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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Margaret (June) Crowel, 1999

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Object ID: WV0137.5.001

Description: Chiefly documents Margaret “June” Crowel’s experiences as a career member of the U.S. Marine Corps from 1945 to 1979.

Summary:

Crowel discusses her pre-military service work making nacelles for B-29s or B-25s in a defense plant; her mother’s reaction to her joining the Marines; male drill instructors; the war ending during her basic training and the celebrations; and her work processing soldiers for terminal leave at Marine Corps Headquarters after World War II ended.

Crowel also describes her intention to leave the Marines to be a mechanic; her decision and ability to reenlist in 1950; the acceptance and respect she received from male Marines; and her work and experiences at El Toro in the 1950s, including a confrontation with a Marine who angered her, dealing with the death of a friend and fellow Marine, and social life in the Marines, including the Women Marines Club. She also discusses supervising both men and women; changing opportunities for women in the military; her opinion of women in combat positions; Marine Corps songs; and her visit to the Women in Military Service to America (WIMSA) Memorial.

Creator: Margaret Helen Crowel

Biographical Info: Margaret “June” Crowel of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, served in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve from May 1945 to 1979.

Collection: Margaret Helen "June" Crowel 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 am in Havelock, North Carolina, this morning. Today is December 31, 1999, and I'm at the home of June Crowel this morning.

Ms. Crowel, thank you for having us here today. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina. Ms. Crowel, I'm going to start with you with the same question that I ask everyone, and I hope it's not the hardest one, and that is, where were you born, and where did you grow up?

MC:

I was born in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. I grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

EE:

You were telling me before we started, that's just east of Cleveland.

MC:

Right, about twenty-three miles east of Cleveland.

EE:

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

MC:

I had one brother. He died.

EE:

What did your mother and father do for a living?

MC:

My mother was a professional babysitter, and my father was—I don't know. He did most anything.

EE:

You went to school, then, in Chagrin Falls—graduated from high school there?

MC:

Right.

EE:

When did you graduate from high school?

MC:

1943.

EE:

North Carolina was slow. We were an eleven-year high school. Was it eleven- or twelve-year?

MC:

Twelve.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

MC:

Well, I didn't mind it. You know, I didn't run away from school all the time.

EE:

Did you have any idea what you wanted to be when you grew up?

MC:

Well, I wanted to be in the service. What I wanted to be was a Marine, but back then you had to be twenty. So I went to work for two years in a defense plant.

EE:

How did you get the idea that you wanted to be a Marine?

MC:

I have no idea.

EE:

Nobody in your family was in the service?

MC:

No.

EE:

Was your brother older or younger?

MC:

My brother had been in the army, you know, World War II, but no, nobody had been in the Marine Corps. I just liked it.

EE:

You graduated in '43. I imagine some of your classmates probably had to leave school early to join the service?

MC:

They were drafted, yes. My brother was drafted out of high school.

EE:

Where did he serve?

MC:

Oh, Lord. He was in World War II. Where did he serve? I don't remember now. I don't know. That was a long time ago.

EE:

Was he overseas?

MC:

Yes, he was overseas.

EE:

You worked at a defense plant, you say, after the time you graduated. You, I guess, were living at home and worked there?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Was it in Chagrin Falls, or where was this place?

MC:

No, it was in Cleveland.

EE:

And what kind of work was that?

MC:

Riveter.

EE:

So you were Rosie.

MC:

Yep.

EE:

What were you making?

MC:

Nacelles for B-29s or B-25s, one of the two.

EE:

How did you find out about that job? Were they advertising for women to come?

MC:

Yes. Some of the women I knew had gone to work there.

EE:

What was the name of the plant?

MC:

Fisher Aircraft. It was Fisher Automobile.

EE:

Right. “Body by Fisher,” those folks.

MC:

Right.

EE:

So most of the people you were working with at that plant, I guess, doing that work were women, is that right? Your boss?

MC:

I was in 4-S.

