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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Maude Middleton, 2003

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Object ID: WV0272.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Maude Middleton’s education and service as an army dietitian from 1945 to 1947.

Summary:

Middleton discusses her years at Woman’s College [now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro] including the faculty, social events, and home economic courses. She remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor and wartime rationing.

Middleton describes her reasons for becoming an army dietitian; the requirements for the job; and her mother’s reaction to her enlistment. Of her basic training at Camp Rucker, Alabama, she discusses physical training, barracks, and meeting women from other parts of the country. Because the war ended while she was in basic, she talks about being assigned to the replacement pool. Discussion of her time at Camp Butner, North Carolina, and Moore General Hospital, focuses on her work in special diets as well as her social life and interactions with officers.

Conversation about Middleton’s life after her service includes her decision to end her dietitian career; her work with the 4-H clubs of the Agricultural Extension Service; her work with the Extension Homemaker Clubs; and her political views.

Creator: Maude Middleton

Biographical Info:

Maude Middleton [b. 1921] of Forsyth County, North Carolina, served as an army dietitian from 1945 to 1947.

Collection: Maude Middleton Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and today is the third of February in the year 2003. These numbers just keep adding up. But we're here on a beautiful day in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the home of Maude Middleton this morning.

Miss Middleton, thank you for sitting down with me on behalf of the school [The University of North Carolina, UNCG]. We're going to stop right now and get a phone call.

[Telephone rings. Tape recorder paused]

EE:

Well, thank you.

MM:

I'm glad to have you here.

EE:

I sure do appreciate it. We try to ask the same kind of questions for most everybody, and the first one I usually put to folks is if you'll just tell us where were you born and where did you grow up.

MM:

I was born in Forsyth County [North Carolina] near Walkertown, with an address of Route 2 Walnut Cove.

EE:

You were out in the boonies, then.

MM:

Yes. And it's still country. It hasn't been incorporated.

EE:

Was Belews Lake up there then?

MM:

Belews Lake is close. It was not there when I was growing up. I think it was built in the 1960s.

EE:

That was dammed up, wasn't it, from the creek when they built the power plant?

MM:

Yes. And excavated, too, as well as I remember. My mother and dad were still living up there, and we went down to see the progress once in a while, because that was close enough to get back and drive them places.

EE:

What did your folks do?

MM:

Farmed. Tobacco farming.

EE:

So this was a family farm that went back a ways, I guess.

MM:

Yes, way back. Can't remember how far, but it was in Mother's family for at least two generations back.

EE:

Were you one of those folks who went in with your family's crop to the auction house in Winston?

MM:

No, my dad went.

EE:

And that's a dying thing now. There's not any of that.

MM:

Yes. We helped at the barn and in the fields, but we didn't go beyond that.

EE:

Now, did you have brothers and sisters?

MM:

Had one sister.

EE:

Are you the oldest or the youngest?

MM:

Youngest. My sister died in 1999.

EE:

I'm just thinking, I guess when you were in high school, were we twelve-year high schools then or still eleven?

MM:

We were eleven at Walkertown, but in college we were competing with twelve-year students from the city.

EE:

So it was transition time. When did you graduate from school?

MM:

In '38. We felt definitely behind those who had twelve years. I think we were at a little disadvantage.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject in school?

MM:

My major was home economics. That's no longer a subject, but it was then. I think I really preferred nursing, but my family sort of coaxed me into coming on to WC [Woman's College, now UNCG] instead of nursing.

EE:

This is Depression time. It takes some sacrifice to get some—

MM:

It's past Depression time.

EE:

It's coming out of it, but still it takes some effort to get folks to college in those days.

MM:

Right. But I think it was $349 a semester. My folks wouldn't let us work, because they felt they could afford it. But I'm sure that they saved more and, you know, wouldn't accept letting us work.

EE:

Well, now, was there anybody else in your family who had been to school?

MM:

My sister finished the year before I started.

EE:

At WC?

MM:

Yes.

EE:

So that was the choice for you all, or did you all have any other interest?

MM:

I don't know that we had any other interests. You know, I think that WC was inexpensive and it was close by.

EE:

It was close by, and yet it was away, which is a nice thing at that age. [laughs]

MM:

Yes.

EE:

Well, tell me what you remember about our school. I guess was Harriett Elliott the dean when you were there?

MM:

I believe she was.

EE:

What do you remember about school, about classes?

