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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Veronica Eustice, 2003

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Object ID: WV0274.5.001

Description: Documents Veronica Dabrowski Eustice’s early life and nursing education in Brooklyn, New York; her military service with the Army Nurse Corps during World War II; and her personal life after the war.

Summary:

Eustice describes her family and their Polish heritage; her decision to become a nurse; and her training at Saint Catherine’s Hospital in Brooklyn, including the general nursing program, rotations, shifts, and daily life as a student.

Eustice also remembers basic training at Fort Dix and her work in the orthopedic unit at the hospital, describing her shifts and types of work; her uniforms; working with bone graft patients; and working with WACs. Topics from Eustice’s overseas duty include her travels around Kassel, Germany; the condition of the town after the war; her work in a general hospital for American soldiers; the process of marrying an American GI in Germany; and returning to the United States on a ship carrying French war brides.

Eustice also describes her husband’s family history; her post-war life in Hackensack, New Jersey, and Maryland, including her return to the nursing profession; and her opinions on women in the military.

Creator: Veronica Dabrowski Eustice

Biographical Info: Veronica “Ronnie” Dabrowski Eustice (b. 1923) of Brooklyn, New York, served with the Army Nurse Corps from May 1945 to July 1946, and in 1960 resumed her nursing career in the private sector.

Collection: Veronica Eustice 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:

HERMANN TROJANOWSKI:

Today is Saturday, February 8th, 2003. My name is Hermann Trojanowski, and I'm at the home of Mrs. Veronica Eustice in Hillsborough, North Carolina. We're here to do an interview with Mrs. Eustice for the Women Veterans Historical Project at University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Eustice, if you would give me your full name, we'll use this to test for your and my voice.

VERONICA EUSTICE:

Okay. My name is Veronica Eustice.

HT:

Mrs. Eustice, thank you so much for sitting down and talking to me this afternoon. Could you tell me your maiden name, please?

VE:

My maiden name was [spells] D-a-b-r-o-w-s-k-i.

HT:

Where were you born?

VE:

I was born in Brooklyn, New York.

HT:

And when?

VE:

May 7, 1923.

HT:

Where did you live before you enlisted in the service?

VE:

I lived in Brooklyn, in that same area.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family, about your parents and your siblings?

VE:

My father was Polish, born in Poland, emmigrated to this country when he was a young boy. My mother was German. Well, my mother's mother was German. Her father was Polish. I had four sisters. Did you want to know what happened to them?

HT:

Yes, that would be fine.

VE:

Well, my oldest sister had rheumatic fever as a child; died at the age of forty-something, of heart surgery. My next sister became a nurse, and she's really the reason why I went to nursing school. In those days, there weren't many things for women to do, and I just didn't know what I'd do after high school. But she was a favorite sister, so I decided to go into nursing. A third sister is the only one left alive now. She married early. She was a housewife all her life. And then I had a youngest sister, who died of cancer.

HT:

And what about your parents? You said your father was from Poland and your mother's family was also from Poland. What part of Europe, do you recall?

VE:

My father was born in a place called [spells] M-o-r-u-s-y, and I'm not sure—I think it's somewhere around Kraków. But I'm not sure.

HT:

And on your mother's side?

VE:

My mother's side, they were born in—well, I guess her father and mother came from about the same place in Poland. I think it was around Ponza[?], and that was one of those areas that was German and Polish.

HT:

Did you attend high school in Brooklyn?

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall what the name of—

VE:

Oh, yes. I went to Girls High School, and at that time it was a very fine school. Had to be tested to get in. I don't know if you've ever heard of the Delaney sisters [Sadie and Bessie, civil rights pioneers].

HT:

Yes.

VE:

Okay. Mrs. [Sadie] Delaney taught me home economics at Girls High School. One thing I remember about her is she always said, “Never repeat a flavor.” For all my life, I've remembered that, and if I have tomatoes in the salad, I don't dare have tomatoes in anything else. I can still hear Mrs. Delaney telling me, “Never repeat a flavor.”

And then I went to nursing school in Brooklyn. It was a hospital school, St. Catherine's Hospital Nursing School.

HT:

Is that spelled with a “K” or a “C”?

VE:

“C.” And that, like everything else, is gone now; has been for a number of years.

HT:

That was St. Catherine's Hospital?

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Did you attend college?

VE:

Not until, oh, years and years later. I went to college in Maine, just for two years. I think it was the kind of deal where they gave you credit for life experiences.

HT:

Right. So after high school, after you graduated from high school, you came to St. Catherine's Hospital and entered nursing school there.

VE:

They had a nursing school.

HT:

When was that, do you recall?

VE:

Well, I got out in 1944, so it was '41 to '44. I spent the war years there.

HT:

Okay. What made you decide to go to St. Catherine's?

VE:

That's where my sister had gone, and it was close to home. That's really it, because it was close to home.

HT:

Did you stay on campus, or did you—

VE:

No, I stayed on campus. In those days, we were the staff for the hospital, so we really, you know, we had supervisors, but the nursing students were the nursing staff for the hospital. So we went to school for three years, and that was with maybe two weeks vacation. It was like a job. It wasn't like a normal college, where you got the summer off. So we had three full years of study.

HT:

What was your specialty?

VE:

We didn't have specialties in those days.

HT:

General nursing?

VE:

General nursing.

HT:

What was a typical day like?

VE:

Well, we worked what we called split shifts, so we might work—if we were lucky, we worked from seven in the morning till three. But usually we went to work at seven o'clock and then would be off, either from ten till two or eleven till three, and then go back to work and work till seven. Or we would work evening shifts, which was three to eleven, or nights. As I say, we did the work on the units, with senior nurses supervising us, and supervisors.

But we learned by doing, although in those days, you know, there wasn't that much going on in nursing or in medicine, so we didn't do any of the things that nurses do these days. The doctors even took blood pressures, because we had interns and there was none of the high tech—

[Interruption]

VE:

So I can remember during my last year, we had a big, big deal when some—and I can't remember the doctor's name—came in to give the first dose of penicillin to somebody in the hospital. That was the beginning.

HT:

That's quite unusual.

VE:

That was [unclear] is when it started.

HT:

Now, who were your instructors in nursing? Were they doctors and nurses?

VE:

Both. Doctors and nurses. Doctors would teach. We had one of the professors from—I can't remember the medical school—who taught us anatomy and physiology, and then someone from the school taught us Materia Medica, which is pharmacology. Then the doctors would teach OB/GYN [obstetrics and gynecology] surgery and that sort of thing, and then somebody from the college taught us nutrition. So we had people, and I couldn't tell you the name of the school, but we had college professors teaching us some things, and then the doctors would do things.

HT:

So, it was a course of clinical as well as book learning.

VE:

Yes. Oh, yes. Oh, sure. We learned anatomy and physiology. Nursing techniques, of course, were taught by the nurses in the hospital, the nursing staff, the teaching staff of the hospital. We learned how to make beds, that sort of thing. But it was right there, going to classes every day, including Saturdays. If you worked seven to three and you had class from—you might have two hours of class in that time.

HT:

When you graduated, did you have to take some sort of exam?

VE:

Oh, yes, we took boards, state boards.

HT:

What did you think of the caliber of the instructors, the nursing and the doctors?

VE:

I thought they were good. I mean, I had nothing to compare. But thinking back now, I think they were good. They were well-qualified instructors. But as I say, they taught us anatomy and physiology, and then that was a grind. And they really taught us. We weren't like doctors; we didn't get bodies to handle, but we did learn.

