1. LIBRARY CATALOG
  2. DATABASES
  3. JOURNAL A-Z List
  4. SUBJECT GUIDES
  5. LIBRARY SERVICES

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Daphine Doster Mastroianni, 1999

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0038.5.001

Description: Documents Daphine Doster Mastroianni’s education at the North Carolina College for Women (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro); her work as a music teacher and surgical nurse before World War II; her service with Army Nurse Corps (ANC) in New Zealand, Fiji, and India from 1942 to 1945; and her post-war work with the U.S. Public Health Service, Arkansas Health Department, and the University of Arkansas.

Summary:

Mastroianni discusses her time at the North Carolina College for Women, focusing primarily on the music department. She also mentions some professors, the administrators, a senior trip, and her close friends. Pre-war employment topics include forming a glee club at Cherryville High School and organizing a band at Kings Mountain High School. She also discusses in detail the process of getting into John Hopkins School of Nursing and its cost and uniforms; she also discusses the atmosphere and her experiences working as a surgical nurse there.

Mastroianni describes at length her service in the ANC. She recalls joining the 18th General Hospital; her training at Fort Jackson; the train ride to San Francisco; her trip on the U.S.S. James Parker and her stay in New Zealand; her time stationed in Fiji and a Fourth of July celebration; her assignment in Calcutta, including the poverty she saw, the danger of snakes and mosquitoes, and the discomfort; and briefly her time at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

Mastroianni speaks of post-war achievements in the field of nursing. She comments on receiving her masters in public health from the Minnesota School of Public Health, working with the U.S. Public Health Service, and her service with the Arkansas Health Department. Most of the post-war discussion details her work as acting dean of nursing from 1952 to 1953 at the University of Arkansas. She talks in depth about her struggles to start a school of nursing and a bachelor of science program in nursing there.

Other topics include how Mastroianni met her husband on the boat ride from New Zealand to Fiji, and their late in life romance.

Creator: Daphine Doster Mastroianni

Biographical Info: Daphine Doster Mastroianni (1906-2000) of Monroe, North Carolina, served in New Zealand, Fiji, and India with the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) from 1942 to 1945. After the war, Mastroianni continued her nursing career with the U.S. Public Health Service, the Arkansas Health Department, and later as dean of University of Arkansas School of Nursing.

Collection: Daphine Doster Mastroianni 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:

I'm at the home of Ms. Daphine Doster in Charlotte, North Carolina, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. Ms. Doster, if you would, tell me where you were born and when you entered the military service in World War II. Speak up, okay?

DM:

Where I was born, and I didn't hear the rest of it.

HT:

And when you went into the military service.

DM:

Well, I was born on October 7, 1906, in Monroe, Union County [North Carolina]. I entered the military service in 1942. It was May. I've got the date on that thing but I don't remember it. It was May of 1942.

HT:

Could you tell me where you grew up and where you went to high school, please?

DM:

Well, I grew up in a little town called Gibson, North Carolina, Scotland County. It's a little dot on the North Carolina map, down in the southeast corner, right on the South Carolina line. That's where I spent my youth and early years. I've been having fun trying to write about those days. But then that was where I lived when I entered NCCW [North Carolina College for Women], which is now UNCG. I finished high school there in 1923 and went to the university.

I had been very good as a piano student. In our town there wasn't much competition, I guess, for piano playing. Anyway, everybody thought I should have a music career. I kind of wanted to be a nurse, but they didn't think too highly of that at that time. They thought this would be a much nicer career for me. So I went to UNCG—I mean NCCW—and had wonderful years there with Dr. [Wade R.] Brown as the dean. I can't think of the name of the professor who taught harmony. He gave us the basics of music. Anyway, we had wonderful instructors, piano teachers. And you may not want any more than that. I'd better stop.

HT:

No, that's fine. Could you tell me something about your school days? What was school like in the late 1920s?

DM:

In college, or high school?

HT:

Yes, college.

DM:

College? Well, for me, from a little town of about eight hundred people, it was a big place, but it was a comfortable college to be in. By that I mean I didn't feel lost ever. There was always support for you. And being in a music program, I think you got more attention. You belonged to a different kind of a family. [chuckling] I'm just putting words on it, but you were kind of separate and special. So that was a pretty expensive program for my father to try to pay for, too, because he was a railroad man and had five children. So I was the first one to go to college. And my parents were adamant that all of us should go to college and get an education.

While at college, I think I'd just say it was a very pleasant experience. I think it set me straight for the kind of life I would live, in terms of the things I enjoyed there. The music and the cultural things were something that I remember. The associates you'd have, the kind of faculty we had, they were like a good friend, and we got to know them very well-the piano teachers, you know. And the music classes were small at that time. I enjoyed and learned a great deal. Dr. Brown organized—not a glee club. What did we call them-a choral group from the music department.

[interview interrupted]

So I think that was one of the good features of college, was the choral group that Dr. Brown conducted, and then the recitals. He had people come in to give recitals—piano, vocal, and varied types of musical programs. I don't remember many instruments; it was mostly piano and vocal artists that would come.

I remember how seriously I felt about my music. My father wasn't musically oriented at all—I'm back in Gibson now—and he thought I ought to hear some good music. He made a trek to Charlotte with me to see—I can't think of that famous soprano—she was world—renowned but I can't remember her name now—to hear her sing. I thought that was quite remarkable for a railroad man to take the time to bring his daughter to Charlotte to hear a musical program. That was unheard-of, really, in our time.

Well, back to NCCW. Another thing that I remember so vividly, and I think was very unusual, was what Dr. Brown arranged. When we got to be seniors, we took one lesson, I think, a week from him. I mean we had to go into his studio. He was our instructor. I never knew why that was except he probably wanted the contact or something, but we were very respectful of him and did our very best to get ready to go for his lessons.

So at the end, a thing that he did I think that was very unusual at that time was music contests. He did many things, but—they tell me they still have a state contest, and students would come from all over the state to compete. There would be glee clubs, there would be soloists, there would be pianists, everything, violin—I don't remember any string things, though, much. He wanted very much to have the young people in North Carolina—he realized there was a need for them to know something about good music, and he really made us feel like—almost like missionaries, that we had to get out there and do something about this situation. So, I went to Cherryville [North Carolina] and Kings Mountain [North Carolina]—Do you want me to stay in UNCG?

HT:

Yes, for the time being, please.

DM:

Okay. Anyway, to go back to NCCW, another thing he did was in our senior year-I may be repeating things you know. If so, let me know. Every year, our senior year, we went to New York, by train, and on the way back we stopped in Washington [D.C.] to see the sights there, the buildings and all the historical spots, you know. But in New York we saw opera, we saw a symphony, we saw the first talkie movie we'd ever seen—I think one of the first that had ever been shown—we went to a Chinese restaurant, we went to an Italian restaurant, all these things that a little bunch of country kids, you know, who'd never seen anything—[chuckling] and I thought it was quite something that he would do that. He was trying to broaden us a little bit and let us see what the rest of the world was like and also what the musical world was, what was out there for us if we would but work to get it. So, I thought that was outstanding. I don't know how long that lasted, but he did it while we were there. All the seniors always looked forward to that trip.

But one of my troubles was finding the money to go. You had to pay sixty dollars—I think it was sixty dollars—for the trip, and my father just didn't have it. And I asked him if I could borrow from the doctor in town. He was the wealthiest man in town, and he reluctantly said, “You can talk to him, you can talk to him.” This doctor said, “What do you want to go to New York for? What do you need to go to New York for?” That was his attitude: Pfft! Nothing. So then my aunt and uncle, who were as poor as we were, decided this was an opportunity I shouldn't miss. So, they scared together the money and I got to go. I expect it was pretty hard in those days [1927] for most anybody to rake up that much money, you know.

So then the recital—Of course, I can't think of my recital without thinking about “Pinky” Thompson. That's what we called him. Y'all know Pinky?
LP:

I know the name.

DM:

I've forgotten his name, but it was Dr. Thompson.

LP:

George.

DM:

Was it George?

LP:

I remember people talking about him.

DM:

Doesn't it say on there? He played in my recital with me on the organ [Capriccio Brillante, Op. 22 by Mendelson].

LP:

“Mr. Thompson” is all it says. It says: “Orchestral parts on organ, Mr. Thompson.”

