Mary Louise (Bohlken) Johnson in uniform; Medical College of Virginia, circa 1944 | Mary Johnson Photo
Mary Louise (Bohlken) Johnson in uniform; Medical College of Virginia, circa 1944 | Mary Johnson Photo
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(Editor’s Note: Many of you remember my mom, Mary Johnson, from her 50+ years playing the organ at OMP United Methodist Church, serving on the board of Peninsula Community Library, driving “her” tractor – a Case 430 – through the cherry orchards on our farm, and volunteering for everything under the sun. While cleaning out her house in 2016, I discovered her college journal, written while she was studying to be a nurse at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond (she grew up in the south). Previous to this, she’d spent two years at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois (June 1942 – July 1944; where she met my dad, Walter Johnson). They married in 1946 and she moved north to be a farm wife on the Old Mission Peninsula, but as revealed in this journal, Dad had some competition for her hand. Lots of competition. Read all of Mary’s College Days here. -jb)

Today’s journal page was written on Jan. 3, 1945. Mom was very good about checking the weather box in the upper right-hand corner – “clear” today.

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In her journal, she writes that she had “duty” from 7 a.m. to 12 noon and 3:30 to 7 p.m. I believe these are hours spent working in the hospital there, generally intermixed with her classes, but I don’t think classes have started back yet after the holiday break.

She also writes…

“busy day – not a spare minute. no mail, no nothing. heck!

“Miss MacLean said, ‘you look like a senior, Miss Bohlken.’ I just hope I can make it.

“Wrote Frank, the darling.”

A couple of notes: I never heard Mom swear – not once. I often heard her say, “If I could swear right now, I would!” Instead, she would say things like “heck,” “oh fudge” and “Hector’s Pups.” It’s funny that she used “heck” in her journal because I heard her say that a lot when we were growing up (four kids on a farm – it’s a miracle she never resorted to swearing).

Mail was everything back then, so for her not to get ANY mail from family or friends – some fighting overseas – was something. And I’m sure disappointing.

Although she mentions Miss MacLean saying she looks like a senior, I don’t think she was a senior yet. This would be her third year in college, and her first at Medical College of Virginia. So maybe the “senior” comment was just foreshadowing.

Also, the “Frank” she mentions is her high school sweetheart who is off in Europe fighting the good fight during WWII. Remember that she’d already met my dad at Northwestern University, so he was definitely in the mix by now. But it’s still Frank that she yearns for.

Much more on this to come, including on the next page of her journal, where you can faintly see below that the entire page was full. Starting tomorrow, things start to get real in terms of war news.

Mary's College Days - Mary Louise (Bohlken) Johnson's college journal from the Medical College of Virginia; Jan. 3, 1945 | Jane Boursaw Photo
Mary’s College Days; Mary Louise (Bohlken) Johnson’s college journal from the Medical College of Virginia; Jan. 3, 1945 | Jane Boursaw Photo

Here’s a photo from her photo album while she was at the Medical College of Virginia. I love her captions on these photos – “Nice Uniform.” I don’t think it’s a nurse’s uniform, so maybe someone can tell me if it’s some sort of war uniform…? Maybe a cadet…?

Mary Louise (Bohlken) Johnson in uniform; Medical College of Virginia, circa 1944 | Mary Johnson Photo
Mary Louise (Bohlken) Johnson in uniform; Medical College of Virginia, circa 1944 | Mary Johnson Photo

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A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Jane, Medical College of Virginia had a medical unit formed for service during WW2. Cite their history website: 1942-45 MCV organizes a medical unit to serve during the war. General Hospital 45 serves in North Africa and Italy. Mary may have been involved with this unit and maybe never deployed. This may have been the uniform. I was not able to actually make out the insignia on her cap, so can’t be certain. Anyway, it sure looks like a military uniform to me. Rudy

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