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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Ann Kaplowitz Goldberg, 2000

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Object ID: WV0142.5.001

Description: Documents Ann Kaplowitz Goldberg’s early life in Brooklyn, New York; her military service during World War II; and her family and personal life after the war.

Summary:

Goldberg discusses various aspects of her military service, including her family’s reaction to her enlistment; classes and living conditions during basic training at Fort Oglethorpe; her classified position and the secure area in which she worked in the Army Airways Communication System office in Asheville, NC; social activities, especially life in Asheville; and her courtship with and engagement to Abe Goldberg. Goldberg speaks frequently about her Jewish faith, relating several incidents of religious discrimination.

Goldberg also discusses her personal life at length, commenting on her Russian family history and her youth in Brooklyn; not wanting her sons to serve in the Vietnam War; women’s issues and feminism; her brief post-war education, her job at Fieldston School in the Bronx working famous people's children, and being involved in veterans organizations.

Creator: Ann Kaplowitz Goldberg

Biographical Info: Ann Kaplowitz Goldberg (b. 1924) of Brooklyn, New York, worked in classified communications with the Women’s Army Corps from 1944 to 1946.

Collection: Ann Kaplowitz Goldberg Papers

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

Full Text:

HT:

Today is Thursday, November 16—

AG:

November 16th, one week away from Thanksgiving, my seventy-sixth birthday.

HT:

Oh, my gosh. I'm at the home of Ann Goldberg in Port Richey, Florida, to conduct an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Goldberg, if you could tell me a little bit about yourself, biographical information. Where were you born?

AG:

Brooklyn, New York.

HT:

Do you mind telling me when?

AG:

Yes, you can send a gift. Next week is my birthday, November 23, 1924.

HT:

Happy Birthday, early.

AG:

Thank you.

HT:

Where did you live before you enlisted in the army?

AG:

Brooklyn, New York.

HT:

So you lived there most of your life before you joined?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family?

AG:

Well, my parents emigrated from Russia, and my father came here to avoid being drafted, and as soon as he got here, he was drafted. But he, not being a citizen, he couldn't go overseas, so he says they got up at reveille one day, and the captain said, “All those who are not citizens, one step forward. Raise your right hand.” All of a sudden, my father was a citizen, ready to go overseas, but the war ended the next day.

HT:

You're talking about World War I, at this time?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

So you were born in the United States?

AG:

Oh, yes.

HT:

Were all your siblings born here as well?

AG:

I have one sister, yes.

HT:

What about your mother's family? Were they—

AG:

My mother's family all came here, except for her father. Her mother was dead, but her sisters and brothers all immigrated to the United States.

HT:

All from Russia?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Where did you go to high school?

AG:

Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn. Never got to leave Brooklyn till I joined the army.

HT:

Did you get a chance to go to college before you entered the service?

AG:

No. I worked.

HT:

What type of work did you do?

AG:

Secretarial. I wanted to be a nurse, but in those days, you had to be eighteen, and I was only seventeen. So I thought I'd work. I liked the taste of getting that weekly paycheck, so I stayed working.

HT:

So that's the type of work you did until you joined the army?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

What made you decide to join the WAC [Women's Army Corps]?

AG:

Well, things that my father used to tell us, things that I heard from the boys, my friends that came home on leaves and stuff. The army sounded like it was the one for me. The navy didn't appeal to me, even though I married a navy man. It's the one branch of service that I thought I would enjoy, that they would enjoy me.

HT:

When did you join?

AG:

I was inducted December 7, 1944.

HT:

What did your parents, siblings, and friends think about you joining?

AG:

I didn't speak to my father for three months, because he wouldn't sign. You had to be twenty-one. One day we were sitting at the dinner table or something, and my sister stood up, and I never heard my sister shout, never. She shouted at my father, “Sign the darn thing so we can have a life.” And he did. My mother wouldn't sign it.

HT:

She never did sign?

AG:

She wouldn't go against his wishes, but once he signed, it was okay. She wanted me to go. She thought it would be good for me. But I guess maybe, him being in the army, I don't know, but he said, “Once you're in, you're in. You can't say, 'I want to go home.'” He knew that I had a lot of different moods. So he thought it was best for me not to go. But I went, and I loved it.

HT:

Do you recall exactly why you decided to join? Did you see posters? They were saying at that time, “Join so you can—.”

AG:

No, no. This was just from people I came in contact with that were in the service. We volunteered, my girlfriends and I, at a canteen in the city [New York]. Just hearing the boys speak, I thought I would like to join the army, and that's what I did.

HT:

Where exactly did you enlist?

AG:

I enlisted on Church Street in New York City. That's where I took my physical. Where did I enlist? I don't remember.

HT:

Was that in Manhattan?

AG:

Yes, Manhattan.

HT:

Then from there, where were you shipped for basic training?

AG:

Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

HT:

So this would have been early December, '44?

AG:

No, we didn't leave until January, I believe it was, because of the holidays.

HT:

You had never been South before?

AG:

Well, this was my truly first racial experience—I don't know if it has any place in this, but I got a special pass to go to town on my own during basic training. I had to see a podiatrist, and I got on the bus. This was Athens, Georgia. The bus was pretty crowded. We got to the next stop, and people wanted to get on. The bus driver stood up and said, “All you niggers, off the bus. Make room for the white people.” You have no idea what that did to me. I had never experienced anything like that. It was horrible. I think I cried all the way to podiatrist. When I got there, he says, “Are you in such pain?”

I said, “No.”

I couldn't tell him what happened. I thought maybe he might cut my toe off or something. That was my racial experience.

HT:

That was quite a shock for a northern girl.

AG:

Yes, it was traumatic for me. I can still picture it, you know, few years past.

HT:

Did the black folks get off?

AG:

Oh, yes. They never said—well, he did give them transfers to get on the next bus. They didn't lose their money.

HT:

I've heard of similar stories, but nothing quite like that.

AG:

Yes, that was—

HT:

I've heard of the dividing line between the front of the bus and the back of the bus.

AG:

Yes. Well, he made them get off. They all got off, and there were all white people on that bus. Of course, there were separate drinking fountains in the depots and stuff.

HT:

Well, tell me a little bit about your days in basic training.

AG:

The food was horrendous. I put weight on because we had German [prisoners of war] bakers, and the bread was delicious, and I got my first taste of margarine and apple butter. I couldn't eat the food. I really couldn't. It was vile, for me, a kosher kid. For some of the girls, it was the best thing they ever had in their whole lives.

I remember in basic training in the first week, in the barracks, getting undressed—not that I would flaunt myself. I'm in my little cubbyhole, and I'm getting undressed. I could feel somebody staring at me. I turned around, and a little girl—I think that she had her first pair of shoes. She was from no place, Arkansas. I said to her, “Do you have a problem?”

She said, “No.”

I said, “Well, why are you staring at me?”

Quote, “My daddy told me that all Jews were born with a money belt, and I'm looking to see what yours is like.” I was absolutely speechless. This is what I came in contact with. There was other times I had little experiences, but nothing that really bothered me. I was used to it.

I'll tell you something funny. When we finished basic training, we were allowed to go to town. The nearest big city was Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is dry, but you could go into a liquor store and buy whiskey and take it into a bar, and they would sell you the setups. And you couldn't keep the bottles on the table.

