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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Eloise Patricia Rallings Lewis, 1999

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Object ID: WV0047.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Eloise Patricia Rallings Lewis’s nursing education; service with the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) and Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II; and her career in nursing education, particularly her tenure as dean of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) from 1966 to 1985.

Summary:

Lewis discusses her own nursing education, describing her father’s reaction to her decision to study nursing; the nursing program at Vanderbilt University; and the academic opportunities for nurses in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She also recalls teaching at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1941 to early 1945.

Lewis provides detailed descriptions of her work with the ANC from April through December 1945 as an assistant director of the Cadet Nurse Corps at the Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Topics include the set-up of the hospital; working with burned and blind patients and the development of plastic surgery; teaching students and working with cadet nurses; and her feelings about the war effort. She also tells stories about several patients.

Lewis comments frequently on the nursing profession and the development of nursing education, including changes in the ANC during World War II, the establishment of the Cadet Nurse Corps in 1943, and various baccalaureate programs in nursing. She also extensively discusses her tenure at UNCG and the success of the baccalaureate program, the addition of master’s and doctoral programs in nursing, and her pride in seeing graduates in good positions and contributing to the nursing profession.

Creator: Eloise Patricia Rallings Lewis

Biographical Info: Eloise Patricia Rallings Lewis (1920-1999) of Pageland, South Carolina, served on the faculty of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and as an assistant director of the Cadet Nurse Corps with the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Lewis served as dean of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) from 1966 to 1985.

Collection: Eloise Rallings Lewis 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:

Hermann Trojanowski:

My name is Hermann Trojanowski and today is March 1, 1999. I'm at the home of Dr. Eloise Lewis in Greensboro, North Carolina, to conduct an oral history interview for the UNCG [University of North Carolina at Greensboro] Women Veterans Historical Project.

Dr. Lewis, if you'd give me your full name, please, we will consider that a test for this recording.

Eloise Lewis:

Eloise Patricia Rallings.

HT:

Thank you so much for talking with me this afternoon. I really appreciate it, it's just so kind of you to do this. First of all, if you could tell me something about your background, please, like where you were born, where you went to high school, and where you went to college and what type of courses you took, and that sort of information, information prior to your entering the military.

EL:

I was born and raised in Pageland, South Carolina, the fourth daughter of a country practitioner in medicine, and our mother was a college speech teacher. We lived in a very rural setting. Daddy's practice was in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, and Union County, North Carolina. The one thing that our parents were insistent upon was that education was the most important thing that you had to work toward. Because you could lose your health, your money, your eyesight or whatever, but a man always needed an education. I went to Pageland Grammar School and Pageland High School, and I graduated in 1936.

In the spring before I graduated, I sat down to talk to my daddy about where I was going to college and what I wanted to do. Sadly for us, our mother had died and left him to raise the children, so that that's why I said I talked to my daddy. Anyway, by the time I finished high school I had just turned sixteen, and he said, “No, baby, you are not going into nursing.” Because I had explained very carefully why I wanted to do that, and he really knew, because he used to let me ride with him. I remember as a small child riding with him when he went on some of his calls. He used the buggy, as that was before we got a model-T Ford. He said, “No, you may not do that. You will go to college like your mother and your sisters, and when you have finished doing that, we will take care of this discussion again.” That meant I would go to Winthrop College, now Winthrop University, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, because my mother and my sisters had gone there. I was admitted in September of 1936. I had the good fortune to have an advisor who was a Vanderbilt University graduate, Dr. [Eloise] Greene. I signed up to do a double-major in biology and history. Dr. Greene knew that I wanted to be a nurse but that my parent had said that was not what he wanted me to do.

At the end of my freshman year, Dr. Greene had gone to summer school at Vanderbilt and came back, after the first day of class said, “I think we have a way to fool your daddy, or at least to convince him that it would be all right for you to do what you want to do, because Vanderbilt is moving toward having the first baccalaureate degree program in the South.” We did not have degree programs that offered a generic baccalaureate nursing degree in the South at that time. So during my sophomore year Dr. Greene helped me with all the things that were necessary. Daddy always just smiled and said, “Well, you go right ahead.” I don't think he really thought that they would take me because I was much younger than the usual student.

I was admitted to Vanderbilt in the fall of 1938. Vanderbilt had a hospital school of nursing, and, like a lot of the big university centers at the time, it had a three-year hospital school program but not a baccalaureate program. I was in that first class and enjoyed it and learned a lot. All the students in the class were with a minimum of two years. Several of my classmates were college graduates. In June 1941 nineteen of us graduated. When we celebrated our fiftieth reunion in 1991, thirteen of the nineteen were still living and we shared some of the happiness we experienced during those years.

The nursing program at Vanderbilt was very different from any program in the country at the time. The person running the program had a unique belief that the nurse must first understand where the patient came from, who his family was, and what kind of a situation he lived in so as to understand the problems that he would bring to the hospital. Unlike any school at that time in the country, we had a year learning about the community and the significance of the person's home base. The program had a strong focus on public health.

In the senior year, we had a semester in which five students would go to the county seat in Shelbyville for clinical experience. One morning on the way to our clinical experience we had a terrible automobile accident in which I was injured and I missed the last semester of my senior year. However, I had tutors throughout that semester, so I made up all of my classroom work at graduation—I was permitted to walk in line with my class, but inside my diploma folder there was no diploma because the nursing laws in the United States at that time stated that every person to be licensed to practice as a nurse must have 1,095 days of clinical experience. In June all my classmates went away, and I had to stay at Vanderbilt to complete my clinical experiences. That was very valuable for me because I was the youngest member in my class and the faculty planned valuable experiences that helped me to grow and mature.

One day I was at the movie house not far from the campus when a man came and he just walked around in the movie and called my name and said, “Eloise Lewis, you are to report to the dean's office as soon as this movie is over.” Everybody laughed, and I thought, “What have I done? Surely they won't send me away right now.” After the movie was over I went to the dean's office. After the dean greeted me, she asked me what I was planning to do when I finished. I told her I was planning to go back to South Carolina. She waited a few minutes, it seemed like a long time to me, and then said, “Well, that wasn't exactly what we thought you would do. Let me tell you, you know there's war and rumors of war, and we in nursing in this country must begin to think about how we respond to what is going on.” She further stated that Bryn Mawr College on the Main Line near Philadelphia, the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia, really in Germantown [Pennsylvania], and some of the other schools were beginning to respond. They were strengthening the faculty, redoing the curriculum, and working toward the goal of eliminating a lot of repetition and so on, to see if they couldn't complete the absolute necessities that would meet the regulation of the laws by two and a half years. And the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania had really made a strong plea to the National League for Nursing to contact some of the “better schools” to help in recruiting the faculty. Dean [Helen Frances] Zeigler said, “We have such a letter, and we would like for you to be the person we nominate from Vanderbilt.” And I said, “But I haven't finished yet! I don't have any experience.” “That's all right,” she says. “The important thing is that you were in college, you've had three years here, you have a generic baccalaureate degree in nursing, and few people in this country have such an animal, and we would like to nominate you.” So the five people who were nominated and chosen for that experiment with the Women's Medical College were graduates from Yale [University], Cornell [University], Massachusetts General [Hospital], Presbyterian [Hospital] in New York, and Vanderbilt. And I was the youngest in that group of five, with the least experience.

The day after I finished those 1,095 clinical days at Vanderbilt, I got on the train and went to Philadelphia to live and to work and to be involved in what nursing was thinking about to meet the need for nurses in the event of war. Particularly in the northeastern corridor where the older more established schools were, such as Mass[achusetts] General, Cornell, [Johns] Hopkins [Hospital], the University of Pennsylvania, faculty were thinking ahead to what could be done.

Well, I had a very fine experience, but I hadn't been on the job but I think three weeks or maybe a month when that Sunday morning the five of us were at breakfast in front of the fireplace at Harkness House, and that's where we lived, when we got the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. And then the two younger ones of us began to talk about, “Oh, what we need to do is see about going into the [U.S.] Army in Army Nurse Corps, see what we can do.” But that wasn't what happened. It did not seem right, since this was an effort to help prepare young people to go into nursing and to go into the army, for us to all of a sudden begin to disappear from a job that we had been in in such a short time. So, what can we do to help get ourselves more prepared than we are? So the two younger ones of us made an approach to the Philadelphia branch of the American Red Cross and did get involved in the Red Cross training program for nurses. And it's funny how things come around to you. Our teacher in that program later decided to go into nursing, and eventually ended up on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and we had many lovely exchanges because she was first my teacher and then a colleague here in North Carolina.

So we were working very hard to get the school lined up and do the things that we thought needed to be done. But when you're young you think, “Where can I learn more? Where can I do better?” And the school that kept tugging at us, not from any approach by that school, but because they were a biggie, you'd learn more there, they had a famous name, and it was still a diploma school, was Johns Hopkins. And so we decided in 1942 that we would go to Hopkins and apply for faculty positions. To make a long story short, they took all four of us, and we were the first four nurses ever to teach at Hopkins that were not Hopkins graduates.

At the time there was in this country, particularly in the Eastern part, an effort on the part of nursing to say, “What can we do or what should we be doing to make a difference? Not like Florence Nightingale did in the Crimea, but what difference could we make in this country?” One of the early historians in nursing has said it this way: “It took the Second World War to bring the American nurse to her natural stature. Serving in embattled lands, the nurses had places they had never heard of before, in hospital ships, on the seas, in the ambulances, evacuating the wounded by plane, the nurse came into her own as comforter, healer, a feminist in the foxhole with mud-caked khaki coveralls, she captured the imagination of the public and the fighting men in America.”

One of the exciting things for me at that time was meeting the great women in nursing that I had studied about as a student at Vanderbilt, such as [Mary] Robinson and [Stella] Gorstray. [Isabel] Stewart was on the faculty, I think, at that time at Teachers College. She was to identify how we ought to be involved as nurses in this terrible disaster. She said, “We need to be prepared.” She spoke everywhere to nursing groups, to the legislatures in Washington, and to anybody that would listen to her. She would say, “We've got to do something that will be worthwhile and will make a difference.” And so she is given credit for the leading one that established the National Nursing Council Defense Program. And she got all the nursing organizations, and I think we had about six back then—it seemed like that from my study of history of nursing—she got the leaders together and said, “What is it we can do? Now we are not making the progress that we need to make in being organized and ready when the need comes.” And as a result of her efforts, they said, “We'll call this the National Nursing Council for War Service.” That sounded pretty good.

