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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Helen Boileau Hester, 1999

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Object ID: WV0128.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Boileau Hester’s service in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point during World War II and her life after leaving the Women Marines.

Summary:

Hester describes learning about the attack on Pearl Harbor; her parents’ reactions when she joined the Women Marines; train and bus travel; culture shock upon arriving in North Carolina; segregation in the Marines; working in the post exchange; treatment of Women Marines by male Marines; ages and previous careers of Women Marines; friendships; accidentally walking into men’s barracks; meeting and dating Ras Hester at Cherry Point; patriotism; President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; and celebrating VJ Day in Santa Ana, California.

Hester also discusses contracting polio while pregnant in 1948; the advantages of her military service, including greater independence and willpower; her opinion of women in combat; women’s liberation; and the difficulty of keeping in touch with her military friends.

Creator: Helen Boileau Hester

Biographical Info: Helen Boileau Hester (1923-2009), of Spokane, Washington, served in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserves from June 1943 until December 1945.

Collection: Helen Boileau Hester Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University. Today I am in Liberty, North Carolina, at the home of Helen Hester.

Thank you, Ms. Hester, for having us here today to do this exercise. It is December 6, 1999, and Ms. Hester, I'm going to start with you the same question I've asked everybody first thing, and that is, where were you born and where did you grow up?

HH:

I was born in Spokane, Washington, and I grew up there until I left for the [U.S.] Marine Corps.

EE:

So all your schooling is in Spokane?

HH:

Yes.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sister?

HH:

I had one brother. He was older, and he was in the Army.

EE:

What did your folks do for a living?

HH:

My father worked for a produce department in a store, and my mother did private catering.

EE:

Spokane's in the eastern part of the state.

HH:

Eastern part of the state.

EE:

Kind of dry, as I recall.

HH:

It's in between the two mountains, you know, the Cascades and the Rockies.

EE:

How far is it from the Idaho border?

HH:

Is it thirty-nine? Thirty-nine. Not far.

EE:

Not too far.

HH:

Not too far, because we used to run up there all the time.

EE:

Okay. Good. What was the name of the high school you graduated from?

HH:

Marycliff.

EE:

That's one word?

HH:

Yes. Marycliff High School.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

HH:

Nothing special.

EE:

Did you have in mind when you were younger what it is you wanted to be when you grew up?

HH:

I never did know and not to this day what I really wanted to be.

EE:

Was high school in Washington State—was that eleven years or twelve years?

HH:

Twelve years.

EE:

When did you graduate?

HH:

Nineteen forty-one.

EE:

So they had started, I believe, the draft in '40, and I guess some of your classmates in high school were probably already signing up for the draft, weren't they?

HH:

No.

EE:

That hadn't affected you yet?

HH:

No.

EE:

What did you do after you graduated from high school?

HH:

I worked in a department store.

EE:

So you stayed there at the house?

HH:

Yes. And then I worked for Safeway, and when I went into the military I was working for Bell Telephone, Pacific Bell.

EE:

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

HH:

Yes. My mother and I had gone to church late, and we'd come home and turned the radio on and heard it. I was dating a soldier, and he came by the house, and it was the first time I'd ever seen him in a uniform.

EE:

Was there a military base near where you were?

HH:

Yes, yes, Fairgood, Idaho—not Fairgood. That's left me now. It's still there. Fairchild, WA.

EE:

There's a woman that I interviewed who was stationed somewhere near there. She was working with an armored squadron that took photographs. It was a mapping unit that was based there. I don't know what the name of the base was right offhand, but anyway, you were already dating this serviceman and all of a sudden—did your brother get called up for service?

HH:

Yes. I believe my brother was drafted, and I know he was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington. He was in the MPs [military police].

EE:

You were working at Safeway. Were you doing that job when you decided to join the service?

HH:

No. I was working for Pacific Bell, and you could not quit your job because of where it was classified.

EE:

Because it was used for defense. What were you doing for Pacific Bell?

HH:

Switchboard.

EE:

And that was deemed to be needed for security.

HH:

Right. Yes. There were a lot of jobs you couldn't quit back then.

EE:

So how did you end up getting out of that job and into the service?

