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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Audrey Knyrim Mattern, 1999

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Object ID: WV0043.5.001

Description: Chiefly documents Audrey Knyrim Mattern’s early life in the coal community of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and her service in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve during World War II.

Summary:

Mattern discusses her family and childhood in Hazelton in the 1920s and 1930s in connection with the coal mining and floods in the area. Topics include her education; the effect of the floods on the local communities; the stock market crash in 1929; and her various jobs after high school.

Mattern explains why she joined the Marine Corps in 1943; her lengthy enlistment process; and basic training. Topics pertaining to Camp Lejeune include her arrival; the set-up and layout on the base; living conditions; the daily schedule and regulations; and her adjustment to military life.

She also recalls her assignment at Henderson Hall. Mattern describes her work in the Quartermaster Department checking orders; her supervisor and the office organizational structure; her work schedule; base regulations; the reaction to women in the Marines; hearing Eleanor Roosevelt speak; the difference between VE Day and VJ Day for Marines; and several anecdotes. She also discusses her brother’s death in July 1944 while serving with the army in Europe.

Personal topics include her adjustment to civilian life; how she met her husband in Hazelton after the war; and his son and their children.

Creator: Audrey Knyrim Mattern

Biographical Info: Audrey Knyrim Mattern (1919-2004) of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, worked in the Quartermaster Department with the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve from 1943 to 1945.

Collection: Audrey Knyrim Mattern 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:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project of the university. Today is December 21, a few days before Christmas, 1999. I'm in Jacksonville, North Carolina, at the home of Audrey Mattern this morning.

Ms. Mattern, thank you for sitting down and agreeing to do this interview with us. I'm going to start with you the same simple questions that I ask everybody, and I hope they're not too tough, but that is, where were you born and where did you grow up?

AM:

Well, I was born in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, November 20, 1919.

EE:

And Hazelton is in the northeast corner of the state?

AM:

Yes. At nine o'clock at night.

EE:

How far from [the] Delaware Water Gap?

AM:

Oh, probably seventy miles.

EE:

Well, now, did you have any brothers and sisters?

AM:

I was the oldest of six children.

EE:

Pride of place. I like that.

AM:

Yes. Two brothers and three sisters.

EE:

What did your parents do?

AM:

Well, my mother was a homemaker, and my father was a machinist for the Cranberry Coal Company at the time my parents were married, and then later on, when the collieries and the coal mines started shutting down and doing mostly ground work instead of underground work—although my father never was in the mines. He was a machinist and kept the locks[?] and things like that that went into the mines and other things, and then after that he did some janitorial work for the school district, and then after the YWCA built their building, it was the Young Women's Christian Association, he became their janitor or engineer or whatever.

EE:

Maintenance supervisor I think that—

AM:

Yes, for the building.

EE:

When did he start that work? He started that work before you were born or after?

AM:

Oh, no. That was after I was born. He probably started that in the middle twenties, maybe about '28, '29, somewhere in there.

EE:

Was Hazelton one of those coal communities in Pennsylvania?

AM:

It was more of a coal community. Now, there were a few textile mills that did, you know, underwear. There was one, Geisinger's, that did underwear, and then there was the Duplin. They did a lot of silk weave. That's where my brother, my brother next to me, Frederick, worked, at the Duplin Silk Mills. And then they had different shirt factories, too. But most of it was—you know, it was a lot of mining for years, but then, of course, when the mines—the flood in—was it 1936 in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area—well, not only the flooding, I think it was later that they were taking coal underground, and somehow they went through the ceiling and the Susquehanna River broke in, and that flooded the whole Wyoming Valley. That was the Wilkes-Barre area. And that closed down mostly all underground mining because it all flooded out, you know. It just ran all over the communities.

EE:

Did you graduate from school there in Hazelton?

AM:

Yes. I went to three—first, second, and third grades was at Grant Street Elementary; fourth, fifth, and sixth were at what they called the Broad Street School. At one time that school used to be the high school for Hazel Township, which was a township outside of the city that my uncles graduated from, and they walked all the way from Lattimore, which was another mining community, to that school. That was several miles every day. That was fourth, fifth, and sixth at the Broad Street School. Then junior high school was seventh,eighth, and ninth. That was the Grebey Junior High School in town. We walked everywhere. The only people that ever got bused when I went to school were people that came in from the valleys, that they had to bus in because the schools only went to eighth grade, you know, in the valleys. So then when it came from ninth grade to high school they had to bus them into Hazelton. Otherwise, everybody in the town walked to the schools, and then the high school was built in 1926. That was way up, and it was a huge school. I went there tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Hazel Senior High School, that's what that was called.

EE:

So up until the time the high school was built, school ended in eighth grade, or what—How long was—was it twelve years of high school?

AM:

Oh, yes. We had to go twelve years.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school?

AM:

Yes. I never complained. I enjoyed school.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject?

AM:

Oh, I guess history. There was history through the grades, you know, and up to about ninth grade. Then when you got to high school there was no history. It was more or less social services—or social sciences that took the place of what you would call history.

EE:

Did you have an idea then what it was you wanted to do when you grew up?

AM:

Yes. I was in the commercial because at that time we were what you would almost call in the Depression. I graduated in 1937, just about coming out of it somewhat, and my father, with his income and eight people in the family, I knew there was very little chance of my going on to college at that time. So I decided on the commercial course so that I could get a job, you know, like in a business office or something because I wasn't—I had no mechanical abilities whatsoever, and so that's why I decided that I could do more and better myself with a commercial course than I could with an academic since I knew I wasn't going to go to college, and I wasn't interested in working in the different shirt factories or mills, although I probably would have earned more money.

EE:

So you graduated in '37. Let me ask you because you might remember. Do you remember anything distinctive about the start of the Depression? How did that community get affected by things like the stock market crash? Do you remember anything about the transition? Or were you just so young it didn't—?

AM:

Well, it didn't—that was in 1929.

EE:

You would have just been ten.

AM:

Yes. No, it didn't seem to—well, my father never invested in anything like the stock market so there was no talk of that. Now, my grandparents, my uncles—I think there was only one of them that invested money in the stock market, but he didn't—if he invested, he bought the stock outright. He didn't invest in—what did they call that when they put so much down on it and then hoped it would go up?

EE:

Options and things like that.

AM:

Yes. So whenever he bought stock he bought it outright so he just let it stay there. He didn't have to worry. Bought it on margin. That's when they got in trouble, those that bought on margin and had this big debt, and they lost everything. And some of them had to sell their homes and everything because they had to pay what they owed in. They were demanding the money, and that's why so many were jumping out of windows and killing themselves, too.

EE:

When you finished in '37, did you get a job there in Hazelton?

AM:

Yes. I worked there until I went into the service.

EE:

What kind of work did you do?

AM:

Well, I first started out as a clerk in—I worked for the Charles Store, which is no longer in existence.

EE:

Was it like a department store?

