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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Constance Cline Phillips, 1999

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Object ID: WV0082.5.001

Description:

Interview discusses Constance Phillips’s early life; education at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina; work as an X-ray technician in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II; and her life after her military service.

Summary:

Phillips describes her childhood and family, including her mother’s career as a nurse in World War I and with U.S. Public Health Service; being unaffected by the Depression; and developing an interest in crafts such as weaving and pottery.

Topics related to Phillip's education include choosing the Woman’s College because of the art program; taking summer courses at Appalachian State Teachers College; and being informed that she had been taking too many art classes, spurring her to join the army.

Phillips recalls her basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, including the cold weather, uniforms, cramped train rides, open dorms, and female instructors. She mentions the students at X-ray school using each other as patients without realizing the danger of radiation exposure. She remembers the WAC scandal, fending off men’s advances, and becoming a sergeant by default. Phillips also discusses each of the hospitals she was stationed at. She recalls meeting her husband at Nichols General Hospital, a nerve center, and working with two German prisoners of war. She describes treating army brass at Ashford General Hospital and the Valley Forge General Hospital, which operated as a burn unit and plastic surgery center.

Postwar topics include Phillips’s courtship and marriage with her husband and his professional football carrer; finishing her schooling; and working briefly as a teacher.

Creator: Constance Cline Phillips

Biographical Info: Constance Phillips (b. 1924) of Concord, North Carolina, was an X-ray technician in the Women’s Army Corps from 1945 to 1946.

Collection: Constance Cline Phillips 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:

Today is May 24, 1999. I believe we're moving on. I'm in Richmond, Virginia, today, at the home of Constance “Connie” Phillips. Ms. Phillips, thank you so much for having us here today. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

I've got about thirty note cards here. The first question I ask folks—I try not to trip them up right at the beginning—where were you born and where did you grow up?

CP:

St. Paul, Minnesota, I was born. I grew up in Concord, North Carolina.

EE:

How did you get from St. Paul to Concord?

CP:

Well, my father and mother moved, and they came to Salisbury, North Carolina. My father was engaged in a little enterprise with his brother, a slipper factory which went kaput. So then we moved to Concord, at which point he started a new business which went kaput.

EE:

What years was this, the twenties?

CP:

Well, jeez, I was born in '24, so we're talking late twenties.

EE:

Before the Crash [of 1929].

CP:

Yes, yes, that's right.

EE:

What kind of mill was he doing, just hosiery mill or—

CP:

No, he worked for Cannon Mills, and also he worked for J.C. Penney. He was in Chicago as a salesperson, and in St. Paul [Minnesota]. He met my mother in St. Paul. She was out there at the request of a friend of hers who was her supervising nurse when she was in nurse's training in Boston at the Boston Homeopathic Hospital. Her friend moved to St. Paul and asked her to come out and work with her in the operating room.

EE:

Wonderful. So your mom was a native of Massachusetts?

CP:

No, she was a Canadian-born and grew up in Keene, New Hampshire.

EE:

I guess in those days folks finished high school and then went for a couple years' nurse's training in a hospital.

CP:

She was not allowed to go to nurse's training because she was under twenty-one. Her parents would not sign for her, because women did not do that kind of thing in that era. So she taught school one year, which she hated. After that, she was old enough and so she hauled herself off and went to nurse's training, which was remarkable for that era.

EE:

You told me here before our interview started that your mom was actually in the First World War.

CP:

She was in World War Number One, and she was at Fort Meade, Maryland, ready to go overseas, and she had a ruptured appendix, which almost killed her. Her unit went on off to wherever they went, France, wherever it was, I don't even know that.

EE:

This was what, '17?

CP:

Got me.

EE:

Probably.

CP:

Probably.

EE:

And so she was in Minnesota, then joined the service?

CP:

No, no, she joined the service before she went to Minnesota, somehow or other. I don't know.

EE:

But after her stay at Boston Homeopathic.

CP:

Yes, that's where she trained, and then she probably went into service then. I don't know that. But then later in her early thirties is when she went to St. Paul and met my father. They were both in their thirties. This was a late marriage for that era. They were both never been married before, quite mature people.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

CP:

I have one sister who is twenty months younger. I saw her two weeks ago in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

EE:

Wonderful. What's her name?

CP:

Mary Davison.

EE:

And your mom and your dad. Your mom, I think you told me, she later became a [U.S.] Public Health [Service] nurse?

CP:

She moved to Concord. We lived in one room. This was my father, my mother, and two children, and it was tight. She got mighty sick of living in the house with her mother-in-law, so she said, “Well, what can I do?” So she goes and finds herself a job. And she decides that she and the children are moving, so she rented a house. And she said to my father, “The children and I are moving. We hope you will go with us,” and he did. [Laughter] And of course, two weeks later it was his idea, you know.

EE:

Of course.

CP:

The way things go. But anyway, we rented two houses and then bought a farm outside of Concord which had been in my father's family and sold to somebody else. But this farm was in our family for two hundred years.

EE:

So there is way back a North Carolina connection.

CP:

Well, see my father was from Concord, and this was his father's family's farm, part thereof, that we bought. I was down there two weeks ago and the house is still standing. The little log cabin that my father built is still standing. [Telephone interruption.]

EE:

So y'all were in Concord then, I guess, before the Depression hit.

CP:

The Depression did not really affect us. We were either living in my grandparents' house or—and at that point my father was working for my grandfather at Cline and Moose Grocery Store in Concord. We never were hungry, we never saw people that were hungry. We moved to the country. We had a fantastic farm, forty-three acres. My daddy, who had a “nervous breakdown,” later died of a brain tumor. Who knows? Anyway, he went to farming at age forty-five. He was very experimental. We had a quarter acre of asparagus. We had raspberries, both red and black. We had peaches of many varieties, including Georgia Bells, which do not ship. [chuckles] So anyway, we had a great childhood on the farm. I loved it. My sister hated it, because she was a people person. Me, I was happy to eat peaches and read books.

EE:

Oh, yes. That's great. That's great. So you graduated from high school there in Concord area?

CP:

We went to town high school. We lived in the county, went to high school in town, and graduated from Concord High School.

EE:

And you said you had about a hundred in your graduating class in '42?

CP:

About a hundred.

EE:

If you were eating fruit and reading books on the farm, you must have liked school.

CP:

Yes, I liked parts of it.

EE:

What did you like about it?

CP:

High school?

EE:

Yes.

