The collection contains a wide variety of items from before, during, and after the Foley family's internment. Ella Foley's journal, 213 photographs of Mary Alice, family, and her friends, school girl letters, manuscripts and publications created and received while in the camp, and materials created for internee reunions are all present. A number of loving cups from the Polo Club in Manila and several publications have been transferred to the Graphics and Book Divisions, respectively.
Chronologically, the first item is a diary Ella Foley kept from October 13, 1937 to July 8, 1938, covering the family's first stay in Manila. She began the diary the day before she and Mary Alice left New York to join Frank in Manila, so the first two months give an detailed description of the sea voyage, including an interesting description of the Panama Canal (1937 October 22). Many of the photographs with the collection are pictures from the various places the Foleys visited while traveling to and from Manila, including the Panama Canal, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Japan.
The diary describes what life was like for Ella during her husband's first journey to Manila. Ella was not happy in the Philippines and hoped that her husband would not accept a permanent job there. "Manila would be a terrible future home," she wrote in her diary on 1838 January 6. Ella did not have much to do, especially since the hotel staff took care of their apartment. She made friends with some other American couples living in the Philippines, such as Mae and Jerry Sheehan, possibly related to John Sheehan, a priest who was interned with the Foleys during the war. Ella interacted very little with native Filipinos. She kept herself busy by seeing a movie nearly everyday, shopping, going to the polo club, drinking cocktails (she was especially fond of "White Ladies"), and even gambling.
Ella was a devout Catholic, despite her gambling, and went to church every Sunday, and celebrated all the holidays. On Good Friday, she went to go see the "Flagellantes," although she was somewhat skeptical: "It looked like blood on his back but it might have been red paint" (1938 April 15). Ella hardly mentioned anything about Japanese aggression, only noting that Japan had bombed the American gunboat "Panay" (1937 December 13). On her way back from Manila in 1938, she even stopped in Japan, as well as Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Of the letters in the collection, ten of them were sent to Mary Alice by various schoolmates during the Foleys' second stay in Manila. During 1940-41, Mary Alice was pleased with her school and had an active social life, spending time with her friends at the Polo Club. Many of the pictures in her scrapbook and additional pictures were taken by her and her friends at the Polo club. Mary Alice and her pals were particularly interested in boys, and spent paragraphs discussing the behavior of boys in their class and parties they attended.
Mary Alice's sheltered teenage world was dramatically changed with internment. Items from the internment camp include: school work and a report card, showing Mary Alice's graduation from high school; 3 birthday and Christmas cards; a small diary kept by Mary Alice from April 22 to May 26, 1944; "Our Time," a satirical play of internment life, broadcast over the PA system in 1942; the September 1942 issue of "The Internitis," a newspaper published by internees; worksheets for Spanish verbs; an internment baseball program; a listing of camp rules from 1942; and a transcription of a speech made for her high school graduation.
Also from that time period are seven letters from the War Department to her mother's sister Irene McTeague and father's brother Joseph H. Foley; three camp form-letter postcards that Mary Alice and her mother sent to people in the United States; and an article about the camp from Life, September 7, 1942. Mary Alice later compiled the letters, the postcards, some photographs, the camp rules of 1942, and a brochure showing pictures of Santo Tomas into a scrapbook.
The play, "Our Time," (of which Mary Alice contributed the lyrics to one song) and "The Internitis" reveal the internees' life and their methods of coping with their loss of freedom and uncertainty in the future. The Japanese did not seem to censor the publications too strictly, so "Our Time" satirized life in camp through comments like, "Why clean any [more rooms]? We'll only be here for 3 days," and "that Venetian blind is a lot softer than this concrete to sleep on" ("Our Time," page 1). "The Internitis" has stories and articles relating to camp life, and reveals the wearing nature of being interned as well as the internees' efforts to create a normal life by building shanties for privacy and exchanging recipes.
The Christmas and birthday cards to Mary Alice and her mother try to be full of optimism and hope, with sentiments such as, "May this xmas be a nice one / Even though you are in here" (Betsy McRea, n.d.). Mary Alice, as recorded in her diary, kept herself busy by working at internment camp jobs, playing baseball, and taking college courses in "Economics, English Lit. & Psychology" (1944 May 25). She also recorded her weight in 1944, and noted how it had dwindled from 164 pounds on May 1, 1944 to 124 pounds on January 1, 1945.
The post-internment materials in the collection include a letter to Mary Alice from Rev. John Sheehan, who was also interned in Santo Tomas and in 1945 was touring the country speaking about his experiences. Finally, the collection contains photographs from the fortieth and fiftieth reunions of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp and a transcription of the speech given by Mary Alice at the fiftieth reunion. The speech gives some additional details of life in the camp.