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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Lucy Phillips Pugh, 1999

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Object ID: WV0074.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Lucy Pugh’s early life and her service with the Coast Guard SPARS (from Semper Paratus-Always Ready) during World War II.

Summary:

Pugh discusses her life before the war, including her father’s general store; playing basketball in high school; working in a cotton mill; and four of the eight children in her family joining the military during World War II.

Pugh remembers her decision to join the Coast Guard; her time in basic training, including the daily routine, obstacle courses, and drills; getting her uniform; and women not being allowed to work on the ships. She discusses working in a machine shop in St. Louis; being transferred to sentry and switchboard operating duties; living in a converted woman’s club with little privacy; free entertainment; and saving leave time for a trip home at Christmas. Pugh also recalls not becoming a radio operator; playing on the SPARS basketball team; rushing back to the base on D-Day; and her discharge.

Other topics include the Roosevelt family; the emotional impact of combat on her brothers; her perspective of the German and Japanese troops; the definition of a hero; and the benefits she gained from her service.

Creator: Lucy Phillips Pugh

Biographical Info: Lucy Pugh (1922-2014) of Bennett, North Carolina, performed sentry and switchboard duties as a member of the Coast Guard SPARS (Semper Paratus-Always Ready) from 1943 to 1945.

Collection: Lucy Phillips Pugh 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'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and today is May 6, 1999, and I'm in Bennett, North Carolina, at the home of Lucy Phillips Pugh. Mrs. Pugh, thank you so much for having us here today. This is going to be an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project of the iniversity. As I told you, Mrs. Pugh, we're going to ask you thirty-odd questions or so, and the toughest one is the very first one. Hate to do that to you, but the first question I ask everybody is where were you born and where did you grow up?

LP:

I was born right here in Bennett, in this house, and I grew up right here.

EE:

Wonderful. This has been in the family for a long time?

LP:

My father built it. It's eighty-six years old.

EE:

Have any brothers and sisters?

LP:

I have four brothers and four sisters.

EE:

You were in the middle, I assume, as a safe bet.

LP:

Close. I have two brothers younger, and of course the others were older than I.

EE:

What did your folks do for a living?

LP:

My father had a store, a country store, and he also bought and sold produce and cows and this type thing. Back then, you couldn't go out and buy beef and all like you can now.

EE:

Right, right. And not everybody had a corner grocery store like they do now.

LP:

That's right, that's right.

EE:

How many folks live in Bennett now?

LP:

I would say five or six hundred. I'm not sure. That is not right in Bennett, but it would be kind of surrounding.

EE:

Right, all of the neighboring—Is it about what it was back when you were little, growing up, or was it a bigger place then?

LP:

No, no. It was a more bustling little town when I was growing up, and of course there was a lot more people, because there was a lot more children. We have very few children in Bennett anymore. It's the older ones that's left. We have some young people. Of course, when I was growing up, we had, most of the families were large, and it made a lot of difference. Now they don't, you know, people just don't have large families, very seldom.

EE:

Your mom was, I guess, taking care of those kids.

LP:

Mama was a housewife and took care of us, yes.

EE:

You told me before we started that you actually graduated from high school here in Bennett.

LP:

I did.

EE:

Was that an eleven-year high school or twelve?

LP:

It was eleven, and the year after I graduated, it became a twelve-year.

EE:

So that was probably, what, '36 or something?

LP:

1940. I graduated in '40.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school?

LP:

I liked to go to school. I wasn't too crazy I had to study.

EE:

I know there's a distinction there. You liked seeing your friends at school.

LP:

Right. I had a lot of friends, but I wasn't too crazy about studying, but I made it through.

EE:

Some of the pictures you showed me says you probably liked playing sports at school, too.

LP:

I did. I played basketball for five years, from the time I was eligible to play till I graduated.

EE:

So they had a separate girls' team?

LP:

Right. Back when I was there, we had a girls' team. We only went halfway.

EE:

Half-court game.

LP:

Half-court, right.

EE:

And they still did that for women's basketball up until about twenty years ago, and they finally switched over and made it a full court game.

LP:

We did have a good team. We did. A very good team.

EE:

How many folks went to that school, probably?

LP:

Well, I can't tell you how many went, but I can tell you how many—?

EE:

How many graduated with you?

LP:

Eleven graduated in my class. We had two boys that didn't graduate, so we had thirteen. Bad number. The two boys needed to graduate.

EE:

So the rest of them were girls?

LP:

All girls. Eleven girls.

EE:

Oh, my. I was going to say, that made the senior prom a little tough.

LP:

It did, it did.

EE:

Well, tell me, what did you do after you finished school?

LP:

Well, as soon as I got out, of course, I had to go to work. There were so many of us then. I went to work up here at Coleridge. It was a cotton mill. And I worked there for two years and then I worked at Robbins, in a mill, for about a few months and I decided there had to be something better in this world, and so I went in the military.

EE:

So from about '42, and what I got here says you joined in—?

LP:

'43.

EE:

—November of '43. Let me ask you about a couple of things that had happened in the world, in between. You graduated in '40, and my guess is, is that most teenagers don't really think much about the world, what's going on in the world, while they're in high school. But do you remember where you were when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor?

LP:

Yes, I do. A friend of mine and myself had been, you know, like just wandering around, and we came up, and my parents had heard the news, and they told me. I was right here when I heard it.

EE:

Did everybody know what that meant?

LP:

Well, my father did, because he wasn't in World War I, but he had friends, a lot of friends, that was in World War I. He was terribly upset because at the time I already had a brother that was in the military, the next older than me, and, of course, he had three more boys, and he was terribly upset. But he knew what it was, and of course the older ones that remembered World War I had only been, what, eighteen years, twenty, something like that.

EE:

About twenty-four.

LP:

Yes, I was here, and my parents were really upset. And of course, I had three brothers that served, and myself, so there was four of us gone at one time, in the military.

EE:

So you had the one brother who was already in beforehand. I know that it was a lot of anxiety, I guess, before Pearl Harbor, about whether or not America ought to have a thing to do with it, because it really was all in Europe then. But that sort of changed the situation. Well, how soon after that did your brothers join the service?

LP:

Well, now my, like I said, my oldest brother, not oldest, the one next to me, joined, because like I say, we came up during the Depression; it was hard. And then I joined, and then my brother next to me joined the Marines. I joined the Coast Guard and he joined the Marines, and then my youngest brother joined the [U.S.] Army.

Of course, they were on the verge of being drafted, and they had a choice. When you were drafted, you had a choice. So he went into the Army, my youngest brother. Then when he served that time, he came out and went back into the [U.S.] Air Force. But he didn't retire. He only stayed, I'm not exactly sure how many years, but anyhow, we were all four in there at one time.

EE:

And all over the world.

LP:

Now, my brother older than me was in—he fought in Germany. He fought in the Black Forest, he fought there. And my brother next to me, whom we lost last year, and he fought—he was on the Iwo Jima. He was in the South Pacific. And then my youngest brother was in France. So we were scattered everywhere.

EE:

And you ended up in St. Louis?

LP:

I ended up in St. Louis, and I of course went to boot camp in West Palm Beach, and then I—

EE:

Let me slow down and I'll get you there, because several things that are unusual, because you were working at a job in the mill. My folks' families come from that area, did that same kind of thing. A lot of people were doing it. What was it that got you interested in the service as a way out of mill work? Was it patriotic fever or was it just better pay?

LP:

Well, I'll tell you, there were several little things. I've heard many of my friends say, “I went in just from patriotism,” which is wonderful. I can't say that was my whole thing, because like I say, I lived here and had always lived here. Well, I saw no way out of here.

At that time, there was very little transportation. We had very little news, had radio, so that was my way, and I thought I would enjoy it. It was something I thought I'd enjoy, because I'd always been athletic and lean. So I thought, well, that would be the best thing and that's how come me to join. And another thing, too, I hated the mill. I didn't like that work.

EE:

Were you still living at home when you worked at the mill?

LP:

I did, yes. And of course, like I say, I went to work up in a cotton mill, and I didn't like that. And I got a little better job in a silk mill. They called them silk mills—rayon—so anyhow, and it was on the third shift. I went in one night and I said, “There has to be something better in this world than this,” and I didn't go back.

EE:

What made you think about the Coast Guard as opposed to the WACs [Women's Army Corps], the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy]?

LP:

Well, now, I'm going to be honest with you. When I went to join, I intended to join the Navy. Well, I went to Thomasville with this friend, and he was delivering some furniture up there, and I rode with him and I told him what I was going to do, and there was a Coast Guard recruiting, SPAR [Coast Guard Women's Reserve, from “Sempar Paratus-Always Ready”]recruiting office, right past where he was delivering furniture. So I went in there and talked to them. Well, of course, they were interested, they were recruiting. And so I joined. I went ahead right there and joined.

