January 16, 1942

It was siesta hour, and most of my roommates were in their cubicles, a space large enough to hold a bed or mattress and various boxes and suitcases filled with clothes, food, pots, pans, and other cooking utensils. The women who had cots and beds stored their possessions under them. A few like us, who had arrived first on the scene, had a treasured table, school bench, or chair.

The enormously high ceiling and walls were unbelievably dirty, and so were the six huge pillars which supported the ceiling.

The old-fashioned sink in our room was our pride and joy. It made our room something special, and we were the envy of all the other rooms on the floor.

At this sink, only teeth, face, and hands could be washed, and the rules were most rigid. However, when we thought the coast was clear, most of us sneaked to the sink to wash a pair of panties or to rinse a cup or dish. To the right of the sink there was a large blackboard where notices were posted. On the first day of the month, a new calendar was drawn by one of the girls in the room.

Underneath the blackboard was a raised platform, the home of three attractive women of Spanish and Dutch ancestry. They were mother and two grown daughters. The daughters had flashing black eyes, creamy complexions, jet black hair, and large and beautifully proportioned hands, which they used in a graceful and expressive manner.

The mother, a pleasant and quiet woman, was always even-tempered, despite the fact that her husband was temperamental and extremely cantankerous. He usually sat outside our room, glaring at every woman that came out of Room 25, while he waited impatiently for his family to emerge.

To the right of my bed was the Smith family, consisting of a widowed mother and her two grown single daughters. Her third daughter, a divorcee with a young son, had moved to the Annex. Mrs. Smith was frail and ailing, and she worried a great deal about her son at the front and a daughter-in-law who lived on the outside because of her sickly child.

Beyond them toward the wall were two women and a child —a spritely little grandmother of seventy, her equally spritely and attractive married daughter, Daphne, and her eight-year-old grandson. Grandma had another married daughter in camp and many grown grandchildren. Daphne was slender, extremely nervous, and she believed most of the fantastic rumors that were spread in camp. And, brother, some of them were whoppers!

We loved to see her come around with her written radio transcripts which she read to us in a precise and clipped British accent. While she read, we watched her pretty black eyes shine with excitement and optimism. Our American forces were always just outside the gates of our prison as far as she was concerned. Her optimism and faith were contagious, and often we found ourselves wondering if we weren’t a bit too cynical and pessimistic.

Perhaps it was true that a thousand of our flying fortresses had reached Corregidor!

To the left of my bed was Sophie’s, and beyond her were Belle and Toinette. These three had already quarreled, and I had a difficult time remaining neutral. Perhaps Sophie had carelessly bumped Belle’s bed, or perhaps she had hung a dripping washcloth near it. It didn’t take much to start a fight in a packed room like ours.

Last night Sophie shouted at Toinette to stop making so much noise with her cream jars, and when Toinette told her to mind her own business, all of them lashed at each other with their tongues.

It was hard to tell which side had the most grievances. When Belle and Toinette switched to Spanish and French, Sophie was stumped. It was just as well, for what they said about her was hardly complimentary.

With this type of feminine warfare going on in my corner, I felt like I was sitting on the edge of a Vesuvius that would erupt at any moment.

Finally, Rainbow, our tactful and diplomatic monitor, solved everything. She switched Sophie’s and my bed, so that I was next to Belle and Sophie was to my right. Now only my bed stood between War and Peace.

Sometimes, when feeling cussedly mean and bored with the monotony of this life, I would have welcomed a good knockdown fight — providing I was only a spectator.

The three corner cots in front of our beds were occupied by the wives of three mining engineers who had joined our forces at Bataan shortly after Pearl Harbor.

Leslie, the eldest of the trio, had short brown hair and wore glasses. She was quiet, reserved, and even-tempered. Though constantly boosting the morale of the other two younger women, one could see that she was greatly concerned over her husband in Bataan and her two grown sons who were somewhere in the war theatre.

Margo was a strawberry blonde, young, pretty, and affectionate, with a pleasing personality. She often talked about her handsome husband, and she prayed nightly that reinforcements would arrive in Bataan.

Kay had dark hair and eyes with high cheek-bones. Her slim waist and hips and her shapely feet and legs were the envy of all the women not so favorably endowed. Usually, she was quiet and even-tempered. Occasionally, her black eyes would flash with anger and bitterness, and it was usually when she berated those “fatheads in Washington for not sending reinforcements to Bataan.”

Siesta hour should have been the hour of peace and quiet, but the women had difficulty relaxing. Those who weren’t whispering were talking out loud, while half a dozen or more were fussing with pots and pans under their beds. Though I had cotton in my ears, I heard everything — the creak of the beds, the whispering, the coughing and the sneezing.

I tried to read. I tried to sleep. But there was just too much activity around me.

Kay and Margo chattered as Kay helped her to wash her lovely reddish-blonde hair. They were both squatting on the cement floor with three pails of water before them.

Suddenly the canvas curtain that hung over our door to give us privacy from the teeming multitude in the corridor was thrust aside, and we saw a face, complete with goggles, buck teeth, and peaked cap. He explained to someone behind him, “Radies, all radies!”

When they left, the radies all laughed, for we were becoming accustomed to goggled eyes peeking at us. It was just another guided tour of Japanese officers who had come to gape and leer at us.

The women continued with their gossiping, reading, knitting, napping, and swatting flies.

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