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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Nell Smith Lutz

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Object ID: WV0160.5.001

Description: Primarily discusses Nell Smith Lutz’s service in the supply corps of the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.

Summary:

Lutz breifly discusses her childhood in Florida and education at Florida State College for Women. She then describes her desire to join the WAVES, including the influence of WAVES recruiters and her parents' reactions. Lutz discusses her feelings on freeing a man to fight; servicemen’s reactions to WAVES; basic training and supply school, include arriving at Northampton, Massachusetts; physical tests; training with gas masks; taking liberty to Boston and New York City; a humorous story about inspection; details about supply school at Radcliffe College, Massachusetts; and a story about being caught out of uniform in the kitchen at Radcliffe College.

Topics from her time at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, include working with servicemen; hiking with fiancé Frank Lutz in the Great Dismal Swamp; and stories about Captain R. H. Johnson and Admiral Felix Gygax. Topics from her time at Glynco, Georgia, include employing German prisoners of war; accidentally flooding a men’s quarter; visiting friend Laura Anderton at Northampton; and waiting for a replacement to be found so she could be discharged. Other topics include music she recalls from her time in the service; VE and VJ Days; and her opinions on Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Post-war and personal topics include Lutz’s adjustment to civilian life; the birth of her children; what she gained from her time in the service; and her feelings on women in combat positions.

Creator: Nell Smith Lutz

Biographical Info: Nell Smith Lutz (b. 1921) of Marianna, Florida, served in the supply corps in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1943 to 1945.

Collection: Nell Smith Lutz 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:

RG:

This is an interview of Nell Lutz, and Nell, when and where were you born?

NL:

I was born in 1921, November 29, in Dothan, Alabama. It's down in south Alabama.

RG:

And anything you'd like to tell us about your family and home life? What did your parents do? Did you have brothers and sisters? Let's start maybe with what your parents did.

NL:

All right. I was an only child. I had a lot of first cousins that were just about like brothers and sisters as far as I was concerned. My mother's home was in Dothan, Alabama, and several of her brothers and sisters lived there. Most of my summer vacations were spent up there. My dad was George W. Smith. When I was born, he was in business with his brother, in a mercantile business in Marianna and the Great Depression came along and wiped that out. After that he began keeping books for various places. He worked at the air base at one time. And then his last place of employment was the Coca-Cola Company in Marianna, Florida.

RG:

What air base was that?

NL:

Marianna [Army] Air Base.

RG:

Marianna Air Base.

NL:

Very small base.

RG:

That's not there any more?

NL:

Oh no. Just during the war.

RG:

That's not there anymore. Let's see. How did you like school? And that would be K[indergarten] through twelve, I guess, the question. Then we'll talk about college.

NL:

You know, I loved school. I guess it was because, being an only child, I didn't have any siblings around. Had a lot of neighbor children that I played with all the time. But school was always fun for me, and—

RG:

You went through all twelve grades in Dothan?

NL:

No, I lived in Marianna.

RG:

Oh, in Marianna. Okay.

NL:

And I finished high school in 1939.

RG:

Nineteen thirty-nine, the eve of the Second World War. Did you have a favorite subject that you studied?

NL:

I guess it would be English and literature, possibly due to a wonderful, wonderful teacher I had, Miss Roberta Carter. She made everything come alive for us, as far as literature is concerned.

RG:

How do you spell Marianna?

NL:

M-a-r-i-a-n-n-a.

RG:

Two n's. Okay. Did you attend college?

NL:

Yes, I did. I went from high school. I entered Tallahassee that following September and finished in '43.

RG:

Florida—?

NL:

Back in those days it was Florida State College for Women [FSCW]. It's now FSU [Florida State University].

RG:

Florida State College for Women.

NL:

No boys there when I was there, except on weekends.

RG:

So you began in 1939.

NL:

Thirty-nine, and graduated in '43.

RG:

In '43. So that was before you went in the service?

NL:

Right.

RG:

Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

NL:

I was in Landis Dormitory. It's real funny, I had an email the other day from one of my Tallahassee friends and she said, “Remember that other war that started when we were in Landis Dorm? And we hope this one won't last so long.”

RG:

Where were you working when you enlisted, or were you working somewhere when you enlisted?

NL:

No. Bob, I worked my whole last year in college at doing nothing but getting into the navy. I had that on my mind.

RG:

So you went from college into the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy].

NL:

I went—I reported for active duty in July after I finished in Tallahassee. I think I got out in May something. No, I did not work in between. I was working to get in the WAVES. That's all I wanted to do.

