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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Martha M. Boger, 1999

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Object ID: WV0032.5.001

Description: Documents Martha Boger’s attendance at Woman’s College during the Depression, her Women’s Army Corps (WAC) basic training in 1945; and her experiences as a physical therapist in the Army Medical Specialist Corps for the following twenty years.

Summary:

Boger recalls attending Woman’s College during the Depression and describes the campus, student social activities, local transportation, the impact of the Depression on the school, and various campus personalities. She briefly discusses her career as a physical education teacher before the war; her recruitment into the army’s physical therapy program; and her basic training as a WAC in Des Moines, Iowa.

Boger also describes in detail her training and activities as a physical therapist in the Army Medical Specialist Corps at various duty stations, including at West Point during the visit of dignitaries and in Munich during the Berlin airlifts. Other topics include Boger’s life after the army, anecdotes about friends and social life in the army, and a 1945 trip to a gold mine in Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Creator: Martha Magruder Boger

Biographical Info: Martha Magruder Boger (1915-2000) of Albemarle, North Carolina, served as a physical therapist in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and Army Medical Specialist Corps from circa 1945 to 1965.

Collection: Martha Boger 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 February 5, 1999. I'm at the home of Miss Martha Boger. Is that how to pronounce it?

MB:

Boger, with a hard G.

HT:

Boger, I'm sorry, in Albemarle, North Carolina, and I'm here to do an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Collection for UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. Miss Boger, if you would tell me a little bit about where you grew up and where you went to high school, just as a test for this.

MB:

Well, I was born and raised in Albemarle, and I went to high school here, and then I went to—It wasn't called UNCG when I went, it's been so many years ago, [chuckling] it was Woman's College.

HT:

I understand that you graduated from Woman's College in 1936. Do you have any general recollection of your time at Woman's College in the mid-1930s?

MB:

Well, I majored in physical education, and we were almost segregated from the rest of our friends because we had so many activities to attend to after class. And so, if you wanted to go to the picture show or something like that, you had to go at some odd hour. You know, you didn't have much time on your own or to visit with other students because you had all this studying to do and all these extracurricular activities to attend. Of course, they had different kinds of programs at the auditorium which were very good and interesting, and you'd get to go to some of them, some of them you couldn't go. I guess I remember the instructors, but the head of our department, Mary Channing Coleman, was a go-getter, and she looked after her students even after they graduated. And she was highly respected, I think, and we all felt secure and good having her as our department head.

HT:

Do you recall any other instructors from that time that stand out in your mind?

MB:

I don't know her first name, Miss Davis.

HT:

And what did she teach?

MB:

Oh, she taught some tennis and some of the activities that you have in physical ed.

HT:

And you said you were a physical education major, what was your particular favorite sport?

MB:

[chuckling] Well, I don't know, I enjoyed playing field hockey myself. Of course, you don't have that way back then in the schools when you'd get out to teach, unless you were in college activities, and I never desired to do college.

HT:

Do you remember the lake on campus in those days? Was there a lake on campus, or did that come later? It's now where the golf course is on campus.

MB:

There was a swimming pool in the physical education building, but I don't remember any lake on campus.

HT:

I know there was a lake in the forties. Maybe that was built after you left.

MB:

It probably was.

HT:

Do you recall any of your academic professors that stand out?

MB:

Ethel Martus. Of course, she was head of the practice teaching. And law, we had to get out of that swimming pool, our heads wet and everything, have to go all the way across the two or three blocks to get to the school where you would do practice teaching. Icicles would be in your hair. [chuckling]

HT:

That's right, you had no way of drying them, I guess.

MB:

No.

HT:

Those were the days before hair dryers.

MB:

That's right. [chuckling]

HT:

That must have been tough in the wintertime.

MB:

Well, it was but you did it. But Ethel Martus was a—and I think she's been recognized there at the school since her departure.

HT:

Do you recall Miss Harriet Elliott, by any chance?

MB:

Who taught political science?

HT:

Well, she was dean of women, and I'm not sure if she taught.

MB:

Well, she probably taught political science and then turned to dean of women. Everybody liked her as a political science teacher, and she had a lot of inroads with all the people who were in higher echelons.

HT:

Right, and she served in President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt's cabinet, or something like that during the war.

MB:

That's right, she did.

HT:

I can't remember exactly what she did, but she did have a high government position.