There were about eight of us, and we were having a great time. We made it back to the barracks, and the next morning the sergeant was shaking me. She says, “I don't know what you did, but the provost marshal is looking for you. Get over there.”

I got there, and he says to me, “Well, private, looks like you had a very good time yesterday.”

I said, “Yes, sir.”

He said, “Aren't you missing anything?”

I said, “Yes, sir.”

He said, “What is it?”

I said, “My purse, sir.” I had left my purse at the bar. For my company punishment, I had to paint the captain's office, the ceiling, just the ceiling, get up on a high ladder and paint the ceiling. I never got drunk again. That was it.

HT:

Well, what did you do during basic training? I imagine it lasted about six, eight weeks?

AG:

Six weeks. You marched. We had classes, experiencing gas, plane recognition, officer recognition, how to salute, when to salute, when to remove your hat, how to appear in uniform, how to conduct yourself like a soldier at all times.

HT:

Were you being trained for anything specific?

AG:

No, not in basic. After basic, you're classified and they send you someplace. I was sent to Sheppard Field, Texas. The last few days, they tell you're in staging, waiting to be sent someplace. While we were in staging, we were playing softball, and I fell and broke my arm. The captain says, “Well, maybe you'd better hang around.” I want to stay with the girls that I know.

We took off the next day on a train, and I was really in a lot of pain. Nobody knew it was broken. So I didn't go to get it looked at or anything. I just wanted to go with my friends. That night, the captain said to the sergeant, “You'd better give her your—” She had a little roomette. “Because there's no way she's going to climb in that bunk that was upstairs.” So I spent the night in luxury, my own bathroom, my own bed, with a closed door, for the first time in a long time. But when we got there, I went on sick call, and they put a cast on my arm, so that was okay.

HT:

Back to your days in basic training, I know you had to get up at six o'clock, perhaps. What was a typical day like for you?

AG:

Okay. Well, we had an encephalitis breakout in Oklahoma. We were real close to Oklahoma.

HT:

This was in—

AG:

In basic training, Shepard—no, no, no. I'm wrong. This was in Sheppard Field. But back to basic. One of the girls got pneumonia, because it was very cold. Barracks were cold. We used to have to leave the building, go to another building to shower. It was really rough. A lot of the girls got very sick, and they were sent home. They weren't allowed to continue. They had lung problems and stuff. It could have been better for the girls. Maybe the guys are used to that stuff, but a lot of these girls had led very sheltered lives. In basic training, there's no shelter, period. In between, you do a lot of marching, a lot. No guns, nothing to carry. We never went on bivouac the way they do now. We just walked. We just marched.

HT:

And took classes, I guess?

AG:

Took classes, yes. We'd get up around six, a quarter of six, do our ablutions and go out and answer, “Here,” “Present,” or what have you. And then go back in the barrack and choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, back out again to mess, food, the crummy food of basic training, cold eggs that tasted like powder rather than eggs. It looked awful. I had one good meal a week, Sunday dinner. That was it.

HT:

I imagine you were probably used to some good food, being from New York? Mom was an excellent cook, I bet.

AG:

Mom was a good “cooker,” to quote my children and grandchildren. They call me a “cooker.” Yes. I left a very comfortable, close-knit, loving, warm family. My girlfriends, nobody believed that I would do such a thing, really. But I'm not sorry.

HT:

After you finished basic, were you able to go home for a leave at that time?

AG:

No.

HT:

You went straight to Sheppard?

AG:

Went right to Texas, yes.

HT:

I guess you took a train out?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

So there were no planes?

AG:

Let me tell you about that train ride. No, that was another time. This was another train ride, going from New York to Asheville, North Carolina, where I was sent to after Sheppard Field. I'm just rambling on.

HT:

That's fine.

AG:

There were no seats on the train, and the conductor came and said we could sit up in the baggage compartment. So five or six of us were sitting around, passing around a bottle of something, white lightning. I wouldn't touch it. We're having a nice time. We're talking and exchanging experiences, and we get to a stop. The conductor comes in, “You people have to get off.” He needs the box. It was a coffin. The hearse was waiting out there, because we all got off to have a smoke, and we saw them put the coffin on. After that, we sat on the floor. We didn't trust anybody.

HT:

That must have been a very unusual experience.

AG:

Oh, yes. Yes, yes. Very.

HT:

I'm assuming it did not look like a coffin.

AG:

No, it had one of these quilted covers over it, but when they went to pick it up, the cover slipped a little bit, and you could see there was an American flag draped over it. It must have been a soldier, sailor or something. We all sat on the floor after that.

I went through my first tornado in Sheppard Field. They were getting ready to do a USO [United Service Organizations] show. Bob Hope was supposed to be coming and all, and the whole stage, everything was blown away. Nothing was left. So they canceled the show. That's the closest I ever got to see him. A big show.

HT:

And you were in charge of that?

AG:

No. I was in charge of my little show in basic training, our big party.

HT:

What type of work did you do at Sheppard?

AG:

Nothing. I was in the staging area waiting—I was supposed to go to school there, but because I broke my arm—the school was radio operator on the plane, but I couldn't go to school. So I just hung around doing nothing.

HT:

For how long?

AG:

Well, they put me in the hospital for three months, because my arm wouldn't heal.

HT:

Oh my gosh.

AG:

Then they wanted to send me home, discharge me, medical. I said, “No way. I came in healthy. I'm going home healthy.” So they sent me to North Carolina, to Asheville, because they figured the good climate would help me. There I worked with AACS, Army Airways Communication Systems, and to this date, I haven't found anybody who ever heard of it.

HT:

Army Airways Communication Systems?

AG:

Yes, sir.

HT:

Is that “Systems” or “System”? And what did it do?

AG:

Okay. We had charge of the officers' personnel files, the 201s, and we also got to see these—after a place had been bombed, they take these pictures, and we had all those pictures. Different planes would take pictures of different areas, you know. We'd put it together like jigsaw puzzles. Very interesting. That was all done in the vault.

HT:

It was classified?

AG:

Yes. Oh, yes. I was investigated by the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] before I got the job. As a matter of fact, my optometrist called my father, and he said, “Could you please come down,” just around the corner from where we lived.

He said, “Sure.” He went down.

“Is your daughter in trouble?”

My father said, “Not as far as I know.”

He said, “Well, the FBI has been here asking about her and you and the whole family.”

The neighbors started looking at my father kind of strangely, because they had checked a few of the neighbors, also. And some other professional they checked with. I think our dentist. He was the closest. I was approved. Totally, totally classified. Like I say, most of our work was done in the vault. We had two guys on duty at all times, when the vault was open, with machine guns.

HT:

When you say a “vault,” was it a huge room?

AG:

Oh, yes. Yes. I guess about the size of from here to the window. It was huge, because we had this large table that we worked at. We didn't sit; we stood. We worked with magnifying glasses.

HT:

That photograph had been shot from airplanes and magnified and that sort of thing?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Almost like what the satellites do today?

AG:

Yes. Exactly. Yes, yes. That's what we'd do.

HT:

Did you have to write reports on the information?

AG:

No, just put them together.

HT:

Just put the photographs together?

