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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Jane Morey, 1999

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Object ID: WV0114.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Jane G. Morey’s early life and her service in the Coast Guard SPARs from 1943 to 1945.

Summary:

Morey discusses her love of reading; early aspirations to be an antiquarian; knowledge of the war in Europe during high school; and reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Morey chiefly describes her SPARs training and experiences in New York City. She talks about the influence of recruiting ads; encouragement from her mother to join the service; being rejected by the Marines; boot camp training exercises, including drills and the captain’s review; reactions to women in the Coast Guard; the slogan “Free a Man to Fight”; living at the Biltmore Hotel during training; setting the organization standard in basic training; group living; SPARs specializations, including cooks and bakers, storekeepers, and yeomen; and standing watch on a troop train. Topics related to New York include the nickname for assignment in New York City; inspections of damaged ships; living in a Manhattan hotel in New York City; fight matches between sailors; her opinion of President Franklin Roosevelt and her shock at his death.

Morey also focuses on her social life, including plays, movies, dances, and dates and meeting her future husband; short courtships during World War II; her friendship with the male lieutenant colonel that she worked for; and her military wedding. Other topics include her husband’s experiences as a navy diver in the Philippines during the war; her disappointment at having to leave the SPARs; patriotism; and advantages of her military service, including discipline and increased independence; the difficulties of being a military wife; taking care of her children while her husband was away; and her opinion of women in combat.

Creator: Jane G. Morey

Biographical Info: Jane G. Morey (b.1922) of Beverly, Massachusetts, served as a Coast Guard SPAR at the New York City Merchant Marine Inspection Unit from September 1943 until March 1945.

Collection: Jane G. Morey Oral History

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project. Today is Wednesday, November 3, 1999, and I'm in Wilmington, North Carolina, at the home of Mrs. Jane Morey.

Mrs. Morey, thank you for agreeing to do this exercise in self-disclosure, and I appreciate you contributing to our project. I've got about thirty questions which I'm going to ask you this afternoon, and I trust that the first question will not be the most difficult one I ask you, and that is, where were you born and where did you grow up?

JM:

I was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and I grew up in Beverly, which just adjoins it. Spent all my childhood and school years there in Beverly.

EE:

Excellent. Did you have any brothers and sisters?

JM:

I have a stepbrother, and he's now in California. We were the only children.

EE:

What did your folks do for a living?

JM:

My own father was a physician, and Mother, in her youth, had been a secretary to a judge, when she met my dad. And later years, he continued, until his death, as a physician, and then Mother was a homemaker.

EE:

So you graduated—were you a public school kid?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

So you graduated from—was it Beverly High School, or am I that lucky?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Oh, excellent. No big name to write down. All right, Beverly High School. Were you somebody who liked school when you grew up?

JM:

Well, I don't know. I think because I'm such a reader, I enjoyed school, except for math and arithmetic, that was my downfall.

EE:

You're not the first one of us to have that problem. Did you know when you were young what you wanted to be when you grew up?

JM:

I really hadn't thought that much about it, to be honest. When I think back, I don't think I had a particular—yes, there was one particular goal. As I said earlier, a reader. I was fascinated with Little Women and Louisa May Alcott, and my dad took me on a day's excursion to Concord, to the home of Louisa May Alcott, and I just fell in love with it. And that's what I wanted to be, the antiquarian at Orchard House.

EE:

Excellent, excellent. All the archivists back in Greensboro will be happy for that chance. What year did you graduate from high school?

JM:

[Nineteen] Forty-one.

EE:

Was Massachusetts' high schools then, was that at twelve-year, or eleven-year?

JM:

Twelve.

EE:

We were a little slow in North Carolina, getting that. In 1941, you graduated in May or June, I guess, and during your high school years, there's a war in Europe. Now, most teenagers aren't too concerned with foreign affairs, but were you? Were your classmates?

JM:

I think that some of us were, the boys. When we graduated, in our yearbook, we had pictures of the kids, boys, that had already enlisted, and some, had already been killed, in '41.

EE:

So they left school early to join the service?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Because there was a buildup before Pearl Harbor even, with people going into the service.

JM:

It was before ROTC. They just enlisted. Eager. Thought they were going to save the world, I'm sure.

EE:

Well, what was the conversation in your household like? Were people anxious about the war before Pearl Harbor?

JM:

I can't recall, to be honest with you. I really can't remember.

EE:

What did you do after graduation?

JM:

Much to my father's disgust, I worked in a five and dime, and I did go to business college for a couple of years

.
EE:

You did that in the fall after—

JM:

Yes.

EE:

So you'd work during the day and go to school at night?

JM:

No, I went to school through the day. I started out going to school and then working on weekends, and then I wound up doing it steadily and gave up school.

EE:

You were living at the house then?

JM:

Oh, yes.

EE:

So you were at home when Pearl Harbor Sunday came?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

What do you remember about that day?

JM:

Like everybody, you couldn't believe it, because of the time change, it came in late. I remember, my girlfriend and I always walked on Sunday, and when we came home we heard all about it. Couldn't believe it. It just didn't make sense, because we thought, there was never anybody that close to us to give us any damage or to threaten us in any way. At that time, there was no—and throughout '41, there really wasn't that much about women in the military, and so were, you know, just worried about the fellows, the boys that we knew. And that was about it, that I can recall.

EE:

When was it that you joined the service?

JM:

1943, I believe it was '43.

EE:

So you had finished business school and had some job someplace else. Where did you go after—

JM:

No, that's where I was.

EE:

You were at home?

JM:

Yes.

EE: And in '43—but I guess they started the WAACs [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] and the WAVES [Women Accepting Voluntary Emergency Service—Navy] in '42. What made you think about joining the service?
JM:

I used to have my radio on at night when I was reading and going to bed, and they kept putting on these recruiting ads and I thought, “Gee, that sounds good. Oh, gee, that sounds pretty good.” And I went out to my mother one morning and I said, “You know what? I think I'm going to go and see about enlisting in the service. It sounds like it might be interesting.”

She said, “I don't blame you. I think it would be a wonderful thing to do. Think of the people you'd meet and the things you'd do and the places you'd go, which you wouldn't be doing here.”

She was looking at that side of it. And I have come across girls in my group whose parents were so horrified; they would not have their daughters enlist. But she encouraged me. So I wanted to enlist in the Marines, but for some insane reason—their food must have been very, very tough—because I had had four teeth out—I don't know whether it was my four molars or what, but I'd had some teeth extracted and they had told me I didn't have enough teeth. I said, “Well, fine.” So that was in February. I went to Boston to check them out.

Then later in the fall, still wishing I could do that [enlist], I think it was maybe in the summertime—the Coast Guard had a block party in Beverly, and I approached the little girl who was pushing enlistment. I said, “Well, they told me I didn't have enough teeth,” and she just grinned. Maybe that was an excuse they gave me that they didn't want me, I don't know, but anyway, she just grinned.

EE:

Sounds like it.

