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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Helen Bonner Eshelman, 1999

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Object ID: WV0039.5.001

Description: Documents Helen Bonner Eshelman’s education at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (WC, now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, UNCG) during the Depression; her service in the South Pacific as a dietitian for the U.S. Army during World War II; and her life and career as a dietitian after the war.

Summary:

Eshelman recalls attending the WC during the Depression. She describes dining options; the layout of the campus; her roommates; and segregation of the area during this time.

Eshelman discusses in detail her time spent in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1945. Topics include her trip on the USS President Grant; the temporary army hospitals; ship rides between islands; life in New Guinea and the Philippines; the Salvation Army; her experiences with the natives of the area; recreational activities and dating; and food supplies.

Eshelman talks about her feelings about the affect of the war, especially on traditional values. She also comments on her employment after the war, focusing on her time in Central America with the United Fruit Company.

Creator: Helen Bonner Eshelman

Biographical Info: Helen Bonner Eshelman (1916-2005) of High Point, North Carolina, a career dietitian, served overseas in this capacity with the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945.

Collection: Helen Bonner Eshelman 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:

[Today is February 17,] 1999. I am at the home of Miss Helen Bonner Eshelman, in Asheville, North Carolina. I'm here to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. Miss Eshelman, I really appreciate you talking with me today. If you could tell me your name and where you were born, we'll consider this a test to make sure that your voice sounds all right.

HE:

Helen Bonner Eshelman. I was born in High Point, North Carolina, and lived there most of my life. I worked away some.

[recorder paused]

HT:

Miss Eshelman, could you tell me where you went to high school, please?

HE:

High Point High School.

HT:

And could you tell me a little bit about your family life before you went to Woman's College [of the University of North Carolina, now UNCG]?

HE:

I was the baby in a family with two other children, a brother and a sister, both older. Let's see, we were Methodists. We were a close family. My parents neither smoked nor drank, and that made for a little different situation than some families.

HT:

I think before we started talking you mentioned that your mother came from a family of ten children.

HE:

Eleven.

HT:

Eleven? Could you tell me that story again about how your dad and mom got married and the circumstances around that?

HE:

Yes, Mama went to Woman's College.

HT:

Oh, she did?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you remember what year she graduated?

HE:

She did not take a four-year course. She took a two-year business course.

HT:

And what was her maiden name?

HE:

Bonner. She had the same name I do. I was named for her. She was Helen Hooker Bonner, H-double o-k-e-r.

HT:

I'll have to look her up.

HE:

She was twenty-one when she got married, and that was in 1909, January 1909, so maybe that'll give you some clue.

HT:

Okay. Now, you mentioned—

HE:

Oh, you wanted me to tell you about them.

HT:

Yes, that story, please.

HE:

Well, when my father asked my mother to marry him she said, “Why, no, I wouldn't marry anybody who didn't have a home to take me to. I've always had a home.” So he went out and bought a lot in a new development, and together they planned the house, and on their wedding day they returned—They were married in Cary, North Carolina, and they took the train to High Point. And when they got there, the house was furnished. Being a furniture town, their friends and family had given them furniture; and a completely furnished house they moved into the night they were married. And my mother never moved. She died in that house in March of 1983. She was married in 1909.

HT:

What type of business was your father in?

HE:

My father was in the credit and collection business. The Lyon Furniture Mercantile Agency. And he didn't change jobs. He stuck with that job all his life.

HT:

I think you said earlier that you lived in High Point all of your life, except for your travels.

HE:

Yes. Well, when I worked a few places.

HT:

What made you decide to go to Woman's College in the middle of the Depression?

HE:

Oh, the price. The cost was nominal. I think my whole college education was a thousand dollars.

HT:

And you were there the four years?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

And did you stay on campus, or were you—

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall which dorms?

HE:

I lived in Spencer [Dorm] first, and Miss [Minnie Lou] Jamison was the counselor, and she was also there when my mother was there. When my mother went, it was the State Normal [and Industrial College]; when my sister went, it was NCCW [North Carolina College for Women]; when I went it, was Woman's College. So we used to laugh about it changing its name all the time. [chuckling]

HT:

And what was your major while you were there?

HE:

Home Ec[onomics].

HT:

Home Ec? And what made you decide—

HE:

Institutional management.

HT:

And what made you decide to go into the Home Ec field?

HE:

I don't know, I didn't want to teach, so I didn't have any of the education courses. It was purely foods that we had.

HT:

Could you tell me something about what college life was like in those days?

HE:

Well, we ate in the dining room and—Let's see, we were served, and it seems to me there were tables for eight, and there was usually a counselor or somebody with a little authority at each table, and the food was family-style. The sugar bowls were about that size. And times were hard, but we all had a little—What do you call it? A little electric cooker. We would take a bag and empty the sugar bowl [chuckling] and carry it home to make candy on that little burner.

HT:

Was this like a little hot plate you had in your room?

HE:

Yes, a hot plate is what it was, hot plate. And sometimes we would use the grapefruit rind from breakfast and we would just cook that in a syrup made with the sugar, and you cook it and cook it and cook it. You make it in strips. Did you ever have grapefruit peel?

HT:

No.

HE:

It's delicious! Orange peel is good, too. But we had grapefruit at breakfast and we'd just take the rinds home and make candy out of it. [chuckling]

HT:

Was this because you could not afford candy, or—

HE:

Oh, mercy, yes. Yes, we couldn't afford candy. I think I got two dollars a month spending money. It may have been two dollars a week, I don't know. Two dollars a month was probably a good bit. And we'd get somebody to do our hair for ten cents. We'd wash it, and one of the girls would roll it up for ten cents.

Let's see, lights were out at ten o'clock. And the freshman year it was too funny. We had a girl we called “Country Crowder,” because they came in her room one night and said, “You haven't turned your light off,” and she said, “I've blown and blown and it won't go out.” [laughter]

HT:

She thought what she had was a candle there?

HE:

I don't know whether she just had a good sense of humor and was quick on the draw, but anyhow [chuckling] from then on we called her “Country Crowder.” But lights were out at 10:00. That first year, we had one light that hung down from the ceiling, and we had cords going in every direction, like a spider.

HT:

This was in the room?

HE:

Yes. That was the only lighting we had. Spencer is an old building.

HT:

I'm surprised you didn't catch the place on fire.

HE:

Well, we were too. [chuckling] But I guess we were careful. It must have had good wiring to begin with.

HT:

And this was in Spencer Dorm?

HE:

Yes. That was in 1929. [chuckling] I'd hate for some people to see this, but I'll tell you, they put me in a room with a girl who was nineteen, and I had not quite had my sixteenth birthday. My birthday is in November, and so I was—I graduated from high school at fifteen—we just had eleven grades—so I hadn't had my sixteenth birthday when we went to college. Put me in a room with a girl nineteen!? And I went down to Miss Jamison and I said, “I can't stay with a girl that old!” And they changed me. [laughter] She had stopped and worked several years to earn the money to come to school, but I still thought she was too old.

HT:

Did you work while you were on campus, helping anywhere?

HE:

No, I did not work. I needed my time to study. [chuckling] In fact, few of my friends on that floor of that hall worked. I roomed with a girl who was from a big family, she was one of seven children, and she was so easy to get along with. She used to wear my shoes and break them in, and then I could wear them. I guess we didn't know how to get shoes that fit exactly, and her foot must have been just a tiny bit wider than mine. She had grown up in the country and so she would break my shoes in for me, and I thought that was fine. Because they needed it, and I always hated that part of it. Now I know to buy them big enough to be comfortable to begin with.

HT:

What did you ladies do for fun?

HE:

Let me think. Well, we went to the ice cream place. Is it West End Ice Cream? I think there's still a place near there—where ice cream, a big cone, was five cents. And is The Grill still there, down on the corner across from the [Brown] Music Building?

HT:

No.

HE:

Well, maybe they've got a new music building. We could either go to The Grill or we could order from The Grill. And you could order a sandwich— You know the sandwich bread that's this big?

HT:

Yes.

HE:

All right, we would get a sandwich, corned beef, with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise was what we liked, and the bread toasted. We could get that delivered for ten cents.

HT:

And this was from The Grill?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

And it was across the street from Brown or Aycock [Auditorium]?

HE:

From the music building.

HT:

The Brown Music Building?

HE:

I don't know. Is the music building still by the auditorium?

HT:

Yes, next to Aycock.

HE:

Yes, it was across the street from the music building on—Is that Tate [Street]?

HT:

Yes.

HE:

The Grill was quite a good place.

HT:

Was that like the drugstore or—?

HE:

It was like a fast-food place, just a restaurant.

HT:

Do you remember any of the traditions, like the Daisy Chain and May Day?

HE:

Yes, we had the Daisy Chain when I was there. I can't remember too much about it, but I thought it was nice. And it took a lot of daisies! [chuckling] I think I helped with it one year.

HT:

Where did you go pick them, do you recall?

HE:

Out in the fields. You didn't have to go far. See, the campus was—It ended with—Oh, what's the name of that? Well, the two first [dorms]—they were built while we were there. At the end of the street that comes in where the Alumni Building is, what's the name of those two?

HT:

There is Forest Avenue.

HE:

No, that wasn't it. Well, maybe it was. You turn in and come by the Alumni Building and go across, and the last two dormitories, what were they? Mary Foust [Residence Hall].

HT:

Mary Foust, and I've forgotten the name of the other one.

HE:

Well, those were built when we were there. The campus stopped there, and then it went on over and—See, all this stuff going onto Market Street was not there in those days. Let's see what we did. I don't know, we made our own fun.

HT:

I guess there wasn't a great deal of money to spend, so you couldn't go downtown to the movies very much and that sort of thing.

HE:

Didn't go to the movies often.

HT:

Did you ever ride—

HE:

There was a bus. Instead of a streetcar they had buses that had a little electric thing up above, and that was seven cents. Well, that was fifteen cents to go to town and back, so you didn't do it too often. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, I have heard other ladies say they walked quite a bit.

HE:

We did. We did walk.

HT:

Walked everywhere.

HE:

Yes, sure did. And then there was a lot of walking there on campus. If you walked to the gym, that was a long way—from Spencer. And if you walked down to the music building or to The Grill, you got your exercise pretty good. And we enjoyed our meals. On Chapel Day, it seems like it was Tuesdays, we came back to eat lunch, and that was cafeteria-style. And I'll tell you something that we had right often that I enjoyed: It was a piece of crisp toast, buttered, and on top of that they'd put hot applesauce, and on top of that they'd put two slices of crisp bacon, and it seems like there was a little bit of cinnamon on that. But it was delicious. Isn't that an unusual one?

HT:

It sounds delicious to me, too.

HE:

It really is good. Try it sometime. Do you have a family?

HT:

No.

HE:

Well, it's easy to make. You could do it. And we thoroughly enjoyed that. We had cream. We had our own dairy when I was there, so we had plenty of milk. And we'd have pitchers of cream. And when they would pour the coffee, we would hold a spoon, tilt it just a little bit and pour cream, and the cream would float and you'd have a creamy top on it. Cream is not like that today, or we don't have access to cream like that. But we really did enjoy the food. It was good.

HT:

Do you remember where the dairy was?

HE:

Where what was?

HT:

Where was the dairy?

HE:

The dairy? I don't know. Now, they did our laundry. That tuition, I mean what we paid, the thousand dollars included your room and your board and your classes and your laundry.

HT:

Do you remember any of the teachers who stand out in your mind?

HE:

Blanche Tansil was the institutional management teacher. Margaret Edwards was the head of the Home Ec department. Those teachers' names have sort of— I haven't used them in years. Did you ever hear of the poet Edwin Markham?

HT:

No.

HE:

M-a-r-k-h-a-m, I believe. He was over at Bennett College [Greensboro, NC], and I went with an English teacher and one or two other people over to hear him. He was one of my daddy's favorite poets. And my parents quoted lots of poetry. When they went to school they didn't have all the distractions we have today, and they knew more poetry than you can imagine. And often if we were in a car riding, they would quote poetry. And it was great. I didn't learn that much. But everybody's education is different, every age group.

