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

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Lucy Smith, 1999

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0081.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Lucy M. Smith’s experiences in the Women’s Army Corps from 1943 to 1945, particularly her time at Camp Patrick Henry.

Summary:

Smith details hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor while recovering from injuries she sustained in a car accident; the experience of having her new husband leave home to fight in the war; working in the Hercules powder plant; and her attempt to learn welding.

Topics related to her military service include her decision to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) with a friend; the stringent regulations; the ways civilians reacted to her uniform; WAC friends; meeting celebrities such as Red Skelton, Frances Langford, and Jerry Colonna; uncertainty about the Pacific theater after VE Day; reactions of military personnel to the nuclear bomb; and being on twenty-four-hour call. Topics related to Camp Patrick Henry in Virgina include recreation and entertainment; German and Italian prisoners of war; and not being allowed off base on VE Day. Other wartime subjects include her husband’s experiences in the Pacific and his return from overseas in November 1945; her heroes of World War II, including Generals Omar Bradley and George S. Patton; and reactions to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death.

Creator: Lucy McDaniel Smith

Biographical Info: Lucy M. Smith of Dublin, Virginia, served in medical supply in the Women’s Army Corps from 1943 to 1945.

Collection: Lucy Smith Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Today is Thursday, May the twentieth, 1999, and I'm at the home of Lucy Smith today in Greensboro, North Carolina. Thank you, Ms. Smith, for having us here.

LS:

You're welcome.

EE:

This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. I've got about thirty-odd cards here, but the first question, I hope, isn't too tough, and that's simply where were you born and where did you grow up?

LS:

I was born in Dublin, Virginia, grew up there, and married very young, right out of high school. My husband was inducted into the service, and I was working at Hercules Powder Plant, and I was allergic to the powder they were making. So this friend, Martha Vickers, and I decided we'd just go join the WACs [Woman's Auxiliary Corps]. And that's what we did. Took my basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

EE:

What years were you actually in service?

LS:

Forty-three, forty-four, forty-five.

EE:

Let me go back and ask you a few questions about your life before you got in the service and why you picked the WACs as opposed to something else. You were born in Dublin. Did you have any brothers and sisters?

LS:

Oh, yes. I'm the thirteenth child of a large family. [laughter]

EE:

Well, you got my mom beat. My mom was the first of seven.

LS:

Well, my father was married twice.

EE:

Thirteen. So have you got any younger brothers and sisters?

LS:

No. I'm the youngest.

EE:

Okay. You bring up the view.

LS:

I bring up the end.

EE:

That's great.

LS:

Farmers. They were farmers.

EE:

That's great. So your mom helped take care of all those kids, I guess, and your dad [unclear].

LS:

Yes. He had four by his first wife, and my mother had nine.

EE:

That's great. Did you stay in the Dublin area most of the time growing up?

LS:

Yes. In fact, going into the WACs was the experience of my life, because I'd never been much out of the surroundings there. Except, now, during my life, when my husband first went into service, I did travel a couple times with him. I went to Gulfport, Mississippi, and out to California.

EE:

When did he join the service?

LS:

He joined the service in about '41, I believe.

EE:

Before Pearl Harbor, then?

LS:

Oh, yes. No, no, no, after Pearl Harbor. Right after Pearl Harbor. In May after Pearl Harbor, I believe it was.

EE:

So May '42. Tell me, you said that you got married pretty young.

LS:

Out of high school.

EE:

So was he your high school sweetheart?

LS:

No. What happened, they built this Hercules plant, so all these people came into this small town to work.

EE:

This was at Radford, you said?

LS:

Dublin. He moved in a house pretty close where I lived. And I met him through—a friend of mine introduced me to him. She'd met him.

EE:

What's his name?

LS:

Richard Smith.

EE:

What was your maiden name?

LS:

McDaniel.

EE:

So y'all took a shine to each other, decided to make it official.

LS:

Yes. You know, he was fixing to go in service. So we're getting married, like they used to back in those days.

EE:

So how long had you all dated before you decided to get married?

LS:

Oh, about three or four months, really.

EE:

Kind of like my sister.

LS:

But it lasted.

EE:

Well, if it's true, it don't take long to know it's true. So y'all got married, and then he immediately went off to war. Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

LS:

Pearl Harbor. I really don't know, but I remember it was pretty bad. So we got married after Pearl Harbor. Okay. I had been in a little car wreck. My niece was trying to drive. She's as old as I am. I have nieces and nephews as old as I am. And I got my lip cut, and I was in the hospital. I remember that now because I had these few stitches and had a small concussion, and it came word that it was Pearl Harbor. Yes, I do remember. In Pulaski County Hospital is where I was.

EE:

Had you even thought much about the war beforehand? Because, you know, before Pearl Harbor, a lot of folks said, “That's their problem.” Other folks were quite worried about it.

LS:

Well, we had thought about it because some boys that we knew were going to service, and then they had a little USO come to that town. We'd never had nothing in Dublin. They built a USO [United Service Organization] there because of the war plants was built there, see. Dublin and Radford both had these arsenals, Hercules plant, and built them, and a lot of flux of people had come in there.

EE:

Was that run by the army?

LS:

The army was there. There was the army there.

EE:

So there was some folks stationed there?

LS:

Yes. Some ordnance, army ordnance there or something.

EE:

Had any of your brothers joined the service?

LS:

Well, one brother did, one brother, my oldest brother, two oldest were, too. In fact, I had a half-brother who was in World War I.

EE:

They were too old to join the service at that time?

LS:

Yes. But I had a brother-in-law in there.

EE:

Y'all got married in—

LS:

October.

EE:

October of '41?

LS:

I believe that's right.

EE:

Then he went off to join the service the following spring, in May. Were you working at the Hercules plant?

LS:

Yes, I was working at Hercules plant. Everybody around there was at that time.

EE:

Right. That was the way to take in some money.

LS:

Yes.

EE:

You said you followed him around, I guess when he was in training to these places?

LS:

Yes. I went with him to Gulfport, Mississippi, and then he was transferred to California. I think I was in California two or three months, and he was shipped out.

EE:

What service was he in?

LS:

He was in the Seabees. He was on Okinawa and Saipan. He was gone almost three years.

EE:

But y'all were able to keep up contact by V-Mail and that kind of stuff?

LS:

Yes.

EE:

Although I don't guess he could tell you pretty much where he was, could he?

LS:

No. Letters, would be things cut out of them, you know. Your curiosity was—because I didn't know exactly where he was sometime until later. He couldn't tell me even what island he was on, because that war was still going.

EE:

How tough is it to have somebody that you just married leave you and go off and you don't know what's going to happen to them?

LS:

Well, you don't know. It's a confusing time, you know. You just didn't know. You just didn't know. So it was that time you didn't know what to do with yourself. If you couldn't work at Hercules plant that time, you wanted to do something, so you go join the WACs. That's what I did.

