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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Luvenia Griffin Mitchell, 2001

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Object ID: WV0200.5.001

Description: Documents Luvenia Griffin Mitchell’s early life; her service with the Women in the Air Force (WAF) in the early 1950s; and her life after the military.

Summary:

Mitchell briefly describes her decision to join the air force; the negative image of women in the military; and her basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. She also discusses supply school at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and her work at Lackland in inventory control, issuing uniforms, handling alterations, and working with civilians. Mitchell also speaks about integration within the military; segregation outside of the military; and difficulties caused by racial attitudes.

Personal topics include Mitchell's decision not to re-enlist; getting married and raising a family; leaving the air force to pursue a nursing education at the Hampton Institute; and her work with the Urban League and in juvenile detention.

Creator: Luvenia Griffin Mitchell

Biographical Info: Luvenia Griffin Mitchell (b. 1932) of Tampa, Florida, worked in supply and inventory control with the Women in the Air Force from 1952 to 1955.

Collection: Luvenia Mitchell Papers

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

Full Text:

HT:

Today is Thursday, February 9, 2001. My name is Hermann Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Mrs. Luevenia Mitchell in Tampa, Florida. I'm here to conduct an interview for the Women Veterans Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Mitchell, if you would tell me your full name including your maiden name, we'll use it as a test for your voice.

LM:

Luevenia Griffin Mitchell.

HT:

Thank you.

[Tape recorder paused]

HT:

Mrs. Mitchell, would you tell me where you were born and when.

LM:

Tampa, Florida, December 28, 1932.

HT:

Where did you live before you enlisted in the air force?

LM:

Here in Tampa.

HT:

So you've always lived in Tampa?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family life prior to entering the service.

LM:

Well, my younger years, from a baby to age twelve, I lived with my grandmother because my mother worked out of town, Fort Lauderdale area. During that time, it was better pay there. She came back to town later to stay, after she married my stepfather. He was in World War II. I didn't want to live with my mother although she would visit every month.

HT:

That's fine.

LM:

He was in at that time what they called the cavalry with the horses.

HT:

My father was, too.

LM:

But I forgot how many months before they disbanded that part of it and sent him to Germany. In fact, I have this picture up there where he was in the cavalry.

HT:

Did you have any brothers or sisters?

LM:

No. No brothers or sisters.

HT:

Where did you attend high school?

LM:

First I went to Harlem Elementary. Then when I moved, I went to Dobyville in what we called Hyde Park area. From there, I went to Carver as what they called junior high, because during that time, junior high was from seventh through ninth grade. Senior high was Middleton.

HT:

Were they all here in the Tampa area?

LM:

Yes. That was from ninth through twelfth grade. During that time, that was senior high school. I graduated in June of '52.

HT:

Did you attend any kind of business school or college after high school?

LM:

Well, I had planned to go to college, but what it was, my cousin and I, we were raised together because his mother died, and we were like brother and sister. So I felt that if she couldn't send him, I wasn't going to go. So I went and just joined the service. She didn't know anything about it until I returned home that afternoon.

HT:

So you didn't do any work at all between high school and the time you joined the service.

LM:

The only thing I did, part time, I would sew some for friends, or at times went with my mother to work. This was only during the summer.

HT:

What made you decide to join the military, and particularly the air force?

LM:

Well, I didn't like the army, because I didn't want to do all that, what they had. So I figured I would just try the air force.

HT:

Had any of your friends joined prior to that? Did you see a poster?

LM:

Well, yes, a poster. Then a young lady that was, I think, a year ahead of me, she went to the service. So I decided that I would try it.

HT:

How did your relatives feel about your joining?

LM:

Oh, during that time, there was such a negative attitude about women in the service. There were awful things people said. I just didn't believe that was true. I talked with my father, my stepfather, and my mother, and they said if that's what I wanted to do, okay.

HT:

Did they have to sign for you to join because you were under age? You were under twenty-one.

LM:

Yes. If I remember correctly, yes. But I don't know, people was just so negative and said such negative things, which really wasn't true. I had a very good experience.

