During World War II, many WKU students serving overseas kept in touch with their friends and professors on the Hill. Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Library Special Collections attest to the bonds that faculty such as Frances Richards and students such as Dorthie Hall maintained with those in military service.
After the war, students continued to write home about lives, theirs and others, that had been changed forever. In 1948, Naomi (Thurman) Woosley sent greetings from Munich, Germany to Bert Raldon Smith, her former education professor. A 1940 graduate, Naomi had been teaching at a military dependents’ school while her husband served as chaplain at an American hospital. Lester Woosley’s duties were somber; they included hearing “many sad stories” and officiating at the funerals of servicemen and their family members lost to accidents and illness. Nevertheless, the Woosleys had had an opportunity to visit several European cities including Rotterdam, where they were immersed in the excitement of an international soccer game, and The Hague, where they took a snapshot of Eleanor Roosevelt and Crown Princess Juliana.
In Munich, however, Naomi was struck by conditions among the poor. “I’ve seen some of them taking food from my garbage can,” she wrote. She could not surrender completely to compassion for the German people—her brother had been a prisoner of war, and she was aware of the atrocities committed at Dachau—nevertheless, “hunger,” she declared, “is a terrible thing.” She was reminded of a remark she had once overhead in front of WKU’s Industrial Arts Building on her way to Sunday School. The speaker was Dr. Smith himself, reminding a friend that “the pore has to be fed.”
Click here for a finding aid for Naomi Woosley’s postwar letter to Bert Raldon Smith. For other World War II collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.