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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Edna Andrews Weston, 1999

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Object ID: WV0091.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Edna Andrews Weston’s early life, her experiences in the Navy Nurse Corps (NNC) during World War II, and her post-war nursing career.

Summary:

Weston talks about becoming a nurse to get away from outdoor farm work; book work and clinical work during nurses' training; friends who joined the Army Nurse Corps; and her desire to do something different.

Topics related to the Navy Nurse Corps (NNC) include interviewing with the navy in Asheville; Weston’s parents’ reactions when she joined the NNC; learning procedures and how to treat certain injuries during navy training; living in barracks; sending her civilian clothes home; NNC hospital command structure; social life in the NNC, including movies and sightseeing; living arrangements in San Diego; patients with severe wounds; her opinion of Eleanor Roosevelt; famous visitors to navy bases, including Helen Keller and Art Linkletter; and white glove inspections. Weston also comments on her wish later in life that she had made a career of the NNC and discusses her opinion of women in combat positions.

Creator: Edna Andrews Weston

Biographical Info: Edna Andrews Weston of Wilkes County, North Carolina, a career nurse, served in the Navy Nurse Corps from January 1944 to October 1946.

Collection: Edna Andrews Weston 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:

Well, my name is Eric Elliott, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and I'm at the home today of Edna Andrews Weston in Boomer, North Carolina.

Thank you, Ms. Weston, for having us here today.

EW:

That is correct.

EE:

There are thirty-odd questions to go through today, and with everybody I start with hopefully a simple one first, and that is, where were you born and where did you grow up?

EW:

I was born here in Wilkes County, really in this house. I grew [up] here and [my] education was all in Wilkes County. Then I went into nurses training in Iredell County at Davis Hospital in Statesville, North Carolina.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters growing up?

EW:

One brother, two sisters.

EE:

So you were the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in the middle?

EW:

In the middle.

EE:

My guess is that your dad farmed this place.

EW:

Yes.

EE:

And your mom probably helped out farming this place.

EW:

Yes.

EE:

And how many acres do you all have all together?

EW:

I really don't know. In the beginning, about 150 that my dad had when my mother and dad were married. But then we had some neighbors that moved away, and my dad bought their farm, and it has increased now to about 1,000 acres.

EE:

I guess you went to school in this area?

EW:

Yes, I did.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

EW:

When I went to school, I walked to school about two miles through the woods over here at the Little Rock School till the fifth grade. Then in the fifth grade, Little Rock School had consolidated with Boomer School, and then I rode a bus to Boomer School.

EE:

Was Boomer elementary through high school?

EW:

It was elementary through the seventh grade, and then seventh until I graduated was at Wilkesboro High School.

EE:

When did you graduate?

EW:

At Wilkesboro High School.

EE:

What year did you graduate?

EW:

Thirty-seven.

EE:

Thirty-seven, that would have been an eleven-year high school then?

EW:

Yes.

EE:

They went to school for eight months of the year back then. So they had an extra long summertime. Of course, they would do all the work in the summertimes.

EW:

Yes.

EE:

Thirty-seven from Wilkes[boro] High School. What was your favorite subject?

EW:

I don't know my favorite subject. I wasn't that too good in school.

EE:

Well, the reason I ask that question is how in the world did you come up with nursing as what you wanted to do when you grew up?

EW:

Well, I guess what influenced me, why I went into nurses training, I knew of a girl—she graduated about two years before I did from school—and she went to nurses training, and when she came back—would come back for a visit home—she'd always look so pretty, I thought. Wasn't out in the sun getting burnt tan and all that like I was, and I decided I wanted to go. So I went into nurses training in 1939.

EE:

So in between did you work at the home or did you get a job after high school?

EW:

No. I worked here at home.

EE:

Nursing school at Statesville you said, out at Memorial?

EW:

No, Davis Hospital [now Davis Regional Medical Center].

EE:

How many folks were in your nurses class down there? Was there a big group?

EW:

No. No. We only had thirteen in our class. Twelve graduated.

EE:

Was that a two-year training?

EW:

Three-year training.

EE:

So half the day was classwork and half was being on the floor, or how did it work?

