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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Marguerite V. Clodfelter, 1999

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Object ID: WV0024.5.001

Description: Marguerite V. Clodfelter primarily discusses her early life in Canada and upstate New York; her experiences and training in the Cadet Nurse Corps from 1944 to 1946; and her personal life and nursing career following World War II.

Summary:

Clodfelter discusses her father’s background; the circumstances of her residences in Canada and several upstate New York locations; her brothers’ citizenship and enlistment in the U.S. Army; and the circumstances surrounding her American citizenship.

Topics related to the Cadet Nurse Corps include Clodfelter’s reasons for joining the corps; the hospitals where she did clinical rotations; quarters, stipend, duties, hours, supplies, social life, and uniforms for cadet nurses; instructors, staff, and medical personnel at the hospitals where she worked; orientation; and her specialty in emergency and operating room surgery.

Post-war topics include Clodfelter’s return to more traditional female roles; her return to nursing at Watts Hospital; the working environment at a country hospital in Whiteville, North Carolina; her husband, marriage, and children’s career in medicine; the impact of the Cadet Nurse Corps on her life; a cadet nurse reunion; and causes she became involved with, including environmentalism.

Creator: Marguerite V. Clodfelter

Biographical Info: Marguerite Clodfelter, originally of Alberta, Canada, served as a nurse in the Cadet Nurse Corps from 1944 to 1945 and later at hospitals in Durham and Whiteville, NC.

Collection: Marguerite V. Clodfelter Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

HT:

My name is Hermann Trojanowski and today is January 26, 1999. I'm at the home of Mrs. Marguerite Clodfelter in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to do an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection.

Mrs. Clodfelter, again thank you so much for meeting with me today. I really appreciate it. Could you please tell me something about your life before you joined the military, such as where you were born, where you grew up, where you went to high school, what was family life like, and if you worked, what kind of work you were involved in before you joined the Cadet Nurses Corps?

MC:

I'd be glad to. I was born in western Canada, in the province of Alberta, just about forty miles north of Calgary. My dad was a grain buyer for the Alberta Pacific Grain Company out there in Canada. He came from Ontario as a young man, he came out west. All the rest of his family moved to the United States, and so every ten years or so my dad and mother and my two brothers would make a trip to New York State where the rest of my uncles and aunts lived at the time. That was Sackets Harbor, New York. Well, one time they made the trip, and this time only my dad went. And he came back and announced that we would be moving to the United States. I was about ten years of age at that time. I remember lots about living in Canada. I lived in a town that looked like something out of a western movie. It was cattle country as well as wheat growing country, and so we had wooden sidewalks and hitching rails just like in the western movies.

So the big change in my life came, of course, when we made the move to the United States. My dad, having been raised on a farm in eastern Ontario, bought a dairy farm in upstate New York. So, from about ten years old until I was about seventeen or eighteen, we lived on a dairy farm. And that in itself is a unique way to grow up. I had two older brothers, and they went to school—we all went to school, first of all, riding the school bus to a central school. We went to Belleville Academy is where we went to, our elementary and high school time.

And then came World War II, and my parents had never become American citizens. We all then were Canadians, and the United States government gave my brothers the option of going into the United States Army or back to Canada. Well, we all know the better decision is to go into the U.S. Army not the Canadian Army. So, they both got automatic citizenship. But then I didn't have it, I was still a Canadian. We had to register as aliens every year. So we left the farm because help became almost impossible to get. All the young men who had worked farms were in the service. So my brother had owned a Sonoco filling station in Watertown, New York, and he was drafted, and so my dad took that over and we moved then to Watertown, New York.

By then I was finishing up high school, which I did it in Adams, New York. And it was, “What do we do after high school?” About that time, we of course were in the middle of the war—this was 1944 and we were really in the war—and somewhere along the way came the opportunity to enroll in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps. I had thought about being a nurse over the years, and here seemed to be an opportunity to get into a program where you could go to college and also get your nurse education. That came about because in 1943 there was an act of Congress called the Bolton Act. That created the United States Cadet Nurse Corps. It was passed because of a great need at that time in our hospitals, because in the very center of this war, with so many casualties, most of the registered nurses had indeed enlisted in either the Army Nurse Corps, Navy Nurse Corps, or the thing that I wanted to be was an air force nurse, a flying nurse, a flight nurse. That was my goal.

So, the opportunity came to join the Cadet Nurse Corps. I just had one problem, I was not a United States citizen. [laughter] And I was seventeen years old. So, I got special dispensation that if I would take out my citizenship papers as soon as possible they would let me come into a United States federally funded program. So, I promised faithfully I would, because I certainly wanted to be an American citizen above all things. I had won the American history award in high school, which shows you I really cared about the United States.

So they allowed me to enter the program. I can't quite recall how the setup was, but the way it would be, I had really decided I would like to [be] affiliated with the House of the Good Samaritan [hospital] in Watertown. They were affiliated with Plattsburgh State Teachers College in Plattsburgh, New York, and that's where we went for a year, an academic year, to Plattsburgh State Teachers College to get all the academic stuff that you have to learn to be a nurse. Well, that was an experience in itself because all the young men had gone off to war. We had a few 4-F guys, but it was mostly an all-girl school at the time that I was at Plattsburgh State Teachers College. But it was a great year, and I really did enjoy it a whole lot.

Then at the end of that academic year—they got us right to work because the nursing crisis was so bad in these United States. There was a hospital called Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, and we had not been hardly at the school three months, I think, before we were sent at least one day a week up to just run around the hospital doing whatever we could do, because things were really, really tight at that time. Now at the end of our academic year at Plattsburgh, we had a choice of three schools to go to. We could stay and go to Physicians; we could go to the House of the Good Samaritan in Watertown, or down to Mary McClellan [Hospital] in the southern part of the state [Cambridge, New York]. I opted to go to, as most of our girls did, to the House of the Good Samaritan in Watertown. And that was sort of our—that's where all the practical nursing education went on, where we learned to take care of patients. But out of there we went to three separate specialties. We went for psychiatric nursing to Ogdensburg State Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York; we went to Queens General Hospital on Long Island in Queens, New York, and that was for pediatrics, the care of children; and then we went to Triboro Hospital, in Queens also, where we spent three months affiliation in tuberculosis care. That was a big thing back in those days, you see. And Queens and Triboro were if you would be on the same campus. They were city of New York hospitals, great big hospitals. Oh boy, were they big. And that's where we picked up—each of those were three-month affiliations. So, we were away from the House of Good Samaritan for about nine months all told, but we always came back there to continue our clinical work.

