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

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Blanche Woolard Haggard, 1999

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0040.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Blanche Woolard Haggard’s education at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro); her service with the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1942 to 1945; and her life after World War II.

Summary:

Haggard details working in the Woman’s College registrar’s office and being taught by Virginia Farinholt in the late 1930s and early 1940s. However, she primarily discusses her World War II service. She recalls her parents’ reactions when she joined the WAVES; basic training, including marching and uniforms; Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit to her typing class at Northampton; her social life, including trips to New York, dances, and dates; her work coding and decoding messages; GI deaths during pilot training; shore patrol; and her opinion of President Franklin Roosevelt.

Other topics include the mood of the country during World War II; her husband’s experiences in the military; frequent traveling with her husband; her work with the Red Cross Blood Program; the general perception of women who joined the military; her opinion of women in combat; and the variety of jobs and volunteer work she was involved with after her military service.

Creator: Blanche Woolard Haggard

Biographical Info: Blanche Woolard Haggard of Wilson, North Carolina, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1942 to 1945.

Collection: Blanche Woolard Haggard Papers

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

Full Text:

HT:

[My name is Hermann Trojanowski] and today is February 18, 1999. I'm at the home of Mrs. Blanche Haggard in Asheville, North Carolina, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. Mrs. Haggard, if you could tell me your maiden name and where you were born, we'll use this as a test for your voice.

BH:

My name was Blanche Woolard and I lived in Wilson, North Carolina.

[recorder paused]

HT:

Mrs. Haggard, thank you so much for talking with me this morning. I really appreciate it. Can you tell me where you went to high school, please?

BH:

In Wilson, North Carolina.

HT:

What was the name of the school, do you recall?

BH:

Charles L. Coon.

HT:

Could you spell that last?

BH:

C-o-o-n.

HT:

And could you tell me a little bit about your family life when you were growing up in Wilson?

BH:

Both my mother and father worked. My mother was the town tax collector, and my father had some health problems, so he worked for the State Wildlife Commission so he could spend as much time outdoors as possible.

HT:

And when you decided to go to college, what made you decide to go to WC [Woman's College of the University of North Carolina, now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG)]?

BH:

About twenty girls from Wilson and Rocky Mount [North Carolina] had decided to go there, so it was the place to go. My mother tried to talk me into taking the one-year business course, and I talked her into letting me take one year at a time of the four-year course. [chuckling]

HT:

So what was your major?

BH:

Business.

HT:

Business.

BH:

Thank goodness they have stopped calling it secretarial administration.

HT:

And what year did you graduate?

BH:

Nineteen forty-two.

HT:

The war had not started by that time, had it?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

It had started in Europe but not—Okay, and after you graduated, what line of work did you go into?

BH:

I very briefly worked for Vick Chemical Company [in reensboro, North Carolina] as an accountant. The three of the Woman's College graduates who went to work for Vick at that time were the first new employees Vick had ever had straight out of college. They had preferred to get people who had not finished their college education and help them get through with it.

HT:

If we could just backtrack just a minute about your WC days, can you tell me something about what life was like on campus in the late thirties and early forties?

BH:

There was a lot of walking because the classrooms were spread out already. There was a very good close feeling among the students. They did a lot to get help from the older students for the new students.

HT:

Do you recall how big the student body was at that time?

BH:

No.

HT:

I think you said your major was business. I guess we call it business administration today.

BH:

Right.

HT:

In which buildings were your classes held, do you recall?

BH:

I doubt that I can say.

HT:

That's fine. Do you have any special recollections about your teachers and instructors?

BH:

Not really.

HT:

What about members of the administration, such as W. C. [Walter Clinton] Jackson [chancellor] and Miss Harriet Elliott [dean]?

BH:

Well, Mary Taylor Moore I was closer to because she was the registrar that I worked for. But I remember Dr. Jackson coming in to judicial board meetings at night and talking with us about what we had been deciding.

HT:

And I think you told me before we got started with the interview that you did work in the registrar's office.

BH:

Right.

HT:

And could you tell me a little bit about that and how much money you earned and that sort of thing?

BH:

Yes, we got the magnificent sum of twenty-five cents an hour, and I worked about twenty hours a month, I think. And this was under the National Youth Administration [NYA].

