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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Ruby Morgan Sheridan, 1999

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Object ID: WV0075.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Ruby Morgan Sheridan’s time at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), her experiences in the Army Special Services during World War II, and her career in food service.

Summary:

Sheridan discusses her experiences at the Woman’s College (WC), including professors Margaret M. Edwards, Blanche Tansil, and George Joyce; working in the home economics cafeteria; and reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She also discusses her fiancé, Pearly H. Scarborough, who stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines when it was bombed on December 7, 1941, and later being killed as a Japanese prisoner of war.

Sheridan also describes her work in the Army Special Services during the war. Topics include the function of service clubs; meeting Charles Sheridan at Fort Bragg; her brother’s experiences overseas in the air force and as a prisoner of war; working with German POWs at Camp Rucker; her duties as a service club director; VE Day at Camp Rucker; the mood of the country during World War II; and the respect she developed for the soldiers and officers she encountered during her service.

Post-war topics primarily concern Sheridan's graduate education at WC and career in food science.

Creator:

Biographical Info:

Collection: Ruby Morgan Sheridan 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:

Eric Elliott:

My name is Eric Elliott, and today is May 8, 1999, and I'm just outside of Yanceyville, North Carolina, this morning, at the home of Ruby Morgan Sheridan, and thank you, Mrs. Sheridan, for letting us come in here today. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Ms. Sheridan, I have about thirty questions I'm going to go through, probably give or take a few, and the toughest one may be the first one. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Ruby Sheridan:

I was born in Shelby, North Carolina, and I grew up in Shelby, finished high school there, and went from my senior year in high school there right to, what was then WCUNC [Woman's College of the University of North Carolina]. That was in 1936, the fall of '36, and I graduated in June of 1940, with a bachelor of science degree in home economics, with a major in institution management. It would be called “food service” today, most likely.

EE:

Let me ask you a few questions about your time in Shelby. What did your folks do?

RS:

My mother was staying at home, for which we were most grateful. And my father had been with the Southern Railroad ever since he came out of an academy, and he was an agent for the Southern Railroad.

EE:

That meant he worked in the station?

RS:

At the station, that's right.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

RS:

I have two brothers. They're younger than I am. I'm the oldest of the three. The other two brothers were very close behind me, so we grew up together, very close-knit.

EE:

Sounds like my household. Were you somebody who liked school, growing up?

RS:

Yes. I liked going to school. I thoroughly enjoyed being at Woman's College. It was quite a challenge, because I came out of a high school that I had been going to only ten months a year, and I only went through the eleventh grade because there was no twelfth grade.

EE:

That's right. They just switched over.

RS:

When I went to WCUNC, I was there with people from the north who had had twelve grades and a lot more months in the year. I said ten months; I meant eight months. And they had been used to going nine and ten months.

EE:

I hadn't thought about that. I've had several people who've told me that they came in and the school system had eleven grades for graduation, but I was thinking in terms of, well, everybody's got the same problem going there, but how many folks were out of state? Was there a fair number that were from out of state?

RS:

Oh, yes. There's always been a good number of people at UNCG, or WCUNC, who came from out of state. As a matter of fact, my freshman roommate was from Pennsylvania.

EE:

Were there some favorite subjects of yours in high school? What were you planning on studying? Did you have an idea?

RS:

Strangely enough, I started out, I guess, or at least I thought in high school, that I would be a music major, a piano major, but I took home economics in high school, mostly because everybody else was taking it. All my friends were. But the high school home economics teacher really sold me a bill of goods, just by being the person that she was, and I decided I wanted to be a dietitian. So I chose WCUNC because they had the finest course in dietetics and food management in the state, and so that's where I went.

EE:

So you're one of those rare people who made up their mind in high school and stuck with it then, I guess.

RS:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

Had you been away from home much before going off to college, or was that your first experience away from home?

RS:

No, I had not. Not too much. Only with the family.

EE:

What dormitory did you stay in when you were at WC?

RS:

My first year I was in Gray, and then the last three years, I was in New Guilford.

EE:

That's the one right across from Mary Foust?

RS:

Mary Foust. Down on the end there. It used to be the end.

EE:

There used to be a park down there, didn't there?

RS:

There was a park down there.

EE:

How was it with all these new people, from all over the country and things? How did you like it?

RS:

I enjoyed it. I think I've always been a person who liked people, so I enjoyed being with people and meeting people, and enjoyed living in the dormitory. Of course, it was very different then from what it is now.

EE:

Well, now, you're studying food and dietitian stuff. Did they give you some strict rules about what you could or couldn't do with food in the rooms?

RS:

Oh, yes. There were rules for everybody.

EE:

Was this before or after the Spencer [dormitory] fire? I can't remember.

RS:

The Spencer fire had taken place at that time, yes, and Spencer had been redone. I think I'm right. But anyway, we had meal service in the dining room. It was paid for along with our tuition.

EE:

So everybody had to be on the meal plan?

RS:

Most everybody ate there because their meals were already paid for. We went through the cafeteria line at breakfast and the cafeteria line at lunch, but we had table service at dinner, and on Sunday, we had table service in the middle of the day and had cafeteria at night, and it was nice.

EE:

Very nice. Makes it a little more cultured life, I would think.

RS:

Yes, it certainly did, and we even dressed in evening dresses occasionally, for dinners at night, when there was going to be a concert. Then we would put on evening clothes and go to the dinner.

EE:

I guess they assigned pretty much everybody one of the four societies, did they not?

RS:

Yes, everyone was assigned to one of the societies. Whether you wanted to be a participant or not was strictly up to the individual.

EE:

Now, what were you?

RS:

Cornelian. I had to stop and think.

EE:

Okay, well that probably answers my next question, how active were you? Probably not as active.

RS:

I was somewhat active, but I didn't really have that much time to be as active as some of the other girls were.

EE:

A lot of school work, a lot of extracurricular stuff?

RS:

Not as much extracurricular, just keeping up with my school work, yes.

EE:

A list of professors that you recall with particular pleasure or pain?

RS:

Yes. I guess the one that stands out in my mind the most is the woman that was the chairman of what was then the department of home economics, who was Margaret M. Edwards, and I loved her and I loved the people that I knew in institution management. I had two. One was only there three or four months, and the other one was Blanche Tansil. And I remember English teachers. I remember one chemistry teacher that we literally hated because she stood in the front of the class and said, “I hate home economics students,” and we were all home economics students. Needless to say—

EE:

That set off the war the rest of the year.

RS:

—that semester didn't go that well.

EE:

Well, you have to know your audience, I think, before you make a statement like that. I've talked to a number of people who were in that program, and apparently, it was a vigorous program.

RS:

Oh, yes, it was. In other words, by the time we finished, I had had three hours of elective courses. Everything else was set, cut, and dried, and you took it—

EE:

You had that much work you had to take?

RS:

You had to take it in a certain order, in other words. You had to take this before you could take that, and we were automatic minors in science, so we had a lot of science courses—biology, chemistry, physiology and anatomy, microbiology. All of this we had to take, to get our degree.

EE:

That was a lot of work.

RS:

Right. One of my other famous teachers was the accounting professor. Those of us going into institution management had to take an accounting course, which was good, and he was a great teacher. He really was.

EE:

Do you remember his name?