And then she just thought if we had an organized effort we could get federal money to help the schools of nursing enlarge their classes, have better curriculum, really bring it up. Because nursing, as everybody knows, is the only profession who had its origin in a service institution not an academic institution. So it was not academically based, and Miss Stewart had dreams that we could do better than that. She kept working and wrote some interesting articles that are a part of the legislative bodies' hearings and so on of those days that said, “We should have support for nursing education.” And so the Appropriation Act of 1942 passed, and it included funds for nursing education.

But the one thing that we all remember about is the person responsible for that was Frances Payne Bolton. Frances Payne Bolton was the congresswoman from Ohio, the fine Case Western Reserve [University] School of Nursing bears her name, and she was just a wonderful lady. And you see, all of us that are young and all and just going and studied about them, had a chance to meet them and know them and to appreciate what they were up to. But she got $3.5 million for this effort. But if we were going to have this kind of effort, what were we going to do with it? All right, we would have more students admitted to schools of nursing. That was fine, but we have to have teachers to teach them, we have to have facilities to handle them, and then what kind of obligations do they have to give back for what was given to them? And so the Cadet Nurse Corps was founded. The student who entered a school of nursing, who was willing to abide by all the rules and regulations, would have her basic work completed in two and a half years. She had to sign to say her last six months she would be assigned to an army hospital, relieving the nurses who were there.

One of the things that I had the joy, if you can call it that, of doing during my tenure as a faculty member at Hopkins, I was recruiting for the Cadet Nurse Corps. And we worked with a person, Lucile Petry Leone, who became head of the Cadet Nurse Corps, and she after the war was the first woman surgeon general we ever had in this country. But it worked, and more and more people were interested in the effort. But, you see, it didn't give those of us that wanted to go in the army any entree. We were frozen in our jobs. All those of us that were prepared in any way to teach were frozen. We were teaching at Hopkins. Oh yeah, that's fine, and we learned a lot and all that, but that's what we did—we taught the students.

Then on December 19, 1944, Walter Lippmann wrote an article that said to the public that our boys were not getting the care that they needed, that there were not enough nurses. And this was an inflammatory article, and right away the nurses said, “No, no way. We're not going to allow that to happen to us.” But on January 6, President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt had the Congress in the mood and a bill was introduced into the House, and passed the House, to draft nurses, because our boys, quote, were not getting the care that they should. It fell down in the Senate. But we had such an avalanche of applications throughout this country that we had—I think it was about 125,000 cadet nurses that came in through the way I've explained. When this issue came up in this country, then the civilian hospitals just almost all of a sudden had nothing to run on because all the nurses wanted to go.

As a result of that action—now remember the draft fell down in the Senate—one morning early in April of 1945, I got a message to come to the dean's office, to the director's office. She wasn't very pleased, but she just said, “Well, go back to where you live and get your stuff and get out of here. You wanted them to get you, and they've got you. Your orders are here.” Because all those of us that were prepared and had been teaching—or not all of us, but some of us anyway—were released as of that day. And she just said, “You can't have your orders, because I'm commanded to give them to you when you leave here with simple instruction.” And I mean to tell you, we didn't have till tomorrow. You had to go that day.

I was to report to Fort Meade, Maryland, and my orders were in an envelope with all the official things, not to be opened until I arrived at the office, and I've forgotten what you called it, at Fort Meade. I had, as I said, one pitiful little bag, that was before we got our nice trunks with our names on it and all that. When I got there and reported to the commanding officer, he just said, and now I'm paraphrasing what he said, “There's honor in this business of the army and the country we serve and all, and you are coming in under some unusual circumstances. And in this envelope which I have,” of course he had looked at it, “your assignment after basic training is here. You are not going overseas. I'm not going to tell you where you are going, but you are not to tell anyone because your whole class is scheduled to go overseas. You're not to tell anyone that you're not going with them.” Well, you know, where am I going? What are they going to do with me?

But anyway it was too much because that very afternoon our group, and there were several hundred in that class, I can't remember how many, left for Fort Lee, Virginia, and that's where we had our basic training. The basic training was rigorous. We were taught how to fire guns, use gas masks. We were taught all the things because we didn't know what we were going into. But I can say one thing, it was so wonderful that many nurses had said, “I'm coming to help,” that quietly the bill that was before the Senate in May was withdrawn and destroyed because the nurses had responded so beautifully to it.

When I finished my basic training, and I was a platoon leader or something because of my height, and when I got my orders that day, the commanding officer—we didn't like her at all, mmm!—anyhow, she said, “Well, here!” It said I was to report to Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where I would serve as assistant director of the Cadet Nurse Corps in the 3rd Service Command. And I wasn't much older than the kids that were going to be there. But in war-torn times, you knew why you were there and you knew what you could do. So I got on the train and went to Phoenixville. And we had been beautifully taught. And when I arrived at the main entrance and was shown to the colonel's office, I marched in and saluted her like I'm supposed to. And she just said, “That will be the last time that you do that. Here I'm not concerned with but one thing, that's the care these young men need. Now,” she said, “we have three thousand boys here, and there are six hundred student nurses, and the person you are replacing left two days ago for shipment overseas.” The more experienced nurses—We were in bad trouble in England and the more experienced nurses were gone. The colonel, Colonel [Edna] Umbach, “You go over there and live with those students in their dorms. Teach them, and if you need anything let me know.” Well, I go over there and I look around and I thought, “Mercy, six hundred!” They were really teenagers almost. The next morning I reported to the colonel's office just so she'd know I was still alive and to get some kind of bearings, because she said, “We don't have time to orient you. You know what you're here to do.” But I did not know the hospital. One sergeant was assigned to me that day to show me. But now when you started at the front door and you went where three thousand young men and women were, and got back, it was five or six o'clock in the evening. And the only place that we were not allowed to have students or I was not allowed to go was the prison ward. That was off-limits.

Well, this went on for two or three days, and I thought, “Mmm! The colonel said, 'If you need anything let me know, otherwise do your business and stay out of my hair.'” She certainly didn't say “stay out of the hair.” Do your business, period. So, with trembling knees, I went back to see her and I said to her, “Colonel Umbach, I can't do the job here by myself. I can't be sure to teach six hundred students with them spread out like they are, coach their basketball team,”—I could have done that because I played basketball in high school—“drill them”—I could do that, I had just been through all that. “I need some help.”

“What do you want?”

I said, “I'll take two or three sergeants.”

She said, “You'll have them, and they'll be carefully chosen.”

So the next morning I got two full-time sergeants and one that helped us with the drilling. And so it was wonderful because I said, “Look, you guys, we've got to do it right. We have to learn now.”

Because Valley Forge was the blind and burn center for this country, we were getting patients directly from Okinawa, we were getting them out of the prisons in Europe. They were coming to our facility for care, so that we had to teach the student how to take care of burn patients. The great physician that guided the care of patients at the Coconut Grove fire in Boston [Massachusetts] was the chief in that division. And that was wonderful because they would stop and help you learn anything. But none of us had had any experience in caring for the person who was blind, and we all had to learn.

We decided, or I decided, that we didn't need to have students spread out all over this place, that it took me a little more time, and remember I was well educated at Vanderbilt and I knew what you were supposed to be looking for, and our assistant dean that guided our program lived ahead of her time in nursing. But I said, “We are not going to have them on all the units. We don't need—We will put them where they can learn the most, and we'll have them like three months—they were going to be there six months—we'll have them three months on the burn area, and then we'll have them three months on the blind.” And that's what it would come out to, however the plan of rotation I'd have to figure it out.

The boys were wonderful. Because like one day I was going down the back stairs and I found one of our boys, one of our patients, and one of the little girls doing some things they oughtn't to do. And I just got my sergeant and said, “You need to see about that for me with the boy, I'll take care of the girl.” You see? And they were just wonderful. The kids loved them. And all the cadet nurses that were out at Valley Forge knew that they were committed to the Army for six months after graduation. So the more that they learned about the Army, the way the army functioned and everything, the more they would profit, because they didn't know where they would be sent.

One of the things that we were required to do, two things that the students and the boys didn't—Well, the students didn't mind. We rode the trains from Philadelphia to Valley Forge when we were getting our patients coming in from overseas. They didn't come by plane, they came by boat. Some of them came by plane, I guess, but we'd go to the train station, and then all the sergeants would go with me and the students, and we chose the students pretty carefully to ride those trains and everything.

But the one thing that the boys didn't like to do, and they would say, “Oh, Lieutenant, don't make us do it!” The Main Line Philadelphia socialites used to have parties for them at the big hotels downtown, and the boys didn't want to go at all. [whispering] “Do we have to go?” [speaking normally] “Yes, we have to go.” And one particular evening, it was in the hot summertime and there was not anything back then like air conditioning, and remember now that we are in a situation at Valley Forge where all the construction work of rebuilding faces, rebuilding noses, ears, hands, legs, whatever had been burned, we were the facility where those reconstruction plans and so forth were made. And then our blind boys were learning how to cope with the outside world. So I said, “You all have to go. We all have to go, we all have to get dressed up in all this stuff. We can't wear what we wear on the post.” I mean to tell you, “Do we have to wear our ears?” “Yeah.” All right, so we had three trainloads, three coaches, and I had the sergeants and carefully selected students. But it was hot, they didn't want to go, but we went to the Bellview Stratford [Hotel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] downtown, and it was a lovely occasion and they had many lovely ladies there to entertain the boys, and music and something to eat and everything. But the boys were ready to go home after a while and they said, [whispering] “Can't we go?” [speaking normally] “No, you can't go yet. It's not time.”

We had one boy, his daddy owned the famous Horn and Hordt Cafeteria. They were the first, I think, cafeteria operation in that part of this country. Anyway he was one of our patients, and he had a delightful sense of humor and was handling his disability very nicely. I think he—no, I won't say that he put the boy up to this, but anyway it was hot—And we had another young man that was just a handsome youngster, and this one girl was after him pretty good, both legs had been removed, he was having his face reconstructed, and he got tired with those prostheses. So he sat down in the chair, and one of the ladies came running over and jumped up in his lap and put her arm around him and started loving over him, and he wasn't liking this very much at all. And she reached up and tweaked his ear, and it came off in her hand. And she started screaming, and fainted and fell on the floor, and the boys started clapping and said, “Now, Lieutenant? Can we go home now?” And so we went to the train station, got on the train, and then—

These are the things that helped keep the spirits up, both of the nurses and doctors and our patients, because they started taking off their ears and everything, and then, you know, put the stack of legs and arms and everything—And those were in the days before we had seen much of that. But the hardest thing I think that we had to cope with, the student particularly, the student group had a hard time. I could do a better job now. How do you help a family cope with a family member that they'd come to see for the first time who has suffered the ravages of war injuries, and so often, or whenever it happened, and a family member said, “Oh, I can't stand it. I have to go, I have to go.” That was hard for the students, it was hard for us. But we had good help out there, older psychologists and ones that had had some experience. So we all learned that that was part of the way we felt, and now we had to help them. Every day we learned more.

