Home Front Volunteers
"...My mother was a volunteer chaperon during the war. She used to take seven of us girls to the USO on Saturday nights and her living room turned out to be a 'USO on Sunday'..."
Rita Kinter Boehm Mader
- Branch of Service: Home Front
- Unit: Nurses Aide and USO Volunteer
- Dates: 1941 - 1945
- Location: New Orleans, LA
- Rank: Civilian
- Birth Year: 1922
- Birth Location: New Orleans, LA
Memories of the War Years
by Rita Kinter Boehm Mader
Miss Rita Kinter Boehm was 19 when World War II broke out and was living with her parents on 1936 Ursuline in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Rita was at the time working at the Krauss Department Store on Canal Street where she worked in accounting department.
She has many vivid recollections of the war years, including of course rationing and having to use ration stamps to purchase just about anything. Of course as the war years progressed, there was precious little to buy and she, along with the remainder of the country spent "just doing without".
Rita fondly recalls her mother, the former Laida Savoy taking her to the USO dances on Saturday nights at a building located on St. Charles Avenue. She along with so many other young girls went to help in the war effort by helping entertain the young troops preparing to go overseas. These events usually were largely chaperoned dances and everyone had fun dancing and visiting and putting the war's current news out of their minds.
Other vivid recollections by Rita were of Sunday's at her mothers' home. They had get together's in the living room to do their part in entertaining the troops and having some of the boys over for a social party. "Mom had to have her linoleum flooring replaced -- their dancing wore it out".
Rita decided to do more for the war effort by taking a course offered by the Office of Civilian Defense -- City of New Orleans. The course was for Nurse's Aide and she completed the course at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and received her certificate on 29 March 1944.
Rita worked at the GYN area of the the hospital as well as worked with the people that had mental problems. She didn't want to work in the mens' wards, because she had never seen men without their clothes on and this made her uncomfortable.
She took a Civil Service exam and worked for the government on Navair Road where they were shipping supplies overseas.
"I was a nurses aide volunteer at Charity Hospital during the war. I worked at Krauss'.
"My father was raised in the Quarter all his life. His father died when he was in the third grade. He and his two brothers left school and went out to get a job. My mother came from St. Martinville to New Orleans. When her father died, she was 19. See, her father was illiterate but he was an entrepreneur. He had a sugar mill, a lumber mill, a grocery store and a farm. But he didn't know how to sign his name. This was my mothers' father. His name was Marcelous Savoy.
"A flood came and he lost everything. My mother was in elementary school at that time. Her daddy got a job. I don't know if it was Parish or State or whatever, but he had to go to every farmer and logged how many animals had to be dipped every year. So my mother went with and did all of the paperwork because he was illiterate, you see. She was 19 when he died.
"She had come to New Orleans to live with an aunt and get a job. Her first job was with Elmer's candy. Then she went to work for the telephone company after she got married. She asked a lady who worked with her to be my godmother. Because her sister lived in the country. So this lady's husband told my mother that if she had a girl, to put Kinter in her name. He said that it is an Indian word, but I don't know what it means. So I was Rita Kinter.
"I was born at 926 1/2 Bourbon. My father was raised in the Quarter (French Quarter). My mother came from St. Martinville to live with an aunt after her father died and to get a job. My father socialized with her cousins. That's how she met my daddy.
"You know, my husband retired from the military. He did underwater demolition in the Navy during the war. He was on a destroyer escort in the English Channel when the Normandy beaches were invaded.
We can easily imagine just what type of work he did in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 at the Normandy beaches. It is quite probable that he was one of the unsung heroes of the Invasion of Normandy.
"He never wrote down his experiences, nor would he ever talk about them. He put 23 years in the military. When he was 16, his father emancipated him into the military because he was leaving St. Aloyisous School. It was costing the family money to go there and to go to the Fair Grounds (local horse race track) to exercise horses. So his father emancipated him into the military. He originally repaired ships and then was sent to New London, Conn. to learn deep sea diving. Then they sent him to San Diego to learn about demolition. He was busy during the war and his ships came to New Orleans a lot of times.
