1. LIBRARY CATALOG
  2. DATABASES
  3. JOURNAL A-Z List
  4. SUBJECT GUIDES
  5. LIBRARY SERVICES

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Frances Barringer Bailey, 1999

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0069.5.001

Description:

Documents Frances Barringer Bailey’s experiences at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina; her service with the U.S. Navy WAVES in Massachusetts; Great Lakes, Illinois; and Corpus Christi, Texas; and her career in education.

Summary:

Bailey briefly discusses her time at the Woman’s College and mentions the math department and her social life on campus. She also notes her awareness of current events in the 1930s and learning about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Topics related to the WAVES include Bailey’s decision to join the WAVES instead of the Women’s Army Corps; basic training at Smith College; supply school at Radcliffe College; her work in supply at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois, and her living arrangements while stationed outside Chicago. She also discusses her work in disbursing in Corpus Christi, Texas, including wearing a gun while distributing payroll and her social life in the service. and WAVES songs.

Other World War II era topics include a Montauk Point commander’s refusal to let a woman be stationed there; attending the 1944 Democratic Convention in Chicago; seeing actors Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor in Great Lakes; WAVES songs; Bailey's opinions of General Douglas MacArthur and President Roosevelt; and her opinion of women in combat positions.

Personal topics include raising her children after the death of her husband and her career in education after the war.

Creator: Frances Barringer Bailey

Biographical Info: Frances B. Bailey (b. 1920) of Concord, North Carolina, worked in supply, disbursing, and payroll in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from April 1943 to October 1946. She then resumed her career in education as a math teacher and school administrator in the Carolinas.

Collection: Frances Barringer Bailey Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott and I am with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG], and today is April 25, 1999, and I'm in Florence, South Carolina, at the home of Florence Bailey.

FB:

Frances.

EE:

Frances, [chuckling] I'm repeating myself. Frances, that's right.

FB:

We're in Florence.

EE:

Frances with an “e”, Frances Bailey. And Ms. Bailey, thanks for having me here today on a Sunday. It's beautiful weather, so I appreciate you having me. And it wasn't too hot driving down today, so thank you for that. This interview is for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. We're going to start off with a couple of real tough questions, Ms. Bailey, that we ask everybody: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

FB:

Concord, North Carolina.

EE:

You stayed there through high school?

FB:

I was born there and graduated from Concord High School.

EE:

Great. Did you have any brothers or sisters?

FB:

One sister, younger.

EE:

What did your folks do?

FB:

My father was a small businessman, and my mother, like most women of her generation, was a housewife.

EE:

Both of them from the Concord area?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Had either one of them been to college?

FB:

No. Well, my father never went to public school at all. They had a family school, a tutor, and then he went to a boys' school up near Asheville, [North Carolina], I'm not sure where. And my mother was a daring young woman. During World War I, while my father was in France, she went over to Charlotte, and took a business course and worked for Southern Railroad.

EE:

And took you with her to Charlotte?

FB:

Oh no, they weren't even married yet.

EE:

Okay. So you were born in—

FB:

Twenty.

EE:

Twenty, okay. Your dad was a veteran then.

FB:

Yes. Yes, I grew up on war stories, not from Daddy but from Mother, about—Well, going from Concord to Charlotte to work, to school and to work, all by herself back in those days was pretty exciting.

EE:

That's right. Did she drive, take the bus—

FB:

Oh no, she went on the train!

EE:

On the train! They're talking now about spending gobs of money just to get the train service back up where you can go all these places. If we'd kept it up it would have been all right.

FB:

Well, there were three of us from South Carolina, I mean from here, went on the train to Washington when they dedicated the women's memorial [Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), in October 1997].

EE:

It's a nice trip.

FB:

It was a very pleasant trip.

EE:

That's great. Was your father then—I guess he was in France in World War I? Is that where he was?

FB:

Well, he was in England and then in France.

EE:

So he was in the infantry?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school when you were growing up?

FB:

Yes, definitely.

EE:

Favorite subjects?

FB:

Well, I majored in math. [chuckling]

EE:

So that was something early on you knew you had an interest in.

FB:

Right.

EE:

What did you envision doing with math?

FB:

Teach. I never had any idea—Well, in my day a woman didn't have a whole lot of choices, a nurse, a secretary, or a teacher. I can't stand the sight of—My daddy told me this, “You can't stand the sight of blood, you can't spell—” [chuckling] But fortunately I think I was meant to be a teacher. I enjoyed it.

EE:

Yeah, I think those who have never tried it, it's too easily derided. Those who have tried it and left know that it's a lot of work, and you have to love it, I think, to stay with it. You graduated from Concord High School. Was it an eleven-year or a twelve-year high school?

FB:

Eleven.

EE:

Eleven-year. So you graduated in '36?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

You ended up going to a place in Greensboro called Woman's College [now UNGC]. Why?

FB:

Right. Oh, actually I went to Pfeiffer Junior College my first two years.

EE:

In Misenheimer, [North Carolina].

FB:

Right, and it was a junior college at that point.

EE:

Your family Methodist or—

FB:

No! My family is Presbyterian all the way back to [John] Calvin.

EE:

So how did you end up at Pfeiffer? [chuckling] Close?

FB:

Close by. I was young for my age and they said I could either—They put the twelfth grade in high school that year. I could stay back in high school one more year or I could go to junior college, and I opted for the junior college. There were several out of my graduating class that went there.

EE:

Pfeiffer, I think, now has several thousand folks there. How many people were going to Pfeiffer then?

FB:

Oh, good heavens, probably five hundred or less.

EE:

In the whole student body?

FB:

Right, and at that point it was a small junior and senior high school class, classes.

EE:

So you were taking courses with the idea—It ended at two years, junior college, it was only two?

FB:

Right. Well, I knew I was going on to college, to finish school.

EE:

But you didn't know where you were going?

FB:

Yeah, I did.

EE:

You did?

FB:

I did.

EE:

You knew that if you wanted to be a teacher in North Carolina you went to Woman's College [WC]?

FB:

Well, I knew, for one thing—Remember, the Depression was not over, and, well, [The University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill—My daddy wouldn't let me go to Chapel Hill. He said that was—WC was for women. And he was right. I was too young and immature to have handled it. But I did get my master's there.

EE:

Okay. At Pfeiffer you were in a dormitory or were you a day student?

FB:

No, it was a dormitory.

EE:

So you went down there. Were you rooming with somebody from home?

FB:

No.

EE:

So that was your first experience away from home then was down at Pfeiffer meeting new people?

FB:

Yes. Well, I was ready to leave home.

EE:

You had no problems getting adjusted then?

FB:

No problems whatsoever.

EE:

Apparently grades were pretty good as well, so you transferred to WC.

FB:

Yes, didn't lose an hour.

EE:

How aware were you of what was going on in the world in college?

FB:

Oh, very much. I can remember all the way back in high school being aware when [Adolf] Hitler was made chancellor of Germany. I think I had an idea always in the back of my mind that there might be another war.

EE:

You think maybe your dad having first-hand experience fighting the Germans probably—

FB:

I don't think so. I don't think that—

EE:

He didn't talk much about that experience?

FB:

No, he really didn't. I think if I had—I don't know. You don't think about the questions you would like to ask your parents until it's too late.

EE:

That's right.

FB:

But Daddy and I had a great relationship. I mean, we talked about religion and politics. And even as a child I was—my sister and I—me more, I don't think she paid that much attention—could come home and tear the sermon up.