EE:

Did, I guess, his paycheck come to you at the house?

LS:

Yes, and that went to the bank.

EE:

And y'all lived separate from your folks at that time?

LS:

Yes.

EE:

And you continued to work at Hercules for how long? How long before you said, “I can't stand the smell of this thing”

LS:

Well, I didn't get to work there very long because I was so allergic, they had to put me in the hospital, and they told me I could not work in that powder.

EE:

What, were you working on the line as they were assembling this stuff?

LS:

Yes, assembling. Well, it would come through, and we'd put it in little things. I don't know how it was. They said it was ways to go in the gun. There would be a little bitty package of it, and you'd put it in this, and you'd put it through a chute, and somebody would do something else. So we were absolutely handling this stuff, and we had gloves, but then the odor, you know, would get in your skin and all that.

EE:

So they would have a mask, maybe, to filter the fine powder, but it still wouldn't stop the smell from getting in.

LS:

Yes. This, when it come through in powder it was in sheets. It's not like fine powder. It was in little sheets like.

EE:

So it was already kind of stamped out?

LS:

Yes. This is what they was going to use for Normandy, you know, this kind of powdered stuff, all that. Because we were very, very busy for a while.

EE:

So this would have been as early as summertime of '42 that they said—

LS:

Yes.

EE:

And I guess the job prospects outside of that in that area weren't that great.

LS:

It wasn't very good. You know, while I was going to high school, I worked in a dime store or something like that. So that was about the only prospects you had.

EE:

How was it that you and Martha decided on the WACs as opposed to something else? I mean, your husband was in the Seabees. Why didn't you try the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy]?

LS:

I don't really know why we did that. I guess we just—there was a recruiting thing there in Pulaski.

EE:

I guess if they already had army folks there, that might have had something to do with it.

LS:

Yes. So of course I was sent to Roanoke, and I forget what division it was I went in, but it was an old division that we went in under.

EE:

Well, you know, the WACs was, I guess, the first auxiliary in France. I guess in '42 it started. It was the WAAC [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps]. The army wasn't exactly friendly toward the WACs at the beginning. They didn't really care to have—

LS:

When I got there I didn't have any problem.

EE:

You didn't have any problem?

LS:

I didn't have any problem with anybody. No, not at all.

EE:

So you signed up at a—they had a recruiting station down at the post office? Where did you actually sign up?

LS:

In Pulaski, Virginia. This girl, Martha, was from Pulaski. So I met her, and we just went and signed up.

EE:

Did she have a husband or boyfriend over in the service, too?

LS:

No, she was single.

EE:

She just wanted to get out of town and have some adventure, maybe.

LS:

Well, she couldn't stand that powder either.

EE:

When you signed up, did you have anything particular that you wanted to do?

LS:

Whatever they needed me to do. That was the way I was feeling. I just didn't know. At first I thought I was going to be in transportation. I said, “Well, I don't drive. I can't be in transportation, you know.” So they sent me into Newport News, [Virginia] and they had a little army barracks there, and then they was going to send me off to Norfolk, [Virginia]. They thought maybe I could work on something where there was loading and unloading ships, you know. Well, that really didn't—

EE:

Didn't work out?

LS:

So then they sent me out to Kecoughtan. Do you know where Kecoughtan, Virginia, is?

EE:

No.

LS:

It's an old army hospital.

EE:

How do you spell that Kecoughtan?

LS:

Lord, I couldn't tell you. It's an Indian name.

EE:

Is it with a K? Well, I think it's Kecoughtan, but I'll have to take a look at that.

LS:

Look and see if you can't make it out. It's still there.

EE:

Okay.

LS:

It was an old army World War I veterans place right there on the Chesapeake Bay. So they sent us out there, and Langley Field was here. Over here was Fort Monroe. We was kind of in between them. It was at Hampton, Virginia, is where it is. Hampton and Phoebus, these two little towns, and Kecoughtan was sitting right there, and Fort Monroe was over on this other side. We were sent out there, and I worked putting in the medical supply. They would send in there for medical supplies, I guess even from Fort Monroe and any of them.

And then we was living in the army hospital there, the old hospital part of it. So that's when they was building this Camp Patrick Henry. It wasn't quite finished yet. So when they got that built, we was transferred out there, very dreary, cold, rainy, in the woods. Again they put us in a wing of a hospital there. They didn't even have barracks for us. It was an embarkation and debarkation camp. Like some days you couldn't get through that camp. As far as you could see would be men marching. They'd come in there and get their shots and everything, and then they'd be transferred overseas.

EE:

So anybody who was there was there for only a short period of time?

LS:

Yes. But then they did have a few prisoners of war down there. I was surprised.

EE:

I know in some places they just put them to work is what they did.

LS:

They did. They helped cleaning around some and everything. But then they would come back in the ships there at Newport News to be transferred out. They'd come in there. Sometimes they wouldn't be there but twenty-four hours, forty-eight hours, and sometimes longer. But then we were on twenty-four-hour call. We may just go out and make sandwiches and feed them milk. We may issue them clothes. We may be a runner for one of the medical people there, the ones that needed help, you know, was real sick. We'd take their papers up there and they would either get medical service there or be transferred to a general hospital. And that's the way most of it worked there.

EE:

Is that where you spent the rest of your time there?

LS:

Yes.

EE:

Let me go back and fill in some details about how you got from Pulaski to Camp Patrick Henry. You went in with Martha. Y'all both signed up at Roanoke, you said.

LS:

No. Well, we signed up in Pulaski, but were sent to—

EE:

Had to go to Roanoke?

LS:

The whole crowd was transferred to Roanoke.

EE:

Did you take a bus up that way, or how did you get up there?

LS:

We got a bus to Roanoke, and then we were put on a train and sent to Fort Oglethorpe.

EE:

That was your first big train ride?

LS:

No, I rode a train once before, from California across the country.

EE:

Oh, yes. That would be memorable. So Martha got assigned out there in Oglethorpe with you?

LS:

Yes. But then we separated. She went to Fort Dix, New Jersey.

EE:

So much for being buddies through the service.

LS:

I met a lot of good friends in the service, a lot of people. A girl from England was right in the next bunk to me, and she would tell me stories about how the bombs came right through their house one morning, and she would still have nightmares some nights.

EE:

What was her name, do you remember?

LS:

Peggy McKay, and I've lost touch with her now. I kept touch with her for years.

EE:

Did she go through basic with you at Oglethorpe?

LS:

No. I met her when I went to Camp Patrick Henry. Her husband was an RAF [Royal Air Force] pilot, and he got shot down and killed over Germany.

EE:

Did she just move to the States?