"When we got married, he was still in the Navy. We got married in '45. When our first child came along -- four years later, his enlistment was up and if he had reenlisted in the Navy, he would have had to go out to sea for another six months, so he enlisted in the Air Force. He then retired eventually from the Air Force.
Rita recalls her early days when she first met her future husband.
"He was in his 'sailor suit' when we got married. We got married at St. Anne's Catholic Church in New Orleans on Urselin Street.
"This is how I met my husband. My mother's cousin lived in Port Author, Texas and she went to high school and one of the guys was in the Navy during the war. His ship came to New Orleans. My future husband was on the same ship. They were friends.
"The two of them came to my house and that is how I met my husband -- in my living room. My mother really loved him.
"She loved to treat and entertain G.I.'s because she only had two girls and she really wanted to have boys.
"In my family, I just had a sister.
"My mother was a volunteer chaperon during the war. She used to take seven of us girls to the USO on Saturday nights and her living room turned out to be a 'USO on Sunday'.
"The USO was in New Orleans. It wasn't Baronne Street. It was the next street over towards Canal Street. It was an upstairs facility. We would even go with our curlers in our hair -- go so early and go to the rest room and take out the curlers.
"On Sunday, my mother would invite them over from the USO to my mother's house.
"It cost 7 cents to ride the streetcar.
"I know when the war broke out and I knew I could make more money, I took a job and took the Civil Service exam and I went to work for the air force. UNO used to be an air base and that is where I worked for the government in an office.
"I also worked for the Port of Embarkation which loaded ships, in an office. I just moved around because of -- you could do it, where they needed you.
"I later found out that they were giving courses on nurses aides to help. It didn't bother me. It was OK if I worked with the medical profession. It was real comforting, and educating to know how to change the bed with sick people in it and give them a bath. My duties were just like housekeeping duties. But it helped at the time.
"One of the things that helped with having that background was that my mother was a hypochondriac. She was always at the doctor. She was dying every day. To me it was like to get attention. If the doctor didn't diagnose her the way she liked, she would be peeved off. My mother wasn't stupid. She lived to be 98 and 10 months. She 'round danced' all during her 80's with the Golden Age in Jefferson Parish.
"I worked at Krauss. My mother would take us to the USO -- but I can't remember the building that it was in. It was right off of Canal Street. Baronne Street has that Walgreens on the corner and Lord and Taylor's is next door and I think that it was the next block. I don't remember. It was upstairs. We had to go upstairs. It wasn't like right off the street. They had live music. They had bands there.
"It was always on a Saturday night. If we didn't get a cab, we would go in a street car or the bus. We lived three blocks from Claiborne Avenue. We could have gotten on a bus or we could have gotten a street car. The City Park street car passed right in front of my house and dropped us off on Royal Street. That was right, almost kitty-corner from where we had to go.
"We would go early because the only guys that would dance would dance the first time the music started. We didn't want to get there late and have to stand around. So as soon as the music would start the guys would come and ask us to dance.
"One time, there was a kind of tall guy -- he came up to where I was sitting -- the perimeter around the wall lined with chairs -- and he asked me to dance. When I stood up and he saw how short I was, he said, 'Oh, no.' I said, 'Wait a minute.' Because if you didn't dance when it first started, you didn't dance at all. So they would break in, you know. So we went out on the dance floor and somebody else came in and took me and all that stuff was over. But it freaked him out when I said to him, 'Oh no, you are going to dance with me. Because I am not sitting here all night.'
"All of the guys that my mother socialized with -- kind of stayed as our partners -- she would invite to the house on Sunday. My mother was the chaperon for us girls. The dance room was about the size of the 'life center at Church [the local Catholic Church where Rita currently serves as an Eucharist Minister] -- maybe a little bigger than that.' It was upstairs though. A couple of hundred people showed up for the dance usually on Saturday night, I think. I really don't have a clue as to what the volume looked like because I was too busy having a good time.