EE:

Good. So you were attentive listeners right from the beginning. Critical listening. I think they call that skill critical listening. You practiced it at your home. So you knew what was going on in the world. In 1938 you go to a place called Woman's College. Had you ever been to Greensboro or Woman's College before stepping on campus?

FB:

Yes, my father's only brother lived in High Point, [North Carolina]. In fact, I think earlier when I was younger I believe that he lived in Greensboro. Well, even that long ago it wasn't that far from Concord to Greensboro.

EE:

Right, just an hour or so. Did you go by bus, by car, or by—

FB:

Well, of course they took me and came to see me, but vacations and all—Well, see, the war started in Europe in '39, in September of '39.

EE:

That's right. Do you remember that, being on campus when it started?

FB:

No, it started just before school started.

EE:

Did that change the attitude on campus? Did you decide you wanted to—

FB:

I don't know that it did.

EE:

Because it was over there.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Because in the country there's kind of a split, up until Pearl Harbor day, about whether or not it's their problem or our problem.

FB:

But I knew where Pearl Harbor was because I had a cousin who had been stationed there. You probably are aware how many people had no idea where Pearl Harbor was.

EE:

Didn't know it was part of America. Where is that? Do you know where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

FB:

Yes. I was, of course, through school, and my roommate and I had been listening to records and took a record off and turned on the radio and heard it announced.

EE:

Did you know what it meant right then?

FB:

Oh, I think so. We were rooming in the home of the high school principal. Our room was in the front of the house and we went back to the den. And I can't remember whether they heard or not, but I remember him saying, “Well, it'll be over in six weeks.” And I remember thinking, “No.” I mean, now really, this is not just something I've dreamed up since it's over with.

EE:

No, things that stick in your mind—

FB:

Actually, we had family friends who had been missionaries in the Orient, I don't know whether it was Japan or China or just where, so I was not surprised that our war started with the Japanese rather than the Germans.

EE:

You had heard stories already, because they'd had trouble for ten years before.

FB:

They had said—this was after the European war had started—that our problem was going to come from the east rather than the west.

EE:

Let me ask you some questions about your time at WC. I've asked some people who came in as transfer students, and some of them have not had the best of experiences at WC, because they said it's just hard being a transfer student. Socially you're out of whack.

FB:

Right. I never was involved in the big goings-on. I have a friend who lives here who was a day student at WC but went there the whole four years. She was a marshal and so she wants to know what—You know we had those four societies.

EE:

Yes, the Adelphian and Dikean and all that.

FB:

Which one was I a member of? I have no idea. And when we cleaned out my mother's house, my sister and I, we put certain things in one of the upstairs bedrooms and junk in the other one, and the junk man took the wrong things, so I don't have my annuals.

EE:

Oh, my goodness. But everybody there was assigned one of them.

FB:

Right, there was nothing social about it, you were just put into one. But, see, being a math major I was immediately in a small group.

EE:

And your classes were already—You didn't really have the general college, expand your knowledge experience. You were pretty much—

FB:

Well, of course my minor is history.

EE:

Good for you.

FB:

[chuckling] That's odd. Most math majors are science.

EE:

Most people in math are scared of the humanities. I'm proud for you. [chuckling] So you were immediately taking a lot of courses in math, some in history obviously. Were there any professors that stand out in your time at WC?

FB:

Well, of course Helen Barton, who was head of the math department.

EE:

Did you have her personally for classes?

FB:

Oh yeah. Yes, there was only—I don't think there were but four math professors, all women, there were no men. Yes, there was at least one other person who taught just general students, but Dr. Barton taught—I had her for most of the math that I took. Because, see, I was already well on my way when I got there.

EE:

You were doing what, up through—Were you doing calculus? What kind of math were you taking? All this was in line with thinking of being a math education person?

FB:

Well, but now I had the same kind of math degree as if—I had an A.B. in math. I took enough education courses to get my certificate.

EE:

Right, so you could have taken that A.B. in math and gone on to get your master's in math right through and not have to have any extra course work. So it was a rigorous math program they had for you.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Were there other activities that you got involved with while you were at WC, or were you pretty much focused on academics when you were there?

FB:

Oh, I played a lot of bridge, and dated of course.

EE:

It does happen every now and then in college.

FB:

Right.

EE:

Where were you living? What dorm were you in when you were there?

FB:

Well, I was in New Dorm A. [chuckling]

EE:

How exciting. [chuckling]

FB:

Right!

EE:

What did that become?

FB:

You know, when I was up there back in the fall I tried to—I don't know, it was a long—

EE:

Was it over there in that new section where Cotten and Gray [dormitories] were?

FB:

No, it's way on back in the woods from there.

EE:

Oh, down at the end, past where Mary Foust and New Guilford [dormitories] are?

FB:

Oh, way on back from there. I mean, it was in the woods when we were there. It was the end of everywhere.

EE:

Okay. I'm going to see what New Dorm A became [Weil-Winfield Residence Halls]. I'm sure it's not new anymore.

FB:

Oh, I know, and I think they maybe gave it a name the next year after, but we were in it the year it opened.

EE:

Which would have been '38, I guess.

FB:

No, I was in a dormitory—there was a road that went in and went around, and the dormitory where the—There was a one-year secretarial course, and those girls were in it. And then it seems like we were—I don't know, it's been a long time.

EE:

Just curious.

FB:

And I really have not—My education has opened doors for me. I mean, having a major in math has been great. But as far as the social life is concerned, I really didn't have that that I would have had, maybe not even if I'd been there four years, if I had been at a smaller school.

EE:

You just didn't have the chance to make the social connections with other students that you might have had otherwise?

FB:

Right, and I really have not kept up with anybody. I have in the past few years reconnected sort of with my roommate.

EE:

Were you there when Eleanor Roosevelt came to speak?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Any other things that happened there that you remember on campus?

FB:

Well, you know Miss [Harriet] Elliott was the dean, and she—

EE:

Did she leave to go to Washington before you graduated?

FB:

No, she left about—I think maybe the year after we were there. But I know that she was very important with the war effort.

EE:

You got your degree in 1940. Where did you go after graduating from WC?

FB:

I taught in Troy, [North Carolina]. I taught Andy Griffith's first wife.

EE:

The woman who was the actress?

FB:

Right. In fact, I was at Manteo for the weekend when Barbara and Andy were getting married the next day, and Mrs. Edwards just begged me to stay. And if I'd known he was going to be Andy Griffith I probably would have. [chuckling]

EE:

Did they meet at Woman's College?

FB:

No, they met at Chapel Hill.

EE:

Okay, both Playmakers.

FB:

Right. She had the main—She was Eleanor Dare [in The Lost Colony] and he just played—oh, you know, a lot of different roles like they do. But I don't know what happened to Barbara.

EE:

I know they were married for a while, and I think they had a couple of kids, I think.

FB:

Adopted.

EE:

Is that what it was?

FB:

They had a place at Manteo.

EE:

They had a special on—I guess one of those A&E [TV station] biographies about him.

FB:

Right, but it never mentioned—Well, it did mention her, but it didn't say what happened.

EE:

It mentioned her just for a short time.

FB:

But back when Playhouse 90 and some of the good dramatic things were on television, I used to watch. Because they were in New York, this was when Andy was on the stage, but I never saw her name.

EE:

So you were teaching math? Were you doing other work at Troy, Troy being a small—This is the high school?

FB:

Yeah, I've never taught anything but high school, really.

EE:

Okay. How long were you at Troy?

FB:

Two years.