MB:

Yes, she was a very, very intelligent and likeable person.

HT:

And what about—did you ever know Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson, who was the chancellor?

MB:

No.

HT:

He might have been chancellor after you left. I can't remember exactly his time. What about Dr. [Julius I.] Foust? Was he there when you were there?

MB:

He could have been. I don't remember.

HT:

And how about Clara Booth Byrd, the alumnae secretary? Did you ever have any occasion to meet her?

MB:

No.

HT:

And where did you stay on campus, which dorm, do you recall?

MB:

I stayed in different ones. One was Kirkland [Residence Hall]. And when I first went—Is it Mary Foust [Residence Hall]?

HT:

Yes.

MB:

I stayed in that to begin with, and Kirkland, and then one of those over close to the physical education building. I can't think of the name of it, though.

HT:

There was a whole quad of dorms.

MB:

A road went right in front of it. I can't remember the name of it.

HT:

Do you remember any unusual incidences in the dorms, anything unusual? I've talked to one lady who said that they dragged their beds out on—it might have been either Women's Dorm or it might have been Kirkland. They had porches and they would sleep out there.

MB:

[chuckling] No. I'll tell you, we were so busy with our studies and activities that you didn't have time to do much of anything else.

HT:

Now this was at the height of the Depression, so what was it like to go to school at that time, and why did you choose Woman's College?

MB:

Well, I had a friend whose sister graduated from Woman's College, and I went with my friend up there to Woman's College and I got to see everything. And I just thought I'd like to do physical education, and I understood that they had one of the best courses in physical education anywhere around, so I decided I wanted to go there. Of course it was during the Depression, and my sister was going to Salem [College, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina], and my dad could send both of us to Woman's College for what he was sending her one year to Salem. So she cried and cried and cried because she didn't want to leave, but she had to go. So the Depression caused that, you know. And you couldn't go anywhere because you didn't have any money. You just stayed on campus. And you had a little money maybe to buy a Coca-Cola or something like that, not much. And you couldn't go home, you couldn't go anywhere.

HT:

And when you did go home, how did you go back and forth?

MB:

Well, back in that time there was a train that went from Salisbury [North Carolina] to Greensboro. The family would take us up to Salisbury to get on the train and go to Greensboro.

HT:

And you said there wasn't a great deal of money. I've heard other stories from women who said that when they were at school at that time that they walked everywhere. They didn't even have the seven cents to pay for the trolley ride downtown. Did you find that to be true in your case?

MB:

Oh, I didn't go downtown very often. Like I tell you, we were glued to that course [chuckling] and those activities. You just didn't have any time. You went to class, and then after everybody else, their classes were over, you were out learning how to play tennis and hockey and all these other things. Or maybe you were helping [unclear]. Then you had to get up lesson plans and all that kind of stuff. You just didn't have time to frolic around.

HT:

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your time at Woman's College that you can recall?

MB:

I don't know, I was just awfully happy to get through. [chuckling]

HT:

Now you graduated in 1936. What did you do after your graduation?

MB:

I came home and stayed for a while, and then the superintendent of schools in Durham, North Carolina, called me up for an interview. And so I went down for the interview and he said, “You know, I'm practically giving you this job.” He didn't much want to give it to me because I wasn't but nineteen. He said, “You're too young,” or something, and I said, “But I feel so old.” [chuckling] So anyway I got the job in the public schools in Durham, North Carolina.

HT:

As a physical education teacher?

MB:

As a physical education teacher in the elementary schools.

HT:

And what was that like teaching in those days, do you recall?

MB:

Well, you had to teach health along with your physical education, but it was good.

HT:

How was the salary in those days, do you recall?

MB:

Oh, I was teaching for seventy dollars a month.

HT:

And did you have a car so you could go back and forth?

MB:

No.

HT:

So you had to live fairly—

MB:

No car. I had to pay for a place to stay, I had to pay for my food, and I had to pay for my transportation. And then each year they raised you a penny or two, you know, but it wasn't much.

HT:

And how long did you teach in Durham?

MB:

Nine years.

HT:

And is that when you went into the service?

MB:

Into the service.

HT:

And what year was that?

MB:

Nineteen forty-two. The war was about over. [sic: 1945]

HT:

What made you decide to join the service?

