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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Marjory Johnson, 1999

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Object ID: WV0111.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Marjory W. Johnson’s education at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina and at Walter Reed Medical Center in the early 1940s, her experiences in Europe with the army during World War II, and her post-war career in physical therapy.

Summary:

Johnson discusses her education, including living in a Highland Avenue apartment with her sisters while attending the Woman’s College (WC); entertainment at WC, including Russian dancers; training at Walter Reed Army Hospital, including her schedule, class instruction, and work with patients; and living in Forest Glen, a former girls’ school, while at Walter Reed.

Topics related to her military service include limitations and worry in wartime; social life on the George Washington, including bridge games and dances; living quarters in France, including apartments and a chateau; the death of a friend from friendly fire; flying over Paris, France; censorship of letters; various physical therapy cases at Walter Reed and in France; treating German prisoners of war; securing a transfer to Germany to be closer to her brother; receiving a battle star for her service in France; her opinions of President Franklin Roosevelt and General Dwight Eisenhower; and celebrating VE Day by shooting pistols.

Other topics include her opinion of women in combat; the dedication of the Women in Military Service to America memorial; her post-war employment in physical therapy; attending Stanford on the GI Bill; and work at the University of North Carolina.

Creator: Marjory W. Johnson

Biographical Info: Marjory W. Johnson (1922-2010), of Bunn, North Carolina, served as a physical therapist in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946 and later in civilian hospitals in North Carolina, Minnesota, and New York. From 1961 to 1985 she was a member of the physical therapy faculty at the University of North Carolina.

Collection: Marjory Johnson 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:

HT:

Today is Sunday, October 31, 1999. My name is Hermann Trojanowksi, and I'm at the home of Marjory Johnson in Durham, North Carolina, to conduct an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG]. Ms. Johnson, if you'd give me your name, please, for the record, I would appreciate it.

MJ:

Marjory W. Johnson.

HT:

Ms. Johnson, would you tell me a little about your life before you went in to the physical therapy program during World War II?

MJ:

Well, I majored in physical education at WC [Women's College of the University of North Carolina, now UNCG], and after practice teaching, I decided I didn't want to teach. So, many of my classmates were investigating physical therapy in the Army and several of us applied and two of us were accepted for Walter Reed [Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.], so I knew in December of my senior year that I would be going into physical therapy upon graduation.

HT:

What year did you graduate?

MJ:

Nineteen forty-three.

HT:

So you knew by December 1942?

MJ:

Yes.

HT:

Can you tell me what life was like on campus, I guess you were there in the late 1930s and early 1940s at WC?

MJ:

Right.

HT:

Can you tell me something about your experiences with the teachers and administration?

MJ:

As you know, it was all a women's campus and I remember we had to wear stockings, uniforms in that day were certainly not like today, and we had some very good instructors. It's been a long time.

HT:

Do you recall Walter Clinton Jackson, who was the president of the college at that time?

MJ:

Yes.

HT:

Did you ever have the chance to meet him?

MJ:

I never talked with him personally. Mr. Phillips I knew, who was in charge of student aid, and I guess I got to see him more than I did some of the others, administrative personnel.

HT:

What was life like on campus in those days? I know it was an all women's college, and I've heard other ladies who graduated from WC say that a weekend they would either leave or the boys would come on campus and they would have dances and that sort of thing. Can you describe a little bit about what life was like for you on campus?

MJ:

Well, I was in an apartment the first two years I was there, and in the dorm the last two years. There wasn't too much social life in our junior and senior year because most of the men were in the service and away from there. Sometimes they would come from some of the camps.

HT:

If we could backtrack just a little bit, can you tell me where you were born and where you grew up and where you went to high school and that sort of thing, a little bit about your family before you went to college?

MJ:

I was born in Bunn, North Carolina, which is in Franklin County, and went to school there through high school. My father was a family practitioner, and he died while I was at Greensboro.

HT:

Did you have any sisters or brothers?

MJ:

I had two sisters and two brothers.

HT:

Did they also attend Woman's College, the girls?

MJ:

The girls did. My older sister and then my middle sister and I had an apartment together for two years so we could afford to go to school at the same time.

HT:

That was rather unusual, for girls to have their own apartment, I would imagine.

MJ:

Yes, well my apartment was as big as this room, and it had a small kitchen. I remember walking downtown in Greensboro on the weekend, to buy hamburger—two pounds for a quarter—so we could have meat for the weekend. But we had canned food from home, we survived.