EE:

You took it as a sign. Since it was right there, maybe that was the one to do.

LP:

Right there. I liked what she told me, and it was small, and I thought, “Well, that would be my best opportunity,” so I joined.

EE:

Did you all talk about the kind of work you might do once you're in?

LP:

Right, but of course I didn't end up doing it.

EE:

Most folks don't.

LP:

They tell you a lot.

EE:

What did she tell you that you might be doing?

LP:

Oh, they told me, you know, that I'd go to school and all this stuff. Well, I didn't. But anyhow, I enjoyed—I did—when I got in, like I say, I didn't do what I thought I would do, but I was happy with what I did do. I did—well, they call it “guard duty” now, but we called “sentry duty.”

EE:

What did your folks think about you joining the service?

LP:

My mother didn't really care, and my father, at that time, had passed away.

EE:

Were you old enough to not have to have a signature? I think you had to be twenty-one.

LP:

Yes, I was twenty-one.

EE:

So you had just passed that age.

LP:

My mother knew that I wasn't happy just here, and with the work I was doing. And I reckon she knew deep down that I was better qualified for something better. We couldn't afford to go to college; we didn't have the money. And of course, like I said, I wasn't ever really interested in doing a lot of hard studying. But anyhow, she didn't really discourage me. She just made sure that that's what I wanted.

EE:

And how about other family and friends? I mean, you come back and you're the first girl from around here going into the service.

LP:

The only one. I'm the only one.

EE:

What did the neighbors—what was that talk about?

LP:

I have no idea. It didn't really bother me.

EE:

Didn't really bother you. Wasn't going to listen to them anyway.

LP:

I've never been one that's really bothered about what everybody said. Of course, they thought it was something when I came in in my uniform.

EE:

Most women who joined found that when they signed up, the local papers made a big deal about it, because that was a new thing to have—

LP:

Yes, but see, we didn't have a paper, and of course, like I say, I didn't stray far from here. But anyhow, I—

EE:

Where did you actually go when—you went to the recruiting office in Thomasville. Where did you have to report to?

LP:

We reported to Greensboro, and there was, I think, six [of us]. There was a girl from Thomasville. Her mother ran a rooming house where these recruiters had a room, so she joined, the daughter joined, and a girl from Greensboro, Fran Simpson, but she's Whalen now. She's in Massachusetts. And a girl from—she's near Concord, I'm not exactly sure, but she's in Rowan County, and two girls from, I think, Warsaw. They're in the eastern part of the state. One was a Worley, and one's first name was Ann, and I cannot remember—Smith, I think, but I'm not sure of that. But we all went at the same time. There were six of us, I think.

EE:

So the SPAR recruiter that was in Thomasville, that was simply a stop on their calendar. They didn't have a permanent office there, they were just going through.

LP:

Well, I think they had—well, it's there so long, maybe thirty days, but so long. And I just happened to hit one of the days they was there. But anyway, they sent us to Palm Beach from Greensboro. We got to train in Greensboro. Of course, it was really exciting.

EE:

Palm Beach has a big name value now. Did it have a big name value then? That was kind of the rich man's training ground, wasn't it?

LP:

It was, it was. We went to—and, you know, I know it when I hear it, but they gave us a Christmas party on this—this man did his estate, and he was killed. It was a mysterious thing. And I cannot remember that man's name, but it was a mysterious thing. I don't think they ever did, but anyhow, they gave a, oh, there's several, there was men and women. They gave us a Christmas party on their estate, and then we had a party on a big estate right on the beach, and one of our girls was killed. We marched to here. It was near, and a car hit one of them, hit one of our girls. I don't know or don't remember her name.

EE:

While she was in formation?

LP:

While she was in formation. I don't know how they just hit one, but they just hit one and killed her.

EE:

Good gracious. Well you know, you hear that every now and then, about somebody just ignoring a road block or something, or not watching.

LP:

I don't know if she got out of formation. See, she was either in the front of the—anyhow, you know, she was not near where I was. But anyhow, she was killed.

EE:

Tear up everybody emotionally to have that happen.

LP:

Yes. Of course, they didn't even tell us. She wasn't killed right away. They didn't tell us because we were on our way to a party. There was nothing we could do.

EE:

When you're there and you go down, are you on a train with other people going to this—did you find as you were getting on, people stopping and getting on, all going to the same place?

LP:

Yes. We had, I cannot remember exactly how many, but we had, we called them “carryalls.” Now they call them vans. You remember. Anyhow, by the time we got there, we had one of those full, so there must have been about maybe twenty that we picked up on the way.

EE:

This is the first time, probably, you've been away from home for an extended period of time.

LP:

First time. Now, I'd been not far, because I had a sister that was not here, and I'd visited her and something like that, and I'd been to Tennessee. That was a big deal. But I had not been very far, so this was very exciting.

EE:

This was exciting, just to go—

LP:

Very exciting. And going to Florida, of all places, it was very exciting. And then of course, when we got to the hotel, it was really—

EE:

This was for enlisted SPARS?

LP:

Right.

EE:

So your basic training was, what, about six to eight weeks long? How long was it?

LP:

I've been trying to think. I think it was—I've been trying to really pin it down. I think it was from November to January. I know I was there at Christmas, I remember that. And then we were sent to St. Louis. Well, and then we had them going all along the line. We had, you know, people—

EE:

People dropping off—

LP:

Along the line. And then I know I had a friend from Mobile, Alabama. We couldn't get off of the train. I mean, we could get off at the station, and her family met her at the station. This is one thing that stands out in my mind, because, you know, in Mobile, Alabama, and she was from Mobile, Alabama, and I've thought of her so often and wondered—Brunson. Jewel Brunson was her name. And I have no idea whatever went with her. But these things that copy in your mind, you know, and you wonder, well, wonder what became of them. Because, of course, we're all older now and I'm sure we've lost so many, because I lost three friends in one year. I mean, it's to be expected. You're only here for so long.

EE:

Well, let me ask you about some of those times, because you told me already that this was a great time in your life.

LP:

It was. Exciting.

EE:

You're checking into a first-class hotel for basic training. Some folks, when they go to basic, they are in a barracks. Some are in apartments. What does the inside of a room look like where you're staying? How many other women are in a room with you?

LP:

I had two. Two other ladies. One of them was from Joliet, Illinois. Her name was Ramona Watts. The other one was from Chicago and her name was Eleanor Shriner. And they were my roommates.

EE:

You all got along all right?

LP:

Real good. I think everybody got along all right, I really do. I don't remember anybody arguing.

EE:

Are most of the women who are doing this about your age, early twenties?

LP:

Yes. Now, Fran was a little older. Some of them were a little older, but there weren't any, at that time, younger, because twenty-one was the—

EE:

That was the low—

LP:

You had to be twenty-one when I went. Now, they did lower the age, but when I went in, you had to be twenty-one, but you could be older.

EE:

Were most of these women, women who were coming straight from work, or were they college folks, or what were the—

LP:

Well, now, we had some college ones. Janet Holly had finished college. She was our athletic director in boot camp. But now, she was not an officer because she went for boot camp to OCS [Officer Candidate School], because after she finished, some of the officers, our officers that were over us, went to Chicago to some type meeting. And she was there, because she asked about me and asked them to give me her love, and she had become an officer.

EE:

Well, it seemed like I'm remembering somewhere where the Coast Guard was the only branch that trained their women officers at their academy, that you got to go to, where was it, New London, or wherever it was?

LP:

New London.

EE:

But all the enlisted folks, was Palm Beach the one place they went for training, or were there other sites where they were trained?

LP:

There was Hunter College. Hunter College. Well, it's in that book I have—

EE:

Yes, Hunter College up in—

LP:

In New York, and there was two places. There was another place in New York. There was two—see, they disbanded it, Biltmore, and then they sent them back to New York, a place. It's in that book and I cannot remember, but one was Hunter College, because I had a friend there.

EE:

Some of the WAVES trained at Hunter, I remember that.

LP:

They trained with the WAVES, and they wore WAVE uniforms, because we were brand new.

EE:

Right, right. Were you one of the first classes? I know they didn't authorize it until a year before.

LP:

They authorized that year, and I was in boot camp. They had come from Hunter College. I was reading it, all this is in that book. And I went in in—I went in in August. Is that what—I'm sure—

EE:

You've got November as when you went in.

