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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Jean Downer, 2007

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Object ID: WV0386.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Jean Downer’s service in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1945 to 1946 and her life after the World War II.

Summary:

Pre-service topics include Downer's youth in Philadelphia, details of her her father’s career and her brother’s military service, her receptionist and accounting assistant job and her work operating a switchboard for the Philadelphia Electric Company. She recalls the bombing of Pearl Harbor and attending USO events in the city.

Downer describes enlisting in the WAVES to become a hospital corpsman and live away from home. She briefly discusses basic training at Hunter College, including graduation, barracks life, and getting to serve in the hospital corps. She describes her nursing duties at St. Albans Hospital; social activities; opinions of servicewomen; uniforms; meeting her husband; Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; VJ Day; and favorite songs and movies.

Other topics include: returning to civilian life; the benefits of single gender high schools and dormitories; the history of Philadelphia and ethnic neighborhoods; unions; her son-in-law becoming a house husband and the role of WWII in expanding work opportunities for women; the birth of her children; the death of her first husband; meeting her second husband; women in combat and the war in Iraq; her son’s service during the Vietnam War.

Creator: Jean Downer

Biographical Info: Jean Downer (1925-2012) of Philadelphia served in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1945 to 1946.

Collection: Jean Downer Oral History

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:

Kim Adkins:

Today is Wednesday, February 21, 2007, and this is Kim Adkins speaking. I'm in the home of Mrs. Jean Downer in Southern Pines, North Carolina, doing an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Thank you, Jean, for agreeing to speak with me.

Jean Downer:

I'd say very pleased, honored.

KA:

Please tell me about your life before you entered the military.

JD:

Well, I was a teenager. I graduated [at age] eighteen, and I wanted to become a nurse, and my father didn't agree with that. He wanted me to go to secretarial school, and I balked. I didn't want to be a secretary. So I [tape malfunction] got a job with one company, the Philadelphia Electric Company, for about a year and learned how to use a switchboard, which came into use many times afterwards. I was glad that happened.

And then a position became available in my neighborhood, and with the Supreme Milk Company, which was a big milk and ice cream distributor in Philadelphia. So I started working there, and—in their payroll department. So I learned how to computer—not computer, adding machine. I don't know what they called the first. It wasn't a computer. I did—you just had to push the keys in. It was electrified adding machine. Comptometer, that's what they call it, and after they sent me to comptometer school to learn. So I did fine, and finally a job became available to have a gal out at the front desk to greet people, and I guess since I was the talker [laughs] they asked me if I would be interested, and then I could still do the work at my desk that I had to do. So I did that, and I loved it. And always—all the salesmen would come in, and I would notify the people that they were there, and I guess they were very happy with what I was doing.

But then I had a girlfriend who had enlisted in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy]. She also wanted to be a nurse, and her family couldn't afford it. So one day I got a call from her in Philadelphia, and she says, “Jean, guess where I am?” And I said I had no idea. And she says, “I'm in the WAVES, and I'm stationed now at Philadelphia Naval Hospital.” I just was in awe. And she said, “Come down and see me.”

So I did. I just hopped—I lived in North Philadelphia, but the transportation in Philadelphia is wonderful. I'd say within an hour I was down there, and she took me over to the hospital. She showed me her quarters, and took me over to the hospital around to see where and was telling me what she did, and, oh, I just was drooling practically. And I said, “How did you happen to do this?” Well, her boyfriend had gotten—had been drafted, and she said, “I just was doing this and that,” and I don't know how she happened to hear about being in the hospital corps or what—went down to apply. She was a year older than I. So she went in, and I never had heard from her because she lived in another section of the city, and with me being a year younger, see, nothing like that occurred to me.

Well, as soon as I found out, I went up to the naval recruitment and they told me I had to be twenty, and at that time I was nineteen, and that probably was in December, January, something like that, and I was, as of today, my birthday, I was down there and signed all the papers. And then they told me that my father had to sign since I was not twenty-one.

Well, I went home and my father wasn't—even though he had been a veteran, he had been in the Coast Guard in the First World War. He wasn't at all happy about it. My mother, she understood me, and she was real pleased, and my brother happened to be—he had been in the army and in the cavalry and stationed in the West, and they were doing bivouac—they were setting up a bivouac for training troops, and he would go out—they rode motorcycles instead of horses in the cavalry, and they would set up booby traps. Well, he set up this one booby trap where they, I guess, released the pin somehow in a grenade but it was a slow—well, this one was faulty and went off in his hand. So he lost his left hand, and by that time he was out of—was discharged and home, and when he heard that I wanted to go in because he had been in the army hospital down at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.] and all, and with the nurses and about the wonderful care and everything they had. So he got after my father, and my father finally relented and okayed. So I was twenty in February, and I think it was in April I went back and everything taken care of.

So I think it was in April we were told to come down to the train station and we were—took the train up to New York City. There was a whole group of us gals. So, and we spent our boot camp as such at Hunter College in New York City, and I think that was eight weeks, maybe eight to ten weeks. I don't know. We were in—we lived in, well, the apartments and had, you know, bunk beds, and I think I was the youngest one. Every place I went I always seemed to be the youngest one. Most the other girls had been to college or some of them were married and the husband is overseas and they felt they wanted to do something. And this was for all the WAVES, not just—later we were delegated to what section. So I think I was there for two or three months—I can't remember, not having my book to look at. And I adjusted to it all wonderfully, and I loved the camaraderie of those gals. I mean they were the nicest gals, and intelligent girls, and I—I just enjoyed their company. So I was very happy.

And so after we did all our testing and everything, we had a choice of what we wanted to do. Well, of course, all I thought about was going into the hospital corps. So I put that down and the other thing I was interested in was a Link trainer, and that's where you sit and you would talk to the pilots, and they would have the screen, you know, as if they were in a plane flying and you could tell them what to do. And so when I tried out for the Link trainer, as a Link trainer, they told me I couldn't do that because I had an accent. I'm from Philadelphia. I have an accent? They said, “You sure do.” [laughs] It was your accent. I knew what—I was shocked. So I says, “Well, I really, that was just my second choice.”

So I was accepted then into the hospital corps, and I was just thrilled. So I was sent down. Then, like we had a—oh, some leave. Maybe it was a weekend or a week, I don't know, and then I had to go down to Washington, D.C., and I went to Walter Reed. No, I went to the naval—Annapolis [Maryland], the naval hospital, and there did my training. Well, we just learned everything. In the army the biggest thing was learning how to give shots. Some of the girls are so squeamish, and we would have oranges, and we would have to fill it up, you know, and finally at the end it was just, I guess, water, saline solution or something we gave to each other, and just learned everything, and I think that must have been about six to eight weeks. I don't know.

I seem to—I know I was there—VE [Victory in Europe] Day was in August, and I was there when that happened, and that city was berserk because they had gas rationing. So you saw very few cars, you know, on the road. Well, we heard this and I guess we all went into town. We took the bus into town. It was—we were at Bethesda [Maryland]—did I say Bethesda Naval Hospital? That's where we were, and, oh, everyone had their car out tooting horns and screaming and hollering and I never saw a city so alive as that. Everyone was—I mean we all were thrilled, and then we all thought, “Well, what's going to happen to us?” [laughs] But they knew it would be a long time to get everyone—especially with the wounded, you know?

So when I left there, I think it was in September, that was August. I'm real sure it was September. Then I got sent up to St. Albans [Hospital] in Long Island [New York], and that was outside of a small town, and it was outside of Jamaica [New York]. There they had, you know, the women's quarters, and I don't know where the nurses were. I can't remember whether they were over in a different building, but we had a large—because we did everything that the corpsmen did. We were Corps WAVES that they called us. I was on a—put on a presurgical ward where everyone who had operations then came back there, and they always had two nurses to a ward, and they had two to three corpsmen, of which I was one, but they only would have one WAVE and like, then, two males. There also was just a WAVE and a male usually, and we did everything. I loved it. I was doing nursing up to my ears. I mean I just loved it, and we made beds, did everything, bed pans, you know whatever.

But as I look back, with everything becoming so loose nowadays, you never once saw a naked body. Those boys—and they were all mostly younger than me. They might have been some that might have been twenty, you know? Where they had come in and had gotten injured in some way. But a lot of these boys had been in the Pacific [Theatre] and all and were coming back and going over there, and they were the nicest, nicest guys. There was never ever anything untoward, I mean, you just felt like you were one of them. I mean you weren't a gal in there. You just were one of them, and all the girls I felt were the same way. It was just, you just were treated with respect, and I just loved the whole time.

So then gradually they decided—well, what they were going to do, you got points, so many points for each month you were in the service, and if you read your card so many points, then you would get discharged. But, of course, I was at the bottom of the totem pole. I didn't care. So I stayed there. The navy was starting to close the different hospitals.

So in the meantime, while I was there in St. Albans, through a mutual friend—in fact one of my patients had arranged a blind date with me with one of his—he was a navy fellow, but this fellow was a Marine, and he'd become, I don't know, very attached to this young man, and he just felt that—he wanted me to meet this young Marine. And they were stationed on Long Island, and New York Harbor was a munition island and they had the Marines guard that. So he arranged the blind date, this fellow in his bed with the telephone arranged this blind date for a girlfriend of mine who was a WAVE, and—to go to this place and meet this fellow and his friend, and they just had a nice time. You know, there was dancing and things.

And one evening—and, of course, we exchanged, you know, addresses, telephone—and I'll be darned if this one Marine did not call me back and wanted to know if he could see me again. So we made a date to meet in Pennsylvania Station, because the Long Island Railroad came in there and the subway came in there, and so we made a date to meet there. This must have been—like I say, I got there about October. This must have been, I guess, December or so, and we met and continued, oh, having maybe just one date a week. But he'd always come back on the Long Island Railroad with me to my hospital, and then he would go around and go all the way down to where he was out in the bay of, you know, New York Bay. It was right out near where the Statue of Liberty was, there was this ammunition depot.

Then he got discharged. He had been four years out in the Pacific. He was a Marine, and so his time came up to be discharged, and he lived outside of Buffalo, New York. So he—and I thought, well, that's it. Well, we kept, you know, corresponding. So finally he asked me to come up and—he said, if you get leave, come up and visit me. And I have to laugh, I mean I didn't think about that. Sure. Got on a train and—oh, no, it wasn't a train. A bus. And, well, I guess I had to go from there to Rochester and then change to go into Buffalo, and I got to meet his family, and then while there he gave me a ring. We became engaged.

So, but I just—I had never—I had gone out with a lot of boys when I was younger, but there just was something different. I have to laugh at these young kids today how they say, I mean, they live together and everything and they say, “Well, you don't know.” And I say, “Well, I'll be darned. I never had a—.” When I met that one, I knew. There were no—I was thrilled that he wanted me.

