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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Doris Wilson, 2007

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Object ID: WV0388.5.001

Description: Primarily covers Doris Dickens (Hoye) Wilson’s service in the WAAC (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps) and the WAC (Women’s Army Corps) during WWII, and her education and career following the war.

Summary:

Wilson discusses life during the Depression; her family’s frequent moves; working with the National Youth Administration (NYA) after graduating from high school; attending business school in Wilmington, North Carolina; and working at the Cape Fear Hotel. She also describes life on the East coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor, including her work in a local filter center, which monitored aircrafts.

Wilson shares her reasons for enlisting in the WAAC (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps); the shortage of WAACs in Wilmington; and how women had to be brought in from other states. She briefly mentions her basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa; receiving uniforms; and the train returning WAACs to Wilmington getting lost. Of her continued work at the Wilmington filter center, Wilson discusses the changing demands of her job there; the WAAC expectation that she work as an officer and not a secretary; what it was like to “free a man to fight;” and male soldiers’ reaction to WAACs. Wilson briefly mentions attending Officer Candidate School and recalls Eleanor Roosevelt handing out the commissions. She recalls sharing a Pullman car with Shriners on the way to Fort Devens, Massachusetts and working in the base library there.

Of her time at Hamilton Field, California, Wilson discusses in detail how WACs started a passenger station and welcome service for servicepersons; meeting celebrities on USO tours; and helping returning GIs. She then describes her transfer to the Officer’s Promotion Unit in Washington, DC; her own promotions; procedures for promoting servicemen; and calling her fiancé Stanford Lee Hoye. She recalls VE Day, VJ Day, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s death.

Wilson briefly discusses her life during her marriage to Hoye but focuses on her own teaching career and education. Topic include teaching multiple subjects at the Illinois State Mental Hospital in Anna; issues in educating mental patients; being offered and accepting a professorship in family relations at Bradley University; and working towards a Ph.D. in home economics at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Creator:

Biographical Info:

Collection: Doris Dickens Wilson 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 March 8, 2007. My name is Beth Carmichael, and I'm in the Hodges Reading Room of the Special Collections and University Archives Department of the library at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG]. I'm here with Dr. Doris Wilson of Halifax, North Carolina, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project. Dr. Wilson, thank you very much for meeting with me this morning. If you can give me your full name, we'll use that as a test of our recorder.

DW:

My full name is Doris Dickens Hoye Wilson.

BC:

Ms. Wilson, I'd like to start a little bit about talking about your background. Can you tell me when and where you were born and a little bit about your family and childhood?

DW:

I was born in Smithfield, North Carolina, in 1920, August 28.

BC:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family? What did your parents do?

DW:

My father was a merchant. In Smithfield he had a Seed & Feed store where he catered to farmers, and then he was a salesman. He liked to travel and sell to traveling salesmen, too. That was—let's see. We left Smithfield in 1926, and from there we moved to Kinston [North Carolina]. I started school in Kinston. We moved to Raleigh; I finished first grade in Raleigh. We moved to Enfield [North Carolina] and I started the second grade in Enfield. We moved to Mount Olive [North Carolina] and I finished the second grade in Mount Olive, and I did the third grade in Mount Olive and started the fourth. I went to—in the fourth grade I was in three schools: Enfield, Halifax, and Mount Olive. Then we moved back to Mount Olive for a year. And, of course, this was during the Depression, and my father realized he couldn't make a living selling. So we went “back to the farm.” We ended up in Burgaw [North Carolina] as tenant farmers and we stayed there for, I think, about four years on the farm. We were right on the Cape Fear, northeast Cape Fear River, and then we moved to Penderlea, which was a government project which sold farms to farmers on long-term loans.

BC:

Okay.

DW:

I graduated from high school in Burgaw. I was there from the sixth grade on up.

BC:

That's nice. No more moving and changing schools.

DW:

So, I've often wondered what influence that had on my life, going to so many different schools in the first six years of my life—first six grades of my education. I know it caused me to miss math. I've always been a mathematical moron. [laughs] But, let's see, then there were no jobs for high school graduates.

BC:

What year did you graduate?

DW:

Nineteen thirty-seven. I was sixteen years old. At that time we only had eleven grades, and so I stayed around home and I did some babysitting, some Saturday clerking in stores, and some farm work—anything I could pick up. Then the National Youth Organization [sic, Administration], NYA, came along, and they gave people like me—I believe eighteen months stretches of work.

BC:

That's great.

DW:

And I learned quite a bit. At that time I worked part-time in the Extension Office in Burgaw, and the extension agent there didn't like 4-H Clubs, so I did 4-H clubs.

BC:

Were you organizing the clubs?

DW:

Organized some, took over some others, started one. I enjoyed it, and then I also spent about six months of that time working in a library, a high school library.

BC:

What did you do in the library?

DW:

I learned to mostly type library cards.

BC:

For the card catalog?

DW:

Card catalog. Yeah, quite a lot of cards. I was trying—I was groping for that word, catalog. Catalog cards. And I wrote a newsletter for the high school and some things like that, but when my eighteen months was up, I had to go find my own job. [laughs]

First year I was out of high school there was nothing to do. So I went back to school and took physics, which I didn't get in high school, and worked for the principal for nothing, just to have something to do. So I wanted to go to college, but-and matter of fact, I was accepted here at UNC. Well, at that time it was WCTC [sic, WC-UNC (Woman's College of the University of North Carolina) now UNCG] and my father had a job by that time, and we were doing a little better, but by the end of the summer it was apparent that my mother needed an operation, and I had to cancel that. So, I didn't get to come here until later on. [laughs] Much later on.

Then, let's see. I went to Wilmington, [North Carolina]. My brother was working, and he paid my tuition to go to business college in Wilmington. So I went to Wilmington and worked in a boarding house to pay my room and board, and my brother paid my tuition. When I finished my business course I got a job at the Cape Fear Hotel in Wilmington, which was a first class hotel and had a first class restaurant, probably the best in that part of North Carolina at that time—very professionally done, looking back on it. And I got to be—well, they call me an inventory clerk, I guess. The hotel maintained a storeroom which was like a grocery store. They had everything we needed, and my job was to keep up the inventory; that is, to make sure we had certain number of pounds of hams and steaks and green beans and whatever we needed, you know.

BC:

And this was for the restaurant?

DW:

For the restaurant at the hotel.

BC:

Okay.

DW:

And the hotel was located downtown Wilmington, and it was one block across the street from the post office. And at the post office they had a filter center, which was a place where they kept track of all the airplanes that were flying at the time in the area. They had a big table and with the area map on it, and whenever a plane would fly, somebody from a little booth over in Wallace [North Carolina] or Teachey [North Carolina] or one of the small towns would call in and say, “There's a plane flying over,” and he would describe it. They had all kinds of maps there for him to know what kind of plane it was, and, of course, the people in the filter center would [know] immediately if they didn't know the plane. See, they were tracking it all the way.

BC:

Right.

DW:

They would immediately call in and make sure that it was a friendly plane. We were right on the coast, so we were protecting the coast.

BC:

So, the war had started at this point? Was this after Pearl Harbor?

DW:

Yes. Oh, yes. I was sitting in my office when I heard the announcement of Pearl Harbor. I'll never—nobody will ever forget where they were.

BC:

So, you were at work that afternoon?

DW:

Yes, I worked on Sundays, restaurant work goes on, you know, and that's one of our most important days was Sunday noon, but—

BC:

So what happened after the announcement was made? Did you hear it on the radio?
DW:

I heard it on the radio, yes. I heard Roosevelt's speech, the original speech, and my first thought was, “What's Pearl Harbor?” Never heard of it.

BC:

Not many people had.