RS:

Yes. Joyce was his last name. [George Joyce]

EE:

So you didn't have the chance, sounded like, from all the work you were doing, to really have much of a social life, or did you? What did you end up doing for social life? Did you go to dances?

RS:

Yes, I went to dances, and we had a lot of just women dancing after dinner. At night, could go to the place before we went back to the dorms to study. But I had so many labs. From the very beginning, I had so many labs that I had to do. And then, my junior and senior year, when I had to work down in the cafeteria, in the home economics building, my roommate my senior year was a sophomore who had transferred from a college in Virginia.

And right at the very beginning, we went off to breakfast one morning, she went her way and I went mine, and I came in that night after dinner, and she looked at me just as funny, and she said, “Roommate, where have you been?” And I said, “I've been in class.” “You can't have been in class all day.” And I said, “You can when you have labs over in the cafeteria and you have to stay over there and work till it closes at night.” This was my life, particularly the junior and senior years.

EE:

Because of that, it sounded like a lot of it was on-the-job training, in a sense.

RS:

It was on-the-job training, and it's the most valuable part of your education, in that particular field.

EE:

There's a difference in the programs for my dietitians and—you ended up, your, was in food management, was what your major was?

RS:

Yes, right.

EE:

You said that you had thought about being a dietitian at one point. What switched you to food management, do you think?

RS:

Well, I became a dietitian. I was a food manager first, but then when I went back and got my second degree, then I could automatically go into the American Dietetic Association. In my first jobs that I held, it wasn't necessary that I be a dietitian, but I wanted that position. I wanted that training, so when I got my master's degree, I automatically qualified to become a dietitian, so I became a registered dietitian.

EE:

Did you go back and get the master's degree from WC?

RS:

Yes.

EE:

When was that?

RS:

I got it in 1969. My teammates looked at me—the June that I entered graduate school, which was '68, I went for a class reunion, and my classmates, I said to them, “I'm starting graduate school,” and they looked at me right funny, and they said, “You know we've been out of college twenty-eight years?” and I said, “Yes, I know we have.” And here were some of these people, they had their doctorates. They had stayed with it till they finished, and I said, “Well, I decided I wanted to come back. It may be a little bit tough, but I'll try it,” and I made it.

EE:

Well, that's great, that's great. So you were a forerunner in that field, because a lot of folks, that was a first. They have a large number of people who are going back later now, it seems like, to get a second degree, but that wasn't as common then.

RS:

It wasn't as common then, but fortunately, they appreciated the older student and they talked me into coming. The dean at that time, it was the School of Home Economics, and she said, “We welcome older students. We find that they are more motivated sometimes than somebody who's just finished their bachelor's and stays in a master's program.”

EE:

Now, you graduated in 1940.

RS:

Right.

EE:

Was there much talk on campus about the world events and politics back then?

RS:

Not that much. That came in the—the very next year is when it really began.

EE:

Were you there when—I guess you probably were there when Eleanor Roosevelt came to the campus. Do you remember that?

RS:

No. I'm sure I would have. I don't remember it.

EE:

She might have come the same year that you graduated then, in the fall. I think she came by and paid a visit, I guess, because eventually—do you remember anything about Dean [Harriet] Elliott?

RS:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. She was a wonderful person, really was. She made a great deal of difference for that college.

EE:

She was definitely an advocate.

RS:

Oh, yes.

EE:

She made people notice that the school had needs and took care of them.

RS:

She was a wonderful person, she really was.

EE:

What did you do after you graduated?

RS:

One week to the day after I was handed my degree, I was on the train going to Lynchburg, Virginia.

EE:

You already had a job set up?

RS:

I had a job and they sent for me early because I was replacing a woman who was pregnant and they were scared to death she was going to have the baby there.

EE:

Well now, I'm curious, did the school have a recruiting office to help match up students with jobs?

RS:

Yes, they did. They had some, and they had a placement office, and people would make requests through the departments for people, and I applied for, I believe, about three or four different jobs, and I had my choice of the ones that I could take.

EE:

That's great, that's great. And so you were at Lynchburg. Tell me what kind of work you were doing and where were you working in Lynchburg?

RS:

I was working in a department store, similar to Meyers in Greensboro, which you may or may not remember. It was Guggenheimer's. It was a large department store and they had what they called a tea room. They were open in the morning for people to get snacks, like doughnuts and buns and coffee, and that sort of thing, and then we served lunch, and I only served one dinner a year, and that was when we stayed in the store and took inventory, and I had to stay and feed them. But that was six days a week, Monday through Saturday.

EE:

How much staff did you have?

RS:

Let's see. I must have had about seven or eight. I was trying to think how many were in the kitchen. I had a soda fountain, and I had a young man behind it, and then the waitresses. I guess somewhere in the area of at least ten.

EE:

So right from the beginning, your first job, you were supervising folks, right out of school. That's pretty impressive, I must say. And you were living in an apartment, I guess, by yourself, out there?

RS:

I lived in the home of a friend that I met in Shelby. When she found out I was going to Lynchburg, she called. She was visiting her niece and she said, “Where are you going to live?” and I said, “I guess I'm going to the Y, until I can find some place, because I only went up for an interview earlier and I haven't been back, because I didn't know they were going to send for me so rapidly.” So she said, “Here is my address. You go to my house and stay. You can get in the wrong part of town. So you go to my house and stay until I get there and I'll help you find a place to live.” And I went to her house, just in a room, and I got my two meals a day on the job. My breakfast and my lunch I got on the job. And then I just went to a restaurant in town and ate my dinner before I took the streetcar home.

EE:

Yes. Everybody had streetcars back then.

RS:

Most towns had streetcars, and you had to transfer to the bus to get out to the last six blocks or so. But anyway, so I went there and when she came home, her son and his wife, and they had one child at that time, were living with her. She was a widow. And they said, “Oh, we're just delighted. She looks after the baby and we can go out and do this, and she plays bridge and we have people in and we're playing bridge, and we're just having a good time. Let her stay here.” And as long as I lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, I lived in that room. They were just family. It was wonderful.

EE:

That's great. A good first start. And how long did you stay in Lynchburg?

RS:

Almost two years.

EE:

So you did that right from the time that you decided to join the special services, or did you—

RS:

Not quite. No, I had a small job in between.

EE:

Well, something that happened while you were there is something called Pearl Harbor. Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

RS:

I was in Lynchburg.

EE:

That was on a Sunday, I guess.

RS:

And I had a fiancé in the Philippines. He had gone over before Thanksgiving before Pearl Harbor.

EE:

So he had joined—

RS:

He was a pilot. He was a peacetime trained pilot and he went to Clark Air Force Base outside of Manila. That's where he was on the seventh of December.

EE:

So he was on high alert with that, I'm sure, because of—

RS:

Oh, yes, because Clark Air Force Base was one of the targets. That's where they had planes. So Manila was struck.

EE:

Did you meet your fiancé at WC or in Lynchburg?

RS:

At WC.

EE:

Was he a Carolina man come to visit, or where was he?

RS:

No, he was over in High Point College.

EE:

Oh, wonderful, wonderful. So you met him at a dance or something, or how did you—

RS:

I met him through my roommate and her boyfriend.

EE:

Good, good. Well, that's great. So he had joined right out of college?

RS:

He went in the air force. He had a private pilot's license.

EE:

So he knew how to fly in college then?

RS:

I went up twice with him in one of these little trainer planes.