So then I got discharged. I really was only in the service about a year and a half, but I was in the hospital the whole time. I just loved it, and I know if I had not met him, I'd probably would have stayed in and—because already I had become—I had gone from a hospital apprentice, second [class] hospital apprentice, second [class] to a pharmacist mate third [class]. We would take tests. I mean while we were there we would started [tape malfunction] we answer everything right, then we would get a next, of course, not only did you raise the rank, but you got more money. So in the time that I was in the service, then, I had ended up as a pharmacist mate third class.

And as I say, I just can't have anything detrimental to say about life in the service, and I hope with women in the service today it's still the same. Many times in [unclear] you'd hear derogatory remarks, but never from anyone, you know, in the service. And as I say, the women, too, were just extraordinary, and I just enjoyed that whole—that was always a bright spot for me. You know, what I learned nursing I know helped me to be a better mother, because once I started having children, if they got ill or sick, I just seemed to know what to do for them to take care of them. And it just was a relief because you didn't always “Oh, dear, what shall I do?” I know to lower their fever and to do this, and then I'd call the doctor. And it just gave me confidence that I really could take care of them. And I thought that was such a, you know, boon. And so I was always proud to at least to have done that.

I was [proud] to go into the service and I was very proud to have been accepted. And all through my family—I mean everyone, of course, it had always been males—but always for every problem there always had been someone in the service. Then when my brother having come home and having that problem, losing his right hand, I just felt well, I was in there taking his place. So mine was a very good experience, and I've always been proud to do it.

And I still, the other night at this band concert they played The Star-Spangled Banner. I can't sing that because I start to cry. So, I always there [unclear], and I say the words to myself, but otherwise I guess I'm just very, very much, you know, proud to be in the U.S.A., very proud of the country. And it's still—oh, another thrill was marching. To hear—even today when I hear a band, I mean it just—when you go to hear these army bands, navy bands, and all, and they play that music, it really stirs you, and I mean that's what it's supposed to. When you look back, and that was always so much fun, you know, marching.

When I was at St. Albans and President [Franklin] Roosevelt came and he reviewed us. Of course, he was sitting like everyone, we never knew that he was, you know, paralyzed in his legs and everything, [that] he needed help. Whenever you saw him he was sitting. See, even when he would be on TV you never saw him get there. It was amazing what they could do at that time. And his son, I guess, was James [Roosevelt], because his boys would be—like he had a cane and can walk if someone was on the other side. And, see, they would always get in back of the podium, and he would walk up and once he leaned on, see, he could stand; and whenever you would see him out you never saw—he was always like sitting in the car or sitting in a chair, and so it was amazing. Nowadays you never could keep anything like that quiet. They know everything about you. So that was a surprise for me, but I was very proud, and, too, when he came in. You know, he reviewed us.

I have a lot of pictures of us, you know, in formation things like that, but it was just a very happy experience for me. And whenever I have heard anyone being upset—because in later years our daughter was going into the service, and I says, you know, that's a wonderful thing. I mean if she isn't going to go to college, then go into the service. She'll get an education there, and if she doesn't take courses there, when she gets out of school it will be paid for, you know, then she can go on do other things. So, I've always been very upbeat about it, and I am [unclear] that she could be able to be a nurse and to be in that ship and everything. I think that's just wonderful. Did she mention about being in—there's a book where she wrote a—it's over in our library, and I have it. Did she give you the title? You will have to go to me, because I know it's in our library, but I have to find out again the title so I can find it.

But if there's anything I can say derogatory—everything up, and I'm just I guess, well, I laugh when I look back. I guess I always was sort of a women's libber, but I don't know why. It's just that I always felt if I wanted to do something I should be able to do it. And this was World War II. This became—this, as we were saying, liberated so many women, and even [when] a lot of those fellows came back, some of their wives had been working for four years. They were making a salary, taking care of things. If they had had children, probably the mother, mother-in-laws came in and helped them with it.

Well, see, when these fellows came, it was a shock. This gal wasn't the same gal they had left four years ago, and four years is a long time to be apart. And so that was the beginning of a lot of this unrest, you know, [in] some marriages, until they really got settled down again. But you can imagine if you were working, working and doing your own thing, and suddenly because your husband came back you had to stop. I mean they didn't like the idea of their wife working, and if you had a good job you probably enjoyed it, going out and doing these things. It was later, you know, when I looked back and I thought, boy, that really would be. It's one thing to, having done that and then getting married and give it up, or having done that because you had to and then as the husband came back and he just didn't like that idea. He wanted the little wife sitting there home with you, and that created problems, and—But that really was, I think, the big beginning of liberation for the females to go and do what they want to do.

And I was—now, to get off of me—if you want to cut this off, it doesn't matter.

[JD describes how her son-in-law lost his job and became a stay-at-home dad while his wife worked.]

So he [JD's son-in-law] did this and he kept thinking he would do it about a year and then get a job; but as he looked for jobs he really couldn't find anything that would pay enough so they could afford a sitter. So as to this day now, he's still—this is what he has been—he's been the househusband, but because my daughter is luckily with Bristol-Myers Squibb, she had worked with them for some time. She has this wonderful job. So they expense-wise would take care of everything.

But every now and then he'd get a little bit itchy. You know, he wanted—he says, “God, if I could just get out and talk to some men for awhile, you know?” And if you go anyplace with the kids it would just be women or the house, you know, women, all females with their kids. Every now and then he might see one male or so, but very rarely. And he was saying how itchy he was to get back to work. And I laugh. I says, “You know, Mark, because when I hear you say that I think back to World War II when the fellows came back from the service and the wives had been working and enjoyed what they were doing, and suddenly they had to give it up. And doing what you're doing now: taking care of children.” And I says, “You know, that created quite a bit of problems back then. I've said you really, you're going through what a lot of those women went forty years ago when there was this complete upheaval, you know, of what to do.”

[description of JD's son-in-law and companies downsizing omitted]

But it's funny as, you know, you look back on different things that happened in your life and see how some things—seems ever so often that same situation, you know, comes up and just like you probably now, oh, twenty to thirty years something will happen and you'll say, “oh, I remember, you know, something the same thing went on.” So that's about all that I just—I have—

And anyone I know who had been in the service, I never heard of anyone complain about service, and as they say—anyone who went overseas. I had two husbands. The one Marine who was four months [and] four years in the Pacific, which must have been hell, he mentioned about how you—he said they always had wet feet. Most of those fellows came home with jungle rot and things like that that stayed with them through the years. As soon as it would get hot and they'd start to perspire, it would like break out on them, and they'd get big rashes, and it just—I mean they brought home a lot of scars from that time. As I say, with my second husband, who was an navigator, he said sometimes he said that they, you know, when they would be dropping these bombs and wondering, well, what are they—many times they didn't go into munitions. They were supposed to. But you can imagine you're how can you really pinpoint? They know at times they probably hit hospitals and churches, and even the wind, you know, could carry them elsewhere. That bothered them, but what could they do? I mean they were sent on these missions, and they were just glad to be able to come back. If you could imagine who being up in these, and you would see a plane that got hit. That must have been horrible to see a plane going down knowing some of those fellows, you know, that would be on the plane and probably you never heard from them, you know, again.

So war is horrible, and I am very upset about this whole situation, that you feel, I mean, why should we be the ones to try to go in and cure the ills of the world? Though, supposedly, you know, we were supposed to go there and find these Weapons of Mass Destruction, which never did appear, so, you know, who knows? But I'm sure that's very—I think people are more upset, as you were saying, in Vietnam, how that started that unrest. I mean that's the same thing is brewing now because of all the deaths of these young men, and you wonder, what for?

And as we were saying, I think even if everything—if you could say whatever that the war was over, I'm sure no matter when we pull out, it would probably be how long before there would be some unrest over there, because those countries are so—the religious fanaticism, I think, over there how they, you know, they're living by rules that were made almost thousands of years ago that they believe in. In fact they were—Doonesbury [comic strip], I should have kept it out, one of the comics, you know, he's always been a rabble rouser, and he was—this one soldier he was driving and he says, “oh, that's the building we're supposed to go in and get this fellow. We're supposed to bring him back alive,” and say he was a Sunni. I mean it didn't say this, but say like a Sunni and what the others are. So, say he was a Sunni, and the guy sitting with them who is one of the locals he says, “Oh, I can't do that.”

And he says, “Why not?”

He says, “Because he murdered one of my family.”

And the guy says, “Well, when did this happen?”

He says, “Oh, in 1396.”

You know, it goes all the way back to what they did to one another, and they just have just kept living like that. That's horrible that they're fighting and they're following these guidelines. I mean just like look at their women, how they were treated as if they were vassals practically. You know, they have no rights, having to keep themselves all covered up and everything, and this is something from years and years ago that started and they're still living under these rules and regulations. You just wonder, I mean, what's going to happen? That's why I'm afraid, as old as I am. You poor youngsters are going to have to put up with that. So do you have any questions?

KA:

Where and when were you born?

JD:

I was born in Philadelphia in a hospital, and February 21, 1925.

KA:

What were your parents' names?

JD:

All right. My father was Peter Lewis Beck, B-e-c-k, and he had been in the Coast Guard when the First World War. My mother was Caroline Florence Baltz, B-a-l-t-z, that's a good German name, and she just—she had like a few jobs. I know she worked for a dressmaker or something like that, but didn't—or a dressmaker who used to make their clothes in their home until she married my dad. I guess she was just in her early twenties, but she had never really—she had gone all through high school, but then that was it, and so she married my dad. My dad was of Irish extraction. I guess Irish and German, but my mother was all German, and so they still lived in the same neighborhood in Philadelphia, which was definitely German.

In the cities from those years, when the people came over they would gravitate to the section of the city that was of their nationality, and where they lived it was all German. In fact, there are even two beer breweries that were built there. And then right then, then you went up maybe ten blocks, and it was the Jewish neighborhood. And I always felt that was because between Jewish and Yiddish—I don't mean that—between German and Yiddish they could sort of understand, you know, each other. And in most cities you would find that, I mean, in the old cities that the Jewish settlement would be near the Germans. And then to the South it was the Irish component, and then from there it was the Polish component. It was—Philadelphia was a very old city. Then south it was all Italian, South Philadelphia, and then the Polish was out to the east along the Delaware River, and then when you start going north from there that's when—oh, when Philadelphia was first settled, I mean that was considered country, and that became the suburban area that as the people got older and their children grew up, then they would sort of like move out of the city, and they moved like to the northern section. Then Philadelphia started to grow up towards the northern section, but you still had these very old ethnic areas throughout the city, which was good.

KA:

What did your father do for a living?

JD:

He did many things. I think he had the same problem after World War I because I don't remember this, but my mother told me—well, he was an artist but on his own, but always could do beautiful things and was very good building things and all. He—I know he was a milkman for awhile. I know there's some badges and all for with his horses. I don't know where they made their horses do things or what. See, that was all before my time.

