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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Rebecca Ann Lloyd, 2006

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Object ID: WV0346.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Rebecca Ann Lloyd’s background; her education at the Curry School and the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in the 1930s and 1940s; her twenty-year career in the U.S. Navy; and her post-service commercial real estate career.

Summary:

Lloyd describes her youth and education in Greensboro, North Carolina, including her father’s grocery store; the city of Greensboro during the Depression; the curriculum at Curry School; how she came to attend Woman's College; her on-campus jobs; and notable faculty and administrators, including Walter Clinton Jackson, Harriett Elliot, Randall Jarrell, Richard Bardolph, Evon Dean, and James Painter.

Lloyd primarily discusses her career in the navy and her various duty stations. She explains her decision to join the navy in 1950; her parents’ reaction; and the impact of the Korean War on her decision. She also describes her officers’ training at Newport, Rhode Island, including the instructors; the reactions of the men; and her course of study.

Lloyd describes her first assignment at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; including her boss' stance against women officers; working in the classified materials library; civilian and military coworkers; and teaching with the Naval Correspondence Course Center. She also discusses her work in the Division of Reactor Development in Washington, D.C., in detail, including her interview with Admiral H.G. Rickover; the controversial nature of their work; and being involved in the development of the first nuclear-powered submarine.

Lloyd briefly recalls attending school in Monterey, California, and her duty stations in Norfolk, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Topics include her collateral duties at Norfolk, including upfitting new women’s barracks and shore patrol; an incident of racial discrimination and assault on a navy woman; a trip to Puerto Rico when naval communications took over for the army and air force; and interactions with army and air force personnel.

Lloyd also recalls her duty in Japan in 1963. Topics include her work in administration and personnel; interactions with the Japanese; sightseeing and travel; Japanese culture; and finding out about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination while visiting Thailand. She also describes her work as a comptroller at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California; the impact of the Vietnam War on her work; her thoughts about U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia; and her final duty station in the office of the Commander, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet.

Other topics include changes in the navy over the course of Lloyd's career; changes in opportunities for women in navy; women in combat positions; the importance of her military service in her life; and her career in commercial real estate.

Creator: Rebecca Ann Lloyd

Biographical Info: Rebecca Ann Lloyd (1929-2013) of Greensboro, North Carolina, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)from 1950 to 1972, during which time she aided in the development of the first nuclear-powered submarine. Lloyd had a career in commercial real estate.

Collection: Rebecca Ann Lloyd 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:

BC:

Today is April 18, 2006. My name is Beth Carmichael, and I'm at the home of Rebecca Lloyd in San Diego, California, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG]. Thank you so much for talking with us this morning. We really appreciate it. Ms. Lloyd, if you could give me your full name, we'll use that as a test.

RL:

Okay. My name is Rebecca Ann Lloyd.

BC:

I would like to start by talking a little bit about your background. Can you tell me when and where you were born and a little bit about your family?

RL:

Yes, I was born in Greensboro, May 29, 1929. My mother was Georgia Garrison Lloyd and my father was Aubrey Paul Lloyd, and everybody called him Mr. A.P. And my mother was Miss Georgie. [laughs]

BC:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family and home life in Greensboro?

RL:

Well, my dad was a grocer and he had a grocery store across the street from the county courthouse. He carried some rather unusual items and quite a number of the professors at, to me WC [Woman's College of the University of North Carolina], [now] UNCG, were customers because he did have unusual things. He was also a kosher grocer. And so we met a lot of rabbis and people that probably I otherwise would not have gotten to meet in those days. And they were very generous and often invited us to bar mitzvahs and I loved going because they had such wonderful food [laughs].

My mother was a seamstress. She worked at Ellis, Stone & Company as an—in the alteration room and also sewed custom clothes for clients. And they were both hardworking people, both came from the country. My father was from near Chapel Hill [North Carolina], a community known as White Cross, and my mother was from the Stoney Creek community, in Alamance County [North Carolina]. Both grew up on farms and both decided that farming was not for them. And my mother subsequently, after she left home, became a master milliner and loved doing that. And then she met my father who was a—at that time a cashier for a bank in Carrboro [North Carolina]. And she told me later, she said, “I thought I married a banker and he ended up being a grocer.” [laughs]

Both of my parents were outdoors people. And my dad used to take me on Sundays for walks around what is now a golf course at UNCG. And he taught me to recognize trees by their leaves and also by the bark. And my mother was a great fisherperson. And her sisters—two of her sisters and their husbands had a pond near Burlington, North Carolina. And we used to go down there and fish a lot with the family. And I remember those as very happy breaks in a rather routine life otherwise. [laughs]

BC:

Sounds wonderful.

RL:

Well, it was. It was. And I had the good fortune to go to Curry School. And my mother had investiga[ted]—She was determined that I was going to be a college graduate. And she had determined that, in her mind at any rate, Curry was the best place to go if you were academically inclined. And so I was there for eleven years.

And then when World War II came, I had applied for and been accepted as a student at the University of Texas, because I wanted to be an archaeologist working in Central America, Central America and Mexico. And they had the best program for that that was within any possible means of my being able to afford to go there. And my parents had agreed, and we understood that because of the cost of travel at that time that once I left I probably would be there until I graduated. And we were not people of much money.

And the day that I was to graduate from Curry School, I got an Air Mail special delivery letter. And believe me those things had never arrived at our house before. And the letter informed me that I could remain a student but that I would not be allowed to live in the dormitory because the veterans returning from World War II were taking up all the space available. And my parents talked it over and said, “Nope, if you can't be on campus to live, we just won't agree.”

And so, I thought, “Well, what am I going to do?” And the best thing seemed to be to walk across Spring Garden [Street] and go straight over to the Registrar's Office and register at WC, and that's what I did. And I registered as a history student. And while I was at WC, I guess it was at the beginning of my sophomore year, suddenly we had a recreation major in the PE [physical education] department. And I had for years been active in scouting and I loved scouting. And the camping that went with it. And so I decided to switch over to the recreation major, thinking that that would be a good way for me to pursue professional scouting. And it was.

However, when I was in my senior year a woman came from the Department of the Navy. Her name was Gertrude Mountain. She subsequently married a chap by the name of Maloney, and I liked what she had to say about a career in the navy. And, so, my thoughts of going into scouting went by the by and instead I entered the United States Navy.

BC:

Well, before we talk about your time in the navy, can I ask you a few questions about your time at Woman's College—

RL:

Sure.

BC:

—and Curry? Can you just briefly explain what the Curry School was and talk a little bit about your time there?

RL:

[laughs] Yes. The Curry School was known as a training school, because it was set up to provide a true classroom experience for young women who were majoring in education at Woman's College. And we used—we, students, used to get teased by kids in the regular schools because we were in for it [laughs]. And it was a very small school. There were two hundred students in the eighth through the twelfth grades, for example, when I was a senior. And they tried a lot of educational experiments at Curry, which to my mind were to our benefit.

One of them I remember so vividly was a project approach to education. It came along about the time I was in the third or fourth grade. And under that project we were—everything that we took was built around a geographical or philosophical era. And I remember we did one on China. And we learned all kinds of things about China's geography, their history, punishment means. And I remember making a contraption out of wood that would have been used in China as a punishment. And it was just—It was really quite unique. In the sixth grade we did one on the Middle Ages. We learned songs from the Middle Ages. We learned the approach to astronomy that was developed during the Middle Ages. We learned all about the knights. And we wrote a play about the Middle Ages. And so everything we were doing at that point in time was all tied together around the theme of the Middle Ages. I remember some of things we learned to this day.

BC:

That's wonderful.

RL:

And then when I was in the seventh grade, the State of North Carolina decided that they were going to go to a twelve-year program from the eleven-year studies, and my class, my seventh grade class, was split into two. And some of us went to the ninth grade directly, and some of them went on into the eighth grade. So I finished eleven years at Curry School. And I'm very thankful for those years.

BC:

And what year did you graduate?

RL:

Nineteen fifty. [sic-1946]

BC:

In 1950. Was that from Curry School, was 1950?

RL:

Right.

BC:

Okay. What was Greensboro like at the time?

RL:

Greensboro was—Greensboro was a—quite a pretty city. The tallest building in town was the Jefferson Standard Building. And they had the best, and really only, class restaurant in town at that time. It was on the very top floor. And I remember over their entry door they had, “Through these doors pass the people who get to eat the best green apple pie in the world.” And it was really good. [laughs]

Downtown Greensboro was—When I was a small child, a lot of downtown Greensboro was closed up because we were in the Depression years, of course. And I so vividly remember it gradually developing and one of my memories is going past Mr. Peanut stand. It was a tiny little store. And there was always a Mr. Peanut out there. And he would dump a few peanuts in your hand as you walked by in the hopes that you would go in and get and buy some. And most of the places to eat in town were very modest. One of our neighbors, Mr. Sasser—no, that's not quite right—but it's close. Anyway, he had—he was Greek. And he had a hotdog stand. Again, was very small. It was right on what we know as the Square. I don't know if you know it as the Square these days or not. But once in a great while my mother would spring for a hotdog at Mr.—it was Sasser—Mr. Sasser's store.

And there were two major ready-to-wear stores in town. One being Ellis, Stone & Company, where my mother worked, and the other one was an up—was a more expensive store than that. And I was only in there a few times [laughs] during my life. But Greensboro was a very friendly town. And I enjoyed living in Greensboro very much.

BC:

Can you tell me a little bit about your time at the Woman's College, what your major was, what campus life was like?

RL:

Well, when it was decided that I was going to go to WC my parents felt that to get the full benefit of a college education, and since I was an only child, that it would benefit me to have to live with—learn to live other people. And I think they were right. I lived in Cotton [Residence Hall] as a freshman. In those days—and I don't know if it is still true—the freshmen were segregated in—it was a group of six dormitories. And I lived in Cotton with Bobbie Moomaw, who was from Connecticut, for the first term. And the second term I lived with Alston McKiethen, McKiethen [Kiethan]—yes. And that was a real benefit because I got to know people from out of state, as well as people from other places in North Carolina. Alston was from Gastonia [North Carolina], I believe. And Bobbie Moomaw was a friend for many, many, many years. And when I went into the navy I had an opportunity to visit her family in Connecticut.

BC:

Oh, that's neat.

RL:

Yes. And her parents came down for special occasions and my mother was wonderful about trotting out the food for all this mob of girls. And every now and then she would have us over for Sunday dinner or a special meal. And we all appreciated that. Believe me [laughs]

BC:

Did that mean that the campus food wasn't—

RL:

Well, it wasn't—it wasn't home cooking.

BC:

Not like mom's.

