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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Nancy F. Neubauer, 2008

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Object ID: Wv0412.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Neubauer's service in Korea and Germany with the U.S. Army Special Services in the late 1960s.

Summary:

Nancy Farrell Neubauer describes her childhood in Millbrook, her early interest in the military and history, and her education at Woman's College. Details include the music program, memorable professors, strict social rules and dress code, and participating in a USO sponsored tour to Central America and the Caribbean.

Neubauer primarily discusses her experiences in the Army Special Services and the evolution of her views on the military. She describes her posts and duties in Korea, the GIs there, and the effect of escalating combat in Vietnam on operations in Korea. Notable are her recollections of soldiers returning after a tour in Vietnam and the increase in drug abuse amongst military personnel.

Neubauer also describes her posts in Germany, her increasing dislike of her role there, and the differences in the GIs in Korea and in Germany. Other subjects include the famous assassinations and notable political events of the era, and missing many of them due to lack of communication abroad. Neubauer also discusses her love of music, her views on patriotism, and opinion of military leadership.

Creator:

Biographical Info:

Collection: Nancy Farrell Neubauer 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:

Therese Strohmer:

This is Therese Strohmer and today is April 26. We are in Cary, North Carolina. I’m here for an oral history interview for the Women [Veterans] Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG]. Nancy, go ahead and state your name the way you’d like it to be on your collection.

Nancy Neubauer:

Nancy Ferrell Neubauer.

TS:

Okay, very good.

[recording paused]

TS:

Okay, Nancy, why don’t you go ahead and we’ll start off, if you wouldn’t mind, telling me where and when you were born?

NN:

I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, September 13, 1942. I always said I was the first war baby, because I was born nine months after Pearl Harbor.

TS:

You are a war baby then.

NN:

Yeah, yeah.

TS:

So you want to tell me a little about growing up? What was it like growing up?

NN:

I was the third daughter, and there eventually was a fourth. My parents—we grew up in Millbrook, which is a northern end of—well now, of course, it’s in Raleigh, North Raleigh, but it was outside the city limits because it was—so it was county country. We grew up in the house that my father’s father had built and had lived there. My dad had lived there forever. And it was a wonderful little community. It was a village, and everybody knew everybody.

And we had a school that was one to twelve; everybody went there from the first grade till graduation. It’s interesting now that when I come back down here, that Millbrook High School is now, I think, the second largest high school in North Carolina. And we were very small. My graduating class was only seventy. But it was just this idyllic little childhood growing up in this small village, and Raleigh was, you know, three miles away, so it was not like we were out in the country, but we had access to the city.

But we—my mother taught school. She didn’t teach it till my youngest sister started back. We were all in the school, and everything revolved around the school and the church, so we didn’t really go anywhere or do anything else. But it was interesting that everybody knew everybody, because it was families that had lived there forever, and it was only when I was in the eighth grade that some industry began to move in to this part of North Carolina: the GE [General Electric] plant, Westinghouse [Electric Corporation] moved in first. And Yankees came down [laughs] and we began to get new students and the place began to change. But the first, I guess, twelve years of my life, it was the same people.

TS:

What did your father do?

NN:

He worked for the Norfolk Southern Railroad. He worked there his entire life.

TS:

Did he travel a lot?

NN:

No, he did not. He was a yard foreman at the freight yards. I guess it’s still there. I don’t know if it’s still there. There’s no Norfolk Southern anymore. But he had gone to work. He had a brother who was in World War I. My dad was quite a bit older than my mother, so he was an older father when we were growing up. But he had not had to go to the war because he was the only support of his elderly mother. His father had died when he was young. And he had started to work at this railroad place during the First World War and had worked there pretty much his whole life except for the brief time, I guess, during the Depression when they all were laid off. And it was sad, because he never really liked his job and he always wanted to travel and do other things, and he never did.

But he inspired in me a desire for travel, I think, because he used to sit and read National Geographics. And he knew more about geography than any PhD in geography. I’ve always been amazed over the years at how little Americans know about geography. And Dad knew the most. He could tell you every country in Africa and their capitals and who ruled when and what changed over where. He really—and we had maps. We would sit down and study big maps. But the sad thing was he never went anywhere. It was only after he retired that he [phone rings] and my mother started going to Florida.

TS:

I’m going to pause it for a second. [phone rings]

[Recording paused]

TS:

Okay, Nancy. You were talking about your father never got a chance to travel, but he inspired it in you.

NN:

Yeah, he did, in all of us. Out of the four of us, three of us travelled a lot and then one poor sister never left home. [laughs]

TS:

Well, tell me what it was like as a child growing up in the Millbrook area. What kind of     games did you play?

NN:

Well, there was this little close-knit community there, but there weren’t a lot of children. But people came to—our house was sort of the central—because we were close to the school; we walked to school. Kids were bused from all over. It was a big school district, but there weren’t that many kids right in the immediate vicinity. So because the school was close to us, we became early on sort of a meeting place for kids to congregate after school, and there was a little store down the block where everybody went after school.

But we did—you know, it’s sad today when you think kids can’t play out and can’t do things, be free to run around, because we had woods and ponds and Indian burial grounds and places that we could explore. I mean we’d be gone; we never stayed inside unless it was the dead of winter. You know we had a softball court, a softball field in our front yard, and daddy was so upset because grass would never grow, because you could just see where the softball field was. And we had a fairly big piece of property, and it was wooded, and there was an old well. And my grandfather had had a cotton gin, and there were remnants of the cotton gin.

One of my early memories is of when we were growing up, our house was on U.S .[Route] 1. U.S. 1 later moved to what is now Capital Boulevard. But right after the war, I remember, because we were on U.S .1, we would sit out and watch the parade of troops going by. Apparently they would disembark at Norfolk [Virginia] and go down U.S. 1 to Fort Bragg [North Carolina]. I don’t know where they were coming from, but I think they were all headed toward Fort Bragg. But we used to have huge convoys of military, and I developed—I was an odd child growing up. [laughs] I developed some admiration for the military. And this cotton gin piece of equipment that was left over was like a big drum, a huge drum. And it was hidden in some bushes at the deep ends of our yard, and I used to go play tanks. Now other little girls—I never played with dolls in my life, but I was not a tomboy in the sense that I was not athletic. My sisters all played sports and I didn’t. I was sort of the totally non-athletic kid. But I did play war games and I had—My next door neighbor had been a POW [prisoner of war] in Germany, and he had given me a helmet liner, but to me it was a helmet. It was like a helmet, but it was just lighter-weight material. And I used to wear that helmet and go down there and play. [chuckles] That was my weird behavior.