Then, he got into building construction, and the funny part about it, when the war started in '41, in the late thirties a friend of his got into construction, and they did all the heating for barracks, and they were sent to—oh, no, it was right outside of Philadelphia. It will come to me. There was a big army camp outside of Philadelphia, and this was in the late thirties, and they were sent and all these barracks were being built out there. It will come to me. If I remember later, I'll call and let you know. And so they were putting all the heating ducts into these barracks. Now, people in the know—a lot of them are dead now, but they, see, they all said that there was something coming. That bomb in '41, Pearl Harbor, shook everybody up, but there were a lot of army camps that were built enable to house these fellows that were taken into the service. And don't you wonder how did this happen?

Because my brother, in the spring of '41 he was at a high school [and] couldn't find a job. He joined the Philadelphia National Guard, which was a cavalry unit, and so he was only in the service about six months in with this group, and they went out and he was learning about, oh, setting up tents and all this stuff, but it was more or less for the city, to protect Philadelphia, and then as soon as they got—as soon as Pearl Harbor, they immediately became U.S. Army. They no longer were this little offshoot. The first troop of Philadelphia was always sort of the elitist group. They had horses and they'd be in parades and things like that. That was National Guard. Well, the National Guard then became—as soon as the bomb was dropped, it became part of the army. So then that's how my brother—but he still stayed cavalry, and they did a lot of—what you say like police work, military police work around different areas. That's what their job was.

So it just—so it was funny. There my father was working out there with these, you know, camps, and little within a year or so later here my brother was out there, but everyone acts like, you know, World War I just came like that. Everyone knew a war was coming, which they will say. Higher-ups [knew], because there was all this unrest with Japan and everything else, that something was amiss, but the average person didn't realize this.

So that's what he did then for the rest of his life, until he retired. He worked there, and he was very good with it. And, oh, he just remodeled our house. I mean just did wonderful things. He could, I know, with our house he extended the roof and made an extra bathroom and, see, I—because my father did it, I thought I'd be the one to do that. I got a rude awakening. After I got married I married two men who didn't do that sort of thing, but I always used to help my father. I loved to do that sort of—and I always said if I had been a male, I probably would have been a carpenter or something like that. I used to help him a lot to do things, which was great for me later on. And if a socket, a plug got off a cord, I could take it off, you know, fix them and put it back. I couldn't sit there helpless or things like that because he would show me how to, you know, do all those things.

And so he—and another thing, too, if you want to talk about things that happened. The unions were just coming into force, if you know [Jimmy] Hoffa and all that, and for the average worker the unions were wonderful, because they got a better wage. I remember with my father when he [unclear] a home like maybe he was making $25 a week, and suddenly he comes home with a $50, you know, for doing more or less the same work, but it was because he had joined the union. So my father he was a great supporter of the unions. Of course, years passed, you know, everyone just points fingers at them with Hoffa and all the others, but they did some good. But like everything, when too much money comes in, what happens? They all just don't know what to do with that money. Look at this with Black [unclear] now. Isn't that horrible what he was doing paying for, you know, influence and votes and things like that? That's terrible, but as soon as they get too much power, then they feel that they can—and that money comes in, there's always people willing to pay. If I give you, will you do so-and-so for me? And I guess he just got caught up in that, but it isn't right.

So he was very happy with what he did, but he worked with his hands, but he was very good at what he did. So I really feel I came from the same—I'm sure my father—well, both my father and mother, they just went as far as high school and not—because I think there were very few colleges at that time or if you did, your parents had to be well-to-do so you didn't have to go to work, and you could go to school, and that's just how—See, that's how my father, he couldn't see me going on to take some more training even though it was to be a nurse. I should get out there and be a secretary.

To this day I don't know how to type. You should see me on the computer hunt-and-peck. And I wish I had [learned to type], and I tried. I even took some typing courses, but I just—I don't know. I just—I do needlework, and I do a lot of things with my hands, but I just couldn't seem to get that keyboard going, and I love it when I see them girls on the computer going on. I always had problems with my little finger. So still I hunt-and-peck, so I'm slow, but I'm amazed when I watch you young girls [unclear] and everything is spelled right. Every now and then I hit the wrong key. So, but at least I do have a computer, and that's opened up—that's been great, because with the grandkids, every one being spread all over the country, with the computer they can just sit down and send off a few lines. Where if you had to wait for letters, you write the letter, it takes, say, four days to get there, they get it, they read it, think about it. When they—

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

JD:

—two or three weeks till you get an answer, or with the telephone to make sure you get them at home, and if they change the time, that's not always [unclear]. So what other questions are there?

KA:

What was your brother's name?

JD:

Louis. Louis Christian. That was an old family name back we used to say.

KA:

Was that your only sibling?

JD:

Yes.

KA:

Where did you graduate high school?

JD:

Philadelphia High School for Girls. Philadelphia, all their high schools were segregated as to male and female. I think because it was a predominantly—that was a predominantly large Catholic city, and the girls always wore uniforms and the boys. So were the public schools. And Philadelphia High School for Girls I think was one of the first public schools for girls. And there were other boys' schools, and then gradually the area north of the city they started having school coed. Now one of my girlfriends was at coed school. Ah, that was just wonderful. But my perspective has changed.

I think now with a lot of the high schools, I guess the kids would be better in school if once again there was male and female. I think there's too much with all the hanky-panky going on, and that way they would—and I guess—I guess they tried it with a couple of schools up in Raleigh or so. Might be one, and they interviewed either a boy or a girl going to a, I believe, a private school, and he says we get much more out of our courses because we're all the same sex and not worry about [unclear]. Now I think, especially as some of the girls dress today, I wonder how the boys can even keep their mind—do you ever think of that when you see someone going in? And they're just in high school? I think my God, how can those guys even with a girl sitting in front of them and they can see her belly button and their hips and everything else, you wonder how can they even keep their mind on their work. [laughs] So, but I was pleased when that boy said that, and they was—a lot of the educators that I had read in the paper have mentioned that, that maybe there should be a little more of this same-sex and more work towards studies than the social activities, because we had dances.

You were always going elsewhere that you could, you know, ask. You never were without getting together of the sexes. I mean teenagers are always going to congregate, regardless if they go to school together. But that was the—I found in the smaller towns they didn't—I guess they couldn't support it. All my friends I met who grew up in smaller towns, they always had coed classes, but with me I was pleased. I felt I got an excellent education from the high school, and they were very, very strict.

One of my teachers was a Friend [Quaker] and, you know, the “thee” and the “thou”—that the Friends that were in Philadelphia that they first had come there and settled—and she was very spiritual. I know when I must have been fifteen or fourteen, one day I wore—of course, it was Tangy lipstick. I don't know if you even know that. You used to put it on, and it would be pink, not red, pink. And she says, “Ms. Beck, what do I see on your face?” [laughs] And she says, “In my class, you don't wear that.” Oh, she was strict. And of all things she taught French, and I'll be darned just the three years I may have had French from her, boy that stuck with me. She was a good teacher.

And I loved having all the courses, and we had geometry, we had chemistry. I mean we had all the same courses that the boys' school had. I mean just because you were female they didn't delete it any way. We [had an] excellent orchestra and art program. I mean it really had everything.

But see in the city, too, I'd have to use the public transportation to get there. You know, it wasn't a local school. When they have these larger high schools people like—and I know a lot of girls they came up from South Philadelphia. So I knew there were a lot of Italia—I mean it was a good melting pot, and we even had some blacks in the class because the blacks had infiltrated into—that's another story. When Philadelphia in the early 1900s—William Penn laid it out so it was north and south streets, east and west. So [it was a] very well-planned city, and they decided they were going to build and they started with the first public transportation, the trolly cars that ran on rails, but they had a line—they had a pole going up to get electricity, and they decide to build a subway. So they would build it down Broad Street all the way out from Broad Street all the way down to South Broad Street. That was the only up and down. So, to get workers they imported the blacks from the South up to Philadelphia. And so of course then they took up residence right along Broad Street and so they could walk to work. And when that subway finally was put in, then after they did that, then they started to do one that ran from west to east, Philadelphia east, that crossed in the middle of the city at Broad Street, and it was mostly blacks who did all that hard labor. So, of course, after it was built they stayed there. And as they needed more people they would have their friends come up. And so I don't know whether English cities, I forget driving through some of the—

[Phone rings, recorder paused]

JD:

And gradually through the years as they, the blacks, because they were getting a decent wage up there, their friends would come in and—see, Philadelphia is made up of what they call row houses. I know Baltimore has some where they—their houses just attach to one another, and you had a front step and a door and a window and then you went upstairs and your bedrooms were up there, and they even made some three stories like that. And so they loved that, because they could come in and put a lot of families in a three-story house. And, see, there where they settled around the center of the city, that was still an older section that had been built up in the early 1900s. So, that was the beginning of the big migration of blacks up North, and they stayed there.

By World War II, 1940, that's forty-some years, when my husband and I first got married—now he was from Western New York. I was from Philadelphia. For awhile we thought we might stay in Philadelphia. We looked to buy a house in our neighborhood and we could get—not get a mortgage because of the blacks moving in because, see, these were all single-family homes where we lived, but as the fellows came back from the service they didn't come back to live in where their family was because they were these small townhouses, row houses. So, they moved outside the city. So, then, the banks would no longer give you a mortgage feeling that you wouldn't be staying there that long. I mean they could look ahead because of this influx of the blacks coming.

So, that's from 14th Street, and we lived at 29th. So, in that say forty years a lot of difference it made with them all coming in. So then they had already come in to the schools but we never had any problems. But then we decided that—my husband got an offer in the little town he was from to work up there. So we decided, well, you know, job working up there. Didn't make any different to me one way or another. I know it did to my parents, but went up there. We were very happy there, and it was a small—I loved living in a small town growing up in a city, and that was just turned out very well for us. But it was so funny how the whole city changed.

Another thing, see, after World War II the blacks coming back with their—the money they made in the service and the veterans funds and things like that, they all had more money, and they were bettering themselves, too, to move out of cramped quarters and buy a townhouse of their own, a real house, rather than living with the parents. See, it was on one of those explosions, and it was my side of the 14th Street and the other side, 14th out to Front Street which was First Street. All along 3rd Street it became just totally black. Now, that's where Temple University is that was built there years ago, and a lot of the big organizations were all along Broad Street, and that stayed that way, but it was in back of it, and it just made a difference of the ethnic culture, you know, of what was in the area.

Some fellows from—young fellows from the University of Penn[sylvania], they wrote a book about it. That's why I'm so knowledgeable. It's wonderful. It shows Philadelphia as it used to be, you know, with the carts and things and then the beginning of the electric trolly cars and the old cars and the old—people still went to markets, still had the open markets, and people went to that. I can remember when I was a teenager when the first supermarket opened. There were always these little grocery stores on corners. Like when they built these row houses at the end they would always build stores at the intersection. There would be like a drugstore or a grocery store or a butcher shop. So everything was there for this little community or a bar. [laughs] Then you would go up like eight blocks, and there would be another, and the stores are always on the end, and then as the people would live upstairs. You know, they would have the shop downstairs.