RG:

Then we know this obviously, but for the record, which branch of the military or auxiliary did you join?

NL:

The WAVES.

RG:

You were in the WAVES. Why did you choose the WAVES?

NL:

Well, during my senior year in college, we had some officers come from various branches of the service. The first WAVES officer I ever saw was Ensign Knudsen. She was sent there from Miami, I believe. She was on a recruiting trip. And when I saw her, and when I listened to what she had to say, and when she told us about what the WAVES offered college graduates, I was ready to join.

RG:

And what date did you enter the service, do you recall?

NL:

Let's see. I reported for duty on July 30, 1943. But now, I was sworn in earlier than that. In fact, I still have that date over there somewhere.

RG:

We'll look at it in a minute, and get the date.

NL:

It doesn't matter, but—

RG:

And what date were you discharged?

NL:

I was discharged on my birthday, November 29, 19—Let's see, Frank, we were married in '45. Forty-six, yes, '46.

RG:

You were discharged on November twenty-ninth of '46.

NL:

I think—wait—it could be—I'd have to look to be sure. You know, dates don't—

RG:

It might be '45.

NL:

It could easily be '45.

RG:

Okay. It was either '45 or '46. And we can correct that one from your records, if you can.

NL:

We'll have to, because I have all that in black and white. I just don't remember dates anymore.

Frank Lutz:

We were married in '45.

NL:

Yes. Okay. We were married in August, and I got out in '45.

RG:

In was '45 then that you were discharged. Now again, you've pretty much already told us why you decided to join and which service. You said that the recruiters from the WAVES came, is that right?

NL:

That WAVE came and then an Ensign Remington came from Jacksonville and told us more about the WAVES and about—

RG:

Were they both women?

NL:

They were both women. They were sending these people to various women's college campuses, and they would have little seminars and we would go and listen, and of course I was there on the front seat.

RG:

So that was one of the WAVES recruiting efforts. Had you seen any WAVE posters up to that point? They had very attractive posters.

NL:

Oh, I believe I had seen one in the post office, I think, in Tallahassee. I think I had possibly seen one. I've seen old pictures of those—

RG:

They didn't put any up around campus?

NL:

I don't think so.

RG:

Don't think so? Okay. A lot of posters stated that if you enlisted you would be freeing a man to fight.

NL:

That was the whole thing. We were going to let him go for active duty.

RG:

Do you view your enlistment as freeing a man to fight, or maybe as something more than that?

NL:

Well, I was in the disbursing. I was in the supply corps, and the men were badly needed on ships. And so I do feel as though—And some of the men didn't like that either. [laughs] They'd rather stay ashore, I think. But that's what we did. And when I had duty as assistant disbursing officer I probably didn't, but I think when I was in my own office I did, down in Georgia—Glynco, Georgia.

RG:

How did your parents feel about your joining the WAVES?

NL:

Oh, my mother thought I was just gone! She just thought she'd never see me again.

RG:

Your mother didn't want you to join?

NL:

She thought I was going to Timbuktu or somewhere on the next ship. Daddy was a little bit better about it. But you know what? The day that I finally was sworn in, I got a telegram from her at Tallahassee, and you know what it said?

RG:

What?

NL:

“Today your dream has finally been realized.” So she knew how badly I wanted to join.

RG:

And you got the telegram in Tallahassee?

NL:

I got it in Tallahassee.

RG:

From her, and she was in Marianna.

NL:

She was still in Marianna.

RG:

Well, that's wonderful. What about the reaction of other friends and family? Did you get much positive or negative either way?

NL:

Everybody was more or less for me, especially my classmates. There were—I think there were four other people in my class, at least four, who joined—who reported for duty about the same time I did. Three of them were in my class. I think the other one came in the next class.

RG:

Was this the first time that you had ever been very far away from home for an extended period of time?

NL:

It was, yes, for an extended period.

RG:

Other than college.

NL:

Yes, that was only ninety miles. This was like going from Marianna all the way up to Northampton, Massachusetts.

RG:

Oh, I'm sorry. Marianna was in Florida.

NL:

Florida, yes.

RG:

So you were born in Dothan, Alabama, but then you moved to Marianna, Florida. Okay. What age were you when you moved to Marianna, by the way?

NL:

Actually, I was—I never lived in Dothan. They didn't have a hospital in Marianna, so my mother went back to her home for my birth.

RG:

That's just across the border.

NL:

Yes, twenty miles—forty miles. Forty miles.

