Object ID: WV0079.5.001
Documents Doris Wofford Armenaki's early life; education; military service as a nurse during World War II; personal life after the war; and nursing training and teaching at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Armenaki recalss her early education and education for women in the 1930s and 1940s. She describes her attendance at North Georgia College and the reaction of students at this military school to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Comments about Armenaki's service in the Cadet Nurse Corps include an overview of joining the program, program rules, and social activities. Armenaki also describes her work and living quarters at Kennedy General Hospital in Memphis, a special hospital for amputees and psychiatric cases, and comments on working with amputees and prisoners of war returning from both Europe and the Pacific. Other subjects include patriotism, support for the war, and pride in her work and her contributions to the war effort.
Armenaki also discusses at length her post-war nursing positions; her decision to obtain a bachelor of science in nursing at UNCG and a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Alabama; her teaching at UNCG; and her work as director of an off-campus RN-to-BSN program in Hickory, North Carolina.
Creator: Doris Wofford Armenaki
Biographical Info: Doris Wofford Armenaki (1923-2013) of Cornelia, Georgia, served in the Cadet Nurse Corps and the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. A career nurse, Amenaki also served as an instructor in the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1975 to 1992.
Collection: Doris Wofford Armenaki 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.
My name is Eric Elliott and I'm with the
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and today is May 19, 1999, and I'm
in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the home of Doris Armenaki. And thank you for
letting us do an interview with you today for the Women Veterans Historical
Project [WVHP]. We're going to ask about thirty-odd questions, but the first one, most
folks don't find too terribly difficult, and that is, where were you born and
where did you grow up?
I was born in Cornelia, Georgia [on November 3, 1923].
Is that the northern part of the state?
Northeast. Way up northeast. And I grew up there. Lived there all my life, through high school, going away to college.
Did you have any brothers and sisters?
Two brothers, one sister.
You were in the middle of that group?
The last, all right. What did your folks do?
My mother was a homemaker, as most women were back then. My father, up until
right after, or the beginning of World War II, was in the hardware business. And
then after the war, because the hardware business didn't do very well during the
war, he went to work for International Furniture Company, and soon after that
was appointed plant manager.
Now you said after World War II. You mean after World War I?
So he worked through this through—
As far as I remember. My sister may tell me different.
Okay. You went to school right there in Cornelia?
I went to Cornelia Elementary School and graduated from Cornelia High
School. We had no middle schools back then.
Was it an eleven-year or a twelve-year high school?
Eleven years. The year I was a senior, they added the twelfth year, and we
had a choice of staying or going.
I wonder how many stayed, with that choice?
Some did, particularly guys who played football and basketball.
They wanted an extra year.
They wanted an extra year.
Was that an eight-month school year? How long was the school year?
It was shorter in North Carolina, for some reason. They took a while to—
I think it was nine.
When did you graduate then?
I graduated in 1940. I was sixteen.
Were you somebody who liked school?
I loved it.
What was your favorite subject?
Were you doing lab experiments and dissecting and that kind of stuff?
Come talk to my eight-year-old.
My goal back then was to be a doctor, but I graduated at the age of sixteen,
and tried at that time to get into Emory University, and they sort of frowned on
women in the med school. I don't think they've had had but just very few to
graduate. And I was going to have to work, and that's when they turned me down,
saying, “You can't work and go to med school.” So I thought about it,
so I applied for nursing school and you had to be eighteen. So I went to college
for two years. I went to North Georgia College.
Where was that located?
I see somebody who's not a native. I would say “Dalanega.”
Well, “Dalanega” was the Indian way to say it.
Dahlonega. Sort of like if you're—
That school began in 1873 and it's still in existence. I went there for two
years and then was accepted at Georgia Baptist Hospital School of Nursing.
Was that junior college close enough to home where you could stay at home
and commute, or you had to move out?
Oh, no. It was about fifty-two miles away.
Did you have any other folks you went to school with who were already there,
or did you know anybody?
My first cousin, that I was very close to, went with me. The president of
the college had been dean of a college that my older brother and sister went to.
My oldest brother. A little college called Piedmont College, nearby, Demorest,
Georgia. And they were so fond of Dean Rogers and they had taken classes from
him, that when I was thinking about going to school, I thought that's where I
would go, and my sister said, “No, you're going to North Georgia, if at all
possible, because Dr. Rogers is president,” so that's how I got to North
Georgia. I had no trouble getting in, but it wasn't because of him. I had pretty
So your folks were all behind you going away to school?
Oh, yes, absolutely.
And apparently, you all were able to do that. I know still that was—money
was tight for a lot of folks. So you were in good shape.
My weekly allowance, if they had it, was three dollars. I didn't get it
every week. I worked two jobs.
While you were in school?
I graded papers in the English department and answered the telephone in the
Did you get a lot of time for a social life? At sixteen, you probably had to
find ways to have a social life.
This was a college of about eight hundred men and a hundred women.
Ooh, you probably had a really good social life then.
Well, North Georgia is a military college, and has been for years and years
and years. The three classes that I knew, and I went in '40, and then finished
in '42, most of the guys, certainly from '41 and '42, went in the service,
eventually, if not then, when they graduated. Some went in voluntarily. I think
it's something like ninety-two were killed.
That's a pretty high percent.
Well, look when they went in.
That's right, that's right. You are young, but there's a lot going on in the
world—high school, junior college. Do you remember, as you were finishing high
school, being in any way at all concerned about what was going on in Europe?
No. But I remember the day—I remember Pearl Harbor.
Were you at school that day?
I was in college. It was a Sunday, if you remember. We had gone to church.
We were required. I was dating one of the cadets, which most of us did, but we
met after church. The men had to form in formation and march to church, and then
they had to be—you know, march out and be dismissed. So we were in the local, I
guess you would call it, like a soda shop, it was called Smitty's. It was a
hamburger, you know, short-order place.
There were lots of couples in there. And all of a sudden, one of the cadets
yelled, “At ease,” which meant “Be quiet,” in army terms. So
we all shut up and he turned the radio up and they were talking about Pearl
Harbor. Well, there was quite a hush all over the campus, for days, because we
were beginning to realize, these guys were already in the military. They were
all ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps]. That's why some of them volunteered, rather than wait to get their
commission, so they could do what they wanted.
All the fellows who were going to this school were in line to become
So they just went ahead and—
You talked about the—in later years, we talk about how young the folks were
that went in Vietnam, as an average age. But it sounds like a lot of those folks
were probably young themselves when they went in.
Well, I guess I was—I'm sure there were others my age. I was a little bit
younger. Actually, I graduated from high school in May, and I was seventeen in
But when you heard that in Smitty's, did—everybody knew, even though
[Franklin D.] Roosevelt didn't speak till the next day, everybody knew what that
meant. We were in the war.
Right, absolutely. There was no doubt on that campus that we would not be in
war very soon.
Do you remember—I'm just thinking about the last ten years and the villains
that we have faced as a country, and we talk now about Milosevic. We tend to
kind of personify the enemy in terms of one person, Milosevic or Saddam Hussein
or Kudafi. Back at those times, was it Hitler and Tojo and Mussolini? Was it
very personal as well?
I was not aware of the Japanese involvement. Now I don't know if others were
unaware or aware. I guess it's because being on the side of the continent we
were on, we certainly knew about Hitler and I had followed the story of Hitler.
Actually, when he was doing very good things for the Germans. You know, in the
Straightened them out and made the trains run.
He gave them jobs, he saw that they were paid, and once he got power, then
that's when he turned into the tyrant he was. And Mussolini was very prominent
in our minds, in the things that we talked about.
He had been more of a tyrant from the beginning, it seemed like. He was a
But we learned a lot about Japan very quickly.
I bet. Well, probably had to learn where Pearl Harbor was, too, I would
Well, Hawaii, but still, in my mind's eye, I didn't really know where—
Still half a world away.
Yes. I knew that the Hawaiian islands were in the Pacific and I could find
them on a map.
Your plans, how did they change after Pearl Harbor Day? Did you think about
changing your career or doing something different, with the war coming on?
No. I had found out, once I decided to go into nursing, that that's what I
really wanted to do. Medicine was no longer important to me.
Had you already been a student nurse, or a candy striper or something like
I'd been a candy striper.
You had done that in high school?
It was while I was in high school. I spent two summers with my older
brother—he was fourteen years older than I—in his hometown, Rome, Georgia,
with he and his wife, and I worked in there, in the hospital there. We didn't
have a hospital. Twenty-five miles away in Gainesville. So he saw that I got
some employment, and I was what they called a candy striper.
Tell me how you got into this Cadet Nurse Corps program. That was after the
junior college experience, wasn't it?
I graduated from North Georgia in 1942. North Georgia was a junior college a
very short period of time. Eight years, maybe. I don't think it was
a total of ten years. It had been a four-year agriculture school, military
agriculture. And when things got bad in the Depression, they almost lost the
school. Also, they had a governor that did not support education, and would not
help them. North Georgia was up in the mountains, away from any metropolis, so
He wasn't going to make a lot of votes by doing that then.