And because of the great shortage of nurses, of registered nurses, I can remember—as I thought about this interview, I thought, “Were there any floor nurses except us?” And honestly, basically all I can remember is we had instructors and a head nurse. And I do believe that from there on the care of the patients was basically in the hands of these Cadet nurses, the older nurses, the seniors of course taking more responsibility on down the way. But when you think back on it, my goodness, [chuckling] they were putting a lot of responsibility on some eighteen- and nineteen-year-old people to really do the health care of these patients. And back in that era, a woman had a baby, you stayed in bed for ten days.

At the House of the Good Samaritan, I can remember the first patient who was ever given penicillin, and it was by a special direct order to the Department of Health to get—I think it was like fifty thousand units or something. We'd never seen it before, because at that time if you had a ruptured appendix, you would probably die because you would get peritonitis, and you were dead. I can remember that little room that we would put you in when there wasn't any hope for you at all. So, indeed, because of the war, we did see some really interesting and wonderful changes come into nursing.

During the time that we were in the Cadet Nurse Corps—Oh, I've got to tell—Well, we got lots of benefits being in the Cadet Nurse Corps. We got our tuition paid, we got uniforms. We had dress winters, we had the summer uniform, and then of course the uniform that we used at the time that we were on the floor. And not only that, we got fifteen dollars a month.

HT:

How much?

MC:

Fifteen dollars a month. That's our stipend. And when we were in New York, of course, you could ride the subway for five cents and see a Broadway show for two dollars if you were in the balcony. So, you could do something with your fifteen dollars. [chuckling] Not a lot. But because hospitals, they take care of your food and housing and your laundry and everything, you don't have much extra expense except that little bit that you would like to spend on yourself. So, that was one of the great things that would cause you to like to be a Cadet Nurse, because everybody wanted a uniform. [laughter]

HT:

And were the Cadet Nurses quasi-military?

MC:

Not really. I think what the whole idea was is that it was never—there was no contract ever signed saying—well, you know there was in the beginning, apparently. I talked to a friend of mine whose sister was in the very first program that they had, and apparently she did sign a, if you will, contract, that “At the time that I finish my training I will be available to go into one of the armed forces nursing divisions.” But we did not do that, but it was in the back of, I'm sure, all of our minds that that's what we were going to do. And I felt rather badly that the war ended and that I never got the chance to be a flight nurse, because that was what I thought was really cool. Second to that would be the navy, because they had nice uniforms. [laughter]

HT:

So how long were you a Cadet Nurse?

MC:

A Cadet Nurse for—oh, I think it was, as everything was during that time, an accelerated program. You know, we had ninety-day wonders and all that. I think we did about three or four years in two and a half, and then you graduated. But by then, you see, the war was over. But the nursing shortage didn't end in a moment, because of course there was all the time that people had to get out of the service and all that sort of thing. So, actually at the end of our graduation from the Cadet Nurse Corps, and because of the time, we were not required to—like the ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps], we were not required to give any extra years in sort of a payback thing, because really we did work our way through. [chuckling] I mean we really did work our way through.

HT:

Now, all the hospitals that you mentioned earlier, were they civilian hospitals or military hospitals?

MC:

They were all civilian hospitals. All civilian.

HT:

Did you ever work in a military hospital?

MC:

Never did get the opportunity to work in a military hospital.

HT:

So, you never took care of anyone who had been in the military, injured because of their military-related work?

MC:

No, not in the sense that they would go perhaps right from the military into a military hospital. We certainly saw, particularly in Triboro, we saw lots of young men who had tuberculosis. But they were not in the veterans hospitals, these that we had met that had been through the war. They were in civilian hospitals.

HT:

And why did you choose the Cadet Nurse Corps as opposed to one of the other branches?

MC:

I think it was the desire to get the education that the Cadet Nurse Corps was offering us with such a—you know, no output at all on our end. It was a prepaid education, in a sense. That was one of the great motives to do that.

HT:

Was this the first time you'd ever been away from home for any extended period of time?

MC:

Yes, indeed.

HT:

And how did you feel about being away from home?

MC:

Well, it was a very unusual time that we were living in, in those years. You know, it was all absolute, total, 100 percent focus on winning the war. So, it was a time when leaving home was just—that was all right. It was something that you might have to do. You might have to do it because you had a specific goal ahead of you. Going to New York City certainly was an interesting, interesting time. But it was a much safer time. It didn't bother us a bit. It didn't bother us a bit.

HT:

Did your parents have to sign any sort of papers to give you permission to join the Cadet Nurse Corps?

MC:

Yes, they did.

HT:

And I assume your parents were positive about you joining?

MC:

Absolutely.

HT:

And what was the reaction of your friends and coworkers and the rest of the family when they found out that you were going to do this?

MC:

Because of the time we lived in, absolutely 100 percent positive. You know, we just expected if you were able to do, especially join anything that was really focused to help the war effort, that's what you should be doing.

HT:

We talked earlier before we started the interview about recruiting posters. Did you ever see recruiting posters that made you want to join the Cadet Nurse Corps prior to your joining?

MC:

I never did. In fact, the very first one I saw was at UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro], and it was a marvelous poster. Absolutely I wish that we had seen them. I think what it was, it was probably meeting girls who were in the program and really being impressed that this is good. And when it became available, we were more than willing to sign up for it.

HT:

Do you recall anything specifically about the first day that you were at—well, I guess it would be equivalent to boot camp, but whatever they called the first training?

MC:

The orientation.

HT:

Orientation, okay.

MC:

[chuckling] Orientation time.

HT:

Right. What do you recall about that?

MC:

Oh, I really do, because we had a handbook that was very specific on the kind of—especially social behavior that would be expected of a United States Cadet Nurse person, how you would dress in public and deport yourself, and it was—it's a no-nonsense approach, and we had the director of nurses at Plattsburgh State Teachers—you know, I think of her as a first sergeant or something. [chuckling] I mean she was a no-nonsense girl, and I mean you'd get corrected—and this was all the way through our training—that we were expected to deport ourselves in a way that would not bring dishonor on the Corps, so to speak. They didn't march us back and forth to teach us that, but boy, they got the message through. [chuckling]

HT:

Were all your instructors nurses or doctors or—?

MC:

Yes, they were all—At Plattsburgh State Teachers, they were, of course, the professors of microbiology, et cetera, that were in the college. But all our nurse instructors, they all were nurses. All of the ones that were in charge of us were nurses, and basically they had their bachelor or master's in nursing education.

HT:

When you graduated, did you receive a degree or diploma or certificate?

MC:

Yes, we did. We all received our Registered Nurse certificates, and some went on and got bachelor's of science in nursing.

