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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Rachel Brower Twiddy, 1999

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Object ID: WV0133.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Rachel Brower Twiddy’s experiences in nursing school in Washington, D.C., and her nursing career before and during her service in the Army Nurse Corps at Fort Ord, California, during World War II.

Summary:

Twiddy discusses growing up on a farm outside Greensboro, North Carolina; attending nursing school in Washington, D.C.; taking courses at Johns Hopkins University; private duty nursing in Washington; her experience sightseeing in California while working at Stanford Hospital; an aborted plan to work at Queen's Hospital in Hawaii following the attack on Pearl Harbor; and reactions in San Francisco to the Japanese attack.

Topics related to the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) include her reasons for joining the ANC; her parents’ reaction when she joined; the lack of military training for nurses; the ANC uniform; common injuries and illnesses that she treated at Ford Ord; fellow ANC nurses; her work schedule at Fort Ord; her embarrassment at being saluted by enlisted men; meeting her husband in the Fort Ord hospital; meeting Hollywood stars at Fort Ord; social life, including dances and dating; the surprise of VJ Day; changes in military standards; and her opinion of women in combat positions.

Creator: Rachel H. Brower Twiddy

Biographical Info: Rachel Brower Twiddy (1917-2010) of Liberty, North Carolina, served in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) at Ford Ord, California, from 1942 until the fall of 1943.

Collection: Rachel Brower Twiddy 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:

ERIC ELLIOTT:

Okay, transcriber, 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 is December 13, 1999, not too long from Christmas, judging from my kids' complaints.

So I am today at the home of Rachel Twiddy in Liberty, North Carolina, and thank you, Ms. Twiddy and Mr. [Charles] Twiddy, who's here with us today, for sitting down and doing this interview.

I'm going to start with you, Ms. Twiddy, the same way I ask everybody at the beginning, and that is two simple questions. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

RACHEL TWIDDY:

I was born in Liberty, outside of Liberty, on a farm on July 27, 1917.

EE:

Wonderful. You have any brothers or sisters?

RT:

I was the last of six girls. So I have one sister living that's about eighty-eight.

EE:

What did your folks do for a living?

RT:

My father was a farmer, and he raised animals and pigs and sold them to people in Greensboro, and he sold eggs. He was just quite a man, a wonderful man.

EE:

So you grew up working on the farm, then, when you weren't in school?

RT:

I did.

EE:

That's a good life. And your mom, was she there at the house to take care of the—

RT:

She was a housewife. With six girls, you know, she sewed and cooked all of her life.

EE:

I was going to say, my mom had three of us, and it seems like my memory of her is every night she was washing clothes. So I can only imagine. You went to school, then, here in Liberty?

RT:

I graduated from Liberty High School in 1935.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

RT:

Did I like school? Oh, somewhat, yes, not—

EE:

It wasn't your favorite thing.

RT:

Not my favorite thing.

EE:

Did you like sports or doing—what did you like most to do when you were young?

RT:

I really didn't play any sports because at that time we rode the bus to Liberty, and we didn't have all the cars coming and going in different directions.

EE:

It was the Depression, too, so—

RT:

Yes, it was the Depression, and I graduated in '35 so there were a lot of hard times. People had a difficult time.

EE:

When you graduated still North Carolina was eleven year high school plan?

RT:

Eleven years, yes.

EE:

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you have an idea?

RT:

I always wanted to be a nurse.

EE:

You knew from the start? You're a lucky person in that regard. My sister is just now, at thirty-six, finishing nurses training. So I'm glad she's doing that.

RT:

It was a great thing at that time because at the nursing schools you stayed at the school and you slept in the dormitories, you know, and it's a different story today, where they commute and go to school. Well, we were there three years, worked seven days a week. I think we had a half a day off for Sunday.

EE:

Where did you go to nursing school?

RT:

Emergency Hospital in Washington, D.C., a wonderful place.

EE:

How did you get from Liberty to Washington, D.C.?

RT:

A cousin of mine here in Liberty knew someone that was at George Washington Hospital, a nurse, and she said, “Oh, Emergency is a wonderful hospital.” It's right there at 17th and New York Avenue. We were right there at the White House. So there were three girls from Liberty in my class. Daphne Johnson, Miriam Stroud, and I left here in the fall of 1935 on that train out of Greensboro, that slow moving train. It was a great adventure, especially for a girl that had been so isolated, you might say.

EE:

That was your first big trip away from home, then.

RT:

It certainly was.

EE:

You had a cousin who was already up there.

RT:

No, it was a friend that was there.

EE:

So you don't have any family up in that area?

RT:

No, I didn't have any family there.

EE:

And I imagine you can't take that train back home over weekends.

RT:

Oh, no.

EE:

You're up there for a while.

RT:

We were able to come home for a week at Christmastime our first year in nursing school, but after that we only got three weeks every summer. We worked, as I say, seven days a week. We had a half a day off. That was back in '35, '36 or '37, and '38.