MM:

I had no real contact with her. Miss [Margaret] Edwards was head of the home economics department, a very proper lady. I roomed with a friend from high school in Spencer, South Spencer dormitory, right over the walkway. And like everybody else, we had a gang of about twelve special friends. I remember hearing the Rose Bowl. I don't think we had television. I think it came in just about the time we finished school. I remember the Rose Bowl my freshman year.

EE:

Was Duke playing? Duke was the pretty big team back here.

MM:

[The University of North] Carolina was playing [sic].

EE:

Carolina was, okay. Well, now, I guess in those days, though, you all were the sister school to Carolina, were you not?

MM:

And [North Carolina] State [University].

EE:

And State.

MM:

I remember a busload of fellows coming over from State.

EE:

Well, I know they had, I guess, the special societies had that had dances and stuff.

MM:

We had an annual dance. I was real studious. I had to be. I felt like I was behind some of the others. I switched from French to Spanish, because I didn't think I could take third-year French. I'd had two years in high school. Now I know little of either one.

EE:

Well, now was it easier having a big sister on campus?

MM:

She finished the year before I came.

EE:

Oh, so it was just a memory. Did she give you any advice on what to do or what not to do?

MM:

I'm sure she did. [laughter]

EE:

Miss Edwards was head of the home ec[onomics] department.

MM:

Charlie Phillips was in Placement. Everybody liked him. I don't remember having any contact with Miss Elliott.

EE:

How did you get from home ec into dietitian work?

MM:

Well, it was all part of the same thing.

EE:

Did you have to take extra courses?

MM:

You had to take a lot more science, chemistry, which I don't believe the regular home economics students did. They certainly didn't do the food chemistry that we did. I can't remember what the other science courses were, but I know that we had more than they did, and we had more courses in foods than they did and fewer in clothing. We had therapeutic dietetics, diet in disease.

EE:

So was there a specialty within dietetics that you were going into?

MM:

It was called institutional management, but I don't think there was any more specialized than that. For instance, I don't think school cafeteria people or people going into hospitals or colleges had different courses.

EE:

It was just based on doing that kind of a volume.

MM:

But then we had to do a year's internship beyond in the area of our specialty.

EE:

So you got your degree in '42, but then the year that you were afterwards in Richmond was basically still connected to WC?

MM:

My internship was with Medical College in Virginia [MCV].

EE:

But you got that while a student at WC and that was for—

MM:

It was after I had graduated from WC. WC just helped place us.

EE:

So you were there for a year at MCV

MM:

A twelve-month year.

EE:

Is that where Johnston-Willis Hospital is? Is that part of MCV?

MM:

No, it's a private hospital in Richmond.

EE:

So you were at MCV for a year, and then just stayed on at Richmond at this private hospital.

MM:

Right.

EE:

Remembering back to my own college age, most college-aged people just are not tuned into the world, and yet the world came at you all. When you were a sophomore, do you remember anything about the war starting in Europe in '39?

MM:

No, I don't remember much about that. I guess I didn't keep up with current events too well.

EE:

What about Pearl Harbor Day?

MM:

I remember Pearl Harbor Day.

EE:

Where were you and how did that news hit you?

MM:

The first I seemed to know of it was on a Sunday morning. Was that the first anybody knew of it? I was on a double date, and we were driving around the Battleground Park.

EE:

And just heard it on the radio?

MM:

Yes.

EE:

How did things change at the school as the war started?

MM:

Rationing. Rationing.

EE:

Rationing was the big thing?

MM:

Clean-plate policy. You had to eat everything on your plate. That's when a lot of us put on weight. I can't remember if they gave us a choice of how much went on our plate or not.

EE:

But if it went on there, you had to clean it.

MM:

Right. [clears throat.] I apologize for my voice.

EE:

Oh, no, don't do that.

MM:

It's not always like this.

EE:

Well, how does the rationing affect you in learning institutional management? Because I guess they talk about how to work.

MM:

I really can't remember, but the hospitals probably were limited, too, on the amount of sugar and other rationed things they got.

EE:

Did they come talk to you all at that time? You were working, went to work in an internship, and then in a private hospital. Was anything said to you training to be a—

MM:

Recruitment?

EE:

Yes, as far as recruiting in college.

MM:

Not in college or MCV or after I went to work at Johnston-Willis. I was rooming with a nurse and a girl who had been a nursing student but had dropped out, and the nursing student decided to go in the WACs [Women's Army Corps]. The nurse decided to go in the nurse corps, and I decided to go in as a dietitian. I think it was sort of momentum, you know. Everybody decided, “Well, we're going to quit doing this and do this.”