HT:

And where were you stationed? I keep using these military terms, which are not quite appropriate.

MC:

Yeah, that's okay. That's right.

HT:

At which hospital were you most of the time during your service?

MC:

Most of the time would have been at the House of the Good Samaritan. That would be it.

HT:

And was that affiliated with the Catholic Church?

MC:

No, interestingly enough, we had Saint Joseph's that was our Catholic Church hospital in Watertown, New York. We had a large percentage of Italian population in Watertown, is primarily why I think we had a whole hospital that was with Saint Joe's. House of the Good Samaritan was just the city, if you will, the city's hospital, a general hospital. So, that was where our practical nursing bedside care went on. That which we had also learned at Plattsburgh was put into practice there. But we were away, of course, for nine months total on psychiatric, on pediatric, and tubercular affiliations. But our home base was, after we left Plattsburgh, became the hospital we were affiliated with for the year.

HT:

And what was your specialty?

MC:

My specialty? I really loved emergency room and surgery. I thrive on high-stress jobs, crisis situations or the kind of stress that you experience in an operating room. And see, the House of the Good Samaritan was not a teaching hospital, and so nurses did much of what an intern or a physician would do in those hospitals. You literally assisted the surgeon. You were second in command with him when you were in surgery. So, it made us get a whole lot—well, a broader education than if you are in a teaching hospital where your job is very defined because of all the other people who are getting work too. So, that made it very interesting.

HT:

So how long did you stay at the House of Good Samaritan?

MC:

House of Good Samaritan, overall that would have—see, because that is the home base, we would say that would be at least two years where my roots were there, where we always came back there after we finished these other affiliations.

HT:

And after the war, did you stay in the Nurse Corps or did you go back to, quote, “civilian life”?

MC:

Well, actually, because of the peculiarity of this particular paramilitary, if you would, act that created us for a very specific need, once the war was over, that really just sort of—that ended any affiliation we had with the Corps itself. It was simply, I think, to get us trained so that we could step into so many places that were empty, and then also be on reserve if they needed us in the military. That's really what it all kind of boiled down to. But it was most interesting that, honestly, I think 90-plus percent of us stayed in nursing in some capacity after the war, and lots of my classmates made it a total career.

HT:

Did you make it a total career?

MC:

No, I didn't. I married and then nursed down at Watts Hospital in Durham [North Carolina] while Bob [Clodfelter, husband] went to law school, worked in a little county hospital in Whiteville, North Carolina—now that was an experience—for a year or so, did a little private duty, and then just came home and raised four children.

HT:

And what type of work did you do at Whiteville that made it so interesting?

MC:

Whiteville? Well, that was where you only had attending physicians who weren't there [in the hospital], that you called them [at home] and [said], “Please hurry.” So we delivered the babies, oftentimes in the bed, we gave the anesthesia when there was an emergency operation, and all that kind of—exciting things that you do in a little county hospital. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, getting back to your days as a Cadet Nurse, what was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically?

MC:

The hardest thing physically? I suppose long hours is the thing that you remember the most, you really do. Now, I never did like night shifts, and we had to take all three shifts and—

HT:

So, you were on a constant rotation, I guess?

MC:

All the time. And, oh dear, I never did like that. But that's probably the most difficult kind of thing that we had to deal with, yeah.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally?

MC:

Tell a daddy his little child had just died.

HT:

That would be very difficult. Do you recall any embarrassing moments during your training?

MC:

Well, let me see, I guess the most scary one was when I almost gave a patient the wrong medicine. It wouldn't have killed him, but it might not have done him any good either! [chuckling] Because in those days we had little cards and little things—oh, goodness gracious! And at the last minute I looked down and it was not the right medication. So that was really scary.

One of my—I don't know if it was embarrassing or just made me upset, was probably all that that was, when I got off duty after having been on all night, just get back to my room and about ready to go to bed, and the phone rings, or the buzzer or whatever we had in those days, and I was told to report back on the ward. Now, we had wards in those days, you know, just open, big rooms where you had thirty, forty, fifty patients with little curtains, you know? And this one head nurse, oh, my goodness! And she called me back on duty because I had not pulled back all the little curtains—now this is the kind of stuff—you know, just perfectly. And I was one of those compassionate people, well, if somebody is still sleeping, I'm just going to leave these curtains pulled a little so they can sleep. [The head nurse said] “That is not how you do it. Before you leave the floor, all those thirty, forty, sixty curtains I want back against—just folded just right.” So I went back and did all the little curtains. [chuckling]

HT:

She sounds like she was a tough sergeant-type person, a drill sergeant.

MC:

She was absolutely—I mean, tough as nails. I mean, that woman, bless her heart, she just gave us a fit. I'm telling you, a going-away fit. [laughter]

HT:

Can you tell me something about the social life that you cadet nurses had and what you ladies would do for fun?

MC:

Well, now there you go. We did have fun; that is absolutely for sure, even though we did—we really did work hard. One of the things that we did, which is just kind of an interesting little sidelight, and then we'll speak of fun too, I remember so well we had a friend—one of my friends in class, her mother was a big war bond salesperson, okay? We used to have rallies all the time to sell war bonds. So, her mom decided that they were going to have this war bond rally in—I don't know, it could have been Malone, New York, and she wanted all of us that could to get all dressed up in our uniforms and we would come to the bond rally and we would sing the Cadet Nurse song. We had a song. We did!

HT:

Oh? Do you recall it?

MC:

I don't know if you have a copy of it over at the school or not.

HT:

I don't think we do.

MC:

Oh, I shall have to try to get you—to find “We Are the Cadet Nurses Marching.” Oh man, it was patriotic if nothing else. And so we got all dressed up, and off we went to the war bond rally and sang. We also marched in every parade that was ever invented, to rally everybody to support the war. So we dressed up and marched in parades and we sang at war bond rallies. [chuckling] Not well, but we did. So, that was some of the stuff, you know, just kind of a by the by that we did.

You know what we did for—I thought it was great fun, when we were in Plattsburgh at the college, up there is a great apple growing country, and they had what they called the Chazy, C-h-a-z-y Orchards. They had nobody to pick the apples, so they would let us off early in the afternoon if we signed up to go pick apples at the apple orchard. I don't know what we got, if we got twenty-five cents a bushel or maybe the thing was this big. We got a little bit of pay. But the most fun was riding out to the orchard on the bus, and made up the most wonderful songs having to do with picking apples at Chazy. Yes we did. So that was kind of a fun thing. Off-duty, oh gosh, I guess we just must have—I don't recall that we did anything much except hang out together is about what we did, because we were all working different shifts. And there wasn't a whole lot going on in the places that we lived, so I'm sure we just did what teenagers—just kind of goof off.

