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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Lunary Love, circa 2000

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Object ID: WV0162.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Lunary Love’s career as a nurse and her experiences as a nurse in the Women in the Air Force (WAF) in the 1950s.

Summary:

Topics on her pre-service life include her memories of World War II and her uncle’s military service and classmates enlisting in the military during the Korean War. Discussion of the beginning of her nursing career includes hospitals recruiting nurses after losing women to the military during World War II; the decline in civilian nurses with the onset of the Korean War; and the long shifts at Sternberger Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Love describes her military service from 1952 to 1955, including her reasons for joining the air force instead of the army; illness delaying her basic training assignment; the heat at Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama; flying in air force planes; barracks life at Gunter; the reason she was unable to work in pediatrics; shifts at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas; her reasons for not re-enlisting; hospital supervisors; working with people from other areas of the country; and treatment by male co-workers. Other topics include James Dean movies; a close relationship with a serviceman; the end of the Korean Conflict; uniforms; an embarrassing story about smoking in a hospital; and joining the reserves.

Post-service topics include working at Wesley Long Community Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina; her decision to work at North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill; reasons for never returning to school; and caring for her ill father.

Creator: Lunary Love

Biographical Info: Lunary Love of Surry County, North Carolina, a career nurse, served in that capacity with the Women in the Air Force from 1952 to 1955.

Collection: Lunary Love Oral History

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:

[Note: The volume level on the interviewee's microphone is extremely low. Every effort was made to produce an accurate transcript. Where this was not possible, [unclear] is noted in the transcript.]

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. Today I'm at the home of Lunary Love, Lou Love, here—oh, it must be in the suburbs of Thomasville, close, Thomasville in Davidson County, North Carolina.

Miss Love, thank you for agreeing to do this today. We're going to be talking about your time in the service, but I start out asking the same question, just about, to everybody, which I hope isn't the hardest question I ask. There really shouldn't be any hard ones. Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

LL:

I was born in Surry County, and we moved around and ended up in Randolph County.

EE:

So you've lived all your life in the state, pretty much, except for your time in the service.

LL:

Yes, North Carolina, except when I was in the service.

EE:

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

LL:

Yes. I have one brother and one sister, and I'm the oldest one. My brother, he died last year with leukemia.

EE:

Does your sister still live in the state?

LL:

Yes. My sister's still living.

EE:

What about your folks? What did they do?

LL:

Well, they were mostly farmers.

EE:

So you grew up on a farm doing all the farm chores.

LL:

Yes.

EE:

So if it's six o'clock, it's late for you?

LL:

They were very kind to us, our parents were. They didn't make us get up. They got up and did the work theirselves. They didn't get us up except when they were harvesting tobacco or something.

EE:

So that kind of farming you all did was tobacco farming?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

Where did you graduate from high school?

LL:

It was in Randolph County, Trinity High School.

EE:

When did you all move down to Randolph? How old were you?

LL:

Well, I was about sixteen, and we'd already moved to Trinity about a year and a half.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

LL:

Yes. I liked school all right. I didn't like moving. [Laughs] Before that, we moved to Liberty, and then we moved up there, and I [unclear].

EE:

Why were you all moving?

LL:

Well, my father decided he'd move to where the land was easier to cultivate and farm than it was in Surry County.

EE:

Kind of rocky?

LL:

Kind of rocky, the farm we had up there was.

EE:

And your mom stayed at home and helped you all when you were growing up?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject in school?

LL:

I don't know. I can't remember now. I liked history, but don't ask me any questions in history. [laughter]

EE:

After you graduated from high school, what did you do?

LL:

What did I do when I graduated high school? I was going into nurse's training. I didn't get my application in soon enough to go that year. So I worked in a hosiery mill a year, half a year, before I could get into nurse's training. They told me they'd have a class going in the fall, but they didn't have enough applicants so I didn't get to go in till the next spring.

EE:

Was it right there in Randolph County where you were?

LL:

High Point [Guilford County] was where I went to nursing training.

EE:

How was it that you got interested in nursing? Did you have a relative who was in it?

LL:

I've always been interested in helping people. If anybody had an injury or anything where I was working, I was always the one who would do first aid. I wanted to be a lawyer, but we didn't have the money, and I didn't have the right subjects, you know, didn't go to the right school. So I decided I could be a nurse.

EE:

What year did you graduate from high school?

LL:

'47.

EE:

I guess North Carolina was a twelve-year high school, a twelve-year school by then.

LL:

Yes.

EE:

You were going to school right when the war was ending. What was that like?

LL:

Well, I had an uncle in the war, and that was the only close person I had, my daddy's brother. He was overseas. We were always having a good time, and every once in a while—my mother and daddy were very concerned, cried a lot, and then I would cry at night. But during the day, we would all get out and have a good time. So it didn't affect us too much, except we wanted it to be over. We didn't feel like there was anything we could do.

EE:

Sure. I know when I was young and the Vietnam War was going on, my folks were worried about it and hoping it was going to be over before I was old enough to go in. I imagine with your brother that was probably their feeling, too.

LL:

Well, he wasn't that old, really. They didn't ever worry about him going out and fighting. Well, they may have. I don't know. I didn't think about him going in, though. He could have, though, because they took them when they were eighteen, didn't they?

EE:

Did they still have the draft in '47 so that some of the folks that you went to school with, some of the men, were drafted?

LL:

Well, some of them went in. Several of them went in. I don't know whether they were drafted or not. I guess they might have been because they were older. And then we had some that had got out, that came in and graduated with us, with that class.

