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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Elizabeth C. Hickcox, 1999

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Object ID: WV0067.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Elizabeth C. Hickcox’s early life, her Standard Oil job, and her experiences at Hunter College and Anacostia Naval Station with the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.

Summary:

Hickcox details living with her grandparents, who ran a boardinghouse; fears in 1941 that one of the boarders was a spy; working at a sewing factory in 1941; joining the service to get out of her war job at Standard Oil; and friendships with male employees of Standard Oil.

Topics related to the WAVES and World War II include accidents in cooks and bakers school; entertainment and social life at Hunter College; forming good friendships with her fellow WAVES; the layout of the WAVES barracks at Anacostia Naval Station; the lack of encouragement from servicemen and the lack of opportunities to move up in the ranks; and stories about her work as a cook.

Hickcox also discusses several personal matters, such as meeting and marrying Ray Hickcox; his work with radar during the war; their children; and her unfulfilled desire to become a home economics teacher or a dietitian.

Creator: Elizabeth C. Jordan Hickcox

Biographical Info: Elizabeth Hickcox of Glassboro, New Jersey, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from March 1944 to December 1945.

Collection: Elizabeth C. Hickcox 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:

Today is April 23, 1999, and I'm here this afternoon at the home of Elizabeth Hickcox in Charlotte, North Carolina. And Mrs. Hickcox, that's H-i-c-k-c-o-x, is that right?

EH:

Correct.

EE:

All right. Well, thank you for having us here today. And this is going to be an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. We're going to start off in a very challenging fashion, the same way I start off with everybody, Mrs. Hickcox, and that is I need you to answer two questions for me: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

EH:

I was born in Woodstown, New Jersey, and I grew up in Glassboro, New Jersey.

EE:

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

EH:

No, sir.

EE:

What did your folks do?

EH:

My parents were divorced and I lived with my grandparents, and my grandmother ran a boardinghouse.

EE:

Even though you were an only child, you were surrounded by folks, I imagine, throughout.

EH:

And most of them were old, because that was the way to get a steady income was to take welfare, mostly old men who were alone and were not nursing home material.

EE:

Give me an idea of what time was this? The earliest you remember you lived with your grandparents?

EH:

My parents separated when I was two, and my mother and I both lived with my grandparents until I was twelve. When I was twelve my mother had remarried and moved away, and I was in high school and I didn't want to move. My grandmother needed me, and so I stayed there. My mother had always worked, so therefore my grandmother and I were extremely close. We had many, many interests in common, you know. My grandmother liked to cook, my grandmother liked to sew, and I like to do both those things. My mother didn't like to do that, she liked to go out and work.

EE:

What was your grandmother's name?

EH:

Sadie Nelling.

EE:

Sadie is another name from another time. That's great.

EH:

I think her name was really Sarah Ann, but she always signed everything legally Sadie.

EE:

And your grandfather helped run the boardinghouse, too?

EH:

Well, my grandfather had been a glassblower, and of course once the Depression came—Once machine-made bottles came along and once the Depression came along, he was no longer able to work—or, you know, couldn't get a job. So my grandmother had been a dressmaker, and her eyes started to go, so a factory came into town and they inquired around for people who would open up boardinghouses for the people who were going to come and train the local workers. So she decided she would open one. So she did.

And I'll never forget the first day. The first boarder we got was a young man from Girard College in Philadelphia, which was a home for fatherless boys, and his uncle brought him. So he took a walk uptown, and when he came back. It was in June or July, I guess July. Anyhow, when he came back he laid down on the glider on the front porch and went to sleep. So about ten o'clock we all went in the house to go to bed, and my grandfather said to my grandmother, “Are you going to wake your boarder?” She said, “[No], he'll get up when he's ready.” “Well, he might be dead.” “Well, if he's dead he'll lay there till morning.” That was the first experience. But finally Charles got up and went to bed. [chuckling] But anyhow that was quite an experience.

EE:

Are you married or—

EH:

My husband is deceased.

EE:

And what was your maiden name?

EH:

Jordan.

EE:

Jordan, okay. So you grew up in Glassboro. Did you graduate from high school in Glassboro?

EH:

Yes, sir.

EE:

When was that?

EH:

Nineteen forty-one.

EE:

Forty-one. Did you like school?

EH:

I had a good time. [laughter]

EE:

I just had my twentieth reunion last year. I understand those comments. [chuckling]

EH:

Well, we just had our fifty-eighth last September, so we're heading down the road toward sixty. Well, you know, I was a cheerleader and I had a good time, and—Oh, I don't know, it was an interesting time. But, you know, it was a funny time because January 1, 1941, almost a year before the war started, the president and vice president of our class went into the Sea Scouts. They were called to duty.

EE:

They were stepping up the draft already then in advance of it?

EH:

Yeah, already they were called to duty. And by the time we graduated, you know, a lot of them had—Even though the war hadn't started, a lot of them had enlisted.

EE:

How aware are you all of what's going on in the world, with the war in Europe starting, I guess, your sophomore year, '39?

EH:

Yes.

EE:

I know that nationwide there were some folks who said, “That's their problem. It doesn't have anything to do with America.” Other folks wanted to support Britain in '40. Did you all talk about that?

EH:

I think we must have been aware of it, because I'll tell you why. The day that Pearl Harbor was hit—My grandmother had a boarder who was working for the state or for the federal government, I'm not sure which. I don't know what he was, he looked like he might have been Japanese, but you know he could have been Jewish for all I know. We didn't know what he was, but we were all very suspicious of him. He would get a lot of mail written in a foreign language, and so we called the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] to have him investigated the day before, on Sunday. That's what we were doing when Pearl Harbor was being hit is we were trying to find out if this guy was a spy. That was what—you know—

EE:

You did that before Pearl Harbor or after?

EH:

No, before Pearl Harbor. That was the same day. We never heard anything more of it. We don't know what happened to him and we don't know whether he was or he wasn't.

EE:

Was he at the boardinghouse the next morning? [chuckling]

EH:

That much I don't remember, because then so much excitement happened. Because it was a rainy—

EE:

When you say excitement—it was a rainy day?

EH:

A rainy, dreary, Sunday December day—you know, a miserable day—and I mean everybody was in a state of shock.

EE:

How did you hear about it, on the radio or through friends?

EH:

Radio. Radio. My grandfather had a floor-model radio in the corner of the dining room, and he used to put on a baseball hat, and he'd go in there and sit with his ear to that radio if people were talking, so he could hear what was going on. That's my vivid remembrance of that time.

EE:

So you say couch potatoes might have started back in radio days? [chuckling]

EH:

Well, no, because my family were all card players. They weren't couch potatoes, believe me. No!

EE:

What were you doing at the time? You'd just graduated from high school back in—Was it an eleven-year high school in New Jersey or twelve?

EH:

No, twelve.

EE:

Twelve, okay, because it was a little later in North Carolina.

EH:

I was seventeen years old and I got out of high school, and they didn't hire people then until you were eighteen, because remember we're just getting out of the Depression, so jobs were hard to come by. So they could be real picky about what kind of qualifications you had.

EE:

When is your birthday?

EH:

February. So I had just turned seventeen. I lived like here, and one block away was a sewing factory, and so I went—My mother's aunt worked in the sewing factory, so I went there and got a job. You earned twelve dollars a week, and my pay slip would say, “Paid twelve dollars, earned eight.” Because, you know, a kid like—I didn't give a darn whether I did fifty dozen or twenty-five dozen, it didn't make any difference to me. I mean, I'm sitting on the chair. If I had to go to the bathroom, I got up and went to the bathroom. If I was sleepy, I got up and washed my face. My aunt would say to me, “If you would go to bed at night—If you wouldn't go out ramming around, you wouldn't be so sleepy.” [chuckling] I'd look at her like, “Forget it.” But they never fired me, because I never had to rip anything out. I sewed pleats in size 44 black dresses from June until December and I never had to rip one out, and that's why they kept me. And then I quit.

EE:

December of '41 you quit. What did you quit to do?

EH:

Make Christmas cookies. [laughter] Any excuse to quit. Oh, I had a couple other jobs along the way. I worked in a bottle cap factory and I worked in John Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia.

EE:

Okay, I was going to ask you did you stay around Glassboro, but you left?

EH:

Oh, well, see, I always had big ideas. You know, I wanted to get out of that one-horse town so bad I could taste it. It was funny, I ran around with four girls, and one day we were sitting on the back step of one of the girl's houses and we were talking about what we wanted—I guess we were at the end of our junior year or end of our sophomore year and we were talking about what we wanted out of life. The one girl came from a family of five girls and two boys, and she said, well, she was going to marry a rich man and she wasn't going to have any kids, period. And the other one said, well, she was going to marry George Menery. That was what she was going to do. And the other one said, well, she didn't care who she was going to marry, she was just going to get married. And I said, “Well, I'm not getting married unless I find a man with a college education, because I'm not going to be stuck in this one-horse town.” And do you know, each one of us did exactly what we said.

EE:

Really?

EH:

Exactly. Jane married George Menery, Alice married a wealthy man who lived in Saudi Arabia half the time and ended up with all kinds of money, and the other gal married just an ordinary person and died young. But we all did what we said we were going to do.

EE:

That's an unusual foursome. [chuckling] When was it that you decided to join the military?

EH:

Well, I went to work for Standard Oil of New York, and I got stuck working out on the dock.

EE:

Where was this?

EH:

On the Delaware River. Well, it was in Paulsboro, New Jersey, but it was on the Delaware River. I got stuck working outside, and it was cold! We were spraying stencils on oil drums, and I hated that job with a passion. So they were taking more of the men into the service, and they came around and they said that all the women had to go on Thursday to the cafeteria, the lunchroom, and they were going to give them an aptitude test and they would determine what jobs they were going to offer us. And so I really didn't want to take the test. I really didn't like the job. We had to get up at five o'clock in the morning, and from the gate to where we worked was like a mile and a half, and it's pitch-black at six o'clock in the morning, and oh! the river, and it smelled, and oh, I hated the place. Ugh! So anyhow, I went and took the test, and a guy by the name of Ed Cothe was administering the test. So I took the test, I finish it, I hand it in, and he said, “You can't possibly be done. Go back and look it over again.” So I go back and sit down and look it over again. [chuckling] I didn't look at it, just—you know.

EE:

Killed some time.