The people who were going to come there, they had to have transportation,
and most of the roads—I can remember some other routes into—some of the
strange ones. Our roads were paved, but I've been in to Dahlonega on dirt roads,
when I was in school there, that had not been paved. So they began to lose
Dr. Rogers went over and he formed the junior college, which helped. They just
had two years to be concerned about, and then I think it was '47-'48, it became
a four-year school again. It has a nickname. It's the West Point of the South.
Very high academic credentials, although for many years they had to take people
off the farms, the students came from close by because there was no way in.
There were even no buses until—I think when I started school, they started the
bus line to Gainesville.
How did you end up—did you already have in mind that you were going to go
to Georgia Baptist then before you went to North Georgia?
I had hoped, after my first year at North Georgia, that that's what I could
do. That's where I had applied, mainly because they didn't charge you anything.
Tuition, room and board, uniforms, everything was paid.
Once you got in, that was good.
Back then, a lot of the large schools of nursing, hospital schools of
nursing, were that way because we “manned the forts.”
So basically, on-the-job training is what it amounted to.
Yeah, about all the RNs [registered nurses] they had were our instructors or our supervisors. They had very few RNs working. They worked private duty.
When did you find out that that was going to happen for you?
After Christmas my sophomore year, because I reapplied.
So you start that in the summer, or when do you start?
I started in June of 1942.
Were you at that time part of the Cadet Nurse Corps? Is this in '43, is
[that] when you joined that?
Cadet Nurse Corps was not in existence.
So you started out, and your expectation when you started in June of '42 was
that you would be there for two years, get your nursing degree—
Three years, then get your nursing degree and go work in a private hospital
or some place?
Well, I had begun to think about the service. I didn't know whether women
were going to be in the service or not. We thought about it, we talked about it,
in nursing school, but there was never a draft of nurses, formal drafting. So it
was everybody's decision.
But as I said, we got no money to go there. Everything was free, and times were
tough with my family. So the Cadet Nurse Corps was formed, I think it was formed
in 1943. My card says that I joined in March of '44. I thought I went in in '43,
but I found this certificate, and it's signed by my director, school of nursing,
so that may be when it was. But they paid us fifteen dollars a month or—I
cannot remember correctly.
But compared to nothing.
Yes. And they gave us uniforms to wear. We could wear them downtown and be
Did you have any extra duties that you had to do as part of the Cadet Nurse
So they didn't ask you to drill, they didn't ask you to live together?
But in exchange for this fifteen dollars, you were telling me before we
started that there was some quid pro quo, because at the end of the time of your
training, you were expected to join the service.
Right. We were told, if you became a cadet nurse that you would spend the
last six months of your nursing school in either the army, the navy, or I
believe community health. And then it would be up to us whether we stayed,
whether we accepted—
So there was only really a six-month requirement that you do something, and
that six months meant that you were going to be away from Georgia Baptist?
You go wherever they sent you.
Wherever they sent.
We weren't given a choice.
I imagine Georgia Baptist probably put some limits on how many of you could
get in the Cadet Nurse Corps, if that was the case.
Not that I know of. It was wartime.
Wartime. Well, I just wondered, you know, was it a competitive thing to get
No, not that I remember. I don't know if grades or anything like that had—I
know that most of my classmates went in. As far as I know, the people who could
pass the physical, who had become—not everybody became a nurse, a cadet nurse.
We weren't all cadets.
So you could have become a nurse but not become a cadet nurse, because of
this physical requirement and some other things.
You could become a cadet nurse just because you said you wanted to.
Right. But you could not become a full military nurse until you passed this
No. Couldn't spend those last months, the last six months, in one of the
services. You had to pass the same physical that—I did—as the army nurses.
You were, I guess, housed with—all the nurses were housed in a dormitory
there at the hospital?
We had what was called the nurses' home. Some call it “nursing”
home, but I believe we spoke of it as the nurses' home.
Well, I'm vaguely curious. This is supposedly—my father was a patient where
he met my mother, who was a nurse. I still have to find the details of how he
got into the nurses' home, where she was.
I can tell you stories. We don't have time.
So you're saying it's not a unique event, then? People have done it before.
I met the man who was going to be my husband then. He was stationed at Fort
Benning, and came into Atlanta, and we were well aware of all the good-looking
guys in uniform. And there, they'd speak to you and ask you for a date. As they
say, the rest is history.
The rest is history. Speak to you and ask you for a date? This was not while
you were working, or was this while you were downtown on weekends?
One of my roommates and a suitemate and I had gone to church. This was in
'43. I think it was in the spring of '43 because they were wearing winter
uniforms, and there were two paratroopers sitting at the table where we'd gone
to lunch. There were two paratroopers sitting at the table next to us, and a
conversation just began between us.
All three of us had to go on duty on three o'clock, and they decided they would
ride back to the hospital with us. So we told them goodbye, there were three of
us and two of them. We told them goodbye, in the front, the entrance to the
nurses' home, and when we came down to go on duty, they were sitting there,
followed us into the hospital. I was working in the OR [operating room], and Tom went with me,
rode the elevator up, and asked my supervisor if he could come in and see the
OR. And nothing was going on. It was a Sunday afternoon. So he got in for a
tour, and when he left, he asked me for a date for the next weekend.
Now that's pretty cagey. Instead of asking, you know, like your mom who had
been around, he asked the supervisor for special treatment. Then you're forced
to spend time with him whether or not you like him.
Well, he just was so interested in the OR, you know.
Oh, yes. That's great.
I didn't expect him to show up the next week, to tell you the truth.
So you thought it would just be a one-time thing, and gone back?
I mean, I thought he was just being nice. He said, “If I get liberty,
maybe we'll go to a movie Saturday night, have dinner Sunday night.”
Well, now, what was he doing at Benning? Was he getting ready to be shipped
out, or was he training folks?
He was in paratrooper training.
So he was training other folks to be paratroopers?
He was actually in the training himself there.
He was given a deferment when he was drafted because his father had become
very ill and his brother was already in the navy. His brother went in the navy,
air corps, in '39, and they really needed Tom at home. So he was given, I don't
know, a year's deferment, but before that deferment was up, he decided to
volunteer so he could have a choice. So he volunteered for the ski troops, the
mountain division, and he was sent to Camp Vail, Colorado.
So he wasn't learning how to ski at Fort Benning?
No. Well, they had three mountain divisions training, and they were
beginning the war—they had moved into Italy or were going to attack in Italy,
and they realized that would be the only mountainous area they would probably
ever have over there, into and through the Alps. So they only needed one
Mountain Division, so the other two were given—they chose one, the tenth, to
keep, and they gave the other two a choice, the GIs. You can go overseas and be
an infantryman, or you can go in training for paratrooper, because they
really—it was just starting, and they really needed them. And Tom said that he
decided that would keep him in the United States another six months, and it
helped him miss D-Day. He was on a troop ship in the harbor in New York, to go
overseas, on D-Day. So he chose paratroops, and he loved it.
So did he actually make jumps when he was overseas?
He made the “big jump” in September of '44. I'll tell you a cute
little aside about my dad. Tom came back from overseas and we had decided before
he left that we were probably going to get married. And my family thought,
“Well, the two years or whatever time he'll be gone, they'll meet new
So when he came back, he came down to see me and we went up to have dinner with
my parents so they could meet. They hadn't met. And my dad's sitting in the
living room talking to him. Of course, I was nervous about what he might say to
him, and I heard him say to him, “Tom, I have a very serious question to
ask you,” and I thought, “Oh, dear. Here it comes.”
So I'm standing out in the dining room door, listening, and he said, he just
said, “Well, Mr. Wofford, I'll answer whatever you ask,” and Dad said,
“Well, I want to know how the hell you got the nerve to jump out of an
airplane.” Tom said, “Well, you want me to be honest? I jumped once,
and I was pushed twelve times.” [laughs] Sorry, that has
nothing to do with—
No, that's real life, that's where it is. That's great. So you all, I guess
you were in your—when did you meet him? What year were you in training?
I met him in '43.
'43. So you had just started? You had just started down at Georgia
Hadn't quite finished a year.
Okay, so this is springtime. So he goes off and you all dated for a few
months, I guess, before he goes off to school.
He went overseas in June of '44.
You decided to join the Cadet Nurse Corps in '43.
The best I remember.
Well, that card. And it may be, see, that you got that card at some point
after serving a certain amount of time, you were officially in.
Well, yeah, and see, it's got my serial number on it, and I'm sure that it's
probably—there's no serial number on this. It just says, “U.S. Cadet Nurse
Corps.” This is an identification bracelet.
At the time that you joined this, had they—because I know there are people
in the Nurse Corps who ended up going overseas, going all the way around the
world. When you joined, did you know that was a possibility for you?
And that didn't scare you?
No. We were so focused at that time on what was happening in the world, and
certainly what was happening to America. It was—you know, people, women at home
were beginning to do what they could, working in factories, making bandages, all
those things. Well, I was a nurse. I mean, all I could see was doing that. I
guess I never worried about going into combat.