HT:

Were any of the other girls on campus jealous because you had your own place, I guess a little bit more freedom than they did, because I'm sure there were restrictions, they had to be in the dorm and that sort of thing?

MJ:

If they were I didn't know it.

HT:

Do you recall where your apartment was?

MJ:

Yes, it was on Highland Avenue. I remember one time we'd had a cold night and I walked out and fell down the first flight of steps, and then the second flight of steps, went down to the corner and fell around the corner. I felt like going to the infirmary instead of class that day [laughs].

HT:

Speaking of the infirmary, Dr. Gove was still alive in those days, and I think she lived on Highland Avenue, did you live near her by any chance? She was the college physician.

MJ:

On Highland? I doubt it.

HT:

I may have that wrong.

MJ:

I doubt that, because it was only a block long, very close to the railroad. Really only half a block off campus.

HT:

Did you ever take the trolley downtown?

MJ:

We usually walked.

HT:

Just had to walk.

MJ:

We were poor, couldn't afford it.

HT:

But that was the end of the Depression, so money, I'm sure, was very tight.

MJ:

And my father had an insurance policy that paid my mother two hundred dollars and at one time three of us went to college on it at the same time. It was tough.

HT:

Can you tell me something about when you decided to join the physical therapy, it was part of the WAC [Women's Army Corps]—

MJ:

No.

HT:

It was not part of the WAC. It was a separate unit completely?

MJ:

Separate unit completely. Medical unit.

HT:

Can you tell me when you decided to join and how that came about?

MJ:

Well, we were in civilian training. There were ten classes of physical therapists there at Walter Reed—we were class nine—and we were really expected to go into the service at the end of our training, which was a year, so we automatically went into the medical corps as second lieutenants.

HT:

What made you decide to join the physical therapy corps? Did you see a poster, or where there recruiters that came about, or did you have friends who had joined?

MJ:

Well I told you that my classmates had heard about physical therapy and I knew nothing about physical therapy at the time. All I knew was that you worked with patients and so I decided then to go into physical therapy and I just assumed that I'd be going into the service.

HT:

What type of training did you have to undergo?

MJ:

Well, the first six months, well, three months, we had classes from eight to five, six days a week, and then for the next three months we had classes in the morning and worked with patients in the afternoon, and then the last six months we worked only with patients.

HT:

That's a rigorous schedule.

MJ:

It was.

HT:

Did you have anything like boot camp training like, women in the Marine Corps had six weeks of drilling, did you have anything like that, any kind of physical exercises that you had to do?

MJ:

No, after I went in to the army we went to Fort Meade, [Maryland], for a week for what they called basic training, rigorous type of activities.

HT:

What did you ladies do for fun while you were at this year's worth of training at Walter Reed? Did you have evenings free and attend dances and that sort of thing? Or did you have to study all the time?

MJ:

We studied six days a week, sometime we'd go across to one of the bars and have some beer, but I wasn't drinking beer, but we'd sometimes go into Washington.

HT:

What was Washington, D.C., like in those days, in the middle of the war? I know there were blackouts and that sort of thing.

MJ:

I really don't remember. I remember going on the Potomac River one time for a trip. We didn't get that involved in Washington. We would be bussed in to Walter Reed where we'd spend the day. We were housed in what was a girls' school and they had a castle and a few other types of international houses for the girls and I guess they must have had international students. Forest Glen now is owned by Walter Reed and it's historical so it cannot be repaired, unless it goes back to its original state, and it's a mess. We went there and visited two years ago, very depressing.

HT:

What was the name of this building?

MJ:

Forest Glen. I can't remember the name of the seminary it was before.

HT:

So you were bussed in from where you were staying every day to Walter Reed?

MJ:

Every day. And the last six months I was there I worked out at Forest Glen so I didn't have to go in to Walter Reed.

HT:

You said you had a couple of sisters, and you had a brother—two brothers. Were any of them in the service during this time?

MJ:

Yes, my brother was in service and I got to see him when I was in Germany. But that was after the war was over.

HT:

What about your sisters? Did any of them join?

MJ:

No.

HT:

What did your family feel about you becoming a physical therapist? Were they in favor of you doing this and being away from home?