TS:

Did you do it by yourself, or did you—

NN:

Yeah! I always—I played a lot by myself.

TS:

Just like your imagination.

NN:

My two older sisters were close in age, and they had friends in the neighborhood, and they hung out together and they excluded me. So I became a loner early on. And I read a lot. I was a big reader from a very early age. So I went to the library in the summer every week and got books. So I really was kind of a loner. I didn’t—and then my younger sister came along two and a half years later. And I—we’ve talked about that in recent years. I don’t remember us doing much together. She remembers me harassing her a lot.

TS:

Of course.

NN:

But I don’t have many memories of that. But I did—I read a lot. And in the summer, you know, there were lakes. We went to—well, there were pools. There were two pools in Raleigh that we would go to, public pools, and there were lots of lakes. And I had an older aunt who was sort of like a grandmother to me because I never had grandparents; they all had passed away before I was born. But she would come out and take us all to these swimming holes, so we went all over the countryside to lakes in the summer. And then we always went to the beach. That was our summer vacation every year. And we all looked forward to it, never expected to go anywhere else. I mean, we never took trips outside the state. My parents usually went away to the mountains by themselves, but the kids, the family vacation was always the beach.

TS:

Do you remember where you went?

NN:

Oh, yeah. We went to—the early years we went to Carolina Beach [North Carolina], and then we went a couple of years down to South Carolina to a beach north of Myrtle [Beach]. And then we, the rest of the time, remaining years, we went to Kure Beach [North Carolina]. Kure Beach was just this quiet little fishing pier beach where a lot of country people went. My parents had met this woman who had a house that she lived in the basement and she rented the upstairs, and we rented it for like fifteen years, and we loved it. And I went back there a few years ago expecting to find that house, and now it’s like million dollar condos. It’s become a very upscale beach.

TS:

The house is gone?

NN:

Yeah. But we had great summers at the beach and we would always, one of us—at least   one—would bring a friend, so that was nice growing up.

TS:

That sounds like fun.

NN:

Yeah, it was great.

TS:

Well, how about school? What—did you like school as a young girl?

NN:

I liked school, yeah. I got involved in piano very early. I was a piano student from the third grade on. And I played for the chorus. I was bored in school. We had a small school. It was a county school, and I wanted to go to the city school. I wanted to go to Broughton, which was a bigger high school in Raleigh. And my mother didn’t—I skipped a grade. The fourth grade was the year my mom came back to teaching when my sister had started to school. And I had been—Because I had read so much, I was a better reader than anybody else because I read all the time, and they thought I was ready to move to the fifth grade instead of sitting through the fourth grade. And mom bought into it because she was going to start teaching, and she was going to be the fourth grade teacher, so she agreed to let me skip the fourth grade. She later said that was the biggest mistake she ever made in her life, because I was already young for my class. I’d started school when I was five and turned six, you know, immediately, but I was the youngest one even in my class before I skipped a grade. So after I skipped, I was a lot younger. And she claims that it ruined me, because I was trying to be older than I was and got a little uppity.

But school was kind of boring to me. I was a pretty good student, but we weren’t challenged a lot I don’t think. And looking back, I know. But at the time it was just—it was kind of boring, especially in high school. I really did not like high school. Because I came through in an era when it was sports and cheerleaders, and if you weren’t on a sports team or you weren’t a cheerleader, you were not anybody. And today I’m sure there’s—I feel sorry for kids today because there are all kinds of different cliques, but back then that was it pretty much. And it wasn’t that I didn’t like sports, but I just didn’t play, and I wasn’t a cheerleader. So I found that—I mean I just kind of got bored with that part of high school.

TS:

So what was the name of the elementary school you went to?

NN:

It was all the same: Millbrook High School, Millbrook Elementary School. They just tore the old school down a few years ago. It was very sad. People got bricks from the school.

TS:

Was there any particular classes that you did like, though, like a subject that held your interests at all?

NN:

Latin. I loved Latin. And that’s—I remember more about my Latin class. It was very small, and we pretty much taught ourselves, but it was a good group. There were about twelve of us for two years. And I remember more Latin than anything else. The problem back then, which is one reason I’ve been such a proponent of higher pay for teachers and encouraging people to give more respect and get people into the teaching profession—because in my love of history, which I was very much into history from the beginning as a reader—but the history was taught by the coaches. We didn’t have history, trained history people teaching history. And they talked about—I mean and this would drive me nuts. Sociology, economics, European history were all taught by coaches. And that’s come in Monday morning and we’d spend the whole class period talking about Friday night’s football game or something. And that really began—it really bothered me, so I didn’t—I should’ve liked my history classes, but I didn’t. And then English I liked, of course, because I liked literature and reading. I was terrible in science. I hated chemistry and biology. I just couldn’t get into it. And again, I think if I had really good teachers—because now I think I should’ve—I never took physics, and I really should’ve gone back and studied somewhere along the way some of the sciences, because I’m pretty ignorant in science. I can’t help my sixth grade nephew now. I mean it’s like I get confused by certain scientific things. [chuckles]

TS:

I can relate to that.

NN:

It’s very sad. But I mean we got along. I mean everything was fine. I enjoyed school. We had fun. It was a fun, fun time. And I was happy to leave and go off to school.

TS:

Well, when you were growing up and you were going through elementary and high school, did you have a sense of what you wanted to do when you got older?

NN:

Oh, that goes back to my military thing. There was some—I wish I could remember the author. There was an author who wrote a series of books, young people books, back when I was in junior high age, I guess. It’s about a family at the [United States] Naval Academy—or he was a naval—the father was a naval officer. It was about this family. And I loved these books, and I wanted to go to the Naval Academy. This, of course, was before women were allowed. But I thought, “That’s what I want to do. I want to be in the navy. I want to join the navy and see the world.” [chuckles]

But at one point I wanted to be a pediatrician. I loved children. I was a big babysitter. I made all my spending money as a child babysitting. I was very popular because I love kids and I still do, and they liked me. So early on in my mom thought I should be a teacher, “You got to be a teacher.” She wanted so badly for one of us to be a teacher because she loved it. But I thought, “No, I’ll be a pediatrician.” But then I had to take biology and chemistry, so there went that career.