Did your folks have any concerns about that?
I mean, you could be a nurse in a hospital and not have the same additional
Well, my parents were always interested in what we wanted to do, and if we
had good reasons to do it, they usually backed us up.
Do you remember what was the compelling factor then that made you finally
join this group? You say it was the—do you think the money had something to do
with it? Obviously, I think, having someone you cared about already going
overseas, and the fact that you wanted to help, too.
I had two brothers in the service.
They both were already in?
My parents, one of their concerns was, there were three out of the four of
us in the military-already one in the navy and one in the army. But they could
see the need, I think. I don't think—I can't remember them ever trying to talk
me out of it.
They didn't have to give their permission? I know in some of the services,
if you were younger than twenty-one, you had to have parental permission to
Not that I remember.
For the nurse corps, you did not?
Not that I remember.
I know that parents who had children in the services got to put a flag in
the window with a star in it. Did they get—
My parents had one with three stars.
You had three stars. So because you were in the nurse corps, they had a star
Thank goodness that none of them turned gold.
Well, that's what I heard, is that there was, what, a white star and then a
I think when they lost a son or a daughter—
It turned to a gold star?
They had their own flag with a gold—just one flag with a gold star on it. I
don't remember. I remember seeing those. We only had one person in my hometown
killed, which is unbelievable.
Given the number of folks that went overseas.
I had twelve, fourteen first cousins. There were twelve, fourteen of us who
were first cousins, and we all came back fine. And one cousin that went to
Annapolis, Jimmy Carter was in his class. He never would let you say that he was
in Jimmy Carter's class. And he had a boat, a small ship—it was not a large
ship, but had it torpedoed, and he spent several hours in the water, but was
rescued. And outside of that—
That was as close as anybody came.
Very little. Unless they got some shrapnel.
Do you remember, because like I say, this is an area that we haven't talked
with many folks about. We've talked with several army nurses. We haven't talked
with many with the cadet nurse experience. Was that done through—how was the
recruiting for that done? Was that simply your supervisor at work said,
”Someone here would like to talk to you today about this,“ or were
But it wasn't, just somebody came around?
Have you interviewed Dr. [Eloise Patricia] Lewis?
Hermann [Trojanowski, also with the WVHP] did.
Well, she knows the history of the nurse corps, and I'm going to see her
this week. I should have already asked her.
But you experienced it through somebody simply coming that wanted to speak
to you all about this opportunity?
And you were doing—that was not work—you weren't, like some of the folks,
freeing up a man to fight, because that was work that was primarily women doing
that work anyway?
The six months that you had to spend, that was, I guess, in '44 or '45?
It was January 1, 1945 to June 1, 1945.
This is when you went to Memphis?
You were at Kennedy General?
I was at Kennedy General Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee, for those six
months. I guess it was the end of June. It was, yes. June 30.
Did you go with some other classmates, or did they kind of mix things all
Yes, I had several classmates. A roommate, both of my suitemates, and three
or four others, I'm sure. Four.
Sort of taking the hometown with you then, in some sense. You brought some
folks who weren't totally familiar. Kind of exciting being in a new town, I
It was fun. We had to ride a train. The train was very hot.
Was that the first time you'd taken a big train ride?
Yeah, a big one, a long one. And you had to raise the windows and the
cinders came in the window. You got very dirty. When I went to Memphis, we had
no, we just had the car, and as I remember it, it was one long day trip. But
later, when I helped transport patients, we had berths and compartments to be
When you were in training in Georgia for nurse, I assume you kind of did the
whole tour of duty of all the different kinds of things that nurses did, whether
it's operating, admitting, floor nurse.
Never admitting. We didn't handle that.
But you did everything else that you could do then?
And probably all three shifts?
So you learned what that rigor was like. What was a typical day like for you
when you got to Memphis? Was it a similar kind of tour of all the different
things you could do?
Not much different. We had no women to care for. They were all men. We had
very few private rooms. They were large, open wards, with fourteen to as many as
thirty-something, I'm sure, on a suite, or ward, they were called back then. And
we didn't do some of the things that—I mean, we didn't have some of the cases
that we had. We certainly didn't go through OB [obstetrics], and we had a lot of things that—
Was it—the kind of people who were coming to the hospital—some of the army
hospitals were very specialized.
Was this a specialized hospital?
Amputees. Psychiatric. I saw my first electric shock there. We did a lot of
electric shock to men.
Was this the treatment for folks who basically would—I guess what we call
Yeah, battle fatigue. And today, we would say, they “lost it.” I
did work on that, in that department, maybe two months. But most of the time,
the rest of the time I had there, we were caring for amputees. Those were the
units I was on. Some head wounds. I took care of head wounds after I got in the
service, after I got my commission.
But mainly head wounds and psychiatric? I mean, amputees and psychiatric?
I'm trying to remember a woman—Eleanor Jackson. Do you remember a woman by
that name, who, I think, worked at that hospital?
We had no formal psychiatric training.
Up until this point. This was like a new rotation for you.
Well, we were taught textbook, what we knew about psychiatry and we knew
Well, again, I'm backing and filling, because I just want to understand what
the process is, because in a teaching hospital, your day, when you're in
Atlanta, is, what, six hours of classes and an eight-hour shift, or how is it—
You worked eight hours. If you had a class, you were let go for that hour.
If you had classes after that shift, you still worked eight hours and went to
your classes. So if you worked nights, you had to get up for classes.
So you could pull the eleven to seven shift, and then be in classes—
Three or four hours.
So you all got to be good friends with coffee, I guess, during that time?
You know, strangely enough, I was in nursing for fifty years and I never
became addicted to coffee.
Never became addicted to coffee.
I drink coffee for breakfast. I never was a coffee drinker.
Well, you have to realize, back then, when we were in nursing school, we
didn't have lounges and the freedom to take a break and drink a cup of coffee.
We didn't have breaks.
Went straight through.
Right. And there was no place even for a nurse's report. We got the report
at the desk.
You showed me a picture before we started about the outside of the, I guess
the barracks facility the cadet nurses were—
Quarters. The quarters where the cadet nurses were stationed. How many
people were on the staff there? How many cadet nurses were in that program?
There were approximately five hundred of us there [500 nurses total, 100 cadet nurses].
From all over?
From all over. Certainly all over the eastern part of America. I don't
remember anybody further west than Kansas. Maybe we had some from Wisconsin. But
most of us were from Maine to Florida.
If there were five hundred nurses, there must have been a fair number of patients.
It was one of the largest hospitals. When we finish, I can show you—or you
want to stop and I can show you? It'll tell you how many patients we had.
We'll get the numbers. You were there through—
There were thousands of employees everyday, twenty-four hours. It was a
Six months before you go over there, D-Day had happened. You knew that Tom
was not there, so that probably made you feel a little bit better.
Did you think that that meant, well, for sure, I'm going to Europe now.
Yes. I really anticipated going overseas. I had no idea where it would be
because by then, the war was picking up in the Philippines—I mean, in the South
Pacific, a little bit.
And I assume that then by the—even when you get to Memphis, that's still
your thinking, is that you'll be going overseas, when, at the end of this?
Yes. Well, I toyed a couple of times with not accepting a commission, but it
was not for those reasons. But once I decided that that's what I really needed
to do. You know, we were short of civilian nurses, and the hospitals were in
great need. But once I decided, I knew that I would go overseas. I just didn't
see any way out of it.
And most of the women that went with you up to Memphis felt the same way, I
guess? They ended up, most of them taking a commission?
No. One of my roommates—well, there were three of us. I had two roommates.
One did not pass the physical for the [Cadet] Nurse Corps, for the last six months. And
the other one did not choose to go in the army.
And this woman you had talked about before we started here—was Claire one
of your roommates there?
Claire Wilson was my big sister.
Oh, she was, okay. And then “Fudge?”
Bettye Kerr, I met and got to be friends with her, even though she lived
across the hall from me, because we had to take physical education once a week.
They called it physical training, PT, and to do that we had to muster, we had to
form and have a roll call, and then we marched to the gym. And we marched back.
Well, the first four, five, six times we went—this was after I'd been named
cadet commanding officer. Of course, you know, I saw that everybody was present
and accounted for, and then we marched off. We'd get back to the quarters, and
here were these three big platters of fudge. And after about three weeks of
that, I began to wonder how the fudge got there by the time we got back.
So I went back to see who didn't get to PT. And here she was. All I knew was her
name. And she said, “I can't stand PT,” and she never was a person to
take part in any kind of sports, although she was interested in them. But I
explained to her, that's not a choice.
Not an option.
So she said, “All right, I'll come if I can observe.” And I said,
“Well, I'll give you something to do.” So she came after that, and we
had to wait then to get our fudge. That became her nickname.
That's great, that's great. What's a typical day like? Obviously, in
Georgia, you're doing all these different shifts. Are you all doing different
shifts in Memphis, or is there some kind of organized—say they blow reveille
at—what's a typical day like for you, or is there a typical day?
It depended on what shift you were working. We worked 7:00 [a.m] to 3:00 [p.m.], 3:00
to 11:00 [p.m.], and 11:00 to 7:00 [a.m.].