CP:

I was in love with my geometry teacher. I took art and band at the end of my junior year. I didn't know what I wanted to do. It seemed silly to go ahead and graduate, so I thought, well, let me take a year off and do this. So I took art and band two years each and fell in love with art. Not drawing, not painting, but all the crafts. I got very interested in it and did my undergraduate stuff at Woman's College [WC] in pottery, which was my love—metalwork, weaving, you know, the crafts.

EE:

Was Seagrove a popular place then?

CP:

I'll tell you what was there then that my family had a connection with— Jugtown Pottery. And I have Jugtown Pottery. That is old Jugtown.

EE:

Was it the Owens family that started that?

CP:

He was the potter. No, the Busbees started it. And I have in my lockbox a letter from Mrs. Busbee. I wrote her, asking her about art. I had to interview somebody in college. And she wrote me at length what she thought about art, and it's sitting in my lockbox.

EE:

Wow. I know Chapel Hill published a coffee table book not too long ago about the pottery.

CP:

They were fine people, and they were good friends of my folks.

EE:

Let me ask you a couple questions that are not high school questions. Of course, teenagers are teenagers, whatever the calendar says. If you're a teenager, your focus is probably not on world events, and yet you're growing up at a time something pretty big happens when you're in high school. Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

CP:

Yes, I was on a bus coming back from Woman's College on the weekend. Wasn't that in December?

EE:

Yes.

CP:

I was coming back on a bus having gone—what year was that?

EE:

'41.

CP:

All right. I must have been up there to visit somebody to see if I liked it, to see if I wanted to go there. I remember hearing about it in connection with that bus trip. Of course, the bus from Greensboro to Concord, I think it was seventy-three miles, as I remember, it took a fair while to stop in all those little towns.

EE:

Every little town.

CP:

Yes. And everybody stopped.

EE:

Do you remember any conversation about the war, the start of the war that you heard?

CP:

I am probably the least politically oriented person you will ever run into. It's just not on my page.

EE:

Didn't faze you. When did you graduate from high school, '42?

CP:

'42.

EE:

What did you do after you graduated from high school? Did you go right to WC?

CP:

Yes, I did.

EE:

And you chose that over—

CP:

I chose that because of the art department, because they had a crackerjack art department there.

EE:

Did you already know the name of somebody, the professors before you got there?

CP:

My teacher in high school had gone to Woman's College. Her name was Mary Cochrane Austin. Her best friend was a teacher of art at Woman's College at that point, and her friend's family had a little cabin on Ocracoke Island. So when I was sixteen, I spent a month on Ocracoke with those two art teachers. But what was lovely about that is there was not a clock in the house.

EE:

You were at Ocracoke when it was really was—

CP:

It was really Ocracoke. And I loved every minute of it. What was great about it was we ate when we were hungry, we slept when we were tired. The mail boat came in roughly at four o'clock. That was the only thing that came to that island. Of course, we all went down to get our mail. So that was the only time frame we had.

EE:

Did they have the Coast Guard station out there then?

CP:

Yes, they had a Coast Guard station.

EE:

I went to Ocracoke many summers in my youth.

CP:

Oh, Ocracoke is a great place. Our jumping-off point on the mainland for the mail boat, I think, was Atlantic, and it took all day on this mail boat to get from Atlantic to get to Ocracoke.

EE:

Was there anybody in Portsmouth then?

CP:

I don't remember Portsmouth at all.

EE:

So when you got to WC, do you remember what dorm you were in?

CP:

Cotton.

EE:

Did you come with roommates from back home or you just come on your own?

CP:

I came with my sister's best friend, Ann Llewellen. Then I had, each following year, different roommates. Ann left to get married.

EE:

Did she marry a Spencer, by any chance?

CP:

No, but her middle name was Spencer, Ann Spencer Llewellen.

EE:

She didn't have anything to do with Goodie's later on, did she?

CP:

Got me. I have lost complete track of most everybody down there. See, I've been up here fifty years, you know.

EE:

There's a woman in my church back home who is Ann Llewellen Spencer. I just was wondering if that was any relation.

CP:

It could possibly be.

EE:

You told me, before we started the interview, that you started your college career and then you interrupted it.

CP:

I tried to go through college in three and a half years. I went to Appalachian one summer in an attempt to pick up credits to get through school. What I thought was to be the end of my junior year, they called me in in November or so and told me that I was taking too many art credits, that I needed to audit one. So I went home madder than a wet hen at Christmas. And I said, “You know, I think I've got a good notion to join the army.” And my daddy said, “I think the discipline would do you good. I'll sign for you.” [laughs]

EE:

Oh, my goodness.

CP:

And that's how I got in the army.

EE:

That was Christmas of '44?

CP:

Probably. Got me, man. I was not particularly patriotic, but I was mad because they had screwed me up. And they did that a lot. You know, they still do it.

EE:

Sure, sure.

CP:

And they let you go so far before they tell.

EE:

Before they tell you.

CP:

And there I was, and I was really trying to get through. Not for any patriot—see, I'm not politically oriented, you know.

EE:

But you were twenty, so did your mom give you any grief?

CP:

No, no. No, no. They gave me ultimate freedom. Can you imagine letting a sixteen-year-old go alone for a month to Ocracoke Island? I mean, that's pretty trusting. Of course, I didn't get into any trouble.

EE:

But you also were an independent type from the beginning out there on the farm, it sounded like.

CP:

Well, we were raised—there was no distinction made between male and female. Women were allowed to do most everything, you know. My father may not have agreed with it, but my mother was all for it.

EE:

Aside from this trauma with the advisor system at Woman's College, what do you remember about the professors and classes and things like that?

CP:

Our art teacher, and I kept in touch with his daughter, Ann somebody or other, long gone. I don't remember his name.

EE:

Did you say Ivy?

CP:

No, Ivy was the head of the art department. I'm talking about the major teacher, and I don't remember his name. But he told us that men and women were shaped different. This was our freshman year. That men were shaped like triangles and women were shaped like pears. And as I have lived a longer life, I begin to see what he meant. [Laughter]

EE:

Not as evident at twenty as it is maybe at sixty. [laughs]

CP:

But, anyway, I was extremely impressed by all the teachers. I could not draw and I could not paint, but I had a fine time. And I loved the classes.

EE:

Great. Dean [Harriet] Elliott, I guess, had gone on and left?

CP:

She was the dean of women, I think, at that point.

EE:

I can't remember when she left to go to Washington to work in the Roosevelt administration.

CP:

I have no memory of that at all. I'm apolitical.

EE:

Did you have any fun social-wise? What was the social life like?

CP:

Social life was rather sparse at Woman's College because that was the war era. I was never particularly afraid of men, never paid much attention to them, really, but I remember walking out of the dorm one time and all I had seen for weeks was women, and some serviceman said hello to me. Well, it was so startling to hear a male voice that I panicked and ran back to the dorm. You know, I was just so surprised.