HH:

Well, in joining the service.

EE:

Joining the service was one way you could get—in other words, if you wanted to leave that job, the only way out was to serve Uncle Sam another way.

HH:

Right.

EE:

So you're telling me that maybe not everybody joined the service motivated by patriotism. Is that what you're telling me?

HH:

Well, I did too. I felt like my brother was in and I didn't know what I wanted. I really wanted to join the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—Navy], but I was twenty and they wouldn't take you till twenty-one, and the Marine Corps started out taking you at twenty. So I went into it.

EE:

Did you know any other women who had entered the service?

HH:

No.

EE:

What did your family think of that?

HH:

My mother was in favor of it, thought it'd do me good.

EE:

And your dad?

HH:

He had no comment. I guess he agreed.

EE:

Was there a recruiting office there in Spokane, or where did you—

HH:

There was, yes.

EE:

So you signed up. Of course, now, you entered in '43, which is right when this is starting. I think the WAAC [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] had been going on for almost a year—started in May of '42, and then they started the other services later that year.

HH:

I think the Marines started in February.

EE:

Of '43?

HH:

Forty-three. So I was in either the twelfth or thirteenth group. I'm not sure.

EE:

I know folks on the East Coast, where they went for basic training. Where did you go for basic?

HH:

We had to come to Camp Lejeune.

EE:

That's a long haul.

HH:

That was a long trip on a train.

EE:

Troop train or just regular pullman or what?

HH:

Kind of both, I think. I think it was pullman. We went to Chicago and changed, picked up our trains there that brought us down to Camp Lejeune, I think. I'm not sure where we got off at. We got off the train, and they put us on cattle buses, and herded us in cattle buses. The first memory I have of that is when they were pushing you in, you know, the seats and everything, and somebody would say, “We can't move back any farther,” and the sergeant said, “In the Marine Corps there is no such thing as the word “can't.” And I have used that all my life, because when I had polio, every time I tried to do something, I would think, “There's no such word as can't.” That's what I got out of the Marine Corps.

EE:

You joined in June of '43.

HH:

Yes. My active date is August.

EE:

So you were in basic for two months, I guess.

HH:

Waiting, yes.

EE:

You were waiting, okay. How long was basic for a woman Marine?

HH:

Well, our group, they had cut it down—I don't remember if it was from eight weeks to six or from six weeks to four, but I know our group was the first one to be cut short.

EE:

Did they ask you or give you some choices before you went in about the kind of work that you might want to do?

HH:

There was things said about it, but I never did reveal that I was a switchboard operator. I did not want that.

EE:

You wanted something different. That's what you joined for. Did you express a preference for where you wanted to be stationed?

HH:

No, had no choice.

EE:

What was a typical day like at basic training for you? Do you remember anything special about basic?

HH:

You had calisthenics bright and early. We had our breakfast. We went to school. We had marching, which I liked. I enjoyed the marching. School was kind of hard.

EE:

School was school.

HH:

School was school.

EE:

That's pretty early on. Were your instructors all women, or were they men and women?

HH:

They were men. See, they hadn't got far enough with the women yet.

EE:

So all your instructors were men.

HH:

Almost all of them, yes.

EE:

Did they give you the same language and attitude as drill instructors often give new recruits that are men?

HH:

I'm not sure. I don't remember that. I know they were pretty rough, but they still had to curtail it some.

EE:

So you think you got a little bit better than the male?

HH:

Yes.

EE:

I guess you were housed in one long barracks down at Lejeune. How many women were in a company?

HH:

[Unclear].

EE:

Forty-three probably was early. I know at some point the services started integrating before the rest of society did and had black women—

HH:

No black women. The Marines didn't have any blacks there, men or women, for a long time. When we were at Cherry Point, they had black men, but they were a separate unit, and they did a lot of the work for the officers, officers club, the cooking and the things like that, but we never seen the black. And I know there were no black women back then.

EE:

You were in for about eight weeks. Where did you get your first assignment after Lejeune?

HH:

Lejeune they announced—gave you your assignment there to go to Cherry Point and some of the other places, but I was assigned to the air force.