When you were made cadet CO [commanding officer] of a company, I guess, or how was—
No, the whole group.
Of the whole group? How did that process happen? How did you get selected
out of that?
I don't really know. The first thing I knew—we had a lieutenant in charge
of my quarters—each quarters, who were like companies. I think there were three
companies. I'm pretty sure, because we used to have three, two or three, to
march the retreat parade. And then we had a captain who was over those
lieutenants, and she was really in charge of the cadet nurses, and she sent for
me. And it's like the director of nurses or your boss sending for you. I had no
idea. And evidently, I'd been recommended to at least try it.
Well, I think they knew I had gone to North Georgia College. It's not on my
records anywhere, but the girls up there, we decided that we needed to form us a
little company, those who wanted to do it—so we got one of the cadet officers
to teach us to drill, to march. We had no uniforms, but when they were forming
to go in the dining hall, we would form and we would march in, too. It was a fun
thing. And I don't know if they knew that. It was never mentioned to me.
Well, you look like you know what you're doing, with everybody had the
abreast part there.
Well, we were taught.
So as your job as the CO then, you had to get up before the other folks are
Well, no, because people were working shifts, and we weren't waked up.
Did you assemble, have to be in assembly every morning, for these folks?
So it wasn't quite the rigors of, say, basic training?
It was better than most schools.
Okay, enough said. That ends—you were there when Roosevelt passed away,
What do you remember about that?
I was in a patient's room, and he'd had his—this was—like I said, we had
very few private rooms. They were used for the critically ill, of course. It's
like ICU [intensive care unit], although we had them on every unit, the best I remember. And I was in
a patient's room, taking care of him, and he and I were talking and all of a
sudden, he said, “What?” And I looked at him very strangely. Well, he
had a radio on his beside table, and it was not on very loud—
[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side 2]
What did you think about the Roosevelts?
Well, of course, I knew we had lost—in my opinion, we had lost a great
president. I was not sure that he was, that he should have been president four
times. His health was bad. But he had done so much in America. But also, he died
at Warm Springs, and I had followed his career into Warm Springs, and people in
Georgia knew more about what he was doing at Warm Springs. We knew more about
him being unable to stand and walk, without help, than was known. How they kept
all of that—because I knew it.
I was wondering, I mean, for those amputees, I would have thought that would
have been especially inspiring to say, “Here's a fellow who can't stand and
walk at all.”
Well, it was used later, but not at that time.
No. I think there was only one photograph made of him in a wheelchair while
he was alive. What did you think of Eleanor Roosevelt?
At that time? I didn't know her, didn't know much about her. She was the
First Lady, she made talks, she did things. It was after his death, I think
that's—a lot of us feel that way—that we really realized what a great lady she
was. I don't remember much about her.
Did you have any idea who Harry Truman was?
Only when he became vice president, and he was just a name. We thought it
was strange that he didn't have a middle name, just an initial. We used to talk
about that. Because, you know, in the service, you always had first name, middle
And you kind of knew what that was. The people you were working with—
Well, he didn't have a middle name.
Right, just “S.”
Just an initial.
You were mainly working with women then, in the work that you did. You
didn't have any male supervisors once you got in the army, or did you?
No, no. It was all women. We had medics, who were called “ward
boys,” who worked on the units. They were like nurses' aides. A lot of them
had been trained as medics, or had been in combat and had come back and gotten
better for whatever reason. I had a lot of medics as patients. You know, they
carried no arms. Occasionally, they'd wear a side gun.
You graduated in—well, I guess you finished in Memphis in June. Did you go
back to Atlanta for a graduation?
No. Well, yes [just for graduation].
And then you decided to go right back into the service and stay in the Army
Nurse Corps. Where did you take your basic for Army Nurse Corps?
Well, before we go to that, there's another little part of this. State
What did you have to take them for?
We had to take state boards before you could be [licensed and] commissioned.
State boards were given in each state back then. I mean, their own, their own
boards. But we couldn't travel back for state boards and then come back and then
go back, so they brought all of our state boards to Memphis, and we took them in
groups. We were assigned—so many from the Cadet Nurse Corps went in to Memphis
to the federal building and took our state boards. And then we were allowed to
go to graduation.
We finished at different times. There were a certain number of hours you had to
have, so if you were ill, they tacked on—say you were out six weeks with
something. That six weeks was tacked on at the end, so not everybody finished at
the same time, so we had a graduation exercise. We were finished, and we went
back to Atlanta for that. Then went back to Memphis, because we were not quite
out of the nurse corps, and those of us who accepted commissions were then sent
to basic training. I was sent to Camp Rucker, Alabama, which is now Fort Rucker.
I interviewed the woman who was in charge of the service club at Camp Rucker
the year you were there.
Ruby Morgan, I guess her name was. She was running the service club.
Wow. One of the things I remember is that we did get to go when we had
everything done, and those of us who'd been cadet nurses got to do more because
we already knew a lot of the things.
You have a picture of the folks there at basic training. Is it about nine or
ten of you from your class that went down there, is that how it was?
From the cadet—we were all cadet nurses together. There were nine of us.
Not all from Georgia Baptist. I think there were four of us from Georgia
And when you were assigned to Camp Rucker for basic, your thinking is,
“Well, I'll spend—” How long in basic? How long was basic?
One month. And then—
And then they're going to send me somewhere, probably overseas.
Don't know. Had you specialized in—was there a degree of specialization at
this point, in nurses?
I had done most of my work in the service with amputees, and I think that's
why the decision. I don't know what the decision was to send me to Atlanta. Of
course, that made me pretty happy. I was going to be close to home. But not
everybody were sent close to home. I think, the best I remember, there were
twelve of us that went to Kennedy, to Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta. That
was our first assignment out of basic training. There were about forty or fifty
on the train. Some of them changed in Atlanta. They went to Tennessee and
Was there anybody else from your cadet class that ended up going with you to
How many women altogether were there at basic when you were at Camp Rucker?
I don't remember. Probably three hundred. Because you had a company and you were in
your company barracks. We had barracks then. Even though we had private rooms.
When we were cadet nurses at Kennedy, it was beautiful. Our quarters, we had
private rooms, or semi-private rooms, connecting bath. We had a suite. And we
just never—things were really nice.
Although we had suites at Georgia Baptist, some of us had three to a room. But I
had a private and my roommate had a private room. We were suitemates. In basic
training, you had a private cubicle, and sometimes there was a cubicle within,
you know, whoever had this one over here, but there was a wall that separated
us. There were not rooms because they didn't have a—they'd go all the way up to
So this really is the introduction to the army life, in a sense?
Yes. We had army cots. In Memphis we had wonderful beds, twin beds. But we
had army cots. We had a closet that was open, no door to it, and we had no
private bathroom. We had to go down the hall to community bath facilities.
How many women in basic, at this point, are like you, in that they've got
somebody they're worried about overseas?
A lot of us. I think it was one reason my roommate decided not to go in the
service. I think she thought that Jimmy, the guy she was already dating and had
fallen in love with, would probably come home. He was in government
intelligence, and was in the [U.S.] Navy, but he was assigned—he'd gone through into
the [U.S.] Navy and been assigned to the Coast Guard. And she just knew that he would
be coming back. I don't think she was ever told that, but—and he did come back
sooner. But they married at least a year or more—
When did Tom come back?
He came back in October of—November, I believe, of '45.
While you were still at Lawson General?
Did you stay at Lawson General till the time that you left the service?
No. I applied—when I got married in June of '46, I expected to get out
quickly, because it says you can't be married. A lot of the women got married
quickly to get out. Because things were still tough. I mean, we still had a lot
But I was notified about three weeks after we came back from our honeymoon that
it would be possibly six months before I could be separated from the service.
That's what it was called then. Because so many women, so many of the nurses
were getting out that they had to put a quota. I don't think they called it a
quota, but they had to stop the influx.
So I had a very good friend in the—I forgot now what they called the head nurse
then, in the army. Chief nurse's office. And she was one of the assistants, and
she was from the area in New Jersey where Fort Dix was, and she was very kind
and got me transferred to Fort Dix. And I was assigned to the hospital up there,
and that's where I stayed until I got out in November or whatever.
You were working with amputees up there, or just general hospital—
I was doing general. It was mostly medical-surgical nursing.
You moved to Fort Dix. That means Tom moves up there with you.
He was back in New York, at his job.
So you all had a long-distance marriage for a while then?
Well, not very long, because we were together almost every weekend. Fort Dix
was a short train ride.
And this is where he was going back to school?
No, he had just gone back to work and was beginning to make his applications
for college, and he applied to five colleges. It wasn't easy to get in, and you
go to the first one that accepted you, and his first acceptance was at Georgia
Tech, the only Southern college he applied to. So we moved back in—after I got
out of the service, we lived in New York until he was accepted for September of
'47, and we moved back to Atlanta, or moved to Atlanta.
I want to come back and pick up what happens to you after September of '47 a
little bit later, but I want to go through a few more questions, right quick,
about the war years, before we leave it altogether. You didn't think that
actively about making a career out of being in the military?