EW:

Well, after the first year. Now, the first year was only books. We had to study. Then after the first year we had hours in the hospital on the floor.

EE:

It cost some money to go to school. Did you have to help pay for your own schooling, or did your folks?

EW:

Oh, yes, my parents did.

EE:

So I guess they paid you a salary for the work you did as a nurse at the hospital.

EW:

No, no. We had no salary whatsoever while we were in nurses training. While we were in training, no salary.

EE:

And then you stayed—I guess they had a dormitory there at the hospital?

EW:

Yes, they did.

EE:

My mom's a nurse, so I know a little bit about that. It's changed some because she was trained several years ago professionally.

EW:

Oh, really? Yes.

EE:

Now, while you were in nurses training some big things were changing in the world. Now, you start that fall, war starts in Europe. Do you remember anything about that? Did that make any difference in your life, people's conversation?

EW:

When the war started, World War II?

EE:

Well, it started in Europe before Pearl Harbor.

EW:

Before Pearl Harbor. No, that did not faze me too much until Pearl Harbor.

EE:

You remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

EW:

Yes, I sure do. I was working on the floor at Davis Hospital. Of course, some of my friends there within a matter of a few months began enlisting into the army, to be an army nurse. I'm one of these that want to be different, and I applied to be a navy nurse.

EE:

So you didn't have any recruiting—I know the army had the Cadet Nurse Corps, I guess, they were starting to have.

EW:

Oh, yes, they did.

EE:

And the navy didn't have anything like that.

EW:

No. The navy had the organization called WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy].

EE:

So did you just inquire on your own or wonder if the navy needs nurses, too? Is that how you went about it? Did you go down to the recruiting station?

EW:

No, no recruiting station. I wrote and got information from Washington, D.C., and I received a notice to go to, I believe it was [St.] Joseph Hospital in Asheville for an interview. So I get on a bus, now, from Statesville and rode to Asheville.

EE:

Now, this was '42 or '43 when you were doing this? You finished in '42.

EW:

Forty-two. I graduated in '41. Was it '41? Forty-two, because after I graduated I did work there until I went in the service. They [Davis Hospital] hired me as a three to eleven [p.m.] supervisor.

EE:

You [unclear] for that?

EW:

Yes.

EE:

So you go up to Joseph Hospital in Asheville, and you had the interview there. What was that like?

EW:

Well, asking questions about my qualifications. [chuckles] But it wasn't too bad, really. But I kind of worried and wondered if I would be accepted. In the matter of a week, though, I received a letter that I was accepted.

EE:

When you were at Joseph that first time, you saw navy nurses, I guess?

EW:

Yes.

EE:

Did you have to go to any sort of a basic training?

EW:

After I was accepted, yes. When I entered I went to Portsmouth, Virginia, and was indoctrinated there. When I really went in—when I went to Asheville for the interview was in September.

EE:

Forty-three?

EW:

Of '43. When I went into the navy, went to Portsmouth, Virginia, the third day of January of '44.

EE:

Now, let me ask you a question. What did your folks think of you joining the service?

EW:

They didn't care, really.

EE:

They didn't?

EW:

See, I had been gone from home in nurses training, and then I continued down there working. So they didn't mind.

EE:

Had your brother joined the service?

EW:

No, no. No, my brother didn't go in the service. He was needed here on the farm working with my dad.

EE:

This was the farthest, I guess, you had been away from home when you went out to Portsmouth.

EW:

Oh, yes.

EE:

How long were you at Portsmouth, and what did you do up there?

EW:

Well, being indoctrinated, went through some training there and studying some, too, of nurses' procedures in different area. Because a lot of the bases would have a dependent's ward, which would be, you know, they'd have the females also. But we had to kind of know something like that as well as being able to take care of a lot of acute injuries, a lot of stuff like that.

EE:

Different kinds of injuries than what you see in a full hospital, a lot more trauma than you'd see otherwise.

EW:

Yes. And I was there four months, I believe, and then transferred to Charleston, South Carolina, navy base.

EE:

The WAVES were prohibited from going overseas. I think later, at the end of the war, they could go to Alaska or Hawaii. What about navy nurses, were they restricted to stateside?