AM:

Yes. Well, not exactly a department store. It was maybe a store something like F.W. Woolworth [Company]. I started out in December of 1937 as a Christmas employee first, and of course, the one thing that amuses me now is we had to do all our adding and subtracting in our head. You didn't have the computers that will tell you how much change to give back. They had to do it—I think that any clerk today that couldn't use a computer and know how much money they had to give back to the people for change, they would be lost. Because if computers go down, they are lost. They couldn't add up—I still, when I—my husband always did his income tax, and when he couldn't do it any longer I took over, and I get a kick out of adding, you know, my stock dividends and all the things, write them all down and add them up by myself and put the answer down. Then I'll use the calculator, and I usually come out right, and at least it keeps me going because I do not own a computer, and I don't think at my age I would ever spend the money, you know, to try to learn it. So I'm going to be—I'll feel out of this world in a couple more years, I'm afraid.

EE:

Well, you started there at Charles Store when you lived at the house still?

AM:

Yes. I lived at home all—

EE:

Until you went into the service?

AM:

Until I went to the service, yes. From Charles I applied—a man advertised for a newspaper advertising person, and I sent in an application. So I was hired for publications associate, and they did a lot of advertising for these weekly newspapers. So I used to—we did some telephone work on promotional—you know, the promotional pages for some cause in the paper, and you would contact people to help sponsor that particular advertisement. Then I had an opportunity to interview a lot of the politicians and get their ads for the papers at election time. So that was interesting. And then, although a lot of times you didn't get to talk to the politician himself, you'd talk to their advertising executive.

EE:

Yes. In '38 Roosevelt was running for reelection.

AM:

Yes, well, this was mostly in the local—you know, the commissioners and the mayors and city offices and county offices, rather than the state or the—now, sometimes the states would send—like the governors would send ads into these papers, and you didn't have to go interview because they wanted the publicity. And then, of course, you would go around to the different businesses and try to get their advertising. So that was interesting. From there I went to the Hazelton Credit Bureau, and that was everybody, you know, stores and businesses and homeowners, when they had rental property, wanting to know what their credit account was like. We did that type of work at the credit bureau. Through that work I got into the office of Aurbach Jewelry Store, and one of the reasons he hired me was because they did a lot of credit work there, people coming in and buying on credit, a dollar down and a dollar a week.

EE:

Layaway and that was it.

AM:

And he figured that I would know some of the people that came in that had bad credit records, which was true. But Mr. Aurbach—it was funny. He was Jewish, and he would let the customers that had—they'd pay ten dollars down if they bought an item. You would get maybe one payment beyond that, and from there on in they never paid. They'd come back a year later. Another kid wanted a bicycle or whatever they wanted, because he handled all kinds of stuff—lamps, bikes, besides jewelry and all the silver, the trays and so forth and so on. I would tell Mr. Aurbach, “They have not made one payment since their last, and they owe hundreds of dollars.” He would sell them the item. “Oh, they'll come around. They'll come around.” And then we had a collector going out to try to collect this money, and he had no luck either. So I guess they just wrote it off, then, at the end of the year to help their taxes, as a loss. So I had the credit bureau experience, but it didn't do much good because he—

EE:

Because he wasn't going to take advantage of it.

AM:

As long as it was a sale. That was the important thing, making a sale, whether they ever paid for it or not.

EE:

That's an interesting way to run a business.

AM:

Yes.

EE:

So were you working at that store, then, at the time you joined the service?

AM:

I was working there at the time I went in service, yes. I started there in—let's see. I started there, I think, around 1940.

EE:

That's about the time, I guess, we were starting to talk in our country about starting the draft because they just started the war in Europe and people were getting quite nervous. Do you remember any concern about that?

AM:

Well, I was going to say, when I was still in high school in '36, I guess, our civics teacher, Mr. Ringlaben, kept telling us and telling us that the war in Europe would eventually affect us, that somehow or other we would get into it, and of course, that was so far way across the ocean. You know, we listened and that but we didn't take too much stock in the fact that it would even happen. Then, of course, when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December of '41, I think, my best friend, a girlfriend I had, she had gone to nursing school after the service, and of course, then she went into the army as an army nurse, and she was stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. So on my vacation time that year I went down to Fort Lee, and what a time trying to get there. From Hazelton, of course, we'd have to travel by train, and I spent a week. She got me a room in a boarding home in town because the base was out of town. Then when she worked through the day I did things on my own, and then we'd get together at the end of the day and have dinner and things. So that was my first experience of being on an Army base. Then I came back and we corresponded, and eventually she was sent overseas and mostly in Germany. Then, when the services started taking women, the WACs [Women's Army Corps] and the navy, and then, of course, my brother—he was in the army then because he was drafted early—Frederick, and I said, well, if the Marine Corps ever started taking women, I would enlist.

EE:

Now, why did you have a fancy for the Marine Corps?

AM:

Well, I always thought the Marine Corps had a higher standard than all the rest of the services. They had a better reputation. I don't know where I got it from, but that's the way I always felt about the Marine Corps, that they were specialists.

EE:

Your dad had not been in the service?

AM:

No. My father was never in the service. In fact, in World War I he got the flu that killed so many people, and he lost his hair. He was practically bald most of his life. That's what they claimed, that the flu had a lot to do with it.

EE:

In your household, did your thinking about military change with Pearl Harbor? It sounds like it changed the first time you went to see your friend after Pearl Harbor.

AM:

No. Pearl Harbor, we thought it was a tragedy, and, of course, immediately Roosevelt announced world war, and of course, a lot of our troops went to Germany beside those that went to Japan.

EE:

Were any of the people that you knew being drafted into service? You said that your brother was drafted early. When was he drafted?

AM:

Well, he was drafted late in '41, sometime in '41. I'm not sure of the date. He was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. I don't recall if that was the only place. But then he was sent overseas, and he was in the South African—

EE:

That's where they were first stationed before going to North Africa.

AM:

Yes. North Africa. I think he was there over a year or more, but anyway, he got malaria. Then, after he had malaria, they shipped him to England, first for R&R [rest and recuperation], but then they kept him there, and then eventually he was in the D-Day invasion. Then he was killed when a mortar shell came over on July 1 of 1944. In the meantime, when the Marine Corps accepted women—and that was announced in February—we didn't have a recruiting office right in Hazelton, you had to go to Wilkes-Barre someplace. I sent a letter in to Philadelphia, I think.

EE:

This was February of '43.

AM:

Well, no. It was sometime in March that I sent an application to enlist, and in May I got a letter and I was to go to Philadelphia for a health examination and aptitude test.

EE:

Your brother was drafted. He didn't have to join. What did your family feel about you joining the service?

AM:

Well, he didn't object to going in, though, my brother, even though he was drafted.

EE:

But how did your family feel about a woman, you?

AM:

Well, they weren't too happy about it, but after all, I was twenty-three years old.

EE:

And out on your own.

AM:

I had lived at home and paid board every week and that because my family needed. I wasn't lucky enough to say, well, you can keep all of your salary. I paid a dollar a day, that was seven dollars a week, you know, toward my room and board at home, because your salary in those days was twelve or fifteen dollars a week.

EE:

That's a pretty fair chunk, right there, for board.

AM:

Yes. So I kept saying, you know, eventually, that if the Marine Corps took women I would join, and of course, my mother didn't make too much of a fuss until I got serious about it, and then she was concerned. Then I finally said, “Well, Mom, I'm twenty-three years old, and it'll give me an opportunity to get out and see something of the country.” So I went to Philadelphia, and I had my physical, and I took the aptitude test.