HT:

So the negative talking that you heard didn't dissuade you from joining at all?

LM:

No.

HT:

You joined here in Tampa?

LM:

Tampa, yes.

HT:

Where were you stationed for your basic training?

LM:

Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I had to go to Jacksonville for my swearing in.

HT:

Do you recall when you joined the air force exactly, the dates?

HT:

Was it 1952?

LM:

Yes. Yes. Because it was the same year that I graduated. It was August twelfth.

HT:

You had mentioned a few minutes ago about some of the horrible things that people said about women who joined the military. Do you recall anything specific that you heard?

LM:

Oh, yes. Like I say. It was so far-fetched, you know? That you had to go with the men in the service. That was one of the main things that they said they used women in the service for. And if you were in the service, that you were a loose person, which wasn't true, because I know I wasn't that.

HT:

I know the women during World War II had the same problem. I've talked to several of them, and they said they heard the same type of negative comments made about women who joined the WACs [Women's Army Corps] or the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy] or whatever military branch they joined. So not much changed in those years, apparently.

LM:

No. No.

HT:

Did you have to take some sort of written test or physical test to join?

LM:

Yes. You had to take a test, and I had a physical. I took the written test here. I remember that because I was late getting home. My mother was worried. Where in the world was I that day, because I was never late or anything. [laughs] So that's where I was. Yes, they had a written test.

HT:

Once you got to Lackland Air Force Base, was that the first time you'd been that far away from home?

LM:

Yes. First time leaving Florida.

HT:

You went by train, I guess?

LM:

Yes, to Jacksonville and by plane to Texas.

HT:

Was that the first time you'd been on a train?

LM:

First time on a plane. That wasn't the first time on a train, because when I was younger, I went to St. Augustine. That's where my grandmother's home was, in St. Augustine.

HT:

Do you recall anything specific that stands out in your mind about your first day in basic training?

LM:

Oh, it was having to take the shots and get used to them yelling and telling you what to do. Other than that, it wasn't a big problem.

HT:

Your instructors, were they all men, or were there some women as well?

LM:

You had the sergeants were females. Where you lived, all that was female.

HT:

It was not men and women together like it is today. All the women were trained separately, I assume.

LM:

Yes. Boy, that means going way back—back to remember. You had male instructors for some of your basic training parts that we went to. You had your drill sergeants. Some that was there were male, but mostly what they had was female. It was integrated on the base, but when you got off the base, it was a different story.

HT:

Now, by this time, the army and the air force were completely integrated, black and white, but as you said, when you got off base, there was still segregation on the other hand. How did that make you feel?

LM:

Yes. That's the same way it was when I joined. The accommodations were separate. When we left from Tampa, we went to Jacksonville, and you were sworn in in Jacksonville. They had separate places that you ate and lived during that time.

HT:

But once you got in the military itself, there was no separation.

LM:

Yes. Once you got on base, it was different.

HT:

Do you recall anything specific about the food or the uniforms?

LM:

I thought that the uniforms were okay. The food really wasn't all that bad, not to me.

HT:

It was not as good as home cooked, though. [laughs]

LM:

No, but it wasn't bad.

HT:

Did you ever have to perform KP [kitchen patrol]?

LM:

Oh, yes, everything, guard duty, KP. Especially after you were out from training, you had what they called guard duty. While you were in basic, you had the normal routine of KP.

HT:

Did basic last six weeks at that time, or was it a little bit longer than that?

LM:

Seems like it was longer than that. Goodness. Seemed like it was longer than that. At that time, they used what they called merits. I had a stroke, so sometimes my speech isn't what it's supposed to be. You did everything, and you earned your merits to do everything. Even when you were able to go off campus, you had to have so many merits. If you had something wrong, you would get what they called a demerit, and they'd take away a demerit, or point.

HT:

I've heard of that.