RL:

[laughs] But I worked in the dining hall for a year. And I hated it. One of my—except on convocation days when we had sit-down meals and on Sundays. It was cafeteria-style. And I just hated working over those steam tables. But they paid better than anything else. We got thirty-five cents an hour if you worked in the dining room. All the other jobs on campus were thirty cents. And I also worked at the Alumni House with Evon Dean who, I think, is still around, isn't she?

BC:

Yes.

RL:

And she was a lovely lady. She was a good boss. And I typed addressograph plates. You probably don't know what they were.

BC:

No, I don't.

RL:

Well, imagine a typewriter that you have to really bear down on. Because what you are doing is cutting letters into a plate that is then inked and run through a machine to imprint addresses.

BC:

Okay.

RL:

On mailers. It was a headache of a job. After about an hour of that my head was just pounding. But I enjoyed working there a lot more than I did in the dining room. Then I was grateful for the job. And I also worked in the stacks at the library. And it seemed like everybody who came in wanted a book that was on the upper stories, and I was on the lower stories or the reverse.

And—But I got to know a lot of the professors whom otherwise I wouldn't have gotten to know: Randall Jarrell being one of them and his lovely wife. I remember having a conversation with her one time about current musicians, composers. And it was an interesting conversation. I sure learned a lot [laughs]. And Dr. Bardolph, Richard Bardolph, who was every school girl's heartthrob at that time [laughs].

BC:

The history professor.

RL:

Well, he was a very handsome and charming man. And we all thought a lot of him. Some of the other professors that I particularly remember is Miss Jane Summerell who was English. What a lovely lady, just a lovely lady. And Dr. [Josephine] Hege. And Dicky [Richard] Painter's father, Dr. [James W.] Painter, taught a wonderful course on—in literature. And we read—Every week we were to read a different book. And then we would meet in a seminar format and talk about the books that we read. I remember reading [John] Dos Passos's USA in that class. And the ensuing conversations were very interesting because we all seemed to see it somewhat differently.

And then, of course, there were some of the wonderful instructors over in the PE department whom I got to know very well, especially after I transferred into the recreation program. I don't know. Am I saying some of the things you wanted to know?

BC:

That's great.

RL:

Okay.

BC:

That's great. When did you graduate from Woman's College?

RL:

In 1950. On my twenty-first birthday.

BC:

And you knew at that point that you were going to join the navy, because you had—

RL:

Yes, I had already committed to enter the navy.

BC:

How did your family, your parents, feel about that?

RL:

Well, my father immediately thought it was a wonderful idea. And my mother took a little bit to think about it. But the more she thought about it, the better she thought of it, because as an only child she was concerned that I have somebody who was kind of going to watch over me as I grew older. And I think she thought of the navy as that somebody. And my dad thought that it was a wonderful program because not only was I going to be making $213 a month, which was an incredible salary at that time for a young woman, I would also have the benefit of people who were older and wiser than I. And he did. He thought it was a very great career for me to pursue.

BC:

Did you think about other branches, or did you choose the navy because—

RL:

No.

BC:

—that was the recruiter that you met and—

RL:

No, I chose the navy because I had—my family has a history with the military going back for many years before the Revolutionary War.

BC:

Wow.

RL:

And my—One of my favorite cousins went to [the U.S. Naval Academy at] Annapolis [Maryland], and he graduated when I was in the fifth grade. And [he] was in the first short class that they graduated in Annapolis in order to have people in the fleet when war began. And my cousin, Charlie, was a very handsome and very attractive young man. And I said—remember saying to my father, “When I grow up to go to school, I'm going to Annapolis.”

And my dad said, “Well, honey, you can't because you're a girl.”

And I said, “Well, what does that have to do with it?”

And he tried to explain to me [laughs] about these things that we all now know so well thanks to what came out with Title IX. And I thought it was grossly unfair. And I had a few friends who went in or people whom I had known growing up who went into the navy, and the more I knew about the navy, the more attractive I found myself to it. And I loved boats, just loved boats. From my childhood, I thought boats were wonderful [laughs].

BC:

Were you influenced at all by the war in Korea, which was just starting that summer?

RL:

Yes, indeed. In fact the day that I reported for active duty in Newport, Rhode Island, was the day that the president announced that we were going to go into Korea. And, yes, it had quite an impact on me. I had friends who went to Korea and—or who had relatives who went to fight in Korea. And it was a very bitter time. The United States was really not prepared to pursue a long war in Korea. They sent the men there, for example, in the fall and winter in summer uniforms. And they were faced with bitter cold and many of us were knitting scarves and sending scarves or socks, wool socks. One of my very good friends had a brother who was over there. And she—it was amazing then. The amount of hot, of warm weather clothing that she sent to her brother because the services simply didn't have the kind of clothes that were needed.

BC:

What was the mood of the country and in the navy at that time? Was it similar, do you think, to World War II, that same sense of patriotism?

RL:

Yes. The sense of patriotism was there. And I think that the government did a better job of educating the people as to why we were there than has happened since that war. We had mixed feelings about General [Douglas] MacArthur, I must say. And when President [Harry S.] Truman in effect told him that he was subject to military—as a military man, he was subject to civilian control, we all understood that we were subject to civilian control. And I think that's a good thing in this country. [pausing] I felt that he—that President Truman did the right thing by terminating his career.

BC:

Okay. Let's get to your military service. When and where did you join the navy?

RL:

Well, I joined it in—I was actually sworn in in Washington, D.C. And that was June 21, 1950. And I went up to Newport, Rhode Island, for Officer Training School. And at that time when you went in—when the women went into the navy, they went in into the regular navy. And they got smart, the navy did afterwards, because they realized that if you were a regular navy officer you got no clothing allowance. And—which was pretty costly for a kid just coming in out—

BC:

I would think so.

RL:

—of college. You also did not get paid from your home of record to your first duty station. And that was pretty costly, too, to pay your own transportation. So subsequently, they brought the women in the navy as reserve officers, because as reserve officers they got travel allowance and also a clothing allowance.

But I felt very fortunate to be where I was at Newport, Rhode Island, where our training school was located. And the women who staffed that school were—had been, all of them, had been in World War II. And, of course, we were all—not all of us, but some of us—were in awe of those people for the experience that they had had. We had women from New England, from the Deep South.

One of my favorite instructors was from Mississippi. And we also had male instructors. And in conjunction with our program there as officer training candidates, we were—we went to the U.S. Naval School of Justice. And that['s] where we learned about military legal procedures. And that was kind of tough because the men who were going to that school were there just solely for that school. And we were getting a double header for that.

BC:

How did the men feel about you being there? Was there any problem?

RL:

Well, there were some really relatively minor problems. The enlisted men used to get a big bang out of the fact that we had to—we had to march. And we marched from the swimming pool in the middle of winter to about—it was about three quarters of a mile with icicles hanging down our backs [laughs]. And they would sometimes whistle or under their breath kind of sing a, you know, a marching along kind of song that men can do. And we just tried to make the best of it.

BC:

What types of things did you study?

RL:

Well, we learned military-style correspondence, which has a specific format. And, of course, we learned a lot about naval history going back to the Revolutionary War. We took course[s] in speech because it was well recognized that as an officer, willy nelly you end up making speeches to people, or at the least of it you have to talk to them. And [we] learned how to make military-acceptable military beds [laughs], and how to take care of your clothing and, gosh, I can't remember what all else now.

BC:

How long were you at—how long did the school last?

RL:

Basically, six months.

BC:

And where were you stationed next? Did you have a choice as to what area you wanted to be involved in?

RL:

Well, in the military you can always say what you like, but that doesn't guarantee you are going to get it [laughs]. My next duty station, much to my surprise, was in New York City. I was actually stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the Registered Publications Issuing Office. And it was a very small command. I think there was about fourteen of us all told. The senior—My boss there was a former warrant officer who had been planning to retire when World War II came along and they fleeted him up to commissioned officer rank. And he didn't really appreciate having women in the military [both laugh]. And bless his heart, I will say this, he told me right out when I got there that he really didn't believe in having women officers.

BC:

Really? He was that upfront about it?

RL:

Oh, he was very blunt then [both laughing].

BC:

I guess so.

RL:

And there was another—Because Korea had come about, a number of male officers had been recalled to active duty from their reserve status. And we had one of those men, delightful fellow by the name of Marley. And he was senior to me. He was a lieutenant junior grade. And so he had a stripe and a half, and I had just one stripe.

BC:

So what was your grade at this point?

RL:

Ensign.

BC:

Ensign.

RL:

Yes. Yes. And we had a number of enlisted men, most of whom had been recalled to active duty from their reserve status. And they were, for the most part, a really delightful bunch of fellows. And I remember them with great [pause] sentiment I guess is a good word. And we had two enlisted women, [a] very delightful gal, who was a native of the Bronx, and the chief petty officer, Rita Roche, was from New Orleans. And she was a very special person. And I always told her in later years, I said, “Whatever kind of officer I turned out to be is due to you.” [laughs] And the rest of our office staff were civilians. And they were a mixed bag of people. We had a lady from Puerto Rico and a man who was a native of New York City. And had a couple of those. And we had a young man who was first-generation from Sicily. And Frank's—His name was Frank Camerata. And his mother and I used to exchange recipes because he had been in the military during World War II and was in the South, and one of the things he remembered especially was cornbread, believe it or not.

BC:

Wow.

RL:

And he loved cornbread. And he says, “Ms. Lloyd, if I bring you my mama's recipe for pizza, would you give her a recipe for cornbread?”

I said, “Well, sure, Frank, no problem.” [laughs]

BC:

Sounds like a good trade to me.

RL:

It was. Sicilian cornbread was different—or Sicilian pizza was different from pizza that we eat now. It was very—it was more bread with a few things sprinkled around on it. But she was a lovely lady. I loved his mother.

BC:

Was it common to work with civilians like that?

RL:

Oh, yes.

BC:

So, it wasn't just navy personnel?

RL:

No, not at all.

BC:

And what did you do there?

RL:

Well, I was [laughs]—The Registered Publications Issuing Office has no real counterpart in civilian life. It is more like a library, but we handled only classified materials. And some of them were in book form and some of them were like leaflets. The ones that were like leaflets were largely in communications for short-term encrypted material. And we had—everything was under lock and key and some of it was under three and four combination lock vaults.

BC:

Wow.

RL:

And it was quite interesting in a way. I tried to read as little as I could in anything that was truly confidential and above, because I just didn't want to know it. I had no need to know it, and I didn't want to because you might inadvertently say something that wouldn't have been a good thing to do [laughs].

BC:

And how long were you in Brooklyn? Do you recall the—

RL:

Well, I was—

BC:

—years you were there?

