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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Eleanor Neeva Northcott, 1999

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Object ID: WV0063.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Eleanor Neeva Northcutt’s family life; her years at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro); and her experiences in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.

Summary:

Northcutt discusses her parents’ work and education backgrounds, her siblings, and her associations with Davidson College. She describes her decision to attend Woman’s College (WC), her WC professors, including Lyla Shivers and Dean Harriet Elliott, and social life at WC.

Northcott discusses various topics related to World War II. They include the formation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and the WAVES, the reaction to women in the military; basic training at Smith College and supply school at Radcliffe College, working with civilians at the Naval Hospital, carrying a gun as a disbursing officer, and her twin brother’s experiences while stationed in London, England.

Other topics include her courtship and marriage to Tom Northcott, his experiences as a prisoner of war in Japan, Eleanor Northcott’s opinion on current combat opportunities for women in the military, and effect of her military service on her personal life.

Creator: Eleanor Neeva Jackson Northcott

Biographical Info: Eleanor J. Northcott (1920-2005) of Davidson, North Carolina, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1944 to 1948.

Collection: Eleanor Neeva Northcott Oral History

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:

[Note: Tom Northcott, Eleanor Northcott's husband, was also present during the interview]

EE:

I am Eric Elliott and I'm here today in Davidson, North Carolina, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project. And I'm at the home of Eleanor Northcott, and she's from the class of '41 at Woman's College [WC] at The University [of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG)], with her husband Tom here this morning. I just want to say thank you for letting us do this. This is a different experience, but I think you'll enjoy it. The questions that we're going to talk about today are very simple ones about your background, how you got to Woman's College, a few questions about that, and your military experience and how that affected your life after that. And the same question we ask everybody at the beginning is a very simple one, where were you born and where did you grow up?

EN:

I was born in Davidson and I grew up in Davidson, and I went to and graduated from Davidson High School. We had thirty-two members in that class.

EE:

Now you told me before we started this that you were the first set of twins at Davidson, you and your brother?

EN:

Maybe the only set I know actually born in Davidson. We were born at home, and my mother didn't know she was pregnant, and my nine-year-old sister at that time didn't know she was—I mean, my mother knew she was pregnant; she didn't know she was having twins. And my sister didn't know she was pregnant. We were known all of our lives as the “Jackson twins.”

EE:

What was your brother's name?

EN:

Edward. He died in 1975 of cancer.

EE:

You had an older sister too, you say?

EN:

I have an older sister. She went to NCCW [North Carolina College for Women, later WC], finished in 1932.

EE:

What is her name?

EN:

Susie. Susie McQueen Jackson. Now she's McClenaghan. If you can spell that, do it. I can, but I have to get a running start. M-c C-l-e-n-a-g-h-a-n. And she's just had her eighty-eighth birthday, and she lives alone in a wheelchair with a shoulder that is broken, and she's in very much pain. Because we both neither one of us has wanted to drive on the interstate for some time, we haven't seen her in two years.

EE:

Where does she live?

EN:

Greenville, South Carolina. But we're going because she wants us to come see her, and I want to go. I've been wanting to go. And I have an older brother who lives here. He's been here four years. We lived side-by-side over on Thompson Street.

EE:

What's his name?

EN:

Frank Lee Jackson.

EE:

So you had five kids in the family?

EN:

Well, we had living when we were growing up four. I had a sister who died before my brother and I were born. But my parents had raised my mother's niece. Her mother died when she was four, and so my mother took her to raise. And my sister said that she was so great that that's the reason my dad married my mother so he'd get Dorothy. She was, she was great.

EE:

What did your folks do?

EN:

My dad was longtime treasurer and business manager of Davidson College. My immediate family has put in 129 years at Davidson College. My cousin and my sister, not at the same time—My sister followed my cousin as secretary to the dean of students, and they ran the bookstore at the college and sent out cards to every boy that cut a class, every time he cut a class. That was when they had about three hundred-plus students.

EE:

It was an all-male school for a long time, wasn't it?

EN:

Until the class of 1977 had the first women graduate, and we had a daughter in that class.

EE:

Davidson is a Presbyterian school?

EN:

Yes.

EE:

It was founded when, 1830s, 1837?

EN:

Eighteen thirty-seven. You've done your homework.

EE:

Well, I just saw the sign on the way in. I cheated.

EN:

Yes, Woodrow Wilson came to Davidson for his freshman year. And the story goes that he came back to visit when he was president, and he lived in Old Chambers [Building], in the north end of Old Chambers, and he knocked on the door and a student in there said, “Who is it?”

He said, “Woodrow Wilson.”

And the boy said, “If it's Woodrow Wilson, I'm Christopher Columbus. Come in.”

And the president walked in, and he went out the window.

And this is Old Chambers. My dad had this picture made. He had about twelve made and gave them to friends. And it burned down in 1921. But in the heat of the summer, if it's dry you can see where those four columns were. The grass won't grow there.

EE:

And that was the first building on campus?

EN:

No, no, but it was the big main building.

EE:

It was the big building?

EN:

Well, it may have been the first one. I don't know, I've forgotten the history. And that is I in the navy. We were stationed at the naval hospital in Memphis, and he was the chief hospital corpsman working in the personnel office, and I had to wear a pistol every time I carried money. I guess Carolyn [Newby Finger] told you that. No one ever taught me how—Well, two men took me out in the boondocks one day to show me how to use it, but it didn't have a safety on it. I had to wear it every time I carried money. This guy was my guard most of the time when I went to the bank to get the money, and on pay line. He was super. But you can see the pistol and the ammunition and the money.

EE:

Well, now did you get to keep your gun after service? Because when Carolyn was discharged, she said she tried to turn that gun in and she said nobody wanted it. They said, “Just take it.”

EN:

Well, I didn't want it. I was scared to death of it. It was a Smith and Wesson .38, and it had no safety on it. I always left one chamber empty till I got to the psycho ward at the hospital, and then I left all of them empty, because I didn't know who could be using that gun if I went in there.

EE:

That's right. Well, that's great. Well, we might talk about maybe getting a copy of that.

EN:

One of my daughters says she's going to have it framed in blue and gold to hang up, but she's slow about doing it. She went to WC graduate school one year and she was working.

EE:

Was your sister the first one to go to the college, Susie?

EN:

From our family, yes.

EE:

What did your mom do?

EN:

She went to Winthrop. She was in the class of '02. They called themselves “the naughty twos” and “the ought twos.”

EE:

I wondered what we're going to do in the years coming up, “the naughty twos.” [chuckling]

EN:

The naughty twos. But she finished in three years, so she really graduated in '01. But she considered herself a member of “the naughty twos.” My dad graduated from Davidson in 1906. He came back here in 1913. They were both teaching school in Maysville, South Carolina, and were married and started their married life up at Montreat, [North Carolina], if you know where that is.

EE:

I sure do. A pretty place in the mountains.

EN:

They were the first of two families who lived the year round there.

EE:

Was it a retreat center then?

EN:

Yes, but it only had people there in the summertime. So they and this other family lived there year-round. And my mother couldn't stand it, and my dad thought you had to be there to go to heaven. But the roads weren't paved, and my mother walked very poorly, and had to take the train or a buggy to Asheville to have her two babies who were born there.

EE:

Gracious! You graduated from Davidson High, you said. Were you somebody who liked school?

EN:

No, but I liked people. I mean, back then we didn't have all this foolishness of going together and all that. You know, we were just one good happy family. We had our first reunion of Davidson High School last year. We had over two hundred there from all parts of the United States. It was anybody who finished Davidson High School. And a lot of the old ones were not issued invitations because they didn't know where they were.