EH:

Killed some time, gave it back to him. Finally he said, “Oh, go on and go.” So I went. So anyhow I didn't hear anything about it. Working on the river, if you came inside where it was warm you would get very sleepy. So every time I got a chance, boy, I'd come in and lay down and go to sleep. [chuckling] So one day this girl came in and she shook me and she said, “Ed Cothe is looking for you. You better get over to the office.” So I go trucking over to the office, and I'm all prepared to say I'm quitting, because I figured they were going to fire me. And I got in there and he said to me, “I've got a job for you.” I said, “What?” He said, “I've got a job for you.” He said, “You got the highest mark on that test.” [chuckling]

EE:

Good gracious.

EH:

It was just common sense. It wasn't anything—It wasn't intelligence, believe me, it was just plain old common sense. So he gave me this job working in the scale house. Well, I complained about the lighting and I complained about it was noisy and the smell, and my throat hurt, and I complained about everything I could complain about. And everything I complained about, I complained about the glare on the scale and they—Oh, they did everything they could to pacify me. And finally I made up my mind there's only one way I'm going to get out of this thing. I want to go away anyhow, so I think I'll join the service. Because that was the only thing you could do to get out of a war job is you had to go in the service or you had to stick with it. Well, I thought, “God, I can't stay in this thing for five years, I'll go buggy.” And there wasn't anything to do. I mean, there wasn't anyplace to go, you know, evenings. You didn't have any money for gas—

EE:

All the rationing was around.

EH:

Yeah, and there wasn't anyplace to go. I mean, you know, you're going to go to a dance and dance with a bunch of girls? I mean, you know, everything—And there wasn't anything in the town I lived in. Oh, there was a movie house, that was it, and a couple churches, that's all. So I decided that I was going to go. So on my birthday I marched myself to Philadelphia and I tried to join the [U.S.] Marine Corps.

EE:

This would have been February of '43?

EH:

Forty-four. So I go all through, you know, and I pass and they accepted me and they said—now this is February—and they said—but they couldn't take me till September, because they had their quota. They had a very low quota in the Marine Corps. So I said, “Well, what can I join that I can go sooner?” [chuckling] So they said, “Well, you can join the navy and you won't have to take—They'll accept everything that you've already done. You won't have to go through this twice.”

That's for me. In the interim time a friend of mine who I had worked with, and who I had gone to school with her sister, came home on leave and stopped to see me. She said, “Oh, you'll love it. But let me give you some tips.” So she told me, “Now when you go, be sure and get yourself a pair of regulation shoes before you go, because that first day you're going to be in a mess.” So, fine. So anyhow I went up, and I was sworn in on the tenth of March.

EE:

This would have been in Philadelphia?

EH:

In Philadelphia. And I left on the twentieth of April, and I packed my suitcase, and there wasn't any fanfare or anything, you know. I just packed my suitcase, got on the bus, went to Philadelphia. I got to Philadelphia and—

EE:

Did you take the train to Hunter [College, New York City]?

EH:

We took the train to—Where did we take the train to? I don't know, but it seems to me we ended up in the Battery.

EE:

Yeah, Hunter College in the Bronx.

EH:

That part of it is vague. I remember marching, though, marching. But thank God I had decent shoes. Some of the rest of them didn't.

EE:

Well, let me ask you a few questions, because I've heard the shoes—Because everybody just brought what clothes they had. You didn't get your uniform till you got up there and went through training.

EH:

That's right.

EE:

Let me ask you a few things, because everybody had a process by getting in, and you had a different process than many of the folks had. You mentioned something, that the job you were working at was a war job. And I guess because it was in supply of petroleum products that it was deemed as something essential for the war effort.

EH:

That's right.

EE:

And anybody who tampered with anything in the war effort—they didn't let you do that, you had to stick with your job.

EH:

That's right, and you had to get a release.

EE:

Okay, that's what this was assigned to do. Because they needed more of the men who were working in this war job to go into the regular service, they were testing all the women to see what other jobs they could do? Or was it—

EH:

Yeah, yeah. But the thing was, the building I worked in was all men. And there were maybe two men there in their thirties, late thirties, the rest of them were all in their late fifties. Most of them were Italian and couldn't speak English, and they all—The funny part about it was like a competition, who could feed me the most. I mean one guy would bring me a sausage and pepper sandwich—you know, stick it on the radiator to get it hot for our morning break. Another guy would bring me lasagna, somebody else would bring me spaghetti and meatballs. Oh, my God, I'll tell you! [chuckling] And they were very defensive of me, you know, because I was a kid and it was like I was their daughter or their granddaughter.

EE:

I was going to say, you were probably a good deal younger than most of the folks working this kind of job, I would think.

EH:

Oh yeah, because the man that had the job before, you know, was in his forties. And you had all these tables to learn because every oil had a different table.

EE:

As far as the viscosity and all that stuff and being processed?

EH:

Yeah, yeah, and so the thing was, you know—I mean, let's face it, I was no more interested in that damn job than the man in the moon.

EE:

It was the paycheck, just get that?

EH:

That's it. And the thing was, I forget, I don't think we could work over fifty hours. I think that women couldn't work over—or my age couldn't work over fifty hours. So if the men I rode to work with were working overtime, you know, then I'd work overtime. But I could only work a half a day on Saturday because I would have already made up my fifty hours. But I was making a hundred dollars a week, which was a lot of money then.

EE:

Compared to that twelve dollars you were making earlier. [chuckling]

EH:

Yeah, which was a lot. And the funny part about it was they had a union meeting when I first went there, and this girl that lived at the house, at my grandmother's, worked there too. So Pat said to me, “Come on, go to the union meeting.” I said, “I'm not interested in any stupid union.” “Well, come on and go.” So we went to the union. I did not belong to the union. So we got there and I said to her, “This is not for me. Don't ask me to come again, because I don't want any part of this thing.” I said, “I don't believe in this baloney.” Well, the union was what fought for me and got me the pay raise. [chuckling]

EE:

Got you the big bucks, yeah.

EH:

But I still am not—I think unions—

EE:

You don't believe in having to be part of the union, a closed shop.

EH:

Yes. That's what I mean. Yes, I don't believe in a closed shop. I think that you can negotiate other ways. Now let me say this to you, I think there have been times when unions have been good, but I think they carried them too far. I think that they hurt themselves because they became too big and the heads became too powerful, and they got hungry.

EE:

You were not living at home at this time with your grandmother?

EH:

Yep.

EE:

You were still living at home and commuting to all these jobs?

EH:

Oh yeah.

EE:

How close is Glassboro to Philly?

EH:

Philadelphia? Twenty miles. I took a bus up there.

EE:

Okay, so it's just north of Camden, isn't it?

EH:

It's right just across the river from Camden. No, where I lived was south, twenty miles south.

EE:

South of Philly, okay.

EH:

This is where [President Lyndon B.] Johnson and [Soviet Premier Alexei] Kosygin held the [Glassboro] Summit Conference. This was the funny part about it. My husband, if somebody would say to me, “Where did you come from?” He'd say, “Oh, she came from a one-horse town, one gas pump, one outhouse,” you know, or some dumb thing like that.

EE:

What did they have, a Glassboro State College?

EH:

Yeah, but now it's a university, honey. No, what happened is a man by the name of Rowan, about four years ago—He's an oven and furnace man from north Jersey, gave them—I don't know, five million dollars or some amount, with the idea in mind that they had to change the name of the college to Rowan University. They now give doctorate degrees in engineering and it's a big facility. But when my grandmother went there to work in the kitchen as a cook, the whole student body was a hundred.

EE:

She did that after the boardinghouse job?

EH:

No, before.

EE:

Is that affiliated with any kind of a religious institution, or the state?

EH:

No, that's a state. It was first Glassboro Normal School, then it was Glassboro State College, now it's Rowan University.

EE:

UNCG [University of North Carolina at Greensboro] was a normal college for teacher training. It sounds like some of the people have very specific reasons why they joined the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], they loved the uniform. [chuckling] It sounds like you were looking—Why did the Marines jump to the top of your list?

EH:

Well, I don't know, don't ask me. I don't know. But I was always—whatever was the hardest to get into was the most interesting, okay? I guess that was the reason. But they told me when I went in that—I said I wanted to go to cooks and bakers school, and they said, “Well, the training you get in there will be equivalent to at least two years of college, and when you get out you won't have to go far to become a dietitian.” And of course they didn't have all these culinary schools that they have today, so this is what I thought was going to happen. But it didn't happen. Because what happened is once we got in, the men didn't want us to do anything. You know, they would give us the menial tasks. I mean, every time you would sit down or look cross-eyed, they would throw water on the deck and say, “Swab the deck!” They weren't about to teach you anything or let you use any initiative, if they could help it.

EE:

When you went to the Battery area in New York, was that really the first long stretch of time you'd been away from home?

EH:

Yeah, I guess so. It didn't bother me.

EE:

If you grew up in a boardinghouse, you were used to having all sorts of strangers—

EH:

That's what I mean. Yeah, I think I adjusted very well. I mean I didn't have crying jags, I wasn't homesick. I was having a ball.

EE:

Great. Did your grandmother approve?

EH:

My grandmother didn't but my mother did.

EE:

Mom was close by?

EH:

Well, my mother and my father had to sign the papers.

EE:

Oh, so you were still under twenty-one then?

EH:

Oh yeah, I was only twenty. My mother said, “Oh, she's spoiled. It'll do her good.” [chuckling] So anyhow—But I would do it over again. I mean I'm not sorry I did it. I think if I had to do it over again, I'd probably be a little more diligent, not so much fun.

EE:

In other words, you might check out what you were getting into before you got into it?

EH:

No, no, no, that didn't bother me. But they talk about men getting hurt and what have you, and we were in cooks and bakers school and this one gal was working in the bake shop, and they had a bread machine. And you were told not to put your hands in the bread machine, you were supposed to wait for the bread to come out. Well, she didn't, and she took the ends off of—you know, off her fingers. And we had another girl who was working at a butcher shop—I thought I wanted to be a butcher, but after that—She took the ends of her fingers off in the meat grinder, so I decided I didn't want to be a butcher either. [chuckling]

EE:

All right, well, let's go back, because you were in a line of work that I have not interviewed anybody in. Because I think it was you could do cooks and bakers school or basically office work.

EH:

Yeah. Aviation machinists mate, parachute rigger, storekeeper—I'm trying to think.