I mean it was funny years ago how they set out cities. I'm sure New York was the same way when it was set out. You know, set up. And they started building, and but, so, with me being in a smaller city at the time and more of individual homes, I think they are more—and having grown up there, you are more conscious of what was happening because you didn't see any big buildings until you went into town. But then you always—my father never owned a car because he had public transportation. I never learned how to drive until I think I was maybe twenty-six, and I was living up in a small town, and as long as we had one car I didn't bother learning how to drive, but then as the kids got older, and then we got two cars. Well, then I learned how to drive. Then we got the two cars. [laughs] But it's funny how, you know, it's just that evolution. So what other questions?

KA:

Did you like school when you were—

JD:

Oh, loved it, yes.

KA:

Did you ever attend college?

JD:

No.

KA:

Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

JD:

Yes, it was on a Sunday, and my girlfriends and I, every Sunday we'd get dressed up and walk out Fairmount Park. Philadelphia is noted for Fairmount Park. See, I have some pictures of this. When I get it, I'll just cut and send it to you. We'd always go out and spend our Sunday walking there, and we were walking back and I think about six o'clock—and then they'd go home, and I'd go home—and someone had the radio on. I'm trying wonder, and everyone was out, was in the park. And as we walked into the city—and I think it was all ice cream shop or something like that—and someone says, “Bombed!” You know bombed Pearl Harbor, and we were didn't know where Pearl Harbor was, you know?

But I still remember that that was Sunday evening, and then we went home, and that's all that was on the radio because there was no TV. There was all just a little radio, and it was a shock. Because most people didn't even, you know, think about anything like that. But I sure remember December 7, 1941. That, ah—and then, too, the shock because right away with my brother, then, being in the regular army, you know? And it just—you know, a lot of changes in people's families. So I still remember that, with my two girlfriends. We were just [unclear]. Same type of awe as seeing those planes run into, you know, the World Trade Center. Just couldn't believe it something like that was happening. So, I think those are two biggest shocks in my life towards the country.

KA:

Did you have a job when you enlisted?

JD:

Yes, I was working for this milk company as a receptionist.

KA:

Why did you decide to join the WAVES?

JD:

Because I wanted to get in the hospital corps, work as a nurse.

KA:

When did you enter the service?

JD:

Well, I think it was—when I took my oath it was March 1925. No, no, I was born in '25. When was I—when I turned twenty. Well, the war was over. It must have been '44, because the war was over in '45. In March 1944.

KA:

When were you discharged?

JD:

In June of '45 [probably 1946].

KA:

You talked a little bit about your friends joining the WAVES. Do you think she's the major reason why you joined the WAVES?

JD:

Yes. Well [tape malfunction] and things were sort of dull at home. All the—we always went around in groups, and all the fellows—I mean it was very glamorous. Now, you know, they had gone in the service, and they would have these big parties for them and everything like that. The poor guys, they didn't know what they were getting into. And things were sort of, you know, dull.

I used to go to the dance when they had the USO [United Service Organizations] parties. See, Philadelphia had a naval base, and so USO was very big in Philadelphia Center. And so they'd have these dances, and different organizations would sponsor the dances, and we always had chaperones. And so we were going—we go out and dance with the fellows because we all loved do it. We always used to go to—girlfriends and I—go to dances.

[Phone rings, recorder paused]

JD:

Every veteran organization had it. So they'd always have a band, a live band, and they'd have different areas down in the center of the city. Now, I'm sure up in the northern part they probably had the same thing, but see where we girls lived near the center of the city, we would go down there. I laughed how they would always have these chaperones around, you know, to make sure there's no hanky-panky. [laughs] That was nice, and you'd meet these fellows from, you know, all over, guys from the Midwest and down South and everything. So it was good, innocent fun. And if you'd like to dance and just wanted to—because, of course, there never was any liquor sold. They had soft drinks and things like that. So, we would just hop on the trolly and go down and maybe it would close at 10:00 or 10:30, and we'd hop on the trolly and come back.

But it was good fun, getting to mingle with different ones. So, which, because by then, '41, I was, you know, I was out of school and I was working. [Nineteen] forty-three was still when I was in school. I got out of school in '42, graduated, and then I was working. So, it always—so, you never were out late. I mean we were usually always home by eleven o'clock.

That was the hardest thing to get used to when my kids grew, you know? Twelve o'clock. They acted like that was—you probably did the same, right? “Oh, gee, mom. What about 1:00 [a.m.] or 2:00 [a.m.]?” [laughs] That was all.

Your—there really wasn't, you know, once all the fellows went to the services, then it wasn't that much to do, and we girls would go to movies or something like that. There really wasn't, you know, entertainment except for these like see before the war they churches would have dances that we went to, but, see, when everyone—well, the young men were taken away. They just stopped doing that. So there wasn't much for entertainment.

KA:

Did you feel that by joining you were freeing a man to fight, as the poster said?

JD:

No, I—my big thing was take the TLC, tender loving care. I may never even thought of—I know—this was one thing. One of the girls said she was some place and somehow she met this woman, and she went up to her, and she says, “Why [tape malfunction] if you weren't in the service, ma'am, my son would still be here.” So that's what the mother felt, but we never even thought of that. We were misplacing someone to send them, because we still—there were still corpsmen, and you know it wasn't all—there were very few WAVES in the hospital in contrast to corpsmen. We were—we were a minority. So you never felt that you were taking over anyone's place.

KA:

How did your parents feel about you joining?

JD:

Well, my mother was all for it, and my father finally agreed. My mother was—I think she was always to do—I mean, that she said when she graduated from high school she had gotten this job sort of, but it was sort of a—you know, helping this woman dressmaker, that women would come there to have their—they didn't buy things. I guess there weren't even any big department stores. I don't know how it was then. But the women of means would come to a dressmaker, and she worked with her, so I think she—and in later years I remember that my mother at Christmastime she would go down and do part-time work in a department store, you know, for Christmas help. She loved that, and, of course, was a little extra money. So I think she was one of these forward looking women and was looking forward to doing this, because she knew why I wanted to go in to get into this hospital corps, and my father had his arm twisted by my brother. So that worked out fine for me.

KA:

How did you friends feel about you joining?

JD:

I guess in awe. They just couldn't think of doing something like that. You know, just how different people are, but they never—as I said, I just had this one friend that went in, and then as I say I met this one gal that wasn't a close friend but at times we'd get together with a group, but I think I was the only one from the area that went in. I didn't know of anyone else. So I guess I was an oddity, but I loved it.

KA:

When you joined, was this the first time you had been far from home for a long period of time?

JD:

Yes.

KA:

Do you remember where you joined, where you signed up?

JD:

It was right down in one of the—it might have been in the City Hall. It was right down in the very center of the city where they have the naval office. So, I can't think—because that's a big business area.

Philadelphia has this—I'll have to show a picture. I love this picture. I happened to find it in an antique store. I don't know if you know anything about Philadelphia, but it was—Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn. So this is City Hall, and that's Billy [William] Penn up there. You see that's very tall. Now, this is all part of City Hall. Now, this is all part of City Hall. It extends out. Maybe this was John Wanamaker, and these were—it was some bank building or something, and this is Broad Street. It ran from north to south. When I saw that, and I just couldn't get over it. I think it is just a pen and ink. I just loved it. So, I think it was in here or some place—because traffic goes around the—this is almost like an island, and traffic goes around it. These are all the offices in the lower part of the building. Good old Billy Penn. See here they even have where they fly flags. I couldn't get over how this—how this is City Hall, Philadelphia. Walked those streets many times. That's all the pictures I've yet to hang. [laughs] Okay, what next?

JD:

What do you remember about the first day of training?

KA:

We mostly, training all—when you first got there was an issued—I guess it was fitted for uniforms, and then it was all studying and testing and things like that. Just test after test to find out where you—and there were IQ [Intelligence Quotient] tests and everything like that. I mean you spent really the whole time just in school until they finally told you where you were going to be sent.

And they always had a graduation. All my friends came up and they came by train. They had this graduation, and we—I don't even know where it was. It must be some field nearby. I know we lined up and marched and everything. We had a band and everything, but flag flying. It was very impressive. Made you proud to be there.

So, and I think it was about maybe eight weeks, maybe two weeks, but our quarters were just—they had bunk beds like it might have been a three bedroom room apartment. They just were so many bunk beds, and, of course, you had the one bed. So you learned how to live with others which a lot—most of us didn't. I always had my own bedroom. So there was that. And we always had a captain's inspection, and your place just had to be—we all had chores that we had to do, and they would come in. They called it the white glove inspection, and you know even the frame around the door, they would put their hand. There can't be any dust. I mean they were very strict, and your beds, they taught you how to make a corner for your beds, and everything had to be tight and your closets. They put in metal things for—we had a metal closet like, and your clothes had—nothing could just be thrown in. Everything was shipshape. So it was good training.

KA:

Where were you stationed after basic training?

JD:

At—I wrote that down. I was sent to Long Island. As I say, St. Albans, which was Jamaica, and—oh, no. Basic training I went down to Bethesda Naval Hospital, and that's where I had my training to be a Corps WAVE. All medicine and, you know, whatever drugs and giving shots and doing back rubs and doing everything, and that's when we had to be very strict about the beds. We always had to make those corners. We had everything tucked in. So that was when I went down there to St. Albans Naval Hospital [sic, Bethesda Naval Hospital] which was in Bethesda, Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C. So we had, you know, public transportation that was very easy to get into town, and I was there. As I said, I couldn't remember if it was six week or what. Then I was sent up to St. Albans, which is on Long Island and outside of Jamaica. Then I was there—I know I was there in October, and so I go to February, and then I get sent up to Sampson Naval Base, which is mid-state New York, until June. I was discharged in June, and for that they sent us back to New York City to be decommissioned or whatever they called it, and they always gave us fare to get home to Philadelphia. They always—when you get out of the service they always give you fare back to where you enlisted. So until they worked [doorbell rings] in all the services they do that.

[Recorder paused]

JD:

I sat at a desk, and I was very good with figures. So when I wasn't—for the people that would come in I was receptionist, and so other times there weren't too many. You know, some days were busier than others. I did payroll work, and I had a comptometer, which was the beginning of—I was amazed with that, even that you could press buttons, and you know, it would add and subtract and everything like that, because the old adding machines you had to wind them or something like this, and these, it was the first that you could just use your fingers, and it was a desk job. Dressed with silk stockings and high heels. Dress to make a nice appearance. And that's—it was very nice, but I guess I had itchy feet as they say. I wanted to go and do things, and the service just seemed to be a chance to get out and see the world. I think basically I've always been like that because I've done a lot of traveling all my whole life. My husband and I did it, and as a widow I've just been every place. I just love to travel and see new things. So I think that's part of the reasons I probably—I probably was like that and didn't realize it. It just seemed to be a good opportunity to do something.

KA:

Did you have much dealings with patients while you were—?