Late in the afternoon one of the doctors came, and he said, “Miss Knyrim,” he said, “Did you know you have a heart murmur?” He knew by the expression on my face of surprise that I did not know I had a heart murmur. He said, “Oh, listen, don't get excited.” He said, “It's not enough to hinder you from being accepted into the service.” So he said, “Just forget about it.” I passed everything, and they swore me in, and they told me I would hear from them in about two to three or four weeks. Well, this was the early part of May. I think it was around the fifth of May when I went to this examination and aptitude test.

I got time off from my job to go down there because they knew that I was enlisting, and so I waited all of June and part of July, I guess, the second week in July or so. Of course, at work all I was hearing was, “Oh, they don't want you. They don't want you,” because it was over when they said they would notify me.

So finally in the middle of July I received a letter to be at Union Station on August 3 by 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon. I think—I'm not sure but I think they did send the train tickets, you know, the tickets for me to get from Hazelton to Washington, D.C. I had to go to Philadelphia, and then I had to change trains and stations because it was the Lehigh Valley Railroad that came into Philadelphia and then from Philadelphia I had to go from—I forget what station it was. I know it was off Broad Street—down to the 30th Street Station to pick up the train that ran between Washington and New York, that stopped in Philadelphia.

So we came into Union Station. I guess I got in there about three o'clock. Well, there was a section in the station, at Union Station, that we had to meet, and, oh, there's a mob of women because they brought them in from all over, and the reason for the delay was they had so many. The [U.S.] Navy trained at Hunter College as well as the first women of the Marine Corps. With all the enlistees of women in the navy, it filled up the recruiting and the instruction that was being done for the navy, but there was no room for the Marines. So they decided to send the Marine Corps women to Camp Lejeune for boot camp.

EE:

Was that the first time they were sending women to Lejeune?

AM:

I think we were the third group to come into Camp Lejeune, like the third battalion to come in. I think there were two battalions that started out toward the end of July, and we would have come in on the fourth of August with a train ride out of Washington after four o'clock. I think it was about 5:00 o'clock after we started out, and we got into the yards where the trains came in there at Lejeune, and then they had buses there to bus us into the Area 1 where we were to have our boot camp and the barracks.

EE:

Let me ask you one other question about—you did not have any other girlfriends who joined the service, or did you?

AM:

No. In fact, as far as I know, at the time of World War II, I was the only woman from Hazelton that was in the Marine Corps.

EE:

Did they make a big deal about it in the paper?

AM:

There was some publicity, but that was—I think more was later, when I was promoted to corporal and sergeant. There was more publicity then than when I enlisted because I didn't make a fuss about it and nobody hardly knew it.

EE:

Well, I know that many women say they did play it up quite a lot because they were trying to get women for that.

AM:

Yes. Well, of course, there were a number of women, I think, from Hazelton who were in the WACs because they were the first, I think, to take women, and then the [U.S.] Navy followed suit, and then finally the Marine Corps gave in after, I think, a lot of pressure. Of course, the Marines themselves were not happy that we came in to take their desk jobs and put them out in the field.

EE:

They said, “Free a Marine to Fight,” and that wasn't exactly the most popular thing, was it?

AM:

No, not in the Marine Corps, not as far as the men were concerned.

EE:

Well, what do you remember about basic training?

AM:

Well, before we get to basic training, the thing that really shocked me—We went into Area 1, which, as far as the way we understood it or were told, had been a parachute unit that was in there, and of course, when they would go up and jump, a lot of them, depending on the wind, would end up out in the ocean, and they'd have to go and rescue them. So they realized they had to send them inland further. So when they sent them inland further, then that opened up that area—that was all men—for the women to come in and use that area for basic training. I think that was the delay from the time I enlisted until August, almost two months, almost by the day, to get started because they had to get it organized. Well, after that overnight train ride to North Carolina—it was August, so you know how—

EE:

August here is not a good time.

AM:

And Hazelton was up on top of a mountain. We had some heat, but we didn't have the humidity and the oppressive heat that you have here in North Carolina. So the first thing everybody wanted to do when they got in the barracks was get a shower. Well, even in high school, for gym classes you had individual showers and got outside the shower with a closed-in area with a bench and that you could sit down to get dressed and so forth.

Well, men's shower rooms were one big room with all these shower heads sticking out of the wall. Well, that was the first time that I ever had to take a shower out in the open with a half a dozen other women at the same time, and it shocked me something terrible at first. I thought, well, everybody else is doing it so you just might as well forget about it. I was so anxious for a shower that I didn't care. We were all women, so—but that was the biggest shock as far as I was concerned in the service. So we were happy after boot camp. We got used to it, but then after boot camp when we were sent to Washington, D.C., and had a shower room with a cover and individual showers, that was heaven.

Well, we had bugle call—I think it was around 6:00 in the morning, and then we had to put on our exercise suits and go out in the areas in front of the barracks and do the exercise, you know, the arms and the jumping and so forth. Then we came in and went to chow. Then I think the first thing in the morning was always drill.

EE:

Were your drill instructors men or women?

AM:

Men. All our drill sergeants were men. Of course, they were going to get a big kick out of women falling all over their feet because they were so used to the men getting all mixed up, and they found out that the women were a lot better at teaching how to march than the men were.

EE:

They were willing to be taught. Men were too obstinate.

AM:

Well, of course, a lot of girls took dancing lessons and things like that. A boy, that was the last thing they would ever do. When I was first married and my stepson was about nine years old and I got called—they had schools wanting Ricky to come to dancing class, that was the last thing in the world that I would even think. Dick said, “Well, if he wants to go, fine, but if he doesn't want to go, I'm not pushing it.” So Ricky never went to dancing school. But the drill sergeants found out that it was much easier to train the women than it was some of the men.

EE:

And did they give you the same tough language?

AM:

Oh, yes, the hup hup and so forth and so on. Now, the drill sergeants that I had in our group were pretty nice. I wouldn't complain about them. They did quite well.

EE:

Were your other teachers for your other courses, were they women or men?

AM:

Some were women. Some of them were the women lieutenants, and then there were others that—

EE:

Of course, you were the third group. They may not have had enough women officers.

AM:

Well, I was going to say—yes, because some of them were up at—what school was that in Massachusetts where they trained the women? [Mount] Holyoke, I think, was where they trained the Marine officers. We had some women classroom teachers and then when we had map reading and things like that, we had men. It depended on the different subjects.

EE:

You talked about going down to see your friend in D.C. for a week before—

AM:

Oh, no, Fort Lee, Virginia. Well, that sort of got me interested.

EE:

Was that your first big trip, though, away from home?

AM:

Yes, on my own. As a child growing up, my grandparents did have a car, and I went to Gettysburg Battlefield with them, Niagara Falls— because I was the oldest, and so I got a lot of trips in as a girl growing up, you know, between twelve and fifteen, somewhere in there. Then my brothers and sisters missed all that.

EE:

Well, that kind of put the wanderlust in you, though. You probably wanted to travel.