EE:

I know Lejeune was sort of built out of swamp there for the war. Had Cherry Point been there before the war, or was that also new?

HH:

That was new, I think.

EE:

What was your work?

HH:

Post Exchange [PX]. First of all, I was in the women's part. They had Quonset huts made so the women could go in and get their own supplies without having to go to the main post exchange. It was set up.

EE:

There are some things that only women would need, and you'd get things there.

HH:

Yes. And they could drink beer in there where they had beer.

EE:

So it acted like an enlisted person's club, an NCO [non-commissioned officers] club, I guess, an NCO club.

HH:

No, not NCO. It was just a Quonset hut for women.

EE:

How many women were stationed at Cherry Point?

HH:

I don't know. I have no idea. I know there were 120 in the squad room I was sleeping with.

EE:

Well, that's more than I would have thought. And they were doing all sorts of—you know, the services used women differently.

HH:

Yes.

EE:

I don't think you could go overseas as a Marine.

HH:

No.

EE:

I think later you might have been able to go to Alaska or Hawaii with the WAVES.

HH:

They went overseas toward the end of the war. You had to sign up for eighteen months, and it was understood if you went over, you couldn't come back for anything, you know, if your parents died or anything. You had to stay. But were in to replace the men to go. So our jobs were really replacement.

EE:

So for most folks that “free a man to fight” really did apply, what they were doing?

HH:

Yes. The women went into the offices and replaced the men, and they worked in the hangars, mechanics and things replacing men, all that type of thing.

EE:

Was your supervisor—I guess you were in charge of the PX for like a shift, eight to five or something, during the week. How often was the PX open? Was it just five days a week?

HH:

Every day. And I don't remember about our hours. There was three of us girls working in the hut.

EE:

Did you ever rotate shifts with them?

HH:

I don't know. I don't remember that.

EE:

When you were there, were your supervisors men or women?

HH:

Both. Both sergeants or lieutenants. We had men to deliver our merchandise to our huts and that. That's where I met my husband. We worked together, really. But that was all under men, the sergeants.

EE:

Did you supervise any men?

HH:

No.

EE:

Given the fact, especially the Marines, so many women were coming in to basically send the men off to fight, how were the women treated by the men?

HH:

Some of them were resented, and they had nicknames for us and everything. Well, just kind of normal.

EE:

These are all people who are in their early twenties.

HH:

Yes.

EE:

Most of them. Some branches of the services did have older women in it. Were most of the women in your group about the same age?

HH:

No. We had a lot of schoolteachers—amazing, the schoolteachers. Had lots of schoolteachers, and I even had a neighbor woman that had been a schoolteacher for a long time that went into the Marine Corps. She was a second lieutenant or a first lieutenant or something. A lot of them were. I was surprised at teachers being in.

EE:

How long did you stay at Cherry Point? Were you there for your entire tour?

HH:

I was there till '45, 1945. My husband shipped out. I got married in March. My husband shipped out in April. He signed up. He had been in Cherry Point all the time. He wanted to go. He signed up, and I put in for a transfer then to California, to go out there too, and at that time they were starting to ship women back to where they belonged, their area of the country. Like I belonged to the West Coast, and so they were shipping all of them back so they wouldn't have so much to pay for travel when you're discharged.

EE:

[Unclear].

HH:

And so I shipped out, I think probably in May, to California, to El Toro.

EE:

That's where my father-in-law was stationed. They closed that base down [unclear].

HH:

Santa Ana was such a beautiful town, the orchards, the orange blossoms, and that. That's all you ever smelled. So you were there, and you got out of the service in December?

HH:

December of '45.

EE:

Where did your husband get stationed?

HH:

My husband, when he shipped out to California, they put him in infantry, and he left California the first part of July and went to Maui, and he was on the island of Maui when the bomb was dropped. Those men on Maui were to be the first men to go into Japan on the invasion, and so they sent them on in.

EE:

So they went for occupation.

HH:

They went on in for occupation. Yes. I think he ended up in Sasabo, Japan.

EE:

I'll bet that was probably the happiest group of people to see the bomb drop than anybody, I would think.

HH:

I don't know.

