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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Adeline Ledesma Teague, 2002

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Object ID: WV0241.5.001

Description:

Primarily documents Adeline Ledesma Horner Teague’s early life, ethnicity, service in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and her career and education in teaching after the war.

Summary:

Teague provides an overview of her childhood, including life as a migrant worker during the Depression and her Hispanic heritage. She discusses her desire for an education, getting a scholarship to attend secondary school, and taking a mandatory War Orientation course in high school. She also describes working at the Wholesale Terminal Market, taking courses at Los Angeles City College, serving as its first female student president, and working for the National Youth Administration. Teague discusses at length the attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent internment of Japanese Americans, some of whom were her close friends. She also talks about working for Pan American World Airways and acting as a Spanish-to-English translator.

Teague discusses her reasons for enlisting in the WAVES and the ride on a Pullman train to boot camp at Hunter College. Topics from her boot camp include: celebrating VJ Day; being treated poorly by other WAVES because of her Hispanic ethnicity; and cleaning the barracks. She discusses the navy’s policy regarding WAVES post-WWII, and the confusion over what to do with newly enlisted women. She also describes being sent to San Francisco Naval Shipyard; her work in the personnel office there; living in a barracks and having regular drills; working as a hostess at the officers club; being “frozen” into the service; and meeting and marrying her first husband, Lewis Clayton Horner. She recalls a trip to North Carolina where she experienced Jim Crow discrimination for the first time. She shares in detail her struggles to be discharged from the WAVES.

Teague also discusses her use of the GI Bill to find housing and receive her education from Elon University in North Carolina. She talks about being hired as a teacher under the Education Opportunity Program at California State University, Fullerton; receiving her master’s degree; and becoming a reading clinician. She also shares her experiences working with César Chávez in the early seventies. She mentions marrying her second husband, his death six years later; meeting and marrying her third husband, and his death. She talks about volunteering as an English as a second language instructor at elementary schools in Erect, North Carolina.

Creator: Adeline Juanita Ledesma Teague

Biographical Info: Adeline Ledesma Horner Teague (1924-2008) of California served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) at the end of WWII.

Collection: Adeline Ledesma Teague Papers

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

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Today is January the seventeenth in the year 2002, and I am in Erect, North Carolina, which is near Seagrove, at the home of Adeline Teague.

Miss Teague, thank you very much for having me here in your home today. I just wanted to talk about your service in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy] and about your experience before and after being in the military. I'm just going to start with you the same way I start with everybody else. Could you tell us where you were born, where you grew up?

AT:

I grew up in San Diego, California. It was a mission town about twenty miles from Los Angeles.

EE:

Great. So, is that where you graduated from high school? Actually, tell me about your school days. You were telling me before we got started that your family was pretty hard hit by the Depression, wasn't it?

AT:

Definitely.

EE:

What did your folks do?

AT:

Well, at that time, migrant workers, but they were able to be working in the fields in California, you know, and still live at home. But during the Depression they had to go—we had to go all the way, you know, drive all the way to fifty, sixty, eighty miles away, and stay in tents during the season. And even though I was really young, I remember helping at four years old.

EE:

Did you have brothers and sisters?

AT:

Yes. There were eight children. There were five girls and three boys.

EE:

You somewhere in the middle of that group?

AT:

I'm number seven.

EE:

Number seven. All right.

AT:

What I mean about helping, even at such a young age—my brothers would shake the walnut trees, like if it's walnuts. My mother would hold the sack, and I picked the walnuts and put them in the sack.

EE:

Apparently at that time—

AT:

There was no laws about it.

EE:

There were no labor laws. Everybody just went out and helped if they needed that.

AT:

Right.

EE:

Or I guess you were paid day wages?

AT:

Well, for how many sacks you had. And in the apricots, all you had to do was get the apricots and cut it, and then put it on a board. So my mother would cut them and then I would put them in the tray, so the sun dried it. So, you know, there was jobs for—little children could help.

EE:

Okay. You were telling me before we got started that you did get some schooling through the Catholic schools. How did your schooling career go?

AT:

Before I say that, let me finish and say something about being a migrant worker.

EE:

Okay.

AT:

It was wonderful. It was the most wonderful experience, and I don't want you to think that it was sad, because we had storytellers every night. We had relays and races and poetry and cultural things and guitar player—

EE:

When you moved from job to job, all your friends and buddies were doing that too.

AT:

Right. Practically the whole town would go.

EE:

So, basically, the neighborhood would move. Everybody would. And this was part of your family's life throughout the time you went to school, as well?

AT:

Yes, actually, until the war, you know. That's why I told you it helped us.

EE:

You told me your father passed away when you were—

AT:

I was twelve.

EE:

You were twelve.

AT:

Yes. Nineteen-thirty-seven.

EE:

And your mom continued to do that, the migrant work.

AT:

No. It was wonderful when war happened. I told you that we moved to Los Angeles to work in produce market, and then you worked sometimes—I'm not exaggerating—twenty-four hours a day. If an order had to get out for a train, you just stayed with the job.

EE:

Right. You told me that you were at Roosevelt High School, where you actually graduated from, in Los Angeles.

AT:

Right.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject in school?

AT:

I loved history. I loved all the subjects. I just wanted to excel in all of them. But the subjects I wanted to take were not the ones that they let me take.

EE:

Okay. Tell me about that, because you were talking a little bit before we got started about that.

AT:

All right. My whole dream, as I told you my background, my whole dream since a little girl, since I can ever remember, was to get an education. Most of us—I was from Mexican descent and Native American, and this was our town. And there was also a combination of Spaniards. We didn't have a chance. I mean, it was really a dream. One of my sisters, third-grade level—None of them had—well, finally a couple of them went to the eighth grade.

So I got a scholarship to go to Catholic school till the eighth grade. I graduated in 1937, so you know this is the Depression. My father had died. So I was put to work also in the produce—since my sisters didn't go to school, I was not supposed to go to school either. So my mother used to hide my sisters when the truant officers would come. You know, that's why migrant work was good. So I just made up my mind that somehow or other I was going to do it. When they told me I couldn't do something, I was going to do it. You know, “I'll show them.” Since I was a little girl, “I'll show them.” I mean the Americans and the teachers and all, that's who I mean.

EE:

Sure. Well, now, did your other brothers and sisters—you got the opportunity, a scholarship to get to high school. Did your other brothers and sisters get education as well?

AT:

Yes. My sisters, they got the same Catholic school [that] helped us. My brothers, no. And I'm not exaggerating. I imagine, besides my mother, of course, my brother—I mean, they were extremely brilliant. I mean, just—which was a shame that they didn't get to go to school, because they were brilliant. [They] knew the languages, picked up languages, Japanese and all. They were just—but they had to go to work. They worked lemons and citrus fruits, picking.

EE:

You were telling me before we got started that although you graduated in '41, your senior year the school was already doing something called War Orientation Course.

AT:

Yes. In spring, before the war started, we had to take a course. It was mandatory, called War Orientation.

EE:

What was the kind of things that were being discussed in that course?

AT:

Well, there was things going on with Hitler in Germany, so they would mention different things and what would happen, and a lot of things about home, and just wanted to know what war was all about. But it didn't mention that we were going to go to war, and no mention was made of Japan.

EE:

I was going to say, as it turned out, it was the Japanese that you might have—

AT:

I remember about the Germans going into Poland and doing this and that. But when it came to Japan, I just don't recall really discussing Japan, except that in the 1930s a nun discussed that that was going to happen.

EE:

Because of the way you grew up and moving around, how much exposure had you had prior to high school, of really Anglo culture, or culture outside of your community? Had you had much exposure at all?

AT:

No. That's what happened to me when I got to high school, why it was such a shock. It was all Hispanic where I lived, the whole neighborhood. There was one Afro-American family, only one, and they were the wealthy ones. Just one family. And all of us were either from Mexico—our parents, we were—I'm the first born in California, but my parents came from Mexico. And most of us were from Mexico, but there was also Native American Indians, and I had relatives who married Native American Indians.

Then, there were the Spanish who would say, “No, we're not Mexican. We're not—.” To me we all look alike. They were really descendants of the Spaniards that settled California. But we weren't really exposed to the Anglo, except to be told that we couldn't do certain things. You couldn't go in the swimming pool. You couldn't do this, you couldn't do that. That's about the only contact. So mother never exposed us to that.

EE:

But your high school was fully integrated, then, in that sense. Or was there—

AT:

No.