EE:

This was somebody from the ORD [Overseas Replacement Depot]?

CP:

I had no idea. Somebody walking around campus. You know, there were a lot of young men who, because it was a women's college, would come over there and roam around.

EE:

Well, I'm sad to report I was one of those roaming around there in 1978. [laughs]

CP:

Well, we just missed by a few years.

EE:

What made you decide to join the army, as opposed to the navy or the SPARS [Coast Guard Women's Reserve, from “Sempar Paratus—Always Ready”]?

CP:

I have no earthly idea what made me decide, because I can tell you in that era, I could have been in any of the services, because I was college oriented. I wanted to go to photography school. I had taken a year of photography and I thought that was something I really wanted to pursue. I went to the army recruiter. Photography schools were pretty well closed at that point, so they said, “Would you consider X-ray? They process film.” Dumb twenty-year-old, I said, “Sure.”

EE:

Film is film, right? [chuckles]

CP:

That's right. Film was film. So that's how I ended up being an army X-ray technician, much to my amazement.

EE:

So did they talk about that option with you then before you joined?

CP:

Oh, I'm sure so. I think I designated that.

EE:

Did you say you signed up at a recruiter there in Concord or in Greensboro?

CP:

I think I went to Charlotte. I wouldn't be surprised.

EE:

Is that where you reported back?

CP:

Yes, that's where I spent my first night in the army, in a very rotten hotel, and I didn't know enough to lock the door. My mother was over there for some kind of Public Health meeting, so, of course, she came to check on her chick. So she comes, she knocks on the door, and I say, “Well, come in.” She says, “Darling, first thing you need to learn is to lock your door.” Well, I had three other roommates, and they came in in various states of disrepair all night long, and I was up opening the door for them. [Laughter]

EE:

Ready to get up at six the next morning, yourself, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. So y'all spent the night in Charlotte, and then did you get on a train to go to—

CP:

Des Moines, Iowa. In February. And you talk about cold.

EE:

This was February '45.

CP:

It was cold. February the 8th. It was cold out there, and they made us march outside. They made us do our exercises, and I used to run in place with my eyes shut, and they didn't think much of that. At five o'clock in the morning, I wasn't interested in seeing a bunch of people running in place.

EE:

Did they tell you what to bring, what to wear clothes-wise? Did they issue you clothes right off the bat?

CP:

Oh, we were issued clothing. Oh, yes. And I used to always lose gloves. We were issued two pairs of gloves. I promptly lost one pair and had to buy the replacement, and that was the last pair of gloves I lost. We were issued nylons, too. Nylons in that era were pretty big stuff, and they wore like iron. They turned green after a while, but they didn't get runs in them. The dye came out of them, but they lasted well. They also issued us cotton stockings.

EE:

Those are the kind I've seen pictures of women, and they say, “Don't look at my ankles,” because they'd always bunch up there.

CP:

Little ruffles down there, yes.

EE:

How long was basic [training] for you?

CP:

Six weeks, as I remember. I remember having KP [kitchen partol] fourteen times. Now, KP was not a punishment; it was a roster duty, a rotating duty. And I did not care for KP. I did not like big things of potatoes to peel, you know. I could do that on the farm. I had peeled a fair amount of stuff.

EE:

What was a typical day like for you in basic?

CP:

Well, they got you up early. They made you do whatever you were going to do that day. You did a fair amount of marching. Of course, it was cold. It was Des Moines, Iowa. It's cold out there, the wind blows.

EE:

Were most of your instructors men or women?

CP:

Women. In fact, I had no male instructors.

EE:

You weren't going with anybody you know, were you, from WC?

CP:

No. I just went.

EE:

Brave new world, just went, right in the middle of the year, said, “I'm going.”

CP:

Right on the train. It took two days to get from Concord or Charlotte to Des Moines, and you were riding any which way you could.

EE:

Pretty full?

CP:

No berths. I remember sleeping on some duffel bags between cars. There was a little spot back there.

EE:

Did you make any buddies there that first six weeks? This is a big barracks, I assume you're in, right? No privacy.

CP:

Two floors, no privacy, but the cadre was down at the end. The worst mistake I made was one night about four they were having a party, and I woke up and I go down and I knock on the door. And in my most Southern speech pattern I say, “Would y'all please excuse me and be a little but more quiet? You're waking me up.” My name was made. Basic was not my favorite. [laughs]

EE:

I don't know how it is, but most women I've talked with about basic, there's only two Southerners in the whole basic group. Everybody gets picked on with your accent.

CP:

I do not remember anybody in basic. I just know that I didn't care for the whole thing. I did clean a grease trap. I do not know that you will talk to too many women who have cleaned a grease trap. They make you do it at five o'clock in the morning before you have your KP duty, because when you upchuck, you don't have much in your tummy to upchuck with. It was not fun.

EE:

No, doesn't sound like it.

CP:

Leaving my peach tree to go into this mess.

EE:

So are you thinking now, “This is why Dad wanted me to do all this”?

CP:

No, no, I just did it. I don't question motivation, I just go do what I do and I do it.

EE:

Where did you go from Fort Des Moines?

CP:

From Des Moines I went to Atterbury in Indianapolis. Camp Atterbury, I believe that was, in Indianapolis. That's where X-ray school was. That was a four-month stint.

EE:

You came out of basic. What rank were you?

CP:

I'm a private.

EE:

Private. And after X-ray school, are you still a private or are you a specialist?

CP:

Probably. I don't know when I got to be a corporal, but somewhere in there I became a corporal. Probably after I left X-ray school. I don't know that. I do know that I became a sergeant in Louisville, only by default, only because everybody else was leaving and they needed for their TO a sergeant. So all of a sudden this kid who was barely out of X-ray school is a sergeant, which was nice pay-wise. And it never happened in the army. You know, I just fluked into it.

EE:

Most of the folks that I've talked to, their frustration was they could never get a pay grade increase. They'd just kind of be stuck. So you count yourself lucky.

CP:

I just fluked into it. All my life I've won by default.

EE:

Atterbury, Indiana, was that near Indianapolis?

CP:

Yes, right outside of Indianapolis.

EE:

Was this is the farthest you've ever been away from home?

CP:

Yes. Well, Des Moines was farther than Atterbury. It was pretty far.

EE:

For your first big train trip—or how did you get down to Ocracoke? Did you drive?

CP:

I think I probably rode with my art teacher to school. See, my folks were really quite cosmopolitan, you know, and we had a stream of people, due to my mother's Public Health job, coming into our home. I was good friends with a Filipino doctor, you know, all sorts of people. So we were not typical.