EE:

So a typical day for you would be you'd have classes and then you'd go work a shift, and you'd rotate shifts, I guess.

RT:

Yes, and you worked broken hours, too. That first year we spent, we went to Catholic University for chemistry and psychology and something else, I think. We rode a bus over, very well supervised. We always had to wear a hat and gloves when we went down to get on that bus because our superintendent of nurses was Janet Fish [Stuyvesant] of the Fish family of New York, who had been brought up well, was a debutante with Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt, and she always thought of us as being proper young ladies, wear that hat and those white gloves.

EE:

Sounds like good preparation for you in the military, doesn't it?

RT:

Oh, she was in World War I, and she was a great lady. She taught the history of nursing, she'd always tell us about her experience in Paris. She said, “And this young fellow died in my arms,” and, of course, the tears would trickle down her face. And of course, we were all these young kids; we got a sort of chuckle out of it. But she was quite a woman.

EE:

Well, if you didn't like school, you must have done pretty well in it, though, to get into a nursing school like that, I would think.

RT:

Well, I think I persevered, because we had many rules and regulations. In that class we had probably a hundred girls, and when we finished the three years we only had about twenty-four. So it wasn't so much that I was so smart; it was I always walked the chalk line. Some of the girls would stay out late and do things that were just against the rules. We had a lot of rules and regulations. Ms. Fish was very military. She would make rounds every day when we were on duty, and we always knew when she was coming, we'd always have to stand at attention and put our hands in back of us.

EE:

Right. That is very military. Was Emergency Hospital a private hospital, city hospital?

RT:

Yes, private hospital. It was called Emergency Central Dispensary and Emergency Hospital.

EE:

You were there for three years, from '35 to '38. Were you trained to be any particular specialty in nursing or just a floor nurse? How did that work in that time?

RT:

Every year, of course, we had different subjects. Our second year we went to Johns Hopkins [Hospital, in Baltimore] for obstetrics and pediatrics, and we were up there in winters, I think, of '36 and '37, I believe. That was a great experience. We lived in a row house, and we had a house mother that watched over us, in bed at ten o'clock at night, lights out, and all that stuff.

EE:

When you finish your training in '38 what did you do after that?

RT:

In '38—and then we had psychiatry at—oh, what's the hospital in Washington? Dix Hill? Not Dix Hill. St. Elizabeth. Anyway, we had three months of psychiatry work in a hospital in Washington. After I finished I did general duty and lived in the nurses' quarters, of course. We got our meals, and we were paid. It seems like we were paid sixty dollars a month.

EE:

That was spending money.

RT:

'38, 1938.

EE:

After you finished your training, did you stay there in that hospital?

RT:

I stayed there a year, I think, '39. Then four classmates decided we would get an apartment together. We rented an apartment, and we started doing private duty. And Washington is a great place to work, especially in private duty. So we did private duty there and had some wonderful patients.

I was just thinking the other night, I had Francis Biddle's wife as a patient. He was the attorney general, I think, during the Roosevelt era. She was such a nice lady. I know I went home with her, and they had me spend the evening there, and I had dinner. They had a son, I think, who was coming home from college. So he drove me home. It was a great experience. There was such a variety of patients.

So come '41, [classmate] Dorothy Seibert and I—a friend of Dorothy's said she was going to California. She said, “Why don't you all ride along with me?” We thought about it, and we said, “Well, maybe we will. Let's just send our trunk, and we'll call and we'll get a job out there.” So we did. We got to San Francisco and got a job at Stanford Hospital. Of course, they had nurses quarters for you to live in so you didn't have to worry about a house.

EE:

And you were doing this in '41, earlier in the year.

RT:

Yes.

EE:

So this was unrelated to anything military at this time.

RT:

Yes, that's true. Washington at that time was just buzzing with all these military people. I look back, and I used to hear strains of, “Well, we might get in a war.” We were knitting mittens for Britain at the hospital, of course, at that time. You know, the British were having a difficult time. I think some of our nurses went up to Canada and went to England and worked in the hospitals there.

EE:

They started, I guess, the draft for men in '40.

RT:

Yes.

EE:

I don't know if they went on and implemented it, but I know they passed the bill in '40. So everybody was already gearing up.

RT:

Yes, it was a busy place. So we had a job at Stanford, and of course, we loved San Francisco. It was just a great place because the old Stanford Hospital was downtown and we could always get the trolley, you know, the cable car, and go in and explore San Francisco, and it was an interesting place.

EE:

You have seen a lot of things. You've been away from home for five or six years, I guess, by this point. Are you the only one of your sisters who's gone away from home?

RT:

Yes, I was the only one. They were all married young. I know I recall thinking to myself, “I just do not plan [to marry early].” My mother was always busy with grandchildren and I always thought, “Well, I certainly did not plan to get married early and have a house full of children.”

