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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Margaret Greene, 1999

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Object ID: WV0099.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Margaret “Peg” Greene’s interest in physical education; her studies at the Woman’s College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro); and her experiences as a Red Cross worker in Europe during World War II.

Summary:

Greene discusses playing sports in high school; influential physical education teachers; physical education requirements at the Woman’s College (WC); memorable WC professors, including Mary Channing Coleman, Ethel Martus, and Harriet Elliott; basketball games in Rosenthal Gymnasium; awareness of current events in the late 1930s; and her duties as Fayetteville’s Director of Recreation, including petitioning local politicians for supplies.

Topics related to the Red Cross include traveling to London via ship and train; rations; being housed in the Bishop’s Palace in Norwich in 1943 and 1944; daily bombing raids on Norwich; Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit; a strafing attack; seeing the devastation and poverty in France after D-Day; a German U-boat attack in Cherbourg; washing her hair in the toilet in Cherbourg; meeting General George Patton in Luxembourg; living conditions in Europe; VE Day celebrations in Belgium; her reaction to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death; patriotism during World War II; her gratitude to England; and mixed feelings upon returning to as relatively unscathed America.

Other topics include her career at UNCG, the changes when Woman’s College began accepting male students in 1964, and Greene’s opinion of women in combat positions.

Creator: Margaret Anne Greene

Biographical Info: Margaret “Peg” Greene (1917-2002), of Greenville, South Carolina, a member of the physical education faculty at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) from 1946 to 1979, served in Europe during World War II as a member of the Red Cross.

Collection: Margaret Greene Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott and today is June the twenty-fifth, moving on, 1999. I'm here today in Wilmington, North Carolina, at the home of Margaret “Peg” Greene.

Thank you, Ms. Greene, for having us here today. I know you're a long-time friend of the University [of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG)], and I appreciate this friendly act of you sitting down with us today.

MG:

Glad to be here.

EE:

Thank you. Thank you. We ask everybody about the same thirty-odd questions, with little variations. The first question I ask everybody, hopefully it's not the most difficult for anybody, and that is, where were you born, where did you grow up?

MG:

I was born in Greenville, South Carolina, August the sixth, 1917. A real Southerner.

EE:

Wonderful. Do you have any brothers and sisters?

MG:

I have one sister living, Mrs. Ida Lee Watson. She's still in Greenville.

EE:

Great. Do you have any other brothers and sisters?

MG:

Yes, they're all dead now.

EE:

Big family?

MG:

Five, and I was the baby.

EE:

Oh, my.

MG:

My older sister was Jessie, and I'll have something to tell you about her as far as the war was concerned.

EE:

Great.

MG:

My brother was Jimmy Greene, and another sister, Elizabeth Greene.

EE:

Great. What did your folks do?

MG:

My father was in the textile business in Greenville. That was the textile center of the South, and he was a supervisor.

EE:

So at a local mill he was the supervisor?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

Your mom, she was raising kids?

MG:

My mother died when I was eight years old, and she was a homemaker. Winthrop. Winter Winthrop.

EE:

Rock Hill, [South Carolina].

MG:

Yes.

EE:

You went to school in Greenville, grew up there, graduated from high school there.

MG:

Parker High School.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school when you were growing up?

MG:

Oh, yes, I liked school all right, but I loved sports more. I was into everything.

EE:

We tend to think that women didn't have much organized sports opportunities beforehand. Did you find them?

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

What did you play?

MG:

I played everything. I lettered in every sport that was offered.

EE:

Wonderful.

MG:

Sort of a tomboy.

EE:

You could talk with my sister about that. [chuckles] She climbed a tree when I was about, I guess she must have been seven. She got fifteen foot off the ground, this tall long-leaf pine tree, and the branch broke. She broke an arm and a leg and never looked back. She kept on having fun.

MG:

I always knew what I wanted to do and that was teach physical education.

EE:

From an early age?

MG:

From sixth grade on.

EE:

Yet to do that, you had to go to college.

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Was that a new thing in for your family? Had anybody else been to college?

MG:

Oh, no, they all had gone to college, except one sister, and she did secretarial work.

EE:

So how does a native Greenvillian get to North Carolina to go to school?

MG:

My physical education teacher recommended UNC[G], Woman's College [of the University of North Carolina] then, and I thought she hung the moon, so I went.

EE:

Had you ever visited the college, or you just sent off the information and showed up?

MG:

Also the physical education teacher—my first physical education teacher that was an influence in my life—had gone to Woman's College. She had just finished, and I assisted her in getting her acclimated to our school and situation.

EE:

You graduated from high school in, what, '35?

MG:

Thirty-five.

EE:

Was that an eleven-year high school or twelve-year?

MG:

Eleven.

EE:

You didn't know anybody else going to Woman's College, I assume.

MG:

No.

EE:

What dormitory were you in?

MG:

In Gray, [with dorm mother] Ms. [Ethel Haskin] Hunter.

EE:

Ms. Hunter. She was the woman taking care of you all.

MG:

That's right. Prissy. [chuckles]

EE:

What do you recall about your time as a student at Woman's College? What was your subject, course load like? As a physical education person, I guess, from the very beginning you were active in long days on the sports field.