EE:

Because everybody did expect it to, you know—it was great that VE [Victory in Europe] Day had come, but it was still a long way away, it looked like, to VJ [Victory in Japan] Day.

When you married, was it expected that you would leave the service?

HH:

No. No. You had to stay in.

EE:

So you were still tied to that duration plus six or whatever?

HH:

Oh, yes. Pregnancy was the only thing you got a discharge for, or hardship, just like the men.

EE:

Oh, I see. What was your husband's name?

HH:

Ras.

EE:

Was he an enlisted man or a civilian employee at Cherry Point?

HH:

He was enlisted. I don't believe there were very many civilians during the war in places.

EE:

Yes. They were probably too worried about security, I would guess. You were going across country. Had you ever been very far away from home before going into the service?

HH:

No. I think Montana, maybe.

EE:

And you had no family on this side of the country?

HH:

No.

EE:

I know my impressions when I went out to the West Coast were like, “Wow. This is still America.” It is a lot different, isn't it?

HH:

My first impression of North Carolina was coming in on the cattle bus. There were no big trees, and everybody went barefooted [laughter].

EE:

Yes. Welcome to the bad South.

HH:

I just couldn't get over the awful-looking trees. We didn't go barefooted at home, you know, go to school or anything barefooted, and they did down there. But those are the two things that have always stuck in my mind.

EE:

Well, they are parts of the place, and I'll bet they're probably still a part of it. Maybe they're a little bit better. Do you think your time in the military made you more of an independent person than you would have been [unclear]?

HH:

Yes, yes.

EE:

When you first came over here, what did you do for a social life? Not knowing anybody, did you hang out with other women who were in the service?

HH:

Yes. Nobody knew anybody, really. You know, their friends weren't with them or anything. We were all strangers.

EE:

Was that a trouble for you adjusting? Sometimes people don't adjust well to all those new folks.

HH:

I wasn't that type of person.

EE:

It was fine for you. Did anybody ever give you compliments or grief for being in the service? How were you received by either people on the street or people that knew you? What did they think of you being in the service?

HH:

Well, I thought they kind of respected us if we were in uniform. We were down at New Bern, and that was all military. So, you know, you just didn't deal too much with—

EE:

It was a friendly crowd in that area wasn't it?

HH:

I guess so.

EE:

But you were at El Toro. When did your husband finally get back from Japan?

HH:

1946 in the spring. Because I stayed on my job as a civilian after [unclear]—

EE:

On the same job?

HH:

Same job.

EE:

Were you still working at the PX then?

HH:

Yes. They were putting the civilians in to replace the military that were being discharged. So I stayed on the job till he came home.

EE:

Did you all stay in California after he came home, was discharged, or did you come back?

HH:

We started back.

EE:

And he is from this area, you told me, so he's not too far—

HH:

Yes. He's from Alamance County. We started out—we took a bus. It was two months. We went up to my home in Spokane and stayed quite a while, and then we came across the country on the bus. It cost us seventy-two dollars, and we made our stops so that we spent a night or some time with somebody we knew. I think we spent one night on the bus, and the rest of the times were either family, some of my family in Minnesota—North Dakota I had a friend. We got to Pennsylvania, and his buddy in Pittsburgh was there. We stayed there about ten days. And that's what [unclear] main stop.

EE:

With people [unclear].

HH:

And that's how we came across country, right. We got here, I think, in August.

EE:

What did you do when you got back to here?

HH:

We stayed with his brother in Burlington for a while, and he went to work in a laundry, and I believe I did too. I went back to the telephone company.

EE:

When you think back about your service time, did you ever think of making it a career?

HH:

No, because there was no such thing back then.

EE:

No one was encouraged to stay?

HH:

No, didn't hear anything about it, reenlisting or anything. Didn't hear it.

EE:

What was the toughest part about being in service for you, either physically or emotionally?

HH:

Gee, I don't know. I don't remember.

EE:

That means you may not remember anything that was that difficult.

HH:

Yes. I liked it. I liked it. I didn't have no beef about it at all.

EE:

Doesn't sound like that you were in a position that you were ever in physical danger.

HH:

Oh, no.

EE:

Were you ever afraid, being that far away from home?

HH:

No.