So by then I was into my piano, so I thought, “Well, I’d like to teach at a college somewhere in New England and have a little piano studio.” So I don’t know. I went around. I wanted to travel. That was the main thing. I really wanted to travel. Then I went through a period where I—my oldest sister took me to the UN [United Nations] one summer, and then I decided I wanted to be a translator and work for the UN. But actually, when I went off to UNCG, I was planning to major in political science with a minor in music, because by then I was ready to—I was going to be in the diplomatic corps. I was going to go join the [United States] Foreign Service. [chuckles] I think the urge to travel was propelling me, and in my interest in Europe and the history, and I just wanted to be there, you know?

TS:

How’d you decide on UNCG?

NN:

Economics.

TS:

It was the Woman’s College then, right?

NN:

Yeah. Economics. I wanted to go to Indiana. That was my goal and I’d gotten all the material. But in the reality, we couldn’t afford it, so I really had to go to a state school. And at that time, I don’t know if you were aware, [University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill didn’t allow women the first two years. You had to wait till your junior year. It was all men. So the options pretty much for state schools were State [North Carolina State University] and WC, the Woman’s College. There was a—The Consolidated University was three branches: Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and State. So there weren’t all these sixteen other, sixteen campuses. There were schools, like there was Appalachian State College was—existed, and Western Carolina [University], but they weren’t part of the consolidated system. And my older sister had gone to WC and she had just graduated. She graduated the year—we were four years apart, so.

TS:

She left and then you went in?

NN:

She left and I went. So I had been up here to visit her, and I knew the music department was excellent and the history department, so—

TS:

What do you remember about those years? Did you live in the dorm?

NN:

Yeah.

TS:

How was that? Do you remember what dorm?

NN:

[Thomas] Bailey [Residence Hall]

TS:

Bailey?

NN:

Oh, yeah, I remember. I went up there last year and drove around looking at all those dorms. Yeah, I went up to Bailey. I didn’t really—I had one classmate who was going to—up there, but we weren’t really close friends. But I didn’t really know anybody. But in the summer they had introduced us, you know, to our roommates. And I, because it was a year they had more students than rooms, I was in a three-girl room meant for two. And I had a roommate who was a nursing student, and she didn’t really spend any time with us or in the dorm. And sadly, she was killed right after we finished school in an automobile accident. But my roommate and I, who were just put together by the school, lived together for four years.

TS:

The whole time?

NN:

And we never became really—We weren’t what you’d call close friends, confidants, but we lived together because it just worked out and we got along okay. She was an elementary ed[ucation] major. And it’s amazing, when I look back on it, that we did.

But I got into the music department right away, and then quickly became a music major after my first year when I found out how difficult it was to be a history [major]. And I loved the music—the music department then was fabulous. It was just wonderful, and it became my life. I hated to leave there. I stayed there six years.

TS:

Do you remember some of the professors that you had?

NN:

Oh, yeah. I remember all of them.

TS:

Any in particular you want to talk about?

NN:

Well my piano teacher, who really inspired me, was Inga [Borgstrom] Morgan. And she, unfortunately, I think she passed away a couple of years ago. And she was just wonderful. She’d been there a long time. A beautiful Swedish, very quiet woman. And the other thing, I was very shy, and it was very hard for me because she was very quiet, and we had this very strange relationship where we didn’t talk very much. And I thought about it later. She must have thought I was really a strange person, because she terrified me and I could not articulate anything to her because I was in such awe of her. And so I think—I wish I’d had a chance to talk to her in later years to apologize for my behavior.

But we had a wonderful department. I mean it was—I think the year I came, he had come: Doctor Rigsby, Dean Rigsby, Lee Rigsby. He had come from Florida State [University] to become the dean, and he really built the department. I mean he really—over the six years I was there, it really became a nationally recognized, top-ranked department. And he brought up a couple people from Tallahassee [Florida]. But we had really good instruction.

Richard Cox, who just left, who retired I think three years ago, came in, and all the girls fell in love with him, even though he had a beautiful young wife. He’d not been married that long. But he directed the chorus, as well as teaching voice. And I was an accompanist for a lot of his students, partly with—I mean I did some accompanying for the chorus—the choir, I should say. The choir was a grade above the chorus. But it was a wonderful thing because we had a—He was excellent, and we did great choral works. And we travelled, and we sang, since we were an all female chorus—choir, we sang with male choirs around the area. We sang with the state choir. We would go to Hampton-Sydney [College] in Virginia every year and do concerts with their choir, and they would come down and do concerts with us.

I loved it, and I accompanied a lot, and I worked with—we had an opera thing, an opera—not a department but unit, opera workshop, with a guy who had come in to do opera. And I loved opera, and I loved being the opera accompanist. And that was just—I mean it was just really exciting to work with a group from beginning to end. And then going to the production, I’d be sitting in the audience thinking Oh! Because by then they’d bring in the orchestra and I was just irrelevant. [laughter]

And then I got a degree in piano, which was really a performing degree with a teaching side thing, you know. But my teacher Mrs. Morgan wanted me to stay on and get a master’s, so I did, and taught. I had a teaching assistantship. So I taught some college students and some kids that were in the school, the Curry School. I don’t know, is Curry School still there?

TS:

Yeah, it’s right next door to where I am.

NN:

So I did that. And then I had a job offer to teach at High Point College the next year.

TS:

After you got your master’s?

NN:

Yes.

TS:

Well, before we go there, what—when you were going to UNCG, do you remember the   kind of places that you went to socialize, things that you might have done socially?