EE:

Was your supervisor there a man or a woman at that work?

MC:

Man.

EE:

How much training did you all have to have to do that kind of work?

MC:

I think we had six weeks of school.

EE:

Did you have to pass a certain aptitude test to do it—you'd have to show [unclear]?

MC:

No. Mostly what it was, was working with the tools.

EE:

I imagine the pay probably wasn't too bad for that kind of work, was it?

MC:

I think it [was] $1.15 during the day and $1.19 at night.

EE:

So sometimes you worked double shifts?

MC:

No.

EE:

Just straight off, depending on what your schedule was?

MC:

That was high wages back then.

EE:

That's right. For you it was Marines, even though your brother was in the [U.S.] Army. It was just Marines for you. Do you have any idea why Marines stuck out as opposed to WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service-Navy] or whatever?

MC:

No. I don't know. I had a couple of friends who joined the WAVES, but I didn't have any desire. I wanted to be a Marine.

EE:

So you did know some other women who went and joined the service?

MC:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Well, how did your folks feel about you joining the service? Because not all families were thrilled about it.

MC:

My father wasn't home, but my mother, she was 100 percent. She said, “It's your life. Do what you want. You're out making your own money.”

EE:

So you joined, then, when you turned twenty?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Which was spring of '45? What did you join?

MC:

Yes. I joined in May of 1945.

EE:

So the president [Franklin D. Roosevelt] had just passed way, I guess, when you joined. He died at the end of April. Did you have to sign up in Cleveland?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

And then where did you go for basic? Did you come down here to [Camp] Lejeune [Jacksonville, North Carolina]?

MC:

Right.

EE:

When you joined, did you ask for a specific kind of work? I guess you were joining, still, for the duration, too, weren't you?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Did they tell you what kind of work you might be doing?

MC:

I don't remember.

EE:

Do you have any particular memories about basic? Was that your first big trip away from home, coming down here?

MC:

No. I'd been to Florida for winters with my grandmother.

EE:

So you'd been on a train before.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

So what did you think about basic when you got down here? How did you like it?

MC:

Well, you know, you didn't really think anything because they took you right in, you got in the barracks, and you were right there in that area for six weeks. So, you know, you didn't get to see anything. Of course, Jacksonville was nothing. It was a one-lane or two-lane highway into Camp Lejeune.

EE:

Yes. It still had that look of a swamp to it, didn't it?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Was that your first time, I guess, living with a bunch of other women?

MC:

Yes. Well, I lived with the other women when I worked in the defense plant, but, I mean, we all worked the same shift so we'd come home, and we'd have breakfast or whatever, and then we'd go to bed and we'd sleep until time to get up and have our meal and go back to work.

EE:

Well, now, when you say you worked at the defense plant, were you living in a boarding house then?

MC:

No. We rented the downstairs of a home.

EE:

I guess basic was six weeks for you, something like that?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

I know that early on, the drill instructors for women were men. Were they still men when you were—but all your other instructors were women?

MC:

Yes. All they did was teach us drill. That was it. I mean, they had nothing to do with anything else we did.

EE:

How were they in the language and the way they treated you? Did you get the full Marine treatment or were they kind of nicer to you?

MC:

They were very good. I don't know. They were hard on us, you know, but they were all right.

EE:

When you got out of basic, where were you assigned?

MC:

Let's see. Where did I go from basic? I went to Headquarters Marine Corps.

EE:

Up at Henderson Hall [Arlington, Virginia]?

MC:

Yep.

EE:

And what kind of work were you doing up there?

MC:

Clerical.

EE:

So you worked in the Navy Annex [Washington, D.C.]?

MC:

Yep.

EE:

How long were you stationed up there?

MC:

Five years.

EE:

Now, that's a lot longer than the end of the war. Did they give you the option to get out?

MC:

Well, they were working on terminal leave. When all the men were in the service they couldn't take leave or anything so they kept a hundred of us women to work to get the men paid for their unused leave. So I volunteered to work there, and then later on they decided they were going to make women permanent.