EE:

You went to nursing school at High Point.

LL:

Yes.

EE:

Was it at the hospital there in High Point?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

What was the name of the hospital?

LL:

High Point Memorial.

EE:

Did they have a dormitory right there at the hospital for you all to stay in?

LL:

Yes. They had a house. Two houses. Well, it may have been built as a nursing home, they called it. You know, it was like a dormitory at college, like a home.

EE:

How long did you have to go to nurse's school, three years then?

LL:

Three years, yes.

EE:

I think for most folks, it was you work and go to school part of the same day, don't you? You take your classes and—

LL:

Yes. Well, they tried to make it eight hours, had gotten to that. But if you were on night duty, you had to have your classes during the day, and that was very hard. I didn't think that was fair, but we had to do it.

EE:

Did you have any particular kind of nursing that you wanted to do when you went in?

LL:

Well, I just wanted to be a nurse. But after I was in the nurse's training, when I got out I wanted to be a pediatric nurse. That's what I planned to be, but it didn't work out that way.

EE:

Well, if you went in in '48, did they still have the Cadet Nurse Corps in '48?

LL:

No, they didn't have that then. Let's see, '48, '49. The hospital gave us ten dollars a month, or fifteen dollars a month we got, like the Cadet Nurse Corps did, because they were trying so hard to recruit nurses at that time.

You know, the army and navy had taken a lot of them, so the hospitals didn't have enough nurses. Of course, they used mostly student nurses to do the work, but they realized that was coming to an end. So they were trying very hard to recruit nurses, and they paid us that little stipend, which was nothing, but it was a little bit back then. You know, it helped.

EE:

Well, maybe if somebody was thinking about it. I guess it was during your second year that the Korean War started. Did that change? Did they start talking about needing nursing staff for the services then?

LL:

Well, yes. Nurses got scarcer and scarcer. When we graduated, there just wasn't any nurses, not very many nurses, working in hospitals, well, not around here anyway. That's the reason I went in the service.

I went to work at Sternberger Hospital in Greensboro, which was a pediatric hospital. There was a nurse, an evening supervisor, and she had been in the service. I thought she was elderly. She was probably fifty-five or something. Anyway, she'd been in the service during World War II, and she just made it sound so glamorous. And she kept talking to us, why didn't we go in? I hadn't thought about going in till she started talking to us about it, but she made it sound like it was just the thing to do.

We were working so hard, and you'd have to work two shifts a lot of times. You'd work one eight-hour shift, and then maybe nobody would come on, so you'd just have to stay.

They wasn't paying us anything anyway, very low salaries, but you didn't have time to spend what they paid you. You worked all the time. [laughter] It was not easy work, either, in the pediatric hospital. Like I'd have a whole floor by myself, you know, just running.

EE:

Wouldn't you work in rotating shifts where one week you might work first and the next time you might work second, or would you keep the same shift pretty much?

LL:

No. I think we rotated. Well, we had some nurses that liked to work a certain shift. So if they worked that shift, you didn't have to rotate except to relieve them. Like we had nurses that worked the three-to-eleven [p.m.] and eleven-to-seven[a.m.] shift, and I was—I had to work the day shift. [laughs] That was good, I thought, that they liked to work the evening shift because they liked to get away from the higher people, you know, the director of nurses and all that. Some people did that.

But then the three-to-eleven nurse had a habit of calling in, being sick, and I'd have to stay on and work two shifts. One night I remember, I had worked so hard. You'd just run your legs off, just running back and forth. We had one child that his mother would come in and help us with the feeding at dinnertime and all this because she felt so sorry for us because we worked so hard.

But this little boy had had his tonsils taken out. He was about two or three years old. He was doing fine, but his parents would not leave him without a private duty nurse. We tried to get a private duty nurse and couldn't get one. That was the day you couldn't have a private duty nurse. Couldn't have any private nurses. So he came to me with tears in his eyes, the daddy did, and he said, “Would you please stay over with my son tonight?” He said, “I'll pay you more than what they get, you know.” We got a dollar an hour. [Laughs]

I said, “Well, that's not the problem. I'm just so tired.”

He said, “Please stay.”

He was so pathetic that I decided I'd stay, so I stayed, and I was so tired. I went in there when I got through with my duties outside, you know, reported off with the nurse, the oncoming nurse. I went in there and sat down beside the bed, put my head on his bed—he was in a little crib—and I went to sleep and I slept. Next morning, the night nurse was waking me up. She said, “Wake up. His daddy'll be here in a minute.” She said, “You slept all night.”

I said, “Well, is he all right?”

She said, “Yes.” She said, “I looked after him to see if you all were all right.”

Of course, if he had moved or anything, I would have awakened. But his daddy came in, and I was so embarrassed.

He said, “Now, I'm going to take you out to eat breakfast.”

I said, “No.” I said, “I have to go home and sleep.” I said, “I have to come back to work.”

He said, “Please let me take you out.”

I said, “No, no, no.”

And he tried his best to pay me more, and I wouldn't take it. I never felt so embarrassed in my life.

EE:

Well, you relieved him. You made it easier for him to sleep because he knew somebody was watching.

LL:

Yes. And the little boy was fine. He didn't have any problem.

EE:

How was it then that you got from working on a pediatric section to the service?

LL:

Well, when I went in the service, I told them I wanted to work in a pediatric ward, you know, if I worked in a hospital where they had pediatrics. All air force hospitals didn't have pediatrics unless they were a large hospital. Well, lo and behold, I got sent to Lackland Air Force Base.