EE:

—very few minority or Hispanic there?

AT:

Oh, my goodness. Very few minority. It was more or less upper WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant]. That's what it was. But I had a set of twins who were seniors who saved me then. Ethel and Edrice[?] Carter. I will never forget them.

EE:

So you were able to make some contacts with those folks.

AT:

They accept—there was a club called the Big Sisters Club. They saw what I was—they observed what I was going through, or one of the PE [physical education] teachers, and they became my big sisters. They had a car and they bought me clothes and they bought me stuff, and they took me on trips. I always remember—

EE:

Ethel, and what was the other little girl's name?

AT:

Ethel and Edrice Carter. And to be, for them, they were the girls of the whole high school of four thousand.

EE:

Big school.

AT:

Yes. But so, you know that I felt pretty good. I mean, I was so immature. I went there two years.

EE:

You went there two years. Did you graduate in '41?

AT:

Yes, and my life changed when we moved to Los Angeles.

EE:

Tell me, what was it, as you were entering the end of your high school days, what did you want to do with your life after? Did you have any plans for what you wanted to be?

AT:

When we moved to Los Angeles to work at the produce market—we're still in produce, but, you know, we're stable. We're staying at home. I went to Roosevelt High School. Okay, by this time, I had grown. I could wear my sisters' clothes. So I used to hide and wear my sisters' clothes. For some reason or other, nobody knew my background of the other school. I became a top student. Not only that, in my senior year I was selected by the school as the most popular and best personality. My life changed from—

EE:

You blossomed, yes.

AT:

My life just changed completely, where I was successful and—

EE:

This is in a school of four thousand.

AT:

Now, this also is a four thousand [student] school, and they had—and that's only three years. People were over six hundred graduating with my class. But my life changed. I was able to—and we had sixty-three nationalities. See, that was the beauty of it. Oh, that was the beauty of it.

EE:

What was the name of that school?

AT:

Roosevelt High School. We had a lot of Jewish, Russians. A lot of them were first-born in the United States. Japanese—sixteenth [?]. We had special days. I'd go around. I learned things in every language, you know, “Hello, how are you.” Of course, the not-very-nice words.

EE:

[laughs] They always float to the top when you're a teenager, I think.

AT:

Yes.

EE:

Well, that's interesting. So, when you finished high school in the summer of '41, what did you do after you left high school? Did you go to the city college?

AT:

Yes. I had to work. That was a rule. Everybody had to work, and everybody gave their money to my mother. Okay? And then she invested it. We were only given lunch money. This is until we left home. So, from there I work at the Wholesale Terminal Market. I work on Saturdays, kept the payroll, went to school. And when I graduate, I wanted to go to college. My mother said, “No. Your sisters didn't get a chance. You work.”

And this man called Mr. Sam Periconi[?], he told my mother, “If she earns as much as she's supposed to earn, will you let her go to college?”

“Yes, but she has to work.” So, okay. We figure it out, and this is when I started to work. I was a cashier from five to eight in the morning. Then I went to college by streetcar from nine to—then I had to be back at one o'clock again till five o'clock. So I was really out from five in the morning. But I gave my money to my mother. So in the second year—it was the second year—I still, I had to work.

And at the college they—well, I became a student officer, and ended up being president in Los Angeles, the first woman president of the Los Angeles City College, in 1943. So the college offered—I told them I had to work—offered me a job from one to five, under that NYA [National Youth Administration]. The government has helped me so much. That's why I feel so good about this country.

EE:

City College, was it a two-year school?

AT:

Yes.

EE:

How many students were there?

AT:

Several thousand. Oh, yes, it was a big college.

EE:

Does it have satellite campuses around the city?

AT:

No, not yet.

EE:

Okay. Because I guess now it probably does.

AT:

It was in a [unclear] for two years. It was the only city college, so therefore it was a big college.

EE:

Right. NYA—what does that stand for?

AT:

National Youths—they gave you jobs. You got fifty cents an hour, and then the college made it a dollar an hour. But it was a government job for students to work in. It was something new, NYA.

EE:

Tell me about—do you remember Pearl Harbor Day?

AT:

Oh, I sure do.

EE:

What were you doing? How did you find out?

AT:

We were all at home and we were eating breakfast. I think it was about ten o'clock when my nephew went to the drugstore, which is only two houses down, and saw the newspaper, the headlines. So he came and said about the Japanese—he spoke English—the Japanese had invaded. And we thought he was crazy. He didn't have any money to buy a newspaper, so they gave him some money to go and buy a newspaper. So then they turned the radio on, and we just, we were just stunned. I mean, really, I don't—what does this mean? But I had taken that course in War Orientation, but the Japanese weren't supposed to be doing that. You know?

EE:

This wasn't in the book.

AT:

And we lived among Japanese. You know, right next door, my best friends. I went to school with a lot of Japanese in our college, I mean, both in college and in high school, particularly high school. We lived among Jewish here, Greek here, you know, all different nationalities. So we just, we were all in shock, because what I thought was, what does this mean, you know?

They had already started the draft. So my sister had just gotten married and a week later he was drafted, so I already knew about the draft. I had my brothers, but they didn't qualify. One was too young, and one didn't have good hearing, and then my other one was too many children. That's when I first thought, “Well, somebody in this large family, with all the help I had gotten, has to help this war effort.” That's the first time I said, “I'm going to find out what I can do.”

EE:

They eventually would take the Japanese—

AT:

Yes. Don't, because I'll start crying. I'm going to tell you about that. I'm coming.

EE:

Well, tell me about it.

AT:

[cries] It makes me cry. One of my boyfriends was Japanese. Henry Matsuda[?]. I mean, I have some [unclear]. Well, he just lived around the corner. I'll never forget. I don't even remember what day, but it was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful day. We lived across a park, Hollenbeck Park. And all of a sudden, all the Japanese are congregating, just carrying—I'll show you a picture of it that I had—just carrying suitcases or one big bag or something, and little children.

So then around the corner, then I noticed around the corner, there was just a pick—not a pickup truck; you know, one of those trucks that isn't enclosed. It just has the railings. One of those. It wasn't a huge truck. It was a middle-sized truck. And they started loading them on trucks, and we didn't know what was happening.

EE:

And you hadn't had a chance to talk to Henry?

AT:

Well, I talked to another—I mean, prior to this, they knew they were going to be taken, but we didn't know the exact date. I didn't, it didn't register. So prior to this, these poor people had to sell everything. I mean everything. Mother bought some furniture from them, cheap, of course. But at least my mother gave them something. My desk, which still exists, not here, was from a Japanese.

I used to love tennis. One of them gave me his tennis racket, and so they started giving us some stuff. And when they left, when they loaded those—I mean, I'm seeing the trucks right now—there was a lot of crying going on, and the children. And Henry's mother was old. She didn't speak English. A lot of them still, like my mother, you know, my father never spoke English. So I got to see him taken.

I was in college during this time, and my best friend was a Japanese who didn't speak English. She came from a well-to-do family. She didn't speak English, and I got—they took them to Santa Anita. And I went to visit Santa Anita and had to talk to my friends with chicken wire. You know, Santa Anita is a racing, and they were in places like where they used to keep horses. But we couldn't even touch each other. There was just chicken wire between us, the one with the holes, the old-fashioned chicken wire. They didn't know where they were going to be taken next.

So they were all over the United States, but a lot of them went to Manzanita [sic- Manzanar]. The beauty of it was that twenty-five—for my twenty-five reunion, I got to see a lot of them, and I got to see Henry. He was very successful. He had college and I think he had his master's degree and he was a very—for a big corporation. I mean, he was way up there. These people didn't let that defeat them. They believed in education, too.

EE:

You personally, your family had never—because you had friends, did you feel any fear about that?

AT:

Yes. What I feared—I feared this. I really did. What if we went to war with Mexico? Would they do that to us? I mean, really, that was my fear, that if—well, because, you know, they were checking on the Germans, too. I'm not saying it was only Japanese, because also they were checking on Germans. But they didn't put them away like they did the Japanese.

And in my idea, these young, the first generation—the parents, most of them didn't speak English. But I just thought, my goodness gracious, if we go to war, are they going to do that to all of us? Are they going to put the Germans away and put the—because there was Greeks, there was every nation—Italians. I did fear.

EE:

And yet, Arab Americans had the same fear after September eleventh.

AT:

Right. Right.

EE:

But because you had friends who were Japanese, you never were worried about their loyalty, were you?