EE:

Now do they still have a Davidson High School, or is it part of the county system now?

EN:

No, this high school burned down. It was struck by lightning while I was in the navy, and I was so glad that my record burned with it. No, I wasn't in the navy. I don't know where I was in 1951. I was out of the navy, but I can't remember where. Anyway, I rejoiced.

EE:

Well, somehow, even though the record—you were glad it was destroyed—it must have been good enough to get into Woman's College.

EN:

Well, it was.

EE:

What made you decide to go to school there, because your sister had been?

EN:

Money.

EE:

Money? It was cheap?

EN:

I mean my dad was not paid very much back then, and he had all these kids to educate. My twin brother went to Davidson, but I couldn't go to [Davidson]. I could have gone. They would take children of faculty and staff, but girls could not get a diploma. You couldn't graduate from Davidson, and I didn't want to be a transfer. Well, we went over and looked at Salem [College, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina], and then we went to WC, and I really would like to have gone to Salem at that time. But Miss—I think her name was Mae Lattimore—Is that name familiar to you?

EE:

Yes.

EN:

Showed us around, and my folks and I just fell in love with her. She was so cordial. I overheard my dad talking to my mother one night, saying how he thought he could afford Woman's College but he didn't think he could afford Salem. So that's when I decided I was going to Woman's College. And he applied for a job for my sister there, back in—whenever she entered, '27, I reckon—and they wrote him and told him that it would be between her and another girl, but the other girl would have to work in the laundry if she got the scholarship. So Dad said just let her have it, the other girl have it. Anyway, it was a great experience. I had a wonderful time, and I was so glad I had gone all four years, because I still have good friends.

EE:

Well, when you went up there, did you go knowing anybody, or was it totally—

EN:

No, in fact, my twin brother and a friend drove me up there, and we started unpacking on the Greensboro College campus.

EE:

You went to the wrong place? [laughter]

EN:

That's how smart we were. But yes, I think one other girl came from—Well, two others. I think Billie Mae Carter, and I don't know whether she—I don't think she graduated. And Mary Emma Gamble. And I think Mary Emma was in the service. I know that her older sister Laura Gamble was, but she's dead now. She's buried at Arlington [National Cemetery]. And I followed her in a job in the Navy Supply Depot in Norfolk [Virginia] at the Naval Operating Base. I thought that was a real coincidence, for two people—

EE:

Yeah, for two WC folks. So were you rooming up there your first year with either Miss Carter or Miss Gamble?

EN:

No, I roomed with Florence Calvert, whose father was American consul to—I don't know whether all of Canada, but she came from Saskatchewan, Canada.

EE:

That's a long way.

EN:

Yeah, it is.

EE:

What was your dorm that first year?

EN:

Oh, we lived in Old South Spencer, and we were moved out at midterm—I mean between semesters—for them to renovate it.

EE:

I was going to say they were fixing the wiring, I'm sure.

EN:

And it was a real pleasure to be allowed to knock holes in the wall. Then I was moved from there over to Gray Hall. Is it still there?

EE:

It's still there.

EN:

And Mrs. [Ethel H.] Hunter was the housemother. I think Ann Carter was the housemother at South Spencer.

EE:

Gray would have been—Was that right when it was built?

EN:

Heavens no. I don't think so.

EE:

What were the two ones? I guess Mary Foust and New Guilford were built in the early thirties, I think.

EN:

Now my sister was house president of Mary Foust her senior year, so I know it was there in 1932. And Guilford was too, I think.

EE:

What do you remember about college life? I know there's a lot you remember, what about the professors or—Let's get serious first. Any academic stuff that stands out?

EN:

I was not outstanding academically.

EE:

What was your major?

EN:

I was enjoying it so much.

EE:

Yes. What was your major?

EN:

Sociology. And Dr. Shivers—was it Lila? Was her name Lila? [Lyda G.] Shivers, S-h-i-v-e-r-s. And I took a course under her entitled “Marriage and Family,” and we got so tickled. She was our class advisor. But she was teaching, naming the things you ought to have to set up housekeeping, and one was a colander. And she says, “What on earth is a co-lander?” And she meant colander. We just cracked up. She was a brilliant person and just so fascinating, and we all were crazy about her.

EE:

Was that your first time, big time away from home?

EN:

Yes.

EE:

So there's a lot of things you learned doing that.

EN:

I was a delegate from our church to a young people's conferences over on the campus at the college and at Mitchell College, but that was it, except to stay with my grandparents or family. And I grew up with a bunch of boys. There weren't many girls in our group here. But with a twin brother—In fact, Jim Currie, who at one time was the—I don't know, he was head of something, the state treasury department or banking or something, he used to visit here. His grandmother lived here. He came back to a college reunion and I saw him and he said, “Can you still kick a football?” I said, “I sure can.”

EE:

That's great. Well, what was the social life like for you all?

EN:

There wasn't much for me.

EE:

There wasn't much for you?

EN:

Well, I enjoyed all the women, but I didn't know many men and I wasn't very attractive.

EE:

Did they have a lot of dances back then?

EN:

No.

EE:

I know the Dikean and Adelphian groups—

EN:

Well, I belonged to Cornelian. Is that it, the Cornelian Society? But I never went to a meeting.

EE:

I know they had a lot of concerts and things like that on campus.

EN:

Well, I went to those.

EE:

Did you get involved in much stuff in the organized way, or was it mainly just hanging out with your friends?

EN:

Hanging out with friends, and I did help run the—I don't know what they called the Junior Shop. It was in the basement of McIver, was it? I didn't help run it but I worked there.

EE:

Well, you're there in '37, and—I guess that's when you come, in the fall of '37?

EN:

Yes.

EE:

About junior year they started a war in Europe. Did that worry you at all? Did you think anything about it?

EN:

No, I didn't think a lot about it then, but I sure did in '41.

EE:

Well, you graduated in '41 with this sociology degree. What were you going to do on graduation? Were you planning on coming back to Davidson?

EN:

I had decided that I could not do social work because I could not leave it at the office. I worried about it, and I just couldn't do it.

EE:

Did you get to do some practicing?

EN:

A little, but I knew enough that I just—And I was sick. I was out a week during my senior year, and that was the first year they had comprehensive exams, but they weren't required for graduation that year, fortunately, because I had a hard time playing catch-up.

EE:

So after you graduated what did you do?

EN:

Well, I went to Pan-American Business School in Richmond, Virginia, which is now defunct. But my dad's secretary at the time, who also grew up in Davidson, had gone there and she recommended it very highly. It was either that or Katherine Gibbs [School], and I wanted to go to Richmond. If I had known what the Southern Railway train trip up there was, I might have changed my mind.

EE:

Was that your first big train trip?

EN:

No. No, that wasn't my first one. I wanted it to be my last, but it wasn't.

EE:

In 1941 you say you went to business school in Richmond?

EN:

That's where I was when the war broke out. I can tell you exactly what I was doing when it—

EE:

In '41? Is that where you were when Pearl Harbor happened?

EN:

Yes.

EE:

That December?

EN:

Pearl Harbor, Sunday, December the seventh.

EE:

Do you remember where you were that day, how you heard about it?

