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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Pauline Rogstad Allison, 2006

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Object ID: WV0357.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Pauline Rogstad Allison’s service with the Navy Nurse Corps during World War II, particularly her two years on a hospital ship in China; and her life after the war.

Summary:

Allison speaks chiefly about her service with the Navy Nurse Corps in the 1940s. She talks about her decision to join the military in November 1942; working at Parris Island, South Carolina, including nursing on the wards, duty shifts, and social activities; serving in Argentia, Newfoundland; the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois; working at the WAVES dispensary at the Naval Training School in Stillwater, Oklahoma; and a patient who had been seriously injured playing touch football.

Allison also discusses her service on the USS Repose in China from 1946 to 1948. She describes caring for troops and their families; living arrangements on the ship; recreation and social life, including meeting her husband, Bill Allison; outbreaks of meningitis and mumps; and pistol practice. Allison also comments on her uniform, leaving the navy after marriage, her husband's military career, other nursing jobs, and the impact that her navy service had on the rest of her life.

Creator: Pauline Rogstad Allison

Biographical Info: Pauline Rogstad Allison (1918-2010) of Winchendon, Massachusetts, served in the Navy Nurse Corps from 1942 to 1948.

Collection: Pauline Rogstad Allison Papers

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

Full Text:

HT:

Today is Tuesday, August 1, 2006, and the time is two o'clock in the afternoon. My name is Hermann Trojanowski, and I'm at the home of Mrs. Pauline Allison in Cleveland, North Carolina, to conduct an oral history interview for the women veterans project in Greensboro at the University of North Carolina [at] Greensboro.

Mrs. Allison, thank you so much for talking with me this afternoon. If you'll give me your full name, we'll see how we both sound on the tape recorder.

PA:

My full name is Pauline Rogstad Allison.

[Recording paused]

HT:

Mrs. Allison, would you mind telling me a few biographical bits of information about yourself, such as when and where you were born?

PA:

I was born in Hartford, Connecticut.

HT:

When was that?

PA:

The twenty-ninth of June, 1918.

HT:

Where did you grow up?

PA:

Massachusetts, Winchendon.

HT:

How do you spell that?

PA:

W-i-n-c-h-e-n-d-o-n.

HT:

Can you tell me something about your parents and your brothers and sisters?

PA:

I have—my mother came from Norway, she was an immigrant. My grandfather was an immigrant, and so he, my father, was the son of an immigrant. My mother was a housewife, and my father was a machinist.

HT:

What about your brothers? How many brothers and sisters did you have?

PA:

I had five brothers, and I have two at present.

HT:

Were you the oldest child or the youngest?

PA:

I was the oldest.

HT:

Where did you go to high school?

PA:

I went to Murdock High School, in Winchendon.

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite subject or subjects were in high school?

PA:

I loved school, period.

HT:

When you were in high school, what were your plans for the future? What did you want to do after you graduated?

PA:

I think I always wanted to be a nurse.

HT:

What influenced you there?

PA:

My mother was a—when she first came over here, she worked in a hospital as an aide, and she loved it and she always wished she was a nurse.

HT:

So when did you graduate from high school?

PA:

June of 1936.

HT:

Did you go to nursing school after that?

PA:

I went to Hartford Hospital. They said I went to see what happened when I was born. [laughing]

HT:

Can you tell me what nursing school was like in those days?

PA:

It was very different than now. [laughing] We lived in quarters in the nursing thing, and, oh dear, where do you start? [laughing]

HT:

Do you remember what a typical day was like? Did you go to classes or did you have clinical studies? Or exactly how was the schedule?

PA:

We did all of that, you know. We did all the labor and we had a supervisor nurse and her assistant, probably, on the floor. But for afternoon and evening, we were brand new and before we even got our caps, we were in charge of a whole ward of about thirty-six patients.

HT:

Was this a general hospital?

PA:

Yes, it was a general—it was a private hospital.

