Gaylord Nelson Papers, 1954-2006 (bulk 1963-1980)

Contents List
Container Title
Box/Folder   3/15
No.   1255A/130-133
Kelk, Margaret,1993 December 29, Madison, Wisconsin

Margaret Ebert Kelk was born on August 1, 1917, in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. She and her brother and two sisters were raised in Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin, where her parents operated the Minne-Wawa Camp for Girls. This is currently the Camp American Legion. Ms. Kelk's ethnic background includes German, Scotch, and Norwegian. In 1935, she left for Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin. She was graduated from the university's School of Education in 1939. During her last two years of college, Ms. Kelk worked part-time for the Wisconsin State Journal. Following graduation, she stayed on at the Journal full-time in the classified advertising department. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, she took a secretarial position with the Badger Ordnance Plant under construction in Baraboo. After the completion of the plant, Ms. Kelk joined the American Red Cross Military Welfare Service in September, 1943.

As a Red Cross volunteer, Ms. Kelk was sent to Washington, D.C., for two weeks of training prior to being shipped to the Pacific theater. She was then stationed in Noumea, New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Hawaii. Ms. Kelk's only brother, Mark Johnson Ebert, was killed overseas on April 4, 1944, in a bombing raid over the Bucharest, Romania rail yards. After the war, Ms. Kelk returned to Lake Tomahawk and stayed with her mother for one year. She then taught English and social studies at the junior high level at several Wisconsin schools from 1946 until her marriage to Harry Kelk in 1955. Since that time, she has owned and operated a summer campground trailer park in Lake Tomahawk. Her husband died in 1988. Ms. Kelk is also a charter member of the Northland Historical Society.

Scope and Content Note: Ms. Kelk began the interview by describing her reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor. She then explains how she left her job at the Wisconsin State Journal to work at the construction site for the Badger Ordnance Plant in Baraboo. Following the completion of the plant, Ms. Kelk joined the American Red Cross. She describes her reasons for joining the Red Cross and explains the training process and the primary mission of the organization. She then describes her trip across the Pacific to her station in New Caledonia. Ms. Kelk explains the hierarchical structure of the Red Cross and its relationship to the military. Ms. Kelk talks about the relationship with the soldiers, and what the Red Cross expected the women to do for the soldiers. She stresses the importance of serving the enlisted men, not the officers in the unit. She continues with descriptions of more specific interactions with some of the enlisted men and their activities including games, barbecues, and just talking. She tells about a young Red Cross woman who became pregnant and had an abortion in the town of Noumea, New Caledonia. She also describes an incident in which she was reprimanded for organizing a picnic on the beach with an integrated unit of white and black soldiers. She talks about another incident with a male Red Cross director in which she was sexually assaulted.