HT:

Was it a Catholic hospital?

VE:

This was a Catholic hospital. We had nuns.

HT:

Nuns—which order, do you recall?

VE:

Dominicans.

HT:

And they ran the hospital, I assume.

VE:

They ran it.

HT:

They were the administrators, I assume.

VE:

Yes. They ran it, is more like it. [Trojanowski laughs.] They really did.

HT:

Was it a large hospital?

VE:

Well, as hospitals go, as they went in those days, it was—I would say maybe it was a 300-bed hospital, with a separate maternity hospital. Of course, in those days, maternity was a big thing. You know, war years; we were having babies all over the place. But that was a special hospital, and we would have our—I don't know, I think a three-month rotation. And that was busy, busy, busy. It was nothing to deliver three or four babies in an eight-hour shift.

HT:

So, did you help with maternity as well?

VE:

Yes.

HT:

So you rotated through the wards.

VE:

We rotated through all the services. We went to OR [operating room], surgical nursing, medical nursing, pediatrics, central supply. In those days, you know, we prepared all the solutions and instruments, and the equipment, so we worked in everything, dietary, every place.

HT:

I'm assuming your parents approved of you going to nursing school, since they already had a daughter who had done that.

VE:

My mother did. My father didn't.

HT:

Oh, really?

VE:

No. My father didn't want—my father thought that his girls should put themselves through college, write poetry and books, and study on the side. No, he didn't—my father died when I was high school, but I think almost the last thing he ever said to me was, “I understand you want to be a nurse. I don't think you should do that.” He wanted me to do something. You know, he wanted me to be a writer.

HT:

What line of work was your dad in?

VE:

He was an intellectual. He worked for a newspaper, and it was The [New York] Times, but the Polish Times, in Brooklyn—in that part of Brooklyn—and he wrote for them.

HT:

And your mother?

VE:

My mother was a housewife. But my father was—he was a patriot. He was buried with a little vial of Polish soil. He was very interested in learning. He set up libraries in the churches, and he developed a dramatic society for our church. He was a very busy man.

HT:

After you graduated from nursing school, what did you do next?

VE:

I did private duty for a while, and here again, I don't remember dates too well, or how long. But not too long, because I don't remember more than two or three patients. But it was mainly while I was waiting to hear about my state boards. You know, you took state boards and then you had to wait several months before you got results. Then I joined the army.

HT:

Did you enjoy private-duty nursing? Was that enjoyable?

VE:

Not really.

HT:

I'm not real familiar with private-duty nursing. Is that where you go to someone's house and—

VE:

No, no. It was in-hospital. In those days, you know, people had private-duty nurses, and you were that patient's nurse. It didn't mean that patient was so much sicker than anyone else. He was just somebody who could afford private duty.

HT:

So they paid you.

VE:

They paid through the hospital.

HT:

Okay. To sort of—

VE:

To be there with a nurse. No, I really, I didn't enjoy that too much.

HT:

You mentioned a few minutes ago about doing private-duty nursing before you joined the military. What made you decide to join the military?

VE:

Well, partly because the pay was so good. My mind thought of something like $300 a month, but my husband tells me that was way too high. It was never that much. But the pay was good, and, you know, it was the idea of going places and seeing things—not only the pay but they took care of your meals and housing.

HT:

How did your family feel about you joining?

VE:

Well, my mother—the war was still going on, and she was afraid I'd be killed, so she—but she never tried to stop me. She just took whatever her children, just lived with whatever her children decided to do.

HT:

Now, you were over twenty-one when you joined. Correct?

VE:

Yes.

HT:

So your mother did not have to sign.

VE:

No, no.

HT:

What did your friends and your siblings think about you joining up?

VE:

Well, my sister had joined the Army Air Force[s], the one who was a nurse, yes. So, you know, it was—and I guess, you know, I don't know how many siblings you have, but in my family there was always one who meant a little bit more, and this one was somebody who—she and I were very close. I guess that had something to do with it, but it was the idea that there was a lot more going on than there was in the hospital. I don't know. I guess I just never thought of trying to find a job in another hospital or anything like that. I probably could have very easily, because the nurses were all going off to war.

HT:

Do you recall when this was, when you joined?

VE:

It was '44, late '44, because I got out of the nursing school on D-Day. June 6th.

HT:

You graduated June 6th.

VE:

June 6th of '44.

HT:

Of course, I forget D-Day wasn't in the news, as it would be today, instant news and that kind of stuff. So, you learned about it—

VE:

Well, we learned about it later, yes. And in those days, I knew there was a war going on, but I didn't read the papers the way I do now. I was young. I was not interested.

HT:

What made you decide to join? I think you said that you joined the Army Nurse Corps [ANC], as opposed to—

VE:

Yes.

HT:

What made you—because your sister joined?

VE:

Yes, partly it was, and because I wanted to do more than just work in private duty in this little hospital. It was like home-hospital, and it still had nuns running it. I don't know if you've ever had any experience with nuns, but they're always supervising you. You know, even when you're a big grown-up woman making your own way, they're still going to tell you what to do. So that was part of it.

HT:

Do you recall the process that you had to go through in order to join the Army Nurse Corps?

VE:

Not a lot of it. I remember going down to somewhere in Brooklyn to join, and I had an interview with somebody. And then, the thing I do remember, is that I was told to go next door and join the Red Cross, and it cost a quarter. Had to pay a quarter to join the Red Cross, and I got a Red Cross nursing pin, although we were not part of the Red Cross, but you had to join the Red Cross.

I don't remember the details about getting on the train and going anyplace, but I went to Fort Dix in New Jersey for my basic training. I remember part of that. I remember the barracks. I remember how we used to buy toothbrushes to scrub the floors before the inspection, and that sort of thing. Our barracks never got to win inspection, so I think they gave us a booby prize. We won the drill at graduation day.

HT:

Do you recall how long basic training was?

VE:

I think it was three months.

HT:

Oh, really.

VE:

At least three months. Yes, I think it was three months. We were among the last classes in.

HT:

Right. Did you have to go through calisthenics and parades and all that?

VE:

Oh, yes, and bivouacs and marches. Sure, marches with full field packs, all those things. I don't think we did any nursing at that time. It was mostly, it was calisthenics and drill and classroom stuff.

HT:

Learning to be an army person.

VE:

That's right. Learning how to salute.

HT:

Do you recall what the typical day was like during basic training?

VE:

I've forgotten, really, the typical day. I can remember, you know, there's things that I remember more. I remember overnights and bivouacs and sleeping in tents and eating C-rations or whatever they were, and having a great old time, you know, because it was like going to camp, even though we did do marches and stuff. But we were young.

HT:

And these were all nurses.

VE:

These were all nurses, all women. There were no male nurses in those days.

HT:

Did they give you training for overseas duty? As I've talked to other nurses, I think they had to climb these ropes on sides of ships and this sort of thing, with full packs.

VE:

No. When I decided to go overseas, I went to Columbia, South Carolina, I think. I've traveled around the country a lot since then, so I get these things mixed up. I know it was—when I decided to go overseas, it was South Carolina. I was there for maybe six weeks. I'm not sure of the time, but I don't remember that very much. I don't remember the training.

HT:

Now, when you went into the Army Nurse Corps, were you automatically an officer?

VE:

Oh, yes.

HT:

Even during basic training you were an officer.

VE:

Oh, yes. They explained that to us. They said because we had something to offer the army, we were—and I've explained that to my husband many, many times. He went in as an enlisted man. I said, we were told that we had something to offer the army, and I guess it just made sense to make officers out of us.

