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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Frances Hunt Hall, 1999

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Object ID: WV0071.5.001

Description:

Primarily details France Hunt Hall’s experiences at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro); her service in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1942 to 1954; and her education and employment as a law librarian after her service.

Summary:

Hall discusses her time at the Woman’s College, including dormitories, dances, and attitudes about Adolf Hitler at the start of the war in 1939. She primarily focuses on her military career, including her train trip to basic training at Smith College in late 1942 and living in the Northampton Hotel. Discussion of her various duty stations focuses on Charleston, South Carolina, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Topics include housing, her job duties and schedule, relations between officers and enlisted personnel, working watches during the war, reactions of navy personnel to VE Day and VJ Day, resentment of WAVES by other military women, and her decision to remain in the navy after the war ended.

Post-service topics include Hall's education under the GI Bill; her training and work in law libraries and as the North Carolina Supreme Court Librarian; and her opinion of women being allowed in combat positions.

Creator: Frances Hunt Hall

Biographical Info: Frances H. Hall of Zebulon, North Carolina, served in communications in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1942 to 1954, and then had a long career as a law librarian, including service as the North Carolina Supreme Court Librarian from 1967 to 1979.

Collection: Frances Hunt Hall 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 today is April 26, 1999. I am with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG], and I'm in Southern Pines, North Carolina, this morning at the home of Frances Hall. And thank you, Miss Hall, for letting us join you today. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. We've got some challenging questions to start off with. I hope they don't intimidate you too much. [chuckling] Where were you born and where did you grow up?

FH:

I was born in Panama City, Panama, but I grew up in Zebulon, North Carolina. I came to Zebulon when I was about six months old, and that was my home.

EE:

So you just know by word of mouth. Somebody told me you were born in Panama City?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

How did you end up, your family, being down there?

FH:

My father was editor of a newspaper down there. He had gone down at the time they built the Panama Canal, when lots of people from this country went down there. My grandparents lived in Zebulon and my mother and I came to live with them.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

FH:

No.

EE:

Did your dad stay down in Panama?

FH:

Well, he did, but he died when I was three years old. The reason that we came to North Carolina was the doctors recommended that I be taken to a different kind of climate, and so that was why we left Panama.

EE:

That was where I guess Walter Reed did all of his work with yellow fever and malaria. The tropical diseases I know were a big problem.

FH:

Well, that was as I remember.

EE:

So you came back to Zebulon, you were living with your grandparents. Did your mom work?

FH:

She eventually did. She went to Philadelphia and studied public health, and later worked as a public health nurse.

EE:

My mom is a public health nurse, so good for her. Were you in Zebulon throughout the time that you grew up? Did you go to high school in Zebulon?

FH:

I went to high school, yes.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school?

FH:

No. [laughter]

EE:

So it wasn't your favorite thing to do. What was it that you liked to do growing up?

FH:

Well, I liked to do things like playing cards and games and swimming and that kind of thing.

EE:

It's hard for folks these days just to remember how conflicted many people were about card playing back in those days.

FH:

Oh yes.

EE:

My grandmother still advised my mother not to play cards when she was dating my father. That was the big thing. So you graduated from—was it Zebulon High School? Is that it?

FH:

No, the name of the school was Wakelon, W-a-k-e-l-o-n, High School, which doesn't exist anymore.

EE:

Sort of like a combination of “Wake” and “Zebulon” then?

FH:

Well, there's a community near Zebulon called Wakefield, and that was where the school's name came from.

EE:

How was it that you ended up going to Greensboro to go to college?

FH:

Well, it was, I guess, an inexpensive, very good college.

EE:

This was the Depression?

FH:

Yes, and I was not interested in going to schools where you couldn't smoke and dance and things like that.

EE:

So, in your mind, that was the school you wanted to go to?

FH:

Well, yes.

EE:

There weren't really other choices. It's sort of like you had something fixed in mind.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you have any family or any relations up in that area, or was that a totally new territory for you?

FH:

No, I didn't have any relatives there.

EE:

Tell me about what you remember with your school experience. What dormitory did you stay in when you got to—

FH:

Well, at the time I went there, East was a freshman dormitory, and that was where I was assigned. And I lived in West—I've forgotten. No, I was in East, and then I guess it was West that I lived in two years, and then the last year I lived in North Spencer. And I was there when North Spencer had been done over for the first time, and—

EE:

This was after the fire, or—?

FH:

No, not that time. [chuckling] But this was back in 1939, I guess it was, that they had some money to do it over. And so some of us who were friends in our first year moved in that dormitory because one of our other friends was to be the house president, and so it was very nice and new and convenient.

EE:

Did you go to school with anybody else from your hometown that went to WC [Woman's College, now UNCG]?

FH:

Well, the first year I was there I was planning to room with a person from Zebulon, and after two weeks she decided she didn't liked it and went home. But my next-door neighbor, the same year I went there, transferred to Woman's College. She had gone to Brenau [College for women] the first year, then she transferred to UNCG.

EE:

Did you have in mind a course of study when you went to WC, or did you sort of decide on a major once you got there?

FH:

Well, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and my advisor—I ended up by majoring in history, mainly because Miss [Vera] Largent, I think, was my faculty advisor. I made my best grades in that subject, so—

EE:

What do you remember about professors at the college? Are there some that stand out in your mind?

FH:

Well, yes, of course I thought they were all very good. And as I look back on them, I think they were even better, as they were interested in teaching and not writing books and articles so much or trying to think up ways to get government grants.

EE:

It does kind of distort the profession, doesn't it?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

I assume you were part of one of the fraternities, the four fraternities that—I guess not fraternities, four societies, the Dikean, the Adelphian, or those—?

FH:

I was an Adelphian. But I think they had only one meeting or something, and the main thing was that they have a formal dance, but they didn't do anything else. That's all it was.

EE:

How was social life at school?

FH:

Well, I thought it was very nice. They had dances on the weekend. They had “girl break” dances, so if you didn't have a date you could go and [chuckling] dance anyway, but—

EE:

So there was no shame in not having a date. You just went and had fun.

FH:

No, that was great.