LS:

Yes. Her father was some big man in the Navy, and he got her family brought to the United States—New York—because she said that they did her so dirty sometimes in New York because she didn't know the value of our money and trying to do things. And then when her husband got killed, she decided to come into service, when her husband was killed in the RAF. She was a very nice girl.

There was another little girl that she and I were good buddies, called Helen Mazalanka, and she used to call Helen and I “the gold dust twins” because Helen's hair was real black and I was real blonde. And she worked on the wards, you know, and sometimes there'd be some pretty good food. She'd make me and Helen a steak sandwich and bring it to the barracks. She was a great gal. She took care of Helen and I all the time, you know.

EE:

How long is basic training down at Oglethorpe, six weeks?

LS:

No. I think it was more than that, wasn't it? Maybe it was six weeks.

EE:

Six or eight weeks, most of them.

LS:

It was pretty rough.

EE:

What was a day like for you? I mean, y'all don't have uniforms before you go down there, do you?

LS:

No. We was issued a uniform when we get there. We get fatigues and uniforms right away. Of course, I was used to getting up early on the farm, but I wasn't used to marching and doing all that. [laughter] And I wasn't used to KP [kitchen patrol] duty if you had to pull some. You had to do that when you was in service.

EE:

You didn't have much privacy in the barracks, did you?

LS:

Oh, no.

EE:

Of course, you were from a big family. That may not be a big deal to you.

LS:

But it was just, you know, like army barracks was, and then the latrine was a big latrine, and you had latrine duty, too, sometimes. So it was very learning, very informed how to get along with people and be a part of a group.

EE:

Were there people from all different parts of the country and all different backgrounds, religions, and things like that?

LS:

Sure did. Sure did. Mazalanka was a little Polish girl from Pittsburgh. I still keep in contact with her some. And she married a little Southern boy that I used to tease them all the time, because when she started dating this boy, sometimes I'd, you know, be the one to be on the desk when they'd come into the barracks at night to check in and out, and you go out and see, you know, sometimes, check for somebody hadn't come in, and they'd be out there smooching or something. So they finally ended up getting married.

EE:

Was this somebody she met at basic?

LS:

Yes.

EE:

Oh, my goodness. She didn't waste any time.

LS:

Not basic. Now, wait a minute. Let me take that back.

EE:

She may have met him at Camp Patrick Henry.

LS:

I met her when I was at Kecoughtan. Jimmy was a cook at Kecoughtan, and she met him going through the line there, and they got to be friendly. So they got married.

EE:

That's great. What was the hardest thing about basic for you? Was it classes, marching?

LS:

Marching. You got to keep everything in straight rows, you know. Everything had to be laid a certain way in your locker. Your clothes had to be hung a certain way. You had to pull your sheets so tight you could bounce a dime on it. And you even looked underneath. You couldn't hide no wrinkles. They had to be straight like a—

EE:

Was that the white glove test?

LS:

The white glove test. That was it. That was worst thing. I have slept on the floor, a couple of us did at night after we got our beds made up and knew we was going to have a test in the morning.

EE:

Didn't want to have to redo the beds? [laughter]

LS:

We'd have that so tight. We'd help each other, and we'd have that so tight, and we'd sleep on a blanket on the floor and then get up and roll that blanket just perfect to lay at the foot of that bed. Because your locker here, everything had to be hung straight, every button had to be buttoned, and then your footlocker, all your clothes had to be rolled perfect. And if your barracks didn't get a good mark, you may not get a pass to go into town or do anything, and you didn't want to keep somebody from having fun if you was the one didn't have your—

EE:

Because they'd get back at you later on.

LS:

Yes.

EE:

Was it that strict after basic, too, or was that just for basic?

LS:

Well, no, we were in pretty strict time all the time. We had inspection at least once a week.

EE:

Your COs [commanding officer], were they all women or were they men, too?

LS:

Most all mine were women, very nice ones.

EE:

What month was it that you joined? Was it fall of '42? When did you go in?

LS:

It was in the fall.

EE:

Forty-two or forty-three?

LS:

You know, I'm trying to think. Maybe it was '43. I can't remember.

EE:

What time of the year was it when you joined? Was it spring?

LS:

It was in the fall. It seems like it was in September because I was back. I had my training and was at Norfolk, and it wasn't yet winter, and then I was transferred to Kecoughtan and it hadn't really turned that cold yet, but I was there during that winter. And then the next winter I was at Camp Patrick Henry.

EE:

See, there's three winters in there.

LS:

Yes. Well, two and a half.

EE:

Forty-four? Forty-three?

LS:

I got out the end of '45. My discharge was December the twenty-fourth, I believe. I got home Christmas Day.

EE:

Did you get to spend Christmas at home every year?

LS:

No. Well, you know, my husband wasn't there, so I just—everybody couldn't go.

EE:

So you said, “I'll just relieve somebody else.”

LS:

Yes. I took mine in between my—you got your furloughs, you know.

EE:

How old were you when you joined?

LS:

Twenty.

EE:

You were married. I know that if you were under twenty-one, most of the time parents had to sign, but since you were married, did they have to sign or how did that work?

LS:

No. They didn't know I had done it till I done it.

EE:

How did that news go over?

LS:

People had a bad opinion of WACs then.

EE:

Well, I have heard that said. There was some talk about any woman who wanted to join the service. That was supposed to be an indictment of your character perhaps?

LS:

Yes. I had this one gentleman tell me later that worked with me, he said, “You know, I used to have this awful opinion of WACs until I came in the service and worked with them.”

EE:

That's true. Who was more worried, your dad or your mom?

LS:

I think maybe Mom. Of course, Richard was already overseas when he got the letter. He didn't say a word, though. He did not. It didn't seem to bother him. He didn't say a word.

EE:

There wasn't much he could do about it. It's hard to have an argument overseas in three years' worth of letters, isn't it? [laughter]

LS:

Yes, it is. [laughter]

EE:

And your brothers and sisters, what did they think about it?

LS:

Well, they didn't say much about it to me. They really didn't. They didn't say much about it. I'll never forget the first time I went home. [laughter] Everybody was just—oh, they was just excited about it, you know.

EE:

You went home in uniform, I guess.

LS:

Yes, and I think some people stopped and spoke to me who hadn't spoken to me in years. [laughter]

EE:

Some people told me that just wearing the uniform had kind of some perks with it. If they figured you were in service, they'd give you a break on a meal or on a movie ticket or something.

LS:

Yes. And some of these people in this small farming town would come out and shake hands with me and never bothered to shake hands with me before.

EE:

You're serving your country.

LS:

Yes.

EE:

Did your folks get to put a little flag in the window with their daughter?

LS:

Oh, yes. They got to do all that.

EE:

I don't think this factored into your decision. Maybe it did. There was some posters that were out saying “Free a Man to Fight.” Your job, I guess, before they started the WACs was one done by a man.

LS:

Yes.