EE:

I talked with another woman who worked there. She joined a little bit earlier than you. She joined in '43. What happened with her case is that they needed people to process—this is Mary Rogers. Mary McLeod was her name. I don't know if you know her. She's down at [unclear] now, but she left the service in the fall of '45 and stayed on doing that kind of work but as a civilian employee, and it's just unusual that they kept—so they asked a hundred people to stay in uniform and stay on because, I guess, your obligation was over six months after the time of the war. I guess you were serving at the pleasure of the service after that. Did you stay that whole five years at Henderson Hall?

MC:

Yep.

EE:

Was your supervisor civilian?

MC:

Civilian.

EE:

Was it a male supervisor?

MC:

Female.

EE:

And most of the other people in your group were all women doing this processing work?

MC:

[No audible response].

EE:

You did that job for five years, at which time, I guess—when do you come up for the option to reenlist or to stay out?

MC:

Nineteen-fifty.

EE:

And what did you decide to do in 1950?

MC:

I wanted to stay in so I decided to reenlist, and then I asked for the West Coast, and I worked for a colonel. He said, “Well, you've been here for five years. I'll see what I can do.” So he got me the West Coast.

EE:

That's pretty good.

MC:

They had me scheduled for Cherry Point [North Carolina]. So he said, “Well, switch one of the women from El Toro [California] to Cherry Point and put June down for El Toro.”

EE:

Well, my father-in-law was an aviation mechanic at El Toro. Of course, they've closed that base now, haven't they?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

How long were you at El Toro?

MC:

Three years.

EE:

And what kind of work were you doing there?

MC:

I was the first sergeant of the detachment.

EE:

How many women were stationed there?

MC:

Oh, God. We started out—see, we just opened up the barracks.

EE:

So your group opened it up?

MC:

Yes. And I don't know how many we had. Every platoon that would graduate, we'd get so many women. So I really don't—

EE:

Was there a West Coast training facility for women like Lejeune, or did everybody have to come through Lejeune?

MC:

Everybody went through Lejeune.

EE:

And then you head back out. Because the numbers of women in service dropped quite a lot after the war, and by the early fifties there's really not that many there—that's call-them-up reserves.

MC:

Yes. The only ones that they kept were the ones—at Headquarters Marine Corps—were the ones that they needed to do the terminal leave for the men coming back from overseas. So if you were Headquarters Marine Corps, you had a pretty good chance of staying in.

EE:

How many other women that you worked with stayed on?

MC:

I don't know.

EE:

Not that many, apparently.

MC:

I have no idea.

EE:

You were at El Toro for three years as first sergeant. What did you do after that?

MC:

Let's see. Where did I go after El Toro? God. I guess I went to Quantico.

EE:

How long were you at Quantico?

MC:

Five years.

EE:

You say that with some conviction.

MC:

Well, I got my mother as my dependent while I was there. So we had quarters and everything.

EE:

So you had your own private—what was your housing arrangements at El Toro? Were you in a barracks with everybody else then, I guess, and then Quantico you got your own separate quarters?

MC:

Well, that's when my mother came to live with me. So I got housing.

EE:

Let's see. If I do my numbers right, that means you were at Quantico in '53 or '54?

MC:

I got there in '53. I was in El Toro from '50 to '53. And then I went to Quantico.

EE:

I'm going to kind of go through, because you're in longer than most folks. I'm going to get an overview of your whole career on tape and then go back and ask some of these questions. You were there for five years. What work were you doing when you were at Quantico?

MC:

Administrative.

EE:

What was your rank by this time?

MC:

Oh, let's see. What was I? Probably E-6 gunnery, gunny sergeant.

EE:

After Quantico I assume you probably have another chance to reenlist or to opt out.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

At this point, I guess, you're thinking you want—what do you have to be, twenty years before you get your full retirement?

