Sunday, September 19, 2021
Sept. 19, 2021

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Working at the PX soda fountain

The Columbian


It was the summer of 1944 and school was out for the summer at Mill Plain Union High School. My friend Kathryn and I were 15 years old and looking for a summer job. A school friend, June Brown, was working at the laundry at the Vancouver Barracks. At her suggestion, Kathryn and I applied for a job at the nearby Post Exchange in the soda fountain.

After taking what we thought was an extensive physical examination, we were hired. Major Grahn’s office was upstairs and we were informed that if we saw Major Grahn coming down the stairs, we were to appear to be busy. Even though we had just wiped off the counters and they were sparkling clean, we were to wipe them off again. I thought “how ridiculous” but did as I was told – begrudgingly.

The atmosphere in the PX was fun and lighthearted yet very patriotic. We delighted in trying all the crazy concoctions that the G.I.’s dreamed up. One black soldier would entertain us by dancing with his fingers on the counter to Juke Box music. He particularly liked “Paper Doll” by the Mills Brothers. With a little imagination you could actually visualize someone dancing. I thought he was quite talented.

We got to know some of the soldiers well. They loved to talk about their families and friends back home – often proudly showing pictures. They would sometimes borrow a jeep from the transportation pool to come to my unique log home , not far from Lacamas Creek. My mother, Mildred Frost, would fix a great “home cooked” meal for them. They were always so grateful and appreciative. One Sunday we went to church services at the Lacamas Creek Campgrounds. They acknowledged all the service men by having them stand. The boys were proud, but seemed embarrassed by all of the attention .

Eventually, Kathryn married one of the soldiers, but I was waiting for Irvin Forgey to come home from the Coast Guard to begin our life of 52 years and four children.

Working at the PX created an environment of patriotism. We civilians, even teenagers, felt we were doing our patriotic duty. There were war bond drives, rationing of meat, butter, coffee, and gas. We felt a sense of involvement and patriotism. Our efforts seemed to bring us together as part of a great cause.

When looking at these pictures and reminiscing, I’m hoping these young boys made it home from the war and had great lives.

Pat Frost Forgey lives in Clark County.