HT:

That was a government program, I assume?

BH:

Yes. Yes, Federal.

HT:

And how many years did you work at the registrar's office?

BH:

All four years. And I also worked as a hostess in the dormitories under the same NYA.

HT:

And what type of work did a hostess perform?

BH:

You sat at a desk and met people coming into the dorms.

HT:

Sort of like information desk or something like that?

BH:

Right.

HT:

And did you enjoy both of those jobs?

BH:

Yes, and I learned a great deal. Believe me, if you worked for Miss Moore you learned something, because she told you exactly how to do whatever you were going to do—specifically.

HT:

Do you remember anything about the social life on campus in the late thirties and early forties?

BH:

Well, there weren't as many men around by that time because they were thinning out going into the service. We had a few service activities on campus, dances and things that were specifically for the military.

HT:

Had ORD [Overseas Replacement Depot] been set up by that time?

BH:

No.

HT:

And after you graduated in 1942, you worked for Vick's Chemical, I think you said. And then you decided to join one of the military services? Is that correct? Or how did that come about? Can you tell me about that process?

BH:

I was working for Vick's. I think I started in 1942, right out of college, and worked for a short period of time before I went into the navy. Because so many people, so many men at Vick's were being called up for service and really objecting to leaving their families and all, and I got the idea that I would much rather go than watch other people go. So—

HT:

Why did you choose the navy?

BH:

Well, my father had been in the navy. My father very much opposed my going in. It was the first thing I ever absolutely did that my father told me not to do.

HT:

And how did your mother feel about it?

BH:

Mother was a little more for my doing whatever I wanted to do. She wanted me to see the world.

HT:

Do you recall why your father was so opposed to you going in?

BH:

Well, he went in it as a very young—He lied about his age and went in quite early, and was on a submarine chaser, so he did not have an easy life. So he thought I was going to be in for that sort of thing.

HT:

Was he in the First World War then?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

So I guess he wanted to protect you a little bit, perhaps?

BH:

I guess.

HT:

And after you joined, you joined as an officer?

BH:

No, I was a midshipman until I finished the three months training. That was the “ninety-day wonder” that they gave the men, too.

HT:

Right. And where did you do your basic training?

BH:

At Northampton, Massachusetts. We got to use the facilities of Smith College. And Wiggins Tavern was a wonderful place to eat, even though we were served on the metal trays that the navy furnished.

HT:

Do you recall anything specific about your first day as a—I guess, for lack of a better word, at boot camp? Your first day at Northampton, what was that like?

BH:

Well, before that I can remember getting on the train. We don't even know trains these days. In those days they had short stops along the way, and some new WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy] got on at each place in North Carolina, at Wilson, Rocky Mount, and Raleigh. And the trains kept getting smaller and smaller as we got nearer to where we were going. And when we got to Northampton, we got out of the train and Miss Virginia Farinholt, who had been my Spanish teacher at Woman's College, met me at the train. I therefore got out of the group of North Carolinians and got into a group of Californians, and ended up knowing quite a few of them.

HT:

And do you recall when that was? Which month?

BH:

It must have been January.

HT:

Of '43?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

Can you remember what a typical day was like during those three months?

BH:

Cold! [chuckling] The schoolwork, the classes were rather difficult because they were absolutely pouring it to us as fast as they could go. And we didn't have time to study, so what you absorbed as you were going along was what you got. And I can imagine that Miss Farinholt's southern accent was an additional treat for people in naval history.

HT:

What did she teach?

BH:

At which place?

HT:

At Northampton, at Smith College.

BH:

Naval history.

HT:

Naval history?

BH:

Yes, and she taught Spanish at Greensboro and was my faculty adviser.

HT:

That's a strange combination there. [chuckling]

BH:

Well, her personality could go anywhere.

HT:

So was she a civilian or was she an officer?

BH:

She was an officer.

HT:

An officer, okay. I have talked to other ladies and they said they had to march everywhere, to chow hall, to all the classes. Can you describe some of your experiences of marching and how you adapted to that?

BH:

We were glad to be marching to stay warm for a little bit, because it was so cold and most of us were from the South. I remember wearing all the clothes I had with me until I got my uniform, which was warm. But the Californians were having an even harder time with the cold.