MB:

A representative called me up and wanted to talk with me and said that the science courses that I had had in college would enable me to go to physical therapy school, and they needed physical therapists, and that the various army hospitals were teaching the courses. And to begin with I told him no, I wasn't interested at all. And then later, I don't know whether it was the same man or another one, anyway I was contacted, and I thought, “Well, everybody is helping. If I can, I ought to go and help”—you know, the war effort and to help restore people to health. So I decided I would do that. And the way it worked, I was inducted into the WAC [Women's Army Corps], and then I went to Fitzsimmons [Army Hospital] in Colorado and took the physical therapy course.

HT:

And how long did that last?

MB:

A year, I guess it was. And then after that you were sent out to do like internship, but the basic course. And then when you completed your course you were commissioned a second lieutenant in the medical department, so you were cut off from the WAC then.

HT:

Were you actually a part of the Army Nurse Corps?

MB:

No. No, to begin with it was Physical Therapy Medical Department. I believe that's right.

HT:

So it was a completely different outfit from the WAC and the Nurse Corps.

MB:

Yeah.

HT:

It was another branch, really.

MB:

Yeah. And then finally we changed names to the Women's something, and then finally it became the Army Medical Specialist Corps, which included dietitians, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

HT:

Did you have to undergo basic training?

MB:

Yes, I did, in the WAC. I went to Des Moines and went through basic training just like the rest of them.

HT:

What time of year did you go there, do you recall?

MB:

I think it may have been in February. I'm not sure.

HT:

So I imagine it was rather cold?

MB:

Oh yeah.

HT:

That's Fort Des Moines, Iowa, so that's a cold place.

MB:

That's right.

HT:

Does anything stand out in your mind about your basic training days?

MB:

Well, you had to have everything spit-polished and in order, and shoes in a certain place and clothes hanging in a certain order, and you had to make up beds and you had to make white beds on some days, and you even had to polish the soles of your shoes. [chuckling] You had to have them turned upside-down on your bed when they had inspection. And then you had marching. You had to march and you had to go to classes and one thing and another. I remember I was there when President Roosevelt died, I guess, and we all had to get out on the field and stand at attention. And a lot of people standing that long at attention passed out and fell to the ground and stuff. But it was something you did, and everybody had kind of a sense of humor about it, and you talked and laughed about it and joked, had a good time.

HT:

And after you finished basic training at Fort Des Moines, is that when you went to Fitzsimmons?

MB:

To Fitzsimmons, yes.

HT:

And where is Fitzsimmons?

MB:

Colorado. Denver, Colorado.

HT:

And is that a college?

MB:

That's an army hospital.

HT:

Army hospital. And I think you said you stayed there a year to receive special training.

MB:

Yes, that's right, in physical therapy.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about what kind of training you had and what your typical day was like?

MB:

Well, you had courses in anatomy and physiology, in hydrotherapy and exercise and muscle testing. And, oh, I can't think of the—[chuckling] Well, anyway, I'm getting old now, I can't remember. And we had all the science courses. Some courses we took with the majors who were majoring in that particular field, and so that made it harder on you.

HT:

It sounds like it was real tough.

MB:

Yeah. It wasn't an easy breeze-through thing. And we had to take psychology and—oh gosh, I can't remember all the courses now.

HT:

So you went to classes. Did you have to do any kind of other training, like calisthenics or marching, during that time?

MB:

We were supposed to when we first got up in the morning, but we didn't. [chuckling]

HT:

So you didn't have to march back and forth to class, to chow hall?

MB:

No, you just went.

HT:

You just went. You wore uniforms at this time, I guess?

MB:

Yes.

HT:

And were they—?

MB:

They were cotton uniforms.

HT:

Were they WAC uniforms or—?

MB:

No, no, they were more like a nurse's uniform, only they weren't white.

HT:

And after you left Fitzsimmons, where were you stationed next?

MB:

I went to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

HT:

And can you tell me what type of work you did there?

MB:

Well, the type of patients they had, there was nothing real severe and so you didn't get to use all of your training that you had had with these people.

HT:

And these were fellows who had been wounded overseas, I guess?

MB:

Yes, and they were recuperating, but there wasn't anything that was very severe like nerve injuries and chest conditions and things like that.

HT:

I imagine this was a rather large hospital again?

MB:

No, it wasn't too big.

HT:

Was this a regular army base and there was just the hospital there, or do you recall?