EE:

Did you go to San Antonio first, or where did you go?

LL:

No. We went to Gunter Air Force Base [Mongomery, Alabama]. That was where you went for your orientation, and you were there five or six weeks, I think.

EE:

Was it your decision to change employers, or did somebody come to Sternberger and say, “We need people to join the service.” How was it that you got into the service?

LL:

Well, I don't remember. Well, this lady, I mean this nurse that kept on—I don't remember if somebody came—how we went—there were recruiters downtown. They were male recruiters. So we went to them, and they wanted to recruit us but they couldn't. So they finally got us a nurse that signed us up. And we had to do all this stuff, you know, send it in and all that.

Then we had to go to Fort Bragg at the end of the day, having a physical and all this, getting all this other stuff. I was about ready to decide I wasn't going in [unclear].

EE:

Just right then. All that rigmarole just to get through.

LL:

Yes. But they begged me to not change my mind. So I didn't.

EE:

Well, now, were you signing on with somebody else you worked with?

LL:

Yes. There was three of us that went, and they sent us all to different places. I think there was four of us went. They promised they'd send us all together, and they sent us all—they sent one, and she was at Gunter. But when we got ready to go, we had a time set to go, and I got sick. So I had to wait, and I didn't get to go with them.

Then the other girl, I forgot what happened to her. Oh, we were going on without her because we didn't particularly like her, and she didn't get her papers in, so we were just going on. So then it ended up that I was going with her, but she wasn't going to be at Lackland. That's where I was stationed. She was going to another base that we went—Gunter, through Gunter together. But we had a real good time at Gunter, and they saw that we did.

EE:

How was it that you picked the air force to join, as opposed to, say, the army or the navy?

LL:

Well, the lady that was encouraging us to go, she was in the army, but she encouraged us to go—they didn't have an air force when she went in. She encouraged us to go in the air force, said that was the best branch to go into.

EE:

So it was pure word of mouth for you. It wasn't advertising.

LL:

No.

EE:

And when you were going, did you expect to make more money or have better hours or see the world? What was the main thing you were hoping to get out of going?

LL:

Well, I was hoping to have better hours and not have to work so hard. See, they were just killing us, they were working us so hard. So I hoped that at least I wouldn't have to work but eight hours a day and have two days off a week, and we didn't have but one day off a week at that place.

[Telephone rings. Tape recorder paused]

EE:

You went down to Fort Bragg for the physical, I guess. Then how long did you have to wait before they told you to come on, you were accepted? Was it another month or so?

LL:

Yes, it took two or three months to get in, I think, I don't know for sure, but it was an ordeal. By the time you got through with it, you decided you didn't care if you went in or not.

EE:

What time of year in '52 was it? Was it springtime, summertime? Do you remember? Had they voted for president yet?

LL:

I don't remember. I think it was springtime.

EE:

So in spring of '52, you go down to Gunter Air Force Base.

LL:

Yes. It was springtime. I mean, it wasn't wintertime.

EE:

What part of Alabama is that? Is that northern Alabama or southern?

LL:

Montgomery. Hot as Hades. It was summertime, because I remember we had to—one thing they did with us, our little string, is we went to class most of the time, but they had us—we all had to learn how to march. They had a parade the last day we were there, and most of the people there were men, men officers that were going in. So we just had a little bunch of women, but they made us march, too. We had to learn how to march. They had this captain that taught us how to march, and he was so worried that several of us would pass out that day because it was so hot and humid. So we went marching down there and just did real fine, and the men was just passing out. [Laughs]

EE:

That's good. That's good.

LL:

Then they took us up in planes, and we had to do all this thing.

EE:

Had you ever flown in a plane before?

LL:

No. I don't think I had. I wasn't afraid, but they put us in—yes, I flew down there. I had flown in a commercial plane. These were air force planes. They didn't have any seats, you know, you had to sit on the floor—I couldn't do it now. [laughs]

You had to sit on the floorboards, and then they put parachutes on us. And when we came off, I was getting a little queasy, and I just sat there, and he just did like this to release that parachute. I thought I was going to faint.

EE:

Hitting you in the stomach right when you're getting nauseous isn't the thing to do, is it? [laughter]

LL:

But they didn't think anything about it, they were so used to it.

EE:

Well, now, was this your first big trip away from home?

LL:

No. When we were in nurse's training we went to Washington to a children's hospital for three months. I was up there, and I didn't come home during that time.

EE:

What did your folks think about your joining the service?

LL:

Well, my daddy thought it was nice. He thought that was the thing to do. He always wanted to be in the service and didn't ever get a chance. He just didn't come along at the right time. My mother thought it was terrible.

EE:

There has been from the very beginning of having women in the military this reputation question. Was that what she was worried about, your reputation?

LL:

Yes. Yes, I guess so. She just didn't think that was the thing for women to do.

EE:

Now, I know that at some point, certain branches of the service, women could only serve stateside. What was the rule like for the air force when you went in?

LL:

Oh, no. We could serve overseas. It was summertime when I went to Texas, and I'm telling you I had never experienced such heat. I'm thinking—it was awful. So I went to the office, and I said, “Could you all transfer me somewhere,” I said, “just anywhere to get away from this heat?”

They said, well, they'd see what they could do. So in a little while, they came, and they had arranged to transfer me to England. I said I didn't want to go overseas. I had already had a friend who had been in England, and she said the weather over there was just cold and wet.