JM:

And she said, “Well, we've lowered our requirements.” So the Coast Guard didn't care if that was the reason I was banished by the Marines. But I'm glad they did. I preferred the Coast Guard anyway.

EE:

Your mom was all for this. I guess, at that time, you were not allowed to go outside of the country, were you?

JM:

No.

EE:

How did your dad feel about it?

JM:

He wasn't too thrilled, but my parents had separated when I was just a toddler, more or less, so I saw him infrequently. It used to be, maybe when I was younger, growing up, I used to spend a few weeks a summer with him and then see him on a weekend or something. So it didn't really matter to me what he thought.

EE:

It was your mom that was going to give her signature.

JM:

Yes.

EE:

But you had to get her signature, I guess, in '43, because you were under twenty-one, or did you have to—

JM:

No, I was twenty-one. In fact, I might have been twenty-two. I was born in '22.

EE:

So you joined in Beverly, or you had to go Boston to join?

JM:

I had to go to Boston.

EE:

I have not talked with but one other SPAR [from “Semper Paratus-Always Ready”], so tell me, where did you go for basic, and what did you do?

JM:

Ooh, where did we go for basic? Oh, I went for the season to Palm Beach, Florida.

EE:

That's a good recruiting tactic, isn't it?

JM:

I went to Palm Beach in September and left in May of—no, I left in April. This was our training station, the Palm Beach Biltmore. Rough, wasn't it?

EE:

Trying to weed out the ones who can't cut the easy life.

JM:

[looking at picture] This was what they called the “grinder.” This was Lake Worth. We used to have to march and have our drills, and yet I found, talking to people, nobody went through the training we went through in the Coast Guard. Some of them never had drills. Well, we had drills here, and way back up further—well, under here, further, had been gift shops. But they were classrooms, for us. And right in here, they had a ship's deck, with a bell. I have a picture of myself at this bell.

EE:

So you practiced being on ship. Did they let anybody go on ship?

JM:

No. No, I don't think so. But we had—any exercises were all within that area. See, it was sold afterwards. I think I've got some pictures here. Yes, there it is, a little bit of view.

EE:

And what was the name of that lake?

JM:

Lake Worth. That was where we drilled and there are our classrooms, and that's where the ship's deck was.

EE:

And so you actually stayed then in the hotel rooms?

JM:

Oh, yes. We had six girls to a room. Three bunks, double bunks.

EE:

Now this is compared to some of the women who joined the services with like forty and fifty women and group showers and all this other stuff.

JM:

We had it made in the shade. And we used to have an admiral's review. That's when Congresswoman—where is she—over here—Congresswoman Smith from [Maine]—

EE:

Margaret Chase Smith?

JM:

Yes, Margaret Chase Smith, and the admiral of the Coast Guard was there. We had the admiral's review, for what occasion, I don't recall, but every Friday afternoon, we all marched in the street and went to this golf course. Here's some of them marching. And we had our own band, and we'd go and have the captain's review every Friday. Here it was. This is the way we used to stand. There's the Biltmore, way in the background. We had to march in the street. Everybody stopped to look at us.

EE:

Was this near a male Coast Guard facility, too?

JM:

No, but they had males, because over here in the outer areas, we had—the drillmasters were male. I think our own women were cooks, but I may be wrong, because we had a cooks and bakers school there. But I know our drillmasters and there was some shore patrol, and then the instructors—the typing, the shorthand instructors, and that. Yes, we did have—they were assigned to it.

EE:

So what, about half and half, as far as your instructors, men and women? Or were most of them women?

JM:

No, we had more women. We had more recruits. The fellows weren't as many as we were, but they could—see, if they wanted to be a teacher, let's say, for shorthand, and he would have—we had a yeoman's school, we had a cooks and bakers school, and we had one other one. What the heck was that one? Cooks and bakers. Storekeepers. Storekeepers school.

EE:

So that was the three basic classes of work that they were looking to get—

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Now, this was for enlisted folks to join. Did they have an officers' training some place else, or were officers trained there as well?

JM:

I don't think we had officers' training there. I think they all came out of Hunter, and then after that, I don't know where they went. There was another one somewhere, and I don't recall.

EE:

Hunter up in the Bronx?

JM:

Yes. We had our own women officers there. Did we have a—if it was a captain that was a man, or—I know there was a woman, but it seems to me there was man in there somewhere. Had to be because he would come to all the reviews. But I don't remember ever seeing the fellow.

EE:

You joined in what, October?

JM:

September.

EE:

September of '43. How long was basic for you, two months?

JM:

Six weeks, and twelve weeks of school.

EE:

So six weeks, and then you—okay, that's your graduating ceremonies.

JM:

Yes, this is the anniversary.

EE:

Oh, for the first year of SPARs, I guess?

JM:

Yes, from '42 to '43. Oh, it was Captain Keester. Why couldn't I remember Captain Keester?

EE:

It sounds like a memorable name.

JM:

Yes. This was SPAR's anniversary.

EE:

And she was part of the reviewing party, Margaret Chase Smith, again?

JM:

Yes, that must have been what that admiral review—

EE:

Dorothy Stratton, she was the head of the—

JM:

Yes, she was the one who was assigned to be commandant of SPARs. She was a lieutenant in the Coast Guard. We had our own sun and surf club, they called it. We had to march through the street to get there, and pass all these little hotels where the older folks were sitting, and just sitting and rocking.

EE:

So you knew you were curiosities when you were down there? Was there a lot of publicity, as far as PR? Did you have to have a lot of publicity shots, or how far—

JM:

Yes, there was some.

EE:

You were one of the first classes, were you not?

JM:

Our class was Y-12, yeoman school 12, so we must have been the twelfth school there. There's that ship's deck with me holding the bell.

EE:

Oh, my. Well now, one of the things that I'm doing is collecting photographs, so I'm going to have to browse back through here and see if we can't borrow some of these, at least to make some copies of. SPAR Beach—SPAR Beach was on the lake?

JM:

No, this was on the ocean, and there was a beach club, but I think it was connected to the Biltmore, because it was a private beach, of course.

EE:

So when the Biltmore was taken over by the service, they got the beach, too?

JM:

Apparently so, because we had the ocean and we had a swimming pool and we had our own obstacle course. And I mentioned that to the other girls and they all said, “We never had that.” We went up the cargo nets and the whole bit. I mean, we were ready for anything, and we never got there.

EE:

You could have invaded some place. [unclear], if nothing else. So you were there for six weeks for basic, and then another six for yeoman's school?

JM:

Twelve. Twelve for school.

EE:

All together.

JM:

It was eighteen.

EE:

When you joined up, did they give you a choice of the kind of the work that you would like to do?

JM:

Well, based on what you had done in the past. Because I had my commercial school training, business school, that's why I got in to the yeoman's school, which is secretarial work. And when it came to storekeepers, with arithmetic, count me out.

EE:

So I guess you had to pass a typing test down there and they graded accordingly.

Although it's only six to a room, that is group living and more so than what you probably had before, since you were living at home. It was a new experience, group living, for you. How did you adjust to that?

