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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with S. Ann Thacker Lewis, 2008

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Object ID: WV0405.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Ann Thacker Lewis’ education at Woman's College and service in the U.S. Navy WAVES from 1961 to 1965.

Summary:

Lewis briefly discusses her childhood and family. She also describes her time at Women’s College (now UNCG), including professors; residence halls; majoring in physical education; talking to a navy recruiter; her decision to enter the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, and her family’s reaction. Topics from her navy legal career include: her selection as a legal officer; attending Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, and graduating with honors; intensive coursework; male responses to a female in her career field; the advantages of being a woman in the military legal system; tactics she would use to win court martials; and several interesting cases she worked on. She also discusses being reassigned as a separations officer because men were afraid the graphic details of cases might offend her; being transferred to work in registered publications where she worked alone in a vault and carried a pistol; returning to her original assignment as legal officer; and her move to a permanent position as a prosecutor because of her effectiveness as a defense counsel.

Lewis also describes her collateral assignments as public information officer and communications watch. Topics include: organizing dances, matching sailors with local high school girls, recruiting host ships, celebrities that attended the parties, and having a private room; processing coded messages and staying in a private room overnight. Of her assignment in Wahiawa, Hawaii, Lewis discusses being moved off of her communications assignment; moving up the chain in legal work; advising students; teaching English to foreign speakers; social activities; the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; the scarcity of WAVES there; social interactions with male servicemen; meeting her husband; and her dog, Sooner. Lewis also talks about being forced to leave the service when she became pregnant; sexual harassment; homosexuality in the military; drug use in the military; meeting the minimum weight requirement; and patriotism. The interview concludes with discussion of personal photographs from her time in the service.

Creator: Shirley Ann Thacker Lewis

Biographical Info:

Shirley Ann Thacker Lewis (b. 1938) of Greensboro, North Carolina, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1961 to 1965, followed by a career as a school counselor.

Collection: Shirley Ann Thacker Lewis Papers

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

Full Text:

Therese Strohmer:

Okay, I'm Therese Strohmer and today is—it's actually the twenty-ninth, isn't it? My watch says the first, but that's not right. It's a leap year. We're here at the University of North Carolina in the library, and we are doing an oral interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG]. And I have Ann here. I'm going to have her go ahead and have her state her formal name.

Ann Lewis:

Shirley Ann Thacker Lewis.

TS:

And you go by?

AL:

Ann.

[recording paused]

TS:

Okay, Ann, for the first part of this interview, we're going to talk a little bit about your background. Would you mind telling me when and where you were born?

AL:

I was born in Greensboro in 1938, October 15.

TS:

And—

AL:

And—

TS:

Go ahead.

AL:

My family lived in rural Guilford County. My grandfather had a dairy farm and we all lived on the farm. My parents had a place on his property. I grew up there, went to Alamance School until the eleventh grade when I transferred to Curry [School], which was the demonstration school for UNCG.

TS:

And—what did—tell me a little bit about your family and home life. What did your parents do then?

AL:

My dad started out working on the dairy farm, and then he worked at an electronics shop. Then when WFMY Channel 2 TV started, he went with them as an engineer, as one of the first ones—basically self-taught, as they all were then. And he then stayed there until retirement. My mother only worked outside the home before we were born, so she was a homemaker the whole time I knew about it.

TS:

What did she do before? Do you know?

AL:

Worked—I think she worked at a dime store and maybe a short time at a factory.

TS:

Now, do you have any brothers and sisters?

AL:

I have an older sister and a younger brother.

TS:

What are their names?

AL:

My sister, Betty, has a farm in Virginia. She's a retired professor from Wheeling College [now Wheeling Jesuit University] and is spending her last years back at her roots, farming. My brother is employed at UNCG. He's an electronics technician.

TS:

Very good.

AL:

His name is Neal.

TS:

Neal. And so you said that you had gone to school at Alamance?

AL:

Yes.

TS:

Is that a high school?

AL:

Well, it was a union school. It went sixth—six-year-olds up, first grade through twelfth. And then I transferred to Curry and graduated from Curry.

TS:

Did you have a favorite subject?

AL:

Well, let's see. I guess, eventually, physical education since that's what I went into in college. But they didn't have physical education classes at Alamance, and when I went to Curry, they let me my senior year go in the class with ninth and tenth graders, which is all they offered, simply because I'd never had the opportunity to have a formal physical education class. I played, you know, all the sports and everything, but the county school did not have a class.

TS:

Did you do any working while you were in high school?

AL:

I did a little bit. I did some part-time work at Belk's [department store]. And then, in college, I did some summer work at Children's Home Society and at a couple of the camps in different summers.

TS:

So when did you graduate?

AL:

From high school in 1957.

TS:

And then what did you do after that?

AL:

Well, that summer was when I worked at Belk's and then started at UNCG—which was WCUNC [Woman's College of the University of North Carolina] then—the next fall.

TS:

So you went to the Woman's College. And what was your major?

AL:

Physical education.

TS:

Do you remember anything in particular from your college days that you would like to share?

AL:

Just that they kept us on the go all the time. We had the normal class loads that everybody else had and then we had our physical education classes, which credit-wise they lumped together. So that even though we were spending hours and hours and hours at it, it was just counted as a normal class. So we were very busy and a very close group that went together through the four years.

TS:

Did you live on campus at all?

AL:

Yes, I did. I was in Hinshaw [Residence Hall] as a freshman and in Winfield [Residence Hall] as an upper grad.

TS:

Do you remember any of the professors in particular?

AL:

Well, my adviser was Celeste Ulrich. [pause] Let's see. Rosemary McGee and Virginia Moomaw taught dance, which I hated, but she was such a nice lady. I haven't thought about many of them. Names escape me. Ethel Martus [Lawther] was still here then.

TS:

What did she teach?

AL:

Well, she was the department head and ran the program. [pause] [Marjorie] “Margie” Leonard.

TS:

Do you know what she did?

AL:

Well, they all taught some of the activity classes, different ones.

TS:

Was this in the physical education [program]?

AL:

Yes, yes. About the only people I know were in physical education.

[recording paused]

TS:

So would you say that you enjoyed your college days?

AL:

Oh, sure.

TS:

Let's see if I can think of—

AL:

Got a little bit tired of it about junior year, but you get a second breath and then it finishes up good.

TS:

So with physical education then, what was it that you were hoping to do with that?

AL:

What I was planning to do with it?

TS:

Yes.

AL:

I just expected to go into teaching. It was really just a freak thing that I walked by a navy recruiter that had a table set up outside of Elliott Hall and I just stopped by to talk to her. It had never occurred to me before that to look into it.

TS:

Was there anything in particular about—like was there a poster or something that drew you in, or was there any particular—

AL:

Well, as a child, we had played war things. One of my earliest memories was at—when my dad was in the Civil Air Patrol at the coast during the Second World War, and we knew of the quasi-military atmosphere there, and we were having a picnic out on a sand dune one day and saw the planes that were dog fighting and two of them collided. We saw that crash, so things like that were fascinating to three-year-old. And so I grew up playing with airplanes and tanks and such and watching war movies, reading books and such, so I had a military interest already. But generally, at that time, the military did not have a particularly good reputation as far as women were concerned. So, you know, you heard horror tales, but you didn't know the good things.

TS:

Right.

AL:

And then I saw that lady and just stopped to talk to her for a few extra minutes and that just kind of sparked something, you know, an interest that I thought, “Well, I could look into that.” I guess the most important thing was the program that they happened to be doing right then. I don't know how long it went on, but at that time they were really looking to upgrade their image with the female officers and try to entice people in, so they were offering a program they had called the juniors' program. They took us at the end of our junior year. We went through a couple of months of OCS [Officer Candidate School], and at that time, we could walk away from it and say, “No, that's not for me.” You know, just—and that was the end of it, or you could come back and finish your senior year and on graduation then be commissioned, finish OCS. So that's what I did, which was really a no-obligation way to see what was going on. It was very effective.