EE:

Yes. Cold and wet.

LL:

So I said, “I'll stay here.” I said, “What I was thinking about was the East Coast.”

EE:

“Something near the beach where I could cool off.”

LL:

But I never got that. Oh, they did, again, say they would transfer me to Mississippi. I said, “Well, that's just as bad as here.” It was just as humid. It was on the Gulf, but I've been there.

EE:

Well, now, you were at Gunter for how long, about six weeks for your training?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

And they're not teaching you nurse stuff. Everybody's coming in with that. But you're learning the basics about military life.

LL:

That's right.

EE:

Rank and marching and protocol and that kind of stuff. Are you getting up at five in the morning? How was the day like for you in training?

LL:

No. We didn't get up at five. We got up at six. Then we had to go to class, watch movies and hear lectures and things like that.

EE:

Were you all in one big barracks?

LL:

No. We had several barracks.

EE:

Were you all housed together like boot camp fashion, or did you have more privacy?

LL:

Well, no. We had like three girls in a room.

EE:

Okay. So it's a little more privacy than if you were just going in as a straight enlisted person.

LL:

Yes. It wasn't like that.

EE:

And when you signed on, did you get rank of a second lieutenant, or is that how it was for you when you signed up—or ensign? No, that's the navy.

LL:

No. It was a second lieutenant. It was based on your experience. You know, if I'd had four or five years, then I could—two or three years to go in as a first lieutenant, and five years to go in as a captain. But we had just got out of training.

EE:

After you were at Gunter for six weeks, you went to San Antonio, Texas. What was the name of the base down there?

LL:

Lackland.

EE:

And you were serving then, I guess, in the base hospital.

LL:

Yes, in the base hospital, fifteen hundred beds. Of course, I had never been in a large hospital. It was fifteen hundred but they only had about eight hundred patients at that time. It was very interesting. I learned a lot there. I was glad that I went there after I got over the heat. When the wintertime came along, it was so nice. The winters were not warm, but—

EE:

They weren't cold.

LL:

They weren't cold, no. We didn't have to wear any heavy coats, so we just loved the weather because we could get out and run around all the time like summertime.

EE:

Well, now, they did not have a pediatrics area?

LL:

Yes. I told them I wanted to be on the pediatric ward if they had it. So they had one, so they put me on the pediatric ward. Well, now, when we got there, it was four or five weeks before we went to work. I don't know what that was all about. Once in a while we'd go to something, but this girl that was there, I don't know how we got to running around together. Anyway, she was from Michigan, but she loved pediatrics better than I did. So we got us a house to live in together. There was three of us, and she was one. She said, “I don't think that we should work together and live together. That's just too much togetherness.”

I said, “Yes, it is. But I know you're not going to get out of pediatrics.”

She said, “No. You can get out.”

So I had to go to—I went to the women's ward to work. I never did like it, but I guess it was all right, but I didn't go back to pediatrics. I got to where I liked surgical nursing. I went to a surgical nursing ward, and I liked that just as well as I did pediatrics.

EE:

Now, did you have to go through some extra training to be a surgical nurse? Did they help train you to do that, or is that just—

LL:

No. I wasn't a surgical in the operating room. I was a surgical floor nurse.

EE:

Post-op?

LL:

Post-op nurse, yes.

EE:

You say there was eight hundred patients, fifteen hundred beds. How many are on staff at that hospital? How many other nurses were there?

LL:

How many nurses did we have? We had a lot. I don't remember the exact number.

EE:

And at that hospital, did you get what you want in terms of hours? Were your hours more regular, always first shift or something, or did you rotate?

LL:

Well, it depended on the floor. Now, I didn't start on the—I couldn't be a pediatric nurse because she wanted to. I didn't start being a surgical nurse on the floor then. I went to the medical floors, and they had about eight medical floors, and I rotated from ward to ward. Most of the time I worked days. You didn't really have a—well, you had a—you could say what you wanted to do, and they would try to—they were very cooperative about trying to get what you wanted. So most of the time I worked days. I told them I didn't like nights because I couldn't stay awake at night. [laughs] It just made me sick. So they didn't put me on night. Very seldom did I have to work nights.

EE:

You joined as the war was on in Korea. Were you ever worried? At the end of the day—you serve at the pleasure of the U.S. government. Were you ever worried that that could have sent you overseas?

LL:

No, I didn't worry about it. They could if they wanted to, but they didn't. They had enough nurses over there. They didn't need us. What they did, they would air evac[uate] those patients, air force patients, back to Lackland on some of those big hospital—

EE:

So there wasn't really an overseas base. They were currently brought back—everybody was brought back to stateside.

LL:

Yes.

EE:

And the kind of patients that you all saw at Lackland, sounds like it was a general hospital. It was any and everything. It wasn't specialized like it might have been earlier.

LL:

Well, they had all services. They had OB/GYN [obstetrics/gynecology], they had psychiatry. And I worked all over that hospital. The only place I didn't go was psychiatry.

EE:

There must have been a lot of people who lived on base then, nearby, a lot of families.

LL:

Yes, a lot of families, yes.

EE:

Did you stay at Lackland throughout the rest of your time in service, or did you move after that?

LL:

No, I stayed there at Lackland.

EE:

And that was '55 when you decided to come out.

LL:

Yes.

EE:

Springtime, fall? What was it?

LL:

I guess it was in the springtime. I didn't want to re-up.