DW:

Never heard of it before, but we quickly found out. So they were recruiting volunteers over there at the filter center. So, I went over and I learned the filter board. They started everybody out. Your orientation was to learn to work the filter board and do various things there. So I learned that, and they found out I graduated from business college, and, of course, they were working—this was the 603rd Signal Corps—and they were working with mostly draftees, and the typists they had were high school boys who could hunt and peck, and it was pitiful. I mean their office was just dying for somebody who could write a decent letter with words spelled correctly, and their company roster you could hardly read.

I was then asked to work in the message center, and this was really high tech. At that time it was the highest tech. [laughs] We had eleven teletype machines. One was a secret message machine, and that one when it started typing we were not supposed to go over and even look at the message. We couldn't even look at it. We simply called the commanding officer, and he either came in himself or sent his first sergeant in or another officer to pick up the message, and they would reach out and tear it off and take it up without looking at it, and the commander officer was the only one who was supposed to—he had the code. He could break it.

Then we had a weather machine. Then we had machines connecting us to several local bases: Camp Davis, Bluethenthal Field. They're all gone now. During the war they were there, and Fort Bragg, and some-you know, all the bases around. I could literally fall asleep and the bell would ring and wake me up. I could tell you which machine was ringing. They all had a different ring. So, we learned the rings of the machine. So we sent and received messages and directed them to the proper place.

BC:

Were you doing this work as a civilian?

DW:

Yes, civilian volunteer, and there at the—in the post office the Signal Corps, one of the Signal Corps officers was recruiting a company WAACs [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps], and this was a brand new idea.

BC:

Right.

DW:

I'd never seen one. There wasn't one. [laughs]

BC:

Right.

DW:

But I was twenty-one. I was free. I had a job which was just a job, and I was very patriotic. I've always been a very patriotic person. Always cry when I see the flag go by. So I joined, and as I told you, that was about July 1, and he told us then that we wouldn't be inducted until the first of October.

BC:

And this is 1942?

DW:

Yes, so I was not on pay until the first of October, but I continued to work there as a civilian volunteer, and then, of course, I quit my job. The first of October, by that time we had a decent company—you saw the roster of the ones who went to Fort Bragg that day and were inducted, and that was the day I was inducted, the first of October 1942.

BC:

How did your family respond to this?

DW:

They were very positive. They didn't mind. They knew there as a war on. We were all patriotic people. So we went to Fort Bragg and we were inducted. Now, I'll tell you this. I believe—I don't believe North Carolina ever met its quota of WAACs. Things I've read since—and I know at the time we did not get enough in Wilmington for a company. So when we went to—we were sent, oh, after a few weeks; we didn't go immediately. When we were inducted, we worked in our civilian clothes, and we were being paid $21 a month, but we were fed—until we went in the uniform, we lived in our regular places. I lived in a boarding house.

So, when we went to Fort Des Moines [Iowa] for basic training, when we came back we had to have a full company of WAACs. So we brought back with us people from all over the country, and some of those girls were furious because they had been promised to go back to their hometowns like New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, all over the place, but they didn't mind. They knew they were in the army, so they had to be moved around.

BC:

When were you sent to Fort Des Moines for basic, because it would have been—

DW:

This was when we went to Fort Bragg.

BC:

—the end of '42 or early 1943?

DW:

Oh, it was in November.

BC:

November.

DW:

In November of '42.

BC:

What was training like?

DW:

[Laughs] Drill, class, drill, class. Learned to do what you're told. Learn to march. Learn to, you know, learn to take orders. Learn the proper GI way of saying things and doing things. It wasn't bad.

BC:

It wasn't a difficult adjustment?

DW:

No, they didn't give us any weapons training, and we never had to do any hazardous training or long hikes like the boys did. So at that time we were, I think, being trained to be administrative WAACs, not fighting WAACs, you know?

BC:

And when did you finally receive uniforms? During basic?

DW:

While I was at basic training. They issued us uniforms the first day.

BC:

And I know that one of the difficulties is—in the beginning—was creating uniforms for the women. What did they give you?

DW:

Well, it was sort of a replica of a man's uniform with a skirt.

BC:

[Laughs]

DW:

It was very [unclear]. And, of course, it had to be made to fit differently. So we didn't look like men, but we were the same color. Our uniform—I noticed—that's a good question, because now they are not dressing the women exactly like the men all the time. At that time, our—even when I became an officer, my uniform was an exact replica of a man's uniform, only with a skirt instead of pants. The colors, buttons, everything was exactly alike. And the hats to be different, of course, because girls have more hair than men.

BC:

So you had the Hobby hat?

DW:

Had that one, yes, and had the overseas cap, too.

BC:

Okay.

DW:

Both of those.

BC:

Well, what happened when you finished basic training? They sent you back to Wilmington?

DW:

Back to Wilmington. We had quite an experience going home. Our train got lost.

BC:

[Laughs]

DW:

We wandered around I forget how—I think we were two days late getting back to Wilmington, and everybody in Wilmington was frantic. The first WAACs in uniform I ever saw were our officers. And they were trained first and came to Wilmington and were there when we were there in civilian clothes. So, they were waiting for us to come back. They had planned a parade down Main Street when we got back. We had a full company then, but for some unknown reason our train—we went down in Missouri. I remember getting down to Alabama.

BC:

Oh, my.

DW:

And I don't know where all we wandered around. I suppose it was easier to lose a train at that time, but to lose a company of WAACs. But they finally got us back to Wilmington. Our company officer met the plane—I mean the train, and she knew that we had been on that train two extra days and nights, and she expected us to be wrinkled and dirty and dowdy, uncombed. So she cancelled the parade. Well, of course, what we had done and what you would have done in the same place, we had all saved one outfit—clean, pressed, ready to go. So we wore our grubby clothes all on the trip, and then the morning we got up and were headed for Wilmington, we put on our fresh, pressed GI uniform, and when we got there she was surprised—

BC:

I bet.

DW:

—to see us, you know, so clean and neat and pressed and combed. But we had all just saved everything so it would look that way, because we thought we were going to parade, but we didn't because she had cancelled it. But, anyway, that was one of the things that happened to me. But it was quite an experience, and I got back and I still worked in the filter center.

BC:

Okay.

DW:

Because they still needed us, and I'd like to say this. I said before the men were looking for typists, and when they talk about girls replacing boys, that was probably one of the most important things, was in clerical work and stenographic work, secretarial work. Because those boys, some of them were just fresh out of high school, and they might have taken a typing course and they might not, and they were told, “Type this letter. Learn to type. You're going to be the company clerk,” whether they could spell or not. [laughs] So they loved those girls for that, and we had to learn, especially after I became an officer. We were directed, “Don't let anybody make a secretary out of you,” because when they saw the WAACs coming, all those officers [said] “Get me a secretary, now, somebody who can read, write, and spell.” But as officers, we were supposed to do [the male] officers' work.

BC:

When you first went back to the filter center, were you doing the same work with the teletype machines?

DW:

Yes, I was. I went right back to my old job. Only thing I was training—by that time I was training the new people who came in.

BC:

So, was it all now WAACs who were doing that work?

DW:

No.

BC:

It was still civilians?

DW:

The boys were still there. I remember the first time a bunch of boys left to go overseas and, of course, they were replaced by WAACs, and that was one of the reasons we were brought there, to replace some men so they could go overseas.

BC:

Right.

DW:

And people have often asked me, though, how we were received. We were received by different people in different ways depending on people how they received us. But I remembered in the army when they send—during the war that is—when they send a group of boys overseas, the way they do it is they tell them, they go to them at midnight and say, “Okay, we're leaving at six o'clock in the morning,” and they will give them the privilege of calling their parents and telling them they're leaving for an unknown destination, but they cannot tell them [where]. They don't know where they're going. They don't tell them where they're going. If they did, it would leak out, and that's all they could do. One phone call, and no details, and then the next morning at five o'clock they head them out of town before the other boys—

BC:

Know.