HT:

Did you specialize in any particular field, or was it just general hospital nursing?

PA:

You took the whole thing when you were a student, and after I graduated I had a chance to work in the operating room, I did operating duty and then I did night nursing in the operating room.

HT:

How did you find the working in the operating room? Was that to your liking?

PA:

Very much so. I enjoyed all my nursing.

HT:

Do you recall any interesting stories from your nursing school time, anything unusual happen, any escapades you were involved in? [laughing]

PA:

Now you're asking for trouble. No, I don't recall anything. You know it's been a lot of years since I was there. I remember it was on the seventh floor of the hospital, and I loved being there on nights because in the morning we could see out and see the sunrise coming up over the Connecticut River.

HT:

When did you graduate from nursing school? In 1940, maybe?

PA:

In September of 1939.

HT:

What did you do next?

PA:

What did I do next?

HT:

Yes.

PA:

I worked right there in the same hospital doing the same things, and I stayed there for two whole years and worked there.

HT:

In the operating room?

PA:

Most of the time, yes.

HT:

Now, the article mentioned something about the Red Cross. Did you ever join the Red Cross?

PA:

That was one of the things we did, sort of—it was expected, and you just did it naturally when you graduated. When the Red Cross sent the notice out that they needed nurses in the service, why, that's when I joined.

HT:

So that's when you joined the navy?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall when that was, the date that you joined the navy?

PA:

It was November 11, 1942.

HT:

So you were still in Hartford, Connecticut, when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December of '41.

PA:

Oh, yes, yes.

HT:

Why did you decide to join the navy?

PA:

I love water. I loved to go, you know, swim and boat and everything. We had a lot of little ponds around where we were.

HT:

Had your father been in the service?

PA:

No.

HT:

He had not?

PA:

No.

HT:

Of course, since you were the oldest child, your brothers were not in the service or anything like that?

PA:

Right after that time, they were old enough so that they joined.

HT:

When you decided to join, what did your parents and your brothers and sisters and your friends think about you joining the military?

PA:

At that time, everybody was joining, and it was just something that was accepted, and everybody was happy for you.

HT:

Did your parents have to sign any kind of papers for you? Or you were probably over twenty-one by that time.

PA:

I think I was twenty, yes.

HT:

Now, you were commissioned as an officer when you joined.

PA:

I was commissioned as relative rank at that time. They did not have full rank for nurses. We came in and we were paid seventy-three dollars a month, and that was our pay. And we were, you know, expected to be nurses and work as nurses.

HT:

Did you have to go in and do any kind of basic training or military training?

PA:

No.

HT:

Nothing like that?

PA:

I was inducted at Parris Island, South Carolina, and we just went on the wards and went to work.

HT:

How did you get from New England to Parris Island?

PA:

I got lost. [laughing] At that time I went, mostly it was trains, you know. There was no other transportation, practically. I went on the train, I got down to New York fine, but then when I got into New York, I went on the subway and got lost. I went the wrong way and so I missed my wonderful berth and all that I was supposed to have on the way to South Carolina and went on the milk train that stopped at every stop, you know, all the way.

HT:

Was this the first time you'd ever been away from home for any length of time?

PA:

Well, this far, except from Hartford.

HT:

You'd never been South before, I assume?

PA:

No.

HT:

So this was in the winter of 1942, November or December, that period of time?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

So it's fairly cool in the South?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

So what did you think of Parris Island?

PA:

I was just amazed at the whole thing. I just saw all the recruits all marching and they sang their little ditties on the way and so. I loved it because it was out on an island and there was water around it. From the wards where we were, we were right along the river and we could watch the porpoises running up and down the river.

HT:

What type of duty did you have at Parris Island? What did you do exactly?

PA:

We did just general nursing on the wards.

HT:

I guess you worked with the recruits that were coming through Parris Island to be trained and then shipped out.