TS:

So what did you think?

AL:

Well, OCS is Mickey Mouse [trivial], but it let me know I could handle anything that they did in that way, and had the temperament for it, and that it would only get better after that.

TS:

What kind of commitment after your senior year were you obligated to?

AL:

Not really any. Basically, you were expected to do two years, but it was an indefinite commission.

TS:

Was there any particular job that was going to be awaiting you?

AL:

At the end of OCS, they had representatives come from personnel in Washington and sit down with us and talk about the different openings they had. At that time, we could indicate our choices and then they would go back and decide how to make the assignments. We did the interviews alphabetically. My name being Thacker, started with a “T,” toward the end, but they just happened to overlook the position for legal officer until they got to me and it was, “Oh, we remember this. We need to talk about such-and-such.” Of course, I was delighted with it. After they presented it to me, they had to present it to the people that came after me, and there were three or four after me. So they couldn't show that they just held it out just for me. But the reason they did it was because I'd had a criminology course on my transcript, and they had already tentatively matched me up to that, which was the reason they didn't go through the spiel with everybody. But a couple of the girls after me came out and they said what they had put down as their choice, and I was in the clear, and then the final girl came out saying, oh, she wanted that legal position. And she just happened to be the daughter of an admiral, so I thought, “Okay, that's that.” But then when they sent out the orders, I got it. And it was an assignment to go to Long Beach, California, by way of [Naval] Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island. So, I went there for the legal training.

TS:

Oh, terrific.

AL:

Yes.

TS:

What was it that you—what kind of training did they give you then for this—

AL:

Well—

TS:

—legal officer.

AL:

It was a very—what would you say—intense program on just military law. So if you were going through regular law school, you would get a little course on the uniform code of military justice but it wouldn't be much. What we got in that was actually more than a regular lawyer would get in law school for that particular area. So when lawyers came in, they went through this program, too, because it covered the whole gamut of military law, which, of course, is a criminal law.

TS:

Right. Would there—if you're saying—taking your position as a legal officer in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], because you joined the WAVES, and comparing it to the civilian position, what would it compare to?

AL:

You couldn't do it. You couldn't do it. You would have to have a law degree to do what I did in civilian life. I actually was a prosecutor or defense counsel in the courts-martial [military court].

TS:

Very interesting.

AL:

I went up against some lawyers. Most of the time, the lawyers were stuck doing paperwork and we did the basic work.

TS:

So, in court?

AL:

Yes.

TS:

Court cases? That's really neat.

AL:

I worked on a couple hundred courts, I guess.

TS:

A couple hundred?

AL:

Yes, it's kind of funny. One time I was with a girl sitting in a lounge in the Officers'—Officers' Club, and a couple of guys from ships came up and sat down and started talking to us. They went on and on about how this one guy had just gotten through handling a court martial, and it was like this made him this greatest thing in the world. And I didn't say anything, and finally, after they went on and on about this tremendous experience he had had, then they said, “Well, what do you do?” And the other girl with me was army, and she happened to be in the—well, first of all they said, “Are you nurses?” That's always standard. “Are we nurses?”

No, we weren't nurses.

So, he said, “Well, what do you do?”

And the other girl said she was public information officer. She worked as liaison between the army and the movie industry. Well, they could see women doing that. Sure. That was all right. Well, they talked about that a while.

“Well, okay, what do you do?”

“Well, I work in legal.”

“Oh, are you a court reporter?” You know, clerical.

“No.”

“Well, what—?”

“Prosecutor, defense counsel.”

And faces kind of fell and then one of them couldn't shut up. He had to say, “How many?”

“Oh, a hundred and fifty.” [laughs]

They left soon after that. I mean talk about bursting the bubble. But the snow job didn't quite work.

TS:

Did you get that a lot, about the position you held, from other military men?

AL:

Most of them were really fascinated by it, but there were very few women around, and a lot of them didn't know how to act towards us. But most people were very interested in the fact that I was doing it, and I was very successful at it, which made a difference, too.

TS:

That's true.

AL:

I mean when you have people coming in through the restraint barracks and they ask who should they get to defend them, and the enlisted guy says to them, “She's the best one,” and they start, you know, requesting you, then you pretty well have it set then.

TS:

So you get a pretty good reputation?

AL:

Yes.

TS:

Can you explain what a restraint barracks is for people who don't know?

AL:

When someone is accused of an offense and they are awaiting trial, they're held in this one barracks instead of with the general population. And in that, they are monitored very strictly. It's not like being in the brig, the jail, but it's almost. It's a restricted-type situation where they eat at a certain time with a certain group and are monitored all the time.

TS:

Could you describe some of the—do you have—well, how about this. Was there a memorable or a couple of memorable cases that you either defended or prosecuted that you would like to talk about?

AL:

Well, there were a couple. The first one that I worked on, I—well, first of all, the way I got to do it—When I walked in, they weren't going to let me do it, because I reported in at that duty station and the guy said, “But you're a woman,” because all they had on my orders were my initials, “S. A. Thacker.” So he got on the phone very quickly and said very quickly to the department head, “They sent a woman for that position.” Of course, they didn't consider that Washington knew what they were doing and all this. But they were just afraid that this little girl—and I was very young and tiny as could be—couldn't handle the sordid details that would come out in some of these investigations.

TS:

Where was this at that you were stationed?

AL:

This was at Long Beach, California.

TS:

And, you know, homosexual investigations and things like that would get very graphic, and they were afraid for my sensibilities. So I couldn't argue with them because I was so green, you know, I wouldn't—I didn't know what the job entailed. I did all right in justice school, but maybe they knew more than I did. I didn't know. So I didn't say anything. And they moved people around and put me as separations officer and made that person the person in legal. And very soon, all the guys that were working on the cases were dropping by my desk to say, “I've got this case, such-and-such. How would you handle? What do you think I ought to do?” So I was glad to make suggestions or whatever. It was interesting to me, so I would sit down and tell them how I would attack the case.

And then one day the department head called me in and said, “These guys have said that you ought to be doing this.” And he was not in favor of women in the military. He was very much against it. But anyway, he said that he would let me prosecute a few simple UA cases, unauthorized absence, because they were very routine, and if I prosecuted, if I messed up, it wouldn't prejudice the accused. So I'd take whatever I could get. He said he would let me have some of those.

But to start out, he said, “Go with this other guy. He's working on a case at a another command. He's defending. Go with him in second chair.” So I did. That case was one where a kid was a real foul-up [coughs] and the command just wanted to get rid of him, so they jumped on the opportunity. There was a knife stolen out of somebody's locker and some guy that said he had seen him with it, so they charged him with it, with the intent of kicking him out. And we were able to put up a good defense, because he really was innocent of that. He had done plenty of other things, but he was innocent of that one. But they were so adamant. The board came from that command and they wanted him out, so they disregarded everything we said. And the other guy that I was working with presented the courtroom work. I just sat there. I had done the preliminary work, the interviews and things like that, and then he did the courtroom thing. Anyway, the guy was found guilty, but I wrote the brief for the appeal. And it was scathing. [chuckles] I loved to write anyway. So anyway, then the verdict was overturned. I ran into the kid about six months later. I had given him a good talking—to at the time when it was overturned and he got out. I told him that was his chance, that he saw what could happen with that lifestyle, that he'd better straighten up his act. And I saw him about six months later and he assured me that he was really walking the line, so that was kind of interesting.

Another unusual case that I had was one where they just wanted to get back at a kid or prove a point. On some of the smaller craft that just worked in the harbor, trash barges and things like that, they would have a chief in charge of the boat and then a few crew members. Well, they would get a food allowance and they would stock their refrigerators and fix their own food. Well, this guy decided late one night that he wanted a steak and they didn't have any. So he went to the craft next to him and helped himself to a steak. And then he was court martialed for it. And of course, it was ridiculous to have—I mean, that was overkill. The steak was—back then was worth, maybe—I think I determined that it was $1.57. But, you know, it was ridiculous. So I presented the argument that he just borrowed it. Of course, after you eat it, how do you give back a steak? But anyway, he borrowed it because his intention was to replace it the next day when he could get into their supply. Anyway, he got off.