HT:

This was not the first time you'd been away from home for any extended period of time, because you had been at WC for four years and that sort of thing. But were you homesick or anything like that, being away from North Carolina?

BH:

I don't think we had time to be homesick. It was a good and interesting adventure, and they made it very pleasant for us. We very soon got into the pattern of going away to either New York or Boston for the weekend, so we got to see quite a bit of—

HT:

So you did have some free time?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

And I guess you went down as groups of girls?

BH:

Yes. We tried to take some New Yorkers with us when we went to New York to help us find our way around, but we soon found out that staying in a hotel—We stayed at the Hotel Taft in New York, and that was the central location to so many things. The only way to learn New York, if you're just from rural North Carolina, is by walking, so we were quite used to that.

HT:

And I guess you wore your uniforms, because that's all you had.

BH:

That's right. That makes it very much easier, because you didn't ever have to worry about what to wear.

HT:

You didn't have as many choices.

BH:

No. You were dressed for any occasion.

HT:

And how did civilians treat you ladies?

BH:

Absolutely great. We were very, very fortunate to be there at a time where we were very highly regarded.

HT:

Do you recall any special events, either in New York or Boston, that stand out in your mind?

BH:

Well, I remember staying in a really large room in the hotel in New York, because it was the one that they had always used for the salespeople to exhibit their goods. So they packed about thirty girls in one room. It was a huge room.

HT:

After your—I think you said it was a ninety-day-wonder period in Northampton, where was your first permanent duty station?

BH:

I asked for an air station in the Southeast. And I think because Virginia Farinholt was on the staff up there, the navy let me have what I wanted. And the navy isn't known for doing that very often.

HT:

And so where were you stationed?

BH:

To Jacksonville, Florida.

HT:

And what kind of facility was this exactly?

BH:

It was a naval air station. I was in communications.

HT:

And what type of planes were there, do you recall?

BH:

PB-Ms [Patrol Bomber-M] and PB-Ys [Patrol Bomber-Y]. They were on patrol in coastal waters.

HT:

I think before we started our conversation you mentioned something, these were planes that could land on the water.

BH:

Right.

HT:

And in communications, exactly what was your work?

BH:

Coding and decoding.

HT:

Can you explain that for me, because I don't know what that is, please?

BH:

Well, we had various kinds of codes, official codes, and one of my jobs was taking care of the classified documents that contains the codes and showed you how to use them. Jacksonville was the headquarters for all the small bases that the navy had in Florida, which were—I guess there were ten or twelve of them there. So I got to interview the incoming WAVES and decide which would go to what base in Florida.

HT:

Was that enjoyable work?

BH:

It gave me authority. [chuckling]

HT:

So you did that, you assigned other WAVES, as well as communications. So you really had two types of jobs, really?

BH:

They were the WAVES in communications, not all of them.

HT:

Oh, I see. Did you enjoy your basic job in communication? I mean the basic work?

BH:

Yes, everything was so new and was so interesting. Well, Jacksonville was a training base and wasn't as interesting as being in the action. I did go to Norfolk [Virginia] from Jacksonville. And the naval base there gave me an idea of what it was like, because they had incoming ships and incoming men, and things were—

HT:

So you were transferred from Jacksonville?

BH:

I asked to go to Norfolk because my then husband was coming in to the base there.

HT:

Well, speaking of your husband, so you got married in Jacksonville?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

And when was that?

BH:

Forty-four.

HT:

And how did you and he meet?

BH:

Everybody met everybody on the base. [chuckling] He was in the weather—Meteorology Department there on the base, and we ate in the same facility, BOQ [Bachelor Officers Quarters]. It was a little bit like a country club for anybody who had been to an all-girl school, because there were a bunch of naval aviators of every age coming and going. One side that wasn't good was that the boys were being put into planes so early, and without enough training, so there were a lot of deaths and accidents. And when you would leave for the weekend, you would hate to find out what had happened since—

HT:

So this happened on a routine basis?

BH:

It was on a training base and not supposed to be hazardous at all, but it happened too often.

HT:

That's sad. If we could get back to your work for just a second, do you think you were treated equally with men who did the same sort of thing? Or were there any men who did coding and that sort of thing?

BH:

I think it was absolutely the same. I don't think there was any difference.