EN:

Yes, I remember exactly where I was. Even though it was Sunday, I was ironing with a guilty conscience. I was ironing and heard it on the radio. Uh-oh! But anyway, it didn't interfere with my working there. And when I finished, my dad was looking for a job for me. And I don't know whether he called me or how, but Dr. [Julius] Foust—Do you remember him? See, he was treasurer up there, my dad knew him, and he wanted me to travel to—I think he wanted me to travel to Florida with him and be his secretary. And I made the mistake of saying I would do it and then I changed my mind, I didn't want to do that. So he was pretty upset over it, Dr. Foust was. And I was sorry, but I let him know the day after I had said I would that I didn't want to, and he gave me a good lesson in going back on your word. [chuckling] And he was right, I shouldn't have, but I just—I didn't want that.

EE:

So how long did you end up staying in Richmond?

EN:

One year. Then I went to—my dad got me an interview with Dr.—Oh, what's his name? At Queens College, and I went down for an interview, and they told me to come to work on—They'd been looking six months for a registrar, and they asked me to come to work on Monday morning. So I went down on Monday morning and the—Well, the president interviewed me on Friday and he said, “Being from Davidson, I don't have to ask you if you drink or smoke.”

And I said, “Well, I do smoke.” I did at that time.

And he said, “Well, of course we'd rather you didn't,” but I was still invited to come to work on Monday morning. He didn't know that his own secretary smoked like a chimney.

But I went to work on Monday morning and they informed me that over the weekend they had had an application from a Queens alumna and she'd have to have the job. They were going to pay me ninety dollars a month, and no room, no board. And I would have had to get a room and a place to eat. So, you know, everything works out for the best if you pray about it, and so—Dr. Blakely was the president's name [of Queens College]. I don't know how, I guess it was at Montreat Daddy met Dr. Jarman, who was president of Mary Baldwin at that time, and told him I was looking for a job. So I was invited up there for an interview and got the job, and they paid me ninety dollars a month and room and board. But I had to live in the dormitory.

EE:

But that still saved you considerable money.

EN:

Yeah, it did. I was still saving money. Well, up there I worked in the office with the registrar and helped her. There were three offices right together, she and I were in the center one, and the president was in this one, and the dean of faculty, who was my boss, was in the other. And Dr. Blakely was a trustee, and he came up to a trustees' meeting and Dr. Jarman said, “I want you to come in and meet our new secretary. We're so glad to have her.” I turned around, Dr. Blakely turned crimson, and it tickled me to death. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed that work. It was, and I think is still, an all-girl school.

EE:

Where are they located?

EN:

It's in Staunton, Virginia, up in the Shenandoah Valley.

EE:

That's Woodrow Wilson country too, isn't it?

EN:

That's his birthplace there. One of the guys who was in the raid over Tokyo came back for a celebration, and they had it on the porch at Woodrow Wilson's birthplace.

EE:

Is that where you were when you decided to join?

EN:

Yes, I was there two years.

EE:

So you were there from '42 to '44?

EN:

Forty-two to forty-four. Then I joined the—I signed on the dotted line for the navy in the recruiting office there at Staunton, and then promptly sprained my ankle bad ten days before I was to report for duty. Not duty, but to sign in, to be sworn in.

EE:

Now were you signing up as enlisted or as an officer?

EN:

An officer candidate officer. By the way, Mary Baldwin had a new dean, the dean of students, and it was Catherine Sherrill who had gone from WC. And at WC she was Dean [Harriet] Elliott's assistant, and she was also, I think, a housemother, and a great person. And I believe she was in school with my sister, but I'm not sure.

EE:

Did you know Miss Elliott when you were at WC?

EN:

Not personally, but I knew who she was. But this other girl, one of these other girls from Davidson's fingernails had gotten out like this when it wasn't stylish, and Dean Elliott called her in and told her she ought to cut her fingernails. And you know what she did? She cut them and put them in an envelope and sent them to Miss Elliott. But Catherine Sherrill helped—worked with forming the WAACs [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps]. Now, who was it, Oveta Culp Hobby who was—I think she worked with her to help form it.

EE:

Was that talking with her? What was the thing that made you decide to join the service?

EN:

Well, at Mary Baldwin the alumni secretary had just gone in. She worked with Captain [Mildred] McAfee in forming the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], and she was loaded with personality. Winnie Love was her name, and she used to come back to Mary Baldwin and give talks on the WAVES. I just had to do something to help the war, and I wasn't doing much there at Mary Baldwin.

EE:

Did you have any friends or family that were already involved in the war at that time?

EN:

My twin brother was in England at that time, when all the blitz was going on. I said something to somebody about the blitz and they said, “What was the blitz?” Do you know what the blitz was?

EE:

Oh yes.

EN:

He was walking down the streets of London, I guess it was, one day and a V-2 rocket came over. I don't know where it landed, but he was walking down the sidewalk and the next thing he knew he was walking down the road. It picked him up and lifted him off.

EE:

You were old enough where you didn't have to have your parents' signatures.

EN:

No, and I didn't tell them till I signed on the dotted line.

EE:

I was going to say, what did they think about you signing?

EN:

I can't answer that. I wasn't here.

EE:

You mean it's not printable?

EN:

No. Well, my twin brother and I both had a letter from our dad, who didn't write a lot of personal letters because he was involved in so many things, telling us how proud he was of us and how much he appreciated all we had done for the community and whatever. The first time I think I ever saw my dad cry was when my twin brother was sent overseas. But he got over it. Of course, prayer helps. And he came back. My brother came back, and he was over there about—I think three and a half years.

EE:

Was he in army?

EN:

He was in the army finance. We were both in finance.

EE:

What about your mom? What did she think of this? You know, it's one thing for a man to go in the service, it's a new thing for a woman to want to go in the service.

EN:

I know, but they were very supportive of anything we did that was honest. They don't know about the time we went to the ice plant here in Davidson. Before electric refrigerators, we could take watermelons down to the ice plant, which is now called “The Ice House Antique Shop,” and they'd put it in the cooling room where they kept the blocks of ice. You could go get it if you put your initials on it and go get it. It was an honest place then, almost. But we found out one of the fellows that we didn't care for a lot had a watermelon down there, and our gang didn't, and we went down there and told them we were picking it up for him. And we took it out here on the highway somewhere and broke it and ate it. I think we replaced it. I hope we replaced it. I don't know whether we did or not.

EE:

[chuckling] Someday he'll come back and listen to the tape, his relatives.

EN:

But D. Grier [“Deggie”] Martin wrote—Do you read his column?

EE:

He's not in the Winston paper. This is the Martin who ran for governor?

EN:

Lost for governor.

EE:

Senate, I guess. He lost to the other person, right.

EN:

Yeah. But he writes a column that of course is in the papers here because he grew up here. His dad took my dad's job at the college and then was president of the college. Deggie wrote about some boys, he and some boys, what they had done that was naughty. My dad was the superintendent of the Sunday school and he heard about it and called him in and gave him a little lecture. And so I wrote Deggie and told him about the watermelon episode, and I said, “If you tell that to anybody, I'm going to haunt you the rest of your life.”

EE:

That's great. When you joined the WAVES, did you have any particular kind of job or location in mind, or did you just want to help?

EN:

Well, I wanted to do finances because I like that kind of work, and my twin brother was in it, and my dad was certainly in it as treasurer and business manager. And I had taken math in summer school here at Davidson and I made A-plus on it, algebra and trig. They don't even teach it here now. But I thought that would be a selling point. And I did get in the Supply Corps, and enjoyed it very much. The first year in Norfolk, all I did was sign my name all day at the Naval Supply Depot, just paying the bills for the supply depot and not having any idea what I was signing for. One day I kept count of them, and I signed my name over eight hundred times. I got caught up one day and I was doing some work for one of the civilians. And the admiral always walked through the office, and he went into the duty office. I was substitute duty officer. They had a WAVE on duty all day, and then men slept there at night because the ships came right up to the dock. We were right on the pier. The admiral came through and told the WAVE officer there that I should not be typing, taking a civilian's job. So no longer was I allowed to type.