EE:

And that's what you were doing, basically, by having the WACs.

LS:

There were some older men that couldn't go. What was his name? He was a nice gentleman. He was over the warehouse, but he was up in his fifties and he joined the army. It was not, you know, to go fight, but he joined, I guess, limited service. I guess that's what you called it. There were some people that did resent you being in there, that you made someone go to war that would have done your job. I did hear some of that, too.

EE:

Was it from fellow soldiers who were worried that they were going to be shipped out?

LS:

Yes, that was scared to death that they was going to be shipped out.

EE:

So you were working with men and women.

LS:

Yes. I sure was.

EE:

Were most of them giving you the benefit of the doubt, treating you professionally, or did you have a problem with that?

LS:

Yes. I didn't have a really definite problem with anyone as I know of, except one man. I hate to tell this story. You know, you use your medical supplies. In Camp Patrick Henry was several bands, because they played the people in and they played them out. If a band was going overseas, the music would be Over There. If it was coming in people, it was Sentimental Journey, are the two songs I heard the most. Well, I guess these band boys were pretty lively boys, and they had requests for something, I won't say what. At one time they sent a request in, we were short on supply, and they got a little upset because we didn't send their supply out. You can use your imagination what it was.

EE:

Right.

LS:

They wanted it. So whoever it was called up and said to me—and I maybe cut him short. I said, “Well, we just don't have them. They'll just have to keep their pants on.” [laughter] He got a little offended by that. The sergeant that was over me come up and said something to me about it, and I told him what it was and we were just out of it, and he was getting right angry because we didn't have any to ship down to them. So it was hilarious.

EE:

Well, there are urgent medical supplies and then there are urgent medical supplies, I guess.

LS:

So that was the only time anybody ever said anything that I thought I might get in trouble. He was tickled because I told him what I said.

EE:

Gracious. Well, did they think it was because you was a woman you didn't understand the urgency of the situation?

LS:

I guess it was.

EE:

“Honey, I hate to put it indelicately, but—”

LS:

See, we could get another camp, Fort Monroe, to send in requests for things. If they were out, we'd fill them.

EE:

Just shared around.

LS:

Shared around. Even Fort Eustace, Virginia, and Langley Field. And sometimes I would be sent with a driver to go pick up medicines from other places that we didn't have.

EE:

And you were a private first class, is that what you said?

LS:

Yes.

EE:

And you were working with what, supply officers?

LS:

Medical supply officers. Medical supplies.

EE:

And those were women?

LS:

Not all of them. In my one warehouse I think I was the only woman in that one.

EE:

How many people were on that staff at that warehouse?

LS:

Five or six.

EE:

Before I leave that band story, the bands, is that like a Glenn Miller kind of band, a swing band, or is that a marching band kind of thing?

LS:

Both. They could play swing music, and, see, we had about one, two, three service clubs on there.

EE:

Right.

LS:

And the hospital was up in this part of the camp, and down here was service clubs and the other barracks. Well, we'd go down and dance with the soldiers, you know. They'd take us on a bus. We'd go down there and dance. I think that's why I got bunions. These guys would have these old—you know, all of their boots on, combat boots on, and they stepped on your toes sometimes, and they'd have a band there, and maybe a couple nights a week, you know, we'd go down there in the bus, they'd furnish transportation, and we'd come up to the hospital. Camp Patrick Henry had barracks down here, and up here was a hospital and the medical unit, up here.

EE:

But because if some of these people coming in—that's probably why there has to be dances, everybody was shipping out every three or four days.

LS:

Oh, yes. They were shipping out. I had been in a jeep and had to go somewhere to pick up some supplies for somewhere, and it would be hard to get through the road, there'd be so many troops marching in that. Because, you know, we'd give all these shots to all these people. I don't know how many dispensaries. It'd be down at the other part where they'd be getting their shots.

EE:

Is that something that you would help out, as far as checking off, registering folks when they were getting their shots?

LS:

Well, no. We'd just see they had the supplies to do it.

EE:

What was a day like? You say you worked twenty-four-hour shifts?

LS:

We was on twenty-four-hour call.

EE:

Was it five days a week, seven days a week, how often?

LS:

Seven days a week if they need you. If a troop ship come in—and they had to be brought in, they didn't leave them sitting on a ship—we had to get up. I've gotten up at eleven o'clock at night. They'd come and call. The ship would come in—

EE:

Just whenever the ship come in you had to be down there.

LS:

If it was just going to help make sandwiches and milk—these boys would want milk, ham sandwiches and milk. They'd sit there and just drink milk as long as you'd give it to them. We had a supply of it. And then it may be—as I say, one time I know I had to just go and issue clothes, go to the warehouse with all these clothes, and they'd come through and give their number and the size they needed, and we'd be issuing clothes late at night. They'd come in, and they just had the clothes that's on their back, a lot of them.

EE:

You said you were at some other camp. How long were you—

LS:

At Kecoughtan?

EE:

At Kecoughtan before you went to Patrick Henry?

LS:

Well, I was there, I think, maybe—I don't know whether I was there five or six months. That was while they was building the barracks.

EE:

While they was building Patrick Henry?

LS:

Yes.

EE:

So basically Patrick Henry took over the kind of stuff you were doing at Kecoughtan.

LS:

Yes. Do you know where Hampton is? It's a colored college in Virginia. Well, they were right behind it. Once time we were going into a little town called Phoebus there, and we'd walk over at night and get something to eat, and Hampton was one way. We went to Hampton one night, and somehow we made a wrong turn and we got lost out in—we didn't know how to get out.

EE:

Well, you knew pretty quick you were lost, I guess.

LS:

Yes. If you make the wrong turn in that little place, it was funny.

EE:

I've had some people who said that in the WACs was the first time they had ever worked with black people. Did you have any blacks where you worked?

LS:

I did not have blacks where I worked. One time the black band from Hampton came over when we was at Kecoughtan and played at the Christmas party they had.

EE:

That was where they had that service club?

LS:

Well, right there, in Kecoughtan, they had it in the mess hall. We didn't have a service club there. They cleared out the mess hall that night, and they had a little Christmas party.

EE:

I had a chance to talk with a woman, the first time I talked with somebody who was head of a service club. That was her job. And actually, the person who ran it, they were not regular army. They were just civil service employees, but they would come in and apparently offer special services. That was just a whole different angle to that experience I hadn't thought of. But when you were making sandwiches and stuff, was that going down to the service club and helping out down there?

LS:

No. Right in our mess hall, where we were, they'd have them in there. No. This was right in the mess hall on the camp.

EE:

You never thought about, or did you, making the military a career?

LS:

Well, if I hadn't been married, I might have.

EE:

You enjoyed it that much?

LS:

Yes. I was enjoying the experience of it.

EE:

How many women were at the barracks where y'all were housed at the camp?