LM:

Yes. So a lot of times you had not earned enough merits and you were what they called “gigged in.” You didn't have enough so you couldn't go off campus anywhere, and you'd end up picking up rocks part of the day. It was like they must come out there in the middle of the night and replace the rocks. So many people have gone through there, I don't see how they could still have all these rocks. [laughs] But there were rocks.

But there are other young ladies, and you have a bond. You help each other out. Like I say, you didn't worry about the person's color or anything like that because we would always help each other out and try to get them going.

HT:

Speaking of the other women in the barracks, did you make any long-lasting friends with some of these women, or was everybody separated after basic?

LM:

Yes. Everyone went different ways, but some you kept in contact with. One I kept in contact with, but right now, I can't even remember her name, unless when I go through papers, I'll find where she went to another base and she got married. We wrote each other for a while, and she sent me a picture of her baby. This was a white girl, and we stayed friends for a while.

HT:

Was this the first time you had met and made friends with a person of the opposite race?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

I guess you found out there really wasn't all that much difference, that people are people basically.

LM:

Yes. Like I say, you borrowed, and you helped each other out. Like there was one girl I remember, and she was a little Jewish girl, and she had a lot of problems trying to get things going. We would help her and see that she got through basic.

HT:

Did lack of privacy bother you at all?

LM:

It wasn't what you'd call lack of privacy. You had what they call “open bay.” That meant it was dormitory, it was open, for sleeping. You had your shower where you could go shower, but the open bay was for sleeping.

HT:

With the cots lined up on both sides?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

After basic training, were you able to choose the kind of additional training you received, or was that sort of dictated to you?

LM:

Yes. I guess at the time they was going by what they needed, also more of where they put you, also how you scored on everything. I ended up going to supply school. My first choice was medical and communications, but I ended up going to supply.

HT:

Where were you sent for training?

LM:

That was Wyoming, Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

HT:

Do you recall how long you were stationed there?

LM:

I'm trying to think how long training was. I think training was maybe about three months. I think about three months.

HT:

So you would have probably been there about late summer, early fall, I guess.

LM:

Yes, because, see, I left there—I caught pneumonia, so I had to stay a little bit longer. By the time I got to Lackland, it should have been in February, something like that, January or February, I think. I'm not sure.

HT:

So being from Florida, I imagine the weather was a little bit different in Wyoming.

LM:

Yes. That was the first time seeing snow. [laughs]

HT:

Oh, boy. What did you think of the cold weather, the frost and the snow?

LM:

Oh, oh. Oh, it was just amazing. For the ones that had never seen snow, you know how they would do you. So I didn't let them know I had never seen snow. [laughs]

HT:

What did they do to the people who had never seen snow?

LM:

They would just take you out and just throw snow, like that. But I didn't let them know that I had never seen snow.

HT:

During this time in supply school, what was a typical day like?

LM:

Oh, you got up in the morning, and you had your breakfast, and you went to school till around three. I guess it was around three in the afternoon every day, except if it was a holiday or something.

HT:

Did you have any kind of physical training that you had to do every day?

LM:

No. No physical training. Just go to school. That was it.

HT:

In the evenings, did you have to study for the next day and have tests?

LM:

Yes, we had. You had to pass your tests, but you went to class every day, and it was like all day.

HT:

What were some of the things they taught at supply school? Do you recall?

LM:

Oh, goodness. Like I say, just when I was getting ready to get out, they needed someone, because I ended up being in inventory control. I think back when I got out and was trying to get a job and couldn't. Like I say, when I got out, they needed someone in what I was doing.

In supply, you had to start from the very bottom, know everything, from how you set up a building, even from vegetables to whatever, the pallets, how things go down on the pallets, accounting. You know, you went into that later, but you had to know how things was—just the very basic end of supply, setting it up, a building, setting it up, how it should be set up. Like I say, the main thing I ended up being in was inventory control, keeping account, make sure they followed the rules of how—separated and that it was stacked properly and all.

Then I went to Lackland, and that's what I did. I was in inventory control. I would ride around with the captain checking the PX [Post Exchange] and being sure that everything was in order and counted.