EE:

I'm sure that was an experience.

RS:

It was. It was.

EE:

So take me down, please.

RS:

But he didn't come back. He was killed over there.

EE:

Was that early in the war?

RS:

Yes. Well, we didn't know it. We didn't know until 1945 or '46, whether he was living or dead. I mean, after things really got bad over there in the Pacific.

EE:

They just didn't have any information on him for a long time.

RS:

Well, no, and the Japanese weren't good about trying to tell you anything. Occasionally, his daddy would get something. Then, of course, his daddy would get in touch with me immediately.

EE:

So how long was he listed as unaccounted for?

RS:

Well, he never was really listed. Well, I guess he was. He was just listed as a prisoner of war, and then when they really found out, you know—

EE:

They found out he had died earlier.

RS:

He lived through the death march. He was a prisoner in the Philippines when the Japanese took over, and he survived the death march, and was put on a ship, along with about a thousand or a couple of thousand more than should have been on the ship, and they were taking him—because [General Douglas] MacArthur was moving in, so they were taking him to Japan.

And they were transporting all of these prisoners of war in a ship that was much too small for them. They hardly could stand or sit, or lie, for that matter, and under terrible conditions, we're told. And the ship was not flying a flag indicating that they were transporting prisoners of war, which is what they were supposed to be doing, and an American torpedo boat spotted the ship, realizing it was Japanese, and they torpedoed it. The young man that let go the torpedo had a brother on the ship, but he didn't know it. And we were, a good little while before we were told that he was killed that way.

EE:

Well, I appreciate your sharing that.

RS:

That's one of the reasons that I went to Fort Bragg. I wanted to do something.

EE:

You went after you heard that he was captured?

RS:

I went after Pearl Harbor, knowing that he was over there.

EE:

You wanted to do something, too. Well tell me, let me fill in a detail or two, because you were at Lynchburg. You left that job to do what?

RS:

I left Lynchburg and went to Kannapolis, North Carolina, where Cannon Mills operated two units that were like hotels for their employees. In other words, they rented rooms and they were provided meals. We had a big dining room and provided their meals. They were looking for a person to help with the food service, so I went there. It was a good job and it was fine. Of course, Kannapolis wasn't the greatest place in the world.

EE:

This would have been in '42?

RS:

This was '42. And I worked from six o'clock in the morning one day, until I got through that night. Then I was off the next day. Then I was on, you see. This is the way we worked it. So I had too much time to think. That's the reason I wanted another job. So when this one came open, I went to Fort Bragg and applied for it.

EE:

You just found out that they were looking for something?

RS:

Saw it in the newspaper.

EE:

This was when they were just starting to form these service clubs, or had they been going?

RS:

Well, I guess there was such a need for them at this time, because in '42, Fort Bragg was really one of the most active posts in the nation.

EE:

Forty-two was everybody's year.

RS:

Yes, right. Because it was such a large military post.

EE:

Had you thought about—you know, in '42, they're also starting to form these auxiliary services, where women can join, whether it's WAACs [Women's Auxiliary Army Corps] or—had you thought about that as much?

RS:

No, I never gave that a thought because I was in food service, and as long as I was needed in food service, and could be more or less my own boss, I chose to go that route.

EE:

It sounds like that the demand was such that you probably—pay was pretty good probably because you did a lot of things.

RS:

It was pretty good, and of course, you have to remember that we were provided a place to live and our meals, so that made a difference, too. We bought our uniforms.

EE:

So you heard about this in the paper, about this job?

RS:

I read it in the paper, and called and made an appointment, and went to Fort Bragg for the interview.

EE:

And you were replacing somebody, I guess, who had left?

RS:

I guess I was. I just don't really remember.

EE:

You told me before we started that there was, what, seven clubs?

RS:

There were seven, at that time, seven service clubs.

EE:

What was your job to be? To be kind of over all those seven in a certain area, or just in one?

RS:

Oh, no. No, no. I was in just one service club. I went there as an assistant to the director of the cafeteria.

EE:

Assistant director. About how many people were on staff at that club?

RS:

We had three of us that were food-trained, and we had a large staff of people, because we served three meals a day, and seven days a week, so you know you had to—to be able to cover, you had to have plenty of people.

EE:

Tell me the functions of a service club. It sounds like, just from talking with you beforehand, that this is the place where—do the men take most of their meals at this club?

RS:

No, they are fed in mess halls, but if they wanted to come there and eat, they could. It was, I think, set up originally for the GIs to have some place to go, to read, to read the papers, the magazines, the books, to meet their friends, to take their dates, for their families to come stay in the guest house, and to entertain their friends there, and then, of course, there was activity going on in the service club at night, all the time. There was bingo, there was pool tables, there were dances, where we brought busloads of girls in from the surrounding towns. So the object was to have some place for GIs to be able to congregate and to have some sort of recreation, some sort of life, after hours, while they were on the post.

EE:

And they wanted to keep these folks on the post as much as they could?

RS:

Well, just make it available to them. If they wanted to, there was plenty of bus service from the post into Fayetteville.

EE:

I interviewed a woman who was from Red Springs, not too far from there—

RS:

Not too far from there.

EE:

—who, she was going to try to find for me one button that she had that says, “I danced for defense,” and she went to some of those dances in the service clubs.

RS:

She would go to those dances. We brought girls in from all around, and they all came, of course, with adult chaperones.

EE:

This is for GIs. Officers had their own club.

RS:

Officers had their own club. This was strictly for the enlisted men.

EE:

Now you were also talking about earlier that when you did this position, it was the Special Services of the United States Army, I guess?

RS:

Army, that's right. It's a branch of the United States—

EE:

But you were a civilian employee of the army, not a—

RS:

Not a military person, no.

EE:

Did you have, I guess, the equivalent of a CO [commanding officer], or was it simply your superior in a—

RS:

There was a man who was in charge of special services, a major.

EE:

A major. So an enlisted person was in charge at the base for all the clubs, I guess?

RS:

No, he was a major. They were officers. There was a major and a captain. There were two majors, I guess, and a captain, and then they had enlisted men working in there, too. Now that's where I met my husband. He was there. He was in special services. He was the bookkeeper for the entire special services division, with the seven service clubs. He was attached to a unit, but he was there, in special services.

EE:

So you had a fiancé who was already overseas—

RS:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

And you found out during the war, at the end of the war, that he had been killed. And then you end up, one of the men that you had known, you end up marrying after that.

RS:

When we said we were going to get married, and somebody said something about it, and I said, “Well, I've known him ten years.” I met him in 1942 because he was right there at the service club, so he was one of the first people—

EE:

One of the first people you met.

RS:

Among the first people that I met. And of course, he was nothing but just an employee there, and a friend, you know, and that was it. He was just a friend. At that time, I could go out with enlisted men, and we would go out in groups. There was another young woman that was in the same position I was in, and there were two men over in the branch office. One of them was from Greensboro and the other one who became my husband, the one I married.

And we'd go out and just have a great time. We were just friends, that's all. Nothing else, nothing serious. And then he was moved out of special services and moved into an engineering unit, and strangely enough, after I left there and went to Camp Sutton, his engineering outfit was moved to Camp Sutton, so he was moved there where I was.

EE:

Sounds like fate maybe, kind of bringing you guys together.