RG:

I see. I'm getting it geographically. Okay.

NL:

I didn't make that very clear.

RG:

Well, not many people realize that Florida comes underneath Alabama very closely. The panhandle of Florida, that's where you're talking about.

NL:

That's exactly right.

RG:

Let's see. Where did you join, I guess physically speaking, where did you actually join up?

NL:

In Jacksonville, Florida.

RG:

In Jacksonville, Florida.

NL:

That was the nearest place.

RG:

That was the nearest office to join. Okay. And what do you remember about the first day?

NL:

You mean after I reported for duty?

RG:

After you reported for duty.

NL:

Well, I can remember very well getting off the train at Northampton.

RG:

In Virginia.

NL:

In Massachusetts.

RG:

Oh, I'm sorry. Massachusetts.

NL:

See, the navy took over a lot of the buildings on Smith College and used them for our classes. And they also took over Wiggins Tavern which was there, and an old hotel called Hotel Northampton. And that's where they billeted us.

RG:

So, you had to get on a train in Florida—

NL:

So, I left from Florida—

RG:

And travel to Massachusetts.

NL:

Oh, I had a long trip, yes.

RG:

How long was that trip?

NL:

Oh, it was an overnight thing.

RG:

Overnight.

NL:

I had to spend the night and we had all these meal tickets, and we were determined to use every one of them before we got there. But by the time we got to Northampton, there were a group of us. When we got off the train, we were amazed to find these midshipmen there, in uniform, who informed us that as soon as our gear, as they called it, was put on this truck, we would march with them up these two or three hills to Northampton Hotel. Now, that was pretty tough on some of those young women because some had on spike heels from traveling. We were a motley-looking crew going up there, but we hoofed up the hill—

RG:

You hoofed it.

NL:

—until we reached the hotel, and then we were told which room we were staying in.

RG:

So, the bags rode, but you marched.

NL:

The bags rode, but we had to march.

RG:

And what was your job while in the service? And you've already mentioned a part of that, but again, roughly.

NL:

You mean after I was commissioned.

RG:

After you were commissioned.

NL:

My first assignment was assistant disbursing officer to a Captain Johnston in the Norfolk Navy Yard, in Portsmouth. I was sent to Portsmouth. That was where I met Frank Lutz. I used to pay him. He'd come in for his money every two weeks.

RG:

This is Portsmouth, Virginia.

NL:

Virginia. Portsmouth, Virginia. That's where the Norfolk Navy Yard is, and I was there, I guess, well, at least a year. I'm not sure today. I wish I knew dates again. I remember I'd had my engagement ring about two weeks when I got orders to go to Glynco, Georgia, and I cried, because I knew I had to go. When you were in the navy you went when they said and where they said, you know.

RG:

What was your rank when you were commissioned? Were you an ensign?

NL:

I was commissioned as an ensign. Went in as a seaman, then became a midshipman, and then I became an ensign on, I well remember, September 21 was the date we were commissioned.

RG:

Of?

NL:

Forty-three.

RG:

Of '43. Okay. And, you've already mentioned this I think: Where was your basic training?

NL:

That was at Northampton. At Smith College, and we marched the whole time we were there. We marched everywhere we went.

RG:

And where were you stationed the rest of the time that you were in the service?

NL:

[The following addendum was provided by RG at a later date:

After I left Northampton, I was sent to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the Radcliffe [College] branch of Harvard University for an intensive course in naval supply and disbursing. I was a member of the class reporting on October 1, 1943, and members in my class represented thirty-eight different states. We had come from colleges all over the U.S.—Wellesley, Smith, Boston University, Randolph Macon, University of Alabama, FSCW—and the list ran on. I remember arriving in Cambridge during a nor'easter with a dripping raincoat and havelock.

For the next three months we were to participate in a very concentrated study of both naval supply and disbursing. The Bureau of Supply and Accounts manual became our Bible. It was not all work and no play, however, as Boston had so many interesting places to visit. Groups of us took many interesting trips. One of these was a visit to Wellesley College where we could see [WAVES Director] Capt. Mildred McAfee's home across the lake. Another highlight of my tour of duty in Cambridge was my first experience ice fishing.

Upon graduation from the supply school at Cambridge graduates were sent all over the U.S. with assignments as assistant supply of disbursing officers. I was sent to Portsmouth, Virginia, to report to Captain R. H. Johnston as his assistant disbursing officer in the Norfolk Navy Yard. Copies of my orders show that I reported for duty on January 21, 1944.]