"The music was live -- just local bands as far as I can remember. Jitterbug was the type of dancing. They also did the slow dancing thing, too. The dance was USO sponsored and was for the military guys and the ladies and chaperons. The were no civilians there.
"As far as dating the soldiers -- 'Not with my mother, you weren't.' The dance would start sometimes in the evening somewhere about dark and go on until about 10 or 11 o'clock.
"The next day, after church -- we all had to go to church -- I guess about mid day, they would all come over and mother would have all kind of refreshments and we had linoleum squares on wooden floors. They got worn out -- we had to have it replaced. The girls in our neighborhood would spread the word and all these girls and the guys would come over. They really enjoyed it. We would play records. My mother was there and my daddy was there.
"I guess that the USO dances were at the beginning of the war.
"I met my husband in the war years but not as a result of the USO dances. This cousin of my mother was raised by my aunt and uncle in Port Author, Texas. She was raised by them because by the time she was five, her mother and father were dead. Her father's brother took her. There were three children. He took her. This couple never had any children of their own. So she was raised by her aunt and her uncle. In high school, she met one of the guys she went to high school with and who was in the navy during the war.
"He was on the same ship with my husband. When the ship came to New Orleans, he came to the house to see her and he brought my husband (to be) with him. I met him in my living room.
"I can't say that we were connected right away, but we eventually started to date. My mother's living room was huge. They had those sliding doors. The next room was a bedroom. We had a vanity -- a piece of furniture with mirrors -- I am sitting there and I don't know who the guy is.
"I was sitting facing the mirror. He came and tapped me and he said, 'You got a light?' That is how he introduced himself. It was a long time ago.
"My husband and I were married in 1945. Our children are: George, Jr., born in 1949, my son Peter was born three years later in 1952. Teresa was born in 1959 and Kinter was born in 1961.
"My husband passed away in 1992. November 30th, 1992. Except during his military career, we lived in the New Orleans area all of our lives. His parents lived in Algiers when I met him. He had lived in New Orleans also, in the area close to the Audubon park. They lived a lot of places.
"So when Lakeside shopping strip opened up back in the early 60's, Kinter, my daughter whom I named after me, she got on the stage coach -- they had a covered wagon. They also had a real Indian boy -- his culture was Indian. He was part of the display for this dude ranch that was advertising at that place. Kinter wanted to get in that wagon and I asked him while she was in that wagon, if he could find out what Kinter meant.
"He said that he would try and asked for my address.
"Two weeks later I got a letter from him saying that he was sorry, for it only meant 'beaver'. So I am saying, 'Leave it to beaver.'
"So when my youngest son went to Rummel, he did the drama club and he would do acting. When they would do a play, he would do the stage props.
"He went into the library and go a book on some Indian culture and in the vocabulary list, Kinter was beaver. So it was authentic. I have a grand daughter named Kinter now.
"When my husband died, he was buried in his uniform and I think all of his ribbons were on that uniform.
"My husband served on the U.S.S. Trumpeter (DE 180).
"My first child was a boy and my second one was too. My mother was so freaked out because I had a boy. She only had a sister.
"I have a cousin who is 65 and when he was four years old. His father never came back from the war. His father was killed in the war. He was an only child and he ended up being a Christian brother and after so many years or so, he left the Christian brothers and was a school teacher. While he was teaching, he was going to college at night school. He is a lawyer now. He never had any brothers and sisters. He was only four years old when his daddy died.
"I worked at Krauss on Canal Street and after I took the 'nurses aide' procedure -- I would leave work at 5 o'clock and I would walk over to Charity Hospital and go on duty. I did one Sunday morning a month because I had a job, you know.
"I really learned a lot, because my husband -- when he was dying -- I wasn't freaked out.
"I told the people in charge of assignments (Charity Hospital) -- I said, 'I can't do men'. I never did see a man without his clothes on. I never saw my father without his clothes on. I never had any brothers, so they put me with the women. I did GYN and the crazy ward. The neuro ward.