MG:

Then Miss [Mary Channing] Coleman, who was head of our department, and well known throughout the country in our field, insisted that we have a liberal arts education and background. So we took a regular liberal arts two-year course and we took six hours of physical education for a half-hour credit. We were expected to know all these sports, know how to officiate them, how to teach them, and we made notebooks on every one of them. I never regretted one minute the fact that we were required to do this. Nothing like today.

EE:

Did you have a favorite sport?

MG:

Probably field hockey and basketball, but I loved baseball. We had baseball, not softball. I was pitcher. Ellen Griffin and I used to go out and just pitch back and forth. She'd catch and I'd pitch by the hour.

EE:

Nowadays when people talk about sports, they talk about sports heroes. Did you have sports heroes back then? Who were your role models, athletes?

MG:

Of course, Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the most athletic person. I'm not sure she was my hero. I didn't necessarily have any heroes that I remember right now. That's been a long time ago. [chuckles]

EE:

Back then, they didn't have the sports stars' names on every brand of clothes and on the radio.

MG:

No.

EE:

Of course, I guess they were still doing the advertisements back then.

MG:

Yes. I really loved Ted Williams, too. Baseball great. I saw him play.

EE:

In Boston?

MG:

In Washington, [D.C.].

EE:

Are there any particular classes or professors you remember from your time as a student?

MG:

All our people in physical education. Ethel Martus. Of course, Miss Coleman. We were all scared of her, but she made us toe the line and it paid off.

EE:

Were all of your instructors women?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

Most everybody going into physical education had in mind what you were doing, which was to go and get a job as an instructor. Were you thinking of doing it on a high school level or on a college level?

MG:

I didn't care which level. I really was thinking about high school, I think.

EE:

But your aspirations were not to do anything professional, like a Babe Zaharias?

MG:

Oh, no.

EE:

Did you have much contact then with folks like [Dean of Women] Harriet Elliott or other administrators at the school?

MG:

Oh, yes. Miss Elliott used to come to all our basketball games and we had a big intramural program. She'd sit up in that balcony in Rosenthal [Gymnasium] and clap and yell and scream and see you on the campus the next day and say, “When's the next game? When's the next game? Let me know.” She was right there pulling for us.

EE:

She was a big cheerleader.

MG:

She really was, and a wonderful person.

EE:

Y'all had intramural games. Did you play other schools, as well?

MG:

Not at that time. That was a no-no in our day. Intercollegiate athletic was a real no-no.

EE:

No-no for women?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

With you taking six hours worth of things for half-hour credit, did you have any time for a social life?

MG:

Not much. [chuckles] That's all I was interested in anyway.

EE:

You graduated when, '39?

MG:

That was my class. I didn't graduate. I had trouble with Spanish and was not able to graduate at UNCG, but I came back as a professor and was there thirty-three years, and I never think about that bad time in my life.

EE:

You finished in '39.

MG:

That was my class.

EE:

Class of '39. You left Greensboro in '39.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

There's a lot of changes going on in the world. Most folks as teenagers are not aware of what's going on in the world, except how it directly affects them. Do you remember things being political at school when you were there, people talking about things that were going on in Europe with [Adolf] Hitler?

MG:

Oh, yes, very much so. About Hitler and how terrible the people were treated.

EE:

Do you recall any anxiety about us getting involved in a war, or worrying that we might be in a war one day?

MG:

That came later, after I was at Fayetteville, [North Carolina], and Fort Bragg.

EE:

So you left Greensboro. Where did you go after you left Greensboro?

MG:

Appalachian [State Teachers' College in Boone, North Carolina]. I graduated from there in 1940.

EE:

After you finished at Appalachian, did you get a teaching position?

MG:

No, I went to Fayetteville as, of all things, for my age, as director of recreation of the city of Fayetteville.

EE:

You were city rec director right off the bat.

MG:

Right. We worked with Fort Bragg and the soldier recreation program, and I had twelve playgrounds, six soldier centers. We got girls for the dances at Fort Bragg, busloads of them going out there. So it was a natural thing for me to want to go overseas.

EE:

You were already coordinating the social life of all these folks.

MG:

Right.

EE:

Did you have any preparation for administering?

MG:

Not really, except that I had always had leadership roles in high school and in college, coaching.

EE:

You're handling the city budget for this.

MG:

I certainly did.

EE:

You're talking with lots of different people.

MG:

That's right.

EE:

It's very political.

MG:

That's right. I had to know the postmaster and all of the city council people and the commissioners, and go and beg for equipment and beg for lime to line off the courts. We didn't have any money then.

EE:

How unusual is it to hire a woman director of recreation in 1940?

MG:

Don't ask me.

EE:

Did you know anybody else who was a woman doing your job—that kind of job—for the city?

MG:

I can't remember. It could have been. I don't know of anybody.

EE:

How many staff did you have working for you?

MG:

This was a WPA [Works Progress Administration] project, which was a wonderful thing for people who needed work. We had a huge training program for our staff. We had probably six or eight professional people, then we had probably twenty or thirty untrained, but willing to work at these centers.