DM:

Mr. Thompson, okay. That was sort of a highlight, I thought, and I enjoyed that chance to work with him. We all admired him, but he was a little different and very serious about his music, of course, and his program. But he was an excellent artist, we thought. We enjoyed him very much. I think those are about as much highlights as you want, isn't it?

HT:

Okay, that's fine. [chuckling] Well, do you remember any of the people who ran the school in those days, the administration? Was Dr. [Julius I.] Foust [president] still there?

DM:

Yes.

HT:

And Dr. [Walter Clinton] Jackson [vice president]?

DM:

Yes.

LP:

And Miss [Harriet] Elliott [dean of women]?

HT:

And Miss Elliott.

DM:

Miss Elliott, yes. I didn't have any contact with Miss Elliott—I mean a class or anything—because I was in this special area over here, which I missed a lot of things, I guess. But I remember Dr. Foust. I didn't keep a diary. I'm usually a great one for keeping a diary. I should have kept a diary of the names of my music teachers because they were wonderful people. There was one, Granger [piano instructor], it seems like that was her name, but she kind of came my last year, I think, of my—she was my senior teacher, and I became very fond of her. She was kind of a different type. She wasn't from the Carolinas. I don't know where she came from, I think somewhere in the northern part of the country, and she was a wonderful pianist and played with a style that wasn't as staid as what we'd had. She had more flourish and more freedom with the piano, and she was that way as a teacher. It was all right if we didn't just do everything [pounding the table] this way, you know. You could relax a little. I think her name was Granger, but I feel badly that I can't remember that. But I have a good feeling about the instructors. The English teacher, [chuckling] what was her name? Maybe my computer will come around after a while.

LP:

Did you have Miss [Jane] Summerell?

DM:

No, that's not it. Anyway, she was very strict, and I needed a lot of help with English because, I'll tell you, I didn't get anything in high school much, I don't think. But I made it through somehow. [chuckling] But I remember she used to pull things like—she'd say—oh, she was a tall, big woman, with her hair done up on top of her head, you know, and she stood there like a sergeant. You were afraid of her. She said once, “Now the next time anybody yawns in this room, we're going to send them outside.” Well, everybody wanted to yawn right away, you know, when you mention it. [laughter] I'll never forget that. And you'd sit there trying not to yawn. She'd pull things like that. But she did make me settle down and she did help me.

But we didn't get much individual attention. There was too many students and not enough teachers for that, I guess. But you'd have conferences with them periodically, especially if you weren't doing too well in some of the basic courses, English and-but I have a good feeling about the whole thing. And of course another thing, the students, one lifelong friend that you met there and became acquainted with and would participate in—you'd be in a glee club or you'd be in something with a student group. And I suppose that's expanded enormously now in many different ways, but that was a new experience for country gals. We didn't have it in our high schools.

HT:

Who were some of your friends that you can recall from those days?

DM:

Well, Madeleine Hunt was from Barium Springs Orphanage. When I went there not long ago, I went there, I was giving them some money or something and they wanted me to come there for something—this was several years ago—I had them look up Madeleine. There she was in the book, so she was one of those. She was one. And Naomi Cline and Louise Cline. Louise Cline was my closest friend, I guess. She was in the music program, of course. There's one of my classmates that's living here—it's amazing. Norma Lee Gurginus was her name. She's now married, of course, and Kiser is her name now. And Ruth Grigg was another one. Ruth was one of those that took a business course. It was one year, I think, just one year. I had a different roommate every year I was there. They either were in a one—year course or they didn't come back [chuckling] or something, so that I had a—I didn't object to that because I got to know more people, and I had younger—they were the freshmen and sophomores, which opened another aspect of the campus for me, which I was all bound up over here in the music department, that I knew what was going on a little. I kind of liked that idea, and I got to know them. But those were the major ones I guess I remember. I just gave the chancellor, I think it was—or didn't I—my annuals. I think so. She wanted them. I've been wondering what to do with them, so she said she'd like to have them. She's collecting all those kind of things, so I gave them to her. Anyhow, I don't have any ready reference. [chuckling] But I would remember some of them, I'm sure.

LP:

Where did you live on campus?

DM:

Pardon?

LP:

Which dorms did you live in?

DM:

Oh, Shaw [Residence Hall]. Wasn't it something Howard?

LP:

Anna Howard Shaw.

DM:

Anna Howard Shaw. Now that's where I was for, I think, the whole time. And I had a room up on the third floor, I think, with the pine trees right out beside my window, and I got so romantic about the wind in those pine trees. I think about that now. I get so mad when I have to sweep pine needles off of this porch every day. So I've got just no romance about pine needles now. But anyway, it was Anna Howard Shaw. Some of the other buildings—Oh, the new Brown [Building] was something. That was quite an event.

LP:

Aycock [Auditorium].

DM:

Aycock.

LP:

Was your music building new when you were there?

DM:

Yes, I think we were the first ones to give a recital in it. Yes. I wouldn't swear on that, but I know that the Aycock was-We graduated in Aycock. So they didn't come in the same year, did they?

LP:

They were close. I think Brown Music Building was the first building, and then Aycock was completed in 1927.

DM:

Yes, I think it was two things right then, and we had the benefit of both of them.

LP:

That's right.

DM:

Yes, I think that's right. Did I answer your question?

HT:

Yes, ma'am, you sure did. After you graduated from college, what type of work did you go into?

DM:

I've got what I call a personal record, I'll give it to you later. You can have it if you want it [chuckling] because it's quite a mess. I'm a real vagabond, I guess. Well, the thing then was, you know, in '27 it was getting close to the Depression time, and I just wondered if we were going to get a job. But the school people came to the college to interview us, and I guess they do still. This may not be new, but that's what they did for us. And I had several offers, but I decided to go to Cherryville [High School], and that became a very nice spot for me.

It was in Cherryville that I found that they had a very loud-singing girls' glee club but no boys, and I couldn't understand why they wouldn't have boys singing. So it was a touchy thing. So, I put a little sign up on the bulletin board which said we were having tryouts for boys' glee club. And I decided that anybody who walked in that door was going to be in the glee clubs, because it took a little courage to do it. It was considered sissy at that time in that town for boys to do that kind of thing. Anyway, so we got a boys' glee club going and took them up to Greensboro. They won a ribbon—not the top honor but a ribbon of some kind. I think Dr. Brown worked it out so that if we brought them up there they'd get something. [chuckling] And, oh, everybody was worried about me taking all those boys off by myself on the bus to Greensboro—not everybody, but a lot of the staid old fellows and folks and chairmen. They were wonderful boys. Now wait a minute, I've got my towns mixed up. No, I think it was there, because I went to Kings Mountain after three years. And in Cherryville I had five dollars a month, and they got two lessons a week, five dollars a month. You had to have quite a houseful of students to pay your rent. Then you had to do the glee club, you had to do things for the school, play for all the sessions, and do little concerts and things, you know. So, you were—they expected a lot of you. You didn't just do the piano. I call it public school music, for lack of a better [term]. We'd go to classrooms occasionally and do things with the teachers or the students. I always had in mind that these children had to know something about music, and I worked to try and fulfill Dr. Brown's mission.

But then a former principal of mine in high school was in Kings Mountain, and he came over and recruited me and offered me more money. He offered me a salary. You know, that was kind of appealing, not have to worry about collecting the money. The salary was more than I was making. I think it was something like a hundred dollars—maybe it was over a hundred dollars a month, and that was better than I was doing. And I liked him as a principal in my high school. He was easy to work with and very supportive.

And I think I got to feeling that town needed a band. I didn't know a thing about band music, except that I enjoyed it, and I thought how could we do it? They had some well-to-do people there, and the parents wanted a band. They'd have a son that was blowing a horn of some kind, and there were several of them in town. So, I began getting a little group together to talk about it, and we organized a band. The trouble was, how was I going to have sessions with this band knowing as little as I did about it? But the organization and getting the parents interested and getting the students there together was a big part of it. Then I found out in Shelby [North Carolina] there was a man who knew something about bands, who had a band, and he would come periodically and meet with these students and help them, and that's the way that Kings Mountain Band grew. It grew to be a very excellent band over the years. But that was a teeny little start there that I enjoyed.

