Working in the barracks Finance Office



In 1937 I had graduated from Battle Ground High School and needed to find a job. I had taken typing and shorthand classes my last two years of school with the idea that the course work would lead to employment.

Jobs were very hard to find and I couldn’t afford a four-year college to further my education. By the fall of 1939, after working several part-time jobs, I decided to enroll at Vancouver Business College for a 12 month program of course work which included more typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and court reporting. In 1940, when I had completed the program, it was recommended that I take the Federal Civil Service Exam being given in Portland.

I was notified in early 1941, that I qualified for Civil Service and that I should apply for openings at the Vancouver Barracks. I was hired as a Classification Clerk – Typist and assigned to the United States Army 7th Infantry Finance Office, Officers Pay section.

Colonel Harry Foster was in charge of the “Officers Pay” department, of approximately 50 employees. This department was divided into six to eight sections. I worked as a clerk with five to six other women for a year or so. Some of those women were local, Maxine Egert, Lavada Sonney Harris, Gloria Sugg, and Barbara Davis. Others were wives of servicemen assigned to Vancouver Barracks. Our duties included completing forms furnished by the Defense Department, by typing information describing an officer’s name, rank, and other necessary information. The forms then went to another section of the building to be completed. Checks came back for us to distribute to each Commissioned Officer on their particular payday.

As the war intensified and men were being drafted for service, the manager of our department took another position, and I then became manager of Officers Pay. From late 1944 to the summer of 1945, I was the Assistant to the Chief Finance Officer, Harlan Mabry. I was responsible for taking dictation by shorthand, then typing and forwarding correspondence regarding military and wartime business.

On May 8, 1945 the war effort in Europe ended. As a result of the slowdown in military activity and reduced workloads at the Vancouver Barracks, many civil service employees were moved to other posts, or took jobs outside of the military, like Bonneville Power. Others decided to quit working and wait for their men to come home. In September 1945 I resigned from my position and eagerly awaited my husband’s return to civilian life in Clark County.

Barbara Holbrook Curtin lives in Clark County.

The 2 photos submitted are of Barbara Holbrook Curtin, in front of the Finance Office at the Vancouver Barracks, 1941. The second photo is of Colonel Harry Foster, in charge of Officer’s Pay, Vancouver Barracks.