You're asking me questions that I haven't thought about in forty or fifty years.

EE:

Any detail you can give me I'm impressed with. I was talking with a woman, I guess in March, who grew up in Red Springs, [North Carolina], who was one of those who was bused in for dances at Bragg. So you get both sides of that story.

MG:

I even went over to Hamlet, [North Carolina], at the railroad. We turned part of the railroad station into a soldier center, and we'd take magazines and any kind of comic books and things like that.

EE:

So this is all before Pearl Harbor, but already you can tell that there's a mobilization going on to get them ready.

MG:

Right. Oh, yes.

EE:

Just in case.

MG:

Yes. Then when Pearl Harbor came, that just put the fever in me to go with the boys, to go overseas.

EE:

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

MG:

Oh, yes, very definitely. I think anybody and everybody remembers where they were when Pearl Harbor—

EE:

Were you working that day?

MG:

Oh, no, it was on Sunday. We heard it about four or five o'clock in the afternoon. There was a bunch of soldiers in at this house where we had about eight girls living on the top floor of this house, and we were sitting around, and we said, “Well, that's the end of this.” So they hiked it back out to Fort Bragg.

EE:

They knew that they were going to be on readiness alert.

MG:

Oh, yes. That was it. It was like, “Well, we've got to go now.”

EE:

Was it a very serious mood?

MG:

Very definitely. Oh, yes. That's what brought it all on, triggered our involvement.

EE:

You were working as rec director in '40, '41. When did you leave that job?

MG:

August of '42.

EE:

That's when you joined the Red Cross?

MG:

Yes. I went to Washington. Can I just speed it up a little bit?

EE:

Sure, go ahead.

MG:

Because we need to get into the war, I think.

EE:

Go ahead. That's where I'm headed.

MG:

I went to Washington for training and was called out of the class about halfway through the three-week training. When I was issued my helmet and gas mask, I knew that this was it, I was going to the war. It really hit me. Sure enough, in no time we were on a troop ship, which took us ten to twelve days to get there, because we had to criss-cross.

EE:

They didn't tell you where you were going?

MG:

Dodging the submarines.

EE:

You left from Virginia, or where was your point of departure?

MG:

Left from Washington, and then to New York, out of New York.

EE:

You're there at Bragg. Why did you pick the Red Cross as your vehicle of service as opposed to WACs [Woman's Army Corps] or WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy]?

MG:

I just heard about it and decided to apply. It sounded like something that I would—it was a service. Then everybody was interested in doing anything for the war effort, everybody. It was all a matter of service and not thinking about yourself.

EE:

So you don't know where you're going. You're on a troop transport.

MG:

Right.

EE:

It was a passenger ship that had been converted for troop transport?

MG:

No, it was a regular one. It's built for troop transport.

EE:

How many other women were on this?

MG:

I don't know.

EE:

But there were troops and women who were going over with you?

MG:

There were about twenty in that group. We got to Scotland, Edinburgh, and took a night train all the way down to London overnight. We hadn't had any sleep much on the trip over and hardly any sleep sitting up on the train, and got to London, and I was put in charge of this group, and I probably was one of the youngest ones in it. But anyway, they put me in charge of them.

We went to High Command's billets to get some sleep. They woke me up in the middle of the night and they found out I was from South Carolina and they wanted to be sure that I knew that this colored person was sleeping next door to me and they were afraid I would be upset. I said, “Would you get out of here? All I want to do is sleep. I don't care who's sleeping next door to me, and anyway, it doesn't matter.” That was way before civil rights. That didn't concern me one bit, but they were worried that I would make a fuss, and, of course, I didn't.

EE:

Were you all billeted underground or in a private apartment?

MG:

They had taken over this beautiful home.

EE:

This was fall of '42?

MG:

This was September of '42.

EE:

How did your other family members feel about you being overseas during the war?

MG:

I was going to tell you that my mother and father, of course, as I said, were dead, therefore I didn't feel the close ties that some of the people did if my mother and father had been living, you know. But my older sister came to see me in Fayetteville before I was to leave, and we went to a movie and saw a newsreel with London being bombed to pieces. She looked at me and she said, “Do you still want to go?” I said, “I want to go more than ever.” I said, “This is why I want to go.”

EE:

Is this the sister that later joined herself?

MG:

This is my older sister that sort of made—

EE:

You're talking about Jessie?

MG:

Jessie, right.

EE:

You'd spent all your time in South Carolina and then North Carolina. This was your first time obviously being away from home.

MG:

I was going to tell you that when I got to London, as I told you, they put me in charge of the group, and not one soul there to meet us. Here I am—we are—in London, and where to go, didn't have any idea where to go. I finally saw a GI, a patrolman, so I went up to him and I said, “We're from America. Here we are from America. What are we supposed to do?” So he got on the phone and called Red Cross Headquarters and got somebody, and they finally came out and took care of us.

EE:

So you didn't really have any direct orders on where to report.

MG:

No. Nothing. No, we just landed in London and I was supposed to tell them what to do. I did not know what to do.