EE:

The campaign posters back then said, “Free a man to fight.” Did that factor into your thinking at all?

EN:

No, and we weren't very popular for that reason.

EE:

What do you mean?

EN:

Because we took the desk jobs and the men had to go to sea. They didn't like that.

EE:

So you weren't popular because the guys wanted to have the desk jobs?

EN:

They wanted the jobs they had. I looked for a picture I had of the disbursing officer before me. In fact there were two in there, he had an assistant at that time, and she had on a gun, he had on a gun, and I had on a gun, and he was carrying the money bag. And I had that picture and I put it somewhere for safekeeping. I looked for it this morning but I can't find it.

EE:

Well, you went to Smith [College] then for training?

EN:

Yes, for basic.

EE:

What was that like?

EN:

Busy. And crowded. We were four in a room. Well, they assigned you a room as you got off the train. Well, fortunately, I was with a girl from South Carolina I had met on the train. My mother said, “What are you going to do riding the train all the way up to Massachusetts by yourself?” And I had to change trains in New York. I said, “I'll meet somebody on the train who'll be in the same fix,” and sure enough I did. I met two, and they're great people. One of them was later an office messenger to the White House.

EE:

You all weren't coming with uniforms on. Everybody was bringing their own stuff, so you just looked for whoever else was a single woman about the right age?

EN:

Well, one came in the restroom when I was in there and pulled out her orders to read them, and I had done that to be sure I did everything right. That's how I met her. Anyway, we roomed with two girls from California. And I don't know whether I should put this on tape, [whispering] but one of them had BO [body odor]. And our uniforms, they were all jammed in the closet together.

EE:

So everybody got the same. Togetherness is next to—[chuckling]

EN:

Well, anyway, my twin brother had written and told my mother that if the WAVES were anything like the WASPs [Women Airforce Service Pilots] who he saw in England, he didn't want his sister in it.

EE:

Now what did he mean by that disparaging comment?

EN:

Well, I gather the WASPS weren't very nice. I don't know, but I gather that was the problem. But I was already in it. And the WAVES weren't like that, the ones I knew.

EE:

Well, I just wondered. You know, there were other branches, you're talking about WASPS and WACs [Women's Army Corps]. Was there a reason that you picked the WAVES over any of the others?

EN:

Well, I knew about them because—

EE:

Davidson doesn't have a beach here, so it was not an affinity to water.

EN:

No, and unfortunately I haven't seen many WAVES since I've come back here to live. One of his brothers, who married an enlisted WAVE, lives in Florida and they have big WAVE meetings down there. She keeps me posted on what I should be doing.

EE:

There's a group up in Greensboro that meets for reunions.

EN:

Yeah? Well, I don't know—There one, well, Kitty Nowell who—I don't know whether she graduated from WC or not, but I was in the Supply Corps with her, and she came here and she wasn't—Well, I'm not going to put that on tape.

EE:

I know in '42 they had a—Actually, they found out it was some of the folks in the army who weren't too thrilled about having women join the WAACs. W-A-A-C, I guess it started out with when Miss Hobby started working on it. Did that affect your decision to go to the WAVES?

EN:

Well, as far as I know, the army didn't have a recruiting office in Staunton. But I really was interested in the WAVES because of Winnie Love. And a good friend of mine from WC, she died a long time ago, Laura Cline, class of '41, was in the WAAC. We have a widow of a professor here who we ate with one night. I mean he had taught here, he's gone now. But she said she didn't know I had been in the WAVES, and she was in the WACs, W-A-C, and she said, “Did you think of making the navy a career?”

I said, “Yes, I even applied for regular navy, but they turned me down because my teeth didn't meet right.”

She said, “Well, that's peculiar.”

I said, “Well, it's probably their way of saying, 'We don't want any women in the navy.'” Well, everything works out for the best. But anyway, I said, “Did you apply for regular army?”

She said, “I didn't want to. I didn't want to join the WAACs.”

I said, “Why not?”

She said, “Too many lesbians in it.”

I said, “Lord have mercy!”

EE:

Well, there were all sorts of little slurs that came through that. My dad was stationed in Korea during the Korean War, and his assignment, his first assignment, was to teach typing to WACs. He said that there was a large number that started getting pregnant, and he was the youngest guy in the office, and he was afraid they were going to think he was responsible. So he asked for a transfer and ended up being in the paratroopers. [laughter] But you know, it is different.

EN:

This fellow came to the States after he was liberated, because he grew up in Manila [Philippines] and his home had been destroyed and his mother had been killed. And he came and spent three months repatriation leave with a Cajun who had been a POW [prisoner of war] in the Bataan Death March. He was not in that march, but that family practically adopted him and his brother. And that fellow was in the navy forty years, and since Tommy's stroke three years ago, hardly a Saturday night goes by he doesn't call to see how he's doing so he can report back to his family in Louisiana. But then he went back to Korea, having been a POW for forty-one months. I bumped into a Red Cross girl we'd known in Memphis, and she was at Camp Lejeune where I was working in the disbursing office, and she said, “Well, I understand they're not sending Jap POWs back to Korea.” I said, “Don't believe everything you hear. I know one on the high seas now on his way.” And he didn't know he didn't have to have gone until he was at a POW reunion some twenty years later. But he was in the Inchon landing, trapped up at the reservoir, and came back with TB [tuberculosis] and in the hospital two years. So he's had a career. He's a great guy. But I didn't know him until after he'd been liberated, because he never came to the States till 1945.

EE:

Well, I want to get there. I want to get to the point where you guys meet, because I want to ask you all some questions. But let me finish getting you up through '45.

EN:

You're the boss.

EE:

Well, you were at Smith for what, eight weeks, I guess? Six to eight weeks, something like that?

EN:

I don't remember.

EE:

Anyway, don't you have to go to another special school for supply?

EN:

Yes, I then went to Radcliffe College, which was then the woman's college of Harvard. I guess it still is. And an interesting thing about that was we were in a Navy Day parade in Boston, and because the men took such big steps that the WAVES couldn't keep up with them. The WAVES were on the front marching through Boston, and I being among the tallest was on the first squad. But when I came back here to work, one of the professors came. He was in the naval reserve, and I said, “What branch were you in?” “Supply Corps.” So I've called him “Admiral” ever since. He stayed in the reserves for thirty years. I got out when he came home with TB because I was afraid I might be called back.

EE:

Well, now is that where you met Carolyn? You were in the same supply school class, weren't you?

EN:

Yes. I guess we were in the same class. I don't remember. My memory is fading.

EE:

That lasted for a couple months, I think, two. So you're there in—What time of year was it in '44 when you joined? Had D-Day happened?

EN:

It was June. I think it was June.

EE:

So it was right after D-Day?

EN:

No, I was in Norfolk for D-Day. DE Day I was in Norfolk.

EE:

VE [Victory in Europe] Day.

EN:

DE Day.

EE:

Oh, okay.

EN:

VE Day. What was it?

EE:

VE, Victory in Europe Day.

EN:

Victory in Europe, because my parents were visiting and it was so exciting to hear those foghorns blowing. Well, no, they weren't visiting then either. But all the foghorns were blowing, and the Catholics all went to church, and other people went to the officers' club, except one other WAVE and I were left in the WAVE quarters. Boy, I'm telling you, you had to take a cup to get a drink over at that officers' club. My roommate was kind of wild when she got back. In fact, I put her in a room where there was an empty bed.