DW:

—know they're even going. So, we had a couple of boys in the company who were kind of afraid, and they got kind of drank. They came around saying things like, “See what you girls have done. You caused my buddy to have to go overseas in the war. He'll probably get killed over there.” [mimicking a drunk] So, not everybody loved us. [laughs]

Some of the boys resented us, and some of them were pure old sexists who thought girls couldn't do things like men could do, you know? Then there were the ones who welcomed us because they thought they were going to get some good secretaries now, but after I got back to Wilmington we were notified. We had—it was posted on the bulletin board, that is. The people whose AGC Tests were high enough to qualify them to go to OCS [Officer Candidate School].

BC:

And what is that test?

DW:

Army General Classification Test.

BC:

Okay.

DW:

And it's supposed to correlate very highly with IQ [intelligence quotient] tests, and you have to score 110 or better. Now you did at that time—I don't know what the rules are now—you had to score 110 or better to be able to go to OCS. So, I think a hundred is considered normal IQ. That probably meant ten degrees above normal or better. So my name was up on the bulletin board as eligible to apply. So I applied, and I did get to go. So I went back to Des Moines. [laughs]

BC:

And when was this?

DW:

I graduated May 23, 1943.

BC:

From OCS?

DW:

Yes.

BC:

Okay. So you really didn't have much time once you came back from basic—

DW:

No.

BC:

—before you went back?

DW:

Not much time. Maybe six weeks or something like that. So, I went back to OCS and got my—and then when you get to be an officer, they do not send you back to your original—it's very seldom. It would be a very special case if they sent you back to your old company. It's hard to go back to an old company as an officer when you've been one of the girls.

BC:

Right.

DW:

So I can understand that philosophy. So, at that time, of course, we were still new, and we were a novelty, and we—so we went to—we were sent immediately to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, for further assignment. Oh, and I have to tell you. When we got our diplomas, our commissions [laughs] when we got our commissions, [Colonel] Oveta Culp Hobby, who was the head of all the WAACs, was supposed to be there to hand our commissions, and she couldn't be there. So she sent Eleanor Roosevelt in her place. So, Eleanor—

BC:

That's quite a substitute.

DW:

Yes. She handed me my commission.

BC:

Wow. So, what did you think about the Roosevelts, about President [Franklin] Roosevelt and—

DW:

Oh, I was a big fan. I was always a big fan of the Roosevelts, and right now Mrs. Roosevelt I expect is my top woman. I read a lot of—I've done a lot of study on the wives of the presidents, and she usually comes out on top.

BC:

Well, that must have been quite a thrill then?

DW:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, it was. First time I ever saw her.

BC:

Did you have an opportunity to speak with her or was it just for the ceremony?

DW:

Shook hands.

BC:

Shook hands.

DW:

Shook her two fingers. She puts out two fingers, so-but then we went on a train the next day. Boy, they don't—maybe that night. I don't know. In the army, the day you get out of your bed it has to be made up for somebody else the next day. No night goes by without that bed being occupied. So that's—in OCS we left one day, the new girls came in the next. So, they put us on a train and sent us to Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

I wrote a story about that trip. We were on a car with, oh, about half of the car-it was a Pullman car, sleeper. About half the car was us WAAC officers, brand new second lieutenants, and the other half was a bunch of Shriners who got on at Chicago, and these were not your Hollywood-type, drink-it-up, have-a-big-time Shriners. They were just nice elderly gentleman—to us elderly, being twenty-two at the time—elderly to me, and very well-behaved, very much gentlemen. And at first we were cool, but when we realized they weren't going to try to flirt with us, we warmed up a little bit to them. So we went to have dinner. They announced—we found out civilians couldn't have dinner, just army personnel. They were feeding army personnel only, armed service.

So we were kind of indignant. Those old men weren't going to get fed, and we were. So we ate, and then we saved a—we asked for extra bread, and we asked for extra this, that, and the other, and they were feeding us royally. So we had a big piece of roast beef and we just made a great big roast beef sandwich, you know. We put mayonnaise and lettuce on it and everything and took it back to the men. Well, they couldn't get our coffee and cokes. The porters at that time would get off the train at stations and run in and buy things like cokes and candy bars and come back and sell them on the train. So they could get that type of thing, but we thought about these old men sitting in there. Some of them must have been sixty-five. [laughs]

BC:

I'm sure they were happy to have that roast beef sandwich.

DW:

Oh, they were very grateful. We gave them—and an apple. Somebody had put a bushel of apples out there for the service people. So we all picked up an apple on our way back, and we brought them big roast beef sandwich and an apple, and so they were very sweet about it.

The next morning they couldn't have anything for—they had had coffee for breakfast, and that was all. So we stopped at some station in—I don't know, somewhere in Pennsylvania, up in that area, that morning, and a bunch of Red Cross ladies were out serving coffee and donuts to the service people, and we felt we don't need it. So, we jumped off the train and went out there ,and I said, “I need one for a friend, too.” So, I took four donuts and two coffees and took them back on the train and gave them to the men, and went to the other table and got four donuts and two coffees. So we fed all the men donuts and coffee.

So, when we got into—up in New York State they started getting of the train, and this one old gentleman passed by me he stopped, reached over and kissed me on the cheek, and he said, “Now you can tell your grandchildren you were kissed by the governor of Connecticut.” So I wrote my grandchildren a letter and told them that story.

BC:

Oh, my gosh. Did you?

DW:

Yes.

BC:

That's wonderful. I'm sure you've met a lot of interesting people.

DW:

Oh yes. Absolutely.

BC:

Are there any other stories or people that stand out for you?

DW:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. When I was stationed in Hamilton Field [California], we—Hamilton Field is an airport of embarkation—was; it's gone now I understand—and an airport of embarkation to the South Pacific. And the South Pacific war, of course, was going on at that time. So we were sending men out there, and we had hospital ships bringing them back whenever they were injured, and we had diplomatic pouches going out every day to all the bases and things. And there were fighter pilots would come through, and they would have about three or four weeks training there on the base before they went overseas. So it was quite busy.

But also, we were shipping out entertainers like Bob Hope and his crew. Well, I didn't see Bob Hope. They said that they had to pour him on an airplane. Now, I don't know what—he didn't like to fly. So he had to get drunk to get on an airplane. I didn't see him, but I met Gary Cooper, and he had Phyllis Brooks and Una Merkle with him, and I met all three of them, and he was very nice. He was almost shy.

BC:

Really?

DW:

Very fine gentleman. And then, let's see. Mickey Rooney came, and he came in the officer's club, and we thought he was kind of—he was kind of drunk and obnoxious. He went straight to—turned off the juke box and went to the piano and started playing the piano. We were resentful. We were dancing to the juke box. [laughs] But he had a bunch of minions with him. And then the—let's see. We were in orientation, meaning they put you in one job for three days, and another job for three days, so you are learning everything that's going on. They were going to start a passenger station in San Francisco, which was twenty-five miles away, and run a shuttle bus every hour. So they had taken over the old Cook Travel Bureau office, but that's all they had. They didn't give any money to remodel it or anything like that. So, the major who was sort of put as kind of a father figure for the eight WAAC officers sent to Hamilton Field was told to choose two of us for training to run that passenger station. He chose me and another girl named Marjorie Wiegan, but first we had to get it in shape to run.