MJ:

My daddy was dead at the time, I'm not sure whether he would have approved or not because I think he thought if he educated me it was time for me to go to work and support myself. My mother never said anything against it. She didn't want me to go overseas, so when the time came for us to either sign up for overseas or stay in the States, I said I did not want to go overseas. A friend of mine said she wanted to go overseas, and she was assigned to Swannanoa, [North Carolina], and I went overseas.

HT:

So you didn't have a choice?

MJ:

We had a choice, but they didn't pay any attention to it [laughs]. So it did just the opposite. But I had a clear conscience.

HT:

That's right, you tried.

MJ:

I tried. One classmate now lives in Durham.

HT:

Do you recall what the mood of the country was in those days? The general atmosphere?

MJ:

I know that, as far as gas and sugar and things like that, coffee, it was a problem, and when I went overseas, I wanted a coffee pot. The only coffee pot I could find was a glass one, so I bought a glass coffee pot and rolled it up in my bedroll and shipped it over [laughs]. But I think people felt limited by what they could and couldn't do, and worried about any relatives that happened to be in the war.

HT:

You said after you completed your year's training you were shipped overseas?

MJ:

Well, I wasn't shipped immediately overseas. I went down to Woodrow Wilson, which is in Staunton, Virginia, for several months, and was assigned to a general hospital which was based in Seattle, Washington. And I never did go to Seattle, Washington. That particular day I heard about shipping out, which was January 1945, I was treating a general in the PT department and I walked out and left him without even saying good-bye [laughs]. So that was how fast it was, and I went up to Fort Dix, [New Jersey], and joined a unit. There were ten of us. We had five Red Cross, three dietitians, and two physical therapists. And there was another hospital unit on board ship, and the 13th Airborne. We were on the George Washington.

HT:

Was that the name of the ship?

MJ:

Name of the ship. There were only twenty females on the ship.

HT:

Did you know before you left where your destination was going to be?

MJ:

No.

HT:

Where did you finally end up?

MJ:

France, Le Havre. Then we went up to Mourmelon-le-Petit, which is where they had five general hospitals in the area, and unfortunately we were assigned the prisoners of war, so we treated prisoners.

HT:

German prisoners?

MJ:

German prisoners.

HT:

How did you feel about them? How did your other compatriots feel about treating Germans?

MJ:

I didn't enjoy it. It was rough, and to have to be careful of what I wrote home because I couldn't say what I was doing. I didn't want them to know what I was doing either.

HT:

That's very interesting. I spoke to one lady who was a nurse in England, and she helped treat some German prisoners. Your work was quite different.

MJ:

I did what I had to do.

HT:

You were ordered to do this, I assume. What type of physical therapy did you give? Could you describe a little bit about what type of work you did with them?

MJ:

With the prisoners or with the patients?

HT:

Either one.

MJ:

Well, at Walter Reed, we had a lot of what they call peripheral nerve injuries, and a lot of amputees, so we treated the amputees, how to bandage their stumps, how to walk with their prosthesis, how to walk also without them. The peripheral nerve injuries were treated with testing them to see how their nerve had regenerated, if it had or was missing, and electrical stimulation. Of course we used all types of heat and water. But I saw one of my patients from Walter Reed when I was at Woodrow Wilson on the bus. I went into town. He had the front part of his foot amputated; he told me that he was still doing the exercises that I'd taught him.

But the Germans, I remember one who had what they called osteomylitis, infection of the bone, and how horrible it smelled. We treated him with whirlpool. I can't remember the rest of them. I probably blacked it out.

HT:

Well physical therapy was a fairly new occupation in those days, wasn't it? Was it something that had been sort of invented after the First World War?

MJ:

During the First World War they'd had some physical therapists.

HT:

So you were on the cutting edge of the new occupation. Unfortunately there were so many people who needed your services. I guess that was gratifying to know that you did help. What was the voyage over to France like?

MJ:

We did a lot of zigzagging, I guess to miss the torpedoes. I think we had maybe one rough night, but it was enjoyable. I remember playing bridge many hours of the night. One night we had dances. The brother of one of my WC classmates was on the ship, and I don't know how he knew I was on that ship, but he looked me up. I didn't know until several years later that he was put in the brig for doing that, because he was an enlisted man, and his sister told me that he was upset because I didn't get him out of the brig. Well, I didn't know that he was in the brig.

HT:

So he was put in the brig just for talking to you?

MJ:

No, because he was in our quarters. Evidently he had come looking for me. I have seen him since then, when he was in the hospital at Duke [University], we talked about it. He died later of cancer.