RL:

—I had two tours of duty actually. In Brooklyn I was at the Register of Publications Issuing Office for—my recollection is I was there for a year and a half. And then the word came through that I was apt to be transferred. And I had enrolled in graduate school at NYU [New York University], and I inquired and found that if I didn't complete my graduate work there that although other schools would accept it as additional to their requirements, you had to be a resident student anywhere else. And so I asked if I could please stay in Brooklyn and—so I could finish that. And the navy felt that was desirable because I was getting to pay my own way to graduate school [both laugh]. And so I was then transferred to the Naval Correspondence Course Center, which was also located in Brooklyn.

BC:

And what were you studying at NYU?

RL:

I was in [pause] in the School of Education and it was—basically, it was personnel management.

BC:

And this was a master's degree?

RL:

Yes.

BC:

And when did you do that? Do you recall?

RL:

Let's see. [pause] I must have finished that up in 1953.

BC:

Okay. When you enlisted, did you have any idea that you were going to make the navy a career?

RL:

Well, first of all, I didn't enlist. [laughs] Officers don't enlist. Yes, I did. It was—Everything I knew about it even before I went into it was something that I found very interesting and attractive. Part of my interest came about because I loved to travel. And I saw it as a way to travel and get somebody else to pay for it. My mother's middle initial being G., she always said it stood for go. And I got that itchy foot from her, I guess. Yes, I definitely viewed it as a long-term career.

BC:

You mentioned that you were then sent to the Naval Correspondence Course Center. Was that educational? Was that some kind of training?

RL:

It was educational. We had correspondence courses that one takes through the mail. That was the way I was worked. And we taught—We had classes in practically everything you could think of that was of a military nature, naval military nature. And one of the courses that I was a course instructor for was cargo handling. And when I was told I was going to have cargo handling, I thought, “Well, good grief” [laughs] what do I know about this? And it turned out to be extremely interesting. And it kind of fostered an interest in math, because a lot of the work that has to be done by mechanical means on ships, especially in those days, had to be computed mechan—with math. I'd never been particularly interested in math to my father's dismay because he was a whiz. But I did find an interest in math there.

BC:

And what did you do next?

RL:

Well, I left there and went to Washington, D.C. I went down to be interviewed by Admiral H.G. Rickover. And I didn't know much about him except what I'd read in the popular media, which was pretty biased, I must say.

BC:

Was it good or bad?

RL:

It was—depended on how you looked at it. [laughs] The admiral was a very controversial man, and had been ever since he went to the naval academy, where as a Jewish person he was not particularly welcomed in his day. He was born in 1900. So he went to the naval academy around 1920. I don't remember exactly what his dates were there. And at that time Jewish people were not really welcomed at the naval academy. So he had to put up with a lot of stuff.

But he was—He was controversial otherwise because he was so intent on everything being done correctly. And by correctly, he meant that if it was supposed to be clean and shiny, you shined it until you couldn't—until you could see a face in it. And if—One of his tours of duty was on an inspection board. And he would actually get down and crawl into the lowest parts of the ship, which are not particularly savory under the best of circumstances. And he would look and he would look and he would look to be sure that everything was the way it was supposed to be down there, that there were no rotten, old banana peels or dead rats [laughs], and every commanding officer did not appreciate having somebody that exact looking at his ship, believe me.

BC:

I bet not. What was he calling you for? What were you being interviewed for?

RL:

Well, from the very beginning he was very selective in the people that he wanted working for him. He wanted to be sure that they were truly motivated to be the best they could be in the navy. He wanted to be sure that their—that they would do their best, I guess, is about the best way to say that. And among other questions that I was asked was what had I done with myself since coming into the navy. And one of the disconcerting things that he introduced into his interviews was to always have at least one other person in the room while you were being interviewed. And that person sat out of your line of sight.

BC:

I could see how that might be uncomfortable.

RL:

[laughs] And he would periodically address that person as to what did he or she think about what you were saying. And it happened that the woman who became one of my best friends was at my interview. And she had interviewed me first. I didn't realize I was being interviewed because she was slick. [laughs]

BC:

She got a lot of practice.

RL:

Well, yes, to a degree. Anyway, it had come out in our conversation that I had worked my way through college and then I had worked my way through graduate school. And so she said—He said something to her, and her response [was], “Well, Ms. Lloyd, why don't you tell the admiral about graduate school?”

“Graduate school?” he says.

I said, “Yes, sir.”

And he said, “Well, how did you go to graduate school if you were in the navy?”

And I said, “I went at nights and weekends, Admiral.”

And so he said, “And I guess the navy paid for it?”

I said, “No, sir, I paid for it out my own pocket.”

And he said, “Well, what made you do that?”

And I said, “Because it was something that I thought I needed to know.”

And he found that was a satisfactory answer. One of the little tricks that he had was the interview chair. The interview chair was a slick wood, all wood, office chair, and the front legs had been sawed off about an inch, so that you found yourself slipping forward all the time [laughs] in the chair. And it was his way of finding out did you have the mettle, m-e-t-t-l-e, to work in his office, because at that time we were sort of the pariah in the navy. His predecessors in the nuclear power program, so called, had deemed it was impossible to put a nuclear reactor on any ship, much less a submarine. And since Admiral Rickover was a submariner and he recognized early on how wonderful it would be to have a really silent submarine as opposed to one that had to come up to get air every now and then and run on diesels [batteries] under the sea, he was determined it was going to be a submarine. And so that—Our whole thrust was to develop a nuclear power plant that worked and that was small enough to go on a submarine.

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

BC:

We were just talking about your interview and work with Admiral Rickover. Why don't we pick up from there and continue talking a little bit about him and the kind of work that you did?

RL:

Okay. Admiral Rickover was controversial in the navy because the navy when they finally assigned him to this program had thrown its hands up and said, “It just can't be done.” And the—This all came to the Congress's attention because the navy was going to retire him as a captain. And there were enough people in the Congress at that time who felt that the—what he wanted to do was important enough to this country to prevent the navy from retiring him. So the Congress told the navy, “You will promote him to rear admiral.” And they did that kicking and screaming. And [laughs] this was a first. As far as I know he's the only one they ever—that Congress ever inserted themselves into to force the navy to do something. And, subsequently, of course, he was promoted to—on up the line from rear admiral to admiral. And so I had mixed feelings about going to work for somebody that the Congress had promoted, I must say. But the more I knew this man, the more I came to respect and admire him. Quite a person. Yes, quite a person.

BC:

What did you do for him?

RL:

[laughs] When he asked during my interview what my college major had been and I told him recreation, he just snorted. And when I got dispatch orders—which was just unheard of in those days for a woman to get message orders—to come to work for him, he said to me the day I reported, “Now, what did you tell me you majored in in college?”

And I said, “Recreation, Admiral.”

And he said, “Well, that's something we certainly don't need around here.”

And so he then took me down to meet the man who was to be my supervisor, a naval academy graduate who had become a nuclear power engineer through going through the very small program that had been set up at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. And he said, “Cochran, I want you to understand something. She is not a secretary. If I come down this hall and find her hands on a typewriter, you're out of here,” meaning Cochran, not me. And he said, “From this day on she's an egghead.” And he walked out.

So talking with Commander Cochran, it came to the fore that I had had very limited experience in math and almost nothing in science. And he just kind of didn't know what to do. But gradually over time, my title was engineering assistant. And so I got some books and started studying. I talked as much as I could insert myself into their daily program with the engineers that were there. And over time I picked up enough that I could hold my weight, and one of the tasks I was given was to oversee the—how do I explain it? It had to do with water chemistry. And what had to be done to try to prevent what's known as chloride stress corrosion. And that occurs in metals which have been exposed to water. Since we were involved in seawater, it was kind of an important thing. And I worked with chemical engineers from the Dow Chemical Company on that. And it was an extremely interesting thing to me. And another thing that I had to do in connection with that was to take sample welds of dissimilar metals over to the Bureau of Ships to the metallurgy department there to have them examine the welds that were being performed on our systems to see if they were perfect welds and didn't have voids and that they would hold up under the impact of water. And that was very interesting, too, because I got to sort of begin to recognize them myself. And it was a real learning experience.

BC:

And were you working with mostly men or were there other women?

RL:

We had an administrative officer who was a woman. And her name was—Her last name was Kline, and she married a young man by the name of Small. And the admiral always said to her, you didn't get married, you got translated [laughs]. And then we had my friend who had been at my interview, Ethel Weyant, was there. She was working with the section that had to do with PR [public relations] and budgeting. And she became a friend for life. And I'm still in touch with her niece.

BC:

That's great.

RL:

Yes, it is great.

BC:

When you were with Admiral Rickover, what was the title of the group that you were working with?

RL:

Oh, my.

BC:

Was it—

RL:

Well, we were double-headed. We had one part of the organization that was called the Naval—no, Nuclear Power Division, Bureau of Ships. And the part that I was in was the Naval Reactors Branch, Division of Reactor Development, Atomic Energy Commission.

BC:

Oh, boy.

RL:

And we all worked together as one staff. And that had come about in order to have enough people to do the job. And the admiral figured out ways to do things. I remember somebody asking him one time, “Well, may I see your organization chart, Admiral?”

And he says, “I don't have one.”

“You don't have an organization chart?”

“Nope, never could figure out how they linked the boxes together.”

He says, “What goes on between those two boxes?” So, we don't have one. [laughs]

BC:

Well, he was quite successful, was he not, with the nuclear-powered submarines?

RL:

Well, yes, but he would not say that he was successful. He would say that his group was successful. He was—In his way he was a modest man. [laughs] In his way he also was not a modest man [laughs] because he recognized that it took a certain amount of chutzpah to do a lot of things in this world. And he had—When he first was given an office at the Bureau of Ships to pursue this program it had been in a converted lady's room. And he was given a table which sat over a toilet. [laughs] We always had to kind of scrounge to keep our office going. It takes chutzpah to do that. I've never known anyone with more energy and with more intellectual curiosity than Admiral Rickover.

BC:

Were you still on his staff when the USS Nautilus launched in 1954?

RL:

Yes, I was.

BC:

What was that like?

RL:

Well, it was—It brought tears to my eyes, because I was in on the very beginning of the nuclear power program. And when I went there, there were maybe fourteen of us, certainly not more than that, mostly civilians, civilian engineers. And the first time I really became aware of how important this was was when somebody came whizzing into my office and said, “Come on, come on, come on. They're about to launch.” And I went running down the hall with them—and in those days we used teletype machines—and everybody was standing around, all these people some of whom I had yet to meet standing around watching this teletype machine. And all of a sudden it started chattering. And it said, “Under power—Underway on nuclear power.” And this was the first, the very first reactor that actually had been built in this country, pioneered in this country, that actually operated and could—they knew then could produce a power plant that could be put on a submarine. And that was at our land base out in Arco, Idaho, where we had a training school for the enlisted men and the officers who were then brought along to be the first crew for our submarine.