AM:

Yes. I liked to travel, and I didn't get homesick.

EE:

So you weren't homesick at basic, then?

AM:

No, I was never homesick. Of course, as I grew up, too, because my father worked for the YWCA, they used to run day camps in the summertime out to Sleepy Hollow area down in the valley, because Hazelton was claimed as the highest city in Pennsylvania because we were on the top of the mountain. I think that was like eighteen hundred feet. Well then when I got into North Carolina then, thirty-five thousand now. Big difference when they talk about mountains. I used to go to day camp.

Then they also sponsored camp in the summertime down in Pottsville, [Pennsylvania], Camp Chickagamee on Arrowhead Lake. That's where we used to do the swimming. I went there a couple summers for a week at a time so I knew what it was like to make your hospital corners, as they called the beds, and make up your beds and things like that.

EE:

So that prepared you for the white glove treatment in the military.

AM:

That was a little bit of a help after I got into the service, sleeping in bunk beds, although we had single bunk beds. We didn't have the double like we had in the service. Now, in boot camp I think they were all single. It wasn't until we got to Henderson Hall [Arlington, Virginia] that we had the double bunks.

EE:

When you joined the service did they give you an option or tell you what kind of work you would be doing?

AM:

No. Well, you took aptitude tests.

EE:

Because I know the services were very particular in limiting what women could do at first.

AM:

Yes. Well, they were limited in the things that they could take.

EE:

Did they do parachute rigging in the Women's Reserve?

AM:

Yes, because we had a class in that. Now, I don't know when they might have brought that in, but they did have a class and emphasized the fact that if you were a paratrooper you had to fold your own chute because nobody would be responsible if it didn't open but yourself, that somebody else couldn't be blamed. They showed us how to do it, you know, how you would do it, but women wouldn't be paratroopers in that day and age. They may be now, but there was no way that they could do that in World War II.

EE:

Did freeing a Marine to fight play a big role for you, or was it, when you joined, simply a chance to do something and to go to someplace new?

AM:

Well, I mean, I was mostly interested in trying to serve, help out, and that was the idea, to relieve men of their office jobs, especially in places like Headquarters Company.

EE:

The men wouldn't like it. Did you ever feel guilty that you might have been doing something that freed a man to fight?

AM:

No, because I felt that they were needed in that area and that we had come in to do that service.

EE:

Well, now, tell me, you left basic, and was your first assignment up to Henderson Hall?

AM:

Yes, in Washington, D.C. You know, you had three choices as to where you might want to be stationed. Well, according to my aptitude test, I was not mechanical, and I could tell them that before I even took a test. There was no mechanical ability in my system at all, and I had always done commercial work. I wasn't sure where I would be sent. I went through boot camp without ever serving KP [kitchen patrol duty].

EE:

Never had to peel potatoes?

AM:

Nothing like that. I don't know how I managed it, but I was never called up for KP duty.

EE:

Don't brag about that too much. They might grab you back or something.

AM:

Yes. I never had KP. Now, we did have guard duty toward the end of like the third week of boot camp.

EE:

Well, did you get to express a preference for, say, where in the country you wanted to be stationed?

AM:

Well, my first choice was California, of course.

EE:

You and everybody else.

AM:

Yes, I know. That's it. My last choice was Washington, D.C., and I'm not sure what the middle choice might have been. Maybe somewhere in the Midwest I might have selected. I can't remember that anymore. But I know my first choice was California, and my last choice was Washington, D.C. Of course, I got Washington, D.C. I was disappointed when I got my orders to Washington, but after being there and I could get home on holidays and things like that, and the opportunities that were in Washington, you know, the museums and so many things that you could—on weekends, when you had time off. And right behind Arlington Cemetery—

EE:

All the big bands coming through.

AM:

Yes. And, of course, another thing about being in Washington, when you were downtown there was no saluting of officers. In fact, the officers themselves requested that the enlisted people be told saluting—because they'd have gone walking down the street—

EE:

Constantly saluting. That's right.

AM:

Yes. And I don't know how long it took them to realize that, but it didn't take them long, [and] we were notified that the only place we had to salute the officer was on base, Henderson Hall.

EE:

After you finished boot camp, you say you worked in quartermaster. Did you have to go to a special school for that?

AM:

No. I was assigned to the Quartermaster Department, and I was in Statistical Department of Quartermaster, and what our department did was check on orders—materials were ordered both locally and some for the war effort, but a lot of it was locally, for the offices and things like that in Washington and close to Washington. We checked on orders that were sent in. They were notified that they had a date to be there, and when they weren't there they would notify our office. Then we would have to call and find out why they weren't there and when it would be delivered, materials. So that's what we did. I didn't know it at the time but my supervisor was a civilian, but she had been in World War I when she was a young girl, and I didn't know that.

EE:

Was she in the Marines or in the [U.S.] Navy?

AM:

No, in the Marine Corps.

EE:

There was only about three hundred Women Marines.

AM:

I know. Well, she was one of them. But she never said that she had served in the Marine Corps during World War I. I just assumed she was a civil service employee employed by the government. I didn't know that until after I was out for years and joined the Women Marines Association, and they had an article in about World War I, and they had some of the women listed that had been in the service and worked at Navy Headquarters in Arlington, and there I saw her name, Alma B. Swope. Now, the one thing that she did do, and of course I didn't realize that maybe that had helped as far as being promoted was concerned—I worked in her department, I guess, about two months when there was a rating came around and I went from a private first class to corporal.

EE:

Pretty quick turnaround.

AM:

Yes. And after all, fifty-four to sixty-six dollars, that was a lot of money when that was actually clear money, you might say. Then about three or four months later, when another rating came around to judge your work and things, she put my name in for sergeant, and I was promoted to sergeant. I think when I was promoted to corporal and promoted to sergeant, they were the two times that there was anything in the paper at home.

EE:

That's pretty quick.

AM:

Yes. Then I stayed a sergeant all the way through.

EE:

Were you working at Henderson Hall, then, that same job all the time that you were in service?

AM:

Yes. I had that same job all the way through, from September—what we did is we got there in September right after Labor Day, and I guess it might have been the first two months we got extra stipulation because we had—

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

EE:

—the dormitories were new—

AM:

Oh, yes.

EE:

—and they had not finished the—

AM:

Yes, they were brand new.

EE:

You were talking beforehand, there were six barracks, eight, I guess, altogether, when you turned the corner, six barracks and you had the bachelors' quarters.

AM:

Yes. And then the administration building and infirmary, that was there, too. All the barracks and that were there.

EE:

And all the women who were stationed there at Henderson Hall worked at the Navy Annex one way or the other.

AM:

Yes, as far as I know.

EE:

And was that the Marine Corps headquarters at that time as well?

AM:

The only ones that didn't work at whatyoucallit were those that were in transport, Motor Transport, because there were some women in Motor Transport.

EE:

And Navy Annex was the location of the Marine Corps headquarters at that time?

AM:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

So the commandant was there?

AM:

Yes. And that was right across from Arlington [National] Cemetery.

EE:

Yes, I've seen pictures of [unclear].