MB:

I don't remember, to tell you the truth. It's terrible to say, but after eighty-three years, it's hard to remember. [chuckling]

HT:

Did you enjoy your work as a physical therapist?

MB:

Very much, very much. And one good thing, in the service—You know, in a civilian operation you treat the patient and then all of a sudden they don't come anymore and you don't know how they ever turned out, whether they got okay or not. But in the army you treated these patients until they were able to go back to duty. And of course some were shipped out to other places, but you got to see the end results of what you were doing.

HT:

Did you ever become attached to the patients and hate to see them leave, knowing that they'd probably go to the front again or something like that?

MB:

No, no. Well, naturally, if somebody told you they had to go to the front you would commiserate with them, but you didn't have this deep feeling about it. You can't when you're—Doctors and everybody, you're not supposed to have these close feelings with people that you treat.

HT:

What was your typical day like? Can you tell me about what were the hours and how many days you worked straight, and time off, and that sort of thing?

MB:

Well, usually Saturday and Sunday we were off. We worked from seven o'clock in the morning till about five o'clock in the afternoon. Of course, we had a lunch period to go to lunch, and you had a full day's schedule of patients to treat. Some took more time than others and so your schedule may be—Some days you might have more than others to treat.

HT:

And did you always go to their rooms to treat them, or did they come to a physical training center?

MB:

Those that could would come to the clinic for their treatments, and then those that could not, you were assigned to the wards to treat patients on the ward.

HT:

Can you describe some of the treatments you would give people?

MB:

Well, I'll take an easy one. Suppose they had had an operation on their knee, and usually they were in a—This day and time they probably don't put them in a cast, but anyway they were in a cast and you had to teach them to use your thigh muscle, which [has] three sections to it. And you had to teach them how to contract that muscle because they'd forget how, and it was painful to do it and they wouldn't want to do it. So you had to talk to them and explain everything and get them to contract that muscle, and hold it for a certain length of time and then release it. Then the next thing, when they got stronger they might be doing straight-leg raises and abducting their leg and working their ankle in all directions to get the extremity back in—the muscles back strong so that when it came out of the cast they would have to get the knee to bend then because their knee would be stiff. But the muscle that stabilizes your knee is the one on the thigh, so you wanted to get that good and strong.

HT:

And did you spend your entire service career at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, or were you transferred elsewhere?

MB:

No, I went to different places. From Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, I went to Halleron on Governor's Island, and then I was stationed at West Point [New York], Valley Forge [Pennsylvania]. I taught at the [Army] Medical Field Service School.

HT:

Where is that?

MB:

It's in Texas, in San Antonio; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Hawaii; Germany. Oh, I can't think of all the places. Oh, that place in South Carolina. I can't think of the name of it.

HT:

Fort Jackson?

MB:

Yeah, Fort Jackson. Oh, I've been about ten, fifteen places.

HT:

It sounds like you made a career out of it.

MB:

I did. I was in for twenty years.

HT:

Oh, I did not realize that.

MB:

Yeah, twenty years.

HT:

And what was the highest rank you attained?

MB:

Major.

HT:

That's wonderful.

MB:

I think I would have probably gone up another grade, except that I was at a major hospital and I had sickness in the family and I asked to be stationed at Fort Jackson, which was a down—you know, like going downhill. But I wanted to do that because I had to be close to where I could get home to the family. And I think that's one reason that I didn't go up another grade before I retired.

HT:

Do you recall which was your favorite duty station?

MB:

Well, I enjoyed West Point. It was kind of like being on a college campus with all the cadets, and then you had your football games and you had all these lectures and things that you could attend. And dignitaries would come. I remember seeing them roll out the carpet for the shah of Iran. That's before he got deposed. [chuckling] And you would see all these high-ranking officials in the service, like Omar Bradley and all these high-ranking folks, and it was just a—And it was a beautiful campus, and it wasn't far from New York, and you could go in to see plays and eat dinner and all that kind of stuff. So I thoroughly enjoyed it.

HT:

If we could backtrack just a little bit back to World War II, did you say you entered in 1942 or 1945?

MB:

Let's see—[chuckling] It must have been '45.

HT:

The war was over in '45, so you went in very late.

MB:

Oh. Well, no, because I remember when it was over. I was in basic training or somewhere, because I remember everybody went crazy.