NN:

You know, it’s funny looking back on those years. Socially, it was all—after I got into the music department, it was all the music department. I didn’t date all through college. I mean I had a couple of blind dates. I never went—I mean I was never in that world. I didn’t go—my roommate, she dated the one and only guy that she started dating in the eighth grade, and he was at Duke [University], and he would either come over every weekend or she would go over there. And they tried to fix me up, but I was so involved in the music department—it’s odd. That was a whole time of my life where it was just intense. And I felt no regret at not being able to run off to Chapel Hill on the weekends. Because the dorms would pretty much clear out with the girls that were going out to Davidson [College] or Wake Forest [University]. And the music majors, we were all back down in the music department. We just loved what we were doing. And I never felt that I was missing something by not going to fraternity parties on the weekend.

TS:

Well, did you have any favorite hangouts where you’d like to eat or—?

NN:

Well, we hung out down at The Corner. There was a place called The Corner. I think it’s still there. And then there was a restaurant across the street. But see, you can’t imagine what school was like back then. When I tell students today, I mean, it’s like they can’t believe it. That school was so strict. It was unbelievable how silly the rules were. We couldn’t wear pants. We were a girls’ school, and on cold days we couldn’t wear pants. We had to wear skirts. We could not drink within thirty miles of the campus. It was silly. I got caught once. We went to the—we used to go to the airport. And a bunch of us—it was during exams—we had a cab driver in Greensboro that we knew who was just a nice guy, so he took us out to the airport one night and stopped and got us a bottle of Chianti. I’ll never forget that. So we figured nobody would find us at the airport, and we were sitting out there having our whatever, spaghetti dinner, and drinking our Chianti, and this very stern woman walked over, and she said, “Are you young ladies students at the Woman’s College?”

And we said, “Yes.”

She said, “You have two choices. You can either get rid of that wine immediately, or you can be reported to the judicial board.” [laughs]

I mean, that’s how strict it was. Well, our cab driver took the wine and we drank it in the cab on the way back, which was much worse because we had to drink it pretty fast. It was one of those big—

TS:

Oh, yeah.

NN:

But no, we were very—it was very strict rules.

TS:

Did you, at that time—did the rules bother you at that time, or is it in retrospect, looking back?

NN:

The clothing, the dress rules did. I thought they were so absurd. You know, like on a beautiful spring day, we had sun courts someplace, and of course all the girls wanted to go sunbathing. And we would wear—we would have to wear our gym suits or whatever we wore—we had those silly old gym suits—under our raincoats. And of course, it’s not air conditioning in many of the buildings, and we’d sit in there and swelter, because we couldn’t wear shorts or anything, cut-offs, to classes.

And that was another silly thing. The buildings weren’t air conditioned. The music building was hot. And the practice rooms were all on the third floor, and you’d go up there—Of course, we’d take off all of our clothes when we got to the third floor! But you know, if you wanted to go practice at night, which I did most nights after I’d go eat dinner, and it was ninety degrees, you still had to wear your skirt to walk across campus to go to the music building. It was absurd.

TS:

Someone was telling me about the rules of—that when the dorms closed for the evening, that you couldn’t—you know, there was—you couldn’t go through the door after a certain hour, and you’d have to report yourself if you violated that. If you were going at night to the music department, was there a conflict of practicing with coming and going in the dorms or anything for a curfew?

NN:

You had a curfew, absolutely. We had curfews every night, even on weekends. And there were no men allowed in the dorms except in the parlors where the house mothers kept an eye on them. The freshman year was the weird thing. And I had a real hard time adjusting, actually, freshman year, because I’d never studied. My high school—I mean, I made As in high school and I never studied, and that tells you what kind of high school I went to. But when I got to college, it was very difficult for me because I’d never been taught how to study. And English was shocking to me. I made a D on the—this shouldn’t be on the transcript—but I made a D on English my freshman year. And I’ll never forget my instructor. She was this young, really attractive New Yorker who’d just graduated from Barnard [College]. I think she was like twenty-four. And she was real smart and real tough, and she just thought we were a bunch of country bumpkins. And there were a lot of smart women who came to UNCG—or WC. And I just felt out of my element my freshman year, because I just couldn’t keep up with, you know, the critical thinking. I’d never been taught any of this stuff. And how to read and—It was very, very difficult.

But we had closed study freshman year. You had to be in the dorm at 7:00 pm, and from 7:00 to 10:00 you could not leave, and you couldn’t go from room to room. You had to stay in your room. You couldn’t go into another room and study, as I recall. And it was horrible. And I gained twenty pounds my first six weeks because everybody would go down and get whatever—you’d go to the snack machine, and I’d get chocolate. And I just got punchy and my face broke out. And that’s when I started smoking. One of my friends said, “You shouldn’t eat all that candy.”

And I said, “Well, I’m just nervous when I’m reading, you know.”

And she said, “Well, you should smoke. Any time you want a candy, have a cigarette instead.” [chuckles]

I remind her of that now. She’s one of those rabid anti-smoking people. And every time I see her, I remind her that she’s the one who got me to start. [laughter]

But that was very difficult, because I didn’t know how to study. In fact, a few weeks ago I got out my old [R.R.] Palmer history book [A History of the Modern World], because my history was so difficult and I loved history. But I had a really difficult teacher. I had been told by my elder sister that he was really good, because she had had him. But she said, “People don’t like him because he’s very tough.” And at registration freshman year, we were out in the gym where you went around and registered for classes, and I walked up to this table and I was a scared little freshman. I didn’t know anything. And I walked up to this man and I said, “I’d like Dr. [John Herbert] Beeler for history.”

And he looked up at me and he said, “What? Are you out of your mind? What did you just say?”

And I said “I would like Dr. Beeler.”

And he was Dr. Beeler. And apparently nobody ever in history had ever requested him. They were all told to avoid him. So you’d think that would’ve given me some points, but it didn’t. [laughter] Oh, he was tough. He was a military historian, and he loved talking about military battles. But it was just really difficult for me. But I found my book the other day because I was looking for something and I was watching The Tudors—somebody had gotten the tapes for the first series of The Tudors—and I’d forgotten the succession of these British kings and stuff. I was getting confused. So I went looking for my history book, and I don’t think I had picked up that book in forty years. It was just really interesting to see what I had written in the margins, and I’d even torn pages in a state of fury, I think. [laughter]

TS:

Well, that’s interesting, the different kind of culture that you went into, from having a lot more freedom growing up and running around and playing with tanks. And then you have, you know, you have a more—

NN:

But you know one part of that—I talk to people today whose kids are going off to college and how permissive it is. And I remember when my next door neighbor in Arlington [Virginia], her daughter who was very shy and very bookish young lady—she never had a date as far as I know—she was very quiet, and she went to UVa [University of Virginia], which is a real party school. And the culture shock to her that first year was really unsettling. She had a very tough time because there were no restrictions. So somehow I think there needs to be a little happy medium, but I would never want to suggest anybody go back to where we were. But I think eighteen-year-olds still need a bit of direction. But we had an overwhelming amount of direction. [chuckles]

TS:

So you finished your master’s and you were offered a job, where did you say?