BC:

That must have been a tremendous feeling.

RL:

It was overwhelming. And it was so—It took me quite awhile to realize what I had been in on and how important it was. And then when we got to actually launch models, SSN-571, the SSs were submarines. And N was for nuclear. And she was the very first one to go to sea. And it was awesome to be there and see her launched. And she didn't turn over [laughs]. She had a somewhat unusual hull shape, and we kept experimenting trying to come up with better hull configurations that would both accommodate a reactor and the men to operate the ship and reduce the amount of resistance that the ship hull would encounter in the water. And they had gone out at some point in time—the word got out that we were trying to figure out ways to reduce the resistance of a hull in the water. And we used to get in all these letters and my boss had a file which we called a Crackpot File. And [laughs] it contained letters that had been written to us, in the best of people's minds, as to how can we help? And one of them I remember in the Crackpot File was—said take a big balloon, a long balloon, and partially fill it with air and pull it through the water, and then you'll see what form you have to have. Well, of course, what you get is nothing but wrinkles. [laughs]

BC:

It doesn't sound too promising.

RL:

Oh, my, yes. I had the opportunity to travel a little bit and to visit Westinghouse Nuclear Power Division just outside of Pittsburgh. And that was a real treat to go up there and see all of the things that were being done there, and actually use some of the things that they were having to use up there to work with things nuclear.

BC:

Because that would be very new at the time.

RL:

Yes.

BC:

And you were—

RL:

We were the first.

BC:

Was this considered classified work?

RL:

Oh, it was highly classified, yes.

BC:

So you weren't able to talk about what you were doing with anyone, were you?

RL:

For the most part, no.

BC:

How long did you stay with Admiral Rickover?

RL:

I was there for three and a half years, almost—for almost four years.

BC:

Okay. So that would bring us to about 1956, 1957?

RL:

Yes.

BC:

And where were you sent next?

RL:

I was sent to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey [California], to go through another school. And it was for—It was initially set up so that naval aviators, particularly, would get a schooling in leadership and working with ships rather than just with airplanes. Because so many of our naval aviators were basically air jockeys. And didn't want to be bothered with all this other stuff. And so some of them were selected to go to this school, and somebody got the bright idea that maybe women ought to go there, too. And I greatly enjoyed most of my classes there. [pause] And it was another opp—It afforded me an opportunity, too, not just travel across this United States, because it was my first cross-country trip—but to meet officers from other countries. The navy was paying to bring officers in from Chile, for example, and from the Philippines, from Pakistan.

BC:

Were they there as instructors?

RL:

No, they—

BC:

Or were they—

RL:

—were there to attend the school.

BC:

—there to attend the school.

RL:

And that was quite an opportunity to meet people from other countries and get to talk to them. I saw them—You didn't—We were on the run all the time. But at lunchtime or in the evenings around the dinner table you had a lot of opportunity to interact with those people and I tried every day to sit with some one of them. It was extremely enlightening to find out the way they did things in their country, not just with regard to their military service, but their native culture.

BC:

It sounds like you had quite a few educational opportunities—

RL:

Oh— [simultaneous talking and laughing]

BC:

—in terms of being sent to training and different courses. Was that fairly common in those days for women?

RL:

I think you better talk to my friend Irma Brooks about that. She would know about it than I.

BC:

Were there many women that attended with you when you were in Monterey?

RL:

On that occasion there were about eight or nine of us, maybe ten. [pause] My next tour in Monterey was almost three years later, and I was sent back—I applied for that, to go to the Navy Management School, because when I was in the Line School, I discovered that I really was fascinated by navy management—that being the financial management, well, of things in the military. And so, I wrote in and said, “I sure would like to go to management school. This is why.” And so I was selected for that school, and I was the only woman in that school.

BC:

Did you find that there was any difficulties with that, with male instructors and being one of the few women attending?

RL:

No, I had no problem with anyone there except the senior instructor who was a civilian. He just didn't think that it was great to have women in the navy. [laughs]

BC:

After you finished the postgraduate school, did you receive a degree or a promotion? How did that affect your career?

RL:

Well, it didn't affect my career measurably as far as when I finished the Line School. I don't think it had any measurable effect on it. I went from there to the naval station in Norfolk, Virginia, which was a real great opportunity because they had—Congress had just approved money to build a new enlisted barracks for the men and a new enlisted barracks for the women, which was a real bonanza because the barracks that the enlisted women lived in had been built in the very beginning of World War II and they were really, really ricky-ticky and greatly needed an improved living environment. And so there I had the opportunity to oversee the furnishings and some redesign of the basic barracks to make it more—as far as the basic design was concerned to give us some additional privacy to the enlisted women over what had originally been envisioned. And to provide them with furnishings that were of a feminine sort that would also hold up, I felt, better than some of the stuff that the men's barrack's officer put in the men's barracks. I was back there several years later and the furniture in the women's barracks was still in very good condition, holding up very well, and they had already replaced what was in the men's barracks twice. I had the feeling that if people are given decent things to live with they will treat them well.

BC:

And take care of it.

RL:

Especially if they understand what they cost. When I was confronted with a situation where one of our enlisted women was in the lounge shining her black shoes sitting on a yellow-covered couch, I pulled her aside and said, “Do you know how much that couch costs?”

“No, ma'am.”

I said, “Well, how about—let me see—now how much do you make a month?”

And she told me.

And I said, “Well, it would take you six months to pay for that one couch.” And her mouth dropped open and she quick grabbed her stuff and—

BC:

Shined her shoes some place else. [laughs]

RL:

[laughs] And, so, that taught me a valuable lesson. And I went—I figured out just what each piece of furniture in the lounge had cost. And I put a little tag on it. “This would cost a seaman so many months' [pay].” “This would cost a chief petty officer so many months' pay.” And they got the point, really got the point.

BC:

It was obviously a valuable lesson for them.

RL:

Yes, indeed, it was. And when I talked to the master, the chief master-at-arms, who was a very wonderful person, I said, “I can't believe this.”

And she said, “Well, Ms. Lloyd, you have to recognize that some of these kids come from homes where just having a box to keep your own things in is really great.” And I realized she was telling me the truth.

BC:

And when were you in Norfolk, do you recall the—

RL:

I was there from 1957 until 1959.

BC:

And did you have other responsibilities while you were there—

RL:

[laughs]

BC:

—or were you—

RL:

Yes, being women's barracks officer was one of fourteen collateral duties.

BC:

And what do you mean by “collateral duties?”

RL:

Well, you are sent to the specific job. I had been ordered there to be the administrative officer for the naval station, Norfolk. And in order to get enough work out of us, the navy assigns what is known as collateral duties. And that could—In my case, in that particular job, I oversaw three golf courses, the—let's see, two—an officer's club, the bachelors' officers' quarters, including the bachelors [mess], where the bachelor's ate, three enlisted men's clubs. I served on the special court martial board. A few things like that. [laughs]

BC:

They certainly kept you busy.

RL:

Oh, yes, and off shore patrol duty, that was interesting, shore patrol.

BC:

And what did that entail?

RL:

Well, on one occasion I specifically recall that made me so angry. I got a call one day. It was probably 10:30-11:00 at night to come down to shore patrol headquarters. They had a little problem. So I went down. And one of our black women who was from Michigan had gone with her—the people that she worked with. It was a division party to the beach, at Ocean Beach, Virginia. And some people who were—who had homes adjacent to the beach, which was a public beach, saw her there with her all-white companions and they came down and started raising Cain. This was at a time when segregation was still deeply rooted in American conscience. And so they started a fight really. And she became a victim in this fight. And so shore patrol had gone down and picked her up and brought her in. And they wanted to know what to do with her. And I said, “What we're going to do with her is have a doctor see her and we'll go from there.” And so the doctor on duty that night happened to be a friend, a personal friend of mine. And Howie looked her over and he says, “Well, she's been beat up pretty bad, lot of bruises.”

And I said, “Well, do you think she should go to the hospital?”

“No,” he says, “I don't think so. But be sure that she's kept safe.”

So, I took her back to the barracks and we mounted a guard to ensure that she was taken care of properly. And she came out of it okay. But I—it was shocking to me that there were people who were still of that frame of mind.

BC:

It must have been a difficult juxtaposition for African Americans in the military when the military is integrated but the world outside is not. And so having to operate between those two things, I imagine, was very difficult for everyone.

RL:

Well, I think it was. I think you've made a very valid point, indeed.

BC:

Did she remain in the navy?

RL:

Yes, she did, as a matter of fact. And she came down to my office and talked to me about it. And I said—Well, it [pause]—I remember so well how I grew up. And my father's best friend was a black man. And I used to play with his children at his home. And they used to come to my home in Greensboro. And my family just didn't dig that kind of attitude toward people. People are people. And it was very shocking to me to encounter prejudice. Even when I was a child I didn't understand it.

BC:

It certainly doesn't make much sense, particularly to a child, but especially even when you are older—

RL:

Yes.

BC:

—to see something like that. What was your next assignment? You went to Monterey back to school.

RL:

Yes, I went back to Monterey to the navy's management school. [There were] forty-eight of us, and I was the only woman [laughs] and it was—the men were so accept[ing] but one civilian doctor. The men were just wonderful. And I developed arthritis pretty badly while I was there because I was there at the time of the year when it's very chilly and very, very damp. And got in my knees. And all of our classes were on the second floor of a building that had no elevator. And in the mornings I would almost always find at least one fellow waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. And he would carry my books up while I literally was pulling myself up by the handrail up those steps. And I didn't go down again until time to go home. And I enjoyed the management school very, very much. I had never had very much schooling in economics. I discovered I thoroughly enjoyed economics. We had the wonderful instructors there at that school. One of them, he was a commander, had married a Scottish lady who was just a delightful soul. And I spent most of my holidays and a lot of my weekends out at their home in Carmel Valley, [California]. And it just was a wonderful interlude in my career.

BC:

And when did that wonderful interlude come to an end?

RL:

It came to an end when I—Let me see, where did I go from there? I went back to the Chief of Naval—the Office of Chief of Naval Operations and a newly established office known as Op94Victor. We oversaw all of all naval communications worldwide. My particular job there had to do with budgeting, especially for our civilian employees, and figuring out manpower requirements for our military people. And that was a very interest—a tremendously interesting, not just very, it was tremendously interesting job. And also often frustrating.

On one occasion I remember I was sent down to Norfolk, Virginia, and to the naval communications stations down there to talk to the commanding officer of that station. And I took two rolls of graph paper with me. One of them showed the jobs which were filled by military people that were to be replaced by civilians, because the Congress had decided that we had to have more civilian people. We had to reduce the amount of naval enlisted people.