EE:

And just let her be?

EN:

I can't sleep with this.

EE:

That's funny. And of course [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt had just died a couple weeks before then. Do you remember that, where you were when Roosevelt died?

EN:

He died before VE Day? I remember when he died. I just don't remember the date.

EE:

You finished supply school in—well, in the summertime? When did you come down to Norfolk? You were there for the Christmas of '44?

EN:

Yeah, I had the duty. Being the new kid on the block, I had the duty for Christmas. And I think I left in January for Memphis. Well, the hottest I ever was and the coldest I ever was was in Boston. I was there from August to December, I guess.

EE:

Of '45?

EN:

Forty-four.

EE:

Forty-four. So you were in Boston for supply school for that long.

EN:

Yes, and that's where we were asked what kind of duty station we wanted. And when I went to the first Sunday dinner up at Northampton and we walked in there and all this gray meat on the table, I got it in my head it was either squirrel or rabbit and I wasn't going to eat it. I found out it was supposed to be fried chicken. I couldn't eat a bite of it. But anyway I decided then and there that I wanted to stay south of the Mason-Dixon Line. And coming from a small town, I put down I wanted a small duty station south of the Mason-Dixon Line. So I got Norfolk.

EE:

Which is probably below the Mason-Dixon Line.

EN:

I got Norfolk first, but then got Memphis.

EE:

At your job at Norfolk, was it just women you were around, or were you working with men too?

EN:

I was working with civil service mostly and the duty officers at the Naval Supply Depot, which at that time was the largest storage building in the nation, I think. The offices were up on the sixth floor.

EE:

You say this was right there at the dock because the ships—

EN:

It was right on the Chesapeake Bay. We could look out the duty office window and see everything going. In fact, I went in one morning and I saw the top of a—

TN:

Barge.

EN:

A barge. And I said to the duty officer, “What's on that barge?”

She said, “Spam.”

I said, “What are they going to do with it?”

She said, “They're going to dig it out and sell it to the army.” And I think they did. But they were packaging materials to set up advance bases in the Pacific, and they were wrapping them in Reynolds aluminum wrap—

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

EE:

This was summertime?

EN:

I was there a year.

EE:

In '45. Because what happened after the—when your folks came up and the sirens were going off that summer, everybody was getting ready to invade Japan like they invaded Europe, because that's what we figured we were going to have to do. And then they dropped the atom bomb, which nobody knew about.

EN:

Which my husband says saved their lives.

EE:

That's right.

EN:

They are great on [President Harry S.] Truman and down on [General Douglas A.] MacArthur. He was in Corregidor [Philippines] when MacArthur escaped with his family on a submarine to Australia. MacArthur was a showman. He always was right there where the camera was.

EE:

He was.

EN:

And he knows where it is because he always carries the Bible on that side when he comes out of church or when he's going in. He switches hands.

EE:

That's right. Truman was sort of an unknown quantity, wasn't he?

EN:

I remember Mrs. Roosevelt, when Truman was sworn in, talking about what a shy man he was. It didn't take him long to get over it. But let me tell you what happened. Margaret Truman, do you know anything about her?

EE:

Yes.

EN:

She was attempting to be a vocalist, and so one of the nurses—I lived in Memphis after all the WAVES left but me. I lived in the nurses' quarters with nurses and Red Cross women, and one of the nurses who lived on the hall near me had a canary, and she named it Margaret Truman because it couldn't sing either. She went off for a weekend and one of her friends was going to take care of her canary. And she went in to uncover it, and she uncovered the cage but the bird wasn't in it. So everybody in nurses quarters was looking for this yellow bird, for Margaret Truman. Well, somebody went outside to look, and there on the front steps were some yellow feathers, and down under the steps were some yellow feathers. A cat had evidently gotten it, somebody's cat in the quarters, which I'm sure was against the rules.

EE:

Were you there then in Norfolk on VJ [Victory in Japan] Day when MacArthur did sign the surrender treaty and the war ended?

EN:

I have no idea whether I was or not. Maybe I was.

EE:

You said you went to Memphis after Norfolk?

EN:

I went to Memphis in January of '46, I guess.

EE:

So that was your next stop after. Were you doing the same kind of work in Memphis that you did in Norfolk?

EN:

No, no, because in Norfolk I was in supply and in Memphis I was in disbursing. I was disbursing officer. And it's a small hospital and I paid everybody except the Red Cross girls. I paid navy, civilians, staff and patients.

EE:

What was the name of the hospital in Memphis?

EN:

U.S. Naval Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, but it was in Millington, Tennessee. And we went back twenty-nine years after we left there and we couldn't find it. Memphis had grown up all the way out to Millington. When we were there, just the main road going through Millington was paved. We were in the middle of a cotton field. I used to sit on the porch when we were in our—The nurses quarters was built like the hospital, one straight hall and wings off of that, and I was on the back, back wing and sat on the porch and watched some of the—There was a black church out in the middle of a cornfield, and they “funeralized” on Sunday. And I used to sit there, you'd hear that drum beating, and everybody came dressed in white. I was fascinated watching that.

It was a small station, and when I got off work I rode a bicycle all over it. It was a very secure place. But a mile down the road was a naval air technical training center and a naval air base, and we were all under one admiral. So in 1948, with the polio epidemic, the admiral put out an order about two weeks before our wedding that no one, repeat, no one, would go to North Carolina—because of polio—and return to Memphis. And our wedding date was about two weeks off, and we'd had announcements engraved and everything. So I went to the commanding officer of the hospital, the captain, navy captain, and said, “What do I do now?” He said, “Just go on. I won't say anything.” So my twin brother, who by then was back from England and had been discharged from the army, flew out to Memphis to drive home with me. My dad had gotten me a car, because the dean of faculty at the college at that time had ordered a car for his wife. This was the war and you couldn't get a car, right after the war. And Dad called and said that his wife didn't want it, would I like to have it? I said, “Yes, please.” So I flew home to get it. So I had a car, and then he got interested in me because I had a car. I like to tell everybody that he thought the money I was spending was mine and so that's the reason he married me.

EE:

So what you're asserting is that a lot of guys like to have nice cars to get women, but you had a nice car to get a man?

EN:

No, he had a car. He had a '37 Chevy. No, I was kidding about that. He's a great guy and I just—Well, we've been married fifty years, so you know it wasn't the car because the car is long since gone.

EE:

That's right. Well, did you meet then when you were in Memphis doing this job?

EN:

Yes, and my twin brother flew out to drive home, because by then he was stationed at “Swamp Lejeune.” So my twin brother flew out to drive home with me, and we got to—before the interstate we got to Knoxville. We were aiming for Asheville and he said, “I think I'm getting polio. My legs are giving out.”

And I said, “Uh-oh.”

He said, “I can't drive anymore.”

I said, “Well, I can.”

At night it's easier going around those curves because you can tell whether something's coming or not by the lights. So I drove the hundred miles from Knoxville to Asheville at night, and we spent the night there and came home and called our doctor, and he said, “He doesn't have polio. He's just tired.” But anyway—

EE:

Well, now, how did you all meet?

EN:

He was my guard on the pay line.

EE:

Back there at the hospital?

EN:

Well, I knew everybody at the hospital because I paid everybody. I just had a wonderful time. It was a small station and everybody loved everybody.

EE:

That was from '46 to '48. When did he come to the station? Was he there in '46?

EN:

He was there when I got there.

[speaking to her husband] Tommy, when did you go to Memphis? Was it '46?