LP:

Okay, November. Okay, I went in in November. I think the first class, now I'm going to guess at this, but like I say, it's in that book. But I believe the first class was June.

EE:

Okay, so it wasn't that long.

LP:

It wasn't that long, no, because you see, by the time you go six weeks, six weeks, six weeks—

EE:

It's just a couple of classes.

LP:

That's right.

EE:

Were your instructors mainly women or men?

LP:

All women.

EE:

All women?

LP:

All women.

EE:

Were they all already Coast Guard folks or were they Navy WAVES?

LP:

They were Coast Guard. They were recruited from—now, our captain—now, the ones at Biltmore were recruited from different walks of life, and I cannot tell you because it's been too long and I was in boot camp. You don't get close to officers in boot camp. But I know that they were really nice, they were. I cannot say anything other than we were treated, but we had boot camp just like the men. Of course now it wasn't as rough, I'm sure, but we had an obstacle course, like I showed you there. We had an obstacle course.

EE:

Was that on the ground of the hotel?

LP:

No. We marched to the beach. It was at the beach, and we had to march to the beach every day for our training, and we had obstacle courses, we had drills, we had, well, everything that would make, shape you up. Get you into the—

EE:

Tell me about a typical day, then. Would you start off with—what did you all—5:30 in the morning?

LP:

Five-thirty in the morning reveille. We would go get dressed, we'd go eat our breakfast. Then we would start our day, and if any of them had duty, barracks duty, they would go to that. Some of them would have, the ones that had been there a while. And then the rest of us would start our activities for training, our training activities.

We either had classes. We'd have classes and then we'd have our outdoor activities, our obstacle courses. Some of them had rowing courses. The boatswain's mate, the one that was going for boat, different things. And then we would be all day. We weren't allowed to leave the base at all, the barracks at all, except on weekends we would get leave.

EE:

And then you had to be in uniform, I guess.

LP:

Had to be in uniform and we had to be in at a certain time. We could not be past, I think it was five o'clock, and I think we could leave—now, I'm guessing here because it's been too long, but I think it was eight o'clock, and we had to be in by five. When we came in the barracks, we had to be just exactly like we were going aboard ship. We had to ask permission to come aboard. We had to salute the officer of the day, and whatever, just like we were going aboard ship.

EE:

Were you trained to work on ships? Were you allowed—it seems like I read some place where SPARS were actually not allowed to be on ships.

LP:

No, we were not on ships. The only things that I would say would equal would be our boatswain's mates, our coxswains. They didn't work on board ship, but we did have ones that learned to row the boats and this type thing. But our boatswain's mates and our coxswains, they did different jobs. Now, I know our clothing distributor, she was a coxswain, and then she became a boatswain's mate.

And then we had storekeepers, and of course they—we had a store, and we had a store where we went and say, look, and this girl did—we had two or three storekeepers that did this. And of course, the yeomen. Our biggest thing was yeomen. They took over the paperwork.

And then we had—well, we had parachute riggers. I didn't know any of these. Of course, they were somewhere else. Where I was, we had—and when we was in boot camp, we had bakers, cooks, storekeepers, boatswain's mates, yeoman. That's all I remember right off. Of course, seamen.

EE:

It sounded like—you know, there was actually a special on the history channel not too long ago called Free A Man to Fight, and I guess that was the general idea for most of the services.

LP:

That was what we were supposed to do, yes.

EE:

You were to free up those positions in the Coast Guard where they could have men going to fight.

LP:

Right. See, our girls—of course, now like I say I more or less worked in the barracks and in headquarters, but most of the girls that were sent other places—of course, now you know, St. Louis is on the Mississippi River. We had barges and whatevers coming up and down the river. That was headquarters, 9th District Headquarters. And the ones there, more or less, the men that left there went on to the Mississippi, on barges and on the Coast Guard boats, and different things like that. And more or less, the ones that freed them up were the yeomen that took over the paperwork, the ones that took over the paperwork.

EE:

So in the Coast Guard, you weren't necessarily freeing men to go overseas to fight, but to do other jobs that were needed.

LP:

Well, now, a lot of the Coast Guard went overseas, but you see, the Coast Guard is more or less just what it says, Coast Guard.

EE:

That's right. And that was very important because there was submarine traffic off the coastline, all over the place, and the fear of what was going on.

LP:

Right, right. And just like there, they would bring the barges up from up the Mississippi. They'd bring them up from Mississippi and Memphis and different places. They'd bring them up the Mississippi. Of course now, we had Navy people, too. Men, not women. But more or less, the Coast Guard did this, because this is more or less Coast Guard, pertaining to the Coast Guard.

EE:

And the Coast Guard, the SPARS were not officially part of the Coast Guard, they were sort of a reserve?

LP:

We were reserve. Now they are Coast Guard.

EE:

Now they're part of it.

LP:

My daughter was Coast Guard, but we were SPARS. We were reserve. We were Coast Guard reserve.

EE:

What did you think of that name, SPARS? It's just a neat name.

LP:

It's semper paratus, “always ready.” That is the Coast Guard motto. That is SPARS.

EE:

That's great, that's great. And I think it was, Dorothy Stratton was the one—

LP:

She was the main one and she was—they got her. She was a professor of something in, I think, in New York. As far as I know, she's still living. Now we had our reunion in—our last reunion was in Washington. It was our fiftieth reunion, and she was there.

EE:

Great. Did she come during your basic, to review everybody?

LP:

No.

EE:

So that was the first time you had seen her?

LP:

I guess she did, but I cannot remember. She did come, but I can't remember. But of course, she was young then. But now when we were in Washington, she was about one hundred [years old]. I think she's ninety-eight. But she was getting, you know, kind of feeble. But anyhow, she was there and I think, the last I heard, she was living in California. And she has been to—of course, that was our last reunion, but she came to—well, she came to one in Oregon. She came to a lot of our reunions.

We had a lot of reunions. Well, we used to have them every three years. Started out every five years, then we went to every three years, and then I believe the last one was two years, because it was our fiftieth. But we haven't had one since. Now, we have had many.

Our 200th, the Coast Guard's 200th anniversary, there was a hundred—this one lady—when we had the one in St. Louis, she had a sign, the one I showed you there. And all that would like to march in the anniversary, and it was a hundred of us marched. Now this was our, I believe it was after our fiftieth anniversary so, there was one hundred women that was in the SPARS marched in this. It's been, I think, it was four years. I'm not going to say that for sure, but four or five years. I should have looked that up. But anyhow, we marched two miles.

EE:

Which, given everybody's age, that's wonderful.

LP:

That's right.

EE:

Well, let me ask you. Then after basic, you were stationed in St. Louis, and that's where you served your entire rest of your—

LP:

The entire time.

EE:

Okay. Let me ask you a few other things about the basic experience, because I haven't talked to anybody who's been to SPAR basic.

LP:

Really?

EE:

And just knowing from other experiences that women have had with basic, I imagine you didn't have a uniform when you showed up. Everybody's, what, told what to bring.

LP:

We didn't take anything. We weren't to bring anything. We went through—the day we got there, we went through clothing. They looked at you and told you what size and they gave it to you. And I could tell you the size I wore then, size ten. And they tell you what size and they give it to you. They gave you a whole outfit. You know what I mean? They gave us our fatigues, our work clothes, and they gave us our dress uniform. They gave us our shoes, hats, gloves, shirts, everything, and then we put them on and we wore them from then on.

EE:

And this was—of course, wintertime in Florida isn't the worst place to have winter, but this is your rule dress uniform?

LP:

Right, right.

EE:

And did they only give you the summer uniform, too?

LP:

They gave us a dress uniform, our blues, and then they gave us a seersucker. And we had like a jumpsuit. It was shorts.

EE:

Like culottes, right.

LP:

And that's what we wore for drills and for our training.

EE:

You showed me a picture of you on a basketball team. Was that at basic or was that later on?

LP:

That was in St. Louis.

EE:

So did you all have any kind of organized sports or free time in basic?

LP:

We had some free time but it wasn't organized.

EE:

It was mainly drill and classes, drill and classes.

LP:

Right. And when we had free time, it was more or less visiting and getting acquainted.

EE:

And I imagine you were probably writing some letters home, telling folks what's going on?

LP:

Yes, yes. Of course, like I said, it was very exciting, because it was just something that you hear about, but you never dream you will be doing and to me, it was just very exciting. I was very excited.

EE:

You leave from basic and your rank when you leave is?