HT:

Sure. Now, who were your instructors in basic training?

VE:

Major somebody, and Major somebody else.

HT:

They were officers.

VE:

Oh, they were officers, yes.

HT:

Women officers.

VE:

Women and men. Sure, that was good duty for some of those second lieutenants. They got to do calisthenics with the nurses.

HT:

Do you recall any interesting incidents that happened during basic that stand out in your mind, something unusual?

VE:

Nothing. As I say, you know, I remember bivouacs and I remember getting tapped as the cabins—we were in Cabin Four. I remember getting it ready for inspections, and all this crazy stuff we used to do about scrubbing floors and [unclear]. But I don't remember much else about it.

HT:

How many women were in each cabin? Because I was in a barracks when I was in basic training with about fifty guys.

VE:

No. I would say ten, maybe, ten, twelve. I don't know how many barracks. We were Barracks Four, and I don't remember how many barracks there were. I remember the sanitary facilities were something I wasn't used to, you know, just a big room with no doors.

HT:

How did you feel about the lack of privacy?

VE:

In those days it didn't bother me. I mean, I was young.

HT:

And plus you'd been through three years of nursing school, where you probably lost a lot of your privacy as well.

VE:

Well, no, we had private rooms there. Sure, we didn't have our own bathrooms, but we had privacy. We had nuns, you know. Nuns wouldn't let little girls run around. No, but that didn't bother me. As I say, I was young and it was an adventure. And the war was winding down, and I wasn't blasé about the war and all that, but this was fun in a lot of ways.

HT:

After graduating from basic training at Fort Dix, where was your next duty?

VE:

I stayed at Fort Dix, and it was in an orthopedic unit. We had a lot of men who had been shot up, and they were doing a lot of bone grafts, and that's what I remember the most. That was the work. The one thing I do remember is the contrast. You know, we did all of the work and we learned a lot in nursing schools, but we were still pretty well supervised.

Now I was a big second lieutenant and I had three wards under me. I was the nurse. The supervising nurse was the head nurse of these three wards, had no idea about leading or supervising. Fortunately, we had WACs [Women's Army Corps] who did a lot of the work, so they were giving injections that I had never been taught to do, and I had to learn that.

HT:

So, did you have medics working with you as well, or just WACs?

VE:

Oh, medics, too. No, but men, too, but—I don't know what they called them. They weren't called medics. I don't remember.

HT:

Do you recall about how many people you had to supervise?

VE:

If you had three wards—no, I don't.

HT:

But I would imagine quite a few. Were you responsible for the wards twenty-four hour a day?

VE:

No, no. I'm thinking of one of those jobs where I was either the night nurse or the evening nurse. Of course, during the day there were a lot more people around.

HT:

That's quite a bit of responsibility when you're on first.

VE:

Yes, for somebody who's never been taught to have—or, if I had had responsibility, I didn't know it. It wasn't quite so apparent. You know, there was always somebody to call when we were in school, even though when we got to be senior nurses we did have a lot of experience and a lot of responsibility, but always, there's always somebody to call if we needed help.

HT:

You say this was orthopedic unit. And that's all?

VE:

It was all orthopedics, yes. It was mainly people who were having bone grafts.

HT:

From injuries they had sustained over in Europe, I guess.

VE:

Yes, yes. So, there was a lot—it was just typical men with a lot of dressing changes, men who needed—mainly. That's the one thing I remember is this being, having to be so careful with the technique with these bone injuries, because of infection. So that sticks out. And then, of course, I remember show people coming, having shows.

HT:

Who were some of the—

VE:

Who, who? I don't remember.

HT:

But people like perhaps Bob Hope—

VE:

Yes. Not Bob Hope. It would be somebody like [actor] Dick Haynes. I remember being outside and hearing him sing. Bob Hope went overseas. He didn't waste his time at Fort Dix.

HT:

But you were fairly close to New York City.

VE:

Yes, I was, so I could go home often.

HT:

You could go home whenever you wanted to.

VE:

Sure. Of course, I worked the regular week schedule, so I didn't always—I often worked weekends. But I could, sure. It was just a train, take and train and go home. In those days, trains and subways took you anyplace you wanted to go.

HT:

What did you do during your off-duty hours?

VE:

Well, we'd go to the officers club, and just a lot of group stuff. Had dates. I don't remember anybody special, but, you know, just really sit around and talk.

HT:

What was a typical day? How many hours a day did you—

VE:

We worked eight hours a day, eight hours straight, on different shifts. I remember working nights and having to do private duty for somebody. I don't remember now who he was or why, but he looked like a death camp survivor, you know, someone who was almost a skeleton. And I can remember sitting with that man, doing private duty with him.

HT:

[Unclear] Was that to earn extra money?

VE:

No, no. It was because he needed that kind of care.

HT:

Oh, I see. Okay.

VE:

No, no. It was the army giving him that kind of care.

HT:

You had orders to do that sort of thing.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

What type of uniforms did you wear?

VE:

We had brown and white seersucker dresses. You don't remember Diane von Furstenberg [clothing designer, famous for the wrap dress]? Her dresses that she, you know, they're sort of pullover things—but brown and white striped seersucker, and seersucker caps. We wore caps in those days. I can remember getting all my—that's one thing I remember, getting all those uniforms, you know, the issues, and then having an Eisenhower jacket made. That was a big deal.

HT:

I'm assuming you had a full complement—did you have white uniforms as well?

VE:

No, no, no. This was the uniform during war, and it was khaki. You know, nurses wore blue and red before that, but now we wore ODs [olive-drab] and we were issued an OD green coat, and the Class A uniform, which was a skirt, one color, and then we were issued two dresses. One was a kind of a dark khaki, and the other one was the pink, which is that kind of gray-pinky looking thing, and the coat and the overseas cap, and the regular hat.

HT:

The Hobby hat?

VE:

Yes. And shoes and hose.

HT:

Did you have to have them tailored to make them fit, or were they a pretty good fit?

VE:

A pretty good fit, yes. Kind of small in those days.

HT:

If I can just back up for a second, when you enlisted, did you have to take a test of some sort, or a physical, do you recall?

VE:

I had to take a physical, but I don't remember it at all. I remember my physical coming home after the army, you know, when I was discharged, but I don't remember them. But I'm sure we did; I just don't remember. I remember the quarter for the Red Cross.

HT:

Do you recall what people in general thought about women joining the military during those days?

VE:

Oh, I think it was considered a good thing. I think a lot of the women in my class joined either the army or the navy. Of course, I was nearsighted, and the navy didn't—you know, I didn't even consider the navy, because you had to test 20-20 vision.

HT:

The army didn't have that requirement?

VE:

No, no. I don't know why. I guess serving on a ship—I don't know. But I didn't even try to join the navy. It was the army.

HT:

During your time in basic training, did you ever have duty on KP [kitchen patrol]?

VE:

No.

HT:

Because I did when I was air force.

VE:

No.

HT:

What about the other women that you met? Have you kept in touch with any of them since then?

VE:

Not in basic training. Now, I did for a while keep track, because, you know, when I went overseas I had two friends who were my bridesmaids, one for the German wedding and one for the American. I kept in touch with one over the years, but she's gone now. But most of them, no, I didn't keep in touch with very many of them. I remember some of them from basic training, but I still have a little tiny jar of powder, sachet powder that one of my friends gave me as a Christmas present. I've kept it all these years, don't know why.

HT:

After you graduated from basic training, was it up to you, or were you given orders to join the orthopedic unit?

VE:

No, we were assigned. We were assigned.