NN:

High Point.

TS:

High Point High School?

NN:

College.

TS:

College?

NN:

Yeah, I worked with a singer who taught at High Point, and he later came back to UNCG and just retired last, two years ago, Charles Lynam. And Charles got me really to go over there. It was a small department. It was a fine arts department. And there was—I was the only piano teacher. There was one piano teacher, one voice teacher, one drama teacher, one painting. I mean it was a small, but it was a lovely group of people. I just adored the faculty group. But I hated teaching, especially in that environment, because I’d come out of a very top ranked music department, and [at] High Point, there were no music majors, because there was no music department. There were just people who wanted to take piano because it was an easy one hour credit. I had a football player who was a senior the year I taught there, and somebody had told him he should sign up for piano because they had a new young piano teacher. And I had to take him. I couldn’t turn him down. So that turned me off. That turned me against teaching for sure. It was not a good year for that.

TS:

So how long did you stay there?

NN:

One year.

TS:

Then what happened?

NN:

That’s when I went off to join [U.S. Army] Special Services.

TS:

Well, talk about that. How did special services—now you wanted to go in the navy before. What happened to that?

NN:

Right. Well, that just sort of went away. There were a couple of things. I was in college during the Kennedy years.

TS:

Right.

NN:

And went out to the airport and saw him when he was campaigning in ’60 and that was exciting, and we were all big [President John F.] Kennedy fans. And he was assassinated when I was in graduate school.

TS:

Do you remember that day?

NN:

Oh, gosh, vividly. I remember every minute of it.

TS:

Talk about that.

NN:

I was teaching. That was my first—I had started the graduate program, and I was teaching—actually, I was teaching the chancellor’s son that afternoon. I started teaching at about three o’clock and I taught, usually, till six. And I was living with my sister and her college roommate out in western Greensboro because they both worked in town. And Joyce, the roommate, was going to pick me up, and she usually did after work. I guess I finished teaching at 5:30. And I’ll never forget, because I’d been upstairs in the music department on the third floor all afternoon, and I came down to the lounge—we had one lounge with a TV—and everybody who was still around was in the lounge. And it was pouring rain—I remember this—and I had my raincoat and I started out.

And I said, “What’s going on? What are you guys watching?”

And they said, “The president’s been shot.”

And I said “President [William Clyde] Friday!”

Bill Friday was the president of the university. I mean that was the first thing that popped in my head, “President Friday?”

And they said, “No! Where have you been? President Kennedy!”

Well, I just went into like a state of shock. And Joyce picked me up and we went directly to the apartment. My sister had come to Raleigh for the weekend, and so Joyce and I sat in front of the TV all weekend, except on Sunday afternoon, the choir did a concert in Elliot Hall. We did a—not a concert. There was a service, sort of memorial service, and we sang. But other than that, we sat in the bed and watched TV all afternoon, all day and night, as everybody did that weekend, I think. And my sister came in on Sunday night and she threw us out of the bedroom. We were in her bedroom because she had a TV. And she was furious that we had sat there, and our food was all over the bed and the floor. I mean we just had done nothing. She thought we were sick. She didn’t seem as caught up in all that. But no, I remember that weekend very well.

But Kennedy inspired so many people to do public service, you know. So after that I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll join the Peace Corps.” And I’d inquired. I’d looked at the Peace Corps. The countries for which I was eligible with my background were Nigeria and the Philippines, and I wasn’t really interested. I didn’t think [enough of?] either one of those.

TS:

How was it that they determined those were the—

NN:

I don’t know how they did that, but that, when I had done all the initial paperwork and got back the opportunities where they were music types of opportunities, they were—But when I was in graduate school, our little opera workshop was selected to go on a tour of the southern Caribbean, USO [United Service Organization] tour, part of the USO.

TS:

Oh, why don’t you talk about that for a little bit.

NN:

That was really exciting. There were ten of us that went down. It was a six-week trip. It was a fabulous trip. And we went—I think we went first to Panama, and that’s where I met this woman who was with [U.S.] Air Force Special Services. But she was sort of our guide through Panama because we were there, I believe, for ten days. We did all the bases in Panama. And we had a little opera show, a little variety show with opera, which didn’t go over well. In fact, we had to be very adaptable. We had to change it around a lot depending on our audiences. We did like—we did [Gian Carlo] Menotti, The Telephone, which is a kind of fun little opera. What else did we do? Anyway, but we had a very talented group of people who were very adaptable. We had a young woman who was a guitarist and a composer who became quite a successful music writer out in Nashville.

But I was very interested. Of course, they were all military bases and I was getting a little taste of military life. And of course, we saw a good side of it, because we stayed in officer’s billets and BOQs [bachelor officers’ quarters] or whatever, and we were entertained by the brass. In Panama we were invited to the president’s—that was due in fact to a UNCG student whose father was in the cabinet—we got invited to dinner at the president’s palace in Panama, so it was pretty nice.

TS:

What was that like?

NN:

It was great. Really elegant, and he was very nice. We went to Puerto Rico, and we actually had a week off in the middle of our tour in Puerto Rico [phone rings]. And the best part was ten days in Cuba. We were at Guantanamo Bay.

TS:

I have to pause it for that. [phone rings]

[Recording paused]

TS:

Back on here. Okay, Nancy. You were talking about in Puerto Rico and then you said the best part—

NN:

The best part was at Guantanamo Bay. We were down there just after [Prime Minister Fidel] Castro had cut off the water to Guantanamo. When was I there? In ’65. He cut off the water in ’64, and they had—that was the first desalinization plan going on and they were making their own water. They’d sent all the dependents home because the tensions had gotten high again.