HT:

So you never encountered any kind of discrimination because you were a woman?

BH:

No.

HT:

Did you ever receive any special treatment because you were a female?

BH:

Hmm. [chuckling] Now I'm not sure but what maybe I did. But personality entered into things so much. The men who were there when we went there were not very happy about our replacing them because that meant they had to go to sea.

HT:

And did they vocalize that feeling, or could you just sort of tell?

BH:

Well, I don't think anything was said in particular, but we did know that.

HT:

You knew it, right.

BH:

We knew that before we went, because that was one of the reasons we went into the navy, so that we would take the place of somebody else who might have to go.

HT:

Well, do you recall any embarrassing moments while you were at Jacksonville, or later Norfolk?

BH:

Well, it was embarrassing to have had somebody intercept a phone call to me from a young naval officer from an outer base, and I didn't know that they were listening in on our conversation. They had a right to because it was a navy telephone, but he was just trying to make a date.

HT:

This was your husband-to-be?

BH:

No.

HT:

No? Someone else? [chuckling] Okay. What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the navy?

BH:

I think perhaps some things that had to do with shore patrol. In my job, I also had to have some of the young navy sailors around to help with burning stuff. Everything that was confidential had to be burned and reported very definitely, and that was not easy. And being on shore patrol was not easy because we were having to go downtown. Instead of having fun, we were trying to restore discipline at times.

HT:

So is shore patrol similar to being MP [military police], except it's a naval MP?

BH:

Right.

HT:

And so they used ladies to do shore patrol?

BH:

Yes, also.

HT:

And were you assigned with a male MP?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

Or I guess it's S[shore]P then. And so the two of you went downtown to, what, bars and made sure people behaved themselves?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

Did you ever have any unusual things happen?

BH:

I don't think anything that stuck in my mind, other than actually doing it was unusual enough.

HT:

And were you assigned this every so often?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

Okay. So on a rotating basis type of thing? What about what was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally? Well, you mentioned earlier that it was very difficult to go away on weekends and then come back to find that perhaps some people you knew had been killed because of a lack of training.

BH:

Well, I think personal things were more emotional, and anybody who got married during that time had that involved.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid?

BH:

No.

HT:

And were you ever in any kind of physical danger when you were on shore patrol, or any other time?

BH:

No. If I was, I didn't know it. [chuckling]

HT:

Can you tell me something about your social life and what you ladies did for fun? When you were at Northampton you said you went down to New York or Boston. So what did you do for fun in Jacksonville and Norfolk?

BH:

Well, the officers' club was quite nice. And they had the junior officers' club, and that was the dancing place. And for somebody who loved dancing, it was a real treat. We had a real choice of dates.

HT:

So I guess the ratio of men to women was quite large.

BH:

It was in our favor. [laughter]

HT:

Did you ever take trips to other parts of Florida or Virginia when you were stationed in those places?

BH:

No, we had a limit on the—I can't remember what, I think it might have been ninety miles from the base. I don't know, we might have been able to go, but it would have required getting special permission. We couldn't just go.

HT:

I guess you were limited in the amount of time you could be away, and so that limited your distance that you could travel as well.

BH:

Right.

HT:

You had mentioned something about dancing. What were some of your favorite dances from that period of time?

BH:

Oh, just ballroom dancing.

HT:

Just ballroom dancing? And what about songs and movies from that time? Do you recall any special ones?

BH:

I have a local radio station that I listen to all the time and like Nat King Cole's songs and—I have enjoyed the facility to play on my computer the discs.

HT:

Oh, the CDs [compact discs]?

BH:

Yes

HT:

That does make it very nice. And how long were you in the military altogether?

BH:

About three years. Not very long.

HT:

So you went in in '42 and got out in '45?

BH:

I asked to be relieved, and it was very easy at that time because there wasn't that need.

HT:

Did you get out after the war was over?

BH:

No. When the men started coming back, they needed to get rid of those women. [chuckling]

HT:

So the guys would have something to do, I guess, or something like that.

BH:

Yeah.

HT:

Did you ever think about making it a career?

BH:

No, not after getting married.

HT:

Right. And you had gotten married in 1943 or '44?

BH:

Forty-three.

HT:

Forty-three?