EE:

And I guess the longer that things went on, by the time, I guess—

MM:

Well, I applied, and I had my physical on February, as I remember.

EE:

February of '44 or '45?

MM:

February before the war ended. It was '45.

EE:

So it would be '45, right.

MM:

But I wasn't actually called until June because they lost my physical. I read somewhere the other day that people had to gain weight to get in the service. Was that in your material?

EE:

Yes, a couple of them were down at the soda shop. Did you have the same problem?

MM:

I had to sign a waiver that I was twenty pounds underweight to get in.

EE:

How old did you have to be a dietitian and join?

MM:

I don't know that there was an age limit. You would have been twenty-one or two to have been through school.

EE:

And I guess they were only taking college graduates because of the nature of the professional work you were doing.

MM:

You were a member of the American Dietetic Association [ADA] if you went in as a dietitian.

EE:

And that meant that in addition—

MM:

That you had had an internship.

EE:

In order to be an ADA member you had to already have had your internship?

MM:

Right.

EE:

How did you like the kind of work? Before you even joined the service, obviously you liked the work you were doing.

MM:

I liked it very well, yes. Yes, I did. I later got out of that career, though.

EE:

Well, one of the things that strikes me about dietitians when I hear about what they're doing is that at such an early age you were doing so much. Basically a lot of folks, you make the decisions.

MM:

Yes, they make them a lot later now. It was just expected then that you were going to school and coming out ready to do a career, and you did.

EE:

Tell me, what did your folks think about your joining the service?

MM:

They were unhappy. I promised my mother I would ask for Camp Butner [North Carolina], and the recruiting officer said people don't usually get what they ask for. But I did. [laughs]

EE:

Depending on which branch of service you joined, you didn't really get the option to even ask when you first went in.

MM:

Right.

EE:

But you at least got the chance to express for Butner.

MM:

Yes.

EE:

Well, who was less enthusiastic, your mama or your dad?

MM:

My mother. I can't remember Daddy having anything to say about it. She was the dominant one of my parents, and Daddy said he lived under “a petticoat government.” [laughter]

EE:

Well, we won't even go there and talk about my house life, but I understand. [laughter] In between the time you went down and got your physical and was ready to join and the time they called you up, so much changed in '45.

MM:

The war got over in Europe.

EE:

Well, [Franklin D.] Roosevelt passes.

MM:

And I don't remember that, you know, where I was when that happened.

EE:

But do you remember where you were when the war in Europe ended?

MM:

No. I do remember when the war in Japan ended. I don't remember which place I was.

EE:

Would have been at Butner or Atlanta by then?

MM:

I know we had a celebration. Yes, I would have been at Butner by then. When we say Butner now, it means different things.

EE:

Yes, it's the psychiatric place now. You talked about the two roommates of yours that went into the service from Richmond.

MM:

We weren't stationed anywhere near one another.

EE:

Did you keep back in touch during these days with the folks that had trained you at WC? How close were you in contact with WC folks during this time?

MM:

Not at all. We could have been with the placement office if we'd needed to be.

EE:

Tell me about your going to Camp Rucker in Alabama for your training. What do they do for your training for you all?

MM:

They put us through it. We had one eight-mile walk. We had calisthenics.

EE:

So you had PT [physical training] right off the bat?

MM:

Yes. We had calisthenics. We had on the eight-mile hike, it was all women nurses and dietitians. It was not with the WACs, that I remember.

EE:

So it wasn't just dietitians that was training together; it was nurses and dietitians down there.

MM:

Yes. See, there weren't that many of us. The eight-mile walk is what I really remember. The ambulance followed us and took back a load or two.

EE:

Doesn't give you a lot of confidence, does it? [laughter]

MM:

It was June, and June was hot.

EE:

In Alabama.

MM:

Yes. I remember an overnight bivouac, but not the detail. I just didn't care for it.

EE:

Now, when you went down there, there was no guarantee of exactly where you were going to be, because in July everybody assumed that we were headed to an invasion of Japan.

MM:

No, there wasn't. And then I went to a replacement pool at Lawson General [Hospital].

EE:

Which meant by being in a replacement pool that you could have cycled out.

MM:

They could send me anywhere.

EE:

Anywhere overseas or anywhere. You were on the ready.

MM:

Yes.

EE:

And I guess you left that replacement pool. That assignment must have ended when the war ended. You must have been there in August. Is that where you were, in Atlanta?