RS:

And then, of course, he left from there and went overseas, and he was in the South Pacific and all the way up into Korea while he was in the service. And he wrote to me all the time he was gone there. There are letters in there. And then when he came back to the States, he—in the meantime, I had learned that my fiancé in the Philippines, or who had been in the Philippines, was dead. So of course, he knew that from my letters and when he came back, he just looked me up to talk with me, and to see me, and romance developed.

EE:

As a good friend would. That's good. What was your fiancé's name, the one who was killed?

RS:

It was Pearly H. Scarborough, from Concord, North Carolina.

EE:

And your husband's name?

RS:

Charles L. Sheridan.

EE:

Where was he from?

EE:

Not too far down the road. That's great, that's great. You're here, and of course, you're close enough by being in state. What did your folks think about you going down to work with the folks at Fort Bragg?

RS:

I don't think that either of them were unduly concerned about my going. I don't mind telling you that I had some questions when I went down for the interview and I had to catch the bus back into Fayetteville, to catch the bus back to Kannapolis. Those days, kids didn't have cars when they got right out of college.

EE:

But buses did go about everywhere.

RS:

And the buses did go about everywhere. So while I was there, the police were called in. Some of the GIs had gotten a little rough, and all the way home on that bus, I kept saying, “Do I want to move down there in that kind of an atmosphere?” and then I kept saying, “Well, on the post, things are better adjusted than that, so we shouldn't have any problems. And I just won't go into Fayetteville unless I go with somebody.” Because I definitely wanted a change of job. Not that I was unhappy with Cannon Mills and with what I was getting there. It was just that I had to have more of my time occupied.

EE:

Right, right. The concern you're talking about, that you felt personally, I mean, I've heard from a number of folks that their parents were concerned that any association with the military, whether it's in a service role or by joining as an enlisted person, they were concerned about losing their ladyhood, or all these virtues they'd worked up at WC and then kind of being nice, prim, and proper, and oh, my, you really want to stay away from that.

RS:

Well, things weren't as bad as that, really. You had to be aware that they were away from home, and that they could get a little rowdy sometimes, but we did not have the problem in the service clubs. We really didn't. All we had to do if anybody got the least bit out of line, and we would say, “All we have to do is to pick up the phone and the military police will be here.” And they knew that, so they didn't create problems within the service clubs.

EE:

Tell me a little bit about the layout of how—the service clubs are on the base, in a central location, I guess, or are they near the barracks, or where are they?

RS:

Well, they are located within different units of the post, because Fort Bragg is so scattered, you know. It's like a town. And they were put where the units could use them the most, and they were large buildings. All of them were, almost were built alike, and they had a tremendous area downstairs. They had a balcony upstairs. The library was upstairs, the cafeteria was downstairs, and it was all right there, you know, together, so that the young people, the young men, could come in, have a meal or go to the library, just take in the dance play in bingo or whatever else was going on.

EE:

Did you live near the service club? Where did you live?

RS:

Right next door.

EE:

And so they had housing just for the employees of the service club.

RS:

We had rooms in the guest house, which was also under special services.

EE:

I asked you a question. The woman who, I think I told you, I'd interviewed the woman who set up the library system down at Camp Lejeune. She was a civilian employee. And her one complaint was, they designed this building, this club, and they didn't put a door—you had these stairs connecting the upstairs and downstairs and she's in the library, and there's no door from the library. She said all the noise and the rowdiness from downstairs came up to the library, and as a librarian, it really ticked her off. Was there a door?

RS:

Well, there was a door to some of these, yes. And if I remember correctly, there was not also an outside entrance.

EE:

And about how many men would you serve in a typical day or a week?

RS:

Well, if we had a dance—you mean, in the cafeteria?

EE:

Yes.

RS:

It would vary, and it would vary also as to seasons of the year where there were lots of visitors on the post, because the visitors would eat there with us.

EE:

So people would bring their families? If their families were coming to visit, they might stop there?

RS:

Right. Their families would stay at the guest house, and they would come right across to the cafeteria and eat their meals there, and their GI friends could join them there.

EE:

How many people could be housed in the guest house? When you first said “guest house” I was thinking—

RS:

Sizes of them varied, with the post and with the locale, but ooh, I have forgotten how many it could take.

EE:

When you say “house” I'm thinking of a big house, but maybe, it sounded like more of a hotel kind of situation.

RS:

No. It was more like a long building, with a lobby or a living room area, for people to sit and talk with each other if they wanted to, and then the rooms with the baths.

EE:

Tell me how long—you were at Fort Bragg, then you were at Camp Sutton, then you were at Camp Rucker?

RS:

Camp Rucker. Then I came back. No, I went to Greensboro.

EE:

Okay. Give me a sense of when you were where.

RS:

And then from there, I was back to Fort Bragg.

EE:

Right, right. How long were you at Bragg the first time, from '40 to—

RS:

Oh, a very short period of time. Just probably six months, eight months, something like that, before I went to Camp Sutton. I was there longer, and then I was at Camp Rucker.

EE:

You joined at Bragg, was it winter, spring, summer, fall of '42?

RS:

It was in December.

EE:

December of '42?

RS:

Of '42.

EE:

And so early in '43, you go down to Camp Sutton, which, we talked about, was a camp that was set up—was it right outside of Monroe? Was it toward the—

RS:

Right outside of Monroe.

EE:

—toward the Marshville side, I guess, the east side of town?

RS:

I believe it was, because they used to have to go on bivouac down into South Carolina, the soldiers would, and they would march.

EE:

Was it Highway 9, goes out of Monroe, something like that?

RS:

I've just forgotten, but they would have to go down there, you know, for some of their training.

EE:

And Bragg is the home for the 82nd Airborne. What was stationed at that time, at Camp Sutton?

RS:

If I remember correctly, there were quite a few engineering outfits there. I just don't know or remember what else was there.

EE:

And how long were you at Sutton?

RS:

I don't remember.

EE:

Were you there when—

RS:

I was there a year, a year and a half.

EE:

For Christmas?

RS:

Oh, yes. I was there for Christmas. I never took Christmas off. I stayed on the base at Christmas. Any of my vacation, I took other than during a holiday time, because I felt like we were needed there, at holiday times, to help these people through the holidays who could not go home.

EE:

Did your brothers do anything in the war effort as well?

RS:

Both my brothers were in the army. My older brother, the one that's still living, started out as an enlisted man and went to officers' candidate school and became a lieutenant in the ordinance department, stationed outside of Atlanta, Georgia, throughout the war. He didn't get overseas. He felt very badly about it.

My other brother was in the air force. He was stationed in Washington state, was sent to England with a group, and he was on the first daylight bombing raid over Berlin. They lost one engine going across the channel, they lost another to flak, and they knew that they had to make up their minds—they just had two engines left—do we unload the bombs on Berlin or do we turn around and go back to our base in England?

And they decided they were going to unload there. He said, “Okay, we'll have to lighten the ship,” so they were throwing everything overboard that they could, and unfortunately, my brother's boots got thrown off in the confusion. But they unloaded their bombs, their daylight raid, the first one, over Berlin, and then headed back toward France, which was neutral, and they knew somebody would pick them up. And sure enough, they were picked up by the French, and he was a prisoner of war of the Germans later. The Germans found out he was there, and picked him up. He was freed by the Russians, way up in the cold, cold territory. The Germans kept moving them further and further, you see, from our forces that were coming across Europe.