AG:

Yes, because we didn't know what they were dropping or where, you know. So we just put them together.

HT:

You matched them. Where did the photographs go after you finished with them? Do you know?

AG:

They went to Washington, D.C.

HT:

That's a strange place. They would have it in an actual out-of-the-way place.

AG:

Well, this was the headquarters company, and then we were shipped to Langley Field from Asheville.

HT:

Langley, I think, is in Virginia, isn't it?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

How long did you stay in Asheville? Do you recall?

AG:

About six months, I guess. Not long. I was only in the service about fourteen and a half months.

HT:

The war ended in May and July of '45.

AG:

It got very chicken—don't you have a collar on wrong or button this thing or a spot here or anything. You strictly had to be perfect at all times. There was no deviation. A lot of the girls wanted out. I got married. I got out. But if I had to do it all over again—of course, in those days it was different. Today, the girls, they get married, they have their children, and they stay in the service.

HT:

That wasn't an option in those days.

AG:

No, you had to get out.

HT:

While you were in Asheville, did you get a chance to do any traveling around North Carolina?

AG:

Well, I loved Asheville. The Smokey Mountains, just beautiful. Of course, we had a great deal there, because there was no army base. We lived at a resort hotel. We had a cottage. We were eight girls to a cottage, and we had a day room. They would call it a living room. It was our day room. It was absolutely magnificent.

HT:

It was part of the Grove Park Inn, was it, where you stayed? Because that's a huge resort up in Asheville.

AG:

I don't remember the name. Of all the pictures I took, I never wrote the name of it. I don't know why.

HT:

I'll recognize it if you have one.

AG:

You won't see any buildings or anything because they're just outdoors. But we had to travel all the way over to where the boys were stationed. They were stationed in an old CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] camp. We had to eat there. There were no roads. We rode in these buses. By the time we got to work, 80 percent of the girls were sick to their stomachs. So the captain said, this is it, she's tired of the girls going on sick call and then being taken back to where we lived. She got us rations, per diem, and we could eat when we wanted to, where we wanted to.

HT:

So you ate on what they call, on the economy?

AG:

We were on per diem—Q&R, quarters and rations. That's what we were on. We never got money to pay our hotel bill. That was paid for us. But we did get money to eat, which meant meat. That was my first experience where a girl walks around with coffee all the time in the restaurants, something you never saw in New York, unless you went to a high-society restaurant. Normal restaurants, you had to ask for a cup of coffee and a refill. That was kind of nice.

I went to a lot of little places, had a little waterfall, you'd go swimming. But the names—I don't remember. It's a beautiful country.

HT:

Have you been back since then?

AG:

Yes. They had Ella Fitzgerald, and I don't remember—I was just talking about it the other day. It wasn't Duke Ellington. It was another black band. Because they were black, they couldn't get a place in town to entertain, so they went to this barn, and the place was packed. Just played some really good music, and she sang, and she said, “It's nice that all you white folk would come and see us black people entertain.” That's what she said. She didn't say “nigger,” because that's what everybody said down there. “Would come and see us black people entertain.” Service people they let in for nothing. If you were in uniform, you got in for nothing. I think they were paying fifty or seventy-five cents. A great night.

HT:

That sounds wonderful. Do you recall the name of your unit, the specific name of the unit in Asheville, by any chance? Like Army Airways Communication System, but did it have like a number in front of it or anything like that?

AG:

I have no idea. No idea.

HT:

It sounds like you enjoyed your work very much.

AG:

Oh, yes. I really did. I did.

HT:

Did you work with any civilians or were they all military?

AG:

Well, this was a bad beginning for us. I came in. One girl and three guys left, and they hired one civilian, me and a civilian. Then we got another girl, a WAC. Two WACs and one civilian replaced five guys. The guys weren't very friendly towards us at the beginning, but then it was okay.

HT:

But there was more there than just your little unit in Asheville?

AG:

Oh, yes.

HT:

Other things were going on. And do you think the other people treated you equally?

AG:

Well, it was all part of AACS. Whatever it is they were doing, I have no idea. It was so hush-hush. Whatever anybody else was doing, they never discussed their work. I never knew what anybody else was doing like, say, on the floor above or the floor below. We had taken over the city hall in Asheville.

HT:

That's interesting. You say some of the fellows left when you got there. They didn't leave because—

AG:

They left for active duty.

HT:

So you and the other WAC replaced them?

AG:

Yes. I corresponded with her, and she died a couple of years ago.

HT:

As a woman, did you ever feel that you were treated not equally, because you were a woman, by some of the fellow staff people?

AG:

Just the GIs, not the officers. We had a wonderful man in charge of us. Of course, he answered to the general. He was great. I mean, he would just walk along. He never expected you to salute. “At ease. At ease.” He didn't want anybody saluting, and he was very gung-ho. He was really a nice guy. I could have called him “Papa.”

The captain was a young man, who had been shot down, I believe, and he was doing desk duty. He said to me when I became a corporal—how did he put it? When I became a PFC [private first class], he said to me, “Don't bother with the stripe, because you're going to make corporal real soon.” Before I knew it, I was a sergeant. I mean, we worked very hard, and we did a good job.

HT:

What was a typical day like? Did you have normal office hours, or did you work lots of overtime?

AG:

No, we had regular office hours, because there were so many civilians involved. A lot of civilians there. They found for security reasons, the less coming and going there were in and out of the building, the better it would be. As a matter of fact, my boyfriend sent me a package, to tell you how I became engaged. He sent me a package, very small, about the size of a toothpick box. On the outside, the first wrapper said, “Handle with care. Danger, TNT.” Before it was even unwrapped, on the outside it just said, “Be careful,” or something like that.

They took it down into the basement, where they had means of testing things, you know, soaking it in something or X-raying it. The next thing I know, one guys comes up. He's wearing a ring on his pinkie, and the guy's got a watch over his ear. That's how I became engaged. He sent me a ring and a watch, my sailor. He said, “Will you marry me?”

HT:

Speaking of that, how did you meet your husband?

AG:

Oh, it was crazy. I had a date with his friend, who was graduating from Army Signal Corps in Manhattan. They had a school there. He had been drafted, but rather than send him someplace, it was real convenient for these boys to go to school in the city. They had a graduation, so he called me, his friend, and said his best friend just came in on leave—my future husband—could I get a girl Saturday night. I said, “I'll try.” I called a few girls. [They said] “I'm not desperate to take a last-minute date on a Saturday night.” They'd rather sit home. That was the attitude.

HT:

Was this before you went in the service?

AG:

Yes. I called him, and I said, “I can't get a girl.”

He says, well, he'll bring him anyway, because there are some girls that will be there, because they're part of the training class that will be graduating. Okay. Here's this gorgeous, gorgeous guy, tan, in a white uniform, with jet black, wavy hair. He's absolutely gorgeous. The girls were flocking around him and all. He finally, finally asked me to dance. The first thing he asked me, “Is it serious between you and Ben?”

I said, “No, it's just a date.”

So he said, “Will you write?”

I said, “If you write to me, I'll be more than happy to answer.”

We wrote for almost four years. I used to write almost every day until I went into the service. Then it was more difficult for me. And we got married.

HT:

So you knew him for quite a few years before—

AG:

Yes, but actually, only through the mail. I just saw him twice.