Well, Tom had gotten out, and some probably stayed. It wasn't a big thing
back then to stay.
I was talking with some army dietitians who said, you know, they went in as
a second lieutenant but the problem is, they stayed there and they could tell
that you were basically just having a—you weren't going to be rewarded with
higher pay scales and grades. That's sort of the way it was with nurses, wasn't
Yes. I came out as a second lieutenant, although I had been placed on a
promotion list. If I had stayed probably another six months, I would have been
promoted, but I wasn't really interested in anything like that, at that time.
You were a nurse.
Well, I was married. I was a wife.
What was the hardest thing that you had to do during your time in the
service, either physically or emotionally? And I include that time in Memphis,
and the training you went through.
Well, physically, the hardest time was when we had to unload convoys, when
they were starting to send in—this was as a cadet nurse in Memphis. The only
time I ever worked convoy duty. I can't remember doing that after I was
commissioned. They would fly planeloads of patients back from Europe. We got
very few from the Pacific at that time.
Seeing them come off the plane in the middle of the night, very malnourished, in
pretty bad shape. Actually, the worst ones, when we started getting the guys
from the Pacific, I think that bothered me a great deal because they not only
were malnourished, they had malaria, they had what they called “jungle
rot.” Their feet were constantly wet over there, and their feet, the skin
on their feet sometimes gone completely. And they were injured. That was pretty
Most of these folks had been prisoners?
Got a lot of prisoners from Europe. We got one group of prisoners from
Dachau [concentration camp], and one of the prisoners was, I guess he became one of the most famous
prisoners. His picture was placed, when he was at Dachau, when they freed the
prison, they took his picture and it was on the front of Life magazine. So it was a big to-do. I never took care of him, never nursed him, but we all knew who he was, and followed his career then, as a patient. I think he was there about two years. He had no injury, but he was a skeleton. I saw him. I saw him being unloaded. But some of those things. See, these were people my age. When you
suddenly realize that—
There, but for the grace of God—
Well, there but for the grace of God, Tom, no doubt. Or my brothers. I don't
remember taking care of many patients from the Pacific after I was commissioned.
Because they were beginning to put people closer to their homes—as close to
their homes, the patients. See, those convoys we unloaded back then, they were
from everywhere. And then they began to transfer them out, and that's one of the
things I did, both as cadet nurse and when I was at Lawson, was transfer
patients to hospitals closer to their homes.
Well, that's physical and emotional.
Emotional. The amputees could really get to you. We just had so many of
them, and they segregated them. They had all right-arm amputees on one ward,
left- arm amputees, right leg, both legs.
It was a strange experience, walking in a room—
They not only had amputations. A lot of them had other wounds. How they
survived. We had some wonderful doctors and nurses overseas, because they really
did a good job with them. I can remember humor. The greatest asset, we won the
war because our troops never lost their humor. I'm convinced of that.
We had these two amputees, one was a left leg, one was a right leg amputee. And
then they met another guy that had both legs off. Then they met another guy that
had one arm missing, and they would always do things together. They'd play cards
together. They weren't all in the same unit, but they'd play cards, they'd go to
canteen, and they told me one day, they said, “Lieutenant, we've planned
what we're going to do when we get out of the service.” I said, “What
are you going to do?” “Well, we're going to run a farm for
rattlesnakes, and milk rattlesnakes for the venom.” They had it all
planned. The guy with both leg amputees would feed them. He would walk down, and
the one with the left hand would catch them, the amputee, the one with the right
hand would milk them. That's the kind of thing that made it go. Fantastic.
I saw something on TV, you know, with, especially for those of us who did
not live through there, it's easy to—well, even if you lived there, it's easy
to exaggerate the past and remember it differently than how it happened.
Somebody said on the news the other week that back during the World War II days,
everybody was patriotic.
I'm a patriot, no doubt.
Were people afraid that we may not win the war?
There were probably people here who wanted us to lose the war. We were in a
boom, economically, in this country. People were making money because of the war
than they ever made before. No, I think the average American across the board
knew doggone it, we were going to win. I don't think there was ever a doubt. I
never talked to a patient who ever doubted it, or certainly never told me. Most
of their cares were about their buddies, after they got home, about how they
were going to be accepted back into their families, and their societies.
We had one young man, I'll never forget him, who was a paraplegic. From his
waist down, he was totally paralyzed, and I saw him one day sitting up in his
bed, and he had these barbells, and this contraption that you pull and exercise.
He had a beautiful chest build—his arms, shoulders, and everything. And I said
to him, I called him by name, “What are you doing?” He says, “I'm
exercising my courting muscles.” Again, very humorous. He never said any—I
never heard him—well, we went through a lot of traumatic times with these guys.
But then I was never stationed some of the places where, you know, their faces
were blown off and they were burned, and that kind of thing.
Were you ever in a situation where you personally felt afraid or in danger?
And it sounded like you got to—some of the casual photos you had, you all
did how good nurses do, you treated the whole person. In off hours, when you saw
folks, you were buddies with these guys. Surely, I've heard plenty of
embarrassing stories from my mom's nursing career. Do you have an embarrassing
moment from that time, either personally, or some lighthearted memory, in the
midst of all this, that stands out?
Well, I'm sure there were some embarrassing times. I really can't remember.
One of the things that we had to do, you know, being the same age, taking care
of young men, is we had to be professional, up to a point. We had to be sure.
And there were always the guys that wanted to make out, and we had to know how
to handle that.
Well, you had to keep your social life, in a sense, separate from your
Well, we were supposed to be as officers, not have anything to do—well, I
shouldn't say anything—but not to be socially involved with the enlisted men.
My husband was a PFC [private first class], when he came back. His promotions were field promotions. But we did a lot of things with them [our patients]. We went on huge picnics
with them and we called them all by their first name, but they never called me
by my first name, very seldom. I can't remember a totally embarrassing—
It'll probably come to you as soon I'm out of this house. So you didn't
have—were people at this hospital, the patients, were they both officers and
Oh, yes. Well, and privates.
Right. What about you and the doctors on staff, the nurses and the doctors
on staff. Was there any kind of a social interaction with that group?
Yes. At the officers' club. Of course, a lot of the officers, a lot of the
doctors, a lot of the nurses, dated each other. I was not interested in dating
at that point, because I was already in love with Tom, and that stayed. But we
had joined groups, and you know, we had married doctors. A lot of the doctors
were married. But we had groups that sat together at the officers' club and went
to the movies on base together, and sang.
It was a big group. Nobody wants to get into any trouble, but they still
want to have a good time when they need a little stress relief.
Another little story about some of the things I remember. When I was at
Georgia Baptist, we had a Seven Day Adventist who was one of our resident
physicians, and I was stationed with him at Lawson, in Atlanta, and he used to
come—you know, they don't drink. He used to come to the officers' club, and at
that particular officers' club, you could have a bottle at the bar, but you had
to bring it, and they'd put your name on it, and when you wanted a drink, they'd
get your bottle. And he'd come in and sit down at the bar and ask for his
bottle. Well, it happened to be a quart of milk. It was in a bottle. And they
gave him a little shot glass and they'd pour him a shot of milk, and he would
say, “Here's to you,” or, you know—I mean, everybody, it was—
Yeah, just funny. Those are the kind of things you remember, I think.
Well, you see, so—and I guess you'd have this in nurses' training, too, but
the military experience, I know, for so many people, this is the chance that
they see more different kinds of people than they've experienced before.
Different face, different ethnicities, different parts of the country. You're
all sort of thrown in.
We had some blacks, not very many. Not very many. I don't remember any
Chinese, Japanese. I'll tell you about Japanese, the problems. I'm talking about
Americans. I don't remember ever taking care of anybody Mexican. I don't
remember anything other than religions, and that was mostly Protestant or
Catholic, or Jewish. We had several Jewish patients. We had a lot of Jewish
doctors. I do not remember, outside of blacks.
Is that your first time that you had been around, because the South is—
Well, I did a few weeks, I can't remember, three weeks, in nursing school at
Grady Hospital, which is a city hospital, and we had a little bit of everything
there. I don't remember any in nursing school.
I had a woman who I interviewed who said that her army experience was the
first time she had ever been around blacks for any length of time.
Well, outside of seeing them in emergency rooms, I had never taken care of a
black as a patient. I don't know that I did then, but I saw them. Our black
patients, they were intermingled. I mean, they were assigned to a ward, just
like everybody else. Never any problem, that I can remember. And we had a lot of
Southern boys. I don't think it ever mattered to them.
Well, I think they—
That guy was wounded just like he was.
I was going to say, the admission price is the same, and they know what they
paid to get there.
I can remember losing a black patient, and it was very upsetting to the
whole unit. A hospital unit was usually fifty-two, with one ward on one side and
one on the other, with some private rooms. And you were either assigned to the
east wing or west wing or whatever, but this guy, I cannot remember what his war
wound was, but he developed heart problems, and they moved him from the ward to
a private room, and that's where he died, because we didn't have anything to
separate him with. He died from—he had a heart attack, or he died from having a
heart attack, and I remember the whole ward, the whole unit, both sides, just
being terribly upset.