EE:

So you didn't have the culture shock, maybe, that some of the other folks I've talked to—

CP:

I didn't pay much attention to it. I just didn't like being waked up in the middle of the night, and told them so. That got me in hot water.

EE:

You weren't the social butterfly.

CP:

Oh, no, I didn't pay any attention to a bunch of this stuff.

EE:

I know some folks, especially WACs [Women's Army Corps], I know I think in '42 when they first started the WACs, which was WAAC [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] they later found out it was the army itself that kind of started the smear campaign against the WACs.

CP:

There was much smearing. I have had young men walk up to me—this happened at Atterbury, I think—walk up to me and ask me to spend the weekend with them. And my rejoinder was, “No, I'm not really interested. But I'm looking for somebody to play tennis with. You want to play some tennis?” So we ended up becoming friends. You know, innocence is a great protection.

EE:

Sure. That was a good campaign.

CP:

But I had a man come up and sit beside me in the train station in Washington, and his preamble was, “I've always wanted to marry a WAC.” Worse-looking thing you ever saw. So I said to him, “And why?” He says, “Because they've learned to do without so much.” I said, “Well, let me tell you what's happening to me. I am getting out of the army, and I have been on a shopping spree.” I had been to I. Miller in Philadelphia and I was elated. He got up and ambled on off. See, none of this fazed me because I was so innocent.

EE:

But this kind of rumor and innuendo didn't bother your folks back home?

CP:

I don't suppose they even knew about it. And I don't know that it would have bothered them, because, again—

EE:

Your mom was in Public Health, she can put up with about anything.

CP:

Listen, I grew up playing with the cards of the people that had VD [venereal diseases] in Concord, North Carolina. You've had a similar background.

EE:

Yes, the stories about the contraceptive gel that was used as a toothpaste, isn't that how you're supposed to [unclear]? [laughs]

CP:

I didn't hear that one, because they didn't have it in that era, but I would have, you know. And I knew about homosexuality because one of the neighbors came and talked to my mother at home on the front porch. We're in the living room, you know. See, our experience in our childhood was so wide-ranged.

EE:

You weren't cloistered intellectually, in that sense.

CP:

No. And I tell you the truth, I didn't pay any attention to it. And there was a lot of garbage going on around me that I just didn't get into, wasn't awed by it or disturbed by it, you know.

EE:

Well, those were the two big smears, was either the wantonness or the lesbian charge, I guess.

CP:

Yes, I had a girl come sit in my lap one day, and the rest of the girls in the dorm decoyed her off. You know, barracks, not dorm.

EE:

You were at Atterbury for four months.

CP:

Right. Then I went back to Des Moines in summer for staging. And that was hot.

EE:

At Atterbury, textbooks and then you were working in a hospital there or something, is that how you did it?

CP:

We X-rayed each other. They did not tell us till after.

EE:

So you glow in the dark.

CP:

Practically. They did not tell us till after this was pretty well over that the stuff could even harm us. Of course, we didn't know it, you know. So I was well radiated. I have restricted dental X-rays. I've restricted chest X-rays. Very few people get the privilege of seeing X-rays on me. I did have bone density recently because I'm of the age.

EE:

But that does have a lifetime cumulative effect on you, doesn't it, that radiation?

CP:

Well, so far as I know, and I will be seventy-five in August, I seem not to have had any particular result from it. Who knows? But we did, we used each other as patients.

EE:

Were most of these women of your age, early twenties?

CP:

I think there probably were some older, but most of us were quite young. And I remember very few of those people from that era.

EE:

You worked this X-ray position. I know that some of the recruiting stuff for getting women into the services talked about freeing a man to fight. Was this the kind of position that you were replacing a man in army hospitals, or was this something a woman had been doing before?

CP:

I really don't know enough to know. My bet was that they were freeing up men to go overseas, and they were going to use us in the States, probably. That was my bet, but I don't know that. In Louisville there were some civilian technicians.

EE:

Male technicians?

CP:

Yes.

EE:

That's what I was going to ask you. After Atterbury, were you working with both men and women in your regular job?

CP:

There was one male civilian technician. No, there were two male civilian technicians. There was one army male technician. I think there were two of us women, young women technicians. There was a girl, Phyllis, who came out of New York. I think she was in Louisville. I was good friends with a lab tech there. She was my best buddy, and she and I both went on to White Sulphur [Springs, West Virginia] at the same time.

EE:

We talked a little bit before this interview started, so I sort of know about the places you were. Why don't we run through for the tape the hospitals that you were stationed at through the end of your service, and then I want to go back and ask you about the kind of work you did in each of those places.

CP:

All right. Nichols General Hospital was in Louisville, Kentucky. Then that hospital closed, and from there I went to White Sulphur Springs to Ashford General Hospital. And then that hospital closed. See, this was totally the end of the war. They were closing down.

EE:

You were at Nichols in Louisville through April of '46?

CP:

August 24th, I have here as a date, of '45 through March of '46.

EE:

And then you went to White Sulphur Springs for April and May of '46?

CP:

Right, April and May of '46.

EE:

Ashford General, where is that?

CP:

Ashford was the army's name for the Greenbriar [resort] at White Sulphur at that time. And then that hospital closed and I went to Valley Forge, and that was from June until August of '46.

EE:

Is that when you got your discharge from Valley Forge?

CP:

Got it from Fort Bragg, August 22, 1946, and, boy, was I happy. Whee! What happened, there were several of us who had not finished college. They didn't need the personnel and they gave a couple of us the option to get out with eighteen months' service, which was not what was permitted at that point. But because we were juniors and seniors, you know, they said, “Would you like to go back to school?” And of course I said yes. So it worked out beautifully, got out in August, went back to school in September.

EE:

Yes, I think you had to serve—I don't know what the minimum was, but I know basically for every month in you got a certain—it added up that way.

CP:

Yes. And then, of course, we got the G.I. Bill and that was a great deal. I bought a bunch of art books and had myself a ball, and it didn't cost my parents. The Woman's College, the year I went there as a freshman, I think, was six hundred dollars. I don't know what it went up to in '46 and '47.

EE:

That was for room and board and everything?

CP:

Oh, yes, that was it.

EE:

The kinds of patients at these different hospitals, Nichols General—was that all just whatever?

CP:

Nichols General was a nerve center. They had paraplegics there and probably some quadriplegics. I don't remember any of those. And they also had a lot of extremity nerve injuries.

EE:

Frostbite and things like that?