MM:

No.

EE:

You had already gone down to Butner?

MM:

I think we only had four weeks of basic. If I'm wrong, this is wrong, then. But if I did, I was at Lawson two weeks.

EE:

And then at Butner.

MM:

And then at Butner. So I'd have been at Butner in July.

EE:

So you had been assigned from the replacement pool out to Butner already before the war ended.

MM:

Right. You probably don't need this, but the dust was so bad in Alabama and we had no screens. We dusted our dresser one morning, and we came home and the inspector had written “Dust” on the dresser, in the dust. They treated us like they did any GI's.

EE:

I was going to say, what was the toughest part of that for you? Who were your instructors? Were they men or women?

MM:

Men. I don't remember a single woman.

EE:

So they were really pushing the military discipline on you right from the—even though it was nurses and dietitians.

MM:

Fitness is what they were pushing.

EE:

Fitness is what they were pushing. I guess you were learning about military structure, who to salute and whatnot and that kind of thing.

MM:

Yes, I'm sure we were.

EE:

You didn't go through gas mask training?

MM:

I think we did. I think we had to put on a gas mask.

EE:

But no firearms or anything like that?

MM:

No.

EE:

You were already in a dormitory situation in Richmond, so living with people that are total strangers isn't new to you.

MM:

Yes, and the quarters were nicer than GI quarters. Seems like we had rooms in some of them. I don't remember being in a barracks that was just wide open.

EE:

So this would be the case even at Butner?

MM:

I think officers' quarters in general maybe had rooms. I went through the entire time with one roommate. We transferred together, and I still hear from her.

EE:

What's her name?

MM:

Barbara Crawford.

EE:

Where does she live?

MM:

She lives in Connecticut.

EE:

Was she from Connecticut originally?

MM:

She was from Detroit. That's where I learned to love Yankees. They're people, too, when you get down underneath. [laughs]

EE:

Well, yes. I was just going to say, WC at that time—

MM:

Vermont. Not Connecticut. Moscow, Vermont, except she moved this year, and I didn't transfer her address. So I may have lost her.

EE:

Well, now, WC, the time you were in it, most of those folks were North Carolina girls, were they not?

MM:

Yes.

EE:

So you didn't meet a lot of folks from out of state.

MM:

But while I was there, or while my sister was there—I think it was while I was there—they had that scare when there was a radio thing broadcast.

EE:

War of the Worlds.

MM:

That something terrible had happened in New Jersey.

EE:

Orson Welles' broadcast.

MM:

Yes. Yes. And I'm sure I was there, because we had some panicked students.

EE:

That was the thing. The girls were upset something was going to be happening.

MM:

If you find out that's not during my years—

EE:

I think it was '38. It was around Halloween in '38.

MM:

Okay.

EE:

Yes, it's interesting, you're a southern girl going to Rucker. Is this the farthest away you've been from home?

MM:

At that time.

EE:

At that time, okay. But this is the most Yankees you'd ever met at one time.

MM:

Oh, yes. But I went with my Yankee roommate to her home in Detroit while we were together.

EE:

That's nice. That's nice. I guess you were wearing the official uniform.

MM:

Same thing the nurses did. I looked to see where I put my pictures yesterday. Do you want to see them now?

EE:

We'll see them afterwards. That would be all right. So you got the same ones that somebody else—

MM:

We had the same uniform. Our insignia said “HD” where theirs said “RN,” and ours meant hospital dietician. That was the only difference.

EE:

When you got to Butner, which I guess was your first assignment because the rest of them [were] just waiting, tell me about the hospital there. How big was it? What was your job there?

MM:

I cannot remember the details of any of them. We worked with special diets. There was a mess officer and a mess sergeant who worked with the people in the kitchen. We may have worked, and I think probably did, with the ones that prepared the special diets or therapeutic diets.

EE:

So was the mess officer in charge of the kitchen operation?

MM:

The mess officer was in charge. I don't remember if it's just the hospital or the whole camp. But I had two that had been attorneys, and I thought it was so funny to have a mess officer that was an attorney, and they had dietitians under him.

EE:

That's a little backwards, isn't it? [laughs]

MM:

Yes. I guess the mess sergeant ran the kitchen, and he came to us a good bit. But I can't remember relationships.

EE:

So he wasn't afraid to show his ignorance and ask you for some questions?

MM:

Oh, no. They were very friendly with the dietitians.

