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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Phyllis Hinton Snyder, 2000

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Object ID: WV0146.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Phyllis Hinton Snyder’s childhood in Ohio in the 1930s; her service with the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve from 1943 to 1945; and her life after World War II.

Summary:

Snyder discusses growing up in Ohio. She details helping out on the farm; the Depression; her brother’s death in a car accident; her enjoyment of school; and disliking her job at the Hoover Sweeper Company.

Topics related to World War II and the Women Marines include the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; a rough drill instructor; working with airplanes; working with male machinists; duties as a machinist; social life, including the service club and movies; meeting and dating Bill Snyder; military regulations concerning marriage; Bill Snyder’s experiences overseas; and advantages of her military service, including broader experiences and greater confidence and independence.

Snyder also talks about traveling with her husband; getting over her shyness; her son-in-law who was killed on a peace envoy in Sarajevo, Bosnia; and her opinion of women in combat.

Creator: Phyllis Hinton Snyder

Biographical Info: Phyllis Hinton Snyder (b. 1923) of North Canton, Ohio, served as an aviation machinist’s mate in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve from 1943 to 1945.

Collection: Phyllis Hinton Snyder Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. Today is February tenth in the year 2000 and I am in Wilmington, North Carolina, this afternoon, at the home of Phyllis Snyder. Thank you, Ms. Snyder, for having us here this afternoon for this interview.

PS:

You're very welcome.

EE:

I ask everybody about the same thirty or so questions, and the first question I ask of everyone, I hope, isn't the hardest one. And that is, where were you born and where did you grow up?

PS:

Where I was born?

EE:

Yes, where were you born?

PS:

I was born in North Canton, Ohio. Date?

EE:

Sure.

PS:

February 15, 1923.

EE:

You've got a birthday next week.

PS:

That's right. [laughs]

EE:

Congratulations. Did you have any brothers and sisters?

PS:

Yes. You mean total?

EE:

Yes. How many did you have?

PS:

Well, when I was born, I was the fifth of three boys and a girl. Seven years later I have another sister. So there were three boys and three girls, and we lived on a farm in North Canton, Ohio, about two miles from the city of North Canton, and that is where they make the Hoover sweeper. If y'all know where Hoover sweepers came from, that's where they came from, North Canton, Ohio, and they're still making them, but they're doing other things right at the present time. But it's still known as the Hoover Company.

EE:

That's right. Well, now, you say you lived on a farm. Was your father a farmer?

PS:

Yes, but he also worked at Hoover's whenever they were—but he was a truck farmer. That means vegetables and things like that. We didn't have a large farm, but it was big enough. When you only have—I think a certain kind of vegetables only have seven or nine inches apart for each row. So I helped my brothers weed. So I know that. [laughs] But if you want to help—

EE:

I didn't see a garden in the back yard. Are you saying you had enough? That's a lot of work. That is a lot of work.

PS:

My brother said if I wanted to go with them, I had to have a row. So I'd have a row on the outside. I didn't like him to get away from me, so I would skip. So the fastest one who got to the end was the one who took the row next to mine going down, because they had to clean two at that time. I didn't have anybody to play with so my mother said, “Well, if you boys watch her, she can go with you.” “You're not allowed to tell anything what we do, you hear that?” [laughs]

EE:

Did your mama, then, stay home and raise you all, or did she have a job, too, or was she working there at the house?

PS:

Pardon?

EE:

Was your mama a homemaker? Did she stay at the house working, or did she work at Hoover as well?

PS:

Oh, no, she didn't—my mama was—she had five children.

EE:

That's a full-time job.

PS:

My older sister, I don't remember—she must have helped Mama, because at the time that we were weeding, she wasn't—she probably helped some things, but I don't know. I was too little. I just wanted to tag along with somebody.

EE:

I guess you would have been—you may not even remember when the Depression started. Do you remember?

PS:

Oh, I remember that, because my mother and father almost lost their home, and at the time I must have been probably four or five, and when they were talking to the man from the bank at our home, and they let me run around on the porch where they were talking. At the time, they thought they were going to lose their home. But my dad said, “That man wants our house, and he's going to get it no matter what. So I'm going to find someplace else to take my loan.” And he did. And we did not lose our house, but it was a hard row to go. One thing, we had all our vegetables and all our meat that we wanted. So we didn't have to worry that. We just didn't have other things.

EE:

But you at least had a meal on the table, which was a lot more than other folks.

PS:

That's right. That's right.

EE:

Did you go to school there in North Canton? Did you graduate from high school there?

PS:

No. My first school was a one-room schoolhouse about a mile from where we lived. We had to walk every day, but we had lots of kids in the neighborhood because there was other people—well, there wasn't any houses any closer than a half-mile, but there was other people. But we all, all the kids walked to school. But I think we probably had the farthest to go because we were sitting on the line of where North Canton was, and we lived in the township on the other side. But we did go to that one-room school. But I only went there for a year, and they moved us. They took everybody out of the one-room school six weeks after my second grade started. Then a bus came and picked us up.

EE:

Did you like school?