EE:

And so he came back after the war?

RS:

He came back after the war.

EE:

And you're probably hearing from them during the course of all this time, you're keeping up—you've got a lot of folks to worry about and think about, don't you?

RS:

Well, particularly, were we worried about my brother, who was in Germany, because there was six months we didn't know whether he was dead or alive. He was missing in action.

EE:

This was right after this raid?

RS:

Yes. And then my mother and father were notified that he was a prisoner of war.

EE:

Somebody told me something which, in 1999, seems kind of strange to understand, and my guess is because they told me that in their town, the word would come to parents whether your child was missing or killed or injured, through the local funeral home director, and the funeral director in their home came up and—and so you didn't know if the funeral home director was coming to tell you if they were—

RS:

No, I don't think that's the way it was with my parents.

EE:

How did it happen with your parents?

RS:

It seems to me that they got a telegram.

EE:

Directly from?

RS:

Yes. That's what I think.

EE:

That's how you found out. And same way with your fiancé. Is that how you found out?

RS:

His father. His father got the message, yes, and then he would notified me.

EE:

And I guess you're close enough in Monroe where the folks could keep in touch with you?

RS:

Oh, yes, they did.

EE:

The Sutton camp, was this also a seven-day-a-week camp?

RS:

Oh, yes. All of these places are seven days a week.

EE:

Typical day for you at work? When do you get in, what do you do, when do you leave?

RS:

Sometimes we'd be over there twelve hours, and then sometimes we—we were free to—if we had a lull, we could leave. We were not bound by any hours that we had to fulfill. We were just there to do the job.

EE:

Sutton is an engineering camp?

RS:

I think mostly they were engineering groups that were there.

EE:

Did your fiancé follow you to Sutton, too? I mean, your man who eventually became your husband?

RS:

Well, yes, he was sent there, and he left from there going overseas.

EE:

So that's where he was going next. Then you went to Camp Rucker. What part of Alabama is that?

RS:

It's close to Dothan. I only know Dothan. I had to go through Dothan going down.

EE:

How long were you there?

RS:

I guess a year, a year and a half. I've forgotten exactly. I had a very interesting experience there. They began to bring German POWs [prisoners of war] to the United States, and they were using them on these military posts, and I had two or three German POWs assigned to my club.

EE:

What were they assigned to do?

RS:

Anything that we wanted done. They cleaned and that sort of thing. And one of them spoke some English, and these were nice guys. There was no supervisor over them. They were sort of honor prisoners, you might say. The one that I remember the most was very tall and slender and spoke some English and was most interested in learning about the United States. Not secrets of war or anything of that sort, because we were kept under very close surveillance, as far as secrets of anything concerning—not loose like it is today, I would say. But I remember when Hamburg—this boy was from Hamburg—and I remember when Hamburg was bombed and really just—

EE:

Leveled.

RS:

—flattened. And I made some remark. I said, “Aren't you from Hamburg?” and his reply was, “Ja, Hamburg now hamburger.” That was the answer I got from him. We had to be very careful that they did not read newspapers. That was the one thing we were told that they must not do, was to get a hold of a newspaper, to read it. Because we kept daily papers and magazines available.

EE:

I was going to say, did they keep you all posted? Did you have any special briefings about what was going on in the war, other than just finding out from the servicemen what had been going on?

RS:

No. American soldiers came and picked them up in the afternoon, and they brought them in in the morning, and if there was any problem whatsoever—but there was never a problem with the three that I had.

EE:

And you all didn't have anybody around with a firearm on anyway, did you?

RS:

No.

EE:

So it wasn't like they would. Well, that's interesting to know. You were there—were you at Camp Rucker when Roosevelt passed away, or were you there till the end of the war?

RS:

I was at Camp Rucker when he died, and I was also there VJ Day.

EE:

Okay. So you were there through fall of '45, sounds like, before you switched back to—you were then briefly, I guess, then in Greensboro, after that?

RS:

Let me see if I'm getting this straight or mixed up. When was VJ Day?

EE:

VJ Day was August of '45, and VE Day was just about a month after Roosevelt passed away, May 15.

RS:

That's right. That's about right then, '45. Because I was in until '47.

EE:

So you spent about two years at Fort Bragg.

RS:

I think from Rucker to Greensboro, and then from Greensboro to Fort Bragg, and then I came out of the service at Fort Bragg.

EE:

And that was in—

RS:

That was in March of 1947.

EE:

What did you think about the Roosevelts? Of course, most young people kind of not necessarily are politically motivated anyway, but Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt, what did you think about them?

RS:

I thought Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most marvelous people. I don't know anybody that we've had before or since that could have done the job that he did, the three terms of office that he served. I think he was certainly to be commended. He took care of a lot of problems.

EE:

He had a lot on his plate, as they say. Depression plus.

RS:

He sure did. Right.

EE:

And Mrs. Roosevelt, what did you think of her? She's sort of an unusual—I mean, we don't think too much nowadays about women having more of a vocal role, but for that time, she was a very vocal First Lady.

RS:

For her time, she was very outspoken, but she was to be admired. I think most women admired her, because she stood firm in what she believed, and I think she was probably of great help to him.

EE:

You talked a little bit about this as far as, you had had some initial concerns about working in a military context, and about how folks were rowdy, but sounds like, that most of the men you encountered treated you with respect, and professionally.

RS:

Most of them did. And they greatly appreciated the fact that you were there, and it was amazing how many of them would come in and say, “I just have to talk to somebody who's not military.” I'd say, “Sit down. Close the office door and talk to me.” Because they wanted so much to talk. Sometimes they would be having problems with their girlfriends at home. They would be having other types of problems. Maybe family problems. And they just wanted a civilian to talk to.

EE:

Were most of the men that were around you actually enlisted in the military?

RS:

Oh, yes.

EE:

So the women that you worked with in the service club were the ones who were civil service and the men were all—

RS:

We were civil service, that's right.

EE:

So it was this kind of closely knitted together?

RS:

We were the staff and then the others were the GIs that used the club.

EE:

Doesn't sound like you were in a—

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

EE:

The time period. Of course, you're in your young twenties and so the world is exciting for most folks in the young twenties, because everything's new. You're getting out and doing things, and yet, this is a world that's changing so much and people are making it up as they go along.

RS:

I guess when I went to work at the military post I must have been twenty-four, because I was twenty-one when I graduated from college, and I worked almost two years in Lynchburg and then I worked about six months in Kannapolis, so you see, I was close to twenty-four.

EE:

What about your work at the service club was probably the hardest thing that you had to do? Was it being away from home? It could be physically or emotionally. I would think that those twelve-hour shifts were not the easiest thing to do.

RS:

No, it really wasn't that difficult, because the things that we were doing—there were days when we got more tired than others, of course. But physically, it was not that strenuous. Now when you're in food service, that's different. Food service is strenuous, because you've got personnel who may not show up and you know you've got to get the food out, you've got to keep the cafeteria going. But that's just one of the things that goes along with being in food service.

EE:

Sounds like you had joined this effort for a number of reasons, and the main thing was to keep you from worrying about the things you worried about.

RS:

Right.

EE:

Sounded like it worked, in that sense.

RS:

It did, because it kept my mind and me—

EE:

Focused on other things.

RS:

Right. I was busy.

EE:

And the things that you couldn't do a thing about, and rather than worrying about those, you helped other folks.