EE:

Well, see a little bit of the world if that's going to be [unclear] for me.

RT:

And of course, while I was in San Francisco we went to Yosemite. One of the girls there had a car, I recall, and we'd always get together and just go up to Reno [Nevada] for one or two days and down to Yosemite [National Park, California]. We really got to see a lot.

EE:

California is a beautiful place. I was out there ten years ago, and I thought to myself, “I wonder what this was like before they invented the automobile.” It had to be a lot prettier even.

RT:

Well, it was pretty then. You know, I could get on the cable car and go into town. When I had a day off I'd go by myself and spend practically a whole day there just exploring, and no one ever bothered you. We just didn't have the things we have today.

EE:

So you were well used, by that time, to just going out on your own as a woman.

RT:

Yes.

EE:

Did you go out with the other girls you worked with?

RT:

Yes. Sometimes I had a day off and no one would be off that day, and I would go to town and look around. I picked up a few things that I still have today. I remember buying—going into those china shops, and they had so many interesting things. So it was quite an experience.

EE:

You told me on the phone that it was while you were at Stanford that you had thought about joining the service, or how did that happen?

RT:

Well, Dot Seibert, now, this classmate of mine, she's dead now, was going with me to Hawaii—

EE:

You were going to go to Hawaii, weren't you?

RT:

Yes. We had two or three nurses from Emergency [Hospital that were then] in Hawaii working at the Queen's Hospital. So we wrote and said, “Let's try and get a job at Queen's,” and they wrote back and accepted us. So we were going on the Lurline of the Matson Line. So we said, “Well, we don't have any family here. Let's just go Christmas Day,” and of course, December 7th put a stop to that. That was quite a thing in San Francisco because, you know, people were all upset and worried.

EE:

Were people worried that San Francisco might be next?

RT:

Yes, they did. I was telling my husband I remember a few weeks after that the hospital asked me for my birth certificate. They were checking on people.

EE:

So did you have any Japanese background, too?

RT:

German background. See, Brower is German. So I had to stay off a week from work before my parents got this birth certificate from Randolph County.

EE:

You had to prove your—

RT:

They did. Isn't that something? I didn't think much about it, but after that I did. I thought, “Well, they were checking on everybody.” Here I was, you know—they really were checking on everyone.

EE:

So you stayed there at Stanford for some time.

RT:

Well, I was there until December, until Christmastime. So I went down and joined the Army Nurse Corps. I can't remember where I went, the Presidio, I think, there in San Francisco. I went through all that drill of business before you were drafted, you know, or whatever. So I went to Fort Ord [Monterey, California] in February of '42.

EE:

You could have joined, I guess, another branch of service. You could have been a navy nurse. What was it about the army?

RT:

I can't remember. There was something about the navy. I know at that time it was such a buzz with all these nurses in this big building there at Stanford. They were going every which way. I don't how the hospital was able to run after that, because we were all going. My friend from Emergency, they sent her to Merced, California, to an airfield. So I went down to Fort Ord.

EE:

The nurses have a different history. They've had nurses in the army and the navy since the early part of the century. So there's a tradition there. I'm just wondering, how did the word get around? Obviously, everybody was worried after Pearl Harbor. Did they specifically come to you and say, “We need you all to sign up for the service,” or how did it work?

RT:

No. They didn't come to me or any of us. We were all distressed by Pearl Harbor, and they were saying, “We need nurses.” So I thought, “Well, this is the thing to do.” I didn't question it.

EE:

So for you it was the patriotic thing to do, and you wanted to help, is what it amounted to.

RT:

Yes, that's true.

EE:

And if those guys were already being bombed and being killed, then you wanted to go be there and help out.

RT:

Yes. So I left San Francisco on the train. I told Charles, my husband, I said they were really very nice. I traveled on a train car—not a Pullman car, but this was a parlor car where they had the individual chairs. Across from me was Paul Whiteman, I remember. He's dead now, many years ago, but he was quite a musician, wasn't he, Charles? He had a band. He was well known. He was a big fellow, and he always wore this diamond ring on his little finger, and I looked at him, and I thought, “Well, he's somebody. And they are sending me down in class. Here I am, sitting here in this parlor car.” So I got off the train at Salinas, and of course, Fort Ord is over the hill.

EE:

Were there a lot of other women going down there with you?

RT:

No. I was by myself. I didn't have anybody. I think someone met me, somebody of the post met me. Our chief nurse was Miss Washington, was her name. Of course, our barracks were very austere. You know, they had put them up pretty fast. We didn't have anything fancy. You know, the nurses [unclear] in the wards with the patients. We had orange crates and things like that to use to put our charts, etc.

EE:

Orange crates are very practical. You can put stuff in them, and you can turn them on the side and make a nice desk out of them.

RT:

Yes, and we used them for our supplies, you know. It was quite something else.