JM:

It was kind of fun. We all got along well. I remember the first room I went in we were still in civilian clothes. And I was always Miss Neat and I had my clothes folded and I was taller than I am now, so I had the top drawer and I put my stuff in there. And our company officer came on board and she checked to see what we were doing and she thought that looked pretty good, so everybody had to follow what I had done in my drawer.

EE:

Wait a second. You mean, you were neater than the military standards, and then they elevated the standard to meet the [unclear] standard. Is this what you're telling me?

JM:

Then, yes, because, I mean, she was trying to make—we had on our civilian clothes and we were yapping, “When do we get our uniforms?” She said, “Be happy with what you're wearing. It's going to be a long time before you see these colors again and whatever.” When I moved to yeoman's school, still within the Biltmore, I didn't rate the top drawer, and that company commander wanted everything rolled, so that was fun!

But all the girls were nice. I had one girl who was Polish, but she was an American citizen—she had been in Poland with her father, or her mother, and she came back later and she enlisted in the Coast Guard. She had organized a group of sharpshooters in Poland, and she used to sit there in the evening and study and she would do her shorthand class notes and whatever in—

EE:

In Polish?

JM:

In Polish. This was her. She was a sharpshooter. She got medals in the military competition. Every now and then you would hear her in her sleep, she would be crying and she would think of the girls that she had left behind that were being killed, and she wished she had never started it, because she felt responsible for these girls. She had organized the sharpshooters, like, you know, military women, and she started it. She used to cry at night because she felt—not every night, but she—

EE:

Wonder why a sharpshooter would join the SPARs, where there's no riflery.

JM:

Oh, she did.

EE:

She did that in the SPARs?

JM:

Yes. She did. They had shooting ranges and so forth.

EE:

So was she an instructor or something?

JM:

I don't think she was an instructor, but she sure got a lot of medals for shooting. She left Poland in 1936. In 1937, she was refused passage to return, and she knew her girls fought bravely, and some died, and she will always—and she still said others were captured. But she was a fabulous young lady, fabulous young lady.

EE:

Well, I think that's what happens to everybody. They go out into the world and they meet people who have stories that are special. Did you know anybody else from back home who was in the service? Any women? Most everybody knew somebody who was in the service.

JM:

Was a young girl came in while I was in yeoman's school to boot camp, and she was from my home town. Rosamond Churchill. We needed to have overcoats to go out, close to the Christmas season, yet it wasn't cold. But you had to have an overcoat. We hadn't been issued overcoats yet. But the new recruits coming in had overcoats, so I looked her up so I could borrow her overcoat, so I could go out.

EE:

There are a lot of service stories I've heard that when they were getting started, you'd be halfway through basic before they even had uniforms, some of these folks. When you left—well, was this the first big trip away from home for you?

JM:

Yes, except going to Maine in the summer.

EE:

First time to take a Pullman down, I guess?

JM:

Yes. We had a sleeping car Pullman, and the group from Boston were the only ones, apparently, that had it. We were part of a troop train, and in the daylight hours, coming through, I was amazed to see the trains going through the streets like you see on here. We didn't have that. Trains were on the outskirts, but going through the South, the trains were going right through town. And we had to stand watch on the train. Nobody else—who had enlisted and going to boot camp from other parts of New York, Jersey, Pennsylvania—nobody stood watch, only the Massachusetts draft did, Boston. It was instilled in us when we stood watch that you were not to let anybody in the car, because this was a troop train, and we just don't let people wander around.

So it was my turn, and I sat there, the door beside me, when there was a knock on the door. I was in civilian clothes, of course. There was a knock on the door and I looked, and there were two sailors. I said, “Uh-oh, they're not coming in here,” and I kept shaking my head “no” and they kept trying to tell me something and I just completely ignored them. The conductor came and he unlocked the door and said, “These young fellows are shore patrol. They're going to go through the car, then they'll come back.”

I said, “Well, I was told not to let anybody in the car.”

And he said, “Well, it's all right. I'll vouch for you.”

So they went and did whatever they had to do and come back and he looked at me and said, “You're doing a fine job.”

EE:

In other words, you'll be good military. You're doing what you're told.

JM:

My first assignment.

EE:

That's great. That's before you even get to basic.

JM:

Didn't even have a uniform yet. But I had my armband on.

EE:

That's great. When you finished basic, where did you get assigned?

JM:

New York City. We always referred to it as the “Battle of the 7th Avenue Subway.”

EE:

Where were you stationed in New York City?

JM:

42 Broadway. Was it 42 or 45? 42 Broadway, I believe. Merchant Marine Inspection Unit.

EE:

And the Merchant Marine was a separate organization from the Coast Guard?

JM:

But they were under the Coast Guard [in war time].

EE:

They were under it at that time?

JM:

Yes. At that time.

EE:

What was your job when you were there?

JM:

I was yeoman to a lieutenant commander, Captain George Skene, and he was responsible for how ships were to be repaired, that had been under fire and came back to port, that were on that—what did they used to call that thing? You wouldn't remember, so I can't ask you. The ships that would plow the Atlantic.

EE:

Basically, ferrying supplies to England?

JM:

Yes, those. Convoys and stuff like that. He would go to the shipyard and check damage. He'd come back with his paperwork, which consisted of eight-by-ten black and white glossies of the damage—say it was a crack, and he would have it outlined in white ink, for his records, and then I'd have to do the same thing, to be included in repair reports required to be sent back to the shipyard, where the ship was. Also, outlined on the blueprint of the whole ship, where the damage was. Then he gave me what he had—he wrote everything down, and I'd have to type everything he had written down, checking his spelling. There were all these reports. And it was interesting.

EE:

So you were working—this was a, was it a nine-to-five shift for you, regular work day?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Five days a week, six days?

JM:

Five.

EE:

Five a week.

JM:

It used to be, you were supposed to work from say eight to five, nine to five, whatever it was, and of course, by five minutes to five or ten minutes to five, you were folding up your tent and getting ready to slowly sneak away, and he'd always say [in jest], “You've got a few more minutes. You're not a civil service worker.”

EE:

Were you the only woman in the office?

JM:

Yes, in that office. But there were others. There were about three other SPARs in the whole unit, but I was his yeoman. And we were in our own little office.

EE:

How many people were in this office altogether, this Marine Inspection?

JM:

At least five other officers, including the—

EE:

And all of them had similar work, as far as inspecting ships that were coming in?

JM:

No. Captain Skene was in charge of ship inspection. There was about six, maybe, civil service workers. This unit also issued to maritime men their licenses, i.e., the engineers and the skipper's license, but it wasn't called that. They'd be in another office, taking their exams. Civil Service, I think, was the one that wrote up whatever license they needed.

EE:

So part of the office was doing that licensing for Merchant Marine, and inspection in sort of a preventative way, and then your particular, Captain Skene, was doing the inspection of damaged ships. This would be damage from, just from enemy fire or from any ship that was in and that needed repair?