HT:

So after you finished supply school, you were sent back to Lackland Air Force Base?

LM:

Yes. I wasn't lucky enough to go somewhere else. It would have been nice, but that's where I went. I graduated and started doing that, going around checking and making sure that everything was on the pallets and cleaned and counted.

HT:

Did you order material as well to replenish the stock?

LM:

No. No. The only thing I did was go around and check, make sure everything was okay. I didn't.

HT:

I imagine supply was a huge warehouse-type area.

LM:

Yes, because you had to go to the PX, you know.

HT:

Well, did you enjoy your work?

LM:

Yes, I enjoyed it. When I first started, you know, you have to start from the bottom and go up.

HT:

Did you work with both men and women in supply or mainly men?

LM:

I ended up being with a man, but in the beginning, I wasn't.

HT:

Do you think the men treated you equally?

LM:

Yes. I didn't have a problem, no problem. I never had a problem. So that's why I was saying about how negative people thought about you and what you had to do and how the men were going to treat you, and I never had a problem. I never had to say anything.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically?

LM:

No more than, I guess, when we were in basic training doing the field training—the little basic that we had wasn't as bad as what they have in the army, after talking with a friend in the army.

HT:

What about marching, physical training? Did that bother you at all?

LM:

No. No. You had your rest periods, and, I guess, being young, my health was good, so I didn't have any problem. The only thing I really had to get used to was getting up early. You had to get up early. Sometimes I remember being sleepy and standing up asleep. [laughs] For myself, I guess I learned how you could just stand up and go to sleep if you're sleepy and tired. [laughs]

HT:

So you were a night person, I guess, as opposed to a morning person?

LM:

Yes. Getting up early in the morning was the thing, getting up early in the morning during basic.

HT:

What was a typical day like for you once you got back to Lackland after the training in Warren? Did you work with civilians or all military?

LM:

First civilians, because I started out where they issued uniforms, worked with civilians in that part where they hemmed the uniforms and had to take them up and all, in other words, alterations, I'm trying to say, alterations and seeing what was brought in and taken out. That's what I did with civilians. I also saw that new trainees had their uniforms fitted and altered, and also kept count of everything.

HT:

Did you work five days a week, or did you have weekend duty?

LM:

Well, my job was five days, and I had the weekends off.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid while you were in the air force?

LM:

The only time I'd say I was afraid was when I went in and where we were living at that time, at that hotel in Jacksonville. That's the only time I can say I was afraid. I don't remember being in any other situation that I thought I was in danger.

HT:

What made you feel like you were afraid in Jacksonville?

LM:

Because of the hotel where we were. I didn't feel that it was safe.

HT:

Do you recall any embarrassing moments while you were in the military, either to you or to some friends? Did anything unusual happen?

LM:

I'm trying to think. I can't really think of anything embarrassing.

HT:

It can be humorous as well, so when you went off base for some fun and socializing, went to a dance, something like that.

LM:

Oh, I can remember that. It was just a little place that we went to. Quite naturally, at that time, like I say, the base was separated. We were separated. I just remember there was a group of us, and this fellow had a car, and we were going down to this little club. We got on the car and held up matches so we could see—we called ourselves seeing where we were going. That was just silly when you think about it now, how silly that was of us to do that, get up on this car and sit up on the hood of the car, going down this little dirt road. [laughs]

HT:

I hope he wasn't going very fast.

LM:

No. No, he wasn't going very fast. [laughter] There was three of us at the time. We was going to this little club down this little dirt road, and I remember sitting up there holding up a match.

HT:

What other things did you do during your off-duty hours for recreation and socializing?

LM:

My family on my mother's side, my grandmother and all, they were Catholics, and like I say, she came from St. Augustine. She was part Indian. I never did go to the Catholic school because I didn't really like it.

I started going to the church there and studying, but I still never became a Catholic. I met the people there and made friends, so I had a place to go and visit. The community was very nice. I met two—one lady, she had, I think it was two girls, and then there was a couple I met. So I was glad I met them.