Let's see, who was the black man that worked with peanuts and sweet potatoes? He came and talked, and we went to hear him in the auditorium.

HT:

Oh, George Washington Carver.

HE:

Whoever the man—it's the one that worked with sweet potatoes and peanuts. See, in those days there was a very distinct line between the blacks and the whites, which was too bad. We grew up with black servants in our home, and they would bring their babies and we'd play with them. One woman we called Aunt Leslie, she had helped us. We just called them “Aunt” whoever. We had great respect for them and love. And our parents, if they had to go off to a funeral or wedding or something, they would leave us with a black person in charge, and we were happy as a lark.

The house I lived in had an alley. That block, for four blocks, Johnson Street between Main and Johnson, had an alley that went all the way up, and in the alley were servants' quarters over the garages at most every house. Now at our house we had a servant's room built on the back. My father traveled some and my mother didn't want to be in the house alone, so she had a live-in black person who helped her. It wasn't always the same one, they'd change from time to time. But we grew up with that, and as individuals we liked them fine. We had nothing against any of them.

HT:

I think you said that you had gone to Bennett College to hear someone talk.

HE:

Edwin Markham.

HT:

And Bennett College in those days was a black girls' school. It still is, of course.

HE:

Yes, isn't it still that?

HT:

Right. Did you have to walk over there, or did you—

HE:

No, somebody—The teacher must have had a car and she took us. And if I'd hear her name I'd know it, but I can't remember what it was.

HT:

What about the administration? Do you recall any people from those days in the administration, such as Harriet Elliott [dean of women] or—

HE:

She was there. Yes, she was president when I was there, for a while, then Dr. Jackson.

HT:

Right, Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson.

HE:

Yes. Let's see, there was a man who took the money, and he was there when Mama was there.

HT:

Was that Claude Teague [business manager] maybe?

HE:

No, before that. [chuckling] I can see him! He was a little fellow with—[whispering] My mother didn't think much of him. I think he scared her. I wonder why I can't think of his name? Maybe I'll think of it later.

HT:

Okay, that's fine. Did you ever have any courses with Dr. Jackson, because I think he taught history from time to time?

HE:

No.

HT:

What about Clara Booth Byrd, who was the alumnae secretary in those days?

HE:

She was there.

HT:

And weren't you there when the Alumnae House was being built? Do you recall that?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

I think it was opened in '37, or something like that.

HE:

Yes, we thought it was real fine.

HT:

It was a real pretty house.

HE:

And when I went back for my fiftieth anniversary, it was still nice. That was where we met and got our assignments where to go to stay.

HT:

After you graduated in 1937, what line of work did you go into?

HE:

I went to Burlington [North Carolina] and was with the public schools there from '37 until I left in early November of '42. I was the first person from Burlington City Schools to get in the army, and I went with the superintendent's blessings. I'm not sure what happened later on, but—[chuckling]

HT:

So you were the dietitian for the city of Burlington's school system?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Did you enjoy that work?

HE:

Yes, but one day I got a letter from the army asking me if I'd like to be a dietitian in the army. And I thought, “Well, I'm not particularly interested, but I think it would be great fun to go see about it and to see what an army post is like.” So I got a substitute to work for me and I got on the bus and went. And when I got down there I found these two girls I knew, Lucy [Griffin Leonard] and Faye—I can't think of Faye's last name yet. Well, they were there, and the mess officer wanted to know if I could come to work for them. And I said, “Well, I'll have to think about it.”

And he said, “Well, couldn't you come next week?”

And I said, “Why, no, I'd have to give a week's notice!” [laughter] Imagine somebody telling you today they had to give a week's notice. Well, anyhow, I thought that was fair enough. I told him I'd come, and I came home and called the superintendent from supper. I ate at a boardinghouse. I called him and told him I was going to leave and get in the army. I don't think that was very—what's the word, orthodox, but that's what I did. I probably disturbed his supper!

HT:

And that was in 1942?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

What month?

HE:

I can't remember the date I started to work. It was early November. It was before Thanksgiving, so it must have been early November of '42.

HT:

And what made you decide to join the army as a dietitian?

HE:

Well, I got down there and saw they were there, and they said they could do it all right and that I'd be good too, so I said all right. The money was the same, except you got your—I can't remember whether we paid anything for room or not. We may have paid a little bit, but mighty little. It was a new building, we had private rooms with a bath between each two rooms. And the furniture hadn't all come, and we made—we used orange crates for bureaus. [chuckling] You know an orange crate, a wooden one?

HT:

Yes.

HE:

Well, they were great for furniture. And you'd just get a board and put across the top, and you've got room to sit down. And if you find a mirror from somewhere, you're in business. [chuckling]

HT:

Now where was this?

HE:

Camp Butner [North Carolina]. The furniture came after a bit. We had maid service there, our social life was good. It was very pleasant. They had about a thousand folks in the hospital there, a thousand patients.

HT:

And so you were an army officer?

HE:

Well, not yet. We were civil service.

HT:

Oh, civil service. I see.

HE:

We were civil service until—Somewhere that tells. I think it was in March we got our—All we did was somebody came in and put bars on our shoulders and caduceus and we were in the army. We may have said something, but I don't remember saying anything. Once they had us try to drill, and we were as ignorant as could be trying to drill. [chuckling]

HT:

So you never went through boot camp or anything like that?

HE:

No, no, we didn't have any of that. Never learned how to salute properly. We were as unorthodox as they come. [chuckling] Well, before we left to go overseas—And we never dreamed we'd go overseas, we just thought we'd stay right there. And before we left to come home, there were some WACs [Women's Army Corps] there. But we didn't mix. We were different. We were with the Medical Corps. And we were all army, but I don't know, I lived with the nurses and the physical therapists.

HT:

What type of uniform were you issued?

HE:

Exactly like the nurses'. The only difference was the caduceus and the blue on the cap instead of black. It was a light blue or a medium blue.

HT:

And how long did you stay at Camp Butner, both as a civilian and as an army dietitian?

HE:

Well, I went there sometime in November, I'd have to look it up, and in March, I think it was, we got our commission.

HT:

So March of '43?

HE:

Yes. And then Lucy left that summer, I think. I didn't leave until—let's see, we were on the boat three weeks. I must have left in early November, and didn't know where I was going. I went by myself. I had never flown before. I got to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and was bumped. Let's see, there were too many people for the rooms in the hotel, and I got a room by myself. I think I was the only girl, and the rest were men. And I was sorry for them, but I couldn't share my room with them.

Well, I pondered over what to do next, because I didn't know what to do. So I called back to North Carolina to the lieutenant who had gotten me on my way and I said, “I'm sitting here in a hotel in Cheyenne and I don't know what to do next.” And he said, “Well, just wait there till I call you.” And he called and told me when to get another plane. And that was the first time I had ever flown in ice, with ice on the wings of a plane, and it was scary.

HT:

Was this the first time you'd ever flown, period?

HE:

Yes. And, see, it was nice that first night. We flew all night. I thought you were going to have a berth like you do on a train. I sure was disappointed to find the planes weren't like that. I had seen a few in movies where they did sleep in the plane. I never have seen a real one like that. But the next day when it was time for the plane to leave, it was sleeting. But the plane took off and we got to San Francisco all right, and somebody met me there and took me to the—Oh, what was the hotel? A good one. The Saint Francis Hotel. It was one of the nice ones. By then my ears had stopped up and I couldn't hear anything. That was miserable! Well, the next day the woman came and took me to get my clothing, and I think somewhere in that stuff is a list of what she got me. Then we went to Camp Stoneman and waited there for three weeks for a ship.

HT:

Now where is Camp Stoneman?

HE:

Near San Francisco. And the day they took us on a seven-mile hike, the first time I'd ever hiked that far—And I don't know whether you've been to California and know how the clay sticks to your shoes? We were so tired when we got back. And when we got back, there were orders to go that night to get on the boat. Well, we got on that boat in the dark and we got off twenty-three days later in Brisbane [Australia], and you know we haven't seen that boat yet. We didn't see what it looked like when we got on, and when we got off we were so tired of it we didn't even look back. [chuckling]

HT:

Was this a troop carrier you were on?

HE:

Well, yes, it did carry troops, but it was the President lines. It was the President Grant.

HT:

That was the name of the ship?

HE:

Yes. It was a fine ship. Well, there were six of us in a stateroom that should have been for two. One could get down and dress at once. And there was a lavatory in the room and a tub adjoining the next room, and we had thirty minutes a day of fresh water for the six of us. So you got your five minutes each day in that lavatory. And it was [for] any kind of washing you wanted to do, whether it was your underwear or your hair or your—Well, there wasn't time to wash your hair in there. You didn't do that. You washed yourself and any underwear you needed to, and socks. And we tried taking a bath a time or two, and that was terrible. You got out so sticky from the saltwater that it wasn't worth it. And they said on the boat that if it rained you could put on a bathing suit and wash your hair. Well, I didn't try it but some of my friends did. And it got their hair wet and they put soap on it, and it quit raining. [laughter]

It was terribly hot on board ship. See, we were in the tropics, and I came across the thing not long ago when I passed the equator. We had quite a nice to-do when you went across the equator, because this was a cruise ship that we were on that they'd made into a troop ship. The ranking officer on that ship was a chaplain who was a captain. There were paratroopers who—some of them were first lieutenants. We were second lieutenants. And the deck below us that we could look at the boys, they were Australians. I don't know where they'd come from, but we were taking them home from somewhere. And there was one that looked just like Mortimer Snerd. Did you ever know Mortimer Snerd?

HT:

No.

HE:

Well, you know—oh, what was it? He was a dummy. People talked. What do you call that?

HT:

A ventriloquist?

HE:

Yes. He was the doll the ventriloquist used.

HT:

Oh, okay. Sort of like Charlie Bergen.

HT:

Yes, Charlie Bergen and Mortimer Snerd were popular in those days, and that Mortimer Snerd had no beauty at all. None. And there was a fellow on board ship that looked just like him. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, let me ask a question. What did you girls do all day long in that—

HE:

Twenty-three days on that ship?

HT:

Twenty-three days aboard the ship in that tiny little cabin?

HE:

Oh, we weren't in it often. They made us get up before sunrise, and we'd go sit on the deck, ready to embark if we had to, with our canteens on us. And I think maybe we had our gas masks with us. I'm not sure whether we had to put those on every day. We had our canteens with us. And we would exercise, we would sing. We sang our way across the Pacific, everything anybody could think of, because you had to just sit there on the bare deck. That was called muster, I think. And the sunrises were pretty, and the sunsets were absolutely beautiful. And they lasted a long time. They were lovely. The days didn't seem short, like we've had. They seemed plenty long.

We arrived in Brisbane on the 23rd of December, and there was a Christmas tree in wherever it was we were staying. We were in tents with a wooden floor, twelve to a tent. I can't remember much about the group, except—Oh, going overseas the women were dietitians, physical therapists, and Red Cross. The Red Cross got better quarters than we did.

HT:

And your roommates, were they all dietitians?

HE:

Well, you know, some of them must have been nurses, don't you reckon? I declare if I can remember.

HE:

Was this a hospital group that went over as a group or as a unit?

HE:

No, no, we were all casuals—the whole shipload, I think. Anyhow all us girls were. No, it was just dietitians and physical therapists and Red Cross. Yes, because I worked with some of those dietitians later. And I got in there first. I don't know whether “E” was earlier in the group I was in or not, but I got the bunk by the porthole, [chuckling] which was good. If I wanted to lay down in the afternoon I could watch the water, which was interesting. We never did see another boat. We would see flying fish occasionally, and I think dolphins or whales or something a time or two.

HT:

Now were you in a convoy, or was the ship by itself?

HE:

No, we were by ourselves, and we zigzagged. That's why it took that long.

HT:

I would imagine that would be rather dangerous.