So the captain, named David Merrill, who was in charge of us—and we literally went over there and did slave work cleaning that place out, doing some painting, moving furniture around and all that stuff to get the place going, and we got it going. Then they ran a shuttle bus from Hamilton Field to the passenger station in San Francisco once an hour. So we would get up and get on the shuttle bus at seven o'clock and come in and work until 4:00 and go home. And then we would alternate. One of us would get on the shuttle bus at nine o'clock and work till 6:00 and go home. It was a glamour job. It really was. We had GIs coming in to go to Hamilton Field, and they would be directed to the passenger station, because it was a free ride. And we had people coming back, and they would say, “How do I get to the airport? How do I get to the train station? How do I get here?” And we had all that information for them. So we were sort of liaison between the base and the city. And 4th Air Force—we shared Hamilton Field with the 4th Air Force, and also they had a contingent in San Francisco. So we had the lovely office, nice place. We had a little mezzanine where there was a place for people to sit down and wait. This boy named Jimmy Walker from the 4th Air Force was their PR [public relations] man, and he had a staff car at his demand, but he had no office. [laughs] So, he just loved our office.

BC:

I bet.

DW:

So, he made friends with us, and he could bring people in and sit them down and leave them for an hour if he wanted to, use our telephones, meet people there, things like that. So once in a long while then we would get a favor out of him. “Hey, how about getting the staff car and taking us over to the bus station? I need to talk to a man over there.” You know? Because we had to become personally acquainted with the managers of the major hotels and the—all the passenger airlines, the trains, buses, so that we could call them if we needed to, and they would make exceptions for us. That way we could get people reservations to a hotel when they couldn't find one, you know?

BC:

So, really it was almost like you were operating a welcome center?

DW:

It certainly was, in that way. He chose us for that for our personalities, because we were outgoing people who liked to help people and welcome people.

BC:

Right.

DW:

And we did. You know, we helped a lot of—well, I started to say GIs—officers, too. They can be as pitiful as anybody. [laughs] They'd come in from overseas, and I remember one time this—I think he was something like a first lieutenant, and he was from Denver. Hadn't seen his wife in seventeen months, and it was—I think he came in on Friday evening. Everything had closed. The finance office was closed. He couldn't get a check cashed, and he had enough money to buy a ticket, but he said he just hesitated to buy a ticket and get on a train for an overnight ride without having any money in his pocket. So I said, “I'll lend you some money.” So I loaned him a $20, I gave him a $20, which was a lot of money in those days, more than it is now. And he said, “I'll send it back to you.” He took my name and address.

So about three weeks later, the post master had a notice in my box. The post master wanted to see me. He had this postal money order for me, and he said it came with a telegram. But of course, I saw him every day, so he was kind of teasing. “I'm going to read this to you.” He looked at me kind of suspiciously and said, “It says here, your generosity is exceeded only by your looks and personality.” I said, “I loaned him that money because he wanted to get home and see his wife.” [laughs] But that was one of the times I just loaned somebody money, a stranger, and they always send it back to you.

BC:

How long did you work at the passenger station? What was the timeframe? Was it—

DW:

Okay. Yes, this was '43 and into '44 that I was there.

BC:

So you went from OCS to Fort Devens?

DW:

Yeah, then I was assigned to the Air Transport Command.

BC:

Okay. How long did you stay in Massachusetts? Just long enough to get your next orders?

DW:

Three months.

BC:

Oh, three months, okay.

DW:

We thought we were never going to be assigned. While I was there I didn't want to just sit around, and we were literally—we had to report every morning at 8:30 to look at the orders to see if our name was on that order list. So, they—I had on my—not my transcript but my records that I had worked in a library. So, one day they asked me if I would like to volunteer for the library, that they needed help over there. So I went to the base library and volunteered. It was about a mile's walk. I walked a mile over to the library, and the first day I went in there, I was in there for about ten minutes when this sergeant walked out of the little back room, had a tray in his hand, a cup of coffee and two donuts.

He said, “Do you use cream and sugar?”

I said, “Cream.” And after that, every morning when I walked in, he brought me that coffee and two donuts. [laughs]

BC:

That was awfully nice.

DW:

Yes, it was. Anyway, they were kind of embarrassed because I was the only officer in there, and the rest of the GIs were noncoms [noncommissioned officers], and what they needed most in the world was catalog cards typed. They had a stack of books six feet high, six feet wide, that needed catalog cards, and they couldn't put them on the shelf until they had the cards typed up. Now, you know the number comes automatically from the Library of Congress. Anyway, I said, “I don't mind.” So, I typed. I got them caught up on their catalog cards, and I did a little of everything. I worked the desk and I shelved books and found books for people, and did everything, but mostly I typed catalog cards. I enjoyed it.

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

BC:

Okay, we were talking about your three months at Fort Devens in between officer candidate school and getting your first orders as an officer, and you were talking about working in the library. Did you do that the full three months while you were waiting?

DW:

Just about. That's the only work while I was there. I read a lot of books.

BC:

So, you would just go and check every day and see if your name was there, and if not, you'd—

DW:

Right.

BC:

—wait till the next day?

DW:

Yeah, and sometimes they'd let my roommate check for me.

BC:

So, when did you finally receive your orders?

DW:

Well, eventually I was sent to Washington, DC, to be with Air Transport Command. While we were at Fort Devens, there was a recruiting officer there recruiting people for air force. Of course, the air force was the glamour organization of the world at that time, and all us girls wanted to be in the air force. So I went over and talked to her, and I noticed after she interviewed me she made a great big asterisk on the bottom of that page, and I was, “Oh, she's X'd me out.”

So when I got my orders I was sent to Washington, DC, to the Air Transport Command, and another girl and I walked in to the office of Major May, who was the head of the WAAC officers in Air Transport Command, and we stood at attention and saluted her, she was embarrassed. She said, “Oh, girls, sit down.” She had never gone through basic training. [laughs] She was one of those who was appointed when they first started the WAACs. So there was nothing GI about her; she was just kind of motherly. But we talked for a little while, and then she said, “Well, where would you girls like to go?” And we were stunned. I mean we had been in the army and been told what to do: “You will do this. You will do that. You don't have any say about this.” And all of a sudden this woman was saying, “Well, we have seven bases in the world, and where would you like to go?” [laughs] So the girl that was with me said, “I've always wanted to go to California.” She had said they had this base in California, and my stomach kind of rolled over. I thought, “Man, California is a long way, but I would kind of like to see it, too.” So we chose to go to Hamilton Field.

Really, the air force is more relaxed than the rest of the army. Now, the Air Transport is a little more GI than the fighting group. They're the ones who are so casual. We did meet some who had been on the South Pacific islands for a couple of years, and they were wrinkled and they didn't mind dirt, and they didn't mind being a little bit out of uniform, but they had colonel's insignia on their shoulders. [laughs] But we were still pretty GI.

But I was telling you I was working at the passenger station and had a lot of great experiences there, but when I got my rating, my performance rating, I got a superior. I think it was because we worked so hard getting that station ready, you know. Anyway, not many people get a superior rating. So in Washington they were looking for somebody to take over the Officer's Promotion Unit in Washington. The girl who was doing that wanted to be a company commander. So they looked at that superior efficiency rating and I just got a letter, “You are ordered to go to Washington, DC.” And it was devastating, because by that time I was engaged to a boy out there, and he'd been sent to Hawaii, and he had gotten a two weeks' assignment back at Hamilton Field, and he was coming back just before I had to go leave to go to Washington.

But, anyway, that's how I got to Washington. I always say I was kicked upstairs, and it was upstairs because in headquarters in Washington, DC, I was head of the Officer's Promotion Unit, so I know this. When a person's time was up—you had to be a second lieutenant I think for eighteen months before you could get first lieutenant—but that day they got promoted, and then a year later you could promoted to captain just like that. So, I was promoted immediately when I got there. My time was up. I was promoted to first lieutenant, and then one year later to the day I was promoted to captain.

BC:

Do you recall when it was when you went to Washington?

DW:

Yes. It was in, oh, golly. Well, I said I did. I'll have to look it up.

BC:

That's fine. Did you stay at—

DW:

It was in the winter—fall or winter.