EE:

Did you have any sort of basic training? Did they have a basic training for nurses?

RT:

No, they didn't. When I look back, they just grabbed and put you here.

EE:

In other words, you basically went to work for another employer. You didn't do anything that was specially military getting into it. You just went to work at the army hospital.

RT:

Yes. I know they tried to drill us once. We all had to—it was just a riot. I think he said, “About face,” and we all turned and went towards the barracks. He said, “Well, I can't do anything with a bunch of women like this.”

EE:

Did you have a military dress uniform that you wore?

RT:

Yes, we did. Yes.

EE:

Different from a regular nurses uniform?

RT:

Oh, yes. We wore a uniform. What I'm going to give you is a cape, a nurse's cape, that I want you to have, and you can put it in your—well, here's a picture. This is what we wore when we went off duty.

While I was at Fort Ord four nurses bought an old car from an air force fellow that was going to South Africa, and we paid forty dollars for it. Here it is. I don't know why I don't have a better picture. That was our transportation at Fort Ord. [laughs]

EE:

That would get you around nicely.

RT:

It was like some of those old cars in Detroit or Chicago that had the—

EE:

It looks like the Model A, kind of, in a way, didn't it?

RT:

Yes. And this is some of the—this is a barracks. Here is a barracks. Oh, here's a better picture of the old—

EE:

That looks like some of your patients at the ward there.

RT:

Yes, that's true. That's a “P40.” We called it the “P40” car. Well, anyway, these are just some that were taken.

EE:

That's you there on the right.

RT:

Yes. And here's one inside our barracks, three very good friends of mine, that we were all talking. Here's the station hospital at Fort Ord. You can have this if you want to put it in your thing.

EE:

Okay. Great. That's a list of personnel?

RT:

Yes.

EE:

Anniversary Day. Was that station hospital started just the year before?

RT:

It apparently was started the year before, yes, in March, and I went in February of '42. I know we had a very special dinner that day, it seems like.

EE:

Was this a general hospital? Did it have a specialty? I know that later on in the war, it was sort of like triage: you had burn people at one place—

RT:

Well, at that time, see, in '42, the boys were coming in, being drafted right and left, and we had a lot of training units there that were getting ready to go overseas. We got boys from down in the desert that picked up a lot of poison ivy. I know I worked on the skin ward. We had a lot of poison ivy and, oh, I don't know, many skin problems, which I enjoyed. I learned a lot. Then boys would get hurt out on training.

Where did they go down in the desert, Charles? Do you remember?

CHARLES TWIDDY:

No, I don't.

EE:

But mainly Fort Ord was a training place?

RT:

Training out there.

EE:

So you handled all those people who were injured during training in one way or the other?

RT:

And they were preparing to go various places. We had a group that left Fort Ord that went to South Africa. See, this was in the beginning of the war. This is before we—you know, the first group went to South Africa. I can't remember.

We had a 7th Division in there, didn't we, Charles?

CT:

Yes, 7th Division.

RT:

I know the first year I was there I used to ride. I took some riding lessons in Washington, and we had some horses there. So we all could go riding back of Fort Ord. It has a lot of open ground. But at that time they disbanded that group of—what do they call the ones that ride?

CT:

The cavalry?

RT:

Calvary. Oh, they got rid of the cavalry. At that time, they said we didn't need that.

EE:

How did your folks feel about your going into the service?

RT:

Well, you know, I often think, my parents never once objected when I told them I was going to California. I think they always trusted me. I had a wonderful father and mother, and they just all thought it was just wonderful that I was in the service. We belong to a Methodist church out here in the country, and I know my sister said, “Your father was so proud of you when they'd pray 'Lieutenant Rachel Brower is in the army.'” [Laughter]

EE:

What rank were you when you joined the service?

RT:

We went in as a second lieutenant. I think it was in '45 that they were—it was the Army Nurse Corps was [unclear] they, of course, became a part of the permanent army setup, you know, and they got retirement, and they got all the benefits that they get today. At that time I didn't know much about the army, to tell you the truth. I had no idea about these various things.

We had so many nurses there at Fort Ord that were so much older. I was twenty-three, twenty-four, I believe, and I know we had some there that were thirty-one, thirty-five, and thirty-six, and they were all wonderful people to be living in a barracks with. I made some great friends with these women. One had been superintendent of nurses in Chicago, and one had been head of the—Martha Payne had been head of the tuberculosis hospital. It was really an education, I'll tell you.

EE:

You say you were working on a skin ward. Were most of your supervisors enlisted doctors in the army, or were there women supervisors?

RT:

Well, they all were in the army. Miss Washington was a captain in the Army, and of course, she'd been in about twenty years. She was one of those old nurses.

EE:

She was old enough to be a World War I vet.