I liked Kings Mountain very much, but I had in the back of my mind always—Oh, at Kings Mountain I'd do things like little operettas, you know, that did involve the students—and they were pathetic, I'm sure—drama of a little kind, singing solos and stuff. But we raised some money, and then when I got ready to leave the music profession we had a sizeable little sum we got from our concert, from our operetta. And I didn't do very well with that. I told Mr. [Claude] Grigg [principal in Gibson and Kings Mountain] I thought he'd just take it and put it in the pot for the school for some cultural events. Well, what I should have done was give it to them for the band, you know, or something.

But I was kind of torn between leaving and going into this new career, which took a lot of “oomph” to do, I guess. But I could see the writing on the wall: I wasn't going to make a living, and that whatever was coming—and it was the Depression—unless I could go back and get some more education. I knew I needed some stimulation. Six years of just teaching piano and not getting anything else, and I had no way of doing it. I just didn't have the money and I didn't know where to get it then those days. But anyway, so I thought—my mother was a nurse, and I didn't know her because she died when I was three, but her picture as a nurse hung in our house all my life and I guess that might have had some impact. But I always felt like I'd like to try that. Then when things got tight in the music world for me, I decided that people were always going to be sick and I surely wouldn't ever be out of a job. [laughter] That was my rationale. Then I decided where to go. Now I'll quit. You might want to say something else.

HT:

No, you're doing exactly what I want you to say. I wanted to ask you, what was the transition between your music career and your nursing career?

DM:

Well, I felt mean about that. I felt awful about that because my father was giving me this and he had four more to go, and here I was walking out. Now, it sounds so funny to me that I did this, but I just had to have some help in making this decision, and I went to Dr. Brown. [chuckling] I felt guilty about leaving this music crowd because I knew we needed so much out there. He listened to me. He was kind of like a father figure to us anyway, you know, and he listened to me and didn't say anything. After a while he said, “Well, I'll tell you, if this is what you want to do, this is what you have to do.” And that was the end of that. That was about all he said, and that was enough for me. So I went to my father sometime in the same period, and I felt again that he had spent this money on a special education for me, but he said the same thing.

So then I had to get the money to get into [Johns] Hopkins [School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland]. Let me see, I had decided I wanted to go to Hopkins. I'd always heard about it. I didn't know about the schools in North Carolina and I didn't have enough get-up-and-go, I guess, to look into them or help with that. So, I just started writing Hopkins. And they were taking college graduates, giving them preference. Though it was a diploma program, your post-high school diploma program, but they were giving priority to college graduates. But you had to buy your uniforms and you had to pay a fee. I've got that fee down again as around seventy or seventy-five dollars that you had to send in to get these original uniforms, these student nurse uniforms and something else that it covered. But every time I think I could go—this was while I was in Kings Mountain I was doing all this writing to them—and I'd have to cancel out, I couldn't make it. And finally when I did get there in 1933, Miss [Elsie] Lawler, who was the chief nurse, said when I walked in, “Well, you finally made it.” [laughter] I felt that way, too. I think I saved up the money to get to Hopkins somehow and to get those uniforms.

But what a shock that was to enter there. Having been to college and experienced things that made you think a little and made you have some ambition, and here you are in this place where they made us wear a certain kind of uniform and black stockings and hair nets, and you couldn't do this only on certain times and you couldn't do that only on—these were personal things, not the curriculum. You had to stay in your room and such and such. Well, with all of those restrictions, I felt like I was a fourth-grader all of a sudden. [chuckling] And [so did] a lot of people there. There were students there who had a master's degree in education and biology that wanted to go into nursing. Of course I'm so glad that's all changed now. They can get a B.S. in nursing. But that was what made me go into nursing, and I've never regretted it. I've been glad that I had the music, because that has enriched my life, I'm sure, greatly. So I entered in '33 and graduated in '36, and that was a very hard but very thorough and good experience, I felt like, from some things I've seen in the years since. I got real tired of hearing how wonderful Hopkins was, even as a student nurse. I thought that there are other folks out there that are doing great things, you know, we're not the only ones. [chuckling] But I had to swallow it. They're still doing it, by the way.

Then at the end of your career you had to have a conference with Miss Lawler, who was the superintendent of nurses. With her little white cap on and her little black outfit, we were scared of her. She would ask you questions, and this was the first time you had a chance to express yourself, really. And, of course, I had a suggestion for her. I said, “You know, I don't think we get enough surgical experience, operating room experience, if we're going to go out and do all these things for all these hospitals and set up all these programs.” We were supposed to be the leaders, according to them, you know, when we got out, and I said, “I just don't think we have enough information to know what to do in an operating room.” I worked there for my student experience and I saw how complicated it was. So with that she gave me a job at Hopkins in the Operating Room. [chuckling] I opened my big mouth. That wasn't what I was especially wanting, but I couldn't think of any position. So I took it, and I was there three years as a surgical nurse. I was a supervisor later of one unit, and it was a very good experience—one lasting, I think, throughout my career—the things I learned there. Dr. Walter Dandy was one of the big brain surgeons; [Dr.] Dean Lewis, Dean of Surgery.

Then I got tired of that schedule. It wasn't what I wanted to do. I'd have to get up at six o'clock worrying about those instruments. The night nurse would slide your schedule for your room, what the operations were, under your door. Sometimes you'd have to get up about 6:00, get your breakfast, and get over there to get all that set up—every morning. And it was just stress, stress, stress, and I just—I thought, “I just can't live like this.” So one night in my room we got together and complained about everything and talked about everything. I said, “I've just got to get out of this rat race. I just don't like it. And what I wanted to do is get somewhere where I feel like I can have more impact or help more. I feel like I'm part of the instruments.” Anyway, so one of the group said, “I know a place you can go, and they're looking for a surgical nurse, and that's Berea, Kentucky.” Well, I wrote to Berea [College Hospital] and I got a phone call back. They were looking for a surgical nurse. Well, that was just like going to heaven, that little town. Do you know Berea, either one of you?

LP:

I do.

DM:

I felt like I had just arrived at the pearly gates, really, because there was that pretty green campus and everything was so nice. I got, oh, a huge salary. Let's see, Hopkins paid me—sixty dollars keeps coming up to me, but they gave us-I didn't get a hundred dollars a month, but you got your room and board and your laundry. So I got an offer of room and board and laundry, plus a hundred and fifty dollars a month clear. That was a lot of money! But what I liked about it was the atmosphere, and there were already two Hopkins nurses there, and one of them had been my supervisor. So all those things made it very attractive and I ended up in Berea. And I enjoyed Berea and learned a heck of a lot there about how to do things yourself, not have to push a button and order it from somewhere. And the doctors, I was appalled at some of the practices in that little operating room, you know. I just thought, “This is dreadful!” They had a big book—Do you want all this detail?

HT:

Sure.

DM:

You cut me off. Or I'll just go on forever. Really, you don't want to know all that detail, do you?

HT:

You can skip over some of it if you want to, but tell us as much as you want to.

DM:

Well, anyway, I found out that there was a need for somebody to really clean that little operating room up. And I had a lot of work to do to get that done. The doctor and the nurse—You know, you don't tell a doctor what to do. But anyway we got it done. They had a big book that every time anybody had an infection it was put in red. It was full of red! And that was a disgrace to me to have an operation and have an infection. Anyway, we got that cleared up. We changed the scrubbing and other routines. I like to [have] killed myself trying to make it a little Hopkins. [chuckling] But there were cultural things on the campus. You got to know other faculty, and I thought that was just a timely thing for me to help me sort of sort myself out and see what I could do.

But while I was there, I kept thinking about—I still liked the idea of public health. When in training at Hopkins, we were given six weeks with the VNA [Visiting Nurse Association] to work in community nursing, and that appealed to me a great deal because you could see what needs there are with people. They're not all in the hospital. They need a lot of help that prevents going to the hospital. That appealed to me. So I began to inquire around what was available, and found out that there was a very excellent county health officer in Richmond, Kentucky, who was well-prepared in public health. He used Berea Hospital clinics for the people in the community—Come in, Joe [Mastroianni]. Do you want to say something? I'll stop and let you say something.

Joe Mastroianni:

You haven't had much to say, have you?