HT:

You were assigned. You had no choice.

VE:

I don't think I had any choice. I might have, but no. I was a little Catholic girl. I didn't ask for things like—but that was fine with me. I mean, I liked being that close to home.

HT:

Do you recall what the hospital was on base where you were? Did it have a specific name or unit?

VE:

No. It was probably—well, I don't remember. It was a general hospital. It was a huge hospital, a general hospital, but I don't remember.

HT:

So, the hospital, there were the orthopedic units and other units as well inside this big huge hospital?

VE:

Oh, yes. Yes.

HT:

It sounds like you enjoyed your work.

VE:

Oh, yes. Well, I enjoyed everything in those days. You know, I was young. Life was fun. I didn't have a lot of worries. And I did. I can't remember too many of the people, but we had fun after work and we had fun working, because we were working with young men who had been shot up, but they were alive and getting better.

HT:

And that was probably very rewarding.

VE:

Sure. And, you know, they were just fun to be with. They were not like kids, but you know, we were young people helping each other. Not helping each other; we were doing the helping. But we were young people, and the average GI is a pleasant person.

HT:

Did you receive any additional training once you got to orthopedic ward or unit?

VE:

No, just orientation, because it was, basically, general nursing.

HT:

And how long did you serve with this unit?

VE:

I don't remember, but one day I saw a notice on a bulletin board asking if people wanted to go overseas, and if they did they were to sign up. So I signed.

HT:

What made you decide to do that?

VE:

I just thought it would be a good thing. And I thought, “I've never been anyplace. It would be a good thing to do.” I remember visiting a friend—went to dinner with a friend and her husband, and told them that I had signed up. And they were almost like being shocked. “Don't you realize you could get killed out there?” Of course, at that age you're invulnerable, and the war was just about over.

HT:

Right. [Unclear] for overseas training. Is that correct?

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Did you go to Columbia, South Carolina?

VE:

Columbia, South Carolina.

HT:

Which is the capital.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Was this Fort Jackson, by any chance? Because that's where [unclear].

VE:

I think so. Yes, I think so. And there again, I don't remember much about it. I remember silly things like being someplace with a friend and being told that Southern ladies drink in their homes, so you can't go to a bar in this town. And, of course, drinking was no big deal, except that you could go to the officers club and have a drink, and that, to me, was a big deal.

HT:

Was this your first time out of the New York area?

VE:

Yes.

HT:

And first time going south. What did you think of South Carolina?

VE:

I just have a vision of darkness. You know, I don't guess we stayed too long. I don't remember too much about it except sort of a dull-looking town.

HT:

And then from Columbia, South Carolina, where did you go next?

VE:

I went to Fort [sic- Camp] Kilmer to be processed to be sent overseas.

HT:

Where is Fort Kilmer?

VE:

Fort Kilmer's in New Jersey. I can't tell you exactly where, but it's in New Jersey, and it was an embarkation and a disembarkation point. Then I don't remember much about it, except that I went overseas on the George Washington.

HT:

The USS George Washington?

VE:

USS George Washington. That's the one Harry Truman took overseas when he went to World War I.

HT:

This was a troop ship?

VE:

That was a big troop ship.

HT:

More a converted ocean liner?

VE:

No, I don't think so. No. No, it wasn't, because I guess, I don't know. I guess they had put those in dry-dock after Harry was through with it. I don't remember much about it except that I'm sure we slept in the hold, went down somewhere in hammocks, and it wasn't very pleasant.

HT:

Do you recall how long the voyage lasted?

VE:

I want to say ten days, but I'm not sure.

HT:

I've talked to other women who went overseas and talked about zigzag. Did you do that sort of thing, where the ship had zigzagged to avoid German submarines?

VE:

No, because the war was over.

HT:

Oh, the war was over by this time.

VE:

The war was over by then, and I was going over for occupation.

HT:

Oh, I see. Do you recall when you went over, by any chance?

VE:

Sure. In January of '46.

HT:

So you were at home, or back in the States, rather, during VE [Victory in Europe] and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall where you were each time?

VE:

I remember VJ Day, and it seems to me I'd just finished basic training on VJ Day. I just don't remember VE Day. I don't remember when that was.

HT:

May 8, '45, and VJ was August 14, '45.

VE:

Yes, I remember August.

HT:

So, this was the middle of the winter of '46 that you went over, so it must have been rather uncomfortable and cold.

VE:

It was cold.

HT:

The ship was probably rocking.

VE:

Yes, although it didn't bother me. I remember, just remember, you know, sitting around during the day. We didn't have jobs of any kind. We were just going overseas. And a lot of people. You know, I enjoyed it.

HT:

Who else was aboard the ship other than nurses?

VE:

Men. [laughter] Men. There were men, soldiers.

HT:

So they were going over for the occupation as well.

VE:

They were going over, yes.

HT:

And were there many women aboard, many nurses?

VE:

Yes, but I don't know how many. I remember getting my orders, and I was going to Kassel in Germany. I don't remember where I was when I got orders. I don't know if I got them after getting off the ship. We all went to Camp Lucky Strike in Le Havre [France].

HT:

Why did they call it Camp Lucky Strike?

VE:

They named them all after—there was Camp Chesterfield, Lucky Strike.

HT:

After cigarettes?

VE:

Yes. Oh, in those days, you know, you were issued cigarettes. Sure.

HT:

You said, you've landed in Le Havre.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall how long you stayed there?

VE:

I don't remember how long, and I think I took a train to Kassel. But I don't remember much about getting there, except that we lived—we went to Kassel. We lived in bombed-out apartment buildings, so, you know, there would be part of the building would be gone. The hospital there, it was the 115th General Hospital, and it had been General [Karl Rudolf Gerd] von Rundstedt's [German Army] headquarters, so it was kind of a very modern-looking place.

HT:

So the American army took over a German hospital.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Did you have any contact with the civilian population?

VE:

Only as they worked in the hospital, most of them as maids and cooks and things like that, because Germans wanted to work. That's how they ate.

HT:

And where in Germany is Kassel?

VE:

Frankfurt's the biggest town near, and at that time it had been hit by everybody and it was almost 85 percent destroyed, so there were shells of buildings. And someplace, and I don't remember where, there was a picture of the town, of how it looked before it had been hit. And then when we went back to Kassel years later, someplace there was a picture of what it looked like when we were there. But the thing I remember is that there were no stores. There was no place to buy anything. You went to the PX [post exchange] to do any shopping you wanted to do. But basically it was going to work, you know, going to work and going to the officers club.

HT:

Any chance to go out in the countryside or do any sightseeing or vacation or anything like that?

VE:

Not then. Of course, you know, I can't remember the day of the week, but when I got to Kassel there were five of us, and they had a cocktail party for the five nurses. That's when I met my darling, at the cocktail party. So that was the end of my army career. You know, we sat and talked and talked and talked, and then went our way, merry way. He was on his way home. The way he tells it, he went back to his—am I getting ahead of where you want to be?

HT:

No, no. I just want to make sure that I had enough tape on here.

VE:

But when he went back to his—he was in a unit that was sending him home. He went back and talked about me, and somebody said, “Why don't you go get a date?” So he sent a message with the person getting supplies at the supply depot, saying he wanted a date with me, and that person sent it to our supply person, to the dietitian, who sent it to the chief nurse, who sent it to my room in my unit, my apartment, saying, “Lieutenant Eustice wants a date with you.”

And I said, “Who's Lieutenant Eustice?”

And somebody said, “Oh, you had a nice time. Why don't you go?”