PA:

That's it. Yes. I worked on [unclear] surgery which gave all of us—At that time, they tarred the whole parade ground and they walked in those brand-new shoes on that tar, and their feet were unbelievable, some of the things that happened to them, you know. They just got terrible sores and things, and so we took care of them and all that. That was a big thing there.

HT:

What kind of treatment did you have to give the soldiers for their sore feet?

PA:

Frankly, I don't remember. It's too long ago. I guess we soaked them, and I don't remember. I really don't remember. You know that was before penicillin and neopoxicil[?] or anything like that, so we just used the old-fashioned remedies, I think.

HT:

This is not exactly duty, but what kind of hours did you keep, do you recall?

PA:

Well, there was three shifts, like 7:00[a.m.] to 3:00[p.m.], 3:00[p.m.] to 11:00[p.m.], and 11:00[p.m.] to 7:00[a.m.], was mostly what it was.

HT:

Did you have to do rotating duty or anything like that?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall any unusual stories from your time at Parris Island, any humorous events or anything terrible happen? I think I read in your newspaper article that there was a touch football game and a fellow got hurt rather badly. Was that somewhere—

PA:

That was when I went to Stillwater, Oklahoma, later.

HT:

That was somewhere else. Okay. Wrong place. Okay.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

Well, what did you nurses do for fun when you were off-duty?

PA:

We went bowling, and there was a bowling alley, so we'd go bowling. We went to town shopping. We went to Charleston and Savannah, and we went on the jitney bus or whatever you want to call it, you know, that was—we had to be, come in on the bus and all that.

HT:

So it was not all work, it was a little bit of play and recreation as well?

PA:

Oh, yes, a little. It was a normal life, more or less.

HT:

Do you recall how long you stayed at that base?

PA:

I was there for two years, and then from there I went to Argentia, Newfoundland.

HT:

So that would have been sometime in 1944?

PA:

Nineteen forty-four, yes. I don't have my paper that tells where I was at what time. I don't remember.

HT:

No, that's fine. That's fine. Well, that was quite a change from the heat of South Carolina all the way to Newfoundland.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

It was quite chilly, I would imagine, most of the time.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

Did you request to be stationed there, or is that just the navy doing—

PA:

What?

HT:

Did you request to be transferred to Newfoundland?

PA:

No, I didn't, didn't have any particular. I don't remember asking for any place special. They just sent you, you know. They just sent you orders and you went.

HT:

What type of duty did you have in Newfoundland?

PA:

It was the same, doing duty work on the wards, you know, the same rotating business. But by that time, they had made us, given us full rank, you know, and our pay had gone up and we were treated like normal individuals, except that we—If you got married, that was a sin, the worst sin there was. Any of the girls that got involved and wanted to get married, they didn't want you. They got you out of there, right now.

HT:

You said you had relative rank when you first got to Parris Island, but you had normal, full rank?

PA:

Full rank, you know, just—we were recognized as other people, because I guess by that time they had decided to have WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] and all the rest.

HT:

So you were a lieutenant, I guess.

PA:

I was ensign when I first came in.

HT:

Now, you still were considered officers, so you could not fraternize with the enlisted personnel, I guess, or anything like that?

PA:

No, that was supposed to be taboo.

HT:

[laughing] Oh, gosh. Well, what kind of fun did you have in Newfoundland? Do you have any stories from that period of time that—

PA:

Oh, yes. It was—there they did a lot of fishing and things, and it was great fun, they thought, to catch a fish and put it in somebody's bathtub or toilet bowl or something or other. They didn't want any part of the fish otherwise.

While we were up there, we were real short of supplies at one time, and we ate white asparagus for our vegetable for weeks, I think, [laughing] and then before the next supply ship came in.

HT:

So was this sort of a remote area of Newfoundland, where the hospital was?

PA:

I don't know. It was just a little drop-off or something, and then there was an army base across the way and they had an airport so that it was planes in and out.

HT:

Was this a big medical facility or fairly small?

