Follow Up on Hilda (Mattice) Ferguson
By Karen Cuccinello of Stamford Village Library history room
A friend of Hilda’s sent the article I wrote about her to her husband Robert Ferguson and he called the Mt. Eagle, and spoke to Liz Page. Robert told Liz that yes indeed he had more information about Hilda as he was married to her for 70 years. Liz sent me Robert’s phone number and I called him. The following is from conversations and emails with Robert. Photos from Robert.
Robert Ferguson, of Chicago, IL, enlisted in the Air Force in 1942 at the age of 18 and became a night flight pilot and eventually earned the rank of lieutenant. In December 1945 he was home in Chicago because he had a doctor’s visit as a follow-up to a car accident and while waiting for an elevated train he had a brief conversation with a gentleman who had a vision about Robert. The guy told him you will soon be meeting a woman with light brown hair, blue eyes, and from the East coast. Robert’s thoughts were only on his upcoming discharge and starting college, not some imaginary woman.
On August 1, 1944, Hilda enlisted in the WACs and was placed in reserve service status. She had been tested and deemed qualified for the occupational field of clerk general. Hilda was told she would go to Fort Oglethorpe Georgia for basic training. Upon completion of basic training, she would go to the Atlantic Redistribution Center, #1 in Atlantic City New Jersey. On August 10, 1944, Hilda received a letter calling her to active duty as of August 16, 1944. She was to report at 2 PM and be ready to leave; her transportation was held by her friend Mrs. Florence Helen Johns who was also called to active duty at this time. After their basic training was completed, they reported to Redistribution Center #1 in Atlantic City, NJ. They lived and worked in the Presidential Hotel on the boardwalk at the beach. Their work was to process and manage records of men who were returning from Europe for reassignment or separation from the service. Hilda enjoyed her time at the station. The WACs had free time each day from retreat to reveille and each weekend. Hilda had at least one furlough where she returned to Stamford, NY to visit her friend Rose Niece. On October 16, 1945 Hilda and several other WACs were transferred to AAFRS San Antonio Texas.
On January 20, 1946 Robert was hanging out with an assortment of other Air Force officers at San Antonio, TX awaiting their discharge assignments. One of the other guys (Robert has no clue what his name was) asked Robert to go with him to the movies. Robert said no thanks I’m going to bed, and did. His new friend went to the movies, saw two beauties and came back, woke Robert up and dragged him back out to the movie theater so he could be his wing-man in order to pick up both the girls for a date.
So they went back to the movie theater which, of course, was all closed up now and headed out to find the girls. They were not having any luck, by about 10pm, so went to the base service club for coffee and pie. As they were leaving the club they saw the girls, now four of them, leaving, lost sight of them then found them again looking at a bulletin board. The women were all WACS, two in street clothes and two in uniform (Hilda was in street clothes). Robert told his new friend that he would go wait in the rented 1937 Chevy. About 15 minutes later out came the matchmaker and all four WACS. They all piled into the car, Hilda sat quietly in the back seat, and they went to a drive-in restaurant. They chatted and had some more coffee and pie then brought the girls back to the WAC barracks. Two days later Robert and the other guy double dated and went out for dinner and dancing. This was the last Robert saw of the guy who turned out to be his matchmaker.
Robert and Hilda continued to meet at the service club and took walks in the park along a river, and discussed how they could have a long distance relationship, he entering college in Chicago and she in San Antonio with two more years in the service as a clerk. The solution was to get married on February 2, 1946 at the Chapel of the Travis Park Methodist Church in San Antonio. They had one night in a hotel as a married couple then Hilda went to Fort Sumter in Houston to get an early discharge which was fairly easy to get since WWII was over. Rooms were not easy to get so when Hilda met Virginia King, who was also waiting to be processed out, with an RV they stayed a few days with them then headed North.
They got their luggage on a Rocket Island train headed for Chicago but then missed the train. Robert rented a small plane (he figured they would let him fly the rental because that is what he did in the Air Force, but that was not the case) to try and meet up with their train and eventually connected with their luggage in Kansas City.
Robert graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1950 and they lived in Chicago until 1955, then moved to Washington, DC, then Hartford, CT and landed in Patomic, MD where Robert is now.
Next week the rest of the story on Mrs. Helen Johns, the lady in the photo with Hilda.