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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Doris Melvin, 2002

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Object ID: WV0243.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Doris Onita Melvin’s career with the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as her relationship with friend Cecelia Ingram.

Summary:

Melvin details her early nurse training at McCain Hospital in Hoke County, North Carolina. She discusses her reasoning for joining the ANC over the WAC (Women’s Army Corps) and her basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. She mentions her time at Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Fort Myers, Florida; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina; as well as her time stationed abroad in Germany and Japan. Other service topics include barracks life; ANC work ethics; military segregation and desegregation; and the WAC song “Duty”.

Personal topics include: Life during the Depression; experiences with Jim Crow segregation; the role of women in contemporary service; her heroes during her service; benefits of her service; her relationship with Cecelia Ingram; and Ingram's husband, also a veteran.

Creator: Doris Onita Melvin

Biographical Info: Doris Onita Melvin (1918-?) of Sampson County, North Carolina, was a career nurse, serving in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) from 1953 to 1975.

Collection: Doris O. Melvin 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: Cecilia Ingram [CI], friend and caretaker, was also present during the interview.]

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. Today is the thirtieth of January in the year 2002, and from the weather outside, you'd believe it was June rather than January. It's very nice out there today.

But we're here in Fayetteville today to talk with Doris Melvin about her career in the Army Nurse Corps. Thank you, Ms. Melvin, for being here with us today. And joining us, who you may hear from time to time, is Cecilia Ingram, her friend who is here with us today for the interview.

Just a couple questions that I ask everybody, Ms. Melvin, and that is simply, could you tell us for the record where were you born and where did you grow up?

DM:

Just born in the United States of America, which is, well, the United States of America.

EE:

Sampson County?

DM:

Sampson County.

EE:

That's not too far from here. Is it near Clinton? Is that where you were born?

DM:

No. Not too far from where it is Clinton.

EE:

Okay. What did your folks do for a living?

DM:

Farming.

EE:

Farming. They had their own place?

DM:

Yes, [unclear] farm.

EE:

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

DM:

Yes, plenty of them.

EE:

When were you born? Was it 1918? When is your birthday?

DM:

Nineteen-eighteen.

EE:

So you were probably old enough to remember when the Depression hit.

DM:

Sure. I know about the Depression.

EE:

How did that affect your family?

DM:

Liked to starve.

EE:

Really? Because I've heard some folks say that farm families at least had something to eat, where some of the city folks didn't.

DM:

We had more than a whole lot of folks. My daddy didn't let us starve.

EE:

Are you about in the middle of your brothers and sisters, or are you older or younger?

DM:

Yes, about in the middle. I'm about the seventh one, because it was five girls and seven boys.

EE:

My mom comes from a family of nine, so that's about right for those times. A lot of people had big families, didn't they?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school growing up?

DM:

Yes, I did.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject in school?

DM:

I think spelling was my—ain't good at it now, but I think that's what it was.

EE:

Where did you go to school?

DM:

Sampson County.

EE:

Was it Sampson County High School or Clinton High School?

DM:

No, I didn't go to Clinton High School. I went to Grover High School.

EE:

So did your family move from Clinton some time?

DM:

No, they didn't, but I did. I stayed with my uncle there and went to high school.

EE:

So a better school over there?

DM:

Well, it was easier for me to go along with all the rest at home to go.

EE:

I guess North Carolina was probably—you graduated from high school at sixteen back then, didn't you?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

So you would have been out in '34?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Did you know, all in all, that you wanted to be a nurse when you grew up?

DM:

I always used to say when I was a child, as I grew a little girl, I want to be a nurse, like them nurses at the hospital.

EE:

Did you have any other people in your family who were nurses?

DM:

No. I just wanted to be.

EE:

You went right from graduating over to—where did you go for nursing school? Over at McCain Hospital?

DM:

McCain Hospital.

EE:

So now, you're going in one direction for high school on the other side of Clinton, and then you're coming back—this was to the west—to Hoke County. That's here in the Fayetteville area.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Was McCain a big hospital for training?

DM:

No, no. No, it wasn't a big hospital.

EE:

So there wasn't that many women who were in there with you?

DM:

No, it wasn't that many women, but there was more.

EE:

How long did you have to go to nursing school?

DM:

Three years.