PS:

Oh, yes. I loved school. I started to school when I was five years old because I wanted to go, and they told me if I was smart enough, I could stay and if I wasn't smart, then I'd have to drop out, but they never—never— [laughs].

EE:

Never made you drop out so that was pretty good. Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up, when you were a little girl?

PS:

No, I—

EE:

Did you dream about having your own farm?

PS:

Oh, no. No. No, I don't think I wanted to be a farmer's wife, you know. I can't remember what I wanted to be.

EE:

Well, were you working around the farm machinery a lot when you were younger? Did you do a lot of things with your hands, with tools and things like that?

PS:

Well, after my brothers—[pause]. My younger brother was killed right before he was getting ready to go into his sophomore class. He and my other brother that were—there was about two years between them—they were riding in a rumble seat after they had just gotten home from a Boy Scout—They had been gone for a week, and somebody wanted to take a ride in this rumble seat car. I don't know where they were going, but anyhow, they—[pause]. It was quite a ways from home, and I don't know when Mother and Dad expected them back, but it was some man who knew them real well, you know. But I guess because of the rumble seat, my brothers just thought it would be a good thing to do, because it was—they were old enough. They were both in high school. For some reason or other, they went down a—roads weren't like they are now, but they ran—it was on a hill someplace, and they went over the embankment, and I don't know how far, but anyhow, my two brothers were thrown out of the rumble seat. And my younger brother must have been knocked out, because he—he was—[pause]. They found him laying in a mud puddle. My other brother was okay, but they had called them, I don't know how early in the morning, but I know that we all went there, which was about, at that time—probably forty miles away. At that time, forty miles was a long way. And when we got there, my brother who lived was mud from head to toe, and uh—but we didn't—they had already—they just wanted everybody to be there, you know, to go and see what happened. That's about all I remember.

EE:

That's a lot to remember. If he was a sophomore, you would have been—

PS:

I think I was in seventh grade, maybe going into the eighth.

EE:

Your brothers and your older sister were pretty tight together, and then you had the one sister that was a lot younger than everybody else.

PS:

Yes, seven years later.

EE:

What was your favorite subject in school?

PS:

I liked math, spelling, geography.

EE:

Now most people who like math don't necessarily like spelling. That's a pretty good combination.

PS:

I'm a very good speller. [laughs]

EE:

What was the name of the high school you graduated from?

PS:

Middle Branch.

EE:

Was it a twelve-year high school where you were?

PS:

Oh, yes. Yes. Now, you're talking—in Ohio, they didn't have the fourth year when my mother graduated in 1916. But then she went on. She went on in North Canton at the time. She went to North Canton in 19—it was either 1914 or 1915. She graduated with three years of high school. But then, in Canton, they had four years of school, and she took the trolley car. I don't know how she got to the—I don't know where my grandparents lived at that time, but anyhow, she took the trolley car for that year and graduated again. And I think—maybe she graduated in 1915. She had a yearbook, and we used to always look at it because it was in the piano stool, you know, a great big stool where they kept all the music.

EE:

We had the same thing.

PS:

Yes, but my mother was a singer. She sung in a church. When she was—I think it was fifty years after she first sang her solo at the church, they asked her to sing the same song, because she had been in the choir all that many years. They asked her to sing that song again when it was her fiftieth year, and she did.

EE:

When you graduated, it must have been, what, '39 or '40?

PS:

[Nineteen] forty.

EE:

Forty. They were already starting to draft young men out of high school then, were they not? Wasn't it '40 when they started the draft?

PS:

Probably.

EE:

Did either of your other brothers get drafted?

PS:

No. No. [pause] My second brother was drafted before—because he didn't have any—he was married but they didn't have any children. My older brother did not go. My younger brother was drafted, and he was in the army. My older brother was in the navy, but he didn't go until after I—it was probably a year after I went into the service.

EE:

What were you doing after you graduated from high school? Did you get a job someplace?

PS:

No. I worked at the Hoover Sweeper Company. They were making things for the—what do you call it?

EE:

Were they doing war production then?

PS:

Yes, war production.

EE:

If you were working at that kind of a war factory, it's good that you've got a job, but it's also hard to leave that job once you're in it, isn't it? They were kind of strict about that?

PS:

No, it wasn't. I was trying to get out of there anyhow. [laughs] I didn't like what I was doing.

EE:

Were you on the factory line?

PS:

Yes. And I was in a—what do they call it?—a pool, and I was in the middle of that pool, and I don't know whether you know what that is or not, but I did not like it. They knew that I would keep things going smoothly, and they had me in the middle because I would—

EE:

You would keep them up. You would keep the flow rate.

PS:

But—I didn't like what was going on when it started. And I had asked them to transfer me out of there because I didn't like it. I never said too much, but it just burned my gall. [laughs] I asked them if I couldn't have a different job.

EE:

Were you working at Hoover [on] Pearl Harbor day? What were you doing on Pearl Harbor day?