HE:

We didn't see land. We had to have the lights out, too. You know, you couldn't have the lights on.

HT:

Well, how was the food aboard ship?

HE:

Delightful. We ate in the big dining room, and they had two seatings, and we always got fruit to take with us, an orange or something of that sort. And the swimming pool on the ship we couldn't use because that stored fresh water. And we were thankful for that. But the food was delightful. We didn't order but they just served us. And we had waiters. It was very nice. The ship sank the next trip over. I cannot remember whether it was hit or whether it hit something, a coral reef or something, but people were killed the next trip over as it got toward the mainland.

HT:

Did you watch movies or play bridge or any kind of games aboard ship with the other officers or the men aboard ship?

HE:

Yes. Mostly I think we just talked. I don't remember playing cards much on that ship. In fact, I don't remember it at all.

HT:

Were there any dances?

HE:

No.

HT:

Because Lucy [Griffin Leonard] told me that when she went over to Africa—

HE:

[chuckling] Oh yes, she wrote about that. She had an evening dress and—Yes, she wrote back about that. She left several months before I did. I didn't think I'd ever go. No, it was just as different as day and night, our experiences. She lived in—I don't think she was ever in a tent. I think she was always in buildings, and we were in tents on the ground—I didn't see a house for months and months and months in New Guinea.

When we got to that first place, though, there were one or two wards of boys in bed with typhus, from rats. That's what carries it. They were real sick. We lost a lot of them. Somewhere along the way we didn't have refrigeration. Maybe that was in Hollandia [New Guinea]. I can't remember where it was. We didn't have refrigeration for months. We needed a little nut or bolt or something, and we didn't have it, we couldn't get it. At the end of the meal you had to throw everything out if there were any leftovers. No way to take care of it.

HT:

How did you procure your food to feed the guys?

HE:

Well, you know, I didn't have a whole lot to do with that. I can't remember too much about it. Quartermaster [Corps] made the bread. The bread was marvelous! Once I rode the truck to pick it up, and we ate a loaf on the way home. It was right out of the oven. Oh, that was good. The butter was—it came in a number 10 can and it was thick like you were cutting cheese, soft cheese. It didn't melt. [chuckling] The eggs were dried, the milk was dried, and most everything we had was canned.

HT:

So everything came over from the United States?

HE:

Yes—except the Lend-Lease Program foods.

HT:

Were they what they call K rations?

HE:

No, we didn't get that. We didn't have that. I never did have one of those. We had plenty of canned stuff, but we had a Lend-Lease Program with Australia. And the Australians canned cauliflower, and you opened it and it was just as pink—cooked, you know. You don't cook cauliflower long. One thing they did, though, they made real good mustard pickle out of the cauliflower, and we enjoyed that on the Spam for sandwiches. And then they had something called silver beets. Well, they weren't beets at all, they were beet tops, and it was like turnip greens or spinach. And sick boys weren't very interested in it, or well ones either. [laughter] And we would open a can and have vinegar to go on it, like it was a salad. We didn't bother to heat it because they weren't going to eat it anyhow, and I don't think we often heated it. But we used it more as a salad. And we had enough tomato juice to swim in. They had used it for ballast in some of the ships. And we did get canned diced chicken that was real good, and the patients liked that. We thought of a lot of different ways to serve that.

And for parties—we partied a lot at night—if you could find a cement floor, you could sprinkle a little cornmeal on it and make the best dance floor you ever saw. And there was always music around. Boys had brought their instruments and were anxious to play. So anytime you wanted to dance, there was an orchestra available. We didn't have any mayonnaise, and if we were going to have a party we went to the pharmacy and dickered with them and got a little bit of mineral oil. And we'd take the mineral oil to the kitchen and make mayonnaise with powdered eggs and vinegar and a little salt. And they never knew it wasn't mayonnaise. We didn't tell them.

HT:

So it was good?

HE:

Yes, it made a good [mayonnaise]. And good for them, I guess!

HT:

I have heard that powdered eggs were not the best tasting.

HE:

Well, we had a cook now and then who could fix them up so they were very acceptable—if you could get them while they were still hot. But if you had a thousand patients, they weren't going to be hot and they were going to be— You know how scrambled eggs get when they sit a little bit? We had the same food carts overseas that we had had in the United States. They were not quite as good as those we have today, but they were all right.

The hospitals were different everywhere we went. I worked with a field hospital for a while—that's small—and with station [hospital] and with general [hospital]. I was assigned to evac[uation] hospital, but I don't think we ever worked with those men.

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

HT:

—stopped a minute ago, I asked you to explain the difference between field, station, and general hospitals.

HE:

Well, I think it's just size, and I think the [field] hospital is probably—maybe around three hundred patients, and the station—I'm not sure, maybe a thousand, and the general would be bigger than that, probably.

HT:

And I think you said earlier that all these hospitals were in nonpermanent buildings. They were tents, is that correct?

HE:

Normally we were just in tents. Now some had floors, wooden floors, and some didn't. We didn't have a floor in our—Let's see, yes, in Finschhafen [New Guinea] we had a floor. And we had a screened-in—That was a building with a tarp for a top. That was screened in, and we used our—They issued us some sheets that you could hand-wash, they were that soft and nice, real thin material, and we made curtains for the tent out of those. Heck, we were open to the public, and any of the men who happened to come up the hill where we were could see right in. We had a light that hung down in the center.

And that was where we first experienced foxholes. When we got to the place— It rained a lot, and we decided we'd rather die clean, in a bed, than dirty in a foxhole, and we didn't get in them. [chuckling]

HT:

So you had air raid warnings and that sort of thing?

HE:

We had air raids every little bit, yes. But we didn't do anything. I don't know whether the patients—Usually they were at night, and I don't know whether the patients got up and got in a foxhole or not. There was nowhere for the nurses to go to the bathroom at that place, that was Finschhafen, except to come up the hill and use our nurses' area bathrooms. Well, one night there were three of them walking up the hill, and they were talking, and it was dark, and two of the girls realized that there were just two of them. And they looked back and one of them had misstepped and she stepped into a foxhole full of water. [chuckling] Oh, she was so mad! She had to go take a shower and change clothes before she could go back to work. [chuckling] There were some funny things that went on.

HT:

Can you describe your living quarters a little bit more? You said they were just open tents with a wooden floor?

HE:

That place had a wooden floor. Three in a tent.

HT:

All dietitians?

HE:

No, no, I was the only dietitian. Let's see, when I got to Manila [Philippines] I worked with another one, and maybe in Hollandia [Dutch New Guinea]. We got up at 5:00 or 5:30, I forget which. It was very interesting. I learned to eat with any kind of talk going on with the girls, because they would come home and tell what kind of cases they'd had that day. And you lived through it or—Fortunately I had a good strong stomach. [chuckling]

HT:

In order words, they would describe their cases, the patients, and what was wrong with them?

HE:

Yes, the boys who would come in from the battlefield. And some were gory, and the surgery was rough for some. But it was interesting and it was always different. We lost a lot of soldiers in New Guinea from coconuts that would fall on their head. Our areas were set up in coconut groves real often, not always but often, right along the water, and if a coconut hit you from way up high, that was enough to knock you out.

HT:

Were people killed by those things?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Gosh, they didn't have hard hats, I guess, or anything like that to protect them?

HE:

Well, they probably weren't wearing them around in their own area. It wasn't real common, but we had cases that it happened.

HT:

Well, can you describe how your kitchen was set up?

HE:

Field stoves. They were about this big square, and I can't remember what they burned. I suppose it was gasoline or kerosene.

HT:

Now you didn't do the cooking.

HE:

No.

HT:

You had corpsmen who did the cooking.

HE:

Yes.

HT:

You did all the planning and that sort of thing?

HE:

Yes, and overseeing it, talking to the patients. If you had thirty boys who had their jaws wired together, and most of them were getting something they could drink through a straw, you'd have one every now and then who wanted—He wanted to see his tomato juice and he wanted to see his milk and he wanted to see his soup. He didn't want anything mixed. We had a standard drink we would give them that had the calories and vitamins that they needed, and some of them just didn't like that. I would like to see what I was getting too, wouldn't you?

HT:

Oh yes. What was the name of the unit with whom you were stationed most of the time in the South Pacific? Do you recall?

HE:

No, I sure don't.

[tape paused]

HT:

Before we turned the machine off, we were talking about some of the various places you were stationed. After you got to Brisbane, what was the first place you were stationed, do you recall?

HE:

At Brisbane we went to a place called Ipswich [Australia], I-p-s-w-i-c-h, I guess. And that was a staging area, and we stayed there until we got a hospital ship to New Guinea. And the next morning on the hospital ship, for breakfast we had—It was the first time I'd ever seen cereal come in little square individual boxes that you could slit and open and eat out of the box. And so we sat down on the deck, we had those and some canned milk, and we poured the milk on and the bugs floated to the top, and we took our spoons and flipped them out and ate our cereal. [chuckling]

HT:

You said this was a hospital ship?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

How was that different from a troop ship?

HE:

It only carried patients, usually.

HT:

I see. So it was just transporting you from one place to another?

HE:

Yes. And we slept—See, we slept in the bunks that the sick boys would usually be in. And there were, I think on that ship, about fifty beds—well, they were just narrow, not any wider than that—that we were in, all in one big room. And I don't know where the rest of them were , but that's what I was in.

HT:

So you had a room by yourself that time?

HE:

No, no! This was a big room with fifty other people. [chuckling]

HT:

Oh, I see. Okay.

HE:

At least fifty. But they were not stacked, they were just one—

HT:

Because patients could not easily stack themselves more than one high, right.

HE:

No, so we were just one—

HT:

Do you recall how long it took you to get from Ipswich to New Guinea? That was your first place you stayed, right?

HE:

I don't remember. Several days. I don't know whether it was as much as a week or not. Well, maybe four or five days, because I think it was about that far from there. Occasionally we would fly in New Guinea from one place to the next. I guess we did most of the time.

HT:

So you were stationed at several places in New Guinea while you were over there.

HE:

Worlds of them! You ought to see! Yes, we just jumped from one to the next.

HT:

Because you mentioned earlier that you were always on temporary duty and that sort of thing.

HE:

Yes, but they would move us. Now the nurses, I would stay with the same nurses, but we would be assigned to whatever unit was needing us.

HT:

And how long were you in New Guinea all total?

HE:

I was overseas two years.

HT:

And was that mainly in New Guinea?

HE:

Yes, it was six months in the Philippines, and not quite eighteen in New Guinea. Because it took three weeks to get over to Australia, and three weeks there, and then the rest of the time was with people, with patients. When we were in Australia we could go into town, into Brisbane; a third of us would go every third day. But in case you got orders, you wouldn't be left behind, they wanted to have enough people to start out with. [chuckling] But we were all there when the orders came to move.

And that's when I learned about warm Cokes. They didn't seem to have ice anywhere, and we would get —just Cokes like they were in the crate. In those days they were in glass bottles, and twenty-four in a crate, and we'd just buy six-ounce Cokes.

HT:

So you drank them warm?

HE:

Yes. And they were advertised, “Warm Cokes.” There was no ice. [chuckling] Well, it was better than nothing.

HT:

And at least it was safe to drink.

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Speaking of safe to drink, did you ever have any problems with the water in that part of the world?

HE:

Yes, all through New Guinea, and I guess in the Philippines too, but I don't remember —In New Guinea there was no civilization, so we had to put tablets in. The army put them in for us, we didn't have to do it. But we had a water bag about that big around and about that high on a tripod, and all of us—We got a canteen of water a day out of that for drinking.

HT:

And I guess it was chlorinated?

HE:

Yes, I guess it was chlorine that was put in it.

HT:

Did it taste all right?

HE:

Oh yes, we were glad to get anything wet. It was hot. And it was sticky. It rained once sometime during the twenty-four hours for forty days in a row, and it was the hardest thing to get things dry. You wore damp clothes.