LP:

Seaman second [class], and I got very little higher than that. Well, I was really handicapped because, like I say, I finished school here. We had no kind of—we didn't have typing, we had no kind of training. So I was really handicapped, because most all the girls came from larger towns and larger cities. Well, you know, they had typing, they had all this stuff. So I just didn't have the qualifications that I needed, really needed, and of course, coming from a small town, I really didn't know how to go about getting all the stuff I could have. Now I know how to do it, but then I didn't. You're young, you don't know.

EE:

But what was it that you were assigned to do then in St. Louis?

LP:

Well now, when I got to St. Louis, I worked in a garage, believe it or not, and this girl from Minnesota and I—[unclear] stand out in the garage, she worked in, I kind of want to say International Harvester. Anyhow, it was a machine place, and I had worked in a machine place.

EE:

Right, with the mill work. I see.

LP:

Right. And you see, that was really our qualifications, that's what we had done, and so that's what they picked up on.

EE:

You're thinking, “Well, this is what I wanted to get away from.”

LP:

That's right. So they put us in there and we worked there and it was dirty work. But anyhow, one of the drivers that drove the officers, he happened to drive our captain one day and he told her, he said, “You really should get those girls—that's not a good place for ladies—and transfer them.” So she transferred us both out of there.

Then I went to the barracks. I did sentry duty, I did switchboard operating, and just things like this that were needed. And then, you know, the elevators, we didn't have the pushbutton. We run the elevators. And things like this that was there that needed doing. We did this. We didn't actually do maintenance work. We did have maintenance crews and sometimes we would be assigned if they were shorthanded. But I did more or less maintenance work and switchboard operating, and some days I would be assigned to the elevator.

EE:

You showed me some pictures when we got started about you all were living in an apartment building in downtown St. Louis?

LP:

It had been a woman's club, and that reverted back. It was a woman's club and it was five floors and they had taken out all the partitions. It was just, the floors were just—

EE:

Open.

LP:

Open. And we had an office. We had girls that was on duty that kept everything going and telephones and all that. And then we had double bunks.

EE:

They didn't have a lot of privacy, it doesn't sound like.

LP:

No privacy. Very, very little privacy. And of course, we didn't pay attention to it. We were young. It didn't bother. And we had a swimming pool in the basement. On the third floor was our dining and it was huge. And then on the first and second floor was our rated people, the ones that had, already been, got rates and whatever, and some were up high, but that was more or less our yeomen and storekeepers and this type thing.

EE:

All that were in here were SPARS?

LP:

SPARS, that's all.

EE:

So there was no men, this was not your workplace, but this is where all the SPARS who worked out of—and everybody's working at the 9th District Headquarters?

LP:

Right.

EE:

Is that building right down there on the river?

LP:

No. Now, not all of them were there. Some of them were there on Ferry Street. That was the supply depot. Some of them worked down there. Some of them worked in the barracks, and the rest of us worked at headquarters, which it was the old post office building. And now they have redone it. You know, they have shops and this type thing in it.

EE:

So this was where all the SPARS who were working anywhere in the St. Louis area were housed?

LP:

Were housed at this one place, yes. And it was, I believe, I want to say three hundred SPARS in there.

EE:

That's a pretty fair number of the entire national—

LP:

And it was, like I say, five floors. Of course, now one floor was the eating place and one floor was our—in other words, we had three floors, but one floor was our recreation place and one was our dining room and kitchen.

EE:

So that's about a hundred women per floor then?

LP:

Yes.

EE:

And you were showing me that you all used the vantage of the fifth floor roof just to go sunning on?

LP:

Sunning on, right.

EE:

So you get to St. Louis and it's wintertime. Coming from Florida, that's got to be depressing.

LP:

Right. It was.

EE:

Big change.

LP:

Yes, but still exciting because—we banged into that because it's new, right.

EE:

Well, it's a big city.

LP:

This is new, and we were right downtown. Our barracks were right downtown. We walked to the headquarters. It was about, I'd say, four blocks.

EE:

When did they build that arch out in St. Louis? Was that there then? I think it might have came afterwards.

LP:

No, that came long after. And we did have some exciting—now, we had—there wasn't a whole lot. At the time, we didn't make any money. Most of the things were free. The ball games.

EE:

Was it free because you were wearing uniforms?

LP:

Right. We had the Browns, the St. Louis Browns. They even had the [World] Series there while I was there. But now this is one thing I was never really—I went to some games, but I was never—and another thing, too, it was hard to get the Series tickets, because, on account of the officers. See, they got them and they did whatever, and a lot of them gave them to men officers and all that was really interested, which is fine with me, because they were really interested in it.

But anyhow, they played the Series there, and it was the St. Louis Browns. I did go to some games but I don't know, I like people I know, you know, home games and all. I enjoyed them, but anyhow, that was there and we had, of course, the Mississippi, they had the Admiral, which is the cruise boat on the Mississippi. We went on that. They had that much we could do, and they had the Coconut Grove. South Pacific was going on when we were there.

Of course, like I say, everything was free to us. All we had to do was be in uniform. It was free. We didn't pay for anything, like any entertainment. We didn't pay for any entertainment. And then of course, we had a park. We had Forest Park, which we went to a lot. We could ride the streetcar out there, free. We did more or less—well, it was free because we didn't have any money.

EE:

How was the pay as a SPAR, compared to what you were making at home?

LP:

I got $54 a month at the end. That was what it was.

EE:

Plus room and board, I guess.

LP:

Oh, of course, room and board and freebies, you know, your little freebies, your perks. But anyhow, it never seemed to bother us. I don't remember nobody—

EE:

Nobody complaining?

LP:

Nobody complaining. You see, I don't know the others' situation, but the ones I did know came from about the surroundings I did. They knew there was no money at home, you know what I mean?

EE:

You have a roof over your head and [unclear] and some fun things to do. It wasn't too bad.

LP:

Right, right. And good food. I mean, they had excellent, excellent food. And Thanksgiving and Christmas, they had everything. I mean, you know, they had what people else had rationed.

EE:

That's right. That's one thing about being in the service, that you didn't have to have the rations.

LP:

You didn't have nothing rationed, and you see, we had—I know the first Christmas I came home from St. Louis, I brought two boxes or three boxes of candy. It was rationed. I brought two or three boxes of bar candy, like Milky Ways and whatever, home for that Christmas. I mean, my family had fun, because they'd been rationed. You couldn't get but just a little at a time.

EE:

That was Christmas of '44, I guess, you got to come home.

LP:

Yes.

EE:

You worked with, on your job—when you were at the barracks, you were at the barracks for—the women's barracks, is that where you were?

LP:

Right.

EE:

But I guess with sentry duty and switchboard, how often did you work with men?

LP:

Now, I had sentry duty at headquarters, too. I worked at barracks, then I was transferred to headquarters, and I did sentry duty. And there, it was more or less all men. I mean, the women were the workers, but more or less the people we served were men.

EE:

COs [commanding officers] were always men?

LP:

Always men. Because coming and going, transferred in and transferred out, they had to come through the headquarters.

EE:

Did you get a sense that they treated you professionally?

LP:

Very well.

EE:

You had no problems then?

LP:

No problems.

EE:

Because some of the branches—I think the WACs started off on an especially bad foot. They got resented that they were coming, because basically they were freeing up folks who didn't want to go to fight, to go fight. They made them go fight, so there was a lot of resentment on that score. But you didn't feel that?

LP:

No. I really don't think we were ever resented by the Coast Guard. I really don't. Now I know, as far as I'm concerned, I never saw any difference, you know what I mean. They treated us just real good. And I never felt that they resented us being there. They were always very nice.

EE:

Sounded like they may have—the one fellow who recommended that you all get out of the mechanics may have even bent the rules the other way—

LP:

He did.

EE:

—and said, “There's some things that may be—this isn't ladies' work.” Even though you were there to do jobs, they still had a sense that maybe some things ladies shouldn't do.

LP:

What he told her, he said—I didn't know this for a long time, till she told me. And he told her that he just felt like it was too dirty. It was all men. He didn't feel like we needed to be there. And he said, “I just think that they ought to be transferred out of there,” and of course, he was talking to our captain. And so I reckon she had to find a place to put us, and she transferred us to the barracks, and in that way she could always use us fair doing it, you know, somewhat. But he was just—the last I heard, he's in Philadelphia and he is involved in old cars. He published the magazine on these old cars.

EE:

When he was talking about mechanics, he knew his stuff then.

LP:

He was a dealer. He was a dealer before he came in, so he was not just a—

EE:

So he at least brought the expertise.

LP:

Right. He was not just a volunteer. He volunteered for the Coast Guard, I reckon, so he wouldn't have to go overseas. You know, we used our own imagination, and a lot of them—the ones that had a lot of money—we figured why they were in the Coast Guard, you know what I mean. Because they knew they might go overseas, but it was a slim chance.