EE:

Do you remember any of the administrators, like I guess Dean [Harriet] Elliott. I guess she was still there?

FH:

Yes, she was there.

EE:

College time at any age, at any time, eighteen to twenty-year-olds more than likely aren't thinking about the world at large. But the world at large is changing quite a lot during the time that you're there, from '36, I guess, to '40. Was high school eleven years for you, or twelve?

FH:

Eleven.

EE:

Eleven. So you went in as a seventeen-year-old, I guess.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

So, from '36 to '40—War starts in Europe in '39.

FH:

In '39, in the fall, in August.

EE:

What did you think of that? Were you all aware of that and what that might mean?

FH:

Well, the freshman history course had a lot to teach about the causes of World War I and the aftermath and the rise of Hitler. And of course everybody thought that we'd never get involved into a war again, it would be easy to stay out if you wanted to—A very unrealistic approach, of course.

EE:

Well, it's a big ocean. It looks like it would be easy to stay out. Since you were a history major, what were people's attitudes towards Hitler? What was the attitude that was conveyed either by your professors or by your peers before the war started?

FH:

Well, I think everybody was aware of what a terrible situation that Europe was in, but somehow or other it was worse than anybody I guess ever even dreamed of. It was probably kind of hard to realize. There was a Frenchman who taught there, who taught French, and I remember that he was asked to give us a lecture about the situation. About the time of our graduation was at the time of the fall of France, so it was hard not to think it was going to be very serious, as far as we were concerned. But I never expected for it—I really and truly never expected that we would be involved at that time, I guess.

EE:

Well, it's something now, because people with 20/20 hindsight could see things like, okay, Hitler takes over Austria, Hitler takes over Czechoslovakia, nobody makes a big deal about it. Okay, a few people get upset over Poland, and then there's this—even within our country, there's a split between those who want to stay isolated and those who want to participate. But that discussion ends, I guess, in 1941. Tell me, you graduated in 1940. Your degree was in history, what did you do after graduation?

FH:

I taught school. I taught school first in Albemarle, [North Carolina], then I taught in Penderlea, [North Carolina], and I was teaching in Penderlea in the fall when I got in the navy.

EE:

Tell me how you spell Penderlea.

FH:

Well, Pender, like in Pender County, and then l-e-a.

EE:

Okay. Was it in Pender County?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Okay. So you were teaching history at both places.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

How long were you in Albemarle?

FH:

I taught there for one semester.

EE:

And then went to Penderlea.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You were there at Penderlea until the time you went into service?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

How long was that?

FH:

Well, I went on active duty in October 1942.

EE:

Had you started teaching that fall?

FH:

I had started in '41, and then in the fall of '42 I left. So I was there a little over a year.

EE:

Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor being bombed?

FH:

Yes. Penderlea had a teacherage. You've probably never heard of Penderlea, but during the Depression one of the government organizations that I've forgotten now—to help farmers set up this program in which they built houses and had small farms.

EE:

This wasn't WPA [Works Progress Administration], this was CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps]?

FH:

No, this was something that came under the Department of Agriculture, and they built a school and it was a little community. At any rate, they had a teacherage there, and that was the Sunday afternoon we heard it over the radio.

EE:

Did you know what that meant for America?

FH:

Well, at the time I assumed that the United States Navy was so strong and all, that really and truly if the war started it would be better to be in the Pacific. Little, of course, did I know what damage was done at the time.

EE:

That's right. What was it that made you leave teaching and join the service?

FH:

Well, I thought it would help win the war. [chuckling]

EE:

So it was out of patriotism.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You said, “I like what I'm doing, but I need to be involved in this war effort”?

FH:

Well, at the time, so many people were going into the armed services. The draft had started back before the war started, and more and more people were leaving to go into the military.

EE:

Did you have some friends who were in that category?

FH:

Well, I knew boys that I grew up with and—Penderlea is not very far from Wilmington. It's something like twenty-five miles or something like that, and we knew people who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and Camp Davis, so that we were well aware of the fact that many civilians were going into the military.

EE:

How many women you knew were going into the military? Did you know any?

FH:

I didn't know anybody at that time. You know, the WAACs [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] had started in the summer, and of course I had read about them in the paper and in magazines, but I didn't know anybody there.

EE:

The publicity about the WAACs wasn't always favorable, however.

FH:

Well, as far as at that time it was very favorable, but I just—I assumed that the navy would have some program for women, and I thought that would be better.

EE:

So did you go to a recruiting office to sign up?

FH:

Well, in the summer I had gone to the recruiting office in Raleigh when they first announced they were going to have women in the navy. The recruiting officer gave me an application and he told me that the recruitment of women was going to be held in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Office of Naval Procurement. As I remember, I had an application and a physical exam form to be filled out, and I sent that in and I was notified that I was underweight. [chuckling] So they said, “Gain some weight and apply again.” And so I thought, well, I'll eat and try that. And then about a month later I got a letter saying to report to Charleston for testing. So I found out later that the navy had used the same weight charts for women as they did for men, and they decided that didn't work out very well, that women didn't weigh as much as men. So I went to Charleston and took the tests. They had a written exam and a physical exam.

EE:

That would have been just before October of '42?

FH:

Yeah, it was sometime in September.

EE:

I guess with the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], college women were automatically routed toward officer school?

FH:

Well, I'm sure there were some who enlisted, but at the very beginning the first thing they had was an officer's school. A month before I went there a group was commissioned and they had indoctrination there. The program that I was in was the—I've forgotten what the number was, but it was equivalent to the one they had for the men. You went to midshipman's school for three months and then you were commissioned.

EE:

This was up at Smith [College in Northampton, Massachusetts]?

FH:

Yes. And it was a program in which if you flunked out or were found not suitable, then you were out of the navy. You didn't become an enlisted person.

EE:

How did your family respond to you joining?

FH:

Well, my mother thought it was great. [chuckling] It was the kind of thing that she would have liked to have done, I think.

EE:

So you were an independent sort to begin with, and she must have said, “more power to you.” That's great. You didn't have any other—It sounds like that your choice of WAVES—Was it influenced by things like recruiting posters? Did that ever factor into your—?