HT:

Were there any military guys around?

MC:

Oh boy! [laughter] Oh, now you're talking. When we were in Plattsburgh, we had a dean of women who—hey, we all certainly remember her, Miss [Mary] Lewis. Plattsburgh Barracks had been an army barrack since the War of 1812. It's right on Lake Champlain. Well, during World War II, in the wisdom of those who had that kind of wisdom, they changed it to a naval base. Well, all they had was two longboats, you know, with oars. That was the whole naval station. But they sent an entire—class, that's a good name for them, class of midshipmen from—Where did they come from? Oh, I don't know, I guess Cornell [University] maybe, up to Plattsburgh up to—let's see, Camp McDonough. Yeah, that's what they called it, Camp McDonough, to be trained to be ensigns. Ensigns, I guess. Yeah, it was a midshipman school, and when they graduated from there they were ensigns in the United States Navy.

Okay, well, they had just graduated one of these classes when our class came to Plattsburgh. Then, okay, while we had hardly gotten there, they brought in another class of midshipmen to train, and it was a three-month program that they were coming in on. Well, our dean of women, really on top of the situation here, as soon as she finds out that there's a new class of midshipmen up at McDonough, she calls the commandant up there and invites them to come to a dance at the college. And he said, “Well, the first week that these men are in this new facility they are—” What do you call it? You're not grounded but you're—

HT:

Restricted to barracks?

MC:

There you go. You can't leave. You can't leave. And so she said, “Oh, that's okay, we'll come there!” [laughter] And of course they have enough guys to play instruments, they have a band, you know, they can play, they can make music up there. So, the dean of women had a sign up. Boy, I bet every one of us signed up for that. And there were three buses, and so sort of like Cinderella. So, if you go on the first bus in there, then you have to be on the first bus to leave. Well, okay. So I think I might have been on the first bus. Boy, this was—I don't know how many, it was a bunch of navy guys. Whew! A lot, and so right before I was to leave, because first in first out, I met this young man from Greensboro, North Carolina. And in those days we only had four-digit telephone numbers, like 6421, which sure makes it easier to remember. So we danced some, okay? And so then I have to leave because I came on the first bus. Well, I got a telephone call from him later on, probably the next day, as he said, “I went home, all day remembering that phone number.” And, to make a long story very short, we were married two years later. [chuckling] We were.

And he was there—That's right, his class was not there for the entire three months. Now I remember what that did. It was called pre-midshipman school. He had been in Villanova, in V-12 [Navy College Training Program] at Villanova College, which is now University, and they were to go to Cornell [University] for midshipman training. And there was a class overlapping and they didn't know what to do with them, so McDonough was empty, so they just sent them up there for three weeks and then he went on down to Cornell. So, that was a very fortuitous meeting there.

So we then the next week had the navy boys down at our place. And boy, we played that game back and forth, you see, as long as we could, and then they shipped them all out. Then they changed it to a—what do we call that? It was a place for air force people. These guys, a bunch of them were pretty much burned out on the war. And they sent them up there for rehabilitation, that kind of a thing. And it turned it into an air base and it has remained an air base to this day. Plattsburgh Air [Force] Base is still an air base. But they took these two groups of navy men through when it was Camp McDonough, and then they changed it to an air station, where it was sort of rest and rehabilitation time for air force people. They were around from then on, and I never did particularly date any of the air force guys though they were there—Fortunately, because all the young men at the university had gone off to war, so that certainly helped the balance there in that school.

HT:

Was this in 1944 or 1945?

MC:

Yeah [yes to both years], those two years were the two years that we had those young men around. So, that was good. We had lots of folks come through, though, Hollywood people, you know. Donald O'Connor [actor, entertainer] came through and just entertained us. You know, one night in one of the big houses we had, he just came and—you just did that sort of thing. It was kind of what happened.

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite songs and movies and dances were from those days?

MC:

Oh, we had the world's greatest music, that goes without saying, because we had all the big bands. We really did, you know. Sentimental Journey and all those, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree and all those great, great songs that we had during that era that they have never—they haven't come close ever since, because they were very, first of all, danceable. And we danced with each other in those days, not at each other but with each other, you know. [chuckling] There is a difference. That was kind of fun. And there were great, great movies. Mostly I think of the romantic kind of movies that Hollywood did in those days, you know, the Claudette Colbert and the Clark Gables and the Tyrone Powers and Charles Boyer and all these, all very romantic-type things, basically with happy endings. [laughter]

HT:

The fun kind.

MC:

Yeah, the fun kind of movies. You don't go there for social—whatever. We know about that, we don't need to go to the movies for that. So, movies were a big part, of course, of your life in those days. That was your entertainment. We didn't have television, you know. We were still listening to Lux Radio Theater on the radio. So, radio was a very—that was our communication. Absolutely. That was what kept us in touch with the world, as well as with entertainment, all the One Man's Family and Amos and Andy, and all the soap operas that really came from radio. They just took them and put them on television. But soap operas, they were very much a part of our radio time. But the movies were the chief entertainment. Yeah, you just didn't miss a movie. And they were really good.

Of course we got all the Pathe News, which told us what the war was doing. We didn't have CNN [Cable News Network] showing us pictures of the war. We had to go to the movies to see it. And of course that was a great propaganda instrument, too, you know. We certainly had our propaganda, which we found no fault with at the time. And then you could buy bonds or something in the lobby at the end of the movie. [chuckling]

And in school we bought those little stamps, ten-cent stamps, you know, little war stamps. You'd take your ten cents every week and get a little stamp. And you saved balls of string, you saved—we called it tin foil in those days. You saved that for the war effort. I don't know what we were making. We were making airplanes out of the tin foil, and the string was supposed to help make ammunition.

HT:

I never heard of that.

MC:

Yeah, and of course all the rationing that went on. Oh, my gosh! My dad had the filling station in those days, and you had the different kinds of stamps. An A gasoline stamp meant you got three gallons a week, and that was what you could go on. And then a C gave you different things. And then of course the commercial vehicles or army vehicles, they got unlimited.

See, we were living near Pine Camp [Army Base] in Watertown, which is a tremendously large—it's now called Camp Drum—military installation, an army installation up there. We had thousands and thousands of army men stationed up there. So, we were very close to the war. I think Fourth Armored Division was up there, and they played a big part in the war in Europe. So, we had lots of up-close-and-personal touch with—because this particular gasoline station my dad owned was on the Pine Camp Road, so 99 percent of our clientele, if you will, customers, were army personnel. And you'd get to know them and then they'd be gone.

