The Christmas Party at Camp Upton - 1919
"Won't You Step into My Parlor?" "Off Duty" Girls, Caught by the Camera, Enjoying a Social Hour in the Living Room of Their Home in Camp. The Telephone Review, March 1918. GGA Image ID # 19263ac40c
Telephone Operators Quartered in U. S. Army Barracks Transform Their Home at Upton Into a Santa Claus Paradise
Written by Margaret Franks
CAMP UPTON!" called the conductor. The train came to a standstill, wheezing and coughing as its burden of khaki-clad ligures alighted and disappeared in the drab-colored distance. In the light of the waning winter day, everything seemed to be cloaked in the same color —a drear, cheerless brown —men, uniforms, earth, and barracks, and even the last shaking leaf clinging hopelessly to a tree.
After a wild ride through the piercing wind and air, already heavy with whirling flakes, we saw a welcome gleam of light streaming from what appeared to be an army barracks. It was an army barracks, indeed, but one transformed by the hands of young girls, the telephone operators who lived there while on duty for the U. S. A.
As we drew nearer, the Christmas wreaths and pert red bows bespoke of the comfort and cheer within. The door opened, and we were greeted with a rush of warm air freighted with the spicy smell of ground pine, and the delicious whiff of Christmas goodies was wafted in from the great kitchen where all was the hustle and bustle in preparation for the feast of the morrow.
As if by magic, we were drawn into the comfortable living room. Everything, from the tree, burning in all its glory and wealth of light and tinsel to the inviting easy chairs, breathed a welcome and sincere "peace on earth" to all who entered.
Twenty-five bright, expectant girls drew close about the tree in a big friendly home circle as the hands of the clock too slowly climbed toward the hour of nine. Nine o'clock meant relaxation from duty—gifts for each one and a party. To whom does not the mere mention of a party give thrills and expectation?
After what seemed eternities of waiting, the little mission clock on the bookcase proclaimed the time for the fun to begin. As the gifts were distributed, an appropriate rhyme for each girl was read, producing gales of laughter, and some tears, too, as some pet failing or virtue was revealed.
The Telephone Operators at Camp Upton. A Group of the Yaphank Traffic Force One Morning Just After Arriving in Camp Last Autumn. The Snapshot from Which this is Enlarged was taken by Sergeant Patterson. Mr. Orth, District Traffic Manager, is at the Extreme Right, and Miss Tompkins Third from the Right, Standing. The Telephone Review, December 1917. GGA Image ID # 19b38b0b7f
To Miss Tompkins, the following was inscribed:
This little gift is for the one
Who works as though she'd just begun.
Who gives vacations to us all,
But never to herself at all.
Our wish for you this Christmas Day,
Is that you'll hie yourself away.
And have a good time, if you please,
Forgetting all the agencies.
And central offices, everyone.
Just rest yourself and have some fun.
You know our thought and blessing too,
Will follow right along with you.
Next came Miss Ketcham's, with:
Hail to the Chief,
So small and so trim.
Who handles the business,
With decision and vim:
Who's always so helpful,
When we get in a hole,
And scolds us and loves us,
And stands by every soul.
It is lucky for Ray,
That he's trained very fine,
For his next commander,
Will keep him in line.
But loyal and true
She'll be to the end.
As she's been to us—
Our very dear friend.
And in the same way, it went down the line.
As the evening progressed, a huge mysterious-looking hatbox was brought in and given to Mrs. Franks, in charge of the house. After almost hours of endless unwrapping and untying of boxes and amid suppressed giggles of delight on the girls' part, a small box was brought to light—the gift within expressed the sincere love and affection of the givers completely.
When the last of the white packages had disappeared from under the tree, there came the part of the fun that one almost always thinks is the best ice cream and cake, and just stacks of candy from the Red Cross and various organizations of the camp, in appreciation of the efficient service of the girls. Toward 11 o'clock, the hilarity subsided, and the happy crowd said "Goodnight," and all went to dream of the good time they had.
Soon the room was left in quiet. Outside, the bleak night wind moaned, breathing against the frosted pane in sheer defiance of the warmth and light beyond its reach. The wreathes shivered with a crackling noise, and the large poinsettias on the table seemed to laugh out in the silence of it all. Across the brow of the hill came the full, clear tones of "Taps" and the end of the day.
The Christmas party at Camp Upton was over.
Margaret Franks, "The Christmas Party at Camp Upton," in The Telephone Review, Vol. 10, No.2, February 1919, p. 43.