JM:

Any of the ships that were in the—most of them were in convoys at some time or another, but they were all ships that were out, active in the Atlantic. In other words, the tankers, etc. And there was a name for this but I can't think of it. I should remember it.

EE:

I know there's a name out there because I would tell it to you, but I'm the same way. I want to say something “pipeline” but that sounds too trite, but maybe it is. This damage is mostly what, torpedo?

JM:

Yes, probably, is what it would be. Some of it would be cracks and then there would be holes. Just most anything that, you know—collision.

EE:

You're typing up—how many copies you got to get of every document?

JM:

We had the old mimeograph machine.

EE:

I talked with one woman who had to seven carbon copies of everything.

JM:

I don't recall just how many. I know they had to go to Captain Skene, I know they had to go to the shipyards, and probably had to go to the skippers of the ship. Probably easily, at least—you said seven; there might be a total of seven. I'm not sure.

EE:

This was the type of work that you did from—I guess you started this right after Christmas, then, in '44?

JM:

I was there in the spring.

EE:

Spring of '44?

JM:

Spring of '44.

EE:

And you were doing this to the end of your service in the SPARs?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Which ended in when?

JM:

[Nineteen] forty-five.

EE:

August or after? I assume you were in for the duration.

JM:

March.

EE:

Okay, you were discharged in March. When you were doing this work, downtown on the Battery, how far were you from Times Square?

JM:

Oh, gosh, I don't know. Forty-two blocks? No, it had to be more than that. I was down on the Battery, they call it, opposite where the Statue of Liberty is, and the little ferries that used to go to Staten Island, that part of the town, the Battery.

EE:

Did you live in an apartment; did you live in a barracks? Where did you live when you were there?

JM:

Hotel.

EE:

Wait a second, you entered the service, and you stay in Palm Beach, and then you get put up at a hotel in downtown Manhattan?

JM:

At Seventy-eighth [Street], I think it was—Seventy-second Street, one of them. Anyway, in the seventies, on Broadway.

EE:

What was the name of the hotel?

JM:

That one was Embassy, I think.

EE:

Was this whole hotel taken over by military?

JM:

The Coast Guard took it over, and we had one or two floors. The top floor was civilians, they were older folks. We took over the dining room, and were told, the French chefs as well. And we had sort of a canteen and what I guess would have been the tea room at one time. It was a hard life.

EE:

I was going to say, it sounds rugged. And again, I guess, you were what, were you more than two to a room, or was it two to a room?

JM:

Three. Three to a room. One double bunk and a single bed, and the two rooms connected, and we shared a bath.

EE:

I imagine it's tough recalling all these tough times back there. Did they serve you a common meal or did you have a budget for your expenses?

JM:

I don't know. We ate very well.

EE:

You ate very well. The folks who you were working with—I guess, did their radio ads say, “Free a man to fight,” is that what you remember?

JM:

That was the gist of it. I thought a recruiting poster ran that. But I know before I was sworn in, I went to Boston with some friends who were giving me a dinner party. We met some sailors, and I've forgotten the ship, the Bunker Hill. They were on the Bunker Hill. There were two or three of them there. One in particular was very, very arrogant, and very, very mad. He did not like women in the military at all.

And of course, I thought I was doing something great. I'm going to be in the military, I'm going in the Coast Guard. And he said, “You know what you're doing? I've got a good job sitting right here at a desk. I'm very happy with what I'm doing. But you people are coming in and I'm going out and risking my life.” Which was true, but he was very, very mad about it, and was not the least bit sociable.

EE:

Well, that attitude was—but that was from somebody not in that office. That was before you even joined, you got that attitude?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

Did you have any negatives from the people you worked with in your office?

JM:

Not a one. Not a one.

EE:

But I imagine you were replacing a man who had that job before you came in.

JM:

I don't know. They might have created it for me. I don't know.

EE:

That's true, that's true.

JM:

When I first went there, I was to be a yeoman to another commander, and he was not popular, and he would really look down at—kind of almost browbeat you. There was different type of work. I've forgotten now what it was, because I didn't stick with him too awfully long. When Captain Skene was in the office there at the same time at his desk, he observed it. When he was getting his own office and he needed a SPAR with him, he took me.

EE:

We talked before we even started the tape that it was a different time and that you didn't—you talked to some of the friends in the Azalea Anchors WAVES group that people didn't experience discrimination or harassment. You were accepted, at least on a professional level, in the office. You didn't have any—how about folks on the street? I assume when you were out in public, in New York, you were in uniform. And of all the places you could be stationed, I imagine that's a pretty exciting place to be for off hours, after work. What was social life like for you?

JM:

Oh, great. We used to go to a Park Avenue office across from Grand Central Station, and get tickets to all the plays and stage shows. And they were free, as I recall.

EE:

Servicemen get a lot of breaks, and the servicewomen.

JM:

And then you went to the movies. It was something like fifty cents, if you wanted to go to the movies. And on Sundays, the American Theater Wing had a tea dance on Sunday afternoons, and various members of the theater and entertainment world would be your host and hostess. When two girls would walk in, two, you know, military girls, we'd walk in and they'd look around and they'd say, “We have a table for you. Have we got a seat for you,” and they'd take you over to two single fellows that were sitting there. Then they'd have dance music, the popular bands that were playing in the different lounges of the hotels, would play music for the afternoon.

EE:

Well, now, did you have a boyfriend before you went into the service?

JM:

Yes, I did.

EE:

Did he go to serve? Did he serve?

JM:

Oh, yes. He was a glider pilot. We corresponded, and also another fellow that was straight army. He was in Africa, and he would send me telegrams, which was easier for him than to write a letter. On our uniforms were flaps to false pockets on the chest and under the flap I had pinned a small wings pin. As I brushed my shoulders, and we were always brushing, I would flip up that flap occasionally. This happened one day while I was with a navy chief. Our next date he wanted to know if I was involved with anyone in particular. So the next date, he asked me, he said, “Are you involved, whatever, with anybody in particular?”

I said, “No, not really.” Good friends.

He asked, “Is he overseas?”

I said, “Yes, he's overseas.” He was a glider pilot.

He said, “Well, I just don't want to be stepping on anybody's toes that's out there. I just want to make it clear.”

I said, “No, we're just deep, good friends.” So the next date, he brings me a little chief's pin to put on there. I took off those wings.

EE:

So you met him at some social event in the city?

JM:

A blind date. A blind date.

EE:

You're not the first. A lot more people did blind dates in those days. You all were brave.

JM:

Well, my roommates were going to those professional football games on Sunday afternoons and they were going with these chiefs that were going to the diving school there, at Pier 88 and 92. So they approached me one Friday or whatever and they wanted to know if I wanted to go to the football game on Sunday. I said, “I don't want to be a third wheel. No, no, no, no, no.” This is the way it was put to me: “We've got a date for you, but we're not asking anybody else.” I thought, “Oh, he's either great or he's flawed.” We had an elevator in our hotel that we rode, so I thought, “Well, I'll just go down and take a gander and if I don't like, I'll just stay on the elevator.” I kind of liked what I saw.