EE:

Two years, and then what did you do?

FB:

I went to the navy.

EE:

So '42—Now you were telling me before we started this you were in Baltimore when you walked down to sign up.

FB:

Oh, that's right, that's right. I left Troy and worked for civil service. I went one semester to [North Carolina] State [University] to be trained, then I went to Baltimore and worked as an inspector, inspected gauges that were on gas masks for a short while.

EE:

That sounds like one of those war jobs that's hard to get out of.

FB:

Well, not really. I just told them I was joining the navy and I left.

EE:

Tell me how it was that you left teaching. Why did you leave teaching in Troy?

FB:

Well, there was all this great big world out there and all these exciting things going on, and here I am. Of course, one of the nicest things that ever happened to me, one of the most gratifying things, there was a boy who—this was probably ninth grade, who was—he wasn't a bad child at all, but he just was unsupervised,—very bright. So, I don't know, I just put him to work. I mean, I gave him extra work and he stayed after school. Well, when I was back at Chapel Hill after the war, he was there in law school and came to me and told me that I was responsible for his—his life, really.

EE:

Great. That's the kind of thing that makes it worthwhile.

FB:

That makes teaching worthwhile.

EE:

That's right.

FB:

If it's just that one person.

EE:

That's all it takes, just one every now and then, just so that it makes a difference.

FB:

I don't think he would have gone bad, but he might not have been as interested in education as it turned out that he was.

EE:

So you wanted to do something more, but you joined—

FB:

Well, I'll tell you what, the summer before that—I told you I had a cousin who had been stationed at Pearl Harbor. Well, he was at Floyd Bennett Field, which is LaGuardia Airport [in New York City] now, and I went up for the summer and got a job working for the British Purchasing Commission on Wall Street, and I was an inspector there, inspected gauges. [chuckling]

EE:

Which set the stage for you going back doing that kind of work later.

FB:

I guess so. I had forgotten about that.

EE:

So you went up during the break from the school year, between the two years or so.

FB:

Right.

EE:

In '41 you're up there and he's—

FB:

No, I taught two whole years and then left. So it was between my two years that I went to New York, and then I came back and went to Troy and I left after about six weeks.

EE:

So that would have been '41, the summer of '41 that you were in New York?

FB:

No, '42.

EE:

So you graduated in '40—

FB:

Forty, forty-one—I don't know.

EE:

Somewhere in there.

FB:

It wouldn't have been the summer of '41, because we weren't in the war yet.

EE:

So it would have been probably after '40.

FB:

It would have been '42.

EE:

When did you actually join the service?

FB:

Well, I guess I am mixed up. In April of '43. So that would have had to have been the summer of '42.

EE:

Because you came back—

FB:

I came back and taught, and then left and was at State for maybe six weeks and then went to Baltimore. And see, that would have put it then into '43.

EE:

Okay. So you only taught for maybe a semester at Troy before you left.

FB:

I didn't teach a whole semester. I guess that's the most irresponsible thing I ever did, but I just told them, “I'm sorry, I'm going to go fight the war.”

EE:

And you left. Now you didn't leave immediately, though, to join the military. You wanted to do something other than join the military to participate?

FB:

Well, I had talked to my father about joining the army, and he was absolutely, positively dead set against it.

EE:

And why was that? Just not something a woman should do?

FB:

Well, I don't know. Of course, see, he had been in the army, but then when I said the navy—Of course one thing, and I don't want my daddy to sound like a snob because he was a sergeant, and my mother always said that Daddy was offered a commission several times, and I thought just because she—I mean, like I had to tell Mother when she was talking about dying, I said, “Mother, you're supposed to be looking forward to seeing God, not Daddy.” [chuckling] Anyway, I think though that part of it was, see, if you went in the army, everybody went to basic training. In the navy, you went right straight to OCS [officer candidate school]. And I don't know if that made any difference. I shouldn't have even said that, because Daddy was definitely—But anyway, Daddy, with his papers I found at least two orders for him to go to—one that was sending him to OCS and one offering a battlefield commission, two offering a battle[field commission]. So I know that what Mother was saying was not just something she thought up because Daddy was so wonderful.

EE:

What again made you want to join the military? Was it family connections, was it friends, was it posters, what do you think? Of all the ways you could help out by getting out of Troy, what was it that made you decide to join the service?

FB:

Well, now see, I had done this other thing, but I didn't feel like I was doing anything. I don't know, I don't remember feeling terribly patriotic, I just wanted to be where the action was.

EE:

All this going on in the world, you're a bright person, you've got a math and history degree and you're just not being challenged enough by the environment knowing all that's going on out there. Okay. You are in Baltimore at this time, so you moved up there after you had this—This six weeks at State, was that just more specialty training in these gauges?

FB:

No, there must have been fifteen or twenty of us, men, women, some of them were a lot—In fact, I was about the youngest one in the group, and two of us went to Baltimore. I don't remember whether it was—It was a civil service job, but I think we were trained to be inspectors, but not specifically what Mary Lilling and I did.

EE:

Okay, she was the other woman who went to Baltimore with you?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Did she end up joining the service?

FB:

No, she was a graduate of Chapel Hill. I don't know, I still get Christmas cards from her. [chuckling]

EE:

But you were old enough by '43 where your parents did not have to sign.

FB:

No.

EE:

What did your family and friends think about you joining the service?

FB:

Well, they were pleased, I think.

EE:

So you didn't have to fight that battle that some people had to fight, about how unladylike it is to join the service?

FB:

Oh no, no.

EE:

They weren't [worried] about your virtue being tarnished or anything?

FB:

[chuckling] No.

EE:

Okay. That has been said once or twice.

FB:

Well, I know that, and it's probably—I don't know that I deserved it necessarily, but my family had absolute trust in me. I was very secure because of that, and because I knew they were there. And if I did dig a hole, I could get out of it because I could go—I don't know, I just was very secure because of the way they treated me.

EE:

Good. Some of the recruiting posters, in fact, I think they had a special on TV a couple weeks ago called “Free a Man to Fight.” I don't know if you saw it, but that was a theme, especially for WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy]. Was that something that maybe factored into any of your thinking, or that wasn't an impact on you? You were going to go in spite of—

FB:

No, see, I didn't have any brothers. Of course, this cousin that was in the navy, he was—

EE:

Was he at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed?

FB:

Yes. He went in when he was seventeen, his family had to sign for him, and came out as a full commander. He has died just in the past two or three years, but Luke was probably nearer my parents' age than mine. I mean, he was, I'm sure, fifteen or twenty years older than I.

EE:

At the end, you think you joined the WAVES rather than the WAC [Women's Army Corps] because there wasn't a basic?—Well, what about the fact that WACs could go overseas and WAVES couldn't? Did that have any impact?

FB:

I don't think that at that point, that early in the game, I don't think anybody was going overseas but nurses. No, I don't know, somehow I think that Daddy thought it was maybe more dignified to be in the—I shouldn't have even brought that up.

EE:

But it's an issue that other people have brought up too, and I just am curious because of people's personal experiences. In fact, the WAVES recruiter, Miss Hellman, I was telling you about, was telling me that—I said, “Well, where did you go to talk to your audiences?”

She said, “Well, I would go to men's clubs.”

I said, “Men's clubs? Why didn't you go to women's clubs?”

She said, “Well, I had to convince the men to let their daughters join.”

So that was their task, was to go and talk to the men, because they all had ideas about what would happen to them in the WAVES. So you were involved—

FB:

Well, it might have been the fact that going into the navy I would be associated with college graduates.