DM:

The Health Department had their clinics, like a prenatal clinic and a clinic for children, in Berea Hospital. It was set up for that, and I got to know them through that contact and got to know the health officer. He began working on me to come work in Madison County, Richmond, Kentucky, as a public health nurse. Well, that appealed to me, and I ended up there. I don't want to give you all the details I had to go through to do it, but it wasn't much. So he thought I could do something to bring Richmond and Berea a little more together and for Berea to use more of the community health services. Anyway, I enjoyed that and Richmond, Kentucky. And my good friend Jane Pierson at Hopkins, medical supervisor at Berea, she decided she'd go into public health. So the two of us went into public health. This was the County Health Department. There were three nurses, and you each had a district or section of the county to cover.

Then Jane and I decided to go to Bowling Green [Kentucky]. Somebody offered us—I can't remember why we made a change. We were in Berea and Richmond. I think I was there for at least three years, or four. Just about the time we reached Bowling Green, war broke out in 1942. Hopkins Hospital began calling Jane, wanting her to be head nurse for one of their hospital units. That's the way the hospitals were formed. They'd call a hospital and have them get all their alumni or staff together and set up a unit, which would become an army hospital. Ours was the 18th General [Hospital], and it was an all—Hopkins outfit.

Well, we had decided we didn't want any part of the war, because at Bowling Green the army had just opened up a new army camp and they were just hurting for nurses. People needed help with so many things, and we were working our heads off to help these soldiers and their families, you know, so we didn't see any point in going off to the army. But then we heard rumors that they were going to draft us if we didn't come, and we decided it would be better to go with the Hopkins crowd. We knew most of them because it hadn't been so long since we left Hopkins, and we would be with ones we knew rather than have the army just send you anywhere. We ended up then in Hopkins Hospital, 18th General, in 1942. And I was a surgical nurse again there in the surgical unit of the 18th General Hospital.

Then, oh my, the army business. I had to go to Fort Knox [Kentucky] to be sworn in. A memorable moment, I felt. This little sergeant read this oath to me, we were sitting in a little old room in some old building there at Fort Knox, and I was swearing allegiance to the country. Well, I knew that was part of the deal. You had to do it, you know, but it made you feel creepy. When the unit began to be activated—We were called to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for—what do they call it? Not organizing, but there's a way that they get you ready to go to war.

HT:

Indoctrination?

DM:

Well, maybe it'll come to me.

LP:

Boot camp?

DM:

Anyway, there at Fort Jackson were all our doctors and nurses from Hopkins. We had to learn the army ways. We had every immunization known to man, and they gave us our kits and bedding rolls, et cetera. There were lectures, lectures about what you do in the army. I took down some notes about some of those because they were so ridiculous, and they were talking to professional people—you'd think we didn't know anything. But anyway, from Fort Jackson—Oh, we couldn't get over having to salute these doctors and call them colonels and captain and see them doing all the things they were doing. They were loading baggage and packing things for the unit and doing all this labor at Fort Jackson because this was part of their duty to get the unit ready to go.

So then they put us on a train and sent us to California. That was quite a trek. They took all our clothes away from us. “You're in the army now. Don't keep any money; don't keep anything, no cameras, no nothing”—just yourself and the army clothes and the army gear they gave you. I got a mess kit and a canteen and things like that, you know, and a backpack, one of those—That's not what we called it, but that you could put your clothes in. And that's all you had. And I can remember that train, seeing all these gals—some of them just couldn't part with everything, they just couldn't—with these fancy hats hanging up on the racks, [laughter] just to remind them that one day they were like that, I guess. Incidentally, we were allowed to keep one outfit to wear until uniforms were issued.

Anyway, we got to San Francisco and they put us in one of the nicest hotels on Nob Hill. Here we were a bunch of—pretty drab-looking, I guess, at that time, and we didn't have any money. Well, we had a little bit that we snuck around somewhere, you know. We kept a nickel or two, but not much, for eating in that hotel or eating anywhere. They didn't give us any ration. It was a windy May in San Francisco, and we just had summer things, kind of, you know? So we felt very bad about being in that situation. We had to wire home for money to eat. We'd take that canteen down to the restaurant, and they felt sorry for us, I think, and they'd give us a full canteen of coffee for ten cents, [chuckling] because they knew we didn't have anything. So that was a period of about a week or ten days that we were like that.

Then we kept waiting for the uniforms. Then it was “When are we going to ship out, or go somewhere and do something besides sit in the hotel”? Finally the day came. They took us down to this big warehouse and you lined up. You know how women shop, they have to look at things and try on things. We lined up, and the guy behind the counter said, “What size shoes do you wear?” That was it. You tell him, you got them. “What size this—” You didn't have any choice, you know. Of course not. But it was such a shock for us. And we got wrong sizes and we switched around among ourselves and got ourselves straightened out. But then they gave us all winter clothes, you know, a wool skirt and a wool coat, and nobody showed us how to put the brass on, and we were dying to put all that brass on and go get a picture taken so we could send them home. We got some of them on wrong, but anyway we finally got something done and got our picture. I don't know how we financed that, but I think the army did it. So, that was kind of a rough time. We then set sail on the [U.S.S.]James Parker. I've got something to show you. What a shot this is.

HT:

The James Parker is a ship, I guess?

DM:

It was a former cruise ship turned into a troop ship.

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

HT:

So, did you have a nice stateroom [on the ship]?

DM:

Oh no! They had us piled on top of each other. We slept in hammocks up on deck. They fixed it into a troop ship, you know, so that we didn't have any kind of room except—generally a latrine for everybody. Our deck, we could walk around on that, but we felt privileged because we looked at what the GIs were doing down on deck below. They slept in their blankets on the floor. And we felt we were first-class because we had these hammocks.

It was amazing how you always thought about having to jump overboard. Of course, at that time the Japs [Japanese] really had the Pacific. They really had it, and they were sinking our ships, and all you could think about was getting ready to get off of that ship. [chuckling] They gave us a heavy winter coat too, you know, all winter things-we didn't know where we were going-and so I'd load that coat up with my flashlight and some clothing. We had a flashlight and extra little things that I thought I could use if I had to get on a water thing or something, you know. After fixing my coat, I could lie down and go sound asleep. If something had hit us, we'd have never known what hit us. [chuckling]

So, we were—Gosh, I've forgotten, I think it was about fourteen days zigzagging around to New Zealand. We stopped there because they didn't know where to put us at that time, how things were going to go in the Pacific, and we stayed there about six weeks. Those New Zealanders were wonderful to us. They had no place for women. There were no WACs [Women's Army Corps] or WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] or anything like that. We were the only women in the army, and they had no supplies for us. We had to take all of our supplies with us. I said if we could have gotten on one of those packages of Kotex I think we wouldn't have drowned, we could have just stayed up, because there must have been a thousand pounds of that. [chuckling] We tried to load up because there wasn't any available in the PX [post exchange].

Anyway, so they welcomed us. There were six thousand troops, and us, that pulled into New Zealand. See, New Zealand had been at war over in Egypt with the British in the European theater, and they didn't have any men at home, hardly. They had wooden guns stationed out in some places on the island so it would look like a big gun, you know. And they rationed everything. But they took us in and they put us in homes, the nurses, because there was no place to put females. The doctors were sent to camps which were established for their own New Zealand soldiers, you know, with their own officers. I was in a home with Jane Pierson, who was our chief nurse now, with Dr. and Mrs. Coldicutt. They were a wonderful couple. They treated us like we were queens—and we weren't used to that—and knew we'd had a lot of hardship, but they couldn't do enough for us. I think they felt secure having that many Americans. [chuckling] Even though we couldn't do much, at least they had equipment to do something, and soldiers, on their island. Well, they showed us the island and we had a very nice visit there. It really was nice.

One incident I think is hilarious. The New Zealand women had been parading our good soldiers, and they knew how to march. The Fourth of July came along while we were there and the New Zealanders wanted to help us celebrate. We hadn't ever marched. We didn't know the first thing about marching. [chuckling] And yet they took us out somewhere and tried to teach us how to march so we could parade, you know. It was pitiful, but we marched. And then they had a big service there in Auckland in a big cathedral celebrating our Fourth of July. And they put all of us—The nurses, anyway, were up in a choir kind of place, to honor us, and some of the officers were another place so that we were separated out special, and then they played the Star Spangled Banner. Well, we sang with gusto, you know, the first verse. That organist played four verses. And who ever heard of four verses of the Star Spangled Banner? We were so embarrassed. We couldn't even mouth it, you know. We just stood there, and finally it was over. They never did say a word about that. We told them afterwards that we just don't sing those other verses. We just don't know anything about them. But I thought that was hilarious.