BC:

The end of 1943, maybe early 1944.

DW:

Yes. [DW corrected later: Spring of 1943]

BC:

Did you have to reenlist when it went from Women's Army Auxiliary—

DW:

Yes.

BC:

Corps to the Women's Army Corps [WAC]?

DW:

Yes.

BC:

And you didn't consider leaving, did you?

DW:

No.

BC:

You knew you wanted to continue.

DW:

I believe—I was thinking about that the other day, and I believe I was in OCS. There was forty-three-year-old woman and she had decided—her husband was missing her terribly, and she had decided she had made a mistake by joining the WAACs, and she's the only one I knew who took advantage of that and dropped out. Because we did resign, and then we could leave if we wanted to, but then the next day we could join up again.

BC:

Now, when you join again, did your terms change—

DW:

No.

BC:

—or was it still the duration of the war plus six months?

DW:

Oh, I don't remember. Probably did because by that time. See, when I joined it was for an indefinite term. Now it was before the war started that the boys were being drafted—were drafted for a year, one year. Oh, no, you're right—plus six, right. That was the term when I joined.

BC:

Which was still very indefinite.

DW:

Yes.

BC:

Because at the time you had no idea how long this was going to last. So what exactly did you do in Washington? You were head of the Officer Promotion Unit?

DW:

I was head of the Officer's Promotion Unit, yes.

BC:

Were you working with all WACs, or were there—

DW:

Oh, no.

BC:

Men as well?

DW:

Thirty thousand officers in the Air Transport Command stationed all over the world. They would send in their applications, their company commanders would send in the recommendations for promotion, and they would come to my desk first, and then I had a clerk and a secretary and we would process them. If they were being promoted from first lieutenant to second lieutenant or second lieutenant to captain, and all their papers were in order, and their dates checked with the statistics, then I could pass it and simply it was an automatic promotion. It went back. If they were being promoted to field grade, major and up, had to go before the promotion board. So the promotion board met once a week, and I was recorder of the promotion board without a vote. They were all generals and full colonels who had votes, and it depended on [to what grade] they were being promoted. If they were being promoted to colonel, full colonel or general, I had to go to the Pentagon and go into personnel files and look at their records, and I could do that any time if there were any doubt about something. But for them I had to and make sure that everything was correct. There promotions were just what they, their age, and their time of service, and all that stuff—and then the board would pass on whether or not to promote.

BC:

Did you have to have any kind of special clearance to get to that information or was the personnel information not classified in any way?

DW:

Well, I just—no. I was an air force officer, and I'd go and tell them who I was. If they wanted to call my colonel and check, they could, you know? But, of course, they got to know me.

BC:

Right. Were—

DW:

I loved to go over there. That library was air conditioned.

BC:

Oh, and in Washington that's quite a bonus.

DW:

At that time. We were in this supposed to be temporary building. I went back forty years later, and it was still there.

BC:

Was it down on the Mall?

DW:

No, the building I was in was right out next to the [Ronald Reagan] Washington National Airport.

BC:

Okay.

DW:

Out in Virginia. It was called Gravelly Point, and it was nine big, I think three-story—three- or four-story office buildings in wings, what they call wings. See, because of no air conditioning they had to have circulation, air circulation. Now, everything is air conditioned. But Washington can be the hottest place in the summertime because of the humidity, and the coldest place in the wintertime.

BC:

Were you living out there as well? Did you have to find your own—

DW:

Oh, yeah.

BC:

—housing?

DW:

Yes, we had-we didn't have quarters for WACs. So, we had to find a place to live, and I, when I went back to Washington—let me see. I lived—I moved into a boarding house where a lot of WACs were staying. It had been a girl's school, Gunston Hall in Washington, and I had a roommate, and then one of the girls who worked there in the building with me had an apartment by herself and she wanted a roommate. So, I moved in with her out at Lee Gardens over by Fort Myer in Virginia, so.

Then my fiancé, of course, I had missed him when he came back to Hamilton Fields to see me, see. So we got to talk to each other quite a bit, because there was a PR man there who called—he was out at Hickam Field, [Honolulu, Hawaii], and he called Hickam Field just practically every day, and once in awhile he would call me and say, “Do you want to talk to your boyfriend?” And I could talk to him free.

While I was living in Gunston Hall they had a pay phone in the hall. One Sunday—this was while he was there, see, and he had come back and I was gone—and he called me and we—he'd called me the night before and said, “I'll call you again tomorrow.” So I went out—no, he said, “I'll be here at this telephone tomorrow, so call me at three o'clock.” So I went out to the phone and I thought I better put my order in, because you had to stand in line to get long distance calls. I called the operator and told her that I wanted to reserve a spot to call—make a call at three o'clock, and she said, “Oh, honey, I'm sorry, but I'm tied up till 4:30. I don't have a thing in the world till 4:30.”

And I said, “Oh, my lands.” I said, “This is my fiancé and he's going back to Hawaii this afternoon, and he will be gone by that time.”

So I went back and I was so blue, but when I hung up the phone from talking to her then a whole bunch of change came raining down into the money box. Well, somebody had put those there, and the operator hadn't, you know, pressed whatever button it was to take them out. So I called her back, and I said, “Is this the same operator I talked to?”

She said, “Yep.”

And I said, “Well, when I hung up the phone all this money fell out, and I've got $3.74 here,” and I said, “I'll just put it back in.”

So she thanked me, and about thirty minutes later the phone rang. She called me. She said, “I've got your call through.”

BC:

Wow.

DW:

So I think because I was honest she gave me a break.

BC:

So, were you able to talk to your fiancé?

DW:

Yes, and we had a long talk before he left. So then he wanted to get—he was trying to get to Washington, and I was trying to get to Hickam Field. So after I worked up a good enough relationship with everybody there in Washington and they knew how badly I wanted to go to Hickam Field, my colonel finally said okay. She'd find somebody to replace me, but give her some time to find somebody to replace me, and she said I could go. So I got this cable from him, and the cable said, “For God's sake, don't move. I'm coming to Washington.” [laughs] He got transferred to Washington. He was a—they used him as a writer. That wasn't his profession. He was a salesman, but he apparently could write, and that's what they needed. So he wrote programs and, oh, he wrote a couple of scripts for some GI movie type things. Well, he went to Hollywood one time and was a, whatever they call it, helped them direct movie on ditching airplanes.

BC:

Oh, wow.

DW:

When an airplane goes down in the water, what to do and stuff. And he wrote a program for the Air Transport Command. They had what they called stewards. They were boys, of course, and they wanted to put some WACs in, and they didn't want to call them stewardesses because they would get mixed up with the airlines.

BC:

Right.

DW:

So, they wanted a unisex term for the steward. So, he thought up—what's the one they're using now? I'm getting old. Not hostesses. What are they calling them now, people who work on airplanes?

BC:

Flight attendants.

DW:

Flight attendants, yeah. He thought of that term, flight attendants.

BC:

Really?

DW:

And used it. That was the first time it was ever used, and by the time the war was over, a lot of the airlines were beginning to use it.

BC:

Right.

DW:

Because they don't have to say he or she or she or he or whatever when they write it. They say flight attendant. So the army was always trying to save words like that.

[laughs]
BC:

So, you both ended up in Washington?

DW:

Yes, and we got married in November of 1944.

BC:

And what was his name?

DW:

Stanford Lee Hoye.

BC:

How do you spell Hoye?

DW:

H-o-y-e.

BC:

Okay. What was your social life like in Washington? I'm sure it changed once he arrived and you got married.