But most of them were guilty; there were very few that were truly innocent. That one boy was and I saw a couple of others. But most of them, by the time they get to court martial, they are guilty. If they had been less than that, it would have been disposed of just at captain's mast [disciplinary hearing] or something. So my job as defense counsel was to see that they basically got the least punishment possible. Not that they'd get off, but you'd count it a win if they got a lesser punishment. And this department head who had been reluctant to put me in the position to begin with called me in one day and said that he was going to move me to permanent prosecution because the government was losing too many cases. Not that I was winning too many, but that the government was losing too many. So that was the end of my days as defense counsel. He made it so that I had to read charges to the guys when they came through as the first—at the first contact, so they had no opportunity to request me before that. And then by reading the charges to them, it made me not reasonably available to be their defense counsel, so I ended up doing all prosecution then.

TS:

That's an interesting way to slip that through. [laughter] I was going to ask you, from the time you first got there and they had you become—be the separations officer instead of the legal officer, what kind of—how much time—when the men went to the commanding officer and said, “You know, I think she ought to be the legal officer?”

AL:

Probably, maybe a couple of months. But I just started out right about that time just doing a few cases and still being separations officer. Then there was a girl doing the registered publications and she left, and they needed someone in that position immediately because they can't leave that one empty. If you're going to be away from it more than thirty days, they have to reassign somebody for it. So they didn't have time to wait for somebody to come in. They already had the idea of a female in that position, because of the other girl being there.

So they moved me to that, which meant that I was working in a vault with top secret documents. We had to update any of the instruction manuals and things that had changes. We would pick up the corrections and then go and actually cut out this piece of paper and paste it to make the changes on each page, to update or substitute a page. It was absolutely boring work. I was in a vault by myself; I could have my radio. It was not the kind of thing I was interested in. Now I would be fine with it, because I've had my day of being involved in everything and making decisions and all that, so a mundane job wouldn't be so bad. But at the time, I didn't like it much. It was kind of interesting that anytime I was out of the vault carrying materials, picking up new things from the naval base, or carrying things to the incinerator to be burned, I wore a .45 [pistol].

TS:

You did?

AL:

Yeah.

TS:

So had you qualified on that?

AL:

They didn't care about that. And I figured if I had to use it, it would be point blank. And I had a little bit of experience shooting at snakes and what have you on the farm. But it went with the job. I said it would make sense to give me a smaller weapon, but that was the one that went with that position, so, okay. But, you know, even if you have to hold the gun with two hands, if somebody's standing six feet in front of you, you have a pretty good chance of hitting them. There wasn't much danger anyway. We were on a secure navy base. I mean, what kind of—who's going to come in there and try to get those documents as I take them to the incinerator? Actually, there was an enlisted guy that carried the things. I was just along as security.

So anyway, I had to go in the hospital. I had a real severe case of mononucleosis and I was hospitalized for a month. And while I was gone they had to put somebody else in that position, so when I came back, then they put me in the original legal position that I should have had from day one. And then, that's when I was doing all courtroom work all the time.

TS:

Excellent. So having—getting mononucleosis was a good thing?

AL:

Yes, absolutely.

TS:

Do you mind if I go back just a little?

AL:

Sure.

TS:

I think I could talk—it's just a very fascinating career that you had, or, you know, time that you had in the military. But going back to when you went in and you decided to join the navy or the WAVES, first of all, you talked about the military background, but did anybody in particular help influence you to join at all?

AL:

No.

TS:

What did your mother and father think about it?

AL:

I didn't discuss it with them until I had already made up my mind and went home and stated stated that I was going to do it, and then they were very supportive. I'm sure they had trepidation but they didn't voice it to me. I was headstrong enough that they knew I would, you know, do it if I wanted to, and had always been levelheaded and never had any trouble with me and all that kind of stuff. So they were just glad that I was excited about it. And once I was in, they were equally excited about it. They were thrilled to death to come up to the graduation from OCS. I'm sure Daddy was really talking it up with his friends. But they were very supportive.

TS:

When you had talked earlier about sometimes how the reputation of women in the military wasn't so good, did that come up at all in your family?

AL:

Yes. I think I remember my mother saying something like that at the dinner table. And I answered it some way like, “Well, that was those other people. This is me,” you know. Which—I knew how I would be, regardless of what was going on around me.

TS:

That you knew who you were.

AL:

Yes, right.

TS:

How about your brother and sister? Did they say anything?

AL:

My brother was too little. He was—I was eleven when he was born, so he doesn't enter into this as far as anything except running around the table playing. My sister's two and a half years older, and I'm sure she wished afterwards that she had gone the same route. But she was already—at that point she was already teaching, also in physical education, but she went into science after that. But everybody was fine with it.

TS:

Why do you think she would have wanted to go into it also?

AL:

Because my sea stories were more interesting than what some kid was doing in a physical education class. [chuckles] And I've been back into education since then, so my three and a half years in the navy, as far as experiences that are memorable, outweigh the thirty years in the school system.

TS:

Oh my goodness. So where was it that you did—you did your OCS through the school, and so where did you actually raise your hand and join up?

AL:

I did that here.

TS:

At UNCG?

AL:

Yes, they came—we had a little ceremony outside, seems like it was back behind the library, you know, with pictures and everything. Just as soon as I graduated, then I was eligible to do that. So the recruiter was here to do the other thing, then I was in. I didn't go back to OCS to finish until it was time for that second half of the class to start, so I was home for a couple of months, and then I went back up to Newport, Rhode Island, where the OCS is. And then from that to justice school, which is also in Rhode Island.

TS:

And then, what was your—were you an ensign then?

AL:

Yes.

TS:

Ensign?

AL:

Yes.

TS:

So you described a little bit about your work there. Did you then have any other—well, with your .45 duty? [laughs] For the escort?

AL:

Well, anytime in the military you don't have just one job. They have collateral duties. So in addition to the work in legal, I also had a bout as a public information officer, planning dances for visiting midshipman. And that was an undertaking. I'll show you later; I've got a newspaper article about that. But what they would do, the midshipman would do their cruises and come into that port. And while they were there, the naval base sponsored a ball for them, and the little high school and college girls from the area would be invited to come as dates for the midshipmen for dinner and the dance.

So I had to go through all the applications. The girls would send in their information—they'd been doing this for years, so the routine was already established; I don't know how long they did it after that, but for several years they did. And all of the country club sort just were so anxious for their daughters to come, to be included in that, because they got a good write-up in the paper and everything. And it was a formal event, just, you know, a big deal. So I had to approve these girls and schedule them and match them up with these boys from the ships, and then I had to go on all the ships in port and talk with the commanding officers to get them to volunteer to host some of them at dinner. Some of the smaller ships could do maybe two or three couples and an aircraft carrier could do maybe twenty or thirty couples, to have dinner for them before the dance. So I spent my day going around and drinking coffee, which I cannot tolerate, but I'd have to drink a cup of coffee when I was asking this captain to provide a meal for these people at their expense of course, because we didn't pay them for anything. So they had to come out of their food budget to feed these people and to have people to show them around and entertain them for the time.

So we got it all set up and everything went well. And we would have somebody from Hollywood as a special guest. One time we had—Dean Jones was doing Ensign O'Toole and he came. I think the year before that, the guy from Hennessy came. But they were always doing things like that. One time we had—after I went to Hawaii, we had a WAVE birthday party and John Wayne came to it. So we had some ways to get special guests for things. So anyway, that was one job that I had in addition to my day-time job.