AT:

Not once. There was not one in all—I mean, I'm talking about hundreds of Japanese. I'm not talking about one or two Japanese. I'm talking in our college, you know, we had hundreds. I don't know. They were all like the Greek family around the corner, like the Jewish, like us, who wanted an education. That's all we thought of—the Chinese, all of us in that school, even though a lot of poor people [were] there, a lot of nationalities—education was the salvation of us.

Not because of the war, because we were just starting the war. But the war was the best thing that ever happened to us, because of the GI Bill of Rights. Then they had to admit them. I even admitted at my fiftieth reunion at Elon [University], that Elon didn't know that I didn't have college-prep courses, and they admitted me because they needed the money anyway. I made that announcement there, and I thanked Elon for it. See, remember I said I didn't have college prep courses?

EE:

You told me that after you left City College, you went to work for a short time for the—

AT:

Pan American World Airways for two years. That was very interesting work.

EE:

What were you doing there?

AT:

I started as a switchboard operator and being what you call a traffic representative. I was sort of like a hostess. I sold tickets, too, I mean, I took it. But my job was for the so-called very important people. They couldn't speak the language. I would translate for them. If they wanted to shop before they went back to their countries, I would go with them. Nelson Rockefeller was in charge of Inter-American Affairs at that time. I mean, movie stars, I mean, but these had to be doing something important with the war. You know, you had to have a—you couldn't just get on a plane. You had to have a special card.

EE:

So you were meeting these kind of famous individuals on a face-to-face basis.

AT:

Yes. Right. All of us. As a matter of fact, I'll never forget. This man walks in. “I am General—,” I won't even mention his name.

And I came up and said, “I am Miss Ledesma.” [laughter] I mean, after a while, you know? I mean, he had all these—

EE:

I can see you're laying the groundwork for your encounter with Groucho Marx here. But fame itself does not carry a card with you.

AT:

I mean, you know, I could tell he was a general. But he said, “Yo soy el General.” He was from Argentina. Yes. Because the other one was Mr. Ward from Brazil, but he was real kind, real nice. He's like that, and he goes, “I am General.” All his medals. I'll never forget that. I said—see, they had heard in the office, they probably—

EE:

While you were going to school and working, you were also helping out the war effort, and I've just mentioned Groucho Marx in passing. You told me this precious story about your encounter with him. Tell me about that for the record here. You were selling bonds or something?

AT:

Yes. One of the things that I did for the war effort was to sell bonds. I was selling bonds through the college. We were trying to name an airplane, a P-38 or P-48, because we did, finally, two of them. So they asked me to, this group of football [players?] asked me if I would help them sell bonds. We went to Hollywood Park for our baseball game, and so during the intermission they let us walk up and down. And finally there was Groucho Marx, and so finally somebody, “Hey, come over here.”

So I thought, okay. So I went over there and he said—and everybody was laughing. I guess he had told them what he was going to do. And he said, “Young lady!” he says, “I'll buy a thousand-dollar bond.” And he give me a kiss.

I said, “Sir, I don't sell kisses.” And I just walked out. [laughs]

EE:

Ah, yes. Well, you could have been a movie star. Who knows?

AT:

That was what they told me.

EE:

There goes that career. A lot of people were doing extra things for the war effort.

AT:

Listen. That was no joke about could have been a movie star. [laughs]

EE:

At what point did—of course, I guess it was '42, '43, when the WAVES started going. At what point did you decide you wanted to do something more? Maybe you had had this idea.

AT:

No, I told you, from that—yes.

EE:

You wanted to join the service, didn't you?

AT:

Yes. Well, I told you, from the very beginning of the war, and then my brothers couldn't serve. One was too young and the others didn't qualify.

EE:

So you wanted somebody to do something.

AT:

I wanted somebody from my family, because you should have seen, every family— But then you should have seen, also, the little white banners on their windows, and the gold stars, which meant they had lost their sons. And that made it worse, because I lost so many more, not only from my [unclear], but from college.

Every day, fifty or sixty would join. Even my professors were joining, because I was at Los Angeles City College, and they were all joining. Here we are, all of a sudden everybody was joining the service, volunteering, and all my high school friends, quite a few. Because, you see, since they didn't have an education, they got drafted or they—and most of them died in Saipan, Iwo Jima. I used to write to eighteen. So that was also—I felt, “I've got to do something.”

EE:

But part of what you did was just write support letters to all those folks.

AT:

Yes. But it was horrible when you got the word that they were missing, or something happened.

EE:

You had to be twenty-one to join.

AT:

Right. So, if you will notice, I joined, I was sworn in—

EE:

Right on your twenty-first birthday.

AT:

My mother didn't have to sign.

EE:

Your mama didn't want you to join.

AT:

And I didn't even tell her.

EE:

Why did she want you to join?

AT:

No, she didn't want me to join.

EE:

Why didn't she?

AT:

I had to work. I'm supporting half—you know. That was not a woman's job. I mean, in other words, we were very sheltered. We had to have chaperones when you dated and all that sort of stuff. And so, therefore, she wasn't going to be able to keep an eye on me.

EE:

You were still living at home all this time you were going to college.

AT:

Oh, yes. Yes.

EE:

And your income was helping.

AT:

Everything, yes.

EE:

Now, your brothers and sisters had left the home. Most of them had.

AT:

Yes, a couple of them had. But she was very shrewd. She invested our money in properties, so she didn't end up poor. She owned apartment houses and homes and rentals. But she did it where everybody—when my father died, she said, she got matches, a little box of matches, and if she got one she cut it like this. We were so poor. I mean, you should see where we lived.

She cut it up and she said, “Now, you see how easy I broke that?” Then she got two of them. Well, then three, and when she got five—I mean, but even before five, you couldn't. So she told us, “If you stick together—we're very poor right now, but someday we're going to own properties. You can do it here in this country.” And she says, “But you need to give me all your money.” So we did, and she lived to see—

EE:

She walked the walk and talked the talk, too. Okay.

AT:

I told you she was brilliant.

EE:

Well, now, tell me about—you could have joined any branch of the service. Why did you pick the WAVES?

AT:

I think I liked the color of the uniform. [laughs] I didn't look good in olive green, with my dark skin. That's the truth.

EE:

You're not the first person to be swayed by that uniform, I don't believe.

AT:

No, but navy blue is more becoming to me. I mean, that soldier, the WACs [Women's Army Corps], oh my goodness, I looked horrible in that. I told myself, “I look horrible in that color.”

EE:

You had talked before about the frustrations of that certain aspects were blocked off to you because you were Hispanic. But that wasn't the case in the military, was it?

AT:

No way. I mean, what would they have done without us, for the war, really?

EE:

Did you sign up asking for a particular kind of work, or a particular location?

AT:

Yes, I did. Yes, I did, and they promised me I would get it.

EE:

What did you ask for?

AT:

Anything except office work. I'd even go to mess hall. And they promised me I would get that. And in my orders, when I was sent to San Francisco, it said Los Alamitos Air Base. I was in charge of them and the bus left and they left me behind. And they said, “All right. The cheek's here.” And the four girls were left behind.

We were going to San Francisco Naval Shipyard. And I said, where—I mean, I had never seen a shipyard in all my life. I mean, when you see all those, you know, those big ships. There was about, what, you know, four hundred? All kinds of—the New Yorker [sic] and the [USS] Hornet and all these. Let me see.

Which was the Hornet in dry dock, because it came back with a torpedo in its belly, and you see all these cruisers and, I mean, I didn't—I had learned the names in boot camp, see, so that's why I was able to start saying, “Oh, that's a cruiser.” So anyway, because my record shows that I had been working for Pan American and could do office work and I had been an executive secretary.

EE:

Well, let me ask you, because your work that comes late enough that the war is already over in Europe.

AT:

Yes. Okay.

EE:

Tell me, was there any celebration at your house?

AT:

No. Let me tell you what a celebration was for me, which I still remember and I say it all the time. I was in boot camp VJ [Victory in Japan] Day, and they permitted thousands of us WAVES to go to New York. And we went and it took me an hour to try to get across the street. You know, you saw that picture of the nurse and that? Well, that went on trying to go across the street.

EE:

Everybody was wanting to hug everybody.

AT:

Everybody was. Well, you know, they let the fellows from West Point and from other places—well, you've seen the pictures, and every time I've said, “Let's see if I can see where I'm at.”

EE:

So, did you give away any kisses that day?