EW:

Yes, I think they could, but I never did get orders to go.

EE:

Did you ask to go overseas?

EW:

No, no.

EE:

You were fine with where you were?

EW:

Yes. You know, they sent you wherever.

EE:

So you're at Portsmouth for four months, then you come down to Charleston. I guess when you were at Portsmouth you were in a dormitory with other navy nurses.

EW:

Oh, yes. Yes.

EE:

Did they have Red Cross women working at those hospitals with you as well?

EW:

I don't recall.

EE:

I know at some army hospitals stateside, I guess where they were processing folks back in, they had Red Cross folks working on the staff with them.

EW:

I don't recall Red Cross nurses.

EE:

When you got to Charleston, how long were you at Charleston?

EW:

I guess about a year, around that. I left Charleston and came back up to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and I was there about six months because a platoon of Dutch marines were brought in there. And I worked in the kitchen there, dietician, which was not my category.

EE:

That was not what you wanted to do.

EW:

No, that wasn't my category whatsoever.

EE:

So at Charleston you got to do what you'd been doing at Davis, which is trained as a floor nurse and working.

EW:

Oh, yes. I was a floor nurse.

EE:

And at Lejeune it was just—did you go to Lejeune before or after the end of the war?

EW:

Before.

EE:

When you were at work at Charleston, what was your typical day like? Did you have a set shift? Did you have to work seven days a week? What was your rotation like, do you remember?

EW:

I believe we worked—we were just off one day, and then every other Sunday.

EE:

And you pretty much kept the same shift, or did you have to rotate?

EW:

No, we had to rotate.

EE:

So sometimes you'd have the graveyard tour.

EW:

I believe about every month there at that place. They'd work like on the floor a month and then rotate to another.

EE:

What was the biggest change, like when you got at Fort Smith and you're first meeting people from—one of the things the military does is throw you in with people from all over the country, all different backgrounds. What was that like for you?

EW:

Well, I was just a plain little old Southern girl. But yes, it was quite a change. It really was. And living in barracks, you know, double bunkers, I happened to be on the bottom with a short girl that was on top of me. She'd have to run and jump to get up there. She was from Maine. So you can imagine our accent, how that conflicted. Oh, my. But I can't recall how many were in our group but quite a few. This long barracks was full, and then have everybody go and use the same bathroom, you know.

EE:

That's a different experience. Because I imagine when you were in nurses training you still had like little apartments or something with privacy.

EW:

Oh, yes. In nurses training I was in a room with another girl, there was two of us. But then, when I graduated they put me in a private room I lived in. Before I went in the service I had a private room in the nurses' quarters.

EW:

What was the most surprising thing to you about that military experience that you had not expected?

EW:

When I went in up there, the first thing they had you do, go and get measured and get the uniforms and all that. That was terrible, to have to put my civilian clothes in a box and mail that home. You couldn't keep your civilian clothes then at all and had to mail all that back home, had to depend on everything strictly the navy.

EE:

I can imagine. Back here you're used to doing for yourself. In some sense, a lot of women I've talked to that joining the military was the most independent—well, made them a lot more independent than what they were. It may have had the reverse effect on you, made you more dependent than the others.

EW:

I don't know, really. [chuckles]

EE:

The classes, I guess, that you had to—talking about the different facilities and things like that, I guess you had a little instruction about military protocol. When you finished that four months' training, what rank were you? Did you come as a second lieutenant?

EW:

Ensign. The rank in the navy, you know, are different from the army.

EE:

Right. So you came out as an ensign. Your officers, when you were on the floor, I guess you were working with military doctors. That was how the CO [commanding officer] structure was, whoever the doctor was in charge of the hall at a given time?

EW:

Yes. We'd have a doctor in charge of the wards wherever we worked, and then we always had—in fact, while I was in California I became a supervisor. There would be a nurse, too, that would be over several wards, several wards of patients.

EE:

So there was some supervision of you all by women as well as by men, then.

EW:

Right. Yes.