EE:

So you didn't have some of the static problems.

MM:

We were probably the friendliest officers they had then.

EE:

You might be right. [laughter] Well, I can't imagine, Butner isn't known for being the social location of the universe. What was social life like at Butner?

MM:

Well, it was a camp, you know, that's all there was and there was an army hospital there.

EE:

So what did you all have to do? Was there an Officers' Club?

MM:

Yes.

EE:

How many men versus how many women are based there?

MM:

I'm sure it was way outnumbered, but I don't know. I wouldn't hazard a guess. I doubt there might have been one in twenty or may have been more than that.

EE:

You were close enough for the homefolks to visit. Did they come visit you while you were down there?

MM:

No. But I went home and took people home with me.

EE:

Probably out-of-state Yankees, my guess would be. [laughs]

MM:

Yes. I remember one Alabaman that rode the mule bareback. They were from all over.

EE:

That's one of the neat things to talk to people about that time, because you do get to meet a lot of folks from all over, and all your stereotypes get kind of broken through, where folks are just folks no matter what.

Can you think of a funny story of something from that time? Any character comes to mind?

MM:

Not right off the top of my head. I may later. If I do, I'll tell you.

EE:

What about you? One of the questions that theoretically I'm supposed to ask is embarrassing questions. Is there an embarrassing moment for you?

MM:

At Moore General, I don't know why the dietitian would start the coffee for the mess hall, but I was supposed to start it that day and I knew how, but when I poured the coffee, it was clear. I forgot to put the coffee in. That was embarrassing.

EE:

Considering how many people must have been waiting on you.

MM:

The whole mess hall, I'm sure. But I don't know why I made the coffee. Doesn't look like that would have been my normal job.

EE:

You were at Butner for six months. Then you went to Moore General at Swannanoa [North Carolina], which did they still have the TB [tuberculosis] hospital at Black Mountain then?

MM:

Yes, I think it was there at Oteen at that time. It's at Oteen now.

EE:

Okay, all in the valley.

MM:

Yes. Later, after I went into the Agricultural Extension Service—I didn't stay a dietitian always—there was a 4-H camp where we'd had the hospital.

EE:

So you were there as an army dietitian first and again at a later time?

MM:

And I went back there with the 4-H clubs to 4-H camp.

EE:

Butner was a military camp before the war, during and afterwards.

MM:

And had a hospital.

EE:

And had a hospital.

MM:

Moore General was just a hospital.

EE:

Moore was just during the wartime. And I imagine Rucker was the same way. Was Rucker just—

MM:

I can't remember. They were doing basic training there. It was a camp at that time.

EE:

I know there's a fair number of places in North Carolina that were just on during the war and were deactivated, decommissioned after the war, and Moore was one of those, because you brought it down, you said. How long were you at Swannanoa?

MM:

All these are guesses.

EE:

About six months?

MM:

Six to eight months.

EE:

Were you doing the same kind of work as far as working with special diets and that kind of thing?

MM:

Yes. Except one day I made the coffee, for some reason.

EE:

How much in these two or three jobs with them were you doing the institutional management that you trained in versus as far as like planning the whole menu?

MM:

We weren't doing that.

EE:

You weren't doing that. You were just focusing on special diets.

MM:

Yes. But, you know, institutional management covered more than that. When you went to a hospital like Medical College for an internship, the therapeutics came in, the childcare in the hospital, as well as management, regular menus, etc.

EE:

The nature of the work, was it that much different for you professionally between civilian and military?

MM:

Yes. Johnston-Willis was a little hospital. I was the assistant. I think I did the special diets, but I did management there, too.

EE:

So in the military you just had more of a limited—

MM:

When the dietitian was off at Johnston-Willis, I did some of all of it, yes. When I got ready to be discharged, the dietitian there was retiring, and I was called and asked if I would take her place when I got out of the army. So I did that kind of work then, too.

EE:

You talked about the men you worked with, with the mess officer, the mess sergeant.

MM:

Yes, there was a funeral director in there, too.

EE:

Good gracious. So you had two lawyers and a funeral director helping, telling you all as professional dietitians what to do. How many dietitians were on the staff at Butner and at Moore General?

MM:

I can't remember, but Moore General I have a picture. I think there were twelve. There weren't that many at all three places.

EE:

But that was for different shifts, I assume, or did all of you work nine to five?

MM:

I don't expect we did, but I don't remember. In civilian hospitals you had a seven-to-three shift and a shift that took a break in the afternoon and went back.