So I did. It had to be later than January, because—much later than January, because—

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

HT:

So you were married March—

VE:

March 14th.

HT:

So, you'd only known each other eighteen days from the time you first were there.

VE:

Yes, but not a full eighteen days.

HT:

You must have gotten there in late—

VE:

Got there in late February.

HT:

February, as opposed to January. Now, once you were married, you had to get out of the service.

VE:

Yes. Well, but wait. You know, I had been raised Catholic and Russell was Protestant, and so that was that, and there was that problem we had to deal with. And then we had to get permission to be married; had to get permission from the army, and then we had to get permission from the Germans, because to be legally married in this country, you had to be legally married in the country in which the marriage is performed.

He, being an adjutant, knew his way around, so he went to see all the people he needed to, to get permission to marry us. It was always—first there was the matter of the religious angle, and he had to see someone from the chaplaincy service. The way he tells it, the chaplain he was talking to was a Methodist minister, and he was going through all the files to see if he could get army regulations that had to do with this, when a little WAC poked him and said, “What's the matter, Lieutenant?” He told her his story about wanting to marry me.

She said, “What's your name? What's her name?” Took the thing into the Catholic chaplain and said, “Father, I need your signature.” He signed it and we got the permission, and then got back to our unit, when the Germans refused to marry us. We had to post banns [make a public announcement of the marriage], they said.

And so there again, another little WAC called the German. He was the recorder of deeds [unclear]. Called this man and said, “You marry those people when they want and how they want.” And he did.

Oh, and there were things like our friend was the mess officer and the motor pool officer, so we needed a ring, and Bill talked to one of the sergeants and said, “I need a ring.”

And he said, “Lieutenant, I'll get it for you, but don't ask me how.” And he did. So they probably paid for my wedding ring with hams or something like that. And he provided us with a wedding dinner, the best food I'd had in a long time. It was a beautiful wedding, and we married in the officers club.

HT:

And that would be an American service—no, the German service.

VE:

The German service? Oh, that had to happen before the American service. We went to this man's office, and here he was in a cutaway, and he had potted plants all over the place, and, of course, he married us in German. And every now and then he'd shake his hand, he'd put his hand out and we'd shake it and say, “Thank you.”

And somebody said, “No, that's just you're acknowledging that what he's saying is true.” So we were married. Years later we went back to Kassel and asked if we could see the records. And boy, within three minutes, somebody brought out the record of our marriage in a big book, date and time.

HT:

Were you sorry that your family couldn't participate in the wedding?

VE:

Partly, but mostly I was in love. [Trojanowski laughs.] I wanted to be married to this man, and I really—if we had gone off in an afternoon and gone off someplace together, it would have been—I was happy to have all the party and everything, but I wanted to marry him. That was the important thing.

HT:

So, once you were married, did you have to get out of the service right away, or how did that work?

VE:

He had to go home first, and then send orders for me. He had to send his discharge orders for me to get orders to come home. In the meantime, I had a trip to Berchtesgaden. You'll have to figure out how to spell that.

HT:

Was that just a little side trip?

VE:

I think it was like a three-day leave, something like that. I don't know why they gave it to me. I certainly wouldn't have done that. I would have said, “This nurse is on her way home. Let's not waste money.” But they did, and I was very—you know, it was a very nice trip. I remember being way, way up in that eagle's nest and having dinner there.

HT:

This was not a honeymoon.

VE:

No, no. No, we had three days in Bad Wildungen, a hotel that belonged—I don't know, I think it was 1st Army Headquarters. I remember having dinner in this huge, huge dining room, when somebody began to play the wedding march, and someone came out with a cake. We both said, “Gee, there must be a bridal couple someplace,” when the cake came to us. And there again, if I remember, you couldn't buy anything. We did buy a painting, but there was just no stores, no place to go. You couldn't go off and have a cup of coffee or anything like that. There just wasn't anything.

HT:

So, where is Bad Wildungen? Where is that?

VE:

I'd have to get the map. It's a spa town, you know. We've been back there, too, and now it's a health center.

HT:

So, how long were you in Germany after you got married?

VE:

Got married in March, and I went home in May, late May.

HT:

I assume you worked in the hospital there.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

What kind of nursing did you do there?

VE:

It was a general hospital and we did general nursing. And then I don't remember very well, but I remember we had one patient, a young man, and I don't know if he had been shot up or—but a really, really sick kid. Most of them were just in for—the thing I remember most is that one of the other nurses and I used to gather up everybody's jewelry and clean it. You know, there wasn't that much to do. It was very easy duty, soldiers mostly not even bedridden anymore.

HT:

So they were not wounded. The war was over by then.

VE:

No, the war was over and it was just a general hospital for American soldiers.

HT:

Was it for American civilians as well, I mean, dependents and that sort of thing?

VE:

Must have been.

HT:

Of course, I'm sure at that time there weren't that many dependents over there.

VE:

No, there weren't. It was military, because there really weren't any dependents. I can remember seeing—you'd see people going down the street with a wheelbarrow with all their possessions in it. You know, there was nothing there. We couldn't drink the water. We used to have halogen tablets that we'd put in our canteens. And I remember the children. We'd get our candy rations, and the children would be there asking for chocolate.

HT:

And chewing gum, probably.

VE:

Yes. And I remember being called to somebody's office one day because I don't think I was ever late getting to duty, but I was just on time, and I would be running down the street to go to the hospital. I remember somebody calling me in and telling me that I should remember to salute when the colonel was coming the other direction.

HT:

Speaking of that, did you have a hard time adjusting to army life, saluting, and the discipline and that sort of thing?

VE:

I must have, because I remember being told at Fort Dix, being told by somebody that I was to rise when a superior officer came into the room, and this was a woman. I think I was a second lieutenant, she was first. And I remember thinking, “Oh, for God's sake,” because as students, in those days you always rose when a doctor walked into the room, and usually the doctor would push you down. But that's all I remember.

HT:

Now, the three months that you were in Germany, I think you said you went to Berchtesgaden and a couple of other places. Did you get a chance to meet any German civilians or anything like that?

VE:

Only the people who worked at the hospital. You know, that was the big deal. You weren't supposed to fraternize. And there wasn't any place to go. I don't know if it was just because our world was so narrow. We'd go to work and then we'd spend the evenings at the officers club, because it was there, or in the apartment. I was learning to play bridge. Wish I had stayed and learned. But that's the sort of thing we did. But, no, there weren't any people. It's just, we would—I remember that the Germans used to make donuts, and they were the same kind of donuts my mother used to make, just fluffy, yeasty donuts, not these round things, but they were—and hot with sugar on the outside. I can remember having donuts and coffee with the Germans around, the little German girls.

HT:

I think you described earlier the devastation to the city and that sort of thing. How did that affect you and the other Americans, to see that devastation?

VE:

Well, you know, it was something—I don't think, I can't say that it was unexpected, but it was a shock at first. But then you got used to it. And every now and then there would be a smell of just an unpleasant odor, but you got used to these bombed-out buildings. I remember after I was married we had a little German maid who took care of the apartment, and she came over one day and showed me a picture of her child, you know, trying to communicate. I asked about her husband. She said, “Russians.” So he had been captured and he was gone. But other than the people who worked for us, there wasn't any contact with anybody else.

HT:

Could you speak German at the time?

VE:

No. You picked up a few words, but, you know, “danke.” [Thank you.]

HT:

“Auf wiedersehen,” [goodbye] that sort of thing. I can't remember if you told me the name of the unit where you were stationed in Germany.