EE:

Because some of the army nurses I've talked to, when they'd work at hospitals, it pretty much was they were assigned and whoever the doctor was in charge, they really didn't see any other supervisory personnel as far as women go, but that's different.

EW:

Different with the navy. We didn't see her [the supervisor] very often, but she would make her rounds. You never knew when she'd be coming around.

EE:

Did you all have to do that bounce-a-quarter-on-your-bed routine, the white-glove test, something like that?

EW:

No, no. We did not have to do that. But we were very strict. I mean, they were strict for us to fix the beds like that. Then the patients, the ones that could be up and about, they'd have to make up their beds straight, you know, pretty.

EE:

You said you were at Lejeune for about six months.

EW:

And from there I went to California, San Diego.

EE:

Is that where you discharged from, San Diego?

EW:

Yes, I was. I was discharged from there.

EE:

And at San Diego, were you working at the main hospital there? I imagine they probably have several. San Diego is such a big base area.

EW:

It is, it's a large base, and I got promoted, and I became a lieutenant, junior grade.

EE:

JG, right.

EW:

And then there, I wasn't strictly in charge of one ward. I was more or less a supervisor of about six or eight wards, but I got promoted.

EE:

Was military life anything that you had given thought to maybe making a career out of?

EW:

No, no, no. Now I wish I had. Now I wish I had, say, in twenty years.

EE:

Make a nice retirement off of it, I know. A lot of folks enjoy it.

EW:

But no, I was anxious to get out when the time came to get out.

EE:

I guess the six months that you were at Lejeune, that probably was a different schedule than being in your rotation. It's like you were sent to the kitchen.

EW:

Oh, yes. I was strictly the dietician.

EE:

And then the supervisor's schedule was probably a little better, too, I would think.

EW:

Yes, it was.

EE:

In the hospital setting, of course, nurses in the military are filling a role which they fill in civilian life as well. Some of the military jobs, some of the women I've talked to, they're doing jobs that traditionally had been done by men. But I would imagine that you probably were treated fairly professionally from the beginning. You didn't have any hassles about being where you were?

EW:

That's right. I did not have to sign in or sign out or anything like that when I wanted to go anywhere.

EE:

So you were not confined to the base area on weekends or things like that?

EW:

No, no. No. If we wanted to go somewhere, just so we were back to be on duty at that certain hour. There, now, I had weekends off, the nurses did, every other weekend, really. I was able to—this other girl and I, we went up and saw the Rose Bowl game, the parade and the game out at Pasadena that year.

EE:

Is that the year Duke [University] was playing?

EW:

That was what?

EE:

I was thinking Duke was playing one year in the Rose Bowl, but that was early on [1942]. When they came back over here, they moved the Rose Bowl to Durham, didn't they?

EW:

Yes. But it was—I don't remember the year, now, this was, but it was Alabama and—

EE:

Had to have been the start of '46.

EW:

I can't remember. It must have been UCLA [sic, USC]. I can't remember who the other team was, but I remember the Alabama team.

EE:

Did you think that you got fairly professional treatment, you were able to pretty much take care of yourselves? You didn't feel like you were over-supervised on your free time. What did you do for free time? I guess when you made lieutenant JG you could go to the officers' club, get something to drink?

EW:

Well, yes, a lot of the time. Now, especially in San Diego, we'd go downtown or go to a movie, a theater, or go out to the park, zoo. In fact, at first, for the first few months while I was out there, I was able to live in this inn, hotel thing, in the Balboa Park, in the zoo area.

EE:

How did you find that? Some girl line up you up with it, have a listing of places available?

EW:

Well, I was just assigned there when I got there. That's where I was taken. It was nice, very nice. Then I had to ride a trolley. They moved us out into a hotel, a big old square building. I lived on the fourth floor with another girl. She was from New Jersey. So I never was thrown in with any other Southerners, but we always got along real well.

EE:

Sounds like a lot of your social time was basically hanging out with other nurses.

EW:

It was. It was.

EE:

I imagine with your schedule and the people you were dealing with, there wasn't really an opportunity to get to develop a long-term relationship with any of the men you were dealing with, was there?

EW:

No, because there were so many coming and going all the time.