PS:

It was on Sunday. I was working there, but I was—we had just gotten home from church, and my uncle came. “Turn your radio on. Turn your radio on.” So we turned it on, because he had heard it, and he come running, I mean driving, real fast. He wanted to tell everybody and listen to what was going on. I can't really remember too much about it, except that everybody was listening to it.

EE:

How long were you working at Hoover, and where were you working when you decided to join the service?

PS:

When I saw my cousin come home in his Marine uniform. [laughs] I said to my mother, “If they ever have anything for Marine—for women, I'm going to join.”

EE:

You just liked the way it looked. It looked good. This was not the same cousin that—this was a man Marine?

PS:

It was a man, yes. He was the one I told you my grandparents—

EE:

He was holding you in your pictures? Oh, no. This is the one who was—

PS:

Yes. We were the same age, and he wasn't drafted, he just joined the Marine Corps. And he came home—that was in 1942. He had volunteered. He wanted to get into the Marine Corps.

EE:

So for you it wasn't—you didn't go through a big process of WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy]or WACs [Women's Army Corps] or [U.S.] Marines. You just knew it was Marines from the beginning, and it took a while for them to be there. So it wasn't till '42, I guess, they decided to have women Marines. You were working at Hoover then, or were you doing some other job?

PS:

No. I was working at Hoover's.

EE:

So you'd sign up.

PS:

I told them, when I was twenty years old, I was going to sign up.

EE:

Was there a recruiting office right there in North Canton?

PS:

No. No.

EE:

Where did you go?

PS:

I don't know where I signed up. I had to go to Cleveland to take my examinations and everything.

EE:

Did they give you a physical there in Cleveland, too, or did you have to go get that on your own?

PS:

I didn't understand.

EE:

Did they give you a physical there in Cleveland, or did you have to go through a doctor?

PS:

No. It was a physical. But you had to take all the school exams, and then they gave you a physical, and then—I looked at it when I got twenty years old, because you couldn't go until you were twenty, and I knew in February I would be twenty, and I didn't know what time after that that they would—I probably went the next day after I was twenty.

EE:

Actually you probably went down, signed up, and then they called you in to start, and the date you'd give me was May of '43, was when you actually were at—

PS:

That's when I went to Hunter College.

EE:

Was that your first big trip away from home?

PS:

By myself?

EE:

Yes.

PS:

Yes. [laughs]

EE:

First time on a big train?

PS:

I think so, out of Canton, Ohio.

EE:

What did your friends and family think of you joining the service? Because you know, the first group of women that joined didn't exactly get the best reception. There were a lot of rumors that were spread about women who were joining the service, their character and such. What was the response in your house?

PS:

I didn't care, because I was free of that job that I didn't like, and I was waiting. If they wouldn't transfer me, then I was going to quit. I think there was three other, or two other, girls from Canton that went with me, if I'm not mistaken. I think there was three of us, of course I think they were older than I was.

EE:

If you joined right at twenty, almost everybody was at least older than you were, I would think. Now, Hunter's right in the middle of New York City.

PS:

Yes.

EE:

Tell me about what you remember of Hunter. What was that experience like for you?

PS:

Oh, I'll tell you what. We got shots, I don't how many shots, in one day, and that night I ached so bad, and we had a air raid, and we had to get out of our bed, and we laid in the hall. I remember crying. I wanted to go home. [laughs]

EE:

You were hurting. Was this air raid part of the normal drill?

PS:

Well, it was a blackout, too, you know. And so we had to lay in the halls. That was the safest place. But all the shots we had gotten—I can remember crying, you know, “I want to go home.” “Well, you can't go home.” [laughter]

EE:

When you signed up, did you tell them any particular kind of work that you wanted to do?

PS:

No. We had to take tests. We had to take tests. I think I may have taken—I don't know when I took tests. I may have taken them when I took my physical. I don't know.

EE:

When was it that they came to you and said, “One of the things that we think you could do is airplane mechanic?”

PS:

Oh, I don't think they come and said that to you. [laughs]

EE:

They just said, “You're going to be it.”

PS:

I think so. [laughter]

EE:

Okay. Not a lot of choice in it then. How did that idea strike you? Did that sound all right to you?

PS:

It didn't make any difference to me. There was going to be other girls doing it, too.

EE:

Now, you were at Hunter for, I guess, about what, six or eight weeks, something like that, I guess, is basic?

PS:

We only had four weeks.

EE:

You had four weeks?

PS:

Yes, when we went to Hunter College.

EE:

And you were with—in a, I guess, a company with Marines and WAVES, or were there just Marines in your group?

PS:

In my group was only Marines. But we were—I mean, it was the WAVES, it was the WAVES—

EE:

So y'all were sharing the same Hunter College campus, but the Marines had their training separate from the WAVES?

PS:

I think so. I don't remember, because all our platoon was Marines.

EE:

Was your drill instructor male or female?

PS:

A male Marine just had come home from overseas, and boy, was he rough. [laughter]

EE:

“I've got to whip you girls into shape.”

PS:

We had one girl who didn't know her right and left feet. I felt so sorry for that girl. But he'd have her out there trying to march by herself. You know, we're in a group, but she's out there because she was messing everybody else up.