LS:

I can't remember exactly.

EE:

Did you have any more privacy than you had before?

LS:

No. No. You still had this row of barracks, you know, no privacy. But I was with a good group of girls. I don't know of any that I disliked at all.

EE:

What did you do for a social life?

LS:

Well, we'd go down to the service club and dance with the soldiers, come home, rub our feet that they stepped on. [laughter] We'd get together and go into town and have supper sometimes. There'd be times when you could—like they would say, “Well, we need so many people to go somewhere,” they were having a dance like at Fort Eustace and they wanted some WACs to get on the bus and go. They took you up there and brought you back. You'd just go up and dance and you'd come on back. We done that in several places. And then there was the service clubs in Phoebus, and there was some nice civilians there. At Christmastime one year, this one man and his wife had a mortuary there, they had a lot of us over for Christmas, had a party for us. And I can't think of that couple's name in Hampton one time that had us for New Year's.

EE:

I guess right there there was so many troops, did y'all go see the USO shows or see any celebrities come through?

LS:

Well, I saw [comedian] Red Skelton. Who was with him? Some of them, the WACs wasn't allowed in. They was too obscene, I guess. [laughter].

EE:

[unclear].

LS:

He got pretty specific, I think, sometimes, but I met him personally. He came right through the warehouse when I was working and talked to the men. There was a lot of them, but we didn't get to see too many of them. Frances Langford, that's who it was. I saw her. I was trying to think who else. There was Jerry Colonna.

EE:

He's the one that palled around with Bob Hope, wasn't he?

LS:

Yes. We saw Jerry Colonna. Bob Hope was through there, but I didn't see him. See, there was Langley Field and Fort Monroe. That's a lot right in there. Then there was the sailors in there at Newport News, you know, stationed there.

EE:

Did your folks ever come down and see you?

LS:

No. My folks was too country, honey. They didn't go anywhere. [laughter]

EE:

But you would occasionally go back home and visit them?

LS:

Yes, occasionally. Because, you know, back during the war you didn't have gas to run around and do everything you wanted to.

EE:

Although I think in the service you didn't have all the rationing requirements that some of the other folks did who weren't in service.

LS:

That's right.

EE:

How was the pay compared to working in the—some people actually joined because they said the pay was a little bit better. They were patriotic too, you know, but—

LS:

It wasn't that much better.

EE:

Wasn't that much better?

LS:

No.

EE:

Considering all you had to give up at the same time?

LS:

Yes.

EE:

You talked about getting a group of women together. You know, the military has changed so much for women, and when I hear that, I think about my wife would say, “Well, why did they assume that all the women would want to go dance with those fellows?” Would they just invite you?

LS:

They'd just invite you. Because it wasn't required. Well, you had nothing else to do. Except we did have movie theaters on the base.

EE:

Are there some movies or songs that when you here that you think back to that time?

LS:

I'll Be Seeing You (in all the old familiar places) . All the old Glenn Miller songs, Jersey Bounce and Sunny Side of the Street, just all of—I used to have a collection of them. My son and daughter still has some of them. Yes, there's a lot of them. Sentimental Journey, I think about that because I've heard that so many times.

EE:

Was that what they played coming in—

LS:

You could wake up in your barracks at night, and you could tell whether troops was coming in or going out.

EE:

Just by the music.

LS:

By the music.

EE:

That's a sweet thought, that you could hear that like you hear the birds out here today, just to hear it in the distance, and you knew somebody was coming home.

LS:

And they had several clubs on the base. But, you know, we didn't go down there that much, because it was down a little too far for us to go.

EE:

Do you think being in the service made it easier for you to have your husband overseas?

LS:

Yes. It occupied my mind, because I had something going all the time. I was working. I knew I was on call, you know, and there was someone to talk to all the time.

EE:

I'm sure you weren't the only one in that position.

LS:

No, I wasn't. And you'd go to the movie with one of your friends or we'd go down to the service club and dance, and there was time we had to do our laundry and things like that. And then we had a little bit of a service club up at the hospital, just a little non-com. We'd go in and sit and have a Coke, drink a beer, whatever you'd like, sit and talk. But you know, VE [Victory in Europe] Day, we were restricted to camp. You could not go off base.

EE:

What was the thinking behind that? They didn't want y'all to celebrate?

LS:

They like to tore up Newport News the last time, in World War I. But, see, we had all these bands there, and we had this big thing like a big truck, you know, with a thing on the back that was open. The band got on that and went around and played and played, and, you know, everybody just had a big time. I don't know where all the beer and whiskey came from, but it appeared everywhere.

EE:

All of a sudden it was like a miracle.

LS:

It was there—party! [laughter]

EE:

I talked to some woman who was in D.C., I guess, when VE Day came by. Her buddies said, “Quick,” and they went in and grabbed the last bottle of liquor out of the bar and said, “I'm glad we got there just in time,” because they knew there was going to be a rush later that day.

EE:

It was. We were restricted. I'm sure all the camps were right around there. Because they said during World War I they tore Newport News out. So, you know, we weren't allowed to go into town. Those that were in town was all right, but if you weren't in there, you weren't allowed to go out of base.

EE:

Your husband was stationed in the Pacific?

LS:

Pacific, yes.

EE:

VE Day comes and goes, and for all practical purposes, everybody's looking forward to—we're going to have to invade Japan like we did Europe.

LS:

Yes. We knew that. I knew that.

EE:

How did you feel, with some people getting to come home and your man still overseas?

LS:

I didn't know what was going to happen. In fact, you know, I think Camp Patrick Henry would be closing pretty soon, because they were beginning to ship people out to Camp Pendleton, California. They were going. I didn't know where I was going to go. I didn't know, but then I get this call. I was in the shower. I'll never forget it. I got a telephone call up in the day room. I put on my robe, still soaped up. My husband was in Seattle, Washington.

EE:

Oh, that's great. Was this before VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

LS:

That was after VJ Day, when that was over with. And I knew he might be, but I didn't know when. You know, you don't know when they're over there, so much going on. This was in November, and VJ Day was in August. So he calls, and we talk. And then he didn't know for sure when he'd get across state, but he be shipped—what was that base around Norfolk, Virginia, he would be shipping in? Was there a Camp Perry? Something around there, a Seabee base. He would be shipped in there. He was being discharged. I said, well, I knew I could arrange to get my leave. I didn't know whether I could get my discharge then or not, but—

[Telephone interruption.]

—and, of course, my CO was going to work with me on that. So we were planning to meet maybe in Richmond, because he would get out and I could come to either Williamsburg or Richmond. Well, his grandmother dies in between. So I go to the Red Cross, and they tell me—best I go on because they talked to the people over there, and they said they'd rush him through as quick as he'd get there and they'd send him right on. So I got home twenty-four hours ahead of him that time because he was coming across country. Of course, I wasn't discharged, but he was getting discharged. So I'm home two weeks and have to go back and get my discharge.