VE:

It was the 115th General Hospital. We've been back and it's now some sort of club. I remember going up to the German guard there and I said, “You know, this used to be a hospital.”

“It is not a hospital any longer,” he said.

HT:

It was a German hospital at one time, maybe.

VE:

No, no. It was German headquarters for their general.

HT:

Headquarters for their general. All right.

VE:

And it was a modern building, modern-looking building, and very nice.

HT:

So when you went back, what had they turned it into at that time?

VE:

I'm trying to remember. It was not a hospital of any kind. It was a club of some sort. And we went by the old officers club where we had been married, and it was now a transportation building of some sort, kind of like union headquarters. I remember we stopped some people going by and said, “You know, we were married there.” And they were completely unimpressed.

HT:

During your, I think you said about fifteen months in the service, did you ever encounter any kind of discrimination against yourself because you were a woman?

VE:

No, because I was there as a nurse. No. And then I would say we were treated like second lieutenants. We were treated very well by the patients. But then, you know, the average soldier in those days was respectful of women.

HT:

But they were young.

VE:

Yes, and young, and we were young, and so we were—

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do, physically or emotionally, while you were in the service?

VE:

I guess taking care of those two patients. The one I remember, the one at Dix who looked like a concentration camp victim, just being with him. I can remember this bony, almost skull.

HT:

Do you recall why he was in that shape?

VE:

I don't remember. I don't remember. He may have been—

HT:

Was he a POW [prisoner of war] at one time?

VE:

He may have been. I don't remember. All I remember is him as a patient, you know, and almost couldn't touch him, because he hurt so badly.

HT:

He was an American.

VE:

He was an American. And then I remember this other young man, and I'll bet Russell knows more about this other patient at Kassel than I do. I don't remember him very well.

HT:

Did you take care of only American patients, or did you ever have any contact with German POWs or any—

VE:

No, no. Only Americans.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid or in physical danger?

VE:

No.

HT:

Do you recall any embarrassing moments?

VE:

I don't think so. Maybe I was a little embarrassed when I was told to salute, but not really, you know. Of course, I'm looking at it now. I might have been embarrassed then. But, no, I don't remember any embarrassing moments. I remember going to dinners, and why—I know there was an air force unit there, and I remember going to a party with flyboys. I remember my sister's husband. They were divorced later on, but I remember he called me from London. He wanted to come to see me, and he said, “How do I get there?”

And I said, “Ask somebody.” I didn't know.

He said, “I'll be flying.”

Well, you know, I couldn't help him. He never did come.

No, I don't remember any embarrassing—I remember spots. I remember walking real fast or running to get to the hospital early in the morning to get to work on time. In those days you could stay out till three o'clock in the morning and get up at seven, ten of seven, and be at work at seven, you know, and never mind it.

HT:

What about humor? Do you recall anything hilarious or humorous?

VE:

Not hilarious. I remember this one little soldier who was bedridden, but he was always going to take me out and we were going to get in a car. We kidded about that we were going to get in there and, “We'll blow a little smoke around and get that cabaret atmosphere,” he used to say. No, I remember that the young men, the soldiers were fun. You know, they were no longer—they were not, except for those two that I remember vividly, they were all on the mend. And, you know, the average American has a good sense of humor. So it was a good change from taking, you know, instead of taking care of cardiac patients or old men and women who were dying of pneumonia and stuff like that, the way you did in nursing school.

HT:

Tell me about your social life in the various places where you were. Do you recall any favorite songs, movies, dances?

VE:

I was never good at jitterbugging; never could do that. Really, a pretty ploddy dancer when I got around to it. The songs were, you know, the old songs. Of course, you don't remember those. Vaughn Monroe used to sing Let it Snow. I remember we would get all—that was [unclear]. It was a good thing. And I remember getting to Kassel. That first day I found a record and a record player, the old Victrola kind of thing, and turned it on and it was somebody singing Going Home from the—was it New World Symphony?

HT:

I think you told me earlier that you graduated from nursing school on D-Day, and you were right in basic training on VJ Day.

VE:

Yes, finished.

HT:

Right. Do you recall anything about the dropping of the atomic bomb over Japan?

VE:

No. I don't remember that.

HT:

Probably wasn't widely publicized.

VE:

I just don't remember. You know, I remember it most, more, later on. I remember it more as a young married woman, you know, when it started to be—it was the should we have or shouldn't we have, that sort of thing. But no, at the time, I don't remember that.

HT:

I think you said that you came home in May of 1946, and did you come back by ship?

VE:

Yes. I remember that I was—you know, I was in love and just ready to go home.

HT:

Because your husband was already back in the states.

VE:

Yes. I remember being there with another war bride, and it was a war bride ship, as a matter of fact, with a lot of French war brides with their babies. We were all told, the Americans were told that this ship—in essence what they told us was now, “This is for them. You're here because you need a ride home, but this is for them.” I remember these French women, some of them holding their babies over the side of the ship so they could piddle into the ocean.

HT:

Oh my god.

VE:

Yes. I can still see that.

HT:

Sort of like Michael Jackson's holding his baby over the balcony.

VE:

Yes. And you know, Chinese babies have their diapers cut out at the back.

HT:

There were Chinese aboard?

VE:

No, no, these were not Chinese, but I'm just comparing them with the Chinese babies, who, the parents make it easy for the kids to squat, because they wear diapers, but they have holes in them.

But this other girl and I—I remember her name was Cecilia, and she had married someone. He must have been Polish, because she referred to him as Steve. His name was Steve. She and I both decided we'd work on the ship, so we worked in the nursery. I don't remember much about the work except that I would get up real early in the morning, go to work, have my dinner at maybe five o'clock, and read some and go to bed, anxious to come home.

HT:

Now, you were already discharged by this time, or were you—

VE:

No, I was on my way home. I had my discharge orders, but then I had to go home and stop at Kilmer and be—

HT:

So you were still active duty at this point.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

You wore a uniform and the whole thing.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Okay. This Cecilia, do you recall her last name?

VE:

No.

HT:

But she was an American.

VE:

She was an American, yes, and she had been married. We were comparing weddings. When I was married, I wanted to wear my pink skirt and my Eisenhower jacket, but the chief nurse said no, I had to wear a Class A uniform, which is that OD-colored thing. Cecilia was telling me about her wedding dress. You know, a lot of girls did that in those days. They'd get parachute silk and have someone make a wedding dress.

HT:

You didn't want that.

VE:

I didn't even think about it. I wanted to get married. I really didn't care about the dress.

HT:

Do you recall the name of the ship that you came back on?

VE:

The Brazil.

HT:

Was that an American ship?

VE:

That was an American. It's called the Brazil. I don't know, it might not have been. But I know we bumped into somebody else who came back on that ship, not at the same time.

HT:

Was this a troop ship or was it a—

VE:

Well, it was a ship carrying war brides.

HT:

A converted liner?

VE:

It might have been.

HT:

So there were no men aboard, very few men.

VE:

Very few men. I don't remember. All I remember is the vision of this baby peeing into the ocean, and working in the nursery—it was just a matter of changing babies and stuff like that—simply to pass time, to get home in a hurry.

HT:

Were you in a stateroom or a cabin? Because I think you said on the way over you were on another troop ship, you were just hammocks.

VE:

No, I was in a stateroom because I was alone. So it must have been a luxury liner or something like that. It must have been. Ought to look that up sometime.

HT:

At this time you were still a second lieutenant, or had you gotten—

VE:

No, I never got promoted.

HT:

Promotions were very rare of the women, even in the nursing corps. It just didn't happen.