EE:

Good, good. What was this young man's name?

JM:

His name was Harlis Morey.

EE:

Excellent. And what time of year was this, fall? If they were doing football, it must have been fall of '44.

JM:

Yes. Yes, it was. We met on the fifteenth of October. It was a Sunday. And from that day on, we dated most every single night. If we were between paydays, we would walk. We didn't mind walking all along Broadway. You could always tell when it was payday, because we'd take a cab, and dine at a restaurant, go to the movies and whatever.

But then there were times when he had the duty. I remember going to what they used to call “smokers,” where the boys would fight. Young sailors would fight, and if they won they would get a weekend off. That was what they were fighting for, to get a weekend liberty. When I had the duty one time, he came and sat at the barracks while I had my little thing to do, which was nothing, really. Just to be there in case—to run errands, be a gopher.

EE:

You said he was at diving school. Was he an instructor?

JM:

No, he was taking a class.

EE:

And where was he going to be going? That class wasn't going to last forever.

JM:

No, it wasn't. He went to the Philippines. The Philippines had dumped all their money, coinage, in the bay when the Japanese were coming, so they were down there bringing up their coins.

EE:

He was a treasure hunter.

JM:

He was in the—

EE:

Navy?

JM:

Navy. Yes, he was a chief.

EE:

This would have been early '45 when he went?

JM:

Yes. He went New Year's Day.

EE:

When he left, had you all decided to make it serious?

JM:

We were married in December.

EE:

I'd say that's pretty good. So it took you—once you know it's right, it don't take you long, does it?

JM:

Three months. But you see, it was a war, and you'll find there are a lot of people that had those short courtships. There was a movie out, and I love to see it—I've seen it a few times—called The Clock, with Judy Garland and Robert Walker—that was the same idea. Quick. You just never knew. When they were going overseas, they themselves didn't know what was going to transpire from there.

EE:

So you basically had to enjoy today because you didn't know what could happen tomorrow.

JM:

Yes.

EE:

How long was he overseas?

JM:

He came back in—he left in '45 and he came back in the fall of '45. He left in January, I remember that, January of '45, and he came the first of October, or the middle of October, of '45.

EE:

How long did he stay in the service?

JM:

Twenty. He finished his twenty in '58.

EE:

Excellent. So once you joined the military, you joined for the long haul and didn't know it, did you? When you all married in December, did the Coast Guard say, “Mrs. Morey, it's time for you to leave the service,” or what happened?

JM:

When he left the first of January, that New Year's, neither one of us knew I was pregnant when he left, and I when I found out I was pregnant, I was very upset because we had decided I would stay in and, between the two of us, we would have a bank account when he came back or when I got out, we'd have, you know—

EE:

Have some money.

JM:

Where to go, and what we were going to do, blah, blah, blah. Best laid plans of mice and men. Then it didn't work that way. So I was discharged in March, I believe it was, in March.

EE:

So they were not going to discharge you just for being married? A lot of people had spouses that were overseas, I would guess. But once you were pregnant, it was time to leave.

JM:

Now, they stay in. They have maternity uniforms, now. But they didn't then.

EE:

So for you, it was never an option to go back to the service after having—

JM:

You couldn't have dependents, anyway. Captain Skene, you know, was like my father. I thought the world of that man, and I guess he did of me. When I told him I was going to marry this fellow that he had just heard me yapping about, he said, “I got to see this fellow. I just can't believe all you're telling me.” So he had me make arrangements for my husband-to-be to come and meet him at the office, when he showed up, Captain said, “You can go file something” and excused me. They had a chat and the next morning when I went in, he said, “I think he's a pretty good choice. I think it's a pretty good idea.”

And then when he found out I was pregnant, he was fit to be tied. He was blaming my husband. I said, “That was not the reason. I was just stupid. I've never been away from home before and I didn't know from nothing.” He always gave me the impression that he didn't have wife, that he was a bachelor. He'd always talk about, “Well, I was going to have a date with this one and I told her I'd meet her at eight and I was there at five of and she wasn't there so I left. She wasn't interested enough to be early.” So anyway, he said, “Well, I wished I had known somebody that could have helped you. It wasn't something that I could do.”

The day that I was discharged, we're crying like fools. He's crying, I'm crying, and he handed me a manila envelope with a book in it. He said, “I want you to read this when you get home.” So I opened the book later, the must just reeked out of it. It was called The Realities of Marriage. Bless his heart, he was trying.

EE:

He was trying to teach you all about what you might have missed growing up. Well, he obviously cared about you.

JM:

And then when my son was born, he sent him a silver cup and he told me, “Don't buy his baby book.” He had a baby book, and on the flyleaf of the baby book, he had it rigged up like the launching of a ship, to correspond with our Coast Guard work.

[Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

EE:

In any job, it's nice to have, to work with friends, and they obviously thought of you as that. Did you keep up with him through the years?

JM:

Yes. I had one occasion—while I was still pregnant, I went to New York to the office. I was staying with a girlfriend. We both went to New York where she had business. I went to see him that day. I went back to say good-bye and he said, “Where are you staying?” No, he asked me where I was staying when I first got there, first saw him. I told him whatever hotel it was.

So when we got ready to check out, my friend went down to pay the bill, and I was going to share it with her, she come back and she said, “It's been paid.”

I said, “My gosh. Who do you know?”

She said, “I don't know anybody here that would pay a bill for me. Who do you know?”

I said, “I don't know.”

I went back to the office to say good-bye on the way to the station. I said, “Did you pay my hotel bill?”

“Oh, no, no, no.” He said, “You were not registered at that hotel.”

I said, “Why?”

He said, “You were not registered. It was in somebody else's name.”

I said, “It was my girlfriend. It was hers.”

He said, “Never go in to a hotel and not leave your name. You never know what's going to transpire. For now, you lost a good meal. I was going to take you to dinner.”

He gave me—I think he handed me twenty bucks, told me to have dinner on the train with my friend.

Then I went back after Wayne was born. I went to Florida to spend a weekend with my husband. He was down in Florida. I stopped on my way back to say hello to Captain. I only had so much time between trains, and so we took a cab to Grand Central, and that's when he handed me money, too. He said he wanted to take me to dinner. We didn't have time, so he wanted me to have dinner on the train, and a drink, on him. And prior to my husband coming home from the Pacific, Captain wrote me practically every other week, maybe, two or three weeks, always with nicest of thoughts. Read good books, have good thoughts, then office news, always something.

EE:

And always positive and upbeat.

JM:

When I wrote him, all excited that my husband had come home and my baby, blah, blah, blah, I didn't have any more letters. He stopped writing. But I went to see him, like I said. Later he retired, and I used to always send him a birthday card and a Christmas card. I had sent him the last birthday card I sent, and his wife—which I didn't know he had—wrote me a note and told me that he had passed away, and she said that he always thought highly of me. But yet, he never let me know he had a wife. But she knew about me. And he was one fabulous person.