EE:

I guess you had signed on for the duration, is basically what it was.

LS:

Yes. They was going to give him a discharge, but I couldn't work it through that quick, so I had to go back.

EE:

So women who had spouses in the service got priority on being discharged.

LS:

Yes. Discharged, yes.

EE:

I know there was such a flood of folks, I talked to a couple of people, said that they would have gotten out but so many were getting out that they were told that they needed to stay in to help get people out.

LS:

Yes. And I get to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and guess who I walk into? Martha Vickers. She'd been there all the time.

EE:

Was she doing about the same kind of work that you were, or what was she doing up there?

LS:

She was working in the mess hall. Little bitty short girl. I don't know what she was doing there, but she was working in the kitchen. Just what she liked to do.

EE:

How did you end up at Fort Dix?

LS:

That's where I was sent to get discharged.

EE:

So you had to go six hundred miles north to get all your papers straight. Nothing like efficiency.

LS:

There was no heat in the barracks. All of us had colds. I about had pneumonia. They wanted to put me in the hospital. I said, “No, I'm going home.” And there were soldiers sitting outside there on their duffel bags, I guess rebelling because they couldn't get them discharged. They were going home regardless. So they finally got me out in time to miss my training in Washington, D.C. So I got home Christmas Day.

EE:

Nice Christmas.

LS:

Yes, it was nice, but I was wore out, because I couldn't speak. I had laryngitis. But they did want to put me in the hospital and not let me go home.

EE:

When did you see your husband for the first time?

LS:

When his grandmother died, I went home.

EE:

Right before Thanksgiving, then.

LS:

Was it before Thanksgiving? I guess it was, right at Thanksgiving. Yes. Then I come back, and he was, you know, going to get a job and everything. He came back directly. We worked there for a while, back to the ordnance plant there where he left, and we worked there for a while. Then we went to Tennessee. His father and mother had come there with this construction company. Then they went to Kingsport, where they was working during the war. Then they went to Oak Ridge. That's my daughter there.

So then we went on to Tennessee and lived there until we came to—lived there several years. We came back to Radford, Virginia, because he was working for J.A. Jones Company, and his father died. We ended up going back to West Virginia because his mother was going to have to go back to West Virginia because her mother was still living. So we were going back there for a year until she can get settled down with her grandmother, and we ended up staying seven years. Then we come to North Carolina.

EE:

You say you've been here about twenty?

LS:

Well, we was here about seven, then we went to Johnson City about six. We've been back here ever since.

EE:

So when did these children come into play?

LS:

Ricky came in when we was in Radford after we came back. And then Donna was born in West Virginia. And then we moved to Johnson City [Tennessee], and Ricky went to school at East Tennessee State, came back here and got his MBA. He went back to UT [University of Tennessee] and got his law degree. This one just graduated from nursing school after being married and having three children.

EE:

Great. Let me ask you a couple of other questions. When you heard about VJ Day—of course, everybody was—out of the blue, we had the bomb. What did you think?

LS:

Everybody was rejoicing again. There again, you know, they closed the camp. You can't go out of camp, and the same thing happened over and over again, but we was thinking about that bomb. I can't imagine. And some people said, “Why didn't we use it earlier? Why did we wait till all these people got killed over there?” The way they was treating them, you know, the torture some of them went through. Why didn't we do it earlier? Well, you have mixed feelings when you think about it. Some people hated Harry Truman for it. [Franklin D.] Roosevelt didn't get around to it, and I wonder if he'd ever done it or not. He knew about it.

EE:

He started it.

LS:

Yes. But when I came back, when we was in Tennessee, I worked at one of the plants there in East Tennessee.

EE:

At Oak Ridge?

LS:

Oak Ridge. I worked at a plant there for a while. When we left Radford and went to Tennessee, I worked at Oak Ridge, the nuclear plant there, you know, where all that was. And it wasn't open then, you know. You had to have a pass to get in and out.

EE:

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

LS:

I think really living by the rigid rules —

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

EE:

As the thirteenth kid, you can't be too regulated.

LS:

Well, I didn't mind regulation too bad. I didn't mind to be organized too bad. I've kind of lost it now. [laughter] But as you get older, that happens, I guess.

EE:

It doesn't sound like you were in a position, really, to ever be in physical danger with your work or be afraid. Although the world is a different place. I talked to some folks who were in Washington, and they said they thought nothing about going out at eleven o'clock at night in Washington.

LS:

Yes. The only thing that we was in danger was some of the prisoners escaped, and we was in these barracks. So they was in the woods. So they automatically post men around each one of our barracks till they found them.

EE:

Did they find them?

LS:

Yes, they finally found them. But, you know, we had Italian prisoners there that relatives come down to visit them from New York and around there. We had a lot of German prisoners. They worked in the PXs [post exchange], some of them did, around. The saddest thing I ever seen, across from where I worked was a wing of the hospital, and it was fenced in because of prisoners of war. And there'd be a young boy would come out there and stand in one spot for the longest time, and he must have been in that youth group of Germans, because he wasn't over fourteen, thirteen or fourteen years old. He would just stand there and stare.

EE:

He was lost.

LS:

He was lost. And see, of course, those barracks, the prisoner-of-war barracks, the hospital barracks had fences around them. They couldn't get in or out. But I'll tell you, if some of those prisoners got through, they would sometimes slip—if you was walking down a catwalk going to the warehouse to get something, they weren't above whistling at you. If they thought the guard wasn't watching, they would try it.

EE:

Somehow that speaks all language, the whistle. [laughter]

LS:

Yes. [laughter] But if they ever got caught, then they was chastised. Of course, I never turned them in, but if a guard or an MP [military police] caught them, they could be punished. But if they would be on duty just cleaning up around the outside, you know. They had an MP with them all the time, but if he walked off just a little bit with them, you know, and they saw you walking down a catwalk, they'd whistle under their breath, you know. They'd do things like that.

EE:

I heard the other week on a TV show, I guess it was, somebody was comparing now and then with the attitude toward military, saying back in World War II everybody was patriotic.

LS:

Yeah.

EE:

Is that a true statement?

LS:

Yeah. In that little group up there, I think we were like family, you know, just kind of like family.

EE:

Were most of the women that you were working with about your age?

LS:

Most of them was my age. There were some older women there. There was Emma[?] Miller, she was quite older. There was several of them was even older than I was.

EE:

Was there ever any doubt in people's minds that we would win the war?

LS:

I don't think so. I don't think so. I never heard any doubt that we'd win the war. I think people were very upbeat. I mean, we were a little—you know, when they invaded Normandy and things like that, a lot of people got killed in those days. It's kind of tragic when you hear all the number that was missing. You know, things like that. Although Richard was in Seabees, you know, they were going in and building air things, and they'd get bombed out sometimes. He was in a typhoon one time over there. He lived in a tent for a long time till they built the Quonset huts.