Another one was standing a communications watch, and that would be where the regular communications people worked during the day, and then some of the rest of us rotated and worked at night and on weekends. And so about once a week I would have to do a communications watch, and what that entailed was being available if a top secret message came in. The overnight enlisted crew were not allowed to break a top secret message, so I would have to handle that completely from the time that it came in, running it through the code machine to putting it in plain language and then locking it in the safe until the next morning when the regular officer came in to distribute. We didn't ever have anything that had to be done right that minute, because it was essentially peace time then, and most of the things that came in were information, rather than something that required an action. But they had a little room in the communications area with a bed in it, so I would sleep there overnight. I could leave for meals or things like that, but I had to be able to be reached by telephone at any time. Of course, this was before the days of cell phones. So basically I would come over and stay in that room and read and then sleep until the middle of the night when they might knock on the door and say, “Come do this message.”

And one day I had the duty on a Sunday and we happened to be having a command party in the O [Officer's] Club, a pool party. So I went by there, had to have lunch anyway, so I stopped by where they were having this party. And of course, I was in uniform; the rest of them were in bathing suits. Some of the guys thought I shouldn't be there in uniform, so they picked me up and threw me in the pool. So then, I figured, well, I had to change clothes anyway, so I might as well put on my bathing suit. So then I went back, and the commanding officer was there and it was all okay. But before I went back to the communications station, I had to go get another uniform. [laughing] Luckily, I was living on the base at the time.

TS:

That's good. Were there any of these assignments, special duties, that you didn't like in particular?

AL:

Well, I'm not a communications-type person. That's very [pause] straight-forward. You know, “Do this just like this,” kind of like computers and stuff, and I don't work well with that. I could do it, but it would not be something that I wouldn't choose to do, just like I don't care anything about computers. But it was interesting to have access to some of the information that came through there and that kind of thing. The top secret clearance that I had to have for that was very stringent, and they figured it would cost about ten thousand dollars to get somebody cleared at that level, and they even went back and talked to people in the neighborhood and former teachers and things like that. So that was interesting.

TS:

I had a similar experience for mine. What—how long were you at Long Beach then, and where did you go—?

AL:

I was two years there.

TS:

Okay.

AL:

And then I got orders to Hawaii.

TS:

Okay, and then what happened?

AL:

When I went there—I was actually supposed to go in communications there, and I did not look forward to that at all. But I took some leave time, and in the meantime they had somebody else report in, so they shifted that person to the communications billet and put me out in the middle of a pineapple field at a communications station doing a little bit of legal and being training officer. The reason the legal didn't amount to much, even though I was called a legal officer there, was because it was a small station. They didn't have much going on. And other people did the cases and I reviewed them for accuracy, making recommendations to the CO [commanding officer]. So it actually put me up a level in the chain, but was less interesting because I liked the courtroom part.

But training officer took most of the day. What I would do would be administer GED [General Educational Development tests] and advancement tests, and do a—I advised the kids on their income tax and stuff like that. I wrote letters about I don't know what now, but I would have to make letters for the captain. He always had to change one word. And if I said it this way, he would move this word over here, just so it was his letter. That was—the work was okay. It wasn't as interesting as the previous assignment, but you take what they give you. I did also teach an English class at night to—we had a lot of Filipinos that worked in the mess who were just learning English, and I also had a few—well, I had one officer who, he had been enlisted and he was an LDO.

TS:

[unclear]

AL:

Limited duty officer. In other words, they hadn't had a full college degree, and so they were specialists in one area just by virtue of the military training. But this guy wanted to get some credit on a GED at a college level, and so he was taking my English course to help him with that. So for a while, we had right much fun with that.

TS:

Did you enjoy Hawaii?

AL:

Yes, it's terribly expensive. For entertainment, I'd travel around the island. It'd take seven and a half hours to do that. You know, go to the beach, but you couldn't afford to eat at the fancy restaurants or the entertainment. They had a lot of free entertainment in the hula shows and things like that, but you couldn't keep up with the tourists that had money.

TS:

Where were you stationed at?

AL:

It's Wahiawa, and that is on Oahu, which is the primary island that has military installations on it. It was about an hour drive from Honolulu. And I was literally in the middle of a pineapple field. There was a little village, Wahiawa, about maybe eight or ten miles away. And so I would go to the little general store there for entertainment during the day, just to break up the work day.

TS:

What year were you there?

AL:

This was '63. I was there '63-'64.

TS:

So when you—during the Cuban Missile Crisis you were in Long Beach.

AL:

I was out there when Kennedy was assassinated. I was—I had headaches from the—they burned the pineapple foliage and the cane fields, and so you have this smoke, and with my allergies I had these headaches a lot. So I had gone to the doctor about that, and I had to go to Pearl Harbor for that. And I was driving back to the base when I heard on the radio about Kennedy. The Cuban Missile Crisis was '62. I was in California then.

TS:

Well, when you heard about President Kennedy being assassinated, what was that like, being in the military at that time?

AL:

You just couldn't believe it. It was a real, a real blow. In the military, you don't have to like the politicians, but you have to follow them completely. And in Kennedy's case, I did both. I believed in what he was doing as well as supporting him because of the job he was in. So, it was a tough time for everybody. We all went back and said, “How could this happen?” Of course, history could have told us how it happens, but it was—it took us all by surprise.

TS:

And you were talking a little bit—so you were in Long Beach during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the military is under a different kind of heightened—

AL:

Yes, but when you're on the base all the time, you don't notice anything like that. I did move off base for a while. When I first got out there, they put me in the BOQ; they didn't have women's quarters there. And the bachelor officers' quarters was like a motel. They had two rooms with a connecting bath and they all opened to the outside. And so they would put a guy in each one, and they'd share a bath. Well, they couldn't do that with me, so they gave me a suite of two rooms and bath. One room had sofa and chairs and a little refrigerator and everything, and then my bedroom on the other side. Of course, all the guys said, “That's not fair.” There was a lot of discrimination, but it wasn't all against; sometimes it was in my favor.

But even at that, being on the base, I was the only person in the legal department who lived on the base, and so every time something came up at night they called me. And one week I had—in an eight-day span, I was called seven times at night. And, you know, that gets old. And then the—I guess the final straw was when the guy who was a young officer in charge of the BOQ, you know, handling the staff and everything, access to all the keys, had a little too much to drink one night and let himself in. Of course, I just laughed about it because he was so wasted that I pushed him over and he fell asleep on the floor. And a friend of mine happened to be staying with me overnight, and she was going to have my bed and I was going to sleep on the sofa. She wouldn't sleep in there with him on that floor. I thought, for goodness sakes, he's in no shape to do anything. So I put her on the couch and I slept in the bed.

But that was enough to say, “Okay, I need to get my own place.” So I had to at my own expense then, because since they had a place available for me, they wouldn't give me a housing allowance. But I moved in with a girl who worked at the Officer's Club and we had an apartment out, so I was off base some. But if you're spending all your time on base, nothing changes as far as what's going on with the rest of the world. You don't see any heightened security because it's already a secure base.

TS:

Did you have any concerns about that period?

AL:

It—I think at the time we didn't know how severe it was, the fact that it really was an hour to hour thing that could go either way. We were getting most of our information from the news just like everybody else, and they weren't letting a lot of that out. After the fact they could say, “This is what happened,” but at the time they weren't saying, “Okay, we're all—look here, we're ready to go to war.” A blockade, you think, well, they're boarding ships. But they don't say what happens if they refuse to stop or if somebody fires a missile somewhere. And then pretty soon, you heard that they'd turned ships around and that was the end of it.

TS:

Well, that's true. So you're—how about—is there anything that you'd like to talk about that you did in your off time?

AL:

Off time. Not much, because being so few women there—you know, some commands had a lot, but both of mine had practically none at all. In Hawaii, there were a thousand men on the base, and there was another officer and there was an enlisted corpsman. That was the extent of females. In California, there were a couple of women officers and we had seventy-five enlisted WAVES. And I was the WAVES representative, so I had contact with those girls, but not really in a social setting, just on base.