HT:

And that would have been—let's see, the war was over—I think VE [Victory in Europe] Day was sometime in May of 1945 and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day was in August of 1945. I think you said you taught for nine years, so that sounds about right then.

MB:

Well, I hope so. [chuckling]

HT:

What made you decide to make the army a career?

MB:

For the main thing, what I was telling you previously, that you got to see the patients from the time they were there until they had recuperated completely. So you would get to see the end results of your activity, and I knew that in civilian life you wouldn't get to do that. See, the army is what made physical therapy come into civilian life. They didn't have it. And they saw what the army could do with patients. So there wasn't a lot of places of employment at that time, so I decided I might as well stay in if I enjoyed it.

HT:

So you have no regrets whatsoever?

MB:

No, none whatsoever.

HT:

As a woman, do you think you were treated equally with men in the same position?

MB:

Oh gosh, I didn't ever think about that.

HT:

Were there men physical therapists?

MB:

Not at that time, but later men did enter the field.

HT:

Did you ever encounter any kind of discrimination because you were a woman?

MB:

Well, I don't remember any because I was a woman.

HT:

Did you ever receive any kind of special treatment?

MB:

I don't know what you mean by that exactly.

HT:

Well, let me see if I can think of an example. Say in basic training you might not have to go through the same type of training that a fellow might have to go through because you

MB:

Oh well, we didn't have to wiggle under fire and go under barbed wire and all that kind of stuff. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, in your twenty-some years of service, do you recall what [was] the hardest thing you ever had to do physically?

MB:

That's a hard one. Of course your daily work was hard, because if you were taking joints through range of motion and a man couldn't move his entire leg, you'd have to lift it way up. And it would be like a ton of bricks, you know, because he couldn't help lift. It's just like lifting somebody that's dead, you know. It's a dead weight. And so that would—Your everyday activities sometimes would be hard.

HT:

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

MB:

Oh, me! I was going to be transferred to this station, and I didn't know I was going to be head of the department then when I was transferred there, and the head of the department was in the hospital and died. And that was kind of hard because you had to make arrangements for the people in Washington to come up for the funeral and one thing and another. And it was a—everybody. She was very popular and everybody liked her and it was very sad. Then the other thing that I had to do, this dietitian died in San Francisco and I had to accompany her body to Arlington [Virginia] for burial. And that was sad.

HT:

Was this a friend of yours?

MB:

Yes.

HT:

Oh, I'm sure that was very tough.

MB:

She was a dietitian, and to ride behind that caisson and stuff, the whole service was very sad to me. [voice choking with emotion]

HT:

I can imagine so. On a lighter note, do you recall any embarrassing or funny moments during your twenty-some years that stand out?

MB:

I don't know. When you'd go out to eat, you know, or go off somewhere away from your work situation, you always had a good time and talked and laughed. I don't remember any—Well, one thing, I don't know, this is not really funny, but it could be funny in a way. When I was in Hawaii I had this patient whose name was Relar Tomatio, and he had been in a cement mixer, and nobody knew he was in there and they turned it on. So he got banged up. Well, he was a Filipino, and you know their language, they don't have any vowels in their language, just N, F, G, P, you know. And so I was to treat him, and I went down to the ward, and he had a newspaper there and I picked it up and acted like I was reading it. [chuckling] And he knew I couldn't read it. So, anyway, we got along real well together. And then he started coming up to the clinic, and I worked with him up there and got him so he could walk.

They were always going to occupational therapy, and they would make belts and one thing and another, you know. One day he brought this little square package like that up and he gave it to me, and I just thanked him and stuck it in my pocket, you know, and didn't open it or anything. And after he had gone at the end of the day, I opened that thing and there was a hundred dollars in it. So I went down there and took that money back to him, and he held his head down. He wanted me to have it because I had made him well. I said, “No, no, you made yourself well because you did what I asked you to, and you made yourself well.” Well, I left the money with him and I said, “You make me something in OT [occupational therapy].”

So a while later, I don't know how much later, here he comes with a—it looks like a belt, but you could see, you know, in the tissue paper. So I opened it, and right there in the middle where it started coiling around was that hundred dollars. [chuckling] He was determined I was going to have that money. So I gave it back to him. And in the meantime I got orders to go back to the States, and I told my chief, I said, “Don't anybody let Relar bring anything up here to me, because he will. I don't want that hundred dollars.” So anyway when I went down and we were coming back then to—I think the Berlin airlift was on or something; anyway, we had to come by ship. So some of the therapists came down to see me off, and here they brought this lei, you know, made out of paper from Relar. He wanted me to have it. So that was an experience.