HT:

When you were a Cadet Nurse, would you stay at the hospital or would you stay at home and then go to work every day?

MC:

Had to live in the hospital.

HT:

Had to live in the hospital?

MC:

Every one of our affiliations, live-in at the hospital. Yes, absolutely, which of course also puts you on call twenty-four hours a day. If you have to be called, you're there. And you did not leave the hospital without signing out, leave the dorm that we lived in. You always had to sign out. And we were kept on a tight rein. I know we probably had to be back by 10:00 or earlier. We were not allowed any particular freedom. And that was true even at Plattsburgh when we were in school up there. They had very definite hours that we were to keep.

HT:

So, it sounds like you didn't have a great deal of free time.

MC:

We really didn't. We really didn't. I hate to admit that I can't remember any. There must have been some, but there was studying to do. We went to classes still at the House of Good Samaritan. We had classes to attend all the time. They were basically taught by nurse instructors or the doctors on staff. We had a lot of doctors that did teaching, like from 5:00 to 7:00 in the evening and stuff like that. So no, it was pretty intense, it really was.

HT:

Well, do you feel that you made a contribution to the war effort?

MC:

I really do. First, in willingness to go; and secondly, meeting a need that had been created because of the war, sort of a Rosie the Riveter idea of filling in.

HT:

Do you remember what the mood or the climate of the country was like during that time?

MC:

I think total focus on winning the war, total focus, from the butcher, the baker, right on up, school kids—of course, we never thought of anything except: “We're going to win this war.” [chuckling] If we'd known how bad it was, we may have had second thoughts. But we didn't, we just figured, “Hey, we're going to win it. We don't know when we're going to win it, but we're going to win it.” And so there was a unity that this country may never see again. I think that's absolutely the truth. Who has written a book? Is it [Dan] Rather? Somebody has written a book. No, it's the other guy. Somebody has written a book [The Greatest Generation].

HT:

Tom Brokaw, NBC newsman, Tom Brokaw.

MC:

That's it, that's it. I think what were his two greatest generations, the Revolutionary generation and the World War II generation.

HT:

Did you ever meet any interesting people? You mentioned some other people earlier. I've forgotten who the gentleman was. Donald O'Connor, the entertainer.

MC:

Yeah, he was, of course, in the—I suppose USO [United Service Organizations] kind of thing. No, I don't recall any great personages particularly that I met.

HT:

What did you think of President Franklin D. Roosevelt?

MC:

Well, see, he was the only president that we had known. [chuckling] He was the president, and I'm sure we felt that, hey, next to God, or equal with, would be Franklin Roosevelt, that he was a man we could trust and he was going to bring us through. Yeah, we really did. I cannot think of any political discussion regarding anybody but having Franklin in the place.

HT:

What about Mrs. Roosevelt?

MC:

I had the privilege of seeing Eleanor at the United Nations after the war, which was kind of a neat kind of a thing. I guess unfortunately I was not aware of the real contribution that she made during the war, of being honestly his legs and his voice as she went all over the world to encourage and to be part of that. So, yeah, I think that she, I hope, is finding her rightful place in history now, because she was quite a lady.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes or heroines were during that time?

MC:

Well, I don't know if I have any that I would—I think, of course, as we think of what happened to the men and women on the top—

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

HT:

—Mrs. Hobby and those heroines from that period of time.

MC:

Yeah, that's right, Oveta Culp Hobby. I can remember she took over the Women's Army Corps [WAC], or the Auxiliary Women's Army Corps [WAAC], which the thing was at first. This was the first time probably that we had seen women, really, in places of considerable responsibility. And that obviously made a mark, that I remember that, that yes, women can do these kinds of jobs. So, that was very impressive.

HT:

Do you remember who was head of the Cadet Nurse Corps?

MC:

Can you believe—this is embarrassing, isn't it—that I cannot recall who the—there must have been one person, but I don't recall any one person who was. You know, like we had the heads of these other things, I do not recall that we had one specific person. And surely, if we had, I should have known her name. [chuckling] Well, that's kind of sad, isn't it? Poor dear.

HT:

Well, it has been a number of years, so we'll forgive you on that. [laughter]

MC:

But gosh, you would know if you had a commander in chief or something, you would remember. So, I don't know how the bureaucracy put this thing together. This was the first federal funding of nursing education, and so I don't know who was the wisdom behind this whole thing. [chuckling] We may have to search this out.

HT:

That's right, we'll have to do some research on that one.

MC:

That's right. [chuckling]

HT:

Do you recall where you were when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day?

MC:

That was June of '44?

HT:

Forty-five.

MC:

Forty-five? VE Day was before—yes, the other one was in June of '44, which was the invasion of Europe.

HT:

That's D-Day.

MC:

Yeah, there you go. That's the one. D-Day, whoa! Okay, '45. No, I really don't even remember.

HT:

And what about VJ [Victory in Japan] Day, which was victory over Japan, which was a couple of months later?

MC:

No, I don't.

HT:

Probably busy at the hospital somewhere.

MC:

Yeah, probably. That's right, had something to do, obviously not in a place of great celebration, you know, like Times Square or something like that. I wasn't there at that time. So, no, I think—and it was just a sense of “Okay, that's done.”

HT:

After the war was over, were you encouraged to return to the traditional female roles after you left?

MC:

Oh, absolutely! Oh, my goodness, that's the time of all the television programs they make fun of, you know, Leave It to Beaver and all those, where we were always in a perfectly put—together—[chuckling] Yes, the answer to that is yes. And had no problem with that. No problem with that. At that time it was, “Now let's get back to normal. Man, we've had enough of this whoop-de-do. Let's have some normality in lives.” You know, have families back together again and get on with the American dream.

HT:

Right. Now you said your husband was in the military, in the navy.

MC:

Yes, he was in the navy.

HT:

Right. So, when did he get out, do you recall?

MC:

He didn't get out till, boy, about 1946 or something. He was one of these young men who—he spent the whole war getting educated. He was in communications school. He went to Villanova, Cornell, Harvard [chuckling] during his naval career, and all he did was keep going to school. And even though he had volunteered for minesweepers and everything else, he just went on—they kept sending him to school. He finally ended up as an air communications officer at Virginia Beach—Oceania [Naval Air Station,] Virginia, actually. And then the war ended, but he had no points. If you recall, you had to have a certain number of points to get out. And if you'd been in combat, and length of time in the service, all these counted up for your discharge. Well, he didn't have any because he had just been in school. So, he was in the navy for probably almost two years after it ended, and all he did then was he was sent around decommissioning ships. He was sent to Orange, Texas, and then to Charleston [South Carolina], to decommission ships.

