There are so many stories in the 1940s regarding the conscientious objector movement, it's difficult to know what to highlight next. If you haven't read the previous posts, here are the links to Cold, Hard Facts and The Camps.
Today I'd like to share with you a simple story of 1 newlywed couple's experience with the CPS. I found this story on pages 103-105 in The CPS Story by Albert Keim.
Meet Bob and Rachel Fisher. They were married for six months, living in Iowa City with her in-laws, when Bob was drafted. If they'd lived in a different, nearby county Bob would've received a farm deferment but the county they were in was especially restrictive in this area.
Rachel decides at this point to move back home with the few of her belongings to her parents' home in Wellman. She was able to visit her husband in Henry, ILL and makes the decision to move to Henry. She found a job working for a nice woman as a maid. Her wage was five dollars per week. Mrs. Dauber allowed Bob to visit her on the weekends and even allowed Rachel to drive her vehicle out to the camp to retrieve Bob.
However, the local area was especially hostile toward the campers and when it was no longer safe for Rachel to drive, Mrs. Dauber drove out to the camps herself to pick up Bob. She had him lay down in the back so no one would see him.
After four months, Henry, Ill became so hostile that the entire camp was moved to Downey, Idaho. The trip was grueling but eventually Rachel settled in a nearby town (40 miles away) Pocatello, Idaho.
It would be only four months later that they would move again. Bob volunteered to work in Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan. Rachel made her way out there as well hoping to find an administrative job nearby. To her surprise out of the 50 men who were working in that hospital unit 25 of them had wives that accompanied them. The hospital provided basement rooms for these 25 women. Their husbands had some visiting opportunities but it was strictly regulated by the matron on the floor.
Rachel was able to get a job, as the other wives, right at the hospital. During the summer 25 single women also came to work with the CO unit. These women were called COGs or Conscientious Objector Girls. After a number of months of their time there the hospital allowed the husbands and wives to live together in small double rooms. This was a huge blessing to the Fishers as they were still only newly married!
Rachel remembers good music and worship services as a unit. They often had visiting speakers from the Mennonite church. She enjoyed her work and found a purpose working there.
They worked at the hospital for three years and once Bob's commitment to the CPS was through (4 years) they served together for 2 years in Belgium and Poland working with MCC relief. There they distributed food and clothing to war victims.
Rachel believes that without Bob's draft in 1942 they would never have had the opportunity to live out their faith at the mental hospital and overseas.
"Our lives were truly blessed by our experience during CPS." (Rachel Fisher says on page 105 of The CPS Story by Albert Keim)
I want to highlight this story because while the CPS displaced many young men and brought hardships for so many families, it was also an immense blessing. It provided the Amish and Mennonites with an experience they believe they never would've had. It also opened the doors for the Mennonites to make a real difference in condition of the state mental hospitals across the country, which I will discuss next week.
I would love to know your thoughts and/or questions on this series. Have you begrudgingly found yourself in a position that later you found a blessing? Could you imagine being separated from your husband after only 6 months of marriage? Or spend your first 6 years of marriage in a similar way?
Here are a few other photos of some of the recreation and pleasant memories from CPS.
A surprising blessings of being a conscientious objector during WW2. CLICK TO TWEET