FH:

Well, no, it didn't.

EE:

It was sort of independently from your personal experience with people, that “I need to be doing something as well.” Did you get on the train in Raleigh and ride up, or where did you [unclear]

FH:

Well, they had told us they would send us orders after we were sworn in in Charleston. And the orders came, and with the orders they sent us a railroad ticket—which seems now unbelievable—but they had arranged transportation from Zebulon, North Carolina. At that time, the Norfolk and Southern Railroad had a passenger train that went through Zebulon twice a day, and so I started in Zebulon and changed trains in Raleigh to the Seaboard. And when I changed trains, I found it had picked up all these other people who were going to Northampton too, including one of my classmates whom I knew from Greensboro.

EE:

What was her name?

FH:

Betty Klutts. She died back in—I forget, sometime about 1970, but she had been a classmate of mine. Also, there was a girl from Rockingham whom I had met when I was in Charleston being sworn in. I'm trying to think—I can't even think of her name now, but, at any rate, she's no longer alive. And then there were some other people who were in my class. There was another person in my class whom I did not know very well who was on the train. So we spent the night on the train and arrived in New York. In those days you had to change stations to go to Grand Central from the Pennsylvania Station. We had a few hours in New York. It was the first time I'd ever been to New York.

EE:

That you'd been outside the state and all even.

FH:

No, I had been to other states. And very interesting, as we were killing some time in New York, I ran into another classmate of ours who was working in New York, who just happened to be walking down the street. [chuckling] Very interesting. But anyway we went by train. And of course back in those days the train system in New England was wonderful. There were trains all the time to Boston and New York.

EE:

Right. And now we wring our hands saying, “If we only had mass transit again.”

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You were with people from all over the country and all different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Tell me about the life at Smith for you. What was a typical day like for you?

FH:

Well, when I first went there I was in one of the dormitories, and my roommate was a girl from St. Augustine [Florida]. But after a month we were transferred down to the Northampton Hotel, and there I had three roommates. The hotel was a very nice hotel. We had our meals in the hotel. The navy had taken over the hotel and they had the same kitchen staff that they had when they were in business. There were two dormitories that were used for the WAVES, and so the people who were in the dormitories had to march down to meals.

EE:

Everybody had their meals at the hotel?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

I imagine when you went from the dormitory to the hotel you had a few fewer roommates. Was it a long barracks kind of thing, or was [unclear]

FH:

No, the room that I had at—As far as I remember, everybody in the dormitory just had one roommate. But they had taken the furniture out of the hotel rooms and had put in double-decker bunks and lockers, so that there was room for four. And then the other thing too is that we sent our civilian clothes home after our uniforms came. It took a while to get uniforms because everything was just getting started. We had to be measured for uniforms, and when the uniforms came and you sent all your civilian clothes home, so you really didn't need a lot of space for clothes. Everybody had two uniforms and a raincoat and an overcoat and some shoes, and that was it.

EE:

You signed up in October of '42. Were you up for basic training—or for officer school, I guess—before Christmas of that year?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

So Christmas came during your training stint.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You must have been in one of the first classes.

FH:

Well, it was the first midshipman class.

EE:

It was the first midshipman class. Could you tell they were sort of making it up as they went along, or did they have a lot of [unclear]

FH:

Well, considering everything, I think they were very well prepared. Of course there were things, like for example, as I say, it took a while to get uniforms, and every day they brought something else in the room as they were getting the furniture and the lamps and so forth.

EE:

This was something that the locals are getting used to, too, I guess, if this was the first class up there.

FH:

Well, of course the Smith College was still going on all this time. And we were amazed at the way the Smith College girls looked, because they were pretty sloppy. They were the ones that were wearing the blue jeans before any of us ever thought about wearing anything like that.

EE:

So they were ahead of their time. They were in kind of a liberal, relaxed environment next to this very disciplined group of women. How were you received by townspeople? I mean, you were the first ones—You didn't join because of the uniform.

FH:

No, that was right. We hadn't even seen one before.

EE:

And yet once you got one, nobody had seen it, so how are people responding to the sight of a woman in blue?

FH:

Well, you know, we were so busy all the time that we didn't really have any contact with the outside to amount to anything at all. But as far as I know, everybody seemed to welcome us.

EE:

Did anybody ask you, “What are you?” [chuckling]

FH:

Well, I think they knew about it.

EE:

They saw it advertised in the paper.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You were there at Smith for—you say you think it was three months?

FH:

It was three months. We were commissioned in January, early January.

EE:

I think later on it was probably standardized down to eight weeks or something as they were getting into the swing of things.

FH:

Well, I'm sure that the first two years—I don't know what happened afterward, but at that time it was a three-month program. The first month you were apprentice seaman and the next two you were a midshipman. The class that we were in was trained to work in communications, which at that time was something the navy needed officers for.

EE:

On completion of those three months, were you an ensign? Is that what it was?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

And because this was the first group, subsequently folks were assigned to different areas of work. Were you given a choice of what kind of work in the service?

FH:

No.

EE:

What did they ask of you to do? Where were you assigned after Smith?

FH:

To the Naval District Headquarters in Charleston [South Carolina].

EE:

What was your job there?

FH:

I worked in communications at the Naval District Headquarters.

EE:

This would not have been computers in 1942.

FH:

No, this was coding and decoding messages.

EE:

This was coding and decoding internally to the service?

FH:

Well, messages that were received by radio or by teletype or so forth.

EE:

This is different from being a teletype operator?

FH:

No, it didn't have anything to do with being a teletype operator.

EE:

Were you working with other women, with men? Who were your cohorts?

FH:

Well, with both.

EE:

With both. If you were in the first class, this was a new experience for all of your fellow personnel dealing with women. How did they treat you?

FH:

Very nicely. [chuckling]

EE:

You didn't have any of this “What's a woman doing here?”

FH:

Oh no.

EE:

Some people have said that in certain situations they felt resentment, because they felt that they could sense that having women there in the office meant that maybe they could be replaced by a woman and sent to fight.

FH:

Well, I'm sure that might have been true, but certainly I was not aware of it at the time.