EE:

Your other instructors there, were they men or women when you were at Hunter? Because they changed over time. In the beginning, they didn't have as many officers in the women auxiliaries. I'm just wondering. You were in pretty early, the first half of '43. Were your instructors, most of them, women?

PS:

Do you mean after we got out of boot camp?

EE:

No, at boot camp, at Hunter.

PS:

I can't remember too much about class work.

EE:

Right.

PS:

I think most of it was marching. I don't know.

EE:

It seems like that was all y'all did out there.

PS:

I'm sure there was a lot of other things, but I can't remember what we did.

EE:

Did you have any free time to go into the city and see Broadway and all the sights?

PS:

Well, I happened to have an aunt and uncle lived there, my mother's brother, who played in all the big bands. And of course, Mother wrote and told him where I was at, and the first weekend that we, probably—maybe the only weekend, because it was only four weeks. It was probably before we were shipped off down to Tennessee. I can't remember the city.

EE:

Do you think it might be Memphis?

PS:

Yes, Memphis, Tennessee. That's where the school was at.

EE:

How long was that training at Memphis?

PS:

Well, like I said, halfway through this—the aviation machinist's mate school lasted six months, but then we had three months, they were shipping all the women, WAVES and the Marines, to Norman, Oklahoma. I don't know why, but that's what happened.

EE:

And your instructors—

PS:

They were all men that I remember, because they had to know about—they had to know about—

EE:

What kind of planes were you working on? What were the kind of planes that you were working on? Do you remember?

PS:

I really don't know what kind we had.

EE:

Were you working on planes that were to be used stateside? I guess they'd ferry things back and forth. Or were you refitting them for overseas use?

PS:

I don't think that they were using it for any—I don't think we were using the planes that they were going to be used with them, because they' probably would take them apart and show them just certain things, because I don't think they would do that.

EE:

You were at that school for six months. You were at the school for six months.

PS:

Yes. Our school lasted six months.

EE:

How many women were in that school? Do you remember? Was it a big group of people?

PS:

Well, I think they probably only had so many, because, as I say, that group there—

EE:

That was the first class.

PS:

That was the one ahead of me.

EE:

This is in Building 39, this picture.

PS:

That was in Norman, Oklahoma.

EE:

It looks like there's about twenty-four or twenty-five women in that class. You've got them all listed, excellent, from all over, West Coast and East Coast.

PS:

But they didn't have too many places after we were out of school to send them to. It either had to be El Toro [Calfornia] or Cherry Point [North Carolina], because that's the only places that they had air—I don't think they would have taken—I don't think they went to the overhaul and repair place.

EE:

So they were training these people to work at the Marine Corps air stations, is what it amounts to? Okay. When you got to El Toro, tell me what your job was when you got there.

PS:

Well, I was working putting wings on airplanes, because at that time they were just bolted on the outside after the—there's kind of like a flange out here, and then—because I can remember doing all that. But, I mean, all the—they took each—we went to work for the headquarters squadron at El Toro. So that's where they would take the things that needed a lot of different things, more so than that they could just fix them up when they had them in their own squadron. But when it needed to be overhauled, at that time it came to the headquarters squadron. And I don't know how many months it was that—I don't know how many months we did that, but later on, they brought the whole overhaul and repair from San Diego and brought it to El Toro, because they were going to do everything in one place then. And I think after we went into that area, we had to go in there, they had so many people and so much stuff that I went into the area of where they—I didn't really work on airplanes after that, when all these people and everything came.

EE:

Everything was consolidated there. You were telling me about this picture. When you finished your class, it was right at Christmas-time of '43.

PS:

That's when I graduated.

EE:

So I guess you got out to California right at the beginning of '44.

PS:

I got there one day late, on the ninth, about the ninth. [laughter]

EE:

Did you get any trouble for that?

PS:

I thought I was going to. [laughter] Well, we could have gotten there, but we got there late that one night. And we thought we might as well stay in Los Angeles, so we did. There was three of us, three of us, and three of those that were on that picture of the wedding. But that's when I had met my husband, on the train going. That's where I met him.

EE:

Okay! So there was a reason you were late. Okay. It's love brewing in the air. So you met Bill on the train out, and was he headed to El Toro? Where was he headed to?

PS:

I didn't understand.

EE:

Was he headed to El Toro when you met him, or was he going someplace else?

PS:

Well, he said he was, but he wasn't going—he had to go to San Diego, because he had just come back from—he had been home. His home at that time was in New Jersey. That's where his mother lived. And he had thirty days after coming back from Guadalcanal, and he just happened to be on the train that I got on that came through Canton. Because I had been home after going to school. We went home for Christmas.

EE:

So you get on the train from Canton, and that's where you met him, on the train?

PS:

Oh, well, not until about a day and a half after that. [laughter]

EE:

So he had been at Guadalcanal? That's pretty serious action. You say his father was a high assistant to General Eisenhower.

PS:

No, he wasn't.

EE:

He worked with Eisenhower's staff, then.

