The Gang at Arlington Farms

In 1943, while all my cousins sought employment in the steel mills of McKeesport, Pa., replacing the men who went into uniform, I wished to do something more. I was 18, and the Navy Department was actively recruiting young female civilians to work in its offices in Washington.

I went to live in a place called Arlington Farms, a farm that had been converted into a small town with about 9,000 residents -- all of them female. It was situated across from Arlington National Cemetery and within walking distance of the Pentagon.

Nine two-story dormitories housed women between the ages of 17 and 65, though most were in their late teens and early twenties. We also had our own mess hall, snack bar, theater, bowling alley, post office, beauty shop, dry cleaners and department store. On Monday nights, the dormitory doors were closed to all male visitors, and the lobby became the site of a huge pajama party.

I lived there for four years while working at Marine Corps headquarters. Eventually, Arlington Farms was razed and became part of the cemetery.

My mother told me some years later that she permitted my going to D.C. because she was sure I would be back home within the week. How wrong she was. I'm still here 61 years later.

-- Elsie Bray, Arlington

Elsie Bray's Navy Department credential and some of her ration stamps.