AT:

I mean, they grabbed you. I mean, in between. [EE laughs] I mean, they—but anyway, that was for the war effort. No, I mean, you were trying to cross and before you knew it somebody would stop you, and it was hard to get across the street. But it was an experience I'll never forget. I mean, just because everybody was so happy. But then I wondered, what's going to happen to my Japanese friends now? Yes. But, you know, a lot of them served in the service. They all joined.

EE:

Yes. So that was the big memory for you, obviously, being at the center of the biggest celebration.

AT:

Oh my goodness, VJ Day. I'll never forget it.

EE:

Was your household affected when President Roosevelt passed away?

AT:

I'm glad you brought it up. I'm very political. I went around to vote for—he's my hero. He saved us. I'm talking about the Hispanics. We didn't use the word Hispanic at the time. I've got to tell you that.

EE:

What did you call yourself?

AT:

As a matter of fact, with the assimilated Hispanics, it's still a no-no.

EE:

Was it Latino?

AT:

No. Not even Latino.

EE:

What?

AT:

Well, why can't we be called Americans? I mean, there's an era of me where I fought against that. Okay?

EE:

Sure.

AT:

So anyway, now the label is Hispanic, and you know the Mexican people and a lot of people, Latin American, hate what the Hispanics did to the Indians.

EE:

Right.

AT:

Let's not get into that, but anyway. Now, where were we?

EE:

About what Roosevelt meant.

AT:

Oh, I just went around and helped at the precincts. I helped to vote, because we just thought, you know, after Hoover—I remember Hoover's picture being in Catholic school, you know. He looked like a bulldog. Anyway, I used to say that. “He looks like a bulldog.” And when he came in, we just thought—then the war came, and I told you the war helped us financially. I have to admit that. And then I don't know what—we would have still been poor and migrant workers if it hadn't been for the war—that we went to the produce market, and then have to be going to the fields, work in different companies.

EE:

Right.

AT:

But, let me tell you about the war effort there. The produce, that's another thing. Do you realize a lot of these places were owned by Japanese? And they had to sacrifice it, practically; they just practically robbed them. That was so sad. Where I had sold all those bonds and stuff? I mean, they had to close down and sell. It was a big turmoil. Now, I'm talking about the produce markets—at the hours, there's approximately ten thousand people. See, it's huge. It's a huge place. I'm not talking about something very small, where the big semis went. Oh, that was sad when the Japanese had to sell.

EE:

Had you traveled much outside of California before?

AT:

Yes, I did. I had interesting—you know, I worked for Pan American, Pan American Airways. President Juan Trippe of the company, who was, you know, founder of the airlines and stuff. Well, President Juan Trippe came in. He was going to receive a doctorate degree, honorary doctorate degree from UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles], and they called me on a Sunday, if I would come and type while somebody was going over his speech for the next day. So I went and helped him with the speech, and I worked for hours. We just worked till late at night.

So when I came back to work, on Monday morning I had to show up for work, and that was the day. Monday morning, President Trippe wanted to know who on earth had been doing all that work, or somehow my name was brought up to him, and they said, “Well, we have this young little Mexican—,” They called me little Mexican girl, “and she does that for us all the time. She shows up when—.”

So he says, “Give her a trip to Mexico, all expenses paid.” And this is when you had to have a real good reason for traveling. So I went to Mexico, all expenses paid, on Juan Trippe.

EE:

Wow. That's great. That's great.

AT:

So that was my first trip out.

EE:

You'd never been to the East Coast before.

AT:

Not since—

EE:

Tell me about that trip to the Bronx to go to Hunter College.

AT:

[laughs] Just a minute. Oh, dear. See, I'm remembering things that I hadn't thought about in so many years. I am seventy-seven. Where is it? That's the end, then. That was when I was in college. Anyway, oh, I have the picture of the train.

EE:

Oh.

AT:

Yes.

EE:

First time you'd been on a Pullman?

AT:

First time I'd ever been, yes. I mean, it was the first for a lot of things. I just had that. But anyway. This was so neat, and then I told you it got—oh, I'll show you that.

[Tape recorder paused]

AT:

Here's my personnel. Here's the office where I used to work. Well, I'll find it. But anyway, go ahead. Here we are. [laughs]

EE:

Oh my goodness. How many were in a—was it like six in a car?

AT:

No. We were in there, and we danced in the aisle ways.

EE:

Were there any soldiers on this train?

AT:

No, no. Just, I think we were four cars of WAVES that day.

EE:

Wow.

AT:

And I'll tell you another thing I didn't know. I didn't know about humidity. We had to go to St. Louis and Omaha, Nebraska, which I never knew. Oh, it was hot.

EE:

Sweating.

AT:

Yes.

EE:

So, when were you actually joining? Was it June of '45?

AT:

Yes, in June of '45.

EE:

So, yes, that is the hottest part over there.

AT:

Yes. And we weren't used to it. We were dying. But you see in here—but we managed to dance.

EE:

How long did it take you to get across country? Four?

AT:

Five or six days, because they would stop and leave us there for a while. Then somebody else, another train would pick us up.

EE:

And you kept adding WAVES. They all sit in the same compartment.

AT:

Yes. Yes, but we were four complete cars, at least four. No, it wasn't just one car.

EE:

And so everybody's coming to Hunter.

AT:

Yes. We picked some up on the way. I don't know how many we got started with, and I know we picked up some more. We might have ended up with six. You know, they would stop and then load them in. But I started in Los Angeles. And then we got transferred and we'd have to wait for another. They'd load the cars, like two more cars would be loaded.

EE:

But now, Los Angeles is certainly, today, almost as big a city as New York, but it's a different kind of city. And you come up. You're in Grand Central, or where'd you get out of—

AT:

The main Union Station. We called it Union Station.

EE:

What did you think of New York City?

AT:

Oh, my goodness, those tall buildings. I thought, “Oh my goodness, those tall buildings.” That's what got me. I visited, you know, I saw where Grant was [unclear]. And, oh, I went up to the Statue of Liberty. You know, they did let us out one time, so we'd make some trips to—and West Point.

EE:

VJ Day had to happen right near the end of your—

AT:

Boot camp.

EE:

—boot camp. Right at the end of it.

AT:

Right. Oh, boot camp. Let me tell you. We were in apartments, little tiny apartments. No air condition. Five floors, and I was on the fifth floor.

EE:

In the summer.

AT:

In the summer. You know, and every time they had emergencies, and you had to get your blanket and fold it and go down and go for muster. You know, they were always tying all these things on that. Oh, it was—you know, like the kitchen was a little tiny kitchen. Our toothbrushes had to be a certain way and our combs had to be a certain way. Even though we had our combs in a certain way, before we knew it there was lice.

EE:

Well now, you come from a big family, so living with a bunch of other people [was] probably not that big a deal for you.

AT:

No. It was terrible.

EE:

Was it?

AT:

Yes, because I made a terrible mistake. I wanted to stay with a certain girlfriend. You know how they divide you into platoons? And I got in a platoon with people, with girls from Boston, and they were mean to me. Because of my background, because I had been president of City College and, you know, of my work that I had done, I was made platoon leader, and they just gave me a rough time.

They would tear up my bed—I would make it—to try to get me in trouble. And they accused me of things that I didn't do. I mean, I finally didn't know what to do. How could I report them? And they were so mad because they worked in the laundry room and the sheets were very hot, and I—“this—they didn't call me Hispanic, you know, the spic or whoever; they used a bad name—she got to work in the office.” And I didn't have to do any hard work.

So my roommates were very mean. I never caught the ones that—one time I was supposed to wax the floor, and instead of being wax, they put some disinfectant in it. It was burning my hands and I didn't know why, and I went ahead on my knees. But when we got inspected, they said, “Oh, see now, this smells good!” [laughs] “Who did this?”

EE:

So whoever was the CO [commanding officer] of that group must have known that you were—must have realized that they were doing stuff to you, because they didn't hold you accountable for that kind of stuff, like the bad stuff.

AT:

No. I finally—I did talk to somebody, and I said—because I went and told them I wanted to get out as being platoon leader.

EE:

Right.

AT:

These girls were from Boston, and they were the snottiest—I mean, they didn't treat the other people from St. Louis, either. I mean, they just thought they were it. It was a special group.

EE:

Well now, were there blacks in this platoon, or other Hispanics?

AT:

No. No, I don't remember any blacks. No, I was the only Hispanic.

EE:

Okay. You'd already expressed the fact that you wanted to do anything but office work.