So we were in our element. There were six girls and four men in our group. And you can imagine six girls, we land in Guantanamo with ten thousand men whose—the women have all gone home [laughs] and we were—we travelled around to different little sections of the base, but we were mainly entertained by the Seabees [Construction Battalions]. I had never—I didn’t even know that much about the Seabees, but we had the best time with those guys. I mean they had this beautiful BOQ, bachelor officers’ quarters, up on a hill with bougainvillea everywhere. And Cuba was so pretty because the water, naturally, down in the Caribbean is blue. But there was just the whitewashed walls of the houses and buildings, and then these red, bright red flowers everywhere. And they had this big swimming pool outside their BOQ. And they entertained us for ten days. And I—we ate like kings. I mean we ate steak, and I don’t even like steak, but they fed us. We had a great time.

And then the other exciting part was the end of our trip, we went to Grand Turk [Turks and Caicos Islands] which is—was sort of an unknown island at the time. Here and now it’s some big resort built down there. But at the time there was a navy tracking station at one end, and there was a NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] satellite tracking at the other end, and the middle were these Haitians, this small Haitian community. But it was not a big island, but these poor navy guys were stuck out there for months on end. So they decided we would make a stop there on our way back. We’d been gone six weeks. And we got there and we did our show. We were supposed to leave the next day, and the plane didn’t come, because subsequently to our arriving there, there was a rebellion. I forget what happened in the Dominican Republic. There was an uprising and the military had to skirmish down—whatever.

The plane that was supposed to pick us up had been diverted to the Dominican Republic, and we were stuck for three days in Grand Turk with nothing to do but just lie on the beach. I loved it. My best friend in this group, Nanette, and I had the most fun. Two of the women almost went berserk. We thought we were going to have to medivac them out to a mental institution, because they put us in a small BOQ with two—wait a minute, there were ten girls because I remember there were five in one room—there were sixteen in our group, ten women and six men. There were five in one room and five in another room and one bathroom in between. And the water was turned on twice in a day, and we had to do everything in the hour that the water was on.

TS:

Pretty quick for ten women.

NN:

Yeah, until one of the women decided to go do her laundry and wash her hair in our allotted hour, so she was almost eliminated. [laughter] But I thought, “Oh, gosh. This will be great! They can leave us down here for weeks. I’d be happy!” But they finally came and got us. But that was—it was just ironic that here we were at the end of our trip and then this was—there was some kind of—

TS:

Did you know that there was this rebellion going on?

NN:

We had no idea.

TS:

You just knew that the plane wasn’t—

NN:

No, we couldn’t figure it out. They weren’t telling us anything. So we weren’t—

TS:

It’s probably just as well.

NN:

Yeah. I can’t remember exactly.

TS:

You remember what year that was?

NN:

Yeah, it was April of ’65.

TS:

April of ’65. Well, that sounds like a lot of fun.

NN:

That was. Yeah, it was great. But that just whetted my desire to travel and see more, because that was the first time I’d been out of the country. I’d never been anywhere.

TS:

So then how later did you hook up with the [U.S.] Army Special Services?

NN:

Well, the next year. I mean, I did that one year at High Point and I really didn’t like it. And I knew I didn’t want to teach. I had a guy—I was dating a guy at the time who was at navy flight training in Pensacola [Florida], and he wanted to get married. And I thought, “No, I’m too young. I don’t want to be a navy widow,” because I knew he would be going off to Vietnam. So I knew I had to get out of there, so I thought “well, I need to get to Germany,” because—actually, after graduate school, I had gotten so into accompanying. That’s what I wanted to do as a career then, I thought. But the only—the main opportunity, not the only, to make a living was to go to New York, and I just didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t, I just couldn’t afford. Of course, people go to New York with no money, but I wasn’t quite that adventurous. And the other place to go to study accompanying was Germany. And I’d always wanted to go to Germany. I had this real interest in Germany. So I started looking around for jobs that would get me to Germany.

So I was in [Washington] D.C. one weekend. My sister worked for the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], and she was living in D.C., so I was up there one weekend. And we were walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, and I saw this big sign “USO.” Their headquarters used to be down near the Capitol. So I said, “I’m going to stop there and see,” because I thought the woman—I misunderstood that woman in Panama. In my mind she was USO. So I went in there and talked to this woman and told her what I was interested in, and she said, “Oh, well, you’re interested in Army Special Services,” and she gave the number at the Pentagon, Army Special Services. Well, that didn’t ring any bells with me because somehow I had not made the connection with this air force woman.

So I called—or wrote them or called them; I forget how I contacted them initially. And we went back and forth. This was in the spring of ’66. And so I applied, I did all the forms. It was a very strenuous kind of formal—you had to be a college graduate. They didn’t accept any people that weren’t. So they called me in May to tell me I’d been accepted to go to Germany. I was elated. I was so excited. And then a few weeks later—I don’t know the timing of this, I’d have to go back and look it up—but [French President Charles] de Gaulle kicked all—that’s when de Gaulle pulled out of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], in the spring of ’66. And so all the Americans—and there were a lot of American bases, you know, in France—so all the American civilians that were working for the military or the government in France had to be relocated. So it dried up any opportunity for new hires in Germany.

So I’ll never forget this. I got a call one day and it was—I’ll never forget, it was at 7:00am in the morning because I was just up, and D.C. had gone on daylight savings but Greensboro wasn’t, so it was eight o’clock, I guess, in Washington. And this very severe woman called me and she said—she’s the one that told me this, that—she goes into this thing about no jobs.

And she said, “However, we have an opening in Korea that you’re eligible for right away, but we need to know immediately because we have a waiting list for Korea. And would you be interested in Korea?”

And I thought “Korea, Korea. Korea’s where they had a war. That’s far away.” It just—I said, “Well, I don’t know. I have to think of it.”

And she said, “I can’t. We don’t have much time. I can give you twenty-four hours.”

And I never forget, she did give me twenty-four hours. She said she’d call me the next morning. And I spent the next twenty-four hours on the phone with everybody I knew trying to help me make a decision. And I remember very well my family just went ballistic.

“No, no, no, no. You cannot go to Korea. Absolutely not, that is ridiculous.”

My friends: “No.”

My boyfriend: “Are you out of your mind?”