EE:

These were all choices they gave you in basic?

EH:

Oh yeah. Yeah, they gave you—There were a lot of choices. There were a lot of choices.

EE:

Because in the beginning—Well, at your time there were more than some of the earlier.

EH:

Oh yes, yes.

EE:

Because earlier I think it was three choices: work in the office, cooks and bakers—

EH:

Or communications.

EE:

Or communications was about it.

EH:

Yeah, but a lot of people got thrown into cooks and bakers, not because they wanted it but because that was the slot they gave them. But mine was by choice, because that's what I wanted. And I'm still not sorry, you know.

EE:

All these positions opened up because there were men in the service that were doing these positions and they wanted to free up the men to fight.

EH:

That's right. And see, now today they don't do—That's all farmed out. I mean, they don't use military people to do that, but then they did. And of course when we got to Washington, [D.C.], we had two thousand naval officers from the Navy Department came over every day for lunch.

EE:

That's a captive audience that you wouldn't have maybe today.

EH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you ever feel any—either from friends or from people you met on the street, any ambivalence about the fact that you were freeing men to fight? You know, that if not for you somebody's boy would have been—maybe safe?

EH:

No, I never did. No, no, I never did. We had a couple guys that we worked with—you know, that were cooks—that resented the fact that if we got—See, this is what happened to us: When I got out of cooks and bakers school I was qualified as a 3rd Class Petty Officer, but I never got it. Because when we got to Washington, first of all, they didn't know we were coming. And we had a gal whose father was a commander and she was with us, and when we sat at the Anacostia Naval Air Station for about eight hours—Oh, more than that, from seven o'clock in the morning till five o'clock at night we sat there, and they didn't know what to do with us. They kept saying, “Well, we don't know what to do with you. We didn't know you were coming,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, when we got over to WAVE Quarters I [West Potomac Park] and we went into the OD's [officer of the day] office, this girl opens her mouth and she said, “I want to tell you something right here and now.” She said, “Every six weeks you are going to get ten cooks and bakers from New York, and don't tell them you don't know they're coming, because I'm telling you today they are coming.” You know? But they didn't know what to do with us! So when we left New York City they told us to buy white uniforms, they were white shirts and white slacks, and that's what we were to wear to work.

EE:

Were these with a military insignia on them or just general—?

EH:

No, they were just like a man's white cotton short-sleeve shirt and white slacks, you know? And we got there with these, and I don't know what we paid for them, but anyhow we got there with these darned things and we went to work the first day, they put us in as scullery maids.

EE:

This was at the Anacostia Naval Station?

EH:

No, this was at WAVE Quarters I, out near the Lincoln Memorial.

EE:

Okay, this was in the temporary stuff that was built all down at the end of the Mall.

EH:

Yeah, at the Tidal Basin there, along the Tidal Basin. Anyhow, so we had a Jewish officer. He was the supply officer. He was a two-striper. Anyhow, he called us all into this room and he said, “Number one, I do not recognize the school you went to. Number two, you will not wear those uniforms. The uniform of the day here is light-blue chambray shirts and blue jeans.” So we had to go out and buy all new. They were like a dollar for the shirt and two dollars for the pants. It wasn't expensive, but it was just that he was nasty. And he said, “I don't recognize your school, so you're going to go to my school for ten weeks all over again.” Well, this gal whose father was a commander was not a happy cookie. So I don't know what she said to him or what she did or what strings she pulled, I don't know, but anyhow he called us all in again and he said, “I'm going to send the chief in and he's going to give you a test. If everybody passes the test, you don't have to go to school. But if one person fails the test, everybody goes to school.” Fine. So we get in this room and we take the test. And guess what? The chief gave us all the answers. [laughter] And he didn't know it. I mean, enough answers so that nobody got—.

EE:

Nobody would fail.

EH:

We didn't have perfect scores, but he would fudge enough so that we—you know, we knew better than to—Anyhow, so that ended that. But we never got ratings. None of us ever got ratings.

EE:

Let me go through, because it seems to me, when I've talked with people who had other specialties within the WAVES, they would go for about six weeks to Hunter, and then they would go to some other place to do their specialty training.

EH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you all do that?

EH:

At Hunter. We did it at Hunter.

EE:

So you did your cooks and bakers training—Was it immediately after basic?

EH:

Yes. The thing was, the class started every four weeks, and it so happened that when our basic training ended, the following Monday our class started. So we never had that layover. We didn't have that layover. But we would get up like two o'clock in the morning, go to work, march over to Gillette Hall, start toasting bread at two o'clock in the morning. By the time the poor buggers got it, it was like rubber. Fried eggs and they'd turn green. [chuckling] I can remember—

EE:

You were well-loved. [chuckling]

EH:

Yes. I can remember going to work one morning, and we had—Our tubs were like this big around and this high, filled with cooked chicken—you know, little skinny chickens. And we were supposed to go in there at two o'clock in the morning and pick all this chicken off the bone for them to have creamed chicken for breakfast. Can you imagine?

EE:

Good gracious. So the cooks and bakers school was cooking for the women coming in for basic.

EH:

That's right. So anyhow, we got down to the bottom of the last tub and about twenty-five chickens still had the guts in them. You can bet your bottom dollar none of us ate chicken. Listen, the first day I was in the navy, the first meal I had, we had seventeen minutes from the time your foot hit the bottom step and you went through the line and got your dinner, ate it, and out the door. Seventeen minutes. And I've got news for you, the first day nobody ate a thing because what happened, we were all so excited about “Where are you from? Where are you from?” that by the time it was time to get up and clear the tray, it was over and you didn't have anything. [chuckling]

EE:

Gracious. Had you been to New York City before going to Hunter?

EH:

No.

EE:

Did you get a chance on weekends and stuff to go exploring?

EH:

Not until we were finished basic. We would go into New York City and stay at the Commodore Hotel and get a room and pile like twelve of us in one room, laying on the floor, you know, and it cost us like fifty cents apiece or a dollar apiece. I mean—[chuckling]

EE:

And you'd go in with your dress blues on, right?

EH:

Oh, yes. I'll tell you what we did do, and I think it was the second liberty we got, we went into New York City—We got off at noon, or right after regimental review, and we took the subway into town. And they always announced like there were places where you could get free tickets for this, that, and the other thing. Well, the Edison Hotel had a Green Room, and they had a two-for-one luncheon. Two people could have lunch for the price of one. And at the time, the Tars and SPARS show was in New York City. And so we went over there and had lunch, and the gang from the Tars and SPARS show came over, and Victor Mature was in it. He was a movie star. Well, they did a conga line, and I'm in the conga line with him. The next thing you know we were playing musical chairs, he's on my lap— [laughter] I mean we had a good time. And we had great entertainment. We had [Vladimir] Horowitz, you know, who came to the college. We had—

EE:

This was while you were in basic?

EH:

Yeah. [And cabaret singer] Hildegarde—And the funny part about it is, see, they—

EE:

I haven't had anybody talk about entertainment at Hunter while they were there.

EH:

Oh yes! What they would do is they would say, “You can sign up to go—” It was supposed to be optional. “You can sign up to go to see Hildegarde, or you can sign up to see the Ballet Russe, or you can do whatever you want.” Well, the things that were not popular, then they would draft you. If they didn't have enough people signed up, they would draft you. So this one night, I think it was the ballet—I don't know whether it was the ballet or Horowitz, I think it was the ballet, we decided we weren't going to go. And they decided—You could go over to the next building and we could buy candy bars at night. We had about a half an hour at the time and there you would go buy candy bars. So we got our pajamas on and got them rolled up, okay? Put on our hats—had stockings on, put on our hats and raincoats, and go over to get candy. We get on the quarterdeck and they said, “You're going to Gillette Hall. You're going to the performance.” And we're dying, because we know—You know, they announce the uniform of the day every day, and we know if they announce “Everybody take off their coat,” we're in deep trouble. [chuckling] Fortunately, they didn't ask us to take off our coats, so we were safe. But I'll tell you, we sweat bullets.

EE:

So you didn't enjoy your Horowitz performance then, did you? [chuckling]

EH:

[chuckling] Oh, as I say, we had good times.

EE:

Like I say, I have never heard anybody talk about the entertainment there. I guess being right there in the city, easy enough to have.

EH:

Oh yeah, there were lots of things to do.

EE:

And maybe as the war developed—You joined in April of '44, so you would have been in basic—When did you finish basic? Probably in late May or June?

EH:

In June. About the first of June, I think.

EE:

Had D-Day happened?

EH:

Oh boy, I can't remember. I guess it must have.

EE:

The 6th of June was D-Day. That would have been probably pretty big, since we're starting to—

EH:

Yeah, but you know, everything was—I think with us it wasn't like it was with civilians. I mean, we knew things were going on, but we knew there were lots of things going on, and I don't think it made the impression.

EE:

You didn't have a chance to really follow in the newspaper everything. You sort of got it filtered through the CO [commanding officer] anyway, didn't you?

EH:

Yes, but we had war orientation every week where they kept us up on where this one was and where that one was and everything else. But you know a lot of it is vague to me.

EE:

Did you have dances while you were at basic at Hunter?

EH:

No! There were no men there.

EE:

No men there?

EH:

No men there.

EE:

They didn't bring anybody else in?

EH:

No. And see, we weren't allowed in like the Stage Door Canteen. A lot of the places we weren't allowed in, only the men were allowed.

EE:

But every time you went out you had to wear your dress uniform.

EH:

Oh, yes sir. And the theory was, “Remember, it's not Suzie Jane that's doing this, it's a WAVE that's doing this, so you better—”

EE:

You represent the whole service.

EH:

That's right.

EE:

Cooks and bakers school then starts up for you in June. You're there and you're making meals for the—So you're getting up at 2:00 in the middle of the night to cook breakfast. And then after you cook the food for the day, do you have classes and then you go to sleep? Basically you have classes second shift and go to sleep?

EH:

Yes. Well, I've got news for you, we're there in July and August in New York City, and lights out were 9:30, 9:00 or 9:30 [p.m.], I'm not sure which. But I've got news for you—And the Shore Patrol paraded up and down in front of the building all night long, you know. But it would be so hot. Now they didn't have any air conditioning in these places. I'm one of these people who need a lot of sleep. So the only way I could get to sleep was I had a Pepsi-Cola bottle with a sprinkler on it, like years ago they sprinkled clothes with. Every night I'd sprinkle my bed, get it wringing wet, and I'd get in it and go to sleep. That's the way I had to sleep. It stayed cool enough till I got to sleep. [chuckling]

EE:

I thought my grandmother only used that for ironing. [chuckling] But that sounds like a good use for it, too. Then that course runs—How long were you there for?