HT:

Did he ever keep the hundred dollars?

MB:

Did I?

HT:

No, did he? Did you finally convince him to keep the hundred dollars?

MB:

Well, I just left it with him and never saw him again. I didn't want him to come with that hundred dollars again. And I didn't want to hurt his feelings either, you know? So that's the way it worked out.

HT:

And you were stationed in Hawaii in the late 1940s?

MB:

Oh, don't ask me the years I was where because I can't remember. [chuckling]

HT:

Okay. You mentioned the Berlin airlift, which I think was about 1948 or something like that.

MB:

Well, I don't know. I'll tell you, when you get older and older, things that happened a way long time ago it's hard to recall them.

HT:

Were you ever afraid?

MB:

Of what?

HT:

Just being afraid. The reason I've asked this is that many women—Well, this one woman was stationed overseas in England, and of course they'd have bombs come in and this sort of thing. But you were never—?

MB:

No, I never was afraid, at all. I never thought about it. And you know it's different in the service. In a way, it's kind of like a big family. Say, for instance, if I was somewhere and I wanted to ask a question or something, I didn't know how to get to something, if there was a military person there I wouldn't hesitate to go up and ask them, where I wouldn't go up and ask a civilian.

HT:

Just because of the uniform.

MB:

Yeah.

HT:

You were stationed in Europe after the war, is that correct?

MB:

Right. Yeah, I was in Munich.

HT:

And you did physical therapy in all these different posts?

MB:

Yes.

HT:

What did you and your fellow physical therapists and nurses do for fun, and what kind of social life was it possible to have while you were in the army?

MB:

Oh, they would have dances and stuff. The army didn't really provide entertainment for you. When I was in Hawaii we'd get a permit to fly with the Hickham Field pilots. They'd have to fly over to Hilo [Hawaii] and stuff to get their flying time in. And if you were off duty and had one of those cards, you could fly over there with them and shop around and see the sights, eat lunch, and come back, or go to plays, go to the picture show, just kind of like what you'd do today, I guess.

HT:

You mentioned Hilo. Is that one of the islands or was it the name of a city?

MB:

That's on the island of Hawaii. See, we were stationed in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, and Hawaii is the big island. That's where Hilo is.

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite songs or movies or dances were from the mid-1940s?

MB:

I don't know. The WACs had a song. I recognize it when I hear it, but I can't even remember the words to it now. Not really.

HT:

I've talked to other ladies about the mood or feeling or the climate of the country during World War II. Do you recall what it was, from your perspective?

MB:

Well, before I went into the service I thought everybody was putting to [unclear] to provide something for the military. And the schools collected tin, pounds and pounds of tin. I think the Japanese got it, though. [chuckling] It seemed like everybody was trying to contribute to the war effort. Everybody seemed united. I don't think if you ever had a war again you'd have the spirit that was prevalent during World War II.

HT:

Since you were a civilian most of the war years, do you recall rationing and that sort of thing?

MB:

Oh yeah, down at the school we made out rationing cards for sugar and coffee and gasoline and all that stuff. And then too, during the time it was rationed I was going to NYU [New York University] summer camp to get my master's, [chuckling] and we all had our little gasoline cards and we tried to see how many miles we could coast to New York. And we coasted two hundred miles to New York.

HT:

You're kidding.

MB:

No. And one time it scared us because we came down and here was this turn like this, and there was this dam. You rode across the dam, you know, and the water, [chuckling] and it scared us. But anyway—

HT:

And this was all to save gasoline?

MB:

Yeah, we wanted to save gasoline so we could have some when we got up there. We coasted two hundred miles to New York. [chuckling]

HT:

Do you recall any interesting people from that period of time in your life in the mid-1940s when you first went into the service?

MB:

Well, not anybody that was real outstanding in anything. We were all kind of the same caliber, you know, education-wise. I don't remember any of the people that I was with that really stood out. You had friends just like you do anyplace else, and some you were more friendly with than others.

HT:

What did you think of President Franklin D. Roosevelt?

MB:

Well, everybody says he was a marvelous president, but I reckon I have mixed feelings about him.