HT:

So you did spend some time with civilians.

LM:

Oh, yes.

HT:

And they treated you well.

LM:

Oh, yes. Like I say, those two I remember because we kept in contact for a good while after I got out of the service.

HT:

Do you recall what some of your favorite dances and songs were from the early fifties, when you were in the military?

LM:

No, I sure don't right now. I can't even think of the songs was in the fifties now till I hear it and they happen to mention what year it was.

HT:

And this was during the Korean War time.

LM:

Yes. Some things was limited, if I remember correctly, because of the Korean War, but don't ask me what.

HT:

Were air force women sent over to Korea that you know of, or was there a chance you could have gone over during that time?

LM:

I probably could have, but like I say, when I got out, they needed an opening for someone in Paris. But I know, if you were in the medical field, you stood a better chance of getting over to Korea than anyone else.

HT:

I think you mentioned earlier in our conversation that you had really wanted to join the medical field as opposed to going into supply. Did you ever try to cross train into that area, or did you just sort of accept the fact that you were going to be in supply?

LM:

Yes, I accepted it and studied and went on with it.

HT:

When did you get out of the air force?

LM:

Fifty-five.

HT:

So by this time, the Korean War was already over.

LM:

Yes.

HT:

So you were in for—

LM:

Three.

HT:

—three years.

LM:

They had just changed it when I went in from four to three. They just had changed it.

HT:

Did you ever think of re-enlisting?

LM:

Yes, at one time. Like I say, if I had gone overseas, I would have, but I had planned to go to school. So it was a hard choice to make at that time, because I really wanted to go. Then I said, “Well, no.” So then I didn't, but it really was a hard choice to make.

HT:

So you were thinking about going to school back in civilian life?

LM:

Yes. I had planned to go to school, and like I say, it was a hard choice, to change my mind not to go because I had been accepted and all when they asked me, to school.

HT:

I see. So you had been accepted to go to school, so you decided not to reenlist. That was your main reason for not re-enlisting.

LM:

Yes. But like I say, it was a hard choice of not going to school and to re-enlist because then I really wanted to go to Paris. I might not get a chance to go later.

HT:

Where did you attend school after you got out of the air force?

LM:

Hampton Institute in Virginia, Hampton, Virginia. Now it's called Hampton University.

HT:

And what course of study?

LM:

Nursing.

HT:

So you got a job in the medical field after all.

LM:

No. I started. I stayed there what, almost two years, then I decided to get married. [laughs] But that's what I went there for, nursing. I went into nursing.

HT:

Did you use the GI Bill for that?

LM:

Yes. At the time, it was called the Hampton Institute, but now it's Hampton University.

HT:

What made you pick out Hampton and nursing as a career?

LM:

Well, like I say, when I went in, I wanted to be in the medical field, and I didn't get there. I wanted to be a nurse. So rather than Florida, because you have Florida and Bethune[-Cookman College] here in Florida—and I also had a choice of going to Meharry [Medical College] in Georgia for nursing, but then I chose to go to Hampton in Virginia.

HT:

I guess they have a good reputation and that sort of thing?

LM:

Yes. And it was a smaller school. I just didn't like no big school.

HT:

And you say you only stayed for two years.

LM:

Two. Yes, just about two years.

HT:

If you had graduated, how long would you have attended the school?

LM:

Four.

HT:

It's a four-year degree?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

Did you ever go back later and finish?

LM:

No, not there. I went to Gibbs Junior College. They opened up.

HT:

Gibbs?

LM:

Gibbs in St. Petersburg.

HT:

What kind of impact do you think the military had on your life?

LM:

I feel that it gave me discipline, structure, a goal. Like I say, one reason I went in was to go to school.

HT:

And the GI Bill gave you that opportunity, which is wonderful.

LM:

Yes.

HT:

Has your life been different because you were in the military?

LM:

Different? I don't know how different it would be, but I guess, working and all, I had a goal, and then I was used to structure and taking orders didn't bother me. I guess the way I was brought up, too, it helped some. I didn't have no hard time.