HT:

Earlier you said he was in the navy. Is that correct?

AG:

Yes. I saw him that week, and then two weeks later, he took me—the ship had a ball, ship's dance, but it was canceled, because they couldn't have it on board ship because of the lighting. So we had it in the hotel in Brooklyn, the Saint George Hotel. I remember that. God. We're going to be married fifty-five years.

HT:

Wow. That's truly wonderful.

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

AG:

Physically?

HT:

Yes.

AG:

I can't think of a thing, except painting the office ceiling in basic training.

HT:

There was nothing during basic that was difficult?

AG:

During basic, yes. I went out on KP [kitchen patrol duty], and I get in the kitchen, and she gives me this long brush, and she says to me, “Do the pots.” I look at these pots, and they're tall pots. I says to her, “I can't reach it.” I said, “If I put the brush up and over, I can't reach the bottom of the pot.”

She says, “Go find something to stand on.”

I got one of the egg boxes. Of course, I was a lot, a lot thinner, trust me, a lot thinner. I get on the box, and I can barely reach the bottom. So she says to me, “Get the hell off the box. Get yourself a pen and a pad and sit down.”

This was the mess sergeant. As she walked around and got ideas, she'd run over to me and say, pa, pa, pa, pa, and I'd write it down, you know, and she'd give it to somebody, and they'd type it up. That was my job on KP.

HT:

That wasn't too bad.

AG:

That was great.

HT:

Was that the only time you were on KP?

AG:

That's the only time I was ever on KP, in basic training. Asheville, we ate out. Texas, they had regular GIs doing the mess hall—the only time you really draw KP is when you're in basic training, because after that, you're working, you have a job.

HT:

So you did basic training, you were at Sheppard for a few months. Were you stationed anywhere else?

AG:

Langley Field.

HT:

What type of work did you do at Langley?

AG:

Same thing. I stayed with the headquarters company the whole time.

HT:

That's right. That was the headquarters.

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Of all the places you stayed, which did you like the best?

AG:

Asheville. Langley Field was kind of funny, because we weren't too far from Norfolk, [Virginia], and I had strict orders from my beau, “You are not allowed to go to Norfolk. No way.” He knew all the hungry sailors were there. But Asheville, just the climate. And the people were very friendly.

When I was in Texas, with the cast on my arm, being of the Jewish faith, when Passover came, the Jewish people in town—Wichita Falls, Texas, still had wooden sidewalks, half the town. Yes. We were invited to participate in this dinner and services at this hotel. Off I go, you know, pa, pa, pa, and I'm so happy I'm going to be amongst my own kind and get a real good Jewish meal, kosher food.

I was so ignored. The women were hovering over these guys. “Do you need this?” “Can I do that?” Thank God, the guy next to me cut my meat for me, because I couldn't handle it with the cast. They were all invited to homes to meet their daughters, all of them. Nobody had a son at home for me to meet, so I didn't get invited.

That's all I know about Wichita Falls. It was a nice little town. But Asheville was the place, really.

HT:

Earlier I asked you the hardest thing you ever had to do physically. What about emotionally? Did you have any emotional events happen to you?

AG:

Yes. At Langley Field, we got some new girls in. It was the sergeant barracks. You had to be sergeant or higher, but noncommissioned officers. A little cubicle, two beds, two closets, a window. I'm sitting on the bed, I'm writing a letter, and my companion, she's just lying there dozing or something. We hear this really loud voice saying, “Ain't no way I'm going to live next to a Jew,” and she's really going on and on about it. I wanted to get up and go out there.

My roommate said, “I'll take care of it.”

Well, they really ostracized her. She had to ask to be transferred, because nobody would talk to her.

HT:

This is your roommate?

AG:

No. My roommate was okay. She went out to confront this gal that was speaking that way.

HT:

Oh, I see.

AG:

But that was my only emotional experience, really.

HT:

Being of the Jewish faith, was that the only time you ever had any kind of discriminatory action that you were aware of?

AG:

Well, I blame this on the man's ignorance. I really wasn't hurt by it, because I felt he was very ignorant. A lot of these people are brought up that way. It's not their fault. But when he found out I was Jewish—he was an orderly at the hospital, in the service. He got next to my bed, and he got down on his knees, and he prayed for me that I should be saved. I kept saying, “Saved from what?” He never answered me. He just kept going on. When he had free time, he would run in and kneel by my bed. I said, “Well, if I've got somebody else praying for me, it can't hurt.”

HT:

This was because of your arm, I guess.

AG:

Yes. The arm just didn't heal, you know. It just didn't heal.

HT:

Do you think that was because it had been unattended for a little while?

AG:

Yes. That's what they said.

HT:

You don't have any problems with it now?

AG:

Well, wherever you break something—I have osteoporosis now, so it's hard to tell, because just two years ago, I broke it again. I break bones very easily, so it's hard to tell if it goes back to the time of my service or what. Live and let live.

HT:

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

AG:

No.

HT:

Never any kind of danger?

AG:

No.

HT:

Do you recall any embarrassing or hilarious moments?

AG:

Okay. Well, this really doesn't pertain to my being in the service, but I was home on leave, and my friends and I went to the theater in the city, movie house, and the ushers were always dressed so elegantly, in white with gold braid. I walked over to this young man, and I asked him when the next show starts. He looked at me, never answered me.

So I said to him, “Does the cat have your tongue?”

My girlfriend walked over, and she said, “Do you know him?”

I said, “No, why do I have to know him?”

She said, “He's a naval officer.” I'm so happy I wasn't in uniform.

HT:

I was just going to ask you were you in uniform. That's a good story.

AG:

When we were in basic training and we had that last weekend, we could leave—no, no, this was in Sheppard Field. We could leave the base on weekends, get a pass. So this girl who looked for my money belt on me, we became very good friends. She said, “Do you want to go to Dallas?” I said, “Yeah, that would be great.”Well, we took the bus to Dallas, and we went over to the Y[MCA]. When we got off the bus, we ran into this elderly gent, who had a convertible, and he asked us where we were going, and he said, could he show us Dallas? [We] said, “Sure.”

You didn't have any of these weirdoes. Maybe you did, but they didn't make the news. We met him someplace. I don't remember where. He took us for a ride, took us to dinner at a very elegant place, because they knew him. “Yes, sir, Mr. So-and-so.” We rode in his Cadillac convertible. He didn't tell us much about himself. He just spoke to us, what we wanted to do. Then he said, “If you have no plans, I'll pick you up in the morning and take you to King Ranch,” I think. It was a big ranch.

Took us and showed us—and they let him on because they knew him. Then he took us for lunch. We'd had breakfast. He took us for lunch. He took us back to the Y so we could get our bag, and then he took us to the depot. Never heard from him, never saw him again, but he gave us a great, great weekend.

HT:

It was a wonderful thing for him to do.

AG:

Yes.

HT:

I've heard other stories where families would take either servicemen or servicewomen in for dinner and kind of treat them almost like their children. It's just wonderful.

AG:

Well, my experience, I never saw or met a girl that was invited anyplace. It was always the boys. But in Asheville, I'd go one week-we'd go to the service, get another girlfriend, go to another service. They all wanted to go to mine, because we always had a little collation afterwards, and it was all that good stuff: bagels, cream cheese, lox, cookies. The women went all out. They liked to go with me on Friday nights.