MC:

Nineteen and six.

EE:

So you're in for the long haul at this time.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

And where did you go after Quantico?

MC:

Lejeune? I think I went to Lejeune.

EE:

And you were working in the front office there, or where were you working?

MC:

I was working in the company office.

EE:

How long were you at Lejeune?

MC:

I guess three years.

EE:

Which takes you up to '61, is that right, '58 to '61?

MC:

Somewhere around in there.

EE:

What about after that?

MC:

Let's see. After Lejeune, after Quantico, I think I went to San Diego.

EE:

Don't have many Marines stationed in Kansas. It's either one coast or the other, isn't it?

MC:

Yes. There's nothing in between unless you're on recruiting duty or INI staff or something like that.

EE:

How long were you at San Diego?

MC:

Three years.

EE:

Working in the company office out there as well?

MC:

I was working in the battalion office. Well, I was working in a company office. I was working in a men's company as admin chief.

EE:

Was that the first time you were head of the office? Did you have people under you then, or did you have that earlier?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

That's the first time you were supervisor?

MC:

I guess.

EE:

Then after San Diego?

MC:

After San Diego I came back to—oh, Lord. My mother was my dependent. Where did we come to? Camp Lejeune, I guess.

EE:

That would have been in about '64 by my reckoning. How long were you at Lejeune on that stay?

MC:

Three years.

EE:

Most of these tours of duty are three years, then, aren't they?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

And what about after those three years? That would have given you twenty.

MC:

Okay. Then I went to El Toro. No, wait. I didn't go to El Toro. I went to San Diego.

EE:

Okay. How long were you at San Diego on that second tour?

MC:

Three years.

EE:

Were you back in the battalion office again?

MC:

Yes. I was always in admin.

EE:

That would have put you at about 1970.

MC:

Did I say I was a drill instructor in there sometime?

EE:

No. Were you a drill instructor at Lejeune?

MC:

Let's see. Where was I a drill instructor? I was a drill instructor at Parris Island [South Carolina]. When in the hell was I there?

EE:

All right. Let me see.

MC:

It was right after they opened up again. So it was early fifties.

EE:

Before you went to El Toro or after? I've got you going at Henderson Hall then El Toro then Quantico. And that takes up most of the fifties.

MC:

Okay.

EE:

Was it before you went to Quantico?

MC:

Yes. Now, wait. Afterwards. Because after I left Lejeune is when I went to the West Coast.

EE:

So then after Quantico, before Lejeune, and then Lejeune you went to the West Coast?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Did you just do that for a short tour?

MC:

Three years.

EE:

I think [unclear] did that for a while, too, didn't she?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

So that's thrown my dates back a little bit. So you left San Diego that last time in '73, that last tour?

MC:

I guess.

EE:

And what did you do after that?

MC:

That must be when I went to San Diego. I don't know.

EE:

Where did you end up retiring from the service?

MC:

San Francisco.

EE:

And what year was that?

MC:

When did I retire? Well, I had twenty-five years in.

EE:

Okay. So that would have been right at '79, I guess, '79 or '80?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Did you stay on the West Coast, then, for a while, or did you come back here, or what did you end up doing?

MC:

No. I packed up and left. As soon as I retired I left. The next day I left. Could not stand San Francisco.

EE:

It's the [unclear] of the world, isn't it?

MC:

Well, they had all those hippies, and that's when they were going to lay on the Bay Bridge and not let the Marines go into Treasure Island to work or anything. Oh, yes. They had quite a time. They had the riot squad. Ever been to Treasure Island?

EE:

No.

MC:

You go down into Treasure Island and there's stone walls, and they're about this wide, and they had the riot squad men six feet apart—

EE:

All along the wall?

MC:

—with rifles ready, and when they got to the entrance onto the bridge and they saw all those Marines, they decided they didn't want to have anything to do with that. Because they had their rifles ready. They would have shot the first man that stepped on there. Probably hit him in the leg or something, wouldn't kill him, but you know that they were—

EE:

Mean business.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Was your mother still with you at that time?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

So where did you all come back after you left San Francisco?