RT:

Probably so. She was a captain, and then we had a first lieutenant, and the rest of us all were second lieutenants. When you went in you served a certain time. At that time the Army Nurse Corps was really sort of finding themselves. They didn't know how to manage such a large group of women.

EE:

And the change in the scale. I think everybody was sort of seat of their pants. I was just wondering, were your assignments as far as the work you were doing, were those coming from Captain Washington?

RT:

Yes. We were assigned from Captain Washington. She had two assistants, I think, and we were all living in barracks there.

EE:

About how many women were stationed there when you were there?

RT:

Oh, gracious. I would say 150 nurses probably.

EE:

That's a lot. So how many beds were in that hospital?

RT:

I'm not sure.

EE:

It may be in that [unclear].

RT:

It might tell you, but I didn't read the whole thing. It was a good size. You know, the buildings would hold about forty patients, the buildings, and then it was a building—we were all separated.

EE:

You talked about when you were in nurses school, how rigorous it was when you only had half a day off a week. What was your work week schedule like when you were serving at Fort Ord?

RT:

We worked sometimes seven days straight or two weeks straight, and then we would have off two or three days together and sometimes even go up to San Francisco on the train. But we didn't have two days a weeks off every—

EE:

I guess the question for you is probably different than for some women that were going into jobs in which women had never served before. With nurses, they're going in and doing work which women traditionally have done. There's just more of them going in. So were you treated professionally, I guess, by your co-workers, by the men you worked with?

RT:

Yes.

EE:

That wasn't a problem for you.

RT:

When I used to go into Carmel or Monterey, sometimes I would see a group of soldiers coming down the street, and I had my uniform on, and I'd always walk across the street to get away from them because they'd always come up and salute. [laughs] I hated that. It just embarrassed me.

EE:

You outranked them so they'd have to salute.

RT:

It embarrassed me. I said, “Oh, this is too much.”

EE:

It sounds like from the very beginning, because you had been independent for some time, I don't take it you were in a situation that you ever felt in physical danger or afraid, or were you?

RT:

No, never.

EE:

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

RT:

Oh, I don't think any of it was that difficult. I suppose I'd always liked to work. I've been more of a workhorse than anything else. So the work didn't bother me. I enjoyed it. Even though it was hard, it didn't bother me.

EE:

You were there from February '42—

RT:

Yes.

EE:

And when did you leave?

RT:

I got out in the fall of '43, probably October or November, I believe. I got discharged because I was pregnant. We were married in April, and Charles was at Fort Ord at that time. Then you went down to Torrance, didn't you?

CT:

Yes.

RT:

He was ordnance. He went to Torrance. We were married in Los Angeles at the Methodist church.

EE:

Well, now, Charles, where were you from?

RT:

Charles is from Raleigh. He graduated from Wake Forest [University, in North Carolina].

EE:

So you went all the way across the country to meet a Carolina boy?

RT:

When I met him he was a patient of mine.

CT:

I had come in from the Pacific, and I was a patient of hers. I'll never forget as long as I live, she came in about four o'clock in the morning and turned on the radio, the lights hanging down, and she turned that thing on. I reached down and grabbed my shoe and said, “Get the hell out of here.” In about five minutes, here comes this captain. I was a chief warrant officer then. Here comes this captain. She made me stand on the bed and stand at attention and apologize. I'll never forget it.

EE:

So you could have had a grudge against this woman with that start?

CT:

Yes.

RT:

Well, anyway, we were married at Los Angeles, and our son was born after Charles went to Torrance. We were only there maybe about a month, weren't we? We had a nice little apartment on the ocean. It was a nice place. They transferred Charles back to Fort Ord in ordnance. So we moved back up to Fort Ord, and we found a place to live in Carmel, which is a great town, just a lovely place. Our son was born in '44 at the Carmel Community Hospital, overlooking the beautiful Pacific, just a pretty, pretty place. We were there till '45. And you went up to Alaska and was preparing to go to Japan, I suppose.

CT:

Yes.

RT:

And I packed up and came back home, came to Raleigh, and my parents lived here. His parents lived in Raleigh, and I came back home with [son] Charles on the train. Then the war ended.

EE:

So when you were at Fort Ord, you were training people in ordnance. Is that what you were doing, or were you getting instruction yourself? When you were stationed at Ord, what were you—

RT:

Charles was drafted in '42 at Fort Bragg.

CT:

I was an aeronautical engineer.

RT:

He graduated from Wake Forest, and so he was drafted as a private, and then they said, “Well, he'd probably be a good—” He had been teaching school. So they put him into teaching in the ordnance, and they made him a warrant officer, from private to warrant officer. Anyway, after the war, Charles came into Raleigh. Charles had worked for the Labor Department, and he decided to stay in Raleigh. Then the army called and asked him would he come back in the service. We said yes. Of course, his mother just died. She said no. So we packed up and went down to Texas, didn't we, Texarkana?