PA:

No, very small. It was a small, just for the people that were there and the locals. If the locals got sick, why, they'd take care of them.

HT:

Do you recall how many other nurses, navy nurses, there were at that time?

PA:

Oh, I'm not sure, maybe ten, about that.

HT:

We haven't actually talked about this, but I'm assuming you had a—Did you have a uniform that was similar to the WAVES or was it a little bit different?

PA:

No, we still kept our navy uniforms. While I was in, I never got a WAVES-type uniform. That was later, so that—

HT:

I know the WAVES are very proud of their uniforms, because it was designed by a very famous fashion designer, Mainbocher, I think was his name. So I was wondering if maybe your uniform had been designed by the same person.

PA:

No. We were met—I can't remember her name. I've been trying to think of it, and I can't think, but it was designed by a well-known fashion designer, you know.

HT:

Yes. But it looks very smart, I mean. I know some of the uniforms didn't look as good as others, so, yes.

Well, after you joined the navy corps, did you do any kind of additional training, medical training or anything like that?

PA:

I didn't get any special training, no.

HT:

I guess a lot of it was just on the job.

PA:

It was just you were just put on a job and more or less left on your own, and you were supposed to—When I went in, we were supposed to have two years' graduate training.

[Telephone ringing]

HT:

Do you need to get that?

PA:

Oh, dear.

[Recording paused]

HT:

We were talking about training and that sort of thing before the phone rang. What about supervisors? Were there nurses who were supervisors, or did you have to report to doctors, or how did that work?

PA:

Well, the doctors were always in charge of the wards and things, but the nurses, we had nurses supervisors and nurses, you know, that were in charge of the nurses. They were people that had been in the service for a while and had advanced to do it.

HT:

What was your next duty station after Newfoundland?

PA:

From Newfoundland, I went to Chicago, to Great Lakes [Naval Training Center].

HT:

That's the big training center, outside?

PA:

Yes, it's the Naval Training Center. And we were there until—

[Telephone ringing]

PA:

There they go again, all the time.

[Recording paused]

HT:

So you were at Great Lakes by this time. That was quite a change from Newfoundland, which I assume was fairly rural, to a big city.

PA:

Yes, but we were out, you know, at the base there. But we were only there temporarily, they sent us back from Newfoundland and then we were reordered.

[Telephone ringing. Recorder paused]

HT:

We were talking about Great Lakes. What type of duty did you perform at Great Lakes?

PA:

Just normal nursing and spent a day or two in the operating room doing some operating, GYN [gynecology] work. But we were transferred shortly after that, and I was transferred to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to—what is it, the [Oklahoma A&M] State College, and there was a WAVES school where they were teaching them to type and do all those things for the different forms they had to learn how to make out. So there was just two of us, and we just had a little dispensary, you know, in the school, so that we took care of whatever was necessary.

HT:

So you took care of only WAVES?

PA:

WAVES mostly, yes, until a fellow had his—He was hit in the stomach with a football real hard and sliced his intestine in two, so we did surgery on him, and that was the hardest work I'd done after.

HT:

Well, I would imagine if you hadn't helped real quickly, he probably would have died.

PA:

Hadn't done it, definitely, yes.

HT:

Or he would have bled or something internally.

PA:

We had a good surgeon, and he was able to repair him real quick.

HT:

That's just unbelievable. I've never heard of anything like that happen to somebody.

PA:

Oh, I'm telling you, somebody hit him real hard with that football.

HT:

In just the right place, too.

PA:

Yes, that's it, and it just happened to be.

HT:

Did you take care of him until he recovered?

PA:

Yes, we took care of him until he was able to go on.

HT:

Wow. So hopefully he was grateful to you and the doctor and the other nurses.

PA:

Oh, boy.

HT:

[laughing] Oh, my gosh. So you took care of mainly WAVES the entire time you were at Stillwater?

PA:

Yes. So that it was just simple dispensary duty, you know.