I was in the Catholic Church, and they got up to kneel on this little thingy, and it was my first experience. I had never been to Catholic service before, and of all things they put that across my toes, and I let out a scream. That's embarrassing. Now I was upset because of what the chaplain said, and he was a chaplain. I was upset because he said that nobody should be there that's not of the faith, and those that are of the faith shouldn't go to any other house of worship, something like that, and I was really annoyed about that.

HT:

That was quite prevalent, even into the sixties and seventies, because I'm Catholic, so I know we were taught not to attend other churches and faiths.

AG:

Well, everybody knew it was me. Everybody turned around and looked at me. “Oh, well, I won't go to Catholic—” That's the only service it happened at. I went to Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian. I never heard anything like.

HT:

This was a chaplain, army chaplain?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Well, those things did happen, unfortunately. Well, tell me a little bit about your social life. You said that you attended churches with other girls?

AG:

Social life in the services?

HT:

Right.

AG:

Well, it was just girls and girls. In Sheppard Field, I went to a dance, just the boys and the girls, men and women. I'm sitting there, look up and there's a kid who lives around the corner from me in Brooklyn, twins, and they're both there. The two of them are very tall and very skinny and very ugly. I said, “Guys, I got just the girls for you.” I go off, and I know these twin girls, tall, skinny, ugly. I shouldn't use these words, but that's what they were. I introduce them, and they all marry each other.

HT:

Oh my gosh.

AG:

I became a matchmaker. Did you ever meet people—well, if they had had orthodontics, they'd be okay. They all had funny-looking teeth. But I made a match, two matches, actually. Around the corner and Texas. Social life, there really wasn't any. I didn't look for it, actually. I had my boyfriend to write to, and that kept me happy, and we were girls who just did things together. We went to museums, if there were any available, or parks, or movies. But Sheppard Field was very big. There was a lot going on on the base itself. Then all we had there was Wichita Falls.

I remember my father's friend was a manager for Western Union, and he said, “Anytime you want to talk to your dad in a hurry, it won't cost you anything. You send a collect telegram, and I'll see that he gets it.”

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

AG:

We were told we could wear civilian shoes with our uniforms. You don't have to wear the GI. Oh, god, I needed money. I sent my father a telegram begging him for a new pair of shoes, “Please send twenty-five dollars.” In the hour, I had another telegram with twenty-five dollars. “I could understand my baby needing a new pair of shoes, but twenty-five dollars? Love.” He did send it to me. He did.

HT:

So after you were in the service, it sounds like your family accepted the fact that you were in?

AG:

Oh, yes.

HT:

Do you think it was a good thing for you to do?

AG:

Oh, yes. Absolutely. There was no question about it.

HT:

Were they proud of you when you came home in your uniform?

AG:

Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, my father gave blood. “Who are you giving it for?” He said, “To honor my daughter in the service.” And I get a thing from the Red Cross that I've been honored from my father giving blood.

HT:

In your extended family, were there any other women who were in the service, cousins or anything like that?

AG:

Actually, no. Afterwards, my sister's husband, his sister was in the Marines. But that's about it. I never knew anybody socially or family. Jewish girls didn't do those things.

HT:

Of course, women, in general, didn't do a whole lot of that, even before the war, because women didn't work outside the family. I guess that was a rather rare thing to do.

AG:

Oh yes, yes.

HT:

You were probably the only person of the Jewish faith on many of the bases.

AG:

In my barracks, I had one girl. She was big. I mean, when she walked in, she got their attention. She became an MP [military police]. She was really not fat. I mean, she was about six-three and well built. When Ruth walked in, you knew Ruth was in the barracks. But she was very well liked. Or respected. Maybe they were afraid of her. I don't know. But that's the only Jewish girl I met, was Ruth Krole or Kohl, something with a “K.” We got to be near each other, because my maiden name was Kaplowitz. You got your bed alphabetically in basic training.

HT:

When you were in basic, you had bunks in barracks.

AG:

Yes.

HT:

How many girls were in each barrack? Do you recall?

AG:

Oh, I would say about thirty.

HT:

Two-story barrack?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Mine was, and I was in the air force.

AG:

No, no. Basic wasn't a two-story. Sheppard Field was a two-story, and on Sundays, for the officer to get flight pay, they used to take the planes up, and we had B-29s at Sheppard Field. They would buzz the WAC barracks and turn our cots over. We really started to moan and groan and bitch, and finally they weren't doing that anymore. I mean, you were sound asleep on a Sunday morning. The next thing you know, you're on the floor with cots on top of you.

HT:

I've never heard of that.

AG:

Well, they were so close to us. Those are big planes.

HT:

And it vibrates?

AG:

Yes. Everything would fall off the shelves, everything.

HT:

Rattle the windows, the doors?

AG:

Yes, yes, yes. I mean, you had to be dead not hear it.

HT:

That's amazing. Now Sheppard Field, that was an air force installation, I assume?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

But the air force, at that time, was still part of the army.

AG:

Right. So it was separate.

HT:

It was separate.

AG:

Right.

HT:

So were you with the air force then, the army air force?

AG:

Yes, I had the air force insignia. Now, I had something strange. They took my patch away when I was discharged. They took my patch away. Not the air force, my AACS patch. They made me take it off and turn it in.

HT:

I wonder why.

AG:

I don't know.

HT:

Maybe because it was so classified still, at that time?

AG:

I really don't know.

HT:

I've talked to a couple of women who were intelligence, and they still, to this day, are not allowed to talk about what they did in specific terms. They can talk in general terms.

AG:

Right.

HT:

But they were sworn to keep silent until the day they die.

AG:

Till their death. More so with the officers' files than anything else, I'll tell you that, frankly. More so with their files.

HT:

So it's sort of understandable, anytime you deal with classified information.

AG:

I even wanted to write a book. Oh, boy. Danielle Steele, move over. Here I come.

HT:

Now, where were you when you heard about VE Day, which was Victory in Europe?

AG:

I was in Texas. Yes, I was in Texas. I'm trying to think what I did that day. I think I was in the hospital then.

HT:

Still recovering from your broken arm?

AG:

Yes. I can't picture VE Day at all. Truthfully, I cannot.

HT:

How about VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

AG:

VJ Day, I was in Asheville. We thought we'd get drunk, but we decided not to. We just had a great time. We were partying. We had all the boys over from the CCC camps. That's where they were stationed. We were eating and drinking, and the girls had money. We could buy everything, you know. We bought beer and hot dogs and watermelon, and we made picnics. We just had a great time. Just saying, “We're all going home.” That's all everybody kept saying. “We're all going home.”

HT:

Because when you first signed up, you sign up for duration, plus six months?

AG:

No, just signed up.

HT:

Just signed up?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Because I've heard other people say they signed up for the duration of the war plus six months.

AG:

The women?

HT:

Yes.

AG:

Could be. I don't remember. I really don't. I remember signing up. I don't remember, because, let's see, the war was over in September.

HT:

Right after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.

AG:

That was in September, August.

HT:

August.

AG:

And I got out, and I got married.

HT:

When did you get married? When did you get out?

AG:

I got out in February of '46.