HT:

You said there were twenty women aboard the ship. Is that correct?

MJ:

Twenty women. We were treated like queens.

HT:

And how many guys were there?

MJ:

The whole 13th Airborne, I can't remember whether it's three thousand or more.

HT:

So that's quite a ratio [laughs]. What was your stateroom like?

MJ:

It was small. I think we had double bunks.

HT:

But all twenty of you weren't in one stateroom I guess?

MJ:

Oh no, we had, I think, two of us in a stateroom.

HT:

And do you recall how long the voyage lasted?

MJ:

One week.

HT:

What time of year was this?

MJ:

January.

HT:

The seas were rough, I bet.

MJ:

Somewhat rough, but that was a big ship. I remember sometimes when we were dancing we weren't sure where our foot was going to land [laughs] when we put it back down.

HT:

Was the George Washington a liner that had been converted to a troop ship?

MJ:

It may have been. I know it stayed in the service because my neighbor across the street came back on the George Washington when he came back from Europe.

HT:

You say you played bridge, and you did a little bit of dancing. Did you see any movies aboard ship or anything like that?

MJ:

No, I never saw any movies.

HT:

And once you landed in France, what was France like in those days?

MJ:

Well, they took us off on an LST [landing ship, tank] and—

HT:

What is an LST?

MJ:

Once of those, you had to go down the ladder, one of those transport vehicles, I think they used them also for troop landings along the beach. In Le Havre, we had heard about this mass grave that was there, people who had died. And France, at that time, I was amazed at how much damage there was still around from World War I, that they hadn't cleaned up. And when we went from Le Havre up to Mourmelon, we stayed in a chateau for a while before we went up to Mourmelon, near the wine country. We were in this great big room, I think there were thirteen of us in the room.

There was a time they came and asked the dietitians if they would make some cookies so the GIs could have a party. So I said, “If you're going to make cookies, I'm going too.” So we went down to the kitchen. I'm used to using a cupful of something to mix, and of course here we used like a half gallon of stuff, but we made cookies for the boys. And so it was nice to be in the kitchen.

But then in Mourmelon, we had an apartment, and I guess there were five of us in one apartment. We kept scrubbing to find out what the floor really looked like. But the 82nd Airborne was very nearby, so we got to know some of the guys over there.

HT:

And this was in the spring of 1945?

MJ:

Nineteen forty-five.

HT:

So the war was still on, but it would be over in the next five months or so, in May. What type of casualties did you have to work with in France? You were working with just prisoners of war?

MJ:

Just prisoners of war.

HT:

So you didn't work with any American GIs at all?

MJ:

No, we didn't.

HT:

Were there hundreds or thousands of prisoners of war at this place where you were?

MJ:

No, there weren't that many. I remember when we went down to Marseilles on our way to the South Pacific, but that was after the Asian war was over with. There were prisoners behind the barbed wire right next to where we were. I guess the only prisoners that we had in Mourmelon were the ones who were injured. But one of the boys from the 82nd Airborne used to come over, and if the girl he was interested in wasn't there, he would sit and shine our shoes. And the sad thing about that was that he went on patrol, in the Elbe River region, and the people on the shore weren't told that they were out on patrol, so they killed him.

HT:

And he was killed by Americans?

MJ:

Killed by Americans. And he was one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. So when our friends went out, we weren't sure whether they'd ever come back or not.

HT:

While you were in France did you have any kind of social life? Were you allowed to go into town? Dances and that sort of thing?

MJ:

Oh yes. We went to Rouen, we thought we were going to a play or some entertainment in Rouen one night and it was one of these ooh-la-la type of programs [laughs], so it wasn't what we expected. We expected something more highbrow. But we got leave for Paris, I went over there.

HT:

Did you enjoy Paris?

MJ:

Yes. Well, we also got to fly over Paris after the lights came back on. The guys had to rack up some flight time, and sometimes they'd take us up in a small Piper Cub.

HT:

Did you enjoy flying?

MJ:

It was interesting. But we had parties with the airborne and we had an officer's club that we would go to, which was in the old morgue at the hospital.

HT:

That must have been a strange feeling [both laugh]. Was this a big hospital? I'm assuming it was a French hospital, or was it a field hospital?

MJ:

I think it was more like a field hospital, because it had different buildings. The war ended while we there, and two of the dietitians had brothers who were prisoners of war. When they were released, they came by and were able to see their sisters, which made it nice. I talked to one guy who had been a prisoner of war. He said that he ended up being more like the medic in the unit although he had no medical training.