EE:

I think Red Cross assignment—you basically are assigned to [an] army unit or whatever it is, and you get your orders day to day from that local CO [commanding officer].

MG:

Yes, right.

EE:

So it was not that you were getting orders from a Red Cross person in charge.

MG:

Oh, yes, you get your orders from Red Cross.

EE:

As far as where to go.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

But the day to day is more from an individual.

MG:

Right.

EE:

What was your work when you were in London, day to day?

MG:

My first assignment was Bristol, [England], and so I went on to Bristol and was in a converted fertilizer plant that was made into a club with no heat, except individual little fireplaces. One night the fog was so bad, that this employee that we had, he was a security man, had to feel his way along the buildings and that's the only way he knew where he was, because the fog was so thick. But I was only in Bristol for six months and then I went to Norwich. I was there eighteen months, where I spent most of my time. We had the Bishop's Palace next to the cathedral with ten-foot-thick walls.

EE:

That was where y'all were housed?

MG:

Right next to the cathedral. We slept—we had annexes outside in Norwich. We slept 1,200 men every night. We had snacks twenty-four hours a day, three meals a day, and a huge recreation program, and we serviced thirty-five air fields. These boys were going over bombing Germany and coming back, and until we got there, they had no place to go when they would come into town. They were sleeping in the gutters and under wagons and just anywhere they could just lie down and rest.

EE:

These were all American flyers?

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Bristol, was that also in association with an air base?

MG:

No. It was more regular soldiers. See, that's near the North Sea, so they would just go over to Germany and come back. A lot of them didn't come back, of course.

EE:

The Germans were still attacking England at this time. Did you have any buzz bombs?

MG:

We had bombings every day and almost every night.

EE:

Did you ever feel afraid?

MG:

You're a fool if you didn't. Yes. I wouldn't think of doing any of this now. I mean, you had to be young to do this.

EE:

Did you have special bomb shelters that you'd go into? Of course, now when your walls are twelve-, ten-feet thick, that's pretty safe.

MG:

We had bomb shelters, but what we did was come down to the first floor of the Bishop's Palace because our walls were thicker than the bomb shelters. I'd sit down there with the boys. I'd have to get out of bed, of course, and I had my hair all in bobby pins. They'd say, “I'd rather be up there dropping them than sitting down here waiting on them.” And I think they really meant that, because you never knew. One night we had the hydrogen bomb. You'd look out and it was just like the whole city was on fire.

EE:

How much interaction did you do with folks who lived in the city, or were you pretty much told to stay on the base?

MG:

Very much so. We had two hundred volunteers. They would come in and sew buttons on the shirts. We would try to get like the boys who had been in newspaper work or journalism and get them to go out and have dinner with the people that did that in the city. We had them have them out to their homes for a home-cooked meal. We had two hundred of them, and we had one hundred fifty staff.

EE:

Were you director of this operation then?

MG:

I was program director and then assistant director. I was the youngest program director to go over, and we were in the third group to go over.

EE:

Forty-two is early to get this started.

MG:

Yes. Then we had D-Day. By the way, Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt visited us, stayed all day with the boys in our lounge and just sat around and talked to them. It was wonderful.

I'll tell you something real funny, if you want to hear it, about Norwich, before we leave that and go to the continent. Red Cross had either rented—I don't know whether they rented it or bought it—but they bought a cottage out on the “Broads,” which is a lake in England. They call them broads. So we told the boys about the cottage and the fact that they could go out, and we also had some sailboats, they could go sailing. We'd make fudge and we cooked a home-cooked meal for them at the cottage, and just spend the day out there just relaxing and getting away.

One day this girl that I worked very closely with said to the boys, “We going out to the broads,” and there was a sign that said, “Navigation on these broads is free.” We filled busloads of boys, and they got out there and they said, “Well, where are the broads?” [chuckles] So we had a good time with that.

Then D-Day we knew was coming. You wouldn't remember it, but the weather was a very big factor in when, where, and whether to go. So finally we had D-Day, and that's when I got the urge to go, too, because the boys were going over there, I wanted to go, too. So I went to London to learn how to drive a two-and-a-half-ton ambulance, and ended up driving a two-and-a-half-ton ambulance, double clutch, up the Red Ball Highway.

We spent the night on Omaha Beach, which was one of the landings beaches for D-Day. We spent the night there. Went through St. Lo and I threw out my C [combat] rations to these people that had nothing except what they had on their back and they were carrying a little wagon, pulling a wagon down the road. They had been completely destroyed. Their whole city had been destroyed.

EE:

You're going over, your job changes, you're no longer associated with a club. This is a different function that the Red Cross does doing the ambulance work. You had to specifically request?

MG:

No, I didn't do any ambulance work. No. We had clubs, but we didn't sleep the men. We didn't have all the food and recreation. We just had a place that they could come and spend the day. And I was club director then, in Cherbourg, [France].

One of the interesting highlights of that time was we got to know, of course, some of the GIs a lot better than others. One of them happened to be this boy that I had double-dated with at Fort Bragg and he happened to be in that area. It was Christmastime, and we had decided that it would be fun to exchange Christmas gifts. They would come to my apartment, which had no heat and no hot water, except for one hour a day. I didn't take a bath for three months.