DW:

Well, there was a lot going on in Washington. There were all kinds of parties given for officers, servicemen, or something all the time. There were lots of parades and things. And, of course, I didn't like living in Washington myself. To me it was—I felt this business of it's not what you know, it's who you know, too much in Washington. You could have the smartest people in the world and some second-degree politician could write a letter and ruin his career. But I thought Washington was kind of phony. That was my concept of it. Now, he loved it. He just thought it was the greatest place in the world. This is where it's happening. He wouldn't have minded living there for the rest of his life, but when we were—we were married, and he got a letter from a friend of his back in his hometown, West Frankfort, Illinois, telling him he wanted to come back and be a partner with him in a business. So, when the war was over we got out of the army and went back to West Frankfort, Illinois.

BC:

So, were you in Washington until you were discharged?

DW:

Yeah, I was in Washington until the war was over.

BC:

Do you remember much about VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

DW:

Yes, I remember. Oh, yes. Nobody ever forgets those days. I remember just before when the Russians were coming at the Germans from one direction, and the Americans were behind in the other direction. I would go down to the War Room every afternoon and look at the maps, and they had down there—well, very sophisticated version of our old filter center back in Wilmington. They had maps where they were constantly moving the troops, and you'd see them. Every day those—they were squeezing in on them; and, of course, that was good news. We had a lot of bad news. We had a lot of setbacks in the war, and for awhile it was tit for tat, but by that time when the Russians decided to help beat the Germans—I don't know why they decided that, but they did. That pretty well did it, because they were squeezing them just like that. So, yeah, those were—I guess I was—I lived in Washington for over two years.

DW:

Were there a lot of celebrations when the Germans surrendered?

BC:

Sure. Everybody was over the top. [laughs] Over the top. I mean, you know, I never went into combat or anything like that, but I saw a lot of boys who did, and when I was out at Hamilton Field—I think I mentioned that the fighter pilots would be trained and then the ones that were going to the South Pacific were sent to Hamilton Field for several weeks training there—and when I first went there I was living in the nurses' quarters, and we only had eight WAC officers on Hamilton Field at that time, and we lived in the nurses' quarters.

Right across the street from the nurses' quarters was the transient officers' mess, and that's where we ate most of our meals. The only other place to eat was the officers' club, and that was way across the other side, but the transient officers were in there eating all the time, and you got to know the boys, you know? And the men who worked in the personnel office with me, civilian men in their thirties, all would say, “Don't get around these—don't go out with those fighter pilots. Those boys got one thing on their mind. One thing. They're going overseas tomorrow, and they might get killed. They've got one thing on their mind.”

Well, I got to know a lot of those boys, and I never really went with one. I went to the movie with them, eat supper and go to the movie or eat supper in the officers' mess, or go to the officers' club and maybe dance a little bit, but I never what you called went with one. But they did have one thing on their mind, and I'll tell you what it was. We'd go to a movie. We'd eat supper and go to the movie, and then we would come back to the nurses' quarters. We had a day room there, and about 11 o'clock he's say, “Is there a payphone here?” And I say, “Yeah, out in the hall,” and they had five payphones. So, he'd go out and call his mother, and that's what was on their mind. Everyone I ever knew I could almost time it. 11 [p.m.] or 11:30 he was going to call his mother.

BC:

Oh, gosh. That must have been very difficult.

DW:

So, when people talk to me about fighter pilots, I defend them. They were just boys, young. The youngest and the brightest.

BC:

Being sent off into very, very difficult and dangerous situations. While you were in Washington was also when, at the end of the war—and when President Roosevelt died, and that must have been another difficult time to be—

DW:

Yes, and you know what? The whole time I was in Washington I didn't see him [laughs], and it would have been so easy because he made a lot of appearances. You know, he was not hard to see, and I—every time there was a parade or something, I'd think, oh, I'll see him some time. And I just never did go to one, and that was the first thing I thought at that time: I never did get to see him. Oh, yes, I cried like a baby.

BC:

I'm sure.

DW:

And, of course, everybody was scared to death that Harry Truman was going to be a bad president, but he wasn't. He was a good president.

BC:

And it appears from, what most people said, that they didn't know very much about Harry Truman.

DW:

Well, why should they? Roosevelt was a star.

BC:

And had been in office for so long.

DW:

Yeah, he was his third vice president. [laughs] So the vice president didn't matter.

BC:

Quite a big change.

DW:

But, oh, a lot of people, “Oh, my land, that failed suit salesman,” but I thought he was real good president, and I think a lot of people did by the time he got out of office.

BC:

So, when you left you'd been married—probably weren't thinking about the military as a career?

DW:

No, no, no. I was pregnant by the time we—by the time he got out and we left Washington, and we went back to West Frankfort, Illinois, his hometown, and he opened up and operated an appliance store. And, of course, that was the time when nobody had a refrigerator. Nobody had a car. Nobody had a good radio. You know, they had the old pre-war ones that couldn't be replaced. So he worked there, but he wanted to be in business for himself, by himself. He was the entrepreneurial type, and I think that was probably our basic difference. I am the—well, I took a sociology course one time, and they had these two types: entrepreneurial and the bureaucratic, and the bureaucratic type wants a regular salary, and they want to know how much money they are going to get so they can budget it, and the entrepreneurial would rather die then be confined to a set salary. He'd rather make less money than know that he could have made more. [laughs]

So, we moved to a little town in Anna, Illinois, and he became a Pontiac-Buick dealer. We lived there for twelve years, and our marriage broke up. We had three children, but our marriage broke up, and I went back to school, and finished my bachelor's and master's and got my master's degree in '60, I think. Yes, '60. Then I worked for a year at the state hospital. Had a big state hospital there in Anna, and the superintendent was a good friend of ours, and they needed a teacher to teach all subjects. [laughs] My degree was in home economics, child development, family relations, but they had a home economics teacher. So I taught all subjects for all ages. Typing, shorthand were two of the subjects, and I was really happy that I had had that year's business course because I—and bookkeeping. I had to teach all three.

But one thing I learned about mental patients is their low feeling of self-worth. I think that is the number one characteristic of a mental patient, and they honestly don't think they're worth feeding or paying attention to. And so the—I recognized that the last thing in the world they needed was failure. So, I would start a class out with a third-grade spelling book, and we had spelling lessons, and word sessions where we would talk about what the words meant, and there's some educators that might say, “Well, you certainly weren't teaching them much,” but what I was trying mostly was to build up their feelings of self-worth.

BC:

Right.

DW:

You know, not to let them fail, because they had failed so much in their lives.

BC:

They needed that more than they needed—

DW:

Yes, they needed to be built up, and so I had a pretty good class. We would sit around the table and we'd have coffee. Well, the coffee they served there at the mental institution was some kind of powdered stuff, and I've had powdered coffee that was good, but listen, that stuff was awful. It was just worse than mud. I couldn't drink it, and they hated it. So, I would bring my own percolator from home [laughs] and make coffee. One of the girls in the class who was just about to be turned loose, and she was, I think, she was in pretty good shape by that time. I think she was okay. I hope she was. I never heard from her again, and a lot of them came right back. They'd go and be gone three months and bounce right back. But she would bring cream over from the cafeteria, and so I thought some of them came just for the coffee. [laughs] Anyway, they came.

But I was successful at that, but I was not—I hate to use the word happy. I became a clock watcher. I was by eleven o'clock, I was looking to see when lunch hour was going to be, and by twelve o'clock I had looked at that clock six or seven times, and I don't want to be a clock watcher.

But I was right there in the town. My children went to the same school where they started kindergarten, and they were happy, except that they were in a situation where they shouldn't have been, you know, where their father had two girlfriends and everybody in town knew it, including some of the kids in school with them, and the were beginning to hear things in school they shouldn't be hearing. So, I got this letter from Katherine Watson who headed the Home Economics Department at Bradley University, and she said that my dean over at Southern Illinois University, where I got my master's degree, had recommended me as a person who could teach a family relations course, that she had to have a family relations [teacher] by September. She just had to have her, and I thought, “Oh, I'll have to write that lady or call and tell her I'm not interested in that job.” Well, then—I don't know whether you want to hear this or not.