EE:

Was your immediate CO [commanding officer] a man or a woman?

FH:

Well, I worked on a watch that—We were assigned to watches, and the person in charge of the watch was a man. He was somebody who had been down there, of course, before we came.

EE:

Did they have separate quarters on the base for you all as women?

FH:

No, the Naval District Headquarters at that time was at the Fort Sumter Hotel, which is down on the Battery. Now I think it's been made into an apartment house, but at that time it was the nicest hotel in town, which the navy had taken over for their headquarters. There weren't any quarters for women, and so we lived wherever we could. We rented houses and that kind of thing.

EE:

Right. So everybody was responsible for their own housing.

FH:

Oh yeah, right.

EE:

They didn't try to group you together?

FH:

Yeah, well, about a year later they did build some barracks down near where the yacht club is, if you're familiar with Charleston. They built the barracks because they were going to send enlisted WAVES there, and they had room in there for officers and so they wanted to fill it up. So they filled it up by your rank, and fortunately by that time I didn't have to move in. More junior officers moved in. But as more people came, then they moved out. But I lived—Well, I forgot about one thing. They did take over one of the houses on the East Battery. I forget the name of it—the Sandusky Mansion, I think, was the name of it. It was a house that was involved in the settlement of a will or something and was empty, so they moved the furniture from the hotel in as a place for us to live. And we lived there about six months, I guess, and later we rented houses in the summertime from people who went to the mountains of North Carolina and that kind of thing. [chuckling]

EE:

How long were you actually stationed down in Charleston?

FH:

I left in May of '45.

EE:

So you were there for the long haul.

FH:

Oh yes.

EE:

You went in as an ensign to that position, what rank were you when you left there?

FH:

Well, I stayed in the navy after the war for a while, and I was a lieutenant commander by the time I got out.

EE:

You stayed there for three years. My sense is probably your job description evolved during that three years. How did that grow and change?

FH:

Well, no, I continued doing the same thing, and then I was transferred to Hawaii. When I was transferred to Hawaii, I was transferred to the—I think it was the 14th Naval District Headquarters—to the radio station. The navy radio station was out from Pearl Harbor, about two miles from a town called Wahiawa.

EE:

That's one we'll have to check the spelling on. [chuckling]

FH:

Well, it's W-a-h-i-a-w-a, Wahiawa, which was in a pineapple field. It was back from the road, the highway, and it was a radio station that had just been completed before the war started, and they had housing for navy dependents there, and so there we lived in duplexes that were very nice little brick houses. The place I worked was underground, but I was doing the same thing, coding and decoding messages.

EE:

What was coded and decoded in those days? Was it all communications, because you didn't know if a German submarine was off the coast?

FH:

Well, everything that was sent by radio was coded and decoded.

EE:

That was something, I guess, that was constantly changing, to make sure that there wasn't any chance that that was going to be broken?

FH:

Well, some of it changed, not all of it.

EE:

You went to do this work in Hawaii. Were you going over to supervise? I guess there was more of a supervisory role as you continued this work?

FH:

No, I wasn't a watch officer, no. Then after the war was over, I was transferred to the Navy Yard to a relay station, a tape relay station, and there I was the watch officer.

EE:

You were, from January of '43 to May of '45, at Charleston. Is that about right?

FH:

That's right.

EE:

Then you went to Hawaii. How long were you in Hawaii? About a year, you say?

FH:

Well, I came home in July—I don't know whether it was July or August—1946.

EE:

Okay, and that's when you came back and went to the tape relay station?

FH:

No, I went after the war was over. I was still in Hawaii, but I was transferred from Wahiawa down to the navy yard sometime in the fall, I think sometime about like October.

EE:

Of '45?

FH:

Or November, and then I was there until July 1946.

EE:

Okay, and then in the fall of 1946 is when you go to the tape relay station. And where is that?

FH:

That was at the navy yard at Pearl Harbor.

EE:

Okay, in '46?

FH:

Well, I was transferred down there in the fall of 1945 and stayed until July of '46.

EE:

Okay. Where did you go in July of '46?

FH:

I was transferred to the Naval Aviation Supply Depot in Philadelphia, and I was a communications officer there.

EE:

Now that would not have been coding and decoding at that time.

FH:

No.

EE:

What would have been your duties there?

FH:

Well, I was in charge of the communication office there. They had teletypewriters. [chuckling]

EE:

Was that a supply depot for—

FH:

It was an aviation supply depot.

EE:

For all the other stations? Was it a central kind of office for where all the other stations got their materials?

FH:

Well, it was a supply depot for aviation equipment, which was sent to naval air stations or places, or ships, whatever was requested. And it was also the place for the aviation supply officer who ordered all of the aviation supplies.

EE:

Let me ask you a few things about—I've got a sense now of where your job progressed, at least at this time of the war and just after the war. Let me ask you a few things about what's going on in the world and how it's affecting your job and how your responsibilities changed. You go in, you're in Charleston in '43, and you're living throughout this time in the hotel in Charleston, you're out among the people, what's the mood of the community? You're both in the naval service, but you're not isolated, I wouldn't think, from newspapers or anything like that.

FH:

No.

EE:

Are people afraid? Are they patriotic? Are they determined?

FH:

Well, of course everybody was, I think, patriotic during the war, but they used to laugh about Charleston, that it had three flags: the Confederate and the British, the U.S. was last. [chuckling]

EE:

[chuckling] Yeah, Charleston probably was a bit different.

FH:

But that I'm sure is not true.

EE:

But you got that sense a little bit down there, kind of a detachment from it. Well, these Yankees are getting their comeuppance, I don't know. In all these positions, you had a mixture of co-workers who were both female and male, I guess.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

You were the first class, but as you're in this job I assume they're sending more WAVES down to work with you in this office, this kind of work?

FH:

Well, in the place I worked in Charleston and the place I worked in when I was at Wahiawa, there were a few enlisted persons. What the officers did was done only by officers. That was required.

EE:

Do you remember the first time you went to an officers' club? Was it a different experience, being a woman?

FH:

No. Well, the first time I went to an officers' club was in Charleston, and it was the old officers' club, as I remember, but I don't remember anything especially different about it.