EE:

Okay, peers.

FB:

Right.

EE:

Okay, and maybe some social—

FB:

No, not social.

EE:

Not social so much as just peers. He thought that you would be around people who you could relate to.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Okay. You were in Baltimore. You went down—you said you walked down to the recruiting station?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Signed up.

FB:

I just walked in.

EE:

How did your employer feel about that? You hadn't been on the job that long. [chuckling]

FB:

Well, I was working for the government, and you know that's—I don't know, I don't remember anything about that at all.

EE:

You went down there, I guess they gave you some tests, gave you a physical. How long—

FB:

I don't know.

EE:

It was April of '43 when you joined.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Shortly thereafter you go up to Smith [College in Northampton, Massachusetts]?

FB:

My regional orders from in Baltimore is the twenty-ninth of March, and I've got here that I reported for active duty on the tenth of April.

EE:

Okay, so it gives you some time to get your stuff together.

FB:

Yes, I went home.

EE:

You took the train up to Smith?

FB:

Yes, to Boston, [Massachusetts].

EE:

Were you going up there with anybody you knew? Did you know any—

FB:

No, but there were a whole bunch of us. They issued our tickets to us, and we were in the parlor car.

EE:

Oh, so they put you all together.

FB:

Right, and so there were several. I mean one person that was—we were friends until she died several years ago.

EE:

What was her name?

FB:

Rita Lynagh. She was from Washington, very Irish, but just delightful.

EE:

One thing certainly, and you'd had some before [in?] school, but certainly the military experience mixes in so many different people from so many different parts of the nation, different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and you really do get an experience that you may not have had before. Tell me about when you arrived at Smith. What was that experience like for you? What were your living accommodations? What was a typical day like for you?

FB:

Well, we were—

EE:

You were at Smith for about six weeks, then you went to Radcliffe [College, outside Boston, Massachusetts] for supply school?

FB:

Right. Actually, we lived at Radcliffe but our classes were—No, I don't remember. We were probably four to a room. I know I always had a top bunk because I wanted a top bunk. It might have been just two of us, but it was always alphabetical. And I don't remember—

EE:

Being a “B”, that would have put you near the top of the list.

FB:

Right. I don't remember—I do remember “rope yarn Saturday.” That was free Wednesday afternoon.

EE:

Tell me about that. I haven't heard that described before.

FB:

[chuckling] Well, that's all I know.

EE:

“Rope yarn,” what does that possibly mean?

FB:

Well, it meant that we had Wednesday afternoon off. And Northampton had the best candy store. And I know one time we splurged and ate lobster and then got back to the mess hall and they had lobster. [chuckling] Oh, the food at Northampton was absolutely wonderful.

EE:

I was going to say, if you had lobster for part of your mess hall—[chuckling] Somebody told me that they were told, “Don't tell the men how good the food is that you have here.”

FB:

Well, really, I have always wanted to go back to a restaurant there that was so good. No, I guess that was from Boston that we went to New York for the weekend. Well, of course, by the time we got to Boston we were commissioned.

EE:

Right. So you had more free time when you were in Boston in your schedule?

FB:

Well, our weekends were. When we weren't in class we had more freedom because we were commissioned.

EE:

So that the first six or eight weeks you're in classes, you're doing drill, I guess?

FB:

Oh yeah. Well, it was boot camp, really.

EE:

Did they issue you your uniforms, I guess, while you were there? Did they line you up and measure you?

FB:

No, they just give them to you. [chuckling]

EE:

Right, right. Did they give you a choice at the end of basic whether or not you wanted to go to cooks and bakers or supply or all this stuff, or they just assigned you?

FB:

No, they assigned us.

EE:

Okay, so you were assigned to go to supply school.

FB:

I was assigned to go to supply school because I was a math major.

EE:

Right, and they said—

FB:

Well, that was the big push right then. I think I was in the second supply school class. Now don't put that down because I'm not sure, but I think—

EE:

We can always change it. [chuckling]

FB:

I mean I was in an early one, we'll say that. And so if you had the qualifications at all that they were looking for, you went to supply school.

EE:

All your math training up to this point has been either theoretical or in terms of educating somebody else how to do it.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Basically you're in accounting classes, are you not?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

For eight weeks? How was that experience for you? Of course you were doing it—

FB:

Well, see, we had supply and dispersing, so—Well, you know, it's the right way, the wrong way, and the navy's way. So the fact that—and let's face it, we didn't even have calculators, and I'm not good at arithmetic. [chuckling]

EE:

Right, there was a bunch of cogitating going on.

FB:

Right. See, I was in the supply department at Great Lakes [Naval Training Center, Illinois], but I was in dispersing at Corpus Christi, [Texas].

EE:

Okay, well, let me get you to those two places. You were at Radcliffe, and then after that you get your—what's that, little double seahorses on your supplies for your—

FB:

Well, actually, no, it's an oak leaf.

EE:

Oak leaf? Oh, for supply school?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Okay.

FB:

And of course we wore blue stripes, we didn't have gold, because we weren't actually commissioned into the navy like the girls are now. We were in the Naval Reserve.

EE:

Did you then have any say-so about—you know, say, “I'd like to be stationed in the South, or like to be stationed—” wherever?

FB:

No, no, no.

EE:

They just said, “Here's your first assignment. Congratulations.”

FB:

I was assigned to go to Montauk Point, [New York], and the commander there said that he didn't want a woman because—I don't know why. Anyway—

EE:

Did you run into that attitude?

FB:

Not anywhere else.

EE:

Most of the times people treated you professionally?

FB:

Well, I think this was a small station and bad weather and all that kind of stuff.

EE:

There weren't any other women there?

FB:

No, I don't think so.

EE:

Okay. So you were assigned to Great Lakes Naval Air Station.

FB:

Naval Training Station.

EE:

What did they do there? What kind of work was going on there?

FB:

Well, that was a big boot camp and—well, a training station. That's what they did.

EE:

For the men?

FB:

Yes. There were no women training there.

EE:

But there were other WAVES who were stationed there?

FB:

Oh yeah.

EE:

Okay. What was your job?

FB:

Well, I was in receiving at one point. I was the one who had to call and find out why we hadn't got what we were supposed to have; or if it was something that we needed real bad, try to find out where. And then I also worked—I don't remember which was first—the payrolls for the whole 9th Naval District was there. That was 9th Naval District headquarters, and we had computers. I mean, a computer was bigger than this room. When an employee left, they figured leave on leave. That is, if they had ten days leave, then they had the leave on those ten days. And it was figured by hand. [chuckling] Anyway, I was supposed to be more or less in charge of that section. Actually, when you get on an old established base like that, the civil service people run it. But anyway I did that, and that was kind of fun.

EE:

Was that the first time you'd been around a machine that size? Of course, they were fairly new.

FB:

Oh, that was the first time I'd ever even seen a computer.

EE:

I guess ENIAC [first electronic computer] had just come out not too much earlier than that. Was it a keypunch thing where you entered by cards?

FB:

I have no idea. All I know was these big machines and these sailors that—I'm sure it was. It had to have been punch cards, because since I've been here I took a course out at Francis Marion [University] in—not COBOL. Anyway, I took—

EE:

Fortran?

FB:

Fortran, right. It was punch cards. And I don't type that good.

EE:

You were there at Great Lakes for how long?

FB:

I don't know.

EE:

This would have been in the fall of '43, I guess, when you were out there?