So when I had time off, I would have liked to have just palled around with the other guys in the BOQ or whatever. But unless they were talking with me away from everybody else so that nobody knew they were, or it was a whole group that was doing it, then they had to be very careful because they were so afraid of being teased by their friends, being paired up or something. So if they went to the base movie, they wouldn't say, “Come on and go,” because then that one that said it would be matched up. So most of the time I would go to the base movie by myself or with one of the guys from one of the ships or something where they were just passing, and they could do it because they wouldn't be facing that peer problem. Finally, a Marine came through the BOQ, lived there, and he didn't care what anybody said, so we paired up. He was a good guy.

Most of them were very—they were very friendly in certain venues and standoffish in others. The married officers were the same way. You would have thought I was their most absolute darling at work, but run into them at church with the wife there and the kids—I would have loved for the family to invite me for Sunday lunch. They would just nod and that was the extent of it; not introduce me to the wife and, “Here are my kids,” and anything like that, so I—

TS:

Why do you think that was?

AL:

I think it's the same idea as when they started putting women on the ships and all of the wives were saying, “How can these men behave themselves with a woman there in such close proximity?” Our answer was, “They can be decent men like they ought to be.” But there was a lot of fear of that, and I think some men were afraid they would be—it would be interpreted that they were too friendly with the female, just like men are with the secretaries and whatever. So I didn't have a normal relationship with any of them like that. I was friends with a female officer who was a little bit older and had a house, and she would have me out for dinner or whatever and things like that.

It's like—a male that I'd been in close contact with because we had friends in common came back from some sightseeing trip—he had been just driving around—and brought me a little jewelry box that he had come across and a little wooden stick that he said looked like a dragon. I just thought at the time I would much rather him have said, “Hey, you want to go for a ride and see what we can find down the coast?” Then—I mean, obviously he thought of me, but brought the presents back instead of including me in doing something. By the time he finally got over his case of nerves or whatever, I was already seeing that Marine, so he got left out.

There were a lot of times when it was just plain lonely, because if you don't have girls to pal around with and the boys are afraid of what somebody will say—I mean, they rode me terribly about that Marine when he called me at the office. But, you know, who cares? But they couldn't stand to be the butt of teasing. In Hawaii, it was—the guys lived in a house on the base and I had an apartment in a Quonset hut next to the house. They didn't ever invite me over for a meal with them or anything like that. But one of them got me all kinds of things like made me picture frames for some of my pictures of ships and things. He was in the engineering department and he had access to things. He made me a name plaque for my desk—things that he would volunteer to do, or if I needed something, I just had to say—He got me furniture when I moved out into an apartment. He got furniture for me to borrow from the base and had it delivered and set up and everything. They all were doing things like that, but just not saying, “Let's go do such and such. Let's catch a movie. Let's get a bite to eat.” Not that kind of thing. If there had been other females around so you could do it in a group, they would have. But because I was the only one, they were—

TS:

Was that one of the more difficult parts of the military experience for you, do you think?

AL:

Yes, that was a hard part because if you don't meet people at work, and you work long hours, where do you meet people? So actually, I met my husband out there on the beach. So I guess that's the answer to that question. That's where you meet. [chuckles]

TS:

Was he in the service?

AL:

He was army, just getting out. He was—actually had days off pending, going to California for his release. And I had the days off because I was going in the hospital for some surgery, and I was going every day for tests, and then the rest of the day I would go to the beach with my dog. My dog was my friend.

TS:

What was your dog's name?

AL:

Sooner. The boys that worked in my office named her because she'd sooner go on the floor than scratch at the door. [chuckling] So I took her to work with me and she wet the floor all the time. But I'd take the dog to the beach. Chuck was with—my husband was with some other guys on the beach and I think they probably tossed a coin to see who would come talk to this female. Of course, they didn't know I was military at the time, and they were all army enlisted. But then he started playing with the dog, and anybody who's nice to my dog can't be all bad. So he was getting out, so it was okay to go ahead and make friends with him.

I was going to have surgery, and he came and sat at the hospital every day. And I didn't have anybody doing that, so that made an impact. And he turns green at hospitals, so it really took some effort on his part to do that. But his friends would drive him up there and they'd sit out there in the parking lot and wait for him for two hours while he sat in there with me. And I thought, “Well, he's capable of having friends that would do things for him.” I wasn't sure that I could get anybody to do that for me. So anyway, he went back out to California for his discharge and then came back out there, and then we got married out there. Then that comes—brings up the final stages.

TS:

The final stages of your—

AL:

Final stages. After we got married, I got pregnant. And at that time, you couldn't have children in the military, so then I had to resign my commission. So that was the end of it.

TS:

What did you think about that rule?

AL:

I thought it was ridiculous. And of course, you can see now that it works all right. Sure, there are going to be times when your kid's sick and you need to go home from work, but the guys did that, too. I think the reason for it was really they thought the kids had to have their mother, not just have a parent, but have their mother with them. And there is something to say about that. I have—as my job as a school counselor, I was working with a student who had all kinds of problems, and his mom had been deployed when he was two years old, and they could trace his problems back to that time. It was the Gulf War and she had gone and was gone for some time, and he had his father there. But he was a messed up kid.

I guess that was the kind of thing that back then—see, there were the early stages of—it hadn't been too long they'd allowed us to be married. During the Second World War, actually, you could be married, but after the war, then they put in single-only rule. Then sometime before time for me to go in, they had changed and said you could be married. But unless you were in a battlefield situation, it's like any other job, and you should have the same rights and responsibilities of other people. Had I been able to have the child there and stay in, I probably would have. I would have wanted to. The only thing, I kind of thought my husband, having been enlisted, how would he feel exposed to the events that I would go to and everything? As it turned out, it wouldn't have bothered him at all, but I didn't know that in the beginning. So I don't know whether I would have gotten out anyway or not, but I certainly would have stayed long enough to have them pay for the child. [chuckles]

TS:

Yes, that was an interesting—

AL:

Yes. When I came back, I could have gone to a VA [Veterans' Affairs] hospital, but I would have had to go to Duke or—not Duke, Durham or someplace like that for the medical care, and I didn't want to be that far away pending delivery, so I just paid it myself. Had I still been in the military and been able to keep working longer—I mean, the idea of maternity uniforms, they didn't have. It took me no time at all for me to get to where my uniform no longer fit. My waist was this big at the time.

TS:

That was a very small circle she just drew. [laughs]

AL:

[laughs] Yes, very. I weighed eighty pounds when I got married, so a few weeks pregnant made a difference. I started out leaving the top button on my skirt undone and then the zipper wouldn't work, so I went into civilian clothes very soon, and then was processed out in just a couple of months.

TS:

So that was in Hawaii where you processed out.

AL:

Yes.

TS:

You talked a little bit about how your relations were with your supervisors, and it sounds like even though some of them might have not enjoyed [working with] women, but—

AL:

They're two extremes. They had no experience in how to work with women for the most part. And some thought we didn't belong there and others thought, “Well, this brightens up my day. Let's do this.” The commanding officer was, I think, somewhat taken with the southern accent, with the little girl demeanor. He had a teenage daughter and I was very much like that. He had, as far as I was concerned, an open door policy. The male officers would not have dreamed of doing what I got away with. I didn't ask for things myself, but I was working on a court case for this kid, and I wanted to do a plea bargain and get him a lighter sentence. So I would pick up the phone and call the captain's secretary and ask if he could see me about a case I had coming up. She'd check with him, and “Come right on.” I'd go over and we'd sit and chat a while, and I would tell him what the case was about and what a reasonable sentence would be, and he would sign off on it. And then we'd go back to court and the members of the board would not have knowledge of what went on with that, so they would come up with their idea of a punishment, and if it was greater then what he okayed, then it got knocked down. That's one way I won so many cases. Of course, the guys knew that. They could have done the same thing.

I also made it a point before court time to go in and be in the room, and as the board members would come in, we never talked about anything to do with the cases but it was weather and, "Where are you from?" and things like that, just chitchat. But the opposing counsel would come in right at the last minute. There he is looking scared to death anyway, and here I am friendly. Well, who are they going to side with, you know? Common sense. And I had a little bit more of that than the others did.