EE:

It just wasn't part of your personality? You are with people from all walks of life and all parts of the country. When you're surrounded by folks like that you run into some interesting characters. Are there any memories you have of people that you met along the way in your service time that stand out?

HH:

Well, I have one friend that I still write to, but we worked together, and I didn't realize what an interesting person she was until not too long ago, and I got a letter telling all the things that she'd done in her life. I don't know where—we're just all friends, groups and that, you know, bunkmates.

EE:

Every time I ask this question—I haven't figured a way in four months to do this right. This question says, “What was your most embarrassing moment?” Do you have one?

HH:

Not that I can remember.

EE:

Okay. Or if you remember [unclear]. All right.

HH:

Okay. I'll tell you one. When we were at Cherry Point, of course, it was new and they didn't have places for us, you know. Our barracks weren't being built, and what would happen would be we'd go home on furlough, and when you'd come back your barracks was changed, and you might go your barracks and it was a men's barracks now, or the men might come into your barracks not knowing. We ran into that a whole lot. And we ran into men, even though we had shades, being on the second floor trying to look down through the cracks at the women. They were always after us to make sure we kept our shades—but that was really sad.

EE:

Yes. I can imagine that that excuse for it was. I'm sure it was probably tried many more times than it was actually true. “Oh, yes, they moved my barracks. I had forgotten.”

HH:

You'd come in in the middle of the night, and you wouldn't know.

EE:

What were some of the things that were popular at the PX in the 1940s? What did people buy other than [unclear]? Some things that they probably don't have nowadays.

HH:

Well, a lot of things they bought were things to send to their families and that, and of course, the cigarette [unclear].

EE:

You were not under ration as a service person, were you?

HH:

No.

EE:

That was one of the big advantages of it, then.

HH:

Yes. And they'd buy a lot of cigarettes and send home or take home on furlough. And I worked in the soda fountain a whole lot. I was in charge of the soda fountain for a while.

EE:

I miss cherry sodas myself.

HH:

Oh, root beer floats.

EE:

Yes. Used to go to—Phelps, downtown in Charlotte, had a soda fountain. That was a big treat to go—I used to live in Rockingham—to go to Charlotte to go to the soda fountain [unclear]. So I have empathy for you.

How long were you at Cherry Point? You went there in '43. How long were you there before you started dating the fellow who would become your husband?

HH:

Not very long, because when I went to work he was delivering stock. So I knew him, and we went out all the time. Of course, there it was big going out. We went to the movie every night, because there was nowhere else to go.

EE:

Did either one of you have a car?

HH:

Oh, no. You didn't have cars back then.

EE:

I sort of figured so.

HH:

Some of the sergeants or, you know, officers might have, but there weren't cars.

EE:

Right. I'm just looking at this picture of you two. It must be over here from the time you were in service.

HH:

That's our wedding picture.

EE:

Well, that's great. That's great. That's one of the things that we're doing, is getting photos of people and other mementoes they have that we can display with the exhibit.

HH:

Well, I never displayed that until we had our fiftieth anniversary, and I put that up.

EE:

That's great.

HH:

I had that packed up all the years [unclear].

EE:

Two good pictures. When you think about that time, are there songs or movies that you went to see at the movie theater that, when you see them or when you hear the songs again, take you back and you say, “Ah, yes, Cherry Point. I remember?”

HH:

No.

EE:

You came back, and you came to here in '46, and you said you moved into this house in 1950.

HH:

Yes.

EE:

Now, do you all have many kids?

HH:

Eight.

EE:

Eight? Do they live close by?

HH:

I have one up the street and one maybe about seven miles from here and one in Burlington—two in Raleigh and Burlington, one near Boston, Mass[achusetts], and Elizabeth City and Marion, South Carolina. That's the farthest. [Unclear] one in Raleigh.

EE:

Did any of your children go in the service?

HH:

Only one and he went into the navy. He was six years. He was a land sailor. But the other one that was old enough was in college, and the war was over with about the time he would have gotten ready to be drafted.

EE:

This would have been Vietnam War or Korea? Must be the Vietnam War, '74.

HH:

Yes, somewhere in there.

EE:

Did you have any daughters?