HT:

How were these guys treated by the Germans when they were prisoners of war? Did they say anything about that?

MJ:

Not too much, except I guess they weren't abused too much, but they didn't have a lot of help.

HT:

How were the German prisoners treated by the Americans, do you recall?

MJ:

As far as I know, they were treated well.

HT:

Were the Germans appreciative of the treatment they got from you and other physical therapists?

MJ:

I don't know, I just remember they couldn't stand the pain.

HT:

Did you ever learn to speak a little bit of German, or how did you communicate with them?

MJ:

I spoke English. I think we communicated more by gesture and things like that. But it was an interesting experience. I wouldn't want to go through it again.

HT:

During the entire time that you were a physical therapist did you ever encounter any discrimination because you were a woman, or were all physical therapists women?

MJ:

No.

HT:

Were your supervisors women, or were they doctors?

MJ:

My immediate supervisor was a male doctor.

HT:

So there was no problem?

MJ:

No.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were working as a physical therapist?

MJ:

I don't remember anything being that hard.

HT:

How about emotionally?

MJ:

I guess losing patients sometimes, for different reasons. After the war was over, we were shipped down to Marseilles, I think expecting to go to the Asian theater. We went by train, and I guess that was one of the most horrible things we've ever experienced, being in these open trains. We tied the doors open so that we could get some air. And we would stop at different places along the way, and one of the places we stopped and got the Stars and Stripes and found out the war was over. So when we got to Marseilles there was no reason for us to go to the Asian theatre.

HT:

So the war in Asia was over at this time?

MJ:

Yes. And they reassigned us to different areas, and I had been reassigned to Rouen, when we stopped in Paris, I got the person who was in charge of physical therapists over in personnel and I told her I did not want to stay in France. She asked me where I wanted to go and I said, “Well, my brother's up in Bremen [Germany], I'd like to go there.” And she said she would see if I could get transferred, but first I had to go on to Rouen. So I went to Rouen and was there about one week, and I got orders to go to Bremerhaven since they didn't have an opening in Bremen, and actually that's where my brother and cousin both were, Bremerhaven. And we had a telephone in our apartment that was hooked up to their unit so I was able to call and talk to him.

HT:

When you were in France do you recall ever being in any kind of physical danger?

MJ:

No. We got a battle star, but that was because SHAEF headquarters [Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces] was between the front line and they were west of us, so we were between them and the front line, so we got a battle star.

HT:

What kind of headquarters was that?

MJ:

SHAEF headquarters, with [General Dwight D.] Eisenhower. We saw him one day.

HT:

You saw General Eisenhower?

MJ:

Yes.

HT:

Did he come by on any specific mission, or just passing through?

MJ:

He was talking to a group, and I can't remember where it was.

HT:

How did you feel about General Eisenhower?

MJ:

Good.

HT:

What about President Roosevelt? Did you have any feelings about him?

MJ:

We weren't thinking about him at the time. It was after I got back that a lot of physical therapists went down to Warm Springs, Georgia, so I got more involved there.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes and heroines were during this time, in the mid-1940s?

MJ:

No.

HT:

Do you recall any hilarious or embarrassing moments while you were a physical therapist, either in training or in France?

MJ:

No.

HT:

Do you recall where you were when you heard about VE Day?

MJ:

I was in Mourmelon, we went out and shot pistols. I'd never shot a gun in my life [laughs]. But we celebrated.

HT:

Did you go to a firing range or just go outside?

MJ:

[laughing] We just went outside.

HT:

And where did you get these pistols?

MJ:

I guess these guys had them. I don't know who had them. I just remember how stupid it was. I guess there was a scary moment when I was in Mourmelon. One of the guys had a motorcycle and talked me into riding it and then he talked me into getting on it and doing it myself [laughs], and I'd never even driven a car, much less anything else. And I wasn't sure whether I would end up crashing it or falling and breaking a leg. The doctor who was in charge of our hospital unit kidded me about it later because I passed by his house.

HT:

So you did actually drive it around?

MJ:

Yes. I can't remember how I finally got it to stop, and I hurt myself and I was scared.

HT:

What about VJ [Victory in Japan] Day? Do you recall where you were when you heard about victory over Japan?