We had three young women from Puerto Rico, because that's part of us, and the sister used to call me up, “Lieutenant, did the girls changes their petticoats?”

I said, “Sister, I don't know. I haven't had time to check.” [chuckling]

And it was the care and concerns. But one day a call came into the colonel's office, and she called me to come over there and she said, “They want you to go down to the University of Pennsylvania and speak to the seniors, because they have another group of cadets coming up and the dean down there wants you to come and speak to the senior class.”

But then the office staff, and those were the chief nurses, said, “What have you got to wear? You can't possibly—You haven't been in the service long enough. You don't have any slashes for your overcoat”—you know, all those. But I did have one thing, I had only been aboard about six weeks when the colonel said she would like talk to me and that my silver bars had been ordered and she had them. And I hadn't been in but about six weeks, plus my basic training. But then I told you that was different, that was everything. Anyhow, that's the only thing I had.

“Well,” they said, “you can't go down there looking like that.” So everybody put their heads together, and when I left the colonel said, “I'm not sure that's right. She [shouldn't] have those slashes. She hasn't had overseas duty.” And the staff said, “Oh, but they won't recognize what that is. It just looks like most of the people have in the military.”

The dean was Dr. Theresa Lynch. She was, I guess, the second nurse or the first nurse in this country to have an earned doctorate. She was in charge at the University of Pennsylvania, and that was a three-year school but that wasn't in Dr. Lynch's mind. She came to class that day and she got up and left before I finished. She had given a note to a member in the class that said, and it was handed to me, “Before you go back to Phoenixville this evening, stop by the office. I need to talk with you.” Dr. Lynch was born and raised in Winchester, Virginia, and I went in to see her, and we both could speak pretty southern when we needed to. And she just said, “What are you going to do when you get out of the service?”

And I said, “I don't know.”

She just said, “Let me tell you, you've got a job. I don't have anybody with that kind of preparation. We are going to move here to have a baccalaureate program in nursing, and I don't have a clinical teacher with a degree in nursing. So you've got one, when you get out of the army, come and we'll work it out.”

So, when I got out the last day of December of that year—And the reason, what happened, because of the flood of nurses that came into the service, and because of the Cadet Nurses that had been committed to stay the extra six months, people like me that really had limited army nursing experience, not limited patience care and that kind of thing that I've told you about, we didn't feel there was a place—the need for us as much as in big schools that were going in the direction that nursing needed to go.

So I was discharged from Fort Bragg because—I think it was Fort Bragg—because my daddy lived in Pageland. Anyhow, and then after that Christmas recess I went back to Philadelphia and I started on the faculty with Dr. Lynch, and got my master's. There was no such thing as a master's in nursing education at that time, but I got it in education. And I worked with her and helped her as she laid the plans to move and develop the baccalaureate program in nursing, which is one of the best in the country at the moment and has been for a good while.

And one day in 1953—or was it at the end of '52—Miss Lynch sent after me and she said, “You know what? It's time you went home.” She said, “I don't want to tell you this because—but I need to. A friend of mine, and we've been close friends, we did some of our doctoral work at the same time, has just been chosen dean of the new school of nursing at Chapel Hill. Her name is Elizabeth Kimbel, and she's going down there to be the dean, and you need to go help her.” I said, “Dean Lynch, you know I haven't been asked.” She said, “You will be, so just put that in your mind.” And so in due time I was invited to come to talk with Dr. Kimbel, and we made it out and I did join that faculty June 1st in '53, and stayed over there with her until August 31st of '66.

But in those days immediately following the end of World War II, nurses in this country had begun to sense that there was something more they needed to learn and to give their—

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

HT:

You may continue, Dr. Lewis. I have turned the tape over.

EL:

The demands on schools to make provisions for educating the Registered Nurse, who had or had not been in the army but had been through diploma programs, who wanted to go ahead was really very great. And by then, you see, we didn't have in North Carolina anything but hospital schools, and on this campus in the forties they succumbed to the pressure to do something about those people who wanted to further their education. But the pattern was this: You see, they had been three years in a service-oriented institution, and then most places let them come in and get two years of academic work and then gave them a baccalaureate degree. Even the Woman's College [of the University of North Carolina, now UNCG] joined the movement across the country to assist people, but it really wasn't a degree in nursing. And just as soon as the baccalaureate program started at Chapel Hill, [Dean] Mereb Mossman said, “No more. We won't be in competition with that one because we're not doing what they intend to do.” So that's how UNCG got involved. And when we graduated our first class, we had sixteen, but there was seventeen people listed on the graduation program. And I nearly had a fit, and said, “Miss Mossman, that's not right! She didn't go through this new program, she's one of the older ones.” So it has an asterisk with an identification that showed you.

But anyway, so those are the main things that I remember about my experience in the army. I learned so much about how to take care of persons who were blind and what they needed and how to move. And then I was always more interested in medical/surgical nursing than any of the other specialties. So, you see, the care of the burn patient was something that came easy for me and I worked at that. And I just wouldn't change that experience because I learned more than the young people. But I was glad to be a part of it.

HT:

Dr. Lewis, how did your father feel about you joining the army, or the Army Nurse Corps?

EL:

I have an interesting letter from Daddy about that, and he said, “Look, your brother and all the son-in-laws have gone. Do you have to?” And I told him yes, I just had to. He really understood. He just hated for another one of his—to have all those stars in his window and have another one. But when he knew that what I was doing was a very important part of what I had learned to do, and the very special preparation I had had at Vanderbilt that helped me to do it, it was all right.

He never did say he was glad I went in nursing. I thought when I taught at Hopkins, which was where he came from, that he would feel good about it. But in his eighties he had gallbladder surgery, and he decided that we had to go home three days after he had it done. Well, back then you didn't do that. He said, “I can get well faster on South Carolina dirt than North Carolina. We're going home.”

I said, “I'll make a deal. I will do it if we can tell the young man that had a siren in the ambulance, 'Reesy, when we hit the town limits, would you put on the siren so everybody knows he came home?'” Yes, we did that. But anyway it had been a while and we needed to go back to have all the tubes and stuff out. One day I said, “Daddy, we need to go back to Charlotte and get Dr. Williams to take out those tubes and all that stuff.”

He said, “Baby, what about that fancy education I paid for? Can't you do it?”

And I said, “Yes, sir.”

He said, “Fine, we'll do it. I'm not going back.” So we did it. And I think it was all right with him. He just wanted to be sure it was all right.

I really learned to appreciate some of the things in the North. They couldn't understand me when I first went up there to teach: “Lady, we don't understand a thing you say. Please repeat.” Finally I learned they just wanted to hear me say it. [chuckling] Because South Carolina, you know, you can put on a brogue you don't understand. Anyway, that was—

HT:

Well, that's cute. Dr. Lewis, can you tell me something about your basic training days? Do you remember what a typical day was like in basic training and how long did your basic training last? Did you say three weeks?

EL:

My basic training? You know, I've thought a little bit about that. We had classes that taught us where we might be, what we might encounter. The details were gory, the pictures were plain. Then we were told what kind of injuries we would take. That was part of our professional orientation to them. I don't know how many hours a day we would have in class, but then we moved to where our training with—The outside, you learned to dig a latrine, you learned to go on a ten-mile hike, and you learned how to make your rations last. And we had such projects as these: We were given a problem one time, and it had to do with figuring out all these things logistically and getting ourself back to the starting place. I have greater skills—if I've been to a place, I can get there the next time—uncanny directional skills in my head. And that other thing didn't make sense to me, so I just got myself back by my own way. But I was scared to tell him that I didn't do that because you were supposed to be able to figure it out.

Then I guess the most frightening concerns was when we learned to deal with the gas masks, the mustard, and all the different kinds of chemicals that were there. Then the learning to shoot for a lot of us wasn't a real big problem, because we'd grown up in the country where you had—not indiscriminately, but a gun was not something that you—You knew you didn't touch it and bother it, but you had an acquaintance with it.

One of the things, and how much time—the endurance test. Because when they took you out, how long can we stay in the field? I think we stayed in the field one week, because that was not unheard-of with what they had to do. You had to look after everything that took care of you, bathing out of a helmet, you know, taking care of everything, pitching your tent and everything. We learned all of those things. So, after I came to teach at Chapel Hill, I used to go on lots of camping trips to the west and everything. That was very simple because I knew how to put my tent up. But I guess that I would pay attention because—We learned, unless we learned what was going on, we might not be able to survive. And even if we learned it and learned it well, we might not. You know? So that you paid strict attention. And we had very good teachers.

HT:

Were the instructors men and women?

EL:

More men than women. Because our Army Nurse Corps was limited and they were careful about putting them in the—And you saw in the picture, it was only our sergeants that you saw. Because they got graded by your behavior, and when we went on one of those trips and when you marched, buddy, you'd better stay in line. And the pickups and all the exercises we had to do. Because everybody did it, that's what we were there for. And I think, I don't know this to be true, but we all knew we were there and why we were there: because we loved this country, we loved the boys that were taking care of us fighting, and there was a purpose. President Roosevelt made it very clear; we knew, unlike Korea and Vietnam when our purpose wasn't so clear. It wasn't a matter of survival, but in World War II it was a matter of survival.

I just remember that two times I think I came home on the train—we used to ride on the train from Philadelphia to Charlotte and then to Monroe and Pageland—you stood up all the way because you wouldn't dare sit if there was a wounded man there that needed that place. And you know we lost nurses. We lost them in the Pacific. Now, I have no justification for this statement, but I always had the feeling that we lost more in the Pacific than we did in the ETO [European Theater of Operation], but I don't know. But you know the School of Nursing building is named for Margaret Moore?

HT:

Yes.

EL:

And Margaret was in the army. She was in charge of a hospital division in England, and the man that she was to marry was an engineer and he was already in France. And the day she flew across the Channel to get married, they met her right there and said he had stepped on a mine. You know, those are the things that we dealt with every day. And you know the boys were our age. That was part of us. We knew we had to be there, and we wanted to be there. And I don't know, I never thought about this till you said you were coming, if I had been in a more established place in nursing, would I have been as interested to go as I was? But see, I was young like the rest of them, this was what we needed to do, I believed in it, I didn't worry. I wondered what I was doing when I arrived at Valley Forge and was told I had six hundred senior students. [chuckling]

HT:

That was a great responsibility.