HT:

You were discharged at Langley, I guess?

AG:

No, Fort Dix, New Jersey.

HT:

But you were not stationed there? You just went there, and they discharged you?

AG:

Discharge, yes.

HT:

What was your rank, at that time? Do you recall?

AG:

Sergeant. One of them said if I had stayed in and made a career, I'd be a general. Well, they wanted to send me to OCS [Officer Candidate School].

HT:

That was an option for some women, I guess, but not everybody. That was my question I was going to ask you. Did you ever think about making it a career?

AG:

No.

HT:

You had no desire to, whatsoever?

AG:

No. I wanted to get married and have babies.

HT:

How many children did you have?

AG:

Just two, unfortunately. I would have liked more, but that's the way it worked out.

HT:

Son? Daughter?

AG:

Two sons.

HT:

Did either one of them ever join the military?

AG:

My oldest son—this is Vietnam. I disapprove of Vietnam, totally, totally. I consider myself a gung-ho citizen, and I was very much against him going in. So he took a job teaching. He was a teacher. He took a job teaching in the ghetto. If you were a teacher in the ghetto, they did not draft you, because they could not get teachers. He did very well.

Then they started breathing down his neck again. He said he was going to leave the country. I begged him, “There's got to be another way.” So he got—for, I think it was fifty dollars—he was going for his master's also when he was teaching. For fifty dollars he got this psychiatrist to write up a paper that he had homosexual tendencies and all that stuff, and that kept you out also. So between the two, they never bothered him. Then when he was, I think, twenty-seven, he quit, because they didn't draft you, I think, after twenty-six or twenty-seven. My other son, he joined. He came out as a lieutenant colonel.

HT:

So he made a career of it?

AG:

No. He was part of the same stupid war, and he was a navigator. He wanted to be a pilot. I'm trying to think why he didn't make—they told him to be a navigator. Something he failed. They said he would be better at navigation, and that's what he became. He was a part of SAC [Strategic Air Command].

HT:

So he was air force?

AG:

Yes. But they let him finish college. I'm grateful for that.

HT:

The same thing happened to me. I went in the air force in '68 to '72.

AG:

My Harvey was about two years behind you.

HT:

I was stationed at Charleston, South Carolina, in the air force on a MAC [Military Airlift Command] base.

AG:

When he was at SAC, he was in Thailand. They didn't put them in Vietnam. They were in Thailand bombing Vietnam. He told me he was shot down twice, but he told me this after he was out of the service. Then he was in North Dakota, no man's land. I can't think of the name of the town. But they always had to be dressed, ready to go up. They had to be ready. They had to drill all the time, how long it would take them to get airborne. Then he was stationed in Utica, New York.

[Richard M.] Nixon put out a directive, all those who want out can get out, to sign up. He says, he thinks his name was the first on the list. He says once everything was over and peaceful, the same thing happened to him. Then he said something very strange. He said, “It's very difficult to take orders from people that you know are so stupid and inferior.” They come around blowing their horns, giving you orders. Very difficult. The best thing for him would be to get out so he doesn't get into trouble because smart kids are very outspoken. They tell it like it is. We must speak with forked tongue.

HT:

Getting back to your military time, you said earlier that you never thought about making it a career.

AG:

No.

HT:

But having been in the military, do you think it influenced your life afterwards?

AG:

Well, I'm sorry I couldn't get into the reserves. They said in order for me to get into the reserves my children had to be adopted. I couldn't have anyone under fourteen without a legal guardian. I wasn't about to give up my children.

My husband was in business, and he did let the boys join the National Guard, and he let them have their time off with pay. When my son got out of the service, he wanted to join the reserves, and they said, “Well, you have to go to”—I think it was Maryland or something—“for your placement report.”

“They have one right here in Mitchell Field, New York.”

“No, no, no.”

So my husband dropped out of the program. They wouldn't let him do it.

But I didn't know anything at all about the Women's Army Corp reserves [veterans association], or—what did we call ourselves. I can't think for a second. We lived in California. We lived in the New York. We lived in Nevada. Never heard anything. One day we were living in Winter Haven [Florida], and my husband said, “Oh, look. There's a bunch of your girls are having a meeting.” I read it, and I went. I was on crutches at the time. I had broken something. They thought I had just come out of the army wounded. I joined, and I've been involved with them ever since. Winter Haven. Our chapter here just shut down.

HT:

That's what I understand.

AG:

So sad. You'll meet Bertha [Barwikowski] tomorrow. She was our president for about—ever since I'm living here. This is the fifth year she is our president. She's a sick woman. We have other women that are capable. I'm a snowbird. I will not take an office. When I'm here, I do my best to help. I fill in. I do, I come, I go, I bring. But it's not fair for me to take an office and not be here.

HT:

Because you go up north to Maine?

AG:

We go to Maine, yes. Sometimes we leave in May, don't get back until November. So we miss—

HT:

Like half the year.

AG:

Yes. So it isn't fair for me to take a job. It's just not the right thing to do, but when I'm here, they call me, and I say, “Yes, I'll do it.” My couch is full. I make shawls for the nursing home, the women veterans in the nursing home, the new one, in Land O' Lakes, [Florida]. I was supposed to go there this week, but my girlfriend came in from California, very unexpectedly so. I didn't go that day. I'll take it over next week.

HT:

As far as I know, WAC units in North Carolina—there are three WAVES [Women Accepted for Voluntary Emeregency Service—U.S. Navy] units. Ginny Mattson belongs to one. There's one in Greensboro, there's one in Raleigh-Durham, and there's one in Wilmington. Those ladies are very active up there. They do all kinds of things.

AG:

Dorothy [Jordan] said that there weren't any. I said, “Well, start one.”

HT:

Exactly. I was surprised there were so many more WACs than there were WAVES or Women Marines.

AG:

I don't how to put this. I belong to Hadassah [the Women's Zionist Organization of America]. I had a meeting yesterday. The women there, I would say about 50 percent of them are my age or older. Extremely active, very active. They travel. They're on the ball.

Here we had a chapter. Bertha, Virginia Brotherton, who is very sick. She's going to have surgery on both legs. They're sick. They're tired.

I was a committee of three. I head the committee to get girls to run for office. I ran down the list. I don't think I have four people that I thought would be eligible for any office. Forget being the chief, the president.

The girls, when they're this age, they're very critical. Whatever you might do or say we should do, they say, “No, it's not a good idea.” They don't come up with another idea. They say, “No, it's not good.” They're cranky. They're old. They're tired. They come because it's a chance to go to lunch together with some women. A lot of them are alone. This is their only form of social activity. It's too bad, really. This is what happens.

My husband, he belongs to the Knights of Pythians. They are the largest lodge in the city of New York. In the past two years, they have taken four lodges and made it into one. They still carry the name of his lodge. Young people do not join anything. They don't have the time, or they don't have the desire. I've pleaded with my kids, “Join this, join that.” No time. No time.

HT:

It is a definite problem.

AG:

They try to find time to socialize with their kids and stuff. My son runs a very large business, very successfully. My other son lives on Martha's Vinyard. He has to work very hard. He makes a very good living, but living on Martha's Vinyard, no matter what you make, it's not enough. But they really don't have time to join anything.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

AG:

Yes. I have my own credit card.