EE:

Well, so maybe the folks who you were working with in the Coast Guard, a lot of them had a lot on the ball and were trying to dodge things.

LP:

This is what I'm talking about. And we did have quite a few that we realized that were in better situations than we were when we left.

EE:

Maybe from families of privilege that said, “This is my service, but I'm not going to be able to, I'm not going overseas.”

LP:

Right. Well, I know we had two. We had one from Louisville, Kentucky, and his father was—well, he worked for a penny a year. He came in. He was in reserves and he was an officer and he worked for a penny a year, so you can imagine. And his son was in the garage. He didn't work there, he was more or less a run-and-get-it, you know what I mean. But anyhow, we had some like that, which was, now they were nice. We didn't know this. Somebody else told us this. It wasn't from their actions.

EE:

It wasn't from their attitudes?

LP:

No, no, no.

EE:

Everybody was professional. It doesn't sound like you were, but maybe you can correct me. Being in the big city and off away from home, were you ever afraid?

LP:

No. I'm not a scaredy person in the first place, but I was never afraid. But now, we did not travel alone. We did not. Of course, there was no cars. We rode the streetcar. I mean, there was cars, you know what I mean, but we rode the streetcar.

EE:

Did you get to travel much outside of St. Louis? Did you ever go home with some folks?

LP:

Went to Chicago with a friend a couple of times. Couple of times, that's all.

[Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

EE:

You were talking about [when] you took your leave.

LP:

See, we had thirty days leave, so when I took my leave, I took it and come home at Christmas and stayed thirty days. That's always been a big time here at this house, Christmas. So I would take my leave, because all my family was home, all my brothers and sisters.

EE:

So you wouldn't waste it. You'd save it up and take it all at Christmas time.

LP:

Take it all at one time. But when we would go to Chicago, see, we could go on the weekend. We could take like a Friday, get a Friday off, and take the train to Chicago and come back on Sunday, and that's the reason we went there, more or less.

EE:

That's not too bad a trip. Doesn't sound like you were in physical danger during your work?

LP:

No.

EE:

The kind of work you were doing wasn't heavy enough where you—

LP:

No, no. They didn't work us like that. They'd give us parts to clean up and this type thing, you know, but it was dirty work. But anyhow, he told us after she transferred us out of there, and [we] found out who it was. Of course, we thanked him. He was a really nice person, he was. But like I say, we had—all we worked with—now, we had cooks. We had men cooks and they were very, very nice. We had lady cooks, but we also had men that was over them that had been in it longer. I don't remember anybody not being nice to us, I really don't. Now I don't know about the other girls, but I don't remember nobody not really treating us nice.

EE:

You said your COs were mainly men, not women, in the sense that you didn't report to a CO of all the SPARS to get your assignment, but you got your assignment and then you had to report to an individual CO who was a man.

LP:

No. We worked with women all the time until I went to headquarters, then I had a man. And at the garage, I had a man.

EE:

So when did you switch over to headquarters? Was it before Christmas of '44?

LP:

Yes.

EE:

Okay. So you were maybe at the garage a couple months?

LP:

Yes, I was there maybe three months. It wasn't long.

EE:

And then you were doing sentry duty at the barracks, and then you went to the headquarters?

LP:

Yes, I did sentry duty and telephone, switchboard.

EE:

Then you went to headquarters?

LP:

Right.

EE:

Before Christmas of '44?

LP:

Yes. Switchboard's fun. We could have four or five on there at one time. All of us talking at one time.

EE:

Did you call home from there?

LP:

Couldn't call home, but we could call each other.

EE:

Call each other on the party line. Do you remember D-Day, which was June 6th of '44?

LP:

Yes.

EE:

What was that like?

LP:

Well, see, we had orders that if there was a surrender, we were to immediately report to the barracks, immediately. And I remember, we were out, this friend of mine from Chicago, and I want to say her brother was visiting her. I'm not going to say that for sure, but he was in the navy. But anyhow, when we heard it, we immediately caught the streetcar. We were several blocks from the barracks, to the barracks, because that was our orders.

EE:

Now this was VE [Victory in Europe] Day, or D-Day?

LP:

D-Day. Because it was—see, we didn't know what would happen.

EE:

When you heard that news, you knew that something big was going on, you better get back and find out.

LP:

Right, because they didn't know what might happen in the streets, you know what I mean, because we were to be at the barracks. That way they knew where we all were. There was no problem. So anyhow, we reported to the barracks. And I said D-Day, I'm not exactly sure.

EE:

Well, VE Day is the day they actually had the surrender in Europe, and I'm thinking D-Day in '44, because that was the time that we finally started invading Europe, and I just wondered if it got, things got more—if the kind of work changed. I know some people have said that, and then also, December of '44, when the Battle of the Bulge happens, it looks for a couple weeks like maybe things are going to turn the other way. I mean, I hear sometimes on the news, they'll talk about, “You know, back then, everybody knew we were going to win the war.” I'm not so sure everybody knew every day we were going to win the war.

LP:

I don't think so. Now just like—now, my husband was in the South Pacific, and we have watched it two or three times or four, and if the Japanese had just not misjudged, they would have probably done us in right there.

EE:

Right.

LP:

But they just misjudged.

EE:

Yes, they caught us totally off guard. Totally off guard.

LP:

Yes. And now, my husband was there. But they just misjudged and that was the only thing that saved us.

EE:

You're there, you come for Christmas of '44, it's a big time, and I guess—are you able to keep in contact with your brothers who were in service?

LP:

Oh, yes.

EE:

I guess with, what, V-Mail?

LP:

We corresponded, yes.

EE:

But they couldn't tell you where they were, now, could they?

LP:

No, no, no.

EE:

Some people said they tried, but the code didn't always work.

LP:

Now, my brother sent me a pin. Well, we knew he was in the South Pacific, we knew that. And he sent me a pin. I wore it the day he died, I wore it to the funeral. And it's a heart, and it says, “To my dear sister. Love, Wayne.” And it was made from a Japanese plane. It's like plexiglass. I don't know what they called it then. And aluminum or silver, anyhow. And it says, “South Pacific.”

EE:

That's nice.

LP:

And I never worn it, not for years and years, till the day he died. I wore it to the funeral.

EE:

Your household, did you have one of those flags in the window, back home?

LP:

Mama had candles.

EE:

Candles? I know some folks talked about having the flags with the stars on it.

LP:

She probably did. I tell you, I don't remember. I really don't remember. She probably did. I know she had candles, and I know she—well, stars. She had stars, yes, I know she did, because she kept them in the front window back there.

EE:

You got to have a star up there, too, because you were in service. But she kept a candle in the window, to remind folks and the rest to come on home.

LP:

That's right. And of course, now my brother older than me came home and then my—Wayne, my next brother, from the Pacific. And you know, I can't remember the sequence.

EE:

Which one came—

LP:

Which one came first. I can't remember how—

EE:

You didn't actually come home—well, you came home in August of '45.

LP:

Of '45, right.

EE:

Probably before VJ [Victory in Japan] Day, you were scheduled to come out, because that's pretty early.

LP:

No, I wasn't scheduled to come out till just when I came out. I mean, you know, they were beginning to let us out.

EE:

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

LP:

I really don't know. I don't think of anything that I considered hard.

EE:

It doesn't sound like you have that—that's not the frame of mind you think of when you think of the service.

LP:

I reckon learning to swim. We had to swim. We had to learn. We had to swim across the pool. Like I say, we had a pool on the base. We had—that was orders—we had to learn to swim across the pool, with the guy that was teaching us.

EE:

If you're going to be in the Coast Guard, it makes sense that you know how to do something in the water.

LP:

Right, and we had to. We had to swim across the pool. Well, I went, and he trained. He'd say, every time I go, “Lucy, why don't you learn to swim? You'd make a good swimmer. You're so tall and—”

Well, I got across the pool and I never saw him no more. I just could not—well, really, when I was young, I would have loved it. I mean, younger when—but then—and I learned to get across the pool, you know, that good, and I just—well, one thing about it. A lot of them didn't go swimming, and you know, you don't want to go down there unless you really love swimming. And down in the basement, you know, there was nothing down there. But anyhow, I think that was the hardest thing that I had to master, at all, was swimming, and it should have been very easy, but I just couldn't seem to get with it. But I did get across the pool, and that was all that was required.

EE:

Were you ever encouraged to make the military a career, or was that even an option for SPARS?

LP:

We didn't have an option. See, they disbanded.