EE:

My mom worked third shift in a hospital, and I know what you mean. You go from eleven to seven and it breaks it.

MM:

Dietitians didn't work a eleven-to-seven shift. They worked a broken shift covering the dinner hour.

EE:

Valley Forge. Was it '47 you went there?

MM:

Yes. It seems like I got out in May or June, but I went in in June. I don't think I took all my leave. I probably got out in April or May.

EE:

Did you ever have any interest in staying in the service?

MM:

No, we had to stay two years.

EE:

So when you signed up, it specifically said this is for a two-year hitch, or was it direct?

MM:

It was probably for a two-year hitch or till the war was over, but you couldn't get out until two years were served.

EE:

But when you get out, you're twenty-five, twenty-six and just starting your career, still.

MM:

Yes. But I went straight back to Johnston-Willis.

EE:

So you went back to Johnston-Willis.

MM:

To be a head dietitian.

EE:

To be head of the dietitians, okay. How long were you at that work?

MM:

I got tired of dietetics. I don't think I lasted a year.

EE:

So what did you do after that?

MM:

I retired and went home and helped Daddy paint the house and just stayed at home a while. I think I had just gone constantly since I finished college.

EE:

Yes, you have.

MM:

I think I needed a break. And when I got ready to go back to work, which was several months later, I would say it was six to nine months before I ever started looking for a job. I looked at other fields, like school lunchrooms, and I called Agricultural Extension Service. Are you familiar with it?

EE:

Yes.

MM:

I interviewed in Charlotte [North Carolina] for that, and I got a job working with the 4-H Clubs. So I've chosen my career. See, it's still choosing about that age, about twenty-seven, twenty-eight.

EE:

But you had the experience by being a vet[eran] plus all this other stuff. I'm sure they were very glad to find somebody with your experience to do that kind of stuff. Where did you work?

MM:

Usually they took people who had trained to teach, but they took me.

EE:

Where did you work? Out of Charlotte, or where were you?

MM:

Out of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County. We had thirty-something 4-H clubs. I think it's thirty-one. We were in the schools at that time. They had periods assigned when we were supposed to come in. It was county. We didn't do the city schools.

EE:

How long were you at that work there?

MM:

Fifteen years, because I kept refusing to go. I liked it.

EE:

Well, now, Mecklenburg County is a place that's even farther along getting rid of county things than Guilford is because there's less and less county of Mecklenburg. Now it's all Charlotte.

MM:

I left at a good time. I had some opportunities, but I just didn't want to go. But when this came open—

EE:

Now, what is this?

MM:

Guilford County.

EE:

Same kind of work but in Guilford County?

MM:

Mother and Daddy was still living here at the farm.

EE:

So when did you come up here? Would have been early sixties?

MM:

Sixty-four.

EE:

So you worked with the Guilford—

MM:

Adult work. That would have been home demonstration clubs, presently called Extension Homemaker Clubs.

EE:

How long did you do that work?

MM:

Until '77. My two years in the army counted for two years toward retirement.

EE:

That's nice.

MM:

So I retired at fifty-five.

EE:

So the state gave you some credit back for that?

MM:

I had to buy it. I had to pay my part of it is what I mean by buying it, and so did the federal government, because Extension is under federal, state, and local government.

EE:

What was the best thing about that work that you did?

MM:

Contact with people. No complaining about food. [laughter]

EE:

That sort of comes with that job. The only time people want to talk to you is when they've got a complaint. Is that the problem on the dietitian?

MM:

That's right. And when they're sick, they have more complaints than any other time.

EE:

You're talking 4-H, all I can think of is a whole slew of things that you're doing in 4-H work.

MM:

You worked with an ag[ricultural] agent.

EE:

So the county ag agent is the one that you—

MM:

Yes, but most counties like Mecklenburg and Guilford had enough agents that both men and women were assigned just to 4-H.

EE:

Did you keep up with any of the folks that you went through school with over the years?

MM:

No, I was such a poor correspondent that I didn't, and I regret it. There's one I got in touch with a few years, two, a few years ago for an alumni reunion, and one came. The other wasn't able to.

EE:

The school, I guess, it was what, '63, when they switched from being Woman's to—

MM:

When I came in '64, people were learning how to say UNCG. What did I think?

EE:

Yes.

MM:

Good move.

EE:

Worked out all right?

MM:

Yes. You know, somewhere, it may have been in your mailing, that I read it became Woman's College to the University before I thought it did. I thought that when my sister was here that it was still NCCW [North Carolina College for Women].