EE:

I think sometimes we lose—I think my generation has lost sight of what it means to be a gentleman sometimes. He's like one.

You mentioned The Clock. Are there other movies or songs from that time period, that when you hear a song, you think, “Oh, yes, I'm there.”

JM:

Yes. Always is one of them that was supposedly like people say “our song.” But The Clock—Judy Garland and Robert Walker meet on a weekend, and he's got leave and she's going home, but anyway, they needed to get a waiver, which we had to do. I was going to be married at home, so I had sent my whites home so they would be clean and everything when I got there, but they kept extending the diving school. Kept extending it another week, another week. I had a hole, practically, worn in my leave papers. So what was I leading up to? I lost my thought there.

EE:

About, you're going to go home and you're—

JM:

Oh, yes. When we got inside the Marriage Bureau we found out there was no waiver in Massachusetts. We'd have to spend ten days in Massachusetts to get a license. We each had fifteen days' leave, so that would mean lost time. New York would give a waiver, and since they didn't have them in Massachusetts, he said, “Why don't we do that?” Actually he said, “Your mother sounded like she was planning a big affair, and I don't know all those people back there.” I think he said that she ought to save her money, blah, blah.

So I checked with Mother and I explained to her and she said she would understand. She would be disappointed, but she would understand, and we were married in New York. My roommate was in uniform as my maid of honor, the buddy from Massachusetts was a best man, and was in uniform. Another chief from diving school and from Beverly—who knew my mother and father, which was a surprise—he was a witness. And the chaplain was in uniform. So I had a naval wedding, or a military wedding, without the swords.

EE:

[unclear] That's great. So your mom didn't get down to the wedding. She didn't want to come back down?

JM:

No. That one fellow from Massachusetts was our only guest.

EE:

He was there. What did your sister do during the war?

JM:

I didn't have a sister. I was an only child.

EE:

Oh, what am I saying? Oh, you had a stepbrother, that's what it was. And your stepbrother, was he in the service?

JM:

At that time, he was still too young.

EE:

So you get married, and your husband makes the military a career. Do you remember what you were doing on either VE [Victory in Europe] Day or VJ [Victory in Japan] Day? Were you at a base? When you left the service in March, what did you do? You went to Florida, you say?

JM:

No. Back home to Massachusetts.

EE:

Back to Massachusetts. So you're living back with your mom?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

You were with her, I guess, when you got the news that your husband was coming home from the Philippines?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

You were staying at home because I guess the baby, you were probably—at that time you were about ready to give forth.

JM:

Yes, he was born in September. I don't know. The only thing I can remember is when—being where I was when Roosevelt died.

EE:

Where was that?

JM:

In the ice cream parlor, having a sandwich with my mother, that afternoon. We were just so shocked.

EE:

And it was so close to being over, that war at that time. I mean, at least in Europe.

JM:

I don't know, I just don't recall.

EE:

Did you know anything about Harry Truman, after Roosevelt passed? “Who's Harry Truman?”

JM:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. There goes old Harry and his piano.

EE:

What did you think about Roosevelt? Or even Eleanor Roosevelt. What were your thoughts about her, do you think?

JM:

I think, from my little bit of dabbling that I've never been interested in politics, and listening to remarks all these years, I think he was one of the best we ever had. I think he did more for the country, the straits that it was in at that time, I think he did more than anybody has done. With his WPA [Work Progress Administration], people can laugh, but it gave people work and got them off the streets, and CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] got the boys off the streets and things to do. I just think he did more for the country than anybody has.

EE:

The war ends with the, I guess just after the A-bomb drops in August. You had to be feeling pretty good, because you knew at some time, your fellow was coming back home. I assume he was in for the duration, like most folks.

JM:

Oh, yes. Speaking of duration, that's what our enlisted men used to say. “Duration plus six.” Six months. Duration plus six.

EE:

You could have made the military a career. Would you have liked to have made the military a career, in that respect? Maybe if you had stayed with that one commanding officer, you might have.

JM:

Yes, right. But I don't think I would want it as a married person. I think singly, I would have considered it, if I had the opportunity.

EE:

Doesn't sound like the kind of work you had ever put you in physical danger, except for maybe too much luxury. But were you ever afraid, big city?

JM:

No.

EE:

Sounds like everybody did a lot of things together.

JM:

Yes. I remember walking down Broadway one night, probably with my husband or my friends. I was never out alone. And I recognized a couple in front of me and I thought, “They look so much like somebody from home.” High school kids that I went to school with, or below me in high school or something. Anyway, I finally passed them and I looked back and it was that particular couple. They didn't know me from Adam.

But another time what was strange, I was walking with this friend of mine, she was from Brooklyn, very much upset because she left Brooklyn and joined the SPARs to get away from New York, and they sent her right straight back to New York, and she wasn't a bit thrilled. And we were walking down Broadway, and these two cadets were coming along, maybe two or three cadets were coming towards us.

And as we passed, I happened to look and here was this fellow that was our class president when I graduated, I said, “Tommy Stott, what in the world?” and he looked. He said, “What in the world?” So his friends moved on and my friend took a few steps ahead of me as we're standing there, chatting. Anyway, when we finished, I caught up with her and she said, “You knew him? He's cute, and you knew him?”

I said, “Yes, I knew him.”

She said, “Well, are you going to see him again?”

I said, “I didn't stress that point.”

And she said, “I felt about that high, because I'm giving the guy the eye and here you know him.” Small world, small world.

EE:

It is, it is. What was the hardest thing, either physically or emotionally, about your time in the service?

JM:

I can't think of any. The only one was just a silly little thing. But this Polish girl I mentioned to you, we had—that's the only time I was disgusted but it didn't last that long. As I said, we moved into the yeoman's school floor and their clothes were being rolled. All these gifts and parties that had been had for me, I got some panty underwear that was silky and satiny, and I brought them all with me.

And I mean, you try to roll that and keep the rolls neat, rolling satin, it just doesn't. And I mean, you couldn't get the little ends in and everything had to be so-so in these drawers, and I couldn't get those things to—so anyway, and I just sat there. I was on the floor where I could reach the drawer and I'm cussing up a storm, I guess, better than any sailor. I don't know if I did or not but I might have, and I'm just pitching [clothes]. “What did I ever join this outfit for? This is the stupidest thing I ever did.” Going on and on and on.

I threw myself across the bunk and my Polish bunk mate was patting me on the back and saying something, nice thoughts to me, and I'm just sitting there thinking, “What a stupid thing I did. What a stupid thing I did.” She got everything lined up in my drawer just perfectly, and I thought, “How stupid can one be to let something like that throw them into a fury like I went into.” I lost about four pairs of socks and a couple of pairs of underwear because they all flew in the wastebasket that day. But that, to me, was the only time. I mean, I never begrudged anything that we did. I didn't mind the school. It wasn't that hard. And the people that I met, I never had a grudge or a disappointment in any of them that I can think of, being, you know, with that many girls. I just can't think of any reason. Only reason would be that I got pregnant. I wished I hadn't. I'd liked to have stayed in longer.