EH:

I think it was sixteen weeks. I think that course was sixteen weeks.

EE:

So it was through the fall then? When did you go to Anacostia?

EH:

Well, we finished the twenty-ninth of September was when— [Hickcox walks away, her voice trails off] —I think that's what it says. Wait a minute, I've got it right here.

EE:

Oh, you've got it on your discharge papers?

EH:

No, I don't have the discharge papers here, but I've got pictures. I've got pictures—

EE:

This is your class photo?

EH:

Graduated September 29, 1944.

EE:

Great. And this is a cake that you all had to bake for yourself?

EH:

The bakers did it, I didn't. I wasn't—you know.

EE:

You were in the cooks part of cooks and bakers? How did they split that up?

EH:

Well, I thought I was being smart by going—Well, we had a choice. I thought I was being smart by going in the cooks, but I think in a lot of respects I probably would have been better off going in the bakers. But I was so afraid of the damned bread machine, plus the fact that I didn't want to have to get up at two o'clock in the morning. And what happened was when we got to Washington, the first day we got to work as cooks they didn't let us go to work right away as cooks. You know, we were scullery maids. And the first day I went to work as a cook was on Thanksgiving morning. And I went to work at two o'clock in the morning, and the Shore Patrol had to let me in the galley. I had sixteen ovens, and there were two big thirty-pound turkeys in each oven. And I had to get on a stepladder and turn them over. [chuckling]

EE:

Gracious. Now which one is you here? I was trying to count—

EH:

Right in the middle.

EE:

My goodness. That's a great smile, I'll tell you. All right. Now, have you always gone by Elizabeth, or how did you—

EH:

Betty. And this is the gal from Charlotte that I'm looking for.

EE:

This is the one who's—

EH:

Davis.

EE:

Davis, okay.

EH:

Yeah, Mamie Davis.

EE:

“Steamboat.”

EH:

Steamboat. And this one was a bunk mate for a while. Steamboat went to Patuxent River, Maryland. After we were in Washington for a while, she went to Patuxent River, Maryland, and then Gladys became my roommate. I'm not sure, but now she and I would send Christmas cards back and forth, back and forth, and I haven't heard from her in three years, and I have an idea she might have passed away.

EE:

What's her last name?

EH:

Davis, but her name was Horness before.

EE:

Okay. Where was she from?

EH:

Story City, Iowa.

EE:

You do meet people from all over America, don't you?

EH:

Oh, I'll never forget her, because we were in cooks and bakers school and she got a letter from home and she's jumping around and she's all excited. I said, “What are you so excited about?” She said, “We got a bathroom.” [chuckling] And I had never lived in a house without a bathroom! You know?

EE:

Good gracious. I guess that tells you something.

EH:

[Papers shuffling, pages turning] Regimental review.

EE:

This is in basic?

EH:

Yep, and I don't know where I am. Don't ask. And that's the one from Iowa and myself.

EE:

And who is the gentleman in the middle?

EH:

Oh, Jesse Fowler, a guy I used to go with years ago, years and years ago. And don't ask me who this guy is, I don't even know. I just know I liked my picture. I liked to take it— [chuckling]

EE:

Oh yeah, that's a good one. Did you all have special insignia for cooks and bakers school? I know the supply people have two seahorses.

EH:

I think we had a—No, because we didn't have—We were strikers, so all we had were three diagonal stripes. We didn't have—

EE:

So you didn't have on this lapel anything? This was just the regular WAVES?

EH:

Yeah, regular WAVES lapel, that's all.

EE:

Okay. These are things I can take back to the school?

EH:

Yes, you can take them back. You can take whatever you want.

EE:

Great. Now can we keep these?

EH:

Yes, you can keep them.

EE:

Thank you. It'll be great.

EH:

I've got one that I won't let you keep that I'll show you that I like. This is the one I wanted to send to WIMSA [Women In Military Service For America Memorial], but it's not a glossy. This was taken at Hunter College, right after we got out of basic training. But it's not a shiny, it's a copy of one. See, you can see I had—What happened was I had given my husband the picture, and I had written on it, so I—

EE:

Cut out what you wrote on it.

EH:

Yeah, and then I had it copied. So that's—You know, that's the gist of the thing.

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

EH:

—together. There was I, and I don't know what the other one was right offhand. I don't know whether it was B or what it was, but—

EE:

You were cooking for both of them, though?

EH:

Yeah, for both of them. And then what happened is later on—I'll put these in here for you.

EE:

Great. Thank you.

EH:

Later on down the way what happened was I was working in ship service [the post exchange] for a while, because I got paid for—you know, I got paid for that extra.

EE:

Ship service, meaning that you took stuff—You worked actually on a ship?

EH:

No, no, no, that was the store. Ship service was the store, you know. Anyhow, we had our own place where the officers could buy their white shirts, and then you'd get cigarettes and lingerie and all kinds of stuff like that. Anyhow, they asked me if I would like to work nights. And I would go to work at like five o'clock at night and I'd get done about ten [p.m.], and that's the only time I had to work.

EE:

Wow. Was this right there in the building?

EH:

No, this was cooking. That's why I went to work in ship service. They offered me this job, and what it was is there were five hundred people that came over at nine o'clock at night from communications that were on the night shift, and so they asked—

EE:

You had to be there for the rush.

EH:

I was the only one on. I had a couple of scullery maids and myself, and I would do all the cooking. But most of the time, it was things that were partially prepared or something like that. I didn't have a lot of stuff to do. Well, one night I went to work—[chuckling] So that's why I took the job, because I took that job and then I could have the other daytime job, and I still could go out once in a while. So one night I went to work, and the chief usually posted the menu in two different places. He'd post it in the hall and then he'd post it out in the mess hall. So I read the one in the passageway and it said, “Mashed potatoes.” And I don't remember what else it was, but I know it was mashed potatoes. So we had a spud locker, and there were a certain amount of girls who would go in the spud locker and they would get all the vegetables and fruits and things. And because we were feeding officers, we had really excellent—

EE:

Quality, right.

EH:

A big variety. I mean like avocados and lots of pecans and fresh pineapples and all this stuff. So I go in the spud locker thinking I'm going to find a big tub of peeled potatoes. I get in there and no peeled potatoes. There were washed potatoes with the skins on, but no peeled potatoes. So I dump all these potatoes in the potato machine and I get them all peeled, but I don't have time to cut the eyes out. So I put them in the steamer and I cook them, and I mash them and I—If you're supposed to put in three pounds of butter, I put in six pounds of butter. If you're supposed to put in a quart of milk, I put in a quart of cream. Well, anyhow, I don't know whether we were having—I'll say creamed chipped beef and mashed potatoes and green beans and this kind of stuff. Anyhow, I ended up I got everything ready and everybody said, oh, they're the best potatoes they ever had. And come to find out, the darned chief forgot to change the menu in the passageway and we were supposed to have baked potatoes. I could have killed him.

Well, we had this Italian fellow, and he was the one that was kind of nasty to us, and, oh, he wouldn't let you sit down for five minutes. He was just terrible. And nights when I'd go on, if there was something that had to be done for breakfast, they'd leave me a note to say what I had to do. Like I might have to crack a couple cases of eggs for scrambled eggs or something like that. Well, this one night he leaves me a note and he said, “There are twenty pans of apples in the cooler, and there's a big dishpan full of sugar and cinnamon, and you're to fill the apples with the sugar and cinnamon, the holes in the apples, and put them in the oven, and the Shore Patrol will turn on the oven at five o'clock in the morning.” Fine. So I started doing it and I thought to myself, “This little dishpan is not going to fill all these.” So I used it on about—I'll say a quarter of the apples. And we had big wooden boxes made out of plywood, and inside were big garbage cans, new ones, with the sugar and stuff in to keep the rats and things away. So I dig into what I thought was sugar and got the cinnamon and mixed it all up, and—[chuckling] Anyhow—

EE:

It wasn't sugar, was it, it was salt. [laughter]

EH:

It was salt. So we had five pans of sugar and fifteen pans of salt. So the next morning I'm sleeping and someone comes over and shakes me. “Jesus Christ, boy, are you in dutch!” “What the heck for?” “Oh, boy, Leo is really mad at you! Boy, you made a mess over there.” I said, “What do you mean I made a mess? I filled fifteen pans with what he gave me and I filled five pans with what I mixed up, because I didn't have enough.” So he got the blame for it. I knew. I knew because this Jewish officer was awful. I knew darnright well if I admitted to that I'd have been strung up by my ears. I knew they wouldn't do a darn thing to him, so I just let him take the blame.

EE:

It sounds like that all your supervisors were regular navy men.

EH:

Right.

EE:

And you said one of the reasons that you all didn't get to probably advance as much is because they were worried about basically job security.

EH:

That's right, they didn't want to go. They didn't want to be shipped out.

EE:

They would be out.

EH:

We had two kinds of people, we either had people who didn't want to be shipped out—And the ones that were nice to us were the ones that had been overseas and were back. They were on R&R [rest and recuperation] more or less, so they were good to us. And some of the older men, you know, the chiefs that were like fifty-ish were pretty good to us.

EE:

Most of the women were about your age who you were working with? You were probably a little on the young side still though, weren't you?

EH:

Yeah. When I go to these navy functions, I find that I'm on the younger end, because most of them are—

EE:

Five to ten years older?

EH:

Yeah, five to ten years older.

EE:

I don't hear you talking about any supervisors that are women in the cooks and bakers work. Are there?

EH:

Nothing more than a second-class petty officer, but nothing above that.

EE:

Okay. So one of the questions we have, because people are in different jobs, is did you work with men and how were you treated? And it sounds like, depending on if their number's on the line—

EH:

Well, I can't say we were treated bad, but we were not encouraged and we were not helped along the way.

EE:

It sounds like, though, that the threat wasn't that you were a woman doing the work.

EH:

No, no.

EE:

But the threat was you were the person who was going to send them overseas.

EH:

Yes. Well, what they said was this: If we complained, it was “We were drafted and you enlisted. Do it!” That was the attitude.