RS:

They stayed in the back of my mind instead of in the forefront, right.

EE:

For all those folks who came in and you closed the door, I know that was a healing thing for you as well, just to have the chance to do that.

RS:

Yes, it was. And I felt good that they thought that they could come and sit and talk with me. I'm not a counselor. I wasn't. But at least they felt good about talking to somebody.

EE:

Did you feel that you helped the war effort, in that regard?

RS:

Well, I'd like to think that I did, and most of your GIs, when they got ready to leave, whether they were being shipped out or whether they were being taken out of the Army, you know, where they discharged, many of them would come and thank you and say, “You know, it's been great that we had a place like this, with caring people.” And I'll have to say that the majority of the women who were there, on the staff, were caring people. Many of them were there with the same thoughts in mind that I had.

EE:

Somebody else they were missing, and rather than sitting home and missing them, they wanted to get out and do something.

RS:

Right.

EE:

Well, that's great. You told me that your job at Camp Rucker was a little bit different from what it had been before. You were working previously—

RS:

In foods.

EE:

You had been in the foods, but now at Camp Rucker, you were doing something different.

RS:

There I was the director of the service club itself, and I did the same thing at—I was in foods at Greensboro, but then when I went back to Fort Bragg this last time, where I left the service, I was also in the service club part of it, not in the cafeteria part of it. So I did time in both of them.

EE:

So you were the director of the service club. They just had the one at Rucker, in Alabama?

RS:

No, they had—I've forgotten whether they had more than one or not. Yes, they did. They must have had two or three. Maybe three at Rucker. I've just forgotten.

EE:

And then at Bragg, you were also a director of a service club?

RS:

Yes. The last time I was there, I was.

EE:

How were the responsibilities different? Are you the one who has to arrange the entertainment schedule?

RS:

Right, yes. See to all of that. See that the club keeps going, that the necessary things are there for the young men to find something to do when they come.

EE:

If I were to ask you, is there a song or some songs that take you right back to that time when you think about them, what would those be?

RS:

That's strange, as much as I love music, that I don't remember that. I guess I always remember White Christmas, that one, particularly. Most of the other songs that were favorites in the forties, is what the bands were playing for the dances.

EE:

So they were playing the Artie Shaw and the Glenn Miller?

RS:

That's right.

EE:

I think my dad still has a glint in his eye every time he hears Begin the Beguine for some reason.

RS:

Yes, that's one of them. String of Pearls and a lot of them.

EE:

You were directing this service club. Let me ask you a couple questions because there's some outside events that I try to ask everybody about. You told me about what you thought about the Roosevelts. Do you remember what you were doing when you heard that the war in Europe had ended, on VE Day in May? You must have been in Alabama, still. Did they have a special party at the club that night for VE Day?

RS:

I remember, more than anything else, that they were being very careful about the German prisoners when they realized that Germany had capitulated. That is the right word, isn't it?

EE:

That's right.

RS:

And that they were under very close, the prisoners were under very close scrutiny, and during that period of time, we could not leave the military post for any reason, unless it was an emergency. Because they didn't want anything at all to happen.

EE:

It was kind of a lock-down situation for you all, in a sense.

RS:

It was just for the good of everybody on the post. And if you lived on the post, you did not leave the post, and if you did, it had to be under a state of emergency.

EE:

So there was concern, but at the same time, you had to be a little happy. Well, and then VJ Day and all that going on. Now what's strange, and it's hard for people to realize, who did not live through that time, that you can go back and say, “Oh, just a couple months later, the war was over.” Well, that's not necessarily how it looked in May because no one knows we've got the atom bomb. In fact, they hadn't even tested it yet, so that people working on it didn't know it would work. And everybody assumes that we're going to have a long invasion of Japan, just like we had of Europe. So just one job's over and the next job starts.

RS:

That's right. And I look at it this way. Of course, I guess I would have, with a fiancé over there. The war started in the Pacific, yet we seem to put more emphasis on getting it taken care of in Europe, and then once we got Europe taken care of, then we went back to the Pacific. But the losses were great in both places.

I don't know, I never have seen casualty figures for it, but it was a different, such a different type of war in the Pacific. Now, my husband to be—they were following the troops, an engineering outfit. They were just going from island to island, as the islands were being retaken, they were going in, and secure them and clean them and this sort of thing. And then right on into Korea, even.

EE:

Did you get the word about your fiancé before the end of the war?

RS:

Yes.

EE:

Was that '45, I guess?

RS:

I was at Camp Sutton—I mean, Camp Rucker—when I got the word that he was dead. And so I had to have special permission to travel. Trains were loaded, busses were loaded. GIs got preference. Civilians were left standing because they couldn't get on the train or couldn't get on the busses. So the special service officer there gave me a special letter and asked me to travel in uniform, and I came home.

EE:

Normally, you only wear a uniform on base.

RS:

Yes. And I came home to be with my fiancé's family. And travel, there was no air-conditioned trains, and I traveled in uniform. It was in the summertime, it was real hot. And it was a coincidence that I was at home with my parents and his parents were coming over to my house for dinner, and my brother, who had been a prisoner of the Germans, walked in, while I was there.

EE:

Good timing.

RS:

Yes and no. It was hard on my fiancé's parents.

EE:

Oh, to see that.

RS:

To see him back.

EE:

Yes, I guess you're right. It's hard to feel—you can't feel the joy that you want to feel, because the bad.

RS:

That's right.

EE:

Yes, that's tough. You bring about this point about the uniform. I don't know if I had this on tape, that you all, although you're civilian employees, you are wearing uniforms when you're at work.

RS:

When we were at work, yes.

EE:

But you're not supposed to wear them out. Many people have told me that, you know, they loved being in service because they got free meals and got into movies and shows, because they'd just lend somebody a uniform, they'd just let you in. But you were not supposed to wear the uniform off the base.

RS:

I could wear it. There was nothing that said I couldn't, but for the most part, we preferred to wear civilian clothes when we left the post. Like say, if we went into town to a movie, then we would. Now if I went on business, in an official car, in a government vehicle, then I wore uniforms, or if I drove a government vehicle, I went in uniform.

EE:

So you drove one or two jeeps in your time.

RS:

No jeeps, no. Most of the time they sent you a staff car.

EE:

You go back and after—was there anything special about VJ Day that you remember?

RS:

Nothing, except I guess, within my own heart. I was glad it was over.

EE:

Right, right. You could have quit right then, at the end of war in '45, yet you chose to stay on, working with the service club. You must have liked the work.

RS:

Well, the service clubs were still needed. They did begin to close posts, because they didn't need them anymore for training purposes, as much. Not as much, we'll put it that way. But I stayed on because some of these places, you see, you take the place in Greensboro, that was a center into which GIs were sent to be discharged, or to be reassigned, whichever the case might have been. And the same thing was going on, of course, at Fort Bragg, after they closed the one in Greensboro. They were still doing the same thing, and I was in the area on the post at Fort Bragg the last time that I was there, where they were bringing people in and discharging them, or reassigning them. So both of those assignments were identical, in that respect.

EE:

Having stayed on that long, did you ever think about working in that kind of role as a career, or were you asked to stay on longer?

RS:

No. I left of my own free will. I was offered a job, and decided I was ready to come out, so I came to Charlotte.

EE:

You don't know how they got your name on the list, or did somebody tell you how they found out about you?