EE:

The facilities you were at—both those are big ports of entry. They're really more processing places, aren't they, where people were staying in. If there's a long-term need, they'll probably be moved to someplace else?

EW:

They'd be moved off somewhere else.

EE:

Thinking about the work itself, what was probably the hardest thing for you to do when you were working in the service, physically or mentally?

EW:

Seeing patients brought in in such horrible condition. I shall never forget this one young boy, his ear was gone completely, and the side of his face and about one-half of his mouth and just—oh, he just was so pitiful, brought in, and having to try to talk to him and him tell you something about his awful experience. It was really distressing.

EE:

These people were about your age, weren't they?

EW:

Yes, so many of them. So many of them. And that's just one instance. There's a lot of them maybe come in without an arm or leg partially gone.

EE:

Were most of the women that you were working with, the nurses, about your age, too, or was there an age range?

EW:

No, we were all still about—we were about the same age. I remember while in there was a girl I worked with on one of the wards that was much older, but she had been in the service quite a long time.

EE:

You were in big cities. One of the questions we're supposed to ask is, were you ever afraid or in physical danger, and being in a big city might make it that way, but it doesn't sound like the base itself was that kind of environment.

EW:

Well, really I never did feel like I was in danger, certainly not like it is nowadays.

EE:

Did you have that same experience that folks talk about—I guess you had to wear a uniform all the time that you were there.

EW:

Oh, yes. Definitely.

EE:

Did people treat you different when you wore the uniform? Did you get some special breaks?

EW:

I don't know if I got any special breaks or not, but I think people noticed it, though.

EE:

We'll take a break for just a second.

[Recording paused]

EE:

Let's see. You're at San Diego until October of '46, is that right?

EW:

Yes. I was discharged.

EE:

And you were a supervisor there through the time that you were discharged. Do you remember where you were on VE [Victory in Europe] Day or VJ [Victory in Japan] Day ?

EW:

No, I don't. I really don't.

EE:

Just another day at work?

EW:

Just another day.

EE:

How about when Roosevelt passed away?

EW:

I really don't remember what I was doing that night.

EE:

One of the things I have difficulty remembering sometimes is that you were what, all of twenty—what were you, twenty-four, twenty-five? How old are you now?

EW:

Something like that. I don't remember, to tell you the truth.

EE:

Most people in their twenties aren't terribly interested in what's going on in the world other than how it directly affects them at that time, and that's certainly the case.

When you think about that time period, I asked you what was difficult. Is there something especially light-hearted, embarrassing, either for yourself or the people that you—you know, you go through it, and you have a million little vignettes that pop through your mind when you go back. But is there something that stands out from that time period that was funny?

EW:

Not now.

EE:

You were in a very serious line of work.

EW:

I sure was, and I just—I can't think of anything special. I'll say this: Back when I was at Camp Lejeune, which I didn't care too much for the work I was doing there, I so much was wanting to get orders to go overseas, which would certainly be different from doing something here.

EE:

Sure.

EW:

And when I got my orders to go to San Diego, I thought, “Oh, here it comes. I'm going on overseas,” but I spent the rest of my time there, which was being a supervisor.

EE:

What do you think made you get that feeling, just to be around the Dutchmen or just doing that kind of work and you wanted to do something different?

EW:

Oh, no. It was hot, of course, there during the time, and it was just different, just so different.

EE:

You are doing a job in the service that's the same as the job you did before service. Did you continue being a nurse after you got out?

EW:

Yes, I did. I went to a veterans hospital in Fayetteville, [North Carolina].

EE:

How long were you there?

EW:

Let's see. Two years, I guess it was.

EE:

Is that where you met your husband?

EW:

Yes.

EE:

Is that what caused you to detour from your nurse's career?

EW:

I quit from there and came home, and we were married, we built our home in Statesville, about five miles out of Statesville, and I think I waited about three months and I went on back to work there at Davis Hospital as supervisor again. They were anxious to get me back, I think.

EE:

I'll bet.

EW:

So I worked there at that job for five years. And we started our family then. And after we moved—let's see, now, my parents had a wreck. See, we lived in Statesville, in Iredell County, and then I believe it was '59 we moved back here. My mother was killed in an accident, and my father was here by himself. So I felt like coming back, which we did. We moved back up here [Boomer] in '59.