EL:

Yeah. “Oh, Lieutenant, you're so beautiful today. We just—” Like these kids, especially those, a lot of them that came from some of the wealthy families in the Northeast that were in school, burn holes, you know, iron and just leave the iron sitting there, and then the barracks get on fire. And then the chief says, “I'm not interested in fires, we're interested in caring for the boys. Take care of that,” you know? But I learned a lot. I learned a lot. Mmm! I appreciated the—

Oh, there was one very critical thing that I forgot to tell you. When Isabel Stewart was working with the National Council on War Service to move toward the establishment of the Cadet Nurse Corps, the decision was made that in order for schools of nursing anywhere in this country to receive any money from the federal government, they would take students regardless of race, color, creed, or sex. And we were the first united professional group to integrate with whites. That's when we started, and we've probably done as well as any group to integrate. See, those women like I told you that I learned about and then could see them in operation, and she just said, “Absolutely no, you've got to take her,” so that I had different cultural groups and different age, sex, culture, and so on in my group.

HT:

So were there men students?

EL:

No, student nurses. You know the Cadet Nurse Corps?

HT:

Right, yes.

EL:

The school had to agree, if they took money to educate them, regardless of—they would admit and educate regardless of race, sex, color, and creed. And we were the first where it was down in black and white for the federal government that we said that we believed that underneath the skin, yours and mine, we are the same. And that we still do. We still do.

I was the only one in my class that actually—No, one other member of my class went into the army. And I don't know where Virginia [Longest] was, but she ended up as the Chief Nurse of the Veterans Administration Nursing [Corps] service. We were the only two in our class that went in service. The rest of them, I think—No, we were the only ones. She is still living, and she lives in a retirement center in Chambersburg, Maryland. Anyhow, she was at the fiftieth [reunion]. We had the best time at our fiftieth. We enjoyed it. But one of the things that nurses in North Carolina, I think I'm right now—You see, we didn't have a medical school, so that we didn't have an organized unit like the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, all these places that had medical schools, doctors had big units that had everybody attached to them, and they went overseas as a unit. Well, you see, we didn't in North Carolina, so that if you went the army route, then you had to go and join another unit. Like I think Doris [Armenaki] is—I don't know, she's a graduate of Georgia Baptist, and she went with a unit out of Georgia, I think. But, you see, I was already gone from Vanderbilt and there wasn't any way—The army had decided what I was going to do, where I was going to do it, and that I did.

HT:

When did you get out of the army again, Dr. Lewis?

EL:

The last day of December of '45. You see, I was only in from April till December, and I told you the reason.

HT:

Right, so you never ever thought about making it a career?

EL:

No.

HT:

That was not an option for you—at that time, that is?

EL:

No, not in my mind, because Dean Lynch had already laid her paws on me. [chuckling]

HT:

Well, what was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the military?

EL:

Are you talking about professionally or personally?

HT:

Either one.

EL:

I think it was the hardest for me personally with those gas masks. You know, that part you can't help but be fearful: “Did I get it right? Did I get it right?” Now professionally the hardest thing was—I used to have, “Have I decided and planned so that these young people are learning? They're still students. Are they learning the kinds of things that they need to learn to carry them and to help them?” And that was hard for me. I didn't feel guilty because I did what I knew how to do, but it was hard for me to, as young as I was, to say, “Are we doing the kinds of things that—”

And then I had a hard bout in there when my brother was badly wounded in Europe. When he arrived back in this country I asked the commanding officer down at Fort Meade if I could just run over to get to see him, and she said, “No way. No way.” And so, when she was moved out of her position and assigned to Valley Forge, I stayed out of her way. She was assigned to the chief's office but she had no relation. That was hard for me. I had worked on that because I thought, “Mmm, I'll work very hard, and then,” I think that in childishness, “when I've got my silver bars I'll swish by her one day.” [chuckling] Anyhow, you know.

My brother was on the faculty at UNCG, Bud Rallings, in sociology, marriage and family, and he died last year. But we came here to teach the same day, and because our names are different, people didn't know that we were related. And we had lots of good fun not telling. We agreed if he did well I'd claim him, if I did well he'd claim me. [chuckling] Because I came from Chapel Hill and he came from Mississippi State here. But anyway we had a good time. and he loved this place. It was good for us. It was a good place. People very often said to me, “Why in the world did you leave Chapel Hill?” It was the right—because when I put my foot in the road and came over here, I never wished I was back. It was a time in my career, I had finished my doctorate, and I decided I'd been there thirteen years and I had to move, or wanted to move, and I was looking elsewhere.

And I made the mistake of—not a mistake, but I went to be interviewed at the University of Delaware. Dr. Parks [then-president of the University of Delaware] used to be head of our board of higher education, we used to have such in this state, and I knew him well, and he was the president. I had a good couple of days up there. They were going to develop a new school of nursing, and we had a good time, and it appealed to me because it was something you could develop and all that. And he saw Bill Friday [then-president of the University of North Carolina] at a meeting the following week and said, “Oh, we had Eloise up.” That wasn't what Mr. Friday and Miss Mossman had in mind, because the board of—the legislature had just approved the money for a baccalaureate program here. They said, “You've been here thirteen years, you know the people and so on, so you don't need to go off over there.” It was the right choice for me, and I was very happy here. It was up one side and down the other some days, but it was a good place to be. I think that you've found your place, don't you?

HT:

Yes.

EL:

With your history. That's sort of your foundation to what you're doing.

HT:

That is so true.

EL:

Yeah, and I think one of the great things that happens to us, if we find our place, don't you?

HT:

It's the most wonderful thing.

EL:

Yeah. Well, Miss Mossman told me when she was talking to me, “If you'll come over here and do this, I'll get you what you need.” And that's exactly what happened. And we were good buddies. I was here my first year by myself while I looked for faculty, because she had in her own way carefully set aside so that I had seven full-time faculty positions available when I started recruiting, see? But when I was at Chapel Hill, nationwide they started the two-year programs, the associate degree programs, and North Carolina was not chosen. That was in the '50s. North Carolina was not chosen because we did not have a community college system.

But we said in nursing we really ought to know what's going on, so that three of us came over here to talk to Mereb. I was chairman of the board of nursing at that point, and president of the state association, and Lee(?), the three of us came over to talk with her. And she just said, “You know we're going out of the two-year business, because we were phasing out our program.” That was her goal as we moved to university status. She said, “We'll think about it.” And when we came back to talk with her she said, “It would have to be for a very limited period of time. This would have to be experimental, it would have to be terminal, because we're going to have a baccalaureate program.” It's in the faculty council meeting, the day that this faculty was so angry that the baccalaureate program in nursing went to Chapel Hill instead of here. It's back there in the good words that the faculty said, “But the time will come when we are going to have our own.” You know? Anyway, so that the university did run a two-year program for ten years, but no state money went in there. [Moses] Cone paid for it. A million dollars. And when the general assembly voted to establish the baccalaureate program here and appropriated the money, then that meant the closure of that program. And I came with the clear stipulation that that was going to be in writing, and then that no faculty member who was on that associate degree program faculty automatically was moved to the baccalaureate because they were not prepared, you know? Just so that we wouldn't have hard feelings or anything like that.

It's been very heartwarming to me that—I tell you, I didn't have time to nurture that group and do what I had to do, so I didn't do that as well as I might if I went back. But in the capital campaign, two of those graduates were on my steering committee, and one of them is in charge of the student health center on our campus, and she has just completed her baccalaureate degree in nursing. See, she had an AD [Associate Degree]. Anyhow, they decided, they being those two, that they were going to contact all the AD graduates, and there were, I think, 140 of them. And they have, and they've started collecting the money, and they are doing really well with it. Twenty-five thousand dollars to make a scholarship to educate the Registered Nurse who wants to go on for the baccalaureate degree. Isn't that neat?

HT:

That's wonderful.

EL:

They felt like stepchildren for a while, and I admit that I didn't nurture that. I had other things I had to do. But when the time came, and they've been very good and very helpful, and we started—We graduated the most in our first class of any baccalaureate program in the state. And that was sixteen, sixteen or eighteen. Eighteen, I think. That's two more than we graduated at Chapel Hill, but that's more than two. Anyway, we now have over a thousand students in the school, and could have many more if we had the faculty to manage it.

And one day in the middle of the '70s, I got a letter from the general administration that said, “The faculty has done very well with the baccalaureate program. It is time now to do a master's.” And we didn't ask. And the same thing has happened about the doctorate. General administration sent a letter to this campus to our chancellor and said, “The time is now.” That's something GA doesn't often do. They said, “Now is the time,” so they are in the process of developing a Ph.D. in nursing.

HT:

Do you know when that's going to be coming about?

EL:

Probably two years. I would say, if we can do it in two years with their support and pressure, that they might be able to. But one of the exciting things that's happening this year is that we have a master's degree in nursing administration, and this year we've been able to add that the people who are in that program get an MBA as well. Our complicated health care system just demands that. So Dr. [Jim] Weeks [dean, Bryan School of Business and Economics] was very willing and interested to work on that, and he and [Dr.] Lynne [Pearcey, dean, School of Nursing] have done very well with that, and it's affective for all the students that were admitted this year. Of course, they were admitted but we didn't have final approval from GA. But we do now.

And then we have an outreach program that we started back in the early '70s, I think, and we have two hundred registered nurses in Hickory working on their baccalaureate degree. They are registered nurses, either from AD programs—Because when I came to this state, there were seventy-some diploma programs. And I think there are three now, see, because they moved to AD. And the baccalaureate degree, they know that that's what is looked at, and it's just good for them to get it, you know.

And guess what we're doing? In 2003 we will be a hundred years old in North Carolina as the first state in the Union to license nurses to practice. We were the first state, and so we've already started planning what we're going to do. And they have two very funny committees. They have a committee with all the old presidents of the state nurses association, then they have a funny committee with all the people that have been head of the board of nursing and some others, and so we are at work on some good fun things that—You know, we want to have a big celebration. Because of the way the sun comes up, and you understand, New York and Virginia were the same year. We were the first. And they came along, we said, “The sun comes up differently down here.” [chuckling] But we are going to see if they won't join some of the big efforts of celebration. So there's something fun to do all the time, no doubt.

HT:

Dr. Lewis, what is the thing that you're most proud of in your connection with the UNCG School of Nursing?

