The Stories of the Museum Series
More than a thousand military men and women and family members have donated thousands of personal items and stories to the museum over the past forty years. The displays span World War I to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and tell the stories of those who fought and died. This series of stories describes a few of these in more detail.
WAC STAFF SERGEANT AGNES INEZ PICKERING
by Bill Crocker
Agnes was a force! Her great niece described her as a “kick”. She had a pet alligator in the 1930s and on her way west from Florida, she stopped at a tavern and asked the owner to watch her pet gator while she attended to some business. She was very upset when she returned to claim her reptile to find that the poor fellow had been put headfirst into a barrel of water and had drowned.
Agnes Walden was born in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, on 28 May 1913, to Samuel and Elizabeth Walden. She had four brothers and sisters all with names beginning with the letter A. She was introduced to family trauma early in life when her mother and her baby sister were killed as their automobile malfunctioned and flipped over. This caused a rift in the family for a number of years.
Agnes was living in Magnolia Beach, Washington, when she met and married John Pickering of Seattle. They were living in Alaska when Agnes learned about a new program promoted by the US Army, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps known as WAAC. It had been established on 14 May 1942. It cleared the way for women to serve in a variety of jobs and to serve their country in a patriotic way. Agnes decided that was for her. She enlisted in the WAAC just nine months later on 1 February 1943 and became a photographer. She was sent to Army Service Forces Administrative School in Daytona Beach, Florida, for six weeks then to Publicity Photography School, Lowry Field, Colorado, for four weeks where she completed an advance course in newspaper photography. The WAAC was converted to an active-duty status as the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) on 1 July 1943 and Agnes was one of the first women to serve in that corps just one month after it was created. She became a war photographer in Europe. She also served in the Army’s Pictorial 292 Signal Service Battalion. The Army Pictorial Service supervised the Signal Corps Photographic Center and its branches. The center produced training , morale, and combat films.
Staff Sergeant Pickering remained in Europe after the war ended documenting the destruction. While touring, she traded with the citizens she met and obtained many interesting items that she brought home.
She completed her military service in 1947 and returned to Klamath Falls, Oregon, where she and john built a cottage. The home was filled with her treasurers that included a coffee grinder from the 1600s and antique firearms. They remained in the cottage through John’s passing and to Agnes’s passing on 20 July 2003 at the age of 90.
Jasen Berge’s donation of his great-great-grandaunt’s story can be viewed in Case #78
YOUR DONATIONS ARE ALWAYS APPRECIATED