CP:

No, no, no. Man. Miss a whole part of a person. And they were trying to rejoin the nerves and they used tantalum wire, is something I remember X-raying to see how close something was getting to something to rejoining. But I think that was where some of the first paraplegics were kept alive. I don't believe they understood the technology to be able to do that. So that was very interesting. And, of course, most of our patients were male. Very few females. Which, of course, at twenty I thought was cool.

EE:

Then Ashford General, you told me that was—

CP:

That was big brass. I X-rayed four generals in one morning, and you don't see that many generals very often. They also had the room that they showed up where Ike [Dwight D. Eisenhower] had slept. And our X-ray department, as I remember, was up on the fourth floor. It was a very interesting hospital. We liberated a number of steaks, because they were trying to get rid of their food. And these were large—what is the finest cut you can get?

EE:

Filet mignon?

CP:

Yes. And they were delicious. We had them a couple times a weeks. Probably coated our arteries good.

EE:

Your cholesterol went way up, but you said it was a good steak.

CP:

Oh, I tell you it was a fine maneuver. And I did buy some jewelry from their PX [post exchange]. I bought a bracelet and some earrings that had moonstones in them because they were on sale.

EE:

I imagine their PX had a little better merchandise than others.

CP:

Oh, I'm sure it did very nicely.

EE:

You were there just for a couple months and then you went to Valley Forge.

CP:

Sam Snead played an exhibition the day I had a wisdom tooth taken out. It took them four hours. They took it out in pieces, because my teeth are fragile and they break. And I got up from the dentist chair and I said, “Well, I think I'm going out and see Sam Snead.” And the dentist said, “Honey, you go home and go to bed.” Well, I could have seen Sam, and I was mad that I had not gone. But it was very much of a luxury place. It was very rundown because it had not been maintained. It was pretty shabby at that point, but quite interesting.

EE:

You mentioned that Valley Forge was a burn center.

CP:

Burn center and plastic surgery. And that was really sad stuff—faces, skin grafts, no hair, no brains, you know, all sorts of things.

EE:

I can't imagine an X-ray technician having as much to do there.

CP:

We were still pretty busy.

EE:

What was a typical day on the job like for you? Did y'all work seven-day shifts, or how was it?

CP:

We pulled emergency. I remember more of that in Louisville because I was there longer. I can remember we were pretty short staffed there toward the end. So I remember pulling duty at night with emergencies and then working a full day the next day. We had a roster and it rotated, and the two civilians that were there kind of filled in.

EE:

So some weeks you were first shift, second shift? Did you rotate on shifts, or did you pretty much stay per shift?

CP:

No, we worked a full daytime and then this night stuff was extra. But the interesting thing in Louisville, we had two German POWs [prisoners of war] that worked our darkroom for us, and one of them was young and very open. The other was in his probably thirties, which looked old at that point, but he was a confirmed Nazi. But they were good. Boy, they ran a good darkroom. And we got together at Christmas. Our captain, who became the head of the X-ray department at the University of Penn later on, Richard Chamberlain, Captain Chamberlain, was away at Christmas. It was my first Christmas away from home, and of course it was pretty sad. So we got together and we sang into his dictating setup Christmas carols, they in German and we in English, which was fun.

EE:

So you had a little Stille Nacht, Heil'ge Nacht.

CP:

I was in college at Woman's College, so I did hear a little of that.

EE:

We talked a little bit about how there was occasionally the troublesome GI, but on the job since you worked with men, were you treated professionally?

CP:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And I tell you, I have always not been bothered by people, you know. They don't usually tangle with me, and they didn't even then. I had a few, like the gentleman that out of the blue that asked me to spend the weekend with him, but, you know, that didn't bother me a bit. I wanted somebody to play tennis with. He was a pretty good tennis player.

EE:

When you were in Louisville, did they have a nurses' dormitory that y'all stayed in or where did you stay?

CP:

We had a WACs barracks, and the nurses were in another segregated area.

EE:

I guess the reason I ask is I haven't interviewed anybody who was an X-ray technician. I know that the dieticians and the Red Cross folks would often barrack with the nurses.

CP:

Well, see, we were peons and segregated.

EE:

Did you get access to a service club?

CP:

Yes, but, see, I didn't do that kind of thing. I didn't pay much attention to it.

EE:

What was your after-hours like? Did you go see movies?

CP:

I used to read books, watch movies. I'll tell you, I remember at Ashford knitting a great deal. I remember in the barracks I was knitting one day, and this little mouse came over looking for crumbs. So I reached over and scratched him with my knitting needle. [laughs] So we made friends. But if you've grown up on a farm, you know, you don't think anything about it. There's a little mouse, you know.

EE:

You did tell me that at some point you must have stopped knitting and met a fellow.

CP:

I met my husband in Louisville. He was in a unit as a truck driver that was sent back from Germany. They didn't know what to do with all these people at the end of the war, because they were overstaffed, so they put him on as a ward boy. Well, my husband ended up being a professional football player, among other things. He played one year for the Baltimore Colts. So here came this great big fellow, moving a patient on a stretcher very gingerly. It didn't bounce him off the walls.

[Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

EE:

I'd better back up. So you saw your husband-to-be wheeling around folks in the ward for you, you thought, “My goodness, what a pussycat. This guy is big and yet tender at the same time.”

CP:

It was an illusion. [laughs] It was an illusion, like many things are.

EE:

So you started dated there at Louisville?

CP:

Yes.

EE:

For how long?

CP:

Very, very, very briefly. But the reason I chose West Virginia in preference to California, which I was given a chance at, was that it was closer to Philadelphia, and Mike was in Philadelphia.

EE:

So he was transferred from Louisville back to Philadelphia?

CP:

No, he got out of the service in Louisville and went back to Philadelphia, and then had jaundice and was in the naval hospital in Philadelphia. So by the time I got back to Valley Forge, I would go from Valley Forge to see him down at the naval hospital.

EE:

How long was he in there for jaundice?

CP:

A long time. He damn near died. He had the highest—I think it was called an icterus index, I don't even know the test, but anyway, it was the highest one. They'd never seen anything quite like it, but he survived.

EE:

You say his folks were from Philadelphia?

CP:

Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania.

EE:

You left from Louisville, worked with the same kind of work at The Greenbriar just with better clientele. And at The Greenbriar did y'all have fancier headquarters because you were staying on the grounds?

CP:

No, we were over in barracks and when we were back there last fall, I looked for those old barracks, but they had been leveled and a parking lot put there.

EE:

Were they temporary?

CP:

These were temporary brown barracks. I was so hoping to see them to get oriented, and of course they weren't there. But they were brown.

EE:

Quonset huts?