TN:

You were there when I got there.

EN:

Oh, was I there first?

TN:

In '46 I went to Memphis.

EN:

Yeah, well I did too.

EE:

But she was there first?

EN:

And I'll have to tell you this navy experience. They hadn't had a captain's inspection, and I had never lived through a captain's inspection. I didn't know what to expect. And the disbursing officer had been relieved and I was it, and here came the captain's inspection. I don't know whether you know or not, but they put on white gloves and they rub everything to see if there's any dust. Well, we had cleaned up the office, but here came the captain and his brigade, and he told one of the sailors to move the file cabinet. There was a nest of mice behind it. I'm surprised he kept me in the navy.

EE:

You roomed with nurses and Red Cross folks in Memphis. Did you room with other WACs at Norfolk?

EN:

There weren't any WACs there.

EE:

Not WACs, WAVES.

EN:

No, we all had separate rooms, in the nurses' quarters.

EE:

Because there was enough people there they did that. And then at the hospital, were you still an ensign then? What rank were you when you got there?

EN:

Well, I ended up on active duty as a jg [lieutenant junior grade]. But after I came home I got a full lieutenant's orders, but I don't think I was ever sworn in for that.

EE:

Did you work with men or just women in Memphis?

EN:

I worked with civilians, men and women.

EE:

Civilians again, men and women. And they treated you with respect?

EN:

Well, we had one woman, the head [civilian] woman in the disbursing office who had been there since the hospital opened, and she did the civilian payroll and there wasn't anything she didn't know. And just when I got in a bind, she came in one day and wanted to have the next day off. And I said, “Well, tomorrow is payroll day.” [She said] “Well, maybe I'd better go downtown and get a new hat, because my head's getting pretty big.” It made me so mad. I said, “No, you just go right ahead.” And I stayed up all night typing those checks for the civilian payroll, typing them and signing them. And dog if we didn't have a General Accounting Office inspection, and they could not believe that I had typed all those checks. Anyway, I did.

EE:

Well, my next question was what's the hardest thing you had to do physically or emotionally during your time there?

EN:

Playing soccer.

EE:

Playing soccer?

EN:

Yeah, I'd never seen a soccer game, and I couldn't handle it.

EE:

Was that something you did—

EN:

And doing situps. Before you were commissioned you're supposed to do ten situps, and how I got by with it I don't know, but I never could even do one. But I faked it and I got by with it. And then when it came time to be commissioned, I thought, “You know, I'm really not entitled to this commission.” And whoever it was said, “If you think you haven't earned this commission, don't accept it.” And I deliberated long and hard during that talk. But I thought, “Well, I've come this far, I can make up for it later.”

EE:

It doesn't sound like you were in positions where you actually were ever in any physical danger or afraid or anything.

EN:

No, no. When I went in, WAVES didn't go overseas unless they requested it.

EE:

And even then they could just go to Alaska or Hawaii?

EN:

No, Hawaii, I think, was the only one, and maybe England. But I think it was just Hawaii. And I didn't want to go to Hawaii because they all said it was just like Norfolk, except they did have barbed wire up around the WAVES quarters in Hawaii, which they didn't have in Norfolk.

EE:

Do you remember an embarrassing humorous anecdote from that time period? It can involve yourself or somebody else.

EN:

Gosh. Well, the captain coming in and finding those mice was pretty embarrassing.

EE:

Well that's not too—

EN:

Yes, I can remember. The commanding officer at the hospital always wanted special pay, which was work for the disbursing office. And he called up one day and we had something we were really busy working on. Well, he called up, and it was before our wedding, and he called up and said, “The captain wants to see you.” And I went down there just really fussing under my breath because I knew he wanted special pay. I got down there and they said, “The captain wants you in his office. Just go in and have a seat.” See, I had turned down his special pay because it couldn't be done at that time, and I thought he was calling me on the carpet. And I got down there and they said, “There's a seat over there on the back row.” So I went over there. And what it was, they presented me with a wedding gift, a Mix-Master, which we used for years. Well, no one knew how scared I was when I went in there, you know, but that was my biggest scare, I guess.

EE:

Well, now you've hinted at it, and I'm thinking about if you had any favorite songs or dances or movies or things you remember from back in that time period?

EN:

Well I loved marching to those songs. I just thought they were great.

EE:

What was the little ditty you were telling me about before I turned this tape machine on, about what the men would say?

EN:

“The WACs and WAVES are winning the war, what in the hell are we fighting for?” When we were in Northampton we got a Saturday afternoon off for a little while, and we went down to a dime store in Northampton, four of us in uniform. There was one waitress and one salesgirl in there, and she was just hanging around, paying us absolutely no attention. I went over and I said, “Could you wait on us, please?” And she said, “Don't you know there's a war on?” Here we were, four of us in uniform. I said, “Yes, I'm dressed for it.”

EE:

Now you pretty much wore your uniform wherever you went, didn't you?

EN:

Yes, until towards the end.

EE:

And that apparently helped a lot of folks. People were generally deferred to, it got you in, tickets to places, gave you discounts and that kind of stuff.

EN:

In Supply Corps school, there were sixty of us and we were given free tickets to see the Boston Red Sox play the White Sox. And we got lost in the subway and we got in the last half of the ninth inning, and we never saw a ball hit the bat.

EE:

Did that change, the attitude about people in uniform, after the war? Because you're there in transition. You're at the end of the war and then for some time afterwards.

EN:

Well, we ended up wearing civilian clothes. In fact, I was married in a civilian outfit. He was in uniform, but I didn't, I just wore civilian clothes because we were married at home because we were in two different places. In fact, he nearly missed our wedding. He went fishing and missed the plane. I should have known then his priorities.

EE:

Well, save that for later on. Because you were here stateside, you had a chance the folks overseas didn't and couldn't really answer this question. What was the mood of the country during wartime, do you think?

EN:

I can't answer that, because we weren't allowed to think that way in the navy.

EE:

In other words, that didn't occur to you.

EN:

No, and I didn't take any newspaper.

EE:

It was basically, here's my job to do, and—What was your work week like? Did you all work seven days a week?

EN:

I don't think so. Did we, Tommy? We just worked five days a week. Sometimes I went to the office if I had to catch up, because my staff decreased gradually.

TN:

We worked five days a week, except when some emergency came up. Then we all had to turn to. But usually we worked five days a week.

EN:

This was a hospital. You worked when you had to.

EE:

Do you have some heroes—We're sitting in a room with one of them.

EN:

You really are. He's a hero.

EE:

Who are some of the heroes from that time? This was before you knew your husband. Who were some of your heroes back then?

EN:

My dad was one. I mean, he wasn't a veteran but he was my hero. And my twin brother, who wasn't a hero, really, in other people's eyes, but he was in mine. I don't know. We had a good friend who just recently died of Parkinson's Disease, who at one time—I was in their wedding. He married a Davidson girl. He was a Davidson graduate, and at one time he was the youngest major in the European theater. It came out all over the radios, that he was going to lead the Americans to meet the Russians. And he was in all kinds of major conflicts. He was regular army. His daughter is my godchild. She's an invalid now, but she got her Ph.D. at Florida State by writing of his experiences while he was still able to think and all. He had his charts and everything and she wrote a wonderful thesis. She took it orally, I think, because she was blind, legally blind by then. But the examining professor said that it was just perfect, and she earned her Ph.D. writing about her father's experiences. And I lent the book to my cousin who was class secretary for his class here at Davidson, he's a book publisher, and I haven't seen it since. He tried to get every member of the class of '41 to buy it. That class lost the largest percentage of alums in the class during World War II, '41, my twin brother's class. He was certainly a hero. He didn't lead the Russians, and he said—She said in her book that he was so glad because he was so sick of the press following him, and he couldn't get his work done for the press.