PS:

Yes. I don't really know what he did, because he was a captain in the army, but I don't really know what—

EE:

He was four years away from home, you was telling me before we started the tape.

PS:

I hadn't even met him.

EE:

You didn't meet him until after you were married[?].

PS:

That's right. But I read the letter that he wrote to his son. [laughs]

EE:

Did he give you the green thumb, say it's okay, I guess?

PS:

He said, “Just make sure this is the right thing.” [laughs]

EE:

Well, I'm glad it worked out. Now, during the workday, you say you were working on the airplanes until the group came down from—or they consolidated, I guess, the group at San Diego with you all. The kind of work that shows in the pictures is you're doing mechanic work here on the wheel assembly, you're helping with the tail, you're working on the wings. How difficult of a job was that for you? Did you like the work you were doing?

PS:

Oh, yes. My brothers made me work if I wanted to be with them. I had to do exactly what they did. So I knew—and then, when my brothers got older, when we all lived on the farm, I helped my dad, but I didn't have to milk a cow. [laughter] Never, never, never!

EE:

You were working, now, that picture for the press shows all the women doing the job all by themselves. Were there men working with you, or was it just women doing the repair work?

PS:

No. We didn't go to school with men. We had a man instructor, but we were just all by ourselves, because—

EE:

When you got to El Toro, did you have other men mechanics working with you?

PS:

Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.

EE:

How was that? Because some women who have the same job as a man, the other men weren't too thrilled, because they figured, “Oh, no, they're going to replace me next.”

PS:

I'll tell you what. During the war, I never seen anything that was like that. It isn't what it is like nowadays, nothing, you know, but you had other people—now, we had—I'll tell you what. We had an older man, of course at the time, we thought he was old, but he wasn't. [laughs]

EE:

Younger than I am, I'm sure.

PS:

He was probably—he was married, and he—we called him “Dad.” But he watched for us, and he would tell us if we needed any, any—and if anything was wrong, we should let him know, because he was just like a dad to us. And he was the best person I have ever seen, you know. But he was more or less—would show us—if he knew how to do it, he would be in there working with us, you know.

EE:

Well, you worked with the men. I assume you socialized a little with them, too? Or how did that work? What was social life out there?

PS:

Oh, no, we didn't—no, we didn't, no. He would vacate us then. No. He was drafted, but he was in the Marine Corps. I don't know whether he was—

EE:

I mean, the other mechanics that you were working with, the other men, not Dad, but I mean the other folks that you were with, did they have, I guess, a service club on base, or where did the enlisted folks go?

PS:

Oh, yes. They had a—I don't know what they called it, [unclear]. [laughs]

EE:

Yes. Yes. I've heard that phrase. Yes. A place for beverages.

PS:

That's right. But we were only allowed to go off base, probably every fourth night or something like that. I'm not sure. There was only certain times you could get off the base, but as long as you weren't—you could go to a movie, you could go to the beverage place, you could—but we would just all gather there, and we'd just talk, and that would be it, you know. They had different things that we could go to, you know. There was movies and everything just like that. So there wasn't anything that—you weren't—as long as you got out of school. When you went to school, it was school, school, you know.

EE:

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

PS:

What was the—?

EE:

What was the hardest thing about your time in service?

PS:

I don't know, because I loved it. I really did. I just don't—

EE:

Did you ever think of making it a career?

PS:

My husband wouldn't let me, because we had gotten married. He said, “You know what would happen, don't you, if you stayed in the reserves?” He said, “Because—” And these people who said they didn't know that when they were in the reserves, that they'd have to go when they were called? You knew that before you ever signed up. Because he said, “Phyllis,” he said, “what would you do if we had children and you were called? What would you do? You would have to go.” He said, “I don't want you to have to do that, because one of us would be fine, but not two of us if we had children.” So that's the only reason I didn't sign up to go, because he didn't want me to, because of what would happen.

EE:

You met him that first day in January. Did you all continue, then, dating throughout all of '44?

PS:

Oh, he wasn't at the same place I was.

EE:

Oh, I know, he was at San Diego. How did you stay in contact with him?

PS:

I didn't. He contacted me. I had been out on a date one night, and my friend, my friend, one of those in the wedding, my—

EE:

Your maid of honor?

PS:

Yes. The next morning she said, “Phyllis, I made a date for you tonight.”

I said, “You made a date for me?”

“Yes.”

I said, “You made a date? Who with?”

She said, “Bill.”

I said, “Who?”

EE:

[laughter] He didn't make a great first impression, then.

PS:

I think we had written maybe one—I think he probably—see, he told me first that he was stationed at the same place we were, but he wasn't. So then I didn't believe nothing. [laughter] So I think he wrote me a letter, and I think maybe I wrote one back, just a casual—

EE:

Right, right.

PS:

So I said, “Who?” “You know, that one you wrote a letter to.” [laughs]

EE:

Now, when did y'all decide to get married? Was it pretty—was there a long wait between getting married—I guess you had to wait for his dad to write you a letter. Some people, when they got married in the service, did not want their CO [commanding officer] to know about it, because they figured, as a woman, they'd be pressured to get out.