EE:

It may have changed while she was in. It was like in the thirties when it switched.

MM:

Well, she came in '34 and I came in '38.

EE:

Yes, the whole system has changed so much since then. That's one thing that makes this time period, in addition to the veterans part, I mean, it is important for the school, because the school is making some changes, too. What do you think the main reason was behind you joining the service?

MM:

My roommates. [laughs]

EE:

Your roommates. That was the sense I got. I just wanted to confirm that. It's sort of like a community dare. “Well, are you going to do it? I'll do it, too.”

MM:

I'd like to say it was patriotism, but I don't think it was. [laughter]

EE:

That's quite all right. I think that's an honest answer.

MM:

We may have all felt a little patriotic, but we may have been dissatisfied with what we were doing. I don't remember.

EE:

Well, I believe by the time you joined, of course, now they had the Battle of the Bulge right there at '44, which was kind of shaky.

MM:

The time we decided, we didn't know when the war would be over, because they got in a long time before I did.

EE:

Well, as a student and as somebody watching the war, reading the papers, thinking about it, were you ever afraid that we would not win that war?

MM:

I don't remember ever thinking about it. I don't believe I would have thought that way.

EE:

When you're young, you're an optimist by nature, I think. And I guess as a dietitian, did you—

MM:

Don't ask me that about these upcoming world decisions to be made.

EE:

Well, you know, one of the things that this is helping people do, especially the college kids that come in and listen to these things, is because you read about the war as a history thing, but it's different from living it. We have never, in my generation and these folks who are coming up now, they don't know what a total war is, where you have to sacrifice by giving up sugar and nylons and all this other stuff, the comforts of life.

MM:

Gasoline. Gasoline.

EE:

Gasoline, that's right. That's right. Can't get replacement tires.

MM:

Can't get cars.

EE:

Really. Really, the role of women—You went in as a professional doing professional work. A lot of reasons this area is of interest to folks is because it's the first time women did a bunch of jobs. And now in the military we've got women fighter pilots, I'm sure, ready to go over to knock on Saddam's [Hussein] front door. What do you think about that, having women doing all sorts of things in the service? Is that a good thing for women and for the service?

MM:

If they want to do it and if they don't have children. I don't think they ought to put their children through that and maybe going to lose their dad anyhow.

EE:

In other words, to you that should be a—

MM:

It would be a personal moral issue, in my mind.

EE:

But you wouldn't put your kids through that?

MM:

No.

EE:

Watching it, having served in it, when you think back to wartime, are there any heroes that come to mind for you?

MM:

You know, I can't remember enough of what people did to know. There was a movie, but I think it was a true story of the chaplains that went down with the ship.

EE:

The five brothers or whatever?

MM:

Yes. That would be it.

EE:

Sullivan Brothers, I think they were.

MM:

They were all war heroes in my mind.

EE:

What did you think of Franklin and Eleanor [Roosevelt]?

MM:

You know, my mother was a staunch Republican, and I'm not sure I had a thought by myself back then. I'm basically a staunch Democrat now.

EE:

So there were [Wendell L.] Willkie buttons around the house?

MM:

So I didn't do my own thinking. I know I didn't think it was terribly important. I sort of admire Eleanor. You know, I've read a book of hers. I don't think that I had real thoughts of my own about him.

EE:

Yet your working was very independent. Do you think that being in the service made you more independent than you would have been otherwise?

MM:

Maybe.

EE:

Growing up on the farm kind of makes you independent to begin with, I think. I think you have a different constitution.

MM:

But I did let her declare my politics, and after she came to live with me after Daddy died, I took her to the polls and went in and pulled the switch for her and pulled mine the other way, because I never voted a straight ticket, so wasn't quite one against one.

EE:

Didn't quite cancel each other out then. So you took care of her after. So when did she pass on?

MM:

[Nineteen] Eighty-two.

EE:

That's a nice thing to be able to take care of your folks.

MM:

She lived with me almost ten years.

EE:

That's good. That's good. Anybody else in your family go in the service?

MM:

No.

EE:

If a young woman were to come to you and say, “I thinking about joining,” what would you tell her?

MM:

What branch?

EE:

That would be one of your first questions?

MM:

Yes. I would tell her to join as a nurse or a dietitian, but I'm about not to believe in war. I'm about to be a pacifist.

EE:

This got you worried, what's going on now?

MM:

What?

