Avis Noyes

Her Christmas letter to the folks at home has already been received from Lieutenant Avis Noyes, serving with the Army Nurse Corps in India. Lieutenant Noyes had the Christmas spirit early, for she had already seen two of the year's festivals celebrated in that country, the first on October 3. 

In a letter received by her mother, Mrs. John Noyes, 2418 Shale Edge Road, Lieutenant Noyes wrote: 

"This first Christmas in India is called Durga Pujah, one of the four important Hindu festivals. They carry on for five days, get very tired but have a good time. They build colorful and fancy images of the Mother Durga and place offerings and celebrate around her. On the final night, with much ceremony, they carry her to the river and toss her in. Then everyone staggers home to rest. 

"Usually every village or district has its own durga. This year, our hospital Hindus broke away from tradition and had one of their own. The festival started on a Sunday morning, when they brought the Holy Lady for a visit. She was carried by a crew of coolies. The procession was led by a 15-piece band. They could play two bars of The Isle of Capri, which they did over and over. There was a long string of coolies, women and kids following. Her Holiness was photographed and accompanied on an exit with as much hullabaloo as she entered. 

"In describing the goddess, I can say that she isn't very pretty. She has ten arms, representing the incarnations for which she came back to rid the world of evil. The Tenth Arm is extended about her head, holding a spear. At her feet lies an animal, which she has just killed. It represents evil. 

"The following week is the second Christmas, something like our New Year's. It is the Festival of Lights, or Dawali. This is one of the most enchanting of Hindu customs. Small clay cups filled with oil are lighted at the appropriate time, and there seems to be magic everywhere. Coconut oil is usually used, as it is cheap and will burn a long time. It is a pretty sight to see those lights on roofs, windows, doorways, paths, roads, everywhere. Electricity is never used on Dawali night, as it would be a shame to mar the beauty of the lamps by other lights. Dirty villages become delightfully unique; everyone is happy, and festivities very gay on into the night, until everyone falls asleep and the lights flicker out. 

"Evenings here are most beautiful. It is interesting to jump into an rickshaw and ride through the towns. Roads are lined with mango trees and tropical palms which cast their reflections into the pools of water where the natives do their family wash in the cool of the evening. The younger generation is always very happy. As we ride past, they run out, shouting 'Salaam, salaam,' always with their palms up, asking for 'bashshees' (small gift). By moonlight, filth is hidden, and there is a beautiful picture of tropical splendor. Earlier, one can see the sun set in its pastel colors. The scene is so touching that it makes us long for home and loved ones all the more."

What word from home means to those overseas is expressed in Lieutenant Noyes' closing paragraph, when she thanks her family and friends for letters. She writes:

"One little letter in the mail can bring so much happiness. No one realizes the importance of just a friendly line, until he has spent time in foreign service. If there is no mail for a lonely soul, and we can let him read one of ours, even that helps. Often I have let a sick boy open one of my letters, and it has brightened his day. So please keep up the good work! I have shared funny pictures, clippings, and so forth with my 'boys' and it helps.

"Just one last thing in closing: A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL.

"Love,  AVIS"

How a box from home, from family and friends, looks to someone serving in a faraway land, especially at Christmas time, is vividly expressed in a letter received recently from Avis Noyes, Second Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps, by her mother, Mrs. Hattie S. Noyes of this city. Lieutenant Noyes is stationed in India. She is a graduate of Luther Hospital School of Nursing and was formerly on duty at Luther Hospital here.

Returning from a week's leave, during which she had taken a trip to see some of the sights of India, "and really saw a lot of things I never care to see again," Lieutenant Noyes wrote: "We arrived at our post in the morning and 'Santa Claus' had visited me while I was away. I had stacks of packages and letters by the gross. I opened packages and letters until long after daylight and, after I slept for a while, I went over it all to see if it was really true or if I had been dreaming. I had gifts from everyone. When I get back, I am going to be a 'better girl' and make up for all these things you are doing for me while I am over here. Thanks a million to you all. My first 'big thrill' was to take a bath with sweet-smelling soap and oh, what bath powder, and to top it all off with a good sprinkling of toilet water. How good it seems. I tried on my new undies and new dress. Everything was a perfect fit.

"So you see, my Christmas really came on the 12th of January this year.

"I hope you had as much fun packing my boxes as I had opening them. I think I cried a little with each box. It made me feel so good to see all the American gifts. I had so many packages, and everyone was as excited as I."

In describing her sight-seeing tour, Lieutenant Noyes told of the fun of going to a dance with an American officer—"and did we kick up our heels!"—also of attending the horse races. She wrote, "We saw hundreds of people and, to our surprise, they were not dressed up in any gay clothes. They come in as they would on the streets. I never saw such a mob of wild sights in my life."

She and another nurse also paid a visit to a group of American teachers who have been in India for many years. "We visited the college where they teach and had Sunday morning breakfast with them after church," she wrote. "It seemed good to talk to good Americans again."

The visit to one of the sacred cities of India, to which pilgrims come from far and wide, was a real adventure. "I never saw so much filth and corruption in all my life," she wrote. "We took an old mud scow up the great river to see all the worshippers. The water is green and scummy. The people are lined up, bathing, praying to one god or another, in their own funny way, and washing their clothes."

The "burning ghats," where bodies are cremated, was another unforgettable sight in the strange land of India, of which Lieutenant Noyes wrote. "The people are very joyful, pounding drums and making merry, never a sign of sadness."

After all the sights, she concluded, "How glad I am that I am in India, for it makes me know and feel more and more that I am, and always will be, a good American."