Occasionally there would be somebody who—on the board who was anti-feminine or maybe just at that point in their career where they were fed up with these guys messing up and they wanted to straighten them all out or get them out. Lieutenants for the most part, or captains, as you would know, mid-grade. So we would have a challenge and we could get rid of some of those. So that's when I'd get off. I would keep the ensigns and [lieutenant] JGs, the junior officers, because they were easily swayed. I would keep the lieutenant commanders and commanders because they had already been the route of get tough with them and they could afford to ease off now, and so they would listen to them, what was said. If I had a female up there, I would want to get her off, but you have to understand that they might come up again sometime or their word might get around or whatever, and you couldn't appear to not trust her. So I would always have to bite the bullet and leave her there. Luckily, the other side would think incorrectly that the female was going to naturally side with me. Well, it wouldn't have been that way at all; it'd been the other way. But they would always think—

TS:

To be tougher.

AL:

Yes, that we would match up. So they would kick her off.

TS:

How about that.

AL:

It worked just absolutely into my hands. The courtroom work was fun that way. It was a study of people.

TS:

So you had the psychology down.

AL:

Yes, yes. And of course, that's what I went into when I got out. I went back and got my counseling degree and that's the way I finished up.

TS:

I can see why.

AL:

Yes.

TS:

Well, did you—you talked a little bit about some discrimination. Did you personally face any that you feel?

AL:

Well, there was that thing with the department head where he thought that I couldn't do the job, this thing about “we don't want to prejudice the accused.” He did not ever say a good thing about what I was doing. He didn't criticize it—he just was very absent, as far as any contact. Everything he said to me was in very clipped terms: “Here's your assignment,” or, “here's whatever.” So he was the most anti-female that I ran into.

The executive officer at the station would not—wasn't anti-female so much as he had seen the way the captain went overboard doing things for me that didn't get done for any of the male officers. And so he made it very clear when he became acting CO, when the captain was transferred—the captain was actually promoted to admiral—and he said that that wouldn't work with him. And I just said, “Yes, sir.” I should have said, “I'll just figure out something else then.” But I wasn't quite as smart-mouthed then as I am now. [chuckling] But he wanted to blame me for it, and I figured it wasn't my fault if the captain cut me some slack; that was his fault, because I was doing my job.

TS:

Or if the other legal officers didn't take advantage of it.

AL:

—had chosen to do it? Had—

TS:

Yes.

AL:

Well, I'll tell you how they felt. When I had my wetting down party [party to celebrate a promotion in rank] when I was made JG, I invited the guys in the BOQ, the ones I knew, and the guys at work. And I also, as a courtesy, invited the captain and the XO [executive officer]. Well, some of the men didn't show up and I couldn't understand why, because we were pretty friendly in the BOQ. And the next day, one of them brought me a present and said he wanted to apologize for their behavior in not coming, but they knew the brass was coming and they felt uncomfortable with it. So because of that—the captain and the XO, the commander, were perfectly fine coming to a party at my little suite, but the junior officers were scared of it.

TS:

You were in a unique position because you had a lot of access to the criminal-type activity that was happening. Was there—but you didn't have a lot of women where you were stationed. Were there any instances of like sexual harassment or assault or anything like that that had occurred?

AL:

When I was at Long Beach, there were seventy-five WAVES there that I had—I was to oversee, so I had contact with it. There was, but it didn't have a name back then. And so consequently, it was dealt with either by having the people avoid the situation, maybe moving people around, or saying, “Oh, they didn't mean anything by that,” or, “Don't put yourself in a situation like that. What are you doing to invite it?” That kind of mentality. We didn't have any physical things that I knew of, because then I would have pitched a fit. But anything else, it was a game we played. Anytime—I had people making passes inappropriately and I just handled them, dealt with it. There wasn't any idea of going and telling somebody. You just tell them to bug off. I guess the other females probably handled things pretty much like that, too. They certainly didn't have any kind of program or anything for that. I was appalled at how naïve some of the WAVES were sexually, and I tried to have nurses come in and talk with them and things like that, because these were kids straight off the farm, hadn't been around, thrown into that situation. And I'm sure there were behaviors from people slightly above them that were inappropriate. But if we learned about it, it was after the fact or something.

The biggest problem, I guess, was the hunt for homosexuals because then that was a really big thing. It was a career—ender, no question of it. It didn't even have to be proven too much. If there was a lot of talk, it was, “You might as well get out. There's nothing left for you here.” I worked with some girls and I knew, but I wasn't telling anybody. And so often, they had come from an abusive situation. And, well, one girl had told me, for example, that she had been pretty much attacked—she may have been willing in the first place—by a football team, you know, gang raped. Another one, incest. You know, things like that. And so they came into the military to get away from that. Well, so often, if you come with that background, you're going to pick up the same kind of behaviors. The vibes are going to be there; you're going to be drawn to the same type of people, so I'm sure there was a lot of it going on. But it was pretty well hidden.

TS:

Well, the hunt you said for the homosexuals, was that for the males and females?

AL:

Both.

TS:

Both.

AL:

Yes, we'd work on investigations where, you know, you'd have to get them to be very explicit telling the kind of activity that they engaged in, because you were after this other person. Also at that time, drugs were beginning to creep in a little bit. Not much. But I know one guy was a musician and that was kind of the entryway, because musicians on the outside were already into drugs in the sixties. But high school kids basically were not. So when they came in, it was not from a drug background, except for the ones with that musical connection where they were exposed to older drug users through their music. I had one tell me that that was just commonplace, that they would go to the bars or wherever they were having the music or somebody's apartment or whatever and there would be drugs, and so everybody—

TS:

Was there any particular type of drug that was popular then?

AL:

Well, I guess marijuana would be the most common and generally anything they could smoke, because that seemed like the thing that got passed around the most. But I didn't see that on the base. Those kinds of things came up through investigations but they were done off the base. It's not anything like the problems they have now.

TS:

Was there anything that was particularly hard for you while you were in the military?

AL:

Well, I was always very shy. [pause] I guess every time I did something new, it was hard. But I was also adventurous and so I'd do it. Getting on an airplane by myself for the first time, going across country when I didn't know what was going to be on the other side. Those kinds of things. Going to my first department head meeting when I was a junior officer who's not included, you know. These were all senior officers in that meeting, but because I was the women's representative for all of the WAVES, then I was at the meeting. You know, those things are—it's hard to walk in the door if you're naturally shy. The funny thing is, once I was in the role in court, the shyness was no longer a factor, because I wasn't asking for things for myself. It wasn't me; it was the counsel doing the job. So I could always do things in the job that I would have a hard time doing if I had been going up like asking somebody for a job or something for me. I would have had a hard time. But it was like two different people. So every time I did something new, I guess it was hard for me, but I did it. I can't remember—I can't even imagine now some of the things I did, how I did it.

TS:

Anything—

AL:

How did I know how to do that? [chuckling]

TS:

Well, now, you said you were strong-willed.

AL:

Well, if anybody had told me I couldn't do it then they'd had a problem. [chuckles]

TS:

Was there anything—because your stature, you described as very petite and-

AL:

Tiny.

TS:

Was there anything physically that was difficult?

AL:

Not in the navy that I knew. Today's navy is probably different. Certainly the other branches of the military are different. Had I come along at a different time, I probably would not have been accepted. There they were courting me. I mean, they wanted me. They had to pass a waiver to get me because—they do on eyes anyway, pretty routinely—but I couldn't meet their hundred-pound minimum weight limit. They had me doing everything I could to try to get my weight up before going in. So I was on the campus here and under a doctor's care, and the doctor was having me eat whipping cream on cereal. My mother made me high-calorie cookies out of special stuff. I ate nuts and drank chocolate milk at night before going to bed.