EE:

Most folks, especially when in service, you meet people from all over the country, different backgrounds and things. Are there any particular characters or embarrassing moments that stand out in your mind when you look back over your time in the service? Things that were just unusually memorable?

JM:

After we were married, we went to the Astor for dinner, the group that was at the wedding. My husband and I were up dancing, apparently someone at the table announced to the waiter that we had just been married. When we went back and sat down after the dance, the bandleader announced that they had a newly wed couple, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and it was for us, and would we start the next dance set.

And we had ordered dinner, and when the waiter came, he brought a cooler on a tripod, with a bottle of champagne. My husband looked and he said, “I didn't order that.” He said, “I didn't order that.”

The waiter said, “I know. This is the compliments of an anonymous person.”

We were facing the stage and the others were facing to the back, and could see more people. They were saying, “Well, it could have been this person. It could have been that person.”

And we thought, “Well, if we just knew who it was, we at least could say thank you.”

The waiter came to the table and he said, “The little lady that just left—she walked with a limp)—is the young lady that sent you the champagne.”

We said, “Well, who was she?”

There was a dance team at that time, a vaudeville team, called Lorraine and Rognan, and they were a dance team, and they used—she always came out—they had three or four dogs—she always came with one of the dogs as a fur piece and then put the dog down [trademark of their act].

They had been on the Lisbon Clipper, which was a big airliner at that time, that had a lot of USO [United Service Organizations] workers aboard, and it crashed, known as the Lisbon Clipper crash, and she and her husband were on it. He was killed, and she was hurt. She sent us the champagne. So we left a note when we left that evening, at the hotel desk, to thank her for it, and I had that bottle. It took me a long time to get that label off that bottle, soaking in water. And I carried the label for a long time, but moving around, moving around, I finally lost it.

And I saw her on TV a couple, three years later. She was on Ed Sullivan or somebody, and I got the address for the show and I wrote her another thank-you note. Of course, I never heard from her but that, to me, was the only thing of any interest, was that somebody recognized us, and who she was.

EE:

Now a lot of anonymous acts of kindness I think that people did, I think it's hard—I was talking about earlier, you know, the time of total war is different. And yet there's a lot of grace and the sense I get is that people were more patriotic then. Were they?

JM:

Oh, yes. Yes, we were patriotic all right.

EE:

Was there fear that we would not win the war?

JM:

I don't believe so. I don't believe so at all. You know, just, when will they be back, when will they be back? Or I'm leaving, and I just don't want to go, but I've got to go. The mails, not gender-wise, but the U.S. mails, with the victory letters, VE letters.

EE:

V-Mail.

JM:

V-Mail. And getting mail, like in my case, and many, many others, you know, mail from overseas—it took so long sometimes to get it.

EE:

And they couldn't tell you where they were stationed, could they?

JM:

No. I knew he was in the Philippines.

EE:

Did you have a little code worked out?

JM:

No. But while he was there, Life magazine was there, and they put a big spread in an issue about it, but I don't remember it being done at that particular time. I think it was done later, after the war that they were digging; they were getting the money, the wealth that had been dumped into Manila Bay. They had done that so that the Japanese wouldn't have their money.

My husband was there when they did this, but it wasn't put out in Life magazine till much later. He had a belt buckle that he wore, that he made. They were not supposed to, naturally, take any of that money, even a piece, as a souvenir. They were not to touch that, but the people with Life magazine were giving the fellows coins, my husband had a coin, and he—I don't know how he did it—but anyway, he got it melted, not melted down, but he beat it all down, and he put his own design on it. Now that I look at it, that was kind of stupid. It looks like a rising sun. It looks like rays coming off—it looks more Japanese than anything, as I look at it. One of my boys has that buckle now. He had his initial, “H.E.” and then Morey, or just the initial, and it was made from one of those coins that came up from the bay.

EE:

What was that, silver, they had dumped?

JM:

Yes.

EE:

When you think back to that time, do you have any heroes or heroines?

JM:

Just Captain Skene. He was my hero.

EE:

You told me that you ended up marrying a military career as well as a military man. Here, your husband served through '57, you said earlier?

JM:

[Nineteen] fifty-eight.

EE:

'58. And during that time, where all did you all go after the war?

JM:

We went to Cuba for two years, in Guantanamo, two and a half years, and we came back to Norfolk, and we were in Norfolk, and we went to Newport, then went back to Norfolk.

EE:

Newport, Rhode Island, then back to Norfolk?

JM:

Yes. And then back to Norfolk. Then back to Beverly, and that's where we retired, in Massachusetts.

EE:

And how many children do you all have?

JM:

Four. My three sons have all retired from the air force.

EE:

Outstanding.

JM:

All three retired. And I have a daughter.

EE:

Your daughter ever have any interest in joining the service?

JM:

Yes, she thought so when she was coming out of high school and her oldest brother, at that time, was in the air force, and he told her, “There ain't no way you're going in the military. No way.”

She kept saying, “Well, I want to go, and Mama went.”

He said, “I don't care. You're not going. It's different. It's different. You're not going.”

She said, the other night, sitting here, and we were watching something or looking at something, and she said, “I just wished I could have gone. Wayne didn't want me to.”

I said, “Well, that's the first time I thought a brother could govern you.”

EE:

It didn't work that way in my household. I've got two younger sisters. I don't think I ever had veto power. Was that during Vietnam, in the sixties, or when was that?

JM:

Yes, while he was in high school. She graduated in '68, so he must have graduated in sixty—what; he was a couple, three years older. How much older?

EE:

'64 or something.

JM:

Yes. And he had been in the naval reserves for two years before he graduated, and the day he graduated, he went down to the recruiters with his buddy, who was going into the air force or somewhere, and he somehow talked to the air force and it sounded pretty good to him. So when he come home, he said, “I've got to tell Dad something and I don't know how I'm going to tell him.”

I said, “What?”

He said, “I'm going to go in the air force. I don't think he's going to like that.”

I said, “I don't think he'll be a bit upset.”

So he finally told his father and he said that was the best thing he could do. He said, “The navy is not what it used to be. You're much better off where you're going. I found that out when I was getting out, and that was a long time back. Well, a few years back. And it's not what it used to be.”

EE:

What did you all do after he left the service?

JM:

He worked for Civil Service in the shipyard at Portsmouth, Virginia.

EE:

So you were there. How did you end up getting to North Carolina from Portsmouth?

JM:

My daughter moved here with her husband and his work, and my husband died. I stayed there for quite a while by myself. He died in 1975. I keep getting his age and his years—he died in '73. I believe it was '73, and I stayed ten years there by myself. And then I came down here and I've been here ever since, and I love it. It's nice.

EE:

And from your military choice, what kind of impact do you think your military career had on your life, long term?

JM:

I don't know. I think maybe respect. My kids had to be respectful, and disciplined.

EE:

Do you still roll stuff up in your drawers?