HT:

What type of uniforms did you have in New Guinea?

HE:

We wore suntan shirts, buttoned up. Boy, you got called down if they were not buttoned. Long sleeves, high neck, all buttoned. Long pants with leggings. Well, you put your shoes on first, I guess, and then the leggings. That was mosquito control. And besides that we had a pill they gave us every day, Atabrine.

HT:

How do you spell that?

HE:

A-t-a-b-r-i-n-e.

HT:

And what did that do?

HE:

It was to ward off malaria. And the boys, a lot of the patients would be ambulatory. If you had just dermatology problems, you could get up and walk around. And they would come to the mess hall. And as they came, there was a fellow standing there who would—You'd open your mouth and he'd throw [chuckling] an Atabrine tablet in. And I think they did salt pills like that for a while, and then they decided before the war was over that we didn't have to have those salt tablets. But we sweated. I would sit at my desk in the afternoon, and we didn't have glasses or cups or whatever. We had a mess kit cup, but we would use a tin can, one about that big, a 2 can, and we would drink coffee. And I think by then we had ice, and we'd get some ice and put in there—this was in Manila—and we would drink one or two cans full during the afternoon. And you never had to go to the bathroom. You sweat so that you were wet and you would do that way to kill a fly, and it was nothing but perspiration running down your legs. It felt like there was a fly on you. We didn't have to wear the leggings all the time. We wore them the first two or three places we were in New Guinea.

HT:

Did you have fans to keep you cool, or anything like that?

HE:

Heavens no.

HT:

No electricity?

HE:

Yes, we had electricity. The engineers came in and fixed electricity for us. And the engineers came in and figured some way for us to have water for a shower. Now, in Manila they laid the pipes on top of the ground, and if you took a bath at sunset you about scalded yourself. If you took a bath at midnight you froze.

HT:

Did the sun heat the pipes?

HE:

Uh-huh. So you never knew which you'd get. It could be either one. And the bathrooms were very interesting, the toilets. They were ordinary outhouses. Well, let's see, maybe you don't know what an ordinary one is.

HT:

Yes. I was a Boy Scout.

HE:

Well, how many holes did you ever see?

HT:

Maybe three or four.

HE:

I can't remember how many we had some places, but usually more than that. We were on a plane and I really needed to go to the bathroom, and when he let us out, there was one over here. The door stopped about here and you could tell whether it was a man's feet or a woman's, and you had to wait until you had an opening. I don't think there were but two there. That wasn't very many for all of us who had traveled for a little while on an airplane. We had pit latrines, which is what you know, and then they had pail latrines where the pail is on the ground and they'd take them in and out from the back, and you step up a step or so and sit up high, and that's a pail latrine. And that's what we had in Manila in the beginning. We may have had that all the time, I've forgotten. But the Filipinos were the funniest-looking things—they're little people anyhow—and there would be four or five of them carrying —They'd been to a latrine and they were getting the waste and carrying it off. I don't know what they did with it, where they went with it, but they carried it away. And if they dug down any they hit water, so it had to be above the ground. I can't remember what other kinds we had. We had some awful funny ones. And there was always good reading material there. That's where you did your reading. And usually enough light. After the first several months in New Guinea, they had a washing machine for us in the latrine. You had a hose that you got your water, and you'd just let the water out on—I don't know where it went.

HT:

I was going to ask you, you said that you perspired quite a bit because it was so hot and you had to wear all these tight-fitting clothes. How did you get the clothes clean?

HE:

Well, we either washed them ourselves or we had —In Manila we had maids who would wash them, and they did beautiful work. And they used rice starch, and they ironed them. Every now and then you'd get dressed and be ready for a date, and you'd start perspiring. You were in these beautiful, clean clothes—oh, they were pretty—and here would come this sour starch odor. And you would have to go back and take a shower again and dress again, hoping you had something that they hadn't washed with that stuff, put starch in. But sour starch was really —You never knew until you got it wet whether it was going to smell. But you couldn't stand it if it—[laughter] You couldn't go anywhere except to the shower. And they had a good way of keeping things white. The Filipinos washed things and they would spread them out either on the grass or on a bush. And they're just as pretty and white as can be when they get through, things that were white. And our suntans were regular army stuff, and the new girls would come over and they would see our faded stuff and they would swap us some new things, new pants and shirts, for our old faded ones. And so we didn't have to buy. [laughter]

HT:

Why did they want to swap?

HE:

They just liked them. They thought they looked nice. They didn't look like they were new over there. [chuckling] But that material was the best I ever saw. I wore those pants for years afterwards, what little bit I saved. On the way home—we were so stupid—every time we had something that got dirty, we dropped it overboard. [chuckling] Waste not, want not. We wished many a time we had those back because they're better than anything you can buy today. And we wore shoes that came up to here, army issue. Nobody ever complained of their feet.

HT:

So they were good-fitting shoes?

HE:

Yes, and they had a thick sole. Let's see, we quit wearing caps, I guess. I can't remember wearing those over in the Philippines. We may have but I don't remember. Our accommodations in the Philippines, we were in a Catholic school, I suppose it was, one time—it was soon after we got there. And we weren't there very long, but the men did the cooking for us out in the back yard. It was a fence, a six-foot fence, chain link, around the school, and the men prepared our food out there. And we used our mess kits and the cups—what do you call a mess kit cup?—to eat. And we sat on the ground or else on a wall. And on the other side of that fence were hungry Filipinos, and we didn't enjoy a bite we had. They had their tin cans, holding them out at the fence, waiting for us to give them any scraps we had. So you ate half and gave them half. That was the only place I ran into that. But it was heartbreaking!

Let's see, I got a permanent when I got to the Philippines, and I thought that was great. It was one of those old things that came down with all these electric wires, you know, like you're going to be electrocuted. [laughter] I hated them, but our hair needed some attention at that point.

HT:

Speaking of hair, did you have to wear your hair fairly short in the army?

HE:

We couldn't have it to touch our collar.

HT:

I see. But could you wear it in a bun if you wanted to, or did you have to—

HE:

Mine was never long enough. I guess it wasn't often any longer than it is now. I just had a permanent this morning and it's not usually this tight. It looks better normally, but you take it when you can get it. There's a beauty parlor on the ground floor, and with this many people she stays busy. So this was when she could take me.

HT:

Well, it sounds like you really enjoyed your work.

HE:

We did, and social life was good. For a date you didn't look any different than you did during the day, except you probably had been home and had a bath and put on clean clothes.

HT:

Where did you go on dates?

HE:

Maybe just stayed right there, and they might have a movie outdoors. One place we went they had—It was sort of a hill and they had seats all the way down. No seats, the seats were logs, and so people were just lined up sitting that way, and just an outdoor movie. That was nice. There would be signs up, so many people wanted to have a bunch of girls come over, and you'd sign up if you wanted to go there or if you wanted to go somewhere else. The navy had good food, and so if they invited us we were anxious to get their good food. You might say to them, “I'll come if you will give me a gallon of mayonnaise.” The navy had good food. Let's see, one time we needed a hose for our washing machine, and I came back with a hose about, oh, fifteen feet or so hanging around my neck, because that's what I wanted and needed.

Getting on and off these boats sometimes was something. We were on a navy ship once. We moved from Lingayen Gulf [Philippine Islands] down to Manila, and it would have been a six-hour trip by truck, but no, they took us by hospital ship and it was two nights on the hospital ship. Well, we got to Subic Bay [Philippine Islands], which is the navy base, and somebody said the folks on shore would like to have fifteen or eighteen or whatever it is nurses to come over for a party tonight. Well, all these nurses on this hospital ship were dressed in white dresses, you know, white uniforms and caps, and they looked spick and span. We had nowhere to sit but on the deck. So there was not a good feeling between us. Of course, they were fixed for their work and we were fixed for ours, and it was different. So we said we would go. Well, my lands, we found out we had to climb down a ladder that shook back and forth, like from a fourth floor of a building down to the little boat to take us ashore. So we prayed all the way down, got ashore, and we prayed then all the time we were on shore, we prayed we'd make it back up. It sort of ruined some of the fun. I never have tried that since, and I wouldn't do it if I could. [chuckling] That was quite an experience. We did that several times. Sometimes you could get off of the big boat at a lower level, so it wasn't bad, but not on that one. That was plum scary.

HT:

Well, do you recall any embarrassing moments?

HE:

Well, let me see. I don't know if I dare tell you that one. [chuckling] I'll tell you one thing that I remember more than I do most things.

HT:

It could be embarrassing. It could be hilarious or funny, too.

HE:

Well, this is not funny. This one is when I encountered a Chinese boy whose tongue had been cut off. That was the worst thing I ever witnessed, I think.

HT:

Why was this?

HE:

I don't know. I don't know who had done it. He couldn't tell us. We couldn't understand him anyhow, we didn't know Chinese. That was in Manila. And then we would have boys come in who had been blinded from drinking bad liquor. That was sad when you'd get these young fellows, often navy. But on the radio all day long between music they would say don't drink this kind, don't drink this kind, don't drink this kind. See, Three Roses they would have, and if you weren't—See, Four Roses was what was normally sold. But they advertised Three Roses. That's bad liquor. And then there was some kind of feathers. I can't remember how many feathers it was. I don't know my alcohol that well. But they would advertise something. But they told the boys what not to drink, and if they had listened to a radio they'd know not to drink it. But maybe if they got to drinking they didn't pay much attention then. And we had a number of boys come in who had just lost their sight from it.

HT:

Were they permanently blind?

HE:

Yes. Young fellows. Just kids. They'd been on ship. They were navy and they had been on shipboard and got ashore and just got to drinking, and too bad.

HT:

That's awful.

HE:

It was sad. This is not fit for print! A fellow from I [Intelligence] Corps had invited me out to dinner one night, and I could tell he wanted to say something to me, and he was having an awful time trying to say it. Finally he said, “Now when you see those balloons tonight, don't ask for one.” [chuckling] The boys had —This was an outdoor theater where it was on a hillside, and there was nothing for them to do, and they had taken condoms and blown them up and they were batting them around. And they blew up pretty good and big. But he knew I'd say the wrong thing. He knew I'd say immediately, “I want one.” [laughter] So he finally got it out: “Don't you ask for one of those.” But it was an eye-opener. I never did see that but that one time. And that boy died real soon after that, and I would have written his mother and told her that I had had an evening with him and how nice he was and that kind of stuff, but I didn't know his home address or how to get up with him. I just knew he was I Corps.

HT:

What is I Corps?

HE:

Intelligence. Don't you write all that up. You write it so it doesn't sound bad.

HT:

Okay. [chuckling] What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically?

HE:

I suppose that seven-mile hike in San Francisco waiting on the boat. We didn't have that much luggage that it was any problem to us because somebody else picked it up. And they would steal anything that was any account, boys on the ship, because they'd unroll your bedroll and see what was in it. And if there was anything good in it they took it. [chuckling] Well, we understood and just didn't bother to collect stuff then. That was mainly alcohol. But I could use my alcohol to swap people—my beer ration. We got a beer ration, six bottles every so often, and I could swap that to somebody who wanted it for something I wanted.

HT:

So you became real good at bartering, I guess.

HE:

Yes. I got my shoes half-soled once. I had some white shoes that were— I called them my dancing shoes. And the head nurse used to bawl me out for wearing them, and I'd wear them right on because I liked them. And I had them with me. [chuckling] We wore loafers sometimes for dates. They looked nice, and they weren't such clodhoppers as our high-topped shoes. But we learned to dance in anything.

HT:

Did you have to wear your uniform all the time?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

So you had no civilian clothes with you whatsoever?

HE:

No. So that was all right. We were without. Nobody else had any. Now when we got to Manila, we didn't go out alone there. It was sort of scary. And I can't remember going many places to eat there.

In Australia we would go to a hotel for dinner anytime we went into town, and that food was great! We could get milk. We hadn't seen milk in six months. We hadn't had fresh meat or fresh vegetables. And they had bananas. Oh, we thoroughly enjoyed the food when we went to —We went back to Australia on leave and went to Sydney. That's when I met what's her name, you were telling me, who was with the Red Cross.