EE:

Started disbanding in '45.

LP:

Yes, they started, and I think they completed it in '46.

EE:

Because I think in '47, you're right, they did not renew, and it wasn't until a couple years later, they said, “Okay, well, we'll keep reserves.”

LP:

Now I believe some of them got out in, maybe in the early part of '47, but it was '46 when they were disbanded. But now, some of them did, some of them went into the reserves as soon as they were allowed, and then when they were allowed, I was reading that in—

EE:

Did you do that?

LP:

No. I was married by then.

EE:

When did you get married?

LP:

I married in '49. I met my husband in '46. He got out in '45 and I got out in '45.

EE:

Was he from around here as well?

LP:

He was from Siler City. I married in '49. Of course, I met him in '46, so I wasn't really interested in going back in. We thought about it. This friend of mine talked about it and thought about it, and even ventured one time, and then changed our mind. When I look back, I wish I had of at least stayed, because I know—now, one of my officers went back in and retired and she had a lot of benefits. She's one of my friends that I said died year before last. And then two—one became a warrant officer and the other became a captain. They went back in and retired from the Coast Guard. Now there's a lot more, but those are the only ones I know personally.

EE:

That did that.

LP:

That did that.

EE:

When I ask this question, I've discovered in asking it that I have to ask it two ways. The question says, “What was your most embarrassing moment?” Well, for some people that's too embarrassing to say, so do you remember an embarrassing moment, either from you or somebody else, a funny story from this time period in the service?

LP:

A whole lot of embarrassing times.

EE:

Okay, maybe that's too open-ended a question.

LP:

I can't remember us being embarrassed, but I remember us embarrassing somebody. One of our troops had a birthday, so we were going to go all out. Of course, they baked a birthday cake and we went on Admiral. This is the cruise boat. So when we got back, it was pouring down rain, pouring down rain. We were about—well, they was on the Mississippi and we was about, I reckon, it was six or seven blocks or maybe farther from barracks.

Of course, we had to walk. And we were walking, and this girl in front of us—there was a girl in front of us—and of course, it was pouring down rain. Back then, you know, your clothes shrunk. You got them wet, they shrunk. And hers was going up, up, up, and this car come along and said—there was six of us. Anyhow, they slowed down and said, “Want a ride, honey?” And this girl said, “We sure do.” Every one of us cried, “He was talking—” We, everyone crawled in that car.

EE:

He was wanting to have one, not a whole pack of them.

LP:

He was asking the girl. That was one time that was really funny. We really did have a lot of fun out of that. We got in there, and he took us to the barracks. It was pouring down rain. It was raining so hard.

EE:

He didn't get a date out of that girl then?

LP:

No. But that was one of the funniest things that I remember happening, but that was really, we really did have a lot of fun out of that.

EE:

Sounded like you had some good—you showed me those pictures of those two girls you palled around with. You made some buddies there.

LP:

Oh, yes. Lots of friends. I have kept up with friends from—in fact, I've got this—when the dedication was, I had friends there, but I lost one friend. She had made her reservations and they found her. She, I guess, had a heart attack. But anyhow, I had this one friend there that I thought I had it here, that she wrote me. Her son was something with the hotel.

Anyhow, she was there, and she sent me this picture. Her husband passed away two years ago, and I wrote her, and he had just passed away, and she wrote me right back and told me. We were going to Michigan, that's what it was. And so she wrote me after our trip to Arlington and said that she had had to sell her house, she couldn't stand it any longer there. She missed him. So she sent me a picture of her new house, in Hemet, California.

EE:

Well, that's great.

LP:

Now, she's a real good friend. She was stationed in Chicago. Mabel Bond; she was a Trumble. And I have kept up with, let's see, Fran, who's in Massachusetts. Mary's in Chicago. Tommy's in Chicago. Dunkerly's in Arizona. Mary Ann's in California, and of course, Mabel's in California.

EE:

Was St. Louis one of the bigger stations for SPARS?

LP:

You know, it must have been because it was at headquarters. Now we had, of course, girls went everywhere, but I really have never heard anybody say about their living quarters. I know in one place, they had apartments. I believe that was New York or New Jersey. They had apartments. And I really have never heard anybody say about staying in barracks, except us, but I'm sure there were more barracks, but I evidently just didn't—either don't remember it or didn't hear it. But we had girls that were—of course, like I say, we had them stationed everywhere. Friends that I went with, one of them was in California, went to California.

EE:

Was there a lot of turnover as far as with people coming in and then leaving after a short time? Different people have told me different experiences, that some folks, they get to a spot and they're basically with the same crew throughout the war. Others, and especially that happens I guess in '45, as the war is winding down and they start being shifted here, there, and yon for three weeks, and two months, and they're just going—

LP:

Well now, in St. Louis we had some turnover, but not like they did. Now we had some that had been in Philadelphia and some that had been in Pittsburgh, and really, that's the only ones that I remember that come in there, you know, from another station. Of course, now we had several, we had some that went—the girl I told you that was from Michigan, she served in Hawaii and she had a group, there's a group from Hawaii that always came to the reunions. And then we had some officers that went to Alaska from our barracks. This other friend of mine that I bunked beside of went to Hawaii, Judy. She passed away. I wasn't glad that I found out she passed away, but I was glad to find out where she—

EE:

Was.

LP:

Yes. And there was right many in Hawaii. They were more or less like a clan. They stuck together. They'd been there together.

EE:

Well, that was a prize spot to get to go.

LP:

Oh yes, it was, and they were radio operators, the most of them were radio operators. That's what I wanted to be, but I never did.

EE:

You had to go to a special school for that, I guess, afterwards.

LP:

Yes, and I took the test and passed it but I never did manage to get in. This one I showed you, Fagan, she tried her best. She even went and talked to the commanding officer, but I never did get in. That was the only thing that I found that I really thought I'd enjoy, was radio operator.

EE:

Do you feel, looking back, that you contributed to the war effort?

LP:

Well, I really don't know. I don't know of anything I done that would have relieved a man, a boy. Of course, now, I did things that might have released some of the women that did do something, but I don't think of anything really that I felt like that would have released a man for duty. I really don't. Of course, you know, you don't do unless you are talented or have the expertise to do this.

EE:

But by doing what you're told to do, that's part of the military ethic, that you are part of the effort, in some sense.

LP:

That's right, that's right.

EE:

And I think, it sounded like that, had you gotten to do radio operator, you might have felt a little more plugged into things.

LP:

That's right. That was the only thing, and I felt like I was qualified. This is the only thing. See, I really felt like I was qualified to be an operator but those things sometimes, you just don't—and our commanding officer was a—this has always puzzled me and it's not our place to ask why or how, but now, she had two girls, two teenage girls, at home. She was a doctor's wife, and she was from Norristown, Pennsylvania. Her husband was a—he wasn't a doctor. He was doctor of something else. Might have been physics. It was something pertaining to the dam, that part of the thing. I don't think he was a medical doctor, I think he was that type doctor.

And she had two teenage daughters. We could never, ever figure why she was in there. And when she got out, she would not come to the reunions. She would have no part of it. We could never figure, you know, why she was there, because she didn't need to be there. She didn't fit in, she wasn't really interested.

And then our other one was, she was a college—I don't know if she was a professor but she was a teacher, and she was from Iowa, Mason City, because we went by and I called her when we went through there. And she's the one that passed away a couple years ago. And those were our officers. But now, she was more interested than the captain. But we never could figure—but she never would come, she never would, because Miss Hedgecott said she contacted her about the reunions and she never would go.

EE:

What did you think of the Roosevelts, the President and Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt? Do you have a memory of them? Do you remember where you were when President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt passed away?

LP:

I was in St. Louis when he died. Let's put it this way. I more or less lean towards Republican. I have nothing, no—you know what I mean. Really, I didn't think either way of it.

EE:

Do you remember thinking when Roosevelt died, “Who in the world is Harry Truman?” Of course, you were in Missouri. They had some opinions about Harry Truman.

LP:

Right. I liked Harry Truman.

EE:

You liked him?

LP:

Yes, I did. I liked him as a president. I did. He was a no-nonsense fellow. I liked that. But really, Roosevelt, I don't know, I don't think I had an opinion either way.

EE:

Probably still pretty young to have a political opinion on it.

LP:

I was. I was voting. I voted there in St. Louis. I was voting, but I don't think—you know, when you're young like that, you more or less, what the older ones say stick in your mind, and my father didn't have any use for him at all. So you know, that more or less. He blamed him for the war, with boys in there and everything. You got to have somebody to lay the blame on and whatever. But he didn't like him at all. Like I say, I had no opinion, really, because I was young.