HT:

So you didn't have a hard time adjusting once you got in the military?

LM:

No. I didn't ever have a hard time. The air force, to me, wasn't all that hard. It was hard but not extra hard, difficult.

HT:

Once you did get out and you went back to school, what was that adjustment like? Here you've been in a very structured atmosphere for three years or so, and, of course, nursing school, I imagine, is somewhat structured as well. Was there any kind of difficulty moving from one type of life to the other?

LM:

No. I was just like the only female vet—I don't think there was anyone else there that might have been in the service.

HT:

Were you a bit older than the other women who were at Hampton?

LM:

As a freshmen? Yes, as a freshman.

HT:

So you're a little bit older, more mature, I guess.

LM:

Yes. But I didn't have no hard time, because I guess it was odd because I didn't drink and I didn't smoke. I think people expected you to do these things. I didn't see anything in smoking or drinking. I didn't want to do that. Because I always think about my roommates—they were like seventeen and eighteen and drank and smoked.

HT:

This is at Hampton?

LM:

At Hampton, and of young girls and how they could drink and smoke, and I didn't believe in that.

HT:

Is Hampton an integrated nursing school?

LM:

No. It was all black at that time.

HT:

If you had to do it over again, would you have joined the military again?

LM:

Yes, I would. I felt like I had a good experience. But if I had listened to what people said, I wouldn't have. I will tell people, I say, “It's what you make it. Nobody's going to make you do anything. You do what you want to do.” There were people that did things they weren't supposed to be doing, and they knew this.

HT:

What was your rank when you were discharged?

LM:

A corporal, in the second place.

HT:

That's two stripes?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

It's been a long time.

LM:

A/2C.

HT:

Do you recall what the mood of the country was like in the early fifties with the Korean War going on and that sort of thing? I know during World War II, there was a very patriotic feeling in the country. What was it like in the early fifties?

LM:

They were patriotic, more so than what they were during the Vietnam War.

HT:

Do you recall who your heroes or heroines were from that period of time, someone you looked up to and respected a great deal?

LM:

No. I can't really say right now.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

Did the military make you that way, or have you always been independent?

LM:

I think I've always been sort of independent, more so in the fact I went in the service, being an independent person.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter because you went in the service when many women didn't do that sort of thing, in the 1950s?

LM:

Yes, I think so. Yes, because, like I say, I remember coming back on leave and going to some of the affairs. Some of my classmates that went to college right then, they didn't want to say anything to me, you know, like maybe you were poison or something. But then I had a few that didn't feel like that.

[Doorbell rings. Tape recorder paused]

HT:

We were talking about being a trailblazer or a trendsetter.

LM:

Yes, and like I say, when I went in, there was one young lady that I knew that lived near me that had gone in.

HT:

After you finished at Lackland, you were there for the rest of your service?

LM:

My enlistment, yes.

HT:

Your enlistment. So you never went anywhere else?

LM:

No.

HT:

Did you do any traveling at all while you were in the West?

LM:

No. I didn't go anywhere too much, just around the city and—what is it, Laredo? I think that's the little town that was near that you could go to. One time, I went to New Orleans. Yes, New Orleans. Yes, yes. We went to New Orleans in like—

HT:

Did you go with some friends from the air force?

LM:

Yes.

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

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a feminist?

LM:

No. [laughs]

HT:

I know you have several grandchildren that just came in, how many children do you have?

LM:

Three.

HT:

Were any of them in the military?

LM:

My son.

HT:

Was he drafted or did he just join?

LM:

He just joined.

HT:

Did you have any influence on him to join one branch or another?

LM:

Well, he had a choice to go to the army or air force. I tried to get him to join the air force.

HT:

Which branch did he join?

LM:

He was in the army.

HT:

So you couldn't persuade him to join the air force?

LM:

No.

HT:

You do have daughters.

LM:

I have two daughters.

HT:

But they never—didn't want to follow in mama's footsteps?