BC:

And this was throughout the navy or just your particular—

RL:

It was basically throughout the navy, but because naval communications had so many enlisted people—and the reason for that—there was a good reason for that. When you send a man to sea, you can't say to his family, “You'll never see him again.” You obviously have to have some place for that man to come ashore. And many of our enlisted men were at sea for three years in naval communications. And when they came ashore there wouldn't be any comparable job available for them. And there were a lot of men in the navy—and still are—who fill jobs that's known as, for example, boatswains mate. And a boatswain is a person who—I don't know how to say it. He's kind of an in-charge enlisted man. And he handles all kinds of disciplinarian problems, and he oversees all kinds of manual type jobs. When you bring him to shore, what he's going to do? There isn't anything like that ashore. So, we've had to create jobs ashore for those men so that they wouldn't be at sea all their lives. Wives don't take kindly to men that are gone forever.

BC:

Three years is probably more than enough.

RL:

For a lot of families, that's true. And so we made space at the naval communications stations for people who were boatswains. We had proper jobs they could do that, things they could do there. And it just—It was heartbreaking to me to have to make this study about can we provide space ashore for the enlisted men?

And so under my other arm was a roll of graph paper that showed what civilian jobs at the navy communication stations were to be vacated by civilians and filled by enlisted men. So I had two diametrically opposed rolls of paper. And the commanding officer is a really neat man. He looked at me and he said, “What am I to make of this?”

I said, “It's called do the best you can.”

BC:

What happened?

RL:

What happened? Some of the jobs—some of them were changed. Most of them stayed the way they were.

BC:

And Op94Victor, what did that refer to?

RL:

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Op. Operations is Op. Ninety-four was the [communications] division within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. And Victor denoted that it was the specific office I was in, which had to do with the management of naval communications worldwide.

BC:

And this was back in Washington, D.C.?

RL:

Yes. And I did not work in the Pentagon, thank the good Lord. I had to go over there every now and then. And I almost never was able to find my way around that crazy building.

BC:

Did you enjoy being in Washington?

RL:

Well, I had been there before, of course, when I worked for Admiral Rickover. Washington is a very interesting city, to put it mildly. There is so much to do in Washington. And when I was there with Admiral Rickover, we worked six- and sometimes seven-day weeks so I hadn't had much chance to get out to see very much in Washington while I worked for him. But under Op94Victor I had most weekends free.

BC:

And what was the time frame, was this the early sixties that you were?

RL:

Let me see. I went there in 19—Yeah, I reported for duty in 1959, I think it was. But it was just a couple of days before the end of—the beginning of January. So, yes, I was there from '60 until—you can call it '60 to '63

BC:

Were you there when President [John Fitzgerald] Kennedy was assassinated?

RL:

No, I wasn't. [pause] By that time I was in Japan. And I was actually in Thailand when he was assassinated.

BC:

How did you find out about it?

RL:

I went down to check out—I was in Thailand on holiday. And I went down to check out and a young woman, who was a Brit, came to me and she said, “Do you know your president has been shot?”

And I said, “What?” She had gotten it through—she was there—she was an embassy employee—she had gotten it through her embassy.

And I said, “No, what about it?”

And she said, “Well, it's on the television.”

And I ran over and looked at the television that was is in the lounge, and it was all in Thai. So, of course, I couldn't understand it. But I understood that something very grave was being talked about on the telly. And so I couldn't find out very much more than that he had been shot. Did not know if he was dead or not. And I got on the—I went out to the airport to check in for my flight back to the Philippines and from there back to Japan. And while I was in the airport an almost endless stream of Thai come up to me and they did that lovely Thai greeting where they place the palms together with your fingers pointed upward under your chin and they bow. And one little lady, I'll never forget, she was quite an old lady. And she came up and she did her bow. And she looked at me with tears running down her face. And I knew what she was saying to me. And I'll never forget that. It touches me to this day.

BC:

Well, it obviously touched people everywhere, not just here in the United States.

RL:

For people, for foreigners to care that much, just overwhelming [crying].

BC:

Makes you realize that the world isn't such a big place after all.

RL:

It makes you know that the world is, indeed, a flat place.

BC:

Before we talk about your time in Japan, I wanted to go back to Op94Victor. You had mentioned that you were sent to Puerto Rico—

RL:

[laughs] yes.

BC:

—at some point?

RL:

Yes.

BC:

Can you tell me a little bit about that?

RL:

Well, Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense at the time. And he got it in his head that we were going to have to streamline everything. And among other things going to zero budgeting, which was itself a crock. We were going to have single-service management and in the case of the Naval Communication System, it was—we were going to take over worldwide communications and put the army and the air force out of the communications business. It was going to be navy. And, so, he sent—He called me and a couple of other people in his office one day. I'd never been in his office before.

And he said, “Now, you are going to go down to Puerto Rico, and you are going to do a survey of the air force and the army installations down there with the objective of the navy taking them over.”

And we said, “Really?”

And he said, “Yes, it's going to be a single-service operation. Naval Communications worldwide is going to be the chief cook and bottle washer for military communications.”

So, let's see, there were—I'm trying to remember exactly who went: Phil Evans who was navy captain, and our head supply corp person, and another person from—a lieutenant commander, male, from the personnel section of naval operations, and our, let's see, and some of our civilian engineers. We crawled on an airplane and down we went. And so our boss called down to the big army station there and said, “Colonel we're in town, and we thought we would come down and see you tomorrow if that meets your approval.”

And the colonel said, “Well, would you like to come for lunch?”

Nobody ever turns down lunch [laughs], even at an army post where the food isn't very good mostly. And, so, we arrive in time for lunch. And this chap was very nice. And he had his staff officers around him. So, we are sitting there having lunch and he kind of leaned forward and he said, “Could you tell me why you're here, such a large number of you?”

And so the captain looked over at me, and I looked back at him, and we both looked at the lieutenant commander and the civilian engineers were there and they had their heads in their plates. And [laughs] so our boss said, “Yes, actually, I'm here to take over your station.”

And this colonel, his mouth literally dropped open. And there was nothing but silence all up and down this table as you could imagine. And finally he said, “I don't understand what you mean.”

And so Captain Evans spelled it out for him, just what McNamara had told us. And he was—This man was absolutely dumbfounded. And he finally it got out and he was saying to his engineer, he said, “But we just got approval for all those new buildings from the Congress.”

And they were. They had gotten—a lot of their old buildings were to be torn down and replaced with new construction. And it takes a minimum of three years to get anything like that through the Congress because of the way budgets operate within the federal government. And so I felt sorry for the man. I really did. But to have somebody walk in and say, “Hey, I know you love it here, but bye,” you know?

BC:

And to have had no advance—

RL:

No advanced warning at all. We couldn't believe that the Secretary of Defense had not had some word sent through the army down to this man. And the same thing happened at the air force. We took over, I think it was three—a total of three bases is my recollection—on Puerto Rico. And all of them were like that. The air force had a beautiful installation there. And we walked in and took it over.

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

BC:

—time in Puerto Rico when the navy was taking over the army and air force facilities. Did you want to add any more to that?

RL:

Yes—

BC:

How did you—

RL:

I would. Up till that point in time I had thought that the staff system which they had in the army and the air force was a wonderful system. But unlike the navy where although we have staffs we all worked together. And I found out in trying to carry through with what we were doing there in Puerto Rico the air force and the army just don't work the same way. In the navy, for example, if I had to move people from point A to point B, I'd call the Bureau of Naval Personnel and say, “It is that we need to move 450 people from here to there” and explain why. And they would take care of it from there. In the army and the air force, because of their staff system, when I would talk with my counterpart, I thought, in the army he'd say back to me, “Well, I can't do that. You have to talk to the AG's [adjutant general] office about that.” So, every little piece in the army has to get their fingers in the pie, and there is nobody who actually coordinates them. Somebody else has to do it. I ended up being a coordinator in the army, or not in the army, for the army. And I found it very frustrating because what would have taken three months for the navy to have done all of this took two years with the army.

BC:

Did you have other interaction with army and air force personnel?

RL:

Well, I had had back when I was a lieutenant junior grade. I went to a six-month, oh, no, six-week course, that was an armed forces course which was held at Fort Slocum, New York. And there was a male lieutenant junior grade and me. The rest of them were army and air force people. And that was somewhat enlightening. But it did not prepare me at all for this mess that I found when I was trying to work with the army to finish up the job in Puerto Rico.

BC:

Did you spend the full two years in Puerto Rico or—

RL:

Oh, no, no.

BC:

Or you just went on a quick trip—

RL:

I went on a quick trip. We wrote up our findings. The lieutenant commander from the personnel section of CNO, Chief of Naval Operations, and I worked up what we thought would be required. And it took about a third as many people for the navy to staff that as it did for the army and the air force to staff their jobs because in the navy when an electronics technician who works on mechanical parts of a piece of communications equipment, he works on a multiplicity of different platforms. In the army they worked on just one. And so, where they would—where we would send a man and maybe there are five different kinds of communications equipment down there, he would be able to work on all of them. Whereas, with the army you had to have five people. And so it saved the government a lot of money in the long run, but it sure caused a lot of hate and discontent on the part of the air force [laughs] and the army.

BC:

I'm sure it did. So, you returned, then, to Washington?

RL:

Yes, to my regular job.

BC:

How long did you stay there?

RL:

Let's see. Let me think. I guess that's when I went to Japan, yes. I came back and I finished my job there. And I went to Japan in April of 1963.

BC:

Did you request to go overseas? How did you end up going to Japan?

RL:

I'd been asking for years to go to Europe. [laughs]

BC:

To Europe. [both laugh]

RL:

Well, all my background and my family's lineage is European. And so I gravitated to Europe like, I think, most Americans in those days, especially in those days. Times have changed a lot. But when my orders came for Japan I was just really crestfallen until my old friend, Ethel Weyant, who had been at my interview with Admiral Rickover, said to me, “You don't know how lucky you are.”

And I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “You know all about Europe. Go find something different.”

And I thought, “Well, you know, she's got a point there,” where she had been in the job I was ordered to with one person intervening. And she had loved Japan. And she talked to me often about things Japanese. And so I got there, and so I was prepared to like Japan, thanks to Ethel. I just was so intrigued. Everything was so different. I had thought before Ethel helped me see through her eyes, for example, that all the buildings would be brightly painted in like red. And, of course, they didn't paint their buildings at all in those days. The only thing painted would be a temple. And so what you saw was just kind of weathered wood, and shoji screens and such. And so that was an awakening for me, to see a landscape that was [pause] the cityscapes is what I should say, not landscape. The cityscapes were dun-colored, just weathered wood. And so that—It took a bit getting your eyes accustomed to that.

BC:

What type of work were you doing there?