EE:

Did they put you up in a dormitory there in this hospital?

DM:

They put you up there at least two, and then you had to go to school somewhere else. You can get something else, and then you come back and finish, come back and finish off.

EE:

McCain Hospital, was it an all-black hospital at that time?

DM:

It wasn't all black. Both had been separated.

EE:

Okay. So they were training black women for nurses and white women, as well.

DM:

Yes, right.

EE:

On the floor, tell me about what nursing was like then, because I and a lot of folks who listen to this won't have that experience to anything what you went through in the way of the nursing was back then.

DM:

Well, to tell you the truth, it's been so long, I've forgot it. We carried water, what we needed in the hospital, and we made supplies and all that kind of things for the hospital. We worked in our unit, and the whites worked in their unit.

EE:

Where did you go to work after you finished McCain, because you didn't join the army right off the bat, did you?

DM:

No, I didn't go in the army right off the bat.

EE:

Where did you go?

DM:

I worked at down here for a while.

EE:

Just in the local hospital in Cumberland?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

So you were working at the hospital—

DM:

At McCain.

EE:

So they hired you on staff there?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

What was the hardest thing about nursing school? Do you remember that?

DM:

The hardest thing? I guess it was figuring out those dosages, medications.

EE:

Yes, because if you get it wrong, it's a pretty serious consequence, isn't it?

DM:

That's right. You had to know that and get it right.

EE:

And I guess back then, like now, you probably were very meticulous in what you had to sign out for and make sure you got the right amounts in and out, didn't you?

DM:

That's right.

EE:

Were you at work that Sunday when Pearl Harbor day happened?

DM:

Yes, I was at work. I was in Washington. I think I was. I was in Washington on Pearl Harbor.

EE:

So you visited friends up there or were you working up there?

DM:

Yes, visited friends. I might have been working there for a while. I can't remember right now. But anyway.

EE:

Well now, did you stay working at McCain throughout the whole time of the war?

DM:

No, no.

EE:

Where did you go during the war?

DM:

Probably came back home and stayed a while.

CI:

I heard you say something about Fort Belvoir [Virginia]. Did you go to something like that?

DM:

A lot of it at Fort Belvoir and Fort Bragg, you know, the hospital there up at Fort Belvoir. But I can't remember exactly where I was at.

EE:

It probably would have been in the fifties after you joined.

DM:

It could have been.

EE:

But during the forties, were you mainly working here in the Fayetteville area?

DM:

No, I never did have a job after leaving McCain. I didn't have a job here. Just after I worked a little at McCain, that was it.

EE:

What kind of work were you doing when you decided to join the service in the fifties? Were you working as a nurse before you signed up?

DM:

I'm thinking I was. I hate to just say flat-out and say it and then later [unclear].

EE:

Well, what inspired you? You could have joined the WACs [Women's Army Corps]—I mean, the Army Nurse Corps or the Navy Nurse Corps. You could have done a lot of things. What inspired you?

DM:

I couldn't go in the army then, not the Army Nurse Corps. I couldn't join the army because you had to have your diploma. In the Army Nurse Corps—you had to have your diploma in the Army Nurse Corps. And the WACs, you had to be a WAC, not army nurse. You were a WAC in the WACs.

EE:

Right.

DM:

And the air force was the air force in the air force. They had to have their air force license to be an air force nurse, just like we had to have ours to be an army nurse. We had to have our license.

EE:

Well, about the time you joined, you would have been in your early thirties when you joined?

DM:

Most likely.

EE:

I'm just wondering, was joining the nurse corps sort of the best way to get a good-paying job at that time?

DM:

Yes, it's most likely it was.

EE:

Did any of your family wonder what you were doing in joining the army or were they all supporting you in it?

DM:

They were supporting it, because we go on telling them what we were doing.

EE:

And I guess then, like now, joining the service is a good way to see different parts of the country, isn't it?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Have you ever traveled much outside?

DM:

No, we never traveled none.

EE:

So this was a good way to see the country for you?

DM:

Good way for me to see it.

EE:

When you joined the service, you went down to Fort Sam Houston, [Texas]. I've talked to some nurses, and they didn't have much basic training at all. It sounds like you actually had a little bit.

DM:

We had six weeks.

EE:

Six weeks. So were most of your instructors men or women?