But then we got to be so friendly with them, and time came to leave. We knew where we were going. We were going to Fiji Islands, and their soldiers stationed there were coming home. They had been in Fiji, all of their soldiers. Most of their army crowd had been over in Fiji and we were relieving them. And so that was kind of like an overnight trip. It was two days, I think, from New Zealand to Fiji on the ship. And then, of course, these sailors had a ball with us. They'd tell us the wildest tales, and we never knew whether they were telling the truth or not. And they told us these Fijians were cannibals, and they told us all kinds of things: “You'd better say 'Bula Vanaka!' That's the way they greet people.” So we practiced “Bula Vanaka.” Of course, it was a British crown colony, very English. [chuckling] The sailors made up all that. The sailors knew we were ignorant too, you know. But when we got there we thought we'd practice our little lesson about greeting them. I have some pictures to show you of how the police dressed—the men wore these skirts. And it was a very nice uniform. So, we were walking down the streets of Fiji, and this very nice—looking elderly man, very sophisticated-looking, was coming along, and so we let out “Bula Vanaka,” you know. He said, “Good afternoon, ladies. I hope you are fine.” [chuckling] So we didn't do that anymore.

Anyway, it was a very pleasant place, a beautiful spot, and I guess it still is a tourist mecca. But that stopped. The people had all left, most of them. Most of the British people and a lot of Australians had gone away with the war, left, so there was not much there in the way of people, the general population. We were there 1942-1945, and then they pulled us out for India about 1945, I think. During the time there, the war kind of left us. In other words, it moved on away—the South Pacific area wasn't as heavily bombarded. But we did get a lot of very sick boys, and they were malaria, they were burns and injuries from the battleships. The ships, there'd be fire or torpedoes and break up, the oil all over the water, and then that would catch on fire and they'd have the worst burns, trying to salvage the boys. We had a lot of those. And then the general, you might say, maintenance of the army on the island, there was a lot of things that had to be done. Accidents would happen to them. But we didn't have the combat soldiers that they had in the European theater.

Well, when the war left Fiji, then we sat there, I'd say about six or eight months, and not a thing hardly to do. They let us work in shifts because there wasn't enough work for everybody to work. We built our hospital. There was nothing there for the hospital when we got to Fiji. We had tents, and they were muddy tents too, that we kept patients in. We built bures [huts] for us, and that's made out of palm leaves, with a dirt floor, and that's where we lived. Our quarters in Fiji were stationed in an area called the old Victoria School, and it had some real stable, substantial buildings as a school. Those were turned into units that we used. So we built other plywood wards—these temporary buildings, you know? And we ended up with a 500-bed hospital. In fact, we had more than 500 beds. And we didn't have decent water. The doctors had a hard time getting certain things like that for a large group like that in this little place. But that had to be worked out. The water, the sewage, and all of this was too big for that little school place. It took a lot of work, the engineers there on the island, and there were a lot of army on that island.

So we did all kinds of things to try to keep busy and keep from going nuts, and one of the things that we did was to have—what do they call it? Sort of like a carnival, put it on and do all kinds of things, and put out a special paper to say what all it was going to be. And we had a glee club. See that? [chuckling]

HT:

I think the finish on the print has just come off.

LP:

And what does it say?

DM:

Oh, that's [nothing]. I was wondering what this says.

LP:

[reading] “When the war in the Pacific area began to cool down, we had other ways to keep busy. There were many good musicians in the armed forces on the islands. Captain Ely, with army engineers, organized, trained and prepared a two-hour program of semi-classical and popular music. This was a special event, attended by natives and all branches of armed forces on the islands.” And it's the same picture.

DM:

Oh, it's the same picture, but I got that out because we had that in the Fiji room, we call it. We've got a Fiji room.

LP:

Oh, a Fiji room?

DM:

We're going to show you the Fiji room. Am I going too much?

HT:

No, that's fine.

DM:

Okay. I didn't know this until I dug—until my folder back here had deteriorated. If you don't protect things, they do. I'd forgot[ten] about them. Let me see, where were we? I think we were getting ready to go to India, weren't we?

HT:Yes.
DM:

So, word came that we were going to go, we didn't know where. We were going to another fort, so we packed up all our equipment. A lot of it we had improvised for our own use, and we were very pleased with all of our stuff that we had worked out, got it all together, and thought, “Well, thank goodness, wherever we go maybe we'll be able to do something.” We thought if they didn't—Why didn't they send us home, because they needed us at home? They were just crying for people. Anyway, so we got on a ship again and headed—it turned out to be to Calcutta [India]. We didn't know for a long time where we were going. It's a dead secret, you know, of course, during the war.

We landed in Calcutta, and they put us on a train and took us all the way across India. I've got that map with that marked all the way across India. That was some trip. That was a shocking trip. And when we arrived there it was during the year when people were dying of starvation and lying in the streets of Calcutta, and the trucks picked them up every morning. Well, we were told not to give them anything, “Don't give these beggars anything.” Well, we didn't have anything to give them, but we thought, “For heaven's sakes!” You know, it was just not our nature for somebody that comes up just crying for something, and we've got chewing gum and candy. Well, we sinned. We gave away and gave—these two little kids we gave. Well, honey, we were swamped. The Marines had to come get us. That's just why they say don't give them anything. Because they are so hungry, they are so desperate, if they think you might have something they'll just swarm you. So we learned the hard way.

Also we learned in Calcutta that we were going up into bush country where there were cobras or where there were snakes, and this man told us, in all seriousness now, that if you're sitting in your tent and you see a cobra coming through, don't move. We just laughed. He said, “I'm serious! You don't move. A cobra is blind. He can't see you unless you move, and if you move he strikes where he sees you move.” Well—[chuckling]

That trip was fantastic. It would take me all day, I guess, to tell the rest of it, but I won't tell you all of it. We got on a boat in Calcutta and went on a boat, a paddle thing, where the man dug this way, you know, and paddled—it was the worst little boat on the Brahmaputra River-to a place where we boarded a train, another train. That's after. I took you on the trip across India, from Calcutta.

HT:

Yes.

DM:

Well, that was where we got on the little paddle boat, at the end of that. It was a big paddle boat because it held us all, our unit. The river was filthy and we called it the Brahma “Putrid” River because it was so dirty. They had their cows in it, and they were bathing in it and drinking the water. We were told that we didn't touch anything that was Indian in those areas because it just wasn't safe. We had to eat canned food, K rations, and the water we had to drink was out of the boiler of the locomotive when we were on the train.

Oh, another thing, on that train we stopped somewhere in the bush country, and had no orders. And our colonel couldn't get anybody to respond, to tell us where to go. We were way up there near the Assam border, you know, and in the bush country, the real jungle. We didn't get off the train, we sat there, and finally he got hold of somebody and they moved us into a camp there where—I don't suppose you ever heard of Merrill's Marauders? That was a name that was known back then. Merrill, M-e-r-r-i-l-l, I think, Merrill's Marauders. They were not like humans. They just—Nothing was sacred. They just went in—they got prisoners, I think, to serve in this, because life didn't mean anything to them anyway. And they killed some of the hospital staff we were told. If they didn't like the doctor, they'd shoot him. That's the story we heard of the hospital that preceded us.

So finally we got orders to move, and we went on this little paddle thing further on up into the bush country and got on a little—Well, it was another kind of rail transport. It wasn't really a train, but it would take us on a little rail further on up into near the border where they were, where the hospital was supposed to be. And that was very crude, very—a hurry-up job, the hospital that had been set up there. They had gone, they didn't need us. They had hospitals there, they didn't want us. And somebody stole all our equipment, especially bedsheets, et cetera, on the way. We thought it was Americans because we didn't see anybody else. [chuckling] They wanted sheets. Somebody wanted sheets and things, they'd just go take them out of this railroad car. Anyway, that was a sad sort of a situation, and I guess something you could expect in an army situation, but it was very bad. Then we did set up. We could only work part-time because we didn't have a lot of people. Most of the patients we had were the men building the—What do you call that? Burma Road? They called it the Burma Road.

HT:

There was a Burma Road.