EL:

The fact that we have been able to start with and maintain a high quality, quality of excellence in the undergraduate program and the master's. And I'm most proud of the fact that our graduates, not only do they work with their heads but with their hearts and their hands. That makes the difference, and that makes it why they are so good. You know, they used to talk about, “Well, we have a good school.” I said, “No, we don't, we have the best. Now you keep that in your mind. You remember that every day. It's up to you.” And we used to tell them, and I hope they still do, that they carry a burden on their backs because they are UNCG graduates in the School of Nursing. Because when jobs are hard to get, all the graduate has to say is they're one of ours.

And I really frosted off the mother-in-law of one of my early men students, but he was a good student and his wife got an art scholarship in New York and they went to New York. And they needed for him to work, and he went to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and applied for a job, and they told him they didn't have any jobs. Then she said to Louis, “Where did you finish?” He said, “The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.” She said, “Come on back in here and sit down. Fill out these papers.” Because they had had some of ours, you know? I think it's our alumni that makes the difference in this institution, all the majors. But for mine, you know, when I look at them and I think about the things that they can do and the difference they make, you know, that's the most wonderful thing. We've had a good program, but we had a good institution. Those first two years in liberal arts and everything, and then the faculty on this campus have never looked down on our students. They've always been women to work with them and help them, and we've been creditable campus citizens. It's hard when you have a lot of clinical work and they don't have as much free time, but—And when you look at the vice president for nursing at Woman's Hospital is one of ours, the vice president for nursing at Wesley Long [Community Hospital] is one of ours, and the associate vice president for nursing at the big hospital is one of ours, head of the OR at Cone [Moses Cone Hospital] is one of ours. You know, they're all over the place, and it's really joyful to see them.

Since you were in the air force, our first boy graduated in '74. He had been in the air force, then he quit and came to school. Then he went back, and then he stopped and did a master's in heart and this and that and the other thing. Now that rascal, he is on call for the army, for the air force. Anywhere in the world that they get into trouble with a heart, that's who gets the call. He lives down here in Liberty, [North Carolina]. But that was my first boy. And we decided we would wait—well, that was in the fourth class—till people got used to men in nursing before we admitted one. He was one bird. One day he came and took me to lunch, and going out I said to him, “Those are the fanciest shoes I ever saw,” and some other smart remark I made. “Oh,” he said, “stop right there and let me give you a hug. It's the first time I ever had money to pay for a fifty-dollar pair of shoes, and I'm glad somebody recognized them.” [chuckling]

And then I had good faculty. You know, I didn't do it, they did it. I had all the support of the campus. It was just like I told you, the right place. We didn't make a hundred every time. That's unrealistic. There are some that do better than others, but 90 percent of our time they do better than usual. And part of it, they know they are cared about and they know they make a difference in the lives of other people. They know their education is good. [whispering] And if you don't know, ask. Ask! [speaking normally] They know to do that. And what is very exciting, you see, they are getting old enough now, I'm watching them, they let me sit on the alumni board, the School of Nursing Alumni Board. I watch them. And the growth, I remember when they were students and their growth. And we're getting more and more of ours earning their Ph.D.'s. And that's right and proper. They should do that.

Anyway, it's kind of fun. We had a big fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration here in the living room on Saturday. And the couple had it here so that people here could come, because they live in town, and people at their church and all that. Anyway, a young woman came up to me and said, “I'm one of yours. I graduated in '77.” You know, with all I had, I wouldn't—I'm pretty good at it, but she didn't—I had to think about that. She told me her name, and I was glad to see her, you know. What I was trying—I taught them. I said, “Nobody will ever get out of this school that didn't have me for their teacher as long as I'm dean.” So I taught a class to the freshmen, to the juniors one, and the seniors. Anyway, till the last year the faculty said, “You're being very selfish, because when you're gone we won't know what to do with that course.” So that I didn't take it fully the last year. But anyway—

I was instrumental to them in helping get hospice started here in Greensboro, and have been involved with it since it started, so that I got an award in Texas in November. And when I came off of the platform—Let's see, the presentations were made and we made our remarks and all this, and then they had us go back and take the picture and everything. And so as I'm coming down, this girl came running up to me and gave me a big hug and she said, “You know what? I didn't hear a word you said because, as clear as if you were saying it to me right then, I remember the day that you taught me how you observe a patient, what's happening—” And she rattled off—She just said, “The voice was just the same. I said, 'My god, that's Miss Lewis.'” And she said, “I bet you would never recognize me, but I was in the class of '56 at Chapel Hill.” I taught her at Chapel Hill, and she remembered. Well, it's that kind of thing, you know.

And then I had the good fortune to be able to say to the faculty, “I've walked every round of the academic. You can't say I don't know what it's like to be an instructor, an assistant, an associate, and a full professor, because I've walked that, as a department chairman, as a director of a program, this kind of thing.” It made a difference, see? It was just the right place for me, and I had a happy time.

And let me show you something funny. The day that I retired, they gave me this book. That's how I looked when I came. But see all the things that we did? This is all the things that we did, but—Chancellor [James S.] Ferguson let us have champagne when we heard from our first accrediting visit, and we were the first school in the country that got national accreditation before we graduated our first class. And my colleagues said, “How in the hell did you do that?” But you know, I ain't tellin'. I wanted to show you that. That's a letter there from—But now this is what—See, one day over in the library they ought to have these pictures, because they just told me to collect stuff for them.

But what I wanted to show you, the night the faculty had the party for me, this is the quilt they made. And you see, I said to one of them who—that one. I said, “Billy, you know you've never picked up a needle in your whole life.” And we laughed. But those people that didn't know how to do any of this, they gave the money to have it quilted. [chuckling] Isn't that wonderful?

HT:

Dr. Lewis, let me switch the tape. Just a second.

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

HT:

Dr. Lewis, if I can ask you just a few brief questions about your military service, do you recall any embarrassing moments when you were in the military?

EL:

Probably, see, we were so busy caring for the sick, we didn't have—But if you wanted to call embarrassing, would be as I described to you when you had the patients in social situations, in the city of Philadelphia when they didn't choose to be there, and some of the things that went on were kind of embarrassing. That was all right.

I think another thing that—See, in basic training the rules and regulations were very stiff: You're supposed to salute, you know how, you're supposed to do certain things. Well, I was told—the colonel said I didn't need to do that anymore. But one night I started across the campus, and it was five o'clock and that's when the flag came down and all the things, and if you were out there you were supposed to stand there like that. And I got part of the way out of the main building and turned around and ran back in. And the colonel was standing there, and she just said, “That's all right, Lieutenant, I didn't even start.” So that that was all right.

I think one of the other times when I was recruiting for them, prior to getting in the service, when I was recruiting for the Cadet Nurse Corps, I was working on the Eastern Seaboard there at Chesapeake Bay, down there in that part of Maryland. And it was a good learning experience for me, but those young people in the school of nursing down there, I mean to tell you, they had more questions about the military and what would go on and all, and I hadn't been to basic training and I hadn't been through and I didn't know. Those trips sometimes were very emotionally draining, but embarrassing because I didn't know how to answer. I kept saying, “But I'm a teacher at Hopkins and I've not yet—They won't let me go, so I can't answer.” But they thought, “Oh, you don't know anything.” That's what they said to me one time. I said, “You're quite right.” [chuckling]

HT:

Can you tell me something about your social life while you were in the Army Nurse Corps?

EL:

Well, my husband-to-be was in the Pacific, and those were months where your day didn't end at the end of the day, and it was like twenty-four hours. So there were plenty of parties on base and that kind of thing, and we went—The colonel was pretty good about if you'd ever had a night off, you know, that we could go to the academy and things like that. I went to New York a couple of times, that kind of thing. But those were days when we just had to wait. We said, “The war will be over soon.”

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite songs, movies, and dances were from those days?

EL:

Not right this minute. Oh, the boys were so funny, they used to sing to us. I'll have to think of that.

HT:

Okay, that's fine. Do you recall what the mood or the feeling of the country was during World War II?

EL:

Yes. I think that we all felt a part of what was going on. We all had rationed, were rationing gas, rationing sugar, rationing coffee. And we learned, and I remember now when I first went to Philadelphia we used to go to the farmer's market, and it was the first time that I ever learned to eat like heart, you know, animal heart and all the—Oh, and we learned to stuff it with the most wonderful apricot stuffing and stuff. Things like that. Boy, I'll tell you, if you had on a uniform, I learned that after I got in, there was such great “Where have you been? Have you heard anything today?”

And it was like a very hard time for us would be if the colonel called and said, “We've just been told they're to meet so many trains tonight,” and we knew what that meant. That was a hard, hard burden to carry. And when all the prisoners—the Americans liberated the prisoners, well, that was great rejoicing, you see. Boston was a debarkation center for a lot of the patients that we got at Valley Forge, the burns—And I will tell you, we got a load of prisoners one day and they were flown in to us, I believe. Well, their limbs were black. We thought, “Oh me, they're going to have to cut them off, they've got gangrene.” [whispering] But they were dirty! Dirty!

HT:

These were American prisoners of war?

EL:

Yes. But people were used to—People didn't fuss. They just planned out—Everybody had two jobs, you know. They worked. We had a purpose. I don't remember that people fussed. And the had great feeling, you know, if they were—Especially in the rural community that I came from, where in everybody's front door they had a plaque with the stars on it, you know. And when my brother, the first message came that he was dead, I was not there but I know about it, and then it came that he was seriously injured, and how rejoicing it was. It was everybody was in it. That was what was different! Everybody. And you weren't free.

But the ingenuity of our boys would just kill you. Like sulfa was just being used. Well, those rascals, they would make pellets out of their cast, the plaster of Paris, and trade it to the people who were guarding the prisons: “This will protect you. It's a special medicine from America.” Trade it for a cigarette. You know? And there the way they kept up their spirits and loved one another, and the way that they would tell you what they did to stay alive—And we had a few from Corregidor. We had a very small psychiatric unit, and a good, good, good commander there, a colonel there, and we got a few from out there. But they were not put with the others. Their experiences had been so different, but we did know that they kept each other's spirits up. And the people in this country, all right, if you've got a son or brother or a cousin who's there, you don't know if he's freezing or he's hungry or something, then you're not going to want to have all the things that he can't have. You know, it was just amazing. Like I tried to say to you, we had a purpose. We had a purpose, and every day was worthwhile because it meant something to somebody else. And the boys couldn't have done what they did.

HT:

When you were at Valley Forge, how difficult was it to work with these extremely burned cases and gravely ill people?

EL:

Oh, you can't be raised in a medical center without having gone through some of that. And you see, some of my students, like the girls from the University of Pennsylvania, for example, they had seen things. When you walked into a unit where it was total—where everybody was that way, it frequently was just almost overcoming. You had to work with it, and you just kept knowing that you were there to make a difference and that under what was burned was somebody special, and so that you sought to help the student learn what was under there. Very often that was very hard for the young students.