FB:

Yes. Oh, when did I go to—Oh, they said that WAVES could go to Hawaii, so I put in for Hawaii. And then personnel in Washington said if 9th Naval District could do without me then they'd send me to Texas.

EE:

So much for Hawaii. [chuckling]

FB:

Well, that's all right, I had a great time at Corpus [Christi]. I got there when the Annapolis [U.S. Naval Academy] guys had come back. They'd been all over the Pacific and they had come back from flight training. That was a good time to be there. Well, I don't know, I left there in August of '46.

EE:

That's where you stayed the rest of your time in service?

FB:

Right.

EE:

What was the kind of work you were doing in Corpus Christi?

FB:

I was the assistant dispersing officer for the officers' rolls, and I also ran payroll. I mean, I paid enlisted personnel at a couple of the P fields, the primary fields. I strapped on my gun—

EE:

Where did you learn how to shoot a gun?

FB:

Well, I went down to the line and had a Marine just teach me.

EE:

This was at Corpus?

FB:

Yes. I mean, that was not required. I just did it because I wanted to.

EE:

Somebody was telling me that anybody who handled payroll, carried the payroll, had to have a gun or either an armed escort, one or the other.

FB:

I usually had both.

EE:

So they issued you—What did you have, a .45?

FB:

A Colt.

EE:

Did you take regular shooting practice?

FB:

No, just occasionally on a Saturday afternoon I'd go down and—But I mean I didn't ever get a certificate or anything.

EE:

And none of the men ever sang that “Pistol Packin' Mama” song?

FB:

No, see, this was late in the war. I mean, they were used to it.

EE:

It was no big deal?

FB:

Of course it was ridiculous. I could have walked all over the base carrying the money.

EE:

And nobody would have bothered you?

FB:

But when I put the gun on then they knew I had it.

EE:

Right, right, so it's like an advertisement. [chuckling] Why not just make a trail of dollar bills?

FB:

Right. The thing about it, I was bonded, of course.

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

EE:

Let me ask you a few general questions, and we might get back to the dates in a minute. What was the hardest thing you had to do, either physically or emotionally, during your military experience?

FB:

I don't remember anything hard, really.

EE:

Did you live with other WAVES in a barracks at both these places?

FB:

No, there was no bachelor women's officers' quarters when I first went to Great Lakes, so—There were five or six of us that went from supply school to Great Lakes. See, it was a big base and needed a lot of the things that women could do.

EE:

And you were the first batch of people from the supply school going out there? Were you replacing other women who were—

FB:

No, we weren't replacing women. You know, I think maybe we were the first supply school.

EE:

So you literally were freeing men to fight by going out there.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

You were replacing men in their jobs?

FB:

Yes. So we lived—Lake Forest, [Illinois], do you know Lake Forest?

EE:

Outside of Chicago?

FB:

Yes. It used to be the summer home for very rich people, and they took us in. I stayed with—Well, now Lola Reed was in—Lola was already out there when I got there. But she wasn't in supply, she worked over in the headquarters office, and I believe she was promoted before I was. She was from Charlotte, graduated from Chapel Hill. But I lived with Miss Ellen Holt, whose family was living in Chicago at the time of the Chicago fire. In fact, in her garden was this metal dog, which was the only thing that had been saved from her Chicago home at the time of the fire. So when they did build a WOQ [women's officers' quarters], at that point we had a choice of staying where we were or going in. And I opted to stay where I was because it was very pleasant.

EE:

And what about when you got down to Corpus?

FB:

No, then, of course, see, Corpus was just built for the war, and we lived in—

EE:

Were your COs [commanding officers] at these stations women or men?

FB:

Men.

EE:

Regular navy personnel. But they treated you professionally? The only time you got a sense about being a woman was from that Montauk Point fellow?

FB:

Right. I mean there was nothing personal about that.

EE:

Okay, just that he didn't think it was for women to be out there. It doesn't sound like you were in a position where you were actually ever in physical danger. Were you ever afraid at any time, being away from home and all this stuff going on?

FB:

No, there was nothing to be afraid of.

EE:

In your twenties the world is an easy place to conquer.

FB:

I mean everybody was so united in fighting the war. It was certainly a bad time, but it was also a good and exciting time.

EE:

What was your typical work week like? Did you work seven-day weeks?

FB:

No. When I worked for the British Purchasing Commission in New York I worked an eight-day week. And they told me when I went to work that they did not celebrate July the Fourth. [chuckling] So that was quite an experience.

EE:

How do you work an eight-day week? Work twelve-hour days, or—?

FB:

No, you work seven days and have a day off. So, see, your day off keeps rotating.

EE:

Oh, okay, so that's how it rotates.

FB:

We were on Wall Street—I mean actually on Wall Street—and to go into Wall Street on Saturday and Sunday is like—[chuckling] I mean there's nothing there, it's like a graveyard.

EE:

That's right. Can you think of an embarrassing moment that happened to you in your military career? Maybe not directly to you but just something that you recall that was kind of a moment of levity?

FB:

No, but I can tell you something I do remember very vividly. On VE [Victory in Europe] Day my roommate and the guy that I had been dating left, were being transferred, and I went into Chicago with them and then left the station by myself. Chicago was deserted—I mean everybody had celebrated so the night before—and I remember the heels of my shoes echoing against the emptiness. Now I don't really remember VJ [Victory in Japan] Day. I was at Corpus Christi.

EE:

Well, that tells me that you made that switch during the summer of '45 then.

FB:

Okay.

EE:

Because you were in Chicago—

FB:

Yes, I left shortly after they did.

EE:

You were in Chicago when [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt died, too.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Do you remember that day?

FB:

Oh, I'll tell you something exciting that Lola and I did. The '44 Democratic convention was in Chicago, so Lola and I went—I don't know, we found out where the North Carolina headquarters were, and we went, and the lieutenant governor took us to the convention. We sat up on the—Well, of course you know the platform has got room enough for several hundred people, but we were there when—Roosevelt didn't come, he just made his speech over the radio, and we were there when that happened.

EE:

Did anybody know of a fellow named [Harry S.] Truman?

FB:

No, but I also remember my friend Alice [Brown] who was from Nebraska, she and I were sitting at the drugstore counter when the news came over the radio that Roosevelt was dead. And I said, “My god, Truman!” And then I ended up voting for him. [laughter]

EE:

Well, he did a pretty good job under a lot of pressure.

FB:

Listen! I mean, I think the farther we get away from him the better we know he was. But I thought it was—I don't know whether I really voted for him, but that [Thomas E.] Dewey, with his mustache and was already running around like he was already president—

EE:

He was kind of one-up, yeah.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Do you remember seeing Truman at the Democratic convention in '44? You were just there a day, because it's about a week-long event, I think.

FB:

Well, we were there more than once, and then once on the platform, but we—

EE:

Who was the lieutenant governor that took you? Was Huey the governor or was he a senator at that time?

FB:

I don't remember, but this—I'd better not say.

EE:

All right, well, we'll bleep it out, whatever.

FB:

Well, when my father found out who I had been with he said, “That womanizer!” [laughter] But that was not Hugh [Huey?]. I have no idea who it was, but he couldn't have been nicer to the two of us.

EE:

Well, he wasn't upset that you were going to a Democratic convention then?

FB:

No. Well, really, back in those days—

EE:

That was about it, wasn't it?

FB:

Right. It was really not quite nice to be a Republican. These dumb South Carolinians don't even remember that.

