GREENBRIER — Seventh-ninth-grade students at Greenbrier Junior High School celebrated Freedom Week with a guest speaker.
Jimmy Bryant, director of archives and adjutant instructor of history at the University of Central Arkansas, was a guest speaker in the classroom of Rebekah Bilderback. Bryant has studied military history and is considered one of the authorities in his field. His presentation was on the Women’s Army Corps that was stationed at UCA during World War II.
With the use of slides, he explained how 1,800 women came to UCA between 1941 and 1944 and that Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas were the big Women’s Army Corps (WAC) training bases. At a time when men were the only ones considered to be able to serve in the military, these women were ground-breakers. The idea was that they could replace the military men who were then serving in the office positions so that the men could go into the field to fight.
He explained to the students how there were no computers, televisions, air-conditioning, or cell phones during those days and the forms that the military required were always done in triplicate with carbon paper; so the women took over the office jobs with portable typewriters and were much needed in that war effort.
His slides showed a time when formality was the order of the day — even to the mid-heel shoes, hats, purses over their left shoulder, and skirts that women were required to wear for their uniforms. Slides of their calisthenics showing WACs in bloomer type shorts and culotte skirts and even of their morale-building dances held at UCA held the attention of today’s modern young students. They grimaced at the thought of the dances being held in 103 degree temperatures when the slides showed the under-arm sweat marks on their uniforms. They were surprised to learn that football games at UCA were suspended during those war years because most of the men were away at war.
The average age of the WAC at UCA then was 26 and when asked why they had joined the Army, some said, "I wanted to do something for my country." or "I wanted to help my brother or husband in their fight." These women were later stationed all over the world in their military duties. By the end of 1945, there were about 95,000 WACs serving in the military to free up the jobs for 95,000 men to be on the front lines.
The GJHS students celebrated freedom the whole week by displaying different colors or themes each day. Monday’s theme was "What do you want to be?" Tuesday’s theme was to display a favorite pastime, such as a favorite team. Wednesday was "camo" day, so everyone dressed in camouflage colors. Thursday was blue day to display school pride. Friday ended the week with red, white, and blue day for freedom.
Three huge banners made by the students were displayed in the halls as "Thank you" to our men now serving our country. The blue banner was for the policemen defending us at home. The red banner saluted the fire departments who protect us. The camouflage banner was a tribute to our fighting soldiers now serving. School principal John Ashworth, volunteered to take the camouflage banner to Camp Robinson, where he is stationed with the National Guard, to thank the soldiers for our freedoms.