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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Frances Madden Hobbins, 1999

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Object ID: WV0054.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Frances Madden Hobbins’s pre-war family life; her service with the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in Hawaii during World War II; and her post-war career in computers.

Summary:

Early topics focus on Hobbins’s father’s career as an electrician, her high school, not finishing college, working as a telephone operator, and life in Boston in the early 1940s.

Hobbins remembers enlisting in the WAVES on her 21st birthday, Navy recruitment of telephone operators, and being stationed at Fort MacArthur, Utah, where she drove a jeep to deliver the mail. Hobbins mainly discusses her time spent at Pearl Harbor. She speaks of the fresh food the dietitian supplied; bonding with the other women; VJ Day celebrations; curfew; sneaking off to meet the boys; and visiting Kauai. She tells a story of seeing her brother on a ship at Pearl Harbor and a story about her cousin saving another cousin in the Pacific Ocean. Hobbins also discusses her friendship with the man that she replaced at Pearl Harbor.

Post-war topics include Hobbins' relocations between Arizona and Boston, working as a telephone operator, making the transition into work with computers, and joining the Civil Service in Washington, D.C. She also discusses being a single woman and the effects of the war.

Creator: Frances Agnes Madden Hobbins

Biographical Info: Frances A. Madden Hobbins (1923-2006) of Boston, Massachusetts, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1944 to 1945 and spent almost two decades as a civil servant at the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

Collection: Frances M. Hobbins Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

Well, hello, my name is Eric Elliott and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and I'm here today in Chapel Hill. Actually, we're south of Chapel Hill, aren't we?

FH:

It's Chapel Hill.

EE:

Chapel Hill address? In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with Miss Frances Hobbins. This is for the Women Veterans Oral History Project at the university. And Miss Hobbins, thank you for having us today.

FH:

My pleasure.

EE:

We're going to start off by just asking you a few things about your early years and your family and where you grew up. So, where were you born?

FH:

Boston, Massachusetts, in 1923.

EE:

Do have any brothers and sisters?

FH:

I have three sisters and four brothers.

EE:

Are you the oldest, youngest, middle? Where were you?

FH:

I'm number four.

EE:

Number four. Smack-dab in the middle.

FH:

Right in the middle.

EE:

What did your folks do?

FH:

My father was a master electrician, and he mostly worked in the Boston Navy Yard building the ships for the navy. When there wasn't any work at that place, he went around anyplace where they were installing high-wire—

EE:

Transmission towers, that kind of thing?

FH:

Usually power lines, electric lines.

EE:

But his preferred employment was working in the shipyard, installing that?

FH:

In the shipyard, yes.

EE:

Was he doing that during World War I?

FH:

No, he wasn't old enough at that time.

EE:

Not old enough? He started this in the twenties then?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

I guess power transmission lines were just going up for the first time for a lot of places right then.

FH:

That's right. He worked a lot in Rhode Island, so that he would come home, if he could, on the weekend.

EE:

So you saw Dad on the weekend, and that was about it?

FH:

Well, for great expanses of time.

EE:

What did your mom do?

FH:

With eight kids? She ran the house. [chuckling]

EE:

I know, I know. My grandmother had seven. It's a silly question. So the pay must have been pretty good.

FH:

You know, I always remember my father as going to school, always in night school, and it was—He was never out of work, which was good in those days.

EE:

Yeah, especially so. So did you spend your whole growing up time in Boston? Did you move around?

FH:

Yes, I did. No, my ancestors had landed in Boston and they just stayed right there.

EE:

Where did you go to high school?

FH:

Dorchester High School for Girls.

EE:

Oh, an all-girl school.

FH:

An all-girl school.

EE:

Now was this a parochial school?

FH:

No, it was a public school. But my grandfather had been the janitor, the engineer for the heating thing, and all his sons had worked there. So when I came along all the teachers knew who I was. [chuckling]

EE:

Did they tell you to go home and tell your dad we need this fixed or that? [chuckling]

FH:

No, they would say, “Well, now your grandfather would tell me—” It got to be a little annoying after a while. [chuckling]

EE:

What do you remember about high school? Did you have any favorite subjects?

FH:

I always liked English. I could do the math, but I had to work at it.

EE:

Did you work when you were in high school?

FH:

No. No, I didn't work until I got out of high school, and I went to secretarial school for—I believe it was three years. And then the telephone company was expanding at that time, and I went to work as a long distance telephone operator for New England Tel[ephone] and Tel[egraph].

EE:

And were you doing that job while you were in secretarial school?

FH:

No, I quit school.

EE:

That would have been a four-year degree then that you were working for?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

What was the name of that school, do you remember?

FH:

Boston Clerical School. Everybody would think that “clerical” meant church, and I had to explain no, it was the other clerical.

EE:

So were any of your other brothers and sisters gone off to college, or was everybody pretty much wanting to get a job? Those days most folks went to get work.

FH:

There were very few people going to college in those days. They would go to work.

EE:

Now, did the schools up there have eleven grades or twelve?

FH:

Twelve.

EE:

So you graduated when?

FH:

Nineteen forty.

EE:

Nineteen forty, okay. Then you were in secretarial school—?

FH:

For three years.

EE:

When Pearl Harbor happened.

FH:

Yes. Yes, I was.

EE:

Was your dad working for the navy then?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Before Pearl Harbor?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

What happened to his schedule after Pearl Harbor? It might have picked up before then.

FH:

You mean did he join the service? No, he didn't. He tried to and he was declared as essential to the defense.

EE:

Because of his technical skills.

FH:

Because of his time. Yeah, because of his job.

EE:

But he was working at the shipyard, and then he tried to join after the war started?

FH:

Right.

EE:

What did you feel about that? Do you remember when you first heard about Pearl Harbor, where you were?

FH:

Yes, I do. I had several illnesses as a child, and my grandmother lived right down the street, so I really grew up in my grandmother's house. It was just a short—

EE:

Was that your mom's mom or your dad's mom?

FH:

No, my mother's mother. And I was in her house alone and listening to The Shadow Knows” [radio program], and that's how I—

EE:

And they interrupted The Shadow?

FH:

I think they probably did, or between programs or something, but I remember sitting there saying, “Where is Pearl Harbor? Who does Pearl Harbor belong to?” And I later found out.

EE:

Yeah, President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt gave a speech the next day, “the day that will live in infamy.”

FH:

That's right.

EE:

Did everybody know that when that happened that meant we were going to war?

FH:

No, people didn't know where— What was the fuss about Pearl Harbor?

EE:

It was half a world away.

FH:

It was, and most people didn't know where it was until the papers started coming out, and in those days radio.

EE:

Boston is right there on the coastline. Was there worry before then about what the Germans were doing with shipping before then?

FH:

Well, we knew that there were shipping problems all up and down the coast, that there were rumored submarines all up and down the coast. And there was blackout, you know. At night the windows had to be covered with anything that wouldn't let the light through.

EE:

This was before Pearl Harbor?