EE:

Does what's going on now got you worried?

MM:

Yes. For y'all. Not for us old people.

EE:

What's different? What's different about now than then?

MM:

We were defending ourselves with Japan, weren't we? I mean, I don't know how much we knew ahead of time, but I think we were. And I think we almost had to get involved with Europe, don't you? I don't think we have to do this.

EE:

What's scary is the difference in eagerness, maybe.

MM:

Yes. Excuse me if I offend your politics, but we've got a hawk in the White House. That's one problem. I just think that we've flouted our wealth and misused it and not helped the poor people of the world till they're rising up against us in the form of terrorism. That's too simply stated, but that's part of my problem with telling anybody to go to war now. I would only go if I was going to be helping somebody that was hurt, and that would be as doctors, professional fields.

EE:

That's the reason a lot of folks make a career out of that. That's what they want to do when they take them out of their areas. Well, I would engage you in a long conversation on current events, but that's not the reason I'm going to put this on tape.

MM:

I know. [laughter]

EE:

But suffice to say, we may have a conversation after this tape is over with.

You were only in for a short period of time, two years in your life. Did it make a difference? You got out two years earlier on your retirement. That was helpful.

MM:

Yes.

EE:

What lasting impact did that time in service have on you?

MM:

That's a good question. It broadened my thinking about people and where they were from. It's a little bit like traveling. It's a broadening experience.

EE:

Did anything in your service time ever scare you? Did you ever have an experience where you felt out of water?

MM:

I don't think so, no.

EE:

Doesn't sound like it, which is good. That's good to have a story that doesn't have that kind of thing. Did you ever do any GI Bills? Use the GI Bill for anything?

MM:

No. No, the only thing I've got out of it was two years on my retirement.

EE:

Well, I know a fair number of folks that say if it's an even trade, I'll go two for two, because that will make it on the back side. That's basically getting double pay for it is what happens, which is nice, which is nice. Anything about your service time or about being a WC grad, because I haven't asked you about did you want to share something with us?

MM:

I don't think I had as good a time in college as most people do, because—

EE:

You were working too hard.

MM:

I was too worried about keeping up.

EE:

You mean you actually took it serious?

MM:

It wasn't my innate intelligence, because I've gone back to graduate school and taken courses and made A's. It was that I didn't have preparation for what I was competing with.

EE:

By coming from a smaller school?

MM:

Right. And I regret that I didn't have as good a time as some other people did. [laughs]

EE:

What was the hardest course there for you?

MM:

Probably diet therapy. No, I don't know. Maybe it was physiological and food chemistry. I was out of school a semester between my general chemistry and taking those two, and it made it hard. I made A on general chemistry and C on that.

EE:

There's always something that sticks in your craw. If you care about it, it hurts.

MM:

I was just a B and C student all the way through, but chemistry was new to me in college.

EE:

Because you didn't have that?

MM:

Didn't have it in high school.

EE:

Well, I'm glad you got yourself back to Greensboro.

MM:

Me, too. I found a Spanish book the other day. I still saved a few books. Said it's time I learned a little more Spanish. We've got more Hispanics in this country than we have Afro-Americans.

EE:

That's what I've read just in the last. Although I think in our area it's probably still more.

MM:

I do, too.

EE:

You go out west, it's all Hispanic compared to no African Americans. We'll talk about current events after this tape is over. But we've been waving the flag a lot, especially since September 11. What's different about patriotism now and then?

MM:

Oh, as far as behind what we were doing then but opposed to what we may do now.

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

EE:

You know, I talk to people about symbols, and the flag is a powerful symbol for somebody who's been in the service. And yet how it's used is important, you know. And as I say, I ask you about patriotism, how you feel about it now?

MM:

I'm not doing any flag-waving. I don't think we need a draft. I mean, I hope we don't need a draft.

EE:

And if we did have a draft, how would you feel about women being in the draft?

MM:

I think it would be okay with a consideration for children.

EE:

What about women in combat?

MM:

If they want to be in the service and equal in the other ways, then they should do that, too.

EE:

I'm concerned, so I'm all with you on being careful on where we go from here on out. I know what you mean.

Well, on behalf of the school, on a beautiful, gorgeous day, you've taken an hour of your time, but I certainly do appreciate you sitting down with us.

MM:

Well, I've enjoyed reminiscing.

EE:

Well, we thank you, and we'll take a look at those pictures now. Transcriber, wherever you are, thank you. Bye.

[End of interview]