BH:

No, it would be '44. I'm sorry, I lost a year there.

HT:

And since your husband was in the navy too, I guess he didn't object to you staying in the navy?

BH:

Well, we mutually decided there was no point in getting out as long as he was at sea. And I could keep in touch with him better because I could find out from the navy where he was and what he was doing.

HT:

And where was he stationed?

BH:

He was on a small carrier that was built on the West Coast and came through the Panama Canal to Norfolk. And from Norfolk it went out to the Mediterranean and was in on the war at the time that they were helping Britain withstand the war.

HT:

So was your husband ever in action in the Mediterranean?

BH:

Yes, he—I'm not going to be able to give you much information about that.

HT:

That's fine. Do you recall what the general climate of the country was during the war, the mood of the country, the feelings about people toward the war, and that sort of thing?

BH:

It was amazingly good, as far as the military was concerned, because people felt that we were doing something right. And of course that was to our advantage, too.

HT:

Do you feel you made a contribution to the war effort?

BH:

I don't think I did a whole lot, but I filled a spot that would have to be filled by a man if I hadn't gone in.

HT:

Do you recall any interesting people you met, other than your husband, while you—[chuckling] and they can be famous or not famous, during your military service?

BH:

Well, to me, Katherine Taylor [KT] was of interest. She was stationed at Portsmouth and came over to Norfolk to see me. I was in the hospital there, I had appendicitis, and KT and I went together on the boat that went over to Old Fort Comfort. There had been some veterans, older veterans stationed over there, and when they started firing the guns from over there again, they moved the old veterans up to the hotel at Old Fort Comfort. And when KT and I went over there and met some of the people, one old fellow looked at her and said, “Ma'am, I don't want to show you any disrespect, but it took me a long time to get that stripe and a half that you wear so beautifully.”

HT:

Where did you first meet Katherine Taylor, because she—

BH:

I was her house president, so we knew each other quite well.

HT:

Okay, so you knew her at WC.

BH:

Yes.

HT:

Okay, because she graduated, I think, in '27 or '28 from WC.

BH:

She was still pretty young.

HT:

Right. And I've heard so many nice things about her. She must have been an absolutely wonderful person.

BH:

She surely was, and I was very fortunate to know her as well as I did.

HT:

Did you keep in touch with her after the war?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

Because she came back and became dean of women and was quite active on campus. That's wonderful. Was there anybody else that you can recall?

BH:

Except for Helen Jacobs in tennis, and I didn't get to see her play tennis.

HT:

Now, was she a world-renowned tennis player?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

And she was one of your classmates at Northampton, is that correct?

BH:

Right.

HT:

And what happened to her after she left Northampton?

BH:

She kept in touch. I don't think she's living now, but she did keep in touch with the navy, and she got promoted in the reserve. She tried her hand at writing, but I haven't read anything that she wrote.

HT:

What did you think of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president of the country during that time?

BH:

Oh, I didn't mention that Mrs. Roosevelt came to see us in our typing class.

HT:

No!

BH:

I was very pro-Roosevelt, I think very highly of him. I just read a book by Elliot Roosevelt, so I'm still hanging in there, trying to keep in touch with those years. But Mrs. Roosevelt came to our typing class, and the teacher told us before she came in, “Don't worry about making any mistakes, just type as hard as you can. She's not going to see what you're typing.” And when she came in, she was a very charming lady and everybody was thrilled to get a chance to see her that closely.

HT:

And was this typing class at WC or at Northampton?

BH:

No, it was at Northampton. Because typing was a big part of communications. In fact, we got put in platoons according to our typing speed, which I think is kind of hard to take these days, but it was a way of grading people. And since I'd had typing so many times in my career, I had a very good typing speed. And they were, of course, not electric typewriters. They were just old manual typewriters.

HT:

Well, I guess typing was very important, as you said. Sort of the equivalent to our computers today.

BH:

Right. Well, I was on a desk one time in Norfolk, and I had teletypes behind me, a typewriter beside my desk, and four telephones. That's what you call communication. [chuckling]

HT:

So you had it all there. Do you recall who your heroes and heroines were from those days?

BH:

I should be able to because I sure had them. I guess Franklin Roosevelt was the big, big one. The people that I met during my college years, they were my heroes at that time.

