course we were terribly anxious to find out where they were going to place us, and most of us had some definite idea where we want to go.
When we arrived at the last city I mentioned, we were told our assignments. I was so afraid they would locate me in some place in the western part of France, far away from the front.
I would have been happy there, but I much preferred to be as near the lines as possible. When they read the list of names, you may imagine my delight to find four other girls and myself stationed in the nearest place to the front that our girls are located.
It is not in the danger zone, of course, but is not nearly so far away as it might be. There are no girls there now, and the board is being run by soldiers.
Some of the other girls who have been here for a while are very anxious to go there, and they say it is the most interesting place of all, because it is near the front. Captain Vivian says he pities us because it will be hard work and the switchboard is very antique.
As there are no girls there yet, we will have to be pioneers and build up our own operation methods. We will have some girl who is thoroughly experienced to be chief operator over us.
They are going to rent a house for us and have it furnished. There will be a YWCA secretary to live there and arrange things. It is a small town which I have never heard of before.
They say it is very nice, but very cold in winter. We are terribly keen about going there and nothing can make us change our minds. It is the place above all others that I would choose. I feel very fortunate.
For a few days we are living in another town waiting for orders to be sent to our permanent location. They are getting ready to send us, but we don’t know when we can go.
This has the reputation of being the best place in France for our girls. It is very different from what I imagined would be our life in France. I had visions of a dug-out. and instead—a palace.
Everything is perfectly grand here. They have a house built especially for the girls, and furnished in American style, with hot and cold water, bathtubs, etc.
There is a piano and everything is very comfortable. The rooms are light and airy. The whole house reminds me of a sorority house. The girls only work eight hours or less, and are taken to the office every day in a Winston six.
They have splendid meals, with butter, white bread and sugar! There are almost unheard of luxuries in France and England.
The rules are not very strict here, and the girls make friends with the officers. They have dances and all sorts of good times. Of course they are popular because there are so few American girls here.
Certain rules, however, must be kept. They can not be out after dark without a pass, and then there must always be two girls together, “with or without male escort.” One rule is quite foolish, I think. They can not associate with privates or civilians.
This town is lovely and although not very far away, has the appearance of being a long way from the war. Everything seems so calm and peaceful that the war does not appear to be an actuality.
If I stayed here, I am afraid I would have too good a time. I didn’t enlist to be treated like a queen. I expected to rough it and be really in things. I hope that my life in the future will be more of that nature.
Of course, we will have good times where we are going, but I never want to forget the fact that I am here to work hard. Everything so far has been a hundred times better than I expected.
Our whole trip has gone so smoothly, not a hitch anywhere. We have had perfectly grand times everywhere we have been, and every one has been lovely to us. We always stayed at the best hotels and traveled first class.
The government is wonderful. There is not a girl among us who would not give anything she could to the United States. It must come first in everything.
We are so proud to be in the service and we feel as though it is our privilege, not our duty, to do our utmost.
As I said before, I will number my letters. If I am somewhere brief and unsatisfactory in the future, you will know the reason why. After we are settled there will not be much to write about—that is, things we are permitted to say.
This morning I was put on the switchboard here for an hour’s practice. It is fascinating work, and I am so anxious to get started. The French phrases are like this: "J'ecoute” or “quel numero” for “number please.” “Pas Ubre?' for “the line is busy”; “on ne répond pas” for “they don’t answer,” I haven’t had to talk French on the line yet.
The girls all salute officers here if they are first saluted by them. Lots of times we are saluted by officers and enlisted men, and, although returning it is not obligatory, we prefer to salute rather than to nod to them. I believe some of the officers do it just to try to get us fussed.
I am now in my permanent location and have been for three days. The work is very interesting, but hard. We have a nice place to live in, but no modern conveniences. We have a fine cook so we get lots to eat. I am very fortunate being in this place. Lots of love.
Mr. Art Codington of the Engineering Department, San Francisco, who enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Signals Corps last September, writes the attached interesting accounts of his experiences as an aviator:
Our camp is about nine miles from , a small town of about 2,500 population. We are located in the center of a meadow about five miles square. There is a small lake nearby, with a fine sandy beach, in which the boys swim.
Fifty men were selected to come here to a new flying field. We have all new ships and forty speed scouts. We are to finish our training here, and if we make good we will be instructed in pursuit or scout flying. That means that I will be here about four months after I qualify for a commission. I expect to get that in six or eight weeks.
The flying course is divided into several stages. First, dual, or with an instructor, eight or ten hours; second, primary solo, doing only straight flying and landings twelve to fifteen hours; third, secondary solo, advanced work making forced landings or landing away from the field and coming back without aid.
"[Exhibit N]: Letter from "Hello Girl" Miss Adele Hoppock - 1918," in Hearing before the Committee on Venteran's Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-Fifth Congress, First Session on S. 247, S. 1414, S. 129, and Related Bills, Washington DC: US Government Print Office, 25 May 1977, pp. 367-369