Then we had another child, in fact, two more. When our youngest one was five years old I went back to work, working at Blackwater Hospital in Lenoir.

EE:

So you're somebody who likes nursing.

EW:

I liked nursing. I really did. I liked nursing. I stayed there until I retired in 1985.

EE:

And I think there's something in the care-giving face to face when you're on the floor as opposed to doing something, maybe, more specialty or something like that?

EW:

Really, it's just that—I don't know. I just always liked to try to help somebody. But I don't understand nursing nowadays. It's so different from what it used to be.

EE:

When did you retire formally from nursing? Because I know my mom, before she retired, they changed—especially for folks who were trained in hospitals, they wanted to get them all university-certified [unclear] for LPN2 [licensed practical nurse 2] or whatever the grade change was. I guess you came out with an RN?

EW:

I came out with an RN [registered nurse], that's right, from Davis Hospital. But they no longer have nurse's training.

EE:

My sister's being trained right now at Mercy [Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina].

EW:

Is that right?

EE:

Yes, they do still have a nurses training school.

EW:

I was wondering if any hospital—I didn't know if any—

EE:

Mercy still has a program.

You talked about that you didn't want to join the Army Nurse Corps that everybody else wanted to do. You wanted to be different. How much did patriotism play a factor in you wanting to join at all? Was that something important to you? Were you doing it because as much as anything everybody was doing it?

EW:

I think I was doing it because of duty. I saw it as my duty to, with the war coming on like it was.

EE:

Somebody said the other day on a show I was watching that the thing that's different about people now versus then, in the World War II days, is that almost everybody was patriotic, and if they weren't, they didn't say anything about it. Do you think that's a true statement, or is that just hindsight?

EW:

I wonder. I don't know. [chuckles]

EE:

Sometimes the rose-colored glasses get pretty good looking back.

EW:

I don't know.

EE:

You were around, in your day-to-day work, folks who demonstrate the sacrifices that war causes. Do you have any heroes or heroines when you think about those times?

EW:

Nothing outstanding. I don't think so.

EE:

What did you think of Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt? Do you have any recollections of her and how she came across to you? She was a pretty high profile woman.

EW:

Well, that's about all I remember of her, how she seemed like always such a straightforward someone, you know, in making her speeches and things.

EE:

Did you all have dignitaries come to visit? You were at pretty big hospitals, at Charleston and San Diego for sure. Did you all have dignitaries come to visit you on a regular basis to see how things were?

EW:

Yes, we did, different ones at different times. I guess one that I can think of most prominently is Helen Keller. She along with her teacher.

EE:

Ms. Sullivan, I think her name was.

EW:

Yes. And then, of course, we had others. Art Linkletter came by one time while I was in San Diego.

EE:

You probably had some decent USO [United Service Organizations] shows, I would think, at San Diego, being close to—

EW:

Well, we didn't have too much, just USO programs. Well, we had some do a little bit for the injured, for the ones that could go to hear them or see them.

EE:

There are, in most folks' experiences, especially when you're taken, like you were, being the only Southerner—you're not the only one. I think they intentionally tried to put Southerners in with everybody except people from the South. I was the only one with a Southern accent. I thought they had to work hard to do that. But can you think of some—are there some characters that stand out in your mind? You know, sometimes you'll only have to be around somebody for five minutes and they make a lifelong impression on your brain. Are there some characters that you ran across in your military experience, either fellow nurses or folks you worked with that you remember?

EW:

I wish I knew you were going to ask these questions. Really, I can't recall. Of course, I'm sure I had quite a few, probably the doctors, really, especially the one that would come around—I can't recall if it was every week or every month—come around and inspect. You've got to have all the dust cleaned up, you know, everywhere, and they'd go along and feel the top of the door facing and pick up a mattress and feel underneath there to see—you know, have on white gloves, and if there's any dust there, why, you get degraded. I think maybe that's one thing that I kind of hated to see coming along.

EE:

And the doctors would do that as well as—

EW:

Oh, yes.