So we decided we'd try to have a little special Christmas thing at my place after the club closed. Just before the club closed, I got a call from the general down at the docks, and he said, “We've had a terrible accident.” Not accident. “Something terrible has happened.” He said, “Get all the coffee and donuts.” That's was the only thing we served then, coffee and donuts. “Bring it down to the docks.” So, of course, we didn't even think about our Christmas and the Christmas presents that we'd been looking forward to.

So we went down to the docks, and this is when the U-boats had hit and they didn't know who was left until the general in High Command said, “All those in this unit that are left, come over here,” and that's when they knew who was left from each unit. We didn't get back to my place until, oh, five in the morning. We tried to open our presents, but it certainly put a damper on Christmas.

But prior to that, I had been looking forward to this so much. I looked out the window one day and I saw this truckload of wood and it was what I thought was GIs down there bringing it up the stairs. They were going up above us to the nurses' quarters. So I signaled to them, I said, “Come in here. Bring it in here.” Because we didn't have any wood. We had an open fireplace and I was thinking, boy, that'd be great, we'd have an open fire for the opening of our Christmas presents.

I got along with GIs real well. They liked us because we were there to help them. Lord, they piled that wood in my place and we filled a closet full of firewood. When the guys that brought the wood up turned around to go back downstairs, I learned for the first time that they were POWs [prisoners of war]. They had “POW” on their backs. [chuckles] But that didn't matter, see, they had a GI driving the truck and was in charge of them, but I just thought this was some of my American boys because they had on uniforms so I got them, but they had “POW” on them.

So anyway, that was Cherbourg and then I went to Luxembourg. This is when I met [General George S.] Patton. It was an officers' club. It was the first officers' club that I had been in. I'd always worked with the GIs, whom I love. I was at this club for two months, and one night General Patton's chief of staff and some other of his friends stayed after we closed the club. We sat around on the floor, we all were just sitting on the floor, just chewing the fat and philosophizing and talking about the war and all. He said, “Would you like to meet General Patton?”

I said, “I certainly would.”

He said, “Well, be in church Sunday.”

So I said, “I'll be there.”

So this other friend, Red Cross girl, and I went. It was interesting to me that, of course, it was very impressive, and to see him walk down that aisle with his stature and his uniform and so forth, but what interested me was that he sang every hymn by heart. He knew every one of the hymns, because I just had my eyes fixed on him.

Then after church we went up to his High Command's office, because he was the High Command in chief then of the European operations, and it was very impressive with the American flag and the United Forces flag. He couldn't have been nicer, but after a while you could just see that he said to his aide, “Let's cut it,” and so that was it. I really appreciated it.

I found out about the slapping of the boy. This was not done in any kind of malice or meanness; it was done just to wake the boy up. He thought if he just slapped him, he'd come to and get with the war. I hope people don't blame him falsely.

EE:

This was early '45 when you met Patton?

MG:

Yes, right after the [Battle of the] Bulge.

EE:

You were there from, what, probably mid-summer, I guess, July?

MG:

I was only there two months, so it was after the Bulge.

EE:

How long were you in Luxembourg?

MG:

Two months. Then I went to Verviers, Belgium, which is near Brussels. Of course, as club director, and I was there until I came home in August '45. Went over in September of '42 and came back in August '45.

I was very disappointed—not disappointed—I couldn't believe we had left France, Paris and France in nothing but rubble everywhere, I mean destruction everywhere. Then you get into New York City with everything standing, beautiful trees, just as though nothing had ever happened, and you really have mixed emotions. I was glad to get home after three years. I mean, certainly I was, but I felt kind of bad, too, in a way, because we really had been spared. I'm glad, but it was a very mixed feeling.

EE:

Like maybe you should stay and clean up or something?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

Most of your work, except for that two months when you're at an officers' club, the folks you're working with are all enlisted?

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

You're working with Army Air Corps folks at Norwich.

MG:

Norwich, yes.

EE:

Then you're working with regular GIs.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

When you're in Europe at Cherbourg and at Belgium, it sounds like the club's purposes are much more limited.

MG:

Oh, it is. I lived in the Bishop's Palace, and so it was every day. I mean, all day.

EE:

But your housing conditions are a lot worse than Cherbourg and of these other places.

MG:

Oh, yes. No heat, no hot water.

EE:

How many other women are you with?

MG:

In the club?

EE:

At Cherbourg, how many women?

MG:

I can't remember exactly, but I'd say four or five, something like that.

Talking about the time with the boys, though, when I was in Norwich I had played ping-pong, table tennis, all my life, since I was a little girl, so we started playing, and every night the boys would come in and they'd say, “We've got somebody for you tonight, Peg,” and I'd beat them all. It'd just away with them, and it just tickled me, too. But they really did, they'd say, “Come on, we've got somebody for you.”

We were talking about scheduling and so forth. At that time I was assistant club director with a lot of administrative work to do, overseeing 1,200 beds every night and seeing that they were clean. Anyway, so then I'd sit up and play ping-pong till two in the morning and then go to bed and get started all over the next day.