DM:

Yes, a road into—trying to get around the Japanese, up into the area where they were expected to be coming in. And we had very crude living arrangements. They were tents, and so close. Dirt floors and tents again, and very close together in a little compound. The colonel put a fence—I wrote an article about that fence—around us, a seven-foot fence with a barbed-wire top. And we thought, “He must be crazy!” That was the time that song came out, “Don't Fence Me In,” so that became our theme song. Anyway, we didn't sing much in that area. We had latrines, and you always had a fear that you were going to get bitten by a snake. [chuckling] It was such a serious situation for females to be in that area. That's why the colonel was being careful, as there was a lot of very rough guys assigned to do very rough jobs. And they were driving in these trucks full of dirt. Those soldiers, most of them were black, would come into the hospital, and you could hardly tell where their eyes were they had so much dust, and driving these old trucks and all this dirt there building that road. We had a lot of those, and others from accidents on that road, mostly is what we had. Not any combat in our area.

A little snake that we really worried about was called a krait, k-r-a-i-t, I think, and it's about the length of my little finger, and it's very green, my little finger, and has a fiery-red tongue. One of the soldiers or the officers brought one to show us so we'd know that it wasn't a worm. And if it bites you, you're gone. In that day they didn't have any antitoxin for that particular snake. Well, that little guy we worried about. We had to have mosquito nets here because the anopheles mosquitoes were there. We had mosquito nets in Fiji just to keep from being bitten, but it wasn't a disease-bearing mosquito. But anopheles is the very bad mosquito that gives you malaria, so here we had to grease up everywhere we went at night. They had a little place that they'd show movies, set up something to try to entertain us. And this sergeant would stand at the entrance with this bottle of grease, and he'd make you grease yourself all over to keep the mosquitoes from biting you. We were just a mess. [chuckling]

When we went to the latrine at night, there were soldiers always stationed at the entrance and around our compound, our living space, and you'd get your flashlight and he took you to the latrine because—I guess it was just for safety more than anything else, and for so many things that could attack you in that environment. So we had that kind of thing. It was pretty rough living after having lived in Fiji on such a pretty little island for so long and no worries about anything except the Japs dropping bombs on us. Then, I'm trying to think where we—I think we came home from India in '45. All I can think of is what a rough life it was and that it was a waste of our time to put us up there in India when they needed [us] so badly at home, and there wasn't much for us to do and they already had hospitals there. That's what can happen, I guess, when you have such a big outfit and a big operation going—a lot of waste.

Before we came to India, though, they decided that some people might need to come home, because of illness or because of mental state even in Fiji—especially after the war we weren't busy, so we had a reduced number of professional people going to India, and we picked up a few that were sent to us from other units. But we didn't need any additional ones at that time. And then the time came to come home. They decided our tour of duty overseas was over. There was pressure to get us to go to hospitals in Burma by offering to raise our rank to captain.

I didn't mention the status of the nurses. We were all second lieutenants for most of the time we were over there. Then one time in Fiji they gave quite a few of us first lieutenant's rank and made the chief nurse a major. She was a captain and they made her a major. So when we got to Miami, U.S.A., we were amazed to see so many high ranking WACs and WAVES.

I don't know, that doesn't have any relevance to coming home, I don't think, especially. Oh, except that we flew home, and when we were flying home we had no priority because we were coming home. If there was any other need for that airplane for troops or for sick people or for anything, they'd just have to put us down somewhere and to wait until we could get a plane. So we sat in Khartoum, Egypt, I don't know how long, I think it was about a week or ten days, waiting for a plane. Then several other places we'd sit down overnight. And whenever the local soldiers or staff would come onto the plane and see all these women, they'd say, “Aaah! Oooh! We're going to have a dance tonight.” Well, that's what they would have. [laughter] And we danced. We decided we just had to be decent about it. They didn't have any social life-it would be the officers. We couldn't have anything to do with the enlisted men, except as we worked with them as corpsmen. But our colonel told us early on in our career that we must remember that some men officers are gentlemen by act of Congress only. [chuckling] And that was true. But we didn't have any bad encounters, I don't think, that you could mention. Nothing serious happened. But some of those fellows never had danced, that I know. But we'd volunteer and go, and they'd get a band together of some kind and we'd have a little dance. And that would make them all feel good. They'd have something to eat and—trying to make a party out of it, you know. Well, that was part of our life during the whole war, which we just had to accept. We especially liked the navy's parties. Aboard ship they had goodies and ice cream.

We were sleeping on cots in Fiji. I'm back again, back and forth on this as I think of things. And our backs were about to kills us, you know. The cots would sag, and we'd put our coats in them and pad them. By the way, that uniform change was quite an event in Fiji. We got there with all those wool clothes. We had to get permission from the authorities to design a uniform that we could wear in the tropics, which our chief nurse did with a committee. The Indians living on the island were very versatile, very good tailors. I mean the Indians from India, not our American Indians. They were indentured, brought into Fiji by the British to help build the island. So, we designed a uniform that was shirtwaist—style that we could put all our brass on, you know, and that's what we had. Then-Where was I? [laughter]

HT:

Well, you were talking about going home from India, and you stopped in Khartoum and went to a dance of some sort.

DM:

Oh, yes. So everybody came home, all the officers, the whole unit. I was sent to Fort Devens [Massachusetts]. Well, not all of us were sent to Fort Devens. We could choose the area we wanted. We were scattered all over the country at various forts, you know. And I asked for Fort Devens because I had some good friends that lived up near there, and I thought maybe if I was going to have to stay in the army I could stay where I could have some contact with them, which turned out to be true. I don't think all of us were discharged at the same time, by any means, because it depends upon the unit you're in and how things moved. I had never worked so hard as I worked at Fort Devens. After being so out of work, you know, for months, you get into this busy place and never saw so much surgical work. I was a surgical nurse. They worked you to death. [chuckling] It was a full day and a full time. No time for anything, because they had all these boys coming in, you see, from overseas and from everywhere in the country in these various hospitals. So I worked hard there.

Somebody got the word out that I could play the piano while I was at Fort Devens, and the chief nurse there ordered me to accompany a group to sing the army nurse song. Well, it's a pitiful little song, but we did. Because the Pops in Boston every so often was having one of the units from the hospital perform at one of their concerts. So the first thing I know—I kept a copy of the program [shown to interviewer] because that's the only time I'd ever perform with the Pops. [chuckling] There I was accompanying this pitiful little nurse group singing the army nurse song at the Pops concert. We did quite a few little things like that, but not much; it was mostly work, work, work.

Then the day came for discharge and they—Oh, they warned us when we came home—Oh, that was something else. When we came we landed in Florida, and all we could think of was a good cold glass of milk and a hot tub bath or a good hot shower. That's what we were looking for. Well, about the time we got to—oh, within an hour of Miami, one of the motors [a two-motor plane] started cutting up. And I'll never forget that pilot. He was sweating, his neck was just wet, trying to keep this thing going till we could get to Florida. [chuckling] And we just didn't know for sure we were going to make it. They just were not running full-blast, you know, and they'd conk off a little. And, “Oh, well,” I thought, “to get this close home and then have to ditch.” But we made it.

And we got there, and then they assigned us around the funniest places. They didn't have anyplace, I guess. You know, there were so many people coming in at that time in '45, you know, from the overseas assignments, I guess they didn't have anyplace. They sent us around to these little motels and whatever place they could find empty. And the one that a couple of us were sent to was the filthiest little place you ever saw, and the dirtiest bathroom! And we wouldn't have put our feet in that tub. [chuckling] And we didn't get any milk to drink till the next day. And we thought, “Oh, what a welcome home.” But you can see then—Well, some of the gals refused to go into the places. They slept in the army car. They said they'd just stay in the jeep, trying to make the army do a better job of getting us a place. And they did the next day. They got us into a place that was a motel/hotel that was clean. I guess there was enough turnover.

Then from there we went to the various ports that I told you about, and I went to Fort Devens. The army wanted us to take a vacation. Some of them wanted us to stay in Florida, and I said, “We've been sitting under palm trees for three years. We don't want to go sit under any palm trees in Florida.” Anyway, I chose to stay up there in the Fort Devens area. They were trying to be nice to us, I think, give us a chance to relax before we got back with our family; have a little vacation. Well, we wanted to just get back with the family. Most of us worked that out so that we got home.

I think there wasn't anything afterwards, except I had decided that I wasn't going to do anything for a while but just visit people that I had been wanting to visit a long time, because I always had a job and didn't have much time to do that. So I didn't try to find a job when I got out of the army. The army wanted us to stay in and take some other assignments, and I just said, “I've had enough army for the rest of my life.” So I did that. I came home and took the time to see some people, besides my family, that I wanted to see.