AM:

Yes. Yes, it did. Now, Colonel [L.H.M.] Sanderson was the head of the quartermaster in our section, and before the end of the war, I think it was in early '45, he got the rank of general. I forget, but what is the lowest rank of general?

EE:

Brigadier, one star?

AM:

Yes, I guess it was brigadier general. He was raised from colonel to brigadier general before the end of World War II. But he had been a retired officer and was called back, which most of the desk people that were there in the offices, you know, that were head of the different departments—like there was one department called Local Purchase that—I don't remember the—but he was a major. He was too young to have been in World War I, but he had a desk job even though he was—he wasn't replaced by any woman. There were a number of men, you know, officers, that did have desk jobs.

EE:

Miss Swope was your day-to-day supervisor?

AM:

Swope, yes.

EE:

And she was a civil service employee?

AM:

Yes. She was a civil service employee at that time.

EE:

Were there higher-ups within the Marine Corps, women, who assigned you your day-to-day tasks, or was it the civil service employee, Miss Swope?

AM:

She was the head of our department.

EE:

In the way the assignments worked, did you have any supervisory capacities, too, in addition to your work?

AM:

No, not really. No. She supervised our work, and right next to us was Transportation. Now, that was another civil service employee that had never been in the service. I can't think of her name. Beside Miss Swope there were four other people in our department. There was one Marine sergeant, a man, and I think he had some health problems, that he could serve, you know, in the job that he had. He did the same work I did. He was from North Carolina, and I had the hardest time understanding him with that Southern twang, you know.

EE:

Well, the women that you went to boot camp with, were there a lot of Southerners, or were most of them—

AM:

Oh, in boot camp the women were from all over. They were from all over the country.

EE:

Who were your bunkmates, your roommates, at Henderson Hall?

AM:

Now, you know, at boot camp there's only one girl I can remember by name, Grace Plimpton, and after we left boot camp I don't know where she was assigned. I don't recall where she was assigned. I didn't have an address for her, but she's on one of the pictures that I had, and she's the—well, there might have been some other names, but I lost track of practically—and didn't run across anyone that was close to me as far as a bunk mate was concerned that you were familiar with except Grace Plimpton. That's the only name that I can remember. As I said, after boot camp she went to a different area. She wasn't in Washington, D.C. I don't know where she went.

EE:

Well, when you were at Henderson Hall, were most of the women that were stationed there about your age? Were they older or younger?

AM:

Oh, some were younger. Some of them had come in, you know, right out of high school, and some of them did have jobs. Well, now, that wasn't in boot camp, but later on, in Washington, D.C., there were a couple of women that had just gotten in within the thirty-five year age limit.

EE:

You couldn't be over—

AM:

Thirty-five was the oldest.

EE:

And twenty was the youngest you could be? You could be twenty with a parent's signature and join, right?

AM:

Yes.

EE:

I think the Marine Corps was younger than the other services.

AM:

Later on, of course, you could come right in out of high school, but at that time—well, I think you could be eighteen to enlist without your parents' signature, and of course, they wouldn't take anyone even with a parent's signature if they weren't eighteen. Now, it could have been, like you said, twenty. I'm not positive about that. I didn't worry about that because I knew I was eligible at twenty-three.

EE:

Well, now, the day-to-day work doesn't sound like it involved physical danger in and of itself, but were you ever afraid, being off in the big city around basically strangers when you were assigned to this service?

AM:

Back in those days you didn't have to worry about walking the streets at night like you do today. Now, there might have been some places, you know what I mean, in maybe the colored section of Washington, D.C., that I was never in, but I didn't even know they had a colored section because we weren't in that section.

EE:

And when you were in you weren't integrated. Later the military does integrate.

AM:

Yes, but I was going say there weren't any blacks in our battalion that I can remember, not during World War II. Now, they did have some black units at Camp Lejeune at the time, because at the end of our boot camp, the last Sunday that we were there, we were all bused to the beach. That was the first time I ever saw nice white sand back then. Now it's sand like sand should be, but it seemed so white to me back in '43 compared to the New Jersey sand.

EE:

Yes. The Jersey shore is a different experience.

AM:

Yes. It's a different type of ocean, too.

EE:

That's right.

AM:

Of course, I didn't find that out until after I was married and we went to Atlantic City, how cold the water is there in comparison to North Carolina. The last Sunday we were bused down to the beach, and of course, we had to wear our tan exercise suits over our bathing suits because Oslo Beach had no bathhouses and things like that. It was nothing but sand and beach. There was no buildings at all. Way down the beach from us there was a section where the blacks were. They had their own section of beach. Then all the whites were up at this—and of course, that was one time where the men and the women—that the men were at the beach the same time the women were, and the only other time we came in contact with any of the troops that were stationed there and had already gone through their boot training was the graduation from boot camp dance.

One of the girls I graduated with in high school, Mildred Thomas, she had a brother, Albert Thomas, and he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, and she got in touch with him and told him I was there at boot camp. So he called me. There was no way we could get together as far as him meeting me because we weren't allowed out of our area—the church was there, the PX was there—except at this dance. So when he called me we made arrangements to meet at the dance. I knew who he was because I knew him from the family because he graduated in 1934 from high school and I graduated in 1937, but I knew Mildred's brother, I knew what he looked like, but he didn't know me from a hill of beans. When the buses took us over to the gymnasium or field house—I don't know. I know it was a great big building. I guess it was the field house—I saw this mass of men, and the first thing that went through my head was, how in the name of heaven am I ever going to find Alfred Thomas?

Fortunately, he stayed close to the entrance, and I got in a little bit further and I started looking around, and there he was standing with two or three other men talking. So I just went over and introduced myself. But that was pure luck. I was lucky for one thing. He told me on the phone that he didn't know me, and I said, “Well, I do know you because I remember from Mildred and seeing you in town.” He said, “Then we'll have to depend on you finding me rather than me trying to find you.” So I walked over and tapped him on the arm and then told him who I was. So we did dance some, but we sat and talked most of the evening, and then, of course, the buses picked us up and brought us back to the barracks.

EE:

When you were working at Henderson Hall, did you work with men?

AM:

No. We only had one man in our office, one Marine in our office, that was in uniform. And, of course, the other women were all in uniform.

EE:

As we talked about before, not all men were really enthusiastic about women being in the service to begin with.

AM:

Well, they still aren't today.

EE:

But when you were out in public and wearing the uniform, were you treated with respect by the other men in service?

AM:

Most of them. Once in a while, if you were on the street or sometime, some other men Marines would turn around and say, “Another BAM.” You know what that meant [“Broad Ass Marine”]. And we used to say, “You mean Beautiful American Marine?”

EE:

Of course. So you didn't have to put up with that kind of stuff on a daily basis?

AM:

Oh, no. I mean, occasionally you would hear some snide remarks, you know. The Marine that was in our office was respectful, and we never had a problem.

EE:

Was there an effort by your superiors—did they tell you about “Girls, watch how you present yourself because people—there are rumors out there, we don't want to give them anything?”

AM:

No. They didn't say too much about rumors. We had rules and regulations. If you were pregnant, if you got yourself pregnant, you were out, no excuses. You were out. And you weren't supposed to be married or had to get special permission to be married in the service. Now, one of the girls—she lived in Wyoming after the war, I'm not sure what state she was from but I know it wasn't Pennsylvania—was married over in Maryland to an army man that she met while she was in Washington, and they were married in Maryland, and I don't know that she ever asked permission.

