Military Monday – The Tiger’s Widow Exceprt July 14, 2014

The following is an excerpt from my soon to be released book about Virginia Brouk, a member of the World War II Women’s Army Corps. The Tiger’s Widow is book 2 in the Stories of the Lost series and continues the story of Flying Tiger Robert Brouk’s life through the life of his widow. This is one of the letters she sent home. Please visit my website for details on ordering this new book on July 22.

Ginny became “famous” in part because of her job as Western Electric’s “Hello Charley” girl in 1941. This is a piece of that story.

Hello Charley!

Ginny and the Hello Charley court. Ginny is in the center. Photo courtesy Virginia S. Davis.

Ginny and the Hello Charley court. Ginny is in the center. Photo courtesy Virginia S. Davis.

In the 1920s, Western Electric had an employee named Charles Drucker. A postcard addressed to “Charley the Western ,” was sent to the plant. It was intended for Charles Drucker, but the sender could not remember Charles’ last name. As the postcard circulated the plant searching for the proper owner, plant workers started calling each other “Charley Western” which became “Hello Charley” as a greeting. In 1930, the company used the “Hello Charley” greeting to create a beauty pageant and crowned the first “Hello Charley” girl.

The “Hello Charley” girl was the woman who, for a period of a year, represented the company at all functions inside and outside the company. She participated in marketing campaigns for the company and appeared in photographs, advertising, and the company newsletter. In the late 1930s when the U.S. was recruiting soldiers, the “Hello Charley” girl’s role also included greeting former employees in the military who visited the company on leave. The “Hello Charley” girl had a wholesome, girl next door image people adored.

Each year, after the tradition began, hundreds of women were nominated to be the year’s “Hello Charley” girl. Elections were held in May and the “Hello Charley” girl and her court were crowned in June. The winner received a three piece luggage set and tags with the “Hello Charley” logo and the current “Hello Charley” Girl’s photo.

Of course, promotional items followed — including auto stickers with the “Hello Charley” winner’s photo, thus identifying Western Electric workers all over the world.[i] When the U.S. entered the war, additional promotional materials were created that included stickers with glue on the backside which could be affixed to military bags, shaving kits, and other items a soldier might carry with him. These stickers were sent to former employees with the company newsletter.

Ginny was nominated as a “Hello Charley” contestant in April of 1941. Her assistance at the April 21-25, 1941 Hobby Show, handing out flowers did not go unnoticed. 132 women were nominated and voting occurred throughout the company. The nominees were narrowed down to only five. On June 11, 1941, Ginny was elected the “Hello Charley” girl for 1941, after having been employed only six weeks. Ginny was so fortunate to have been elected because it changed her life.

"Hello Charley" marketing. Photo courtesy Virginia S. Davis

“Hello Charley” marketing. Photo courtesy Virginia S. Davis

As “Hello Charley” girl, Ginny’s duties included attending all company events, ribbon cutting ceremonies, various social functions, and representing Western Electric at events outside of the company. Ginny said for every event she attended, the company provided a different escort. Photographs were taken at every event. Afterward, articles were written for the company newsletter. Ginny’s modeling skills and strong family values played a large role in her comportment during these events. As always, she was an exceptional company representative.

Ginny’s war effort duties to support the troops required her to write letters to the former company employees serving in the military. She also greeted returning military personnel who stopped for a visit on leave.

Over the course of her reign as “Hello Charley” girl, Ginny’s photo traveled across the country. Employees both past and present sent her postcards from their travels. Soldiers, after seeing her sticker or visiting the plant, sent her letters. Ginny’s photo appeared in the major Chicago newspapers at company events and in the company newsletter. Ginny’s fame grew over the year. As a result, Ginny amassed a collection of letters and postcards in her scrapbook during her year as “Hello Charley” girl from soldiers and fans across the country.[ii]

During Ginny’s year as the “Hello Charley” Girl, she was asked to star in the play This Thing Called Love. The Western Electric Theater company was floundering during 1941 and Ginny was suggested for the role because of her modeling experience. Ginny was not excited about this turn of events. She had no love for acting. Of course, her protective father supported her decision to not take the role, but it was her mother who convinced her to do it for the company. In the end, Ginny’s performance as Ann Winters was a smash.

News clipping. Courtesy Virginia S. Davis.

News clipping. Courtesy Virginia S. Davis.

Ginny’s year as the “Hello Charley” Girl made her job of order clerk bearable. The extra duties of a photo shoot, meeting a G.I or other event took her away from the tedious daily duties of an order clerk. She was able to enjoy her job, keep her father’s protectiveness at bay, and play the perfect company girl.

NOTES:

[i] Hawthorne Works Museum, Hello Charley 1963, pamphlet (Cicero, IL. : 1963), inside panel 2.

