Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

<<Back to Treasures Index

Anna Barth


Honored February 1986

Anna 'Ann' Barth

Born Anna Masterpole in Oelwein, Iowa in 1911, Anna Barth preferred to be called Ann. She grew up in a family of seven. Her parents were Italian immigrants, and her father worked as a boilermaker for the Chicago Great Western Railroad.

Oelwein "was a railroad town with a population of about 10,000," according to Al Barth, Ann's husband, who also hailed from Geiwein. "We were born just a few weeks apart."

Ann's mother stayed home, but she enjoyed crocheting, and "she practically made them a living with her handiwork," Al said. Geiwein "was a small town, and everybody knew everybody. In high school, there was the usual rivalry in football between the Catholic high school that Ann attended and the public high school that I attended," Al remarked.

Al left school to go to work at age fourteen, and fifteen years passed before Ann saw him again. Ann had always wanted to be a nurse, but "the Depression came, and there was no money," Despite these hardships, Ann "worked for one year at the Oelwein Chemical Company, and she saved enough money to start her nurse's training in Des Moines, Iowa, at Mercy Hospital. She graduated in three years" and continued to work at Mercy.

When World War II began, Ann left Des Moines to work in Chicago at a hospital for marines. In February 1943, the Coast Guard sent Ann to Santa Fe "to open a hospital at the Japanese-American internment camp," Al said. At the time, both Ann and Al were corresponding separately with a friend from Oelwein who was living in California. The friend told Al that Ann was living in Santa Fe, and wrote Ann that her friend from Oelwein was living in Albuquerque--stationed at the Albuquerque Air Base, now Kirtland Air Force Base.

One day "Ann called me up and asked when I would have a day off," Al reminisced. She visited him in Albuquerque and invited him to come to Santa Fe when he had a pass.

The Barths were married in Santa Fe on August 16, 1944, in the chapel at Bruns Army Hospital. They had planned to return to Iowa, but Al found a job in Santa Fe and Ann went to work in a doctor's office until her only child, Bob, was born in 1947. She stayed home until Bob started school. Before she could return to work, however, Ann had to learn to drive. "She had never driven a car," said Al.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes