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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Dorothy Rice, 1999

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Object ID: WV0112.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Dorothy Mae Griffin Rice’s experiences in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve during World War II and the Korean War and her life as a Marine wife.

Summary:

Topics related to Rice’s service in the Women Marines include her parents’ reaction when she joined the Marine Corps; her sister’s experiences as a Marine recruiter; the slogan “Free a Man to Fight”; reactions of male Marines to women in the military; training, including drill instruction and Marine history; friends in boot camp; working with women from other branches of the military; a warm reception from the residents of Denver; her work schedule and social life in Denver; discrimination in a USO club; and being a temporary sergeant in Denver and having to return to private first class status in El Toro, California.

Rice also discusses the mood of the country during World War II and Korean War as well more general thoughts on women in the military. She talks about meeting Joe Foss, John Payne, and Colonel Ruth Streeter; her opinions of President Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and President Harry Truman; the difficulty of recruiting during the Korean war; discrimination against Women Marines; recruiting practices; her heroes, including Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Puller, and Joe Foss; the Women Marines uniform; the variety of jobs for Women Marines during her time in service; and being reprimanded for giving up her train seat to an African-American woman in Alabama.

Rice also details her high school achievements; career limitations for women in the 1940s; advantages of her military service, including increased independence; a cousin who died in service; her brother’s work with radar; her children’s opinions of the military; the Cherry Point military police’s treatment of dependent children; friendships and frequent moving as a Marine wife; various jobs she held in the Raleigh area; and growing orchids after retirement.

Creator: Dorothy Mae Griffin Rice

Biographical Info: Dorothy Mae Griffin Rice (1923-2010) of New London, Ohio, served primarily as a recruiter in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve from June 1943 to 1945 and from 1950 to 1952. After her military service, Rice worked as a receptionist, transcriber, and for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Collection: Dorothy Mae Griffin Rice 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 Saturday, October 30, 1999. My name is Herman Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Dorothy Rice in Raleigh, North Carolina, to conduct an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Rice, if you'd give me your name and let's see how your voice sounds on this.

DR:

Dorothy Griffin Rice.

HT:

If you could tell me something about your life before you went in the service in 1943.

DR:

I spent all the first eighteen years of my life in New London, Ohio. My father was a farmer and a rural letter carrier. There were forty-three in my class in high school. It was just a lot of fun living in a small town where you knew everyone.

I was drum major in high school and in the National Honor Society. I was trying to be valedictorian, but I only made it to salutatorian. From there I went to college at Mary Washington College in the secretarial program in Fredericksburg, Virginia. After the two years of secretarial studies, my sister recruited me into the Marine Corps. She was already in.

HT:

How did your family feel about you joining?

DR:

They weren't real happy. My sister was already in. My brother was already in the air force. There were four of us, but they didn't want three of us in the service, but I said, “If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.” I wasn't twenty. You had to be twenty to join then without your parents' consent. You had to be twenty to join, but you had to have your parents' consent if you were under twenty-one. So my dad and mother finally signed for me.

HT:

Did they do it reluctantly?

DR:

They did, but they were real proud of us. My dad was in World War I, in the army, and they were real proud of us. My younger sister was too young.

HT:

The other sister, what branch of the service was she in?

DR:

She was in the Marine Corps. She came down to Mary Washington and recruited me.

HT:

So you didn't stay at Mary Washington very long, it sounds like.

DR:

Two years.

HT:

Did you ever get your degree?

DR:

No, I was in the secretarial program, and if you wanted a degree, you went on two more years and took the arts courses. The first two years were all the secretarial program. The degrees back then led to teaching, and I had no desire to teach.

HT:

Was your sister a recruiter?

DR:

She was a recruiter.

HT:

She was actually a recruiter?

DR:

Yes. She joined the first day that women could join the Marine Corps, February 13, 1943.

HT:

She was a role model, it sounds like.

DR:

Right. She was assigned to the recruiting office in Cleveland to help recruit more people.

HT:

I know many posters at that time said that if women would join the various branches of service, it would free men up for combat. Did you view your joining in this respect, that you might free a man up for combat, and how did you feel about that?

DR:

That's what they told us we were doing, and I guess it was fair, because someone had to do the jobs in the offices, and they wanted the men out fighting. They weren't going to send women out to fight, so I guess it was fair. I never heard any men say they resented it.

HT:

Did you have any guilty feelings about perhaps sending a man off to die or something like that?

DR:

No. No. No, we just weren't given that feeling at all.

HT:

You talk about your family, your immediate family, how they felt about you joining, but what about your extended family and your friends and neighbors and co-workers and fellow students? Since you were in college at that time, how did they did they feel about you joining?

DR:

I don't know. I guess fine. Probably some of them thought I was real adventuresome to do this kind of thing, and I was that kind of person. All of the guys were going, so why should I stay home?

HT:

So you were somewhat independent.

DR:

Yes. I think my parents wanted us all to be.

HT:

Do you recall what the general thought about women joining the military was at that time? I've read some things that women who joined the WACs [Woman's Army Corps], the army, had a real hard time, not only from civilians, but also from the guys that were in the army. They were sort of looked down upon and some of them felt like women really shouldn't be in the military. There was almost this slander type of goings-on at that time against some of the WACs.

DR:

Well, I think some of the men resented it. Like my husband said, he used to say they took women in the same day they took dogs in, in the Marine Corps. [chuckles] But we weren't treated that way. I think if you acted like a lady, you were treated like a lady in general. You'd always run into some real jerk or some sorehead, but most of the men were really nice to us.

HT:

What was the general mood of the country during World War II, do you recall?

DR:

Everyone was for helping win the war. Everyone pushed toward winning the war and defeating the Nazis and the Japanese. Everyone felt the same way; it was one goal for everyone.

HT:

Since you were in both the Korean War and World War II, do you recall the difference between the two wars, what the feelings were at the time?

DR:

Oh, yes. The Korean War was entirely different. Civilians weren't nice to us in general. A lot of the men in the Marine Corps weren't as nice to us as all the men were in World War II. Recruiting was difficult. I had recruiting duty both times, and recruiting was very difficult during the Korean War.

HT:

If we could just backtrack to your duties during World War II, do you recall why you chose the Marine Corps? It was because of your sister, I assume.

DR:

I might have anyway if I'd been wanting to go in, because we were right near Quantico at Fredericksburg, and I'd met a few Marines and thought they were great. I never met a Marine that wasn't proud to be a Marine and didn't think it was the best.

HT:

Where did you enter the service?

DR:

In Cleveland.

HT:

Do you recall anything specific about your first day when you were joining up?

DR:

When I went to the recruiting office to sign up?

HT:

Yes.

DR:

The physical, I guess. I never had such a thorough physical in my life. That's mainly what I remember about it.

HT:

Then after that, you were sent to boot camp, I assume.

DR:

Right, but we had to wait because the first women went in in February and boot camp at that point was at Hunter College in New York. Then they moved boot camp down to Camp Lejeune, and so there was about six weeks while they were moving everything that there wasn't anyone going through boot camp. So I had to wait until August. I joined in June.

HT:

This is 1943.

DR:

Forty-three. I had to wait until August to go to boot camp and go to Camp Lejeune. It was an awful time to go to Camp Lejeune to boot camp. [chuckles]

HT:

Because of the heat, I suspect.

DR:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall what it was like going through, what, eight weeks or six weeks?

DR:

Six weeks. They were rushing us through, because they had people backed up after that move. We were rushed through in six weeks. My sister was there, too. She was in Quartermaster School while I was there in boot camp. Sometimes I think I wouldn't have made it through boot camp if she hadn't brought me a Coke or a candy bar once in a while. It was tough. I mean, women these days don't go through anywhere near what we went through. They tried to put us through as much as they could of what the men went through.

We had two male DIs [drill instructors] that drilled us. We had a woman DI that lived in the barracks, but she wasn't with us most of the time in the daytime. One of the men would say, “Double time,” and we'd all have to run until we fell out, but two or three of us never fell out. [chuckles] I remember that. We would keep up with him until he stopped.

They made me student platoon leader because I'd been drum major, I guess. I was the youngest one in the platoon. There were women up to forty-five, and I was twenty. Some of those women gave me a bad time. So one day our woman DI who lived in the barracks discovered that, and the girl that was giving me the worst time she made platoon leader. Well, that girl didn't know her right from her left and she didn't last a day. That was mostly the end of that, but there was one woman that always took my part. Her name was Kate Thummel. Her father was an army general. She'd been around the military and when things got too rough—and she was a big woman—she'd tell whoever was giving me a bad time, “You shut up or I'll sit on you.” [chuckles] Kate was wonderful. After lights out at night, she'd tell dirty jokes for hours if we'd listen. She was a scream. She was my buddy.

HT:

What are some of the things that you guys—or you ladies had to undergo during boot camp? A lot of marching, I guess, and drilling. Did you have any type of schooling?

DR:

Mostly we went to classes. We learned the history of the Marine Corps and I can't remember what all else, but we went to classes when we weren't marching. We'd get up in the morning and go out and do our PT [physical training] with the grass all wet, mosquitoes climbing all over us. At night when we got back to the barracks, we had to wash our clothes and hoped they dried overnight. Then they would always ask for volunteers to go clean barracks or clean classrooms or something. I was always volunteered, whether I wanted to volunteer or not. My bunk mate, who was forty-five, wouldn't have been asked to go, and she volunteered to do everything. She was a wonderful gal.

HT:

After you left boot camp, where were you stationed next, and what type of work did you do?

DR:

After I left boot camp, I was assigned two weeks of mess duty.

HT:

What is mess duty?

DR:

That's KP [kitchen patrol]. But fortunately, I got one of the nicer jobs. I was waiting on tables in the officers' end of our mess hall, which wasn't so bad as all the peeling carrots and all that kind of thing. It wasn't too bad. It just was kind of an insult when you were already to go out and get assigned somewhere.

HT:

Why were people assigned to mess duty?

DR:

Just so they could find a slot for them next, I guess. They were trying to place people wherever they could use them best. I was sent from there to recruiting duty in Denver, Colorado, right out of boot camp, practically. First we went to Chicago and we were reassigned from there, and they wanted to send me back home to Cleveland. I said, “No way, I didn't join to go back home. I joined to go somewhere else.” Denver was the farthest we could go from Chicago, so I asked for Denver and got Denver, which I loved. Still one of my favorite places I ever lived.

HT:

So you were recruiting other young ladies, or other women, rather.

DR:

Right. Mostly, though, we were just typing up papers for everyone going through the recruiting office. Mostly we just typed our fingers to the bone, because we were putting so many people through the office. If they were drafted and joined the Marine Corps, they still had to come through the Marine recruiting office, even though they went down to the drafting center first.

HT:

Did you work in the recruiting office that handled both men and women?

DR:

Right. I wasn't actually recruiting most of the time; I was typing up papers.

HT:

You were in the recruiting office.

DR:

Right. They made us sergeants so that we could afford to live out on the economy, and that was nice to go from PFC [private first class] to sergeant.

HT:

What was Denver like in those days?

DR:

Denver was beautiful, just beautiful. Every cab driver in Denver was an ex-Marine. I never paid cab fare anywhere I went. [chuckles] People were wonderful to us. They would call us on holidays and say, “How many people can you send out for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with us?” People were just wonderful to us. I loved Denver.

HT:

Do you think that was unusual, or is that done nationwide?

DR:

I think it was typical of the Midwest and the West and probably other places, too, but I never lived in the East or South at that point. But I think the Midwest has always been like that and I found Denver like that. People are always glad to see other people.

HT:

It sounds like you really enjoyed your work.

DR:

I did.

HT:

Do you think you were treated equally as the men who had the same type of position?

DR:

Oh, yes. Yes. The guys in the office were all 4Fs [not qualified for service], actually. They weren't real qualified Marines to go out and fight; they were recruited to work in the recruiting office so that they could send someone else that was capable to do the other jobs. They were all from Denver, and they were a great bunch. They were real nice to us.

We also did a lot of work with the other branches, recruiters from the other branches of the service, the WACs and the WAFS [Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron] and the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy] and the Coast Guard girls [SPARS, from “Semper Paratus-Always Ready”]. We had a lot of duty with them.

HT:

What type of hours did you have to keep?

DR:

Let's see. We had to be there at eight. I guess we finished when we finished. Mostly it wasn't too late. We were probably out of there by six, most days. If there was a big rush of people going through, we stayed later.

HT:

No weekend duty and that sort of thing?

DR:

I think we always worked Saturdays.

HT:

I think that was sort of typical of the work week in those days, anyway, wasn't it?

DR:

Right. I don't think we ever worked Sundays, though.

HT:

Do you ever recall encountering discrimination because you were a woman?

DR:

No, not there, not on recruiting duty.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do while you were in the military, physically and emotionally?

DR:

Physically, going through boot camp, I'm sure. Emotionally, I guess it was when my cousin died in Denver. He had something wrong with one of his lungs, they thought it was TB [tuberculosis], and they sent him out to Fitzsimmons General Hospital. Whatever was wrong with him, they operated to remove one lobe of his lung and he died, and his mother didn't find out until afterwards that the surgeon had made a slip-up. He was in the air force. He was a captain in the air force.

HT:

That must have been real rough.

DR:

It was.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid while you were in the military?

DR:

Oh, probably, but not really.

HT:

Did you ever think you were in any kind of physical danger? Because women in general were not sent overseas at that time, except for maybe nurses and dietitians and so forth.

DR:

You could go to Hawaii if you knew how to swim, and I didn't know how to swim, so I didn't get to go to Hawaii. Physical danger, not really, I don't think. I don't remember any physical danger.

HT:

Do you ever recall any embarrassing or hilarious moments either in boot camp or while you were on duty?

DR:

Oh, I'm sure if I'd stop and think about them. I'm sure there were a lot of funny ones and some embarrassing. I just can't recall them right now.

HT:

Can you tell something about the type of social life that you and your fellow Marines had in Denver?

DR:

In Denver we lived in a residential hotel. It was mainly populated by older people. But we were served two meals a day there. It had regular hotel rooms. It was just very pleasant.

For a social life, we'd take in movies, go on dates. We met a lot of guys, of course. I remember what was the most fun, walking down the street and saluting all the guys and getting saluted back. They'd stare at us, you know. [chuckles]

HT:

What type of uniform did you have in those days?

DR:

Oh, gosh, we had these uniforms. I have one in this picture. The uniform is very much—do you ever watch JAG [television program]?

HT:

I've seen it a couple times, yes.

DR:

The uniform is very much like the one the gal wears on JAG.

These were our uniforms. [Referring to photograph.] That's me.

HT:

Very smart-looking outfits.

DR:

Yes, they were. This is my girlfriend who called me the other day to see if I was all right after the hurricane and the flood. She's eighty-four. She had just come back from a trip down the Mississippi River and she said she goes camping with her kids and sleeps in a tent with her grandchildren, sleeps in a tent, and she's eighty-four.

HT:

You've talked about movies and dances and those things. Do you recall what your favorite movies and dances and songs were from the forties?

DR:

Don't Fence Me In was real popular. What else? Oh, gee, I can't remember all of them now. Dances, we didn't get to dance an awful lot. One time when we had dates and none of us had any money, we tried to go to the USO [United Service Organizations] to dance. They wouldn't let servicewomen in. Now, there we were discriminated against.

HT:

I've never heard of that.

DR:

They wouldn't let servicewomen in the USO. The guys could go in, but we couldn't go in.

HT:

I thought that was the main purpose of the USO was to—

DR:

For men. At that point it was for men.

HT:

I've heard of that.

DR:

We couldn't get in. That's where we were discriminated against.

HT:

You were in uniform, I assume.

DR:

Oh, yes. In World War II, you couldn't wear anything but your uniform. No civilian clothes.

HT:

What did they say to you?

DR:

They just said, “We don't allow servicewomen.”

HT:

If you had been in your civilian clothes, you could have gotten in maybe?

DR:

Oh, I don't know. They had the hostesses. They wanted to have all the attention given to, you know, the regular USO hostesses who'd get all the attention.

HT:

That's so strange. Do you recall where you were when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

DR:

Oh, yes. I had moved out of that hotel and into an apartment with another girl who moved into an apartment. We were just sitting around that evening. We heard all the bells, all the church bells ringing in Denver. So we had to go outside and say, “What's going on?”

Someone said, “Well, the war just ended in Europe.”

After the war ended in Europe, they told us in the recruiting office, “Well, this is going to cut recruiting in half, so some of you can go somewhere else and some of you can stay in Denver. If you want to go somewhere else, tell us where you'd like to go and what you'd like to do and if you want to stay in Denver tell us and we'll try to accommodate everyone.”

So my girlfriend that I was living with at that time and I both wanted to go to California. There was a Marine Corps Air Station at Santa Barbara, as well as the one at El Toro. We said, “Well, we'd like to go to the Marine Corps Air Station in Santa Barbara.”

We both got sent to El Toro, which was fine. It was a bigger base and it was actually near more places than Santa Barbara was, and we were transferred out there.

HT:

Do you recall when that was? That was, I guess, the summer of '45.

DR:

No, it was, what—the spring.

HT:

VE Day was in May of '45.

DR:

Okay, then it was right after that. It was probably June.

HT:

Where is El Toro in California?

DR:

It's in Orange County. They just closed it. The civilians out there wanted that base for so long for a bigger airport for Orange County, and they finally got it and they closed El Toro down. It breaks my heart because we had so much fun there over the years.

HT:

Did you do recruiting there? Were you in the recruiting office there?

DR:

No, when I first got there, we were assigned casual duty company for a week or two until they found out where to put us. I was assigned to flight clearance as a flight clearance clerk in the flight clearance office, which was right below the tower. We'd handle all the flight plans for all the pilots that went through the base.

HT:

Did you enjoy that work more than being in a recruiting office?

DR:

Oh, yes. I mean, this was real Marine Corps duty. [chuckles]

HT:

Not secretarial-type work.

DR:

Right. This was real Marine Corps duty. We loved it. You got to meet everyone going through. When the war was over, Joe Foss was at Santa Barbara and he had been through there before and he came down to say goodbye to everyone.

HT:

Who was this again?

DR:

Joe Foss. He was governor of South Dakota for quite a while. He's a real American hero. He was the biggest ace in the Marine Corps in World War II, and he came down to say goodbye to everyone. So I can say I met Joe Foss.

HT:

Did you ever get a chance to meet any other famous people?

DR:

When I was on recruiting duty in Denver in the Korean War, I met John Payne.

HT:

He's a movie star.

DR:

Right.

HT:

I'm assuming that you were familiar with President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt and Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt and President [Harry S.] Truman. Did you ever get a chance to meet those people?

DR:

No.

HT:

What did you think about Mrs. Roosevelt?

DR:

Oh, I thought she was great. I thought he wanted to be a dictator, but I thought she was great.

HT:

What about President Truman?

DR:

Oh, he was great, too. When he was in office, I didn't appreciate him as much as I did after he was out, and I think that's true of a lot of Americans. They realized how great he was after he was out.

HT:

Who was the Commandant in the Marine Corps?

DR:

[Alexander A.] Vandergrift when I went in.

HT:

Was there a woman commandant in charge?

DR:

Yes, Colonel [Ruth Cheney] Streeter. I got to meet her.

HT:

I imagine because the Marine Corps was fairly small.

DR:

Right.

HT:

It wasn't as large as the army or the navy, so I guess you got a chance to meet more people. What type of impact did the military have on your life, talking about World War II now, immediately after you got out in '45? Was it in '45 you got out?

DR:

Yes, November of '45.

HT:

And long term.

DR:

Well, I think it opened a lot of doors. We had five-point veterans' preference on jobs. I wandered around a little bit looking for the right thing to do after World War II. I worked at the Mansfield, Ohio, Airport for a while, and the boss was real jerk. One of the young men that worked there said, “Why don't you become an airline hostess?”

I said, “Okay.” So I signed up for a school in Kansas City that trained people for the airlines, not just as hostesses, but all kinds of airline jobs. By the time I was through with the school, I had a job as a hostess with Continental Airlines, and I think they gave preference to the women veterans, because quite a few of us were veterans.

HT:

Do you think your life's been different because you were in the military?

DR:

I think so. I ended up marrying a Marine.

HT:

When did that take place?

DR:

We got married in his home town in Illinois, but it was during the Korean War. We just got married in his home town because I was in Oklahoma City and he was at Cherry Point, [North Carolina]. I met him at Cherry Point. But my CO [commanding officer] didn't really like it that I was dating an officer, and she transferred me out to Oklahoma City on recruiting duty. She said they were looking for recruiters, and since I had experience she was sending me. [chuckles]

HT:

After the Second World War, after you got out, you worked for the airlines for several years.

DR:

Right.

HT:

Then you rejoined the Marine Corps in fifty—

DR:

I was walking down the street in Denver in probably '51 or '52, and I saw a woman in a Marine Corps uniform, and I said, “You know, that's still the best-looking outfit on the street.” I went right into the recruiting office and said, “I want to join the reserves.” So I joined the reserves, and I can't remember exactly when it was. It was probably the summer of '52, or the fall of '51. It wasn't too long until they called me and said, “This Korean War has really heated up and we need someone right here in the recruiting office right now to type up all these papers. Are you interested?”

At that point I was working for a railroad, Union Pacific. I hated the job. It was supposed to be a good job and it paid well, but I hated it. I said, “I'll come anytime.” They said, “How about tomorrow morning?” [chuckles]

I was in the recruiting office the next morning and I had to call my mother and say, “Mother, send me my uniforms,” because I'd left them all at home. She had them in a box. She sent me my uniforms and I was all set. Of course, I got some new ones, too, because I had a uniform allowance.

HT:

When you rejoined, you didn't have to go through basic again, did you?

DR:

No. I was a corporal then. That's what I left out. When I was transferred from Denver out to El Toro—because we were temporary sergeants, so that we could live on the economy—we went right back to where we were, to a PFC. It was hard to explain that place on your sleeve where there'd been sergeant's stripes and then you had a PFC stripe on there. It didn't matter much, but it was a bit of a low blow. [chuckles]

I was a corporal when I got called back in, and I was there on recruiting duty until they kind of got caught up on paperwork. Everyone was being called back in at once. You remember that, probably. When they got caught up on the paperwork, they said, “Okay, corporals are not supposed to be on recruiting duty and we don't give people these temporary sergeant warrants anymore, so you're going to have to go.” And I got transferred to Cherry Point. That was kind of a low blow, because Cherry Point was kind of bleak. I arrived there in December of '52, I guess. Yes, December of '52.

HT:

How long were you at Cherry Point?

DR:

Until October of '53. That's when Major Wilson transferred me back to recruiting duty in Oklahoma City.

HT:

You did quite a bit of traveling.

DR:

Right.

HT:

Then when did you get out of the Marine Corps completely?

DR:

When my husband and I got married in February of '52. No, I'm giving you the wrong years. I was called back in in '50. I got out in '52. I was giving you the wrong years. Called back in in '50 and transferred out to Oklahoma City in '51. He kept trying to fly out there to see me, and he managed to have some part of the airplane break down so he could spend a couple of days. Finally, his commanding officer said, “Why don't you marry her and bring her back to Cherry Point.”

So he called me up and said, “Major Pennington says we'd better get married.” [chuckles]

HT:

How did you and your husband meet?

DR:

At Cherry Point. I was working in flight clearance and he was a pilot. Well, I went out with a friend of his for a while, a real nice guy. He introduced me to Don and someone else had been telling me they wanted me to meet Don anyway, and so after I met Don, then we started dating.

HT:

After you got married, I assume you left the service.

DR:

Right. See, they wouldn't have stationed us together, because I was enlisted and he was an officer. There's no way we would have been stationed together. We would have been separated. So I put in for inactive duty and got it, no questions asked, because they understood the situation. We went from Oklahoma, he picked me up in Oklahoma City and we drove to Illinois and got married in his parents' house, then went on to see my parents in Ohio and then back to Cherry Point.

HT:

Did he remain in the Marine Corps?

DR:

He spent thirty years in the Marine Corps.

HT:

I'll bet you did a lot of traveling during those thirty years.

DR:

Right, right. We spent a lot of time at El Toro and a lot of time at Cherry Point, some time at Pensacola and some time in Hawaii. He spent an awful lot of time in Japan. He flew transports, and so he wasn't actually based in Korea or Vietnam. Most of the time he was based in Japan and flew back and forth with the transports. We got to spend a month with him in Japan when he was over there.

HT:

Can you tell me the difference between—you've alluded to this a little bit earlier in the conversation—what the difference was between World War I and the Korean War and how women were treated who were in the military? It sounds like after the world war was over, I think, most women left.

DR:

Right. There was a corps of women who stayed in, and they were sent to the different places to organize troops when the women were sent back to the bases. Mostly we were treated well, except like I said, in Oklahoma City when I was on the Korean duty, it was very hard to recruit. A lot of men had probably dated women in the Marine Corps in World War II, but didn't want their girlfriends back home to know about it and they would say bad things about women in the service. Now, that's my impression. Because we'd try to recruit and they'd say, “Well, my dad told me,” or, “My brother told me,” this and that, which was a bunch of baloney. It was very hard to recruit.

HT:

Did you go out to high schools and things like that to try to recruit some of the girls, or at the colleges? How were women approached?

DR:

Usually the whole bunch of us, the [U.S.] Army, [U.S.] Navy, [U.S.] Air Force, Marines, nurses, we usually went together. The Lions Club was very supportive of us, and invited us to their meetings in different towns and invited anyone that was interested in joining the service to come to their meetings. The Lions Club was really wonderful to us. They helped us more than anything else. It would be put out over the radio and this and that that we were in town to recruit, and people would come in if they were interested.

I was on the radio quite a bit. Different personalities would interview them in the different towns where I went and talk about women in the military. But recruiting was very difficult during the Korean War compared to World War II. I mean, everyone wanted to join and everyone wanted to help in World War II. It was just absolutely different in the Korean War.

HT:

I guess it was a different climate or different atmosphere. I guess there wasn't as much support for the Korean War because it was undeclared, for one thing.

DR:

Right. Right, that's probably the main thing.

HT:

That's what the difference was.

DR:

Yes.

HT:

Going back to your World War II days, when you did get out, had you ever given any thought to making it a career perhaps? You mentioned that some women did stay.

DR:

Not at that point, because everyone was getting out. But when I went back in during the Korean War I put in for OCS [Officers' Candidate School], because I thought if I'm going to stay in, I want to be an officer. I put in for OCS and I was too old. [chuckles] I think I was twenty-five and I was too old for OCS—or twenty-six, whichever. So I said, “Okay, I'm going to apply for the warrant officer program,” which I would have if I'd stayed in longer. But when I got married, I didn't do that.

HT:

If you had to do it over again, would you join the military?

DR:

Oh, yes.

HT:

It sounds like you had some wonderful times.

DR:

Best times of my life. Honestly, we had a wonderful time. During World War II out in California, we were right up the valley from Laguna Beach, and that was our hangout. We went down to Laguna Beach for liberty and met the guys down there. There was a bus that ran down from the base for a quarter each, just to pay for the gasoline, and a quarter each back home. If you missed the bus, there was always someone that had some gas in their car and would take you back to the base. We had wonderful times, just wonderful times.

HT:

Can you describe your adjustment to civilian life? You've sort of alluded to it a little bit earlier. You joined Continental Airlines and that sort of thing, but what was the transition like for you from the very strict military? Of course, Marines are real tough anyway.

DR:

That wasn't hard. Just trying to decide what I wanted to do, that was a bit difficult. I went back to my home town, which was a small town. I didn't want to stay there, so I had to figure out something else to do. I love my home town. I know more people there than I know in Raleigh, but it's so small, everybody knows what everyone else is doing. There is no real job opportunity. I love to go back, but I didn't want to go back and live there.

HT:

You'd mentioned earlier that you do consider yourself as an independent person. Do you think the military made you that way, or do you think you were independent before you got in the military?

DR:

Well, I wasn't independent before, because I had always lived in one town all my life, but I think that our parents made us want to be independent. They didn't want clinging vines. I think most Southern girls are mama and daddy's baby; they're perfect. We weren't treated that way. When I went away to college and saw these Virginia girls and some from North Carolina, they were entirely different people than I had been brought up to be. Some of them got homesick and went home before two weeks were up in college, and I knew that my parents were sacrificing to send me to college. There's no way I would have cried and gone home. I was homesick, too, but there's no way I would have done that. I was given an opportunity and that's the way I felt about life. I think that's why I was independent.

Of course, while I was married to my husband all those years that he was in the Marine Corps, he was gone a lot and I had to be independent. I had to be able to do things for myself. I had to be able to take care of the kids and the house and the cars. The cars were always the biggest headache. [chuckles]

HT:

Run everything.

DR:

Right.

HT:

Did you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trend-setter when you entered the service?

DR:

Well, I think so. My sister definitely was. She joined the first day women went in the Marine Corps. I think we were, because a lot of women just wouldn't have done it.

HT:

What made your sister join? Did she ever tell you why?

DR:

I don't remember. She was living in Cleveland, and she joined the first day they took women in the Marine Corps. I don't know exactly why, but she loved it, too. She really loved it, too.

HT:

Did she stay in after the war ended?

DR:

No. No, I think she got out a few days before I did. My brother got out last.

HT:

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

DR:

Now, I don't know what you mean by “feminist.” I don't understand all this.

HT:

Well, I'm not sure. I was going to ask you to define it, if you did think it. I guess, in the last, what, thirty years women's rights have really come to the forefront. Women want equal rights. That's the way I sort of look at it. Someone who's feminist is someone who says that women should have equal rights as men.

DR:

Oh, I believe that.

HT:

Same pay, same respect out in the field.

DR:

Yes, that's the way I feel.

HT:

That's the way I look at it. Other people may have different definitions.

DR:

Yes, I feel that way. At the time I went to college, I wanted to be an architect. My dad said, “You'll never make it through four years of school. You'll get married.” So my older sister had gone to Kent State [University] for a year as a music major, and then she went to Otterbein College for a year as a music major, then she realized she didn't have the talent to get anywhere with music. So then she went to Oberlin Business School and got her business diploma. So my dad said, “You might as well do what Jean did and go to business school.” He said, “We want you to go to college.”

That's the reason I went to Mary Washington, because they offered the two-year secretarial program in the college. But at that point, women were teachers or nurses or secretaries.

HT:

They had so few opportunities.

DR:

Right. Like I said, my dad said I'd never make it as an architect. I probably didn't have the talent. He probably did me a favor.

HT:

One never knows. Now, there were a few women architects in the twenties and thirties.

DR:

There were some doctors then, too.

HT:

Some doctors and some lawyers, but they were few and far between.

DR:

Right.

HT:

They were really trailblazers in their field.

DR:

Right. For a while I worked for an obstetrician. His mother was the first woman psychologist. Not psychologist, psychiatrist.

HT:

So that's another thing that was very, very rare.

DR:

Right.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes and heroines were from those days? Either Korean War or World War II.

DR:

Oh, gosh.

HT:

They don't have to be national figures, they could be—

DR:

Of course, [Chester A.] Nimitz and “Chesty” Puller. Of course, Joe Foss. Gee, I don't know.

HT:

Who is “Chesty” Puller?

DR:

He was a famous Marine Corps colonel. “Chesty” Puller. “Chesty” was his nickname. What was his real name? I can't think of his real name.

HT:

What did he do?

DR:

He was a famous Marine. He was out in the Pacific. He wasn't a pilot; he was just a famous Marine out in the Pacific. We heard more about the Pacific war than we did the European war, because the Marines were in the Pacific, and [U.S.] Army and [U.S.] Air Force were in Europe. Of course, the [U.S.] Navy was everywhere. But we lived the Pacific war, because that's where most of the Marines were.

HT:

Your brother was in the—

DR:

Air Force.

HT:

—air force, so he was in the European theater?

DR:

No. No, he taught. He was sent to radar school back when it was secret. No one said the word “radar.” He was sent in civilian clothes for a year and a half for his radar training and then he taught down in Florida down near West Palm Beach. I can't think of the name of the base now. Just when the war in the Pacific ended, he was on his way out to the Pacific in a B-29. So he didn't actually see any fighting, but he was sent to Samar in the Philippines for a year or so before he got out, which he really enjoyed.

HT:

Have any of your children ever been in the military?

DR:

My son joined the army for a short while, but he broke his foot in training. Back in the time I was in, we would have put him in the hospital and gotten him well and he would have gone back on active duty. He broke his foot; they gave him a medical discharge.

HT:

When was this?

DR:

Oh, gee, '75 or '76, I guess. He just didn't know what he wanted to do, and they said, “Well, we might teach you to be a helicopter pilot,” and he thought that would be fun, so he joined the army.

HT:

Did your having been in the military, your husband having been in the military, influence him to join?

DR:

I don't think so. They were very anti-military for a long time, along with the kids their age. Anti-Vietnam, anti-everything.

HT:

Do you have any daughters?

DR:

Yes, I have a daughter.

HT:

Did you ever encourage her to join?

DR:

No.

HT:

She didn't want to join or anything like that?

DR:

She wouldn't have even considered it. That's not her kind of thing. Regiment of any type is not her type of thing.

HT:

That's so strange coming from two ex-Marines. [chuckles]

DR:

Well, I think they just had too much of it. The MPs [military police] hassled them at Cherry Point. Going in and out the gate, they'd take my daughter's purse and throw it on the ground and have the dogs smell it for marijuana. My son drove a school bus. One of the MPs followed him and hassled him all the time. They were hassled by the MPs down there terribly.

HT:

This was in the sixties and seventies?

DR:

Just before Don retired in '74, the late sixties and early seventies. The MPs weren't nice to the dependent kids.

HT:

That's so strange.

DR:

Or maybe it was because they were officer's children, I don't know.

HT:

How do you feel about women in combat positions?

DR:

Well, if they want it, I think they should be allowed to do it, really.

HT:

Because I know quite a few have been in combat, especially in Iraq back in the early nineties, during the Gulf War and that sort of thing.

DR:

Right.

HT:

I saw something on TV the other day where women are flying off aircraft carriers and things like that now, which is quite unusual.

DR:

Well, if you watch JAG, you see them doing it there. You've got to watch JAG. That woman that's the female Marine Corps lawyer there wears almost the same uniform I wore. The shirt's different and the tie is different, but the hat's the same. It's the same color.

HT:

Nothing's changed in fifty years, right?

DR:

The hat is gorgeous, just gorgeous. I'm glad they didn't change it.

HT:

You don't still have your old hat, I guess, do you?

DR:

No, I wish I did. I really wish I'd kept it. When I got out, one of my friends had just been assigned to the general's airplane as his hostess and she didn't have enough uniforms. She was my size and I gave her almost all my uniforms. I wish I'd kept the hat. I really do. The hat was so pretty. It had that red cord, and we had to wear red lipstick that matched the cord. Your lipstick had to match the hat cord.

HT:

I've never heard of that before.

DR:

But that was true. If you wore nail polish, it had to match that, too.

HT:

What types of jobs were available for women in the Marine Corps in those days, both the Second World War and the Korean War? I guess it was mainly clerical type.

DR:

No, it wasn't mainly clerical. They were aircraft mechanics, they were in the motor pool repairing trucks and cars and driving. They drove these great big old buses and cattle cars around the base. Control tower operators, link trainer operators, instructors, cooks, bakers. Of course, some of the women ran the barracks. Oh, gee, I can't even begin to think of all the jobs. They just did just about everything. Some of them worked right in the squadrons repairing airplanes. Of course, when the squadron moved out and went overseas, they didn't go.

HT:

That's really amazing.

DR:

They did just about everything.

HT:

Is there anything that we haven't covered that you'd like to include in this interview?

DR:

I don't know.

HT:

I tried to think of all the things that might be pertinent, but I'm sure I've left some things out.

DR:

When I was called back in in Denver during the Korean War, that's when John Payne was coming to Denver to publicize the movie, Tripoli, and they sent me in a convertible out to the airport to meet him. So I got to meet John Payne. Delightful gentleman. He was from Roanoke, Virginia, and he was a true Southern gentleman. His father had been a judge. He said his father was so busy, his mother played football with the boys. [chuckles] Everyone that went out there, me and two guys, maybe two other guys in the car and myself and then John Payne. Bill Pine, who was a producer of that movie, we all had drinks together at the hotel. Then the next night we all went together to the premier of the movie. He was a delightful gentleman. I was so glad to get to meet him.

HT:

Did you get to escort him around the base and that sort of thing, show him around?

DR:

We didn't have a base there in Denver.

HT:

Just the office.

DR:

Yes, right. He was staying at the Brown Palace Hotel. He sat down at the piano and played and sang Blue Moon. I said, “Gee, you play the piano well.” He said, “I play by ear.” I took piano for years, but I could never play by ear. I'm envious of anyone who can. He had a beautiful singing voice.

HT:

Didn't he have a television program in the fifties? Am I thinking of the same person? He played in Miracle on 34th Street with Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood. That's John Payne, right?

DR:

That was a movie, yes.

HT:

That's John Payne, right?

DR:

Right, that's the John Payne. He was in that movie, yes, that's played every Christmas. He was in a lot of military movies, too. He was in the air force in World War II, stationed at Denver at Lowry Field.

HT:

I don't have any more questions for you this afternoon, but I do appreciate you talking to me so much. It's been a lot of fun.

DR:

It's been enjoyable.

HT:

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

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

HT:

I'm at the home of Mrs. Rice, and she has a few more things she wants to talk about today. By the way, it's October 31st, 1999. Mrs. Rice, go ahead and tell me your story.

DR:

My most embarrassing moment was when I was on a bus going between Denver and Florida to see my brother and sister. I took a train, I think, to Montgomery, Alabama, and then had to take a bus. You just caught whatever you caught then. We weren't allowed a reservation; you just got on what you could get on. I was on the bus going through rural Alabama, I think it was. I don't think it was Georgia, I think it was rural Alabama. Every seat was filled on the bus.

I noticed that the blacks were in the back and the whites were in the front, but a black woman got on—we called them “colored” then—with a baby in her arms and a little child about two hanging onto her hand. I did what I would have done anywhere I'd ever lived; I got up and gave her my seat, because there wasn't a seat on the bus. The bus driver stopped the bus and told me to either get back in my seat or get off the bus.

HT:

Were you in uniform at this time?

DR:

I was in uniform. I was embarrassed to death. The way I was brought up, gentleman got up out of their seats for ladies, young people got out of their seats for older people. Anyone got out of their seat for someone holding a baby. And that's my embarrassing moment.

HT:

That's truly an amazing story. When I first came in a few minutes ago, I also mentioned that I'd like you to tell me a little bit about your life after you left the Marines the second time around in the early fifties and got married and married a Marine. Could you tell us something about what you and your husband did and where you lived and what type of family you raised and that sort of thing?

DR:

We were at Cherry Point first, after we got married. Had an apartment in New Bern, [North Carolina], an old farmhouse apartment upstairs. No air-conditioning. In fact, there hadn't been any air-conditioning in the barracks there either. We made the best of that. Then they opened some new quarters out near the base and we moved into these. No air-conditioning there either. Boy, I don't know how I ever lived without air-conditioning now.

Let's see. I can't remember how long we were there when he got transferred out to El Toro. He was flying Fairchild Packets then, and they sent him out to El Toro to fly the R-5Cs—no. Well, it was a DC-4. Commercial name, but it was a DC-4. But when he got out there, they decided to send a squadron from out there that was flying the Fairchild Packets over to Japan to fly in the Korean War. Since he was already checked out in that, he was immediately put in that squadron and shipped out to Japan. I found a house to rent there until he came back.

When he got back from there, since he'd only flown transports, he thought he'd help his career out and ask for jets. They said, “Well, we're not putting transport pilots in jets.” So he asked for helicopter and they said, “No, we need transport pilots.” So we were sent down to Pensacola and he instructed in Pensacola then. That's where our children were both born, in Pensacola.

HT:

You were not working at this time, I guess.

DR:

I worked while he was overseas that time. I worked at Ken Miles' Villa Marina in Newport Beach as a receptionist and secretary and that kind of thing. Desi Arnaz had his boat there then, the Desilu. His lifeboat was called Desi's Little Dingy. [chuckles]

But after we got to Pensacola, I was pregnant right away and I didn't work there. We didn't have air-conditioning there at first, and I got dehydrated while I was pregnant, so the doctor said, “Get air-conditioning,” and we did.

We were there until the kids were twenty months and five months, I think. Got transferred back to El Toro and we took our two air-conditioners with us. Some of our friends said they had orders to Pensacola, we said, “Here's something you're going to need.” [chuckles] They bought the two air-conditioners from us.

Let's see. How long were we in California then? Then Don got assigned to jets. He was sent to Kansas to jet training for, I think, six weeks. We had bought a house when he was overseas the first time, so we moved back into our house out there in Santa Ana. Just loved it. I can't remember exactly how long we were there then, but he was sent back over toward Korea. No, we were sent to Cherry Point first, I think. I'm not real sure. We went back and forth between El Toro and Cherry Point so much. But he was sent back over there from Cherry Point. The kids were already in school.

Then we went back to California again, because there was nothing to do at Cherry Point and I didn't want to stay there. His first sergeant's wife went out to California, too. Her husband was going overseas with Don, and we had become real good friends, so we had houses near each other. Her kids were old enough to baby-sit my kids. She worked for Southern Bell and I worked for Avon, selling Avon products while the kids were in school. Then we got together and did things with the kids, and when we wanted to go out, her kids babysat my kids. That made the time go pretty fast.

Let's see. When he came back from there, he had orders to Hawaii and he said, “I don't want to go. They'll put me at Camp Smith and I'll just be on the staff and I'll hate it.”

I said, “You are not passing up a chance for us to live in Hawaii.” [chuckles] So he thought about it, and so we went to Hawaii. He was there fifteen months when the Vietnam thing was going on. The general called everyone together and told them that they were going, that the whole brigade was pulling out. We waved goodbye to them when the airplanes left. The general called all of us together, all the wives together, and told us that the men were really needed over there. He brainwashed us real good. So Don was gone again for over a year.

When he came back from there, we were stationed at El Toro again. We almost bought a house, but decided it wasn't well built and moved into quarters on the base. We lived there, I guess, probably four years. That was the longest we were ever in one place. Four years, and he got orders back over there again for the Vietnam War. The kids wanted to stay in the same school and we couldn't stay in quarters, so we bought a house in Irvine so they could go to the same school they were going to.

When he came back from there, we had orders to Cherry Point. That's the last place we were stationed before he retired. The kids graduated from school there, high school there.

HT:

So all this time you did not work outside the house, other than working with Avon, it sounds like.

DR:

When we were buying that last house, it was kind of expensive living, so the kids were old enough to be alone after school, and I worked for Aetna Life and Casualty as a transcriber. You got paid by the number of words you typed, listening to tapes, you know. It was kind of interesting.

HT:

I think you mentioned yesterday that you had worked for Continental Airlines, is that what I recall?

DR:

Right.

HT:

Did you ever want to do that type of work again?

DR:

Back then, if you were married and had kids they didn't—now you can stay, but if you got married, they wanted to get rid of you. The hostesses were supposed to be glamorous back then. They wanted you to be single and definitely no kids. The other day when I was flying out to St. Louis to see my brother-in-law and his wife, I couldn't believe how old some of them were. They looked like they were forty-five. [chuckles] For me, that's old for a hostess. But after all, it's just a job. They didn't treat it as just a job back then.

HT:

I knew that, but I'd forgotten about those rules. I think they were probably changed in the seventies or something like that.

DR:

Probably.

HT:

I can't remember exactly. Then how did you end up living here in Raleigh, North Carolina? And tell me a little bit about your farm that you talked about yesterday.

DR:

When it was time for Don to retire, he had a heart attack and they wouldn't let him fly anymore. So he stuck around for a while, but he wouldn't even look up when the airplanes went over. I said, “Don, it's time to retire.” He had thirty years in, so he said, “Okay,” because he was just heartbroken about not being able to fly anymore.

Our daughter was at UNC-Chapel Hill, and we had been back and forth taking her up there and coming back to get her and all that and we liked the area. There was a gasoline shortage, and we couldn't really drive around the South like he wanted to do and try to pick out a place to live, so we came up here and looked and looked at Chapel Hill first and couldn't afford anything there. Then we made an appointment with the realtor. He'd fill up the tank with gas before heading up here. Came to the appointment with the realtor and she showed us, I think, four houses, and we signed up for the one we bought that day. Don had always wanted to have a little farm and it had fourteen acres. We signed up for that house that day.

That was in February, and he didn't retire until the end of September, but we knew with this big decrease in pay when he retired, and the kids in college—our son was starting ECU [East Carolina University] that year, too—that I'd have to work. So I took the civil service test while I was still down there at Cherry Point, for clerk typist, I guess, because I figured I'd forgotten my shorthand. I got five points veterans preference and they were calling me and offering me jobs before I even left Cherry Point, because with the five points I had a pretty good score.

So I came up and went to work right away. Let's see, end of August, I guess. Don didn't retire until—I think it was September 30th, but I got a job before he even retired.

HT:

What year was this?

DR:

Nineteen seventy-four. I worked for the Office of Personnel Management downtown in Raleigh for a while and then I was sent out to interview for other jobs that came in. We had a list of everything that came in through there for civil service, and I was interviewed for several jobs. The one I took was with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] in Durham, in the Mutual Building in Durham. The guy that hired said, “Well, I know you're fifty, but I like that, because you're not going to go out next month pregnant and stay out for a few months.” He said, “I think you're going to be steady,” so he hired me. [chuckles]

I stayed there until I had ten years, I guess. I had to combine my military time with the federal time to get enough time for some retirement. Then I had to work a few more years to get enough quarters for Social Security. I think I worked a total of ten years there, maybe eleven.

My husband went to work as a zoning administrator for Wake County and he worked there ten years. We both retired at sixty-two. No, he retired before I did. He wasn't sixty-two yet when he retired. But then we've been here ever since.

HT:

Yesterday you showed me your greenhouse where you grow orchids. Can you tell me a little bit about your days when you grew orchids commercially?

DR:

I just started growing them as a hobby and it's addictive. You get one you want another one, because they don't bloom all year long. You want another one that's going to bloom next, and then another one that's going to bloom next. So I had started growing them before I retired. I wanted to take up golf when I retired, and my husband said, “No, you're spending money on orchids. Now start making money with orchids.” So he went out and bought a used greenhouse. The guy had used it to raise tomatoes, decided that there wasn't enough money in that. So Don took it apart, with some help from friends, and moved it on to our property, and put it back together. He said, “Now get in the orchid business.”

So I had to buy orchids to sell orchids. All the years that I was doing that, I never really made any money, because I always buying stuff to sell. When Don died and I decided to get rid of the business, that year I made enough money to have to pay income tax, because I didn't buy, I was selling. That's the first time I made any money on it, but it was fun. The people were interesting. Don didn't want to talk about all the specifics of orchids. He wasn't interested in that, but he went to the shows and liked the people, enjoyed the people thoroughly. We put in exhibits in all the cities around here that have orchid shows. It was a lot of fun, but now I just have them as a hobby.

HT:

That's great. Is there anything else that you can think of that you might like to add to your interview?

DR:

I don't think so.

HT:

Again, thanks so much for talking with me again today. It's been a lot of fun again.

DR:

Thank you.

HT:

You're so welcome. Okay.

[Tape recorder turned off/on.]

HT:

I forgot to ask you what happened after the bus driver told you to either sit down or get off.

DR:

Oh, everyone on the bus was staring at me, and I was mortified, but of course I sat down. We were out in nowhere. I think it was Alabama, I don't think it was Georgia, but we were out in nowhere. I couldn't get off the bus out there with nowhere to go or not knowing anyone, so I sat back down. But I just thought it was terrible, that poor woman had to stand there and hold the baby and hang onto this child.

HT:

I was going to say, what happened to the woman?

DR:

She stood there.

HT:

No one else got up?

DR:

Probably eventually someone in the black section left and she got a seat, but I don't remember it. I don't remember how much farther I went on the bus that day. I didn't go all the way to Florida. I had to change buses again somewhere before I got to Florida.

HT:

That's quite a story. Thanks for sharing that with us.

[End of interview]