VE:

No. I know both my bridesmaids were friends, and they called each other Mabel, so we referred to them as the German Mabel and American Mabel. One stood up for me for the German wedding, and the other one for the American. But Mabel, American Mabel stayed in the service and ended up a lieutenant colonel. But, you know, there were very few generals. And, of course, I—it was a matter of time.

HT:

What impact do you think having been in the military had on your life, immediately after you got out, and in the long-term?

VE:

Well, the obvious impact was that's where I got my husband. Well, I think it changed me from a little innocent girl who might have stayed in Brooklyn all my life and married some nice guy and had children and gone to the Catholic church and so forth and so on—it made me get out and see the world, and married somebody which—I mean that happened to so many people—married somebody from a completely different background.

I mean, he was Protestant. I was Catholic. He had—it was just different people. His father was a businessman. Mine was more of an intellectual. The mothers were the same, but mothers were all the same in those days. And I think it made me see the world. I compare myself to two of my sisters, who never left the home area, and they lived in New York. I mean, New York people are the most provincial people in the world. They can't see beyond New York. So I think it has made me—I married somebody who liked to travel, and I think it made me willing to go anyplace. We did a lot of moving around.

HT:

Where was Mr. Eustice from originally?

VE:

Outside of Chicago. Well, he was born in Hackensack [New Jersey], as was my oldest son. His father was one of those, started out as an office boy and ended up vice president and treasurer of the company. So they moved to the Chicago area when Russell was a young man, and he was raised there. He went to Colgate [University], and he always tells the story about being interviewed for jobs after graduating, and he was offered a job and had a job with IBM, when the man from Vicks VapoRub came along and said he could be part of the Vicks School of Applied Merchandising, which meant they taught you how to be a salesman.

And he said, “You will travel for a whole year. You won't be home in the same town for more than three days, for a whole year—travel all over the country.” And that was for him. That's how he got the job he ended up. That's how he became a salesman, because of this love of travel.

HT:

When you came back to the States, where did you live originally?

VE:

Oh, we lived in Hackensack. His grandmother had had a house, and she was on in years, and we were going to live upstairs in her house. She had made it into a two-story house. We were going to rent the upstairs apartment. She came home, and just two days after I had come home from being discharged, she died. We were left the house, so we lived in Hackensack and we lived in Haworth [New Jersey], and then to South Bend [Indiana], and then to Chicago, and then to New Jersey, and then Washington.

HT:

How soon after you got back to the States were you discharged, do you recall?

VE:

Oh, just a matter of a few days.

HT:

Just a few days.

VE:

Yes. It was just a matter of you got to Kilmer again, and it was a matter of being processed, which meant the physical, and signing papers of some sort. I don't know what else.

HT:

After you were discharged, did you go back to private nursing?

VE:

No. I didn't work at all. “My wife doesn't work.” And, you know, with all that they say about women being liberated as much as we were in those days—you know, women went out to work outside of the homes—when the war was over, we were happy to go back home. Rather than what our children and grandchildren do, we were very happy to go home and raise families and stay home and not work. I didn't go back to work till my youngest son was eleven.

HT:

So you never thought of making the military a career, I assume.

VE:

No. Well, I couldn't anyway; even in nursing I couldn't have.

HT:

Right. Because if a woman got married while she was in the military, she had to leave.

VE:

She had to, yes.

HT:

There were no options.

VE:

No.

HT:

You said that you returned to work when your youngest son was eleven. What type of work did you go back into?

VE:

Went to work in a small hospital outside—we'd been living in Maryland—outside of Washington. A small hospital, because at that point my husband wanted to start his own sales business, sales agency. You know, I hadn't worked in how many years, and as far as he was concerned, “Well, you're a nurse. Why don't you go back to work?” And I thought, why not. It was hard, because there were no refresher courses in those days. So I went back to work in a small hospital that was in the process of building a new hospital. I went to every seminar and workshop and training session, anything that anybody offered, where, you know, the other nurses would say, “Well, I'm not going on my day off. Well, if they pay me, I'll go.” I just ate it all up.

HT:

So, how long had you been away from nursing?

VE:

I had been out, well, let's see. From '46 to '60, I guess; a long time.

HT:

And things had changed quite a bit, I would imagine.

VE:

Things had changed quite a bit, and suddenly everything was different. But as I said, I went to anything I could get my hands on, and there was a lot available. I never gave a medicine without looking it up or calling a pharmacist, because I had to retrain myself. And I worked in this small emergency room, and then we moved into the new big hospital, and I was head nurse of the new big emergency room.

HT:

So, you were in charge of—

VE:

Yes, I was in charge.

HT:

That's quite a bit of responsibility.

VE:

Yes.

HT: How do you think nursing had changed from the time, from '46 to the early sixties? Had it changed as much as it changed in the last forty years?
VE:

It had changed a lot, because, well, medicines were new. There were a lot of new medicines. But there was a lot of information available, so that was easier. And single-use supplies—what's the word? I don't know. But we didn't have a central supply room cooking up fluids anymore. We had—everything was disposable, and that was different, with new procedures all the time. But with the new procedures, you know, they were always—there was always somebody from the drug company to do a class and stuff like that. But everything was new.

I remember when I was in nursing school, when we had heart patients we were told that a patient with heart disease didn't do anything for himself, except maybe [unclear] to die. We fed them; we kept them in bed; we fed them. If we moved them, two people would move them so they wouldn't have to exert themselves. Of course, that's changed. So everything was different.

When we had those patients in the OB hospital, the obstetrical patients, they dangled on the side of the bed after five days. You know, you had your baby. Five days later you'd dangle your feet over the side of the bed. The sixth day you sat in the chair, and the seventh day you could walk. A lot of them ended up with blood clots. And then there we were in the new hospital and they were going home after three days. It was different. Everything was different.

HT:

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

VE:

Oh, in those days, yes. Yes, because it was a chance for the newest everything. Sure.

HT:

Was the military sort of cutting edge of a lot of techniques and things in those days?

VE:

I think so. Sure.

HT:

I think they had to be, because there were so many injured men coming back. You talked about the bone grafts and that sort of thing. They had to be on top of it. All they'd need [unclear].

VE:

Yes, they tried new things. Sure.

HT:

All of these various wounds and things.

VE:

Triage was a new thing, you know. But, oh sure, I mean if there had been no war, I would have gotten my nursing, my RN [registered nurse], and I would have got a job in a hospital, and probably not gone far from home.

HT:

Right. And when you graduated from nurse school you were an RN.

VE:

No. You were a graduate nurse until after your state boards. You took your state boards to get the RN. Then you were an RN.

HT:

Just a couple more questions about World War II. Do you recall what the mood of the country was like during World War II?

VE:

Pride more than anything, I would think. You know, there were the men in uniform all over the place. Before we went to war, I used to hear Eddie Cantor on the radio every Sunday night, and he always ended with this song, Let Them Keep it Over There, that if they feel like a war on some foreign shore, let them keep it over there. And that was the mood of the country then.

But then, of course, Pearl Harbor came, and it changed. There wasn't any question about whether or not we should go. You know, we were at war. I think we were proud of people who went, and men wanted to go. You know, the mood was, “Sure, I'm going.” And, of course, there was the rationing. I don't remember much about that except—my mother didn't approve of smoking, but I learned to smoke in nursing school. And my mother used to get cigarettes for me with—you had to have, I think she had to have points or something, and she would get them for me.

