After boot camp, Merrily Kurtz headed to training to become a Storekeeper, the Navy parlance for a bookkeeper. Training took three months, and then Kurtz got her first assignment, in San Francisco. She had a week before her job began, and was traveling with several other WAVES across country by train. The group stopped in Chicago, and Kurtz and three other women spent a day on the town – and ended up getting left behind.
They were all gone. Except for the four of us girls. Nobody’s there. They hadn’t left a note for us or anything. So we went down to the train and finally got connections. One of the girls took over and asked about it. And then, so, our tickets were gone but they put us on a train. I guess they knew we weren’t lying. We were military or something. So they let us on the train and let us pick out the car we wanted to be on. So we went through two or three and said, “Oh, this will do.” And it was the worst one! (laughs) No air conditioning or anything. Oh, golly, and this was summer! So one of the girls, this Margaret Chan who lived here in Portland, she and I got off the train in Cheyenne. Which is definitely not the thing to do in the Navy. And we took the train home. Instead of going on to San Francisco, we took the train from Cheyenne to Portland and came home that way. Which made sense to a normal person (laughs). We paid for it. Oh, gee. I think we got bawled out for it but they didn’t do anything else to us.
This portrait of Kurtz in her Navy summer uniform comes from the collection of Merrily Kurtz Hewett.