By this time the GI Bill had come along, and I thought, “Well, that's the answer to my prayer. I want to go get a master's in public health.” So I just started to work then with my former colleagues on what's going on in the country, what's the best place, where's the best faculty, and so forth. I ended up in Minnesota, the School of Public Health. There was a wonderful faculty up there at that time. But what a cold country, I'll tell you! [chuckling] I got so tired of putting on galoshes and coats and scarves and stuff. But it turned my life around, I think, really. Thirteen months it took me, or fifteen months, because I came from a music background, B.S. I had a lot of catching up to do, basic science courses to get up to a master's in public health. I worked my tail off that year. It was fifteen months. I got a little credit for some of the Hopkins courses, but not much, fortunately, because what I had there was watered-down, I found out. They gave me credit for mental health and for one or two other subjects, but I had to take the bacteriology and all of those courses that I hadn't had for a music career. So that was a turning point, I think, in my life.

While I was there, the U.S. Public Health Service people were coming around recruiting, and a colleague of mine at Minnesota said, “That's a good outfit to go with.” She was a member of the Public Health Service Commission Corps, “They have the best retirement that you'll find anywhere” and so forth. So that's where I ended up, in the U.S. Public Health Service, where I spent twenty-four years. [chuckling]

LP:

And then you went to Arkansas?

DM:

Oh my, yes.

LP:

After that?

DM:

Yes, during my career with the P.H.S. The Public Health Service provided loans and personnel to aid states. At that time, many states couldn't find or could not afford to send their people away to get proper preparation for the kind of jobs they wanted them to do. They'd ask the [Public Health] Service to loan them personnel to do a certain job. I was on loan to Arkansas twice during my career with the Public Health Service. The first time was just—You want this?

HT:

Just briefly, sure.

DM:

The first time was to set up a training program for diploma graduates, really, who were being sent out to work in county health departments and didn't know anything except what was in the hospital. They didn't know how to work with communities and people, so I was supposed to work with them. I was assigned to the state health department, which in turn assigned me to the Little Rock City Health Department where we set up this training program, three months for nurses in Arkansas who were working in the county health department. But it became a center for several universities to send their—who had public health programs. Peabody [College in Baltimore, Maryland] was one of them, and the University of Minnesota sent some of their public health nurses for three months to our unit. The National League of Nursing accredited the program. It was a reputable little program. Little Rock had a very good health department for those days.

Then while I was there I'd get involved in committees and community activities. I'll tell you this because it relates to what happened to me the next time. Arkansas wanted a degree program for nurses at the University of Arkansas. The nurses wanted it—some of the nurses, not all of them—and none of the doctors. But anyway, they decided they were going to set up a committee to establish a collegiate program for nurses. I was on the committee, and what we were going to do was hire somebody to come in and raise money for a degree program. Somebody had told us, “If you get hold of Marie Cheatham, she will never let it go until it happens.” Well, we went to see Marie, and she was forty years old and had just gotten married the first time. She was president of the Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs, a very powerful group in the state. So when we told Marie what we were talking about, she looked at us like we were really pathetic. She said, “That's no way to get a school of nursing at the university. The taxpayers are going to pay for that. You're not going to haul somebody in here to raise money.” She told us what we should have known but we didn't. She became our mentor. [chuckling] She is no longer with us, but she was honored greatly by the Arkansas School of Nursing.

I was in Arkansas at the Health Department for about two years. I went on back to the Public Health Service in 1949 and left Arkansas. Then, one hot July day in 1952, I got this phone call from the dean of the school of medicine in Little Rock, Arkansas, wanting me to come and be an acting dean of the school of nursing. Well, for heaven's sakes, they didn't even have a school of nursing. And I was suspicious of a doctor taking this over because they wanted to run everything. They wanted us to have this educational program as part of the medical school. They didn't see any point in the nurses—Well, it was just back to the worst mess. So I was skeptical. He said, “All the nurses say you are the one to ask, and everybody thinks you are the one that should do it.” But I told him I'd have to think about that quite a bit, you know. So, with counseling from very reputable nurses in the Public Health Service in education, which I wasn't, they said, “Daphine, what they want with you is not you to be an educator. They want you to get the legislation and the money. They want you to help them pull the thing together, and you can do that.”

Well, I took it on. But they do things so well in Arkansas. They knew how to get together and get folks together and work things out among themselves, which is very rare, from my experience. So, to convince me that I should do it, they had a committee, a hundred—member committee for the school of nursing and a medical center. Oh, they added the medical center. That was a big deal. They needed a new medical center. And they pulled all that committee together, plus the president of the university and a few other key people of the university to Little Rock, and invited me down to meet with them. They paid all my expenses, and we had a nice big dinner and they told me—I knew they were serious when I got through with them, [chuckling] when I got to listening to them. They were going to have that medical center and that school of nursing, and it was not going to be under the medical school. And the nurses were adamant about that. It's going to be independent.

So I came back and worried about it a little while longer, and finally accepted with reluctance because I was afraid I would let them down. I hadn't been sitting at the table with educators. I had been out with public health people working in communities, and I thought—It was so critical and so important to that state, I was afraid I'd let them down, I wouldn't be able to accomplish anything. But they just kept hounding me so. And they are people, I've found, that they're not too worried about your ability if they like you. If they like you and think they can trust you, you can come on in and do most anything you want. [chuckling] But I know better than that. Anyway, I went and stayed there from October of '52 to December of '53. We developed a four-year B.S. program of nursing and thirteen students enrolled before I left. [chuckling] But I didn't do it all.

This plaque over here tells you exactly what happened. And they sent me that in appreciation because they wanted me there for a very special occasion they were having at the school, and Joe had a heart attack. And then they pushed it up so I could come in September, and I broke my hip. So I think they've given up on me. They put this together and sent to me, which shows—I wouldn't accept anything from them unless they put these other people's names on there, because I didn't do this. You don't do this by yourself, you know. It takes a lot of manpower and a lot of know-how from a lot of people to get that done, especially in Arkansas. [laughter]

I remember when I got there I didn't know where to go. I thought, “Should I go to Little Rock? That's where the hospital is. Or should I go to the university in Fayetteville? We're talking about a university program.” And I was afraid of that medical outfit in Little Rock, so I made the decision to go to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to the University of Arkansas. They didn't know what they'd bought. They really didn't know what they had bought when they bought a collegiate program of nursing. They thought I was going to set up a little something out here in a clinic and send the nurses through it, and then they'd have plenty of nurses, you know. They really did! And I thought, “Oh!” So I said, “I've got to plant myself up there.” There was a lot of resources in the NLN [National League of Nursing] and in the Public Health Service that I could use. I remember one of the big key points was I got Margaret—Oh, I can't think of her name now, but she was a wonderful person. She wasn't a nurse, she was a person who was an educator, and she was employed by NLN, a national nursing organization, to be a consultant to educators who were trying to work with nurses because she knew academia. Well, I had her come, and she was a turning point at the university.

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

DM:

—the people want, you know. He had that attitude. But when I got there and they didn't have a place for me—Now, the medical school had a dean, Dr. Hayden Nicholson, who in his short facilities—he didn't have any—set aside an office and put a big sign on the door: “School of Nursing” at the medical school. [chuckling] And leaving that medical school was kind of hard to do to him because he was such a nice guy, but I had to do it to him. And I thought, “I can't do it here, and I hope the Good Lord will guide me if I'm right.” So I got in my car and headed to Fayetteville. And they didn't expect me. They thought I was going to be down in Little Rock. They weren't going to have any of this problem, you know. But here I was. And it took a while for them to find a space for me to sit. And the dean of women was very kind. She took me into the nurses' dormitory. Anyway, it wasn't unpleasant, but it was hard because they didn't really want to do anything. They thought it was going to be down in Little Rock, you know. I just kept sitting around, and I put a little sign up on the wall near my door, “School of Nursing”, and began to sit little things around and meet with some of the faculty and talk so people would know why I was there. And that's what it took. It took a lot of it for my early days there.