Then I was sent down to Glynco, Georgia. There was a little blimp base down there.

RG:

This was a base for blimps to go out over the Atlantic.

NL:

Right, blimps. I was disbursing officer there. I went there to relieve another WAVE. Now she in turn was sent to relieve another man who was relieving someone. I've forgotten where she went, but—I had independent duty there until I was discharged on my birthday.

RG:

So, you were in the Georgia station until you were discharged?

NL:

Yes, I got orders in November 1945.

RG:

That was in November of 1945 that you were discharged. Did you enjoy the work?

NL:

I loved the work. I loved the work, I loved the people. There wasn't a thing about the navy that I didn't like. When I told someone you were coming, they said, “Well, I hope you get to talk enough about it.” They know I really enjoy reliving it.

RG:

Do you think you were treated equally and professionally as the men you worked with?

NL:

I certainly do. It may have been that I was lucky in the officers I had over me, but I definitely do.

RG:

Were the men you worked with assigned similar jobs as you, or primarily different kinds of jobs? Were you working with men that were doing the same kinds of things, disbursing, or were the men doing other things?

NL:

Oh, well, there was no discrimination, I guess, if that's what you're trying to lead to.

RG:

Well, but I suppose they're asking if there were particular jobs for women and then particular jobs for men.

NL:

No. I'm sure there were some assistant disbursing officers that were men. I never did meet any of them but I'm sure they were there.

RG:

Did you personally command any men? Have any men under your command?

NL:

I had the clothing and small stores. The man in charge of that would come in and report to me. And at that time there was a German camp there, and a lot of these Germans that could write so beautifully were working for this clothing and small stores man. But he would never let me go in and check on them. He said, “Now Ms. Lutz, that's for me to do. I want to do that.” But he was a wonderful storekeeper. His name was Maloney. I'll never forget him.

RG:

So you actually commanded at least some men in the U.S. Navy and also had some German prisoners of war working for you.

NL:

The German prisoners of war were working on those records, and their work was beautiful. I wish you could have seen their handwriting.

RG:

Interesting. Was the pay that you received similar to or equal to similar pay for the men? Do you have any idea?

NL:

I think it was the same, because I worked with pay vouchers all the time and payrolls, and I'm pretty sure that that a hundred and fifty base pay was what the men were getting too.

RG:

That was a hundred and fifty a month?

NL:

Hundred and fifty dollars, that was a lot, you know?

RG:

During the late Depression, that certainly was.

NL:

I was twenty-one when I first went in, seaman pay was twenty-one dollars per month.

RG:

What was the hardest thing you had to do physically and/or emotionally while in the service? Let's take physically first.

NL:

Physically. I think it was those push-ups, from the floor, because we were supposed to do twenty of them. And they weren't easy. The girls I ran around with were just out of college, and we would feel so sorry for those women that were thirty-three—that was about as old as you could be—because they couldn't do them. And we would try to help them. You know, we knew we had to do them.

RG:

Did you have to be able to reach the point of doing twenty push-ups?

NL:

You had to do twenty, yes. I think they kind of made exceptions for some of those women. Then we had these bars—oh, the physical—It was grueling.

RG:

Pull-ups? You had pull-ups on a bar?

NL:

Yes. It was not easy. But see, I was just out of college, and had had PE [physical education] every semester. It wasn't rough on me like it was the older ones.

RG:

What about emotionally? Was there anything about your service that was difficult emotionally?

NL:

I really don't think so. Everything was just so exciting. I don't think I've ever enjoyed any more years any more. It was just a wonderful, wonderful time. We didn't have much free time, but the free time we had, we made pretty good use of it. We could get those timetables down pretty quick, on liberties.

RG:

What did you do on liberty, traditionally?

NL:

Well, the first liberty we had we checked out for Boston. We thought that would be a good trip.

RG:

This was while you were at Smith, you went to Boston.

NL:

Yes. We stayed at the Statler [Hotel], and the service rates were wonderful. I think—I found a bill not long the other day, it was for four of us, and I think the whole thing was something like nine dollars. We were there—[laughs] Can you believe that? Radio City—I wish I could remember what we paid to see those wonderful Rockettes perform. It was—we liked those service—

RG:

So you went to Radio City Music Hall? Now, that's in New York. So you went to New York another time.

NL:

Oh yes, that was another trip. We'd go to Boston—but you could only go from Saturday noon and be back Sunday night. You had to really consolidate everything.

RG:

Did you ever feel that you were in physical danger during your service?