HT:

Were you married by this time?

MC:

No, we did not marry until June of '47, and he got out in '46.

HT:

And can you describe a little bit about your adjustment to civilian life? Of course you were not really in the military, but it was quasi-military, so there was an adjustment, I'm sure. Can you describe a little bit about that period of time?

MC:

Well, that was a time when you were once again free to make your own decisions, and so that caused me to really specialize in the kind of nursing that I liked, which was basically again emergency room and surgery. And that was kind of nice. You no longer had to work three shifts. You could pick a shift, and hopefully they would allow you to work that. The pay was better. [laughter] I left my fifteen dollars a month. That was good. I didn't have to wear uniforms anymore.

HT:

When you say “wear uniforms,” did you have semi-military-type uniforms?

MC:

Oh yes, we had dress grays.

HT:

Dress grays, okay.

MC:

We did! We did, we had dress grays, marvelous, made of wool. Had very elegant things on our hats, and little things on our lapels, just like little—yeah, like the military. Very much a military-looking uniform, more feminine, I think, than any of the other ones. It was a gray wool. And then our summer uniform was a seersucker uniform, which we wore all the time. When we weren't on duty we wore those uniforms. With white gloves.

HT:

So you were not allowed to wear civilian clothes?

MC:

No, we didn't wear civilian clothes, we wore our uniforms. And I can't hardly remember we ever had a vacation. Gosh, we may have had a vacation, two weeks sometime, but it almost—I do not recall us having vacations. We just worked. And then, of course, we had our hospital uniforms that had the little insignias on them that denoted us as cadet nurses. Then we got to be seniors, we got a black band for the hat.

It was a whole different kind of country that we came back into after the war. After being under such tight restrictions and rationing and all this kind of—that single focus to win the war, you had that few moments of, “Oh, it's over,” you know. [chuckling] “Now what do we do?” Because it had been such a focus for five or six years of our lives. My goodness.

HT:

Well, getting back to uniforms, can you describe a little more in detail, because I am totally unfamiliar with the type of uniforms that the cadet nurses wore. I did not even realize that it looked very much like military uniforms, it sounds like.

MC:

Yes, it was.

HT:

Could you describe a little bit about the type of clothing that was issued, and was there a designer? I know the navy uniform for women, the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] uniform, was designed by a very famous New York fashion designer [Mainbocher].

MC:

Yes, I remember that one.

HT:

And I understand that the WAC uniform was not quite as nice as the navy uniform. Can you describe a little bit about what these various articles of clothing looked like?

MC:

Okay. It was a two-piece suit of a very soft, woolen material. I would say it was probably—tends to be gray. It was a short jacket with lapels. Or tailored. We'll call it a tailored look, a straight skirt. On the uniform, on the dress uniform, you had two little silver pins, like the little caduceus [symbol of medical profession], like the medical thing. On our hat, which was a tam-like affair, we had a large silver insignia. It looked very much like the United States Public Health Service. I think that's who we really were under at the time. That was probably the division of the government we were under. We had to always wear black pumps, stockings, white gloves, a white blouse under the jacket. That would be our dress uniform. The seersucker summer one was also a relatively short jacket and skirt, white blouse. I can't remember; we must have had a summer hat. Why I can't remember the summer hat—because we wore hat and gloves, stockings, and pumps, and we also had an over-the-shoulder handbag, which was interesting, because they certainly have stayed in style all this time. The nursing uniform itself was a blue dress with white short sleeves, Cadet Nurse Corps. Of course, on all our uniforms we had the patch of the United States Cadet Nurse Corps. And over it we had a bib and apron that we wore, white shoes, white hose, and your cap. And that was your uniform on duty, and the others were worn off duty.

HT:

Now, you mentioned various types of insignias. Did you have rankings like lieutenant or something like that?

MC:

No, no ranks. No, the only thing that would tell you our rank would be when we were on duty, and there were different stripes on the hat which said first year, second year, third year. But there was no ranking on any of the uniforms, no. That's interesting.

HT:

That is interesting. And were they comfortable?

MC:

Very, yes. And very nice-looking. They were not tacky at all. They were very well tailored, wonderful. And they were given to us free. The books we had, all the books we needed, hundreds of dollars worth of books, they were given to us free, as well as our tuition to whatever school we were at, and then our fifteen dollars.

HT:

What impact do you think having been in the Cadet Nurse Corps had on your life immediately after the war and in the long term?

MC:

Well, an appreciation for the education, a lasting remembrance of a united nation. I guess just the appreciation of being an American.

HT:

You mentioned earlier in our conversation that you were not an American citizen originally. When did you become an American citizen? During this time?

MC:

Yes, indeed, while I was in the Corps. I suppose it's the same now as it was. You could file for your first papers when you were eighteen years old. You could not get your second papers, or, in quotes, “final papers,” for at least two years and a maximum of seven. If you waited beyond seven years, you had to start the process over again. So, as soon as I was eighteen years old, I filed my first papers for citizenship. My director of nurses—you had to have someone come and say this person would be okay to let her be a naturalized citizen, so she came as a character witness. And then two years later, as soon as I could, I filed my second papers and became a citizen. And I was still part of the Cadet Nurse Corps when all that went on, so most of the time I was in the process of becoming a citizen. And to this day, if I travel into Canada I have to take that particular thing with me. You can't Photostat [photocopy] it or anything, you have to take your—

HT:

You mean your citizenship papers?

MC:

Yeah, papers I have to take with me, which is pretty funny. [laughter]

HT:

Well, do you think your life has been different because you were a cadet nurse?

MC:

Oh yes, it certainly set the path on which I have walked all these years, and with a great appreciation for the medical community. I really have stayed really close to that. Of course now I have a daughter and a son-in-law who are physicians, so that makes it even easier. But I have always maintained a great respect for nursing, and nothing, of course, will get me teed-off faster than to walk into a hospital and see it not being done correctly.

HT:

I can imagine.

MC:

Oh, boy, that's hard. Because I come from the pretty old school of nursing that says you do take care of the patients. [laughter] And, you know, that's kind of changed. So, that has made a real impact on me. So, I really most have carried on my interest in the medical care. How it has evolved over these years has been absolutely startling. I don't think it's all been to the good, because I do feel that hands-on, caring nursing has a place, forever.

HT:

I was going to ask you would you do it again, but I think you've already answered that question.

MC:

Yeah.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

MC:

Well, now, that's a marvelous question. Independent within certain parameters or something, I don't know. [chuckling] Yeah, I would say probably I'm an independent thinker.