They arranged this all incognito because she still went by Jo Cosar. But if you did that and kept it quiet—because he was in the army and wasn't on the base or anything and they could get together weekends because you were free to go out, you know, nights. You had, I think it was, an 11:00 o'clock curfew through the week and then one o'clock at the latest on weekends, like Saturday night and Sunday night. During working hours eleven o'clock was the limit. You had to be back on base or get a special pass if you were going to be late.

EE:

Did you work five days a week or six days?

AM:

We worked six days.

EE:

Six days eight [o'clock] to five [o'clock]?

AM:

Yes. We worked Saturdays most of the time.

EE:

When you were off work, was everybody sort of on their own socializing when they got through?

AM:

Yes. That's what I said. After being in Washington I appreciated much more, especially when you would—Girls, if they would come in from other bases or something and talk about all the restrictions that they had on base, we were far more free. It was almost like just working in an office—

EE:

A regular job, just coming home to a group home.

AM:

That's right. And the other thing they got away with that would never happen on base, there were often more officers from other services, like the army or navy or something, that would be picking up dates in the barracks. And, of course, with our barracks, they passed the BOQ [Bachelor Officers' Quarters]. They had a two-story and ours was a one-story. The women officers used to get mad because here were all these officers coming in and dating the enlisted people and they weren't being dated.

EE:

Well, I didn't think you could fraternize with an officer as an enlisted person.

AM:

Well, you weren't supposed to but they got away with it.

EE:

I guess it was because there were so many officers.

AM:

That's right.

EE:

But you couldn't go to an officers club with an officer.

AM:

Yes, that was true. They went out to one of the clubs in town and the movies or whatever, you know, on a date, out to dinner someplace or a restaurant.

EE:

During your time in service what was the hardest thing for you, either physically or emotionally?

AM:

Well, one of the hardest things was, in July, it was a Sunday afternoon—they put in a swimming pool behind our barracks, and I was out at the pool when one of the girls came out and said, “Audrey, Lieutenant Lill wants to see you in the office,” and I thought, “Oh, heavens. What did I do wrong?” because I was never called in or never had to do any extra duty, you know, get down and scrub the floor with a toothbrush and stuff like that. I thought, “Gee, what happened?” Then when she got in she told me that the Red Cross had notified her that my brother had been killed in France on July 1, and I think this was about the third of July till they got word to me, and then they gave me a ten-day leave of absence.

EE:

Did you know that he had been over there in the D-Day invasion?

AM:

Yes. We knew he was over there, and the last time he was home before he was shipped to England, my father said later that he told him that for some reason he had a feeling he would never return. What had happened, he drove a—I don't know what the millimeter of gun was—and they had bivouacked for the night. He was sitting by a tree with his back to the trunk, and a mortar shell, they said, came over, and it was a direct hit.

EE:

Probably trying to knock out the gun and instead hit him.

AM:

Yes. I don't know where they might have parked the guns and that, but apparently they knew that they were in that area, and they sent over this mortar shell. That's what a fellow that was in his outfit—when he returned he called my parents. He was from Ohio. He called my parents and said he'd like to see them.

So then Mother invited him to have dinner, and I think he had already made arrangements to stay. Our house wasn't large enough with everybody home to accommodate him as far as sleeping was concerned anyway. But he had already made arrangements to stay at a hotel in town because we didn't have motels like they have now. We had two hotels—well, I guess there was three in town, and I don't remember which one he might have stayed at. There's no hotels in Hazelton now anymore. They've either been turned into retirement homes or something, but everything is motels now up there anymore, and most of them are on the outskirts of town. You have to have a car to get there. So that was the hardest thing that was there.

EE:

Did it make you want to leave the service?

AM:

No. It didn't do that because, I mean, it was things that happened and there wasn't much you could do about it. I just felt if the Lord wanted him more than we did, and if things will happen, they'll happen. I don't know. A Presbyterian, they say, is a fatalist. If it's going to happen, it'll happen, and you'll be there at the time.

EE:

That's right.

AM:

So that's kind of the way I feel, especially every time I have to fly. I don't mind flying, but I'm always a little bit anxious, you know, when I do.

EE:

When did you actually get out?

AM:

I served twenty-six months.

EE:

So you left in fall of '45?

AM:

I left in the fall of '43, and October 6 of 1945 we were discharged. See, those that came in first were the first to be discharged. Of course, then you served that much less time, too. The later you came in, then you were in a little bit longer until they finally discharged you. And, of course, I did ask. I did inquire was there any way of staying in the service.

EE:

So you were interested in making it a career maybe?

AM:

Yes, I probably would have. They said, “No, you have to be discharged.” The only way would be to take a civil service examination and apply for a civil service job and ask to come back to Washington. I did take the civil service exam and passed it, but I never followed it through then. Now, when Japan surrendered—

EE:

Which nobody really expected.

AM:

That's right.

EE:

Everybody thought it was the bomb.

AM:

The atomic bombs, that's what brought that on, because everybody was worried if they would have had to invade Japan about the loss of life because they knew how tough it was fighting them, you know, on the different islands. So people might have criticized Truman for allowing it to be done, but that was the quickest—and, of course, that way some of the Japanese people that didn't have anything to do with the war suffered, but we could have lost just as many men if we would have had to invade.

So I never was critical of Truman's decision. After the first one, it didn't seem to bother them. It took the second one for them to really—and probably figured that, well, if they didn't surrender, we would wipe out Japan. When they declared the end of the war everybody was downtown celebrating, but in our office we worked.

EE:

This was early in the day, the afternoon? When did you get this?

AM:

The day and early in the night. As I say, a lot of them were celebrating. We were at the office working because we had to call right there and cancel all outstanding orders that weren't delivered. So some of these companies, I guess, had a fit because they lost a lot of money at that particular time. But I worked two or three nights till we got everything covered. So I wasn't downtown drinking out of bottles with all the guys and being kissed and stuff like that. So I missed all the excitement that way.

EE:

But it was a nice feeling to have it over, though, wasn't it?

AM:

Oh, yes. In fact, I wasn't sorry that I missed it when some of them said what a mob it was and everything breaking loose.

EE:

Was there a celebration at all at VE Day earlier that spring, when the Germans surrendered?

AM:

No. That was great that German was—but with the Marine Corps, we were mostly in the Pacific. So that didn't have an effect as far as the office work. Things continued. And because of that, too, there wasn't the celebration, because it wasn't the end of the war. It was Germany's surrender, but we still were in war. So that didn't have that much effect. I mean, everyone was glad that Germany had surrendered.

EE:

Right. That's an interesting perspective. It didn't really affect the Marines?

AM:

No. Now, I was going to say, any of the Army people that might have been stationed there, you know, probably celebrated a little more, that were more in the European theater than the Marines. Everybody was glad that at least Germany had surrendered anyway, because then that concentration would be in the Pacific.

EE:

You talked about you weren't critical of Truman. The fact that President Roosevelt died so close to the end of the war was bittersweet. Where were you when you heard about it?