EE:

How did you all, in the SPARS, did they have a weekly briefing about what was going on with the war, or did everybody just follow it in the newspaper, or how did you—

LP:

Or radio. And then things happened. Of course, you were in contact with so many people all the time.

EE:

Everybody gave you something about it.

LP:

Right, right. You were in contact with the men, with the other women. You were in contact with all these people coming and going. They were shipping in and out of there all the time, and you knew more or less what was going on.

EE:

Who did you think was the—I know in recent years, we tend to take wars and we put it down to one person. You know, it's Milosevic right now in Serbia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

LP:

That's right.

EE:

Were people talking always about Hitler and Tojo or Hirohito? Is that who they were talking about, rather than Germany and Japan?

LP:

Yes, yes, yes. Well, because really, when you come down to it, now, I truly think this, they were just like us. They had no choice.

EE:

Just following their leaders.

LP:

The soldiers had no choice. I mean, how can you hate somebody that's just doing what they're there to do? I mean, you can't hate—now, my brother was in Black Forest and he shot a sniper, and it was a young—and he never got over that.

EE:

Young boy?

LP:

Yes. He was a sniper, but yet—

EE:

He was going to take his life, so he had no choice, and yet it's still a little boy.

LP:

He was a young boy. He never got over it, he never got over it. He just couldn't handle it. But we were very fortunate because there was no injury in our family.

EE:

But it is something that's hard. I mean, I have an uncle who was in the D-Day force and he never told me details. The only thing he said was that he got through it because Buddy Hackett was in his company and was telling jokes across Europe. But the stuff of war is not anything that people want to remember.

LP:

No.

EE:

You don't talk about it, because it's so bad.

LP:

And this is something. If you are, I say “tender.” I don't how you would say it, it would be one of the most horrible things to have to shoot people, and my brother was. He wouldn't hurt nothing. Now, as far as I know, it didn't affect his mind, but he drank, you know, and that. But he just couldn't accept the fact that he shot a young boy. I mean, he was doing what he was supposed to do, but he didn't realize he was young. But this is what I say. We didn't think of—I myself didn't think of soldiers as being like the Germans or the Japs, because they were doing just like my brothers.

EE:

That's an interesting way of looking at it. That's a more understanding way of viewing it.

LP:

They were fighting a war. Of course, at the time, we hated them. I mean, you know. But really, when you stop and think, why do I hate them, because they're doing exactly what we're doing. We're doing as we're told. They're doing as they're told. I mean, now I'm quite sure that they wouldn't have been there if they'd have had a choice of fighting. I'm quite sure they wouldn't have.

EE:

Do you have many heroes or heroines from that time? Well, your brothers and your husband might be candidates.

LP:

Well, no, really, I don't—before being in there, I've really thought about it a lot of times, and of course there were a lot of them that I thought really did their—they gave their all, and I thought that they were heroes. Any of them that gave their life were heroes. I don't look at it like a lot of people. I think if you go out here and you're doing what you think is the very best, you're fighting for your country, you want to be free, and you are killed, you are a hero. You have died for what you truly believe in. To me, that's a hero. To me, a hero is not somebody out here that's good on a basketball court. They're good on this, they're good on that. A hero, to me, is somebody who is devoted to what they believe in. That is a hero to me, or a heroine, whatever. To me, that is a hero, because like I say, the—

EE:

Maybe we've cheapened the word a little bit by using it.

LP:

We have, we really have.

EE:

Not every sports star is a hero.

LP:

You ask some of them, “Who's your hero?” Some sports star. I mean, they've done nothing to be a hero. They've been good at their thing. They could say, “I admire him,” but not “my hero.” That's nothing to be—to me, to me—that's nothing to be a hero about. And to me, a hero is somebody who has really tried to accomplish. They might not accomplish it, but they have tried to accomplish their life's objective. And we have a lot of them, they're just not surfacing. We have a lot of heroes out here. They're just not surfacing. All right, just like this—I'll tell you one little—like this shooting that's just happened [at Columbine High School]. That coach was a hero.

EE:

Oh, no doubt about that. Pushing those kids aside, saying, “You take cover.”

LP:

He was doing what he knew was right. He felt that was right, trying to save those children.

EE:

Didn't think about himself, just doing what was right.

LP:

Never thought about himself, and he was wounded, and he was still doing what was right. To me, this is what makes a hero. I might be little—like I say, I'm old. I'm from an older school, but I just remember—the only heroes I remember are these people who—my grandfather was a hero. Sure, he fought for the Confederacy, but he fought because he thought it was right. He didn't have slaves. He thought it was right for us to protect the South. I mean, to me, that's—you're doing what you feel is right. I mean, this is the way I feel about it, but there's not a whole lot that I feel that I can say, yes, they are.

EE:

Do you remember where you were when you heard about VE Day or VJ Day, either one? VE Day was May of '45.

LP:

When I heard about the last one, '45, I believe I was in—my sister lived in Arkansas, and I believe I was in Arkansas. I was out there.

EE:

You had just gotten out?

LP:

Just gotten out.

EE:

Just a day or two before?

LP:

Yes.

EE:

Was her husband in the service?

LP:

Her husband? No. None of the in-laws were. I had a bunch. I have, let's see, two, three, four—four nephews that served, and then I have several nieces' husbands that served. And of course, all three of my children served, so we are really a military family, the whole family. Now, none of my family—I had an uncle in the Spanish-American War, but none of our family that I know of served in the Second World War, that I know. I mean, First World War. That I can think of. But we are a military — but anyhow, it's, I don't know, it's just—

EE:

But you say you were at her home when you heard the news about the war?

LP:

Yes.

EE:

Probably celebrated nicely, accordingly.

LP:

Yes. A lot of people said they should have gone on through Korea. Even when that happened, they said they should have gone on through, and you see, it was no time till we were back.

EE:

That's right. Still cleaning up the mess.

LP:

That's right.

EE:

Are there some songs or movies from that day that when you see, take you back to that time? Some favorite things?

LP:

Well, there's a lot of songs, the old songs, yes. But movies, no. There was one or two. There was one that—well, Meet Me in St. Louis was one, but I don't remember any movies. See, we didn't go to—we couldn't afford to go to many movies. We were right across the road from the theater.

EE:

Did you ever have USO [United Service Organizations] shows coming through town?

LP:

Yes.

EE:

Did you get to go to those?

LP:

Yes, we went to those. We had a nice USO. We had a real nice USO. We went to that a lot.

EE:

Any movie stars you see while you were out there?

LP:

No.

EE:

Entertainers?

LP:

No, not that I can remember, no.

EE:

Meet Me in St. Louis, was that Judy Garland doing that song?

LP:

I couldn't tell you.

EE:

I remember in the movie she did that.

LP:

We saw it twice but I'm not even sure that it was during then, but we saw it twice. But the songs are more or less what I remember.

EE:

Is there a SPARS song?

LP:

Oh, yes.

EE:

I haven't heard anybody sing it.

LP:

We have one.

EE:

Do you know the tune? Can you help me out here?

LP:

Wait a minute, let's see. Not right off. We were always singing it—

EE:

Was it to the tune of the Coast Guard song?

LP:

No. It was the tune of—I can just hear it in my head, but I can't feel it. It was the tune of something, but I cannot remember what it was.

EE:

All right. Well, if you think of it before we get through this. I know you talked about your social life. You said you were on a basketball team.

LP:

That's right. And I played softball, but I never really was into softball. You've got to really know these things to be any good at it. We had a softball team, and a lot of the same girls that played on the basketball team played on the softball team.

EE:

Were you all playing against, just kind of like intra-squad among yourselves?

LP:

No, no. We played the WAVES, we played the WACs.

EE:

Inter-service.

LP:

Yes. The ones that was stationed close enough, we played. Yes, we played different—

EE:

So were you all a good team?

LP:

We won.

EE:

Oh, you all were the winning team?

LP:

We won, we sure did. Yes, we did. We sure did.

EE:

Well, I'm encouraged. You already told me about some of the interesting folks that you met during the military. Is there characters, one or two folks, that stand out in your mind, as far as individuals you met?

LP:

Well, now we met Cesar Romero. We met one guy that I don't like, and I can't tell you his name. They were in Tars and SPARS.

EE:

It was the show that you were—

LP:

The show, right, and they came to St. Louis. And I can't remember that guy. Victor Mature. He didn't make much of an impression on nobody, but he was in there, and they came to St. Louis. And then we had a—I can't remember the banjo player but he played. They put him on a table. We had small, like card tables. And they set his chair on the table and he was picking.