JD:

In service? Oh, yes, we were right on the ward. We did everything: bed pans, and empty urinals, and did back rubs and any—I'm telling you. We did everything, and the nurses sat at their desks. They oversaw everything. They did the records, but really you did all the work. We didn't have to swab decks or anything like that. Someone came in and did that, but anything else—I mean we—I would dispense the—I guess maybe the nurses waited to see how smart you were and everything, but I know I was given the key to narcotics. I just dispensed the medicines and everything. We would give shots, penicillin and everything else, much more so than the nurses really. They oversaw it. If we had a question we could go to them, but we did the actual work, and that's what I loved. I would have hated sitting at a desk. So I was doing what I wanted to do, and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much. And like when the food would come, I guess we would deliver the food. I don't know whether we were giving the trays or not. We probably would take them away, you know, and stack them up for them to come back and get the food, but we were—it's just like being a practical nurse, only you did more. You know the practical nurses now do everything, but they don't give the drugs. The nurses do that, but we did all of that, and I imagine it was the same whether you were in army or navy.

KA:

What was the highest rank you achieved?

JD:

I was just going up for my pharmacist third. You come out—you start out as a hospital apprentice second class, and I was a hospital apprentice first class, and I had just tried out and passed for pharmacist third class, but I still hadn't got my stripes. Then you had different stripes. I was trying to get ahead when it came up that I could—I had enough points to be discharged, and that's when I had to make the decision did I want to be discharged or stay in, and since I was engaged I was going to take the discharge. [laughs] So that ended my career. I know that if I hadn't met my first husband I would have stayed in.

KA:

Did you ever win any awards or accommodations?

JD:

I don't think so. Too low on the totem pole.

KA:

You said that you worked with medical corps men. Did they treat you as equals?

JD:

Yes, wonderful. Just great. Because we all were the same age, you know? You didn't have any older guy there trying to pull his rank and everything. They all were young and they all—see, with me just being twenty, they just were about—because I think they—didn't they get drafted at eighteen, I think? Yes. So they were all—it was very nice. I never—I can't remember anyone in the service giving you a hard time. They kidded you a lot, but never any problem.

KA:

So did you have to work at some other jobs as the medical corps men?

JD:

Oh, very same. We had—we worked shifts, and because there always was someone that had to be—I mean this was like all hospitals. Like there would have to be someone on the ward, and then they would have a nurse down with, you know, overlooking some of the wards. They wouldn't have the nurse in each—unless it was probably a critical ward, but we had to work shifts.

KA:

Do you know if the pay was the same for you and the men?

JD:

Oh, I'm sure it was. That's all—the pay was always according to your rank.

KA:

What was the hardest thing you had to do physically while in the service?

JD:

I can't think of anything. Probably swabbing the decks were—in the place where we lived—because we also where we lived the barracks, we had to keep it clean when we came in, and we all had duty. Sometimes you had to swab the bathrooms and things like that. We got put on duty. I mean, but everyone had to do it at some time or the other. And to me I thought that was—[laughs] See, working in the hospital where they had people do that—but in our own quarters we had to keep everything clean, and I think that was where they really—they would call it spit and polish, and really you had to have everything clean when we would have captain's inspection. I mean even your locker, folded and hung. I mean none of this throwing stuff in the locker or having shoes on the floor. Everything was very neat. You had to toe the line, which was good practice. So, of all the things, that's the hardest thing I can remember. Sometimes you'd be tired, and they say, “Jean, it's time for you to do the head,” which is the bathroom. Okay, because they have inspection tomorrow. [laughs] So that's really—I can't remember any big thing that was bad.

KA:

How about emotionally, what was the hardest thing?

JD:

The hardest thing that I ever saw I was working outside the OR [operation room]. I wasn't doing anything. I was—and this young fellow came in, and he had been in an automobile accident, and he was laying on a stretcher. Oh, God, his face. He must have gone through the windshield, and he just looked horrible. I think I probably had to give him a shot or something like that and sort of clean him up a little bit, and that was—that's the first I saw anyone. So I can imagine how these fellows out in the field when they come upon someone who was shot or had an arm torn off or something like that looked that way. That was the hardest thing for me, was seeing this young guy so, you know, and all through the windshield all cut up. Because I had never worked—I always—we always took care of them after the operation. We were post-operative, so that they came in all cleaned up and we'd have to take care of the wounds and changing dressings and things like that. But that really, that one thing still has always stuck in my mind. How horrible. And when I hear of people being on the battlefields and coming upon people, you know? That's—that's a horrible thing to experience, and I think all these guys they see so much they become sort of numb to it. But you still remember it, because I know I remembered—that was the first that I had seen anyone that—in such bad condition.

KA:

Were you ever afraid or in personal danger?

JD:

No.

KA:

What did you do for fun?

JD:

What?

KA:

What did you do for fun?

JD:

We used to go into New York City, see a movie and have dinner some place, and really we were very proper. I mean you've always heard, you know, some make snotty remarks about women in the service, and I said, “I don't know what service that would be in,” or what have you, but really I never heard of anyone doing anything. Of course, whatever they would do if they had leave, but usually—see, if I had a weekend leave, I went to Philadelphia. I could be down there in about two hours by train. So it would only be—see, if I was on duty over the weekend, then or maybe have Saturday off, then—or even during the week we had—we either took the train which would take us right into Pennsylvania Station, and I'd go see a movie, and always have something to eat which was different than the—even the navy food, hospital food, was—is good.

They always said the worst—if you were in the navy, you should get a decent meal because even on a ship and you're in the hospital or some—but army was when you were out in the field and they had tents. They had a mess tents that they—so, you never knew about the meals there. But in the navy, really the food was fine. I remember getting coffee steaming hot and then we'd get the toast, and we would put the toast on top of the coffee to keep the toast warm. [laughs] So, you know, that wasn't too a hard a thing to do, but little things like that where people, if they were squeamish about they wanted their toast just a certain way or something like that, well, they had to learn sometimes how to eat it when it wasn't warm. It had been buttered, but it wasn't warm, but still we would put our toast on top of the coffee. I think about it often when I'm some place and, you know, you go through the line, and the food was good. I never had any—well, I always liked to eat, so I never had any problem with it.

KA:

I think you mentioned you attended some dances, right?

JD:

Huh?

KA:

Attended dances?

JD:

Well, [tape malfunction] because once you are in the service and they would have these USO dances with the local girls, you were not welcome. We found that out early, and we noticed local girls wanted the servicemen. They didn't want any gals in uniform. So, really, no, there wasn't anything like that that we went to when we were, you know, at a hospital in the camp at the time because with all the local girls coming in, they weren't happy to see us. We didn't need that. [laughs]

KA:

When it came time for you to either reenlist or you could leave, did they encourage you to stay on?

JD:

[Tape malfunction] become engaged. So they accepted that, but some of the girls did stay on, and most of them had been in the service longer and maybe weren't married or had graduated. Some of the girls had graduated from college and then found, you know, what to do. So they were—and they were part of the administration and everything. So they—a lot of them stayed on, but for me—I mean I probably would have stayed on and kept working my way up, but having met the man of my life I never even considered it. So that never was a big decision.

JD:

What do you think the mood of the country was during the war?

KA:

Oh, [unclear] we were saying very proud. You never heard anyone, you know, everyone was for—when you think of rationing and everything that you had to go through. I mean every—and we were saving the tin cans, and everyone was—anything they could do to help the boys. That was the feeling. I never found anything different. So even before I went in—oh, the big thing I can remember before I went in the service you couldn't get nylons anymore. You had to wear Lyle stockings, and these were heavy. You could imagine a young girl wearing these—they didn't—you didn't wear slacks. You always wore a skirt. You would have these brown sort of [unclear].

[Phone rings, recording paused]

KA:

[Tape malfunction] women wearing slacks. It was a funny thing. Women who worked for the air force, naval air force, they were issued slacks, and there was a big thing one time that this order of slacks went to this one area, and here they were slacks for women, and they all had a larger—I guess they didn't have this, you know, this fly, and they had larger rear ends. They were made with the fuller rear ends, and the fellows they tried them on. They said, “What the hell is this?” That—everyone just laughed [tape malfunction] tarmac or things like that that they needed slacks, but normally we always wore skirts for a uniform, and in the hospital we wore a smock. It was a blue smock that you—it opened like went over this way. You tied it here, and it opened and tied here. There were pale blue, and they were—and we had to take care of all our laundry also, and they always had a laundry for the gals, and—but for working the wards we wore these blue smocks.

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

KA:

[Tape malfunction] also or?

JD:

Huh?

KA:

The men?

JD:

[Tape malfunction] we probably had to change every day I would think.

KA:

Now, who were your heroes or heroines of those days?

JD:

Oh, that's a problem. I still—before I went in the service I thought all the movie stars of the day were the ones, but I really can't remember anyone that I sort of, you know, looked up to in the entertainment. You get awful used to—get certainly joys in [unclear]. Offhand right now, I also get a [unclear] from the blue. I can't really think of anyone. Of course, we didn't have all that much. Everything more or less was the war and how things were going. There weren't people doing outstanding things unless they were in the service. So I'm just—I draw a blank for that.

KA:

Well, what did you think of [President] Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt?

JD:

I admired both of them and, you know, you would hear derogatory remarks, and I just got a kick out of her how she forged the whole—I mean I said—I mentioned—I suddenly realize, I guess I was a women's libber from way back, but I thought it was wonderful of how instead of sitting home and taking care of the kids how she went out and did things for him, and as I heard later, this was with his okay. I mean she was a very light person, and very knowledgeable, and when she would go out and then she would report back to him he would get a whole different feel of what he would get from his lackeys that he would have send out. I guess they would come back and tell him what he wanted to hear, and she would tell it like it is. So I know a lot of people—she was the first person [unclear] like that. And you see the writings afterwards, everyone just praises her. She was so wonderful, and she was intelligent enough to be able to get the right perspective. She was enslaved by a notion. So I would say I admired her. I'll put it that way for what she did.

I thought Franklin and Eleanor were just sort of—I still remember his fireside chats [radio speeches] and things like that. I always thought he was quite something, the president of our country, and I was very naÏve as to what things could be going on in politics and things like that. I mean when you're young you never even consider—you know nothing about it. So I really don't know how they—I never have read anything as to what they thought of good presidents before. I never heard anything really bad about him. I admired him for how he could keep us in the dark—well, I guess his boys did a lot of that, about his incapacity because I was shocked when I found that out.

KA:

What was your opinion of President Truman?

JD:

[Tape malfunction] I love that, but he said “the buck stops here,” and he was, you know—I was shocked when President Roosevelt died, because he had come up to do our review shortly before that, and then to hear that he had died it was quite a surprise. You didn't know just how—the average person did not know how poor his health was, and they say Truman was good to come in after him, because he had a lot of things that he truly felt [tape malfunction], you know, different stories.

But I don't even think I voted for him because I was still in the service. You had to be twenty-one to vote. So by the time I voted I think I was married, but it was from a mother that always—and she voted. She always felt it was an honor. We were very close. I remember going to the voting booth with her. So I always felt, oh, boy—I always felt that that was, you know, something wonderful to do, and I looked forward to doing it, and then I did that with my own kids. When I was down to vote always the youngest one always came with me to vote, and knew that this was something, you know, you do. I couldn't get over this lackadaisical attitude of, nah [unclear]. You should vote and be counted.