HT:

Have you always been independent?

AG:

Yes, always. I always worked.

HT:

So the military didn't make you that way? It probably just reinforced what was already there.

AG:

I'll tell you my father's expression. If I wasn't born in the house, he would swear I wasn't his, they made a mistake, because I was always in trouble. When I was in school, junior high, they'd have May Day, and the boys would go and have athletics, and the girls would dance around the May Pole. Hang on a ribbon and dance around it. Stupid. I said to my friend, Ray, “How would you like to go to the zoo?” This was in Prospect Park in Brooklyn had the zoo.

She said, “Sure.”

So off we go to the zoo. They get through dancing around the pole, and they realize they've got two kids missing, Ray and myself. So they call the police, and the teacher's having a nervous breakdown. Then I realize, you know, I think it's getting a little dark out here. The school bus had been sent back to the school so the kids could go home. The teacher's there with the cops. We make our way back to where we knew the bus was, and she sees us, and she grabs us. She kisses us. “I want to see your parents tomorrow. Don't come to school without them.”

Well, to my father, there is nothing more important than school, because he had to pay. He used to go to school at night, and he had to pay for books and pencils. He says he can understand children not being bright and smart, but there's nothing easier than to sit like this [hands clasped together], sit at your desk this way. That's it. If you do that, I'll be happy.

My father walks in, and he says, “I understand you wanted to see me.” She didn't know if it was my father or Ray's father.

She said, “And you are?"

He said, “I'm Mr. Kaplowitz, Annette's father.”

She jumped up. My father was a Beau Brummell. Oh, he was very well dressed. She looks at him, jumps up, “How could a gentleman like you have that for a daughter?” She was pointing at me, and I'm trying to get under the desk.

My father never struck me, but I knew I was in for a bad, bad time. So they spoke, and he went to work, and that night—we were never allowed to discuss anything bad at the dinner table. If it wasn't good, you waited until after dinner. But my father, he was getting redder and redder. He said, “That's it. I can't eat until we talk.” He said, “How could you do such a thing?”

“Papa, how would you like to hold on to a ribbon and run around a pole? It's stupid. We've got that beautiful zoo. We went to look at the animals.”

He realized I was right. So he wrote her a note. I was wrong on how I did it, but I should really think about doing something else. It's silly. It's just an old, old tradition, dancing around the May Pole. So I was forgiven. Just the fact that he had to go up to school was my punishment, really, because I really loved and respected my father. Wonderful man. My mother, too. I had wonderful parents. Even my husband will tell you, he don't know how I came out of that family.

HT:

Well, do you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer, having joined the military?

AG:

Yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Absolutely.

HT:

Nonconformist?

AG:

A nonconformist, yes. My children are like that, my grandchildren, my grandson. Oh, god. Everybody close to me is like me, you know.

HT:

But you say you're not like your parents or your sister?

AG:

No, no.

HT:

What about your grandparents? Did it jump a generation?

AG:

I don't know. I never had any grandparents.

HT:

That you knew of?

AG:

Both my parents came without their parents. My mother only remembered her father, and my father only remembered his father. See, in the Jewish religion, a parent dies, and like say, if I were to die, my husband, if my sister were single, would marry my sister. That's so it really stayed in the family. But my father's family were all wiped out with Hitler. He had six brothers, and they were all married and had families and a father. They were all killed, except for a sister-in-law, who contacted my father several years later. She said she didn't want to have any contact with the family. She wanted to forget the lifestyle, and she was moving to Israel and changing her name. Never heard from her again. That's it. As far as we know, everybody is dead. My mother has nobody there. Everybody came here, except their father.

HT:

You said earlier that both of your parents were from Russia?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Which part of Russia?

AG:

Minsk.

HT:

My father was born in Baranowicze, [Poland], which is not too far from Minsk. It's between Minsk and Warsaw.

AG:

Well, my husband's father was born in Russia, too. I'm not sure, but his mother was a Baltimore belle. She was born in Baltimore. Beautiful woman. Beautiful woman.

HT:

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

AG:

Sort of. I do go to NOW [National Organization of Women] meetings on occasion. I've never joined. I do send them checks. I believe in equal pay for equal work. I do not believe that a woman should carry a gun. I don't. So that's where we sort of differ.

HT:

Now, of course, recently women have been in combat. They've flown airplanes in the Gulf War and that sort of thing. Do you approve of that?

AG:

No, no. I believe that a woman should stay with her family. I don't mean her mother and father, but be in the family environment. I don't feel a woman should ever kill anybody. I don't believe in war. But I would feel very badly if somebody said, “Take this gun and get out there.” I would kill somebody that tried to kill one of mine. That I could see. But war, war is for men. Men enjoy it. They look forward to it. That's what brings prosperity. When you fight the United States and you lose, you've got it made.

Japanese, when the soldiers came home, they were given places to live. When my husband came home, they offered us rat-infested barracks out there in Brooklyn, a place that was right next to a garbage dump. That's what they offered us. I don't believe in war. I really don't. I always feel there's a peaceful way out. If not, you take the heads of the government and cut their heads off and start all over.

HT:

If we could backtrack just a minute to the Second World War at the time, in your recollection, what was the mood of the country like in those days?

AG:

You mean when the war started?

HT:

No, during the entire war. What was the mood of the country? What were people feeling like?

AG:

Well, I think it depends upon where you were, too. There were different—people said, “Well, I'm not Jewish. Why should I go to war to help the Jews, to save the Jews?” People said, “We've got no business over there, period. We're a self-sustaining country.” People said, “Let's go over there and kill everyone that we see.” I think it really depends upon where you were at the time, the different things that you would hear, and who was around you, the people, and the newspapers that you read.

HT:

Being Jewish, did you hear of the concentration camps early on and that sort of thing?

AG:

Oh yes, yes.

HT:

I think, from what little I've read about that, there was sort of a disbelief in the United States, that this wasn't going on.

AG:

I can't believe to this day there are people that don't believe it ever happened. I mean, I don't know what kind of proof they need. There have been a lot of letters found, written by people—Diary of Anne Frank, for instance. I say it's their background. It's how they're raised.

HT:

Did you feel somewhat helpless that you couldn't do anything to help these people who were being killed and maimed in Europe?

AG:

There wasn't much to read about, to know about, when it was going on. It wasn't until afterwards, actually. But just, what I'm saying, why should we go and fight for the Jews, why should we go over there and fight for the oil people, why should we do this? Stay here, stay home, and we'll keep out of trouble. I think if Pearl Harbor hadn't been bombed, we never would have gotten into the war.

HT:

But there was a huge movement afoot to keep the United States out of the war.

AG:

Yes, yes.

HT:

It was a huge pacifist movement.

AG:

Yes. I did go to Pearl Harbor as a civilian, and I had to leave. I was so upset, just to feel I'm walking on dead boys. I got on, we walked in, and this sort of motion of the ship, and, oh, my god, they're calling me. I had to get off. I couldn't handle it.

HT:

Was this visiting [USS] Arizona?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

I talked to a lady recently whose boyfriend was killed on the Arizona, and she said she never got married. It was, I guess, just a real tragedy for her.

AG:

I went to the Holocaust Museum, and I couldn't stay either.