HT:

So this was not a large hospital at all, I guess?

PA:

No. We went, if we wanted something, we could go down to Norman, Oklahoma, and they had a hospital there.

HT:

Did anything other unusual happen at Stillwater, other than this poor guy being hit in the stomach?

PA:

No. We had the regular things, you know, pediculosis and all that sort of thing.

HT:

So after you left Stillwater, where was your next duty station?

PA:

Then I went to Oregon, to the State College in Oregon in Corvallis. That was—they were preparing for the invasion of Japan, and so they were setting up the hospital for to receive all these casualties. And it was at that time they, of course, dropped the bomb.

HT:

So this was the summer of 1945?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall where you were when VE [Victory in Europe] Day was in May and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day in August?

PA:

VJ Day I was in Stillwater in the—I was in town, I know that, and a bus came by full of army boys from the army. There was an army base at Camp Adair, in Oregon, and that was—They were all shouting because they were all so happy that, you know, it's all over. That was—

HT:

That was VJ Day, I guess?

PA:

Yes, that was VJ Day. Then from Stillwater, I went to San Diego, California. And there—while I was at Stillwater, I was promoted. I think I was promoted to lieutenant jg [junior grade] and then up to captain, or not captain, but full lieutenant was what it was in the navy.

HT:

So you went to San Diego, as well.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

So you must not have stayed in Oregon terribly long.

PA:

No, because they decided they didn't need the facility, and so we went there. When I went to San Diego, I asked for hospital ship, and from San Diego—I worked as well as some supervising the wards, and just making rounds all the time I was on duty there. [pause]

HT:

You said you had asked to be put on a hospital ship.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

Why was that?

PA:

I just wanted to go to a ship. I had a friend who was, when I was in training, she was from China, so I think I asked for a hospital ship in China, and then that was when I got put on the [USS] Repose. [pause] I was on the Repose for two years.

HT:

That's a long time to be on a ship with very little quarters and space and that sort of thing.

PA:

But I loved it. I had—most of my duty was in the operating room. I went over, I flew over, and then they came back for maintenance on the ship, and so we were transferred there, from there to Oakland Naval Hospital, and there I just had worked on one of the wards. Then at the time, you know, everybody was—couldn't wait to get out. They were going to be—I asked if the ship went back, I wanted to go back with it, and so I went back. When the ship went back, I was able to go back on the ship, and we stayed for the full two years in China.

HT:

I think you were stationed outside of Shanghai, is that right?

PA:

I was in the Huang Pu River on the ship, and then we went up to Tsingtao, which was sort of a resort area where we had navy. At that time, they were bringing dependents out so that they could be with their husbands and so forth, and we did a lot of obstetrics and so forth.

HT:

Now, did you actually live aboard the ship while it was docked on the river, or did you have quarters?

PA:

No, we lived on the ship. We stayed on the ship. If we went to town or anything, we got on a little jitney, or whatever you want to call it, little boat, and went to the dock and came back.

HT:

I would imagine there's not a whole lot of room on a ship, so your quarters must have been rather small.

PA:

Well, our quarters were—we were on the top, upper deck, and they were all—Well, there was a bunk, there were two bunks, one over the other, and then there two desks and two cupboards and a sink. That was our quarters, our personal, you know, space. Then we had community bathroom facilities and washing facilities, and so forth.

HT:

What about recreation? What did you do for recreation during your time off?

PA:

Oh, boy, we played a lot of gin rummy and all that sort of thing, tried bridge. One of the doctors played bridge with us one afternoon, and my goodness, he had a real fancy—I was playing with him and he bid me two spades, and he didn't have a spade in his hand. [laughing] I'm telling you.

HT:

Well, that's quite amazing to spend that amount of time onboard the ship. You must have loved the duty very much.

PA:

I did. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thoroughly had a good time.

HT:

Were you able to see any of the countryside around China?