We ran short of beds there because of the kinds of treatments we were doing. And all right, you get to a certain stage in reconstruction, we don't need you in the hospital till your time comes up for your next stage, and here's a bed in a reconstruction unit, and it has on the first day of March five caps on that bed. Five boys came back that day—you know, it's their time—and so we don't have room at one point. So they'd take off their caps and throw, and whichever one hit the pillow got to stay.

And then we got about two hundred more beds. You know, it's like just units and barracks that we had, ward barracks ward, but they didn't take time to level the ground and everything. So the kids in the wheelchairs, they would start up at the end of the corridor, give it a shove, and they'd just do like this. [chuckling]

One day I was helping students with—we were following two blind boys, and they learned how to turn with the currents, the noise, everything they'd learn. Well, they got to this one place and there was a huge picture of George Washington at Valley Forge—you know, the famous picture of George Washington. They stopped right there and said, “Good afternoon, George. How are you doing?” And they carried on this long conversation with him and said, “Well, you are a little chillier than we are today.” You know, blah, blah, blah, it was hot summertime. They kept on talking to him. And then if you hadn't known they were blind, they just finished their conversation, saluted, and then they go down and they turn. One of the things that took some of the edge off was the spirit of these boys and how thrilled they were as they began to get new faces, new ears, and it just took the edge off of it a lot.

HT:

Was World War II the start of what we call plastic surgery these days?

EL:

They had started following the great Coconut [Grove] fire in Boston. This doctor that was our chief had done most of that work, and we had—Let's see, Hopkins was doing some of it.

[Interview interrupted]

Hopkins was doing some of that. I'll tell you, in the fifties, because Chapel Hill did some fine plastic work in those early days, and it was a boy that was trained by this man, and he was a bastard if you ever saw one! But down here near Cabarrus County, [North Carolina], there is a camp where they have camp meetings, and mostly—well, different groups, but this one is mostly—Oh, they have a fine time during the summer, and they go down and they have the camp meetings and they get the religion and all this. But after a while they begin to chop on one another, you know, if they have too much to drink. So we admitted about twenty one weekend at Chapel Hill, we hadn't been open long, and so they called everybody to come and help. And I was making rounds with the students that Sunday morning, and I declare, this hand that belonged to a patient was fixed like that, and it was just perfect like the hand surgeon that I had worked with at Valley Forge. And I said, “Oh, my goodness! This looks perfect! It's just like blah, blah, blah, blah.” The curtain jerked back and this man said, “And who are you?!” Earl Peacock was his name, and I told him, and he said, “I did it.” And I said, “It looks just like it.” We were great buddies from then on, great buddies. He left us, I think, and went to the University of Arizona sometime in the early sixties.

But anyway, I think the movement to really understand what could be done in plastic surgery, and the volume, see—And we hadn't learned as much as all the things we know now about, you know, skin grafts and all the things we know. We didn't have the skill, or we didn't have the skin banks that we have now, so it took us longer to do the work than it does now because we have all the things. But it started there.

And the rehabilitation activities for the blind were phenomenal. We had a man in charge of that. I don't even remember where he came from, but he just had a marvelous commitment. He wanted them to learn how to get about with what nature provided, like the currents, the air, the noise, sounds, everything, and he just worked so hard with that. Well, that was a totally new concept. But you see, those boys who learned have made a difference in the communities that they've gone back to.

Now, see, we had neurosurgical centers, we had orthopedic centers, and they did similar work, I'm sure, but that's all we did at Valley Forge. That was our assignment. We had us a time. The biggest party we ever had was when our Catholic chaplain got his majority, because he wanted all the boys to celebrate. And we did, all over the place. The colonel was a little concerned, but the general said, “It'll be all right.” Because he was faithful to all the boys. You know, he walked and worked that place all the time. We had good chaplain support, but that one they particularly liked, and so when he got to be a major it was a really joyful time. We had to help one another, you know?

HT:

Can you tell me about some interesting people you met while you were in the service?

EL:

Well, see, I never kept up with anybody, for the reason that my time there was short. The demands were great, I knew where I was going when I got out, and my heart was in the South, and so that I never kept up with anybody that I—not even the students. You know, the relationship that I had in teaching those students throughout my career was not present on the one-to-one basis there because of the numbers. I walked among them, and they knew and this kind of thing, but to get close to them like my own here, no, you know, so that I didn't keep up with anybody.

HT:

Did you have any heroes or heroines from those days that you can recall?

EL:

Oh, in terms of the professional people that we had? Well, you know most of us in the service were totally committed to President Roosevelt, and we were really grieved when we had to think about putting up with a new person. Because we believed exactly what he said, that it was absolutely necessary. You remember his famous statement about fear? We always believed that. The two people, I don't consider her a heroine in the way—but of great respect, was Lucile Petry Leone, head of the Cadet Nurse Corps that came, the first nurse to head—She was our first nurse surgeon general. Isabel Stewart. And then I think in those years I came to know and appreciate Sister Olivia at Catholic University, who was a very fine pioneer in what we were wanting to do and how we were going about it. And then Isabel Stewart. But then, of course, all of us, I guess you'd say, the biggest heroine for nursing and where it went in the future was Frances Payne Bolton, because she helped us. And when we started the Nurse Training Act to get money for what we are doing now and what we've been, we always had that legend to help us along. But you know when you are young and you're what, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, you've got your mind on other things.

HT:

That's true. [chuckling]

EL:

You've got your mind on other things.

HT:

Well, what did you think of Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

EL:

Well, you see, we respected her because she represented a woman, but he was our boss.

HT: He was the commander in chief.
EL:

That's right. And so that if you were thinking about them and paying attention—Oh, we had a lot of faith in [General Dwight D.] Eisenhower because so many of our folks served under him. And one of the things that I shall never forget that happened, it relates to Mr. Eisenhower. When the war was over and he came back to this country, and he was president at Columbia before he came to be President of the United States—I think president of Columbia University—he came to be the speaker at the University of Pennsylvania graduation. Well, because of the age of that institution and everything there, the hierarchy and everything that goes with that is something else. The graduation takes place in the coliseum and the deans have different years that they march. Well, in this particular year the dean of the School of Nursing was right behind the president and Mr. Eisenhower, and that was Dr. [Theresa] Lynch, and she decided that I could march with her. And we were all in our black outfits and everything, and when we got opposite the three-year schools' graduates were still in their white uniforms. See, we hadn't gotten to the baccalaureate program yet. And we were going down this aisle, and all of a sudden Eisenhower stopped and he said in this terrible voice, “Attention!” And everybody in the coliseum—He said, “I want perfect attention till I'm up on the platform and then I wish to speak to you.” When we got up there, see, all the seats were assigned and everything, and he stepped to the microphone and he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you today to pay tribute to the young women who are with us today in their white uniforms. Because I know, and I hope you know, that in the terrible struggle of great horror and misery, the one constructive force that never failed us were the army nurses. And everybody in this audience stand today in tribute to them.” And you know, I'll never forget that. And I said to myself later on—And of course he had them stand and then he had everybody stand. But if he was planning to run for president, he got a lot of votes that day. [chuckling] But I'll never forget that. He said, “The one constant constructive thing that we could depend on were the army nurses.” That was beautiful, wasn't it?

HT:

It was beautiful.

EL:

Yeah, that's right.

HT:

Well, speaking of Eisenhower, do you recall where you were on D-Day and VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

EL:

Yes. That Sunday morning when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, those five nurses that I told you about that were sent to Philadelphia to help in the Woman's Medical College School of Nursing, we were sitting in front of the fire. It was cold and snowy outside and we were having our breakfast, and that's when we learned about that. The next one was what?

HT:

D-Day, Normandy.

EL:

Oh, lord! That was in—

HT:

June of '44.

EL:

We were in an assembly for the School of Nursing at Hopkins. Miss [Lula] Wolfe was the director and she spoke to us that day about the changes that might occur. See, nursing was beginning, like I said, to talk about all these things and be ready. And what we didn't know, however, until we knew, we were supposed to address the issues of the day, learn and teach well. And VJ Day, I was in Strawbridge Clothiers in Philadelphia buying me a pair of duty shoes.

HT:

Were you already in the service on VE Day, which was in May of '45? You went in April, so you were probably in basic training at that time, weren't you?

EL:

Yes.

HT:

I know you were in the military a somewhat brief time, can you describe your adjustment to civilian life once you got back out into civilian life in December of '45?

EL:

Well, it was a continuation of doing what I had been doing in teaching. Sometimes, and at the University of Pennsylvania that was a good place to be, that's a good institution, but you had to work very hard to overcome some sense of impatience when people complained about things that didn't go exactly like they chose to have them go. Heavens, what we had seen and heard! That seemed so insignificant.

And then, you see, I had come out of a school that was years and years ahead of—Like Lula Wolfe—I told you Lula Wolfe Hassenplugh was our assistant dean, and she is noted as one of the very great education pioneers in baccalaureate education in nursing. See, she had taken our first class over yonder. We were over there. And it seemed to me that I had a hard time getting adjusted to the routines of the diploma program, which was what I was in, because the dean was working toward—When I was working at the desk and a doctor came, I wasn't raised to hop up so he could have the place I sat. At Vanderbilt you didn't do that. All kinds of adjustments. Mine were more stepping out of a place that was on the way to a very tradition-bound kind of thing. But we learned, and Miss Wolfe helped us to understand, with grace and dignity speak what you have to say.

So, when I went to see the chief, [Dr.] O.A. Perry Pepper, chief of medicine, about how the physicians would work with us in the school and all the things I wanted them to talk about, because they didn't know anything about nursing, I could do that, I wanted some other basic theory and this kind of thing, he said, “All right, all right, all right! You want them to learn to do more than carry bedpans and take thermometers.” I said, “You are right, sir. And with me they will.” And he said, “Well, go on, get out of here, and do as you please.” Those kinds of adjustments were hard for me, but I learned a lot because I—You know, that was a good place to be and the experiences were—It was all right, but it was the tradition I found difficult to manage. And see, when we were at the Woman's Medical there was tradition there. But because of the situation we were in, we were allowed to make whatever changes seemed appropriate to go. The war was over, Penn was back in its settled track, and Dr. Lynch hadn't moved it over here yet. But we got there.

HT:

What impact did the military have on your life immediately after you got out, and in the long term? I think you've already mentioned some of the immediate impact, but what was a long-term impact of having been in the military?