Then when the girls later on came to me when I was club director like in Verviers or in Luxembourg and asked me what their hours were, I said, “When the job's through. You don't work eight hours here.” But it was a different breed.

EE:

Like you were talking about the time when the U-boat attack came, you're called on when they call on you, and you're always on call.

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Did you have any down time where you might go with soldiers or you might go with folks who would take you out to see the countryside, something that's not work?

MG:

Yes, the people in Norwich were wonderful. They'd have us out for a drink and a meal, or to go horseback riding or whatever. Very much so.

EE:

How did the men treat you as a Red Cross person?

MG:

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

EE:

You never had any problem with what we call harassment?

MG:

No. I'd have hit them. [chuckles] No, no, no, we didn't have any of that. They were just happy to see an American girl and just to sit and talk. They'd leave their pictures with you, and a lot of them didn't ever come back. Brings back a lot of memories, mercy. That's fifty-seven years ago.

EE:

Is that the hardest part of that job, the emotional part of it?

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Because you have to always be the happy face, but you know it's not going to always be happy for those folks.

MG:

Oh, no. No. Of course, you know, we could have been killed anytime. I remember vividly before we got into the Bishop's Palace, we were staying at the hotel there, and we had a strafing, and they were using machine guns just at random. Everybody in that dining room got under the table. It's just an automatic thing that you just get down low. We didn't know but what we were going to be killed then.

EE:

Do you ever get used to that?

MG:

Well, I guess so. I don't know. The warning signal is just awful, and then the alert, of course, and I mean, the all—what's it called?

EE:

All clear.

MG:

Yes. That was a wonderful feeling to know they're gone, you know. But when I hear certain sounds like that, I wonder who's at the door. It brings it all back, you know. You wonder how in the world you stood it, really. You have to be young, like I said.

EE:

Did they tell you in advance before you went over there what to expect?

MG:

No. It's like kids today, you can hope that you're giving them good training to be a teacher, but until they get in the classroom, it's another whole story.

EE:

Were you writing back to your sister and your family and letting them know what was going on?

MG:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

EE:

Did any of your other family members serve in the war?

MG:

Yes, my brother. Yes, in New Guinea. He was in New Guinea. Awful.

EE:

You came back in August of '45, but you were, I guess, in Verviers for VE Day [Victory in Europe Day].

MG:

I was in Verviers, and then we went to Brussels to celebrate.

EE:

A good celebration?

MG:

Oh, yes. Yes, sir. That was worth celebrating.

EE:

Did you have any idea that you would be brought back as quickly as you were?

MG:

Brought back as quickly?

EE:

You signed on, I assume, for the duration when you signed on with the Red Cross.

MG:

Oh, and it was. See, the war was over. I had plans to take a thirty-day leave at home and then go to Japan. Then Japan surrendered in August. So I mean, I didn't have to go. But I did end up at Fort Meade, [Maryland], training other girls that had planned to go over after the war was over.

EE:

How long did you do that work at Fort Meade?

MG:

Probably four or five months.

EE:

Then you got out of Red Cross altogether?

MG:

Then Miss Coleman got in touch with me and I came back to UNCG in '46, summer of '46, and was there thirty-three years.

EE:

The rest is history. That's great.

MG:

I hope that wasn't too detailed.

EE:

Oh, no, I'm going to ask you a few other questions.

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

EE:

Up until you got the call from Mrs. Coleman, had you ever thought about making Red Cross work a career? Had that ever occurred to you?

MG:

No. I'd never even known what Red Cross did until I—well, that was part of our training to give us an orientation.

EE:

But you were not going to go back, or were you even thinking about going back to doing a recreation director kind of job?

MG:

No.

EE:

Physically was your work difficult, demanding?

MG:

You mean in Red Cross?

EE:

In Red Cross.

MG:

It was because it was long hours, but I didn't care. Nobody cared. That's what we were there for.

EE:

I've heard several people talk about the difference between the attitude now and during the war—the patriotism, that everybody was patriotic.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

If you weren't patriotic, you never heard about it, because nobody ever said anything. Is that a true observation?

MG:

Oh, very definitely.

EE:

Were you ever afraid that we would not win the war?

MG:

No. No. Well, you know, you might could have a few moments like that, but everybody—and our hats should be off forever to the English people. That's where we ran from. I mean, we were based essentially in England and they pulled the blackout every night, every day, at four o'clock in the afternoon. And until nine o'clock the next morning they didn't see any daylight. And that can be depressing, along with being bombed the hell out.

EE:

They stood and took the brunt of it.

MG:

They certainly did, and they made a base for our planes to leave from to go bomb Germany. I mean, where would we have been? We can't go from the United States. We didn't have the planes to do that then.

EE:

Is it hard for you to, in looking back on it, imagine that we could be at total war like that as a world? It's been sort of unique in world history that the whole world really was at war.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

They called it World War I, but it was really just Europe at war.

MG:

Right.