MC:

Some place on the East Coast. What year did I say that was?

EE:

That was about '79 or '80. You've had your twenty-five, would have put you right at '80.

MC:

Then I came back. Where did I retire? Quantico. Did I retire from Quantico? I don't even remember.

EE:

When did you come down here? How long have you been in Havelock?

MC:

Ever since I retired. Wait a minute, I retired—I don't remember. I guess I retired from here [Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point]. I lived in on base in [unclear]. So I guess I retired from here. Yes, I remember now. Yes. General Karl was the CO [commanding officer].

EE:

Well, I'm making you do a lot of hop, skip, and jumps, so I apologize for that. You have a long career. This would be a lot easier if you had your exit sheet. So we can double check that. But it helps me get a sense of where you've been and places, and if you were in for twenty-five years, that's a full career.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

So you've been down here almost twenty years, then.

MC:

Yep.

EE:

When you were in the service, there was a lot of things that changed during the course of time that you were in. When you were at El Toro, I guess the Korean War had just started, '50.

MC:

That's when they opened up the bases for the women.

EE:

Was that again because of [the] emergency nature of having to get people back on? I guess in what, '48, they finally decided to integrate women into the service rather than just have them auxiliary, but it was Korea that sort of pushed the women up.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

In most of these places, when you were on base working in company offices was your supervisor a man or a woman?

MC:

Both.

EE:

Did it have more women over time? Is that what you noticed, or was it—for example, out at El Toro, was your supervisor a man or a woman there?

MC:

When I was in the—when I was [unclear] it was a woman.

EE:

What was your rank when you left the service?

MC:

First sergeant.

EE:

When you were in the service generally, and you [unclear] over twenty years, how do you feel about how you were treated as a woman in the service? Did the folks that you worked with largely treat you in a professional way, or did they give you a lot of grief about being a woman in the—

MC:

No. They treated me like a Marine. And I didn't have any—

EE:

You never had any problem with that?

MC:

I didn't have any problem with anyone.

EE:

But you came in at the end of the war where you didn't have as much static from people who were giving women a hard time just for being there.

MC:

Yes, well, I know—I had a basketball player who worked in the office, and he just—I don't know, and it made me so mad one day I called him in and I said, “Listen, if you don't keep your mouth shut and do what I tell you,” I said, “I'm going to crawl up on this desk and knock the hell out of you.” He took a few steps back and went back and went in and sat down. So I went into my clerk, Gus Garcia. He says, “And she means it, too.” I didn't have any problem with him anymore. I think he stood six-nine.

EE:

Well, the thing is, if you show that you're not going to take the gaff, then you'll be treated respectfully.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Were you encouraged to make the military your career?

MC:

Not necessarily.

EE:

I was going to say, you might have been ahead of the curve.

MC:

Yes, because, see, they only kept the hundred of us just to do the leave that the men earned when they were overseas, and then while I was working there, then they decided to make the women permanent. But before then, that's the only women they had, was right there at Headquarters Marine Corps, and that's mainly what we did, was work on terminal leave.

EE:

During this twenty-five year career, what was the hardest thing you had to do during your time in the service, either physically or emotionally?

MC:

I guess it was emotionally when we had a woman Marine that was killed in an automobile accident—no, she died in the barracks, and I lived in quarters with my mother, and they called me and said that she had died. So of course I got dressed and went in, and then her folks came. She was a good friend of mine.

EE:

Was she a new recruit?

MC:

No. She just had a heart attack.

EE:

You talked about the one fellow who was giving you grief. Most of the folks that I've talked with, you know, the service always brings you in contact with people from all different walks of life, from the North, from the South, from the East, from the West, all different races, backgrounds, and you meet a number of memorable characters in that time. Were there a few people in your military service who stand out as interesting personalities or events that are comical?