PA:

Yes. I was lucky. I met my husband there, and of course went out frequently, and that was when we were in Tsingtao. He had a Jeep and so we got to go, you know, and there was a little beach where we—The navy had a little beach that was for them, and so we went there. Bill [Allison] had a sailboat, and we went out on the sailboat, and everybody'd tell us, “Well, don't go over that way, because that's where the Communists are.” You know, that was when the Communists were coming down, so we—

HT:

How did you meet your husband?

PA:

His ship was having a party, and they wanted nurses to come and just be someone to dance with, I guess, and so we were invited and I just went. He kept coming back and saying he wanted to go out, so we went out.

HT:

Was your husband an officer?

PA:

Yes. He was in the Supply Corps. He was a warrant officer, chief warrant officer.

HT:

I think you mentioned earlier in our conversation that if you decided to get married, you really had to leave the service. So did you have to leave the service or when did you? I'm going to backtrack. When did you and your husband get married?

PA:

He left Tsingtao in August, I believe, and my time was up in October, so I came back in October. He was from Augusta, Georgia, so I went by Augusta, and we were married in South Carolina.

HT:

That was August and October of 1948?

PA:

Nineteen forty-eight or [forty]-nine.

HT:

So you were overseas quite a bit of time, and all in China.

PA:

Yes, two years.

HT:

Did you ever come back on furlough or anything like that during that time?

PA:

No, just when the ship came back, I was back at that time.

HT:

But you were still in the navy when you came back to Augusta to get married?

PA:

Yes, I went to Washington, [D.C.]. Our chief nurse was in the nurse corps office at Washington, and she changed my orders from Chelsea, Mass[achusetts], to Jacksonville [Florida]. So I went Jacksonville and there I got—I was discharged in January '49.

HT:

I think your husband was probably stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, is that right?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

It's really strange that they would have—

[Recorder paused]

HT:

Yes. You were talking about Jacksonville. Now, so when you got to Jacksonville, I guess you knew by that time that you were getting married.

PA:

Oh, we were already married.

HT:

Oh, had you already got married?

PA:

We took leave, you know, from Augusta and were on leave until we got reported at Jacksonville.

HT:

So you knew that you'd have to get out at that time.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

Were you disappointed that you had to leave?

PA:

Oh, no, not at that time. I was ready then. [pause] I don't know what you want me to say.

HT:

No, that's fine. So did your husband stay in the service after you left?

PA:

Oh, yes, he was. He stayed and he stayed until, oh, dear, don't ask me, anyway, until he had twenty-three years, and then he retired, because our children were young and he wanted to get a civilian job so he could take care of them.

HT:

Did you work after you got married, as a nurse?

PA:

Yes. My husband was—after he retired, he went to—He was sent to Tsingtao where the Kwajalein Island, where they had a navy base and he was in the housekeeping things. So he ran the dining room and the stores and stuff like that.

HT:

These were navy bases?

PA:

Yes, a navy base, but he was a civilian at that time. He was already retired.

HT:

Right. So you did a lot of traveling?

PA:

Oh, yes, I have, and that was thanks to the navy, very much so. I worked when we were there. You had to work in order to have a home, and they—oh, dear—I worked in the dispensary there. They had a dispensary, and I worked there for the time that we were there was about over two years.

HT:

Well, it sounds like you really enjoyed your work the entire time.

PA:

I did. I've always enjoyed nursing, I really did.

HT:

Do you think you were treated equally? Because I'm assuming some men probably had similar positions to what you had during that time. Do you think you were treated equally or did you ever notice any kind of discrimination because you were a woman?

PA:

No, because nursing was separate. People—At that time, there were no men in the nursing profession, and they didn't accept men. So we were the nurses, and that was it, and we did all the nursing duties and things. There were corpsmen, we trained corpsmen, and you know, so that they knew about that, but that's about it.

HT:

So were the corpsmen under the nurses? I'm talking about—

PA:

They were under the nurses and they were in the enlisted group.