EE:

Okay. That's an interesting attitude to know about.

EH:

That was the attitude, and so you kept your mouth shut.

EE:

How long were you in the military altogether?

EH:

Twenty months.

EE:

So you got out when then?

EH:

December 20, 1945.

EE:

Were you in Washington the whole time?

EH:

Yes.

EE:

So you were in Washington when—Did you think about making the military a career, or were you just—

EH:

No.

EE:

So you weren't encouraged to make it so. You just decided—

EH:

I think if I had had better opportunities I might have considered it. But because—you know, for two years of going nowhere—

EE:

They made it clear that you weren't planning on it, yeah.

EH:

Yeah, so I mean there wasn't any object.

EE:

You were there then in Washington when the word came that [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt had passed away.

EH:

Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes.

EE:

What was that day like?

EH:

Well, I don't dare tell you what that day was like. You better turn that machine off. [chuckling]

EE:

[chuckling] Censored.

EH:

What happened was I had gone out to—A bunch of us had gone out to Walter Reed Hospital on Sunday to visit some amputees. You know, that was one of the requests they would make every once in a while. Because we were military, the men sometimes accepted us more than they would accept civilian people.

EE:

They didn't feel embarrassed about their situation.

EH:

No, they weren't embarrassed about their situation, because we were one of them. So a bunch of us went out on Sunday afternoon and we met some guys and we talked and we played cards and this kind of thing. And so the next day, Monday, was my day off, and all of us had decided that we would go out to dinner. So about five or six o'clock the phone rang before we left to go out to dinner and they called up and they said something about would the girls go out to dinner. And they said, “Well, they couldn't.” I didn't latch up with anybody out there. I wasn't really interested in anybody out there. Anyhow, they said, “Well, they couldn't because they had promised me they'd go out to dinner.”

So they said, “Well, if we get her a date, will she go and will you guys go?”

They asked me and I said, “Well, I really don't want to, but if you want to go I'll go.” Okay. So we were supposed to meet them at the Raleigh Hotel in downtown Washington. So anyhow, we get down there and we're in the taxicab and I look out and I see all the fellows that were there yesterday, and I see one strange guy and I said, “I'm not getting out of this cab. I'm leaving!” I said, “He hasn't any chin, he's got bulgy eyes, and I'm sure he hasn't any character, and I'm leaving.”

“Oh, you can't do that, he's already seen you.” So—

EE:

[chuckling] Oh, you made a mistake with a blind date.

EH:

That was it. So anyhow the next night—I think the next night was the day Roosevelt died. And I got off work at ten o'clock and we ended up in front of the White House, and he is shooting off firecrackers. I'm ready to kill him. Well, listen, the first night we went out—

EE:

And he's just doing that to impress his new girlfriend is what he's trying to do?

EH:

The first night we went out, we went to this Chinese restaurant in Washington. We're on the trolley car, and when we get off the trolley car and we're heading toward the restaurant, and there's a fellow with a GI can on his shoulder, and these fellows threw these firecrackers, these little red jobbie-dos like that, under the guy, and the garbage can went up in the air and the guy ran like the dickens. These guys were army guys, and they were doing a show at Fort Belvoir [Virginia] for the Signal Corps, and these were part of the effects of the show they were putting on, and they were putting on the show for sure. Well, anyhow, that's how I remember the day Roosevelt died. I ended up marrying the guy, but—[laughter] I should have stayed in the damned taxicab.

EE:

Oh, but you know it's those strange moments that make a relationship, isn't it? [chuckling] How long were you married?

EH:

Thirty-seven and a half years.

EE:

That's great. What was his name?

EH:

Ray Hickcox.

EE:

Where was he from?

EH:

Schenectady, New York.

EE:

Oh my, well, I actually might know how to spell Schenectady.

EH:

My grandmother used to call it “Schenecticut.” [laughter]

EE:

That's great. So your blind date that you wanted to run away from, and who embarrassed the heck out of you by shooting off firecrackers in front of the White House the night that Roosevelt has died, he becomes your man of wedded bliss. That's the way love works, isn't it?

EH:

I got news for you, the gal that had the—In our barracks there were forty-eight of us in one room. So the cubicle next to mine, there was this girl from New Haven, Connecticut. Oh, this is a story. I still can't believe it. She got on the train and went to New Haven, Connecticut, to return an engagement ring. On the train she meets a sailor. So she takes the ring back and she comes back and she said, “I met the cutest sailor. His name is Shamrock, he's Irish, and he's coming to see me next weekend.” The next weekend he came, gave her a diamond ring. She came back, she said, “He's not Irish, he's Austrian. His name's not Shamrock, it's Samrov.” The next week she marries the guy! Her mother and father were Scotch and they came down from New Haven, and my husband and I were in the wedding party. So the night before, my husband stayed with him in the hotel. I said to my husband, “Steve has got a rip in the inside of his pants. Tomorrow morning before the wedding, you ought to take those pants someplace and see if you can get them stitched up.” Fine. So, anyhow, the next day we get to the church, and the church is all set up. We've got the flowers, we've got everything ready for the wedding. And we turn around and go in to make sure she's all dressed and what have you, come back, the flowers are all gone. The sextant of the church was cleaning up the church and he threw the flowers in the trash! So we had to dig the flowers out of the trash and put them all back.

EE:

They're not getting any bad vibes by now that this may not be meant to be?

EH:

There were only maybe ten people at this whole wedding to start with.

EE:

When was this, fall of '45, or summertime?

EH:

No, this was summer of '45. So, anyhow, we got all through the wedding. Except when Steve bent down at the altar, there was that rip in his pants. Ray had taken them and the tailor couldn't find it, and he stitched both inseams and there still was a rip in the pants.

EE:

Fortunately it was only ten people who saw. [chuckling]

EH:

So, last I heard, they had moved to Clearwater, Florida. They were still married.

EE:

After only a two—really a one-week courtship. Well, war does strange things to people.

EH:

I'm telling you, that was really something.

EE:

When did you and your husband get married?

EH:

December.

EE:

Of '45?

EH:

Yeah.

EE:

And that's when you [were] discharged?

EH:

Yes. I got married December 1, 1945, and got out the twentieth.

EE:

Was your husband in the service? Oh yeah, you said he was.

EH:

Yes, he was in the army.

EE:

In the army. How long had he been in the army?

EH:

Ooh, I don't know how long he had been in the army. Well, yes, I do too. I think he went in in—I think he must have gone in in '43 or '44.

EE:

Had he been overseas any?

EH:

No! They gave him early college graduation. He graduated in February, I think, instead of June, and he went in the Signal Corps. And he went to OCS [Officer Candidate School], and had his uniforms and everything tailored to him. One day before they were to be commissioned, they stood them all up, they counted them off by fours. Ones became officers, twos, threes, and fours got dumped. And the funny part about it was—

EE:

They just over-recruited for it?

EH:

Well, no, it was getting near the end of the war and they didn't need them.

EE:

The end of the war, they didn't need as many people.

EH:

But the crowning blow was that the fellow to his left was a gas station attendant and he became an officer, you know.

EE:

And he's a college graduate.

EH:

And he's an electrical engineer. And Bob Acker, who was next to him, graduated from college with him and he was an engineer. Cliff Platt was next to him, he was—I mean, all these college graduates—

EE:

So they take the gas station guy over the engineers. That's efficiency. [chuckling]

EH:

Yeah. So then he worked on radar in World War II. I'm not sure if some of the things—I often wondered if some of the things he was exposed to might not have had something to do—You know, because they didn't wear any shields or anything, and radar was real—

EE:

Did he eventually get cancer?

EH:

Yeah. He had lymphoma, and then he had lung cancer and brain cancer—I mean, you name it he had it. But I wonder if maybe—

EE:

How old was he when he first got cancer?

EH:

Let me see, in his fifties, I guess.

EE:

So when did he pass away?

EH:

Nineteen eighty-three.

EE:

Yeah, I think they were putting out so much radiation—Radiation was a new thing back [then].

EH:

Well, this is it, you know.

EE:

They didn't know.

EH:

Yeah, I know. And he got sent to White Sands, [New Mexico], and different places like this.

EE:

Oh, so he stayed in the service after this then?

EH:

No, he didn't stay in, but in the early stages they went out there. And then this other fellow that went to college with him stayed in for a while longer and he was out there. And then he went to work for General Electric. You know, he did a lot of things in General Electric, which I think he had exposure too.

EE:

Where did you move after—You got married December 1, 1945, in Washington. Did your grandmother come to the wedding?

EH:

No, I didn't get married in Washington. I got married in Glassboro.

EE:

Okay, so your grandma was there.

EH:

Yes. Oh yeah.

EE:

Your mom? Everybody else?

EH:

Yeah, yeah.

EE:

Great. And then you settled in New Jersey?

EH:

No. No, no, no, no, no. He was still in the service. We lived in Delaware for a month. He was loaned to a navy BAT station in Delaware for a month, and then he was in Island Beach, New Jersey, for a couple of months. I stayed with my grandmother and he came home on weekends. And then we moved to Schenectady in June of '46. He got out of the service then.

EE:

You were twenty-two.

EH:

Yes. And he went to work for General Electric.

EE:

And you stayed in Schenectady?

EH:

Until 1990.

EE:

And then you moved down here?

EH:

No, first I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, and I was there for a year. Then I went to a fiftieth high school reunion and [chuckling] met up with my first boyfriend and moved in with him and stayed with him for five and a half years, and then decided I'd had enough of that, and decided that I had to move someplace. I talked to the doctor that I was going to. I had gone to high school with his father, and so he said to me, “You know, I really think that when you get older you should be near one of your children.” So I had one daughter in Savannah, and I had a daughter and a son in Boston, and I had a son here. And I decided that Boston was too cold and Savannah was too hot and buggy. My son that was here had just gotten married about a year before, and I said to him, “I want you to talk it over with your wife and see how she feels about it.” So one got on one phone and one got on the other phone and they said, “We want you to come here.” So I did.

EE:

That's good.

EH:

So it's worked out real well.

EE:

Do you have grandchildren here, too?

EH:

No, no grandchildren. I have grandchildren, but no grandchildren here. He was married before and he has five boys in Long Island, [New York], and they get to come down about once a year. They have a mother who's very bitter, and it makes it very difficult because you can't communicate with her.