HT:

Emily [Harris] Preyer.

HE:

Emily, yes.

HT:

Could you tell me the story about how you met Emily Preyer?

HE:

She won't remember me, I'm sure, but I woke up and saw that ring and knew—

HE:

That's the college ring?

HE:

Yes, and knew she was from Woman's College. And sure enough she was. We didn't do anything together. She was with her group and I was with mine. We just had a good time. We were there for two weeks, and we did a lot of sightseeing. We had tea, like English tea, at midmorning. I can't think what the name—I think that place we stayed must have been run by the Red Cross, and I can't remember what it was. That was in 1945, about March, and what we enjoyed the most was having tub baths. [chuckling] We hadn't soaked in water for a year, and that was great!

HT:

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

HE:

Well, let's see. I'm not sure, sometimes you dated people that you didn't see again. They were shot, or in a plane crash or something, or taken prisoner. I don't know, on the ship, we were on a hospital ship when we went to Lingayen Gulf where [General Douglas] MacArthur had gone in, and there were all these tracer bullets, and I think that was real gunfire and we were too dumb to know it. It looked like fireworks to us. It was pretty.

HT:

So you were that close to the front?

HE:

At that point we were.

HT:

Were you afraid at that point, or—?

HE:

Not as much as I might have been. I ran into an officer who I had known at Camp Butner, and he was with the Medical Corps. I don't remember why he happened to be on that hospital ship, but that was delightful to see him, and so we were buddy-buddy that night while we watched all that stuff.

HT:

So do you think you were in danger and didn't realize it?

HE:

Well, I'm sure we tried not to realize we were in danger, but I think we probably were.

HT:

Was that the closest you'd ever been to being in physical danger?

HE:

Well, yes, the closest that I knew of. But the funny thing was, we would hear this stuff every now and then and the fellows would tell us, “Oh, they're just practicing.” [chuckling] And, you know, we didn't question it. That was good enough for us. And we weren't afraid in the hospitals because we thought, “Well, there's a big white cross on top of this place, and nobody is going to hit us.” Well, fortunately they didn't.

HT:

But there were cases of Japanese bombing hospitals in the South Pacific, weren't there?

HE:

Yes, there were.

HT:

But you were never hit, or anything like that?

HE:

No.

HT:

We talked a little bit earlier about your social life and what you did for fun. What else did you and the fellow nurses and that sort of thing do for fun in the South Pacific? Because there wasn't a great deal to do, I guess.

HE:

Well, when we were in Australia we bought a lot of wool, and we carried that with us and we'd knit. We made a lot of things. And that was just on your own. And then sometimes we would cook. We had —what do you call those little stoves? You could put one —just a little stove about this high and that big around, and it would open up and you could put your mess kit on it. I got hold of a five-pound can of doughnut mix once, and all you had to do was mix some water with it and make doughnuts. I got some oil out of the kitchen and brought it home, and one afternoon I spent the afternoon making doughnuts, and we all ate them—you know, that kind of fun.

Once one of the nurses came home with a head of lettuce. She had a patient from the navy, and somebody came to see him and she asked him to bring a head of lettuce next time he came back to see this fellow. And he did, and she brought it over and six of us —She cut the head six ways and we each had a wedge of lettuce. And we thought we were at the Waldorf Astoria [Hotel].

HT:

So you didn't have much fresh—?

HE:

No, we didn't get anything fresh, unless somebody bartered or begged or got it off of a navy ship. Oh, and then the air force boys would go to Australia, and they'd come back —What did they call those, fat-cat? I think it was a fat-cat plane. They would come back loaded with good stuff, oranges and candy and —I don't remember what else, but they would share with you.

HT:

Did you ever receive packages from home or mail from home?

HE:

Yes. I wrote home for turnip greens. I was so hungry for some turnip greens. Do you know them?

HT:

Yes.

HE:

Well, my mother sent me a pint jar of home-canned turnip greens, and she packed them in cornmeal and she put the whole business in a tin can. And I got it all right. I opened that jar of turnip greens and ate them by myself one night when everybody else went to supper. And the cornmeal, I can't remember cooking it, but it had bugs in it. So I set it in the sun and all of the bugs walked out, and then I used it to make cornbread. [chuckling]

HT:

The bugs gave it a little bit of extra protein, though. [chuckling]

HE:

Yes. [chuckling]

HT:

So it sounds like you were really good at improvising.

HE:

Well, you had to. Now, let's see, we'd just sit around and talk. And if we were with a mixed group, often there'd be music and we'd dance—at their club or at ours. And a club was a cement floor, rough, with a cover on it, probably a prefab, no sides. Oh, and once I was invited somewhere to eat supper, and I believe that was the air force. I looked up at the —They had a lot of prefab buildings, and I looked up in the rafters and there was a sign. “What the hell do you expect to see here?” That's what the sign said. [laughter] You know, that was the kind of improvised stuff we had. It made you smile.

HT:

Did you ever have USO [United Service Organizations] troupes, people like Bob Hope or something like that come through?

HE:

Oh yes, yes, we did. We had Nelson Eddy and we had Irving Berlin. And I had his signature for a long time and finally threw it away, which was dumb, but—I can't remember who else. We had some good stuff. We had Oklahoma!

HT:

The play?

HE:

Yes. Let's see, a lot of folks wouldn't do things outdoors as singers. They said it would hurt their throats. I asked somebody to come do something for some of the boys in the hospital once, and they were sorry they couldn't do that. But for the most part they did good. We didn't have an awful lot of it but we had some. And we sang a lot.

HT:

Do you recall what some of your favorite songs were from those days?

HE:

Waltzing Mathilda was one of them. [chuckling] See, we went to Australia and that's an Australian song. All of the popular music of the forties. Sentimental Journey,I remember one nurse sang that a lot. The boys played all the good music. I can't think of all the names. Black Magic was one.

HT:

What about favorite movies from those times?

HE:

Movies? We had movies when they could get them. It wasn't too often, not on any regular schedule. We usually had them on hospital ships. We could always count on a movie there. I don't remember any going over or any coming back. I came back on a —is it LST [Tank Landing Ship]? What's the name of those boats that the back end goes down and you can roll out? I can't think what that was. They made a whole lot of them during the war.

And coming back, I was on a ship with Aleuts. They were from the Aleutian Islands and they had been prisoners of war in Japan. And that was most interesting to see those folks come out of the mess hall with a handful of bread. They were starved when they got on that ship and they couldn't imagine having another meal anytime soon, and so they took whatever was left on the table. And they ate first. There was plenty left for us, though. But there were a lot of children with them that had been born in the [camp]. They were prisoners of war and they had been born in those camps, and their parents were with them from the Aleutian Islands, and so they came back. And we didn't know where we were going to land. We came back to San Francisco. I think we had thought we were going to land further up.

HT:

When did you come back to the United States, what month and year? Do you remember?

HE:

Yes, it was November of '45.

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

HT:

—Aleutian Island natives who were prisoners of war, and coming back to San Francisco. They eventually go back to Alaska, I guess?

HE:

I'm sure they did. We didn't see them after they got off the boat. Oh, and let me tell you, we had several French nuns on that boat, and I think they had been prisoners of war probably, or maybe they just had an orphanage or something. Anyway, they were on the ship and they were in their full regalia. This was back in '45. There were two, I reckon. They were in the stateroom with some friends of mine. There were eighteen folks in a room about the size of this. There were three—No, let's see—

HT:

This room is about what?

HE:

Twelve by eighteen.

HT:

Twelve by eighteen? That's quite a few people in a room.

HE:

Well, there were three deep, in the cots, the bunks were three-deep. Well, I went in there one night. I'd always wondered what they wore under their habits, [chuckling] and I thought, “Well, this my chance to see.” And I wanted to see what their hair was like too, because I had always heard they had their hair cut short. And I went in and visited with my friends, and I got so sleepy I couldn't stand it anymore, and I never did learn what they had on underneath. But I tried. And I think that those girls didn't ever find out. I think those nuns waited until everybody was asleep.

HT:

And changed in the dark?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Well, speaking of changing and that sort of thing, I think your friend Lucy told me that when she went over that they slept in their fatigue-type clothing. Did you have to sleep—

HE:

Oh yes, I don't think we undressed. We had to be ready to get off the ship. So I don't remember when we changed clothes.

HT:

So maybe the nuns slept in their habits.

HE:

They could have. They sure could have.

HT:

Do you recall what the name of the ship was that you came back [on] to the United States?

HE:

No. No, I don't know. It was one of those—I can't think what the name of it was, but they made a lot of them. Landing ships? That's not quite the right name.

HT:

So this was not a converted cruise ship or a troop ship at all?

HE:

No, no, this was one that was made for transporting people and equipment, because the back end of it let down and you could roll right off of it, a jeep or whatever.

HT:

So how many girls were in your stateroom?

HE:

Let me think what I was in. I haven't got a picture in my mind of that room. There must not have been but six. And I can't think what it was like a bit. I did something that the head nurse didn't like. I can't imagine what it was. It wasn't anything that mattered.

HT:

So the head nurse was in charge of you?

HE:

She outranked me. She was a captain. Or she may have been a major by then. I only got to first lieutenant. [chuckling] And I was the last one in the outfit to get that. I used to tell them what I thought. If they didn't say the right thing to me, I told them what I thought about it. Because they said some things sometimes they shouldn't have said, the men. So I finally got first lieutenant before I got home.

But Miss—what in the world was her name? Anyhow, she didn't like what I had done, so she was going to punish me. So she said, “For doing that you'll have to clean the heads.” On a ship, you see, it was a head instead of a john. And I thought, “Well, lands, that's all right.” I grew up cleaning the bathrooms at home. It didn't bother me a bit in the world. But you know, I found out that the fellows on the ship did it. All I had to do was stand at the door and keep people out until he was through. She didn't know that. [laughter] I didn't have to turn a hand!

HT:

That was pretty good duty after all, wasn't it?

HE:

Yes, it was all right.

HT:

And how long did it take you to get back?

HE:

Eighteen days. And the weather was rough. We were in the Pacific. And going over, there wasn't a ripple; but coming back it was stormy a lot of the time and quite rough.

HT:

Was this after the war was already over?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

So this was after VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

And where were you stationed after you got back?

HE:

Nowhere. We landed in San Francisco and we—I don't know where we stayed then because we went to a good place, a good restaurant and had supper. I don't know whether we were out of town and came back in or what. That's blank. Anyhow, then we went to Des Moines, Iowa.

HT:

Was that Fort Des Moines?

HE:

It must have been. And there they said—They took us in a room one at a time and said, “Do you want to stay in or get out?” Didn't give us any opportunity to go home first or anything. So I said, “I'll get out. I want to go home.” So I got out then, got my—That was crazy. They did us all that way.

HT:

Well, did you ever think of making it a career prior to that?

HE:

No, I hadn't given it too much thought. But if they had let us come home and visit for a couple of weeks, I probably would have gone back. It was an easy life in many ways. I only had one friend who stayed in, and she didn't go where I did. I had known her here in the States. But I have often wondered what I would have done. But they didn't give us any choice except, “Right now, do you want to stay or get out?” And that was what happened with the civil service when we were in that, it was either accept a commission or leave.

HT:

So you never thought about rejoining, I guess, or you didn't have the opportunity to do anything like that?

HE:

No, I never did.

HT:

And what type of work did you do after you got out of the military?

HE:

Well, the first job I got was with the VA [Veterans Administration] hospital in Florida, and that was a mistake. That was an old folks' home, and good lands, the men would come to the dining room drunk, some of them. And the special diets. It was not at all what I wanted. And the girl who was already there disliked me terribly. She thought I was going to get her job, and it was real obvious. So at the end of two weeks I gave them two weeks notice. Living conditions were not good. They did not have room for me to be on the area, and my days off were Wednesday one week and Wednesday and Thursday the next, and I worked 10:00 to 7:00. And I didn't know anybody when I went, and no chance to meet anybody. I shared an apartment with a nurse, and I think her hours were a little bit different, and that was no good.