RL:

I was the assistant chief of staff for personnel and administration. No, no, that's not correct. If you have an admiral who is a head of a staff, he is called—his first assistant is called chief of staff. If you have somebody less than an admiral who is the head of the organization—in our case it was a captain—his assistant was called an assistant [chief] staff officer. And, so, I was an assistant to the assistant [chief] staff officer [laughs] for administration and personnel.

BC:

Did you have much interaction with local people, with the Japanese people?

RL:

As much as I could. The bulk of staff were Japanese.

BC:

Oh, really?

RL:

And I got to know some of them extremely well. My secretary was Nisei and born in San Francisco and had gone to Japan after World War II was over. In her words, she went there to see what she could do to help the Japanese understand what it was to be a member of a democracy. And she lost her American citizenship because in her zeal to demonstrate democracy to them, she had voted in the first Japanese election and she automatically lost her American citizenship when she did that. I don't know that that's still true. It was grossly unfair.

BC:

Right—

RL:

And she struggled—

BC:

—and she probably had no idea.

RL:

No, she didn't. She struggled for years to regain her American citizenship unsuccessfully. But she was a very interesting person in many, many ways. And I felt very fortunate to have her as my secretary, because she would intercede with me when I couldn't speak enough Japanese. I had learned some. And I could understand it better than I could speak it but—by a long shot. But she would teach me as we went along. And she would speak with the Japanese to help ease things that needed to be communicated.

BC:

It was probably helpful to have someone who could help you not just with the language but with the customs and the—

RL:

Yes.

BC:

—way people interacted.

RL:

Every now and then I would come up with one that [laughs] that really would dumbfound her. I don't remember now who told me, very possibly it was—Her name was Peggy. Very possibly it was Peggy. But there was a restaurant in Yokohama where I was stationed that was famous nationwide for unagi. Now, unagi is eel. And when I go down and order unagi they would bring me a bowl, a big bowl of rice, with two or three strips of eel on top. And I loved the eel. I know why they cooked it—why they were nationwide famous—because I've had unagi other places, and they don't cook it the same way. But I wanted more eel with the same amount of rice. And so I told Peggy that one day, and she says, “Oh, Commander-san, you cannot do that.”

And I said, “Well, why not?”

And she said, “Because that's not the way we do it”—or they do it. She always called them “they.”

And I said, “Well, you think Yuko-san—” Yuko-san was our bookkeeper—I said, “Do you think Yuko-san could explain what it is I want?”

She says, “Oh, I don't know Commander-san, I go ask him.” So, she went out and she—I heard them talking. They must have talked fifteen minutes.

So, finally Yuko-san came in and he says to me, “Oh, Commander-san, I don't know. I don't know. I can try, but I don't know.”

And so I said, “Well, that doesn't seem so hard. I want a bowl of rice and seven or eight pieces of unagi.”

He says, “Oh, but that's not the way we do it.”

And I said, “Well, see what you can do.”

So he went back and he wrote in Japanese. It took him, as I remember, three 3x5 cards, front and back, to explain what this crazy gaijin [non-Japanese person] wanted [laughs]. So I armed myself with the 3x5 cards and took myself down to the restaurant. And the waitress came and she recognized me by this time. And I handed her my 3x5 card and she's standing there and her eyes are getting bigger [laughs] and all of a sudden she started to giggle. And so she took off and ran into the kitchen, and she's laughing. And she hands the 3x5 cards to the chef. And I could see him through those peephole, the side where I sat there. And I could see him, and he is reading it and his eyes are getting bigger. And all of a sudden, woo, woo, woo [laughs] to the waitress. And she's laughing, and he's—I think he was really telling her she was nuts [laughs]. Anyway, in due course my meal arrived and I had a bowl of rice and three—

BC:

Don't tell me you had—

RL:

—and three strips of unagi. [both laugh] So when I got back to the office I said, “Yuko-san, you're right.” [laughs]

But they are programmed. They really are programmed, especially where things that we like to eat are concerned. You could not order as some of our officers—young male officers like to do. They would go out and they say they wanted bacon and eggs and also a side of ham. Well, we do that here, not in Japan. You get bacon and eggs and ham and eggs. [laughs]

BC:

And hope you're hungry.

RL:

Exactly.

BC:

Were you able to do much traveling and sightseeing while you were there?

RL:

I wasn't able to do nearly as much as I would have liked to do because the man I worked for was not comfortable with the Japanese. And so he really restricted my time off. But I did get to go to Bangkok [Thailand] before he decided he couldn't do without me. I traveled—most of my weekends were free and my holidays were free. I had a good friend from way back at Op94Victor who was stationed there, and she and I used to go together on—and she had her car. And we would drive around in the countryside together. And it was just delightful to get off the main drag and to go to some of the villages.

BC:

Would you be in uniform all this time?

RL:

Oh, no, no. We wore civilian clothes.

BC:

How did the Japanese people respond to you?

RL:

Well, my friend, Eleanor Rich was—had a beautiful—she was old—quite a lot older than I—and she had a beautiful head of, beautiful white hair. And real pink skin. She was from Boston and was of Irish descent. And she was a very attractive woman. The Japanese just really warmed to older people in those days. And so wherever we went, she was my ticket to really being accepted. She was very warm with the Japanese. And they reciprocated. She warned me the first time we went to a place where someone had told her they were having a village festival.

And she said, “Now, let me tell you that if they offer you anything to eat or drink, accept it.”

And I said, “Okay.”

So in we go, and pretty soon here came a little man just all smiles and he had a bucket full of orangeade, I guess, is what you would call it. And he had a dipper. So he dipped up a—some of this stuff and handed me the dipper. “Dozo,” he says, “Please, dozo.” And so I dutifully drank out of the dipper.

She says, “Don't say a word.” It was so sweet that I felt like my teeth were going to fall out of my head [laughs] but I passed muster.

BC:

That was the important thing.

RL:

Yes, and it was a fascinating place because I had not seen a Japanese festival at that time. Among other things, they always parade their local deity. And it was just most interesting to watch that, really most interesting.

BC:

When did you return to the States?

RL:

I was there just at two years.

BC:

By some time in 1965?

RL:

No, it was late 1964, yes.

BC:

And where were you stationed then?

RL:

Here in California, my first visit to the great state of—well, it was Southern California. And I was at the amphibious base in Coronado.

BC:

And what were you doing there?

RL:

I was the comptroller for the amphibious base. And so I was known locally as “Moneybags.” [both laugh] And I enjoyed my—I worked for one of the princes of this world, a wonderful man, our captain. And I found out after I got there that I had been requested because they had a major problem. It seems that the Bureau of Naval Personnel had decided that the commands on that base would be split up, and where the naval station had once been in charge of the naval training command [amphibious school], also, they pulled the training command [amphibious school] out and put it directly under the admiral rather than under my boss. And one of my old bosses, who had been at Op94Victor, knew—he had become the comptroller of the Bureau of Naval Personnel—and he knew that there was going to be a serious problem because all the financing left my boss and went over to the naval training command [amphibious school], despite the fact that we still had to support them. So he said, “Okay, send Lloyd over there. She'll get it straightened out.”

Well, fortunately, I had had enough training when I was working for Op94Victor to know that there are all kinds of hidden pots of money around, you just have to know about them. And know that you can call on them. And so I got there and I discovered, among other things, that although we housed almost four hundred men, there were only about five blankets. Southern California can be very cold at night. And that just wouldn't do. And the barrack's officer came up with one of these blankets and my predecessor had told them, “No, don't dry clean. Send them to the laundry,” because it was going to save money. Well, of course, it didn't. The wool blankets were of the proper size for a child, not for a grown man. And so the first thing I took under my view was, how do we give every man at least one blanket? And so I just called on one of those pockets that I knew about from my job in Washington. And we had blankets. And we had a wonderful warrant officer who was in charge of the men's mess—enlisted men's mess hall. And he was very canny old boy [laughs] and a delightful man.

And he said to me, “Ma'am, won't you come down and have lunch at the mess hall today?”

And I said, “Oh, thank you very much,” because often the men, enlisted men, often ate much better than the officers did. And, so, I went down and we had a very nice lunch.

And he said, “And I want to show you around here.” So, he did. He gave me a tour through his bailiwick like nobody ever got before.

BC:

The grand tour.

RL:

Yes. And I even got to see how they peeled potatoes. [laughs] And he said, “I bet you thought that we peeled them with a knife. Well, look at this.” And so he showed me a drum. You drop the potatoes, the washed potatoes, in there and the drum whirls around and it has little pimples sticking [out] inside. And these pimples are medal and they abrade the peel off the potato. The thing is built in such a way that that stuff drops to the bottom. And, so, you end up with a nice, clean potato.

And he says, “I need to replace this, as you can see it is pretty well worn out.”

And I said, “Well, that looks true.”

And he says, “Now, you see these dishes,” he said, “I don't have enough dishes to feed all the men. So they have to come in sections.”

And I said, “Well, that doesn't look too choice.”

And he says, “No, it makes it pretty hard.” [laughs]

Well, he got my attention. So, we started working on the men's dining room and we actually turned it into a dining room from a dining hall. And he wanted to go further than that. He wanted—

BC:

I bet he had grand plans.

RL:

The navy has an award call the Ney Award [for Food Service Excellence], N-e-y, named for an admiral many years back who wanted to ensure that the enlisted men got the best food that they could get under the best circumstances that we could give it to them. And it had always been my friend's ambition to win a Ney Award. And we won two.

BC:

Did you really?

RL:

One year after the other. Yes. And it was just wonderful, just wonderful. And the men enjoyed going to eat, and they enjoyed their surroundings, and it was just a real treat. It was wonderful to know that we had achieved that.

BC:

And did something that would make such a big difference.

RL:

It makes a terrific difference. I know on one occasion I had an enlisted man in my office there. And I had been told that they were going to have lobster for lunch that day. And so I said to this youngster—he was eighteen, I believe—I said, “You're going to have lunch down at the chow hall today?”

“No, ma'am,” he says, “I'm going to go and get a burger down at Wendy's.”

And I said, “You are? They have lobster.”

And he says, “Ah, I'd rather have a burger.” [laughs] So we kept a burger line going down there, too.

BC:

Now, this was in the mid-60s. Did the increasing U.S. involvement in Vietnam have any impact on your work at all?

RL:

I'll say. The men, the [U.S.] Navy men especially, and some Marines all came through our base. We had the survival training program that was going on out in the Chocolate Mountains, which is east of here in the high desert. And the naval training command [amphibious school] that was there had specialized training for them. We also developed the PBRs, Patrol Boat Riverine.

BC:

And what is that?

RL:

It is a patrol boat like the one that—they go into the rivers. They are very shallow, draft boats. And instead of using an outboard motor they used a jet propulsion system, because the outboard—the blades of an outboard motor would snag in reeds and seaweed and such. If you use a jet, it blows it through the water so it doesn't tangle up on—

BC:

More appropriate for—

RL:

—anything. Yes.