DM:

Well, we had some of both. Like most of the instructors were men. They had that basic course for me, and went there.

EE:

When you signed up, did they give you a choice for where you'd like to be stationed, whether it was, you know, the North—

DM:

Yes, they kind of give you a choice of where you'd like to go.

EE:

What did you tell them, do you remember?

DM:

Fort Bragg was the closest to home.

EE:

So you wanted to stay close to home?

DM:

Yes. I took Fort Bragg.

EE:

You were down at basic for about six weeks, and you were doing, it sounds like, mostly just learning the military part of being an army nurse, what the protocols were, how to do drill.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Did you ever drill much once you got past basic?

DM:

No, no, no. No, I never did have to drill.

EE:

I don't think I've ever been by a facility where I saw the nurses out on the parade ground. I think most time they join the service and then they just do nursing work.

DM:

We did the nursing work. No, we didn't have to drill.

EE:

The army was sort of ahead of the rest of society of integrating the working world, because they had blacks and whites working together in the service back in World War II before they had them in the general society. When you were stationed at—where did you go, Belvoir right after Fort Sam Houston? Was that your first stop?

DM:

No, although I did go to Belvoir.

EE:

What kind of work were you doing at Belvoir?

DM:

Oh, we were doing mostly nursing, such as taking temperatures, taking blood pressures, bath time, the other bath time.

EE:

When you were working on the floor, was another army nurse your CO [commanding officer]?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

So you had a chief nurse you had to report to?

DM:

Chief nurse would be the CO.

EE:

What kind of hours did you work, first shift, second shift, or did it kind of rotate?

DM:

They had different shifts, first shift, second shift.

EE:

So you'd work for a couple weeks first shift, and then a take a couple days off.

DM:

Yes. Where you needed somebody, and the CO nurse would place you where you were needed, mostly.

EE:

I guess you were probably working five-day workweeks then, weren't you?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Did you live right there on base?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

So they gave you housing?

DM:

They have a place you can live.

EE:

Did you get a chance to go out and do much sightseeing while you were up there?

DM:

No. There wasn't nothing through there but the bushes, and I had seen them while I was on the farm.

EE:

That had no attraction for you.

DM:

No.

EE:

I just wondered if you ever got into town, like go up to D.C.

DM:

Not until I moved up to D.C. I was in the army and went up to D.C. Then you got to go places, go on the trips that they'd have, different things.

EE:

When you were at McCain, the black nurses took care of the black patients on one ward, and the white nurses were with the white patients on another.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Was it still segregated when you were in the army, as well?

DM:

I think it was for a while, until they got it all worked out.

EE:

But still probably, you could probably make better money as an army nurse than you could—

DM:

Well, there weren't no money to fuss about, so it ain't no point.

EE:

You weren't going to make much either way, is that what it is?

DM:

Regardless of where.

EE:

How much is not much in those days, do you remember? What would have been your paycheck in the early fifties?

DM:

Oh, something like $2.50 an hour, something like that.

EE:

How long were you at Belvoir, do you remember?

DM:

I don't remember.

EE:

But sometime after a couple years, probably you went to Fort Myers.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Were you at Fort Myers longer than you were at Belvoir?

DM:

Yes, I was.

EE:

Were you doing the same kind of work when you were there or were you doing more supervising of other nurses by that time?

DM:

About the same kind of work.

EE:

Do you remember any funny stories about being on the job back in those days, either from the patients' side or from your other coworkers?

DM:

I can't think of any right now, but I'm sure there were. The biggest thing is, we were ready for work and afraid we would do something wrong and didn't get it done in time and all like that. We were more concerned about that.

EE:

So there wasn't that much time for fun and games for you all?

DM:

No, there wasn't much money for fun and games. We wanted to get our work done so we could go home at the end of the day at the end of our hour.

EE:

Well now, after you got home from work, did you hang out with the other women who were nurses? Did you all pal around?

DM:

We were just there in a big room, everybody. We would talk to each other.

EE:

So it was like the regular barracks with, what, eighteen women?

DM:

Yes, regular barracks and all, yelling, eating.

EE:

How long were you then at Bragg? Were you at Bragg for most of the time that you were in the service, about the last fifteen or twenty years?

DM:

No, no, no.

EE:

Not that long?

DM:

No.

EE:

So you were at Myers for most of the time you were in the service?