They put me in the infirmary to sleep so that I would go to bed at a regular time and not be bothered by dorm noises and people up all the time. So for several weeks I slept in the infirmary. I'd get up and go to class and the next night come back in the infirmary, and every week going down there to have the medical staff weigh me. The weight, I was in the nineties but it would not get up. Everybody was rooting for me. The final weigh—in before the deadline, some of my friends came up with paper weights and things and stuck them in my pockets. The doctors never made me take my shoes off to weigh. It was, “Wear all the clothes you want to.” It still didn't make it. And so then, the recruiter had [let me off of the hook—added by veteran] and notified me that they passed a waiver on the weight. [chuckling] But now they probably wouldn't do that. Now, they would expect you to be able to do all of the physical things. In OCS, being the only physical education major in my class there, I was the one that ran the softball games and, you know, the stuff, and actually, what they call “classes” I taught. And so I was able to do everything that the big girls could do, but I probably wouldn't have the opportunity if I were going through it now.

TS:

I wonder.

AL:

I would probably also not have majored in physical education if I'd come along at a different time, because at that time, this was a female school. So being little was little in comparison with these other females. We had one six-footer, but the rest of them were all bigger than me, but, you know, not giants. But when you put guys in with that, then it would have been too much. So that—

TS:

[laughs] You hear mostly about people trying to lose weight to get in the military.

AL:

Yes. I didn't have that problem back then. One funny thing that happened at OCS, this one officer came through for inspection, and she saw that this one little bit chubby girl had some bulges. And she said, “Don't you have on a girdle?”

And she said, “No.”

So that officer just got all up in the air and said, “Everybody will wear a girdle no matter what.”

And they all turned and looked at me and said, “What about her?”

And the lady was not going to back down then. She said, “Everybody. Before I come back again, everybody will have a girdle on in this group.”

So my friends and I went out and went in shop and told the sales lady that we had to get me a girdle. She said they didn't have any that size. And so finally I bought the smallest one they had and it was too big, but I had one. After that first episode and the next time that lady came back, everybody had one. Then it was quietly dropped, because I think she realized how foolish it was when she thought—We let them know they didn't make them that small.

The only other thing about my weight that came up, still in OCS, we were in Newport, Rhode Island, and they were having a hurricane warning. And we wanted to go somewhere across base, and one of the officers said, “Only if you hold her hand the whole time so that wind will not carry her off.” And she was serious! I said, “What?” But she was serious. So they all thought I was the little girl.

I know we're running out of time. Do you want to look through some of these pictures?

TS:

Yes. Let me—there are just a couple more. Not much more, but was there any particular award or commendation that you received that you're particularly proud of?

AL:

Well, I have—somewhere in here—my certificate from justice school. I graduated with distinction. So that was kind of nice.

TS:

Says in 1961. Yes. That's terrific.

AL:

That was kind of funny, because they would feed all this information to us and then we would have a day of exams. And I had bronchitis, flu, whatever. They'd made me take a flu shot and I got the flu. But I was really sick and coughing my head off and fever and all, and so every morning, I would have to go to sick call. And I missed a whole week of classes. Well, how do you take an exam when you've missed a week of class? I mean they—it was six hours of feeding fact after fact after fact after fact. And so one of the lawyers—we had two lawyers in that class—and one of them volunteered to meet with me on the day before the exam and go over his notes. And so, you know, it was just understood that I wouldn't be able to pass that exam and would make a low score. But after the exam was over, I told him he had done a really good job. I scored two points higher than he did.

TS:

[laughs] That's really good. Now, last thing I think I was going to ask—well, second to last thing—what was your highest rank that you achieved?

AL:

Lieutenant JG.

TS:

Lieutenant Junior Grade. Right.

AL:

I would have been up for lieutenant in October when I got out in January. So I was that many months short of the next rank.

TS:

Did you ever use any of the veterans' benefits?

AL:

Yes, I did my master's degree.

TS:

Oh, very good. Any home mortgage or anything like that?

AL:

No.

TS:

What are your thoughts—have your thoughts on patriotism changed at all since the time you enlisted? What's your view on that?

AL:

I think it's changed. Maybe it's kind of a ripple up and down, depending on when you happen to hit it. My ideas have changed in—I guess an outward demeanor has changed. I've never been one to be showy about anything, and so I wouldn't have been the kind to put a flag in front of my house or something like that. I've just always been much more reserved than that. But there are certain periods of time now when I could see people doing that and when it does seem a normal thing to do, and not just a show-off event. I participated in the Veterans' Day activities when I was in the navy and some after that. One time I had to march with a group of WAVES, had to lead the group, and there was no way I was going out in the shoes that we had to wear for that, so I wore high heel shoes and marched the five miles. The other girls had on their clodhoppers, but—

TS:

I could not have done that.

AL:

—but that was fun. And since then, in my neighborhood, my uncle used to sponsor a pig picking on the Fourth of July every year, and they would honor anybody who'd been in the service. They had flags and things like that, so I'd always stand up with the rest of them and take part in that.

TS:

And do you think being in the military influenced you or changed the way that you thought about life or anything like that?

AL:

Well, it's a good training ground for almost anything, but it probably—Well, I can't say I wouldn't have gotten the job, but certainly it made it easier to get a particular job that I applied for, because it was in a school [where] the principal was so gung-ho military. He had—he talked so much about the military experience and everybody was just sure that he was almost retired military coming into there. He'd been in two years. But it does have so many experiences that the time is bigger than civilian time, and had influenced his life so much. Just as soon as he heard that I was military, also navy, I had the job. But, you know, it's a matter of interest. My family didn't—my offspring, my daughter and all, granddaughter and such, had never talked much about what I did until they started having JAG on TV. I could tell them what I did that was like that—not the jumping in an airplane and flying off somewhere, but the court work was the same. So I could point things out while they were watching the TV show, or point out something that they—where they'd made a mistake.

TS:

Had they known that you were in the military?

AL:

Yes, but it was just something that was just never really addressed. We did more talking about it since JAG came on—

TS:

That's kind of neat.

AL:

—than we did before.

TS:

Now would you—what would you think if they wanted to join the military?

AL:

I would have thought it was fine if they could, if they could stick with it. Hard-headed kids don't make it there. My granddaughter suffers from anxiety disorder and has to be medicated. No way she could take the stress. My daughter probably had some of those same problems but just didn't get the medication because they didn't—they weren't able to name things when she was growing up. My great-granddaughter, I would be delighted if she would. She's a cracker jack, she could do it. But I'd be delighted if any of them could do it.

TS:

Do you think that there should be any limitations to what women in the military should be allowed to do?

AL:

No. I can't think of any, other than something that is just plain physically impossible. I couldn't manhandle torpedoes for example, you know. But where it just requires brainpower and initiative and some things like that.

TS:

Is there anything that you would like to add for people that aren't familiar with military, [noise] like that they don't have a good understanding of?

AL:

[unclear] In some ways, it's just like any other part of the world, but in another way it's like a little village. And so if you're reluctant to go in because you thought you'd be alone or something like that, everybody looks after everybody else. I walked into that command in Long Beach. I had landed at the airport. I had a friend come up from San Diego and drive me to the hotel I was going to stay in overnight, because I was going to wait and check in the next day. Took a taxi to the base, checked in. That duty officer said, “How'd you get here?”

I said, “Taxi.”

He said, “Where's your stuff?”

“I left it at the hotel because I didn't know what—didn't want to carry suitcases when I didn't know where I was going to have to go.”

He said, “Here are the keys to my car.”

So I took his car back into town to get my things. And that's the way people look after each other. So there was no such thing as, “We don't know you.” You know, “You're one of us.” I think for people understand that. But I didn't have any bad experiences that caused nightmares or anything like that. If I had it to do over again, I could do it better, but couldn't we in everything we've done?

TS:

That's true. That's true. Is there anything else you'd like to add? You've got some papers. I can pause it and we can take a look at those if you want to add anything here.