NL:

I guess the only thing that scared me to death was when we had to put gas masks on and go into some old building that was near the base. That frightened me.

RG:

That was training?

NL:

That was in training. We had to do it. It was in the specs, I guess.

RG:

Did they put some kind of smoke or gas in the rooms?

NL:

If the gas was there, we didn't know, but they made us think it was there. We all wore these horrible-looking masks.

RG:

Do you remember any embarrassing or funny or humorous incidents while you were in the service?

NL:

Many. How many do you want? One? [laughs]

RG:

Give us a couple of the best.

NL:

All right. Another WAVE and I, Anne and I, could never study in our rooms. We each had three roommates who were always talking, so we decided we were going to find a quiet place and—we were billeted in the hotel there in Northampton—so we found out that at night the kitchen was a quiet place to go, and we would go down and we'd sit on the floor. There were no chairs in the kitchen. We'd sit on the floor. The maids were so nice. They'd always leave pieces of cake or those big cinnamon rolls—they made them this big—for us, and we'd always find a treat when we'd go.

One night we were down there learning the names of all the ships and aircraft. She'd call them off and we'd look at them and all of a sudden she started pulling on my housecoat.

I said, “What is it, Anne?”

She said, “Stand up!”

The admiral had come to inspect the base, and the ensign was bringing him down through the galley to see how the kitchen was doing, you know. And there we were in our housecoats. Anne even had curlers in her hair. We stood up and saluted him in our housecoats, and he was shocked! You could see him smiling, but he said, “As you were, girls.” [laughs] And then we just fell to the floor, we were so scared. We thought surely that that night we'd receive a call and we both would be sent home.

RG:

Do you remember who the admiral was?

NL:

I wish I did. He was from that naval district. I had no idea he'd come to investigate, to check on that whole school. Another incident concerns your friend Laura Anderton. She was my platoon leader, and this was our first captain's inspection and drill. This was at Northampton. We were out on the drill field. This was in July, I guess it was. And all of a sudden she punched me. She said, “My garter belt just broke.” And I thought, “Oh my gosh.”

RG:

Now she said to you, but out of the side of her mouth, that her garter belt had broken.

NL:

That meant that your stockings were going down. You don't know what a garter belt is, but that was the only way we had to hold our stockings up. Her stockings began to come down. Well, she couldn't be like that when the captain came by. So a bunch of us just kind of made a circle around Andy [Laura Anderton]. We just started step, step, step, like that while she adjusted the belt, tied it to something. We'll never know how she did it. I wonder if she remembers that. I'm going to find out. But we passed inspection. But that was terribly embarrassing.

RG:

And you basically covered for her, or literally covered her for a while. What about social life? And you've already mentioned some of it, your trips. Anything else about social life, perhaps after you were at the naval base as a disbursing agent?

NL:

Yes, people were always getting together and doing things. Frank and I spent many, many happy times. And I brought that article in to show you the swamp trip. It was in today's paper.

RG:

I have a copy of it in the car. I'm going to take it back with me.

NL:

Do you really? Yes. Well, anyway, we'd do a lot of hiking in [the Great] Dismal Swamp [Virginia] and then, of course, there were always dances at the club.

RG:

Now, out of curiosity, the picture in the newspaper article about the Dismal Swamp visits, was that actually during the war?

NL:

Sure it was. Yes.

RG:

Okay. It says mid-'40s.

NL:

That was '43. Yes. Four. Forty-four.

RG:

That was one of the excursions that you made then.

NL:

One of the many.

[Frank Lutz speaks, inaudible.]

NL:

Yes, we went—we did an awful lot. And then, Williamsburg was not far away. It was fun to go to Williamsburg. They would have buses going from the navy yard that naval personnel could go on.

RG:

Had Williamsburg been restored at that point in time, or were they working on it?

NL:

Not a whole lot. It was the way I liked it. I think the real beginning came after the war was over.

RG:

In general, not so much on the trips, but what did you do for fun, you know, for a little recreation, during regular service time or evenings?

NL:

Played a lot of tennis when I was at Glynco. But see, when I got to Glynco, I was engaged, and I had a ring on my finger, and that was how I had such a good time with Jean Wren Higgins, who has already made a recording.

RG:

She's made a recording?

NL:

Yes, she has. Well, we had kind of a pact that I could get equal time talking about Frank and she'd give me—she would talk about Vic, and I would give her time for that. Vic was her Marine that was away. Neither one of them were in Glynco. And, I'll have to tell you this. This was the worst thing that ever happened to me the whole time I was in the navy. We were in the wash room. We had a big laundry room. This was in Glynco.