BC:

This is—

DW:

My brother came—he was living in Nebraska. He would always come by my house in Illinois before he came down to North Carolina to visit our parents. So, he was sitting in my living room, and I hadn't answered that letter, and I got this phone call. He could hear me talking to her, and he was giving me these looks. “Take that job. Take that job. You need to get out of this town.” He was furious by the way I was living, and so I didn't turn her down. He was there when she offered me the job. I had been—I had been and seen the department. I liked it a lot, but you know they say you can be comfortable in an uncomfortable position, and that's what I was. I was practically living—in some ways I was comfortable. I knew that my children were not in a good situation. I was not in a good situation. So, my brother sitting there—

She said, “Would you send me your credentials?”

And I said, “Yes, I'll send you my credentials.”

So, I sent her my credentials, and then she and the dean had both decided they wanted me if my credentials were what I said they were. So, she offered me the job, and I really think my brother would have shot me if I hadn't taken it. [laughs] I often wondered what I would have done if he hadn't been sitting there, but I couldn't say no to her with him sitting there. I said, “Okay, I'll send you my credentials.” Then I got to thinking about it, and I'm the kind of person, all my life—I have always been—decision-making is easy for me. I usually make up my mind quickly or I'll say, “I'll think about it, and let you know,” and then I'll make up my mind quickly, but for that solid weekend night and day I just agonized over that decision. “Do I leave my home, my house that I love and take my children out of the schools that they've been going to forever?” But I decided to accept the job. So that's how I got to Bradley University, and I stayed there for twenty-one years till I retired. In the meantime I came down here.

The first month I was at Bradley we had a brand new president there, and he sent around a memo, and the memo said, “What steps are you taking toward the terminal degree?” And he didn't say, “Are you taking steps?” “What steps are you taking for your terminal degree?” Well, the first thing when I got there I found that I needed to have a course in supervising student teachers because that was one of the things I had to do. I had to teach teachers. So, I had already planned to go back to Southern next year and take two summer courses. I was going to take—I forget what the other one. Anyway, one of them was student teacher supervision. So I wrote on there instead of nothing, I wrote I was going to summer school next summer and take two courses. [laughs] So, I realized he was—what he was doing, and he immediately—Bradley had a bunch of people who had master's degrees and thought they were the greatest teachers in the world. Some of them were real good teachers, and why should they go get a Ph.D.? And he just let them know, “You will never get to be a department chairman. You'll never get to be a full professor.” You know. It's like having—if you are going to teach in college, it's like having your union card.

BC:

Right.

DW:

So—and I thought if I'm going to have to go someplace, I'm going to North Carolina. So, that's why I chose this school.

BC:

So, what led you specifically to UNCG? You had gotten in before but weren't able to come.

DW:

Yes. It was a good school, and they had a Ph.D. program, and they had a real good Home Economics Department, very strong Home Economics Department at that time. I don't know what it is now.

BC:

Right.

DW:

But at that time it was. I came—well, I got—you're allowed to transfer in sixteen hours toward your Ph.D. So I took those, some at Southern Illinois University, and I took some at Bradley. The only thing [for which] I had to go someplace else was advanced graduate statistics. [laughs] We had the first one at Bradley. We had Advanced Graduate Statistics I, but we didn't have II. So I went over to Illinois State University in Bloomington, which is forty miles from Peoria where I was, and this summer I was teaching a class, an interior design class. About 8:30 in the morning-an hour and a half, because it was a summer, five weeks, summer school—and then I would go over to there at one o'clock for my Advanced Graduate Statistics. [laughs]

At the midterm I was making a flat D. So I went to see the teacher. I said if I'm going to flunk this course or make a D, I think I better drop out and take it some other time, because I'm going to transfer this in as one of my Ph.D. credits, and they won't accept it—anything but an A or a B. When I got down here they told me they would have accepted it. But anyway, he said, “Well, don't give up on it, because I did something in that midterm that I shouldn't have done.” He said I—he gave us a problem and if we got any part of that problem wrong, then the rest of the exam was questions on that one—

BC:

Oh.

DW:

—problem.

BC:

Right.

DW:

And they were true/false questions, and you know you either got the whole thing right or you flunked the test. So, he realized he had messed up on the test. So he said, “give it another week and see how you're doing.” So, what I did—by that time we had a five-week term at Bradley, and they had this five-week term, but they overlapped. See, mine started earlier. I was—they were half-way through over here when I was finished over here.

So I moved into the dorm, immersed myself twenty-four hours a day in that course. They had a teacher who taught beginning statistics at eight o'clock in the morning, and he let us go sit in on his class. I thought maybe if I could get beginning statistics I'll do a little better, and I really did. I mean, I learned what they mean by that total assimulation. You shut out everything else twenty-four hours a day. That's all you do that one course, and that's all I did, and I didn't care about anything else in the world. I moved in the dorm, as I said, and go to that eight o'clock class in the morning, grab some breakfast, work on my problems, eat lunch, go to my class at one o'clock, and then I would go to a class, a tutoring class, after that class, and then I would go home and I would work problems and memorize. What he told us the second part of the semester so that dummies could pass, I think, was he would say, “Now a problem like this [thumping] will be on your final exam.” So, I memorized the problems. I'm not good at math, but I can memorize, and I would lie in bed at night, and I'd have those numbers, and I'd go over those numbers again and again.

So, sure enough, when he gave us the final exam, I made a—mine was perfect because I had memorized a problem from every. [laughs] But I remember passing down the hall one day, and the man said, “President Nixon resigned today,” and I thought, “Oh, who cares? I got to pass this statistics course.” [laughs] But I got a B on the class.

BC:

So, did you take summer courses at UNCG, or did you come full-time?

DW:

Summer. Well, I had to come for a year. See, you have to come for one year's residency—or you did at that time. They're doing it over computer now, but I don't know what they're doing, but at that time we had to come for a year. So, I came for a year, and I finished the courses that I hadn't gotten, and also started on my dissertation, did all the research for my dissertation.

BC:

Did you live on campus?

DW:

I lived in an apartment right off campus. I had my eleven-year-old daughter with me. She was in the sixth grade—seventh grade. She was in the seventh grade then, and she must have been more than eleven then. Well, anyway, she was in the seventh grade, and so we had an apartment, but I was not far.

BC:

Are there any people from the campus, any professors or administrators that stand out to you?

DW:

Naomi Albanese was the head of the Home Economics Department, and the girls who, you know, the kids who were regular students here called her “Mighty Mouse.” She stood five feet tall, and she wore three-inch heels and a hat usually to make her look taller, but she really got things done. They were—I don't know. My committee had a hard time agreeing with each other. I would go to see each one of them, and they were all sugar and cream. Everything was great between me and thee, except when they got around that table in a committee meeting, and then they would start arguing with each other. That's not a good way to do statistics.

Well, the statistician—they had Dr. Carl Cochran from Bowman Gray Medical School come over here from Winston-Salem on Thursday afternoons to help with our statistics, and he was a world-recognized statistician. And I had two teachers on my committee who had a course in statistics, and they thought there was one way to do statistics, and they didn't know any other way, and they'd argued and argued with him. So my committee wasn't agreeing with each other. And I had this one woman on my committee who refused to read my final dissertation in time, and they had me come down here. I flew down from Peoria, Illinois, and spent the weekend. I was to meet them on Monday for my final examination on my dissertation. That was to be it, and I was here. I was in my aunt's house. I got a phone call. They'd cancelled it. She hadn't read my dissertation. And they said to her, “Well, you had your whole Christmas vacation.” [She said] “I do not spend my Christmas vacation reading dissertations.” A teacher spends her twenty-four hours a day as a teacher.