EE:

This wasn't the fellow who was the navy captain, was it?

LP:

No. He was an entertainer.

EE:

Somebody has mentioned his name before. It wasn't Peabody, was it?

LP:

I believe it was. It was, it was. And he was on the table and he was picking and the table fell.

EE:

It's a live show, folks.

LP:

It's a live show, and the table fell with it.

EE:

Do you think that the military made you more of an independent person than you would have been?

LP:

Oh, yes. Well, I was always independent, but it did. I tell you, the military helps, I think—now, I won't say everybody, but a lot of people, it did help because it made them—especially the shyer people, it gave them more confidence and I think it taught them to be more organized. Like I was talking about. It taught them to be more, what am I trying to say? I'm not going to say “cling,” because that's not true. It taught them more vanity, to have more pride.

EE:

Self-esteem.

LP:

Self-esteem. It taught them more self-esteem. More pride. They were more proud because they had to dress and be proud. They had to; they had no choice. And I think this was a benefit to a lot. Yes, I think it did. I wouldn't trade it because I can see a lot of things I got from it. I can.

EE:

So it's one of those things, although you can't live your life over, if you could, that's not something you'd change? You'd do that again?

LP:

Right, right, right. Only I'd know a little more about how to go about—

EE:

Has your life been different because of your own military experience?

LP:

Well, I think so, because like I say, I think it gave me more of an outlook because I met so many different—

EE:

You do meet different kinds of people, don't you?

LP:

All kinds of people.

EE:

You have to learn to live with different kinds of people.

LP:

You learn to live. We had all nationalities, all nationalities. The only ones we did not have—we only didn't have—at that time, we didn't have blacks.

EE:

Were there some in the Coast Guard, SPARS?

LP:

In later years. Right just before it disbanded. Just before it disbanded, I think there was two or three. But when I was in, we did not have blacks at all. I don't know why, but we didn't. But all other. We had all—now, two of my best friends were Chinese twins. Their mother wasn't Chinese. Their father was Chinese. Little girls.

And like I say, we had all, every nationality that you could think of. One of my best friends was Italian, and we had Czechs, we had Greeks, we had Jewish. One of my friends that I was in boot camp [with], one of my roommates was Jewish. Nice, just real nice. But we had all walks of life and all nationalities, and from everywhere. They had, like I say, all walks of life, from all over, everywhere.

EE:

It was a good experience for you.

LP:

Yes, and it's a good experience for everybody, because we lived with them, we lived together.

EE:

Sometimes folks have looked back and they've said that the women entering into the workforce through the military and through other things, whether it was Rosie the Riveter or doing jobs that men would normally do in the service, that that really is the start of the women's lib movement, when you think about women doing men's work or getting the same pay as men for the same job. Do you think of yourself as a trailblazer like that?

LP:

No, no. I don't believe in this business of equal. I don't think so. I don't think women are equal to men. I think they are manly, and I think a lot of women can do the same thing men can do, but men are just, they're just built to do different jobs than women.

EE:

So there are certain jobs in the military, for example, that you think women should not be doing?

LP:

Should not do. Right today, there are still jobs in there that I do not, and that's a small voice.

EE:

We just sent up the first women pilot into combat in December.

LP:

Yes, right.

EE:

Do you think that should have happened?

LP:

Well now, I don't know about that, but I, really, personally—now, this is a personal opinion. I don't think they should be aboard the ships. I really don't. I don't think they should be barracked together, I really don't. That can cause a lot of problems. But now, other than that, I don't see any reason that women can't do anything that man can. Now, when we had this woman's memorial opened, do you know all the pilots, everything were women. The helicopter—

EE:

Everybody going around, all those were women.

LP:

Everything that went on was women. We had helicopter pilots, we had jet flyers, everything were women that was doing this. So you see, they're qualified to do this. They're qualified, as far as that's for—to do anything a man can. But like I say, there's just jobs out there that women, in my opinion, shouldn't.

EE:

Well, you just said you had a daughter who—

LP:

I have a daughter that's just retired from the military.

EE:

That means she put in her twenty years.

LP:

She's put in twenty years.

EE:

And you have other sons that were in?

LP:

I have a son that's just retired. He's been out three years, I believe it's three years in March.

EE:

So you recommended the military experience to your children?

LP:

No.

EE:

Or they just decided on their own they wanted to?

LP:

They just decided.

EE:

And you wholeheartedly supported your daughter's decision to join the service?

LP:

I did, I did, because well, she went in reserves, and then she went over to regular. Yes, I did, and she did really well. She did really well. My daughter did real well, and she had a lot of opportunities she might not have had, had she not have gone in. She ended up as an officer, a warrant officer, and she had a lot of opportunities that she might not have had, had she not have gone in there. But yes, I supported her.

EE:

You told me you got out in '45.

LP:

Right.

EE:

What did you do after you got out of the service, and tell me how you met your husband.

LP:

Well, I got out. When I came out of service, well, I didn't—you know, there still was no jobs. Still was no jobs. We could draw what they called—

EE:

52/50 [$50 for 52 weeks]? Did you get that?

LP:

Right. Yes, I got that and then I got a job at—where did I go to work first? Oh, at Siler City in a little mill that they had opened, a little, I really don't know what kind of plant it was. We did shipping holes and different things and I worked there and then I got a job at Sears in '47. I went to work at Sears in '47 and I retired from Sears.

EE:

And this was Sears in—

LP:

In Greensboro. Right. Sears-Roebuck in Greensboro, in the credit department.

EE:

And you worked for how long there?

LP:

Well, I worked for thirteen years. I retired from there. But you see, in the meantime, I had married and I didn't work for several years in there. I had my children, you see, so I didn't.

EE:

Did you meet your husband at Sears?

LP:

Met him at Siler City. It was funny. He couldn't remember how we met, though what happened, this friend of mine from Chicago, we had gone up there, still looking for job. There was nothing here at all. And we didn't have a—see, there was no way to go. My brother-in-law carried the mail and we went up with him and then we didn't have a way home.

So this—well, it was my sister-in-law's brother-in-law. I run into him. She wasn't my sister-in-law then. I knew him, of course, all my life, and run into him, and I asked him, I said, “Are you going home?” And he said, “No, I'm going to Pittsboro first.” I said, “Well, can we ride home with you?” and he said yes. And I told him we'd meet him over there beside this store, and we were waiting for him, and he was with a guy that I knew long ago, and that's the way I met him. They come along and brought us home. That's the way I met him.

EE:

And you knew right then he was somebody of interest?

LP:

Sort of.

EE:

Well, you've been gracious and since he's back, we won't get into great detail—

LP:

And we will be married fifty years in about two months—a month, a little over a month. July we'll have our fiftieth anniversary. So we done pretty good.

EE:

Wonderful. And in this day and age, the more power to you, because it's hard.

LP:

But you know, I had three sisters that celebrated their fiftieth anniversary. Three sisters that celebrated their fiftieth anniversary. And I had a brother that lacked three months, and I had another brother that died last year lacked two years.

EE:

But everybody's long term, that's great.

LP:

That's right.

EE:

Well, I think that kind of runs in families, too. You learn to stick it out, and not every day is a holiday.

LP:

I know. You know, sometimes I say, “Well, I can see,” you know, but then I can't see because everybody has their ups and downs and hard times. You can't just go because it's hard times. You can't go just because there's no money there. I mean, you have to think of these things because—I say “lucky,” but I reckon a lot of people don't think it was so lucky, but I was lucky. I feel like we were both lucky to go through the Depression and the hard times, and I feel like we were lucky because it doesn't—and if we have hard times, I know how to handle it, you know what I mean?

EE:

Hard times is not reason to give up the things you care about.

LP:

That's right, that's right. But it makes a lot of difference. I think that makes a lot of difference.

EE:

Well, we have gone back fifty years and gone all over the country today. Is there anything I have not asked you about, about your military service, that you want to share with us?

LP:

I don't know of anything, really.

EE:

Well, I sure appreciate your taking time to do this on a beautiful day. Thanks for ordering the weather so nice for me.

LP:

Now, I have an address, I told you. This lady right here lives at Siler City. I don't know if you want it.

EE:

Sure, sure, because that's what we're trying to—there's somebody I've got to go interview at Sanford.

LP:

And her hearing is not good, so if anybody talks to her.

EE:

Okay. She may have trouble on the phone because of it.

LP:

Right. And her health is getting bad, but she was in the WACS, she was in the army, and she is a friend.

EE:

Transcriber, thank you for doing this today, and we'll sign this off on the radio or tape right now.

[End of interview]