MJ:

Yes, that was on the way down to Marseilles on the train trip. We stopped and picked up the Stars and Stripes.

HT:

The atomic bomb had been dropped just a few days earlier, before VJ Day. Did you hear about that at all?

MJ:

Not really. If we did, we were just glad the war was over with. It didn't impress me any.

HT:

What impact do you think being a physical therapist had on your life immediately after you got out and in the long term?

MJ:

I thought about changing careers after I got home, because I wasn't sure I wanted to work with women and children, since I'd only worked with men [laughs]. So I thought of doing other things, but I ended up sticking with physical therapy. I had my first job as a civilian at a home in Moore County for polio. In our training we had demonstrated for us the use of hot packs, and when I went to Woodrow Wilson one of the first things I had to do was pack somebody who had polio from head to toe. But that was a limited type of exposure, so going down to Pinehurst and working with patients there, they were all ages, children, women—I can't remember any men—I know we had women and children. Then my next job was in Hibbing, Minnesota, and there we had a lot of polio patients. The person I replaced there was the same person I had replaced in Bremerhaven, so I followed her there as well as Bremerhaven. One of my classmates followed me in Bremerhaven [laughs]. And then I decided to go back to school, after a year in the cold North, so I went out to Stanford and I took a course in working with children so I could learn more about children.

HT:

Did you use your GI benefits for that?

MJ:

Yes.

HT:

That was a wonderful asset to have, wasn't it? That was Stanford University in California?

MJ:

Yes.

HT:

Did you receive a master's degree or was it just—

MJ:

Well, I didn't finish at the time I went back in 1948 because I didn't write my thesis. I went back in 1964 and finished it and went to summer school. I was there all summer, which was rigid, and I wouldn't recommend it to anybody else, but I finally graduated.

HT:

If we could go back for just a minute to your time in France, after you left France you went to Bremerhaven for a little while. How long did you stay there? Did you actually work there?

MJ:

Yes, we had a hospital there.

HT:

And you did physical therapy work there as well?

MJ:

Yes, I worked with American GIs.

HT:

Do you recall how long you were there?

MJ:

I was there until February of 1946, when I left to come home.

HT:

What made you decide to come home?

MJ:

Well, I had enough points to be discharged so I decided to come on home.

HT:

How were points assigned, do you recall?

MJ:

Well, we got five points for getting a battle star, and so many points for months overseas duty, and so much a month.

HT:

Let's go back just a little bit more. When you first signed up, did you sign up for the duration of the war or a specific amount of time? How did that work?

MJ:

Just signed up, not for any particular length of time.

HT:

Of course, no one knew how long the war was going to last.

MJ:

We had the option of staying in, I guess they might have discharged us later because they wouldn't need us.

HT:

So after you left Bremerhaven you came back to North Carolina?

MJ:

I came back on a hospital ship, I worked my way home. Then I was discharged from Fort Bragg.

HT:

How did it feel to be home again?

MJ:

It felt good. Of course, to get through that rigmarole at Fort Bragg. I was able to go home for a few hours. When I got back down there I slept on a bench until it was time to go through the procedures that they had to go through. Then I loafed for a while, went to Florida for a few days, visited a friend in New York, saw some of the guys come in there.

HT:

So you never thought about making it a career?

MJ:

No.

HT:

It never entered your mind?

MJ:

No, not really. I figured that I wouldn't like civilian PT, which you'd almost have to do.

HT:

After you got out, what did your family want you to do? Did they want you to stay home?

MJ:

Do whatever I wanted to do. They never told me what to do.

HT:

If you had to do it over again, would you do the same thing again? Become a physical therapist? Do you think it was a positive experience for you?

MJ:

Yes, I think it was a positive experience. I still correspond with people I knew.

HT:

So you made some good friends. Can you describe a little bit about your adjustment to civilian life after having been in the military for almost two years?

MJ:

I don't remember any problems at all.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person? And do you think having gone to an all-women's college helped you or were you always that way?

MJ:

I guess I've always been that way. I think I got a good education at Greensboro.

HT:

And after you joined the physical therapy unit? Did that help to reinforce your being independent?

MJ:

I don't know.

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

HT:

When you became a physical therapist did you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter?

MJ:

No.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

MJ:

No, I wouldn't say so.

HT:

We had talked earlier in our conversation about General Dwight Eisenhower and President Roosevelt. What did you think of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

MJ:

I remember her when she came to Chapel Hill and brought Marian Anderson with her, so I was impressed by her.