EE:

Let me ask you some general questions about things back then. You've already told me an embarrassing moment when sugar became salt, any other times that stand out? Was that your most embarrassing moment, you think, in the service time?

EH:

Well, I remember when we first went in we used to—It was spring and the windows were open, and all these buildings in New York were in a row, so you could hear the muster bell ring in all the buildings. Well, this one morning the muster bell rang in the next building and I thought it was ours. And you would run out and we'd all muster on the stairway. Well, I would be at the top of the stairway. Well, I had on this blue nylon nightgown that was fit like a baloney skin, and I ran out—I heard the muster bell and I ran out to get in line, and there's nobody there. [chuckling] I went flying down the steps.

EE:

You were out there in front of God and everybody in your nightgown. [chuckling]

EH:

Oh yeah, oh yeah.

EE:

Okay. Well, welcome to the service.

EH:

And I can remember one New Year's Eve, it must have been '44, we decided we weren't going out, we were going to party at the barracks. I don't know, we brought some kind of snacks over from the mess hall, and had soda pop of some kind, I guess Coke, whatever. Of course all you had were record players. You didn't have any of the things they have today. Anyhow, this one gal that was a cook, I guess she was a second-class petty officer, a Polish girl, and she was nasty to work for, but that night she was a lot of fun. Anyhow, she was teaching us all how to do the polka. We had a great time. I mean, nobody had a drink and nobody had a date, but it was a lot of fun. [chuckling]

EE:

It sounds like you got along very well with the women you were stationed with.

EH:

We all did. Oh, I'll tell you, though, one night, I'll never forget it, we had these two girls that were like thirtyish, and one had blond hair and one had dark hair, and they went out and they got plastered and they came in. And the one girl decided she wanted her hair washed, the dark-haired girl, and she started to wash her hair. I guess the other girl was washing her hair. Anyhow, the two were involved in it. All of a sudden she decided she was going to bed, and here she was all soap. And the other girl was trying to get her to rinse her hair, and she wouldn't do it, and she went to bed with that soap in her hair.

Oh, my god. I mean, we had crazy things that happened. We had two little girls, one was a dark-haired girl and one was a red-haired girl, and I don't know their names, they were about five-one, short, and they used to sing Don't Fence Me In. Because we had at the end of each one of these wings—The buildings were two stories high, and they were like wings. You know, they had a passageway and then another wing. And at the end of the wing was a lounge, and they would tell you when the smoking light was lit and you could go in and smoke and what have you. They always made fun of me because one night I went out with my husband and he came and he had an iron print where he'd scorched his pants with the iron right here on his pants. So after that I would—we had a laundry and I would wash his pants and I'd put them on pant stretchers and hang them up in the laundry room. When they'd do inspection they always laughed because this was the only navy barracks with army pants hanging up in the laundry room. [chuckling]

EE:

I imagine that your buddies probably—Did some of them show up at your wedding?

EH:

Yes, two of them did. One, Irene Ketzel from Boston, and Mamie Davis came. It was funny because we had like a blizzard the night before, and my husband and best man were stationed at Fort Monmouth, [New Jersey], at that time and they borrowed a jeep. I don't know how they got it, but they came cross-country in the jeep in the snowstorm.

EE:

And got you?

EH:

No, I came on the train from Washington. Both my husband and I were over the hill, because you could go fifty miles without a pass. Well, this was more than fifty miles, but we were there. So then we went to Washington on our honeymoon because I had to go to work on Monday.

EE:

When did you actually get discharged? Was it before Christmas?

EH:

Yes, the twentieth. Yes, we got on the train in Washington and we went to New York, and we had about a four-hour layover in New York before we could get a train. We left Grand Central Station about two o'clock in the morning, and we got on that train and the window was broken out. I thought we would freeze to death. I got to Schenectady and I felt like rigor mortis had set in. [chuckling] My husband and I went to New York City one weekend, and I don't remember whether that was July or August, but anyhow a plane hit the Empire State Building when we were there.

EE:

Yes, I remember that. They were worried it was going to fall over.

EH:

Yes. I remember we went down and looked at it. But we got on the train to come back, and what happened was the car we were in was an observation car from a museum. And I don't know how fast that train was going, but the windows were breaking out of it, it was going that fast. And the seats were velvet over a wooden board. They were the hardest seats! And this train was [makes jostling sound]—I'm telling you! Oh, that was a ride. But you know, we traveled cheap. I mean we got reduced rates, you know, and we'd go.

EE:

Because you were both wearing uniforms?

EH:

Yes. I had this friend who was a few years behind me in high school and she came to visit me in the spring of '45, and she said to me—She walked in the barracks, and I was so surprised to see her, and she said—She went home and she said to my grandmother, “Oh! I could never be there.” My god, it wasn't six weeks later that she walks in the barracks and she's in uniform. Well, she had more nerve than anybody I ever saw. She worked in the Bureau of Medicine, in the dental end. She had a weekend off and she'd go to the naval air station and she'd hop a ride on a flight going to some island. She didn't know how she was going to get back. She went all over like that. The next thing you know, she married a commander. She came to my grandmother's, she and the commander and a chest full of silver. That's all she had. That was her total belongings. [chuckling] And the last I knew they were in California, and I haven't heard from her.

EE:

Let me ask you a series of questions. We may have hit in kind of a sideways manner a few of them. It doesn't sound like that you were—Well, I don't know, were you ever afraid while you were in service?

EH:

No.

EE:

You weren't really in a position of physical danger, other than maybe the morning that you put salt in—[chuckling] You might have had somebody wanting to wring your neck that day. What was the hardest thing about your military service, either physically or emotionally?

EH:

The first day, because when I got there, you know, we didn't—We were green, we didn't know what we were doing. So we had this officer who was about five-foot-two and she had been a ballet dancer and she was the OD that day. So I went up to her to ask her a question and she says to me, “Seaman, sound off!” And I didn't know what the hell she meant. And she said that three or four times, and I was just about in tears. And then finally I don't know whether she told me or what happened, but anyhow I finally got it right. But that was it. That was the hardest part for me. Other than that, I was—I guess—

EE:

That kind of quick intro to the military. Now you're in, it's going to be tough.

EH:

Yeah, now you're there. But the thing was, I mean I guess I've always been a pleaser. Even though I've been independent, I've also been a pleaser. So if they said do this, I did it. I didn't question it.

EE:

Do you think after that experience in the military, and it sounds like your first-hand experience of running into obstacles with your male bosses, do you think the military experience made you more of an independent person than you would have been otherwise?

EH:

Probably, to a certain extent.

EE:

Not as much as maybe it could have?

EH:

But I think it also made me a more tolerant person in a lot of respects, too, because—I was always a free-thinker. I mean, as a kid I didn't do anything I didn't want to do—you know, my mom said I was spoiled—and so this was discipline like I had never had before. I think the combination of having no discipline to strict discipline probably was great training to be married. You know, you learn to roll with the punches. You realize you can tolerate a lot more than you think you can.

EE:

When you think you're about ready to have it and you want to quit that day, you come back the next day and try again.

EH:

That's right, that's right, and I saw that. And that was funny because my younger son graduated from the Air Force Academy, and when he was in high school he had a lot of chances for different scholarships. He had gotten his pilot's license before he got his driver's license, so consequently when he went out to the Air Force Academy he wasn't out there probably a couple of months when he was having second thoughts. And it was tough for him because he wore glasses and there were a lot of things—I mean, in the Air Force Academy you have to do everything.

EE:

When was he in, what time?

EH:

He went in in 1971, graduated in '75. But anyhow, you had to do everything. I mean in intramural, even if you weren't varsity you had to do an intramural. Well, he couldn't see without his glasses, so therefore when he wrestled or he boxed he was doing it blind. So he was having a rough time, and so he said something about quitting and I said to him, “You made your choice. You had opportunities to go to several colleges, full scholarships. You wanted the air force. You think twice, because if you come home—You're welcome to come home, but if you come home you'll be lucky to go to a state school and that's it.” So he stayed and he graduated in the upper 5 percent of his class and went to UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] and got his master's, and now is vice president of a company in Minneapolis.

EE:

That's great.

EH:

And I think it's all discipline.

EE:

Did he actually have active service time four years afterwards?

EH:

Well, because he couldn't fly, and because he went to grad school, he had to do—five years, seven years? I don't remember what it was, but he had to do extra time. He had to do hardship stationed on Guam. He got to Guam and they'd had a computer setup at Guam delivered but never installed. So he got it operational before he left.

EE:

So that was his specialty was computers?

EH:

Yes, that's what it is right now.

EE:

A good field to be in these days.

EH:

Yeah, both my boys are in computers.

EE:

So he's the one that's in Boston?

EH:

Boston. He commutes back and forth to Minneapolis.

EE:

Wow. He must be pretty well-versed to do that then.

EH:

In fact, last weekend he called me on Sunday and said that he had been in Mexico during the week and he'd gotten in to Minneapolis at 12:30 Friday night and decided that any of the connections he could make he'd no sooner get to Boston than he'd turn around and come back, so he might as well stay. So he stayed in Minneapolis over the weekend. But he works out of his home like one week a month and three weeks in Minneapolis.

EE:

I heard somebody say on a program last night that, unlike today, back in World War II everybody knew we were going to win a war. Is that the way we felt?

EH:

Well, yes, because first of all there was hardly a house that wasn't touched. I mean, you would ride down the street in these small towns—And we had flags, I don't know if you've seen them or not, but they had a red one-inch border around the flag, the flag was about the size of this, and a blue star in the middle, and the middle of it was white. And if you had two boys in, you had two stars. And if you had someone killed, then it was replaced with a gold star. Well, there were very, very few houses that didn't have something out.

EE:

Did they put one out for women who were serving, too?

EH:

Yes, they'd just put the same thing out, whether it was military—

EE:

So your grandmother got to put a flag out because you were in the military.

EH:

Yes.

EE:

That's good.

EH:

In fact, I belonged to a—I don't belong to it anymore, but I did belong to an all-woman's American Legion unit in New Jersey.

EE:

We've had a tough time getting the American Legion to help us in tracking down women.

EH:

I'm not impressed with the American Legion. I did it because this one girl who was commander belonged to our navy group and she was trying to keep her group at seventy-five. But I was not impressed with it. I enjoyed and got far more out of the navy group. But I was amazed, of all the conventions I've been to, I've never met anybody that I was in service with. I mean, we had gals from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Alabama and Florida and Ohio—

EE:

You said your son was in the service. Did your daughter have an interest in going to the service? Would you recommend a woman to join the service, having been in it?