BC:

—Vietnam?

RL:

Yes. And all of the SEALs [Sea, Air and Land Forces] in the Pacific Fleet, UDT, and SEALs.

BC:

What is that?

RL:

UTD is Underwater Demolition Team. And SEALs are the Underwater Demolition Team with added functions. They parachute in, for example. They were all trained at our base, the ones in the Pacific Fleet. There's a similar set up on the East Coast out of Norfolk. But that program picked up enormously because of Vietnam. And I had to do all the budgeting for those people.

BC:

So they were coming through training at your base? [phone rings]

RL:

Yes.

BC:

And then being shipped out overseas?

RL:

Yes. And I hated it. I really hated it.

BC:

How did most people feel about the war at this point?

RL:

They were down on it.

BC:

Even people in the navy?

RL:

Yes.

BC:

What do you think about the mood of the country at that point?

RL:

Was very definitely anti.

BC:

Anti-war?

RL:

Yes.

BC:

Being in the service, was that difficult for you all?

RL:

Yes.

BC:

And the protests and everything?

RL:

Well, what bothered me the most was I didn't think that we were doing the right thing. I feel strongly that people have a right to determine their own government. And it happened that a friend of mine had been with the military assistance group in Vietnam well before the war—we got involved. And when he came back he told me that he had written an extensive report on his experiences in Vietnam. And he said, “To tell you the truth, the people there are so poor that they don't have any energy left from trying to put enough food in their children's stomachs to keep them alive much less spend any time worrying about politics.” And he said, “I have sent a copy of my report to not just the Chief of Naval Operations, but also to the State Department.” And he said, “I hope that we never get involved over there, but I'm afraid of that.” And he says, “It seems that there is some contingent within the U.S. Government that is bound and determined that we are going to be involved.”

Well, I had run into that problem when I was in Japan, because when I returned from Japan I was dumbfounded that so few people in the United States had any idea that we were already as involved in Vietnam as we were. Because MSTS [Military Sea Transportation Service] had—we had fourteen LSTs [Landing Ship Tanks] that were manned by Japanese crews. And their function was to provide supplies to the military in that era—area of the world. And so we sailed—our ships sailed from Tokyo, Yokohama, to the Philippines, and then from the Philippines they would provide for needed supplies in Vietnam. And we sent one crew down and they were on their run, and they got down to Vietnam, and they were stuck there because of what was going on otherwise. And I got a message in Japan from the commanding officer of one of our ships in which he said, “You have got to send us some Japanese rice, because all we can buy down here is Vietnamese and Philippine rice.” And if you know rice [laughs] they are distinctive differences in the way they taste. They may look the same, but they're are distinctive differences. And he almost had a mutiny in his Japanese crew because they didn't like that rice. So we had to get a ship down there pretty quickly [laughs] with Japanese rice.

And the American people, I don't know if they were purposely being kept in the dark, but they had no concept of how deeply involved we already were in Vietnam. And people like Joan Baez were singing. And I remember her having a concert in Coronado in the park there. I didn't go to the concert [pause] because I couldn't [pause]— The French had been in Vietnam for a long time. And I so well remember the battles that they fought and lost so decisively long before we ever decided to get involved. Okay, so you don't believe in Communism. If it was going to better the lot of those people, and they were persuaded that it would better their lot, that's their decision to make, not ours.

BC:

How did you feel about President Johnson having to deal with Vietnam and then also—

RL:

It was his election to do that.

BC:

—his work with civil rights?

RL:

Huh, I don't remember much about Johnson's work with civil rights to tell you the truth. I guess he carried through with it, didn't he? What Bobby Kennedy, he had—

BC:

He did the passage of the Civil Rights Act—

RL:

Yes, that's true, yes. If you are a citizen of this country, you have a right to all the privileges of this country and you also have an obligation to help the country with its obligation. And if you deny people their rights, then you can't help denying them from their obligation. If you want them to carry out their job as an American citizen, then you have to give them their rights to be an American citizen. It's just so, to me, it's so clear, you know? [laughs] I guess I'm a strange soul.

BC:

After Coronado, was that your last assignment—

RL:

Yes, it was.

BC:

—with the navy?

RL:

I was at the amphibious base. And as the Vietnam War wore on, the—our boss who was Commander Amphibious forces, Pacific Fleet, [ComPhibPac] asked for me to come up for his staff. And so I left the amphibious base staff and went to ComPhibPac staff, and I retired from there. We had a wonderful admiral on that staff, greatly to be admired man.

BC:

When did you make that transfer?

RL:

Let's see. Around 1969, early seventies, some place around in there.

BC:

And then when did you retire from the navy?

RL:

February 29, 1973—1972.

BC:

Was that a difficult decision?

RL:

It was and it wasn't. Things had changed so much in the navy at that point in time. We had Admiral [Elmo] Zumwalt, for example, whose policies greatly upset me, along with a lot of other old navy folks. And the Congress was intruding more and more into our lives so that it made it very difficult—it was as difficult as the one I mentioned earlier where I had to take one graph to, quote, replace the military with civilians, along with the second graph which replaced the reverse. And it was getting to be very, very difficult to work within such absurd parameters.

BC:

What did you do after you left the service?

RL:

Huh [chuckles]. I had gotten my real estate license when I arrived—shortly after I arrived in Coronado. I had a difficult family problem that I was dealing with, known as doctors and hospitals. And since all that was coming out of my pocket, I was—I had to figure out some way to make money. And the news about my mother's having had a severe paralysis reached me just shortly after I got to Japan. And I—the navy told me, no, that I had only been at my station there less than four months and I could not return to the United States. And being an only child, it was kind of a problem. And the doctor's bills started rolling in, and I looked at these bills. And the first one that I got I figured out was going to take me some incredible number of years to pay the bill if I didn't take a nickel out for myself. Fortunately, a good friend who was a physician had given my mother a complete physical shortly before I left to go to Japan. And she came over after my mother left and she said, “If you don't get an insurance policy covering your mother, you are going to be bankrupt.”

And I said, “What?”

And she said, “Well, she has a severe heart problem which she doesn't know about. And so she is going to either have a stroke or a heart attack.” And she said, “You just got to cover yourself with some insurance.”

So, I had taken out an insurance policy from Metropolitan [Life Insurance] to cover both my parents. And that helped a great deal. Thank heavens that Chris had told me this. But even so, the residual, the 20 percent that I was responsible for, was just astronomical. And I will always bless Chris for having warned me.

BC:

It makes a big difference.

RL:

I don't know what I would have done. I really don't know what I would have done. Because you couldn't stay in the navy if you were bankrupt. And we needed my income, because my dad had Alzheimer's by this time. And so what do you do? [laughs] Go homeless, I reckon. But you don't do that in my world.

BC:

Find a way.

RL:

That's right, you find a way. So I had a hundred and fifty dollars a month that I had set aside for me to live on. All the rest of it was going to take care of my parents. And I went—It happened that the Red Cross office on our base was immediately next door to my office when I was at the amphibious base. And I—One day I went in and I was just chatting with a Red Cross gal. And so she pulled out of me the fact that I was having this financial problem. And she was a good friend when she did that. Because she says to me, “Well, where are you going to live?”

And I said, “I don't know, because the cheapest rental I'd been able to find was a hundred and twenty dollars a month, and that made it pretty—that left me thirty dollars a day—a dollar a day to live on, and I had done that when I was in college [laughs].” So I went—I said, “I don't know.”

And she says, “Well, I want to introduce you to my real estate lady.”

And I said, “Well, I can't buy anything.”

And she said, “Oh, sure, you can.” She lent me $2,500 out of her own pocket. And I bought a little house at auction in Coronado. And it was $12,700.

And I said, “Well, where am I going to get the other money?”

“Never mind.”

And so I went down and I was sure that they would turn me down, and they didn't. I got a loan from San Diego Federal Savings and Loan. And she says, “Now, the next thing you have to do is buy some more.”

And I said, “I can't buy any more. I'm still owing you money.”

And she said, “No, what you have to do is buy some more.”

Well, at this point in time Coronado was—had a number of empty properties like the one I bought. And Imperial Beach, which is just south of Coronado, had acres of houses that were boarded up, the weeds growing up to your waist. The same was true in the city of Chula Vista, which was our next neighbor. And this was because the government had pulled after Korea was over, they started closing down all kinds of defense-related industry here in this county. And the people who had worked in those defense industries left. And so were all these houses, many of them had never been lived in. And she says, “Yep, you can. You can do it.” She says, “You are going to do what I did when I came here. Annabelle told me that if I got some paint and a couple of packets of flower seed I could make anything look great.” And she says, “Now, this is what I've done.” And she explained it to me.

One of the books I had read when I was in Japan, trying to figure out how I was going to deal with my financial obligations, was called What Every Woman Doesn't Know. And that was really a wonderful book because basically it boiled down to live off of your own income. You live off of other people's by borrowing their money and finding real estate that needs fixing and fix it. And turn it over using their money. And I thought— [tape skips] that makes a lot of sense. And when she—[tape skips] with me I thought, “Yes, it really makes a lot of sense.” And so that's how I got involved in real estate. And initially I thought I enjoy—[tape skips] doing the little house I had in Coronado very much, because I could come home after working on paper all day—[tape skips] and I could actually—[tape skips] see what I had done—[tape skips] with my hands the day and night before—[tape skips] That wall— [tape skips] looked so much better— [tape skips]

[End Tape 2, Side A—Begin Tape 3, Side A]

BC:

—your retirement from the navy and you said that it was not a difficult transition, as there were so many changes in the navy.

RL:

Yes.

BC:

Can you tell me a little bit about what had changed over the course of your twenty years of service?

RL:

Oh, my. Well, attitudes had changed even among officers of high rank. One of my classmates from Newport who had, I felt, the opportunity to become a number one in the women's navy called me up one day, and she announced that she was going to retire. And I said, “Why?”

And she said, “I can't take any more of this [Admiral Elmo] Zumwalt.”

He was the chief of naval operations. And he had introduced a new look into the navy. Beards were okay. Men growing their hair long was okay. And sloppy uniforms were okay. And it had just changed the entire tone of the navy. And I'd see men, and I was ashamed that they were wearing the navy uniform. They looked like Beatniks, Hippies, or whatever you wanted to call them. And they're—Just the tone of the navy had changed. And it had changed in my opinion and in that of many, many people whom I knew had changed for the worst.

And this mess in Vietnam, which we should never have gotten involved in to start with. If we had just bothered to look at the history of the French in Vietnam, we would have known that we shouldn't have been there. And as I said earlier, people are entitled to determine their own futures in their own country. And it would be like our going to Britain and saying you have to give up the monarchy, you know? Well, the monarchy means something to the British people, not all of them, but to a good many. And so the attitudes had changed. And ways of doing things had changed. And I just couldn't buy a lot of things that were going on. So, it was time for me to leave.