HH:

I had two daughters.

EE:

What would you have thought if one of them came to you and said, “Mom, I'm thinking about joining the military.” Would you have recommended it?

HH:

That's all right if they wanted to. I did what I wanted to, and I thought they were old enough that they wanted to.

EE:

Right. You were in to free a man to fight, to do your patriotic duty. Do you think the country was more patriotic during the war than it is now?

HH:

Oh, yes. We didn't have no riots and rebellion like we do now. Everybody was fighting for the one thing.

EE:

Same thing.

HH:

Yes.

EE:

Do you personally feel that your work helped contribute to the war effort?

HH:

Yes, I think so. I hope so.

EE:

And I guess your folks back in Washington got to put the flag in the window with the star on it that said you were in service, didn't they?

HH:

I think they must have.

EE:

You said they had two?

HH:

They had two of us.

EE:

That's right. Do you have any strong opinions or remembrances about President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt or his wife, Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

HH:

When I was a little girl and [Herbert] Hoover was running and Roosevelt got in, I said, “Someday I may vote for president for Roosevelt,” and I got to vote absentee his last time. That was my first election, absentee for President Roosevelt.

EE:

That's great.

HH:

And I thought he done a wonderful job.

EE:

He certainly went through a lot to get there. What did you think of Mrs. Roosevelt?

HH:

I thought she was good. My mother didn't but I did. I think she was a really smart lady.

EE:

Do you remember where you were when he passed away?

HH:

I was at Cherry Point.

EE:

What did they do that day at Cherry Point?

HH:

I guess they lowered the flags, and I don't remember anything else.

EE:

You have any particular remembrances of either VE Day or VJ—VJ Day probably meant a lot to you.

HH:

Oh, VJ Day was something. We all went into Santa Ana and celebrated. Everybody was getting free beer.

EE:

That will always bring a crowd, no matter what.

HH:

Yes.

EE:

Now, you didn't know at the time that your husband was in Maui, did you?

HH:

Yes.

EE:

You did? How'd you know that?

HH:

I knew his unit was there because the boys coming back would tell us. So I had an idea where he was then.

EE:

But did you know what he was getting ready to do?

HH:

No, I didn't know that. But I knew if the boys were coming back somebody was going over.

EE:

Have you guys ever been to Hawaii?

HH:

Yes, and we went back to Maui. He wanted to see where they were stationed at, but there was nothing but just a little old monument. That was all we could find. That was always his desire, was to take me to Hawaii. So in 1989 my brother and his wife met us over there, and we spent two weeks there. He was a retired military officer so he got to have all the benefits of the post exchange there, the parking lots and a lot of things, and they had been there a couple times before so we had an escort to show us all Hawaii.

EE:

I've heard so many people talk about who went back over there that it looked so different then. You know, it really was the war that made the rest of America discover Hawaii. And then all those servicemen going back for many years is what kept the tourist industry movement over there.

HH:

He always said he wanted to go back some day, it was so pretty.

EE:

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

HH:

No. I don't believe I do.

EE:

You talked about your daughters and you wouldn't have any problem with them being in service, but you know service today is different in what it will allow them to do than what it was in your time. In fact, in December they had the first, I guess, combat pilot, woman combat pilot, go into action in Iraq and [unclear] bomb Saddam Hussein. What do you think about that? Are there some jobs in the military that should be off limits to women, or are you okay?

HH:

Yes. I definitely don't approve of that, because a woman is not strong enough to handle all of that. Our constitution is different, our bodies, and I don't approve of them going into combat.

EE:

When you look back, obviously in this household, the military changed everybody's life because it brought you two together. When you think back about it, your experience in the service and the work that you did, how has your life been different because of your time in the military?

HH:

Well, because when I had polio, my background gave me the strength.

EE:

When did you develop polio?

HH:

Nineteen forty-eight. I was pregnant with my second child. Like I say, there's no such word as can't, and that's what I had to learn. I had to learn how to do everything [unclear].

EE:

Did they figure out how you got exposed to it?

HH:

No.

EE:

Nobody else in the family developed it? Did you have to go off away from home?