FH:

I believe it was, because I remember at least immediately after—And they had neighborhood people that were the patrol. Whoever was in the age limit usually went into the service, but whoever couldn't go into the service went into the Home—

EE:

Home Patrol.

FH:

Home Patrol, yeah.

EE:

You graduated in '40. This would have been about halfway through your secretarial school experience.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you immediately feel like the war was going to affect you? Or when did you get the notion that you wanted to join the military?

FH:

I really couldn't answer that as a specific time, but we were a navy port.

EE:

Your dad was working there every day.

FH:

And they were on the street, you know, the sailors were. Then my brother went into— My brother tried several times to enlist, but he was very, very, very colorblind, and you can't be on a ship and not know the red lights from the green lights. But he also was a mechanical engineer, and he could run the machines that ran the ships. So the navy needed him, and wanted him, but they couldn't take a chance on him not being able to see the lights. So they solved their problem by enlisting him into the Seabees and putting him aboard a hospital ship. I don't remember the hospital ship's name right now, but he spent his service time on a ship, and all the way over to Japan—

EE:

Now was he older than you?

FH:

Yes, he was just older than I was.

EE:

What was his name?

FH:

Joseph.

EE:

When did he join? In '42, '43?

FH:

It must have been around in there.

EE:

Before you by some time?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Any other of your brothers and sisters join the war effort?

FH:

No, just the two of us, at that time, then the others came along later and joined in later.

EE:

Well, I guess for you, if you're a navy family—and you are by virtue of your dad working around it—you probably didn't consider many of the other services very seriously, did you?

FH:

No, I didn't. The others never entered consideration at all.

EE:

Did you like that uniform?

FH:

Yes, I did. [chuckling]

EE:

I haven't met anybody who didn't like that uniform.

FH:

We have a story that my brother used to tell about going into Tokyo Harbor at the end. And being a hospital ship, they were supposed to go in and get the men out of the prisons, but they never got the order to go in. So finally he had a captain that said, “You know what they can do with it,” and he just went in without orders and he got the men that had been imprisoned for so long and so bad—you know, were just skeletons by the time they got to them. And because he went in without orders, [General Douglas] MacArthur would never give him the order to go out. So he had to go out the same way he went in.

EE:

MacArthur was a personality, wasn't he?

FH:

Yes, he was.

EE:

Well, what do you remember about joining up with the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy]? I guess you went down to a recruiting office?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

But you said now your dad did not want you to join the WAVES.

FH:

That's right.

EE:

Tell me about that. How did you win this battle?

FH:

I just did it. [chuckling] When I got to be twenty-one I just did it.

EE:

You just had to wait it out. When did you first get the notion that you wanted to go in?

FH:

I grew up doing everything my brother could do, and he—

EE:

So when he joined, that was when you—

FH:

Yeah, that was probably the last straw.

EE:

And in your mind girls were just as good as boys anyway.

FH:

You bet! [chuckling]

EE:

Oh, that's great. Now what is it, if you were under twenty-one you had to get a parent's signature, is that right? So you turned twenty-one in '44?

FH:

And it seems to me it was both parents.

EE:

Both parents had to sign?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

What did your mom feel about it, if your dad didn't want you to?

FH:

My mother didn't voice her opinion too much. I guess she figured she'd let my father have that fight. [chuckling]

EE:

Pick your battles wisely.

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

But '44 came. When did you have your birthday? When did you turn twenty-one?

FH:

January 5th.

EE:

Was that the day you went down?

FH:

That's it. I was there.

EE:

Oh, my goodness! You had no qualms? And you had told everybody weeks before, I'm sure, “As soon as it comes I'm going”?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

So you went down there, they signed you up—

FH:

And they said, “Why do you want to join the navy?” I couldn't tell them any particular reason. I was just there to join the navy. [chuckling]

EE:

Did they say, “Where do you want to be stationed?” Did they give you an option? Stay close to home, far away?

FH:

No.

EE:

Did you want to go like Miss [Gladys] Dimmick to the West Coast, far away from home?

FH:

I would have preferred. As a matter of fact, my parents both—While I was in the service they both had health problems. My father had a lung problem from being down—We figured later it was the asbestos in the hull of the ships. And my mother had arthritis in her spine. So the doctors between them had sent them both— “Go west.” Not “Go to Colorado or go to—” just “Go west.” So we ended up—My father had a friend who had a sister in Phoenix, Arizona, and that's the reason we ended up in Arizona.

EE:

And when did the family move to Arizona?

FH:

While I was in the service.

EE:

Oh, while you were there. But you didn't actually have any growing-up memories from Arizona?

FH:

No, but I was there after I got home. They were living in Arizona and I went there. And one of the biggest shocks of my young life was to see men walking the streets with holsters, gun holsters, two guns sometimes. And they were legal.

EE:

That was the West, the way the men were. [chuckling]

FH:

I realized that I was in the West. And then there was one particular corner downtown, a drugstore. The drugstore had an awning that would roll out or roll in, and whenever that was rolled out and there was shade underneath, all the Indian women would come and put their wares out on their blankets to sell. And they were just quietly there selling whatever they could. And then there were the miners that would come down out of the hills because they needed supplies, and they'd sell newspapers on the corner till they got enough to go buy their—

EE:

Go back and go get their fortune.

FH:

Get their beans and so forth, and then off they'd go again. It was an interesting place in those days.

EE:

And it looked a lot different from Boston.

FH:

And it probably looks a lot different today.

EE:

Well, today I know they've got all that irrigation and everything is green in the middle of the desert, but I'm sure it was a desert back then, desert climate.

FH:

Right, but at the same time, I know of several people who had come from Boston—among other places—come out there very, very sick, and just came out to die—you know, you might as well be warm—and twenty years later they were still running around, running the town. [chuckling]

EE:

So it did make a difference.

FH:

It did, yes, until the irrigation took over. And then as soon as the dampness moved in, then they had lost that dryness.

EE:

Well, let me go back to January of '44. Tell me about your first day in the service. What do you remember? Did you join as an officer or as enlisted?

FH:

Oh, enlisted.

EE:

Enlisted. I guess you had to be what, a college graduate to go to—

FH:

Yes.

EE:

So did you go to Hunter [College, New York City]?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Tell me about that.

FH:

Well, the reason I know I can tell you when I joined, the call went out for civilians who were telephone operators, because they needed telephone operators. I had to wait for a little while after I heard that, but that was what finally did the job. And as I was working with New England Tel and Tel, we had big switchboards up there. No machines, it was, you know—

EE:

Right.

FH:

And you did the location of the number—

EE:

By sight.

FH:

Yes, and then you called—Everything was done by voice. You called whatever station they were calling and talked to that operator, and she ran it.

EE:

And made the connection.

FH:

And every time I met a man I'd say, “Sir, can I talk to your telephone operator?” And he'd say, “I am the telephone operator.” But the call went out for telephone operators, and I went down and I said, “Here I am.” [chuckling]

EE:

Well, now it's funny because a lot of the jobs that women were asked to fill were traditionally—I mean they were male jobs.

FH:

Right.

EE:

Now were telephone operators mainly female even in the service, or was it male in the service and female in the—?