Then came the time for the legislature to meet. A proposal for a six-cent cigarette tax to finance a medical center and school of nursing is what they passed. And then a legislative council met to decide what legislation would be considered at the upcoming session. The president of the university and the provost decided I should go meet with that council. The president went too, and the provost. The three of us went. [chuckling] The provost said to me—I thought it was so good, it told a lot about me, he said, “Now, Daphine, when those guys ask you a question, answer them. Don't give them a course in nursing.” [laughter] I thought, “They know me pretty well.” I'd been giving them a course for several months. There were some real redneck fellows out there from way out in the country that didn't care much about education or why nurses needed it. Also, they felt that too much was going to Little Rock instead of the counties. Dean Nicholson of the medical school took me around and said he wanted me to meet them. There were about fifteen or twenty of them, and he introduced me as the acting dean of nursing. Everybody was very pleasant. I got to one guy from Perry County. In a loud voice he said, “Dean of nursing?” He said, “Aren't you here asking for money to get a school?” And I said, “Yes, sir!” He said, “Well, you're a little optimistic, aren't you?” I said, “Yes, sir!.” [chuckling] I didn't say another word. Oh, I'll tell you, that was a day for me. I really was scared.

Then the headlines the next day was the council refused to pass this legislation. Well, I decided I'd just as well pack up and go home, I'd just done all I could do. [chuckling] And I was ready to do that. I was staying in a hotel in Little Rock [the Sam Peck]. I stayed at the same place every time. It got to be home to me. But my phone started ringing off the wall, you know. All these women all over the state got so upset, they started to work. Every legislator had women at their doorstep when they got home who said, “We want that school of nursing. Why didn't you vote for it?” That's what happened. They would say to me, “Now, Daphine, don't be discouraged.” See, it got to be my school. That's the reason I didn't want to stay, too. It got to be my program. I was the central point, but it wasn't really my program at all. It was a lot of people's program. It was their program when the legislation was passed.

Anyway, so time came and I went out and got a good dean for them. I was lucky. Julia Miller had been in the state and they liked her. She had done a couple of surveys there and they thought she was great. She was president of the National League of Nursing at this time. I went up to New York to see her—I knew she knew Arkansas very well—to see whether she would consider coming to be the dean. I didn't have any idea she would. She was ready. She said, “I'm tired of this job and I've been thinking about moving,” and there she was ready. Well, that was like giving them a gift, really, to have her come back to Arkansas. Well, that's what happened, and she really put the meat on the bones, you know. There was a framework there and she had to get the faculty and get the program started.

Now, a lot of them still—not now, a lot of them are not alive, but for a long time never forgave me for not staying and being the dean. Dr. Caldwell said to me, “Daphine, I can't understand how anybody would work like you worked to get this school and then walk away.” I didn't know how to explain it to him, but I knew it was the best thing to do. In the first place, I wasn't qualified to sit around the table with the deans of nursing education, I didn't think. And in the second place, I wasn't sure I wanted to get qualified. That wasn't what I wanted to do. And then I don't think I would have been able to attract faculty. Who in the world was I? I mean, what have I been doing? Public health work? No, it wouldn't have worked. And then another thing was I was politically involved up to my ears, and I was—

LP:

And you like that.

DM:

[chuckling] Well, I didn't know what else to do. I got carried in the wind, you know, just carried with them. But you know the nurses were the hardest ones to convince, the nurses in the state, that we needed a bachelor's program. And that's interesting. They just didn't think you needed that much education. A lot of them were threatened, I guess, because they were all diploma graduates of hospital schools. There wasn't an accredited program in the state. There were seven schools of nursing and not a one of them nationally accredited. All were locally accredited. And I think they were afraid that—they just didn't want that in their midst. But the plan for that program was to plan for them, because a plan did develop that they could go and get an education without having to spend a lot of money or taking time from their jobs. That's still going on in Arkansas, and other places too. I'd better shut up, I think.

LP:

I wanted to ask you how you met Joe [Mastroianni]. Was that on Fiji?

DM:

Oh! Oh, well, let me see what time is it? [chuckling]

HT:

It's four o'clock.

DM:

Oh, you've got to go home.

LP:

Was that on Fiji?

DM:

Oh yes. Yes, I met Joe, really, on the ship leaving from New Zealand to Fiji. We were standing there. All the people that had us in their homes were out waving to us and everything, and we couldn't see them, and here's this nice—looking young man standing there with binoculars, you know, in a Red Cross uniform. He was in the Red Cross, assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific area. So I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if we could borrow his binoculars a little bit. [chuckling] And he let us have them. And then on the ship, though—oh, it was on the ship, yes, that I guess I got to know him better. He arranged things for us, you know, to entertain us, the Red Cross people. He'd get us singing, and we couldn't put on a light or anything, and have this dark ballroom with a little bulb out here and here with a big grand piano in it. Somebody told him I could play, and at the time I could play better than I do now, but I could play by ear these old songs, you know. And oh, he came over and he said, “That's just what I've been looking for!” And so we sang all these old songs, you know, popular songs. So then we got acquainted. Then he arranged some bridge games and things for us to do, and I played bridge with him quite a few times. Then we'd go to dances together and got to know each other real well. It was so nice to know somebody that you could do things with and not have a strange officer every time you did something, you know. So we became very fond of each other and did a lot of things together. But Joe was married, and we both knew that was final. So, at the end of the war, he went home. I came home first, I guess. Well, no, I left him in Fiji. Yes, I went to India, and then didn't see him for a long time then. Our hospital was transferred to India [Assam].

[interview interrupted]

Oh, and so we didn't communicate any. We would send Christmas cards or birthday cards. With time going on, he went his way and I went to Minnesota School of Public Health and I got into the U. S. Public Health Service, and we didn't see each other. I think once something was happening at meeting in New York and we saw each other. So he wrote me several times when his wife was very ill. She had something like a tumor, a brain tumor, to see if—I think he was looking for somebody to give him some suggestions of what to do or something, and we corresponded about that.

But then it was 1992, I guess, that he called me and wanted to know if he could come to see me. He had sent me a message about the death of his wife several years before. And I said, “Well, you reckon we'd know each other? It's been forty years, you know.” [chuckling] So he came. And I said, “I'll wear a rose in my hair or something so you'll know who I am.” And when he got off of that plane, honestly, he had two huge suitcases and a carnation in his mouth. He was a spectacular thing. But you couldn't have missed him. He looked the same to me. I was very much in love with Joe. So then he came back and forth and we developed a new relationship, then decided that—I have a copy of the article that the paper wrote here that you might like to see. It's similar, that's the story. And we got married here in our little chapel. He had a big home up in Poughkeepsie, New York. I went up there to meet all his family and friends. He didn't have much left in family except cousins and nephews and nieces. Then he kept coming back down here and getting to know this place. So, in '92, November 11th of '92, we had the chaplain to marry us in the chapel. We waited for this cottage because he wanted to bring a lot of his things, and I wanted him to, to make him feel more comfortable with some of his things. So now this house is getting too big for us, [chuckling] with our canes, but we enjoy it. We've had an interesting time together, and we're sort of holding each other up now.

LP:

That's wonderful.

DM:

Yes, we're glad to be together. Well, I hope I haven't disappointed you.

HT:

No, not at all. Could I ask you just a few more brief questions about your military service before we quit? We've been talking for two hours, or you've been talking, and I don't want to tire you out at all.

DM:

Well, that's all right, that's all right. I don't have anything else planned.

HT:

All right. Do you recall what your most embarrassing moment was while you were in the military?

DM:

Oh, I think the one I told you about in New Zealand. [laughter] That's not the one you want. I don't know.

HT:

Well, that was a good one.

DM:

Anxious moments but not embarrassing so much. So most anything went. Of course, in Fiji, Joe was on one side of the island and I was on the other side, see, so he'd have to come over. That's the way it ended up. He'd have to fly over from Nandi to [Suva] for us to see each other. He'd usually arrange to take a group of us on a picnic. He could get things, supplies and things, being in the Red Cross, and could get a jeep, a command car, and take a bunch of us to a place we could swim. You know, Fiji was a beautiful island, but there was no way you could go swimming. You had to ride about forty miles around that island to get into the water because of this brush, this—I can't think of the name of it, that grows all around. You couldn't get through it. It's just a tangled mass and you can't get through it, where we were on Fiji, at Suva. So he'd come and we'd go around to where we could get to the water and have a nice day's swim. I'm going to bring something out that you ought to see.

HT:

Okay.

[End of Interview]