This is Saturday morning and besides the usual Saturday weekly report I have to submit, there are the monthly ones due today also – so I should be busy, but with a good staff sergeant and an administrative officer – all I have to do is sign a mess of papers, look them over and pass them on. Oh hum, dear – I’ll really be spoiled. Let’s see, you can type, add and subtract – and in addition to all that, you can sit on my lap. Boy! – you ought to make one swell secretary! And from the dream I had last night – you’re going to make a swell wife. What a dream! What a dream! Jeepers – if I weren’t so sophisticated, I think I’d blush – just thinking about it – because after all, darling, we’re only engaged. But then – in the dream – you were my wife, so it’s O.K. dear, don’t worry. I hadn’t dreamed about you or us for a long time – but it certainly was swell seeing you again. For no matter how much you look at a picture, or close your eyes and try to imagine someone, there’s nothing like the vision of person in a dream to make the person seem real – except reality itself, of course, and that’s something we’ll have to wait for, I guess.
Yesterday was a quiet, dull day, dear. We waited all day for the mail – but there was none. In the evening we had a swell meal – garnished by fresh corn-on-the-cob – the first we’ve had – and procured from a nearby garden. After that we played poker until about 2145. I won 11 marks. Invasion marks – issued by the U.S. have a value of 10 cents. I don’t know what a mark was worth according to the Germans, although a Belgian some time ago told me the Germans arbitrarily fixed the marks as being worth 12 francs – which means they made it worth 24 cents.
Today is dull again and wet – but it’s nice and warm and comfortable inside. We have two scheduled attractions lined up today (a) the Red Cross Club mobile is supposed to visit us today with donuts and hot coffee. We’ve had them once before – and the line batteries several times. They really are welcome and again I have to say that R.C. is doing a bang-up job over here. (b) a movie – title not announced. The last movie we saw was “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” – an oldie, but we take them all in stride. We did see the premier in the world, I guess, of “Casanova Brown” – with Gary Cooper – a couple of weeks ago. It was fair.
Well sweetheart – what with interruptions, etc. – it’s time for lunch and so I’ll close – reminding you that I love you deeply, warmly, fully – completely and I always shall. Love to the folks, dear – and
|Group K Clubmobilers|
Charlotte Colburn, Marianne Shellabarger and Elma Ernst
Leicester, England 1944
In World War II the American Red Cross was asked by the U.S. Armed Forces to provide recreational services to the servicemen in the various theaters of operation. In Great Britain, the Red Cross began setting up service clubs in London and towns near army installations. Shortly thereafter, on air bases, aero clubs were set up. Because of the great difference in pay between American servicemen and their counterparts from other countries, as Great Britain, the army asked the Red Cross to make nominal charges for food and lodging.
The Red Cross clubmobile was conceived by the late prominent New York banker, Harvey D. Gibson, Red Cross Commissioner to Great Britain, who wanted to put a service club "on wheels" which would reach the serviceman at his camp or airfield. Also, by having a club on wheels, the Red Cross was able to get around the Army's request that servicemen pay for food. Everything distributed on a clubmobile was free. The clubmobile in Great Britain was a remodeled London Green Line bus that could be taken to the airfields and camps. Driven by an English driver, three American girls were assigned to each clubmobile.
Charlotte, Marianne and Elma
Clubmobiles began operation in Great Britain in late 1942, eventually covering some thirty bases and docks at Liverpool, Greenoch, Scotland, and Belfast, Ireland. The American girls who chose this service were taught to make the doughnuts and coffee in the clubmobile. They were sent to a town near American army installations, and followed a routine of going to a different base each day, hooking up at a mess kitchen, making hundreds of doughnuts and preparing coffee, and then driving around the base, serving the men at their work. They also distributed cigarettes, life savers and gum, and had the loud speakers tuned up for each stop.
The clubmobile consisted of a good-sized kitchen with a built-in doughnut machine. A primus stove was installed for heating water for coffee, which was prepared in 50-cup urns. On one side of the kitchen area, there was a counter and a large flap which opened out for serving coffee and doughnuts. In the back one-third of the clubmobile, was a lounge with a built-in bench on either side (which could be converted to sleeping bunks, if necessary), a victrola with loud speakers, a large selection of up-to-date music records, and paperback books.
In preparation for the invasion of Normandy, June, 1944, a smaller, 2-1/2-ton GMC truck was converted to a clubmobile, with the necessary kitchen containing doughnut machine, coffee urns and the like. Close to one hundred of them were made ready. Red Cross girls who had worked on the larger clubmobile in Great Britain, were given driving instruction in order to manage the truck clubmobile.
Beginning in July, 1944, as soon after the invasion that it was safe to send Red Cross personnel onto the Continent, ten groups of 32 Red Cross girls each, along with eight clubmobiles per group, a cinemobile, three supply trucks, trailers and three British Hillman trucks, were sent to France to be attached to various US Army Corps. Each clubmobile group traveled with the rear echelon of the Army Corps and got its assignments from the Army for serving troops at rest from the front.
The service continued through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, until V-E Day, May 7, 1945.
The route of Group K, one of ten Clubmobile Groups
accompanying American troops in Europe
A limited service continued for a year after the war in occupied Germany.
Former Group K Clubmobilers in January 2000
Charlotte Colburn Gasperini, Marianne Shellabarger Jeppson
and Elma Ernst Fay (Author of this article)
Another primary source of tales of a Clubmobiler comes from letters written by Angela Petesch. Before the war, Angela worked as a Chicago Tribune feature writer. As an American Red Cross Volunteer, Angela Petesch wrote a series of letters which she sent home with the intention of creating a diary that would survive the war, even if she did not. Her family saved those letters and eventually compiled them into a manuscript for a book. The manuscript was discovered by Hunter Halverson while visiting the Red Cross Museum in Washington DC and he got the family's permission to publish Angela's correspondence into a book. This book is about hot coffee and donuts, and the world in which this seemingly domestic duty was truly a heroic endeavor. From London’s foggy streets to the snow of the Ardennes Forest, Angela followed American GIs, including General Patton’s Third Army, through some of the war’s most defining moments. With pluck and gusto she presented a polished picture of her view of the World’s fight for freedom as seen through the hole of a donut.