RG:

In Glynco.

NL:

Up on second deck. Men's quarters were on the first deck. We had been washing clothes—

RG:

This was a ship?

NL:

No, no. We just called it that.

RG:

The quarters. Okay.

NL:

We had been doing our laundry, and decided we'd go across the hall to the Coke machine and have a Coke, and I started talking about Frank and she started talking about Vic and we were just sitting there enjoying our Coke when all of a sudden, here comes Sy Wheeler who was from Prosperity, South Carolina. I'll never forget him. “What are you WAVES up to now?” He had about three mess boys with him, about six buckets and mops. We had just about swamped the lower deck! We'd left the water running in the washing machine—tubs, the old kind—you know it wasn't automatic of course in those days. He said, “The next time that you people start talking about Vic and Frank, will you please do it right there. Don't leave the wash room.” [laughs] But those men got wet clothes, wet closets down below us. It was terrible.

RG:

You flooded the deck below you.

NL:

And Jean and I still mention that every Christmas when we write our Christmas cards, how we flooded the deck.

RG:

Now you mentioned a lot of names. Who are the more interesting people that you met?

NL:

I guess one of the most interesting ones that I met was the captain I worked for in the navy yard. He was a graduate of [the U.S. Naval Academy at] Annapolis, and when I first found that out I kinda was fearful. I didn't know what he was going to think about WAVES, but he already had one WAVE working for him. He thought she did a real good job and when I came in, I was just another dove. He referred to her as his dove. But this man—

RG:

They referred to you as doves.

NL:

Doves. He calls us his doves.

RG:

So you were WAVES, but another nickname was doves.

NL:

Doves for him. And he always would come in every Monday morning with a little shopping list that his wife had given him, to go to the commissary. And I think it was beneath his dignity to be seen in the commissary, so that became our duty, which was fun. We got to get on the navy yard bus, ride out, do that, get away from the office for a little while.

But this man had an obsession about naval officers wearing white socks, and I lived in fear and trembling that one day Frank would come in that office, because Captain Johnston would sit in his office behind the glass window and peer out and look to see what color socks each officer had on, and I would hear what those people would get. And I told Frank, “If you ever come in there with white socks, your name is mud and he'll probably throw me out the back window too.” So Frank never did wear white socks.

RG:

Did he want—

NL:

He wanted black socks.

RG:

He wanted black socks.

NL:

Naval officers wear black socks.

RG:

And again, are we talking about WAVES as well, or WAVES wore stockings?

NL:

Oh no, no. WAVES had to wear stockings. We couldn't wear socks.

RG:

Now, what was the captain's name? Did you remember?

NL:

R.H. Johnston, with a “t.”

RG:

R.H. Johnston. Hated white socks.

NL:

He did. And then the admiral was Admiral Felix G-y-g-a-x, and he loved short white pants. I think he wore them most all the time, and road a bicycle.

RG:

Felix G-y-g-a-x.

NL:

Gygax. I think they pronounced it Gygax. But you never saw him, except at real dress-up occasions, without those [unclear] short pants. But now he raised bees—

RG:

He wore shorts.

NL:

He raised bees. He kept bees there at the house that was provided for him. And every now and then the bees would get after him and the sirens would all go off, and my captain would look up. I think they were at Annapolis at the same time, if I remember right. He'd say, “Well, Felix is into the bees again. They had to take him to the dispensary.” [laughs] And so, we all thought he was kind of a character. Probably a real nice fellow. We just never got to know the admiral, really.

RG:

And now, you knew Laura Anderton while you were at Smith in training?

NL:

Yes, but we went back to visit her. They kept her at Northampton because she was such a wonderful WAVE and she performed so beautifully, they retained her to teach the recruits. And Anne, my dear friend from Raleigh, North Carolina, and I went back to visit her—

RG:

Anne Cox?

NL:

Anne Cox. Worth is the name she married, but—

RG:

Anne Cox was her regular name, maiden name Anne Cox, now married Worth, and she has passed away.

NL:

Yes. And Andy was so sweet to us. She went to officers' mess to eat, and I remember Anne saying, “Oh, I didn't think we'd ever see behind those sacred doors,” you know. And we went into the church—that church that we worshipped in in training was old Christ Church, and it was one Jonathan Edwards had been a minister in, many, many years ago.

RG:

Quite a few years ago.

NL:

It was just—just a beautiful church, and the WAVES would have the whole auditorium for their service. And that Sunday we went with Andy. Andy sat with the officers, so Anne and I did, and we really felt the stripe on our collar that time.