FH:

I never came across any men who were telephone operators in the service. And they needed women. And I got to Hunter and they assigned I think six of us, all telephone, to go to Clearfield Naval Supply Station just outside of Salt Lake City. And we lived at Fort MacArthur. I don't know which MacArthur that was named after [General Arthur MacArthur, father of Douglas MacArthur].

EE:

No, it wasn't in World War II, but it was somebody else.

FH:

I think it was his father. And then we bused in every day to work. But the woman who was in charge of the telephone office wouldn't accept any WAVES. She said, “If you put any one of them into my department I'll quit,” and so we never got in. [chuckling] The other girls got to be radio operators and store clerks, storekeepers, and other things, but nobody—

EE:

And what did you—? What were you?

FH:

I drove a jeep around the mail route. I was glad to get the jeep.

EE:

Well now, could you handle those big sacks of mail?

FH:

No, I just went to the offices and picked up.

EE:

So you were the courier, in a sense.

FH:

A courier, yeah.

EE:

And that's just on the base.

FH:

And as I drove the jeeps and they made—I think a thousand miles probably, then were taken away from me and sent overseas, and I got another jeep to break in.

EE:

Oh, you were breaking them in then.

FH:

I was breaking them in, yeah.

EE:

And jeeps were a new thing in the forties, were they not? That was the first time they—

FH:

Yes, it was.

EE:

So it's sort of like when they came out—what was it, the Hummer, the Humvee in the Gulf War? What did you think about driving a jeep?

FH:

Oh, I loved it.

EE:

No suspension whatsoever in those things, was there? [chuckling]

FH:

Every bump, yes. But whenever an officer would be in one of the buildings on the base and want to go across the base, they would call me and I would just run them across the base.

EE:

Let's go back for a minute to Hunter, because I'm curious, did they really plan on having telephone operators go out and drill?

FH:

Oh yes, indeed we did! [chuckling]

EE:

So you were one of those that were up at the crack of dawn, and what, you drilled in the morning, then go to classes and—

FH:

Yes.

EE:

What was your rank when you came out of Hunter?

FH:

Seaman.

EE:

Seaman, okay.

FH:

In fact, I was a seaman when I got out of the service, because when we went overseas, for all the WAVES, whatever you went over with, that was what you came back with, no matter how long you were there. They were frozen, the rates for women.

EE:

How did you feel about that?

FH:

It didn't bother me at first, but after a while it did.

EE:

That says, “We don't care how good you did, how hard you're working, you're not going to get a raise.”

FH:

Right. In fact, they also told us we couldn't take the exams. But I took the exam because exams were not ever hard for me, and I figured, “Well, I'm here, what are they going to do with me?” [chuckling] What they did with me was just ignore me. I mean, they didn't stop me from taking it, but I don't think it ever went any further.

EE:

I want to make sure I've got the timetable right. You went down in January of '44, and I guess you were at Hunter for—what was it, about six weeks, eight weeks?

FH:

Yeah, six weeks at Hunter, and then Clearfield, Utah.

EE:

How do you spell that?

FH:

C-l-e-a-r-f-i-e-l-d.

EE:

Okay. How long were you there?

FH:

I don't think I was there a year, because in March we were the third shipload that hit Honolulu.

EE:

So this was March of '45?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

This was before the war ended, I think in May, and Roosevelt died at the end of April, I think April 12th maybe. So how was it that you got picked to go to Hawaii? That was a big deal.

FH:

It was volunteer.

EE:

Volunteer? I'm sure they had more volunteers than they had space for.

FH:

No, they didn't. They had space for the ones that really wanted to volunteer.

EE:

What did they tell you you were going over there to do?

FH:

Well, to be a seaman. But nobody ever promised me anything. I mean, they didn't say telephone operator or storekeeper or anything. And I ended up on Pearl Harbor Station, and the ships would come into the harbor for resupply on food, flour and sugar, anything that was durable—there wasn't fresh food—and we'd make up the bills while the sailors would go around the building filling their order. And then we'd just make up the bill and send it over to accounting.

EE:

Were your supervisors women?

FH:

Yes, WAVE officers.

EE:

Did you have any other men you were working with, or just mainly women?

FH:

Oh yes, men too.

EE:

How did they treat you?

FH:

Fine.

EE:

No problem?

FH:

No, no problem.

EE:

They didn't say anything about “Girls can't do this,” or—You didn't run into that attitude?

FH:

No, “If you're a navy woman you can do it.”

EE:

Okay, you passed muster. I like that attitude.

FH:

I mean that's what they said. That's what the men said.

EE:

Good.

FH:

And one day we were sitting there, and the windows were always open—we had a whole line of windows—and all of a sudden there was a whole bunch of men out there—I mean a whole platoon of men. And they were just standing there watching what we were doing. And it turned out these were Australian men. We were the first women they had seen for a long time, so they were just standing there looking at the women. [chuckling]

EE:

Just glad to know they still existed. [chuckling]

FH:

“Hey, look at that.” And there was talking back and forth after we realized why they were there. But they left. Their officer came along and gathered them up.

EE:

That's what I've wondered in talking I guess at different places, how much of a curiosity factor women in the military were.

FH:

Not so much in the military. The men, evidently they were told that we were coming, and so we were coming. And most of them were not lifetime military. They were—

EE:

You weren't rubbing them the wrong way or hindering their career advancement, because they were going to get out as soon as the war was over anyway.

FH:

That's the way it was.

EE:

This was the first time, I guess, you had been away from home for any period of time?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Was this the first time you'd ever lived with a bunch of strangers?

FH:

Absolutely.

EE:

That took some getting used to, I'm sure.

FH:

Yeah, but everybody was in the same boat and everybody was getting used to the same thing, so—In Honolulu we had Quonset huts for homes, and one side of the Quonset hut was one long screen.

EE:

So everybody got to know everybody. [chuckling]

FH:

Well. But we did have four in a cubicle. We had our own locker and bunk bed. The dietitian that was in charge of the WAVES food on our station—The woman who was in charge of the food for the women in all the stations was a WAVE dietitian, and we were the best-fed group on the island, I think. We were always told that. She was the first time I became conscious that somebody would deliberately go out to the local farmers and look for fresh food, papayas and whatever she could find. And that was the first time that I became conscious of an accent on vegetarian diet.

EE:

Is that something that you carried on the rest of your life after that?

FH:

No, you become aware of it and then you get to like the taste of the fresh food.

EE:

Well, the other thing too is that you just—especially in Hawaii, I mean you're exposed to all different kinds of—You wouldn't have fresh pineapple in Boston, my guess is.

FH:

No, you wouldn't. [chuckling]

EE:

So this was a new thing.

FH:

Right. It was interesting. You know, the girls on their time off would sit and talk, and it was like a big family.

EE:

Most of them were about the same age as you, were they not?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You say you were in the Quonset hut in Hawaii. I guess at Hunter everybody lived in what, they were apartments?

FH:

Apartments, yeah.

EE:

So a little more privacy. What about in Salt Lake? You had your own barracks?