HT:

Well, if we can just backtrack a minute, I sort of got ahead of myself. Do you recall what the climate or the mood or the feeling of the country was during World War II?

HE:

Here or there?

HT:

In the United States, before you went into the service.

HE:

Well, I went in fairly early—not too early, but—Yes, I went in in '42. That was pretty early.

HT:

That was early, yes.

HE:

Everybody was for helping the country, for doing all you could. Of course, my folks weren't real pleased—my mother wasn't. Daddy was real proud of me, but my mother wasn't a bit pleased.

HT:

That you had joined the army?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

What did your brothers and sisters think?

HE:

My sister, I don't remember what she thought. She lived in New York City. My brother got in, I can't remember whether before or after me, and he went to Persia, the Persian Gulf. And I forget what you call what he was in, it was transportation. He was a sergeant. And we would write back and forth, and his letters would often have things cut out. He's forgotten that. And I just threw some letters away within the past two months. I didn't know you were coming. They were letters I had written Mama. And mostly they were asking for things. I wanted shoes and I wanted something to eat. We had so many anchovies that I don't care for them now. And olives, and that kind of stuff. You get tired of that. I got my fill. But we would go on a picnic sometimes and we would have lemonade, and we called it battery acid. We discovered that it would clean those stainless-steel stoves beautifully. [chuckling] And if it would clean them, look what it did to us. And then we would have sandwiches made out of the Spam. The bread was good and the cauliflower mustard pickle was good.

I remember one time we had a number 10 can of beans. There were six or eight of us and we had one spoon, and we'd pass around the spoon and everybody would have a spoon of beans, and it kept going around. And we had a good time. And to keep that beverage cool, we had bags—I don't know what they were made of, some kind of canvas, but they didn't seem to leak, and you'd hang it onto the outside of the vehicle you were riding in. And I can't remember the name of that vehicle. It was a covered—like a great big jeep, and a top on it, and I can't think what they called those. Big as a truck, practically. More like a van. But we'd go somewhere, and either go down by the beach and sit on the beach and just talk or we would just stop somewhere where there was a good place to sit, and we'd sit down and have our picnic. And I like mangoes. Do you know mangoes?

HT:

No, I've heard of them but I'm not familiar with them.

HE:

Well, it's a fruit, and the ones we had in the Philippines were about this size, in Manila, and we'd get a tow sack of them. We got avocadoes and mangoes and we'd make ice cream with them. But the mangoes I was so fond of, and I didn't have that many, and I had a date one night and the fellow had brought several mangoes and at least one knife to cut them. Maybe we each had a knife, I don't know. And they're juicy as can be! Well, it got dark. We parked in a Y. The road was —We were parked in a place like this, with a road here and a road here, and the MPs [military police] came along. And guess what they found? It was getting dark, I had my door open and I was leaning out eating this mango, he had his door open and he was leaning out that way eating a mango. And they were startled to see us in that position. [laughter] And we weren't about to share our mangoes with anybody else. They're a very good fruit. A good one tastes between a peach and a pineapple, and they're stringy but they're good. It's a tropical fruit. I buy them here at the store every now and then when they get under a dollar. I won't pay more than a dollar. But I used to pay a dollar in Manila for my maid to bring me one. That was something I thoroughly enjoyed.

HT:

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

HE:

Well, yes, I did. Part of it was the fact that we were girls where there were so many boys and that we would listen to them. They were glad to see a girl and glad to talk to one. And when I would walk through the wards, they'd say, “What are we having the next meal?” And I could tell them in their language. It's not ladylike language. They didn't use that kind, but they were pleased that I could talk their language. We'd try to do little things for them that —If we had something that they especially wanted in the kitchen, we'd try to see to it they got it.

We had an intensive care section once that was a room about this size. It was a building, prefab, and it was screened in, had a wooden floor, and we got in a tiny baby. I bet that baby was maybe six months old, and it was the grandchild of some chief in one of the islands. And the parents came with this baby. The baby's chin had been blown off. And it was a political thing that we be very gracious to these folks. The mother was all tattooed all over above her waist and I gave her a bathrobe. It was woolen bathrobe but it would cover her up. We couldn't have her in there with all those boys with no top on.

HT:

Oh, she was topless?

HE:

Yes. And all this pretty work all over her, you know, tattooing type stuff, only it was raised a little bit. I don't know what they do to raise it. And we got sort of friendly. We couldn't understand the language but we could nod and talk, and with our hands we could make each other know what we were trying to say. That was bad. I don't know what ever happened to that baby. I guess they took him somewhere else.

HT:

Had the baby been in a bombing situation?

HE:

I guess so, and its chin had been blown off. It couldn't cry and it was very difficult to feed it. We weren't really equipped there to take care of that, so they didn't stay too long. The boys in the psycho wards would take my picture real often, with no film in their cameras. But I'd pose for them, and they'd snap it. [chuckling]

HT:

Can you tell me about some of the interesting people you met, other than this chief and his wife, in the South Pacific?

HE:

Well, let's see, we met doctors mostly there in the outfits we'd be working with and where we would eat. I enjoy M*A*S*H [television series] a whole lot. We weren't like M*A*S*H, but that is so funny. We didn't have quite that much humor, but—[chuckling]

HT:

Well, speaking of doctors, what was the caliber of the doctors and nurses and staff?

HE:

Very good, very good. I think the 54th Evac[uation Hospital] was a group of doctors from Philadelphia, Philadelphia General [Hospital] maybe. I never did get to know them very well, though. The doctors we had were nice folks. We liked them. And the nurses were just great folks. I keep up with about six of them. They are all good Christian churchgoing people who have done excellent work in their communities, have raised nice families, people you'd enjoy being with, nice folks.

HT:

Well, what did you think of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president at that time?

HE:

Oh, I didn't think much of him.

HT:

Oh, really?

HE:

No, we had friends who did. I didn't discuss it much. But my father was a Republican and Mama was a Democrat, and they voted for the person not for the party. And I thought he did some stupid things. He did some good things, but he wasn't my favorite.

HT:

What about the fellow who followed him, President Truman?

HE:

Well, I thought he was a good piano player. [chuckling] I think he probably did a lot of good, though. He just sort of fell into that. I didn't have anything against him, really.

HT:

What about Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

HE:

She was peculiar, wasn't she? She accomplished a lot, though. She had the people's goodwill at heart.

HT:

And do you recall who your heroes and heroines were from the World War II era?

HE:

Not MacArthur.

HT:

And why was that?

HE:

You know, I can't quite think right now. We were close to him, and I guess he had his ups and downs just like we did, but he did some things we didn't think were what we would have done. And neither did the Red Cross. We preferred the Salvation Army to the Red Cross.

HT:

What was the difference between the two?

HE:

All I ever got out of the Red Cross was a fingernail file, and I think I've got it right here. I've got it somewhere. I don't see it here. But that was a good fingernail file. [chuckling] You know, I never had coffee and doughnuts ever. I don't know what else they did. But I don't want them to know I didn't feel real good about them. But a lot of us quit giving to the Red Cross for years. I know some friends who are in it who are good folks. But some of the things that we didn't get, we didn't see done —Maybe they just didn't happen to —Our paths didn't cross.

HT:

What was the purpose of the Red Cross in the South Pacific?

HE:

I'm not sure. [laughter]

HT:

I guess I'll have to ask Emily Preyer since she was in the Red Cross.

HE:

Yes, she can tell you better. And I'm sure they did some good wherever they were, we just didn't happen to be where they were.

HT:

What did the Salvation Army do in the South Pacific?

HE:

They taught us that hot drinks were better than cold. [chuckling] And some of them took us to a native village one Sunday, otherwise I would never have seen a native village. Where we worked the natives were out of our sight completely, except a few men would come and work on the grounds sometimes. And we were told never to have eye contact with them.

HT:

Why was that?

HE:

I don't know. They were fuzzy wuzzies, and they had hair that was—I don't know how they got the comb through it.

HT:

That was in New Guinea, I guess?

HE:

Yes. But they moved the women and children away so our army men wouldn't be near them. The Salvation Army people took us up to a village one Sunday, and the man said, “Now, to go in this village you will be asked to drink some green coconut milk. And it may make you sick, but you must drink it.” That's protocol or whatever. He instructed us to go ahead and drink it to be on good terms with them. And it was a very interesting day. We did get the green coconut milk, it didn't make us sick, and the chieftain was barefooted and one of his big toes turned funny. I think it pointed out that way. [chuckling] Well, you know, we weren't used to seeing people's bare feet. And they were just as gracious to us as could be. I believe the Catholics had been through there and they had put dresses on the women. Well, the women started getting sick. They had never worn clothes like we do, and they didn't get the sunshine, the vitamin D that they were used to, and their health wasn't as good once they started wearing clothes. Some got tuberculosis.

Well, they had a hospital and we went to see that. And I don't know whether you've ever seen pictures of Albert Schweitzer's work in Africa, but this reminded me of that, because here was this building with—I think the bunks were just wood, just logs, sort of round, small ones, and something to lay on, and two rows down here, and you walked down the center. Outside were the families, who did the cooking for these sick folks. I had never seen that, but I had read about Schweitzer having that sort of setup. That was a real interesting day.

HT:

Was that the only time you had any exposure to the native population?

HE:

Yes, except we could see the men in Finschhafen. We lived in huts. I don't know whether there were two or three of us in a hut, must have been three, and they had grass tops. I was glad to get out of that because we figured bugs could fall out of that. But they did some building for us sort of like that. They would come to work, and the army had given them ditty bags. Do you know what a ditty bag is?

HT:

No.

HE:

I don't believe I have mine anymore. These were green, like our fatigues, and it seems like we did have some fatigues. Or else we bartered with folks and got some. It's a bag about this size with a drawstring top, and in it they had a mirror and a comb and I don't know what else. But they would come to work, and we would watch and they would open that bag and take out the comb and the mirror and they would comb their hair. Oh, they combed their hair! And then they would start to work. [chuckling] I don't reckon they'd ever seen mirrors before.

HT:

What kind of work did they do for the army?

HE:

They were putting up some little buildings. I don't know whether they were prefabs or what they were, but they were helping with some kind of building.

HT:

And you said that the families of the natives were elsewhere?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall why they had segregated the—

HE:

Oh yes, to keep them out of sight of our army troops.

HT:

I see.

HE:

They couldn't afford to have our men mess with their women and—That would be bad. And they didn't know their language anyhow.

HT:

Now, were the nurses, and you as a dietitian, were you segregated from the men in a separate area?

HE:

Yes, our living quarters were quite separate.

HT:

Were separate, right. I have read somewhere that sometimes in the South Pacific the women who were there in the army or wherever, they were actually in compounds and they had wire fences around them. Have you ever heard of anything like that?

HE:

No. Well, we were not where it was like that. Where we had been, I don't think anybody but Lever Brothers had ever been. They planted the coconut trees, I guess, all up the coast of New Guinea. Somebody said that the army had to pay Lever Brothers four dollars for every coconut tree we harmed.

HT:

Lever Brothers? That's the soap people [company]?

HE:

The soap people.

HT:

And they used the coconuts in the soap products?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Oh, I see. So these were coconut plantations?

HE:

Yes, but they were just groves. We didn't see any houses. I don't know where those folks lived, probably back in Australia. [chuckling]

HT:

Which station was your favorite, that you can think of?

HE:

I expect Manila. There we lived twelve in a plywood hut. They were prefabricated plywood huts, and I guess they were screened in. And there were six girls down this side and six down that side. The walkways were —they were wooden, like a wooden sidewalk. It was raised about this much because it would be real wet sometimes, and otherwise you'd walk through water. So we had those to walk around. And then the latrines and showers were not too far away.