EE:

You just decided not to sign? What made you decide not to sign on and stay there?

LL:

Well, my mother just kept on harping at me, wanting me to get out, and I was missing all of the children growing up, my brother's and sister's children [unclear]. And she went on about my getting out. But I was always—but I don't really look back. I think everything happens for the best.

EE:

There's usually a reason why you probably go someplace or another. So when you left the service, you came back to North Carolina?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

Did you go back to Randolph County? Where did you go?

LL:

No. [Unclear] I wanted to work at Chapel Hill. No. I went to Greensboro, to Wesley Long [Hospital], and that's where I had worked when I worked at Sternberger [unclear], waiting at Sternberger [unclear] hospital. They built a hospital while I was—well, they were building it before I left. So Sternberger was no longer there. I had several classmates at Wesley Long, and I went there and worked until I could [unclear] decided I was going down to Chapel Hill and work. So finally I decided I'd go down there and work. So I went down there. I stayed down there about fifteen years.

EE:

You worked in [North Carolina] Memorial [Hospital] at Chapel Hill?

LL:

Yes. And I thought that I might go back to school, that's one reason I went down there, too, and get my degree. But I found out that I'd have to go back and get high school subjects.

EE:

All that chemistry stuff and everything?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

That's University Memorial you were working at at Chapel Hill. Is that what they call it? I went to school at Chapel Hill. I should remember the name of the school.

LL:

[Unclear] Memorial, that's University Memorial, yes.

EE:

That's a place that's grown an awful lot the last—it's not growing as fast as Duke [Medical Center], but it's trying hard to catch up.

LL:

[Laughs] It's a big place.

EE:

It is.

LL:

It's North Carolina.

EE:

North Carolina Memorial Hospital.

LL:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

And you were there for fifteen years. You worked at Wes Long for a couple of years and went down there. So about 1970 you stopped working there, something like that?

LL:

Yes, and I came back here when my daddy got sick. He had cancer so I decided I would come home, and I came to Thomasville. They had an opening for the assistant director of nursing. I stayed there about four years. Then I went to Winston[-Salem] after my daddy died. I worked over there at Medical Park, and that's where I retired.

EE:

Is that where you retired from?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

When did you retire from there?

LL:

We were talking about that the other day. I think it was about 1990. I've been retired a good while, '91 or something like that.

EE:

How long were you at Thomasville then, just for a few years?

LL:

Yes. Not long enough to get vested in the retirement system—it was about three or four years.

EE:

When you were working in the air force, was your immediate supervisor—nurses are sort of different. Most other enlisted people or officers, they're clearly within a chain of command, and usually they've got a woman supervisor. Most of the nurses I've talked to, their immediate supervisor was not a female but was the male physician or whoever was the person on call. How was that for you?

LL:

The nurse. We had nurses, just like a hospital anywhere. We had a director of nurses, and she was just wonderful, and then we had our supervisor, you know, like day supervisor and then an evening supervisor and night supervisor.

EE:

And you would have been a second lieutenant, and your supervisor was probably a captain or higher or something?

LL:

First lieutenant or higher.

EE:

You were moving in different divisions so you had different supervisors, different areas you were working in.

LL:

Well, I was in—a hospital is a ward.

EE:

Big long ward like that?

LL:

Yes. I mean, the hospital was all one floor. [Unclear] area, and I told you we had—it was a—what did I say, a fifteen hundred bed? More or less half of it's full. So we were constantly moving those patients. They had to keep ready for occupancy at any time. So we were always moving the patients from ward to ward.

EE:

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

LL:

When I worked on the medical ward that time, that was all women, and the hardest thing was listening. Sometimes you felt like a policeman or something. A lot of them were in there that really weren't sick. They were just there trying to get out of service or trying to get out of work or something. They would just really try your patience sometimes.

EE:

Did you have a lot of male orderlies around who could give you some assistance, or were you pretty much on your own?

LL:

Well, we had some, but—and you had a few that were good, that would help you, but some of them were just like the patients.

EE:

Needing more help than they could give?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

You got weekends off, I guess, with this position?

LL:

Yes.

EE:

Had a chance to go out and see some of the countryside, I guess. Did you have a car when you were down there?

LL:

Yes. I didn't have one when I went in, but I got one, financed off of the base. I remember that now. But when we were there, we had to go around—first went there, we went to all the places, you know, and [unclear] if I had a car. [Unclear] I was going to get one. [Unclear] He knew this place where he could get them cheaper, and this man he got in contact with. So anyway, we went up there one day, he took me up there, and I had never been up there, and the car that he had for me was a straight shift. Well, I had never driven a car like that, and I had to drive all the way back. It was about 200 miles. Goodness gracious. Good thing there wasn't as much traffic on the road then as there is now, but that was very trying. [Laughs]

EE:

Were you ever afraid or in physical danger, being that far away from home and on your own?

LL:

Well, no, not really. I felt—we all sort of felt like family, you know, the people that we all had—the nurses that we paled around with, the nurses we lived with.

EE:

How many of the people that you worked with had been in the service long enough to have been in World War II? Were most of them young and had not been in that?

LL:

Yes. Well, now, probably some of the older, you know, the officers, the women, were in WWII.

EE:

How many of the folks had been over to Korea?

LL:

Well, not many. I guess some of the men had and one or two of the nurses had. A few of the nurses had.

EE:

When you were working there—one of the questions, I guess, we have because a lot of the times women are working in situations where they're new. Nurses are sort of different, in that they are doing basically the same work they were doing as a civilian. So the relationships with people are different. Were you treated professionally by the men in service that you worked with, or was there any harassment?