LM:

No. [laughs]

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in combat positions? Since the Gulf War women have flown airplanes, they do so much more than your generation of women could do.

LM:

Well, I feel that if they are capable, and if it is not too strenuous, yes.

HT:

So you think it's all right for women to fly helicopters and aircraft as long as—

LM:

Yes.

HT:

They have opportunities today women in World War II didn't have, and women from your era didn't have, so it's something that has come about in the last ten to fifteen years. Quite different.

LM:

So to be able to learn how to fly, that would be great.

HT:

Well, can you tell me a little something about your life after you got out of the air force and went to Hampton? I think you said you got married. What did you do, where did you live and that type of thing?

LM:

When I got out of the service I went to school for a year and a half. I got married. After I got married I didn't go right back to school. I tried to get a job in the field that I had, but just couldn't do that so I ended up with a maid's job and I went to Gibbs Junior College at the time and took a business course there. I finished from there and then after that got a job with the [National] Urban League, stayed there until I got a job with the county working with children.

HT:

So you never used your supply training after you got out of the air force?

LM:

No.

HT:

Did you enjoy working for the Urban League and the county?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

Are you retired from the county?

LM:

Yes.

HT:

And you said you worked with children?

LM:

Yes, I first started off working with children in detention. At that time they hadn't integrated. That was in '60. I always liked to sew, so I always did that. Even in high school I would sew. I made most of my own clothes, and the dress I have on.

HT:

Did you ever think about going into the seamstress or tailoring business?

LM:

No. But I made all my own clothes. In fact, my junior and senior prom dresses I made.

HT:

Very nice. Mrs. Mitchell, we have covered a variety of things this afternoon. Can you think of anything else you'd like to add about the time you were in the air force in the early fifties?

LM:

Just that it was a good experience.

HT:

No regrets?

LM:

No. I have none. I had no bad experiences. It was explained to you what you could and couldn't do and if you were in a situation, you put yourself in it. I heard things that people said about the young women who went into the service, which really hurts and I dislike that of people to make those statements about young women.

HT:

Do you think it kept some young women from joining because of that reputation?

LM:

Yes. You know the father and mother would say no because of that. It was a very hurtful thing.

HT:

Again I thank you so much for talking with me, it's always a pleasure.

LM:

I hope it was enlightening to you. It doesn't seem like I remember too much.

HT:

Can you think of anyone we could interview in the future? I know we've got six interviews this weekend. I know you belong to a local organization and you are quite active in that, is that correct?

LM:

Yes. Miss Willie Mae is the organizer of that, from way back. You'll find that out when you talk with her because she has a lot of history and I just really became a member within the last two years.

HT:

How did you find out about the organization?

LM:

From Miss Willie Mae.

HT:

Is she a friend of yours?

LM:

Yes. In fact, we went to the same church.

HT:

Okay, sounds like you met some wonderful ladies in the organization.

LM:

Oh yes.

HT:

All have something common which is always very nice.

LM:

Very active. And you've met—have you met Dorothy [Miller] yet?

HT:

Yes, I interviewed her yesterday morning. And I'm going to interview Mrs. [Judy] McKimmon this afternoon and Mrs. [Leonora] Nagel tomorrow morning, and Mrs. Willie Mae [Williams] tomorrow afternoon.

LM:

As far as getting the black history part of it, she should have some information for you.

HT:

There is one thing I want to ask you before we stop the interview. You had mentioned earlier in our conversation that of course the air force was integrated at that time and of course civilian life wasn't. How did you feel to experience integration in the workplace but not in civilian life?

LM:

It was hard at times to see how you would be treated and people couldn't see, you know, and you had to just go on and pass it. It wasn't a good feeling. Like I said, that experience I had joining, the way they treated you and you were joining the service for your country, and the hotel unfit and sitting in a corner at the Tampa airport felt uncomfortable and that was what really upset me. That's something I still remember.

HT:

Again, thank you so much.

LM:

Thank you. I hope I gave you something—

[End of interview]