HT:

And how about Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

MB:

I think she was terrific. She went on and made her way in life and did an awful lot for the countries and people and everything, and I think she was better than he was.

HT:

Can you explain why you didn't think as highly of him as you did of her?

MB:

Well, I don't know, he cut the farmers back and wouldn't let them plant, he had his affairs, and nothing seemed—I mean, he was the man in authority; nobody else could have anything to say. And whether he was right or wrong, people fell for him, I know that, his fireside chats and all.

HT:

Oh, so you recall those fireside chats?

MB:

Not a lot of them, no.

HT:

Well, what about President [Harry S.] Truman? Do you have any feelings about him?

MB:

Well, he'd get things done whether people liked it or not, and he would use language that people probably didn't go for, but he meant business. And he had some insight into things that a lot of people didn't have.

HT:

Well, I understand from some people that he was really unknown until he became president.

MB:

That's right.

HT:

No one really knew anything about him when he was vice president. And then of course Mr. Roosevelt died, and here was this unknown man who was president, which was frightening to some people, I understand.

MB:

Yeah, I'm sure it could have been.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes or heroines were from those days?

MB:

I don't have heroes and heroines.

HT:

Since you did make the service a career, after you got out—think you said you stayed in for twenty years—can you describe your adjustment to civilian life after twenty-some years in the army?

MB:

Well, I got this house to live in, and I volunteered for a lot of activities at the church, in the community and things, and stayed active until I got so old I can't be so active anymore. [chuckling] But my life was full of activity. If I had gotten out and come home and sat down in a chair and just stayed there, it would have been terrible. But I got out and did things, and social things too, as well as volunteer work.

HT:

Did you miss being in the army at all after you left?

MB:

Not really. You know you're going to leave and stuff. The only thing, there was always someone to do something with in the service. If they're off duty, somebody, you know. And in civilian life, especially if you're single and everybody else is married and have children, then they're not free to go and come like you. And you might contact somebody to do something, well, they can't because their kids are here and they've got to pick them up then, all this kind of stuff. But other than that, I had no problem with adjusting to civilian life.

HT:

What did you do after you retired from the military? I know you came back here, did you work in a hospital or a clinic somewhere?

MB:

Oh, I did volunteer work for the church and I worked with Meals on Wheels, and I was on the board of the Mental Health Association. Each Christmas they'd have a community Christmas dinner and I'd volunteer for that, and anything that came up. I didn't, say, go to a hospital and work all day or anything like that. I didn't want to get involved in that work again. In fact, I thought maybe I might take some courses and become a dental assistant.

HT:

But you didn't want to go back to physical therapy as a career?

MB:

No, a doctor wanted me to do that, said he would set me up a clinic and everything if I would do it. But I didn't want to do that, not on a civilian basis.

HT:

Were you just tired of it, or—?

MB:

No, like I told you, the army had to educate the civilian establishment about physical therapy, and I didn't want the job of trying to teach the doctors about physical therapy and to teach everybody else about physical therapy. Nobody knew anything, and I just didn't want to do it.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

MB:

Yes, I'm pretty independent.

HT:

Were you that way before you went in the military, or do you think the military helped you along the way?

MB:

No, I don't think it was the military, I think it was because I had to be. In anything, regardless of where you are, you've got to be independent. You can't fall down on everybody to boost you up. [chuckling]

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter when you entered the military?

MB:

Well, I didn't blaze any trails, I don't think.

HT:

Well, it sounds like you almost did with the—Physical therapy was almost an unknown prior to the Second World War, so you—

MB:

Well, that's true.

HT:

So you were a trailblazer in that respect.

MB:

I don't know.

HT:

Well, do you consider yourself and other women who joined the military during World War II to be forerunners of what we call the women's movement today?

MB:

Well, they helped a lot.
[End Side A, Begin Side B]

HT:

In the spring of 1943, there was a slander started by military men in the army against women who had joined the army. Do you recall anything about that? Did you hear anything about that while you were still a civilian, about the reputations of women who joined the military was supposedly on the bad side and that sort of thing?

MB:

Well, yeah. Oh, when I told people I was going to do this and going into the WAC, “Oh, my goodness, certainly you're not going to do that!” [chuckling] “You know why they have the WAC is to follow the men around,” and all that kind of stuff. My parents didn't think anything like that, but you would hear people say things of that nature. So, yeah, I was aware of it. Their reputation wasn't too good.