FH:

We were in barracks, but just—I only got to live in them for maybe a month, or less than that. They built a WAVE barracks on the base.

EE:

How many WAVES were stationed there, do you remember?

FH:

No, but we had a whole fleet of buses that took us out from Salt Lake. There must have been a few hundred.

EE:

I guess that's the difference in wartime. My sense is I would not have assumed the navy would have much to do with a Salt Lake base in Utah. [chuckling] That doesn't seem like a prime location for a—

FH:

Well, they had some very influential senators.

EE:

Oh, it's the political thing.

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Oh, even though we're landlocked, don't you think we need some of that navy money?

FH:

They were landlocked, but they were also a rail center, and Clearfield was—

EE:

That's true. So, for a distribution point.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Now your parents, had they moved to Arizona by the time you were stationed at Salt Lake?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

So did you get to see them?

FH:

Yeah, I would take the bus down.

EE:

Great. That was convenient for a woman who could have been a country away.

FH:

Yeah, but I didn't get a chance to get down there more than once or twice. I wasn't there long enough.

EE:

So you were in Hawaii till the end of the war, till the end of your time there?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You were in Hawaii on VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

FH:

Right.

EE:

What do you remember about those?

FH:

Well, VE Day I don't remember it being so big, but VJ Day was a big whoop-de-do.

EE:

You were right there at the center where that all started.

FH:

Yeah, and it was the whole—everybody just went out and it was like New Year's Eve on Broadway, everybody just hollering just for hollering's sake.

EE:

So that famous picture of the soldier who kissed the girl in New York Times Square, that might have happened in Pearl Harbor as well?

FH:

Well, it probably could have, except that we had a ten o'clock curfew. So everybody was on the—

EE:

Even on VJ Day?

FH:

Oh yes, every day.

EE:

That's interesting. I'm curious about the—You know today they're very conscious, because I guess there's so many more women in the military, and they have very strict rules about fraternization, you know. Was it that way then, too?

FH:

Oh yes.

EE:

Were you all pretty much had like a den mother kind of atmosphere, somebody watching over you to make sure you were doing right? Or how much freedom did you have socially?

FH:

Well, there were plenty of men there, so you didn't feel—But fraternization with officers was not allowed. And then I had several uncles who were also in the service, and one of them was an engineer and he was on his way to Tokyo, and he had gone to school and learned to speak Japanese. He had gold stars all the way up his arm, and he just appeared at the barracks and said, “I want to take my niece out to lunch.” So everything stopped, and they called me over to the office. Of course, it was a day when I was in the middle of doing my laundry, and most of my uniforms were in the wash. But he waited while I went and got a uniform on, and we went downtown. And because of fraternization, we got some looks. [chuckling]

EE:

I'll bet.

FH:

But he was a full commander, so nobody challenged it.

EE:

Nobody would question it, but they might have thought about it.

FH:

Right.

EE:

But most of the people were pretty sensitive to that and did not cross the line?

FH:

Well, there were a few girls I guess who did, but I was having too much fun. [chuckling]

EE:

Too much fun with the regular guys. You didn't need the older guys.

FH:

Well, we had a group of friends that were stationed up on Red Hill, and they were Seabees, and they had a truck. So anytime we wanted to go anyplace, the Seabees always had transportation. So we didn't have much time for the others. [laughter] But we did have one night a month or something when they had entertainment on our base, and they had people like Bing Crosby, Bob Crosby was there, and different ones who came to the area would come over. And that night we could have guests until ten o'clock, so all the Seabees would come over. We could have men in as guests and we'd go—

EE:

Well, if curfew was at 10:00, what was your workday, from 8:00 to 5:00?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Five days a week, six days? How often?

FH:

It must have been six days.

EE:

Six days a week? And then you were off from 5:00 to 10:00 to do whatever you wanted to. Did you have to stay on the base?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Okay, but on weekends you could go off? Did you tour the island or get a sense of—

FH:

With the Seabees we did, yes. Yeah, they took us around. There was one out, a way you could get off the base one night a week, if your destination was church.

EE:

So you had a lot of religious people.

FH:

We became churchgoers! [chuckling]

EE:

Did you have to bring home a pass saying you had been there?

FH:

No.

EE:

You just had to say that was the excuse, “We're going to Wednesday night services, thank you.”

FH:

That's right, it was Wednesday night. And the Seabees would come down from the hill. And we didn't have any—as long as we were back by 10:00, that was all.

EE:

So you're saying that when I read statistics about how religious people were in the forties, I might need to take it with a grain of salt.

FH:

Yes, the reason why. [chuckling]

EE:

Well, tell me again, I'm not quite clear what the—What was the name of the place called that you worked at where they were resupplied. What was it called?

FH:

Pearl Harbor.

EE:

I mean, was there a place name for it given to the base? It wasn't the PX [post exchange], it was something else.

FH:

It was the warehouse, the food warehouse. By the way, it's the staple food warehouse.

EE:

Canned goods, that kind of thing?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

And that's why you appreciated getting fresh food after all that.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Everybody could get rations out of a can, but we'll send up something else.

FH:

Right. And the fresh food was a little bit exotic and different from what we knew.

EE:

The thing that's hard to believe, you know, we live in a world now that is so instant, and yet that was when America and everybody who was in the service was discovering the world.

FH:

That's right.

EE:

It was like everybody [was] seeing places, hearing firsthand about these tropical islands and all these different exotic things. It had to have been just—the world was opening up.

FH:

Oh yes. I have some funny stories, if you have time for them.

EE:

Sure.

FH:

Well, we had one girl who wanted to see all the islands, so she used her spare time— They had island-hopping planes, and every time she could afford it she would go to an island, just for the day. One of the things that they had for sale were place mats or bowls made— The bowls were always made of the teak wood, but the mats were woven leaves. And she was over there and she came across a group of women who were scrubbing the leaves to make these mats, and they were coming out so clean. She was wondering what— So she said, “I went over and I asked them, 'What are you using to clean them?' And they said, 'Rinso.'” [chuckling]

EE:

Something exotic.

FH:

Something that really made it clean. [chuckling] And she said she felt like such an idiot. But she asked and they answered. And then there was a group of—I'm not sure they were navy. They must have been Army Air— It was before the [U.S.] Air Force existed. There was no Air Force.

EE:

Right, it was part of [the U.S. Army].

FH:

And these must have been army boys that were in the air part, and they put up a notice on the bulletin board that they were having a dance, and if anybody wanted to come just sign this paper and they'd bring a plane over, take everybody on, and you would stay at the special barracks that they had prepared. So we all went—that was too good to be true—over on Kauai [Hawaii], and then the next day they took us in jeeps and trucks and whatever and they took us all over the island, up on this unbelievable mountain. And you'd stand at the edge of the mountain and look down, right down, almost straight down to the ocean, and the water would come up. But what really surprised me was that up high like this—There were trees up there, but there were ferns and there were wildflowers and there were things that I really didn't expect to find up there. And I really enjoyed that trip. The place we stayed was Barking Sands Base.

EE:

On Kauai?