JM:

They're flat now, like they should have been when I—

EE:

You mentioned that, and I just had a flashback. When I was young, my dad was in the paratroopers, for all of about three months, and watched one of his buddies break both legs, and he became a typing instructor the rest of the Korean War. But growing up, I had this image of everybody else's drawers, underwear is flat, and in my dad's drawer, everything is rolled tight. That's why. That's why. Do you think that time in the service made you more of an independent person?

JM:

Yes. Because being a military wife, like so many of us have been, I mean, you're on your own. I mean, I had my kids to raise and I had my house to keep and the bills to see that they were paid, and I have come across some people—matter of fact, my granddaughter, today, with two kids, with all the luxuries around. She can't find time to do this and can't find time to do that. And every once in a while she'll say, “I don't know how you did it, Nana. I know I just can't do it.”

I had the three children, two of them in diapers and one brand new—my daughter was brand new, and the middle boy was just thirteen months older than she, and the older boy was twenty-six months older than that middle boy. And my husband was in the Med, and we had a little garage apartment, ocean view, in Norfolk, Virginia. I had no car, I had no telephone, we didn't have television, I had no washer, and there were no dryers anyway.

And I was there for six months. My father passed away, shortly after my daughter was born. She was born in December; he passed away in January. I couldn't make arrangements to go home because I didn't know—do I take the youngest baby because she's not too much to care for? Should I take the oldest one because he can take care of himself a little bit? And by the time I'm bickering, what can I do, can I do, time passed and it was too late.

But I had an insurance policy he had had given me many years earlier, so I called the insurance company and they came and told me collect a thousand dollars. The first thing I did was get a washing machine. That was the first thing I bought.

When you say military, everything had to be just so. Even today, I think I find myself doing it. But when I had those three babies, I'd get them up in the morning, get them dressed, give the baby her bath, put her down for her morning nap, take the boys out, if the weather was right, which, usually, it was. Take the boys out on the pavement, play with them, whatever. Bring them back, everybody got lunch, the baby got her lunch, took her down to the beach in her buggy. The boys had their nap, then I'd come back to get the boys, because I knew it was time for them to wake up, take them down to the beach, bring them back later. Everybody got supper. Everybody got a bath, and got put to bed. I did laundry, by hand. When I'd finish with the laundry, I'd sit in this large chair we had, similar to that, and I'd write my husband a fast note for the day. Then I went to bed.

EE:

And the next day, same thing.

JM:

Yes. Then when I had to go for groceries, I couldn't go to the commissary because I didn't have any way of getting there. The closest thing was a supermarket, and I'd take a bus, for probably three or four blocks, go to the grocery store, and get a cab and come home. And I'd have the little fellow, I guess he was twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old, sit in the apartment with my kids till I got back, and that's the way I did my grocery shopping.

EE:

But you had to do it and you knew that you were in charge. Most of the time that your husband was in the service, he was away—if he was stationed in separate places? It's the nature of being in the service that you're—

JM:

That was about the only time, when they were that small, that we separated —other duty stations; it was land duty, pretty well. He didn't have to go on cruises very often.

EE:

Did you associate a lot with the other wives, or military folks? Was it different, by your having had experience in the service yourself?

JM:

No, some of those people were—they also were military girls. Some of them would be WAVES and some might be Army girls. But we all pretty well went along the same way. I mean, we had days that we dropped children off to—pre-school is what they call it now, but it was kindergarten then—and we'd rush around to get to the commissary and get back in time for the kids. Not many of the days away did we have by ourselves.

EE:

When you look back, do you think you contributed to the war effort?

JM:

Captain Skene said we did. He always wanted me to get a ribbon.

I said, “I can't get a ribbon. I never even left the shore.”

He said, “But you're keeping all these ships afloat. You should get a ribbon. I'm going to see if we can't get you a ribbon.”

I don't think he ever went any further with it, because I haven't got a ribbon anyway.

EE:

Some folks, when they look back, and one of the reasons we're doing this project is because World War II is the time, for the first time, that you have women entering the military in large numbers. You have women really doing men's work, in large numbers. And when people look at the history of things like the women's movement, they say, “Well, if you want to see a real start, you'd look at women in the military.” Do you think of yourself and other women who did that sort of thing as trailblazers, or do you think that's giving too much credit for things?

JM:

No. I think when you look at some of the women that have—you've got your girl—of course, not all of them have been trailblazers, but I was thinking of the space—but none of those girls—

EE:

Astronauts like Sally Ride or whatever?

JM:

Yes, but they wouldn't have been—well, they could have been in the military. I think they have been. I think they have been, come to think of it. Yes, they have been. I was thinking of the teacher.

EE:

Christa McAuliffe.

JM:

Christa. But the last couple, I think, were military girls, had been in the military—no doubt [U.S.] Air Force or Marines. And I think that they may not have got to that position—to have had such an honor to be able to fly in space—if they hadn't been in the military, to have served. And they had to start somewhere, like we all did, in basic, and work your way up.

EE:

Do you think there are some jobs in the service that women should not be allowed to do, or do you think the service should be open in all of its positions to women?

JM:

I don't think they need to be in combat yet. I think a lot of it is, they're trying to prove their point that they can do it, and I think they're sacrificing themselves to do so. I think there's so much that can be done, like we were doing. Of course, and then it's an elaborate—now, I mean, what with computers and technology. I mean, with a computer, you wouldn't have to be out on the firing line, you could be behind there firing something.

EE:

That's right. Pressing a button.

JM:

Yes, just press a button.

EE:

It doesn't take any more strength to press a button from a woman than a man, does it?

JM:

Right, right. And I think the women, they're just not getting enough knowledge—that they're there, and all you hear about are the men doing this. But there's always a woman behind there somewhere.

EE:

We had, I think, just this last year at Christmastime, when we bombed Iraq, was the first time that we sent a woman into combat, as a fighter pilot. What do you think of that?

JM:

I think if they're trained, and they are, and that's—it's like a goal that you've had in your life. Like somebody who wants to be a movie star and they go to all these things, to work to their goal. I think they have worked to their goal, and I think that they would be qualified to do so. It's a lot different now than it was back in World War II. Planes are much—you know, with computers and all that stuff now. I hate them. But technology is much different, and I think it's universal that they all do the same thing now, where nobody has to be an expert at this. I think they're all pretty well equal.

EE:

Well, I've about shuffled these cards as much as I can shuffle them. Is there anything that I have not asked you about, about your experience in the military that you'd like to add?

JM:

No, I think you've covered it very well. I just hope it made sense, anything I had to offer.

EE:

I think it made more than sense. I think, it sounds to me like your time in the service was a pretty good experience. You found a husband, you found a great boss, you found it was a tough life being in the barracks, maybe, but other than that, it sounded like a wonderful experience. And I appreciate, on behalf of the school, you taking the time to sit down with us today and share these thoughts.

JM:

I hope that some of it is what you wanted.

EE:

Very much so. Very much so.

[End of interview]