MC:

No, not particularly. I mean, it was just everyday routine.

EE:

One of the questions that I ask folks, and I'm never quite sure how to ask it, what was your most embarrassing moment?

MC:

Oh, God. I don't know if I had any.

EE:

Keep your nose to the grindstone and you'll be all right?

MC:

Yes. Well, there wasn't much you could do, you know.

EE:

What was the social life like? You watched it change from the number—

MC:

Well, we had liberty at 4:30 every day unless you had the duty, and then, of course, if you had a car, you'd get off base. If not, then you went to the Women Marines Club or the Staff Club. That was your social life.

EE:

Most of the women I've talked with were not in the service at a time when they had a Women Marines Club.

MC:

No. It was after World War II.

EE:

And I guess you had similar restrictions on—you might have had a lounge where you could have received people in the barracks but nobody went upstairs?

MC:

Yes. Nobody went beyond the lounge.

EE:

Did you and most of the Women Marines socialize together, or was every body sort of on their own?

MC:

Oh, no. They pretty well stuck together.

EE:

You're traveling to a lot of different places, and I guess that's one thing you get used to when you're in the service, as you get moved. Did you ever feel that you were in physical danger or were ever afraid during any time of your service?

MC:

No.

EE:

I guess that's another advantage of being around all of these bases: you had lots of men to protect you, and a Marine's a Marine, so they've got to come to you.

You joined in the forties, you watched things change, and by the time you left, women could be raised to the rank of brigadier general.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

What did you feel about the promotions and how women were valued in the service? Did you think that they were given an equal shake as far as opportunities for advancement?

MC:

You know, when they made us regulars and everything, we had the same advantages as the men.

EE:

When you joined, a part of, I guess, what you were trying to do was to help in the war and free a man to fight, that sort of stuff.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

Was the kind of work you were doing work that would have been done by a man normally in peace time?

MC:

Well, not when I worked in the companies of the women, but when I worked at Headquarters Marine Corps, that was in terminal leave, figuring out, that was men and women there. And then in the male companies it was men and women both.

EE:

Starting, I guess, when you were in San Diego, when you were administrative chief, you were supervisor of both men and women doing that work?

MC:

Right.

EE:

And as a supervisor, you felt—obviously you dressed down the one fellow who was giving you grief, but generally you were treated with respect in a supervisor position?

MC:

Oh, yes. And they didn't want to go in and see the first sergeant, because he stood about six-six and weighed two hundred and some pounds, so I said, “Well, I'll just let you go in and see the first sergeant,” and they shut right up.

EE:

You joined at a time that, when I talk to people and they look back at where our country's gone, they talk about how in World War II we were a much more patriotic place. And you've been in the service during World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War. How do you think people's perception of the military has changed over the time that you've been in service and since?

MC:

Well, I don't know because I don't have that much to do with it. Now, when I got out, you know, it was still pretty close. But I don't know, nowadays, you know, they're throwing in the same with men and do the same jobs as the men and everything, and that I didn't see.

EE:

What do you think about that, because, you know, we just sent the first combat pilot to Iraq, I guess, last December? Are there some jobs in the service that should not be done by women?

MC:

Infantry. That's the only one I can see. Because they can fly a plane, they can do anything else, they can drive a truck. Well, they drove trucks in World War II. But no, I don't know.

EE:

One thing that I curious—and you're a little bit younger during the war than some of the people that I've talked to—I very rarely hear anybody when talking about the Second World War say that there was ever any fear that we would not win the war, and I guess by the time you joined things had definitely turned in our favor. But do you remember as a teenager ever being afraid that we wouldn't win that war?

MC:

No.

EE:

There was always confidence in your house?

MC:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Well, when you ended up going to Henderson Hall did you feel like you had contributed to the war effort?

MC:

Yes, because I relieved a man to go fight for the country.

EE:

Probably VE [Victory in Europe] Day happened during the middle of your basic, I would guess, didn't it?

