Let’s face it, times have changed, especially in the Navy Spouse ranks. And it’s easy to see the changes when flips through an ancient copy of Welcome Aboard—A Service Manual for the Naval Officer’s Wife by Florence Ridgely Johnson (an Admiral’s wife, so she knows of what she speaks.) Published in 1951, it gives a great perspective on what spouse life was like back in the day when the Navy’s unofficial motto was, “If we wanted sailors to have a wife we’d have issued them one in their sea bag.” Some of the stuff is absolutely hysterical and horrifying at the same time. Here are some excerpts, followed by a few editorial comments about Navy Spouses life in 2012. Enjoy!
Under the topic of Making Local Contacts at a New Duty Station:
Then: If, by any remote change, you do not know how to dance, go at once and learn. You are less likely to know how to play bridge, and I cannot urge you too strongly to take it up as soon as you have or can make an opportunity. Every woman should know ho to dance really well” and bridge (which is played more than any other card game in the Navy) can make you a more welcome luncheon or dinner guest and can be a perfect god-send during a cruise. Play poker if you like and can keep out of games beyond your means; play Cribbage, Acey-Duecy, or Canasta; but don’t fail to learn to play a good game of bridge! Lessons in any of these accomplishments may often be had at the Officers’ Club and almost always at the local Y.W.C.A.
Now: It’s obvious to me based on observations at Navy Balls that dancing is, for the most part, a lost art. And last I checked, my local Y doesn’t teach Bridge. Video games, maybe. Card games, no. You might have to ask your grandparents to teach you. Ditto for Cribbage, Canasta or Acey-Duecy. BUNCO is the thing you should learn, as there is almost always a group at any military base. It’s easy to play, and is more about chatting while mindlessly rolling the dice than it is about strategy. Mahjongg is also popular in spouses groups, mainly Air Force Wives, but may locals have groups that will teach you the ins and outs of bams, cracks and dots. But the bottom line remains the same, making local contacts at a new duty station makes for a happier Navy spouse.
Under the topic of What to Wear
Then: Often our husbands take their breakfast aboard ship (and they might as well, since they have to pay a mess bill whether or not the have their meals aboard). And not only do we often have to usually give them fruit juice and coffee at home before they start, and so we dress in order to avoid getting Japanese kimono sleeves in the orange juice. We have to get into something quick and easy, but at least we are reasonably well clothed, with a combed head and a made-up face before we say goodbye to them. Since we nearly all have to do our own housework, we must have something washable for day wear. But instead of the so-called “house dress,” we wear cotton sports dresses or slacks or shorts around the house; or possibly sun dresses, so that we can slip on the jacket when going to the Commissary.
Now: Hmm…last time wore a sun dress to do my housework, then slipped a jacket over it to go to the Commissary (aka the grocery store on base) after a day of housework was…never. Can’t say getting my Kimono sleeve in the OJ is a big problem either, since my husband is perfectly capable of pouring his own juice. And never in my married life have I been up with combed hair and a made-up face on the days he leaves at o’dark thirty (that’s 4:30 a.m. in civilian terms.) I, for one, am extremely glad these rules have relaxed over the years!
Under the top if Automobile Travel (between duty stations):
Then: Whether you like it or not, you will probably cross country by car more than you will any other way. No matter in what leisurely fashion you intend to make the trip, after the first few days your husband will doubtless be so sick and tired of driving (and if you help with that it gives him no rest, for he has to advise you what to do all the time) that you will cover more and more miles each day to get it over with. It is by for the best way to see this wonderful country of ours and to see how the people in various sections live, but you are nearly always in too big a hurry to enjoy it.
Now: It’s comforting to know that some things never change. J