FH:

On Kauai, yes. And Kauai is “The Garden Island.”

EE:

Yes, to this day they advertise it as that.

FH:

Yes. It was charming. I was hoping to get a chance to go when we went back on the convention, but I didn't. I didn't get there.

EE:

You ended your service in December of '45.

FH:

Right.

EE:

Were you thinking about making a career in the military? Was that an option for you?

FH:

No, as a matter of fact, it wasn't an idea to—They were recruiting people leaving the navy to go to Japan as civil servants. I should have taken that, but I didn't.

EE:

Another six thousand miles?

FH:

Right, but I just figured, “I want to go home now.”

EE:

So you didn't leave because of a man or anything?

FH:

Oh, no.

EE:

You just said, “It's time to go home”?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

And home now would have not been Boston but back to Arizona.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

What was the hardest thing you had to do when you were in the service, physically or emotionally?

FH:

Emotionally, it was being frozen in the rank as a seaman. And that's the only thing now when I'm registered in all the monuments to [women], here I am registered as seaman first class, and that's the only thing that I wish I could change. The other was—

EE:

And do you think that was a function of the fact that they called you in for this one specific job and then they said, “We're not going to—”It was in their mind, they had—

FH:

Well, yeah. Actually, it's because I spent so much more time on Hawaii than I did in the States, and I was still a seaman when I went over.

EE:

Just whatever your rank was when you went to Hawaii, the rule was you weren't going to get—They figured, I guess, being in Hawaii was benefit enough.

FH:

[chuckling] Well, they didn't think really that way. It was just that they were getting the job done that they needed done, and the men got the—

EE:

I was going to say, the men who served in Hawaii didn't have that restriction.

FH:

No.

EE:

Did the women talk about that?

FH:

Not too much at the time, because we all knew it when we went over there.

EE:

I think they could also go to Alaska as a WAVE for the same thing.

FH:

Later.

EE:

Later on?

FH:

Later. That came later, yes. I think I got the better deal. [chuckling]

EE:

Oh, I'd say so. I'd say so. Anytime like that.

Is there a funny story or a very interesting time that you're thinking of from your military days? And it may not necessarily be with you, it may be something that happened to somebody else when you were there. You told a couple earlier about the woman and Rinso, so—

FH:

Yeah, there was one that I always thought was a good story. We had, I don't know, maybe two dozen girls in a Quonset hut, but one girl was always on duty as the officer, all night and all day, officer of the day. On the other side of the barbed wire fence was the Marine barracks. [chuckling]

EE:

That's all that was separating you two was just a see-through barbed wire fence?

FH:

Right. Crawl-through. [laughter]

EE:

Oh, thank you for that correction. I was thinking that, but I'm glad you said that.

FH:

Well, one night one of the Marines crawled through, and he was in our—he made his way into one of the barracks.

EE:

And all the other girls were quiet, of course.

FH:

Well, they were all asleep. But the girl who was on duty heard these “clomp-clomp” feet on the floor. And she went to look, and here was—And he wasn't supposed to be there. So she said, “You'd better leave.” He said [chuckling]— And she said, “No, you have to leave.” And he wasn't about to leave, so she said, “You leave or I'll scream!” [laughter] And he turned around and he left!

EE:

When military decorum fails, just become a woman. [chuckling]

FH:

I always thought that was—you know, because she was a little bitty thing and he was—

EE:

“I'll scream.” [chuckling] Did he leave?

FH:

Oh yes, that was enough to—He figured if she screamed everybody—

EE:

Well, now was he just looking for his girlfriend in there?

FH:

He was just looking, I guess. I don't think he knew anybody in there.

EE:

Oh my! [chuckling] Let's see, they fixed the fence after that?

FH:

Well, an order went out, and I never heard of it happening again.

EE:

Okay. That's pretty funny. There were so many things—Pearl Harbor had a little bit of everything, didn't it?

FH:

Yes, it did.

EE:

Were you ever afraid?

FH:

No. It never occurred to us to be afraid.

EE:

I guess at the time that you went over there it was pretty clear that we were going to win the war, it just wasn't sure when. Or did they feel that way when you went over there?

FH:

Oh yes, oh yes. I mean, Americans never feel any other way about a war, do they?

EE:

Of course, nobody knew at the time you went over there that the A-bomb was around the corner.

FH:

That's right.

EE:

From Pearl Harbor it looked like we needed to get ready to invade Japan, and that was not going to be easy.

FH:

Yeah. While I was there we had the Navy Day Parade, and we didn't have to march in that. I guess it must have been a volunteer march for the women. But we were downtown when the parade was going on. Everybody else, the [U.S] Army, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard and the [U.S.] Navy, they all had women and men marching, and we happened to be standing right beside an older Japanese couple who must have been in their fifties. We thought they were older mostly. And the woman turned to me and she said, “I think the WAVES look the best.” So she did it. So I've always had a soft spot.

And when I went over there, I replaced a young native Hawaiian [Doiron Tam] so that he could go to war. He was in the service, but he had never gone to boot camp. So they sent him overseas to San Diego to go—

[End Side A—Begin Side B]

EE:

Okay, you were talking about he went to boot camp.

FH:

He went to boot camp and then he was shipped to Guam. Things were hot in Guam when he went over there, but everybody said “lucky him” because his mother had come from Guam, and all his family were over there waiting for him to get there so they could party it up. So he spent some time—

EE:

A lot of people have heard that line, “Free a man to fight,” but you actually knew who it was that you freed.

FH:

Right. And he broke me in. You know, he would go over the list, and we had a list of all the food and the price by carton. He'd go over it and he'd say, “Now this is the cat-soup [catsup].”

EE:

The cat-soup?

FH:

Yeah, “and this is the moose-tard [mustard].” [chuckling]

But he started to send Christmas cards to the people that he had known, including the WAVES, and I have Christmas cards from him for fifty years. It goes from a young man to an old gentleman.

EE:

That's wonderful!

FH:

The dogs change but he's the same. [chuckling] So when we were over there at the convention, I had let him know ahead of time, and he came and took my daughter— My two daughters and my son-in-law and the baby came with me, so he took one of my daughters and me up to the national military cemetery up on top of the hill there, the mountain, and he showed us the view from there. And the serenity of that place is really breathtaking. And he was quite upset because the Japanese had kind of overrun the island lately and they had chosen that for their picnic spot. They would take their picnics up there and be running around over the graves and picnicking and playing ball and things. Finally it got to a point where the government had to just move in and say, “No more, no more.”

EE:

Well, I haven't run across this where somebody actually knew—The WAVES were very intentional in using that as a line, “Free a man to fight,” and you had that experience and yet you got to follow along. Some people have felt maybe a little guilty about that, because for some people that meant free them to go to their death. But that wasn't the [case]. Were you worried about him when you took over his job?

FH:

Well, there was danger, but there was danger everyplace. You know, the ships would come into the harbor and the kamikazes would have slammed into them and everything. We were used to seeing that, you know.

EE:

You just kind of get steeled away to it after a while, don't you?