EE:

Well, Strom [Thurman] took them across the water. [chuckling] They're still there. You mentioned the fact that by the time VE Day came around that you had gotten pretty close to a fellow—

FB:

No, no, it was just somebody—

EE:

Just a date of the moment?

FB:

Just a date.

EE:

Just a date at the moment. Well, did you have much of a social life when you were in service? Did the girls all hang out together, or—?

FB:

Well, there were not very many single men at Great Lakes, but there were at Corpus Christi. [chuckling]

EE:

That's why you said it was a good time to be there. So life looked a little bit better at Corpus Christi?

FB:

Well, we had a good life. We went into Chicago a lot, we saw all the plays. We were invited into these elegant homes at Lake Forest, and—

EE:

You were always wearing your uniform, I assume.

FB:

Right.

EE:

Did that help get you into a lot of places, get you some discounts?

FB:

Oh yeah, definitely. Yes, there just wasn't anyplace we didn't go.

EE:

That's great. That's an advantage of being near a big city like that. You can do a lot and see a lot of things. So you get down to Corpus Christi, and it's not so much cultural as just enjoying the fact that you were in your twenties and the chance to socialize—.

FB:

We had a swimming pool, and the O[fficers] Club was pink, and the weather was good.

EE:

So some good memories from Corpus Christi.

FB:

Right. Of course, see, people didn't have cars much then, and Corpus was—the air station was out from town, so we really didn't go into—What we did was pretty much there on the base.

EE:

You were there when VJ Day happens.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

After VE Day, people did not know in advance about the A-bomb. They assumed that we were going to have to invade Japan inch by inch like we did Europe, which was going to be a long haul. So the folks you're seeing in Corpus that summer are there for training to go back and do it again?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

What's the mood like when VJ Day comes?

FB:

I don't remember. I don't know why, but I don't remember.

EE:

Do you remember anything about that, either with the bomb dropping or with [General Douglas A.] MacArthur signing the—

FB:

I remember about the bomb, but of course we didn't realize what it was. Of course, these men had been through a great deal out through the Pacific, and we had Marines there too, but I don't remember them anticipating anything bad. I mean, well, I guess it was the way people often are in war, you live from day to day.

EE:

“Today I'm here, it's a great day, I'm not worrying about tomorrow. We'll get tomorrow when we get there. The joy I've just got today and let's enjoy it.”

FB:

Right.

EE:

You were there until August of '46, I guess? A whole year you were at Corpus?

FB:

Well, actually, I guess ten-four [October 4] was when my—

EE:

Ten-four of '45 or '46?

FB:

Forty-six.

EE:

Ten-four is when your discharge finally went through.

FB:

Yes. Well, that was, I guess, when my leave was up.

EE:

Do you have any favorite songs or movies from that time period that stick out in your mind?

FB:

Casablanca, of course, but that was actually before—That was while I was in Baltimore.

EE:

That's right. Tell me, do you know there are a few WAVES songs that I keep seeing the words of, but I haven't been able to find anybody who will fess up to knowing the tunes to, I don't need a man but to tie my tie, some sentiment like that. Do you know what I'm talking about? Was there a WAVES song that you remember?

FB:

Well, there was one that is an accompaniment to Anchors Aweigh, WAVES of the Navy.

EE:

How does that go?

FB:

[sighing] I can't sing. [singing] “WAVES of the Navy, there's a ship sailing down the bay, and she won't slip into port again until that glorious day. Carry on for that gallant ship and for every hero brave who will find ashore his man-sized chore was done by a Navy WAVE.”

EE:

Good! Very good!

FB:

[chuckling] Well, I'll tell you what, I did sing it in Washington.

EE:

At the WIMSA dedication?

FB:

Right.

EE:

That's nice. It's not the same tune as Anchors Aweigh, but it goes with it as background.

FB:

Right, it's written to.

EE:

Right, it goes with it.

FB:

But, you know, apparently the enlisted girls didn't sing that, because the two friends that—I told you three of us went up to Washington together, and a friend from Tucson met us, and Doris [Manning]—Doris was at midshipmen's school right behind me, but I mean I met her in India. [chuckling] Anyway, Doris and I sang that, but Peg [Heath Winthrop] and Martha [McAllister] didn't, and they had been enlisted. They were both graduates of Winthrop [College, in South Carolina] and were in Atlanta teaching school when they joined, and there was no—They weren't recruiting officers at that point, so they—I don't know where Martha was. She stayed on and taught after the war was over, and ended up marrying an English earl. [chuckling]

EE:

Oh, okay. Did they move back here?

FB:

No. She's from Sumter, [South Carolina] and has a sister who is not well, so she comes home in the winter.

EE:

So she's been living in England.

FB:

Yes, and she says that her sister probably will not live much longer, and then she will stay in England.

EE:

Well, it's nice to marry into a title, isn't it?

FB:

Yes. She doesn't know I know that. Peggy is the one that told me. I do not call her Lady McAllister. [chuckling]

EE:

Well, tell me something—I can tell you the answer, but I want to hear your answer—do you feel you contributed to the war effort?

FB:

Yes, I think so. When I left Corpus Christi, I was a full lieutenant by then, but I was replaced by two ensigns, two male ensigns. [chuckling]

EE:

Oh, okay, that's pretty much confirmation if they had two to do your work. That's great.

FB:

I think so, because I don't know, the jobs that I had at Great Lakes could probably—I don't know, maybe they could have been done by civilians, but what I did at Corpus Christi had to be done by a naval officer, and if there hadn't been a woman there a man would have had to do it.

EE:

And in retrospect, given the urgencies of the day, you feel a lot better about your career choice going to do that than stuck being a teacher for high school students at that time?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

At that time. There's always a need for every kind of work in this world.

FB:

Right, but I don't know, I've never felt like—Well, it was good for me and I think I contributed.

EE:

One of those things that if you had it to do over again you would have.

FB:

Oh yes, definitely.

EE:

You talked about the fact that people were united and patriotic. You especially got that feeling in Corpus as they were coming back and just of one purpose, but you're also stateside—do you get the sense that most folks—I heard a statement and I want to interject it, because my question is: What was the mood of the country? Were people always patriotic? Were they determined? Were they afraid? Somebody said the other day on a program in contrast to today that, you know, back in World War II we knew we were going to win, no question about it. And I'm just wondering in 1942 after a sneak attack, Pearl Harbor, are we always sure we're going to win? I'm not so sure that would have been the case.

FB:

We did not know what our situation was. We had no idea that if the Japanese had followed up Pearl Harbor that they could have come right in. We had no army—

EE:

That's right. We were totally blind-sided.

FB:

We had no army, we had done away with our navy after World War I—

EE:

And they bombed the rest of it.

FB:

But, you see, we didn't know that. We didn't have—

EE:

Instant news about it.

FB:

We didn't have the media that's there picking everything in the world to pieces.

EE:

My sense is that that statement is not really very historically accurate, because there's just no way you would—How did you find out what was going on in the world of the war? Did they have regular debriefing sessions for officers about the status of the war, or everybody just did their business, read the paper?

FB:

We just got our news from the paper.

EE:

And I guess people would occasionally be getting mail from friends overseas or in their—

FB:

Well, of course they would be censored.

EE:

Right, they wouldn't tell you the location, and all the V-Mail would be blacked-out.

FB:

I think we came nearer knowing things were bad during the Battle of the Bulge, because we thought the war was over and then it wasn't. But no, I don't think that there was ever any doubt in anybody's mind that we would not win that war.