LL:

Well, there was some that harassed, a few, and some of the—we had one doctor, and he was ERG, and he used harass everybody and just drove us crazy. But most of the doctors were very nice and professional like.

I remember one time—well, a lot of the people were from up North. I don't know why they were down there in Texas, but I guess they sent Texas people up North, and brought the northern people down there, but I had never had too much contact with people except from around here, North Carolina.

But one time I had this floor, and they were always [unclear] back and forth, and I had this little boy from Kentucky, and I don't know where the other one was from, but anyway, I came in, and I was working evenings that day. They had had a nurse, but some of the nurses just tried to be mean, and he said, “Now, look there,” he said, “that's what a nurse should look like. That's the way southern nurses are.”[Laughs]

EE:

Did you get ribbed—I mean, you've mentioned that a lot of people were from out of state there, a number of people in there who grew up in this state, they just got ribbed to no end about their accents or about grits or whatever.

LL:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Was that something that still was [unclear]?

LL:

Yes. Of course, they always have [unclear] go around and check in [unclear]. Well, these nurses were probably—they were from Minnesota or something, just mocking me. Every word I said, they'd mimic me, and I just got so tired of it. So I went to the post office, and the airman over there was from Kentucky, and I said, “I could just hug your neck. First southern accent I've heard today.” So he and I became friends. But finally somebody told them that—a nurse said, “I think you all have ribbed her long enough. Just quit doing that now. Just quit mocking her every word she says.” So they finally accepted me. I guess they got used to it and quit saying “say that again.”

EE:

When you were having off hours, did most of the nurses socialize together, or was pretty much everybody on their own?

LL:

No. We had our friends, you know, groups that we socialized with.

EE:

Were you socializing with other men in the service, too, or just go out and—was there an Officers' Club that you could go to?

LL:

Oh, yes, the Officers' Club. We didn't go there too much unless we had somebody who invited us.

EE:

You wouldn't go there unescorted, in other words.

LL:

Except for bingo or something like that. We didn't go there just to drink because I didn't feel comfortable. But they had a [unclear]. He was a second lieutenant. He had graduated from—what's that college in New York where they teach hotel management and special—

EE:

Cornell?

LL:

Yes. He graduated in hotel management from Cornell. And I don't know how we got to know each other. Oh, I know. Oh, some of the people, some of the nurses [unclear] had houses, and at first, we didn't have a house. We had to live on the base. But they invited us to their house, or people would invite us. They had parties all the time, the ones that wasn't working. [laughs] You'd go over there when you got off. You'd work, and then you'd go back over there.

So I went over there a time or two. I think that's where I met him. I don't know where I met him. Anyway, he was the nicest, sweetest person I ever met. So he and I went together, and he was very nice. He was in cadet training. They had cadet training there. He didn't get a commission when he went in. He thought that when he graduated he'd be stationed there because he was working there at the Officers' Club, and they sent him up to Bangor, Maine. [laughs]

EE:

The boonies, yes.

LL:

And we cried and cried and cried. And he came back one time to see me, but we never did decide to get married. He drank a lot, but he was a real sweet thing.

EE:

You do meet some new people. In the service, you're around folks who are a different religious backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds, different parts of the country, and yet somehow you've got to come together where you live with each other and you get things done. It's a neat experience, I think, for most folks.

When you think back to those times and you were in your twenties, are there any particular songs or movies that come to mind? Favorites?

LL:

Yes. When I hear on TV, you know, this old—like Lawrence Welk, I can remember, but—and movies you say. Oh, yes, one of the movies that I liked so well was Jimmy Dean—not Jimmy Dean. What's his name?

EE:

Durante?

LL:

No. The one that got killed in the automobile accident.

EE:

Oh, James Dean.

LL:

James Dean, yes.

EE:

East of Eden.

LL:

East of Eden, that was my favorite movie.

EE:

That would have been—that was his big one. Did that one come out before of after—what's the one they used to show when I was in youth group? Rebel Without a Cause.

LL:

I think it came out later. I didn't see that one. I did see it, but I didn't like it like I did East of Eden.

EE:

Right. Right. East of Eden was really more of a love story.

LL:

Yes. We went to the movies right and left. One thing I liked about San Antonio so much was, after I got [unclear]. They had these large stores down there that we never had here, and my roommate and I would go down there and spend the whole day, like on our day off, in those stores.

EE:

That was a big city, even back then, wasn't it? It was a lot bigger than what—

LL:

Yes. Oh, yes.

EE:

Now, did they have all the Hispanic population down there then like they have now?

LL:

Yes. It outnumbered the whites.

EE:

That's a different experience, because that was a group you never ran into up here, did you?

LL:

No, but they are sweet people. I didn't have any problem with them. But they did most of the work, like housekeeping and things like that.

EE:

You mentioned to me when I called you up on the phone yesterday about you remembered the end of the war, the celebrations when the Korean Conflict died down. When would that have been, in '53?

LL:

I guess so. I don't know.

EE:

They never did sign a peace treaty. I think they're still technically at war, North and South Korea.

LL:

[Laughs] I don't think they ever really ended it, but—

EE:

It died down so. But they didn't have a big celebration, that I remember.

EE:

So for you, your father's illness sort of kept you from ever thinking about the military as a career option for you.

LL:

No. He wasn't ill at that time. It was my mother that was wanting me to get out.