AT:

Right.

EE:

So, the hardest part of basic, like for you, might have been just these people giving you grief.

AT:

Right.

EE:

The work itself wasn't that bad.

AT:

Oh, no. My goodness. I always shortened everything for them.

EE:

Since VJ Day happened, I guess they were trying to sort of figure out what to do with you all, right as you finished, weren't they? I mean, what did they—

AT:

No, no. Bronze was sending me to Los Alamitos [California], but when I got—you see, there was no longer a time to train anybody for office work. They saw my resumé and, you know, they saw my records, working for Pan American and being the executive secretary, being a full-charge bookkeeper. You know, I had all—I mean, I've done, as I told you—

EE:

So there wasn't any statement made to you all, because you're finishing.

AT:

When you join they promise you all this stuff, but that doesn't mean to say you're going to get it. So then you could understand that—

EE:

Because the war changed.

AT:

—the war changed. But it was a wonderful experience. I wouldn't have met my first husband.

EE:

Well now, since VJ Day happened while you were still in basic, when you graduated from basic, because the title includes the words “emergency service,”—that's what WAVES were for, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—was there a sense that none of you would be in the service long?

AT:

No. They told us it was going to take us over a year; might be two years before we could get out.

EE:

Okay.

AT:

No, because there was going to be a long process. They weren't going to start putting people out immediately. They didn't know. Just like now with Afghanistan, I mean, so you've done a certain amount, but you don't know who's going to be rising back again.

EE:

That's right.

AT:

So, I mean, no. They had no idea, they said, how long we would be in.

EE:

Okay.

AT:

And even when I started being in charge of demobilization, we were only putting out the ones that had completed the three years or four years that they had registered from—

EE:

And had no time.

AT:

So we started getting those people out first.

EE:

Well, when you first went over to California then, you were supposed to go to Los Alamitos, and they immediately put you on this bus to—jeep to San Francisco.

AT:

Yes, the shipyard, naval shipyard.

EE:

Where you were working in the personnel office.

AT:

In the personnel office. I reported to the personnel office.

EE:

So your CO there was a man?

AT:

Yes. Lieutenant Current[?].

EE:

Were you living in a barracks with other WAVES?

AT:

Yes. Two-story barracks. And we had little cubicles, and there were four. I slept on the top bunk. Two here and two here in the same cubicle.

EE:

A little bit more privacy if there's a cubicle.

AT:

Yes. No, it wasn't quite this large. Well, this way from here. There's a picture.

EE:

Did you have a CO who was a woman, in addition to your office supervisor?

AT:

Yes. Lieutenant Clarks was in charge of the WAVES. Oh yes.

EE:

So she would like put you all through regular drill and inspections and things like that.

AT:

Oh yes. Well, we had chiefs mostly do that. We had women chiefs, you know.

EE:

How many people were working in the personnel office?

AT:

Oh, I really don't know that office. Not that many in that particular office, maybe twenty. But you've got to remember, there's hundreds and hundreds of ships, submarines. I always say that I've been aboard more ships than any other navy man. I had.

EE:

When you talk about personnel office, is this the group that would be hiring the civilians who would be working here at the base?

AT:

No, they had a separate office, but I got to work as secretary to the—I was, for a while, also, pulled out because they needed a secretary, because the regular secretary quit. She went in service. So they needed—we had a new captain of the guard, and he had met me in the officers club, because—oh, I forgot. I worked at the officers club for money. I was a hostess in the evenings. That's why I knew all the captains of ships, and that's why I got to visit all the ships.

EE:

Now wait a second. You're enlisted. Aren't you supposed to not be allowed in the officers club?

AT:

I was an employee by the hour.

EE:

Okay.

AT:

Yes. So, I got good food. They had Filipino cooks, so I got to eat there. So that's why I knew and I could get permission to go aboard ships and things. You know, I used to say, “Permission. Can I go visit your ship?” And so I'd be in.

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

EE:

You were working in this personnel office for about how long before they switched you back to [unclear]?

AT:

Okay. I worked more demobilization, and then when they switched me, they finally wanted me back, so they found a civilian. See, they had to hire a civilian. So they hired a civilian, so as months—I was there, and then the chief quit. He did it purposely, to get even with me. The chief quit and I had to be pulled out.

I'm telling you, they froze me. I even got married, and I was frozen. I said, “But I'm married.” I thought I was going to get out right away. Nobody knew I was in service when I married in North Carolina, and when I got back I was frozen. I was to be the last WAVE out, till I got everybody out. But don't forget, there were a lot of people. In [unclear] it might have been twenty, but I'm talking about thousands in the different departments.

EE:

That's right. Yes. So, Hunters Point was your first stop in San Francisco. There you were in the personnel office?

AT:

Yes.

EE:

And then when you went to the shipyard, you were doing the demobilization?

AT:

No. The personnel office is in the shipyard.

EE:

Okay.

AT:

It's all in the shipyard.

EE:

So on this discharge paper it's got Hunters Point was your first stop.

AT:

That's the name of it, the area, Hunters Point. And then we also—we always say San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point. It's just like an area, like Donlan[?].

EE:

Okay. So it's got two different stops here, but really this is the same place.

AT:

Right. It's the same place. For me it was. It was in—just like boot camp was in the Bronx.

EE:

Right. Okay. Tell me about your first husband, how you met. What was his name?

AT:

Lewis Clayton Horner, but he didn't tell me that was his name. He told me his name was Larry. [interviewer laughs] That was how I knew him.

EE:

How did you all meet?

AT:

I was in the recreational hall. I was quite known as being a ping pong player. I could just about beat anybody, so I thought. Okay? And so what you do is you go in the gym. It's like a gymnasium. They had ping pong. What you do is you challenge whoever's playing. You've got to remember, there wasn't very many WAVES there. I was about the only WAVE that would go in there and play ping pong.

So you challenged whoever is playing, and so I challenged Clinton. I called him Clinton. Clinton was playing with another fellow, and I says, “I'm challenging you.” Oh, you know, a crowd got around right away. I says, “I'm challenging you.” Here he's six foot two.

And he said, “Okay.” And then he started playing, and he didn't keep score correctly.

And I say, “Hey, Mat, you're not keeping score correctly. You're cheating.”

And finally he said, “Well,” he says, “okay. If you think you can beat me.” He told the fellow, “get out of here and let her play.” Oh, he beat the heck out of me. [interviewer laughs] Oh, it was awful. I played a close game, and he played several feet—

EE:

He was power.

AT:

I said he was six foot two, and I'm what, five foot two? And he would—well, I couldn't run back to get them. I mean he just hit them. And my game was just right over the net. So he beat me. So finally, everybody let me play another game. I think we ended up playing three games. I mean, I did get some back, but he still won all three. And I said, “I quit.” I knew there was people waiting, so I went outside and I was just a wreck. I sat down on the steps there outside, and then he comes out. And I don't know what made me say this, but I say, “Hey, Mat, how much do you think I weigh?”

And he says, “I cain't tell.”

I said, “What?”

He says, “I cain't tell.”

I said, “Hey, Mat, where are you from?”

“I'm from North Carolina.”

“Oh. You talk funny.” So we went back and we [unclear]. So then he—the barracks was right next door [to] the tennis courts. I also was, you know, quite the tennis player.

So anyway, here's—so he walked me and he said, “Can I come in?”

I says, “Well, no. No, not today.”

He says, “But the next day?”

I says, “Okay. You can walk me then. I'll let you in.” And they had a piano, and he could play boogie-woogie on piano. But he didn't talk. I mean, he just played. He just wanted to get in there. And I told him all about I was engaged and I had this boyfriend. And he told me was engaged, so it was just a good friendship, and he just came to play. So then he got where he wanted me to go outside.

So if you wore civilian clothes in a barrack, you could not go out the front door. So I would wear civilian clothes. I said, “I'm sorry, but I can't go out the door.” I planned it, did it purposely. But anyway, he was there. So he was going to get out of the service, and I was going to get out. But anyway, we'd talk about our boyfriend and girlfriend. So then he got word that he was going to go—he was [on] an LST [Landing Ship, Tank]—that he was going to be going to San Diego, but to come and say goodbye to him. So I come, and there's the Quincy. You know, that was a cruiser. And, you know, it was ship after ship.

And I'm looking, I'm hollering, and somebody from the Quincy says, “You want to get aboard?”

“Yes sir. Request permission to come aboard.”

And I got up and he's, “What did you want?”