HT:

Are you talking about fellow classmates perhaps or—?

BH:

No, people like W. C. Jackson, Miss Elliott—

HT:

Right, instructors. And I guess they were role models as well.

BH:

Yes, I guess that really says it more. I can't recall the doctor who was there most of the time that I was, but I remember very definitely she was going up an elevator with me and she said her thing that she wanted to tell every young woman, that standing tall with the back of your head as tall as it could get was the best way to have a good stance.

HT:

That wasn't Dr. [Anna] Gove [college physician], was it?

BH:

No. I'll think of it in a minute.

HT:

When you left the service in 1945, can you describe your adjustment to civilian life?

BH:

We had lots of adjustments because it was one trip after another. We lived in several places. Because Bill [Haggard] got out of service pretty early, we did take a trip across the country. I'm glad we went because I haven't had time since then. But it was, I guess, one of the reasons that our marriage only lasted twenty-five years was that we both got tired of travel so much.

HT:

So he traveled in his line of work?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

So you had to move with him?

BH:

And when he wasn't changing locations, he was getting offers to change locations.

HT:

What line of work was he in after the war? Weather, you said?

BH:

Yes, he just kept doing the same thing. We came to Asheville with his being head of the Weather Record Center here. We had gone to Tallahassee [Florida]. He went to Florida State [University] to get his master's degree in meteorology. He was going to get his doctorate, but he didn't want to stay long enough.

HT:

What kind of impact did the military have on your life immediately after you got out of the service, and in the long term?

BH:

I was so busy with a couple of boys, that that had more influence on my life than anything else. But I still kept in touch with an awful lot of former WAVES. One girl in Jacksonville wrote me a Christmas card this year, and she said she had only heard from twenty-five people from Jacksonville, and she has continued to be in touch with them every year at Christmas.

HT:

That's truly amazing.

BH:

I think it is.

HT:

That's wonderful. Well, has your life been different because you were in the military? Of course you met your husband while you were in the military, so—

BH:

Well, my life has been very different at certain times. The Veterans Administration hospital has been such a big help to me.

HT:

As a direct result of you having been in the military?

BH:

Right. Actually, I worked for the Red Cross Blood Program and helped Dr. Scott [VA cardiologist in Asheville] get his blood needs taken care of through the Red Cross when he was starting his heart surgery program here. He worked with Duke [University Medical Center], and today they get a good deal of help from Duke. The Duke doctors come here and do a certain period of time.

HT:

Well, would you do it again? That's in reference to joining the military.

BH:

Absolutely. And I would recommend that other people do it. I have a neighbor who has a granddaughter who's in the navy, and it was disappointing to me to hear that she had not had a good experience. But you know, that's a different time.

HT:

Is she an officer or an enlisted person, the granddaughter?

BH:

I'm not sure. I think she may be enlisted. I'm pretty sure she is.

HT:

That makes a difference.

BH:

It does make a big difference, and that made a big difference to me. I would not have been as much in favor of the navy if I'd had to go in as enlisted.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

BH:

Yes, I think so. [chuckling]

HT:

Do you think the military made you that way, or were you that way before you went into the military?

BH:

Oh, I think I was that way.

HT:

And that sort of reinforced the independence a little bit, I think.

BH:

Yes. I think they welcomed that.

HT:

And I've often heard that WC girls are somewhat independent, and very intelligent, and that sort of thing. How do you feel about—Was there a certain breed of girl that went to WC and got out and went into the military?

BH:

Well, my father-in-law was at Yale [University] and he had a WC secretary in his department, and he told me that they would welcome everybody that they could get from down there because they liked them and they were so well-trained.

HT:

So WC had a very good reputation nationally, it sounds like. Did you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter when you joined the navy?

BH:

Reluctantly I think so.

HT:

Why do you say reluctantly?

BH:

Reluctantly I admit it. [chuckling]

HT:

So you do consider yourself to have been a trailblazer?

BH:

Yes.

HT:

And do you think that women who joined the military at that time were the forerunners of what we call the women's movement? Did they sort of set the standard for, I guess, things that happened later on?

BH:

There may have been some among them, but I don't think everybody was. I don't think that our experience in the navy really brought on such feelings about it.

HT:

Do you recall what the general public felt about women who joined the military? How were women perceived by the general public and by their families who joined the military?