EE:

Your mother just badgered you so much.

LL:

Yes. Well, I thought about it and that maybe she was right, that if I stayed in there twenty years, that there would be so many things I'd come back here and I would be lost. You know, I wouldn't have any home to go back to live in. So that's one reason I got out. I thought I wanted to feel more at home with my family and everything.

EE:

It's funny. When World War II came along, women were just in for emergency purposes only. There had been nurses in the navy and the army, I guess, since probably the early part of—probably the Spanish-American War is when they first started, I guess, they made a nurse corps. But the services didn't really integrate women fully until '48.

In the fifties, I've talked with a number of people, and they seemed to be very appearance—conscious, that a woman must look like a woman when she's in the service. That was part of the way they would combat this—and I know the Women Marines, they had Revlon design a lipstick in a matching shade of red to their cords, and you could only wear that kind of lipstick, very concerned with how a woman looked. Was there a concern about how you looked as an air force person?

LL:

No. They were very sloppy then, when I went in. The higher-ups tried to get you to—it was an offense if you did this, if you didn't wear your hat. You had to wear your cap hat on your uniform, but people didn't wear them. But one time they said the general of the base went through the—wherever without his hat on, he was drunk, so that gave us all an excuse. [laughs] We thought we didn't have to do anything except what we wanted to do. But most of us, there weren't many people who were really uniform conscious and military—you know.

EE:

Yes. A hospital is sort of a different context. You're wearing your whites—

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

LL:

—he'd always have people coming around checking on something, and he kept asking me, saying I needed to go with him to the boxing thing in town. One of our little airmen was a boxer, and he was Hispanic. Well, he was raised in Texas, but he had a lot of Hispanic influence. So I finally told her I'd go because of him, to see him. So he called me up that evening. He said, “Would you mind wearing your uniform? I think they're so [unclear]” Because I didn't wear my uniform anywhere.

EE:

That's a lot different from a lot of the women I've talked to. They really were stressed to wear the uniform everywhere they went.

LL:

Yes? They wanted to wear the—well, not when I was in. [Unclear] I wore mine, and I knew when I wore them to work, you got in cheap for it. If you had on a uniform, you were.

EE:

So he was just trying to get a cheap date, is what it amounted to.

LL:

Yes. And I almost didn't go, but I wore it, but I didn't go out with him. I told her boyfriend, I said, “I'm not going out with him anymore.” He was, making me wear that uniform.

EE:

Just to save a few dollars.

LL:

And one time I went home, and also my grandfather died, and I had to wear my uniform because I got a special ticket to go home, because I had to get it real fast [unclear] and I had to [unclear] but I didn't like to wear my uniform [unclear].

EE:

Now, I have a card here, and every time I get to this card, I'm betwixt and between as to how to ask it. The question says, “What was your most embarrassing moment?” and half the people don't really want to tell me their most embarrassing moment. So is there a funny story or embarrassing moment that may or may not involve you that you can think of that happened from your service time?

LL:

Well, one time—this is very embarrassing. I had a lot of embarrassing moments, but this is so embarrassing [unclear]. In our wards, you know, they started, you had a kitchen and two or three rooms and then you went back to the ward, you know, the patients' ward. So everybody smoked in the kitchen except me. Well, I never got to do anything. I don't why. Oh, I know. Our head nurse, she didn't believe in smoking, so I couldn't smoke there. So they didn't have any place you go smoke unless you went outside.

One day she was off, and I said, “Well, my goodness, I'm going to smoke today.” So we got all the trays out and got everything out. I told this little airman, I said, “Now, you stand out there and holler if you see anybody coming or if you see the colonel coming,” which I didn't have any idea he would. He was the CO of the hospital. I said, “You come and tell me.”

He said, “Okay.”

So I got way up. It seemed like it was about ten feet high on this—I was sitting way up there, and I was smoking.

She came in, and she says, “The lieutenant wants to see you. The colonel's coming to our ward.” I thought she was just kidding. She said, “I'm not kidding. Get down. Get down.”

So I jumped. That time I jumped down. I was going to open the door this way, and he opened that way. He didn't realize I had cigarette. I don't know why he couldn't smell it. He grabbed me in his arms and hugged me, and he said, “Ma'am, you don't have to be afraid of me,” or something. He didn't realize why I was doing this. But anyway, he was so consoling me, just telling me about it, and I never said a word.

They said, “You never said one word.”

I said, “Well, I couldn't say anything.” [laughs] That was my last time smoking.

EE:

That would get you straightened out. When you think back about it, what impact do you think your time in service had on the rest of your life? How did it change your life?

LL:

I don't know. It was just like a regular experience in nursing anywhere. The biggest thing that happened to me was the large hospital, being in a large hospital, and I got to like it, and I wouldn't have chosen it.

EE:

That maybe opened your eyes to—otherwise you wouldn't have put up with a place as big as North County Memorial, I don't think.

LL:

That's right. Yes. And I really liked it after that and all the different experiences I had there.

EE:

Just couldn't have those at a small-town hospital.

LL:

[Unclear] and worked. So that was a really good experience. I wouldn't have ever—if I'd have stayed in, that was one reason I wouldn't stay. If they'd ever sent me to a little small hospital, I wouldn't be very satisfied.

EE:

Did you feel more patriotic having been in the service?

LL:

Not really, I don't think. I don't feel patriotic, and I'm ashamed of it. Like some—I have a nurse friend, and she was in the navy. She said that you had interviewed her. She called me today. Her name is Maxine Easter. And she is so patriotic.