DM:

I was at Myers. I wasn't at either one of them places that long, because I went overseas, and be in the service for, went overseas. I was over there for two years.

EE:

Were you in Germany?

DM:

No.

EE:

Or England?

DM:

Not Germany.

EE:

Oh, Japan.

DM:

Not Japan.

EE:

It says here that you went to Japan, and you were there during Vietnam, during the Tet Offensive. Is that right?

DM:

Oh, that was the Tet Offensive. Oh, my lord, I had been in the service then god knows how long when I went to there. That was different. I had been in the service, oh, about twenty years then when I went for that Tet Offensive.

EE:

Was that the first time you had been overseas?

DM:

No, that wasn't. Was that the first time I'd been overseas? It seems like that was the first time I'd been overseas. That was the first time I'd been overseas, that Tet Offensive. Let me see, I went to Germany sometime. I have to look that up. I can't—

EE:

But Germany was the first time you went overseas.

DM:

Beg your pardon?

EE:

So Germany was the first time you went over?

DM:

I think Germany was the first time.

EE:

Because I know in the regular service, in regular army, they try to push you overseas about one year in seven, just to kind of rotate, and I guess is that about the way it was? You had maybe two tours overseas?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

You were two years over each time, then?

DM:

I can't figure that out. I can't figure that out. Now, I'd have to look that up and tell you about it later.

EE:

When you were over in Germany, do you have any recollections of what it was like going overseas?

DM:

I know I was in Germany. We'd take blood pressures and vital signs of the patient and serve their trays and give them bed baths.

EE:

But now, while you were there, you basically—I know at different times they're very strict about trying to keep folks right on base, because they're worried about security. Did they ask you all to stay close to base when you were there?

DM:

We had to go places that we called our nursing quarters. We had a little place we called our nursing quarters. Didn't you all?

CI:

Yes.

EE:

So, you were a nurse, too?

CI:

No. I was just visiting.

EE:

When you got to Japan during the Tet Offensive, I know that was all of a sudden out of the blue, wasn't it, that that thing happened?

DM:

Do what in Japan? I had been in before, so Japan didn't frighten me. Japan didn't frighten me at all.

EE:

That's a long way from Clinton, though.

DM:

Yes, it's a long way from Clinton.

EE:

I've been down there, and it's flat as can be, lots of sand, and you're going over there and the world looks a lot different. The service gets you to take to different places.

DM:

Yes, it's different. But I can't remember that much about it.

EE:

All the time that you were stationed, you were either at a regular—you were always at a regular base hospital.

DM:

Yes. We had what we called quarters, places that we called quarters. We had to make our own bed up with poles and things, and our bed was made and everybody had their own bed.

EE:

But you were always stationed at a base. It says something here, you never were assigned to a field hospital or anything like that, then?

DM:

No, I never was to a field hospital.

EE:

Did they ever give you the option to do that kind of thing?

DM:

Yes. They had some people that went to a field hospital.

EE:

Right.

DM:

But I didn't.

EE:

Well now, while you were in the service, did they ever give you more course work in nursing? You know, you'd been to McCain for three years.

DM:

Yes, you can get all kind of courses. Later on, you could get different courses, but now you can get anything.

EE:

I guess that's all like the GI Bill that's just paying for you for your education when you go out.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Did you take some more of those courses?

DM:

No, I haven't taken any more here. I haven't been well, so I decided I better wait.

EE:

Right. So, you go from Clinton, and you're going to Texas and to Virginia and to Germany and to Japan. That's a lot of traveling for somebody. How did you keep up with the folks back home? Did they write you pretty regularly?

DM:

Yes, they'd write me, tell me what's going on.

EE:

What did you most learn about the world, traveling to all those places? What surprised you?

DM:

World traveling?

EE:

Yes. What surprised you about those places?

DM:

Didn't nothing surprise me about it, because they didn't let you ride together. You had to ride what you call it, Jim Crow.

EE:

Jim Crow. So you were segregated. Wherever you went, it was the same Jim Crow, then, for you?

DM:

Same Jim Crow, yes.

EE:

That's tough.

DM:

Yes, that's tough.

EE:

Would that have been the case—that was just because you were in the service, you think?