BH:

I think they thought it was a little unusual, especially in towns as small as Wilson. They gave me a lot of newspaper publicity, so it had to be.

HT:

Were you the only female to join from Wilson?

BH:

No. At that particular time I may have been, but there were a number of them afterwards.

HT:

So you sort of led the pack, so to speak?

BH:

Well, it was very early in the war, so that meant there couldn't have been many people before me.

HT:

In the spring and summer of 1943, there was a scandal started by army men against army women, in particular WACs [Women's Army Corps]. Did you ever hear anything about that, about bad reputations and this kind of stuff?

BH:

I think a little, and I think this contributed to the navy looking down on the army women a little bit. There was a definite feeling that we were superior. But, you know, that was youth. I wouldn't have had that same feeling now.

HT:

Have any of your children ever been in the military?

BH:

Yes, both of them.

HT:

Both of them were? And did you encourage them to go in because you had been? Well, both your husband and you had been in the military, so—

BH:

Didn't have to. The older boy had a bad accident. He fell on his head in the navy and he has had seizures ever since. He has been a patient at the local VA also, and so he has not reached his maximum success. But the younger one went to Davidson [College, in Davidson, North Carolina] and had ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps] there, and then went to law school at Florida State because he couldn't get in Carolina [The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]. [chuckling] He wouldn't let me try to influence my friend Naomi Morris, who was on the [North Carolina] Court of Appeals at that time and had been to Carolina. He said no, he had to do it himself.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in combat positions in the current military?

BH:

I feel rather strongly—

[End Side A, Begin Side B]

BH:

It's a little hard for me to explain, but the job itself and the controlling physical requirements are what I would think would be more important than whether it was a man or a women. There are some difficulties in providing facilities for both women and men, and that's just practical understanding of the situation. I don't think it needs to be separated as strictly as it's apt to be done.

HT:

Well, we've covered quite a few things about your military service. Is there anything else you'd like to add about your three years in the navy that we haven't covered?

BH:

Better give me some time to think about it.

HT:

Okay, that's fine. Well, can you tell me a little bit about what your life has been like after you left the military in 1945? I know you got married while you were in the service and you had a couple of children and you moved around a great deal. What kind of work did you do after you left the military?

BH:

Well, I was one of those old-fashioned mothers who thought they should stay home until the children reached a certain point in school. So I did stay home with them, and I did quite a bit of volunteer work. But then I started working in real estate, and I could combine that with being home when the kids came home from school. And I got very interested in library work because we started a library in Oxen Hill, Maryland, Elementary School. They worked it totally voluntarily up there. So I've continued my interest in that by working as a substitute in the library here in Asheville, and I've also worked for bookstores. I was trying to find a business to go into, so I temporarily worked at B. Dalton [bookstore] for a very nice guy, who currently owns Accent on Books [bookstore] in Asheville.

HT:

You had mentioned earlier that you worked for Snelling and Snelling at one time. Was that here in Asheville?

BH:

Yes, I worked for ten years for them.

HT:

In what capacity?

BH:

As a counselor. Mostly men with male jobs, both sales and administrative.

HT:

Did you enjoy that line of work?

BH:

Yes, very much. I didn't make as much money as I wanted to when I really got into it. Ten thousand dollars a year was about maximum you could make, especially if the boss's son was competing with you in the same capacity. [chuckling]

HT:

That always makes it difficult, doesn't it? And so how many years have you lived here in Asheville now, all totaled?

BH:

About forty. And I was very delighted to be coming back to North Carolina, even the mountains. My parents did not like the mountains very much. They lived in the flatland. But they were concerned when I bought some real estate here. They envisioned my having billy goat land. But when they saw the nice flat land that I bought, they were very much in favor of it.

HT:

Well, Mrs. Haggard, I don't have any more questions for you today, but I do appreciate your talking with me about your days at WC, your military service, and even your life afterwards. Again, we appreciate it so much and I just want to thank you again.

BH:

Well, I would like to say that I have always been very close to that school, and I'm so glad that they have continued to be as progressive as they have. And I have been very pleased with the administrative staff that they've been able to get.

HT:

It's a wonderful place, it truly is. Well, again, thank you.

[End of the Interview]