I says, “I want to go across here so I can see an LST.” [laughter] So I went across so I could see that, and just then the LST was pulling out, but I got to yell at him. I said, “Goodbye,” and then he called.

He says, “Guess what? I'm going to be discharged from here. I'm not going to go back. That ship's not going back.”

And I said, “Oh.” I said, “Well, write me.” So he wrote me. And then this is where I told you I was working for the captain towards the end, you know, for a captain.

And he said, “Either you're going to enlist and stay as my secretary, or you're going to get married to that fellow.”

I said, “No. He's engaged and I'm engaged.” And I had been offered a job by Disney, and also by Pan American Union, because of my background with the airline. So I was going to go. I got to thinking about this engagement. I was beginning to like it, and I thought, “Well.” So I called up and I was going to stop in Washington about the Pan American Union job. Well, I got cold feet. I had never been traveling alone, you know.

Anyway, so I called and he couldn't be—we were going to travel from San Francisco together. He was going to Grand [?] and I was going to Washington, D.C. And so then he said—I warned him. I said, “I'm scared.”

He says, “Why don't you stop first in North Carolina?” You know, when I saw—

EE:

Sure.

AT:

[cries] The reason I get so upset, because I didn't know about the rules against blacks. I didn't know about the South, really, that there was a separate drinking fountain. And people took me for black. And I was supposed to ride in another car. I wasn't supposed to ride with the white people. It was awful. I just didn't know what to do, and I didn't understand. I did not understand, because we read it in history books, but not—you know, you didn't live it.

EE:

You hadn't made it till you'd see it.

AT:

And I'm in uniform. But anyway, but people would just stare at me. I just, I did sit with the white people. I guess the uniform saved me. But I knew that I had been told—but anyway, he met me. I sent him a telegram and he arrived—I arrived around three o'clock in the morning. And his folks had not heard of me. I didn't know anything about them. And I'll just shorten it.

On the third day that we went out, I did take a civilian dress. He said, “If I was to give you a ring with a diamond, would you accept it?”

I said, “Are you asking me to marry you?”

And he said, “Well, I guess maybe that's what you call it.”

I said, “Oh my goodness. Give me some time to think about it.” So anyway, I took a few days, and to tell you the truth, I didn't want to go back home. Things had changed. I was uneasy about the others and I said, “Well, I'll tell you,” and I had this boyfriend that I was sort of in between breaking up, really. That's why I was going to get the job in—and so he said, “Well, make up your mind.”

And I said, “I'll tell you what. If you really want to marry me, you have to marry me, like, tomorrow, because I'm going back, and I'm not coming back. If I see my boyfriend over there, I'm not coming back.” And he knew I wasn't coming back.

He says, “Okay.” So we eloped to Bennettsville, South Carolina.

EE:

Yes. My folks got married in New York, for similar.

AT:

Our witnesses were two drunks coming in there.

EE:

Oh, good lord.

AT:

And I was at community—it was in—oh. So we got married. And then, I had—

EE:

What month was this?

AT:

July. No, June twelfth. June twelfth.

EE:

Okay.

AT:

We had to get—so then, I thought I would get discharged immediately. I called up and he says, “You are frozen. Chuck has quit. Get back immediately.” So I had to get back. Got on a plane and I got to—I picked up some poison oak. That's when it turned out I was allergic to it, which I didn't know what it was at the time. And I just had enough money to go to Chicago, and I was in misery.

I was wearing blues and it was hot weather. Most people were in whites, but San Francisco always stayed in blues. And finally I stopped in one area, about a phone. I think it was—I don't even remember. It was Omaha, Nebraska, or something. I didn't have—I wanted to travel on an airplane, and this man heard me. I told him, I says, “I am full of poison oak and I cannot travel by train. I don't know what to do.”

And he says, “Well, I'll buy you your ticket.” I don't even remember his name. So he bought my ticket, and I paid him back right away. He saved me. So I got on an airplane and I finished the trip. So I had to stay until everybody, all the papers were in order.

EE:

They take another couple of months to get processed.

AT:

Right. But anyway, Chuck, as I was telling you, Chuck was the chief, and how he got even with me, he gave me instructions that, “After you make the list, no matter who it is, you don't change it. Remember that.”

I said, “Yes, sir.” He was a stickler for “yes, sir.” So here comes this WAVE. She wants out because she's got a date with Chuck. They wanted to spend some time together. [interviewer laughs]

And so he comes and he says, “I order you to put her name in there.”

I said, “I'm sorry. They're ready to leave, and I cannot change anything.” And I said, “If you want a change, you do it yourself.” He reported me to Lieutenant Clark. So help me, this is a true—I can tell you such a wonderful story. So I thought, “Oh my god, he reported me.” And she called me in.

She says, “You'll have to do it. He's a superior to you, so you have to do it.”

I said, “Well, what's going to happen? I'm sorry.”

She says, “You're going to have captain's mast.” Me, captain's mast. You know what captain's mast is? Well, that's the first level of military tribunal deal, the captain's mast, before the captain. You have to go to your captain. And so I thought, oh my god, why didn't—she says, “You're restricted to the barracks till Monday.”

And I said, “All right.” And I was restricted. Oh my god, you know, “What's going to happen to me? Dishonorable discharge?” You see, I refused to carry—I did.

EE:

Sure.

AT:

So anyway, everything was ready, and I go to the jeep outside, the person off—I had recorded the person off, and he said, “The jeep's waiting for you.”

I said, “Okay.” So here, everybody's watching me leave. And I just went on and got to—you had to go about a mile. It was all this shipyard, you know. I don't know how far it was.

But anyway, I got there and they said, “Okay. Captain Marshall's ready to see you.” Well, remember I told you I worked for the officer's club? And Captain Marshall had just been made, not too long before, Captain of the Yard. And I had babysat for him. Okay?

EE:

You had too good a connection.

AT:

But I didn't know. I didn't know at the time, the connection. And he said, “You know,” he said—here's where, so he puts me into his office. I'm supposed to have captain's mast. And he says, “Okay. This is going to be your desk.”

I said, “My desk?” I said, “What am I going to do next?”

He said, “Well, didn't they tell you?”

“No.”

He says, “You're going to be my acting secretary.” He says, “I remember—,” you know, meeting me. And he says, “I didn't know of any WAVE, so I thought of you. You had been a secretary, so I told them I wanted you.” So there was no captain's mast. Oh, Chuck had a fit! So that's when he got even with me purposely. He told me. He checked out. The girl didn't go. [laughs]

EE:

Oh, frustrated love life. Tell me something. Did you ever do anything in service that got you afraid? Was there anything they asked you to do that was—any experiences that got you afraid?

AT:

I was very, very careful. I never drank. I did not smoke. I didn't even taste it. I was determined that when everybody—a lot of the servicewomen had reputations, and out of 114, there was four drunks in my WAVES, so it wasn't that big a percentage. I mean, they would get drunk, but not all the time.

So I had vowed to myself, not to anybody, that I would never smoke, I would never have sex with anybody, and that I was never going to drink, as long as I was in service. And I kept it. My husband knew it. I did. So what you have to do in that respect—we had a theater. We had, you know, a canteen. We had lots of recreation, and I loved to play. I lived in the tennis courts, ping pong, and, you know, having fun.

But I did, and I mean, I had men seeking me, I mean all the time trying to date me, but I didn't. And then to go to town, maybe I went only about four times, you know, because—I just saw a picture at the Fairmont here, that we went, but I didn't go alone. There was somebody there. So then there was some fellow that—okay. I cut him out, but this girl, I had gone with her. She ended up being picked up, and she ended up being pregnant.

But that's why—so therefore, everybody respected me, and I just—Chuck liked me. I know that. And he just couldn't stand that I didn't pay any attention to him.

EE:

These are great pictures. When you think back on those times, most everybody has a song that takes you back to those days, or maybe a movie that has that effect. Is there something like that for you? Is there a special—

AT:

Well, my nickname in service was “Jitter” from jitterbug.

EE:

Okay.

AT:

Okay? That even my captain, when Admiral King was making a visit to our shipyard, he introduced me to Admiral King. There was a whole bunch of admirals, vice admirals and stuff. I was in his office as a secretary at the time, and he goes, “And this is Yeoman, Yeoman—,” he says, “Yeoman Jitter.” [laughter] Because he didn't know me that long. And so I was a jitterbug champ, and there's a picture there. I was known as a jitterbug—and people around here that know me from way back, that was my name all the time, Jitter.