EE:

Well, she is. She was gung-ho.

LL:

Yes. Well, see, she was in twenty or twenty-two years or something, and maybe I would have been like that if I'd been—but she really—she has her picture out in the hall with her uniform on, and she was just really patriotic, and like I said, she makes me ashamed that I'm not. Things where they have things about veterans and all, I don't do anything about that.

EE:

You did join the reserves. Tell me about that.

LL:

Well, yes. The reason I did that when I got out, you couldn't get out. You had to—went I went in, they had reserves or regular, and I didn't understand [unclear], but you go in on the reserves, and you apply for regular later if you want to make a career out of it. I think Maxine was regular. I don't know.

EE:

Yes, she was. She was army and then switched after a few years to being a navy nurse. That's what happened.

LL:

Oh, that's right. Yes. I forgot about that. Anyway, when you were reserve, you had to come out as being a reserve. You couldn't just come out. You had to stay a reserve, stay in the reserves in case they needed you, but you were just—

EE:

Is that, what, a weekend a month or something like that?

LL:

No. It wasn't anything except you were just called the reserves, but I wasn't doing anything, but they started calling me. Then they had [unclear] medical reserve unit down at Seymour Johnson, some of the people that been in the service that weren't in—if you stay in so many years, you can—

EE:

Get some extra retirement payments, can't you?

LL:

Yes. Retirement pay. Well, I don't get any retirement pay. I would have if I'd stayed in, if I'd got twenty years in.

EE:

How many years were you in the reserves?

LL:

About eight.

EE:

When you're in, I guess you get some kind of monthly paycheck?

LL:

Oh, yes. It was very good. It was about double pay, and I really felt guilty about that, but they begged me and begged me and begged me to come in because they needed people and they needed nurses in the reserves [unclear] on the weekend down at Seymour Johnson, one weekend a month and two weeks a year, [unclear], doing two weeks a year. They have a law—I guess it's in every state—that your employer has to let you off to go for that. It doesn't endanger your job. They don't have to pay you, but they have to let you off, but everywhere I worked, they paid me [unclear] but I didn't give it back to them. When I worked up at Medical Park. But anyway, when you go to the weekends, you get paid double pay. Like for two days, I got four. It's very hard, though, to do that when you're working full time.

EE:

And the eight years, you just got out because of just—

LL:

Well, the reason I got out, they did away with the unit that we were in at Seymour Johnson and moved us to—you know, they have an air force base down at Fort Bragg. It's called Pope. So we had to go down there. And that was medical, but they didn't have a hospital there. At Seymour Johnson, we could work in a hospital. They had a hospital, but at Pope, they just had this little old unit that's just a flag, and we'd go down there and—well, we didn't have anything to do most of the time. We'd have classes or something. Sometimes they'd have cleaning. One time, one of the officers accused us of stealing. So I decided I just wouldn't go back anymore.

EE:

Didn't need that. Do you think your time in service made you more of an independent person than you would have been, or do you think that was probably part of your personality to begin with?

LL:

Well, I think I was pretty independent and stubborn. [laughs]

EE:

There are, nowadays, women in just about every position you can be in in the service, and fifty or sixty years ago, that was not the case. How do you think about the role of women in the military? I mean, should they be allowed to do whatever they want to do, or should certain jobs be off limits to women?

LL:

Well, I think combat should be off limits to women. I don't know why, just because I'm a woman, I suppose, but I don't think they should be out there.

EE:

But do you think women should be drafted?

LL:

No. I don't think men should be either. Well, if we had a war—but I don't think we'll ever have wars like we used to have, where they draft people and go shoot each other and all that stuff. They'll have nuclear things now. They have enough air force people to fly the planes.

EE:

Because it seems like air force is where it's going to be, people to do the delivery of that kind of stuff.

LL:

Well, when they had that war that they had last year, when it was over the—

EE:

Kosovo?

LL:

Kosovo, yes. I guess a lot of them had to go then, the women.

EE:

Well, it's amazing. It was just, I guess, a year ago Christmastime when the first female pilot was sent to Baghdad to bomb Saddam Hussein. I've had a couple people tell me, yes, but, see, had she been shot down, everybody would have been so up in arms if she'd been a captured pilot because we just don't know what they would do to a captured woman pilot.

LL:

Yes. No telling. Well, now a lot of females are piloting planes, I guess, and are very good at it. If they want to do it, I think that's all right. I wouldn't want to do it.

EE:

If you knew a young woman, a teenager, who was getting ready to graduate and she was thinking about a career in the service as part of her life, what would you advise her?

LL:

You mean a nurse, or just—

EE:

Either way. Well, for nurses, is it something that helped your nursing experience, and would you think that being in the service generally would be something that would be—

LL:

Well, when there's not a war on, most of the time it's kind of dull. That was another reason I got out. It got kind of dull down there. I don't want a war—

EE:

You don't want a war just for excitement.

LL:

No. But I think they could do it if that's what they wanted to do. But I wouldn't advise them and I wouldn't encourage them. I wouldn't encourage them to go, unless they wanted to be a—

EE:

All right. Well, I have exhausted all my questions. Is there anything that I have not asked you about that you would like to add about your time in service?

LL:

I guess not.

EE:

Hopefully that wasn't too painful an exercise. If you think of something else that you think is important, let me know, and we'll be glad to put it down there. On behalf of the school, thank you for doing this today.

[End of Interview]