EH:

Well, if they wanted to. My girls were not—Well, first of all, they are smarter than I am, for one thing. [chuckling] I don't think that the occasion arose, because it wasn't like wartime when people went. Not many people go into the military—I think today a lot of the women that go into the military go in for educations, and my girls—you know, we could afford to educate them, and I don't think it ever entered their mind. And you've got to remember, my girls were of an era when it wasn't popular. Because when my son went to the Air Force Academy, when they would get in town on Saturday night, the townies and the college kids would spit on them. I mean that was not a popular time. And I noticed in California when my son-in-law was at Camp Pendleton, he was a doctor at the hospital there, and they could not wear their uniforms off the base.

EE:

Do you have an opinion about whether women's roles should be limited in the military? I know in December of this last year we had a woman flying a combat mission in Iraq for the first time. Do you think there are certain roles that women should not play in the military?

EH:

Well, you know, I think it depends on the woman. I don't think I'd have the guts to do it, I'll be honest with you, but if that's what they want to do and they're qualified, I don't see any—You know, to me qualification is the thing.

EE:

Gender shouldn't factor into it?

EH:

I don't think that should enter into it. There are a lot of smart women that are smarter than men, there are a lot of men that are smarter than women. There are a lot of dumb men in this world, too, and don't you forget it!

EE:

You impress me as somebody who might have a favorite song or movie from that time period. Do you? I mean, as a cheerleader you had to know cheers and songs and that kind of stuff.

EH:

Oh, god—

EE:

Do you remember any WAVES songs?

EH:

Oh yeah, but I can't sing. [chuckling]

EE:

Oh, come on now, you've got a better voice than 95 percent of the folks I've talked to.

EH:

Oh no! Oh no, no, no!

EE:

Do you know this song? All I've seen is the lyrics of it, I've never heard anybody try to sing it. It's I Don't Need a Man But to Tie My Tie.

EH:

Oh, oh! No.

EE:

You remember it, don't you?

EH:

You know what makes me remember that? I'll tell you. When we were in New York and going to cooks and bakers school, I had a gold chain that my grandmother gave me, and it was a flat chain and it had a broken catch, or a catch that was difficult to hook. Well, we had ceramic tile bathrooms and they had big wide window sills. And I went in and took a shower and I took this off and laid it on the window sill, and it was gone. In the interim time, everybody was missing underwear. We had a rack. It was like clotheslines like this on a wooden frame on a pulley that you pulled up in the ceiling in the kitchen to hang your clothes on when you washed them. So we would hang our clothes up and like go away for a weekend or go to town, you know, just to New York City on a Saturday, and underwear would be missing.

So anyhow this went on for a couple weeks, and a lot of things were missing. Shirts were missing. Clean shirts were missing. A lot of things were missing. I don't know how it happened, but for some reason somebody got into this girl's locker and found a lot of these clothes. So they went down to the quarterdeck and talked to the OD and—So anyhow, what happened was they called this girl on the carpet when she came in. They searched her, they searched all her stuff, and she had all these clothes. She didn't wash. What she did was she'd steal other people's clothes, and when they got dirty she'd shove them in a suitcase. She had dirty underwear shoved in an empty peanut butter jar, she had all sorts of things. She had my gold chain, and she swore that that was her gold chain.

EE:

Why was she doing this?

EH:

She was a minister's daughter and she had—I don't know whether she was adopted or that both kids were adopted or what, but one of them was adopted. She had a brother that was in military jail someplace. Anyhow, she ended up in the brig, and she sit there and—And we'd go past the brig to go to work and she'd sing, “Got a rocking chair to rock in, got a rubber ball to roll, got a red-headed woman to satisfy my soul.” [laughter] And she sat there and sang that dizzy song all the time. But we got all our stuff back. And she got discharged, and they stripped her, and she got on the subway and somebody asked her why she didn't have any insignias on and she said that she was on a secret mission.

EE:

[chuckling] She was.

EH:

She was, yeah.

EE:

I'm going to go ahead and switch out this tape because it's about the end. I've just got a few more questions then we'll be finished, so hold on just a second.

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

EE:

Well, let's see, you were just telling me that two of the favorites in the barracks were Deep in the Heart of Texas and Don't Fence Me In.

EH:

Yes, Don't Fence Me In.

EE:

What did you all do for fun? It sounds like, compared to a lot of people, you hung out with the women that you worked with and had a lot of fun.

EH:

Oh yes, we did. Well, one Sunday we were walking along the Tidal Basin, the cherry blossoms are out, it's beautiful, you know. We were allowed to wear civilian clothes like if we were going to play tennis or go horseback riding or anything that was an active sport. So we had shorts on and we were walking along the Tidal Basin, and along comes this horse that it was obvious it had thrown the rider and the horse was loose. So I decided, well, I'm going to get on the horse and take the horse back. [chuckling]

EE:

Had you ever ridden a horse before?

EH:

Oh yeah, I belonged to a riding club, so—I got on the horse and the horse laid down. It rolled right over, and my left leg was caught under that horse. Well, I was able to slide my leg out. My shoe was under the horse, and when the horse got up I got my shoe, and so I left the horse alone. [chuckling] And a cop came along and it was a cop's horse.

EE:

Oh my! The horse apparently had been trained to do that.

EH:

Evidently. But stupid, huh? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

EE:

Where were you when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day? You weren't shooting off fireworks in front of the White House, I trust. Did you know who [Harry S.] Truman was?

EH:

Oh sure. Oh, no, who he was? No, no, no, no.

EE:

I mean, Roosevelt had had three or four vice presidents.

EH:

Oh yeah, I knew who Truman was, because the man that was our supply officer had the same haberdasher as Truman had, and Truman had gotten him his commission, so that's why we knew who Truman was.

EE:

I think Truman himself was a haberdasher at one time in his career, wasn't he?

EH:

Anyhow, I don't know, but it was a big mess and this guy was a real pain. Well, this Davis, her brother had been missing in action for quite a while, Willie [Davis], and she got a phone call or a telegram or something saying Willie was on his way home and he was going to be in Charlotte, and she wanted to go home. So she goes in to this guy and she asked him if she can have a leave, that her brother has been missing in action and that she hasn't seen him in two or three years and she wanted to see him. And he said, “Well, when my brother came home I didn't get to see him. You're no better than I am. No!” So we're cooking hamburgers on the grill. So she's out there saying, “Goddamn son of a bitch! Goddamn son of a bitch!” as she's turning these hamburgers. [chuckling] And he's standing behind her. [laughter] He said, “Go in the office!” So she went in the office and he gave her her leave.

EE:

Oh, that was nice. [chuckling]

EH:

He gave her her leave. I had a run-in with him. They told me to make potato pancakes, and my mother made potato pancakes and I hated the damn things. I thought they were awful! I mean, this was with grated raw potato. Well, anyhow, I made them and I had to take a dish in to him. He tasted them, “Phbbt!” [makes spitting noise] spit them in there. “Make some more.” I kept it up and kept it up. I was ready to kill him. I was ready to kill him. Finally I said to the chief, “What the hell does he want?” I said, “I don't know what to do.” He said, “Put some grated onion in it.” So I go to the spud locker and got some grated onion, came back, threw that in it. It finally shut him up. But, you know, Jewish people eat potato pancakes with sour cream and this is fine, but he was nasty. I think he was afraid he was going to be shipped out, so he was going to be as nasty as he could be.

EE:

What was his name?

EH:

[Pause] [unclear], I think. A big, big Jewish guy!

EE:

Did you celebrate with your husband on VE Day, or where were you?

EH:

Well, let me see—

EE:

That was in May.

EH:

Well, the one in May we—

EE:

You had just started dating.

EH:

No, but he—I'm trying to figure.

EE:

There were two good celebrations in that year, VE Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day.

EH:

A whole bunch of us girls, we had a friend who was a retired army nurse, and she lived uptown, so we all went over to Ozzie's house and had a party. Ray kept calling me on the phone and he was furious.

EE:

That you didn't go out with him then?

EH:

No, wait a minute, that wasn't it. Well, they got on the trolley cars and they drove the trolley cars, and they had the trolley cars so buggered up in Washington it wasn't even funny. What was supposed to be going north and south was going east and west and everything else. When August came they locked all the army in and he couldn't get out. That was the time we went to Ozzie's place. I don't know what we did for the other one, but he wasn't there. I don't know. But both times he was mad. [laughter]

EE:

You told me what you did when Roosevelt died. What did you think of Roosevelt? And Mrs. Roosevelt, she was kind of a pioneer for women, wasn't she?

EH:

Well, I had a great deal of admiration for her. I thought that—you know, she wasn't the best-looking woman in the world, but she sure did a lot of good. I mean, she fought for women and—The only time I voted Democrat in my life was the last time he was elected, and I only voted, I think, for him because the war was on and I just didn't feel I could change horses in the middle of the stream.

EE:

I think that's probably why he won four terms, frankly.

EH:

Yes, but I'd like to kick this SOB out the door that we've got now, honest to God! And I don't think we ought to be where we are. You know, I mean I'm sympathetic with those people, but according to what I've been told, they've been fighting this thing since the 1300s, and so therefore I don't know what we're going to accomplish, other than to get ourself—You know what's going to happen? We're going to be so damn deep in debt, we're going to—

EE:

All that budget surplus is going out the window.

EH:

Yes! Forget Social Security and Medicare and all that baloney. And the thing is, I mean, you're going to be paying for this forever. I just paid six thousand dollars in taxes on the fifteenth of April, plus what I already paid in during the year!

EE:

Sure, it's ridiculous.

EH:

And the thing is, it's ridiculous because they say the American people don't save any money. Well, I'll tell you, it's not doing me any good what I've saved, because what I have saved for my retirement, every time that I take a dollar, they take—

EE:

Yeah, they take 30 or 50 percent of it.

EH:

Yes.

EE:

Well, are there people from that time that were heroes or heroines for you?

EH:

Well, I don't know specifically if I can say that, I mean, to put my finger on one specific person or—We had people we admired, but I don't know how to do that.

EE:

Not everybody has had. I was just curious if you did.