DM:

Just because we're black, because I know that we'd do something for somebody, or even on the plane, when you got on the plane, the black and the white, but you had to—

CI:

Separate?

DM:

But the white and black would be together, but the white would be way off over there somewhere and the black would be here. And you'd be doing something for the black, to take to the black, such as serving them something or other. We had to take it back where they could get it, and then they'd take it.

EE:

So they wouldn't even come back to serve you, is what it amounts to?

DM:

That's right.

EE:

They'd drop it off, and you had to serve yourself?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

You watched that change during the course of your career, because things did things during the course of your career.

DM:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Do you think it changed in the military more first? What was your experience, because you were in the service and working in the military, and yet you come out and go to the grocery store or go someplace else. Was the military better at treating blacks than the regular society was?

DM:

Yes. You'd go out and get something, fruit and everything. They'd serve you biscuits and everything. And the other ones, they'd be sitting off, waiting for theirs to be served. But if you were first, you got yours served.

EE:

You know, when we started doing this project, we were talking about how it was different for women, and it's different again for black women. Do you think it was more difficult being a woman in the service or being black in the service?

DM:

I guess it was more difficult being black in the service, until they got the sides, until they got everything squared away. When they got things squared away, it was one for one, one for one, one for one.

EE:

It was teamwork, wasn't it?

DM:

One for one, yes.

EE:

You came out in '75. That's when you retired.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

And you retired here in Fayetteville?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Was that when you moved in with your brother?

DM:

No. I moved in the quarters for a while, and then I moved out. I had a house, so I moved in my house.

EE:

When you started, women were in a separate branch of the service from men, and women nowadays probably are combat pilots over in Afghanistan. What do you think about that? Do you think women should be allowed to do any job in the service?

DM:

Whatever they want to do, I think they ought to be allowed to do it, whatever they is able to do.

EE:

So that's a good thing?

DM:

If they can fly, let them fly. Whatever they want to do, I think it's good for everybody to be able to do what they can do, and that way you'll always have enough people to do your task.

EE:

Was there ever a time—I know that in certain jobs after Korea there was a big fall-off in enlistment, because there wasn't a war going on, there wasn't as much excitement. Was there ever a time when you all had shortages of nurses where you were stationed at, where you were short on help?

DM:

Oh, there was a shortage of nurses a lot of times. There was a shortage of nurses a lot of times.

EE:

Did they ever have you go out and try to recruit other nurses?

DM:

There's a lot of them that did that, special nurses that did that. They had those special jobs.

EE:

I know some people have kind of rotated through that kind of a job as part of their tour.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

But you didn't ever have to do that?

DM:

No.

EE:

You were always on the floor.

DM:

No, I never had to do that, but some of the nurses did. They [unclear] up to that as their tour, had to rotate and do.

EE:

Who were your heroes?

DM:

The GIs. The GIs has always been our heroes. That's what we always said, the GIs.

EE:

Just the regular GIs.

DM:

Regular GIs have always been our heroes. When they had to go out or something or other, boy, we got things together for them. They're going out for us. Boy, we got things together for them.

EE:

Did you ever have any other relatives who joined the service?

DM:

Yes, my brother went for two years. He stayed his two years, and he was out. And I had cousins. I had cousins that went in, but I didn't never have another sister or brother.

EE:

Well now, did anybody ever come to you and say, “Should I join the service?” And if they did, what would you tell them?

DM:

It's up to them to join the service. Oh, I had a lot of them ask me, "If you was me, what would I do?"

I said, “Now, that's up to you. I joined because I wanted to, and you may join because of [?]. But that's up to you. But I joined because I wanted to join.”

EE:

How do you think it made you different as a person, going all over the places like you did, twenty years in the service?

DM:

It made me more educational, because I learned things and saw how people were doing things after they got to doing it different, see how they were doing things differently, and I learned.

EE:

You can spend a lot of time reading books, but there's no learning like going out there and doing it, is there?

DM:

No. No such job as that. Get out there and do it yourself. Get in there.

EE:

You sound like you maybe became more of an independent person while you were doing all this, didn't you?

DM:

Yes, I did. Most of us did.

EE:

We've gone through sort of a strange couple of months since September 11. Do you think that the country was more patriotic when you were joining the service than it is now, or how do you think we are about how we treat service folks?

DM:

Well, I think they're better now. I think they're better now than what they were.