Two men who I admired and respected said, “It’ll be the best opportunity of your life. Do it.”

One was a Frenchman, Daniel Ericourt, who taught piano and who I admired a lot. And I talked to Daniel and he said, “Absolutely you should do it.”

And I said, “But it’ll be getting me off track. I won’t be doing music.”

“You can always go back. You can keep it up,” whatever.

So the next morning when the lady called I told her I would do it.

TS:

Who was the other person that you said?

NN:

It was a British friend that I had met through my sister, an older British man who was sort of my role model for several years. But none of my friends supported—and my family, oh, my aunts and uncles just like thought I was off to the end of, you know, I would never return. [laughs]

TS:

But you went anyhow.

NN:

I did. And that—and it was a little frightening, because I really didn’t know much about Korea. I mean I knew very little. I knew about the war had just ended. Not just, but I knew about the war in Korea. My sister had a friend at State who was Korean, and he put me in touch with his parents. But it was kind of scary. It was a big trip for somebody that’d never been anywhere. It’s not like today where people just pick up and travel and kids travel and everybody goes all over the world. Back then it was much harder.

TS:

So you had—Was it like a contract that you had with the—it was the Defense Department [U.S. Department of Defense], right?

NN:

Yeah, right. With Korea you only had a one year contract. They only kept—You could re-up.       I mean, you could redo your contract, but they only required you to stay one year.

TS:

So how did it go for you getting to Korea? Do you remember the trip?

NN:

Yes, very. I remember it very well. I mean, I remember all these things. I can’t remember what I did yesterday. [laughter] I remember the trip very well. I got my orders for the end of July, and I forget when the strike started, but there was a major American national air launch strike where every carrier in the U.S. went on strike at the same time in July of ’66. And so we had gone back and forth about I could take a train up to Canada and get from Toronto. I could fly from Toronto to Seattle, but I had to report to Seattle on July 31st, I believe it was. Or I could take a train. So I decided to take a train, and I could only get a sleeper from D.C. to Chicago. I had to change stations in Chicago. I’ll never forget that. It was the hottest day of the year. It was 105 [degrees]. But then I had to sit up from Chicago to Seattle. But it was exciting for me. I mean, I’d never, like I said, I’d never been anywhere. And I was very lucky in Chicago. A man got on the plane—on the train, and it was very crowded because there were no planes flying, and it was during the middle of Vietnam. So I never got to the dining car once, the whole time I was on the train, because it was too crowded. But we sat up, and my seatmate was a colonel who was in Vietnam and had been back to the Pentagon. So he talked to me for two days about Vietnam and what was going on over there, so that was very interesting.

TS:

Do you remember what he told you about it?

NN:

He—oh, he was a firm believer in what we were doing there. And I wasn’t sure at that point because I hadn’t gotten involved with Vietnam. But he believed in the pacification, that we would get in there and get into the minds and the hearts. It was all the slogans of the period of how important it was for the Americans to stay and convince the people that we were doing what was right for them. But he was a real gung-ho military sort of guy. And I ran into him in Germany, it was so ironic, three years later on the day. I’ll never forget because that struck me as so odd. The same day that I had met him on the train from Chicago I ran into him in the officer’s club in Germany.

TS:

How about that.

NN:

Yeah, it was odd. But anyway, the bizarre thing was—and he had been very helpful all the way—my train arrived—I remember all of this. I didn’t even have to go look this up. My train arrived in Seattle on Saturday morning, and I had orders, military orders—which I did find last night when I was finding these papers—to report to Sea-Tac [Seattle-Tacoma International Airport], at 3:00am Sunday morning for a flight at the Northwest counter where my passport and my papers would be waiting. So I had booked a motel or hotel or something near the airport, just because I hadn’t slept on the train and I had all this time. So I had checked into this hotel. I think I’d eaten a good meal and gone to bed, and set my alarm for something like midnight to get up, and called a cab to go to the airport. Well, I get to Sea-Tac Airport at like two o’clock in the morning, there’s nobody in there, nobody. I mean it’s like a ghost town. There were one or two people. An Air Canada flight came in, and some guy who was on some TV show called The Eleventh Hour, I’ll never forget that show, he walked through the terminal. So I go up to this drowsy looking guy at the Northwest counter, and he said, “Oh, that flight’s been cancelled.”

I said, “What do you mean that flight’s been cancelled?”

He said, “That flight was cancelled.”

And he couldn’t care less that I was this little bumpkin from North Carolina who had no clue what I was supposed to do next. I was terrified out of my mind. I mean, it was like I was frozen. And I said, “What can I do?”

And he said, “If I were you, I’d find myself somewhere to go—” whatever. And he said, “Call Fort Lewis [Washington] in the morning.” And he gave me a number to call.

So I go out and there’s a Hyatt truck out front, a Hyatt shuttle. And I said, “Are you going back to a Hyatt somewhere?” So I had to go get another hotel. And I definitely didn’t want to sleep, so I wrote letters, I think. And then when it got to a reasonable hour—Well, I guess, pretty much, after I got back to the hotel, I called my mother, which was a mistake, a big mistake.

She starts crying, “You come home. I’ll send you the money. You get on the next train and you just come right back. I knew that was a mistake!” She went on and on. [laughs] And the more she went on about why I should come home, the more I realized why I should stay and pursue my westward direction.

But it was a hard couple hours because I was terrified. I really didn’t know what to do. And so I finally was able to get somebody at Fort Lewis. And I was the most non-assuming person; I mean I just never stood up for myself. I was totally non-assertive, and I never spoke out or spoke up. But I—that day I was panicked, and I called them. I really chewed these people out, and I’d never chewed anybody out in my entire life. But I figured I’ve got to take control of this situation. So they said they would put me—that I would get on a flight that night, to get back out to Sea-Tac at 8:30 or something that night. I would get out on a flight to Tokyo.