EE:

Were you encouraged to stay in the military afterwards? Did anybody ever say anything, that you could stay, even though you were married?

LS:

Well, they never said to. They knew I wanted to get out, that I was wanting to get out. But I said if I hadn't have been married, I'd have probably stayed in.

EE:

Are there some heroes or heroines when you think about that time, people that stand out in your memory as somebody you really look up to?

LS:

Well, I was trying to think. I think most of who we looked up to back in those days was some of the generals, Omar Bradley and [George S.] Patton, that we heard all these things about. I never thought too much about Eisenhower, but I had a girl that was from Franklin, North Carolina, her last name was Franklin, and she got shipped overseas. She said she was a chief pencil-sharpener on Eisenhower's staff in Germany. Somehow it seemed like it was Omar Bradley and Patton that were the—

EE:

Had the personality.

LS:

Personality or something.

EE:

The pearl-handled revolver got a lot of people's attention, didn't it?

LS:

Yes, that they talked about a lot, you know. So I guess that's who we would think about, you know. And of course, when Roosevelt died, it was sad. That was a sad—

EE:

How did you hear about that?

LS:

It come on the radio, and, of course, everything went half-mast, all the flags and everything. The radio played sad music, you know, and it was just a very sad time. Of course, we didn't have TV then. We heard it on the radio. We didn't have TV.

EE:

He had been president for so long, it was kind of hard to imagine anybody else doing it right then.

LS:

I used to have some pictures. My husband had a friend that was in Washington, and she took pictures of the whole thing. I don't know what I did with them. It was so sad to look at.

EE:

My mom told me she was—I guess she probably was, born in '34, so that made her eleven or twelve at the time he passed away, I guess, in late April of '45. She and her mom, her mom got off work in the mill, and went down to the train station, and the train with his coffin in the back of it came up through Concord. She just remembers standing there for a long time waiting on that train.

LS:

People just were in such a state of shock. Tears rolled down people's cheeks. Now, that was a hopeless month for us. The war wasn't quite over, and it was going real good, and it came pretty soon. But that was a hopeless thing, and everybody thought, “Can Truman do it? Can Truman do it?” That was the situation. And Roosevelt, he was so dynamic, and yet he was so sick and nobody knew it.

EE:

A lot of folks never knew he was crippled.

LS:

No. I still like to watch on the History Channel his life story.

EE:

What did you think of Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

LS:

She was quite a lady. She did so much for him that people did not give her credit for. If you ever see that movie about her, how she went out and done his campaigning and everything, and she didn't want to. She got into that because he just said, “You can do it. You can do it.” I felt sorry for her in a way. The tales came out about him and that—Miss Lucy, I guess her name was. Then she was, went to the UN [United Nations], wasn't she?

EE:

That's right. Either UN or March of Dimes. I want to think it was with the March of Dimes.

LS:

It was UN, too, because she went to France for some treaty or something over there. She was representing us.

EE:

She's somebody I think by force of personality alone made her [unclear].

LS:

She didn't have a good speaking voice either, but what she said was good. Her speaking voice, you know, was kind of high-pitched. She was a great woman, one of America's great.

EE:

Did you think the military experience made you more of an independent person than you would have been?

LS:

Oh, I'm sure. I was dumb as they can be, a dumb country girl. I didn't know anything about life, hardly. I learned so much interacting with people. See, I never met anyone but the country people around me. Here I was with people from everywhere, associating with them.

EE:

A lot of the folks that I talk to, they were doing work that before the war would have been done by a man. They were doing things that, as a woman, whether it was leaving home or just going to work in the factory job you were working at, I don't know, it may not have been a job they would have had a woman doing before the war.

LS:

No. I wouldn't have been doing that.

EE:

So do you think of yourself as sort of a trailblazer from that time?

LS:

Well, it's a mighty little trailblazer.

EE:

A mighty little trail? [laughter]

LS:

A mighty little trail. [laughter]

EE:

But it was different?

LS:

It was different. It was my learning experience.

EE:

What would you think if your daughters—you've just got the one daughter?

LS:

One daughter.

EE:

Has she ever thought about joining the military?

LS:

No.

EE:

Would you have encouraged her to do so if she'd wanted?

LS:

If she wanted to, I really would. I would tell her it wouldn't be easy, right off, because there's discipline. There's a lot of discipline in there. You've got to be able to take discipline.

EE:

We had, I guess at the end of December this last year, for the first time ever, [the] U.S. sent a woman combat pilot into action. Do you think there's some jobs that women shouldn't be doing?

LS:

Well, I guess women are capable of anything, but I don't know that we have the body strength, were we made that strong. I don't know that about that. But yet I have known old country women that could do anything that a man could do, as far as that's concerned.

EE:

Right. If they work on a farm long enough, they can do anything. [laughter]

LS:

You know, you learn to do everything. I didn't have to do anything but weed the garden, feed the pigs, chickens, and stuff like that.

EE:

Some folks, when you look back at the fact that you had things like Rosie the Riveter—

LS:

Oh, I did. I forgot to tell you about that. When my husband was in Gulfport, Mississippi, I went down to stay with him a few weeks. Well, they said they needed Rosie the Riveters in there. So I'm going over—I took a course in—what was it? You know, where you put your glasses on, soldering.

EE:

Welding.

LS:

Welding. I was taking a course in welding. Well, they took us over to Pascagoula, [Mississippi], where they was going to do the shifts, and you had to crawl down those corridors. I decided that wasn't for me. [laughter] So that didn't work out. Well, I come on back home.

EE:

So “Lucy the Riveter” was a no-go? [laughter]

LS:

No-go. I did do a little bit of that. But I'll tell you, it was only about a two—or three-week course I had down there, you know, and I thought, well, if that works out, I'll just go and work on the ships down here. No. I was trying to do something, trying to find my niche. I don't know whether I ever found it or not.

EE:

Well, you ended up you did do a job that a man did, and you did work it for three years. Some people have said that those kind of jobs, that kind of experience, although it was for women who were not looking to make careers, maybe, out of it, but it set the stage for women later who wanted to make careers in fields that were “men's fields.” It was like the beginning of the women's lib movement. Is that part of your thinking? Anything a man could do a woman could do?

LS:

A woman can do, because men was in there doing things that I could do. A woman could do that. You just had to know how to look at catalogues, serial numbers, and know how to post things, and where to go to find them, and things like that. It was sort of like filing, you know. Everything had a number and that sort of thing. And then the extra duty was just normal things like making sandwiches or just doing something that was called extra duty that you had to do.

EE:

A question we ask everybody, do you think you contributed to the war effort?

LS:

Well, I hope I did. I hope I did something to help. Somebody had to do the job.