EE:

It wasn't seen as a ground-breaking experience to be a woman going in there?

FH:

Oh no, no. The first time I went was like a dance Saturday night or something, which there were other women there who were not in the WAVES.

EE:

Was there a fraternization policy between male and female officers? Because this was a new experience socially for the service, did they have any kind of guidelines that you all were issued?

FH:

Well, something I can remember hearing was that they didn't want to break up any old friendships or something like that, but it was generally understood that if anybody went with somebody who was an enlisted that you didn't go around in public and that kind of thing.

EE:

Right, you didn't flaunt it.

FH:

I really don't think it happened. The way it was, most people kind of associated with the kind of people they would have associated with as civilians, and most of the people who graduated from college got a commission, you know, so that it wasn't a problem. I don't remember that there was any great to-do about it.

EE:

What was the hardest thing about your work in this military timeframe? Because you had another career afterwards, I want to separate that part and talk about that in a minute. But during the military time, during the wartime, from say through August of '45 when you were doing the decoding work and working at the navy yard in Hawaii, what was the hardest thing about what you were doing in service, either physically or emotionally?

FH:

Well, the hardest thing, we worked watches when the war was going on, which meant you worked at—you know, you came into work at eight o'clock and worked till four [p.m.], and then you were on watch later on from four till midnight, and then from midnight to eight. That was not good. After the war—Of course, I did that until I came back to the States. When I was in Philadelphia, of course, I did not. I was stationed in Philadelphia until—I think about June, May or June, I was transferred to Washington.

EE:

This would have been June of '47?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

What were you doing in Washington?

FH:

Well, I was at the—I'm trying to think of the exact title. It's since been changed. I was assigned to the—it was one of the communication offices that they had there that was a section that worked on breaking codes and ciphers, and I've forgotten the name of it now. It has another name now. But I was there only about two months, then I got transferred to the Naval District Headquarters in Norfolk, [Virginia], which I had been trying to get to all along. And there I worked in the 5th Naval District Communication Headquarters.

EE:

What was it about Norfolk that was appealing? Just the fact that there were so many naval stations?

FH:

Well, there was a lot, you know, the beach, and it was close to home, and more exciting. There were ships and so forth.

EE:

Just a lot more appealing.

FH:

And it was more like being in the navy. The other was just—

EE:

Like going to work. [chuckling]

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

There wasn't as much to distinguish from.

FH:

And there I worked watches again, but we had a place to sleep at night. If anything happened, you were right there and you could be called. I was a watch officer for the communications—They called it a communications station, but it was part of the 5th Naval District Headquarters.

EE:

You were at Norfolk for how long?

FH:

Until January of '51, I guess it was. I was stationed in the Naval Ordnance Lab at White Oak, Maryland.

EE:

You know, at first glance it doesn't seem like it has a lot to do with communications, but what—

FH:

Well, I was the communications officer there. White Oak is somewhere near Silver Spring, and all that area has really grown up now, but at the time it was built it was this big complex out kind of in the country.

EE:

There are several facilities for military testing and stuff, I guess, up in that corridor just northeast of Washington. How long were you at White Oak?

FH:

Until July of that year. I maybe have my years mixed up. I think it was 1951.

EE:

July of '51?

FH:

And then I was transferred to the naval station at Long Beach, California, where I was the assistant communication officer.

EE:

Because it's a lot bigger facility, I guess?

FH:

Well, it was a naval station—Well, at White Oak we didn't have classified messages. Anything classified was sent to us from somewhere else by a messenger. But at that time there was a navy shipyard at Long Beach, and also it was home port for a lot of ships and so forth.

EE:

Was that your last assignment, or did you have some—

FH:

No, I was transferred from there to San Diego in '53 sometime, I think it was about May, and then I was there when I got out of the navy in January of '54. And I was the communications officer at the San Diego Naval Station, and also the acting executive officer for a short time.

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

EE:

You were at San Diego and you were telling me that there were some other facilities there.

FH:

Well, it was a large organization at that time.

EE:

Well, two questions, because you've had a longer experience in military service earlier than anybody I have talked with. Were you encouraged to stay in the service after the war?

FH:

Well, I was still in the naval reserve, and they were letting all the naval reserve people out then.

EE:

Right after, when the war ended in '45, were you—Most folks signed up and their enlistment was till the end of the war. I assume that's what your initial assignment was?

FH:

No, the officers were for the duration and at the—

EE:

Leisure of the government.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you ever receive a notice of leisure, that your service was no longer needed?

FH:

Well, when I was at San Diego, that was when they were cutting down on the size of the navy. At the time that the war was over, I was out in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and so I wasn't interested in getting out right then. Otherwise, most everybody got out then as soon as they could.

EE:

I heard a woman who was stationed out there talking about all the—She ran the library out there, Charlesanna Fox. She's a WC graduate.

FH:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Do you know her?

FH:

Yes, I know her. I don't know whether she remembers me, but I know about her, yes. As a matter of fact, she had a relative who lived in Zebulon who told me to get in touch with her when I was out there. And I tried two or three times by telephone—I never could get her. The telephone systems out there were not very good at that time. They had copper wiring, I think it was, and that was affected by dampness. But I tried two or three times to get in touch with her and I never could. But I met her years later after I became a librarian.

EE:

Well, she was in charge of the Randolph Library system, I guess, for a while.

FH:

Oh yes, she's a marvelous librarian.

EE:

She was saying that a lot of the fellows would come in, and all they talked about was getting their 52/50, fifty-two weeks and fifty bucks—Fifty bucks a month, I guess, or something? And that was the attitude, just “I want to go home, I'm through with it.” But that wasn't your attitude. You wanted to stay in there. I guess you could have probably gotten out if you had wanted to, my sense is.

FH:

Oh yeah, I could have, because it was based on how many months you had active duty.

EE:

By starting so early, you had plenty of time served.

FH:

Oh yeah.

EE:

But obviously you enjoyed the work, and you enjoyed seeing places.

FH:

Oh, I did.

EE:

And you must have felt that you were valued for your work too, and your knowledge, which is also important.