EH:

Well, we just had a schoolteacher pass away in December who—she and her husband never married until they were old, old. She was an only child and he was an only child and both took care of their mothers, and neither one married until their mothers died. And they taught for years and dedicated their lives to their students and their mothers. When I say dedicated, she had a Girl Scout troop, she did a lot with the girls.

EE:

Went out of their way.

EH:

Went out of their way, beyond—you know. And he was an ag teacher and a basketball coach, and he would take these ag boys on a trip every summer, and they would stay at farmers' houses and sleep in barns and this kind of thing. Maybe the whole trip would cost them twenty dollars to be gone for two weeks in a school bus. I mean, things that wouldn't happen today. But these were heroes because these kids had opportunities—and ended up taking—One group of these kids stopped at the New York World's Fair on the way home, and these kids would have never gotten to the New York World's Fair on Long Island that year. Those are the kind of people that I think of. But as to say anybody in politics or anybody like that, no, I can't say there's any one person that stands out.

EE:

Some folks, when they look back at that time period, think of women who joined the military and women who joined the workforce in general in the '40s, that experience so changed America—

EH:

Oh yes, I think that happened. I think what happened is that women gained a little more respect and women gained a little more backbone. They didn't let men walk over them like they did before, they weren't so subservient—

EE:

Do you think that was the start of the women's lib[eration] movement?

EH:

Yes, but I'm not all for the crap that the women's lib movement pushes. I think some of it's done more harm than good, so I'm not all for that.

EE:

There's a difference between an independent woman and one that totally denies her womanhood.

EH:

That's right. I mean, a pushy broad is not my cup of tea. You know, I think there's a happy medium between—My theory is: You should be judged on your qualifications, and it doesn't make any difference whether you're red, black, or white, or whether you're male or female. It was funny, toward the end of the war, I think it was like in June of '45, June or July, we got the word that we were going to get black girls in our barracks. And there was a big to do, blah, blah, blah, scuttlebutt was going around like crazy. And, you know, “They're not sleeping with me,” and blah, blah, blah. “I'm not using the head with them,” and blah, blah, blah. Well, what happened was they came, and they were probably better educated, more refined than many of the white ones, and nobody did a thing. Everybody backed down and everybody accepted them. I mean they weren't buddy-buddy, but they—

EE:

They'd socialize but they didn't make a big deal about it.

EH:

But they didn't make a big deal about it. They didn't make them uncomfortable.

EE:

What were you all living in, one long hall barracks? Is that the way it was, or did you have any sort of privacy? Here, sketch it out.

EH:

Here, I can do it on this. The building was like this, okay? And it went—

EE:

So one long hall with a whole series of wings.

EH:

Yes. And so what happened was the OD was here, and over here was like—All this was quarterdeck, and this was where if you had a date they met you. You could go down, there was a soda machine, you know—

EE:

That was the only place where visitors could come, was on the quarterdeck?

EH:

Yes, the quarterdeck was the only place. And then the other barracks was like over here, and it was the same type of barracks, and then over here was the mess hall. And part of the—I don't know if the building was separate or not. I can't remember whether that was an L-shaped building or a separate building, but there was the chapel and the movie theater and ship service.

EE:

All right there, so you didn't have to go off of the base, really.

EH:

Yes, so we really didn't have to go off. And what happened was we had a circular driveway, and the bus came up around the circular driveway. So if you wanted to go into town, you'd get on the bus and go. But we could walk into town. And many times it was beautiful and nobody bothered you. It wasn't like—I mean, you could walk at night, you could walk in the daytime—

EE:

You wouldn't do the same thing in Washington today, would you?

EH:

Oh god, no! In fact, I went there—it was two or three years ago. When I was living in New Jersey they had a bus tour to Washington, and I thought, well—My cousin and I went down, and I thought, well, I'd go see what was going on. Well, they took us to the Smithsonian and a couple other places. This was before the women's war memorial was up. And we took a tour, but we didn't get to see any of the places where we lived. I know they were torn down, but I wanted to see what was there. I don't know what they did with them.

EE:

It was back behind the Lincoln Memorial, toward the Tidal Basin?

EH:

Yes, it was between the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

EE:

Okay, where they've got the avenue with the cherry trees.

EH:

Yes, right on the Tidal Basin there.

EE:

So it was on the south side, which is where the Vietnam Memorial is.

EH:

Is that what's there? Oh.

EE:

I mean it's not the Vietnam Memorial. It sounds like it's a little closer. Actually, that's right there on the Mall, and you're just south of it toward—between the—kind of like an L-shape. You're going down the Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, there's the Jefferson [Memorial], and you're right in between here, where all the tour buses park nowadays for the Lincoln Memorial. [chuckling]

EH:

But anyhow, it was—

EE:

Do you feel you contributed to the war effort?

EH:

Oh, I like to think I did. I mean, some guy in the navy wouldn't have been eating, I mean, because we had all these two thousand who came over every day for lunch. And for a long time I was all alone doing—Well, they split us up into sections. They had people that were on ovens and grills, and people that were on coppers, and it depended what you were on. Well, when I was on, say ovens and grills, if they had eggs in the morning I cooked all the eggs, and there may have been two thousand people there. We had little bitty frying pans like this. They were little tin frying pans like that, and the grills were about that wide, maybe a little wider. Anyhow, you could get about eight frying pans on a grill, and I think there were about twelve grills. So you would start out breaking eggs in these, and by the time you got them all broken these were done.

EE:

Time to flip them out, right.

EH:

And you put them on big trays with—there was a special paper they had, and that's the way they took them in and served them. And I've got news for you, I made mayonnaise by the gallon, you know.

EE:

Certain things from that time period you probably didn't personally want to eat again, did you? [chuckling]

EH:

Well, for a long time I didn't eat anything but salad and fruit and nuts, because for a long time I worked on the grills and the ovens and I was doing—

EE:

All that grease?

EH:

See, what happened is they would bring in these big tubs like this and about that high full of, say, roasts of beef, and it would be all filled with blood. Well, you know, after you handle all that meat and all that blood, you didn't want to eat that for beans. Or you'd have liver, and oh god, you didn't want to look at liver! Or you'd have chicken. Now fried chicken I could eat. Anything that was crusty and brown, fine. But when it came to the rest of that stuff, forget it!

EE:

You told me that in essence the military experience brought you your spouse, but what kind of impact do you think the military had on your life, short-term and long-term? How would your life have been different because of the military?

EH:

Oh god, I'd be stuck in a one-horse town forever. No, I don't think I would have had—It gave me the confidence to do the things that I did down the road. Because what happened to me was I taught sewing for a while, and I wouldn't have had the confidence to do that if I hadn't had confidence built up otherwise. I belonged to a big church in New York, and the minister asked me to be the official hostess, and I had charge of all the receptions and did all those.

EE:

That's a lot of work.

EH:

We had big antique shows every year and I was in charge of the soup kitchen. I made all the soup for three days for the antique show. So, I mean—

EE:

Did you go ahead and—were you a caterer professionally?

EH:

No, I worked for a caterer for a little while, and I would have loved to have gone in the catering business, but you can't go into a business like that without the full cooperation of your husband or your family, and my husband was a very demanding man. He traveled and he expected you to be where he was when he was there, and he was kind of the old school, so that left that out. Because New York State had such rotten winters, I really didn't go out and work, so I taught sewing, I taught tailoring, I taught high school kids to sew. And I had a dear friend who was a county extension agent and she kept pestering me to take equivalency tests, because she said to me I was really—In fact, when she got stuck she'd have me teach a class for her, and she'd say, “You missed the boat.” And that's really what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a home ec[onomics] teacher or a dietitian. That was my objective. And had I not gotten married, I might have pursued that. But I did, and that ended that.

EE:

I'd say you've had a full life, I can tell you that.

EH:

But the thing was, my one objective was that all my kids go to college, and they did.

EE:

That came true.

EH:

They did.

EE:

Well, it sounds just like that conversation between you and your three buddies. At the end you knew what needed to be done and you went and got it done.

EH:

That's right. You know, my two girls went to junior college and then my oldest one went to work for a Jewish family as a nanny. She worked for them for about a year and a half and then she called on the phone and she said, “I need your help.” And my husband said, “Yes?” She said, “I just paid my tuition to nursing school but I need spending money.” And so he said, “Okay, as long as you keep your marks up.” By that time she was, oh, twenty-two, I guess, and she went to nursing school and she kept her marks up. He gave her, I think—I don't know whether he gave her twenty dollars a week or what he gave her. He gave her something anyhow. When she got out of nursing school, she had never spent any of that money. She bought a car with the money she had saved. So she said to me—She didn't want to go to college. She didn't want that route. She wanted hands-on nursing.

So she was working for this Jewish man who was a lawyer and had a penthouse suite in the Prudential Building, law offices up there, and he wanted her to go and become a paralegal. And, “No, no, I don't want to become a paralegal, I want to become a nurse.” So he said, “Well, then you go to the best school you can go to. Just don't go to any school.” So she applied, and they were supposed to give her an interview and then they would tell her whether she was accepted or not. So she took the T and she went into Boston and she had the interview. When she came home and she got her mail, her acceptance was in the mail and they hadn't even seen her. So when she decided she wanted to go to BU [Boston University] and get her degree, she asked me if I would pay for the first course, because it's at night and you can only take one course. They only teach one course a semester and all this baloney. So I paid for the first course, and she kept a straight-A average, so she never had to pay for the rest of it.

EE:

That's great.

EH:

So that ended that.

EE:

We have only covered about sixty, seventy years today, and on short notice, and I really appreciate you sitting down and doing this. Is there anything about your military experience that we haven't talked about that you'd like to share?

EH:

No. No, I'd do it over again, though. I just wish I could find—Before I die, I wish I could find more people that I had—I wish I had kept up friendships. I wish I had, you know—

EE:

Have you checked with WIMSA about the names on that list?

EH:

No, I haven't, I haven't. But now Bonnie, who, as I say, writes this paper for WAVES National, hasn't been able to get me any information at all. And when this woman wrote to me and invited me down there to this, I told her I was looking for local people, but she didn't seem to know any of them.

EE:

Well, I'll see when I'm up at WIMSA if they've got—Their names are actually on a searchable database, and so I'll see if they have any of those up there, since it's on the back of that picture.

EH:

I'm looking for an Anne Robbins Gibson. That's the one that married the commander. Because when their class had their fiftieth high school reunion, they could not find her.

EE:

Well, thank you very much.

[End of the interview]