CP:

No, they were wooden barracks. This little book, you may want to read before you leave here and see if it would be of value, because it tells about the barracks and other things. I think it might be of real interest to you.

EE:

Then you went back to Valley Forge and had this similar kind of schedule of work for the day.

CP:

Right, right.

EE:

Did you ever think about making the military a career?

CP:

Never.

EE:

How long after you met Mr. Mike did you decide that this was the man?

CP:

I decided that immediately, but we did not get married for three years, because though I thought he was charming, I was not quite sure he was going to be somebody you could live with. And forty-five years later, I was still not quite sure. [laughs]

EE:

Well, the key to having a long marriage is just never let one day decide it. You have to just go to the next day. [laughs]

CP:

He had as much trouble with me and I did with him. We were totally different in our backgrounds, totally different in our interests. He was so sports oriented that there was very little else in the world. Beautiful athlete, fine athlete, good golfer, good—you know, you name it, he could do it.

EE:

What was the hardest thing that you had to do while in the military, either physically or emotionally?

CP:

Probably physically, one of the fourteen KP days, probably, because it started very early and went very long, involved lots of potatoes and a few grease traps.

But emotionally, there was a boy—who later died in the hospital in Louisville— from Concord and he had a cancer of some sort, a blood cancer of some sort. I saw him get more ill and finally he wasn't there any longer. So I think that was probably one of the hardest things. And we dealt with some very bad injuries.

And probably emotionally Valley Forge. I had this one man that had had a bad injury, brain injury. He said, “You know, I'm a college graduate, and I can neither read nor write.” So that was, you know, pretty rough. And some awful disfiguring things with skin grafts. I mean, a column of flesh going from somebody's chest up to somewhere on their face to remake something. Grotesque stuff. That was tough.

EE:

You said that you don't get steeled for that kind of stuff.

CP:

I don't think anybody could. I thought I was pretty tough, and, you know, I could do ordinary stuff, but not that one. I don't know that anybody can do that when people's faces are involved. You know, you can do something to a limb or a belly or something like that, but their faces are very personal.

EE:

When you're losing a limb, it's traumatic and yet it doesn't affect the personality like something happens to the face.

CP:

But to me, something happening to somebody's brain is the ultimate. You know, the rest of it you can handle. You can lose an eye, you can lose a nose.

EE:

You seem the kind of person who might remember a story like this. Do you have an embarrassing moment that sticks out in your mind?

CP:

Not particularly.

EE:

Other than being a Southerner who wakes up at four in the morning and says, “Y'all be quiet, please.”

CP:

That wasn't embarrassing; that was painful. [laughs] I mean, they had me pegged. No, no, I don't remember anything particularly embarrassing.

EE:

In the kind of work you were doing, it doesn't sound like you were ever in physical danger. Were you ever afraid going to all these new places?

CP:

I was afraid after I found out what we'd been exposed to in X-ray school. Now, that was fearsome.

EE:

It's a good little drive from West Virginia to Philadelphia.

CP:

No. You didn't. Nobody had cars, you remember?

EE:

So there was rationing and everything else?

CP:

You rode a train, that's how you got there.

EE:

He was in the hospital this whole time.

CP:

We wrote letters. And only when I got to Valley Forge did I probably see him. He certainly did not come out there to see me. He was home and not sick for a while before this thing hit.

EE:

Had you kept up? You talked about being upset to miss Christmas for the first time, in '45, I guess it was. Did you keep up with the home folks and let them know this romance was burning?

CP:

I have a box of letters sitting over there that I never even read that my mother kept, and they sit in the box on the floor, but I'm too busy.

EE:

But you did keep them posted on what was going on?

CP:

Oh, of course, of course. We were a very close family.

EE:

Do you have, when you think about that time, any favorite songs or movies that when you see or hear you think of it?

CP:

I went to see Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin' last Thursday night, and it was very interesting. I was with friends. The man is almost eighty-three, his wife's just turned seventy-nine, and their daughter, who is in her forties, I would say. But anyway, we were sitting there and there were many songs that we recognized.

EE:

The kind of job that you had, do you think you contributed to the war effort?

CP:

I would not have thought of it in those terms at all. I was not a particularly patriotic person. My motivation was not always pure. I did what I was supposed to do and didn't worry about it.

EE:

It was the job of the moment for you as much as anything else?

CP:

It was very exciting and I loved X-ray, and I was a pretty good technician.

EE:

At the time you went in, I know some folks talk about December of '44 when things were going well and then all of a sudden the Battle of the Bulge and it looked like, oh, no, we might be there longer than we thought in Europe. But you're going in—

CP:

I went in right when it's over.

EE:

—right after it's over.

CP:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

So most of the time you're moving, they're decommissioning folks.

CP:

That's right. And what we were getting were people that had been wounded, many of them quite a long time before, that there was like rehab stuff, you know.

EE:

Did that give you any kind of opinion about war?

CP:

I never thought much about war. I tell you, I have written—I am aggravated at what we are doing now. We have no business in Kosovo. I was married for forty-five years to a Ukrainian. Their thought processes and ours—one of the ladies in here is quite an activist, and she told me to write to my congressman. I never done anything like that in my life. I said, you know, “You folks don't realize that we don't even understand these people's thought processes.” What the hell are we doing over there? So I think this kind of war is very stupid and very unwise. And I said in that letter, I said, we are dealing with people who don't think the same, and we are in a situation where we have no business.

EE:

Well, you know, we got into World War II because somebody came and attacked us.

CP:

Well, I think there are justified wars, you know. And if you're defending your territory. I think Vietnam was the first real disastrous thing I can remember so far as war went. And since then, I don't know we've fought any wars where we had any business.

EE:

That's true, true. Well, it's something because—

CP:

See, World War II was the last war where there was true patriotism across the board in this country, so far as I know.

EE:

Korea—I was watching this special they had on [Douglas] MacArthur the other night and was reminded, between MacArthur and [Harry S.] Truman, how divisive that made our strategy in Korea. What were we there for?

CP:

See, all this is past my page. I don't really understand it, I know I don't. And I've never been really interested in it, and I never really paid that much attention to it.

EE:

Well, that's encouraging to hear, because in every generation there's a whole range of people who do all sorts of things for all different reasons. Many times I hear about the World War II generation, and usually from people who have never been there, that everybody was patriotic, that everybody wanted to do it.

CP:

Well, most people, I think, truly were. Now, I didn't suffer hardship from World War II. My mother had a rationing ticket because she was a Public Health nurse, so we had gasoline. Not that we used it foolishly, but we had it.

EE:

Did your folks fly the little flag in the window with the star on it?

CP:

Out on the Irish Potato Road in Cabarrus County, who would have seen it? No, they did not. You know, it just wasn't that big a deal to them.