HH:

I spent fourteen days down in Durham, and they said they couldn't do anything for me and sent me home. Had they had the proper medical thing, I would have been all right.

EE:

When did Dr. Salk develop that vaccine? That was in the early fifties, wasn't it?

HH:

Yes.

EE:

How did that affect the pregnancy?

HH:

Oh, my pregnancy came out normal. They didn't know how it was going to be affected, because the doctors hadn't had anybody around here like that.

EE:

How did it affect you?

HH:

No, nothing different.

EE:

Nothing long-term, then?

HH:

Well, my long-term was I was paralyzed, my right side and my hand and my arm is, but it didn't affect my baby, because as soon as the baby was delivered the doctor said, “Here,” and he moved his hands and his legs to show me, and he said he didn't have no idea what was going to happen.

EE:

But that “There's no such word as can't” kept coming back to you?

HH:

There's no such word as can't. I really felt that way.

EE:

And that was your second pregnancy.

HH:

My second one.

EE:

And you went on to have six more children.

HH:

Yes.

EE:

That's great. Some folks have looked back at the fact that you and so many women joined the service and said that if you wanted to look for the start of the women's lib[eration] movement; it was probably women going in the service. Do you consider yourself a pioneer in that respect?

HH:

Yes. I think the women going in to work in the factories was the beginning of the thing. That's where I think the women's lib came, and after they came out, they'd been independent so long without their husbands, and that and having money, that carried us on. That's when it started, was women going to work.

EE:

Well, I have gone through the cards I'm supposed to ask you about. Is there anything that I have not asked you about your time in service that you want to share with us today?

HH:

Well, being in service certainly gives anybody an experience of different type of people and everything, walks of life, and you develop friendships that you don't ever forget.

EE:

You say you still keep in contact with one woman you worked with in the PX?

HH:

Yes, and my bunkmate, my first bunkmate, is in Milwaukee, and then I have a friend in California that I worked with in the PX out there that I still have contact with, and that's the only three I really do. We write at Christmas. I'll wait until the luncheon tomorrow to finish writing to this one in Providence.

EE:

That's great.

HH:

And the one in Milwaukee we got to see in 1991 when we drove to Spokane and came back, we went and visited her. The one in Providence, she's in a nursing home, and my son was in Newport, and we've been up there twice to see her while he was living out there.

EE:

This is the one that's in Boston now?

HH:

Yes, the one in Boston now took us there, and she used to be very active in the Marines, I guess, you know, after she came out, but she keeps up with a lot of people I don't. I'd like to know where a lot of my friends are.

EE:

Do you get the Women Marines Association literature?

HH:

Yes, directory, but I don't find them, don't write them.

EE:

Well, I think all of the services were slow, I think, because they signed up women [for] emergency service, temporary auxiliary. They weren't thinking about keeping track of everybody long term. They had to go back and give credit for veteran status for that first year for the WAAC, and it was kind of a slow process when they were building the women's memorial just trying to find who were women veterans, because they didn't keep very good records of where people were.

HH:

Yes.

EE:

So it's been sort of self-reporting, if people you were in service with contacted the Women Marines Association or if somebody else [unclear] national whatever, they could find you. But if you didn't contact anybody, they weren't going to spend the effort to go track you down.

HH:

Well, their directory they put out, I always go through that to see if I can find anybody I knew. Even the girl that was my bridesmaid, I never had any contact with her after I left Cherry Point. I didn't think of it. I wasn't very alert about trying to keep up with anybody.

EE:

Well, everybody's in their early twenties, and they just assumed everybody will be around.

HH:

Well, we just, you know, “Bye,”and that's it. I'd like to know where some of them are, what's happened to them.

EE:

Well, I appreciate your sitting down and doing this with us today.

HH:

Well, thank you.

EE:

And we'll get you a copy of this back. It'll probably be a while before we get a transcript, but in the meantime, we'll have this, and I'm just thankful for your service and for your contribution to this project today.

HH:

Well, I'm glad somebody's doing something like this. I'd like to belong to some organization, but they're all down on the East Coast, and they're down at Lejeune—

EE:

That's right.

HH:

—and all that. The Marines, there isn't that many of us.

EE:

That's true.

[End of interview]