George and Ida Mae Ellis
The Ellis’ will be part of Honor Flight of Southern NM’s Mission 9 to Washington, DC this year.
Ida Mae grew up with a healthy sense of determination in a small Pennsylvania town. After high school graduation she relates, “One day my friend and I decided we were going to go down and join the army. She didn’t pass the physical so I went by myself…. of course my mother wasn’t too happy when I told her what I did…it worked out okay though.”
She trained at Fort Oglethorpe then was stationed as a WAC at William Beaumont Army Medical Center where she served in the awards and decorations center. “It was very rewarding for me,” she says, “We got to see the people coming back; they were bringing a lot of the wounded from Germany there. They specialized in artificial eyes and limbs. They looked to see if your blood matched the soldiers that came in and I can remember one day I gave blood to one of these wounded soldiers and to me that was oh, unreal! We would go up to the wards and get all the information we could from them and then we also had their service record. It was so interesting to look through their records and see if they were at this battle or what time they were there and then get all that ready.” Many times she and others went up to the wards when the general was awarding medals to the soldiers. “It was just so wonderful. To me it was so rewarding and I think if I hadn’t gotten married I might have stayed in there a little while. I don’t know if I was officer material but I sure liked the enlisted personnel.”
She and husband George met on New Year’s Eve 1945 and were married June 1, 1946. She says, “At that time, if you were married you had 30 days to get out of the service….” She describes their courtship, “We didn’t have a car. George would ride back with me on the bus; they used to send a bus over to William Beaumont for the WAC people to go over to the USO at Fort Bliss. All he could do was bring me to the gate and I got a kiss.” When the couple decided to marry they borrowed a car from an enlisted friend and drove to Las Cruces. At that time Texas required a blood test and New Mexico didn’t. She laughs, “So off we went to Las Cruces. We thought we got married in the Methodist church and when we looked at our certificate some years later, we married in the Baptist church. That’s been a joke forever. I had to be married in my uniform because at that time you couldn’t go anywhere in civilian clothes…but with this huge corsage, never knew where he got such a big corsage.” They celebrated their 70th anniversary this year.
George was stationed at Ft. Bliss so they lived in a downstairs apartment at 4406 Trowbridge. She says, “If George got in the tub he couldn’t stand up; the stairs were right above there. We had no washer or dryer, we had nothing. We would wash the sheets in the bathtub and hang them up. We had a huge yard but the apartment wasn’t very big. It was good for us, we were just married and we got $50 a month or something. George was a PFC when we got married and I was a tech sergeant. He got $54 and I got $96, because I was going to school. I couldn’t cook; after I thought about it years later, how we ever survived I do not know. I think on love!”
While George stayed at Fort Bliss she attended the International Business College for nine months. Then in 1947 they attended Holmes Junior College in Goodman, Mississippi and graduated together. She had used up her GI bill at that point. Then the couple moved to Kent State University in Ohio where George continued as a junior and entered the ROTC program. After graduation he was sent to Korea and Ida Mae says “I went home and stayed with my sister during that time. Then when he came back we went to South Carolina. We adopted a little girl, Cindy, and then later on we adopted a son, George Jr. Since then we’ve lost both children. That was sad but that’s the way it was.”
They came out to live in El Paso after their daughter passed away and dear friends invited them out for a week’s visit here in the city. She recalls, “During that time they had set up appointments for George to see people up at the medical center and they had him set up for interviews at the school. So we’re driving back home and we looked at each other and said ‘Do you know we own a house, we’ve never owned a house. A