EE:

Good enough, good enough. That's what I want to hear.

CP:

However, we entertained some servicemen. We used to go to town on Sunday and ask them home and feed them a meal, because people did that in that era. And I remember this one day, my daddy wasn't with us. Usually he was. But anyway, Mother pulls up to a curb and there are three probably privates on maneuvers. And she said, “Would you boys like a nice meal?” And they looked at us, here's mama and these two girls, and one of them says to the other one, “Jeez, I don't know.” [laughs]

EE:

Didn't know if it was the farmer's daughter trying to marry him.

CP:

So we get them home and my mother realizes what we've gotten into, she says, “Now I just want y'all to know I have counted my silver.” [laughs] But we met some lovely young men and thoroughly enjoyed them, and they kept up with my folks years later.

EE:

I've heard from many folks that just wearing a uniform would get you dinners, seats on a train or in a bus, movie passes.

CP:

Right. Well, everybody tried to help as much as they could, you know.

EE:

Do you have any memories about where you were or what you did on either VE [Victory in Europe] Day or VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

CP:

No, neither one.

EE:

Probably just working?

CP:

Probably working.

EE:

You left the service in '46. When did you get married?

CP:

September the 6th, 1948.

EE:

In the meantime, did you got back to Cabarrus County, or what in the world did you do with yourself?

CP:

Well, I worked one summer on a State of North Carolina mobile X-ray unit. I finished school. I taught school in Wilmington, Delaware, one year, and my husband was playing ball in Baltimore, which was very convenient, I thought.

EE:

So he played professional ball. You told me he went to Western Maryland after getting out of the hospital.

CP:

He graduated from Western Maryland. He got out of the hospital in time to go back to school, and he was a senior, as was I. We went back and forth some that year. But we each dated other people.

EE:

You dated afterwards. So y'all really were testing the waters to see if this was going to last.

CP:

I was leery, because I knew that this was a real stretch. And it was.

EE:

So you picked a location conveniently far enough away from both families where you could do your own thing.

CP:

And I went to some of the games in Baltimore and enjoyed that, until I saw my husband get creamed one day. He broke some ribs, broke his cheekbone, just a few little things, you know.

EE:

It's nerve-wracking being the spouse of professional athlete, I would imagine.

CP:

Well, it wasn't much fun. Well, I wasn't a spouse at that time, but I did think I had a vested interest.

EE:

You got married in September of '48, had children, I think you said '49 your first?

CP:

Yes. November the 11th. “Mickey.” Constance Michelle.

EE:

Right. Then you had another daughter.

CP:

In '51, Nancy. And then a son in '53, Barry.

EE:

Where were y'all living at this time?

CP:

When Mickey was born, we were in an apartment out west in Richmond. Then my husband, to supplement his ball-playing, worked a couple of different jobs. One was as a materials checker for a big construction thing.

Then a fluke again. He was playing ball with a kid that had been a coach at Midlothian High School. As he's getting ready to leave, he says, “Mike, want to try coaching?” Mike says, “I always thought I'd like that.” So we moved to Midlothian and lived over a grocery store with cockroaches and mice for four years.

EE:

You weren't as friendly to those mice, I don't think, were you?

CP:

Well, I caught a few. One night we were sitting in the living room, I caught four. Doing right good that night.

EE:

My wife and I, our first apartment was in Philadelphia, and we didn't understand what urban life was like until you live in big apartment building and you don't know what your neighbors have left out in the kitchen and whatever. Oh, we had lots of guests that year.

CP:

They come up the pipes.

EE:

They do. In fact, we had a brand-new kitchen installed and they came up through the burners on the gas stove.

CP:

We had them in the motors in electric clocks, in our refrigerator motor, and would spray and chase them downstairs. They'd stay a week or so and come back up.

EE:

So your husband came back to coach at Midlothian.

CP:

And he was also playing professional football.

EE:

Down here at Richmond?

CP:

Yes, with the old Richmond Rebels.

EE:

How long did he do that?

CP:

Oh, gosh, I don't know, three or four years. See, he was twenty-seven when we got married and I was twenty-four. And after a few years here, into early thirties—

EE:

That's retirement age.

CP:

You know, you don't play so many more years.

EE:

Did you come back and raise the kids?

CP:

I had babies.

EE:

Took care of the babies.

CP:

Yes.

EE:

Well, I'm one of three, so I know you had plenty to do.

CP:

I did.

EE:

Do you think your time in the military made you more of an independent person than you would have been otherwise?

CP:

Probably. Probably.

EE:

Has your life been different because of that military experience? You got a husband out of it.

CP:

Meeting my husband, I think probably that was the greatest thing that made a difference in my life.

EE:

You were likely not going to meet a Ukrainian in Cabarrus County.

CP:

Might have. Possibly through my mother's job, because that job led us to very interesting people.

EE:

A lot of folks, when they look back at that time in the mid-forties, because of the war, women going into all sorts of jobs that were just men's jobs beforehand, whether it's Rosie the Riveter or Connie the WAC, it's a different thing for women to be doing. Now, your mom was a traveling—

CP:

See, that was no big news in our family because of my mother.

EE:

And yet it was big news for the country to have so many folks doing things like that, like your mother, I think.

CP:

I'll tell you, I think that what's happened since then started then, certainly, but I think women have in the process lost a lot of power as human beings. Because I see these young women going to work, having small children at home, when I really think those children are missing a lot of boats, and I really think that that's exactly in some measure what's wrong with our current setup.

See, my daughter had two children, they are the only grandchildren we had from my eldest daughter, and she was willing in this day and age to make a sacrifice of material possessions—and her husband was in agreement, in order that she be able to know what was going on at home. So she worked as a cleaning woman for some years. She has a degree in Phys Ed, but she's too old now to do that. You know, she's not coaching anymore at fifty, almost. So she's a teacher's aide now in an elementary school, having a good time.

EE:

It's a great age. It's fun being a dad when your kids are that age. Did your daughters ever have any interest in the military?

CP:

I don't think so.

EE:

Would you have ever encouraged them? Did you encourage them to try the military?

CP:

No way. I wouldn't encourage anybody to do anything. I say let them figure it out and do it.

EE:

It's too much fun watching them mess up. [laughs]

CP:

No, I'll tell you. My son was threatened by the draft. I went to the dentist and the only thing I could figure out that was wrong with him was his bottom teeth were pretty crooked. And I talked to the dentist, who was a dear friend, and he said, no, that was not sufficient. So I said, “Oh, hell,” because I really didn't want him to go in.

EE:

This would have been during Vietnam?