RG:

How long were you in the military? Now, you said you went in in '43—

NL:

I went in '43 and I got out in November of '45. About two and a half years, just about, I think, pretty close.

RG:

Two years and some months.

NL:

Two years and four months, I believe.

RG:

I don't know whether the option was open to you or not: Did you think of making the navy a career?

NL:

Definitely not, because I had met Frank Lutz and married him, and I was ready to get out of the navy then. But you had to get out on points. You couldn't just say, “I'm ready to get out.” You know we enlisted for the duration plus six months, and because I was in disbursing, I had to have a relief before I could leave my job. So I had to wait for another person to come.

RG:

Some person with fewer points?

NL:

Yes. And they found one, and were sending her, and then they found out the one they were sending had just another month or two before she'd have enough points, so then I had to wait until they found another WAVE. But they finally found Sarah May Garrison, I think her name was.

RG:

Did those who worked with you or your superior officers encourage you to stay in the navy?

NL:

I don't believe I had any encouragement from anybody to stay on.

RG:

And wouldn't have listened if you had. [laughs]

NL:

I know of one girl in my graduating class from Tallahassee that I saw at our fiftieth reunion, and she stayed in until she became a commander, and then she retired. Mary Angus. She was in the same class I was in. She started when I did.

RG:

In your opinion, what was the mood of the country at that time? For instance, did you get the impression everyone was fearful? Everyone was confident?

NL:

I think everyone was anxious to get the job done and get our lives back to normal condition again.

RG:

Did you have the impression that those you worked with were fearful?

NL:

Not really.

RG:

Not really? In a hurry to—

NL:

I was young then, you know. I was twenty-two—twenty-one, twenty-two.

RG:

Primarily in a hurry to get the job done and go home.

NL:

So I think that was it.

RG:

What did you think of the Roosevelts, Eleanor and let's take Franklin Roosevelt first?

NL:

Well, Franklin?

RG:

The president.

NL:

All right. I liked President Roosevelt. I think I liked his wife better, because she actually was the one that spurred him into starting the WAVES. You knew that, didn't you?

RG:

No, I did not know that.

NL:

She did. She had a lot of influence on him. And the WAC [Women's Army Corps] was already going pretty strong, and she—I think it was her doing that made the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergence Service, that brought it into being. I saw her once on campus when I was in college. She came and spoke to us.

RG:

So you had very strong positive feelings about both of them, but you liked Eleanor more.

NL:

Yes.

RG:

What about—and this would have been just the last maybe six or eight months of your service—what was your impression of President Harry Truman? Did you have an impression of him at all?

NL:

I guess not. I mean, I really can't remember too much.

RG:

Who were your personal heroes and heroines when you were serving?

NL:

I think that—I think one of the ones that I really looked up to was that Ensign Remington that I thought was such a wonderful example of being a WAVE and I—

RG:

She's one of the recruiters who came to speak to you at Florida.

NL:

She was, yes, and later became one of my dearest friends.

RG:

Do you have any favorite songs or movies from that time?

NL:

Oh, goodness. I think those songs that we sang when we were marching were some of the favorite—the best songs that I knew [unclear]. We had some good ones, and I hope sometime I can get a copy of that songbook. There was a WAVE songbook out. We sang everywhere we went. We were singing the whole time.

RG:

But you don't remember specific titles of songs?

NL:

Well, the best one was We Are the WAVES of Company One.

RG:

We Are the WAVES of Company One.

NL:

You spell it o-n-e. Now, your friend Laura will remember that one.

RG:

In terms of recreational music, for instance—

NL:

All right. Russ Morgan.

RG:

You liked big band music? Russ Morgan?

NL:

Russ Morgan. I think he came to Northampton when I was there. He did.

RG:

So, he brought the band.

NL:

Yes.

RG:

Were there any singers with the band that you can recall?

NL:

There probably were. I can't remember.

RG:

Don't remember any names?

NL:

No.

RG:

What about movies? Did you see any movies that you were especially fond of during the time of service?

NL:

I'm sure I did, but right now I can't think of a one of them. I'm not much of a movie fan.

RG:

Where were you when you heard about the first victory day, VE [Victory in Europe] Day? What were you doing? That was in April?

NL:

I think so. I believe I was—

RG:

It was April or May.

NL:

I think I was in Glynco then? And then, as I remember it, Lib Cromby came in telling us about that. She was in communications.

RG:

Another WAVE?