FH:

It's a way of life. It becomes a way of life. I suppose the same thing happens to anybody on a police force.

EE:

It's just a job after a while.

FH:

It's a job, yeah.

EE:

Well, that's fascinating. Do you have a picture with you and him?

FH:

I do. As a matter of fact, it's right here. When I came home, my daughter put some pictures together of our trip. That's him up here, and that's up at the cemetery.

EE:

That's great. I might like to get a copy of that made just for our collection, because I don't know of anybody else who knows the man they freed to fight and knows him for that long.

FH:

That's true. And he is very active over there. Are you familiar with the Navy League?

EE:

No.

FH:

Well, the Navy League is an organization in support of the maritime services. And he's very active in the Hawaiian Navy League. And he said when I wrote and told him I understood that he would be busy, because I was a member and I realized, and the first thing he did was look me up in the book of members. He said, “I found your name.” [chuckling]

EE:

Now is this your family here?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Okay, and what is this a view of?

FH:

That's Kamehameha, the King Kamehameha, the last king of Hawaii. They were invaded, and he just kept backing the enemy up, up the hill, and then this falls off sharply down, and he just pushed them over the hill. And that is one of the famous battle—

EE:

So that's a famous battle victory site. That's wonderful.

FH:

This here, this is Aloha Tower. When we went there, this was the first thing you saw when you landed on ship or a plane. But right now it's in the middle of a shopping center.

EE:

[chuckling] They've moved it over?

FH:

No, the built the shopping center—

EE:

Oh, the shopping center has been built around it?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Were you ever in any physical danger yourself?

FH:

No.

EE:

At the time you went to Pearl Harbor it was pretty secure?

FH:

Yes, they secured everything before they allowed women over there.

EE:

Did you have much of a social life? It sounds like you did with the Seabees, anyway.

FH:

Yeah, with the Seabees. [chuckling] And with the girls, I mean, and with the people that you worked with in the office. And one day a big hospital ship was right outside our window, and I said, “Wouldn't it be funny if my brother was on that ship?” And the first thing you know, my brother is standing at the counter.

EE:

Oh my! Half a world away.

FH:

I went out to the ship several times while it was in port. You could go out to the ship in the little motorboat they had, but coming off, if the captain was coming at the same time, that was his ship. That was his little motorboat, and you had to wait for him either to give you permission to get on it, or you'd have to wait till the motorboat took him back. But he always said, “Anybody that's going ashore, come on.” And that always happened to be the time when I was leaving to go to dinner at the base. So we have some stories of that captain.

My brother was a very tall, slender, very quiet fellow. Then they were in Tokyo Harbor and some kind of a riot started and a gang came down the street making trouble. My brother realized that the only other person around that would be in trouble was his own captain, so he took the captain by the arm and led him into a doorway, and the crowd went by. And from then on, I guess the captain really knew who he was.

EE:

He looked out for him, yeah. So he was in a hostile place. They didn't like the Americans being there, and they were—Okay. Do you have any favorite songs or movies from that time period?

FH:

[singing] “Here we stand like birds in the wilderness waiting to be fed.” That used to drive the cooks crazy. But the yard would be full of women and they'd all be singing. Used to make them so mad. [chuckling] But there are a lot of—That, of course, is the favorite music of anybody my age, those songs: I'll Never Smile Again Until I Smile At You, and Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, and Rum and Coca-Cola. Good times. [chuckling]

EE:

Oh yes, good music too. You already mentioned the fact that you had a lot of entertainers come through there just because that was this huge base.

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Do you feel that you contributed to the war effort?

FH:

Well, yes, in a very small way, but not anywhere near as large as the men who saw service.

EE:

Would you recommend being in the military to your children?

FH:

I would. I have three daughters and not one of them went into it. I tried, but they went their own way.

EE:

It was a good thing for you, then? You would do it over again if you had the opportunity?

FH:

I would! I would, yes.

EE:

Are there some other interesting folks that you met while you were in there, personalities?

FH:

Yeah, we had a girl in our group in the barracks in Clearfield who was a Sioux Indian, her name was Little Big Bear. And when she got out they were guaranteed forty acres and a mule, and she was ready to get hers.

EE:

I was talking to some woman who was stationed at Pearl Harbor. She said that there were so many right after the war ended that all they could talk about was “52-50” [$50 a month for 52 weeks]. All they wanted to do was just go home and draw a check for a year. Didn't care about going to school, didn't care about getting a job, they just wanted to relax for a year and take off.

FH:

Well, I think in Massachusetts what they did was when you came home they gave you two hundred dollars, not the “52-50.” I lined up for that. I went to Boston to do that. [chuckling] But I still had brothers and sisters, some of them in Boston and some of them in Arizona.

EE:

So you went back for the two hundred [dollars].

FH:

I did. I signed up for it, sure. [chuckling]

EE:

And what was the deal? You had to just—what was two hundred that the state was giving you just to say, “Congratulations, thank you”? How long did you have to stay in the state, or did you just pick up a check and go home?

FH:

Well, yeah, I think you had to have enlisted in the state and lived there, proved you were a resident. But collecting it I don't think had—as long as you had your papers.

EE:

So you just filed it. As long as you had the papers, you didn't even have to go back there, you just filed for it?

FH:

No, I think you had to go back there.

EE:

You had to go back? Okay. So did you go back and live in Massachusetts after the war?

FH:

I did, for a time. I actually spent—In Arizona off and on over the years I spent about twenty years, and then the other times I would come back and live in Boston.

EE:

Do you have any heroes, heroines from the wartime?

FH:

Oh, probably the Sullivan brothers.

EE:

Is this the ones all from the same family?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Were there four of them?

FH:

Four of them. Yeah, there's another story you might be interested in. It isn't about me, it's about one of my cousins. Two young men were cousins, of mine and each other, and one was in the Coast Guard and the other was in the Merchant Marine. And whenever their ships were going across the ocean they would go in flotillas. Well, somebody blew up one of the— the Germans, I guess, blew up one of the Merchant ships, which meant that the men were in the water. And the [U.S.] Navy men would get in their boats and go out to save them. And one time my cousin put his hand down to grab a hand and pulled up his cousin, took his cousin into the safety of the ship.

EE:

And didn't know that he was on there? So he saved him.

FH:

He didn't know it until he saw him, yeah. So things happened that—

EE:

And both of them made it through the rest of the war okay?

FH:

Yeah. Good friends.

EE:

After that I would think so. [chuckling] It's funny how you can be just a world apart and yet you run into your brother in Pearl Harbor, he saves his cousin. It was a different time.

FH:

Yeah. And that plane ride that I told you about over to Kauai, one of the girls in our group got off the plane and there was a group of men there, whatever service they were, and one of the men started running toward her and she started running to him. And the word was they were cousins. So it happened. Strange things.

EE:

Well, you know, it was a time of extremes.

FH:

Yes, it was.

EE:

Extreme sadness and extreme happiness.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

I get the sense from listening to people that they knew they were alive then. What did you think about the Roosevelts, the president and his wife?

FH:

I think Eleanor could be a heroine.