EE:

And when you were working it, you felt satisfied that you were doing it, sounds like, because you said you think you would have continued it if you had had the chance.

LS:

Yes, I would have continued.

EE:

How do you think your life has been different because you were in the military?

LS:

Well, I'm sure it was educational to me, because I might be stuck in that little town yet, in a way, and I'm sure my husband had the same experience. Of course, he came there on construction, but then he hadn't been out in the world that much either. You know, I think it opened up a new world to us. Then we was in that same little town, you know, and you realize there's a bigger world out there, more to do. And I think it's helped me with seeing that my children got the education and everything.

EE:

You realized it was important to get a bigger view of the world.

LS:

Yes. Although I thought she never was, but then she did go back.

EE:

Well, you never give up on yourself and never give up on those you love.

LS:

She made the most beautiful speech Saturday. I never knew she could do it. She got up—she was the class president—at the opening-up ceremony. I sat there, and tears rolled down my eyes. My son said, “Mother, that presentation, I believe the daughter should have been the lawyer.” [laughter]

EE:

That's great.

LS:

So he was so proud of her. He was so proud of her.

EE:

When did you graduate from high school?

LS:

1940, I believe. Somewhere around there. I have to go look up dates. I am terrible on dates. I should have looked them up and had them written down.

EE:

Well, I am so impressed that the women I've talked to can remember dates from sixty years ago. I can't remember dates from two months ago.

LS:

Yes. I'm starting down the backside of seventy now. It's getting pretty rough.

EE:

Well, you know, it's just a number. Just keep telling yourself it's just a number.

LS:

I know. I've said my body's rebelling, but my mind don't feel that way. I do forget names and numbers sometimes.

EE:

But, you know, my dad's about to turn seventy. He's thirty years older than I am. So we're tracking forty and seventy anxiety. We talk about when he was growing up, sixty was an old man. Because so many folks are getting older now.

LS:

Yes. I went to help Richard's mother out with the grandmother, where I am old as she is now, and nobody's helping me. [laughter] I'm doing my own thing. I guess it has taught me to be more independent. It's got to have taught me to be independent.

EE:

Well, you know, doctors take better care of you. We eat better.

LS:

Wasn't for my vision, I'd get along pretty good. I have glaucoma. That's my big hang-up right now. I don't drive after night.

EE:

That's something my dad's got. We've talked about a lot of different stuff, and what's good is you've got a lot of good, fun memories from that time period.

LS:

I have. I do have fun memories.

EE:

Are there some characters that stand out, that we haven't talked about? You know, you meet people from all over the world. Are there some either characters or maybe funny or embarrassing moments that you can think of?

LS:

Well, there was a character that worked in the warehouse a lot. His name was Katz, and I'm not sure that he had a full load. He would try to act like he was on stage, and he would do things, and most all he done was sweep the place out or fill up the water jugs. But he was so funny. And I believe he was German, and his name was Katz, and I often wonder what ever become of that man. He was so, so funny.

EE:

He wasn't going to be a Fortune 500 president, right?

LS:

Oh, he thought he was going to be an actor sometime. That sort of thing. That was the only character I—

EE:

Did you ever do anything that was really embarrassing when you were in the service?

LS:

Embarrassing. I don't know as I ever really embarrassed myself. One thing is, the couple of guys that gave me—I wore coveralls when I was working there, because I had to climb up sometimes, and they were so big on me, they got a stencil, and some of them helped me write “droopy drawers” on the back of my coveralls. They was on there till the day I left, “droopy drawers,” because I was short, and some of those things, you know, weren't tailored to fit you.

EE:

Everything else was, but not that.

LS:

And then when I left, I got this package from them. They got a roll of toilet paper, and each one of them wrote me. [laughter] I kept it for years and it was beginning to disintegrate. Each one of them wrote a note to me.

EE:

Sounds like you got along pretty good with the fellows that you worked with.

LS:

I did. I got along pretty good with them. There was another character. He was an older man, and he was working. So he took a shine to one of the girls that worked in the office. And I kept telling him, “Her husband's going to come in and shoot you some day.” So one morning he came in the warehouse, and he said, “You know, I almost got shot.” [laughter] He was going into Newport News, and she was a civilian, and her husband come in surprising [unclear]. He come in one door, and Charlie went out the window. But he was the nicest fellow, outside of that, that ever was. But them girls in the office—the man had character, he was just sort of like Bill Clinton. He could charm women. That was his downfall, charming. He was so charming.

EE:

He just charmed himself out of the good sense to know when to stop.

LS:

Yes. And he had a wonderful wife. She came to visit. She was a schoolteacher up in New York. But he was just as charming as he could be. But I used to say, “You're going to get yourself in trouble. You wait and see if you don't.”

EE:

He didn't move to Arkansas, did he? [laughter]

LS:

No, he didn't move to Arkansas. [laughter] He was up North, up in New York. I'm not going to say his last name because I don't want to get him in trouble. We was stationed there, but my sergeant over the whole warehouse was a man that was very nervous. Then we had another one that was on down the line. He was so afraid that he was going to have to go overseas. That guy ate his fingernails down to here, and finally he got out. He was a Jewish boy. But he was just so nervous about being in—he was scared to death. I don't know if he was scared of a German getting him or what. He was literally scared to death. But Charlie was one of the main characters. Then we had a guy who was over the whole thing, called Tursi. He was something else. He was Italian. You know how—

EE:

Talk, talk, talk. Very expressive.

LS:

Very expressive. Very expressive. But he was an older man. I mean, he was too old, I imagine, for combat himself. Because I think he said he had five or six children. And where I worked, there would be some older service men that came in on limited service. I believe that's it, what they used to come in on, limited service. Then there was some people that was not quite 4F [unfit for service], but had bad eyes.

EE:

Limited service was probably folks who had already served or retired, and they came back in.

LS:

Yes. And there was some younger boys that wasn't quite 4F, I don't believe, but they had very bad vision.

EE:

A woman whose husband was that way, and they wouldn't believe him, wouldn't believe him. “No, you can't see, can you, son?”

LS:

We had some there like that, and I guess we had some what-you-call-it, too. What do they call them? Not 4Fers, but people that just didn't want to go to war, you know, didn't want to do it.

EE:

We've covered a lot in an hour. So is there anything that we haven't talked about, about that time that sticks in your memory that you want folks to know about?

LS:

You know, it probably is. I just don't recall it right now. Sometimes I have CRS [Can't Remember Stuff syndrome], I can't remember stuff I'd like to say.

EE:

Well, you sit back and look at some of this with your folks and think about it, and if there's anything else. I don't know if you've got any photos of yourself in uniform from back in that time? Everybody we interview, we're trying to track down at least one photo of folks when they're working.

Transcriber, we're going to call it quits for right now. Thank you.

[End of Interview]