BC:

Right.

DW:

Anyway, we got her off the committee, and then when they had—finally got me together with my final board, Dr. [Martha Helen] Canaday was great. She was on my committee, and she was the one who was always real good to me and—

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

BC:

You were telling me about completing your dissertation and your Ph.D. in Home Economics at UNCG.

DW:

Well, Dr. Canaday told Dr. Albanese how they all seemed to like me, but they didn't like each other, and therefore they were arguing with each other and neglecting my dissertation. So when I came in for my final exam, Dr. Albanese was there, her secretary was there, and the dean of the graduate school was there to see to it that nobody misbehaved, and her secretary was short-hand writing down anything anybody said or pretending [to]. I don't know whether she was or not, but it's amazing when you start to say something, and somebody's writing it down, you will weigh your words very carefully and be sure you [pausing between each word] don't say something that's not true or that you might regret tomorrow. So, one of those adversaries would look at another one and start to say something, and then they would look at her. Here she would be [demonstrating] and they'd shut up.

So, we just had one glitch. I had been asked to make some changes in a few little paragraphs in the dissertation, and this one man said, “Well, I see you didn't make the change that I asked you to make.” So, I had—by that time I was smart, see. I had learned how they were. I had copies of the way it was then, and the way it was now for every one of them. I walked over to the window sill and I picked up all these copies. I said, “No, here it is right here. Here's the way it was, and here it is on page thirty-six you will find that I did make those changes.” So he looked at them, and he said okay, you know. That was about the only thing anybody said to me. They asked me some questions like they always do, and I answered them, and they had me leave the room. And I came back and they said, “Congratulations, you passed.” So that was it. But that was—I think they set me back for at least a year.

BC:

That's really unfortunate.

DW:

It is. But when you talk to people who've got their Ph.D., you hear some real horror stories.

BC:

So, you finished in 1971, and you went back to Bradley?

DW:

Yes.

BC:

And continued teaching?

DW:

Yes.

BC:

When did you retire from teaching?

DW:

[Nineteen] Eighty-two.

BC:

And did you come to North Carolina after that, or how did you—

DW:

I came to North Carolina after I sold my house, yes. When I retired I was already—the museum in Peoria, which was run by the Peoria Historical Association, had me working cataloging their clothing and textiles collection, and I became curator of that museum.

BC:

Oh, wow.

DW:

And I did that, then, until I left there in '89.

BC:

Did you enjoy working in the museum?

DW:

Oh, yes, I loved it. I only worked half-time because I wanted to do some traveling and have—play golf, do some things I enjoyed doing. But I—it's easy enough, in museum work, when you're having a special displays and things, you work day and night, Saturdays and Sundays. So, if you're working half-time, it's easy to work three weeks a week almost. [laughs] So I could go away for a month when I wanted to or a week, whatever. I would do some traveling.

BC:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

DW:

Yes.

BC:

And do you think that the military helped make you that way, or was that something that led you to the military?

DW:

Okay. The military, for me—now you see, it followed the Depression, and the Depression was very demoralizing for everybody, and the fact that I couldn't go to college. So it gave me an opportunity to show myself, I think, that I could be an achiever. It did a lot for my self-confidence, and I treasure it. I really do.

BC:

Do you consider yourself or did you consider yourself a pioneer or sort of a trailblazer, entering the military at a time that was brand new for women?

DW:

I don't think I thought about it at the time. I thought of it as a new venture.

BC:

Right.

DW:

But now looking back, I can see—I was really surprised when I learned that this first of October date was one of the first dates girls could be sworn in.

BC:

Right.

DW:

So I'm not sure it is the first date.

BC:

So you were one of the very first—

DW:

Yes.

BC:

—to cross it?

DW:

Yes, oh, yes. I had never seen a WAAC. I'd seen nurses, but the nurses were the forerunners, of course. You know, they had established the fact that women can be—but, see, they had never been anything but nurses, and administration of nursing, of course, but we had them to thank, I think, for the fact that women could be firmly established in the army or in all the armed services.

BC:

I think women today are sort of the evolution and continuum of women having greater opportunities and building on what previous generations had done, and women today are in much more, not technically in combat positions, but are actually in combat positions. How do you feel about that?

DW:

Well, I thought about that a lot, and I feel that there are basic differences between women and men. Some more obvious than others, but I think that one of the things—I don't believe that a woman can't learn, but she does not have the physical strength always that a man has. But I think the main thing right now, when I think of going into battle with men and women together, I think that men would be protecting the women. Now that's what I think, and I think if anything negative—if I have a negative feeling about men and women being absolutely equal in the armed services, it is the instinct or training or whatever it is that a man would first make sure the woman beside him was safe, and I think that might distract from his treatment of the enemy for maybe a few seconds or a minute. That's the only—that's the worst thing I can think.

I know from my own experiences that if there was danger I would grab a gun or whatever and do what I could. I'm just that kind of person, and all men are not like that, and all women aren't like that, but I would. I'm the kind, but I don't see it working. Now, I know there have been times when they've done this. You know, a woman's grabbed a gun and taken her place around the corner. Shot it out. But I guess I have some reservations. The physical thing, a combat course, those horrible courses they make them go through. I couldn't climb those fences and wire walls and swing on those ropes and do things like that. Well, some girls can, but [laughs] we don't have the same muscular anatomy that men do.

BC:

When you look back on your service, what would you say is the biggest impact that it had on the rest of your life, other than meeting your husband?

DW:

Oh, well, impact it had on the rest of my life. There was a long time when we played those things down, because people didn't want to hear about it. Now people look at me as a World War II veteran. There's a certain amount of glamour to it, you know, or awe. I'm eighty-six years old. Some people are awed that I'm still living, but now we're looking at World War II veterans differently. There was a while when they didn't want to hear about it. So time sort of—history—[laughs] Time makes you history, and I compare it to when I was eight years old. I was living in Mount Olive and there was an old gentleman named Mr. Merritt, old gray-haired, dried-up man, and they used to put him in the back of a pickup truck for all the Fourth of July parades. He was a Civil War veteran.

BC:

Oh.

DW:

And the Civil War ended in 1864, and here I am in 192[8] seeing-well, by that time, about 1928 or '[2]9-seeing this Civil War veteran. Well, how many years between '64 and '2[8]. You know, you've got an 80-some year span there. And now World War II ended in '45, and now it's 2007. [laughs] You've got people who look at me as an anomaly. I'm history, you know? So, I think it's not so different from me seeing the old man Merritt being put on that pickup truck and hauled around Mount Olive when they ask me to be in a World War II parade now. So some of the kids coming up—everything falls into perspective when we're in—

But it has affected my life. I think it gave me more confidence, as I said awhile ago. It gave me confidence in myself that I could—I had the intelligence to become an officer, to go to Officer's Candidate School for one thing, and then I had the intelligence to be promoted from second lieutenant to captain for another. And I did some jobs which I enjoyed very much doing, and I did them well enough that I got good ratings. So, it really built up my self-confidence. Following the Depression, we needed self-confidence builders.

BC:

Well, I don't have any more formal questions for you. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you would like to add or any?

DW:

Oh, I can't think of anything right now. I've written some stories down, written some of my war stories down. I met some people who became life-long friends. I have some letters in here from a girl who's from Burgaw. We were in school together from the sixth grade on, and she's still living. She lives down in Florida, and I went to see her a couple of years ago. She's from Burgaw—Rachel Farrior. She's the kind of person who answers a letter the day she gets it. I might wait six months, but I got a lot of letters from her. And yes, I've got a lot of war stories, but that's the gist of the career.

BC:

Well, thank you so much for talking with me this morning. It's really been a pleasure for me.

DW:

You're perfectly welcome.

BC:

Thank you.

DW:

I've enjoyed it.

[End of interview]