EE:

That was world war.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

In the midst of all that, there have to be some characters, whether it's people that came to you, and you talked about the fellows who were always looking for you a ping-pong game. Are there other characters that stand out from that time in service? Your co-workers, how did you all get along as a team?

MG:

Fine. It's interesting that this friend of mine that I was in Norwich with for eighteen months, she was head of the recreation department at San Francisco State [University, San Francisco, California], and her husband was head of the drama department at San Francisco State after the war. We've kept up with each other all these years, and she was just here two weeks ago to visit me for the first time here, and I've been out to see her twice now.

EE:

What's her name?

MG:

Polly Glyer. Polly Paulson Glyer. She's a Danish girl, and has been back to Denmark many times. But all the GIs were just crazy about Polly. We used to have what's called “Peg and Polly's Peace Pipe Party”. We'd get the boys to bring their pipes in, and we'd light up a pipe and sit around and smoke our pipes. [chuckles] Just anything to make them forget about the war.

EE:

I guess that was my next question. Your job is to help get their minds back to—

MG:

Yes, home.

EE:

Home. Yet informally, do you have much of a social life with the GIs?

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Did you all have a lot of dances?

MG:

Yes. Let me tell you an interesting thing about that. It'd be the English that had dances. We had this secretary—see, the British really had rationing. I'm not talking about rationing like we had, I'm talking about one egg a month, mutton almost every day, brussels spouts until they're coming out your ears. Anyway, see, they had clothes rationing and they couldn't get certain clothes and they couldn't get any evening dresses. Well, I had brought over four or five evening dresses that I had had with the dances at Fort Bragg before I went over. She had some bantam chickens, and I loved eggs then, and still do, but don't eat them like I used to. But anyway, we did some bartering. She'd give me bantam eggs and I gave her some of my evening dresses. So that was a fair exchange.

EE:

Did you all listen to records, have bands? When you were at Norwich, you probably had more access to live music.

MG:

Oh, the jam sessions. The boys would bring their instruments in and we'd have jam sessions. You never heard such music in your life. Especially I remember in Cherbourg, just happened that this boy, as I mentioned before, I had double-dated at Fort Bragg, was in that area and he had played in Jimmy Dorsey's band—the saxophone in Jimmy Dorsey's band. He knew a lot of the fellows that played different instruments. They'd come in and, boy, that place would really rock. Just jamming. They'd play from one thing to the next. They'd get a piano player and they'd lead them into certain songs. It didn't even matter whether it was a song or not, just making music.

EE:

Are there particular songs and things from that time period that when you hear it takes you right back?

MG:

Oh, yes. One O'Clock Rock, One O'Clock Jump, or whatever it's called. String of Pearls. Oh, my, all those of that era.

EE:

Is there a particular embarrassing or funny moment that you recall, either from yourself personally or what happened to you while you were doing this work?

MG:

I'm sure there are, but it's been a long time ago. Well, like I told the group here at the Historic Latimer House this week, we didn't have any hot water or heat in this place in Cherbourg, and I needed to wash my hair, so I washed it in the john. I said that's the only way I could get any water, to flush it through and get the soap out. So I said it didn't matter, at least I washed it. [chuckles]

EE:

Water is water.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

A lot of the folks joined whatever branch they joined because they wanted to contribute to the war effort. Not all of them did work that made them feel that they fully had. Do you think you contributed to the war effort in your work?

MG:

No doubt. I have never, ever, even though I thoroughly enjoyed my years training teachers or helping train teachers at UNCG, had as satisfying work in my life and never will. No one can ever take that away from me. I never worked so hard, but enjoyed it.

EE:

You were working for the right cause.

MG:

Right.

EE:

That makes a difference, too.

MG:

Oh, yes.

EE:

You talked about having Mrs. Roosevelt come by to see you that day in Norwich. What did you think of the Roosevelts, both her husband and her?

MG:

Another thing that happened—this was in Belgium—talking about the Roosevelts, I was going to work walking from the place where I lived to the club, and this man, I guess he realized I was an American, he said, “Roosevelt's dead. Roosevelt's dead.” I said, “No, he isn't. No. No, you're wrong, he's not dead.” I could not believe that we had lost President Roosevelt, because then he was known as the savior of the world. Of the world. Sure enough, he had died, and sure enough, [Harry S.] Truman took over, and sure enough, the world went on. This taught me a lesson that I never, ever forgotten and that is that no one—no one— is indispensable, therefore you'd better not be a workaholic, you'd better get out there and learn some recreational skills and learn how to retire. That's the end of my story. [chuckles]

EE:

You've learned it well, is that what you're saying? [chuckles]

You work with people who did things above and beyond. Do you have heroes from that time period or heroines?

MG:

Well, [General Dwight D.] Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Patton. There's no question about what they were.

EE:

Were you back stateside by the time you heard about the Japanese surrender?

MG:

Yes.

EE:

Was that another cause for celebration, or what did you feel like that day, or was it sort of disappointing because you weren't going to go?