HT:

Do you think that being in the Cadet Nurse Corps made you that way, or were you somewhat independent before?

MC:

I suppose that it certainly gave me—I'm sure I had that personality trait, but I believe that it certainly gave me confidence. Because in medicine you get into some really crisis situations, and you've got to know what to do, and you do it. You don't run to three people and say, “Should I?” You see the need and you act on it immediately. And the training we were given equipped us very well to do that. So, crisis situations even to this day do not panic me whatever. No, it's simply a training that you don't forget.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter?

MC:

I guess I could. I have certainly in my day been on the cutting edge. One of the big things way back when—I saw the environmental needs, that we had to stop just throwing everything in the landfill. When I was in the League of Women Voters way back in 1968, I wrote a paper—we were always given these things to do, you know, and it said, “If we are not five years ahead of the need, then we are not where we ought to be anyway.” And I wrote a whole thing in 1968 on recycling. Amazing. They had had some little prototypes out in Ohio or something, and I did all the research, and really the big thing that I finally focused on was newspaper recycling. Man, that was such a crime. What does a New York Times weigh, twenty-five pounds or something? And we're throwing them by the trillions into landfills. And of course we've run out of landfill. I mean, I was a prophet. That was good.

And then my other thing was here in Winston-Salem, back in the early days of civil rights, as a member of the board of the YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association], we had what we called black and white dialogues, where we had a black Y [YWCA] and we had a white Y, and never the twain shall meet. And so we decided it was time they should. And that came down from national. I don't know, we had some really obvious great people in national Y at that time. So, we instituted black and white dialogues, where we as women would get together and get to know each other as persons. And so I have had a continuing and abiding interest in that particular phase. So, those are probably two of the—

I was a great social actionist, and that's part of my whole testimony, because I was out to save the world. And after twenty years of just trying, it was worse than ever, [chuckling] so there you go! But there are certain basic things that are good no matter when or how, and I think paying attention to our environment, not becoming a tree hugger but just paying attention to the environment and what we live in, and then also human relations. I mean, we have got to do something better here.

HT:

And do you think that these were the result of you having been in the Cadet Nurse Corps? Was that the start of your social consciousness, so to speak?

MC:

I'm sure I had some of that before, but certainly, boy, that'll reinforce it. You bet. Nursing will give you an insight into people and their concerns and their hurts better than any profession I can think of.

HT:

Do you consider yourself and other women who joined the military, and I'm using Cadet Nursing as quasi-military—

MC:

Yes, I hear you.

HT:

—to have been the forerunners of what we call today the women's movement?

MC:

We really give most of the credit to Rosie the Riveter, who left home and became an independent wage earner. That was a whole different concept. Now, what I think came out of the military is leadership. Wow, because these women who held places of responsibility during that time, I mean, magnificent. And I would say probably the best part of it would have come from women who had served in the military, who found out we can do these jobs and we can do them well. And that, I think, from those women, probably came the leadership out in business and in different professions that probably was awakened at that time when they did these jobs, and they did them well. So, I think probably the better part of the not just getting out of the house and bringing home a paycheck, that's fine, but there's a higher goal I think that the women who served in the military filled when they came out, which was leadership. Just wonderfully gifted women, wow! And once they knew they could do that, then things were forever going to change, of course.

HT:

On the same vein, during this period of time the perception of women by men, women who joined the military in general, was not always the greatest. I remember reading recently there was a scandal started in 1943, particularly in the army. I think men were somewhat jealous of women coming into the services, and they started all kinds of horrible rumors about women. I mean, it was really bad, particularly in the army.

MC:

Yes, I remember that. I remember that.

HT:

You said you remember that. Do you recall ever having been the victim of this sort of slander scandal in the Cadet Nurse Corps or anything like that?

MC:

No.

HT:

I know I talked to a woman earlier today who was in the navy, and she said that she too had heard of it, but it wasn't as bad in the navy as it was in the army.

MC:

It was the WACs. It was the Women's Army Corps.

HT:

It never actually went away, I understand, but it sort of did die down after about a year. And the women in England and the women in Canada had the same problem, I think, in their respective armies. Can you give me your thoughts on this?

MC:

Oh, I was absolutely incensed beyond anything I can just imagine. Talk about character assassination. But I don't know of any redress that the women had. I don't know what the—if these men who started that were ever in any way dealt with at all, I really don't know. But it did an awful thing to the Women's Army Corps. It really did, because it sounded like they were all prostitutes—with army colors, you know. And you knew that was a lie from day one. But there it was. It really was an awful thing.

HT:

I think it really must have made the women who were in the army particularly even tougher and more resolved to get beyond this and do their work, because they were just as patriotic and wanted to do the job as the next person.

MC:

Absolutely. And all volunteers. Oh, boy!

HT:

Exactly. And often were probably paid a little bit less than the men.

MC:

Oh sure, you know that, the whole thing.

HT:

So, that made it even tougher for them.

MC:

Yeah, it was a very bad scene, it really was. Of course, you're always going to have bad apples in the barrel, we're not that idealistic, but to just take a whole Women's Army Corps and paint them with this thing, wow! And I can't remember anybody coming to their defense, which makes it more sad.

HT:

That was the sad part, I think.

MC:

It really was. I don't think there was ever anybody done anything about that, which is—whoo, that's bad.

HT:

Have any of your children ever been in the military? You mentioned that you had a couple of children who were physicians, so they sort of followed your footsteps.

MC:

Right. Yeah, that's true. No, we have three daughters and a son, and during Vietnam, that was just the time—where was Sharon? Gosh, she was just high school. So, I guess we really—it's just been one of those fortuitous things that they have not had to make that decision.

HT:

I think you mentioned that you have a daughter who's a physician and a son-in-law?

MC:

Yes.

HT:

Do you think you having been in the medical field persuaded them to go into that field as well?

MC:

Well, certainly I encouraged it, but I really feel it was something that Sharon knew she was to do since she was a young girl, her desire to be a physician, and so she just did it. So, I'm delighted. [chuckling]

HT:

I'm sure. What is her specialty?

MC:

She is family medicine. She and her husband are down in Augusta at the—oh, I've got to get it right now, the—The Medical College of Georgia. That's what they call it. It's sort of like Wake Forest [University, in Winston-Salem] and Bowman Gray [School of Medicine, also in Winston-Salem]. It's the medical arm of the University of Georgia, which is in Athens [Georgia], but they are both at the Medical College of Georgia. And she works with students. She's a family physician. She works with students, with the student health and then the residents who are in family medicine.

HT:

It sounds like you're very proud of her.

MC:

She is just great. A wonderful, compassionate physician.