EE:

Just how long was the problem.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

That kind of determination, though, I've heard from many people that it was just—That's why everybody was focused on the task at hand. Do you have from that time period heroes or heroines?

FB:

Well, I can tell you who wasn't my hero. [chuckling] Us navy people didn't think a whole bunch of MacArthur. We thought he was a stuffed shirt.

EE:

Even during the war?

FB:

Right.

EE:

He got that reputation in Korea, but you thought that even during World War II?

FB:

Yes, we knew that that newsreel of him walking back—

EE:

In the water.

FB:

—that they had to film it about three times to get it the way he wanted it. [chuckling]

EE:

So that didn't impress you?

FB:

No.

EE:

He was too phony, too much concerned with image then.

FB:

Right.

EE:

What about the Roosevelts? What did you think of them?

FB:

Oh, listen, to me even today a president ought to sound like Roosevelt. Well, he was president most of my whole growing up.

EE:

That's right, which is an experience we haven't had since, and we won't the way they've changed the Constitution. But he was an inspirational figure for a lot of people because he did say what needed to be said.

FB:

Right.

EE:

And not afraid to lead. You know, we talked about the fact that in military service you meet people from all over. Are there some other individual characters that stand out in your mind from those military days?

FB:

Well, I can remember going into the bar at Great Lakes, it was an oval bar, and looking across, and there was [actors] Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor. He was stationed—There was a small airfield someplace close by and he was stationed there. And I was very proud of us, not one—You know, we smiled and spoke, and not one person went over and asked him for his autograph or anything. We acted like—

EE:

Were they dating then?

FB:

Oh, they were married.

EE:

So she was up visiting him, I guess.

FB:

Right.

EE:

And he was an officer?

FB:

Yes, and boy, did he look good.

EE:

Yes, he looked pretty good in the movies. I can imagine in person he looked even better. Did you have any USO [United Service Organizations] shows come to where you were stationed, or any entertainers?

FB:

Yes, because that would be more—Eddie Peabody, Commander Eddie Peabody played the banjo. [chuckling] No, wait a minute, he was a—What's below an admiral? A commodore. Did I say commodore?

EE:

No, commander.

FB:

I thought that it felt wrong. I don't know, no.

EE:

Okay. Tell me about what happens to you after October of '46. You're in Corpus Christi. Were you encouraged to stay in the military? Did you voluntarily decide it was time to go?

FB:

The commander at the naval station—See, the naval station and 6th Naval District headquarters were both there. This is the guy that's head of the naval station, and he was a commander, he was not a captain, he offered to send me home in an airplane to see my folks if I'd come back.

EE:

So he wanted you to stay.

FB:

Right. But I don't know, my friends had left. And I don't know, it just—You know, the time comes.

EE:

Time to make a change.

FB:

Well, I went home and then I went out. My best friend in the navy was from Washington State, and I went out and we went all the way down to Los Angeles on the train. Then I came back and stopped into Chicago to see some friends, and stayed there and worked for A.B. Dick, mimeograph, for a while.

EE:

So that was your first job after the war, back in Chicago?

FB:

Right. Oh, I had fun getting a job in Chicago. I just interviewed all over the place, and everywhere I went they wanted to hire me. [chuckling].

EE:

Great!

FB:

I think the reason I took the job at A.B. Dick, it was in statistics, which was interesting. Pete Peterson was the one that I would work for, and he had—See, ballpoint pens were new, and he had one that was several different colors. You know, you could snap it? And that's, I think, why I took the job. [laughter]

EE:

Because, wow, I think I'd like working for a guy who has a pen like that. [chuckling] That's pretty good. So how long did you stay there? Obviously you liked Chicago, you liked the people, you liked the area.

FB:

Right.

EE:

Were you back living in—Where did you live when you were there, an apartment by yourself?

FB:

No, my friend Alice [Brown Andersen] was married, and they had a—I lived down in the south of Chicago. It was a right long way into work. There was not a lot of places for people to live right after the war.

EE:

Because everybody was coming back and needed a place to stay, right.

FB:

Right. It was an old house that had been made into small apartments, and I had just a room in where they had it. Chicago is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and I don't know, I just came on back and taught school at home for one year.

EE:

Home being Concord?

FB:

Concord.

EE:

This would have been in '47 or '48?

FB:

Forty-eight.

EE:

How long were you in Chicago? You were in Chicago about a year?

FB:

I was there for about two years, I think.

EE:

Okay, so late '48, early '49?

FB:

Yes. So I taught school—Well, I came home at Christmas time and I taught the second semester of '48—no, of '49. Then I went to Chapel Hill in the summer and was there '49 and '50. I met my husband and was married in '50.

EE:

Was he a student at Chapel Hill?

FB:

Yes, he probably would have been a student forever [chuckling] if I hadn't shown up.

EE:

I know that feeling.

FB:

Listen, that GI Bill was really something wonderful. It truly was.

EE:

It changed the way America thought about school, that's for sure.

FB:

Yeah.

EE:

What was he studying?

FB:

Accounting. He was a CPA [Certified Public Accountant].

EE:

And part of the deal was you could go as long as you wanted to.

FB:

Well, not really. If you had been in as much as six weeks and got an honorable discharge you had a year, a calendar year.

EE:

So you got it based on how long you were in?

FB:

And then you got a month for a calendar month. I could have had—Well, I had a choice of either staying on at Chapel Hill and getting my doctorate or getting married, and I got married. And he lived all of seventeen years. I've been a widow forever.

EE:

You have some children, I believe, because I believe some of them came up to—Was it children or grandchildren who came to the luncheon?

FB:

Oh, they were nieces.

EE:

Nieces, okay.

FB:

My sister's children.

EE:

Well, now do you have any children then?

FB:

Yes, I have a daughter in Beaufort, [South Carolina]. You do know Beaufort [pronounced Byoo-fort] and Beaufort [pronounced Bo-fort]?

EE:

Let's see, Beaufort [Bo-fort] must be North Carolina.

FB:

No.

EE:

It's the other way around?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

All right, Beaufort [Byoo-fort], North Carolina, and Beaufort [Bo-fort], South Carolina.

FB:

Right. And at one point I had a son in Beaufort [Bo-fort] and a daughter in Beaufort [Byoo-fort], [chuckling] and that was difficult.

EE:

So where is the one now, North Carolina or South Carolina?

FB:

All right, South Carolina.

EE:

She's in Beaufort [Bo-fort].

FB:

Beaufort [Byoo-fort].

EE:

She's in Beaufort.

FB:

Beaufort [Byoo-fort], South Carolina.

EE:

And Beaufort [Bo-fort], North Carolina, okay.

FB:

And one son in Minneapolis and one in Portland, Oregon.

EE:

All over the place!

FB:

Right.

EE:

Do you get out to see them, they come see you?

FB:

Well, I've got all kinds of frequent flyer miles—I mean, not because I've flown that much, but because I use a credit card that gets it. But I don't know, somehow I can't make up my mind to go. It's not that I don't like to go, because I've been lots of places.

EE:

Good. My mother-in-law, who lives with us, has been that way since her husband died, I guess seven years ago, and she's been to Peru, Alaska, Nicaragua, Europe, and Australia. She's let no grass grow under her feet.

FB:

Well, I've been to India and I've been to Ecuador and Chile. Well, the son that's in Portland was in the Peace Corps in Chile for a couple of years, and I went there. But I had been to Ecuador before that, and then I've been to Peru. Well, I was in Peru just about a year ago now.