FH:

Well, I guess. You know they are always cutting down on the size of the navy. They cut things down when they really need more people, kind of thing, and they have to get along. It's just like the navy is now so much smaller than it used to be, and not because they don't need more people.

EE:

Right. Were you ever in a position of physical danger? It doesn't sound like physical danger, but were you ever afraid in your service experience?

FH:

No, I can't think of anything. The only time I can remember being afraid was whether or not you were going to get back on time or something. [chuckling]

EE:

Fear of the CO more than anything else, huh?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Do you think your military experience made you more of an independent person than you were otherwise?

FH:

Well, I think so, yes.

EE:

You're at different places. I assume that by the time you get to Hawaii—you were talking about these—the kind of work—For you, it sounds like you actually are becoming a specialist, technically a specialist, to a much greater degree than many of the women I have talked to. In other words, you stayed in a particular line of work. Obviously you were good at it and you're moving to different places doing this line of work. As it develops, a lot of these women I've talked to were working in things like supply—You know, they were supply officers or they were—

FH:

Well, I would have thought that would have been a very good [chuckling] thing to be in, particularly if they were ones who went to supply corps school, then they would really be qualified. Because that was somewhat equivalent to something like an MBA [master of business administration degree] at the time.

EE:

Thats right.

FH:

Yeah, a business degree of some type, at any rate.

EE:

In every person's life there are individuals or characters who make an impression. From your military days, are there some folks from this time period, individuals that you met that stand out?

FH:

Well, yes, I made a lot of friends that I liked a lot, and of course there were always characters around, but—Yes, I would certainly say that.

EE:

Somebody has always got either a funny or embarrassing story they remember that's either happened to them personally—Usually the ones that happen to them personally they're reluctant to say, but is there a lighthearted moment that you remember from that time?

FH:

Well, I'm sure there must have been, but right now I can't think of anything.

EE:

What about songs or movies? Are there things that you see or that you remember that make you think of that time in a special way?

FH:

Well, sometimes when you see something like an old movie you saw at the time, you might think about it, but I really can't think of anything right now.

EE:

What did you all do for fun during—I mean wartime, I assume, you all are a little bit freer than the general public, because you're probably not as constrained by rationing and things like that as some of the other folks are.

FH:

Well, at the time, you had a chance to have a more sophisticated life than you had before, [chuckling] that was for sure.

EE:

Of course you had the chance, you were in places that had a lot of traffic, it sounds like. Did you have exposure to things like USO [United Service Organizations] shows and entertainment that was coming through? Certainly in places like Pearl Harbor I would think you'd have a few folks who might have stopped by.

FH:

Well, not when I was there. The only time I can remember anything like that was when I was stationed at—I guess it was at Long Beach that Bob Hope came by.

EE:

Came down the hill? [chuckling]

FH:

Yes. When I was in Norfolk, I can't remember anything at Norfolk other than things like the Barter Theatre came there and that kind of thing.

EE:

This project that we're getting started, it's called Women Veterans Historical Project, and the first flier that went out about what they put together last fall had a lot of stuff that was WAVES, some WACs [Women's Army Corps], a few people who were Red Cross—not technically military, but they traveled with the military so they saw some stuff. We had somebody who was a nurse who said, “I don't know why you talk so much about the WAVES. All they wanted to do was get a man.”

FH:

[chuckling]

EE:

Did you sense that attitude, or was that just somebody who had a bad experience?

FH:

No. I was rather surprised at that, but maybe that was her experience.

EE:

So there was not—

FH:

Well, I think one thing, I think maybe the WAVES got much more attention at the time than the navy nurses did, and I think that might have had something to do with it. I mean, they had navy nurses before. That wasn't the first time they'd seen a navy nurse, and the WAVES got so much publicity that I expect that there might have been resentment.

EE:

As if women had never been in the service before. And navy nurses had been around for a long time.

FH:

Right. When I was stationed at Long Beach I lived in the BOQ [Bachelor Officers' Quarters], and one floor was for the women there. When I went, I was the only WAVE. There were, oh, about six or seven nurses, and they were very nice.

EE:

You know, whether it's the Army-Navy football game or whatever, there's sort of a friendly rivalry between the services. Was there a friendly rivalry between the different services from the female side?

FH:

Not that I'm aware of, no.

EE:

You didn't worry about what the WACs were doing or saying?

FH:

No.

EE:

Everybody was too busy doing their work.

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Do you feel you contributed to the war effort?

FH:

Well, I think I did. I thought I worked very hard. [chuckling]

EE:

What was your typical work week like? Did you work seven-day weeks? Somebody talked about they had to work an eight-day week, where it would be a rolling day off.

FH:

Well, during the war I worked watches, and that was you worked three eight-hour watches in the daytime, then three evening watches, and then three midnight-to-eight watches.

EE:

Three first shifts, then a day off, then three second?

FH:

Yeah, that kind of thing. And there was one period in which you got off at eight o'clock in the morning, and the next day you had free, and then you didn't go to work until the next day at eight o'clock, so it really—Well, actually, it worked out well. You got off at eight o'clock in the morning, you had the next day off, and then the next day you didn't go to work until four o'clock in the afternoon, and so you really had adequate time off. And the other thing was that I was stationed where there were beaches nearby, so that you could go to the beach on your time off. That made it very nice, particularly when you were at Pearl Harbor.

EE:

And I guess it was the military experience at Pearl Harbor and the war that really turned Hawaii into a tourist place, because we didn't really discover Hawaii until—

FH:

Well, of course, I think probably the main thing was the fact you could fly over inexpensively, when that became possible. Because the Pan Am Clipper [seaplane service] was extremely expensive, you know, and when prices went down, it was so easy for people to get over there and back and they didn't have to spend days on a ship. It was much cheaper to get there.

EE:

When you traveled to and from Hawaii, that was by airplane?

FH:

I came back by ship.

EE:

And then you took a cross-country train?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

That's a long way. [chuckling]

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

About decoding work, because that's a different kind of [work]—I actually met a woman who said she did that and then she said, “I was sworn to secrecy. I couldn't tell what I was doing until just a few years ago, and now I can't remember what it was I was doing.” [chuckling]

FH:

Oh yeah.