HT:

But they reported to the nurses.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

And the doctors, I assume.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

What did you think of the officers and their leadership?

PA:

It was just like having doctors in the civilian service, you know.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were with the navy?

PA:

Working that fellow out at Stillwater twelve hours a day for several days. I mean it was weeks.

HT:

What made that so difficult physically?

PA:

Because you worked twelve hours a day for every day, and you know there was no breaks at all. You did twelve hours and then the other nurse did twelve hours and so forth. Then sometimes we'd switch. She'd want days, so she'd go to days and I'd go to nights.

HT:

This was taking care of that one fellow?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

I guess he lived through all that.

PA:

Oh, sure, he was. He got better fast.

HT:

Because of your good nursing. [both laughing]

PA:

Yes, of course.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally while you were in the navy?

PA:

Just, I don't know, it was just normal everyday business as far as I was concerned. I never had any unusual things except for that one incident.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid or any kind of physical danger?

PA:

No.

HT:

Not even while you were in China?

PA:

No. Oh, we went out one night and came home and we were in the car, in the Jeep, and we got stopped by the Chinese, and we wondered whether we were going to get, be released so we could go down to the ship so I could get off and get back on duty, but that's all.

HT:

Do you recall any embarrassing or hilarious moments?

PA:

Oh, dear, I'm not very good at that. [laughing]

HT:

Okay. We talked a little bit about what you did during your spare time. I know you said played some bridge and that sort of thing. But I'm assuming you saw some, did some sightseeing while you were in China and that sort of thing. Or were you able to, because I know the Communists were coming and that sort of thing—?

PA:

We did go up into the country one time, and that was, of course, because Bill had the Jeep, and there were some other people, other groups, with us. We went up and spent a weekend up in the country. While we were there, we did pistol practice and things like that. That's one thing I think I've always said, you—oh, how does it go now? “They also serve that sit and wait,” and that's what I felt like my service was. I never got, you know, where some of the army nurses got into the different kind of hospitals and things.

So I didn't do anything like that and didn't—When we were on the Repose, we had meningitis, the men, outbreak of that from up in—Came down from Shenzhen, from a Marine base there, and we had, and that was when they put them, you know, they had—respiratory, oh, dear, troubles, and they put them in the iron lungs, and we had iron lungs and sent them back to the States in iron lungs.

Then we had an outbreak of—what else did we have—mumps and, you know, some of the men really—I mean the corpsmen were absolutely—They thought they weren't going to live because they had such high fevers and all, and we did a lot of sponge baths and so forth, trying to keep the temperature down, but that's the mumps thing.

HT:

You mentioned something earlier about pistol practice. Was that the first time you'd ever learned to fire a pistol?

PA:

No.

HT:

Because you were in sort of remote area, I would have thought that you would have had some sort of small arms practice or something.

PA:

No, it was just, you know, Bill had pistols because, of course, he was a pay clerk and he had the money and he had a pistol, and so we did it just as more or less recreation, because there wasn't anything—

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite songs, movies or dances were from the World War II era?

PA:

Oh, dear, no.

HT:

The next question is do you recall what the mood of the country was like during that period of time?

PA:

My recollection is of everybody moving, you know, everybody was going somewhere to meet somebody or something, and the trains were just absolutely crowded, and you know, you get on a train and you'd sit on your suitcase because there were no seats and things. It was really something, and I just don't know how we get along without trains the way we did then, because we just depended completely on them.

HT:

Whom did you admire and respect a great deal in that time? Who were your heroes and heroines?

PA:

Oh, dear, whoever was the boss at that time. [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt came when I was at Parris Island and I was doing some private duty with the captain of the hospital, and he, Roosevelt came and of course he made a special run by the hospital. We were out on the balcony so we could see him real close.

HT:

But you never got a chance to actually meet him?

PA:

No, not really.

HT:

How about anyone else famous?