KA:

Do you have any favorite songs from the World War II era?

JD:

Probably all of them. I just love—they had a sing-a-long here, and—Wednesday nights. They have someone play the piano, and they have printed sheets of the old songs. I swear I know every song that they sing, and a lot of people don't know them. I can't get over—and I know the words. I have a lousy voice, and—but I just love that. You get [unclear] sheets, and we sing before we go to dinner, and I know songs from World War I. My mother, I know when it was very hot in the summer, we—I can remember lying on the bed upstairs, having the windows open and letting the breeze blow through, and she had this little books from when my father had been in the service—like K-K-K-Katy and all When You Wore a Tulip. All those old, old songs. [Unclear] it would be in the afternoon. We'd lay in bed and sang, the two of us, and I was surprised how that savored things, because now when I hear those songs I know the words right off, but I've always—I couldn't really pick out a favorite, because I have always loved music, and I couldn't even tell one song from one era to another. They all bunch together.

KA:

What about movies? Did you have any favorite movies?

JD:

Anything with Cary Grant in it. [laughs] In fact there's one coming on tonight. These horrible basketball games, they come in and they block everything out. So I looked on Turner Movie Classics [cable TV channel], and there's one tonight with Cary Grant on it. Oh, I just love it, and Ginger Rogers.

I've always been a movie buff. I went to movies from—they used to have Saturday matinees probably from the time I was—now, my mother used to take me to some of them, and then they got so—and I can't remember how old. I might have been ten. You know, you could go—you didn't have to worry about anything happening to you. Probably was ten cents to get into a movie, and I'd meet my girlfriends. We'd go in and watch the movie and then they'd have the news, and they'd always have a short of some kind, and then we would have, you know, the movie. And there was always something, you know, something like I think we used to go every Saturday. I so loved it, loved to go to the movies.

So, I never had any one person, but I enjoyed them all, but I remember, oh, Cary Grant. Boy, he—but I guess I was older then. Oh, it had to be someone like him. [laughs] He just had such a way with him. He was so smooth. But I laugh because tonight when I saw Turner—I think 9 o'clock—he, and I think it's Ginger Rogers—those old movies are fun. I like to watch them, too, when they play them. It brings backs memories.

KA:

I think you already mentioned that you were in Washington on VE Day.

JD:

Yes.

KA:

And VJ [Victory in Japan] Day was in August. Were you still in Washington then?

JD:

No, I wasn't—did I say VE Day?

KA:

Yes.

JD:

No, I wasn't in VE Day. It was VJ Day with Japan.

KA:

So where were you on VE Day?

JD:

When was that? What was the date of that?

KA:

May 8, 1945.

JD:

See that was between Hunter College and Washington. I can't remember VE Day at all. I thought I was still at Hunter College, but you said May?

KA:

Yes.

JD:

I think so. Because see I went in in March, and I was there eight to ten weeks. So, I think—that doesn't even enter my mind, VE Day, but I know it happened.

KA:

Do you feel like you had to return to a traditional female role after the war?

JD:

Well, I did, because I didn't get a—when I came out of the service I didn't look for a job right away, and then when my fiancé come down, he came down—I got out in mid-June, and he came down while we were having a big affair—while he was working, and he had off the week of July, vacation. So he came down to see me. He'd come home one week and met my parents, and he was still in the service, and then he came down for a week and we decided then that we were going to get married, because he was up there and I was down here, and we thought, why not? So instead of him going back, he extended his vacation another week, and his parents came down for the wedding, and we didn't have a honeymoon. Oh, we went up to—after the wedding we went up to New York City for a weekend, and then took the train back up to Buffalo. So I started life as a married woman, but then after I lived there—we had to live with his parents. Oh, these things that, how could I even think of doing such a thing?

I got a job, because of my first job being a switchboard operator, I got a job up in this little town with the telephone company. Because even though we had—let's see, did they have dial phones? It was a little, old town, but we—often we would be in the line for a lot of things that they would call us that we would have to take the call and do the dialing for them or something like that, but I was only there a year when we decided then he wasn't happy with his job to go back down to Philadelphia. So by that time then I didn't work, because then I got pregnant and kids kept coming.

So when I first came out I went back to something that I knew how to do previously, and that was only for maybe six months, something like that. So, I never had a problem with going back into the workforce.

KA:

Was readjusting to civilian life easy for you?

JD:

Oh, yes.

KA:

Why do you think that was?

JD:

Oh, being in love and, you know, and just finding this—being married, I was very enthralled about the whole thing. We were just very in love with each other, and it was so amazing because if I hadn't been in the service we never would have met, with me being from Philadelphia and he from the Buffalo area. You have to wonder how do these things happen, you know, that we would happen to meet only because we were in the service. I feel going in the service changed my whole life. I have no idea what would have happened if I had stayed in Philadelphia. So that was a big turning point in my life when I joined the service. That's why I'm here today. [laughs]

KA:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

JD:

Definitely. Independent woman.

KA:

Do you think the military helped make you more independent?

JD:

It might have, because it gave you a chance. Even though you had rules to follow, when you had free time, you did what you wanted to do. You weren't living at home with your parents where, you know, that was involved in, you know, there's someone there to tell you what to do or do things with them. My mother and I were very close. We did a lot of things together. So, it was a chance to get out. Like I said I met this nice girls from the service, and it was just wonderful to make friends with new people. That was the enjoyable part of it. So you do become more independent because even when you get transferred from one place to another you were given your orders and your ticket. Probably then you had take care of things and get there. No one was there taking care of you.

So I do think it was very good, but since I was that type of a person, it didn't bother me. Others it might have. But, see, going in service it was voluntarily. I mean we picked it ourselves. It wasn't like the young boys who got drafted. I'm sure with a lot of them it was a lot harder having someone telling them what to do and things like that, and I'm sure being in the service—I don't know how it is now because the women are involved in everything now, but then I think they probably were—I mean we just had women officers. We didn't have any men over us. We just had ourselves. Many times the women had a man—I guess there's other woman officers over them, but there's often a man, too, which I think is a difference. I think it's easier. Three or four of us knew the situation.

KA:

Many consider service women of your day pioneers. Is that how you feel?

JD:

Well, I never even thought of it that way. I just think it was a wonderful opportunity that you could do or not. I mean I always think of pioneers of somebody doing something against all odds, you know? See, we didn't do that. Everything was sort of planned for us when we joined as to what we were going to do. We weren't having to forge ahead on our own, but maybe because a lot of—see, none of my friends ever would have thought of doing it. They were in awe, but I just thought it was the thing to do. I was all for it. So I guess I was just different from my friends. That's the answer I can—I mean I wasn't pushed or cajoled or, you know, any of that. It's just what I wanted to do, and it was because it could be work in a hospital corps.

Now, who was it? Now, someone else went in, and they had in to the air force, but that, too—they went in, too, but I don't think it was the navy. But they just loved that because they were working packing parachutes and things like that. They loved it because that's what they wanted to do. I think it was a chance that we, women, we females can make a choice of what we could do. I think that was a lot to do with it. We could pick and choose, and even though they tested you to make sure you were in the right spot, but that was good, too, because there was less chance of failure. If you wanted to do something you were totally, you know, capable of doing, because I made a good—

A gal, too, I met in the service—and then when we got out. Here she is from New Jersey, and I was from Philadelphia, but we met later then after we had both gotten out, because then when I moved back to Philadelphia, we bought a house in New Jersey. It was just south of Camden, [New Jersey], and so I had gotten in touch with her. She lived that way, and she had not gotten married yet. She was still single, but—so, I didn't stay there too long. I moved back up to New York, Buffalo, and then I lost all contact. In fact I also contacted the girls—the first couple of year or so we kept in contact, but it was the same, when we got out and we got married and started having children, you just get so, you know, involved in things, and that was of a different era, you know? We were there and we were single and all that, and getting married and having children, that totally took up your time. We lost contact with all the girls that I knew in the service. Probably, I'm sure, if I'd stay single I probably would have kept it up, but getting married and having children, that was my life.

KA:

Do you think with women from the war taking over what was considered traditional male jobs, that that helped later with the women's liberation movement?

JD:

I would think so, and because I think a lot of the jobs that the fellows did, the girls could do, you know, with communications and things like that. In fact I'm amazed at the things they can do. Like look at now how the women are flying planes and all, and some of them I happened to meet one day who started to—she knew how to fly, and they would ferry the planes within the U.S., back and forth. I was in awe of her. Oh, we got these wonderful that—always flying intrigued me, and I happened to meet her. I was on a cruise and she told me she did that. I said, “Oh, yeah.” But some women who—they were all single women who either through their father or somehow got to learn how to fly, and, then, when the fellows were being taken to go over and they had to ferry those planes in the US, they'd fly—and I forget the woman's name. She's one of the ones who's listed with the women's park [Women in Military Service for America Memorial] that's in Washington with the veterans—she's mentioned there. She was big in getting women in to fly planes because that was, “Oh, a woman couldn't do that,” but they certainly could.

So I think all the women at that time, they were—I guess they were pioneers because they pushed it. I think we did to enter the service we were just followers, but there were a lot of women who were older and capable of doing things. They were the ones that really pushed it to get the women were able to do a lot of things that if it had been just all men, they never would have had a chance. They just thought, oh, we were weak and couldn't do those things, which, as we know now, is not true.

But now I can't even think of her name either. That's one of the problems when you get older. You have so much in your mind, and you wish you could push a button and have the thought come out because it's buried in there someplace, and then later suddenly you remember it.

KA:

What was your first husband's name?

JD:

First name was Harold, believe it or not. Harold John Amann, A-m-a-n-n, and he was from this little town up in Western New York, it's called Gowanda, [New York], G-o-w-a-n-d-a. When they, he and his pals, graduated from high school they all just had part-time jobs, and of course the war was on. He must have graduated—maybe the war wasn't on. Maybe he graduated in '40—it must have been in '41. They decided they were going to drive to California. One of them had relatives that lived out there. So they all were working jobs of some kind, and they saved their money. There were four of them, and one of them had a car, and they drove out to California. That must have been early '41. No, mid-'41, and they went out there and stayed until Pearl Harbor happened December, and they all went and enlisted, the four of them. So when they left for home from the family they went right into the service.

KA:

When did you marry him?

JD:

In '45. No, wait, yes. Wait. I got out in '45. Yeah, I got out in '45.

KA:

And how many children did you have with him?

JD:

Three.

KA:

What are their names?