[recording paused]

AL:

Okay, that's where I lived at OCS. There I am. That's my room. We were two to a room, just like the dormitory in the college. I don't know what I got dressed up for there.

TS:

These are Newport right?

AL:

This was probably when my parents came up for the graduation. I probably wore civilian clothes one day to go out with them.

TS:

Can I hold them?

AL:

Although, I probably did better if I wore my uniform because you got more perks that way. This was my roommate in OCS and that was just another girl there. They don't use these uniforms anymore, of course.

TS:

No, sure don't.

AL:

These uniforms were a style that was left over. They had already gone to a different style, but for OCS they used those.

TS:

They let you wear those.

AL:

Yes. They insisted that we all—

TS:

Very organized here.

AL:

—have up-to-date calling cards.

TS:

Oh.

AL:

We didn't use them for anything much, but we had to have them. Every time you changed your rank, you had to get new cards. This is just after I got to California, just to prove—these are what I sent my mom—

TS:

Those are neat.

AL:

—just to show her we were normal. That's the BOQ I lived in.

TS:

Okay. Now is that you there?

AL:

Yes, I don't know what I was dressed up for. We had parties. Every other Friday they had a command party at the Officers' Club. And most of the time I wore civilian clothes to that. The only time I wore a uniform was when we were hosting it and the captain said we had to all go in uniform. And they said, “What, her, too?”

And he said, “Yes, she's just like everybody else.”

So I went in uniform that time; had the best time of any of them.

TS:

Nice car.

AL:

First car.

TS:

What kind of car is it?

AL:

Chevy II. This was the friend out there that—the girl that had the registered pub[lication]s that left and I had to take her job. And she was married and left to go with her husband.

TS:

You've got some articles.

AL:

All of these happened in California. This was a Navy Relief ball. We had to go to it. You had to—

TS:

Is this you right here?

AL:

Yes.

TS:

You look very fancy.

AL:

I had to—well, it was a big deal. It was an officer—type thing with some community people. We all had to pay a certain percentage of our salary for navy relief. According to your rank, you paid a different amount. But you had to do that and you had to go to the ball.

This was just after I had taken over as separations officer, and it's just a write-up about what separations is, and there I am and these are my people.

TS:

That will be a nice one to look at.

AL:

Every once in a while they have a day cruise for dependents, and of course, any of the rest of us could go, too. This was way before they would let women on ships. But you read this little bit right here.

TS:

So that's about you right there?

AL:

Yes.

TS:

Do you know what year this was?

AL:

Yeah, this was—

TS:

Does it say on the back?

AL:

It has the date on it—

TS:

Are you in Hawaii or in California?

AL:

No, this was California. We went—

TS:

So, before '62.

AL:

—from Long Beach to Catalina Island on that and spent the day, like a picnic or something on the beach.

TS:

So you were a navigator.

AL:

Yes. They let me do the computations to get back into port. Of course, they didn't rely on my figures, but I went through the motions.

TS:

I have to say, that's one thing in here. “This just goes to show that maybe one day the crew ship might be made up of female personnel.” Times have changed.

AL:

[chuckles] This was—representatives of all the branches were invited to I think it was probably—well, let's see, Board of Supervisors for Los Angeles is what it was. So the county supervisors had us come to do a little ceremony for, I don't know, some military recognition, but then they gave us a little certificate. And we tried to do community involvement whenever we could.

TS:

Very nice.

AL:

These were things as public information officer. That was a little write-up in the paper.

TS:

Seahorse.

AL:

Yes, that was the base paper, of course.

TS:

A little wreck on the back here.

AL:

[laughs] There I am with the other people who were involved with planning these balls, these parties. This was the previous public information officer, and she was retiring and so I had to take over for a while to do what they considered female work.

This was a party for foreign midshipmen. We had some Frenchmen and some—where were the others from? I've forgotten. These are, I'd say, all French, but there are some others. Maybe that's a different thing. It wasn't just our kids that we had to have parties for.

TS:

So for the visiting—

AL:

The foreign ones we would just have like a buffet out by the pool at the Officer's Club or something like that. It was when some of the others came that we had really big parties. That was one of the balls I had to run.

TS:

Another nice dress.

AL:

That was one of the parties out by the—

TS:

Out by the pool?

AL:

—the pool. I think I wrote on some of these.

TS:

Had a buffet? Mostly party pictures here.

AL:

Yes. But these were foreign officers.

TS:

This is a snazzy dress.

AL:

Yes, that was a dance. There's—

TS:

Is that you and there on the end there?

AL:

Yes, that was my commanding officer. I wrote a note for mother on the back. This was his wife and that was his daughter.

TS:

And his daughter dancing with a foreign officer. [laughing]

AL:

Yes, use whoever you can to fill in at those kind of things.

TS:

You have these organized very nicely.

AL:

And this was my friend's wedding.

TS:

Oh, wow, those are great shots.

AL:

There I am.

TS:

Which one is you?

AL:

We had an all-military wedding and there we are. We had a write-up in the paper. She was really my best friend in Long Beach.

TS:

What's her name?

AL:

Sylvia Cass Reid. She kind of took me under her wing and looked after me. She's about ten years older than I. That's a little write-up about it. We also have—let's see.

TS:

That's a nice picture.

AL:

Yes, that's her mother coming down. That was another write-up about it. They tried to get Life magazine to come out and cover it because it was entirely military, since even the maid of honor was military.

TS:

That's right. That's pretty neat.

AL:

But they didn't show. [paper rustling] This was a letter that I only found out about years later when I had some surgery in Hawaii.

TS:

This one's on kind of blue paper.

AL:

The WAVE officer who was the women's representative wrote this letter to my mother, and it's just telling about her about checking up on me in the hospital.

TS:

She has beautiful handwriting.

AL:

Yes.

TS:

That's something I always admire. Well, that's really sweet.

AL:

So that's something she didn't have to do. They also had—she had a call from a Red Cross worker.

TS:

To let her know.

AL:

To let her know. Because my parents were so far away, and not knowing what was going on with me. Okay, I had that in that envelope.

And then this was my wedding in Hawaii, and that was the girl that wrote the letter.

TS:

Oh, very nice.

AL:

Of course, that had happened before this.

TS:

And which one's your husband there?

AL:

This one. The little kid. [laughs]

TS:

Yes, he does look like young, doesn't he?

AL:

[laughs] Yes.

TS:

You both look young.

AL:

Yes. And that was on the base. I went out on this ship. This is the [USS] Kearsarge.

TS:

Is that your secretary?

AL:

That was just one of those day cruises that they let us go on, and they gave me the picture just as a souvenir.

TS:

Well, that's nice. Kearsarge, okay.

AL:

I came up with those.

TS:

We've got some pictures. Those are nice.

AL:

Yes.

TS:

You've even got a purse, matching purse.

AL:

Yes, you had to, and you have to wear it on your left shoulder. So it has—that's a regulation.

TS:

You know, I guess I had one, too, I think. I forgot about that.

AL:

The only thing, you can't tell it in those shoes, but later on when I had to replace those shoes and couldn't find any that fit, I got some with brown-stacked heels. Definitely not regulation. But with five-and-a-half double A [size], what can you do?

TS:

That's right.

AL:

That was one of the dances. This was just like that little picture. And this was another one—

TS:

Look at that one.

AL:

—of the dances with the midshipmen.

TS:

Very nice. [unclear]

AL:

Yes, 214.

TS:

Oh, what a beautiful picture.

AL:

I don't know what that was for except to show mother a picture while I was in Hawaii—

TS:

You'd had a portrait.

AL:

—with my Hawaiian-style dress on.

TS:

That's beautiful. Fantastic. Well, thank you very much.

AL:

And I don't know what you would like to keep but I can make copies of anything and get to you.

TS:

Well, we can make copies of whatever you'd like.

AL:

Anything you want. I don't care, whatever you'd like.

TS:

Well, it's up to you because—Here, I'll go ahead and just let me shut this off. But thank you very, very much, Ann.

[End of Interview]