PS:

No. He had to get—he was a person who—he wanted to stay in the service, and he knew that he had to ask permission. Now, I've heard so many things, that people couldn't get married while they were in the service, they had to get out. I didn't have to do that. My husband went to his CO—now, you had to be a certain rank before you could—before—He knew—because, see, his dad had already been in the service for a good many years. So his dad was probably very strict and knew all the—everything, the rules and regulations. And they're very similar, except some are more—

EE:

More stringent for the women, maybe.

PS:

Well, I don't think so for that, but I meant the service itself would—they had certain guidelines that may be stronger for, like for people who—like the navy, if they go out, and the Marines go different places and different things like that, you know. But he knew all that stuff, and he knew, so he went—I don't know. We got married in November of '44. But we ran around together with—now, we used him, see?

EE:

Did you use his car?

PS:

Car? Yes. This friend of mine—I need to talk and show you—

EE:

Give me that picture. There it is.

PS:

This friend of mine, she had a convertible. But she wasn't allowed to have it on the base. So we got him—so he could drive it on the base and he could drive on the station. He could get us in, but it was her car.

EE:

[laughter] You needed a chauffeur.

PS:

So he was our chauffeur. [laughs] And we would go lots of places together, but he did that because he was a staff sergeant at that time, and I guess as long as you were a staff sergeant, from there on up there were certain things you could do, you know.

EE:

Right. I guess after his time on Guadalcanal, he did not have to go back overseas again?

PS:

Oh, yes. He went back overseas.

EE:

He went back after you were—

PS:

Oh, yes, two, three times.

EE:

But that was after y'all were married. After the war was over, he went back over; he didn't go back during the war, did he?

PS:

Yes. Well, I can't—What, Korea was in—?

EE:

That was fifties.

PS:

Okay. He went back there.

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

PS:

Because my mother had come out when the baby was born, and then three months later, my younger sister was going to get married, so she wanted me to come home to see the wedding, not be in the wedding, I couldn't be, you know, but to be there when she was married. I took the baby, and I went home. They were married—September I guess September, and every once in a while he called me, and he said, “I think you'd better come home. Maybe we're going to leave shortly to go to Korea. We don't know when.” And so right after the wedding, I decided I'd better go and not [unclear]. So I went back home to California again, and every so often, “Well, we're getting ready to go again,” then it would be off and on, off and on all the time, you know. Then I really don't know. We had another friend and his wife came and stay with us. They couldn't find any place to stay, so he invited them to come stay at our house until he could go, because he was recalled.

EE:

And they didn't have a place for them to stay, even though he was recalled?

PS:

No.

EE:

That's pretty bad.

PS:

Well, they didn't ask them to bring their wives. They just wanted the guy. But she wanted to come. They didn't have any children, you know, so—

EE:

That makes sense, that makes sense.

PS:

You help people out, you know, because he was a good friend of his when they were over the first time. I don't know how they knew each other, but—

EE:

It doesn't sound like the kind of work you were in ever put you in physical danger. Were you ever afraid when you first left from home and went to the big city and then went all the way across the country? I mean, you did go from coast to coast. Did you ever get afraid, being away from home?

PS:

Me?

EE:

Yes.

PS:

I'll tell you what. I was a very shy person, but putting on a uniform, for some reason or other, it gave me probably something I never had before. Enough of—it gives you—I don't know what I would call it.

EE:

Confidence.

PS:

Confidence, right. I guess because they—

EE:

Somebody treats you—you're a Marine. You're not just Phyllis from North Canton. You're a United States Marine.

PS:

Right. But I was from Ohio at that time. But you know what happened to me when I took off my uniform? I wouldn't go out of the house. I was afraid. And it took me a long time. [pause] My mother would say to me—because she could tell the difference—she said, “What happened to you?”

I said, “I don't know.” I can't tell anybody, because when I got out of the Marine Corps, my husband picked me up at El Toro as he was on his way from San Diego to Mojave. That's where we went, Mojave Desert. There's a Mojave Marine Corps Air Station. He picked me up, and I had my uniform on, and we headed for Mojave. And I didn't leave that house for three weeks. I was afraid. I didn't know where to go. I didn't know nothing. I said—

Someone said, “I can't believe this happened to you.”

I said, “Well, I can't either, but I'm afraid.”

I didn't know—sometimes I still get afraid, but I know that nobody's going to do it, so I have to do it.

EE:

Do you think being in the military made you be able to be then more independent than you would have been otherwise, makes you feel more independent?

PS:

Yes.

EE:

When you were in the service, in addition to these three that are at your wedding, you meet, by virtue of being in the service, people from all parts of the country, all walks of life, all religions, all ethnic backgrounds. There has to be one or two characters that stand out in your memory. Is there any particular incident you want to share with me today, or people that you ran into that made an impression on you, that are memorable characters that stand out for you?

PS:

My husband was a character.