JD:

And is David John Amann; Peter Charles—after his two grandfathers—Amann; and Carolyn Ann Amann, and she was named after her grandmothers. And, then, in '52—we were married '46—no, I went in '45. I went in and '45 we got married. The boys were born in '47 and '48, and Harold was born in '52. Yes, it was '47 we got married. It was in 1957 he suddenly was having problems, indigestion problems, and things and went in the hospital. We found out he had cancer, and he had prostate cancer, and they were shocked at—and four months he was dead. We had only been married ten years, and I always felt—because in Vietnam you remember they were worried about Agent Orange and all these boys came back with prostate cancer, and I said, “Now, wasn't that odd? He was a Marine, and he'd been over there for years in those islands,” and that's what he died of. So I often wonder if it wasn't—it might have been Agent Orange, but it might have been something else over in those islands, all those different things that the—he said it was horrible because when it rained and everything was wet and soggy. He said, you know, his toes were always stand [unclear] and cold. So he was only out—he was out like say eleven years and died in ten years. So, who knows?

KA:

How did you meet your second husband?

JD:

This is where fate comes in. By living in a small town, very small, with three children—and of course I was an outlander. See, I was from outside. I never realized like that happening in small towns. I got a—for something to do, these friends of mine, the husband, worked up at—they had a state hospital in that town, and someone in the office—and he knew that I had done table work and everything like that. So, he asked me if I wanted a part-time job.

So I had—my husband had been working for Ford Motor Company, and luckily we didn't even realize they had insured him. They had taken out insurance on him. Thank heavens, because after he died, these men from the Ford Motor Company came down and handed me a check, and I can't even remember how much it was for. Thousands of dollars. I was shocked. I didn't realize. The first thing I did I paid off the mortgage to my house because, I said, at least we don't have to worry, and then it still left money I could put in the bank, and I thought at least with the kids and the home I don't have to worry about losing it or anything like that.

So I stayed on in this small town. I did have in-laws there, too. So these friends—because with three children and being a widow, you can imagine—and my neighbors were all friends of mine. They were all young people, too, just out of the service. So they were starting—they were having a big party down at the Legion, the American Legion Hall where the Legion's birthday, and they were going to mention all the veterans who had died that year. So I was invited to come, and I wasn't going to go, and my friends said, “Oh, Jean, you haven't been out, you know? Bob and I are going. Come with us.” It was dinner and dancing. So I got a sitter then, because the boys were ten—nine and ten, and Carolyn must have been four, I guess, and so I went with them.

So I'm sitting at the table by myself. They had the dinner, and then they asked us all to leave so they could clear and we were going to have dancing. So they cleared the tables of food and everything, and we had to get out to make a dance floor. So we went out to the bar, and I was sitting with my friend at the table, and this fellow comes up to the table, and he knew my neighbors, and he looked at me and he said, “Well, where did you come from? I haven't seen you before?” He was a bachelor. Everyone knew him. I never did because my husband and I didn't go out and do the—we were home with the kids. These two friends of mine had older children, you know? And, of course, the husband knew him, and here was my second-husband-to-be which, you know, whoever would have thought of the two of us to meet in this little town in New York. Unbelievable. For me to be here, and he was from St. Louis [Missouri]. And they had a tannery, and he would go out and buy the hides for the tannery with collecting the leather for the shoe company. So he was single, and he'd always be, you know, he'd come to the Legion and he'd go places. Of course, he was dating, you know, women in the town and things like that, but I don't know. You know, he was a handsome guy and very nice.

And so we went that night, and then when we all went in later to tables to dance, he came over and asked me to dance. This is my first night out. I didn't know what to do. So Ann, she [whispers]. So I got up and danced with him. I love to dance. He was a good dancer, and I still remember, you know, he put his arm around me and all and danced, and as he pulled me in I would sort of [laughs] push him back, and I guess he felt, what's wrong with this girl? Because he had no idea that I was a widow or anything like that. It was just I was some single girl there. So, we had a few dances and all, and everything was fine and sitting there and once he asked me to go up and dance again, and I noticed as we were dancing, you know, everyone was, “Oh, look who Pres[cott Downer] is with. Oh, he's with that new widow.” Everyone was looking. I felt so uncomfortable. So he asked me to dance again. I wouldn't dance.

“Well, why not?”

I said, “Oh, well, you know, I'd really had a good day.”

He said, “Well, somehow I get the feeling that I'm not welcome.”

“Oh, no, it isn't that. Just—.”

Maybe I might have not gone up and danced with him another time, but it was just too much. I could just feel everyone's eyes on us. So we came back and then he finally says, “Well, you know, I'm going home.”

So he went home. Oh, Ann, she got the biggest kick out of him. You know, she knew him well and how nice he is. I said, “Yes, he is very nice.”

And so then a couple of weeks later this one gal who's husband worked out of town, and she had children close to my Carolyn, and so she said, “Why don't we get sitters and go up to Palm Gardens [Restaurant] and have dinner?” Her husband was working out of town. We would get to see each other a lot. I said, “Gee, that sounds like fun.” So I got a sitter, and she got a sitter, and we went to Palm Garden. It was a local watering spot. You knew everybody, and so we are sitting in a booth in the back room having supper, and Pres appears. Here he's a good friend of Lanny's husband, and she didn't know that he had met me. So, she introduces.

“Oh, you know, we've met before.”

So she says, “Sit down with us.”

So he sits down with her and I was on the other side and talking, and we got talking. We just had a real nice time. He was quite the gentleman, very nice, and because Lanny was there no one was there staring. So after he left I told her. She said, “Where did you meet?” I told her how it happened and everything. So, the next time when her husband came home from the weekend—sometimes he would come home every other weekend. He was working up in Canada with some building of some kind, and she said, “Why don't you come over? We've invited Pres down, and he wants to see Harry.”

And Harry said, “Why don't you stop over.”

So, she says, “Why don't you come over?”

So I did. I went over. So, we met again. We just had a real nice time. He was such the gentleman and very enjoyable. Told stories and things like that. So, then he walked me home, and didn't come in. Just walked me home and got in his car and drove away, and then I think the next weekend one night he called me. It was a Friday night. He said—oh, no, I'm jumping. He still hadn't met the children.

So these friends that I have been to the party with—July came. I [unclear] I believe it was in March. July came and they knew Pres's party—birthday was in July, and so was Bob's. They were a day apart. They decided to have a picnic, and we all brought something, the neighborhood. And, of course, I came with my kids. So, then that was the first time that I'm sure by that time he knew I was a widow and I had children. That was the first time he had met the children, and we just—I mean all the neighbors were there, all couples. We were the only two single. So when it came time to put the kids in bed and all that, I live right across the street. He said, “Oh, I'll help you with dishes and everything like that.” We carried stuff all over, and I got the kids to bed, and he stayed around. We talked, and then finally, you know, he went home, and then it was I guess after that he had called me on a Friday night, and he was up at the Palm Gardens having dinner, and he said, “You know, I was just thinking, looking around to see if you and Lanny might be here, but I guess Harry's home.”

And I says, “Yes.”

He says, “Come down.” And he says, “Are the kids in bed?”

I said, “Yes.” And that was about ten o'clock, and I said, “They are.”

So he came down and stayed like for two hours, and we got to know each other, where we were from and everything like that, and it just grew on. And then finally every Friday night he would come down and then sometimes when I was—made an extra good dinner I'd call him and said, “Do you want to come down for some dinner?” But it was always with the kids. We were never alone, but he dealt with that.

So I often look back and I think, “I know that's strange. I'm from Philadelphia. He's from St. Louis, and we meet in Gowanda [New York].” That he happened to come to a couple of years before because the fellow who had been the high buyer who had just—this was probably before your time. He was a great Olympic guy, and especially with the winter sports, ice skating and everything, and I forget when this happened, but they were over in Norway or some place and the plane was flying home and crashed and all the Olympic team were killed, and this guy was killed, too, because he was on the plane with them. So they were left without a high buyer for this tannery even though the guy worked out of St. Louis. He'd came up to visit, and I—Pres' uncle was president of Brown Shoe [Company], and Pres was home from the service and doing—he was working for an airline and everything like that. So he finally asked Pres if he would be interested; and so he had—they sent him to Pratt Institute, which is in New York City, which is for arts and different things, and he had tanning, of course, it was a two-year course. At that time, you—not a lot of end-of-the-dog tanneries throughout the U.S., and the fathers are getting older, so they sent their sons there who knew about the tannery, but this was the tanning process, to learn how to do it. So when Pres was through with that, then they sent him off to Gowanda. Instead of having this guy from St. Louis make visits, they send him so he would be right there. They thought that would be better than the way it had worked before. So if he hadn't come to this little town—and I got asked for marriage.

We stuck out like sore thumbs. Everyone knew what we were doing, you know? Then we started going together, you could imagine. Oh, we finally got married when he proposed. I was going to move home. I thought I couldn't take small-town life anymore, and he proposed, and so from the proposal I think like a month later we got married. My parents came up and everything. Of course, everyone thought I was pregnant, because Pres had lived there I don't know, probably about five years and had been squiring the different gals, and, of course, he was older. He was dating the teachers; most of them were divorced or something like that, you know? Very single. I guess there were some but nothing ever came of it, and so everyone just thought for sure that I was pregnant. So we chuckled and we had a baby like a year and a half later. [laughs] But it—we often thought, how could—he always had girlfriends, but always with the war and this happened, or he would be sent with his job. It just never, you know, nothing ever happened.

And so maybe he was just—but then everyone was surprised that he would marry a girl with three children, but the funny part about it, he had a brother two years younger than he and this brother had three children the same ages as mine. Two boys and a girl, same thing, and he just chuckled because he told his brother, “You went through all that, you know, raising these kids. I got a family readymade.” [laughs] And this worked out very well.

Then, of course, I tried to get pregnant because I thought, “He's a bachelor; he should have a son.” I was sure every man should have a son. Well, it turned out we had a daughter, but she was a prize. I mean she still is. She's a dear girl. She's my youngest. She's the one that's in Connecticut, and just brought him so much joy, and he even said one day, he said, “You know, Jean,” he says, “the dear Lord knew what he was doing when he gave us Sue.” And I often thought about that, because, you know, often men, when they have a son, what they didn't accomplish they often want their sons to do this. See, with a daughter this doesn't happen. They accept just how she is. Maybe not all men are like this, but I've seen this in the past how—and they're so disappointed if the son doesn't follow in their footsteps and things like that. So, Susan was just a joy and Carolyn was thrilled to have a sister. We already had the two boys. So, it was just a wonderful blend.

And I was married to him thirty—we were going to have our thirty-four years, and he died suddenly from cancer again. Which we were going to celebrate our thirty-fifth. He says, “We'll never—” because he was nine years older than I. He says, “We'll never have fifty, you know, getting married later.” So we did. We had our thirty-five. But it was a wonderful life, and he really—I mean that's when I really started—we used to go on big trips every year, and then after he died I was able to go travel and do things.

So, it just—you feel it was meant to be somehow. I know with my first husband was so unusual, you know? And with the second one it was the same thing. I mean just happenstance. So, you never know [laughs] how things happen. So, I—in all that, if I hadn't gone into the WAVES, who knows? I'd still be stuck down in Philadelphia probably. Who knows?