EL:

In all honesty, to say to you—you see, I think if I hadn't been in the military and gone to Philadelphia in that first job, you see, then I was at Hopkins and then the Army and then Penn. So in that way that probably had the strongest impact on my professional career, because Dr. Lynch gave me every opportunity to learn the things that she thought I needed to know. One day she said to me, “Run over yonder and start getting your master's.” And then she gave me opportunities, and it kind of tickled her to see because of my southern voice. She would get me on projects, and we had continuing education and all these kinds of things, so that if I hadn't been there, would I have ever ended up at Chapel Hill? Because she was the one that told Betty Kimbel. If I hadn't been over there, would I have ever come here? So in that way, having gone to do the first thing I did after I graduated, made a profound impact on the path that I followed after that. I met a lot of people in Philadelphia in those years that I was there that have been steady with me and friends that are still friends after fifty years. There were eight couples of us from the South that belonged to the same church that were all at Penn, and I was working but the rest of them were going to school, and that's been a close-knit bunch.

I served on the Medical Benevolence Foundation Board. That's the mission board for our church, Presbyterian. And the first meeting I went to I saw this little boy, and he came from Georgia, this town in Georgia, and I thought, “You belong to—” And I went over there at the break one time and talked to him about his daddy and mother. They were at Penn the same time we were, you know? And then a lot of the—See, because we didn't have a medical school in North Carolina, when our boys finished that two-year they had to go to Penn, to Yale, Harvard, Hopkins. So a lot of the medical men that I knew when I first came to Chapel Hill to teach, I had known at Penn. And in that way, you see, those are relationships that are important. There's a couple here in Greensboro. I taught her as an undergraduate student at Penn. He was a medical student and she was a diploma graduate. She was ahead of him because she got through before he did, and she stayed and got her baccalaureate degree with him. But anyway, they eventually ended up at Chapel Hill, he in radiology, and we lived next door to each other and belong to the same church—they beat me two years over here—and their kids call me Aunt Pattie, and those are like my five, you know. Those are cherished times that you have that got started up there. My Japanese connections, they're over fifty years now, close friends, the Quakers had brought from the West. So that's been a good experience for me.

I think it was my third birthday here after the school got started that they had a party for me at the Chinese place, Jung's [restaurant]. It's gone now but it used to be a very important one here. And when we went there that day, at the table there was no silver. There was just chopsticks. But the funny part about it was, I was the only one who could use them. They were going to pull a joke on me. It was the influence of my Japanese friends.

HT:

How did you meet these Japanese friends?

EL:

The church. The church we belonged to. The wonderful, wonderful minister was a professor at the college, at Erskin College [Due West, South Carolina]. He just nurtured the foreign kids and helped with the people back from the service. Everybody back from the service all had the same kind of problems and stuff. And so Mary and her husband were in that group. See, that's been over fifty years, and it's still good.

HT:

Would you consider yourself an independent person?

EL:

Yes.

HT:

Do you think the military helped you become more independent?

EL:

No. [pause] Well, Lord, I've never thought about it. I think, because of the situation that I was in, I was expected to do what I—The colonel said, “You get over there and do it.” In that way I was independent. I was more dependent on where I came from and my teachers, and I knew that I could pick up the phone and get help if I needed it. But Lula Wolfe would say, “Don't you know how to do that?” You were taught how. You just get out your books and you learn to do it. I think that it helped me a lot, because if I had been a timid soul put over there with those kids—[chuckling] But my sergeants helped me so much.

HT:

They were all men, is that correct?

EL:

Yeah. Oh yeah, we didn't have any women sergeants out there then. Those boys were fabulous! I said, “Look, if you guys help me, I'll help you.” They never let you down. And they could control the kids. You know, sergeants can be pretty—

HT:

These were all drill sergeants, so they knew how.

EL:

Oh yeah. And they did a beautiful job with the basketball team, and they made them do what they were supposed to do, and that gave me—See, when they were drilling them and having them with their exercises and everything, that gave me time to study a bit, to plan how I'm going to do the rotations, because there wasn't anybody out there that I could turn to to ask. The colonel said I should do it, she didn't want to bother, she hadn't done it, and nobody else out there had it, so I just had to do that. I was thinking about it. If I was a student back at school, how would they send you to learn this? And you see, those months that I had there after all my classmates were gone were really very helpful to me because I had been put in growing situations, and it was good.

HT:

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

EL:

Would be what?

HT:

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

EL:

I would say no, for this reason: because the purpose that we went into was very clear. You know, it was the kind of thing. However, there were some among that group that moved into leadership roles and did the things we learned. For example, in this way—Okay, two things: Before World War II you never could tell a patient what kind of medicine he was getting, what kind of blood pressure he had, and all that stuff. No! No! We couldn't have taken care of the boys. They had tags on them and everything, and the more he knew as he came from Okinawa or anywhere in the Pacific, the better able we were to take care of him. And so the nurses picked up on things like that and they wouldn't turn it loose. And that's when we started saying, “It is the patient's blood pressure, not yours,” to the doctor, “and not mine.” He's got to know what kind of medicines he's on. And you know that was when we never told a patient what his diagnosis was. Well, that's jackassy. And we learned. And many things like that, they were sort of—They were there. But you see, because the nurses had the data to know what happens when, the patient's informed and all, they were able to stand up and be counted and quit being subservient, because that's what they had been. And in that way, I think, the Army Nurse Corps had a major impact on nursing. And those people that realized that we were in it for the betterment of another human being, not by bowing and scraping but by using your head and what you learned and involving that person. And in that way, it did make a lot of difference. Because when you think about it, there were 125,000 cadets. They learned some of this, and then all the others, and then it did make a difference in the urge of nurses to go back to school. In the early days, the only two ways very often that a woman could get away from home was to go into teaching or nursing. That no longer was true.

HT:

Opportunities were so limited to women before the war.

EL:

Right, right.

HT:

What was the caliber of the doctors with whom you worked while you were in the military?

EL:

Marvelous. The University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia unit, we had—You see, after so much foreign service—I don't remember how many months they were on the front before they were brought back to rest. So we had them for like—I think early fall, the rest of the year. That's how I first knew the LeBauers [doctors from Greensboro], because they were in the University of Pennsylvania, a University of Virginia unit. We had other units from different places. The one that made the best impression on me was that one, and then I was just learning so much. But we had excellent medical care because the specialists were there. They were there receiving the damage that was done, and they couldn't do it in those hospitals over there. They were taking care of the initial injuries, but here they were at the rehab, construction and all that. They were really good.

Now, we had a commanding officer and we didn't like him at all. He was some chief doctor for—Who was president after Eisenhower?

HT:

Kennedy? Are you talking about President [John F.] Kennedy?

EL:

He must have been Eisenhower's doctor, because, see, the war was over. We didn't like him at all. He came in as our chief medical officer, chief of the whole place. We didn't like him and we didn't like what he was up to. I don't know how they got rid of him, but the next one that we got cared. He was a good army officer but he cared. And I mean to tell you, he had the total support of everybody up there, patients, staff, everybody. The one that was there when I first came, they shipped him overseas. He was well-loved also. The next one, I guess he was in a hard place because people didn't want him there anyway and wanted the other. It was amazing what they could do with what we had to do. Of course, they got what they needed to do. But they never mistreated those boys. That could have been their sons, you know? Now, I don't know how well-treated the prisoners were, but I do know that some of the sergeants that had to work over there found it very difficult when they thought about our own who were not being cared for likewise. But there was never a time that I saw, and I came out of a good medical center, and you know my exposure had been good, and Hopkins is good, and I know that the care that they demanded—The staff didn't goof off. They had their times, and when the chief stalked around, you'd better be doing what you were supposed to be doing. And that was all right.

HT:

Dr. Lewis, do you recall what the general perception of women who joined the military was during World War II, the perception by the country in general, by people's families, women's families, and that sort of thing?

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

EL:

If you read the history of nursing, beginning with Florence Nightingale and her work in Crimea, and if you think about the difference in what the girls in World War I, and then even more so in World War II, Korea and so on, it's very different from what she did because they were on the front line, in the trenches somewhere, in the hospitals that were being bombed, and in the—You know, they used to fly the boys that were flown from the Pacific to us. They were in converted hospital transport planes, and the nurses flew with them, so that until World War I, there were some differences. Then they began to look at it. During the Civil War, you think about that was on the battlefield, yes, some, you know, mostly in the makeshift places. Well, it wasn't organized at all. The people that had gone into the Army Nurse Corps along the way after World War I, maybe that's when it sort of got started, they were not very many of them and they were totally committed to what they were doing, but along the same pattern that they had been educated. And that's not derogatory in any way. That's what they knew, that's what they did. And the Army regimentation, the rules and regulations they were accustomed to, that's what they had. In the diploma schools of nursing, you did what you were told to do. You serve at the hospital. And that's the way lots of people made money, because they were free labor, all that. But after World War I, we begin to see some changes between [World War] I and [World War] II. And that's when more people began to come into the service—you know, not a lot, but at least it was a different avenue to get you away from home, to see different places, to make a fairly good salary, and to be involved with those you care—And that was good. I think that the way the Army Nurse Corps now, since World War II, they made an effort just after the—Like when we first started our school, there was heavy recruitment in all branches of the service to have nurses go in and they would pay for the education. And a good many of our graduates are still in. They are now, from our early classes, retiring at a fairly nice rank.

The one little girl, she was a beautiful child and she was in the fourth class with that boy, our first boy, and I said to Miss Turner, “Oh, that would be the nice pair. She's such a beautiful little one. That would be just nice for him.” And she told me in no uncertain terms, “That's not the business of the dean.” [chuckling] It didn't work out, but she's retired and has come back to Greensboro to live. But they are beginning to do that now. One of my retired—I went to a dress affair at the Navy over there at the armory, Air Force, whatever. Anyway, and he had done very well. But you see, they are now able to go for a second career. They're doing well. We don't have pressure. We had a lot of pressure to encourage our students to go the military routes from all branches. We have one of our graduates right now that's one of the top in the [U.S.]Air Force. I don't know where she is right now. One of our graduates is the chief at the NIH [National Institute of Health]. Right now I can't think of her name, but anyway she's chief there. And Laura Pitts, of course, and I know—we've been in touch with her, but she's gotten all kinds of awards, the Betty Ford Award, and this award and that award, but she's the chief up there. I think now that the families that are allowed to go together makes a difference. You know, you didn't used to do that. And the four top nurses at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, are our graduates.