EE:

But as far as the actual work itself, was it challenging in the fact that you had to be creative? You knew the codes and the decoding, but it was simply a matter of getting the volume of messages either encoded or decoded? Was that the challenge in the work?

FH:

Right, and being accurate and so forth.

EE:

Do you have from that time period heroes or heroines, military or in just public life?

FH:

Well, everything was kind of far off. Your heroes were President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt or Admiral [Chester] Nimitz or such, I guess.

EE:

So you had a favorable opinion of President Roosevelt?

FH:

Oh yeah.

EE:

What about Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

FH:

Oh, I have a very favorable opinion of her.

EE:

I guess you were probably there when she came to the college, were you not?

FH:

No, the only time I ever saw her was when I was in graduate school in [The University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill back in the fifties, when she came to Chapel Hill one time to speak. I saw her at the Carolina Inn cafeteria, I think. That was a long time ago.

EE:

Do you remember where you were when you heard that Roosevelt had passed away?

FH:

Well, I was in Charleston, and it seems to me I heard it sometime late in the afternoon. We were getting ready to go out to eat, and it seems to me I heard it then.

EE:

Did you know who Harry Truman was?

FH:

I don't remember at the time anything about him. I mean I knew who he was, but I really didn't know much about him.

EE:

Were you in Charleston for VE [Victory in Europe] Day?

FH:

Victory in Europe? Yes, I was there then. That was in April, wasn't it?

EE:

May, I guess.

FH:

May? Whenever it was, I was there in Charleston then.

EE:

Good celebration? Good memory?

FH:

Well, I don't remember much about people celebrating there, because you know the war was still going on for the navy. I can't remember much about that, any celebration there.

EE:

Yeah, it was sort of a truncated view. Nobody knew the atom bomb was coming. Everybody assumed there was going to be an invasion of Japan.

FH:

Oh yeah. The war was still going on.

EE:

Just like or worse than what was in Europe, because the Japanese were such savage fighters. So I think even in one of the alumni articles you talked about that the sight of fireworks at night on VJ [Victory in Japan] Day was something.

FH:

Oh yeah. I was stationed at Wahiawa when the war ended, yes.

EE:

Did they let everybody off work early, or—?

FH:

Well, no, I just remember going out and playing tennis. That was a great thing to do there because there were lighted tennis courts.

EE:

You left the service in January of '54. Did you leave it knowing what it was you wanted to do?

FH:

Oh yeah. I had applied to graduate school—Well, I entered graduate school in Chapel Hill the summer after I finished college. I went to summer school one semester, and I planned to come back and go back to graduate school under the GI Bill. In fact, I started back before I got orders to Norfolk. When I was stationed in Washington, I had written and gotten a catalog and applied. And then when I got orders to Norfolk I thought, “I'll stay in the navy, for awhile,” because Norfolk was where I wanted to be stationed. So when I came back home, I entered graduate school in January of '54.

EE:

This was at Chapel Hill?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

And what made you decide on MLS [master in library science degree]?

FH:

Well, see, I had started working on a master's degree in history in 1940, and so I finished the master's degree in history.

EE:

Oh, you got your master's in history first, okay.

FH:

And then I didn't really want to be a schoolteacher, and I thought you needed to have a Ph.D. if you were going to teach in college, and I wasn't real excited about that, and I met people in library school, and there were lots of jobs for librarians and I thought that would be interesting. So, since I was going under the GI Bill, I'll keep going. [chuckling]

EE:

Right. And you had built up gobs of—Well, the first six weeks you get a year, and then every month after that—

FH:

I think I had four years. When I was in library school, I met the law librarian at Chapel Hill who was urging people to go to law school to be a law librarian, because you needed a law degree if you wanted to be a librarian in a law school, generally speaking. So I had some time left over from the GI Bill, so I thought, “I'll start law school. I can always drop out if I don't like it.”

EE:

So you went to law school as opposed to going to a library school?

FH:

No, I went to library school first.

EE:

Okay, so you finished up your history degree and immediately went to a master's in library science, both at Chapel Hill?

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Where did you go to get your law degree?

FH:

At Chapel Hill.

EE:

At Chapel Hill. Was it called Van Hecke-Wettach [Hall] back then [where the law school is located]?

FH:

Oh no. Manning Hall is where it was.

EE:

Okay. Was Chancellor [Charles] Aycock teaching in the law school then?

FH:

He was teaching in law school, but the year I entered he was a visiting professor at the University of Virginia Law School. And while he was there he was made the chancellor, so when he came back he wasn't at the law school, he was the chancellor. Although he did teach in summer school once while I was there, but he taught a course I had already taken.

EE:

He's a great fellow.

FH:

Yeah, [chuckling] he had taught me once. When I was in high school, he did his practice teaching in my high school.

EE:

I had him for a property class at Chapel Hill.

FH:

Well, they said he was a marvelous teacher, but he was hard. But as I say, he practice—taught me in high school so I knew him. And I knew Grace [his wife]. She lived next door to me in college one year in the same dormitory.

EE:

Great. So you finished your law degree, were you immediately looking for—And the law school experience didn't make you want to become a lawyer?

FH:

No. [chuckling] No, I took the bar exam and all, but I really—I was really more interested in getting a regular job.

EE:

Right, something with a steady income stream and you don't have to beat the bushes all the time.

FH:

Yeah, and you were able to work at a certain time and leave at a certain time.

EE:

Right. Did you get hired right there at Chapel Hill once you got your degree?

FH:

Well, I was offered a job there. I'd heard about jobs, and I went for an interview—I went for two interviews. The person who was the assistant librarian was going to law school on the side. She decided to go to law school full time. You know, taking a course at a time she'd never get through, so she resigned her job and I took that.

EE:

How long were you at that work?

FH:

Four years.

EE:

Four years? And then where did you go?

FH:

I worked at the University of Chicago Law Library.

EE:

How did you make that connection?

FH:

Well, the American Association of Law Libraries has a recruitment program and people advertise for jobs, and you meet people at meetings and so forth, and Chicago was looking for somebody to be the reference librarian. So I thought that was a great opportunity, so I went to Chicago at that time.