CT:

Yes, Texarkana, Texas.

RT:

And from there we went to—that's when we went to Hawaii, didn't we?

CT:

Yes.

RT:

So we were in Hawaii in '46, '47, and '48, I believe. In the year '49, I believe, we came home. So we had a wonderful tour in Hawaii.

EE:

And they wanted you to come back to do what in the service? Were you going to go back to do more destruction?

RT:

Charles went back in as a warrant officer, and over the years—you were in about twelve or thirteen years. I think you got a direct commission as captain, didn't you? Then you made major. We were living at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland around '50, and Charles came home one day and he said, “General Somebody wants me to come to the Pentagon to work as a civilian. Would you like that?”

I said, “Yes, indeed. It'd be fine with me.”

So we packed up and went to Washington, and we lived there forty years.

EE:

Wonderful.

RT:

Charles retired as a civilian, of course. Of course, his army time counted in [unclear].

EE:

So how long have you been back, then?

RT:

We've been here in Liberty since '84. I will be eighty-three soon, so we've had a good life.

EE:

And when he was doing the work at these other places, did you ever go back to do nurse work?

RT:

I did in Washington, after we moved to Washington. Of course, our old Emergency Hospital was there, and I knew a lot of people there, and I did some private duty off and on, had some interesting patients. I mean, the last case that I had, a classmate of mine called me, and she said, “Rachel, I want you to go in on the weekend.” Our hospital had closed up and had gone to make the Hospital Center, which is a huge place in Washington now. She said, “My patient is—” Oh, gosh, what's his name, out of Greensboro, went to the war. Isn't that awful when you lose—can't remember names? [possibly Edward R. Murrow]“He's a patient of mine, and we need somebody to relieve somebody for two evenings,”

I said, “No, Seibert.” I said, “I've been out of nursing so long, I just—”

She said, “Well, this is really some case.” She said, “The press is on our neck all the time.” She says, “There's just so much going on in the press.”

I said, “Well, I've been out of nursing with children. I just don't feel equipped to do private duty.” So I didn't.

Oh, what is his name out in Greensboro, Charles, went to—

CT:

I can't remember his name.

RT:

Oh, that's awful. Anyway—

EE:

What you were doing at the Pentagon, what was that when you—

RT:

He was in the missile. He went the guidance missiles.

CT:

Aeronautical engineer at the Pentagon.

RT:

He was into missiles.

EE:

Wonderful. When you're in the service—of course, now, your time in the service—

RT:

Was finished.

EE:

—as a family. Your time was finished. So I'm going to ask you to think of a specific time—in fact, your association with military folks is a lot longer than that. So it may be a hard question to do. But most people, I say, you know, when you go into the service you are meeting folks from all walks of life, all different backgrounds and all different parts of the country, and there's always a character or two that stands out in your memory. Is there somebody for you that stands out or one or two that stand out in your memory of your time in service, even people you've treated? Obviously, this fellow stood out in your memory a little bit. “Well I'll go back and find out what his problem is.”

RT:

We've got some wonderful people in the military. I can't say anything—just very fine Christian families, most of them were, and a lot of people that inspired you to many things, really. Especially in Annendale [Virginia], where we lived. I remember on our street, we all bought houses in '51, and the mothers, everybody was staying home. We had women whose husbands were colonels and generals on that street and they were all such delightful people. We got to know each other well, and it was just a good time. I think about now that the families are all working, everybody's rushing, and we were all home with our children.

EE:

The pace of life was little more livable.

RT:

Yes, it was. I think we lived in the best of times, really.

EE:

I think thanks to the Internet you can communicate instantly with somebody on the other side of the world and you probably don't know the name of your next door neighbor.

RT:

Isn't that something?

CT:

That's right.

EE:

When you think back to that time, do you have any particular songs or motion pictures, when you see them on TV, that ring true for you and take you back to say, “That's where I was in the war. I remember that.” Is there anything like that for you?

RT:

All those old songs. Deep in the Heart of Texas was a great one. Of course, at that time Frank Sinatra was coming along. When I was down in Los Angeles—this was just before I went in the service, I went down and visited a cousin. I know I went to the Palladium where Sinatra was singing that night, you know.

EE:

Was he still with the Dorsey band then?

RT:

Yes. And we did have nurses—I hate to go back about the nurses—we had nurses at Fort Ord, some that had worked for MGM, and they had wonderful stories to tell. I had another friend that had been a private duty nurse to Clara Bow, you know.

CT:

That was an old movie star.

RT:

An old movie star. You've probably heard of her, years ago in the silent films or something I think she was. We had a lot of Hollywood would come to Ord and entertain us, too. We got to meet a lot of interesting people. They always treated us very well. It was a good time.

EE:

By being stateside during the war—of course, you talked about being in San Francisco and the fear that people had right after Pearl Harbor. Most of the time I talk to folks, they say it was a more patriotic country back then. People were thrown together. Was there also a fear that we might not win the war, or did you ever sense that?