HT:

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about your Cadet Nurse Corps service?

MC:

Oh, let's see, I think only that the friendships still go on.

HT:

So you've kept in touch with some of the gals from that time?

MC:

Absolutely.

HT:

That's wonderful.

MC:

We just had a fiftieth anniversary, [chuckling] a reunion up in Plattsburgh a couple years ago, and it was wonderfully well attended. It was our class, which was one of the larger classes. I think we had fifty-some girls in this one particular class, and we have kept in touch with each other over the years and get together and have great times remembering how it was back fifty-some years ago. So, that's one part of the greatest benefits, and that's sort of what military people do is those—you know, those members of the same platoon, the things you've gone through in common override so many other relationships that have even come later, because they were such a dramatic time in your life that you just stick together.

So, I had just finished writing a friend just now who lives up in Vermont. I have a another friend who lives up in upstate New York, and one that lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, and then another one or two in New York State, because that's where most of the girls were from. But we keep in touch every year, and see each other every two or three years still, you know, which is pretty good. And amazingly enough, very few of our classmates have died. It's really quite wonderful that they have been gifted with long life. And gosh, I think most of them made careers of nursing. I mean, they've stayed in nursing up till now. So, the government's money was well spent. Sort of like the GI Bill, it was well spent in giving these girls the opportunity for education. Because most of them were just from small towns and from farms, and except for this opportunity, probably would not have been able to pursue the education.

HT:

Can you tell me something about your life since you left the Cadet Nurse Corps?

MC:

Well, as I said, after we were—I nursed at the House of the Good Samaritan after I graduated, then married Bob, and we came down to Durham, North Carolina, where he was in law school at Duke [University]. I nursed at Watts Hospital, which was a private hospital in Durham, for two years, and then we moved for the first job down to Whiteville, North Carolina. That was my experience in a little county hospital, which was certainly an interesting thing.

But then as time went on and we had more children, it became obvious that because the demands of nursing are so different than other professions, and they hadn't gotten to this part-time stuff. I mean, you came and you worked the three shifts, or you worked evenings, or you worked every weekend, and it—whew!—wasn't working into the family life. And that's a shame, because I would have loved to have kept my hand in it. But they were so inflexible at the time that it was really impossible to do any nursing, even though Baptist Hospital [in Winston-Salem] was willing to retrain you and everything if you'd just come. But of course what they wanted me to do was work weekends. Oh boy! And that didn't exactly fit the family situation. So, I had to give that up, and so basically I have not done—I've done thousands of hours of volunteerism, but basically in the school system, of tutoring children in reading. I never did get back into the hospital, which is kind of sad, because I have an abiding love. So, just keeping track of it from the outside, and I have a friend who's a nurse. Keeping up like that is all I've been able to do professionally.

HT:

One more question about cadet nurses, were they ever sent overseas?

MC:

Not unless they had the opportunity to join one of the services. No, we were never asked to serve anywhere except in the United States. That's all.

HT:

So if you wanted to go overseas, you had to join the Army Nurse Corps or the Navy Nurse Corps and that sort of thing, which was a completely different organization.

MC:

Yes, absolutely, and could come to us only after we graduated, you see. So, it would only be the very first classes that would. And see, this bill wasn't passed till '43, and they were late figuring the whole deal out. And I'm sure that's why we walked into hospitals where there weren't any RNs [Registered Nurses]. Whew!

HT:

That must have been tough, because you were very young, eighteen, nineteen—

MC:

Oh, yeah!

HT:

And the responsibility thrust upon these very young girls was tremendous.

MC:

Yes, absolutely! Absolutely! It really was. When you think about it, you think wow! It's a wonder the patients all came out alive to start with. Because I do not remember RN staff outside of our head nurse—that's one person—our nurse instructors, and of course in those days we had orderlies on the men's wards. But I do not remember any RN working side-by-side as just a nurse from the community.

HT:

And what type of doctors were around at that time? Because I imagine many of the male doctors would have been in the regular services or whatever.

MC:

Absolutely.

HT:

So were there female doctors?

MC:

No. We never had a female doctor in all my affiliations, not one. So, basically what you had, you had older doctors, doctors who were too old for military service. That's basically—because you're exactly right, all the young physicians had been drafted for sure, into the army primarily.

HT:

And were these older doctors, in your opinion, still top-notch physicians and good administrators, or whatever?

MC:

No, they were not. [chuckling] Not the cream of the crop. They really were not.

HT:

So, that made life even more difficult for you?

MC:

Oh, yes, they did. Yes, they did. And we saw more than our share of mistakes being made by physicians. So, that kind of took some of your confidence out of what you thought a doctor was.

HT:

Because they were almost godlike in those days, I can imagine.

MC:

Absolutely. They really were.

HT:

You did not question them.

MC:

Never.

HT:

Never second-guessed them, and—

MC:

Not question their decision. That was really a time—because you're exactly right, that's how they walked in, just like, “Well, God's here now,” you see. And yet we saw not the best care. So, that was difficult. It was difficult.

HT:

You mentioned rationing and that sort of thing, were medical supplies short at that time?

MC:

No, we seemed to be okay. We seemed to be okay. It was the civilian part of the country that really felt the rationing, I think, because basically I think there was a real priority. It would be first to all the military, period. And then I have a really strong sense that the health care community came almost just under that, because we were never short of any kind of supplies in those days. And the medicines that we used in those days, sulfa being one of the main ones, I don't remember ever being in short supply of any medical necessities at all, I really don't. But of course the new medicines, they were all just commandeered for the military. And I think that's why it was such an amazement when we got this one shipment of penicillin, because that just wasn't done. [chuckling] I mean, that was a big day in our lives.

HT:

That's amazing. And how did you use penicillin in those days?

MC:

It was used for someone who was desperately ill with an infection. It could have been one of these ruptured appendices that I mentioned before, which, if they got peritonitis, they were dead. It could have been. I wish I could recall, but it seems to me it was for a young man who was desperately ill with an infection. They would always requisition whoever was in charge of this, trying to get it into our civilian hospitals, but it was in such short supply that it had to go to the military first. So, it was probably toward the end of the war that we got this one-time shipment of it. Isn't that amazing? [chuckling]

HT:

It is amazing. It's truly amazing. Well, Mrs. Clodfelter, I don't have any more questions for you today, but I really appreciate you talking to me. It's just been wonderful listening to your stories.

MC:

Well, it's been just fun. [chuckling]

HT:

It's been truly fun. Thank you so much again. I really do appreciate it.

MC:

Well, you're more than welcome, more than welcome.

HT:

Thank you.

[End of interview]