EE:

You think maybe people don't take them as much for granted now?

DM:

No. I think we take them as much for granted.

EE:

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the service, about service people?

DM:

They don't have to work. Some people think they don't have to do nothing.

EE:

It sounds like that wasn't the case with you at all. You were working all the time—

DM:

No, it wasn't the case with us. We had to work.

EE:

How did you all get together?

CI:

How did we meet?

EE:

Yes.

CI:

My next-door neighbor was a dear friend of hers. Of course, she told me every day, “I'm going over to Ms. Melvin's house.” And Ms. Melvin had a big dog, and she talked about her dog a lot. And I'd say, “I'm going.”

She'd say, “No, you're afraid of the dog, so you stay here.” But the things she'd say about her, I wanted to go so bad. But she said, “You're too afraid of the dog, so you can't go, and I can't hold that big dog.”

But I knew she was trying to keep us apart, and then she'd come back and tell me the good things they'd do. They'd shop, and she could sew, and they bottomed chairs and stuff like that. Oh, she just talked about the great things and knowledge that Ms. Melvin had. She was younger.

But she got sick, and wasn't sick very long, and during her sickness, I called Ms. Melvin to tell her about Rose and sort of pass some information. Unfortunately, she passed, and I went to her wake. I was there, and Ms. Melvin was there at the wake, and we met. I told her who I was and so forth.

And then I wrote a paper about my neighbor when she passed, and she said she'd like to get to know me better. So we just started from there, and I found the same person that Rose found. She was like a mother, and she'd share her information about cooking. And just everything was just exciting, and I couldn't stay away from her, you know. So both my husband and I would pay her visits, and we just became friends.

I go with her shopping, because she was losing her sight somewhat, and she'd say, “I need somebody to go with me to the grocery stores,” because some of the labels were hard to read. I found that to be so interesting, because I learned, too, about sodium and, you know, what they put in food and stuff and what she liked.

And it kept on and on and on, and she got sick; and when she got sick, I was so attached to her, until I just found myself in and out her house, you know, as my friend and my big sister and my mom. I don't know, you just can't explain the closeness that you get with her.

EE:

Well, it's something that I think when you're young is hard to believe that two folks who are different so much in age would have a lot in common. But if you're friends, you could be friends, and it doesn't matter what the calendar says. You're friends.

CI:

My husband was a retiree in the service, and, of course, being an enlisted man, a sergeant, he just found joy in going to the colonel's house. And I'd go home and tell him how she could make peas smell, her food, her pound cake. She loved recipes, and she would talk about her cooking.

EE:

I'm sorry we're not having this interview in your kitchen.

DM:

Back in my own kitchen.

CI:

And he was a cook in the army, and so I was never able to cook that well, and he was trying to get me to learn. He said, “You need to listen to her.” And so one day, I tried to find out what he liked to eat, because I wanted to please him. I said to him, I said, “You know, Ms. Melvin told me that I should try cooking apples in the morning and sausage.”

He said, “That lady knows something. Go back and hear.”

So we got to be so close, and he was just so pleased that I was her friend, because I was learning things from her. I never really made the pound cake that she could make, but, I mean, it was just unreal how she can make food smell and taste. But anyway, we became so close, and after she got sick the first time—I don't quite remember the year, maybe '94 or '91 or '92, something like that. No, before then, because—yes, it was before then. I found myself being very close to her, and she was unable to go home, and I followed her to a nursing home, until she could get walking again. And, of course, during the time she was in a nursing home, she depended on me to do her laundry and make sure that, you know, everything was okay, and help her get out of there.

EE:

So you all have been buddies for about ten years?

CI:

Yes, yes. And so, and then all down this time, of course, I've followed her everywhere. She just can't hardly get rid of me. This time, of course, she's having problems with her vascular, her leg, and, of course, she needed me with her somewhat at night. My husband, by this time I'd lost him, and, you know, it just was real easy to be there.

She does have nieces, you know, but they work full-time jobs, and she has a brother that's very, very close to her that moved here in the city. And she has two sisters down in Clinton, and they can't be with her every day. One is a little older, much older than her.

EE:

It's good to still have your sisters around.

DM:

Yes.