But I know it was a very different life, and I feel I'm very fortunate now that I'm able to come here and live here, because you can see this is very nice. See, this how stepped down [unclear], too. Say if I fell and was incapacitated, I could go over to the nursing home part, and then when I was up I could—they have a rehab there, too, and—but then I could come back here. And if you ever got to the point that I could no longer live here, then I can still go over there to the assisted living. Then, of course, my kids would come and take all the furniture and everything and move in. That's how I got this. The woman had died, and then they—and, see, when you come and say yes—I mean the whole place got new carpeting. They paint your colors. I mean it's just like moving into a new place which makes it very nice.

So, and then I could still have my friend from Pinehurst [North Carolina], and Southern Pines and Seven Lakes [North Carolina], that are close by. We started making new friends here, and that takes awhile because a lot of those—the Bakers have been wonderful, but I didn't realize they'd only been here a year. But, see, they know what it's like when you first move in as a new person. It takes awhile till you get around and meet everybody, and they are wonderful. They are involved in so many things. She plays an accordion, a little—you wouldn't call it a concertina, but even that is sort of—maybe it is like a concertina I always thought of them as round. This is like a small accordion, and she plays the harmonica; and every now and then with the sing along they'll come over, and they'll play these tunes, and we'll all sing. They are a charming couple, involved in everything, and she's so pleasant. Oh, what's the name? Do you have the name? Oh, no, you finish. Are you through with your questions?

KA:

What was your second husband's name?

JD:

Oh, Prescott Warner Downer.

KA:

And you daughter's name is Susan?

JD:

Susan Jean.

KA:

When did you marry Prescott?

JD:

In 1958, less than two years, but I laugh with— [phone rings]

[Recorder paused]

JD:

[Tape malfunction] I think there's just too, oh, I just can't imagine it. Maybe some women could cope with it, but I just think it would be very tough. When you think of shooting and killing somebody. I don't know. That's tough, and I don't know. I just think that's a little—a little too much, but I really don't know. I think—I'd have to see what the women have to say that are involved in something like that unless they're—

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

JD:

[Tape malfunction]—probably can't think better, but they're the ones that I would really admire to give in to that type of thing.

KA:

Have any of your children been in the military?

JD:

No. As I said I had the two boys, and they went to, you know, for Vietnam they were conscientious objectors. When my one son got called—when he got his draft notice he dropped out of college.

He said, “Well, I'm a conscientious objector.”

And they said, “Well, it's too late now to do anything about it. You should have taken care of that over a year ago.”

See, he never—he was in college. He never even stopped to think about that. So then he got inducted, and because he was 6' 2" he was made an MP [military police], and he was sent to this army prison. I'm trying to think where it was. It was in Virginia or someplace. Anyhow he could drive home. Maybe he was in Tennessee, and at that time they were recalling fellows from Vietnam back. They only had like a few years left or months in their time in the service, and I guess when those fellows came back, and then they put them in with the prison group, and I guess they did some horrible things. He said that they shot prisoners, or he said the things he saw there got him very upset. And, of course, he wasn't happy being in the service to begin with. He went to the chaplain there and was telling him how he was upset because this one prisoner was running away and a guy shot him and killed him where he felt he could have winged him or something like that, and the chaplain just said, “Well, you know, if you realize how many people get killed just in the U.S. from automobile accidents every week?” You know, he just sort of [unclear]. That turned my son off even more.

As I said he never told me—when we found out he was up there, he called me—he was up in Toronto [Canada], and called me because he knew how upset I would be that this is how strongly he felt about it. So, what can you do? We went up to see him, but he says, “No, I did the right thing, and I will not go back.” He said, “I didn't approve of it in the beginning, and now what I've seen since I've been in the MPs,” he said, “no way will I go back.” So, there wasn't anything we could do about it.

KA:

Did you encourage him to join the military?

JD:

Yes, but the one son, he went and he—this younger son was in the navy. I can't think of the name of it. He was in the navy and they were sending him to college, whatever that program is, but he signed up that when he would get out of college he would go into the service. That was the second son, and then after his brother went over, I don't know whether they were talk, I don't know what, I don't know why Peter went over, but he did. Went up—again, they were very close—went up to stay with his brother.

So I was, you know, at the time I thought the service would—I still feel the service would do the average young man—I think would be good for them, but so many of them seem to be mollycoddled by their parents that just being in the service and getting the training and having to take orders and to do things, I think helps build character. And just like when they were saying was—but you hate to think of like, you know, with the draft you hate to think of them going into the service only to be—get all that training and be sent over to be killed. I think if we had an army that was just for defense would be another thing. I think life in the service can harm anyone unless he has a [unclear] to begin with.

So when my boys go into the service, I put Peter to have that naval scholarship. I was very proud of him. And David coming out of college, it was his own fault. He should have stayed in college, but he didn't think that far ahead. He said, “I'll take conscientious objector.” Well, he wasn't prepared. So, he got caught in it, but I still thought he'd do the right thing. Nothing—I couldn't do anything to sway him. I was proud of him going in the service and very upset when he went over, but that was his decision. I mean he was twenty-one. What could I do? So, if that answers your question.

KA:

How did your service affect your life?

JD:

Well, as I told you it put me in places that I—I had only good experiences, and through being in the service and the things that happened in my life, if I hadn't gone into the service, I don't know what would have happened because I met two men whom I loved dearly, and with each one I had a wonderful marriage and lovely children, and I probably would—but I have no—you can't conjecture, but it changed my life but all for the good I feel.

KA:

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your service experience?

JD:

I can't think of really anything else. [laughs] But because as they say just everything was—I don't remember having a poor experience of any kind.

Oh, one little thing on the side. You don't even have to—oh, it doesn't matter. When I was at the St. Albans Hospital I was very good in what I did, because the nurses, they respected me to take care of the drugs and things like that, because I enjoyed what I was doing, and I knew it was a good thing to do. There was one doctor, this young doctor who came over to see the different kids, and I'd have to go around with him when he made his rounds and things like that. One day I got a call to go in to the WAVE captain's quarters, and she said, “You have a personal call on my telephone.”

And right away I said, “Something happened at home.” [But instead, it was a doctor calling me.] And I said, “Here's this damn doctor. Now why would he do something like that?” Because he had stripes, I guess he could do it. He wanted to ask me on a date. Well, with her there I didn't know what to do. You know, I'd try to evasive things. And I says, “Well, we can talk about this later,” you know, and hung up.

And she said, “Well, what should I tell him?”

I mean for him—I was so mad at him for putting me in—because then she knew who I was. You know, she thought I was one of the group, and especially we were not supposed to consort with our officers, and for him to call and ask for me, oh, I was so, so mad. And he tried and tried, and I just said, “No. No way.” And some of my patients, now they knew—they were all upset.

One time I was in [unclear] officers, and this one guy was getting better, and he was having a weekend leave from the hospital. He was going to have to come back. I don't know. So it was going on when he had a little yacht down there under the porch, and I asked him would I like to go out for a ride? And I was so ever naÏve. I think back later. I think, “Oh, my God, Jean, if you had gone you would have probably lost your virginity right there.” But I never thought of that at the time. But I wasn't that, you know, I was impressed that he bothered, but I knew it had to be all hush, hush. And I says, “No, I really—” or maybe that was when I was dating someone. I don't know. Anyhow, I said, “No,” and he was quite crushed. Later, you know, as you get older you look back, “Boy, Jean, were you lucky.” Getting out on that ship, and I don't know who else would have been there. Wouldn't that have been something? But see, all along I had—and I guess I was lucky. I guess you could look at someone else in the service, and they probably would have said yes, and all hell would have broke loose. I don't know. Well, I didn't want to go that much, but you always have these little temptations come up, but it's up to you what you decide about them, but I thought about that, wouldn't that be great? Oh, no, we couldn't even go out together. You know, he'd have to go one way, and I'd have to go another, because we couldn't be seen together, and all that stuff. So, thanks heavens I was a good girl, but, oh.

So there's always, you know, some with the men they sort of—whereas this young chick around. You know, I imagine they easily could have dated the nurses, you know, that wouldn't have been any problem, but I guess because they—maybe because I was younger. I don't know, but I often I felt, boy, that one I was furious with this guy, you know, get me in hot water like that, because he should have realized, and then for this other one when we could come down and go for a cruise on his boat, and I didn't even think that far to what would happen. I said, I really was naÏve about men as to what—because he was a little bit older. That was probably it, too. You know, because he was an officer and he had to give his money. So, he was probably very nice but a little bit older. I just thought I didn't want to get—so, see, you always have these temptations. [laughs] It's up to what you do. Oh, dear.

So I came out unscathed from my naval experiences. I don't know about others, but now I guess the—I know even now when my one daughter, when the youngest daughter went to college, in their dorms they have males and females living in the same dorm. The males have the two top floors, and the females have the two bottom floors, but they have these stairs that run up and down. My husband was furious, and she said, “Oh, Dad, we keep our doors locked.” Well, I guess, there probably were some girls that were fooling around, and that's when you realize how times change, because years—Pres said when he—he graduated in '38, so he would be in his late thirties—he would date girls at college, you know, and go to their dorms. You had to sit in the living room for them to come down, and they had a curfew for when you had to have them back. He said if there was any hanky panky it was going on outside in the bushes. [laughs] Nothing went on. They always had a housemother and everything, and now in colleges anything goes. So, sometimes I think—well, how do you feel about all of this looseness among you? Do you think it makes life harder for you?

KA:

I'm not sure. When I was an undergraduate school we actually didn't have coed dorms, didn't have a housemother, but it wasn't quite as prevalent as some other places. I can't really speak to it as much. I don't think. By the time you get to graduate school people have matured and they are either in relationships or they've gone beyond the need to do things like that.

JD:

But I know my husband was shocked. My youngest daughter went to Vassar [College], and he was so surprised that they had something like that, because for years that had just been a woman's, and then they started taking men, so they had to put them someplace. I guess there weren't enough men to give them a whole dorm. So, they made that arrangement. [laughs] So, now I guess they are probably all together on the same floor. But [what] Susan didn't like was the bathrooms, because sometimes they would be visiting a girl and they come in and use the bathroom right there. Now, she didn't like that. She said that should be their bathrooms. If they had to go, they should go upstairs. So, I guess she wasn't quite all for it either, but you know you would like to have a little bit of freedom, and—but, you know, there is a boy lurking around certainly. Be careful walking outside to go to the bathroom in your underwear or something like that. But I guess there were sometimes—there were some problems, but in the service there never were, but who knows now how things are?

KA:

Well, do you have any other funny or interesting stories?

JD:

Not that I can think of. I've been trying to think of anything that would have happened that would be too to tell, but right now I can't. I thought if I could get out my books and look through I might recall something. That is a long time ago. The old brains can only hold so much. [laughs]

KA:

Well, I thank you again for letting me speak with you.

JD:

No, you are sweet to give all your time and, gee, it's twenty after 5:00 [p.m.]. You have to get home before dark. [laughs]

KA:

Thank you again.

JD:

Well, you are a sweetheart to come.

[End of interview]