Frenchy: World War II Nurse
Frenchy: World War II Nurse
There and Back Again
"This is town?" Ellen muttered in disbelief.
R&R passes in hand, Frenchy and Ellen had hitched a ride into Fort Smith with some construction workers returning home from camp. Fort Smith was the closest town to Camp Chaffee. Once a sleepy, little Southern town, things were starting to move faster with the influx of the Army camp personnel. But not too fast. There was still only one diner, called Louella's Sidewalk Cafe, a Woolworth's five and dime store, and a gas station lining Main Street. There were a few small shops scattered here and there, but not much to choose from.
Down a side street, the girls passed a feed store where two burly guys were unloading large sacks of horse feed. Oddly enough, they seemed to just be taking them off one truck and putting them on another.
"Not much to do for R&R around here," Ellen complained. "It would seem around here R&R stands for Reloading & Repositioning rather than rest and relaxation."
"Didn't Tommy say there was a movie theater somewhere in town?" Frenchy asked.
"Yeah, I think he said he saw that new John Wayne movie a week ago," Ellen replied dreamily.
"Let's grab a bite to eat and find out where the theater is," Frenchy said.
"Well, oka-y-y-y. But the food won't be as good as Tommy's," Ellen replied.
"Ellen Harper! If I didn't know you better, I'd think you were falling for Tommy Thompson," Frenchy accused.
Ellen blushed a deep shade of crimson. "What did I say? He's just a good cook. YOU think he's a good cook, too."
"All right, all right. He is a good cook. No need to get defensive. You could say he's kind of cute. So what'll it be -- Louella's or the Woolworth food counter?"
Ellen thought for a moment. "Let's be adventurous."
"Okay, Louella's it is."
Crossing the street, the girls entered the diner. The ever present Arkansas screen door had seen better days.
"Look Ellen. Those holes in the screen door are large enough for an entire squadron of mosquitoes to fly through."
Inside the tables were covered in faded red and white checked tablecloths. A ceiling fan turned lazily overhead, slightly stirring the humid, hot air. The girls seated themselves by an open screened window, listening to the drone of the cicadas in the distance. The two other patrons in the diner slowly sipped iced tea while they waited for their lunch. Louella was nowhere in sight.
"So this is R&R in Fort Smith," Ellen sighed.
"That's okay. We've had enough excitement for one week and even a boring afternoon away from Mary Katherine is worth it."
About that time an apron-clad woman appeared from the kitchen in the back. She was somewhere on the high side of middle age with her gray hair held back by a bandanna. She wiped greasy hands on her apron and smiled at the girls.
"What'll you have?" she asked, a twinkle in her green eyes.
Ellen piped up, "Do you have a menu?"
"You're new around here, ain't ya?"
"How did you guess?" Frenchy smirked, smoothing the skirt of her navy blue nurse's uniform.
"I shore didn't know that they was training women at that camp. And you not much more'n young'uns at that," the woman drawled.
Ellen smiled and said, "We are in the Army Nurse Corps. We've been down here for a week now setting things up."
"So what do you have to eat?" Frenchy asked.
"Well, today's special is chicken-fried steak and collard greens with mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, tea, and custard pie. All for $1.35."
"I'll take the steak," Frenchy said.
"I'll take the chicken," Ellen put in.
"Ya'll from the North, ain't ya?" the woman grinned and then went on to explain. "Chicken-fried steak is a piece of steak battered and fried up like a chicken. It's mighty fine eatin'."
The girls looked at each other and rolled their eye