You know, there was that. You couldn't get things. I remember housing. I remember when I came out of the service and we lived in that house in Hackensack, I remember some of the people in that town saying to me, “You know, an awful lot of the war, that house was empty.” And that was, “Somebody could have used that house.” But there were men and women in uniform all over the place. Of course, WACs, that was new, I guess. They didn't have anything like that in the First War.

HT:

The WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy ] would be the navy women.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Matter of fact, there were women in all branches of service.

VE:

Yes.

HT:

Who did you admire and respect a great deal during that time, heroes or heroines? It could be somebody famous, or not so famous.

VE:

I don't know if anybody—different people at different times. I had a friend in nursing school, not a close friend. She was a senior when I was a probie, which is what they called freshmen.

HT:

How do you spell that?

VE:

What? Probie?

HT:

Yes.

VE:

P-r-o-b-i-e. Probationer.

HT:

Oh, okay.

VE:

Probie. Yes, you were a probie for six months, and then you got capped. But she had been engaged to one of the doctors, and he developed a form of cancer, and she took care of him. I remember her coming off duty and then going to take care of him, and seeing her—I could see this pale face, and then just being with him until he finally died. She was kind of a hero. Of course, Ike [President Eisenhower] was a hero.

HT:

Did you ever get a chance to meet anyone famous like Eisenhower or President Truman?

VE:

No.

HT:

How did you feel about President Roosevelt?

VE:

That's interesting. I voted for the first time—when he was running for the fourth time, and that's when I became a Republican, because I didn't think anybody should have a fourth term. And I was right. He was too sick. But no, I just didn't think anybody should have a fourth term, so—although I came from a Democratic family. I remember when he died. I remember some—you know, because he was admired. We never knew he had any handicap. Might have known it, but never really knew it.

HT:

It just wasn't publicized.

VE:

No, it wasn't. And I mean, it wasn't anything that anybody talked about. Nobody really knew. I remember when he died, I remember they played—and I can't remember where I was working at the time—they played funeral music on the radio. We didn't have TV, of course, the whole time. And I remember this old nurse just, she wanted to dig up his bones and have him tried for treason—didn't like him, and complaining about the music. I'd be playing other music. But, of course, on the whole, everybody thought he was a great hero.

HT:

What were your thoughts about Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt?

VE:

Well, she was certainly different. You know, the first woman who was out there doing things. I don't know. I guess I admired her, but I didn't give it that much thought.

HT:

She sort of was very visible, as you said, whereas the other First Ladies had not been quite as visible.

VE:

No. And, of course, you know, Bess Truman came after her, and she was certainly—and it wasn't until later, you know, after we were married and had children, and she was—when she was one of our ambassadors to the U.N. [United Nations], she was more visible after Franklin died, even. I guess I feel more about her then, because before that she was just the wife of the president, and I was too young to care about that.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person, and if so, do you think the military helped make you that way?

VE:

Oh, yes, I do. I think military, and I think marrying the person I did. I think he expected me to be independent and I just—

HT:

Because he was traveling quite a bit.

VE:

He was traveling, yes. He was traveling, and he would just assume that I would do certain things. Well, I guess I was—I'm thinking of how I went into nursing school. I wanted to be a nurse, and yet I wasn't sure. You know, if something better had come along, I would have picked a better thing, but there weren't that many things. I remember Sister Ildephonse calling me one day because I hadn't made up my mind. I could still hear her saying, “Miss Dabrowski, are you coming to nursing school or not?”

And I was too scared of nuns to say, “I'm not sure.” I said, “Yes, sister,” and I became a nurse. So it was partly independent and partly too scared not to be independent.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or a trendsetter when you were in the service?

VE:

Only in my family, and going overseas. Only in my family, I mean, with women being in all over the place. I don't know how many members of my class went in the army and navy. A lot of them did. There were girls who didn't get married the day after they got out, but a lot of them did. So in that sense I wasn't, but in my own family, going overseas and marrying somebody without asking anybody or telling anybody—

HT:

Somebody you'd known for only eighteen days, which was quite unusual.

VE:

Yes, except that my friend Mary Forsmark said that when you find yourself at a point like that and you know that it's right to do it, that's God telling you, you should do it. And I never had, as yet, any doubts that that was thing to do, and never had—

HT:

Here you are, like fifty-six years later—

VE:

Fifty-six years later and—

HT:

The right decision, apparently.

VE:

Yes, absolutely.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a feminist?

VE:

Yes and no, in the sense that I'm glad that somebody pushed for rights for women. But here all these years later, the big thing is, I mean, they want [unclear]. I mean, it's sort of—I don't care for. And the right they have is the right to be sexually as active as they want to be, and have abortions. There are still women who don't have the right to go out and leave home and not have to work to help support the family. I mean, in one sense, women have a lot of rights. In another sense, I think they've lost a lot. You know, we were—I don't think we were ever treated like—I don't know what word to use—chattel.

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

VE:

No, I think women have lost a lot. I think they needed certain things. They needed the right to go to work, and to compete with men in jobs. My husband always used to say that in a family, you had to decide, if there were two people working, which job was going to be the job. It could be the man's or the woman's, but if she were being transferred, then he had to go along, or whatever.

HT:

I think a lot of families are finding that very difficult today, because it's two careers, and one person gets a promotion, that makes it so difficult for the other person.

VE:

Yes. But you have to decide which—who's going to be first? I think children have lost a lot, because the women aren't there. And I think mothers make better mothers than fathers do. I don't care what anybody says; they really do. So, I don't know. They needed to have somebody speak up and liberate them and free them, but I think they've lost a lot.

HT:

Have any of your children been in the military?

VE:

Our youngest son was in for three years, three and a half years.

HT:

In which branch of the service?

VE:

He was in the army.

HT:

Do you think that you and your husband had both been in the army, that influenced him to join?

VE:

No, he was—you know, our kids were all in that sixties generation when the hippies were all over the place. They were—but he didn't know what to do with his life. He's still not—he's fifty years old. He's still not sure what he wants to do when he grows up.

HT:

You have three sons.

VE:

We have three sons, yes.

HT:

No daughters.

VE:

No. Three daughters-in-law. But no, he just went in at a time when he didn't know what to do. He says, “I went in, and all of a sudden I was raising my right hand.” And he said, “So suddenly, there I was.” But I'm sorry he didn't stay in, because he would have been a good—it would have been a good career for him.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women in combat? You know, recently, well, ten years ago, women flew combat missions in the Gulf War.

VE:

Yes. Well, you know, women—yes, I think they can do as much as men can in certain areas. I don't think they belong on submarines, and I think they're fine in combat until the plane gets shot down and the woman is captured.

HT:

Which has happened.

VE:

Which has happened. No, I think—yes, I think the way, you know, these days, they have to be in combat like men. But I think they're still women, and they have to be protected from certain areas, and the men have to be protected from them in certain areas. But other than that, you know, I don't know. The way wars are fought these days, there's not a lot of slogging around in the mud. Women aren't built like men. They get pregnant. Then what do you do with them?

HT:

When that happened in your day, they were automatically discharged.

VE:

Automatically.

HT:

Right. Which I don't think happens these days.

VE: No.
HT:

Things have changed a good deal, I'm sure, in the last few years.

Mrs. Eustice, you've covered a lot of variety of topics this afternoon. Is there anything that we haven't covered that you would like to add to the interview?

VE:

I don't think so.

HT:

Well, thank you so much for your time and your great stories. This has been wonderful, listening to you.

VE:

I didn't think I'd talk this long.

HT:

Thank you so much.

VE:

I told my husband, “Fifteen minutes and he'll be out of here.”

[End of interview]