MC:

Yep.

EE:

What was that like? Do you remember?

MC:

Yes. Everybody was out screaming and yelling and hollering and singing. You know, they were just having a good time.

EE:

So they broke up the regular training to do that for a day?

MC:

Well, we got to go out, but we had to stay as a platoon, you know. We couldn't run off with anybody else or nothing.

EE:

But that ended one part of a job, and yet everybody figured we had to go in and invade Japan just like we had to go in Europe, and that was not going to be an easy task.

MC:

No.

EE:

And yet, lo and behold, the atom bomb gets dropped. What did you think about that?

MC:

Oh, I don't know. They wouldn't agree to anything else, though. You know, you've got to do what you've got to do.

EE:

Were you at Henderson Hall working the day the surrender was passed?

MC:

Gee, I don't know. What year was that?

EE:

Forty-five.

MC:

Yes. I was at Henderson Hall. If I remember correctly, we just put everything down and walked out and had a party.

EE:

I've seen pictures of a watermelon party. Do you remember a watermelon party?

MC:

Oh, yes.

EE:

A stack of watermelons yea high sticking out of a garbage can out there.

What was it like being in Washington for you? I mean, that's a lot of different things going on in Washington, wasn't there?

MC:

Yes. We had liberty every night and every weekend.

EE:

You say you were up at 4:30. When did your day start, 7:30?

MC:

For when? When are you talking about?

EE:

Well, you say you got to have liberty in the afternoons at 4:30.

MC:

Oh, yes. That was after everybody got off work, unless you worked nights, of course.

EE:

But your shift would normally be from like 7:30 to 4:30 or something like that?

MC:

8:00 to 4:30.

EE:

What did you think of President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt and Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

MC:

I liked them. I thought she was an outstanding person. She should have been president, really. Well, I think she was. I think she ran the country, because he just wasn't physically capable of doing it.

EE:

At the end of his term. That's right.

MC:

Yes.

EE:

And she certainly was a different role model for women, wasn't she?

MC:

She was.

EE:

You mentioned the one woman who died when you were serving. Did you get to know a lot of the folks who had a chance to go overseas in these different battles? You went through Korea and Vietnam, or the kind of work you're doing—

MC:

A lot of the men, yes.

EE:

Do you have any heroes from the people that you've worked with?

MC:

No, I don't think so.

EE:

You started at a young age doing this. In fact, you were about being Rosie the Riveter right off the bat. Are there any particular songs or movies, when you see an old movie on TV, during the reruns, anything that takes you back to that time for you?

MC:

Gee, I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. I guess probably.

EE:

What did they sing at basic training? Was there a Marine chorus, Women Marine songs?

MC:

Oh, yes. We had a Marine march, and they had the Women Marine Hymn, and they had the Marine Corps Hymn.

EE:

What is the Women Marine Hymn? Is it the same tune as the Marine Corps Hymn?

MC:

No. I don't know what it is. Don't ask me. They had the Women Marine March, and then they had the Women Marine Hymn. I don't know who wrote it or anything, and I can't even tell you how it goes now.

EE:

You had the chance to serve, to make a career out of it. So when I ask you a question which I ask everybody, what impact did the military have on your life, well, the military became your life. But you said that's sort of how you envisioned it to begin with. Was it what you thought it was going to be?

MC:

Yes. I wasn't disappointed.

EE:

There are women today who are considering joining the service. If you had the chance to talk with one of them and they asked your advice, “Should I join?” what would you tell them?

MC:

Well, I had a girl that worked down at the fleet, and she was joining the Marine Corps, joining, and I talked to her. I said, “Well, you have to make up your own decisions.” I can't tell you whether to join or not to join. I don't know your feelings. I don't know that much about you. You know, I can't tell anybody to join. Just because I liked it, that doesn't mean that they're going to like it. So I never told anybody, yes, they should join. It's up to them.

EE:

Do you think that joining the service made you more of a independent person than you might have been?

MC:

No.