AM:

Well, me and two friends that were in the service—they all worked in different departments than I. I was the only one in Quartermaster. I forget what departments they were in, but they were in different departments but they were still in our barracks. They worked in different departments on different floors. Since we could get home—one was from Schenectady, New York, one was from New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey, and then I was from Pennsylvania, we decided to take a week and go down to Florida.

We stayed in a small, three-story hotel, and it was one of those that didn't allow Jewish people, and they had the sign out front. I don't remember how it was worded anymore. Probably that small hotel was demolished and a great big one put in in its place. But we were there when we came in from being on the beach, and someone in the office said, “Girls, do you know your commander-in-chief has passed away?” That was the first that we knew. Then, of course, we were on vacation so we didn't have to come back to Washington so we didn't participate in any of the parades that they had and that because they had those before we got back.

It was the early part of the week when it happened, and we didn't have to get back until Sunday. Of course, we all traveled by train. I know when I used to come home on leave or if I came home for a week or something, the gas coupons and all that I used to get and then give to my uncle and then special things that you could pick up for—butter and some of the hard things to get, sugar and all that, I would give my mother. I could go to the—

EE:

Go to the PX [post exchange] and get—

AM:

Well, no, not the PX but a service place in town where, when you were home, they would give you the gas coupons and other things that were hard to get, and then I would give them to Mother and then hope that when you could get butter, when it was announced that you could get butter at one of the stores, you wouldn't run out right before you got to getting it.

EE:

How did you feel about President Roosevelt or his wife, Mrs. Roosevelt, who certainly was a—

AM:

Oh, she spoke for the navy, and of course we were notified. It seems to me I was alone. I decided that I wanted to hear her, and I went out. We had to take a bus and trolley car. It was way out in Washington someplace. But she was there and spoke to the navy, and I was impressed by her. I really was. I think she helped to forward women's—

EE:

She certainly was not a shrinking violet, was she?

AM:

No. And she wasn't that good looking, but she did have personality, and looks didn't seem to bother anyone. And, of course, back then, you know, women were dressed and always wore hats and things then. But no, she was a very good speaker, and I was very impressed with her. I was so glad I went because so many turned their nose up when I tried to find somebody who would go with me.

EE:

So many folks have told me that they thought that the country was a more patriotic place then than it's ever been.

AM:

Oh, yes. Well, I think that's true. I think that's true.

EE:

Did you ever know anyone or did you yourself ever have fears that we maybe would not win the war?

AM:

No, I never thought that, because being the United States, it might take a while but eventually we would succeed.

EE:

You talked about when you first go to boot camp. When you join the service, no matter whether it's during the Second World War or today, you're thrown in with people from all over, all different backgrounds—religious, ethnic,—and when that happens there are bound to be some characters that make a memorable impression on you. Is there anyone who stands out in your mind, either in a funny way or—

AM:

There were a lot of girls that had good humor. I don't remember all the names because we had double bunks—you came in a center door, and our squad room probably held seventy-five, at least seventy-five women, at least that. It might have been more. Double bunks on both sides of the one half, double bunks this way. Not on our end but down on the other end—now, I knew the girls from being in the barracks and in our squad room and knew some names. There are some that I don't remember.

I know there was one girl in the lower part of the squad room that, apparently, wasn't the type that wanted to take a lot of showers, because I know one night—they were talking about it after it happened—a group of the girls just took her into the bathroom and made her take a shower. Of course, there's more than just not taking a shower that might cause body odor, and whether she had a condition or not I don't know and when they admitted her didn't realize she had it, but anyway, they used to complain about her smelling all the time, smelling of perspiration. I guess they kind of noticed, too, that she didn't shower like all the rest of them. So this one day—I don't remember being in the squad room. I don't know when they did it—but that they got together and they just took her bodily almost and took her in the shower and made her take a shower. That was one incident that I remember.

And then there was another girl a couple of bunks from us—I swear, practically every night in the week she had a date, she was out, and did a lot of drinking, because I remember our barracks, they said, in case of a fire would go up in five minutes. So we had fire drills every so often, maybe about once every two months.

EE:

It's all thrown up with just plank wood, isn't it?

AM:

And always in the middle of the night so you were running out in your pajamas and grab a robe and bedroom slippers, and you had to clear that barracks. And, of course, we—at the end of our squad room it's closer than going out to the center and down the steps. You still had to go down the steps because we were on the second floor. We'd run out the back steps. But this one morning, of course, we had the lights on, and she was sprawled on her bed naked, dead to the world. If there had been a fire, they would have had to pick her up and drag her out with a blanket around her or something. It was surprising but the girls did get along very well together, especially in living quarters. There may have been more—although we didn't have it in our office because there was only two other women plus the sergeant and Alma Swope in our particular section so we didn't have a problem, but there may have been more problems in some of the offices with girls not getting along together than I encountered.

EE:

You left the service in October of '45. What did you do after you got out of the service?

AM:

I came back to my job at the store. I guess that was in '45. I was kind of sorry that I didn't take the chance to go to a business college that was in rooms in the bank building there and take accounting and things like that. I could have got maybe a better job with better salary because things had picked up. I think my salary was fifteen dollars a week when I joined the service, and then, when I came back, I came back at twenty-five a week. Well, in fact, I wrote and said I wouldn't take less than that.

Then I was there until 1948, when two of the girls that I knew went out to Denver, Colorado, after they got out of the service and got jobs out there. So in '48—I think it was October or November. I believe it was October—I left Aurbach's and decided I was going out to Colorado, and I did, and there I got a job in the office at Montgomery Ward and Company. Of course, I had been dating my husband at that time, but he had been married before and divorced and had one son that was nine years.

EE:

Did he live there in Hazelton?

AM:

Yes. He was teaching at the—he came to the college. He taught in the State College High School and then he did some night work for Penn State [Pennsylvania State University] teaching. Then they had asked him whether he would like to come with the university on a steady basis, and of course, he was sort of thinking of the money that he had invested, because from the time that he graduated high school and started teaching in 1930—he was thinking about his pension benefits, because he could collect what he put in and invest it in something else. He gave it some consideration, but then he finally decided that he would join the university.

They had called him. He was still teaching at the high school because nothing had been finalized, but they called him and said they had an emergency. They told him he would be sent to the Altoona campus, which is in almost the middle of the state, and he was waiting for that to develop when they called him and said, “We have an emergency at the Hazelton campus. The chemistry instructor just took off one day and left.” Of course, he left with a lot of credit debts, apparently, and they were getting on his back. “And we need someone immediately at the Hazelton campus. Will you accept that?” So he said yes. So that's how he ended up at the Hazelton campus.

Then it wasn't until 1947 that I met him. He was boarding out while he worked there because his home was still in State College and his children and wife were up there and his mother-in-law. Then in 1946, the end of 1946, he got a telephone call from his wife one night. He had been home that weekend. She said she was in Reno, Nevada, for a divorce. She worked at a radio station in State College owned by another man, and he was her boss, and that's who she got involved with. Of course, my husband, when he went home, he had thought he had heard some rumors, but he had faith in her and he didn't take them seriously.