EE:

You were in at a time when more women were in this military and working with military than had ever been doing it before. What do you think that military experience did as far as affecting your life afterwards? Did it have any impact on your life?

EW:

Well, yes, I'm sure it has. I'm sure it has. I have memories of and all of things while I was in the service, those years, that has affected—

EE:

Did you keep in contact with some of those folks?

EW:

Yes, I do, especially at Christmas. We still, you know, exchange our Christmas cards.

EE:

And most of them from all over the place. Not many from around here?

EW:

Well, no, this one girl is in Alabama, and another one is—well, I have one in Norfolk, Virginia, and another one with a girl in Maine and a girl in New Jersey, but she's deceased. I'm not hearing from her anymore.

EE:

How many kids did you have altogether? How many children do you have?

EW:

Three.

EE:

Did any of them join the military?

EW:

No. A daughter and two boys, and the two boys are working on the farm here with my husband.

EE:

Had your daughter ever come to you and said, “Mom, I want to join the service,” what would you say?

EW:

Go ahead, but she won't. She won't. She's married and has three children of her own.

EE:

And your granddaughter, what if she wants to join?

EW:

I don't know what my granddaughter over there is going to do.

EE:

It is a little different now being in the service than it was in the forties because they let you do a lot more things. In fact, we had, I guess, in December for the first time a woman combat pilot who flew a mission in Iraq. Do you think there's some jobs—you were there watching what happens during the war time. Are there some things in the service that women should not be allowed to do?

EW:

Definitely. I think so. But there's some women that think they can do whatever a man can do.

EE:

True. True. But despite that, you think that there probably ought to be some policies that say, no, this is an area that shouldn't be done?

EW:

Right.

EE:

I've had a number of people tell me, you know, there's some physical differences that you just cannot overcome. But it's one thing doing a certain kind of work, and even a combat pilot, you're behind a machine, but hand-to-hand combat, it's a little different.

EW:

Sure it is different.

EE:

A little bit different. One of the things that we ask everybody, and I think your kind of work that makes answering this question easy. Some people didn't feel like they had a job where they could see they were contributing to the war effort. Do you think that you contributed to the war effort?

EW:

Maybe so. I really don't know.

EE:

Well, I would think, probably from the perspective of the fellows that you were taking care of, they'd say yes.

EW:

Yes, well maybe.

EE:

Did you have to write the letters to their families? How did you communicate [unclear]?

EW:

No, I never did do anything like that.

EE:

Could they keep you from [unclear]?

EW:

You know, I wonder if that might have been the Red Cross come around. There would be some ladies come through and would write letters and do things like that. That perhaps was the Red Cross, but I can't remember. That I never did do. I strictly took care of medications and the care of the patients and see that they did this and that, whatever.

EE:

I guess you all probably had to talk among yourselves about cases you needed to kind of emotionally steel yourself from, not get too involved with some—like this fellow who had—you know, certain ones that tug at your heart.

EW:

Well, that's right. You know, when you go off duty, you try to forget some of these things. I did a lot of reading. I joined a book club and I did a lot of reading in my spare time, as well as hand work, tatting and stuff like that. But just try not to think too much about it off duty.

EE:

Do you watch that American Movie Channel sometimes on TV where they show the old movies? Are there old movies or songs that, when you see, that you have a memory, that take you back to someplace where you were?

EW:

Oh, yes. Sure there are.

EE:

What are some of those for you?

EW:

Oh, goodness. I can't think right now. I can't think of the title of some of them. I can see them, but I can't remember.

EE:

Did you ever go to some of those dances where they had the big bands playing?

EW:

Occasionally but not very often.

EE:

You were more of a movie person than a music person. So do you remember where you saw Casablanca?

EW:

Well, I remember seeing it but no, I don't remember where.

EE:

I know some of the folks have complained that—of course, you probably didn't have this problem—some of the ones that were stationed in more remote locations, that they would watch the same movies over and over again until they got a new one shipped out to them. But you probably had access to a little bit better.

EW:

I'm sure I did here in the States.

EE:

You kept in pretty much contact with your folks and let them know what was going on with you as you went [unclear]?