HT:

Right. I've talked to some nurses, and they said they had less of that than the ladies who were in the regular WAC units. For some reason they seemed to get the worst part of the deal, so to speak.

MB:

Yeah, I expect that's true.

HT:

And even the ladies who were in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] in the navy didn't have as bad a time of it as the WACs did, for some reason.

MB:

Yes.

HT:

But anyway, their reputation was not always the best, and it was mostly undeserved.

MB:

Well, that's right.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in combat positions these days? I know in December of 1998 women flew combat over Iraq. Do you approve of this sort of thing?

MB:

Yes, if they're qualified to carry out the job, that's fine with me. I don't know how the men feel about it. [chuckling] But if anybody is qualified, I think they deserve to do the job.

HT:

Since you were in the military for such a long period of time, did you see a change of attitude from the time you first went in to the time you left, attitude toward women?

MB:

Well, I never felt that it was anything against us, [chuckling] to tell you the truth, where I worked and all. Maybe it's different because I was always in a hospital somewhere and you have a different climate, I suppose. But I never did feel that women were put down.

HT:

So you always felt you had the respect of doctors?

MB:

Yes, because we did a service and they did a service. We helped their service out, you know, because their patients couldn't go back to duty unless they were really equipped. So I think they respected us. It might have been the field that I was in that made me feel that way.

HT:

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about your military service? I know you said you've been to a number of places in Europe and in the United States and even in Hawaii. Can you add any stories about some of these places that you worked that stand out in your mind?

MB:

[chuckling] I know an interesting thing that happened, but it had nothing to do with service in the military except that we were in the military.

HT:

I'd love to hear it.

MB:

Well, we decided that when we left basic training—We had five days before we had to report to Fitzsimmons, so we decided that we would go to Denver and look around the town and see what it was like before we had to start to work. So we went downtown, and there was this bar thing there at this hotel. So we decided we'd go in and have us a drink before we went home. So we did. And we were sitting there talking and laughing, there were about five of us, and the waiter brought these drinks over there and they said, “This is compliments of the couple to your right.” And we looked over there and they raised their glasses. And so, first thing you know, they were over there at our table. And he owned a gold mine up at Cripple Creek, Colorado, he and his wife, and so they invited all of us to go up to Cripple Creek for the weekend. And he said they would be by in the car and pick us up at a certain time, for us to get our ration books - you know, to bring our ration books.

So we went home and we were talking about it. I said, “I think they've had too much to drink. They probably won't come by.” But lo and behold, here came the car. We all piled in and went up to Cripple Creek. Well, they took us down in the mine, gave us some gold , went down to their club or something and played slot machines, and he'd just give you all the money you could put in the slot machines. And they had all this gold stuff, dust and things, in cases in there. And I've forgotten, the tennis courts were made out of gold dust. [chuckling] Anyway, had fishing rods for everybody and we went fishing, and had salmon eggs to fish with, and they fed us and stuff. And we came home. They toured us all over that area up there.

So we didn't know what in the world we could do for them. And you know cigarettes were rationed and none of us smoked, so we would buy Chesterfield cigarettes, what they liked. So we bought all these Chesterfield cigarettes and we mailed them a whole big old box full of Chesterfield cigarettes and thanked them for having us up there. And they said usually they did that for servicemen, but they had never done it for servicewomen before. So they decided that they would try servicewomen and see how it worked. So wasn't that an experience? [chuckling]

HT:

That's a wonderful experience!

MB:

So I don't know any other events that would equal that.

HT:

That's very good. One of the things I was going to ask you about was what your life has been like after you left the military, but I think we've already covered that. I don't have any other questions, but I do thank you so much for talking with me today. Is there anything you'd like to add about your military service, either during World War II or the twenty-some years after?

MB:

I don't think so. I'm different, you know. To me, life's kind of like a book, and you read a chapter and you fold it down and you don't think about it again. The first thing you know, it's closed. [chuckling] But things do come back to your mind, I don't mean it that way, but, you know, life's like that, I think.

HT:

Right. And in the time that you've been out, do you ever discuss your military service with friends and that sort of thing?

MB:

Not really. If they ask me something about it I would talk, but no.

HT:

Well, again, thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure. I've really enjoyed it.

MB:

Well, thank you, and I hope it adds to your library. [chuckling]

HT:

It will. Thank you.

[End of Interview]