[ii] Davis, Ginny. “Interview with Ginny Davis.” Personal interview. 19 July 2013.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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Bombing Mission over Wiener Neustadt, Austria

I’m soon releasing my book, The Tiger’s Widow. In that story you will meet 2nd Lt. Fred A. Davis. He is Ginny’s brother in-law who sadly did not return from war.

In Book 3 of the Stories of the Lost series, I am writing a story about Fred. He will also feature prominently in the World War II records books I’m releasing in 2015. You may be surprised at just how a couple of records can open a whole new research world!

In my research this morning, I ran across this website on the Nov 2 1943 Mission to Wiener Neustadt, Austria. If you know anyone on the list on the website, the researcher and I would appreciate hearing from you. My focus is more on Fred’s crew and plane 42-72891.

Please leave comments or email me if you have any information. I appreciate any assistance in this story.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

 

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Military Monday – Excerpt from The Tiger’s Widow July 7, 2014

The following is an excerpt from my soon to be released book about Virginia Brouk, a member of the World War II Women’s Army Corps. The Tiger’s Widow is book 2 in the Stories of the Lost series and continues the story of Flying Tiger Robert Brouk’s life through the life of his widow. This is one of the letters she sent home. Please visit my website for details on ordering this new book starting July 22.

“Somewhere in Italy”

June 1944

After a most pleasant trip, we have arrived somewhere in Italy. The voyage across was really wonderful. At times one could not realize a war was on, for one had male companionship and entertainment galore; such as dances, movies and romance.

Oh no, I never got seasick. In fact, I never felt better in my life. I can’t kick about the food as yet. Of course, milk is a drink of the past. Therefore, I have to try to settle for wine. The water is so heavily chlorinated that it doesn’t make drinking a pleasure.

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius Photo courtesy Virginia S. Davis

Yes, I am able to tell you, that it’s perfectly beautiful here. That’s about all. The views around here even surpass the beauty of Utah; and I thought that was impossible. I am speaking of course about the terrain. This place has been heavily bombed and there are signs of war everywhere. Beautiful homes, cathedrals, etc. are in a mass of destruction. The people are clothed very poorly, and I am certain they haven’t seen a shower for ages. One can see young boys and girls, as well as adults, stand around and beg for food and cigarettes. In fact you can almost buy anything you want with a package of cigarettes.

Their language is positively a nightmare to me. My Swiss isn’t getting me anywhere. You know, how capable I am of handling American money, so you can readily imagine what a mess I can get into here. I try to use the good old sign language but at times I only get a blank stare in return.

We girls have a lovely place to stay at now. We sleep on cots and roll ourselves in blankets. What are those things called sheets? By the way, I must tell you, we have servants to scrub our floors, shoes, latrines, and clean up. Not bad, eh? We don’t have any hot water, but are very thankful to have it cold. Days have elapsed when we have not seen a drop, and anything is welcome now.

We discovered a new easy method in which to iron shirts and skirts without our iron or electricity. Just wash clothes and then press them dry with the palms of the hand in the sun. It only takes hours, but then one looks quite stunning.

Quaint people, quaint customs, destruction and suffering sum up my experiences and eye-witness scenes thus far. Truly a novel in itself already.

Since we haven’t any electricity, we live like little chicks. “early to bed, early to rise.”

P.S. I saw the Rock of Gibraltar, but by jinks, there was no Prudential Life Insurance sign on it. “Ain’t that something!”[i]

In the mountains outside of Naples. Photo courtesy Virginia S. Davis.

In the mountains outside of Naples. Photo courtesy Virginia S. Davis.

“To get away from the war torn areas after work, we usually got a group together, hopped on a military truck and went up the mountainside to a lovely retreat. There we relaxed, had some drinks and danced. My escort in Italy was a Lieutenant. I met him on the boat. In the states, non-coms [non-commissioned personnel] could not date officers, but overseas there were no rules. Bob and I were in Naples. When I went to Cairo, he went to France and I never heard from him again. He was a paratrooper.[ii]

While in Naples we drove to Pompeii and saw Mt. Vesuvius which had erupted just a few months before, and was still emitting smoke and tossing large clumps of lava in every direction. What a breathtaking sight. Lethal yes, but beautiful.[iii]

By now Rome was completely taken over by the Americans. Thus began the second invasion. We WACs were sent to Taranto via Salerno. We arrived in Taranto and Boarded the Polish ship, Batory which was manned by the British. The ship also carried Indian troops heading back to India. We left port and traveled to Alexandria, Egypt.”[iv]

NOTES:

[i] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “War scrapbook letter collection.”

[ii] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “Memoir 1918 – 2010,” 193.

[iii] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “Memoir 1918 – 2010,” 194.

[iv] Virginia S. Davis (Scharer), “Memoir 1918 – 2010,” 195.

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