PA:

I don't remember anyone else around that, no. There were a lot of people, but I don't know.

HT:

Yes. I'm assuming that you attended some USO [United Service Organizations] shows. The USO shows, did you ever attend any of those?

PA:

When I was there, we didn't have that many. You know, there were then now, but I think they were on the bases rather than at the hospital areas, and it was no—none where I got to go to them.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

PA:

I think so.

HT:

Okay. Have you always been that way, or did the military help make you that way?

PA:

Probably had something to do with it. [laughing]

HT:

Well, you know, not many women were—Well, there were several hundred thousand women in the military at that time, but not many women had done that prior to World War II, so do you consider yourself to be a trailblazer or a trendsetter, having joined the military?

PA:

No, everybody was joining at that time and it was—You know, I went in and there were other girls that were coming in at the same time, so.

HT:

What kind of impact do you think having been—I think you served about six years, or close to it.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

What kind of impact do you think having been in the navy had on your life, immediately?

PA:

I think it's had a big impact because I traveled so much and got to meet so many people.

HT:

Of course you met your husband.

PA:

Yes, of course.

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

HT:

We were talking about what kind of impact being in the military had on your life, and your short term and the long-term, and we were discussing that when the tape ended.

PA:

I think it's made me aware of what a big country this is and some of the other places, too, and more of an understanding of what that has been.

HT:

So do you think your life has been different because you were in the navy?

PA:

I think, yes, because I would never have met Bill, that's for sure, I'd never have gotten to North Carolina or anywhere, and I think it all turned around on that and just it's made me independent for sure, because I didn't have family close by to fall back on and, you know, when the most people need them, why, I was alone a lot of times and so forth.

HT:

Now, your husband was from Georgia?

PA:

Yes.

HT:

So how did you end up here in North Carolina?

PA:

Well, he was from here, really. This is his great-parents, his great-aunt and his aunt and uncle lived, had this house.

HT:

Here in Cleveland?

PA:

Yes, and left it to him, so that's why I got here.

HT:

Did you miss Connecticut and New England?

PA:

No, not really. I love this place.

HT:

Because you've been away a long time.

PA:

Yes, it's really been a long time.

HT:

I'm sure you probably travel back and forth to visit relatives and that sort of thing.

PA:

Not very often, once or twice, because Bill said he'd traveled all he wanted to and he didn't want any more, and we didn't go very often.

HT:

If you had to do it over again, would you join the navy again or would you join another branch?

PA:

I'd join the navy, no doubt about it.

HT:

Have any of your children ever been in the military?

PA:

No, they don't want to have any part of it, and they won't have any part of nursing. I couldn't make them want it at all.

HT:

So no nursing and no medical—

PA:

I have my son. I have one son who's a respiratory therapist, but the rest of them have all gone other ways.

HT:

You couldn't influence them otherwise, I guess.

PA:

No, I didn't have any influence on them.

HT:

You know, in World War II women had their few opportunities to join to do various types of work, even in the military. Of course women today have many more opportunities. They've even been involved in combat, especially in Iraq and places like that.

PA:

Yes.

HT:

How do you feel about that? Do you have any feelings one way or another?

PA:

Well, I'd far rather be a nurse.

HT:

Sort of patch up the wounded as they come in.

PA:

Yes. I don't think I'd do well. I'm too slow and deliberate for, you know, being out where you have to be quick and you could very—

HT:

Well, Mrs. Allison, I don't have any other questions for you. Do you have anything you'd like to add to your interview before we—

PA:

I don't think of anything. I think if you've got all you want, that's all that's necessary.

HT:

All right. Okay. Well, thank you so much for your time, and it's been very, very interesting listening to your stories about your time with the navy this afternoon.

PA:

Oh, boy, I'm telling you.

HT:

We appreciate it very much.

PA:

Well, you're very welcome. I'm sorry I didn't save all those uniforms and things. I would loved to have had them now, but—

HT:

Alright.

[End of Interview]