RS:

I don't remember.

EE:

This was the Charlotte Country Club where you ended up going?

RS:

Yes.

EE:

And what was your job there?

RS:

I was the assistant manager, in charge of the dining room, all the parties, and all that sort of thing.

EE:

Wartime was a tough time for you, emotionally, and yet there are lots of, I'm sure, things that were lighthearted, maybe embarrassing, for some folks, that probably made it a little easier to do, being around all these people. Is there a lighthearted or embarrassing moment that you remember from that time, that sticks out? Something that happened in the club, or something somebody said or did?

RS:

I guess one thing that sticks out was, they were having Christmas Eve services at Fort Bragg, and the chaplains that were there were so anxious for as many as the soldiers that were left on the post for Christmas, that would attend the services, the special services that they were having on Christmas Eve. They came to me and asked me if I'd cooperate. I said, “I will not schedule anything for this time, and I will even go so far as, if necessary, close the club.” But I said, “There will be a notice posted that there will be no activity going on in the service club while you're having your Christmas service.”

Well, they appreciated that very much. And I had taken up all the cue sticks and pool equipment, and put them in my office where I could lock them, and the library, and the library had closed. I guess we left the club open if they wanted to just come sit. I couldn't do anything about it. And one young man came to me and he said, “I want to play pool,” and I said, “I'm sorry, but we're closing the club. We're all going across the street to the chapel for the special Christmas Eve service.” And he said, “I'm not going. I'm an atheist.” And I said, “You have my deepest sympathy,” and I turned around and walked off from him. That's all I said. He got the message, and he didn't ask me for any pool equipment that night.

EE:

Was that '44?

RS:

That was toward the end. That was in the last, I would say, '46, '47, somewhere along there.

EE:

You had showed me a picture earlier of your, was that your, who was that?

RS:

Uncle.

EE:

Your uncle. Was he there when you were?

RS:

No, he was in the China, Burma, India Theater, and I don't know where he was in the United States when he came back.

EE:

Did you have any heroes or heroines from that time?

RS:

MacArthur has always been one of my heroes. He said he would go back and he did. I know a lot of people disliked him, and I'm very anxious to see that show that's coming up in a couple of weeks, out of Chapel Hill, on the Public Broadcasting System. I know he could be difficult, but I also know that if they had listened [to] him, we might never have had that war in the Pacific. He and Billy Sunday [American Fundamentalist preacher]. If they only listened to those two, we might not have had that war.

EE:

You were stateside, yet working with the military, so you sort of have a dual vision. Some folks, by being overseas, they sort of don't have a sense of what the mood of the country is. You're there and you—I've heard people say, even in the last week, I was watching a talk show and they talked about how back in World War II, everybody was patriotic. Everybody knew what we had to do and everybody pulled together to win. Is that true?

RS:

I think it was. There was such tight security on these military posts. I mentioned it a while ago. But we never knew when those trains were going to pull out, and at the club where I was the first time at Fort Bragg, I was in sight of all of those trains, to take those men to a port, to put them on ships. We'd see those trains leaving. But we never knew any of the movements, when, who, how. We never knew, and we were very carefully screened before we were given our jobs, and were told that we would be under the same type of military security that any officer or GI on that post.

EE:

Because, well, I guess that's true, loose lips do sink ships.

RS:

Loose lips, that's right.

EE:

I know before the war started, there were a lot of people who said, “That's their business, whether it's overseas, you know, anywhere overseas, that's not America's war.” And when it starts, I just wondered if there was any fear that we might not win.

RS:

No, I guess I never really gave it a thought. I guess we all are pretty proud of our country, feel like that we've always been number one.

EE:

That's good, that's good. Did you have time for much of a social life yourself, when you were with the military?

RS:

Well, some, yes.

EE:

So you danced a few times, I'm sure?

RS:

Oh, I love to dance, and I attended most of the dances. And part of the time I'd have to be checking on things.

EE:

Make sure everybody was doing everything.

RS:

Yes, checking on the refreshments and all this sort of thing. But then part of the time I could dance and enjoy it, too.

EE:

You've talked about this in a different way, but are there some other characters, interesting folks, that you remember, who were either positive influences on you, or memorable influences on you, during the time that you were doing this work?

RS:

No. I remember one of the librarians, she was a great, big woman. When I went there, she said to me, “I'll give you a little bit of warning.” And I said, “All right, what?” She said, “Don't have anything to do with those paratroopers.” That was the 82nd. Of course, they had their own service club, but a lot of them came where we were. And she said, “They're terrible.” Well, I suddenly realized that this was a woman who apparently had made up her mind and was very negative about them. I mean, they couldn't all be bad. It is true that they took a lot of chances. They had to work hard to get to be a paratrooper.

EE:

They were risk-taking personalities, right.

RS:

Risk, that's right. And they had to be sort of, as you said, special personalities to want to do what they were doing. And strangely enough, after that, I went out several times with one of the paratroopers, one that was promoted on the field of battle. And could never, ever have known a finer person, a person who was a perfect gentleman, and you know, it just completely disproved what she had said about, “Don't have anything to do with—”

We never had any trouble with any of the paratroopers, and I didn't when I was in the service club in the paratroopers division, where I was the last time. I never had any problem with them. They could be perfectly nice, you know—you generate within them how they're going to react.

EE:

That's right. You give the clues.

RS:

That's right.

EE:

You said you've always been a people person, in a sense. Do you think that your experiences, and I can just listen to you, you started out—somebody knew that you were an independent person, and somebody who could command respect, right from the beginning, if you were hired to do that right out of the gate. But do you think this time made you more self-confident, more independent, than you might have been otherwise, helping out during this time?

RS:

I don't know. I was always independent. Miss Edwards, who was the chairman of the department of home economics at WC when I went there, told me toward the end of my four years, she said, “You know, you're an independent little thing,” and she said, “Now, just a little bit of warning. Independence is fine.” She ought to know, she was. But she had never married, and she said, “You know, men don't like independent women,” so she said, “You keep that in the back of your little mind.”

But when I got to Duke—this is entirely different. When I was at Duke, I had the responsibility for feeding and overseeing the training table for the football squad, and I think the men there were sort of amazed that anybody that was my size could take on fifty or sixty football players upstairs in that training room and keep them in order, and keep them from eating too much. But I had no problems, having been around all these GIs and never having had any trouble with them.

EE:

What kind of effect did your time, working around military personnel, have on the rest of your life? What did it teach you? What did you take away from the time, working with servicemen?

RS:

I think I had a great deal of respect. I'd always had, but I think I had even more respect for GIs, for the training through which they were put in order to be good soldiers. I saw good officers. One of the outstanding officers that I remember at Fort Bragg was General James Gavin, the man who made the 82nd Airborne what it was. He was a people person. He used to walk into that service club to see what was going on. He was going to check and make sure that his guys were taken care of. But he didn't want a one of them out of line, and he told you, “Don't ever let a one of them get out of line, because if they do, I want to know about it.” He commanded the respect of every last one of them, and of civilians as well. And I admired him and there were other officers that were equally as good. All officers weren't what he was.

EE:

He sort of set a standard.