It was sometime after that that a doctor that was a chiropractor knew the friends of a girl that I was quite close to and friendly with, and he said to her one night, “I'm going to give Dick Mattern Audrey's name to call to go out when he's up to it.” She was supposed to tell me about it, and she never did. So he called me and told me and said that he'd like to meet me and we would go to a movie and then out for a drink or something after that. Of course, I was stunned on the phone, and I said, “Well, no one said anything to me about this, that you were interested.”

He said, “Well, you know Doctor Harvey, don't you?”

I said, “Yes, he's a friend.”

He said, “Well, he is the one that gave me your name.”

So I took a chance and went out, and, of course, it was on and off for quite a while. He called for a date and maybe a month or two would go by before he called for another one. Finally, at the end of 1947, we started dating more steadily. He told his wife, because every time he went home the grandmother that was there for the children while she was out in Reno would have a tale of woe of all the bad things they did all week, and then she expected him to give them a spanking when he got home, and he refused to do it. He said, “If you can't do it then and there, when it happens, it's not going to do any good to give them a spanking now, and they won't even want to see me come home on weekends because they'll know they're going to get spanked.”

So he refused to do it. So he realized that that was going to be a problem if she was working and Grandma Jones was in charge of the children. So he made the stipulation that he wouldn't consent to the divorce unless he had Ricky in his command and would be living with him and going to school. So she gave in. Of course, Ricky was with him anyway. That's how I had a stepson at the time we were married in January of '49. In fact, I had gone out—we were setting wedding dates, I guess, about three times where he'd back down at the last minute because he was kind of shy and wondering if this one would be a failure, too. He was embarrassed because he was the only one in his family that was ever divorced.

EE:

Divorce was a huge thing back then.

AM:

Now if they don't like each other in a year's time, they get a divorce. Or they don't get married at all, they're just living together.

EE:

So you had the one stepson. Did you have any other children?

AM:

Yes. Then I had two of my own: Pamela, that lives here, and then my other son, Charles, and he's like my husband. He'll try anything, plumbing, electricity. He took a chemical technology course because he was interested in the sciences. He'd give me a D English grade, but he'd get A's and B's with anything that had to do with science, and he didn't want to go four years so he took the chemical technical course at Penn State University out in the Hazelton campus.

Pam started out at the Hazelton campus for one year, but then she decided first she was going to go into merchandizing, and then she switched over to speech therapy. Then, on her second year, she'd have to go on to this main campus out at State College because they didn't have all the subjects at the campus that she needed. So then she was at the main campus three years. She graduated in '72.

Then Chuckie, he graduated high school in '69, and I think he graduated by February of '73, because he flunked out on a computer course, of all things, at that time, the technology as far as computers. So he had to repeat that course to get his credit. So instead of graduating like at the end of June, he had to go till February, when he graduated. Then he worked for Air Products Company for several years. Then they cut down—no, they didn't cut down. He got mad about something and quit, but they recommended—the man that he worked for, that was his supervisor, and he got Air Products job through Penn State because they called Penn State and wanted to know could they recommend someone. That's how Air Products got in touch with him. His supervisor, when he quit—I don't know what he quit over, but anyway, his supervisor found out about Earth Resources in Florida wanting a chemical person. So he called Chuck and told—

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

EE:

Have any of your children, have your two children or your—

AM:

Yes, Pamela. She's a speech therapist in Onslow County Schools.

EE:

Have any of them ever expressed any interest in being in the military?

AM:

No. No. No.

EE:

If Pamela had come to you and said, “Mom, I want to join the service,”—

AM:

I'd tell her it was the best thing she could do.

EE:

You would?

AM:

Yes. It was the best thing she could do. Sometimes when you hear the marching bands and that, and I can still—you know, marching in the field and especially toward graduation from boot camp. I'd go in today if I didn't have to—you didn't have to go through—well, the women today have a much, much harder boot camp than we ever did, but ours was short because of the need to get into these jobs for the men. Because today the women do practically the same thing as a man does and can get—

EE:

How do you feel about that? You know, last December, for the first time, America sent a woman combat pilot into action in Iraq. Do you think there's some jobs in the military that women shouldn't be allowed to do?

AM:

No. If they have the ability, I think they should do it. I think right now there's quite a number of women that are flying the same planes that the men were doing, but they don't get too much publicity on it unless there's an accident or something. I don't think they get the credit they should.

The only thing I object to now, and there's no way it could be changed, is all of the single women in the service that become pregnant and can stay in and have two or three children without marriage. I do not approve of that. If they become pregnant they should have the same rules that we had back in World War II: either force a marriage or out you are. Because I think there would be a lot less problems, and especially when you're single. You could have a baby one day and have orders and leave in the next week or two weeks, and there is that small baby, and then you have to make arrangements for Mom and Dad to take care of them.

EE:

When people got called up in the Gulf War, and they thought, “Well, what about my kids?”

AM:

That's their problem, not ours. You're in the service so you make arrangements to—

EE:

That's right. That's at the pleasure of the government. You do what they say.

AM:

That's right. That's right.

EE:

When you look back at your time in the service, do you feel you were able to contribute to the war effort?

AM:

Oh, I think so. Yes. There was a need, and it was for helping out in time of need.

EE:

How do you think the military experience changed your life? Some people say it made them more independent, some people.

AM:

Yes. Yes. All of that. I had the courage to go ahead and do things that I probably would never thought of doing had I never been in the military. I would never hesitate to recommend anyone that is interested. Now, if you're going just to find a husband or something like that, you're going to have a rude awakening. You might find a husband, but if that's your only purpose for going, then I'd say stay out. But if you really feel that you want to make something of it—and today you have the chance to make a whole career out of it because there's no—and even though there's no war, you are in the military for as long as you choose to be. If you want to go through until retirement, that's a choice unless you do something really bad that you'll be court martialed or something like that.

EE:

Is there anything about your time in service that I haven't asked you about that you'd like to add to what we've talked about here today?

AM:

Not too much, except I will say that by being—as much as I didn't want to go there when I was assigned to Washington, D.C., afterward I realized it was the greatest opportunity because I would have never had the chance to see the museums, and most people would frown on spending a lot of time in a cemetery, but many a Sunday afternoon we could just walk across a small street and go in the back gate at Arlington and walk through. General [Robert E.] Lee's mansion was there, and you could be watching the changing of the guard and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There were so many opportunities that, unless they were stationed in a historical area, that missed a lot of what we could take advantage of in Washington, but it took a while to realize that.

EE:

Some things you only realize in hindsight.

AM:

That's right.

EE:

Well, on behalf of the school, I want to say thank you for sitting down and sharing with us today.

AM:

Well, I hope you'll find some of the information useful.

EE:

I think we will, and I'd say you are not the first person I've talked to that was at Henderson Hall so it's going to be interesting.

AM:

Well, the only thing that is a big difference between then and now, too, is the salaries. Seventy-eight dollars a month, and I even had war bonds taken out of every month—there was so much of every month. Maybe it would take two months of what you'd have taken out to buy a war bond, but—

EE:

Yes, I think it's a little better than seventy-eight a month.

Well, again, thank you very much.

AM:

You're welcome.

[End of interview]