BC:

Did you see many changes for women throughout the course of your career?

RL:

Oh, yes [laughs] enormous. Absolutely enormous. When the women in the navy program was set up, it was with the help of the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina and our Dean [Harriett W.] Elliott, who was, oh, wow, what a lady. She was very instrumental in setting up the initial program for women in the navy. And at that time, there was no intent as far as the men in the navy was concerned for there to ever be women permanently on active duty. And certainly not to be a regular naval officer. And that was true with the other services, too, at that time. We were just to be auxiliaries—

BC:

Right.

RL:

—filling in for people who had to be on the fighting lines. And when it was decided in 1948 that women were going to be needed on a permanent basis, it changed the lives of so many of us. And certainly changed mine [laughs]. And during my time in the navy I saw those things change markedly. When I came in the navy there were less than fifty women on active duty in the navy—officers, I'm speaking of. And many of the enlisted women had been able to stay on as reserves and some few officers had stayed on in the reserves. And they were given the option of changing to regular navy when the Congress decided, well, yes, we're going to have to have women as a regular component of the armed services in the future. And they had changed over to regular navy most of them, not all of them, but most of them had. And so, while I was in the navy I saw the number of women in uniform increase dramatically.

When I—At the time I retired, there was only one woman captain, and that had been true throughout my time in the navy. That captaincy, that's four stripes, just below admiral, that captaincy had gone along with the job and that job was being the assistant for women in the office of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. And you interviewed Captain Viola B. Sanders, who was a superb person for her job, just superb. And just at the time I retired, they had decided to extend the rank that one could obtain in the navy from commander, which is what I retired as, to captain, that they were going to allow a lot more captains. And they were going to allow women to go to sea. And I thought, “Oh, what a change this is going to be.”

And what a challenge it's going to be for the women who come after me who have to deal with, among other things, motherhood. Because, see, when I was in the—Until about two years before I retired, if a woman had a child she was required to leave the navy. She had no options. And that battle was fought by an acquaintance of mine. She was on the staff of the [Amphibious] Naval Training Command there in Coronado. And when she came over one day and told me that she was pregnant—and her husband was an attorney—that she was going to fight being put out.

And I said, “Oh, wow, it's a good thing Harvey is an attorney [laughs].”

And she said, “Well, no, I'm not going to use Harvey. He's going to be a witness.”

And so she and a chief petty officer, who I don't remember her name or where she was stationed, but she turned up being pregnant about the same time. And she and her husband decided to fight it, too. So we had a woman officer and a women chief petty officer, both fighting this longstanding order that you will get out if you are pregnant. And they succeeded in their fight. And Jeordine, she came over to tell me.

She says, “Well, I got the inside word that it's going to be okay.”

And I said, “Jeordine, my hat's off to you, but I don't know that you are doing the right thing.”

And she said, “Yes, I am. I'm doing the right thing. My little girl—it's going to be a little girl. I know it's going to be a little girl.” And was. [laughs]

She's going to be proud that Mama fought for her like this. And certainly her husband was proud that she had carried through with it. And my hat's off to her that she did this. So we have mothers in the navy now, as well as fathers. And we have, several years after I retired, they finally decided, well, okay, if women can go to sea and be commanding officers of ships, they can certainly be considered for admirals. And we have some admirals now. In fact, one of the chief of staff for the City of San Diego is a retired navy admiral. And she made big marks in the navy, and she's making big marks in civilian life.

BC:

Women today are also in combat positions.

RL:

Yes.

BC:

How do you feel about that?

RL:

I think it is very difficult. Of course, we've had women in combat positions going back to the Revolutionary War. But with our attitudes in this country, especially, I think it's very difficult. And I tip my hats off to the women who are doing that. And who are willingly taking the risk. I wanted to be a submariner so bad [laughs] and I was always regretful that I didn't have that opportunity. There's still—women still can't serve on submarines. I guess never will until we can have an all-female submarine some place. But I think it's just wonderful that they can go to sea. And if you go to sea you are going to be in harm's way. That's the nature of the beast. And if you are in the Marine Corp and in the [U.S.] Army and the Coast Guard you are going to be in harm's way. And bless them.

BC:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

RL:

Yes. [laughs]

BC:

Do you think the military made you that way or strengthened that?

RL:

It might have strengthened it, but heavens knows, my mother was as independent as a hog on ice [laughs], and I got a lot out of—I got a lot of it from her.

BC:

Do you consider yourself a pioneer or a trailblazer when you entered the service?

RL:

No, I didn't. They had been there before me.

BC:

Before?

RL:

Yes.

BC:

Would you recommend the service to young women today?

RL:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I can't think of anything that a young woman could do who has the right attitude and the right motivation that would give her more opportunity to grow as a person and as a professional person. When I was coming along in 1950, you kind of had—you had such a limited landscape to consider. You could be a teacher or a nurse or a professional scout person, maybe. And none of those—well, the professional scouting was the only one that interested me at all. I did not want to teach. I had taught as a student teacher. And I greatly admire the teaching profession, but it wasn't my bag. And I certainly didn't want to be a secretary. It just—It held no—I didn't see any upside in it, I guess. And thanks to my parents I was born with a certain amount of—or grew up at any rate with a certain amount of desire to get ahead, to make a mark, and feel that I had achieved something in my life. And I do admire mothers. Don't misunderstand me. But that wasn't in my future. And I don't regret a minute of it. I'd do it again. And had I had a daughter, I would have encouraged her.

BC:

Well, you certainly have made your mark and had many wonderful accomplishments. I don't have any more formal questions for you. This has been a wonderful interview. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed speaking with you. Is there anything that you would like to add or anything I didn't ask about that you wanted to share with us?

RL:

Well, let's see. Yes, I would like to share a little bit about my realtor career with you.

BC:

Okay.

RL:

I realized early on that selling houses was not satisfactory, as far as my needs were concerned. I needed to feel like I had helped people achieve some of their life's desires. And people who buy homes do so totally emotionally. You either react to a house positively or you don't. And I had so many young people come into our office there in Imperial Beach who were driving the latest van or the latest truck and they would come in and they would sit down, and it was usually a junior enlisted man and his wife, his young wife. And they would say, “We want to buy a house.”

I said, “Okay, let's see if you qualify for a house.” And nine times out of ten I'd ended up telling them, “I'm sorry, but you are driving your house,” because they'd sunk all their money into that car, you know, or that truck. And I found that very distressing, because here were young people who had real—had a real goal. And they had not enough financial education to know how best to utilize their funds.

So the thing that really pushed me over the lid, though, was that I had a good friend who was a warrant officer and became a commissioned officer in the Medical Service Corps. And he and I had worked together at the amphibious base. And he called me up one day and he said, “Hey, Moneybags, Mary and I are moving back to the West Coast and we want you to find us a house.”

I said, “Oh, okay, Wally, well, we'll work at that.”

So I went out and I lined up four prospective houses that I felt were appropriate for what I understood they were looking for. And one of them had wonderful financing on it. And they could have gotten into it for very little money. And had a very low interest rate. One of them a SEAL on the amphibious base had just bought, and it had a very high interest rate loan on it, but it was brand new. He was giving it up because he had been ordered to the East Coast. And so I showed them that, just because it was brand new. And the loan was assumable, but very high interest at that time. I think it was 9.5 percent. So I took them to see that, and Wally called me the next day and he says, “Mary wants the last one.”

And I said, “You're kidding? That's got the worst financing of all on it.”

He says, “I know that, and you know that, but it's what Mary wants.”

And I thought, “I can't deal with this. Here is a man who really understands financial management. And his wife's emotional reaction to this property is causing them to make a poor decision financially. I can't deal with that.” [laughs]

So I moved over into the commercial side of the business, where people look at things with a different eye. It isn't—not that there isn't emotions involved in acquiring a piece of commercial property, including apartment buildings—there's a lot of emotion involved, but it's a different kind of emotion. And having the financial management background, I had it fitted me better, too. And so, I—the word went around. I've never had a written advertisement anywhere, of any kind. I never put up a sign on a piece of property. And I, fortunately, got involved with the exchange busines,s which became a way of life for me. And it's still a way of life for me. And instead of buying and selling, I take what I've got and exchange it for another piece of property that would better enable me to achieve my goals. And that's like getting an interest-free loan from Uncle Sam, because you don't pay any kind of capital gains tax until you actually sell the piece of property. So, Irma Jean [Brooks, WV0347] has heard this whole lecture before. [laughing]

So, anyway, I—through that and working with my clients who were interested in what I was doing and who had faith in what I was doing—well, I've put a lot of kids through college who otherwise wouldn't have gotten to go. There are four—three children who have doctor's degrees now who wouldn't have had doctoral degrees if I hadn't worked with their parents. And that's very gratifying.

BC:

I'm sure it is, to know that you've made such a big difference—

RL:

Yes.

BC:

—in many people's lives.

RL:

Yes.

BC:

Knowing how important education has been to you and your family.

RL:

Yes.

BC:

So it's a wonderful feeling to help someone—

RL:

Yes.

BC:

—achieve those goals.

RL:

Yes, I feel very good about it.

BC:

I must say another accomplishment to add to your growing list.

RL:

And I'm still trying. We just exchanged—I had the first house that I owned in Imperial Beach, which was a wreck when I bought it, I just exchanged that into an eight-unit apartment building here in San Diego. And one of these days the proceeds from that will flow through to UNCG when it's finally sold.

BC:

UNCG has certainly been a beneficiary I should say—

RL:

Well, UNCG was—

BC:

—of your good work.

RL:

UNCG, way back when it was Greensboro College for Women—no—

Irma Jean Brooks:

North Carolina.

RL:

North Carolina College for Women. My cousin went to Greensboro College. It's been a very important part of my life. I walked across that campus every day almost for all those years. And I knew so many of the faculty, most of whom are wonderful people and were very good to a child.

And Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson, what a prince. He was one of the sweetest people I've ever known. I would meet him in the mornings when I was walking toward Curry and he was walking from the chancellor's house toward his office. He always wore a fedora. I never saw him outdoors without a fedora. And he would always lift that. And as he got to know me, because we met so often on these treks, he would say, “Good morning, Miss Rebecca.” He would lift his fedora. “Good morning, Miss Rebecca, how are you today?” And what man—how many men would do that with a child in the second grade? Just a lovely man.

BC:

Well, thank you so much for spending all this time with us.

RL:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

BC:

It's been a wonderful interview. So, on behalf of UNCG I would like to thank you so much.

RL:

Thank you.

[End of Interview]