EE:

So, now, were you doing dances at enlisted club, out in those contests at these different hotels, or—

AT:

No. Well, there was only one hotel, the Hotel Roosevelt. We were a group of—we were just—first time we went to the hotel. And there was, I think his name was Joe Brown, who was the Jitterbug Champ of the World. So, he asked if there was anybody from California. And so there was a table from California, so we said, “We're from California.”

He said, “Okay. Let me see. Which one am I going to pick? Who knows how to jitterbug?” And they all said—so he got me out and we jitterbugged. We had an exhibition of jitterbugging.

EE:

That's awesome.

AT:

So then later on—there's a picture in here of the shipyard. [interviewer laughs] So I'm the Jitterbug Champ of San Francisco Naval Shipyard.

EE:

Oh my goodness. That's officially certified by that picture. That is great. Oh man. Now you got this tied at the front. That's not an official outfit you've got on there.

AT:

No. But we could, for, you know—the slacks were, and it was cool, so that you could dance. And that tied in the front, but that wasn't regulation. But you could be out of uniform for this. I mean, to be dancing in a uniform—you could wear slacks.

EE:

That's great. That's great. Wow.

AT:

So you see that? Oh, there's that character.

EE:

I sort of grew up in the disco era, so I enjoy dancing myself. So you're after the heart there. If a young woman were to come to you today and say, “I'm thinking about joining the service”—?

AT:

I'd tell them it's the best thing they can ever do, especially if they're a minority, for the training, for the education. Now, if they're going to be bad, they're going to be bad anywhere.

EE:

That's true.

AT:

But I've talked to them that, to me, joining the service was one of the best things that ever happened in my life, and one of the best decisions I've ever made. And I'm going to tell you why. First of all, I wouldn't have a college degree. I ended up—we didn't get to my work. I ended up being a college professor. But everything was on the GI [Bill]. Everything was always paid for, somehow or other.

My first home—I was a widow. My first home was a GI home, ninety-nine dollars down. Okay? My pay was ninety dollars a month. My first home. My second home was also GI, California. They gave loans, too. I had to give up my GI and went to a bigger house. All my college education was paid for. If it wasn't by my GI, up to the master's, it was paid by my GI. I went to Elon, I told you. Then the next one was paid by California, for veterans. Then the next one was paid—I had been in an accident—by rehabilitation.

So there's always ways to get an education. All of [the] office of doctors, and Las Foundation[?], especially for women minorities, at that time that I was coming through, I mean, you can look that up in books. But I told you because of the minority deals, affirmative action at the time, that they were hunting people like me who had the grades, and you know, I had done a lot of volunteer work. I was involved with politics. I was involved, very active in stuff. So I had a history.

As a matter of fact, I became a consultant with State of California on inter-group relations. Let me tell you how I got my job. I was at my first year of teaching. How I got the college job is different. That's another big one, but I'll tell you about that one first. This is what I tell—all right. My mentor, she's the one that offered me some of the doctorates, and I know she had the influence. She probably sent my name, is how they got a hold of me.

She said, “Well, I got a call from Nebraska. Do you want to go and work on your doctorate?” And I was a widow the second time.

And I said, “No.”

And she says, “Why not?”

“Because I haven't learned everything from you yet.” She was my mentor, and she used to let me run the department, three departments. I used to do all the work. I was learning.

So then I got my degree and she says, “Where are you going to go to work?” And somebody had offered a good job with General Victory, because at that time, with my education and everything's [unclear]. So she said, “Well, put your papers in the personnel office here. They just write whoever you apply with.”

And I said, “Okay.” So I did. Then a month went by, and then my husband was very sick. He hadn't died yet. He was very sick, and he died three months later, after I started teaching at the college.

But anyway, she says, “Come and see me about the day you start working.”

I said, “Start working?”

She said, “Yes.” She says, “You just got hired.”

I says, “I got hired? What for? Assistant?”

“No,” she says, “you're going to start as a lecturer.”

I said, “But Dr. Croy[?], I haven't applied.”

She says, “Didn't I tell you to go put your records?” And guess what? Since I had substituted for so many professors in everything, I got in.

EE:

Now, was this at Claremont?

AT:

No, no. Claremont was a graduate school. No. This is the California State University at Fullerton. But there was a new program coming up. I'm going to tell you what my qualifications were. The new program was under the Education Opportunity Program, where they were getting students where somebody had said they were really talented and had it, but they never had a chance, especially at these horrible schools that they got them from.

And I was going to—and one other teacher; there was a black teacher hired with me, and we were going to devise courses for them to make them successful. We got a government grant and for two years—it was called Educational Opportunity Program—and for two years, I taught vocabulary, power reading. No, I taught reading and study skills. And we would help them.

We would have a learning [unclear], and we would help them with these courses. They were all remedial. I had most of them reading at third-grade level, and here they are in college, didn't know vocabulary. So that's why I say the vocabulary. So anyway, we taught that. And then the regular students wanted my classes in vocabulary and stuff. So then they devised for the regular students also, which was remedial. So anyway, I did that, how many years? Five years.

But then I also had worked there on my master's degree, and I had become a clinician for reading. In other words, I had my credential for reading. I was a specialist in reading. But then I got the job, after I got the job—what was it I was going to go back about? Oh, when I got to California. Now, I'm already working at the college, and I got an invitation to give my first—I had been asked by a company to come speak to them, and that was Chevron Oil Company.

I had never been a speaker like that, and this was all managerial and research. And they said, “You have to go.” So I went and I said, “What do they want?” They want me to talk about Mexican-Americans, you know, because at the time we were having demonstrations and stuff. So I did, and nobody would ask any questions. And I prepared for days.

Finally, this old man raised his hand and he says, “Well, tell me more about this.” He started asking. They all turned around.

I said, “Okay. I proved that I did research work. I proved that. All right. Just ask me the questions.” And I just got off the cuff, and that's when it really started rolling, with this man asking the questions. Well, at the end I was told that the president of the corporation wanted to see me, of Chevron. It was Dr. Reilly, who was asking all the questions. And boy, what a letter, I have a copy of that, [what] he wrote on me. From then I got called by the City of Brea [California] to come and speak to the firemen, and come and speak to the policemen.

EE:

This was all in the—give me a time—in the sixties?

AT:

No. No. In the seventies.

EE:

Seventies. Okay.

AT:

Yes, '72, '73.

EE:

You went through a lot, and for the benefit of the tape, let me just go back through, because I think after you got married to Clinton, he passed away within just a few years.

AT:

Six years.

EE:

Six years. And then you went back to—

AT:

Yes, I went back to California.

EE:

You came here first, though, to this community.

AT:

No, not this community.

EE:

You were in Graham.

AT:

In Graham. And I came back after he died to get my credential. Remember I told you they offered me a job for a year, and then I went straight to teaching in California.

EE:

So, while you were here, you got your degree at Elon, when you were married to Clinton.

AT:

Right. Yes. Nineteen-fifty for graduate.

EE:

Nineteen-fifty. Then you went back and were for a time in California when you were working.

AT:

Produce market for six years. That's when I came back for one year here to get my credential.

EE:

When did you get remarried for the second time?

AT:

Not till '72, May.

EE:

Okay. So you went a long time.

AT:

Oh, yes, sixteen years.

EE:

Sixteen years.

AT:

But I was going to school all the time, night school. I got an administrative credential and I got a counseling credential.

EE:

Did you have your three children?

AT:

Yes. I had them when I was in college. I mean, like when I went to college, they were four months, fourteen months, and twenty-four months, and I went back to college.

EE:

So you were working at the produce market, getting your degrees, raising kids. You had a full plate.

AT:

I went to school all the time. My son asked me, “Mother, when are you going to decide what you're going to be?” But let me tell you why. I loved school. That was my recreation. But in California, you didn't have to have—you got paid by how many units of graduate work you did, and you could go up to seventy-two units, which is enough—

EE:

So the more you got, the more pay you got. So there was a benefit in continuing education, very practical, right off the bat.

AT:

Yes. I do want to finish about the state, how I got that job, real quick. Okay. I'm already overwhelmed by all the requests that I'm getting to participate in this, and participate in this. “Would you be in this consortium with these other colleges?” And here I am, you know, I've been giving speeches in districts and stuff.

So anyway, my dean says, “I want you to—,” they sent a paper to sign up for inter-group relations. So I just discarded it, and she called me in and boy, she balled me out.