EE:

You think so?

FH:

Yeah. I think that she made a difference in the world.

EE:

She made a difference in the way women were seen, do you think?

FH:

Oh yes, not always complimentary, but nevertheless as a matter of power, yes.

EE:

It's hard to ignore her.

FH:

[chuckling] Yeah. But she was talking sense, too. And anybody who had an open mind would have to say, “Yeah, she's right.”

EE:

You say she was talking sense, talking about what we needed to do as a society, whether it's with women or with blacks or—?

FH:

Yes. She was one of the people that broke the ground for equal rights for women, and also equal rights for minorities.

EE:

Your memory of things—and I think it's a different to some extent, especially when you go off to a place like Pearl Harbor where you're basically surrounded by military types, you don't really have an interaction with the rest of civilian life—what's the mood of the country at the time during the war? Is it optimistic, pessimistic, worried, determined?

FH:

Determined.

EE:

Determined?

FH:

I mean, you could see these boys and everybody giving everything they had.

EE:

You felt like you had to do the same thing if everybody else was doing it.

FH:

Absolutely.

EE:

When you left the service, what did you want to do?

FH:

I went back to telephone operating, not long distance but as a job. I enjoyed it.

EE:

How long did you do that work?

FH:

Well, probably three or four years, because I got into— I took a job in Arizona with a farmers' cooperative, as a telephone operator as a matter of fact. And they were just beginning to get a computer in, and they, for some reason, couldn't keep keypunch operators to input data. So I said, “I'd like to try that.” So I got into computers on that level, which I had already seen in the process of going from office to office. One of the offices was a computer office, and it wasn't as new to me as it would have been to somebody else. And I found I liked it, and I did that.

Later, in Arizona, after I got out of the service, I met a young man and married him, and he died when he was forty years old. Two days before his fortieth birthday he had his first heart attack. By Christmas that year he was dead. So I had three [children], a two-year-old, a four-year-old, and a seven-year-old, and keypunch operating paid their bills for all those years. Even though computing was evolving—well, this was actually before they were called computers, but they were doing the same work. So I just stayed with that and became a computer person. [chuckling] And then after I retired I bought my own computer. And even though I had been using computers all day long at work, I found I didn't have the slightest idea what computers were doing. [chuckling]

EE:

It's changed a lot just in the last twenty years, hasn't it?

FH:

Oh, it's unbelievable. And things that computers are controlling, particularly in medicine—fantastic!

EE:

I went to graduate school at Pennsylvania, and they claim to have the home of the world's first computer, the ENIAC machine, which is a huge room full of tubes and wires, and it's about a tenth of the processing power you can put on your laptop right now. That's just what it's come to.

FH:

That's where Admiral Grace Hopper was first—I don't know if that was the machine, but that's the type of room that she worked in. She developed COBOL as a programming language. When I was working in Washington she would be around. I went back to work for the navy.

EE:

I was going to say now, I didn't get Washington in there somewhere. You finished the service, went back to Massachusetts, and then would kind of switch back and forth between Massachusetts and Arizona for a while?

FH:

Right.

EE:

That's was '46 to—it sounds like about '50? When did you get married?

FH:

Fifty.

EE:

Was the fellow you married in the service?

FH:

He had been, but he was a mailman then. And then he died and I had these three little girls. And my mother and father—

EE:

He died what, about '54 or '55, something like that?

FH:

In the late fifties. And then my parents were still living there, and my one brother, but I took my kids back to Boston so that they would know their cousins and they would know aunts and uncles, and if anything happened to the one parent they had left, that there would be somebody there that would take over that they would know. From there we went to Washington to—By that time I was really into computers and I went to Washington on an assignment. I had gone probably as far as I could go in Boston, but I had three kids to put into college, so I took—I don't know if you know anything about grades in the civil service. This job started as a grade 7 and skipped to 9 and 11, 9 after one year, 11 after the second year. And that was too good to pass up, so I went to Washington. We lived in Arlington, Virginia. The kids went to school in Arlington.

EE:

So you were a single mom doing all this traveling around?

FH:

[chuckling] Yes.

EE:

Before they invented the term “single mom,” you know.

FH:

Oh yes, yes.

EE:

Now what were you doing when you—You were at this farmers' cooperative in Arizona?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

As a telephone operator. Were you doing telephone work when you went back to Boston?

FH:

No. At the cooperative they were putting in a computer, so I—

EE:

And that's when you first started back in computers.

FH:

That's where I started.

EE:

So you did computer work for whom when you went back to Boston?

FH:

I went to Kelly Girls and they sent me to IBM, and I worked there off and on. Then I said, “Well, I'm getting close to forty myself,” and I couldn't face the fact that I could be forty and suddenly be told I was too old for a job or that my boss was younger than I was. So I went to civil service, because as a veteran myself I had five points, as a veteran's widow I had ten points, and ten points—

EE:

Got you a job.

FH:

Yeah, you got a job. And not only that, but I was a widow raising his kids. So I went to civil service.

EE:

So the government would rather have you earn the money rather than just send it to you. [chuckling]

FH:

Yes. And so I went over to Washington and went to work for the navy, for Bu-Pers, and I worked at the Navy Annex up the street from the Pentagon there, up the hill.

EE:

Bu-Pers meaning Bureau of Personnel?

FH:

Yes. And I worked there for maybe eighteen years, fifteen to eighteen years. Then I got the chance to go and work for a higher grade, for a grade 12 over at the Washington Navy Yard. So I retired as a grade 12 from the Navy Yard.

EE:

And all this time doing computer work?

FH:

Yeah, input, and then later as putting out the record—At the Bu-Pers what I did was I kept the lists of enlisted people, the number of—how many were in grades, how many Seals and how many submariners and—Those records were all my responsibility.

EE:

Were you learning programming at the same time, too? You talked about the admiral doing the COBOL work.

FH:

Yeah, I was learning programming at Bu-Pers, enough to be able to change—

EE:

Help design the program?

FH:

Yeah, when I had to change.

EE:

So, by the time you retired, the kids were up and gone?

FH:

Yeah, and one of them had gone and come back home. [chuckling]

EE:

That happens.

FH:

She graduated as a teacher with a specialty in preschool handicapped children, and she was working outside of Washington in Prince William County, in Manassas [Virginia], and going to the children's homes that were preschool. And after I retired and we moved down here, for the next year she was getting calls from people, “Well, the doctor says so and so, what do you think?” [chuckling] And finally she said, “I've been away from them for so long that I have no idea what's gone on in the meantime.” But then by that time the calling had tapered off. So when we were there, she wanted to come here because all of the ways of teaching and handling handicapped kids that were being developed over at Frank Porter Graham [Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina (UNC)].

EE:

So you moved down here, when did you say, the early eighties?

FH:

Eighty-four.

EE:

Eighty-four. And that was for her to get a new degree so that she could go back and do that. What's her name?

FH:

Georgia Campbell. So now she teaches at UNC.

EE:

So she bought the whole program.