EE:

Well, it was a different time for trying to—Nowadays we know too much, probably.

EN:

Yes, we do.

EE:

And we know it too quick and we want to make a snap decision. How did you find out what was going on over there? I mean, word of mouth? V-Mail?

EN:

V-Mail. You know, I found my twin brother's V-Mail letters, and I had to read them with a magnifying glass.

EE:

Did he tell you where he was?

EN:

We had a code worked out, and I've forgotten what it was, but I think it was maybe the second letter in the second sentence to tell where he was. And we knew right away he was in England. He went over on the Queen Mary, I think, which was so fast it didn't need a convoy.

EE:

It didn't need an escort. [chuckling]

EN:

But he was among the first drafted in Davidson, and the chairman of the draft board was our next-door neighbor, and later my boss for seventeen years. And it nearly killed him to have to draft Ed, but Ed's number was so low, or high, whatever it was.

EE:

You said that you wanted to make the military a career at one time.

EN:

I did. I enjoyed my work so much. It was just fascinating.

EE:

A lot of folks, as soon as they get married, they just assumed that they're leaving the service. That was not your case. How long did you stay in the service?

EN:

Well, I hadn't even gotten serious about him when I decided to try for regular navy. As I say, everything works out for the best.

EE:

So then after you got married you left the service?

EN:

Well, after he came back from Korea with TB. No, I got out as soon as I got a relief after we were married.

EE:

[To TN:] Then you stayed in the service through the end of the Korean War, or how long were you in service?

TN:

I stayed about eleven and a half years in the service, but when I came back from Korea I came down with TB and I spent two years in Oteen [Veterans Administration Hospital, North Carolina].

EE:

Right, up in the mountains.

TN:

And that was the end of my career.

EN:

He got a medical discharge.

TN:

But my brothers, I had two other brothers, and they spent the full twenty-one years, twenty-one and a half years in the service.

EE:

Did you have to have twenty to get the full retirement benefits or whatever?

TN:

Yes.

EE:

Did you get extra credit for wartime service? Did that double up your—That didn't give you any—no bonuses? Everybody was in the same—

TN:

No.

EN:

They're still trying to get something out of the Japanese. The POWs are, the United States isn't.

EE:

Well, as much money as we gave the Japanese in California, you'd think that they'd had a little—

EN:

Well, they were used for slave labor for sure in Japan.

TN:

You know, something I learned recently, that when the Japanese were excused from all the things that they had done, one of the things that the United States agreed to do was pay us. But Congress had never passed—given that law to pay us.

EE:

So it just sat. It didn't get acted on.

EN:

Well, they did get one dollar a day out of confiscated Japanese money.

TN:

That was aside from that.

EN:

He got eighteen hundred and some dollars.

TN:

That was aside from that.

EN:

Well, it was Japanese money that had been confiscated.

EE:

Well, it's taken, I think—what was it, just last year they finally sort of kind of apologized to the Koreans for their treatment as prisoners of war back in the '30s.

TN:

If you want to read something about the Japanese, look at what was The Rape of Nanking.

EE:

That's right.

EN:

He's reading that now.

TN:

The Rape of Nanking and Rape of—But they did all sorts of things to people that they conquered. I wonder now why they allowed us to live, because we were in the same group. The Japanese had orders that when the Japs surrendered they were supposed to finish us off, and they didn't.

EE:

In other words, they were supposed to leave no evidence of how they treated prisoners by killing them.

EN:

That bomb scared them.

EE:

In other words, it would be as simple for them as just destroying the files, just destroying human life just that way.

TN:

Yes. And I wonder how in this day and time the Japanese can write such orders and expect to get away with it now. Someone found a copy of the written orders that ordered us to be executed, and it's a wonder—And then the Japanese go around like nothing happened, and they blamed the United States for the war.

EN:

Well, we'd better not concentrate on that. Well, we're getting away from WC. Are we through with WC?

EE:

I wanted to get back to the fact that you did leave the military after you got married. Is that right?

EN:

I left after I was married, after he came home from Korea with TB.

EE:

What did you do after that? Did you go back into the workforce? Did you stay at home?

EN:

He and I, by then we finally found a place at Camp Lejeune to live, not because he hadn't been looking, but a Davidson alum who was president of Planters Bank over at Rocky Mount happened to be in my dad's office at the college when I drove up to pick him up, when you could drive up there by the Chambers Building. And he wanted to know what I was doing at home, and Daddy said, “Well, they can't find a place to live at Camp Lejeune.” He said, “Well, you tell Tommy to go by a certain place and tell them that I sent him, because I just lent them money to buy linen for this apartment.” Tommy had been by there, and no they didn't have anything, no they weren't keeping a waiting list. He went and they said, “Well, all we can give you is a one-bedroom apartment.” Tommy said, “I'll take it.”

So we were really married a number of years before we ever really got to live together, because he left Camp Lejeune for Korea and then was in the hospital two years. So when he left, it was really—I was very uncomfortable being in Jacksonville [North Carolina], because all the men were gone. But we had made friends with this older couple who ran a filling station down there, and anytime that I was followed I would go in there. They said, “Well, anytime you want to go home, you just come by here and we'll go home with you.” We had a bulldog he had talked me into letting him buy. The mascot at Camp Lejeune fathered a litter of bulldogs, and he had always wanted one. So he brought one home for me to see, and it was the runt of the litter and one of the ears had been chopped, one of the pups had eaten the ear, chopped it off. And he said, “If I get that dog, you won't have to do a thing to take care of it. I'll do it.” How many days later was it you were on your way to Korea and I had the dog?

TN:

Six months. Six months later.

EE:

Well, now did you work on the base down there?

EN:

Yes, I did, worked in the disbursing office.

EE:

As one of those civilians.

EN:

As a civilian, and enjoyed it very much.

EE:

The next couple of questions, because of your family, is probably going to be different than a lot of the answers I have. What impact did the military or your military experience have on your life short-term and long-term? Obviously long-term it got you a husband.

EN:

Right. Short-term? Well, I don't know. Well, one thing, it made me learn how to really—Well, I knew how to keep my mouth shut because my dad knew all the college secrets and he taught us about confidentiality. But I learned to be careful with money, for one thing, and I learned to keep books for us. Of course we had bookkeeping in business school, business law and all of that. It gave me a great deal of respect for the military, and want to support them all the time. Just knew that Mr. [Bill] Clinton was cutting down too much on the military. Did you hear him say shortly after they started bombing [Kosovo] they were about out of Cruise missiles? I thought, “Amen! What goes around comes around.”

EE:

Well, we've not been replacing what we've been—

EN:

No. So, anyway—

EE:

Do you think the military experience made you maybe more independent than you were before?

EN:

It gave me more confidence than I had before in knowing how to deal with people.

EE:

One thing about military life is that you are thrust into situations with people from all over the country, all different backgrounds, religious, ethnic. And I guess when you were in it, did you have much experience with integration too?

EN:

No.

EE:

Because when they first started doing that—I actually had a woman who said for the first time in her life she, in one of her barracks in Mississippi, was with black WACs.