CP:

Yes. I did not want that. And fortunately, it disappeared right in front of him. He had a low number. I don't remember what it was, eleven or thirteen or something like that. I mean, they were breathing on him. But it went away, thank heaven.

EE:

As a country, we've sent our first female combat pilot into action just this last December.

CP:

I don't like women on boats. Nature is a powerful force. You cannot take people and put them in close quarters without having some results, I don't think.

EE:

Human history doesn't show that to be the case, does it?

CP:

I think it is lovely for women to have any opportunity in any field, and I like to see women get ahead and do things. I am very much in favor, you know. I'm actually not too sure what Hillary [Clinton] is going to do right now, but neither does Hillary, I don't think. I heard some commentator the other night saying that they thought perhaps she might be spiting her husband a bit. And I giggled to myself. Who knows. But anyway. And Mrs. [Elizabeth] Dole, all the Viagra controversy. This gets to be funny after a while.

But anyway, I like to see women have the opportunity, but I do not think it is a smart move to put them on a boat with a bunch of men.

EE:

What do you think about the time that you were in the service and you saw those folks? Do you have any heroes from that time period, folks that you admired?

CP:

I think her name was Colonel [Oveta Culp] Hobby. She was in the WACs. And I think if there were a WAC heroine that she—I never had any contact with her, I just knew her by name and her status, you know. But I think if there were a WAC heroine in that era, she would probably have been it, because to be a colonel for a woman at that point was pretty big stuff. Later on, I'm sure they had generals and what have you, but right then that was about as high as you went. Oveta Culp Hobby, that's the name. I never saw her.

EE:

The woman I am going to interview the day after tomorrow was Brigadier General Mildred Bailey, who was the next to the last head of the WACs before they were fully integrated into the army in the mid-seventies. She's a WC grad.

CP:

Well, I'll be darned.

EE:

But you're right, there are very few line officers ever from the WACs.

CP:

Oh, yes. And people, when they hear that I was a sergeant, they think I drilled people. Well, with my little pitiful voice, there ain't no way I could have drilled anybody. I could barely make it in a classroom, you know.

EE:

That was just a fluke. I'm not sure if we had that on tape how you got to be a sergeant.

CP:

It was by default, because what was happening is everybody was being sent home. They were trying to get rid of personnel. They had a plethora of people. They didn't need them all, so they were discharging people right and left. Well, all the TO was gone. I was the only one left there. I didn't have enough time to get out. So they couldn't get me out, so they made me a sergeant. And that was within about a year, which is very unusual in that era. And it was not my charm or my wisdom or my what have you; it was just they needed to fill that spot.

EE:

What did you think of the Roosevelts? Did you have any memories of those folks?

CP:

Not direct.

EE:

Probably had more recollection of Truman, I would think, since he came in—

CP:

See again, if you're not that politically oriented, you know. Now [Bill] Clinton has kind of got me stirred up. I've got to admit that.

EE:

Everybody, I think, has an opinion on Mr. Clinton.

CP:

Well, I hear he's a great charmer. But when he went to Washington, I said, “Son of a gun, the carpetbaggers are back.” I have not changed my opinion from the very first time I saw him.

Truman I remember as being decent, probably an honorable man. Mrs. Roosevelt I remember as being a far-thinking woman, way before her time, probably. Mr. Roosevelt and politics—you know, just not there. Just never have been there. It doesn't interest me in the least, but I do think we need a new president. And I don't mind being on tape for that one.

EE:

Well, I think there's even a lot of Democrats who wish we had a new President. [laughs]

CP:

Well, I'd have been very interested in some of the elderly folks around here, because I learned long ago, you don't deal with religion and you don't with politics, you just go right on your merry way. But we have some ardent Democrats that are senior citizens around here. This man can do no wrong; he is blameless. All these people have been persecuting this dear little sweet fellow.

EE:

That's the way his mama taught him to say, so.

CP:

Well, I'll say what.

EE:

Well, I've run through my gamut of questions.

CP:

Well, I really am not help to you, because I was not a serious member of the armed forces. I happened to be there.

EE:

Well, you know, I'm not so sure. I think you're an honest reporter of how you felt at that time. I think a lot of people in their imprimatur of history would like to have seen a lot more serious than what they were. But they were only nineteen, twenty, twenty-two or three years old.

CP:

I made me swear— [Telephone interruption.]

—lost track of it. What were we saying?

EE:

You said you didn't think you were much help at this. I just said I think you were an honest reporter of actually what you experienced.

CP:

I always said that I would not deify my husband if he were to predecease me. I have heard women who had an interesting, challenging marriage, and their husbands became saints when they died. I have not felt the need to do that.

EE:

It's interesting to see what my sister, the one who's a year younger than me, does with hers. She's had an interesting marriage.

CP:

Well, I've had a challenging one.

EE:

Did you go back to the work force after your kids grew up, or what did you end up doing?

CP:

When my husband started selling insurance for Nationwide Insurance and he had his office in our bedroom and he used to type at night, I tried to type for him. He'd looked at this form which I had typed laboriously with many numbers. It was a fire policy. He looks at it and he says, “You know, I gave you the wrong rate.” Rip. Well, that was the end of my career working for him.

But anyway, the office was still in our bedroom and things were getting pretty tight at that point. Like I was going to kill him or he was going to kill me. So in Virginia, and I don't know whether it happened in Carolina or not, there were these little things started called academies, started to avoid integration. Now, I was not in sympathy with their philosophy, but one of the women that started up one of them, somebody I knew that had my kids in nursery school, came to me and said, “We've got to have a third-grade teacher. Will you do it?”

I said, “I have a degree in art. I have taught elementary art. I don't know a damn thing about the third grade.”

“Well, we're desperate. School is opening next week. We haven't got a body.”

I'd been selling World Book on the side because I needed money, you know. We were not flush, as you are not when you are struggling. I had given my husband an ultimatum. He was teaching school and selling insurance, and these were eighteen-hour days. I figured he was going to die pretty shortly from that. So I said, “One or the other, I don't care which one it is, but just pick one and do it.” So he figured he could make more money selling insurance than he could teaching school, so he chose that, and I think wisely. But we had a hiatus in there.

Is this off?

EE:

Should we take it off?

CP:

Take it off.

EE:

Well, madam transcriber, thank you so much—or mister transcriber. I don't know if you are a madam or a mister, but thank you for putting up with our conversation today. We've had a good time.

And Ms. Phillips, thank you so much. And I'm going to take this little book on Greensboro and write down the information and see if we can get that for our archives.

CP:

I think that would be very interesting.

EE:

Great. Thank you.

[End of interview]