I have a friend whose brother was brought back from Hawaii and he's there, he has cancer, and she was down there with him and she just said this girl came in, she had on boots and fatigues like things and she didn't look so good. But oh, she just said, “She was just wonderful with my brother.” And I hadn't seen anything like that in a long time. And when she turned to talk to me, she said, “I recognize that pin.” And I said to her, “You come from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, don't you?” She said, “Yes, I do. I certainly do, I'm one of Dr. Lewis's. And don't tell her how I look”—they had been on some maneuvers or something—and said, “You just go tell her that the nursing care of the men and patients here are in good order. Four of hers are in charge.” You know, so that we do have some making the army a career. One in our second class, I guess, was the first of our graduates to rise to a substantial place in the air force. And she married a man and they live in Colorado. But that rascal down in Jackson, I said, “Hettie [Garland], I know who you're talking about. That's Kathy Lynch. It sounds just like her.” You know? Anyway, so that there are a lot of good opportunities for them. They go places and see things, and if they're interested in that kind of thing it's good for them.

One of the men that's on my faculty, several of the boys that came through the program were in Vietnam and in Korea, and they had a hard time getting adjusted and they needed to be nurtured and helped and everything. A couple of them went back into the service. Not all of them, but one particular one, he's probably intellectually the smartest boy we ever graduated. But he and his wife, she got her degree here, then they went to the Philippines first, and he said that he would take any assignment that he was given, because then when the time came he could ask for an assignment in a place he could earn his doctorate in nursing. But their first little one, Andy, was in trouble when he was born and they sent—I thought this was really nice. They sent him back to Womack [Army Hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina] because they said the best care for the problem that he had was at Chapel Hill, and the best children's people in that area of some kind of a problem the child had. I thought that was wonderful that the kind of things they do now opens a field. That's good. The chief of the Army Nurse Corps, one of them that North Carolina has had, and I can't think of her name, is a graduate of [North Carolina] A&T [State University in Greensboro]. I think she was one of the—maybe the first black nurse to be in charge of the Army Nurse Corps, was an A&T graduate and a very fine chief nurse. I think she is retired now. I think she's retired. But anyway, you see, I've been blessed. I've had many experiences and many opportunities. Sometimes we don't use them all just right, but at least we learn, don't we?

HT:

That's true. Well, Dr. Lewis, I only have a couple more questions for you. I know it's getting late and I'm sure you're tired. How do you feel about women in combat positions?

EL:

Well, I think, although we were trained in World War II how to take care of ourselves, not to the extent that it probably would be now, somehow I think, and this is sort of—you know, I think one of us can drive an airplane just as good as a man, but I'm not sure—and yet this is hard for me to say, because the men we graduated from our program are just as good as we are. They have the heart and the warmth and everything that's there. But somehow I haven't been able to resolve the problem of the combat infantry bit for us. I don't know if we could hold up quite as good as the boys. I don't know that, but I think it—I think there are places for all of us in whichever one we can serve the best. But that's the one I haven't done, the air force, the transport planes and this kind of stuff, and I think we ought to be able to do that. I can't visualize us maneuvering one of those big ships. Can you?

HT:

I don't know. That would be tough for me, too. [chuckling]

EL:

Yeah. I think we have a place, but maybe not—Well, I told you my concern is I have never been able to straighten out that business of the infantry with us. But I don't have any problem with the airplanes and transport planes. I hadn't thought about those big ships. I don't know.

HT:

Well, Dr. Lewis, is there anything else you'd like to add about your military service that we haven't covered this afternoon?

EL:

No, I don't think so. I hadn't thought about it in a hundred years.

HT:

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your life after the military, you life at UNCG when you were dean there, and your years since you've left there? What kind of things have you been doing to keep yourself busy and happy?

EL:

Well, what I've been doing since I left UNCG is I was asked to chair the committee to get the [UNCG] Centennial [celebration] going. And you know that's a big job, and so I asked to have Bob Eason help me after two or three years. That was one of the first university things I did. Then I came on the [UNCG] Excellence Foundation Board, I am still on that, and did a lot of initial work with Weston Hatfield in our planned giving bit. Then when the university got its advisory committee, they asked me to be a member, a lifetime member on that, and I serve there. And I serve on the [UNCG] Alumni Board. I still see my kids. And then one of the things that I was very interested in when I was president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and that's the national organization that you can only belong to that if you have a baccalaureate, master's, or a doctoral program, and so I was on that board about nine years and served as president two years and that kind of stuff.

Well, after a while we decided, and this was since I retired, that we ought to have a journal that spoke strictly for the baccalaureate and higher degree programs. So I served as the first editor of the Journal of Professional Nursing, and did that from '86—'85 maybe it was. Maybe they got me the year before I retired. But when I got involved with the centennial and some of the other things, it just seemed to me that sitting over there at Chapel Hill was the perfect replacement and that—you know, people can be funny. I thought we need a sitting dean, that the deans felt that I was retired, some of the problems that they had I had left. Dr. [Laurel] Copp was the second editor, and she was absolutely fantastic. So the journal moves along well.

Then I was involved with the beginning of hospice here and served—I was involved when we started and when we had a half-time nurse, a half-time social worker, and a half-time secretary. Now we have eighty-some full-time staff and all kinds of things. But when we came up to the first time that it was time for me to be off the board they said, “No, you have to be off a year. But why don't you just chair the capital campaign for us.” So that I did, and learned a heck of a lot. By the time we moved into our building it was paid for, and that's the generosity of the people here in this city. I've been either on the board or doing a project like that for the hospice since it started here, really, and we have Beacon Place and all that. It's close to my heart, and I do work with hospice all the time.

Then back in '67, there was a nursing home out on Huffine Mill Road and it was called Evergreens, and they asked me to be on that board. And our faculty did help when we got the new building that's off of Wendover, and one of our faculty members who were particularly skilled nurtured that staff who had always been there and helped to move. So I was on that board till '97, from '67, and that was a great learning experience for me. And you know, this week, and I must try to do that again, but I got a call a couple weeks or three weeks ago and they said that they wanted to talk with me about something. They work hard every day. They probably care for people in long-term care better than anybody in this city, or as good as anybody in this city—better mostly. You know, we've been through hard times and I've seen them grow. You know, like there are some social workers there that are UNCG graduates. Anyhow they said, “Will you do some in-service educations for us? We want our people to understand about it and to review the philosophy, purposes, and objectives of Evergreens, and you were chairman of the committee that got that going.” I said, “All right, I'll think about it.” So the day I went out to see about it, I had decided that I would talk to them about how to use your head, your heart, and your hands to make it go. And the name that they gave this whole thing, “Service With a Heart,” I figured that we were connected in special ways. But I won't ever have seven hours in one day. I can't, not at my age. But I did it. I had over a hundred and twenty of the staff there. We just had a marvelous time to explain to them. And don't you know that there was an article in People and Places in the middle of all this day that talked—written by the daughter of a woman that's out there, why they make a difference out there. They treat her mother like a lady. Anyhow, and then this past Friday I did a couple of hours to make up.

Sometimes I do things like that for churches. I talk about—I once had the silly idea, the myth of a rocking chair. I did it for the OWLS at my church, Older, Wiser, Livelier Seniors, and so it got noised around and I do that sometimes for churches, church groups of older folks. Then I'm serving now on the two—served on the Duke University [Durham, North Carolina] School of Nursing Advisory Committee, and I'm serving on two state committees right now to plan that, I told you, our celebration in 2003. And then we came out here.

I'll tell you a funny story. One day we came out here, I didn't like everything I saw about the Health Committee, and so I'm now serving as chair of the Health Committee and we're doing fun things to keep us well and keep us healthy. And the people are wonderful. People said, “Nobody will come.” Well, we showed them that that was not right, because the first program that I got them involved in, Katherine [Turner] helped me and we gave everybody a special invitation and placed everybody with different people. And we had a “Oops, Let's Don't Fall,” and the physical therapist did it. We invited people to bring their wheelchairs, their walker, their walking cane, everything. And do you know, the first week we had 179 of the 227. And then when we did makeup we had 25 of the rest of them. They don't argue with me anymore. They don't argue with me anymore. Anyway, so I'm doing that and working to how can we best look after ourselves and therefore stay well, and this kind of thing?

And then for my church I had never been involved because of the schoolhouse in the way that I thought I should or wanted to. So I said to the minister, “I'm getting ready to retire and I've thought of what I wanted to do.”

“Oh Lord,” he said, “we'd better sit down and have lunch together.” [chuckling]

And I said, “George, I've already talked to God about this, and that it's purely selfish but God understands, that I know all the folks in the hospitals, I know how to get in and out, and from our conversation you wouldn't believe this, I know when to shut my mouth and when to open it, what to say and what not to say, and I'd like to offer to assist you in visiting our sick parishioners who are in the hospital.” Well, I've been doing it since '85. I said, “You know, that's selfish because this way I'll get to keep up with my kids.” And now there are four of us. We are commissioned through the hierarchy, and there are two men and two women—I finally got me two men helpers—so that we just now just take it one week a month.

And I'm just doing things like that. I run off and do other things, you know. [chuckling] I need to get at some things, but I enjoy what I'm doing. And after I had my bout with cancer, some days I wonder—no, I don't wonder, but some days I think, “Why do you do all this?” This is the way I give back for the days that I have. Because every morning I open my eyes and say, “Thank you, God, for another day, you know? This is maybe, well for me, saying this is thank you for being allowed to be here, for doing.” And then I've been working with the capital campaign. I was on the steering committee and chaired the school nurse—So then I work with the people over in the Market Street development.

HT:

The development office.

EL:

I love those beautiful young people, just love them. You know, they are special and they are so smart, those young people. And I'm hoping that we get a good vice chancellor for development, because none of us know what—See, the campaign's over, but each school has a development officer, and so that I'm going to continue working with Laura Pitts on the things that we've gotten started. The dean has some other things she wants me to help her in.

Now Betty Carter [UNCG University Archivist] and I are going to think up our—We'll have to take our direction from her about our historical collection and some of the things. Because if we go toward our doctoral program, then there are some things we have to be careful about, and she can help with that. And based on that, behind your back, what Betty and I did, did she tell you?

HT:

No.

EL:

You're going back over there today?

HT:

No, I'll go back in the morning. [chuckling]

EL:

Oh, all right. Anyway, it would be very, very helpful if you carried two containers of books.

HT:

Oh yes, yes, she did mention that.

EL:

Okay. So that's all I know.

HT:

Okay. Well, Dr. Lewis, thank you so much for speaking with me this afternoon. It's just been marvelous listening to all your stories. Thank you again.

EL:

Oh, I'm so glad I got to meet you. Now you hurry up and come back.

HT:

Okay. [chuckling]

[End of Interview]