CI:

We keep in touch by telephone. In fact, they call me, one of them calls me almost daily, and if she doesn't call me, I call her, and then I'll call the older sister. And the brother that just left. I inform him. I come down practically every day. And if he don't come, I call him and let him know how she's doing. So this place has been so nice. They take care of her laundry, and I check and see that she's got something to wear and buy her what she needs, you know, whatever that she tells me.

DM:

It's real friends.

EE:

It's great to have somebody like that around in your life, isn't it?

DM:

Yes, yes.

CI:

Brought in a beautician to do her hair last week.

EE:

Well, I'm not the first person who's come down to want to sing your praises, and you're singing her praises pretty good, but for different reasons than what's in the paper.

CI:

Oh, yes.

EE:

What's the most impressive thing to you, having known this woman for ten years or so, about her as a person?

CI:

As a person? Her gentleness and her spirituality. She is calmness. She's endured a lot of pain during the time before her amputee, but never once have I heard her just get to the point where she's deranged or profanity. And her faith in God has really strengthened me, you know, because I was going through a crisis during the time when I first met her. I had a sick mother, that she'd just tell me everything's going to be okay. Then I had a daughter that got in a car accident, and she asked me to just be patient no matter what. Then during the time my husband was sick, she was there like a sounding board.

And this is what's the most impressive thing, because even today there's so many things she's not putting together, but I've heard some things more in sequence. But to have the knowledge that she has, and a lot of people know her work and how she performed. But she never would brag, though. She's very relaxed and very calm, and that's what I really find in her to be the most gentle. Every now and then, she'll raise a hair, but I told her family, when she raises a hair, she's either hurting or wants attention some way. But on the whole, she's just a remarkable person.

EE:

Well, I talked with a woman who was, I guess, one of the first WACs, and she said one of the first songs they learned, they made up this song called Duty. “Duty is calling you and me.” Have you ever heard that song before?

DM:

Yes.

EE:

Did they sing that in the Army Nurse Corps, too?

DM:

Duty is the call of—what's that, the call of duty.

EE:

“We have a date with destiny.”

DM:

Yes.

EE:

It sounds like you're somebody who knows duty, because you're dutiful to your friends and dutiful to your work.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

They drill you that in the service, but you've made it part of your life, I think, which is awful nice.

DM:

Right, all my life.

EE:

Well, I appreciate that. Was there anything else that I haven't asked you about that you think it's important that folks know about your experience in the service or things that you've heard her talk about that we haven't talked about today?

CI:

Well, she has been a very versatile person. Anything you talk about, she's well versed. At one time, she was a beautician, a nurse, and a good cook, and her travels.

EE:

Do you keep up with some of the friends from Army Nurse Corps days? Do they still write to you?

CI:

I have addresses of, I think, about three that I swore that I'd let them know that she's not well at this point, and it might be that they would share some information.

DM:

Yes, you know Ursula, and that other child, your friend.

CI:

Yes. Mr. Wiggins that's mentioned in the article. He worked with her at Womack Army Hospital [Fort Bragg] when she worked there. I think he said that she was his nurse-in-charge.

DM:

I was his sergeant.

CI:

Yes, okay.

EE:

How long was she at Womack at the end of her career? Just a couple of years, or was it longer?

DM:

Let's see. I don't even know, not now.

EE:

Well, if you were in Japan, Tet was '68, so it couldn't have been more than five or six years.

DM:

Yes, I went to Tet. I went over there at '68, because I went over there in '68. That was Tet, and I went from Fort Bragg.

EE:

Okay. So you were at Womack and then went to Japan and then came back to Womack.

DM:

Yes.

EE:

So all together, you might have been at Womack for about ten years, it sounds like.

CI:

It sounds right. I know another couple that worked with her during that time.

EE:

What was your husband's name?

CI:

James Ingram, Sergeant James Ingram.

EE:

I've learned from interviewing folks that it's not just the Marines who believe in Semper Fi. If you're loyal to your fellow buddies in the service and to your friends, you're a Semper Fi person. But I appreciate you sitting down with me today to do this interview, and we'll put this with some of the stuff that we have from before from the other things and with a copy of this article that we have. And just, thank you very much for doing this, Ms. Melvin. I appreciate it.

DM:

You're welcome. I enjoyed talking with you.

EE:

Yes. It was nice talking to you, Miss Ingram. Thank you.

[End of interview]