HT:

Is this in New York?

AG:

No, in Florida. Very upsetting to me. Certain things really get to me. I feel I'm very strong, but I'm also very compassionate. I go out of my way to help people. That's my summer's work, six shawls, a lot of work. I do what I can.

HT:

Who were your heroes and heroines in those days, during World War II?

AG:

Well, Amelia Earhart. I admire her tremendously. And FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt], I just thought he was the greatest. I don't think there was anybody smarter than Harry Truman, and I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. Don't get me wrong. I vote my conscience.

HT:

What about Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

AG:

She was a fantastic person, wise. I always felt sorry for her, because he was a womanizer, too. But that doesn't mean he wasn't a good president. As far as Mr. [William Jefferson] Clinton is concerned, I was furious when they started with his sex life. Who cares? It's up to him and his wife. What people do behind closed doors is their business. As long as it doesn't hurt me, I don't care what they do.

HT:

Did you ever have a chance to meet any of these people you mentioned earlier?

AG:

No. I'm trying to think of the really famous people I ever shook hands with. Boris Karloff.

HT:

How did you have a chance to meet him?

AG:

When I was in high school, I was the secretary of the drama club, and every once in a while he would take us to the theater, the teacher. It was always a Wednesday matinee. Only the students involved in drama would go backstage. I'm shaking his hand, and there's this little man, little man, sitting there with sandy-colored hair, and I shook his hand, and I said to him, “You're so beautiful. I don't know why people are afraid of you.” You never know what you're going to say, you know, until after the fact. He thanked me, and he said to me, “Come closer,” and I did, and he kissed me on the cheek. So I've been kissed by Boris Karloff.

Oh. Alice Faye. Okay. This is during the war, I was home on leave, and this is the same time when I said to that naval officer, “What time is the next show?” She was very pregnant at the time, and she was there with her husband, at a Chinese restaurant. I walked over to her, and I said, “You are absolutely beautiful.” That was me, if I saw something that got my attention. She thanked me. He sent over a round of drinks. There were three girls and myself. He sent over a round of drinks for us, Phil Harris, which was very nice.

HT:

That was her husband?

AG:

Yes. What else? My time in the spotlight. Good. I haven't thought of these things.

HT:

It's amazingly wonderful to think about them again.

AG:

I know I have forgotten so much.

HT:

Tell me a little bit about what you and your husband did after you got married and where you lived.

AG:

We lived in Brooklyn.

HT:

Always Brooklyn.

AG:

We lived in Brooklyn in a basement apartment. We were flooded out twice, and we finally got into public housing.

HT:

Housing was critical at that time. There was no housing program.

AG:

There wasn't.

HT:

Well, in Raleigh, where I'm living now, when the boys came back and they went to school at NC State [University], where I work, they were housed in trailers and old army barracks. We have photographs. There's a little town next to the university called Vetville, and these were just pitiful little like shacks. It was just horrible.

AG:

Well, see, that's what they offered us, but this was like on a dump, they put these up. And the rats, I mean, the rats were as big as the cats. So we took this apartment, and I had two children there, and then we got this apartment in the Bronx. I had to leave Brooklyn.

We stayed there a few years, and I had gone back to school under the GI Bill, secretarial school. I wanted to hone in on the new machines and stuff, because I definitely wanted to go back to work. Then when I did get my first job, and I called my mother. “I got a job. I got a job.” She started to cry. She says, “If Abe [Goldberg] can't support you, you should tell us, and Papa and I are going to help you.”

I says, “Mama, it's to save my sanity. I cannot stand sitting around women talking about, 'What are you going to make for dinner?' 'Oh, I made this.'”

That wasn't me. I had to be doing something. I had to use my brain. I did go back to work, and we got a better apartment. We still have that apartment, believe it or not, in New York. It's one of the last outposts of the areas still good. It's right near the end of New York. If you walk two blocks, you're in Westchester County. I'm right near Mount Saint Vincent's College, University. That is now co-ed. It used to be all girls. Very fine school. Manhattan College, all around there, so it's a very nice area.

HT:

You say you went to school on the GI Bill. How long did you attend school under the bill?

AG:

A few months, not long. I just wanted to—

HT:

So what type of work did you end up doing?

AG:

My last job, I worked at a private school. But I could walk to work, and that was really neato. I got to meet big people, as my kids would say. Big people, you know celebrities. Oh, god. Shelley Winters, we had her daughter. She had a daughter with Vittorio Gassman. The little girl's name was Tori Gassman, a doll. The kids all respected me, because I never let them call me by my first name. It had to be “Mrs. G” or “Mrs. Goldberg.” I did not let a boy come in and talk to me if he had his hat on. I'd say, “Unless you are wearing a hat for medicinal or religious purposes, you will please remove your hat before you address me.”

I'm the only secretary that was ever invited to their senior dinner. The girls didn't like that, but hey, I went. I went six years in a row, I was invited to their dinners. You couldn't say, “Where are you going to sit?” You sat alphabetically. That's why I got to know Shelley Winters. Her father and my father worked together at one time. They were very friendly—we got to have a very nice evening together. She had one of her boyfriends with her. Gorgeous hunk.

I met Harry Belafonte and his wife. She's Jewish, and she makes herself darker than him, for some reason. I don't' know why. Maybe she doesn't do it anymore now that black became beautiful. I guess she doesn't do it anymore. And his three kids. Who else? Oh, and Eli Wallach, we had his three kids. Anne Jackson, that's his wife.

HT:

What was the name of the school?

AG:

Fieldston. It was Ethical Culture.

HT:

F-i-e-l-d-s-t-o-n?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Fieldston School?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

This was in the Bronx?

AG:

In the Bronx, yes. The people that live there call it Riverdale. It sounds better. It's just like I come from Brooklyn, but I came from Brownsville. I don't know if you ever read the book Murder Incorporated. That was a bad area. My father used to tell me, “When you go to school, look straight ahead,” because I used to pass the pool hall where the Murder Incorporated guys hung out.

HT:

So Riverdale is a little more classy sound than the Bronx?

AG:

Yes. Oh, yes.

HT:

It's in the neighborhood in the Bronx?

AG:

Yes.

HT:

Does sound nice.

AG:

It is. Believe me. Got some really gorgeous homes there. As a matter of fact, my son was invited to a party at a little girl's house, and I knew that her parents were away. They lived in Fieldston. That's part of Riverdale, but that's even more so. I said to him, “But her parents are away.”

He said, “Well, the maid is there.”

The maid had a husband, and he was a chauffeur. He was there. They lived there. This should be off the record, what I'm going to say now.

HT:

Do you want me to turn the tape recorder off?

AG:

Turn it off, and you tell me what you think.

HT:

Then you have to retell it.

[Tape recorder turned off]

AG:

We have no secrets.

HT:

Well, Mrs. Goldberg, I don't have any more formal questions. If you want to tell me any more stories about things, that would be wonderful.

AG:

I have some pictures. These are little souvenirs I want you to take back. Betty [Carter] can do whatever she wants.

HT:

I'd be glad to. Great. Let me go ahead and thank you on the tape recorder, and it's been just wonderful talking to you.

AG:

I enjoyed it.

HT:

Thank you again.

AG:

It brought back some super-good memories, really.

[End of interview]