"They had an old lady in the bed with her arms tied to the sides of the bed and every time I went on duty, one of her sons -- she had two sons that I remember seeing, would be at her side. She would look over her shoulder at the son and say, 'Where's Freddy?' The guy would say, 'Ma, Freddy's dead.' She would do that about six or seven times while I was working there.
"One day her arm got loose and she had a BM in the bed, she wiped her hand in there and she has her hand up says to him, 'Where's Freddy?' He said, 'Freddy's dead.' She looked at here hand and she said, 'Freddy, Freddy's dead -- the drugstore -- the drugstore's dead -- the go go, the go go's dead.'
"Let me tell you, I learned how to take care of my husband. I learned how to bathe people in bed and learned how to change the linen with people in bed when he was dying. That was a wonderful education. A lot of people get freaked out.
"We were married in '45 and he died in '92.
"My husband's full name was George Walter Mader. When our first child was born, he became a Sr., because our first born was named after his father.
"George served in the Navy...he was sixteen when he went in -- say seventeen. We are the same age. I graduated from high school in 1940. He had to go in the Navy in 1939 or 1940.
"We got married in '45...the 25th of October. My mother said that if I got married during the war, I would be raising kids all alone. My first child was born in '49 and that same month his enlistment was up. He transferred to the air force because his ship was going out for six months and we were having our first child. He retired from the air force the last of May, '63.
"He was a master sergeant in the air force. He worked in headquarters. When we went to Germany, he said for me to not ask any questions for everything he did was confidential. He went to Germany in 1955 and we stayed there for three years. In September 1957 we came back and they sent us to California on the desert. That is were my two girls were born.
"My husband was in the English Channel on a destroyer escort. The only thing he told me was in the English Channel when the Normandy beach was invaded. I never asked him what he did because of his tone -- his tone -- you don't ask. He never socialized with his sons. He was very distant -- he kept them at a distant.
"When we were in Germany, and he went hunting. You know in Germany, when you went hunting, you had to have a special permit and and appointment with the Jagermeister. You hunt from a high stand. Germany was such as small country and they already knew the paths of the animals. You didn't go stalking. Maybe you might find something. They already knew the routes. They had these high stands in trees.
"When he went hunting for this bird called the 'eider', you shoot them in their mating call. When they are in their mating call -- it is a big bird -- their tail opens up like a turkey. They point their beak up on an angle. They make this mating call. When they do this mating call, they are blind and deaf and that's when you shoot them.
"He shot one.
"I had a room with the gun rack and antlers were all over the wall and then we had this bird hanging there.
"So when he died, I didn't want to see any guns or anything else because I didn't have any good memories of that. I was always so isolated. So my oldest boy got in touch with the Wildlife and Fisheries and they came and picked everything up. The bird is in the Smithsonian Institution.
Recalling Jeff De Blanc
Rita had brought over a large folder filled with newspaper clippings...mainly for the time frame of the opening of the D-Day museum in New Orleans. As we sat down and talked, she would go through this folder and check out some of the newspaper clippings and talk about some of the events depicted.
As Rita began looking through the folder filled with newspaper clippings and articles, one particular article comes to her attention. This article is the basis for another chapter in her story.
"This picture is a picture of Jeff DeBlanc when he was in the military. He became the principle of a high school in St. Martinville, Louisiana.
After asking Rita about Jeff DeBlanc and if he would remember her after all of these years, she replied that he probably might. She had not gotten in touch with him since those early days long ago. She had not been in touch with him when he had come down to New Orleans for the opening of the National D-Day Museum.
"Well, my maiden name is Boehm. He wouldn't know my married name. It is a German name and in Germany, there are two dots over the 'o' and the 'o' is silent. It is Behm.
"This picture here [pointing to a newspaper article] is of Jeff DeBlanc. He was a pilot. He lived kitty corner from the corner house from my grandmother. There were four children -- two boys and two girls. His brother was in the navy. He was a navy pilot in the war. After the war his brother was stationed on the east coast someplace. He met a girl that he fell in love with. She wouldn't marry him. He got out of the military and went into the seminary and became a monk. Then he passed away.