We didn't see a whole lot of deaths. We had our fair share. I remember more than
one patient dying, but when you stopped and think about it, the number of
patients we had, the number of people we had on that, especially in Kennedy,
which was larger than Lawson, we had deaths, but not so many that it was
traumatic. It was traumatic when we lost one.
Nowadays, we talk about rehab hospitals. This really wasn't rehab, this was
simply getting these people stable enough in their total health, so that they
can then be transferred some place else if they needed a prosthesis and things
They took physical training to strengthen their muscles, they had to learn
to use their prosthesis. That part could be called rehab, but that's not what we
called it [physical training].
Are there favorite songs or movies from that time period? You were in love,
you had your buddy overseas.
Don't start a big band cassette or CD, because Sentimental
Journey—Well, I could go out and start my own stereo.
You'd probably like my daddy's—every time he hears Begin the
Beguine he has a little glint in his eyes.
Yeah, Begin the Beguine, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, Stardust. So many, many of those. I mean, you know, just start that. Just start in those big band. Movies.
Did you all have—
From Here to Eternity is the greatest movie I remember. Saw a
lot of movies. We saw a lot of Fred Astaire.
Is that something they had for entertainment for the folks in the hospital?
They'd show films. Did you have movie stars, USO [United Service Organizations] folks come through?
You remember anybody particularly famous you saw?
Patti Paige. We had somebody a lot. I remember [musician] Patti Paige coming to the
units. We had others. I need to go look in my book. I can tell you.
Do you remember where you were—you had to have been in Memphis, I guess,
when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day?
And then of course that's where Tom was.
No, VE Day, I was already—VE Day was '45.
Was May of '45.
So you would have been in Memphis, right at the end of your training.
VE Day was '45.
And then VJ [Victory in Japan] Day was August, and you would have been at Lawson, or maybe you
were still at Rucker. Were you at Lawson when they dropped the bomb?
Any particular memories of either of those days?
Well, the same memories I think anybody else has. Most of us agreed that it
needed to be done, because we were surrounded by what had happened, and what
could happen, could continue to happen.
Had we invaded Japan, it would have been another year or two just then.
Well, just been more and more. And our troops in the Pacific were getting to
be physically not in very good shape. There were a lot of problems, as you might
know, but I think most of us were glad. Certainly when the first bomb was
dropped, we were devastated by the destruction, surprised.
A little scared probably, too, I would think.
Well, I was getting ready to say, I started to say, it was awesome, but it
was frightening because how did we know it wouldn't happen to us? Maybe not
America, but the islands or—
If we invented it, somebody else might be inventing it, too.
I mean, I felt, being a patriot, I was sure that America was the only one
with it. I knew some of what had gone on because, you know, Oak Ridge is
southern, and I had a brother-in-law who worked at Oak Ridge as a supervisor of
electricians and he would come home and say, “We're building something
that's never been—we're building for something that's never been done
before.” And they weren't allowed to work in the same area more than a
couple weeks at a time. As a unit, as a group, they would be transferred from
this part of what they were building, over to another part.
So nobody would have enough knowledge to be—
There would be no continuity of knowing.
Well, when you think about what we're just finding out about the Chinese
nowadays, you wish they'd think about those kind of security measures, wouldn't
they? Do you have any heroes or heroines, when you think about that time?
All of our patients were heroes. Heroines, yes. And again, they were
patients. We got—when I was in Memphis, we got the nurses that were freed in
the Philippines, from the San Tomas university. It really was a prison. We got
twenty-five of them, I guess, and they came in on a convoy, just like everybody
else did. And I was one of the details in the detail that helped unload them. I
didn't know anybody, and I never really took care of the women after they were
there as patients. Saw them later in the officers' club as they began to
improve. Their problem was just pure malnourishment.
You know, they were in prison there right after Bataan and Corriegedor, so they
were there a long time. Finally, the Japanese left them alone. They did nothing
for them, but they didn't do anything to them. And they had no body hair
whatsoever. They were just malnourished, just looked like they'd been in a
prison camp. Some of them were able to be mobile, but I think just being—the
release of knowing they were free, a lot of them just sort of collapsed
physically, but it didn't take them long, and we were seeing them at the
But my story about that is we had a cadet nurse there [Memphis], whom I didn't
know very well, but she was there, and she had graduated from high school, gone
to nursing school, and was at Memphis as a cadet nurse. She had a sister that
was in that convoy that was freed, that they had not heard from all those years.
Her sister had no idea that her younger sister had done all this, and they met
at Kennedy for the first time in five years.
Didn't know if she was alive or dead.
But these were army nurses who had already gone in the army, back in the
late thirties, early forties. So that was sort of an exciting time.
Again, that could have been you, given a year or two.
I think their last name was McDonald, McDougal. It started with
One of the questions we ask everybody is, do you think you contributed to
the war effort?
Well, if I didn't, I'm disappointed. One of the things I got out of being in
World War II was a—well, being in the services—was a Red Cross pin, nursing
pin. I thought I had it right here. This is sort of a special pin. Today, nurses
can get them by giving twenty hours of service to the Red Cross, maybe more than
that. But you have a designated—you have your own number on the back, and
you're listed in Washington as having served the Red Cross. I guess all of us
who were in World War II got those pins. Mine's in a safe deposit box because I
have several, my nursing pins, that are there, because most of those were
fourteen- and eighteen-carat gold, and I don't leave them lying around the
house. But that one came as a surprise.
Were there Red Cross nurses or Red Cross personnel assigned to your
What was their job? To assist you all in what you had to do?
Never in nursing, but they read letters, they wrote letters, they carried
the little card around with books.
Did you socially interact with the Red Cross women?
Did they get to go to the officers' club?
Some of the places I went, a couple of the homes I was invited to in Memphis
were the Red Cross women.
Did they share the quarters space with you?
I don't think any of them lived on base. In fact, I think most of them were
You got me to September of '47, and my first tape's going to run out, and
we're about through with this interview, other than getting you to home, I
think, but I wanted to—you have a very interesting career after '47, after your
military experience, and I wanted to go over that. I've got a few minutes, and
I'll switch the tape. Tell me what happens, September of '47, your husband goes
to Georgia Tech. How long was he there? What happened to you all as a family
He finished in December of '50 because he went every summer. His class was
class of '51. I worked for two different doctors, in their offices. I'm going to
Alaska this summer, and I hope to see the first doctor I worked for. I helped
him open his practice. He was a resident, he was the chief resident at Georgia
Baptist. His name's George Wagnon and I got to know his whole family. He
practiced in Atlanta, I don't know, several years before he went to Alaska and
he was a bush doctor up there, with an airplane. I hope to see him this summer.
Then I helped another doctor, Dr. Sam Brown, open his practice. He had just
gotten out of the service and his specialty was obstetrics and gynecology, and I
worked for him until 1955. I guess I went to work for him in '49.
Tom graduated, and his major was business administration—well, industrial
management. He was at Tech. And his minor was hotel and restaurant management.
That's what Greeks do, you know. And while he was a senior, he worked for Rich's
Department Store. That's where the—those were menu covers, the pictures you
saw. And so his first job after he graduated was director of employee feeding
for Rich's Department Store. Huge department store in Atlanta.
This would have been in '55?
No. He graduated in December of '50. He finished. He went to work for Rich's
in January. He had worked there as a host in the Magnolia Room or, you know,
whatever, but his first job was that. Then we owned a small tea room in Atlanta
for five years.
So you helped him with that, in addition to working in the doctor's office?
Right. Well, I worked for a dentist after that. No, I still worked for Dr.
Brown. We moved to Greensboro in 1956. We had bad luck with our tea room, and we
lost it. It's a long story. He was trying to decide what to do. He had a
fraternity brother who was doing very, very well with Encyclopedia Britannica,
and he was assigned to North Carolina, and he brought Tom—Tom worked for him
when he was trying to find a better job, and had made pretty good money. So we
came to North Carolina with his fraternity brother, to be with Encyclopedia
Britannica for eighteen months, I guess. And Tom was very unhappy. He didn't
like hard sell, and that's what he started to—
[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side 1]
You said that after he got to Greensboro, about a year and a half, and he
switched from Britannica to—oh, this is about the hospital, okay. All right.
Here it is.
Do you have the tape on?
Yes, I've got the tape on. This gives me the number. I'll get that number
when we get through.
Also, this picture from Life magazine and this is several months after we got—that's his discharge.
He gained a fair amount of weight back, didn't he? Let me give that a decent
review, then we'll finish this here, because that's a nice thing to have as
a—they give this—a farewell edition. They have several folks that are
different branches that the army basically just keeps like a yearbook. Here's
where you were.
And I gave my husband's 82nd Airborne “relics” to the museum, the
82nd Airborne museum. Got his picture in—I mean, groups.
Right, right. You've mentioned the Big Jump and the River of '44. Where was
In Holland. Do you remember a movie A Bridge Too Far?