FH:

[chuckling] Yeah. Well, actually, UNC contacted her. She was working out at Butner [North Carolina] with the people that are confined there [in the psychiatric hospital] for life care, and she— Those people were never taught to read. Nobody could ever— because they don't speak. They were all seized-up, their bodies were all— So she would do what she could with them. She would have maps on the wall and she'd tell them about the— And she got them to a point where she got them watching football games, and taught them the difference between— this team is called this, this team is called— And the university here would send out the people who were graduating to study with her and see how you handle institutionalized people. And then later on she came to work here locally in a rest home where she handled elderly people who had different problems, teaching them to talk after strokes and things like that. And still she was handling the graduates over here. So finally they came to her and said, “We need somebody who can tell these students what to expect when they get into the world of—”

EE:

Right. It's one thing to learn out of books, another thing to actually be with the patients.

FH:

Right. And also the authorities and handling the families, because the families can be a bigger problem than the patients sometimes.

EE:

Well, before you told me about going to Washington I was thinking of a different answer to this, but what impact did the military have on your life, immediate and long-term? Long-term it sounds like it got you a job down the road.

FH:

Right.

EE:

And that was a big thing. But has your life been different because of the military, do you think, those experiences with different people and places?

FH:

I think so. I think it sets the tone of your life. It did on my life.

EE:

You had to be, through other circumstances, an independent person.

FH:

You bet! [chuckling]

EE:

It sounds like the military might have helped get you ready for that.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

If you had not been already independent because of the military, it would have been a lot harder for you to be independent.

FH:

Right.

EE:

Do you think of yourself as a pioneer?

FH:

Well, mentally yes, but actually you do whatever is there to be done. If the job is to raise the kids, you raise the kids; if the job is to type, you type. Whatever it is you do it, and you look back at it later and say, “Oh yeah, I was one of the first.” But I didn't go into it thinking—

EE:

At the time you weren't going in to be a trailblazer, you just had something you had to do.

FH:

[chuckling] Right.

EE:

The kids had to be fed.

FH:

Right!

EE:

In that sense, you don't think of yourself as a women's libber, you just were doing what you had to do?

FH:

You know, I'm really not a women's libber, because I think a woman can claim whatever she is able to handle. There are women today that are running corporations, and there are women who are leading lives that are spectacular, for any number of reasons, and I just have never been one of those. As a matter of fact, whenever they were having those big demonstrations for women's lib and people would say, “We can't do this— There's a glass ceiling. We don't get the money the men get,” I never made less than the person next to me doing the same job. And they were not always women. I mean, it's a matter of—

EE:

The job spoke. If you did the work, your experience was you got rewarded for it.

FH:

Right.

EE:

Except when the navy froze your—

FH:

Well—

EE:

That's the one time. But ever since then you got equal reward.

FH:

But they told me that before they did it.

EE:

Okay, so you were forewarned.

FH:

I was forewarned, and I went into it with open eyes.

EE:

You made your bargain anyway and you had to live with it. But your experience, military and afterwards, you had so many chances where you were doing something different as a woman. Did you ever feel that you were perceived differently or in a negative way?

FH:

Absolutely. It's a whole different world for a single woman, and it has always been, in my experience. In fact, [chuckling] I belonged to a group of people up there in Arlington and they were—usually a lot of them were retired military—not all of them, but a good number of them—and there was one woman there who anytime her husband was talking to a single woman would suddenly decide she needed to have him go and get her a glass of water or go out in the car and bring in her purse. And it got to be a joke. I mean, it was so pronounced, as far as the women were concerned, because it was always the single— She only did it for single women. And she didn't realize how safe her husband was. [chuckling] He was a nice fellow, but he wasn't somebody that I was going to chase.

EE:

But it was a different stigma.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

And being a single mom, gosh, “When are you going to get married? You can't do it without a man.”

FH:

Well, you can do it without a man. It may not be what you prefer, but that's what you do if you have to. When you have three kids, you don't really have time for—[chuckling]

EE:

Yeah. Three months ago, I guess it was now, when they bombed Iraq, it was the first time that the military has let women fly combat missions. What do you think about that?

FH:

Good for her.

EE:

Good for her?

FH:

Good for her. In fact, during the years going to WAVE conventions, they would have the women up on the speakers' table that were in the service, they were young women, and they said that they spent their time teaching the men to fly but they were not allowed to fly themselves. Now that doesn't make a lot of sense. So when they first—

EE:

Those who can't do, teach—except when those who can aren't allowed to. [chuckling]

FH:

Exactly right. That's right.

EE:

Well, is there anything else about your military service or about how that's affected your life that I haven't asked you about that you'd like to share?

FH:

Well, I think basically the fact that in the first place you are on your own, even though you're surrounded by people and you have people taking care of you and you have people giving orders. But it's up to you to do with that whatever you are by nature inclined to do. And I think that it just hastens development into whatever you're going to become anyhow.

EE:

So even though it's a community environment and special things, it's basically up to the individual what they take from it and make of it.

FH:

That's right.

EE:

I don't know in the letters that first came out if it was clear—That's all I've got of the formal interview, so thank you for that. Actually, I'd love to make a copy of that photo if I could, or if you've got another one.

FH:

Well, I probably have one.

EE:

Because like I say, I don't know of anybody else—that I know of—who knows the man they replaced and kept up with him. That's a great feeling, I would think.

FH:

Yes, it was interesting, because none of the other girls knew.

EE:

What is his name?

FH:

Doiron, D-o-i-r-o-n, Tam, T-a-m.

EE:

Doiron Tam. And he's still a lifelong resident of Hawaii? Still got relatives in Guam?

FH:

I imagine so. This girl in the print dress is a lawyer, and she's the speech pathologist. And I have another daughter who lives in Boston but wasn't on the trip with us. And two grandchildren in Boston.

EE:

So you've got one close and two scattered.

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

And the one close has kids, you say?

FH:

One little boy.

EE:

One little boy. All right, so you get to play grandma.

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

That's great. Well, I am so glad we had the chance to talk and to get to know you today.

FH:

Good, I'm glad we did, too.

EE:

And if you think of some other folks that would have some good stories that we can sit down with—I've got the list of members, maybe I can let you take a look at that, look at the list with me.

FH:

Of the WAVES National [organization of women who served in maritime services] members?

EE:

Yes. Well, I have a list of the Triangle Seagals, and there's a national list. Maybe you can take a look at that with me right quick and see if there's some folks that you know of. See, some people physically are not able to share their stories as well as others, and you're blessed with a wonderful recollection of some really great things that happened.

FH:

Well, while I was working in Bu-Pers, it was practically next door to the Pentagon, so I used to take my lunch hour and go down to the Pentagon. And I was a member of the Air Force Toastmasters Club, so I—I'm in the middle level.

EE:

So you know how to give an off-the-cuff remark.

FH:

[chuckling] And the only reason I didn't go after the top level is that you had to organize a chapter and then be the head of that chapter for two years. And that was—

EE:

Just a lot of busy work.

FH:

I just stopped while I'm ahead.

EE:

Let me go over a second just a few of these names. I'm going to stop here.

[End of the Interview]