"Jeff had two sisters. The oldest one worked for the city of St. Martinville. The other one went into the convent and became a nun.
"And Jeff -- I guess that he is retired now -- because he is in his 80's -- was a principle of a high school in St. Martinville. He was shot down and lived to tell about it."
Rita produced a couple of articles which had run in the local New Orleans Times Picayune and the story tells of the exploits of Jeff DeBlanc It tells about his being shot down and his rescue.
Wondering if Jeff was still around, Rita replied, "I guess so, I don't know. I don't know for sure. I haven't been to St. Martinville in so long.
"You see, he was really something else. [Pointing to the photo in the article....] Look at the picture of him standing near the plane.
"So, he must have had some kind of recognition when he did the D-Day Museum thing.
He surely did have some recognition! I pointed out to Rita the reason his story was in the paper and for his being at the D-Day Museum at the opening...an image of Mr. DeBlanc with a medal hanging around his neck.
I asked her if she had recognized what the medal was? "No", replied Rita.
I responded, "That is the Congressional Medal of Honor".
Rita then continues with her story about Jeff DeBlanc.
"Well, every time I went to St. Martinville, when school closed, they lived across the street, you know. My Grandmother lived kitty-corner across from them. When I was a little toddler, we would go across the street to his house. We are about the same age, I think, because I'll be 82. He was 79 here (newspaper article) in 2000 -- so he might be older than me. I was born December 1, 1922.
"My mother was from there (St. Martinville). I was born on Bourbon Street.
"So, when school would close, on a Friday, in the summertime, my mother and my sister and I were on a train and we would go to St. Martinville and stay the whole summer. My mother would leave my daddy for the whole summer.
"I got to be friends with Jeff, his sister Marguerite and his brother (forgot his name). It was like family. We would go over there and we would have treats -- my sister and I. I am four years older than my sister. So I was like child sitting with her.
"As we grew up, you know, and we would go there in the summertime, we would go to the movies and Jeff took me to the movies. Not every time, but he did take me to the movies. In other words, it wasn't a touching event -- we were just friends.
"I was amazed he did what he did and got what he did -- I mean as far as education and what he accomplished. When he got out of the military and he was a school teacher and then he became a principle of the school. That's phenomenal.
"In essence, we never really dated -- just went to the movies.
I asked Rita if she remained in contact with Jeff during the war years.
"No. It isn't that I lost contact. Everybody died and my mother didn't go to St. Martinville any more.
"I found out about his experiences in the war by the family telling everything about him being shot down and everything.
"We were childhood friends."
------ Rita Mader
Rita, wearing glasses, in her graduation class at Chairty Hospital.
The Civil Defense certificate presented to Rita upon graduation from her course as a trained Nurse's Aide.
Story originally submitted on: 20 May 2003
Story modified on and added to on 23 August 2004
Congressional Medal of Honor Receiptant:
Jefferson J. "Jeff" DeBlanc
Above and Beyond: the WWII Story of Jeff De Blanc
By clicking on the link above, you can read the article that ran in the local New Orleans Times Picayune about the exploits of Jeff De Blanc during the war.
There are a number of web pages that have referrences to World War II Marine pilot Jefferson "Jeff" DeBlanc. If interested in reading more about the Congressional Medal of Honor receiptant, Jeff DeBlanc, click on the links below and check them out.
Medal of Honor Winner Recalls South Pacific Saga
Above and Beyond
Aces Against Japan
Cactus Air Force: the Men
Japan's Fiesty Float Plane
Guadalcanal 60th Anniversary Photo Gallery
NCF Show: Guadalcanal
A Hero Comes Full Circle
The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our story -- Rita Kinter Boehm Mader.
We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mra. Rita Kinter Boehm Mader our most profound THANK YOU for her poignant story of his personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mrs. Mader's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".
Original story transcribed from hand written notes taken on May 20, 2004 and an oral history audio tape made on June 28, 2004.