EW:

Oh, yes. I'd try to write home once a week.

EE:

Because you were in the nurse corps, did your folks get to put a flag in the window with a star on it?

EW:

No, I don't think they did.

EE:

That was only if you'd joined the—

EW:

No. Back while I was in the service, my mom and dad did not have a telephone. My sister—I have an older sister who lived in Lenoir. When I wanted to call home, a message or anything, I'd call my sister—

EE:

And she'd come up.

EW:

And she would come down and tell Mom and Dad. So see, we were that far out here in the sticks, we didn't have too much conveniences.

EE:

You've given me the name of this other person here. You've been here since '59 then, for almost thirty-five years now. The question which nobody can do in their life but everybody thinks about: If you had to do it over again, would you do it over again, would you join the service?

EW:

Yes, I would. I really would. I've been asked that question. I sure have. But yes, I'd go back in the service. I'd do my experience. I don't regret it at all. Of course, some of it was unpleasant, but I don't regret it.

EE:

You came out a lieutenant JG?

EW:

Yes.

EE:

Well, these are the kind of questions that I've been asking most everybody, and I think I've gone through most all the ones that I'm supposed to go through with you.

EW:

Well, I believe that's enough.

EE:

Is there anything that I haven't asked you about by any chance that you feel it's important for me to share?

EW:

I think if I had gone overseas, I could tell you more things that would be probably more interesting, but since I was just here in the States, I can't think of anything really outstanding.

EE:

Was there anybody else in your high school class that went over in the service, any other woman, anybody else who was going? You probably were pretty rare, weren't you?

EW:

don't recall of anyone, I really don't. However, now, in nurses training, a year behind me was a girl from Wilkesboro, Virginia Miller. She married Bill Thomas. Maybe you've talked with her. But she did not go in the service, though, because she married immediately after she graduated from nurses training. She was a year behind me.

EE:

The number of women who were in the service overall was impressive, given the fact that they had not been in there before, but the number is still rather small. So the fact that I've been able to find as many as I have in North Carolina is pretty good because a fair number of them, percentage-wise, came from this state because I guess they're just strong supporters of the service.

Somebody has said, when they look back and think about all the different women who were in the service and working side by side with men in positions that maybe a woman hadn't been in before, whether it's Rosie the Riveter or Wanda the WAVE or who else, that that really was the start of the women's equality movement, you know, equal pay for equal work and that kind of thing. Do you think that might have been the start of a big change?

EW:

You know, that might have been. It might have been. But as far as I'm concerned, no.

EE:

Did your military service help you make a higher pay grade when you got out? Did it have some benefits for you?

EW:

No, I don't think so. Because when I went back to nursing, you know, civilian nursing, no, I didn't have any benefits.

EE:

That's funny because in different professions it's benefited. Some have said they'd just as soon not have people know they were in the service, but I think with nursing it probably wouldn't hurt.

Well, that's the main questions I have for you today. Thank you for sitting here, and I'll be glad to get a copy back so you could have your granddaughter listen to it one day when she wants to know what you were doing back in those days.

Let me ask you a question. It's not related to this, but I'm just curious about it. You say you met your husband when you were down at Fayetteville Veterans Hospital. Had he been in the service?

EW:

Yes. He was in the Army Air Force.

EE:

Was he a patient at the hospital?

EW:

No, he was not.

EE:

You say that you were working with his sister.

EW:

I met him through his sister.

EE:

It was a little more legal than my mom, who met her future husband while she was taking care of him on the floor, one of those no-go's [unclear].

EW:

Oh, really? I have a nurse friend that did that.

EE:

Yes. He was an appendicitis patient.

EW:

I have a nurse friend that did that. She was nursing this little fellow, and they got married. They live in Lenoir here. She was taking nurses training at Davis Hospital.

EE:

And what's your husband's name?

EW:

Carlyle, C-a-r-l-y-l-e, Weston.

EE:

Great. Well, I'm glad fifty-plus years later it's worked out well.

EW:

Well, we've been married fifty-one years.

EE:

That's great. That's great. Again, thank you, Ms. Weston, for today.

[End of Interview]