EE:

This sounds like a question which your subsequent life says the answer is yes. Do you consider yourself to be an independent person? Did the military make you this way, or were you this type before you entered service? Do you think the military made you more independent?

FB:

Probably, because it gave me experiences that as a small-town Southern girl I wouldn't have had.

EE:

After you got married, did you come back and raise a family? Did you do that plus the workforce, or did you get out of the workforce?

FB:

Oh, I taught—We lived in Greensboro when we were first married and I taught at Greensboro High School.

EE:

Which became Grimsley, I guess, after a while.

FB:

Yes. It was the largest high school in North Carolina at that point. Then we moved to Chadbourn, North Carolina, which is just across the border at Whiteville. That's my husband's home. And we were there for a while and then he went to work with—The family business was produce, and then we went to Lancaster, South Carolina, Springs Mills, and we were there when he died.

EE:

Cancer, or what was it?

FB:

No, heart. No, he went to work—it was the eighteenth of April. I used to always be aware of the eighteenth of April, but after thirty years you don't think of it. No, he went to work one morning, apparently in good health, and was dead by three o'clock that afternoon.

EE:

Just real quick.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

How old were your kids then?

FB:

Thirteen, ten, and five.

EE:

That puts you in a hard spot.

FB:

Well, fortunately—

EE:

There's a lot of reasons it's a hard spot, but that's another reason.

FB:

Right, but fortunately I had a profession, and I liked to teach, and teaching is a good thing if you have children.

EE:

True, because it's a flexible schedule. Basically your schedule mimics their schedule, you can be with them. So that was good. And you were teaching math in high school in Lancaster?

FB:

Yes.

EE:

And you did that until retirement age?

FB:

Well, actually they took me out of the classroom and made me a supervisor.

EE:

Always promoted, too.

FB:

Yes, when they did that I was teaching the son of the chairman of the school board, and he came in my room and he said, “Well, it's too bad that the only way that we can acknowledge a good teacher is by taking her out of school, out of the classroom.”

EE:

That's the only way you can reward her financially is by getting her out of the classroom, that's true.

FB:

Right, and of course that's true of the men too.

EE:

That's right.

FB:

And of course if I'd have been a man, then I probably would have been a—

EE:

Superintendent or principal?

FB:

Well, maybe.

EE:

Did you want to be a principal?

FB:

I didn't want to be. I don't know, so I came here. Well, actually, the department of instruction was organized in Lancaster for integration, and I think we did a really good job, and then we got a new school board and they cut back. So then the state—

EE:

We're facing that all around the country right now, states cutting back.

FB:

Well, the state Department of Education offered me this job. I traveled around the state for three years supervising a couple of math programs. And then—

EE:

Great. It sounds like you've had a wonderful career.

FB:

[chuckling] Well—

EE:

Through the adversities of life, you have prospered well.

FB:

Right, yeah, it's—

EE:

And got three kids, apparently all doing well.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

Good. What impact do you think the military experience had on your life long-term? Eventually it led you to meeting a husband in college, it sounds like, by the GI Bill.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

What was your husband's name, by the way?

FB:

Bill Bailey, William E. He really was named—When his father—

EE:

Before the song was famous?

FB:

No. No, when his father first saw his mother, she was sitting at the piano playing and singing Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?

EE:

So that was a way to remember their first meeting. That's great.

FB:

Right. I mean, they always said their first boy would be named Bill.

EE:

That's great.

FB:

And he was never called anything but Bill, not Billy.

EE:

Right. My father-in-law's name was Billy, and he was only called Bill. [chuckling] How did that affect your life, do you think, the military experience?

FB:

Well, I don't know, any experience makes you a different person.

EE:

Did the people you worked with know you were a veteran?

FB:

Not until last year. I don't know, it was not any secret but—

EE:

Just was never asked of you or asked about?

FB:

Right, but last year when I was getting ready for the thing in Washington was when people first seemed to realize it.

EE:

Do you think of yourself as—You know, a lot of people have said that with all the women going in the military and in so many other jobs that previously were men-only that that really was the start of the women's liberation movement, equal pay for equal work. Do you feel you were kind of a trailblazer for doing that?

FB:

I don't know about that, but I do think that we broke ground for the women that are in service now. I'm not really for women in combat or women on board ship.

EE:

We just had the first female go into combat in the air, a pilot in Iraq in December. So you think there are some jobs that are not for women?

FB:

Right. And yet I realize that for them to be promoted to the higher echelon they have to be—

EE:

They have to have some battlefield experience.

FB:

They'd have to have that experience. I was absolutely amazed at the gold braid in Washington. And we had a lunch just for the navy people. I mean, admirals, captains, I mean all that “scrambled eggs” [gold embroidery]. And Miss [Mildred] McAfee was—

EE:

Was she there?

FB:

No, she's dead, but she was just a lieutenant commander.

EE:

I was going to say, the ones who first started—

FB:

That was the highest rank that there was.

EE:

I don't think it was until the late forties that they finally integrated them into the regular service, wasn't it? It was after you were out.

FB:

Oh yeah. Yes, I never wore anything but blue.

EE:

Did your daughter—Well, have any of your kids ever been in the military, express an interest in it? Would you—

FB:

I would have been willing for—Neither, well particularly my youngest son—younger son, youngest child—had no idea what he wanted to do. Well, a navy recruiter got in touch with him, and I—I would have thought it would be a good thing for Lance. Now Wayne, who's a little older—Well, they both went to—Well, you went to Penn [University of Pennsylvania]. They went to the Hill School in Pottstown, [Pennsylvania], and that was a period when the prep school boys were really antiwar.

EE:

This was in the sixties?

FB:

No, they're younger than that. Wayne, the older one, is forty-two and Lance is thirty-eight. So, see, they're not Vietnam—

EE:

Not quite, a little after that.

FB:

But still that—

EE:

Early seventies still would have had that same feeling.

FB:

Yes.

EE:

What would you feel about if your daughter had expressed interest in joining the service?

FB:

I would have said there's no way she would have knuckled down to the discipline.

EE:

You knew her too well?

FB:

[chuckling] She's a pharmacist.

EE:

Okay. We've gone through, it's been about an hour and a half. Is there anything that I haven't asked you about, about your military service or about anything else you'd like on this tape that you'd like to share?

FB:

I don't think so.

EE:

Well, I tell you, it's been a real pleasure.

FB:

[chuckling] I've told you probably more about myself than I meant to.

EE:

Well, that's okay, it's allowed. And probably I've told more about myself on this tape than I was supposed to, but you get into a conversation and it just gets that way. And as somebody who's spent a few years in school with history and who likes and admires a teacher, the teaching profession, I thank you for that part. I know the college thanks you for sitting down for this interview, and for your military service we all thank you.

FB:

Well, somebody at the luncheon said that we were dying so fast that they wanted to get to all of us before it was too late. [chuckling]

EE:

I have interviewed some eighty-year-olds that are going to be around probably after I am. They're a just extraordinary group of spry women who are just [snapping his fingers] sharp.

FB:

Well, in Washington there was a navy yeoman from World War I.

EE:

Good gracious!

FB:

And she walked across—You know they had that big platform and she walked across it by herself.

EE:

All the way? That's great.

FB:

Now there was another woman, she must not have been as bright, she was in a wheelchair and she never spoke. But this woman spoke to us at the luncheon and then she spoke to thousands of people the next day. She was fantastic!

EE:

That was probably the highlight of her life, getting up there and doing that. That's great. Well, thank you so much.

[End of interview]