We were set up at a Jockey Club, and the Jockey Club was here and we had to walk way around here to our quarters down there. And the men were quartered up in here. And they used the stables from the Jockey Club for some of their doings. You know, they remade them. The engineers came in and made a three-story building out of the bleachers. There were bleachers when we first got there. And we had the cots there, and you ran up and down the steps taking care of the men, which was [chuckling] different. Then they fixed it so there were three floors. And they had big latrines, as big as this room, and they took the fittings out and made a surgery out of those, tiled rooms. Lucy would write me about being in Naples [Italy] and having all this tile, and we couldn't imagine anything like that, and then we got in Manila and found out that there was some tile in that part of the world.

HT:

What was your kitchen like in Manila?

HE:

Let me think. Oh, it was out in the racetrack. It was not so fine. It was something we put up. We didn't eat too much there, but we ate. And the Japanese woman, what was her name? Tokyo Rose.

HT:

Tokyo Rose.

HT:

Would be on the radio. I'd go over early in the morning before breakfast and hear Tokyo Rose while we were getting ready for the day.

HT:

Do you remember any of the things that she said?

HE:

She played awful good music—oh, real good music. She'd say anything she could to make you scared, pretend she knew something. You never knew whether she was telling the truth or not.

HT:

Did she have an accent, a Japanese accent, or—?

HE:

No, she sounded all right.

HT:

She had the typical American accent?

HE:

Best I can remember she did. She may have been to school in America. I don't remember any details about her, but we sure did like her music. [laughter] The dining room and kitchen were nothing to brag about. We finally got a machine to make some ice cream with the avocadoes and mangoes and limes. It made a very good—You thought it was pretty good.

HT:

Did you use powdered milk and cream for that?

HE:

Powdered milk, yes. And this fruit and powdered eggs, you could make a custard with the powdered stuff.

HT:

Did you ever have any occasion to make a birthday cake for any of the troops?

HE:

No.

HT:

Because Lucy said they did.

HE:

She was lots more civilized than we were.

HT:

Well, her mother sent her pans and food coloring.

HE:

Oh, that was nice. No, we didn't have that. Lucy's mother was great. People ate at her house. They ate at Miss Jesse's [Lucy's mother]. They didn't call it a boardinghouse, but that's what it was—a very high-class one. But she did that to put those children through school. And I used to go home with Lucy some, the first year we were in service, and oh, what good food she did put out! Marvelous! And she was awfully good to anybody that Lucy brought home with her. She was a special person.

HT:

We certainly have jumped around, and I apologize for that.

HE:

That's all right.

HT:

But I guess the next thing I want to ask you is can you describe your adjustment to civilian life after you had been in the military for all those months?

HE:

It was rough! It really was rough. I wanted a car when I got home, because I had saved my money. There was nothing to spend it for. Now, Lucy did see—She could have bought some stuff, I expect, but we didn't have any gift shops or anything to spend money on, except uniforms. And I don't remember whether we had to buy [them] or whether they gave them to us always. They gave them in the beginning. I guess we had to—If we wanted some more, we had to buy some. We could buy Coca-Cola sometimes, but it was just the syrup mixed with water. There was one kind of candy, Almond Roca candy, that we could buy. And I don't know how expensive it was, but it's expensive here. You know it?

HT:

I'm not familiar with that.

HE:

It's delicious! We would get it in a tin can about like this and about that high, and it was so good! We didn't have Hershey bars too often—sometimes but not too much. Let's see, we could buy—I think for a while later they had soap and—I think they gave us our cigarettes. It seems to me they did. There wasn't anything to spend money on.

HT:

Speaking of money, how much money did you earn a month?

HE:

A hundred and fifty dollars!

HT:

Was that a great deal of money?

HE:

Yes! Yes, that was good.

HT:

So were you able to save enough to buy a car once you got out?

HE:

Yes. I had two years of that. Look how much money I had! And I would send it to the bank. [chuckling]

HT:

Earned a little bit of interest.

HE:

Yes. And I got home and there was no car to be had. So I went to Washington to visit, Washington, D.C., and I bought a fur coat and I bought an Adele Simpson dress. Oh, that was pretty. [chuckling] I was all fixed up with my finery.

HT:

But still no car. [chuckling]

HE:

No car. Let's see, I tried that job in Florida in the VA hospital, didn't like that. I went to Washington, D.C. I had some friends up there and they got me a bed in a house they were staying in, and I got a job at the National Geographic.

HT:

Oh, the magazine?

HE:

Yes. I was doing something with the mail, the foreign mail. I don't remember what it was. And I hadn't been there but three weeks when I got deathly sick. And they had a nurse on duty all the time and three hospital beds, and I went to see her. And she put me in a limousine with a driver and she went with me and took me home. She'd called the doctor meanwhile, and she stayed until the doctor came. And he walked in the door with his bag and said, “You've got gallbladder colic.” Well, so I had to have surgery. But I packed myself up and got on the train and came home and had my surgery at home. And the doctor knew enough to say, “Well, that's army connected,” and so the government paid for most everything. He charged two hundred dollars for gallbladder surgery. [chuckling] It would be ten thousand or more today. I stayed in the hospital eleven days. I had insurance that paid for that. And let's see, my room was eight dollars a day and the insurance covered that. Nurses were eight dollars a shift, which was twenty-four dollars a day, and I—No, I had a day nurse and—I had two nurses. I think they did eight-hour duty, and that took care of me. But they kept me in bed for eleven days. They didn't let me put my feet on the floor until the eleventh day. They were eight dollars a shift.

HT:

Had you been sick in the service at all?

HE:

No, not a bit. Oh, in service? I only had dengue fever, which is like malaria, sort of. It's from a mosquito. And you want to punch your eyeballs out and you want to scratch your hands and your feet off. And they didn't ever want my blood because they thought that was bad blood.

HT:

You said something earlier, that the doctor felt that this gallbladder problem was service-related. How did you contract this disease?

HE:

It was just three weeks after I got out of—Wait a minute, three weeks? It hadn't been long. It was more than three weeks. It was in April after I had gotten out the end of January, and he thought that gallstones couldn't have developed that quick.

HT:

Oh, so this was gallstones you had?

HE:

Lots of them. Lots of them. So he saved me a little cup of them. They looked like green peas. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, what impact do you think the military had on your life immediately after you got out and in the long term?

HE:

I grew up in the army. I had led a very sheltered life until I got in the army, but it helped me grow up in a hurry and it broadened my education considerably. I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't want to go through it again, but I'm glad that I did do it.

HT:

So you think your life has been different because you went in?

HE:

Yes, it's better because of it. And I have more knowledge of what the world is like, and have friends from far and wide. Oh, several months ago a couple I had known at Camp Butner came by and had a meal with me, and that was good. I hadn't seen them since 1946. We keep up at Christmas, just cards with a little note. But it's made life much more interesting.

HT:

So you've met some really interesting people along the way that you've kept in touch with, which is wonderful.

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you think the military made you that way, or were you independent prior to joining?

HE:

Oh, I think the military helped me.

HT:

And do you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter at that time?

HE:

Well, to some extent. Other people helped.

HT:

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

HE:

No, I never thought that—For women to do what they are doing today, I wasn't for all that. It's really bothered me for women to go to work and not stay home and raise their families. We had a better world when mothers stayed home. I have to be careful who I talk to because I've got lots of friends who work or have worked. But I do not approve of it. I think women ought to stay home as long as they can and raise their children. I think that the world has gone to pot, and I think that's a lot of it. They have ignored the Lord, and I think that's too bad. I know it is. The whole nation is ignoring Him, the nation as a whole. Yes, [President Bill] Clinton goes to church. You know, some people do things for show. And he carries a Bible with him all the time when he goes. Who else do you know who does that? [chuckling] I don't know, I just wish that the country—I think that the war brought on a lot of this stuff that we're going through today.

HT:

Oh, really? In what respect? Because I've heard other people say something similar.

HE:

Well, the women started working, the men got in all sorts of troubles they wouldn't have gotten into if they had been at home. You look at the children they've left in all these countries they've been in. It's sad. It's real sad. They might have left maybe just as many here, but that would have been a little bit different. And that doesn't incur goodwill. And in a lot of those countries, those children are looked down upon dreadfully and they must have miserable lives.

Also, people learned to not tell the truth in the army. The first time— Here in the States we were told to take an inventory one time, and so this little sergeant was helping me. And I was counting things properly and he said, “Oh, don't count it that way. We don't do it that way in the army.” And I learned that that was the sad truth. They don't.

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

HE:

And you took stuff that wasn't yours, and you—Let's see, your sense of values was changed. Your sense of integrity was not helped a bit. Well, that was the first thing I noticed was that boy saying, “We don't count that way.”

HT:

How were things counted?

HE:

Oh, they'd make it lower so you'd get more. And that wasn't the way I was brought up.

HT:

Were the excess materials used in the black market for bartering and that sort of thing?

HE:

I didn't see that but I know they were.

HT:

Because I remember my father talking about that sort of thing a little bit now that you—It strikes a memory that they would use particularly cigarettes for bartering on the black market in Europe after the war, in Germany.

HE:

That war and our war were two different things. They weren't a whole lot alike in many ways because we were where there was not a lot of civilization. I went for eight or nine months without seeing a house, and then when I did it was near Hollandia. The Dutch government had a house, and it had windows in it. And we all looked at that thing and, “Look, there's a house, and it's got windows in it!” [chuckling] It was so exciting to see a building like that.

Now, one thing that went on was the boys wanted to go fishing. Well, they just took a hand grenade out and threw it in the water, and the fish would come up and they'd take them and go cook them, go eat them. That wasn't exactly cricket. We all watched stuff like that go on that shouldn't have. I had a friend who made up a company and drew beer for it. There wasn't any such company, and he drew beer for that whole company.

HT:

And what did he do with the beer?

HE:

Shared it with anybody who wanted to help him drink it. You see, we got a lot of false values, and I'm not sure it was easy to shake those when you came home. I don't know that I ever told anybody else that. It was something I wasn't proud of.

HT:

Did other people disapprove of this sort of thing? It sounds like you disapproved of this.

HE:

I did. Well, we all did some of it probably in little ways, and I can't think of some way exactly that I did wrong, but I know I must have. See, we went to the place and got the mineral oil and used it for a party. [chuckling] We weren't entitled to that, but we did it. And we took chicken that was for the sick folks and made sandwiches and had it for a party. That kind of stuff. Well, that wasn't really right, but we did it. Little things.

HT:

Little things, right. And some people did little things, I imagine other people did big things.

HE:

Yes, I'm sure they did.

HT:

Do you recall what the general public—how they looked upon women who joined the military during World War II? What was the general feeling toward women who joined?

HE:

Well, my friends seemed to be all right with it. I don't know what my mama's friends thought. Daddy was pleased. He was glad I was going to go help the country.

HT:

I was reading that, I think it was in the spring or summer of 1943, the WACs seemed to have a particular problem. There was a scandal that was started by the men in the army about the bad reputations of women who joined the WACs. Did you ever hear anything about that?

HE:

Yes, I had a friend who was a physical therapist, and she went to Europe. I can't remember what country she was in. But she said that she was on a train and it stopped in Paris, and she went in a store—to buy perfume, I suppose—and she heard the clerk in there say, “Oh, a trainload of prostitutes just came through.” So we didn't have a good name always. But Dottie [Helms] wrote me that that's what they were saying, and that was horrifying. We weren't the—Well, it was just horrifying.

HT:

I guess you probably saw less of that as an army dietitian because you were an officer.

HE:

Yes.

HT:

I would imagine that probably enlisted women would have probably—

HE:

Yes, and I was not ever with the enlisted women. We were just all officers and we didn't see that. Now, some WACs came, and I don't know what they did in the hospital. That was about the time we were leaving, and we swapped our old clothes for some of their new ones.

HT:

As a woman in the military, did you ever witness any discrimination against yourself or other women because you were women?

HE:

No, but I—You weren't in service, were you?