EE:

Sure, one of the nation's top schools. How long were you at Chicago?

FH:

Three years. Well, do you still want to keep going?

EE:

Where did you end up with your—

FH:

Well, my mother wasn't well, so I came back home and got a job and worked in the library at UNCG for two years. And then I went to the library school in Chapel Hill and taught for four years. Then I went to the University of Virginia Law School for a year. I thought the librarian there was going to be retiring, since she was approaching sixty-five and they had a rule in those days that you had to retire [at sixty-five]. But she was one of these people that the rules didn't apply to, so I left there in a big hurry as soon as I could, so I stayed a year. And I was at the University of Illinois for about a year and a half, and then I was the librarian at Southern Methodist University. Then I came to Raleigh to be the North Carolina Supreme Court Librarian, and I was there for twelve years and retired.

EE:

I was going to say, finally your suitcase gets a break.

FH:

Yeah. I mean I like other places, you know, but I came back to North Carolina. I was sorry after I left SMU that I didn't stay down there, because I liked that very much. But I thought it would be nice being in Raleigh, and I had friends—At that time I had an aunt in Raleigh who was my closest relative, and she was quite elderly, and I liked being in Raleigh. And I liked working in the Supreme Court Library, but I found out that it was much more interesting to be at a law school. Of course I left thinking it would be nice not to have to put up with faculty and students, but I found out it was much more interesting working on a college campus.

EE:

Just working with younger people and all their personalities?

FH:

Well, the law schools are—you know, keeping up with what's going on. And of course the members of the North Carolina Supreme Court are all very nice, but the state supreme courts decide mostly criminal law cases and they are mostly more or less the same things, where most of the new law is federal law now, the regulations and such, you know. That's about what it amounts to. But I enjoyed the supreme court library work very much.

EE:

And I guess after a certain dollar limit they can always remove it to federal court on even civil cases.

FH:

Well, a hundred and fifty years ago it was quite different, you know, but—

EE:

Well, that's good. So you finally retired after all this going back and forth.

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

When was it that you retired?

FH:

I retired in August 1979. I retired when I was seventy.

EE:

And you stayed in this area?

FH:

I stayed in Raleigh until I came here.

EE:

Which I think you told me was two years ago?

FH:

1997.

EE:

I'm just wondering, you moved a fair amount in your military career, did that give you the courage to go and to—You know, to some degree, some folks have a built-in reluctance to change and transition. It sounds like in your career path that you have always been open to trying something new, trying something different. Is that something the military experience may have affected you?

FH:

Well, I expect that had a lot to do with it.

EE:

One of the questions that we ask folks is, “What impact did the military experience have on your life long-term?” And just from listening to you, it sounds like that may have been one thing.

FH:

Well, I think that's one thing. I think the main thing was that I went to school under the GI Bill of Rights. [chuckling] I mean, I could continue to go to school.

EE:

The GI Bill changed the way that our society looked at education, didn't it?

FH:

It really did.

EE:

And for women it made a big impact, I think. Some folks, when they look back at the experience in the forties, women in service, women in all sorts of jobs that previously were male jobs, have said, well, that really was the start of the women's movement really: equal work, equal pay, that kind of thing. Do you think of yourself as a trailblazer in that sense?

FH:

I don't think so. Not really.

EE:

Just doing your job?

FH:

Yeah.

EE:

Just three months ago, four months ago, we sent for the first time—the U.S. military sent a woman into combat, piloting a combat mission in Iraq. What do you think about that? Do you think there are jobs in the service that should be off-limits to women?

FH:

Well, I don't know exactly. You know, it all depends on—I mean, I'm not the kind who would care about flying a jet, period, but I know some people want to do that kind of thing, and so I think they should be allowed to do it. But I think that there are lots of complications when you have men and women together on ships. I think there are a lot of things like that that I probably wouldn't want to do but others might. It's just one of the things I would not be good at. I couldn't do things like that, so it doesn't interest me. But my feelings would be hurt if I wanted to and wouldn't be allowed to do it and should be permitted. But I can understand how some people might want to do it. One other thing is that things that you might want to do when you were twenty-two are not quite the same things that you want to do when you get older. [chuckling]

EE:

That's true. gone over a lot, and you've had a full career, and your military career was a wonderful jumping-off point for the rest of your life, in the way it developed and all the education and stuff. Is there anything else about your military service that I haven't asked you about that you want to share with us today? You attained the rank of lieutenant commander.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

Which I would just imagine at the time—I mean, the whole head of the WAVES when it was first started, her rank was lieutenant commander, Lieutenant Commander [Mildred] McAfee. How many lieutenant commanders were there at the time that you left the service who were women?

FH:

I don't know. At the time I left, there weren't a whole lot of people in the service. But I think anybody that had come along at the same time I did was a lieutenant commander. I stayed in the reserves after I got out, and I was always disappointed I didn't get promoted. But I was in a non-pay status and it was still at the time in which there were not many [women] commanders in the navy. So I think probably if I had been in a pay status in the naval reserve I would have gotten promoted, but I wasn't.

EE:

You were never called up for active duty as a reserve, or were you?

FH:

No. I went on two weeks annual training duty a few times, but no. There wasn't any reason to call people up.

EE:

Okay. Well, it's an impressive military career and professional career. Is there anything that you'd like to add about your service time or your experiences that we haven't talked about today?

FH:

Well, I don't think so. I think one of the most lasting things was that I made a lot of good friends in the navy.

EE:

And to keep up with folks who are from all over.

FH:

Yes.

EE:

I have a woman who I interviewed who literally freed the fellow who trained her for her job to fight.

FH:

Oh really?

EE:

And for fifty years they exchanged Christmas cards. And finally a year or two ago she went out to Hawaii and met him after fifty years. And there are a number of people who keep up with their friends. And especially during that war experience, I guess just military experience generally, when you've shared something, it's a bonding thing that stays with you.

FH:

It really is.

EE:

Well, that's great. Well, thank you for taking the time to do this today. I appreciate it.

[End of Interview]