RT:

I didn't ever sense such a thing. I didn't ever think of us getting that involved from the start. I just had no idea of how the thing would turn out, you know. Since I'm older I've been reading and meeting people that fought in the Bulge, which was a horrible war, the Battle of the Bulge. I think it was a terrible thing. We lost an awful lot of men. A lot of men went through an awful lot for this country.

EE:

I've talked with a couple of people who talked about—I guess it was December '44—

RT:

'44, yes.

EE:

And things weren't going so well, and a woman who was stationed in France, who started handing out things, “What to do in case you're captured,” and she thought, “Oh, my, this is serious.” Because it looked iffy for a while.

RT:

It did. We had ups and downs, I know.

EE:

Now, maybe I've got the answer, since the last fellow who caught your attention is sitting here in the room. For social life as a nurse, did you all run around sort of on your own, or did they have—

RT:

We had dances every weekend.

EE:

There were dances there?

RT:

Every weekend at the Officers' Club we had dances. We went dancing, and—I can't remember. I know we—I met an awful lot of people. I remember meeting a Captain Savage from up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and he was a funny little fellow. He graduated from VMI [Virginia Military Institute], I think. He was always so funny. He would come by and see us and bring all the nurses flowers. He picked flowers. We always had a lot of fun. A lot was going on and a lot of stuff taking place. Of course, we worked a lot, too.

EE:

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news about President Roosevelt passing on?

RT:

That was in '45. What month was that?

EE:

Probably end of April.

RT:

April. I think I was in California. That was just before I left Carmel, and Charles had already left to go up to Alaska and was going out in the Pacific. At that time, they were going to go over and finish up the Japanese.

EE:

We thought we were going to have to invade Japan.

RT:

Yes, that was before the bomb was—and I think I was out in the yard with [son] C.B., and I know we had—Carmel was full of young families, and we always had a lot of young families with children together. We heard about it.

EE:

What about the news of—well, either VE [Victory in Europe] or VJ [Victory in Japan] Day? Do you have any memories of those times? VJ Day probably stuck into your mind with him—

RT:

That was when we were in Raleigh, I suppose. After I left Carmel, that was in Raleigh. Yes, that was quite a time. Of course, Charles at that time was coming home. He had been out. I don't know exactly where you went all that time.

CT:

Well, out in the Pacific.

RT:

You were out in the Pacific. Anyway, you got home after—that was in August, wasn't it? I think Charles came home after that, probably, first of September maybe.

CT:

Yes, somewhere along there.

RT:

Oh, it was quite a—

CT:

We were ready for the invasion of Japan when they dropped the atomic bomb on two occasions, and that ended the war.

EE:

And, of course, that caught all the service fellows off guard, too, because they didn't tell anybody but a few folks that was coming. And what was it, I guess the Indianapolis, when they delivered that bomb they couldn't tell where they were when they were sunk, I guess.

[Begin Tape 1, Side 2]

EE:

When you all got married, you were thinking once the war was over that you'd come back to North Carolina and have a civilian life, was your intention, wasn't it?

RT:

I think so. I'm not sure what we were thinking on that one day. At that time it was just the war, getting the war over with, really. We didn't think too much about it. Then we were in Raleigh, and of course, at that time civilians were—people were trying to find jobs, and so many were going to school. You'd be just amazed how many of our doctors today got their education through the GI Bill. It was just amazing. They're all probably about finished practicing medicine, but I know all of our doctors in Annendale, practically every one of them that we went to, had been in the army and had come back and had finished their schooling and took their GI Bill and were able to get an education. It was a wonderful thing, really.

EE:

You were independent in the fact that you left—I mean, I've met a number of nurses, and you're the first one that I've interviewed who went out of state for her nurse's training.

RT:

Is that right?

EE:

Do you think the military made you more independent than you were before?

RT:

Oh, I don't think so. I don't think so, really. At that time, when I left here, Duke [University] had just opened their nursing school the year before. They opened the school in '34, I think. So it was a great experience at that time. Women were going. I know I had a cousin here in Liberty who went up to New Jersey, a group in her class. We all wanted to get out of Liberty, you know. I told my husband I didn't think I'd ever come back to Liberty once I leFort And here, when we moved back here, I said, “Isn't it strange? Here we are, back in Liberty.”

Charles said, “I'll tell you, this is the greatest place in the world. You can't take me out of Liberty.” We thought about going to Raleigh, but after—

EE:

Raleigh is a different place now, isn't it?

RT:

Raleigh is just so big and so—

EE:

The traffic is starting to look like 495 in Washington.

RT:

Yes.

CT:

That's right.

RT:

So we felt really blessed to end up in Liberty. Of course, I have had cousins, a huge family, you know, and here I am, eighty-four, or will be eighty-three, and there's so many of them who died. I was thinking the other day, I used to remember so many cousins, and every few weeks we have a death.