RS:

He set a standard. If everybody had done the way he did, there would never have been misunderstanding between officers and enlisted men. But I had a great deal of respect for these kids that would go out in gliders, the ones that were being trained as ground troops, and the ones that were jumping out of airplanes, and jumping behind enemy lines. You take the Green Berets, they went in behind enemy lines. They were hand-picked people, true, but that was dangerous work. You have a great deal of respect for them.

EE:

Seeing that up close, and of course, we're in a different military time today, and there's women all in the military. In fact, we just sent our first woman into combat in December. They sent a fighter pilot over to bomb Iraq. Do you think there are some positions in the military that women should not be allowed to do, or how do you feel about that?

RS:

I'm not 100 percent sold on women going into combat. It's not that I don't think that they aren't capable. I'm sure they are capable. They have proven themselves to be capable. You take fighter pilots. There are women doing that. I'll put it this way. I would not want to do it. I would think that there would be some other way in which I could serve, other than in actual combat.

EE:

And you would not recommend a loved one, a female loved one, to go into—

RS:

If I had a daughter, I would not want her to do it. I would not forbid her, because I don't think that I should tell somebody what to do with their life. I could make a suggestion.

EE:

This interview is largely about everybody's shared experiences of a time in their life, and yet, after—you've already alluded to some interesting things that happened to you after you got out in '47. You work at the country club, you go back for your master's. You told me a second ago you're at the Duke training table. Tell me a little about what happened to you after '47.

RS:

Well, I was only a year in the country club, because country club work is—it's a good way to make a living, but you don't have much time to spend the money that you make, and it can be a little bit trying at times. It's another place where you're dealing with people, but you're dealing with people on a little bit different basis.

I wouldn't take anything for the year that I spent in the country club, but when I got out, I made up my mind I would never, ever take another such job. I had them beg me to come to another country club in Charlotte. I said, “I made up my mind when I left I was not going back,” and the manager told me, he said, “I don't blame you. It's no life for a single woman.” And it wasn't, but it was a great teaching experience.

And I went from there to Duke University, and I was at Duke University for eight years, as a manager, food manager. And it was there that I had charge of the feeding of the athletes, the football table, and then we fed all the others, you know, at special times, the baseball, basketball, swim teams.

EE:

So you had to put the iron in the Iron Dukes.

RS:

Yes. But I really never had any problems, except with one young man. He thought if he got smart with me that, you know—

EE:

So when was it that you married your husband?

RS:

When I was at Duke. He had gotten a job at the university also, after teaching in a high school. After he got home from the service, he went to college.

EE:

Went back on the GI Bill, I guess?

RS:

Yes, right. And got his degree over at Elon College, his bachelor's degree. And then he got his master's at the same time I got mine, and then he did doctoral work at University of Mississippi and also at University of South Florida. And we both wound up college teachers. He was teaching in a junior college. Well, he taught at Greensboro College, and then we went to Florida and we were in the junior college system down there, which is—they're one of the leaders in junior college systems.

EE:

My mother-in-law retired as the personnel director from Gaskin College, and just the number of people that the community college, junior college system, trains is incredible.

RS:

Oh, it is. It really is.

EE:

It's a very important part.

RS:

It's a great place to teach because you're teaching, at least during the time that I was there, particularly in the area that I was in, we were teaching a lot of adults. We had, in Jacksonville, particularly, I had a lot of men who had come out of the navy, and of course, they have a big naval base there, and they had gotten interested in, by doing mess work, kitchen work there, and wanted to go into food service. And so they were at the junior college, taking that two-year course, to train them for food service managers. And they were great students.

EE:

So you led that kind of a program then afterwards?

RS:

Yes. And they were great students. Now we had some students just right out of high school, too, but we had a large percentage of adults who were trying to elevate themselves in the positions in which they were, in food service. Some of them were in hospitals and some of them were other places, but they were great students, they really were.

EE:

So you were down in Florida and then decided to come back to get your master's, is that what it was?

RS:

No, I got my master's before I went to Florida.

EE:

So you were up here working at Duke?

RS:

I was at Duke until 1956, and then I went to Wake Forest College, and I opened the food service at the new Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. And I was there five and a half years. Then I worked five and a half years for Sears and Roebuck. I managed the cafeteria in the catalog order house in Greensboro, where we fed thousands.

EE:

Sears used to have such—it was a much better store in the old days. I go to Sears now and I think, what happened? I miss the chocolate covered peanuts.

RS:

This was the catalog order house, you know, where they had an employee cafeteria. But it was from there that I went to college, got my master's, then I went to teaching in colleges. And I was teaching people to do what I had done most of my life, and that made it nice, because I had twenty-five years of experience in various kinds of food service.

EE:

That's right. All the different kinds, and lots of institutions that you had gone to.

RS:

Right. And I got in some hospital work one summer, by volunteering to work in a hospital in Florida. I said, “I don't care whether you pay me or not, I just want some hospital experience.”

EE:

Because that's probably the other kind of major institution.

RS:

Of course, I was teaching, and so being a registered dietitian, I had no problem getting on, and they took me on that summer. I was a diet clerk. I worked as a dietitian, but I was paid as a diet clerk. That was the only pay they had available. I said, “I don't care whether you pay me at all, I want the experience.” Because it made me a better teacher. That was the only kind of dietetic work or food management work that I had not done, was hospital work, and I also worked while I was down there, I did dietary consulting in nursing homes. I had six nursing homes.

EE:

How did you get back from Florida then to Yanceyville?

RS:

A friend of mine was in charge of the department of foods and nutrition at East Carolina University. I had known her when I was getting my master's and she was getting her doctorate, and she went down there as the head of the foods and nutrition department at East Carolina University school of home economics. And she had an opening and she called and wanted to know if I was interested. And so that's how I got—and I wound up working there and retiring from East Carolina University, in the school of home economics.

EE:

Was your husband still living there then?

RS:

No, he was still in Florida. When I went there, they thought they were going to have a position in the fall available to him. I went in in January and I don't know whether we ought to tape my answer or not.

EE:

We'll do it off the record on that. So then you retired from East Carolina. I still haven't got your Caswell County connection. I was thinking you were born and raised here.

RS:

We came here when we both had retired. I retired at the end of the school year in 1983, and my husband went back to Jacksonville and taught one more year so he could buy his GI time into his retirement. You can do it in the state of Florida. So he went back and taught an extra year, although he was eligible for retirement, so that he could buy in his GI time.

And I went down there and stayed with him that last year that he was there. I had taught down there also, but I went down there just as a retired person. And then when we came back to Greenville after we had both retired, we knew we wanted to come back to this part of the country, because he had a sister in Reidsville, my mother was giving up her home in Shelby and going to the Moravian retirement home in Winston-Salem, where my brother lives. And we had no family at all in the eastern part of the state, although we loved it down there. So after we found suitable property, that's why we moved up here. We saw this place, it was offered to us for sale, we fell in love with it, and we bought it.

EE:

Well, I can see why. This is the poster day today, with the beautiful weather.

RS:

It's a beautiful place to live, it really is, and the people here are just wonderful. They're great, they really are, everybody.

EE:

Well, we've gone over only about, oh, sixty or seventy years today. Is there anything that I haven't asked you about, in terms of that special time in the forties, that you'd like to add, that I haven't talked about?

RS:

Can't think of anything.

EE:

Well, I certainly appreciate you sitting down and doing this for me, and for the university. I think it'll be nice to have another story of how a WC woman contributed to the war effort, because I certainly think you did.

[End of Interview]