HT:

When was this, in the early 1940s?

MJ:

Yes.

HT:

Did Marian Anderson give a program of some sort?

MJ:

She sang.

HT:

I think Mrs. Roosevelt came to Woman's College at one time. Did you by any chance see her at that time?

MJ:

I'd never seen her. I remember we had good entertainment there.

HT:

At Woman's College?

MJ:

I remember the Russian dancers were so good, and of course we had musical programs too.

HT:

How do you feel about women serving in combat positions? I think were some women pilots who served in the Gulf War and now women flying off of aircraft carriers in the navy and that sort of thing. Do you approve of that sort of thing?

MJ:

Yes. I heard some of them speak at the dedication of the women's memorial [Women In Military Service For America Memorial, WIMSA] and was impressed by what they had to say.

HT:

Well what were some of things they said? Do you recall?

MJ:

I can't remember exactly, but they were talking about their experiences and they were supposed to do a flyby but the weather prevented them from doing it that day. I think they would be capable of doing it. When you talk about hand-to-hand combat, I think that's something else, but I think they have a lot to offer.

HT:

Women these days, not only in the military but also in civilian life, have much more opportunity than women of your generation had. A woman who graduated from WC in the 1930s or '40s, the options were probably be a schoolteacher, and maybe a couple of other occupations. It was just very limited. Do you feel that women like yourself who joined either the [U.S.] Navy or the Marines, or the [U.S.] Army, or physical therapists or dietitians were trailblazers for women who came later on?

MJ:

They probably were.

HT:

Because prior to World War II, the majority of women did not work outside the house. It was very rare for a woman to have worked outside the house unless there were extenuating circumstances.

MJ:

Well, at the women's memorial they have women's contributions to the service way back in the Civil War.

HT:

That's true, but the women who joined in World War II, there were so many compared to the few that were in World War I and the Civil War. What did you think of the WIMSA memorial?

MJ:

I was impressed. The program lasted for several days, and we had a candlelight march across the memorial bridge from Lincoln Memorial down to the women's memorial. Janet Reno was in it. I looked at the distance the last time I was there and wondered how in the world I walked that far [laughs].

HT:

Do you recall how far it was?

MJ:

I think it's over a mile, about two or three. And it was at night, carrying candles.

HT:

I'll bet that was quite impressive.

MJ:

Yes, it was. The whole program was impressive. The only thing that bothered me was the people they did not mention. They did not talk about physical therapists. They did not talk about dietitians. They did not talk about occupational therapists. They only talked about the nurses. They did mention the Red Cross.

HT:

Do you have any idea why that was? Why there were so few in number?

MJ:

I don't know why. I believe they had a lot of complaints about that. That's my one big complaint.

HT:

But the memorial does mention all those different occupations now, doesn't it?

MJ:

Well, they have some pictures of some physical therapists who were in the service. So we can recognize that. But they asked for our money [laughs]. They want contributions from all of us.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your life since you got out of physical therapy as an occupation in 1946? Of course you continued on in civilian life, I'm talking about the military physical therapy. Can you tell me what life was like after that?

MJ:

Well, as I say, I went to Hibbing for a year, and then I went to Stanford for a year, and then I went to Rochester, New York, for thirteen years. I was in rehab then, and then I came to UNC [University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill in September 1961 and retired from there in May 1985.

HT:

You really went all over the country.

MJ:

I taught at UNC. Last night the class of 1974 had a big picnic to celebrate their twenty-fifth. I was one of their sponsors for that. And while I was at UNC-CH I had contacted UNCG for their prospective students transferring to Chapel Hill. Laura Anderton, whom you've met, she was advising pre-physical therapy students.

HT:

Did you know Patti Lewis, Dr. Lewis, head of nursing?

MJ:

Yes. She died last Saturday night.

HT:

Yes. I interviewed her back in, I think it was February. A wonderful person.

MJ:

She was at Chapel Hill, so I knew her in Chapel Hill, and then I saw her in Greensboro. It was very sad.

HT:

Well I don't have any more questions. Do you have anything that you'd like to add, that I might not have asked about your life, either at Woman's College or while you were a physical therapist in the military or afterwards? We've covered such a wide range of things.

MJ:

I can't think of anything specific.

HT:

Well, I do appreciate you talking this afternoon. It's been very enjoyable learning about the things that you did. Thanks again.

[End of Interview]