Navy Mothers Service Club
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
During World War II, there was a national group called the Navy Mothers
Service Club. The following Millinocket ladies organized a local chapter: Warnetta Chase, Ruby Segee, Mary Belleveau, Mary Boynton, Ada Folsom, Elizabeth Garvin, Mary Hatfield, Birdie Ireland, Sophie Kimball, Minnie Nickerson, Helen Ripley, Maude Rush and Lottie Tippens. The ladies sent cards, letters, and gift boxes (mostly candy) to area men and women serving in the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, Spars, Waves and other seagoing military groups serving in the US and abroad.
These local ladies compiled two large scrapbooks containing the replies from the area men and women in service between 1943 and 1945. These brief notes express thanks to the women for the candy boxes (one letter mentions taffy) and the kind words of support. Most letters mention how nice it was to be remembered by those at home in Millinocket and some mention encounters with other Millinocket military. Worth noting is the promptness in which the writers replied …even those who were in the midst of action in Europe or the Pacific.
Each scrapbook has the envelopes glued to the pages in a manner that allows you to see the addressee (Navy Mothers club or often Mrs. Dean Chase, President) and the return address of the sender. The letter or card is accessible and can be removed from the envelope. Some envelopes have stamps, while many are marked “Free.” Many of them are stamped with the words “Passed by Navy Censor.”
In among the other letters are several surprises. A letter dated 8/3/1943 from Representative Margaret Chase Smith says she read of the club’s actions and wishes she could attend their bond drive meeting. Another from Maine’s First Lady Helen Sewell dated 3/19/1943 thanks the club for their invitation to the Patriot’s Dinner. She also invites any club member who might be in Augusta on a Tuesday or Thursday between 4PM and 6PM to drop in at the Blaine House.
The scrapbooks contain more than just letters to the club from service men and women during WWII. There are holiday cards received by the club and copies of those sent by the club to the men and women in service. One example is a Christmas card sent to the Navy Mothers saying, “Seasons Greetings from the 958th Engineer Aviation ToPo Co. in China - Burma - India - Christmas, 1945.”
There are numerous V mail letters. An explanation of V mail was also found in one of the scrapbooks. This states that V mail was used by the military for messages from “outside the continental US when addressed to points where micro film equipment is operated. A miniature photo negative of the message will be made and sent by the most expeditious transportation available for reproduction and delivery. The original will be destroyed after the reproduction is delivered.
Tucked in the back of one scrapbook is a letter with the return address The White House, Washington. Dated May 3, 1943 the typed message states the writer had read about the activities of the club and congratulated the mothers on finding ways to serve. The very shaky handwritten signature is that of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Photo is a club presentation to the town!