EE:

[laughs]

PS:

I'm serious. I'm serious. They called—somebody from Massachusetts—there was a comic in Massachusetts, and because my husband was very fair-skinned, his nose would get red. He would get sun burnt, you know, and they'd call him Bozo. That was his nickname, Bozo. But that was the name, the comic's name, in Massachusetts, because he said he looked like him because of the red nose, real light face, real light, you know, and probably—he liked people. He was the opposite of me. But I could feed him stuff—he couldn't remember jokes, but I could tell him one little thing and he knew the whole thing, but I could not remember the joke. I could just remember just a little bit of it. But I'd sit there, and I would feed him these things, and he could tell jokes all night long, you know.

EE:

Well, now, because for you, being in the service meant finding a husband and finding your life there after the service, are there any special songs or movies that you'll see or that you'll hear that take you back to 1944 and dating your husband?

PS:

Not necessarily movies, but music. Music, ah!

EE:

Did y'all dance a lot?

PS:

Well, he didn't know how to dance until we went to Hawaii. Now, I didn't tell you about that, did I?

EE:

No.

PS:

In 1946, it was shortly after—we went to Mojave and then we were only probably there at Mojave three weeks, and then we got transferred to—a beautiful place. I'm trying to think of the name. It's—

EE:

It wasn't Monterey, was it?

PS:

No. Santa Barbara, a beautiful place. No place to live. And I don't know how we ever found this place. Two widows lived in this house, and they had a room that they rented out to a couple. I don't know whether it was advertised or what, but anyhow, we went there to see about it, and the girl—the couple that lived there before, she was going to move in the bedroom—they all had single beds, you know. She was going to move in there and stay there because she was working, and the place that they had, they were going to rent out, and we got to do that. It was a bedroom, sitting room, which was separated from the—it was in the house.

EE:

You had your own social area, and you could—

PS:

Right. But we could have kitchen privileges. And we were there for Christmas, and it was just like a family. Those two ladies were—the one didn't work and the other one worked. The one who—now, this other one knew there was something wrong with me, not necessarily wrong with me but I was shy, and she—I'll tell you what. She took me by the hand, and she said, “We're going to get you out of this,” and she did, I mean to a certain extent. So she was a wonderful person. They were both very [unclear].

EE:

And you were there when you went to Hawaii?

PS:

No. No. We were there—three weeks after Mojave, we went to Santa Barbara, and it must have been, probably, October or November. Must have been some time in November we went to Santa Barbara. And in February, February, he said that they had to take the ship—it was an aircraft carrier—they had to take the aircraft carrier—they were going to load up all the airplanes and everything and sail around to the Panama Canal and go on to Cherry Point. And so then I was going to go ahead and fly home after they all left. We had a car, and I had to sell the car and take care of everything and pack up everything I had. And then I flew to—did I fly? I forget whether I flew or not. I really don't know whether I flew or whether I—

EE:

You probably would have remembered, I would think. It wasn't that many planes back then. Did you fly a lot when you worked there with the airplanes? Did the pilots take you up?

PS:

Where?

EE:

When you were working at El Toro, did the pilots ever take you up for an airplane ride?

PS:

No. No. I don't think they did that. But anyhow, I went home to where my parents lived. Then when he came to Cherry Point, he called me and said he was coming out to get me. “We have to have a car.” [laughter] So we bought a car and went back to Cherry Point. And that was in—

EE:

Forty-six?

PS:

—probably March, March of—what did you say?

EE:

Forty-six?

PS:

Yes. And then, they didn't know why they went there, but shortly, it must have been—well, it was so bad at Cherry Point—can I say this? [laughter] At Cherry Point, there was nothing there at the time. So if we had forty-eight hours, we went to New Jersey to see his mother. We'd take a load of boys to go to Washington, D.C., drop them off, and if they met us there, then we'd take them back to Cherry Point when it was time to go. If they didn't meet us where they were supposed to, then—

EE:

[unclear].

PS:

And on seventy-two hours, we would go to Ohio, to my folks'. But that was every—I mean, whenever it was, you know. That went on until—then they got—I don't know whether it was the same squadron or not. But must have been.

EE:

You have to be young to drive like that.

PS:

Pardon?

EE:

You have to be young to drive like that. That's a lot of driving.

PS:

Well, they worked all week. There was nothing, and everybody was so young, you know.

EE:

Well, you know, you joined the Marines because you had a cousin who made a big impression on you. Do you feel that, in your work in the service, that you had a chance to contribute to the war effort? Do you feel like that you helped out the war effort?

PS:

I would say so, because they didn't have to have all those men. We replaced men, because I ended up in the tool shop because I knew all the tools that we used, and they had—you know, it was the overhaul and repair for the whole West. I don't know whether it was the navy also, for their air—? See, they had to have something like that, too. But it was the overhaul and repair for the whole West Coast. I don't know—I don't really—we called it that, but I can't tell you whether it was—

EE:

That makes sense. It makes sense.

PS:

—the [U.S.] Navy and Marine Corps, too, you know.

EE:

By being stateside—you know, when I talk to a lot of folks, they say one thing that they miss from that time is a sense of patriotism, that everybody was pulling together.

PS:

Yes.

EE:

Did you ever run into anybody who was afraid that we might not win the war?