EE:

You say you might have been independent to begin with?

MC:

I was independent all my life, I guess.

EE:

It sort of helps to be independent, don't you think?

MC:

Well, see, I was raised with all boys. I didn't have any girls to play with. I had to play baseball. I had to play softball. I played football. Anything that the guys played, I was there. I had a little cousin who lived across the street, and she was nothing but a damned brat, and so everybody else—that was all boys. If I didn't play with the boys—well, I've got pictures of it. Anyway, one day a week I made my brother get dressed in a dress and we played dolls.

EE:

He was nice to stand for that.

MC:

I was older, so he had to do what I said he would do or I'd beat the hell out of him. But one day a week I made him get dressed. I've got pictures of him with them, playing—Mom took our picture of the two of us holding our dolls, and he's dressed in a dress.

EE:

[Laughter] Oh, goodness.

You know, I've read and other people have said that, you know, if you wanted to look at the source of the women's movement in the seventies, you go back to World War II and the fact that women were doing all these jobs on an emergency basis, but they were doing jobs which never before women had been allowed to do—like the riveting, like joining the service—and that really set the stage for letting women do a lot more things in society than they had been before. Do you think of yourself as a trailblazer like that?

MC:

No, I never thought of that. I just went along with what everybody else was doing. You know, either you did it or you got off in a hole by yourself.

EE:

But for you, once you got in, there wasn't any looking back, you liked what you saw?

MC:

Well, of course, they were going to disband all the women in the military so I looked forward to a civilian life and what I was going to do, and I wanted to go back into mechanic—I wanted to go back into General Motors and work on car parts or whatever.

EE:

Would you have been able to get that kind of work as woman after the war even though you did it during the war?

MC:

Yes.

EE:

They would let you come back in. Okay. We talked about whether or not women should do certain kinds of work, and I know that the—i guess the Marine Corps was sort of different in the very beginning. The Marine Corps didn't want to have women. When the commandant said, “We're going to have women, they're going to be Marines, full Marines,” and this stuff—looking back at your career, would you say that that promise has been fulfilled, that the woman Marine has been fully a Marine, you've always been treated fully as a Marine?

MC:

Yes. Wherever I had been I have.

EE:

We've gone over a lot of things here. Is there anything in particular that I haven't asked you about, about your service, that I should put in, that we should have here on tape?

MC:

No. I can't think of anything.

EE:

How did your family feel about your being in service? You say your mom was there. Did you have any other friends who you've kept in contact with over the years from where you were stationed?

MC:

Where I was stationed?

EE:

Yes.

MC:

Oh, yes. I've got a lot of Women Marine friends. See, we have a convention once every two years.

EE:

How active are you in that Women Marines Association? Are you pretty active in that?

MC:

Well, I belong. I did hold an office at one time.

EE:

Have you been up to WIMSA [Women in Military Service for America Memorial]?

MC:

I think I have.

EE:

That's right there, you know, when you go in the entrance to Arlington.

MC:

Yes. I went up there for some kind of a memorial service or something because I had my two—no, I had my three nieces and my nephew I took with me, and Cindy was the youngest, and I don't believe she was six yet so she must have been five, four, three. Those are the three I had. And I was standing there, and they were standing right behind me, and some woman tapped me on the shoulder, and she said, “Do these children belong to you?”

I said, “Well, it all depends. What have they done?” And she said, “I just wanted to tell you what nice children they are.”

EE:

So you said, “Of course they're mine.”

MC:

She said, “They've just stood right here, and they haven't moved, they haven't said anything.”

I said, “They know better.” So I said, “Thank you very much.” So I went home and told Ann and the rest of the family, and they said, “You took those three?”

EE:

Well, it's like that poem says, “When they're good, they're very, very good, and when they're bad, they're horrid.”

Well, I appreciate you sitting down and going over this today. This is part of a longer term project, and I think it'll be good to see the results of it.

MC:

Good.

[End of interview]