Yes. That was it?
That was—well, after he finally got to where they were supposed to go,
after making the jump, because they didn't land where they were supposed to.
When that Nijmegen bridge was defended, he was a member of a machine gun
placement, right at the bridge, and he was there when all that took place. We
have a book A Bridge Too Far. I'm not sure that's what—Ryan wrote it, I think, and Tom went through and they—
Well, he wrote things, notes, in the margin, about things that he
remembered. He thought it was very factual.
Very good book, then. I actually got to go to Nijmegen when I was over in
Europe for a year. I had a friend who taught at a university there, who made
reference to that time. You all came to Greensboro for about eighteen months? He
worked with Encyclopedia Britannica and then he switched to—is it Tupperware
that was just getting going?
Tupperware was—the first Tupperware distributorship in the United States
was here in Greensboro. Bobby Burns had it, and of course, others followed
closely thereafter, and he was looking for a district manager, and he hired Tom,
and I got involved teaching people to give parties, is what I did. But again, he
was extremely—he wasn't extremely unhappy, because he never was despondent or
anything. But he knew that wasn't what he wanted to do.
So he got a job with Slater Corporation, which, at that time, was the largest
supplier of dining services to colleges and universities. It was out of
Pennsylvania. Privately owned, family owned. And that's where he worked the rest
of his career. It later became ARA and you know it as Aramark.
Actually, it was ARA when I was in college, so I probably know it more as
ARA than Aramark, but yeah, it's the same folks.
He was assistant director at Wake Forest [University] and then director. Then we went to
several—two other schools, one of them Hampton-Sydney, that you might know in
Virginia. And then he became a troubleshooter for the company, and he would go
where there were problems and figure out the problems and write the proposals,
how to undo them.
And he died in January of '71. Massive coronary. We were in Tennessee. Austin
Peay State University. And what I wanted to do as soon as I halfway recovered
from the shock of his death was, there were two things that were suggested me.
One by a very good friend who was like a surrogate daughter. She said, “Now
is the time for you to go back to school.” And I said, “I have to go
to work.” She said, “No, you don't. This is what Tom—” And he
did. He encouraged me for years to finish a four-year degree, and all I wanted
was a degree in nursing. We were never anywhere where they had—see, we didn't
have a school here at that time. When we were in Winston-Salem, we had no
nursing school here. So I began to look. Is this the kind of thing you want me
Sure. Well, you go back to the university, which is sponsoring this
interview, so I think they're very interested in how you got there.
Well, I began to look. I had appointments at five different schools of
nursing in the South. Went from Vanderbilt to Florida State, the University of
Florida and Emory, and UNCG. I had all of my interviews; my last one was here. I
had a good friend whom Tom and I had met when we were here together in the
fifties and early sixties, who was on the faculty, Elisabeth Bowles, and she
knew, of course, about Tom's death and she—I sent my transcript to her and she
took it over to Dr. Lewis, and although I had made an appointment and had a
transcript sent to Dr. Lewis. Lib went over before my appointment and talked
about me with Dr. Lewis.
I don't know if you know Dr. Lewis, but once you meet her—well, first of all, I
had always wanted to come back to Greensboro. We had a wonderful time in
Greensboro. We did a lot of civic work here, a lot of church work. I had a Girl
Scout troop. I didn't really want—the only other place I would have considered
would have been Emory, in Atlanta. But after I met Dr. Lewis, the doors just
opened like magic.
You knew that's where you were supposed to be.
To come back here, to finish my, to get a degree in nursing, a BSN. And
she offered me two scholarships, one right off the bat, and said she—in fact, it
was so strange. She said to me, “Do you need money?” And I said,
“Yes.” She walked over to her desk because we were sitting in a little
conversation area and she wrote a number down on a piece of paper and handed it
to me and said, “Will that help?”
I have never quoted that amount to anybody, because she told me, “If you
accept that, you can never say—you'll never know where it came from and you
should never tell anybody how much it was.” Well, it was a pretty nice sum,
I thought. And she said, “If you come, we'll get you a state
scholarship.” You know, one of those where you get one every year, renewed,
and you pay it back by working. So those two things happened and this was in
April. I moved back here in June, as fast as I could get here, and I started
classes in September.
This was '72?
This was '71.
'71. That was right soon after.
Well, you know, we went to—we were in Clarksville, Tennessee, at this
wonderful, small university, and we worked there—
Where they make the Little Debbie cakes?
Isn't that where they make the Little Debbie cakes, in Clarksville?
I think so. They make boots there, too. Wilma Rudolph is from there, and all the landmarks that I knew were destroyed in the tornado last year. But we had—we weren't going to be there very long, we knew that. But we had made friends, somewhat, but most of them were people on the faculty that played golf, because we both played. And I really didn't have any
close friends up there. Everybody seemed so remote, and I'm sure I seemed lost
to my parents.
And so, you know, coming back to Greensboro was just wonderful. I had this group
of friends that we had made, and I knew a lot of people at WC. I could list ten
or twelve without taking a deep breath. Ellen Griffin. My husband taught fencing
at Greensboro College one semester, free. He was a fencer and had won a medal
overseas, fencing. He was a member of the Foil and Mask Club at Georgia Tech.
They needed somebody to teach, so he did that, and he loved it.
And Ellen was doing something with Greensboro College, and he told her that I
played golf and so she invited me to an exhibition for golfers. They were doing
it really for the students. So I got to know her and Margaret Greene, and
“Lib” I knew well. I knew—another one that I'm still very close to,
Lib, and Jane Mitchell. One of the legends on our campus was Hollis Rogers, in
biology, and I knew him through my Girl Scout troop. He used to take us on field
Are you living in a dorm on campus, or where are you living?
No, no. I got an apartment. The company moved me and I had a huge moving
van, and my nephew and his wife came up from Georgia with a truck and we'd put
stuff in the apartment. If it didn't fit, he'd—
Take a rest.
I lived in an apartment until '77, when I moved in here.
The experience of being a student, at that—you're somebody who always liked
school anyway. You always liked science, you always liked learning. That's sort
of a gift, at that age, isn't it?
Well, I inherited that. That's in my genes. My one brother, my sister and I
just kept going to college. The older brother had one degree and he worked and
got married, and he just never had a reason to go back to school, but the rest
of us did.
You don't just get a degree. You later become an employee. How did that
Well, Dr. Lewis—I didn't work. I went full time as a student. I worked at
Christmas and I worked every summer in nursing. And Dr. Lewis said to me, my
senior year, she called me in and said, “We really do need somebody to be
in oncology on our—” and I gotten interested in oncology, and she said—I
was planning to go to graduate school somewhere, because by then I knew that I
wanted to teach nursing.
That's not what I came back to school for, but by then I had changed my mind. I
mean, changed my career direction. And I knew that I had to have at least a
master's degree to teach, or that I should have. That was our terminal degree,
at that time. So she said—and I was beginning to look and I had applied a
couple of places. I had looked at Emory very seriously. Because my family was so
close to there. And had been accepted at Emory. And I had looked into Vanderbilt
again. Outstanding school. They had our first BSN, first time, first
university, at Vanderbilt, and that's where Dr. Lewis went.
But she said, “If you would consider majoring, doing your master's in
clinical oncology, and going to the University of Alabama in Birmingham, I am
sure that we would have a position for you. If things go well and you get your
master's, you know, all things being equal, I am sure that I would be in a
position to offer you a faculty position.”
Well, I sat there and I said—this was late spring, and I said, “Dr. Lewis,
there isn't any way I can get into the University of Alabama at Birmingham, one
of the best schools in the South.” She said, “Oh, yes, you're already
in. I've already gotten you enrolled.” And she had. I'd already been
accepted, by the dean there.
I had to do all the paperwork.
Right, right. That's great.
I got the same thing in twelve months at Birmingham as I—it was going to
take me fifteen months at Emory. And I had a wonderful experience.
So this was '73 that you went down there?
'74. Graduated here in '74. I was in a nursing major for two years and it
took me a semester and a half to finish the requirements.
So when did you come back here to start working at the school?
'75. I started the fall of '75.
Did you like teaching?
Loved it. I liked—my forte, really, is clinical, in the hospital. I like to
be at the bedside with students. But I did the other things.
And how did long did you do that job?
I retired in '92, but the last ten years, I was director of the RN-to-BSN
off-campus program in Hickory. Tomorrow, we're going to celebrate its fifteenth
anniversary, in Hickory.
So your office was actually in Hickory and you were supervising?
I had an office here on campus and we were co-sponsored by Northwest AHEC
[Area Health Education Center], and I had an office at Bowman Gray [Medical School in Winston-Salem]. Had a
part-time secretary. While I was recruiting the first students for that program,
I continued to teach, have a clinical here. My workload was cut but I still did
both. When I retired we had the master's program in outreach. Do you know what
I'm talking about, what it really was? This was an area in North Carolina. There
were five areas in North Carolina chosen to start programs from one of the
universities that had a school of nursing. We had all these RNs that didn't have
a school of nursing within fifty miles. And Hickory was chosen as the one for
This was to increase the skill level of the nurses who were in that area?