NL:

Yes. I believe we were eating lunch, it seems, in the dining hall.

RG:

Any celebration on the base at that time?

NL:

Probably. We were all just real giddy about the whole thing.

RG:

Now let's take August of '45 and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day.

NL:

All right. I remember getting a phone call from Frank and he said, “Well, we're not going to have to get married during war-time after all.” [phone rings]

RG:

So you literally got a phone call from your husband?

NL:

From my future husband.

RG:

Where was he?

NL:

He was still stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia, at the Norfolk Navy Yard.

RG:

Did you feel that you were encouraged to return to traditional female roles once you left the service.

NL:

That I was encouraged to?

RG:

Did you feel pressure, or did you feel some type of push?

NL:

No, you see, when I first got out of the service, he was still in. And so it was almost like being still in the navy. We still lived in Portsmouth, where we lived before I had been sent to Glynco, and so, until he—let's see, he was in several months after I got out. But I didn't feel any particular pressure.

RG:

What did you do? Did you go immediately to a career or some type of job after you left the service?

NL:

No, I didn't work outside. I started housekeeping as soon as he got out, and then we started our family. I was pretty busy [unclear].

RG:

Started the family. Describe your adjustment to civilian life. Do you think that was difficult, or particularly involved?

NL:

No, nothing. It wasn't involved at all, as far as I was concerned.

RG:

And do you recall—Did you have children fairly quickly? A little bit later?

NL:

We were married in '45, and then in '47 my first child was born.

RG:

Had your son. Okay.

NL:

Then we had two, within five years we had three children.

RG:

So your adjustment to civilian life was first as a wife and then a mother.

NL:

Yes, [unclear]. Yes.

RG:

Do you consider yourself an independent person, and how did the military make you feel more independent, if it did? Do you think your service made you feel a little stronger and more independent?

NL:

I guess it did, in a way, because you did things that you really never thought you could do until you were ordered to do them, you know.

RG:

Thereafter, in other walks of life, you felt a confidence that the WAVES perhaps had given you, the service had given you?

NL:

I think so. I think so, definitely. Yes.

RG:

And great pride?

NL:

Well, I loved being a WAVE. I really loved being a WAVE.

RG:

You had mentioned that, yes. Many consider women in the service in your day to be pioneers. Do you feel that way? Do you feel you were a pioneer?

NL:

No. Goodness, they had women in the navy way, way back.

RG:

So, further back? Okay. I wasn't aware of that. And the WAC is older than the WAVES, also.

NL:

Yes, WAC is older.

RG:

So you don't necessarily feel that you were a pioneer.

NL:

I don't think I was a pioneer.

RG:

Any connection to the ideas of women's liberation? Did you ever think in terms of—once women's liberation became more of a, of a trend in the country and an activity in the country, did you feel any connection between WAVES service and, say, women's liberation?

NL:

No. I've never been much of a women's libber.

RG:

Have any of your children been in the military?

NL:

No, they have not.

RG:

Have two?

NL:

Have three. Have a daughter and two sons.

RG:

Did or would you encourage them to join?

NL:

I wouldn't nowadays.

RG:

But in terms of their timeframe which was the sixties, would you have encouraged them to join?

NL:

Gosh, that's hard to say.

RG:

They all reached adulthood, I think, in the mid- to late sixties.

NL:

Yes, they did. They seemed to pretty much know what they wanted to do. I don't think I would interfere with that.

RG:

Never really talked about military service.

NL:

No.

RG:

How do you feel about women in combat positions, which of course, as we speak, is taking place.

NL:

That—I don't really like that. I don't think that's right. I mean, I don't think it should be.

RG:

Don't think women should be in actual combat.

NL:

I think there's a limit to where they can serve best.

RG:

Should some kinds of work in the service, therefore, be off-limits to women?

NL:

Yes, I think combat should be. My way of thinking, it should be.

RG:

Combat should be off-limits, but—but pretty much nothing else.

NL:

I think most of the [unclear].

RG:

How has your life been different, looking back over time, because of your service in the WAVES, your service in the military? Do you think it's made a change or made some difference in your life?

NL:

Because I was in?

RG:

Yes.

NL:

Well, I guess the first thing I think of is, had I not been in the WAVES, and Frank not been in the navy, where would I be? I don't know who I would be married to. [laughs] I'm glad I joined.

RG:

Met the right person. But you still obviously look back on your time in the WAVES as a wonderful period in your life.

NL:

It was a wonderful time, and I'll never be sorry that I joined. Never.

[End of interview]