HT:

I was in the [U.S] Air Force.

HE:

Yes, you were too. All right, I had been somewhere and had seen some equipment I wanted for our kitchen. I knew where it was available, and I went back and told the right person who had to make an order to go through channels to get it. And I don't know what happened, but it didn't get there and I didn't get the equipment. And I told our commanding officer that somebody hadn't done—I said, “Something happened here, it didn't come through.” And he said, “You could get anything you wanted if you worked it right.” And I all but slapped him. [laughter]

HT:

Because you knew what he meant, right?

HE:

I sure did! And I wasn't going to have anybody talk to me that way. I don't know what I said or did, but the next thing I knew, I was on temporary duty elsewhere just during the day. An army vehicle took me to another hospital, and I spent my days over there for, oh, two or three weeks. It wasn't bad. But that was because of what I said. And I said something one time that made some doctor get transferred. I don't remember what I said, but he deserved it. You know, I was going to stand up for my own rights! There was some of that kind of stuff that went on, and you did what you thought you ought to do.

HT:

So did you ever get that piece of equipment?

HE:

No. I can't even remember what it was, but it was something that we didn't have that I knew where they did have it. Some engineers had told me, I think, where some was. They said, “If you just fill out an order, you can get it easy.” Well, I couldn't do it myself, but—And you know things blow away and things take precedent over others, and you just have to do the best you can.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in the army today, and particularly in combat positions?

HE:

I don't think they've got any business being in combat. I don't. I'm not sure what I think about them being overseas. M*A*S*H has shown me that the men can be just as good nurses as the women. I guess it makes them feel a little bit like their mothers might be nearby, or their sisters, if they have a female nurse taking care of them. I don't know, it's hard—I never dreamed that I'd get out of the States. [chuckling] That's about all I can say on it.

HT:

Now, I think it was only nurses and dietitians and physical therapists who went out. Regular WACs did not go overseas, did they?

HE:

They did later. They were coming in when we left. The war was over by then.

HT:

Right, but during the war years they were not overseas.

HE:

No, not where we were.

HT:

I know the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] did not go overseas at all.

We've covered a variety of things this afternoon. Is there anything else you'd like to add about your military service that we haven't covered? Any unusual stories, hilarious events?

HE:

I can't think of any. The air force boys used to go to Sydney and come back with their planes full of something good to eat. And occasionally they would fly under a bridge, much to the disgust of the Australians. Well, you know, that was an art to be able to do that. [chuckling]

HT:

There wasn't a whole lot of room between the road and the bridge.

HE:

It was the water. [chuckling] I can't even remember what the water was, but that was in Sydney. And every now and then I see it on the TV.

HT:

I think you said one time that you did go to Sydney for R&R [rest and recuperation]?

HE:

Yes.

HT:

Was that the only place you visited for R&R?

HE:

Yes. Just had it one time while we were overseas.

HT:

So you had quite a bit of accrued leave, I guess.

HE:

I did. It seems like it went up into March. I can't remember. I don't remember.

HT:

We really haven't covered a great deal about what you did after the military. Could you tell me about some of the things you did after you left the military?

HE:

Yes, I was five years in Burlington before the war, and then afterwards I went to Florida to the VA hospital, didn't like that, went to Washington with the Geographic, and then after I had my appendix out I went back to school, I guess summer school at Woman's College, and took a course in school food service. The government had changed a whole lot of stuff, and so I got as up on that as I could. Let's see, what did I do next? I didn't actually get back into school food service for several years. I worked in institutional feeding, commercial—I worked at the Shell Oil Company for a company out of Chicago, and I was at their refinery, where we served, oh, about thirty-six hundred meals a day.

HT:

Where was this?

HE:

In Houston, Texas.

HT:

Oh, in Houston?

HE:

Yes. Well, it was out from Houston. Gosh, if you said the words “Shell Oil Company,” folks would sell you anything right then and there. They didn't look up a credit rating or anything. You'd go in a department store and I'd say, “Well, I don't have—.” I wanted something at one place I went. I wanted a suit, it was a nice store, and I said, “I don't have any credit rating here, you don't know anybody I know and you don't know the stores I'm accustomed to buying from.” They said, “Where do you work?” And I said, “Shell Oil Company.” They said, “Well, we'll charge it.” So they had a good reputation. That was in nineteen fifty—I believe that was '52. I missed something.

I went to Central America in 1950 to work for the United Fruit Company. I got that job through the American Dietetic Association. And I went down on the banana boat, they have twelve passengers, and we ate with the crew. Each one had their own stateroom. And I left my galoshes on that boat. [chuckling] I was sorry, because I could have used them later. The head doctor for the United Fruit Company was on the boat, and an entomologist—and I'd never met an entomologist before—and I can't remember who else. There was a couple who weren't United Fruit people on there. But we had a nice trip. And we stopped in Guatemala and had a day, and then we got to Honduras. They had a narrow-gauge railway. We got on the train and rode for several hours till we got to the headquarters, La Lima [Honduras]. Let's see, I started work the next day or two. I had a house all my own, and a maid came every day to clean up, just there a few hours. The hospital that they were using then was a mile away. This was a new house I had and it was close to the new hospital they were building, which wasn't quite finished. So I walked a mile to this old hospital, but I stopped halfway there at a hotel to eat my meals. [chuckling] None of us ate at the hospital.

I walked down the street with one of the little tray girls one day, she was from the Dominican Republic and spoke English, and I was reprimanded for that. Well, who was I going to talk to? There were just three or four other white girls there, nurses, and the rest of the white folks were married. You could go in their houses and have a meal and tell what income bracket they were in, because all the dishes and everything were furnished. I didn't like that place. By the end of two weeks I gave them two weeks notice, and they offered to send me up to Tegucigalpa [Honduras] or anything to try to make me happier. They had a lighted swimming pool, a bowling alley, a club equal to an officers' club or a country club, and the pool was lighted at night inside the pool. They did everything they could to make it a happy situation, but I decided that wasn't for me. They drank all the time, too. I thought I'd seen drinking in the army. I hadn't seen any. [chuckling] Oh, me!

Well, at the end of the month I came home on a banana boat. I was the only passenger. And the engineer took me down and showed me where the bananas are. And they are treated like infants. They are kept at a certain temperature or they'll ripen too much or won't ripen enough or whatnot. They are picked green because they'll be wormy if you leave them on the banana tree. You have to pick them green. So that was the end of that.

But I got back to New York one morning—I visited my sister there—and that night we went to Riverside Church [New York] and heard a man, Dr. Eugene Exman, talk who had just spent several weeks with Albert Schweitzer. Oh, that was such an interesting evening! He showed pictures and talked about all their experiences. That was great.

Well, then I went to Texas. At the end of the first year, the place went on strike. And they asked me if I would stay, if I'd come out and sleep on a cot— several other women would be there. But I discovered that when they have a strike, they are served beer, all they want, in the dining room. And I didn't know how long that strike was going to last, and I didn't want to be there with all these men who were drinking all the beer they wanted, and so I had to resign. So I left and came home. And let's see, I believe the next job was with the public schools in Salisbury, North Carolina. I went to High Point, and then I went to Salisbury, Rowan County. I had the twenty-nine schools in Rowan County, which I enjoyed.

HT:

And you were a dietitian in all these places?

HE:

Yes, I was the head, was the supervisor for the twenty-nine schools.

HT:

Gosh, that was quite a bit of responsibility.

HE:

Well, it was nice. We combined a number of schools, and we built new ones. We also had the integration during that period, and it was very pleasant work. And I had a marvelous superintendent to work for. And then he retired. [chuckling] Then I got one who'd been a high school principal and he didn't back me in some things. And I ran into a new principal. I'd never had trouble with principals before, but I ran into this one with no integrity and we didn't see things eye-to-eye a bit. The architect had made a mistake in that building. He fixed it so that when two doors opened—Let's see, this one opened and then this one opened, and they pinched my fingers between them, metal doors. That was the day I decided I was going to leave. [laughter] My parents were in poor health, and I had tried to get help to work with them, you know, to be there in the daytime at least, black help. And I had bought them uniforms, I had typed out their duties, and then they left. Well, I was commuting back and forth forty miles and trying to open this new school, and that principal that didn't do right. I don't believe he ever paid for a meal. [chuckling] And I just didn't see how I could work with him. So I just told them I had to leave and take care of my parents. Mentally I wasn't geared to work with people who didn't have integrity, so I left.

HT:

When was that? What year?

HE:

Sixty-seven. And I went home and looked after my parents. Daddy died in '70, and Mama never wanted to spend the night in a house anywhere alone, so I stayed with her. In '79 my sister died in New York City, and I had had to go up and be with her some and get help, somebody to stay with Mama. Then Mama got sick in—Let's see, in '80 Mama got sick. We were up here at Junaluska [North Carolina] and I got a nurse from High Point to come up and take care of her. She had nursed in our family a lot. And John Brown, Mama didn't want to go to the hospital. The doctor wanted her to and she wouldn't do it. She wanted to go home. So we got an ambulance and sent her home. Then she had surgery pretty soon. She had cancer, colon cancer, and she never walked after that. I don't know whether she had a stroke or whether they cut something. I don't know what happened, and I didn't ask the doctor. I had my hands full looking after things as they were. [chuckling]

And whatever had happened it was done, and so we made the best of it. Mama lived until '83. And the Lord was good to me. He sent me a van with a lift so we could go places. And I had a ramp built at the back of the house, the side, and I had room for it fortunately. There were six steps, and you have to have a foot of ramp for every inch of rise, and that was a forty-seven-foot ramp. [chuckling] But I could push her up and down it easily. And it had a resting place in the middle. The architect was good, because I got a real architect to draw it and oversee it. So then after she died I decided I'd rather live in Lake Junaluska where we'd had a summer home since the mid-fifties, and so I stayed there till I came here to Givens, a retirement community.

HT:

So you basically retired from the school system in '67?

HE:

In '67. Yes, that cuts down on your Social Security and your state pension. But I would do it again. They would have been in a nursing home if I hadn't. And Mama said one time—Well, help was hard to keep, some of it was, and sometimes I had a little trouble, and she said, “Well, just put me in a nursing home.” But you know, in bad weather I thought, “Gosh, we've got everything here.” The doctor used to come to the house and he'd say, “Well, you're fixed up as good or better than a hospital.” And we were. And I thought, “Well, good lands, if she goes out to the nursing home and the weather is bad, I can't get there. At least I'm here and I can look after her. And if my help can't come, that's not the worst thing that could happen.” So I kept her at home. I don't know, it was much easier on me to just keep her at home. And with the van, we could go places. Her middle name was “Go.” [chuckling]

HT:

She enjoyed traveling?

HE:

Yes, she did.

HT:

That's wonderful.

HE:

And we would go ride in the afternoons and go out to the city lake and watch the ducks, you know, or just ride around and see things. And we'd go out to eat, as long as —She finally got so she couldn't feed herself very well, but that wasn't for long. So then I had a good time over at Junaluska.

I got into a good group, a prayer and share —Well, let's see, we met at six o'clock, and everybody brought something to eat, and we moved around to different people's homes. And we had a marvelous meal. We decided what we would have, to some extent. The hostess would furnish the meat and the beverage, and the others would bring the rest of the meal. And that was gourmet food. It was good. We would eat at 6:00, and then at 7:00 we had a sharing time with all of us sitting around in a circle, and then at 7:30 we had Bible study until 9:00. And that was real good. We enjoyed it, and we learned something too. So that went on for about eight years, and then I came over here. I think it didn't start the first year I was there. So that was about eight years of that.

HT:

Well, I don't have any more questions for you. Is there anything else you'd like to add about your military service or your life afterwards? We've covered such a variety of things.

HE:

I can't think of much. Yes, there's a lot in there they'll take out because it don't fit. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, I do thank you so much for talking with me.

HE:

Well, I've enjoyed it.

HT:

It's been an absolute pleasure listening. Thank you so much.

[End of the Interview]