To allow RNs who did not have a college degree, to get their baccalaureate,
to get their BSN.
This was a program that, I believe, was being promoted to my mom, as a
public health nurse, because it was an opportunity for her to get that kind of
degree, an LPN [Licensed practical nurse], I guess. She was already an RN [unclear], she could have gotten
university accreditation at UNC-C[harlotte].
Well now, they had the first—they didn't call it an off-campus program or
an outreach program, but they had a strong RN-to-BSN program, and they did
outreach, but they became more organized with theirs when this program was
solidified by state AHEC. East Carolina [University] had one, Western Carolina [University, in Cullowhee], [University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill.
How many schools of nursing are there in the state of North Carolina?
You know, I can't tell you right off the top of my head. Well, I was trying
to think of any of the universities that didn't have a school of nursing. Let's
see, there's Chapel Hill, Eastern Carolina, Carolina, Fayetteville [State University], [North Carolina] Central [University].
Any out west, like Cullowhee?
Yes, Western Carolina. Now, what's one in Winston?
Winston-Salem State. Leaving out [North Carolina] A&T [State University], I can't do that.
Does [UNC-]Pembroke have one?
No. Not at that time. I don't think they've started one. But there are quite
a few. For some reason, I was thinking eight, but I think it's more than eight.
I don't know why those figures pop up.
Your military training—it's because of military training that I'm supposed
to ask you this question. Your subsequent life tells me the answer to the
question. Do you consider yourself to be an independent person? The answer
should be yes. Do you think the military made you that way, or were you that
type of person before you went in the service?
Oh, I think that's—
That's been you, from the beginning.
Yes. I was taught that—by my brothers and sister—here I am, the youngest,
quite a bit. I was born with an eight-year-old brother, an eleven-year-old
sister, and a fourteen-year-old brother to exist. They told me early on to shape
up or ship out.
But yeah, I learned to be—because by the time I was twelve, I was—well, by
the time I was fourteen, I was the only child. They used to laugh at me, and I
said, “Look, I waited fourteen years to be an only child. Don't bother
During the forties, a lot of women were doing things that, heretofore, men
had only done or they were doing contributions that were, you know, outside of
the home, out in the workplace. Do you think women of that generation were
trailblazers for later generations along? Were they setting the stage for things
to come? You think of the women's movement as something from the seventies, but
I get the sense that a lot of these folks were doing things that were really
like women's lib[eration] stuff in the forties.
I think, you know, all those women who went to work in the factories, the
plants, and they had to go into offices to do office work. Never thought that
that would be a career. They were waiting for the war to be over, the guys to
come home, to marry, and have families. But a lot of them, even though they
married, soon began to work again. And we didn't think about it like they do
today. Yes, I would have to say they were trailblazers. They showed that it
could be done. They could handle the work.
That's an interesting point I haven't heard somebody make. It's true. They
were doing all this stuff, but it was not in terms of, what's my career going to
be, but what needs to be done right now, either to keep my mind off of somebody
I care about, or I need money.
They even flew airplanes.
Yeah, they had—a special is going to be on PBS next week about that,
Fly Girls. We just had, three months ago, or I guess now it's more
than that. Time's moving on since I started these interviews. Back in December,
they had the first female combat pilot, flying a mission over Iraq. You saw the
results of war up close. Do you think that there are some positions in the
military that women should not be allowed to do?
Not really. It might be like being in the paratroopers or the mountain
division, volunteer, for certain aspects, like front line, to actually be a foot
soldier, so to speak, to be on the front line. Maybe. But I'm convinced that we
should be able to do anything we want to do.
I take it you—now do you have children?
No. No biological children.
No biological children. Yes, I know you've got lots—I saw the pictures of a
few on the wall in there. You've got many that look on you in that way.
I have two godchildren, and my surrogate. I told you that we had sort of a
surrogate daughter, who has two children, and I consider them my grandchildren.
She has a wonderful husband. I don't like to leave him out of that. And we
consider the two children my grandchildren. I treat them—they called us Doris
and Tom, but that's the closeness that we have.
Would you have any qualms about girls that you cared about, those folks that
are special in your life, them joining the military?
If that's what they wanted to do.
You would not be in favor of a draft for women?
If it's needed. See, we were so close to—America was so close to—the
United States, so close to drafting nurses, that my sister thought for a long
time I was drafted. But they never got to that. But we certainly were needing
nurses, but we also needed them on the homefront.
How has your life been different because of your military experience?
Well, I guess it taught me a lot about organization, being patriotic. I
don't know that I ever thought about being patriotic that much. Well, when I was
at North Georgia, we had to do everything the ROTC did. And I mean, we went
to—we turned our lights out when taps was sounded, we didn't get up until they
blew reveille. When they had sounded retreat, we had to stop what we were doing
on campus, although we didn't salute, we faced the flag. We were very
regimented. And we knew that when we went there. But to be considered patriotic,
I guess it took the war to do that, for me.
That's interesting, because it's not an automatic that regimentation will
lead to patriotism, is it?
No. I sort of liked that. I think it's one thing that—see, we had quarters.
They “blew” quarters at seven o'clock or seven-thirty and everybody
went to their room, or to the library. And if you went to the library, you
signed out. You studied. And I think that helped me, although I was a good
student, I just think it helped me to be a better student.
And had it not been for that uniform, on that day in the restaurant with
your buddies, you wouldn't have found a husband, probably.
Well, I would like to think I would have.
But not that one, anyway.
Not that one. That was meant to be.
That was. Is there anything—I'm going to browse through this with you after
we get off the tape, but is there anything else about your service that we
haven't talked about, that you'd like to add?
Well, I guess that was a very exciting time. I didn't think about it being
exciting. I didn't know what I was a part of until things like this. I was
speaking of the Women in Military Memorial at Arlington [Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA)]. If you'd ever told me that I would be listed in a memorial in Washington, D.C., I would have said, “Ha, ha.”
It's a humbling thing, isn't it?
Yes. That's a chapter in my life I hope the people who know me never forget.
It's something to be proud of. And I didn't do anything special.
What's funny is to have that happen when you were so young, and I think you
don't realize that, in part, because you're young and you don't know what being
an adult is like. Then you live the rest of your life and look back and say,
“That was different.”
Well, I haven't had very many lulls in my life.
From one thing to the other to the other to the other, with not too much
time to think about an alternative, maybe. But I think most of us feel that—I
know my roommate, who was just a cadet nurse, feels that she played a very
important part, for the short time that she was in the army, as a cadet. And I'm
glad she does. And I don't think she should have gone in the service. That's
what I'm saying about women, or about people, if that's what they want to do, if
they're happiest doing it, that's really what they should do. I can't think of
anything worse than having to do something I didn't like.
The rules should be the same for women as for men, follow your heart.
Oh, yes. That's why I'm saying everybody.
Follow your heart.
But I know so many people who are unhappy, and most of it is because they're
locked into something they think they can't get out of, are not willing to take
It takes some effort.
Well, you have to be. I guess I've always been sort of a risk-taker. I think
it takes that, and it would take it for some other people who just can't do
that. It was a risk for me to come back and try to go to school again. You read
the article. One of the things I said, and I told my family, at least I'll be
back in this part of the country if I don't stay in school, and the company is
moving me so I'm going to go one semester, and if I don't meet my standards,
then I'm not going to do it. But I made the dean's list, and I guess that said,
you better keep going.
But I knew it was going to be expensive, I knew I was going to spend a lot of,
the small amount of insurance money I got, which was pretty good back then, but
you look back at it today, I did not have to work, but I did spend a lot of my
own money. I did four years, really. So, good investment. Wonderful investment.
But if anybody had told me in 1971 that I would be retired and doing the things
that I'm able to do in retirement, I'd even laugh at them.
That's great. When are leaving for Alaska?
It's going to be pretty. I have a mother-in-law who went up there a couple
of years ago and still thinks of it in very pleasant terms.
Alaska—I've had a travel list. I've done a lot of travelling. I went to
Europe twice; that was enough of Europe. I've been busy for about twelve—no,
it's more. About fifteen years, seeing North America. And I've been to Hawaii,
I've been to Mexico, that's enough. But I've seen thirty-one of the fifty-three
national parks. I've been all across Canada, except Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I
had Alaska on my list, but it wasn't essential. It kept being replaced. And to
find somebody compatible to travel with, and I have good friend now that—we're
traveling. She's a widow, she's a retired nurse from New York, but we have a lot
in common, so Alaska came up again.
Well, and having that doctor up there that you worked with is a—
Oh yeah, I can't wait to see him. I've got a picture of him somewhere. We
used to exchange Christmas cards. The friend that was my little sister in
nursing school went to Alaska about four years ago and they saw George and his
family, took a picture of them and sent it to me. She corresponds with him. I'm
going to surprise him. She may tell him I'm coming.
Well, on behalf of the university and me personally, thank you.
It's been a real pleasure.
Oh, man, this is interesting. I can't wait to see the finished product, from
I think it's going to be nice.
[End of interview]