PS:

That was what?

EE:

Did you ever run into people who were afraid that we might not win the war?

PS:

I don't even think we talked about it. Everybody just did what they had to do.

EE:

You just didn't think about that option.

PS:

No, because we had so much fun anyhow. [laughter] I never knew anybody to get mad at anybody, that I know.

EE:

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

PS:

I didn't understand.

EE:

I say, do you remember where you were when you heard the news about President Roosevelt passing away?

PS:

Where I was at? What year was it?

EE:

Forty-five.

PS:

Forty-five?

EE:

It would have been April. Some people—When you think about that time period, do you have people who are heroes or heroines for you?

PS:

No, because I probably didn't read the paper.

EE:

You were twenty and twenty-one. [laughs]

PS:

We worked hard all day, you know.

EE:

Right.

PS:

And then we had fun at night, though. And it was—well, wait a minute. I would have been married. I would have been married at '45. Oh, wait a minute. I was a housekeeper. I mean, I was a housekeeper for a while. I was having a busy time, if that was it, because we lived in Santa Ana. '45. I'm trying to think. That was before we're talking this other thing.

EE:

That's right. Well, do you have any people that—you say that you don't have any people who are heroes as such. You say you had two daughters. Did either one of them have any interest in joining the military?

PS:

No, but I wanted my younger daughter to go, because she needed—she needed—guidance, and she was always three steps [unclear] of me.

EE:

But she didn't join?

PS:

No. I have a granddaughter right now who's going to be graduating from the Air Force Academy this next June, or this June.

EE:

That's wonderful.

PS:

And my grandson is a freshman at the Air Force Academy.

EE:

Excellent.

PS:

See, their dad was in the air force, and he was killed on the peace envoy that was going into Sarajevo. Do you remember? There was two men who were in the Peace Corps, and then there was a air force, our air force—that was my son-in-law. And then there was a Frenchman that was also killed. My daughter has a fit that they don't include him with these three people of the United States. And so whenever she puts any memories of that, she says that—

EE:

Mentions his name?

PS:

Because she said, “I just feel it's terrible that nobody says anything about him.”

EE:

That's right, because he was going there for the same mission.

PS:

Yes. There was four of them that got killed when that thing rolled out.

EE:

[coughs]

SS:

Would you like something to drink?

EE:

No. I'm fine. I was thinking, just two years ago, America sent for the first time a woman combat pilot into action, bombed Saddam Hussein just before Christmas. Do you think there are some jobs in the military that should be off-limits to women? Or how do you feel about—women can do a lot more in the service now than they could when you were in.

PS:

Right, right. Are you talking about the—I didn't quite understand.

EE:

I say, just two years ago, we sent, for the first time, a woman into combat as a fighter pilot. She dropped bombs in Iraq. And I just wonder how you feel about that? Are there some jobs in the service that should be off-limits to women, or are you in favor of opening up everything to women?

PS:

I feel that if people want to do it, let them do it. They can probably do it better than somebody who doesn't want to go. Because you have people who are afraid, and they don't want to go. But that presence of mind may—if that one person who don't want to go and they make him go, you may lose more than one person.

EE:

That's right, if they're not focused on the job.

PS:

That's right. And I don't think—I think—because I don't think it makes a difference what gender you are. I think it's up here. [points to head]

EE:

You're one of those people who—when I ask this next question, there's an easy answer. The question is, what impact did the military have on your life? Well, the easy answer for you is, “I found Bill.” But in what other ways did the military impact your life?

PS:

Well, I think it broadened my life, because I'm talking—I go home and talk to some people, and they can't—they don't know where I'm coming from. You know, and if they knew me before, they really don't know what happened to me, because I've had more experiences that nobody knows, because I don't talk unless somebody asks me something, or if I, if I—if we're talking about something and I really have to say it, I will say it, you know. But I think it broadened my horizon, because I said, “You know, if I wouldn't have joined the Marine Corps, I may have not have left Ohio.”

EE:

That's right. That's right. You could have been still working at Hoover. [laughter]

PS:

Oh, no. No. Not unless I could have gotten a different job. That was the reason I left.

EE:

I know. I know. You wouldn't have been working at Hoover. You would have been doing something else. Well, that's all the questions that I have here. Is there anything that I haven't asked you about, about your time in service, that you'd want to share with this tape?

PS:

[pause] Well, I haven't even thought of that, you know.

EE:

For you, it sounds like it was a great experience.

PS:

Oh, it was. It was a great experience. I mean, people say, “You mean to tell me you volunteered?” I said, “Yes.” And I'm a proud person, that I'm glad I went, because I just experienced so many things that I would have never, never had.

EE:

What did your sisters think of you doing that, of you volunteering, of you joining? What did your sisters think?

PS:

I think they're proud of me. I don't know, but I mean they always: “Oh, this is my sister.” But I'm sure, you know. They have some place to come now, to visit. My older sister and her husband, they come every year.

EE:

Well, thank you, on behalf of the school and myself for sitting down and doing this today. I appreciate it very much.

[End of interview]