MG:

I was in Greenville, and, well, I didn't know what to think, because I had thought I'd be going. I didn't know what was going to happen. I took off for—I went with this friend, we were going to go to the West Coast. You couldn't buy a car then, not a new car, and so I had an old car and we didn't quite make it. We made it to New Orleans and had to turn around and come home because the car wasn't going to make it. But we were going to take a trip over the United States. Then the Red Cross contacted me about doing the training at Fort Meade, and I did that for several months. Then went to UNCG, Woman's College.

EE:

Long-term, how do you think your life has been different because of that exposure of military service?

MG:

It makes you realize what's important and what isn't. Also, why I really mention this, you said you were a Sunday schoolteacher, but it also tested your faith. I was glad that I had been brought up in a Christian home and knew what was right and what was wrong.

EE:

Helps to have a center when everything seems like chaos, doesn't it?

MG:

Yes. I was serious, though, about workaholics, because we have had several in our field, and you need to get some skills in something else, because no one is indispensable. A lot of people feel like they are, and they're not. Anybody can take your job tomorrow, mine or anybody else's, and do as well or better. That's the way I feel, anyway.

EE:

When you were at Woman's College, you started out—what were the different roles that you had during your time there?

MG:

I was supervisor of student teaching for about twenty years. I taught a lot of golf, bowling, team sports. Officiating, I trained many officials. Basketball officiating. We went all over the state judging officials and giving them their rating, even into Tennessee and Virginia.

EE:

You were there during probably the biggest change in the history of our school which is—

MG:

The boys.

EE:

—the boys.

MG:

Yes, I loved it. Made me think about the GIs. They were so much like the GIs that I just loved it. One of them, I told him, we had a nine-hole putting green just outside the golf room, and I told him, I said, “Now, you're not to wear loafers on the putting green.” I said, “Either tennis shoes or golf shoes.” So I come to class one day and this boy, great big old tall boy, good-looking boy, he's out there barefooted. I said, “What's with you?”

He says, “Well, I knew you'd get me, because I didn't have my shoes today.” He says, “I decided I'd just go barefooted.” [chuckles] It was a different day all right.

EE:

For the school, do you think it was good that they switched to coed?

MG:

I've had mixed emotions about it, but, yes, I have no qualms about that.

EE:

Do you think there's still a place for a state-sponsored single-sex school?

MG:

If it's their choice, I have no qualms about it.

EE:

When you were head of student teaching, that was for both men and women, I guess, as part of that time.

MG:

Yes, but it was mostly the women.

EE:

You're there during probably the biggest change for women collegiately in athletics, with Title IX, that gives equal access to women. From when the time that you went to school, and there's nothing but intramurals, now you have intercollegiate sports. Were you there during that transition?

MG:

Big-time sports.

EE:

That was a big part of the transition for the school, wasn't it?

MG:

Yes. Yes, I go back to when we didn't have electric clocks, we didn't have electric things for team fouls, and Gail Hennis made these homemade cards to turn, and I'd go over and turn the cards when the team fouled. Rosemary McGee and I went with them to the Alaska Shootout [basketball tournament] several years ago. That was fun.

EE:

Has that been the biggest change? What was the biggest change in the Physical Ed Department at the time you were there, those thirty years? Was it the coed?

MG:

Oh, probably, yes. That and the beginning of intercollegiate seriousness. See, I've been away twenty years.

EE:

But did the fact of the coed mean that you had to make the staff more coed, as well?

MG:

Oh, yes. A lot more.

EE:

I'm glad that the Women in Military Service Memorial is right up there with the WAVES and the WACs and the SPARS [Coast Guard Women's Reserve, from motto “Semper Paratus-Always Ready]”. They put Red Cross because they know they were right there with them, and they include Red Cross folks as honored in that.

MG:

Yes, I'm glad they're finally doing that.

EE:

If you knew a young woman who was contemplating going into service, would you recommend that she did that?

MG:

I don't know that much about it now to make a decision about that.

EE:

Given the fact that the situations are different, you're not sure that that military experience in and of itself would help her in her outlook on life?

MG:

Yes, I think so, I just haven't ever given that much thought.

EE:

Our country sent for the first time, in December, a woman into combat as a fighter pilot. Do you think there's some jobs that women should not do in the military?

MG:

No, I think if they're qualified, they ought to be able to do it, if they want to.

I've got to do something else before too long. You don't have too much more, do you?

EE:

That was my last question. I do have one other question.

MG:

Okay.

EE:

Some folks have said that thanks to Rosie the Riveter, and probably Rosie's cousin, the Red Cross volunteer, that all these women who were in World War II entered what was basically the male bastion of the work force, that that really was the start of women's lib, that by showing society that women could do the same kind of work as men, as well as men. Do you feel that's true?

MG:

It probably had an influence in it, yes, because up until then it was a male-dominated world really, and the place for the woman was in the home. But, yes, I think it probably had an influence.

EE:

That's my thirty note cards.

MG:

Okay.

EE:

We've gone through it and you've taken me from Greenville to Belgium and back.

MG:

Yes.

EE:

I appreciate you sitting down to do this with us today. I'm glad to know that other folks have been interested in your story, too, because it's a good one. I know that the school thanks you as an employee and as an alumni. Thank you very much for sitting down with us today.

[End of interview]