She says, “You didn't hand it in.”

I said, “No. I'm just going to start this. You know, this is my first semester. I don't have a doctorate.”

She says, “But you should still answer it.” And she says, “Well, it's time to—the meeting is today.”

I said, “Okay. I'll just show up.” I didn't have the papers. I had thrown them away. So I go there and they had already finished interviewing. But they were still sitting down, I don't know, about six or seven, maybe eight in a panel that listened to the interview. So I told them the truth. I said, “Look. I just started teaching there. I'm just—.”

And so they said, “Okay. Tell us something about yourself.” And so I told about being a migrant worker. I told them everything I've told you, you know, about this and that, and working with this group, and my volunteer, I was in the first group of human relations in California in 1955, and I was with this group under this year. So, that was it, and I left. I never filled out an application blank.

Next thing, I get a letter saying, “You have been selected to be a consultant of inter-group relations.” All my experience in politics, in migrant work, and, of course, I was with Chávez, César Chávez [activist]. You've heard about him. And all these things, that's what got me the job for inter-group relations.

EE:

When did you start working with Chávez?

AT:

Helping him out in Chávez—well, '72, '70, in the sixties. I mean, when he would come, in raising money and stuff. My nieces and nephews, you know, the grape deal, remember, when they were at UCLA. And as a friend. I mean, I didn't march with him, but when he came to the college I was with him. I mean, we had a group that we would support whatever he was doing. And having been a migrant worker, I knew what he was talking about.

EE:

You knew exactly what he was talking about.

AT:

But I did it more in a higher level, not—my family, some of my family, did actually march with him, but I never did.

EE:

Okay. You married your second husband in '72. Was he from California?

AT:

Yes. Well, he was born in St. Louis, but he was from California. Whit [?] was an American, too. I married three Americans.

EE:

But he was also a service veteran, wasn't he?

AT:

Yes. He was a survivor of Pearl Harbor, and he was in the biggest battles ever, on the [USS] Intrepid, and used to have nightmares even years after. And he was disabled.

EE:

How long were you all married?

AT:

Not quite six years. The same thing with my first husband, not quite six years. Then I stayed, I waited a long time again, sixteen years again. Then I met—Lewis came and married me.

EE:

In '94?

AT:

No, we got married in '88.

EE:

So both your first and second husbands died of cancer?

AT:

One died from melonoma, and my second husband, he had a blood disease, like leukemia, and my third husband had leukemia. He actually got diagnosed. So actually, with all three of them, I knew for three years that they were going to die. All three of them, three years.

EE:

And yet you strike me as one of the most vibrant people I've ever met, because you've got this optimism in you from your life experiences, all this stuff that you've seen and done and been through.

AT:

Yesterday I was at a meeting. I volunteer at an elementary school, teaching little Mexican children how to speak English. I'm seventy-seven.

EE:

You have embraced in all these experiences, you know, living, which I think is so—you've gone out and made things happen, which is exciting to hear.

AT:

You do. I mean, there's no such thing as luck. You make it happen.

EE:

You look for it. And even the people, when you had your own mental, rational reservations about jobs, you listened in faith when somebody told you to do something.

AT:

Well, I never really actually had to apply. I told you by mail I got hired to teach in California.

EE:

Yes.

AT:

By mail. Just by my records. I was a consultant to Channel 4 in California for Mexican—I've gotten noted for Mexican-American affairs.

EE:

Well, that's certainly an area that a lot of interest has been spent on around here.

AT:

But I'm beyond that. I don't want it.

EE:

Let me ask you about something with the military, to close down, because obviously—and I want to take some of these photos back to make copies of, if I can, because they're very good.

You know, the role of women in the service has changed so much. When you joined it was called “for emergency service.” I'm sure in Afghanistan we've got combat pilots over there, because they started letting women be combat pilots in the last few years. How do you feel about the changing role of women in the service? Should women be allowed to do most any job they can, or should things like combat be reserved? How do you feel about that?

AT:

Well, because technology has gone so far, lots of times they're just pushing a button or reading a screen. As far as—I could never do it, but I know some women that could probably get under the barbed wire, and that type of, like they're doing, like the Green Berets now; that part I would say. But there are so many jobs now with combat, loading torpedoes and aircrafts, that they can do now, because of the technology.

EE:

So the technology has made more jobs open to women.

AT:

Yes. Right. I mean, as I say, like being a pilot of a ship. Okay. They can learn just as much as a man does. But when it comes to fighting like the Taliban and going into caves, no. That's where I draw the line. Now, that's where I draw the line.

EE:

We've covered a lot.

AT:

Maybe too much.

EE:

Is there anything about your experience in the service that I haven't touched on—you've told me a number of good stories about people you've met, and encounters along the way. Is there anything about your service that I have not asked you about that you want to share with us today?

AT:

Yes. I think one thing that they taught me, and I think it's wonderful, is discipline in doing certain things. I always believed in the chain of command. I mean, I always believed in that. But even, I told you about the little apartment, how little, tiny it was, and it was hot summer. We had to fold our clothes a certain way, even our underwear. Our bras had to be folded. The toothbrushes had to be a certain way. We had to roll it like.

What they taught me—and your shoes had to be lined up a certain way. That, being in a poor house where I never had my own bed, I never knew who I was going to sleep with, which sister—I mean, that taught me to be neat and organized, which helped me with jobs, because that was engrained when I got out of the service. But when you don't hardly have any clothes and you don't have any place to hang it besides the back of the door—I mean, that really trained you to do things—

EE:

That little, those subtle organization skills helped you in so many other ways.

AT:

Right. Yes. Didn't I tell you I shortened a lot of things? Didn't I tell you, when I worked with a college, why did they give me the job? At that time we didn't have Xerox machines or stuff. You did everything by transcripts, like a film. Okay? So I used to—on the NYA job, I was helping this woman doing it. She got sick and I said, “I can do it.” So I went in there and did it. That's where I got—remember I told you I got a raise? To a dollar from fifty cents on NYA?

Then I went on the pay—and while I was there, I cleaned up the place. I cleaned it up so good that they used to eat lunch in there. You know, the dean was so happy that he said, “I'm going to use this room where I can have people come in here,” because I fixed it up. I mean, I did that. I organized the one that I told you was my mentor. She just was so—but she was old, and at one time she had had a lot of jobs and so on. She had me organize her.

And you know what people used to tell me with her? I shouldn't be going on, but anyway, people used to say—and that's what I tell children, “She's using you. You're doing all her work. You're doing all her [unclear].”

I said, “Oh, no. She's not using me. I'm using her. I'm learning.” And I just—I wish it wasn't to waste this, but I'm mentoring a little Mexican fellow right now, and I tell him about learning. He got a scholarship. I taught him his English. He got a scholarship to go to Japan. He got a one-year scholarship. For six months he got a scholarship to go to France. He speaks four languages, and I tell him, “You're not finished yet.” He dropped out to get a job, a good job. I said, “Uh-uh. Go back to college. Get your degree.” So he's gone back, and he's only a semester to go. We've done it all through scholarships. He's brilliant. But you can do it. You just have to look for it, too.

EE:

That's right.

AT:

And my little ones, I have a couple of real bright students and I tell them, “You're going to go to college. You're going to go to college, and that's all there is to it.”

EE:

It's a matter of will. You pretty much have told me by how you have told today, but if you had to do it all over again, joining the service, would you?

AT:

Oh, definitely. Definitely.

EE:

Well, you were only in for a brief period of time, but obviously, it meant a lot to you.

AT:

I made every—

EE:

You made every minute of it count, because it still rings so loud and true.

AT:

I mean, I wish it wasn't on, because I'm not trying to brag. Who knew so many captains as I did? Who knew so many—hospital ships? I've even been aboard submarines. I mean, because I made it a point to—I learned about their names in boot camp, and saw pictures, but gee, why not just board the real ones?

And then when they came in and you knew that everybody just about had been killed on it and had been knocked, you wanted to know more about it. How many were killed, and how many this? Know the history behind it. I mean, they had to put the tin cans—they call them the tin cans, you know, the small destroyers—I mean, they came pulling them, and you could tell that everybody had been killed in a certain section.

Oh, they loaded the atomic bomb there in San Francisco. I wasn't there at the time, though, but they loaded it. But I mean, there's a lot of—I always want to know.

EE:

But not just—you want to know by doing, which is great.

AT:

Right.

EE:

Which is great. Thank you, Miss Teague, for today. This has been great.

[End of interview]