EN:

Well, some of my best friends here in Davidson were blacks, so that didn't bother me. But we had only one black corpsman, and he worked in personnel, and he was just as nice as he could be. In Norfolk, before I got to Memphis, we had to eat in the men's mess over there. And we went to dinner one night, another WAVE and I, and here was a black chaplain sitting at a table by himself and no one would sit with him. So we did. “But I think of Dr. Walter Lingle who said that he was invited to play tennis one day. He was at a meeting somewhere and signed up to play tennis, and his opponent was a black man. And he said he went and played with him and thoroughly enjoyed him. He was later president of Johnson C. Smith University, and Dr. Lingle was president of Davidson. And my cousin who grew up in our family lived in Raleigh, and she was married and they were talking about having—Somebody said they would not eat the food that black hands had fixed. And my cousin said, “I'd give my bottom dollar to have some of those hands in my kitchen right now.” Because my mother had to have a maid with the help. She was no cook, and I inherited that ability. I'm no cook either. He's the cook. Was. So some of my best friends were black. It was a small town and we knew everybody. I knew everybody in this town. You'd go to the post office, you didn't see a soul you didn't know. Now you don't see anybody you do. Over the years, he and I have been host family to thirteen international students at the college. They didn't live with us, but we were in loco parentis. They lived in the dormitories but we were responsible for them. From different countries. They brought the world to us and we tried to make them feel at home.

EE:

Well, I see some family members, looks like, up here. Do you have kids yourself?

EN:

Yes. This is our older daughter, and she's married to a professor at UNCC but she kept her maiden name. Why I don't know when she could have gone from Northcott to West. But she didn't. She has a little boy who's in kindergarten. I guess he's just six. He's just had his sixth birthday. This is our younger daughter and her husband, and their daughter, who's eleven, and their little boy, seven now. He spent a week with us after we moved in here. He'd never been away from home by himself.

EE:

I'll bet he had a great time.

EN:

And he was so funny. I tried to think up entertainment for him, and so I said, “Do you like to play bingo?” Because they play it two times a week here and I had never played here. And he said, “Yeah! Yeah!” And going down there he was all excited and he said, “Boy, I'm going to beat these old people, they're all so slow.” And we got down there and were playing two cards, and they were calling so fast he couldn't keep up. But I was helping him anyway. But going down there I said, “Well, Andy, I don't know whether they have any prizes for children. My sister-in-law last week won a roll of toilet paper and a pack of crackers.” And he worried to death that he was going to have to win a roll of toilet paper. We got down there and the tables all along in the arts and craft room, and they had the prizes on a tray which they shoved up and down as you won. And he leaned over and he said, “There's no paper on there.” About that time somebody reached over my shoulder and put a roll on the tray with a ribbon tied on it. But we really enjoyed him. He was so cute.

EE:

Well, you were a trailblazer as a woman in the military. What would you think if your daughters wanted to join the military?

EN:

Well, somebody asked me if I would join the navy now, and I said no I wouldn't. And I wouldn't. It's a different outfit. All this sex mess going on. We knew nothing of anything like that.

EE:

So you think women were treated with more respect then maybe than they are now?

EN:

Well, they were on the bases where I was, yes.

EE:

They had in December, for the first time, a woman flying a combat mission in Iraq. What do you think of that idea?

EN:

I don't think that women ought to be in combat, especially if they have children. And some of those over there now who are going over there have children, and I think it's terrible. I was perfectly satisfied not to have equality. When I was in, a WAVE could not give an order to an enlisted male. And I never did, I just asked if they would do something.

EE:

You're talking about equality, because some people have looked at this time period that you were in and said, well, you know, this is the first time that women were doing men's work, the military and Rosie the Riveter kind of thing. Do you consider yourself part of the trailblazers of the women's lib[eration] kind of thing?

EN:

I don't think I was that, no.

EE:

This was just doing your job for that time, and that was it?

EN:

Yeah. That didn't bother me. I think it's gone too far now. Well, I shouldn't say that to WC. This woman who was a WAC who lives here says, “Well, I didn't know you were in the service. You're so quiet.” I said, “Isn't that what a southern lady's supposed to be?”

EE:

Behind the exterior there's—But you know, WC women have been of two minds on this, because a number of them share your opinion that, you know—And of course one of the reasons they liked WC is that women were different. And WC, when it was an all-woman school, highlighted that and celebrated the differences rather than—It was a second-class, it was just they're different. I've had a couple of them who said, “You know, I kept up with what was going on at WC until 1963. When they went coed I said, 'Forget it.'”

EN:

Well, I went over there to visit a friend after coeducation and integration, and it was just a different place. And I still can't get used to Davidson basketball playing UNCG and Winthrop University.

EE:

That's right. It's a strange feeling.

EN:

Yes it is.

EE:

One of these questions that has no right answer because you can't do it, but if you could do it all over again, would you join the military?

EN:

If I could do it under the same circumstances I would, but it's different now and I don't want to be in it at all. And I don't want anybody I love in it.

EE:

A question that I don't feel comfortable asking everybody, but you mentioned it a couple of times, about faith, how did the war experience help your faith experience?

EN:

Well, I just grew up believing in—

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

EN:

But anyway, I ended up in my three years in disbursing, the only thing that was held against me was paying a diseased sailor transportation twice because they had to ship the body home. So an act of Congress relieved me of that. I couldn't believe that. Anyway I had a clear record, so I was right proud of that.

EE:

It was a different experience, and so many things in the world have changed, a lot of things have not. Some things that don't change are people. You have all different kinds of personalities in life. Are there personalities that you remember, you just shared one, that psychiatrist and that fellow, are there some personalities from that time period that you remember?

EN:

Yes, in nurses quarters we had a black woman who wanted to cook there and she wanted to live there. They opened up a pantry and made a room, put a bed in there for her, and we all called her Mama. Now, I had really put on the weight in Norfolk eating in the men's mess. I went to Memphis, and I was having to walk the wards to pay the bed patients and all that, and eating her cooking, the woman's cooking, I lost forty pounds in six weeks at Memphis. And this woman, I was the only WAVE there, and she paid me special attention. And I just adored her. Everybody did. One night she got a roach in the ear. Boy, that was horrible. The nurses couldn't get it out. They took her to the hospital and they finally got it out. She had only one eye. She was just fantastic. She was a civilian, she wasn't in the navy.

EE:

Well, is there anything about—There's a lot about your career. We aren't going to be able to get to you today.

EN:

Yeah, he's the one who gets interviewed all the time. Nobody knows I was in the service.

EE:

Well, like I say, I think Tom Brokaw says that you all were the greatest generation, and I'm not going to differ with him.

EN:

That's right. Well, I bought Tom Brokaw's book, but I've had cataracts and I had one removed a month ago and then I'm going to get the other one, and when I finish I'm going to read it. In the meantime, I've lent it out.

EE:

Well, what he's done basically is just highlight some of the same kind of stories that we're trying to get at just with our women. You know, to go through a Depression and that war, which is different from—You know, the thing is the way the weapons have changed, it would be hard to imagine us fighting a war of that scale around the world without killing all of ourselves.

EN:

Well, we're starting. We're fighting on two fronts now.

EE:

We're getting close.

EN:

As long as the ammo lasts, I reckon.

EE:

Well, is there anything about that experience that we haven't talked about today that you'd like to share?

EN:

No, it was just so great. I just thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. And I felt so guilty because I was enjoying it and people were dying. I used to have to go around—This was before air conditioning, and it was Memphis and it was hot, and in the summertime the patients wore thin cotton pajama pants and no shirts, and I can't tell you the tattoos I saw. But on one ward they had in a private room this—That's off, isn't it?

EE:

No, we'll take it off if you want to.

EN:

Is it off?

EE:

I'll turn it off. We'll go off the record on this one. Thank you again.

[End of the interview]