EE:

That's right. Well, it's the state of life.

When you think back to the people that you cared for and the stories you heard of folks, do you have any heroes or heroines from that time in the war?

RT:

In the war? No, not really. I just think all the men that were so brave to cross all those ships to Europe and wade through the blood and stuff, I think they all were heroes, really, and the women, too. I do.

EE:

You had the one son. Do have any other children?

RT:

I have a daughter.

EE:

Did either your son or daughter have any interest in joining the service?

RT:

Our son was drafted and went to Vietnam. Our daughter was married to a navy man, and she lives in Norfolk. So we know the service.

EE:

Did your daughter have any interest herself in joining the service?

RT:

No. No, she didn't.

EE:

Would you recommend to a woman that they join the service?

RT:

I just couldn't say. Today everything has changed so and there's so much for young people to do, I think the military's having a hard time now getting people. I just read in the paper yesterday where the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jutton—I think his name is Jones—said that he has changed some of the things that went on in the Marines. This business of inspection every week, when the men had to lay out everything on their bunks, you know, and everything had to be spic and span, he said that is all gone. They aren't doing that anymore.

I think that's a good thing, because I can remember in the service we spent all week long getting ready for inspections on Friday, white glove inspections. The colonel or general—I don't know whether we had a general at Fort Ord or not, but I think we had quite a few colonels, coming around, white gloves, and we spent so much time scrubbing. You need to keep things clean, but it was ridiculous, really.

EE:

Right. It was more cleaning than needed to be done for a cleaning. It was obviously trying to do it for something else.

RT:

And we could have done more nursing, I should say.

EE:

Well, I think in response to that, the military has expanded greatly the kinds of work that women can do now.

RT:

Oh, yes.

EE:

In December, for the first time, we sent a woman combat pilot into action in Iraq, bombing Saddam Hussein. What do you think about that? Are there certain jobs that should be off-limits to women in the military?

RT:

I really do think so. I think there should be jobs off limits because I think our men are intimidated by some of these women, and I think it would just be smart to keep them out of battle. I don't think they need to be on the front line. I think women—sometimes I think some of them are going too far, really, they're pushing too much.

EE:

A question that I ask everybody, do you feel you contributed to the war effort?

RT:

I felt so, yes.

EE:

I was thinking that. I'll bet those folks who you took care of certainly would appreciate that. I have just about exhausted the questions I am supposed to ask you.

RT:

Okay.

EE:

There are two more. One of them is one I told you I was going to ask you. What impact do you think your time in the service had on your life, short term and long term?

RT:

Oh, I think it has an awful lot. I met my husband. It was a wonderful adventure, I would say, really.

EE:

And the next thing about it is that it didn't end with your service, because you had a service life thanks to your husband and then even in civilian, with both of you civilian employed, being so connected with the service. This household has given a lot. And then with two children in the service, you all have service in your family yet.

RT:

That's true. I think it's sort of sad, here in Liberty I have some friends who didn't serve in the service, and I think they missed a lot.

EE:

Well, you know, we don't have a draft. I remember, for my generation, my class was the first one to have to register for a draft after Vietnam. It stopped for a while, you know, then it started back. Do you think we've lost something by not having people serve in the military?

RT:

I think it would be good idea for the eighteen and nineteen-year-olds to be drafted, I really do. I think two years—when I think of myself as eighteen going into nursing school and living under rigid regulations, it's good for them to have to be in bed and have to answer to people. I think we'll have to go back to the draft, I really do, if we're going to have men in the service. They're just having a hard time because they aren't able to get them.

EE:

I have asked you all the questions that I'm supposed to ask. Is there anything that I have not asked you about, about your time in service or about your life as a family that's connected with the service that you'd like to add?

RT:

Well, as I view our life, I think we just had a very good life, haven't we, Charles?

CT:

Yes, we have.

RT:

Charles plays a lot of golf, and after we moved down here, I went with him to play golf, and I think I'm going to try to play but I'll never get good. It's too time-consuming.

EE:

My dad's been trying to play for forty-three years.

RT:

It's time-consuming. It just takes too much time.

EE:

Was it Mark Twain said that golf was a good way to spoil a nice walk, or something like that. I enjoy it myself.

RT:

Yes, it's great. We enjoy it. Charles golfed until he got to the point he couldn't make it, and now he is legally blind with macular degeneration.

EE:

That is aggravating. My father has macular glaucoma, which is, of course, the reverse problem, where you lose all your peripheral vision but you've got the center, and I believe it's easier to cope with glaucoma than it is with macular degeneration because you lose middle first.

RT:

Yes.

EE:

And it makes it very difficult.

RT:

But we've been thankful to—Aaron, go get that cake.

EE:

Well, transcriber, thank you for sitting with us today.

[End of interview]