So I showed up that night, and sure enough it was a charter with all military, and I was terrified, and I sat in the middle seat. Well, first we flew to Anchorage [Alaska] and had a little while out to get out in Anchorage. But then we flew from Anchorage to Japan, and it was a long flight, and I sat in the middle seat between two big guys who went to sleep, and I sat there all night like this, and never got up and went to the bathroom or anything because I was so scared. Then we land in Tokyo in the middle of the night, and there was some military person that met the plane and said, “You’re going to be taken over to the Hilton, and I’m going to read off names and you—.” They were going to share, you know, like two people to a room, and they were reading last names. And I was too scared to even speak up, “I’m a—I’m a girl!” But anyway, fortunately, this major, who had flown with me, when they said Ferrell, Jones or whatever, he said, “Excuse me, but Ferrell is a female and think she’ll probably prefer—.” I was the only female on this flight.

TS:

Oh, okay.

NN:

And I was terrified.

TS:

Were you terrified of the flying part?

NN:

I was terrified of everything. Not the flying so much. No, just of where I was going and I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got there. It was just a scary, new experience.

TS:

Had no one—Did you not have a representative that met you at the airport or anything like that to talk to you?

NN:

Nobody between Raleigh and Korea.

TS:

Really?

NN:

No.

TS:

So you did basically just go out—

NN:

Yeah, and it’s funny, there had been—

TS:

It’s interesting you didn’t have a representative.

NN:

Well, I was having contact back and forth with the Special Services people, and there were three of us that were coming at the same time, and a young woman from Arlington, and Judy was from Pennsylvania. And it’s too bad they didn’t put the three of us together, because we missed each other by minutes or hours or whatever. And Melinda had gone up to Canada and flown. And the other one, Judy, I think, had taken a train, but had taken it like the morning before I had. She had just gotten out ahead of me or was behind me. No, she was behind me. Melinda got there first. But they didn’t put us together, which would’ve been much more helpful, if we had made that trip together. Because when we got to Tokyo, it was so exciting for me to be—I mean to land at that airport and see all the rising suns, and here I was this World War II buff. I’d been a big history/World War II person. And I still couldn’t get used to the fact that I was in Tokyo and all these little Japanese people running around. Then we checked into the Hilton. And so this guy, this major, decided we should go out and kobe beef, which was kind of fun.

TS:

How was it?

NN:

Oh, it was fabulous. And I remember an impression was—it was an American family with two children eating at a restaurant, and they were all eating with chopsticks, and I thought, “Oh, gosh. I wonder if I’ll ever learn to eat with chopsticks,” because it seems such a foreign thing. It was a small world I had left. I mean very small. I didn’t even watch television, and even television in those days wasn’t the same as today. And of course, there was not internet or anything, so our world was so much smaller. We just didn’t know what was going on out there.

But I finally—I had a couple of other mishaps on the way. When we landed—because we were from Japan—from Tokyo to Seoul we were a commercial plane. I was on a commercial flight but there were a lot of military. But again, I was so shy and so non—I couldn’t speak up for myself. When we landed in Seoul—and I knew nothing about anything, except I was told when I got to the airport to call this number and somebody would come pick me up—when we landed at Seoul, a GI gets on the airplane and says, “Would all military come with me.” Now, wouldn’t you think that I would either have gone with him or asked a question? I’m sitting there like, “I wonder what he means.” I thought he was probably taking them all off to get a shot, and I could just see—but I cannot believe I was so stupid that I sat there. So all the military gets up and gets off the plane while I sit there with all these Koreans.

So then we exit the plane and we’re in the commercial main terminal of the Kimpo Airport, and I go over to baggage. Of course, my baggage wasn’t there because it went off with all the military to the military terminal. And I felt so stupid, but about an hour it took me to figure out. And I met some Korean in the meantime who helped me, but then I found a GI, an MP [military police] who said, “No, you should’ve gone with the military because that’s where your luggage is.” So he put me in his jeep and took me over to the military—but it was so silly that I sat there for all that time not knowing what to do and then nobody to ask.

TS:

I don’t know that I would’ve done any different.

NN:

But you learned—what was so good for me, it threw me. I mean it just tossed me in the middle, and I’m sure this happens to people even today. But having had no experience in anything on my own ever, that’s the way you learn. It’s like throwing a kid or a puppy into the water. You swim.

But the other impression of that arrival day was it was August first, I guess. I’ve lost a day—whatever, August first or second. And it was a hundred degrees I know when I landed, and a hundred degree humidity, and the smell of the country just knocked me out at that time.

TS:

How would you describe the smell?

NN:

It’s hard to describe. I can still conger it up. It was the heat out of the paddies, but they were still using human waste for manure. I mean it was—honey pots they called them. The guys, they were—this was a primitive country still, Korea in 1966. I mean they had the A-frames. The men that would go along with those big A things on their back where they would carry tons and tons of stuff it would seem like, these little frail men with all this equipment. But they would carry what they called the honey buckets—and I have one, a little memento honey bucket—on these poles. They were balanced out on either end of the pole, and they’d be on the bike going out to the fields, or coming and going out from the fields. And then there’s that kimchi, the rotten cabbage that everyone in Korea eats. [cell phone rings]

[recording paused]

TS:

Okay, so you were talking about the smell of kimchi—

NN:

Oh, yeah.

TS:

—as part of the smell of Korea.

NN:

It was very overpowering. I think part of it was because the heat, the humidity, and the odors. Because it was a lot—I mean they—the oxen were on the highway. They had oxen cart and pigs. There was a lot of more primitive, especially in the transportation area, than I expected. The garlic. Just a heavy smell, sensation.

But for me, it was just—and I remember this sensation that I could feel the earth moving under me for almost a week. I didn’t feel like I had my bearings. Back when Henry Kissinger was doing all that shuttle diplomacy I thought, “How can people do that? Go back and forth?” Because I attributed it to the distance I had travelled, you know, halfway around the world, that it took me that long to get my bearings. I really had a hard time. But I think part of it was the excitement of being there and the lack of sleep and all the long trip that I had across the country attributed to my feeling of unsettledness. But it really did. I walked around for a couple of days just like I wasn’t really sturdy.

But they took us to Seoul. Eventually somebody came and met me, this woman from the main office in Seoul. And they took us into Seoul where I met these other girls who had travelled independently as well. So we had I think it was five days in Seoul for orientation, which was wonderful. The woman that had it—there were two women in Seoul that were in charge, and the one, she was very proper and stern, and she had been—well, they were all World War II veterans. They had all worked in Germany under General [Dwight] Eisenhower. But then there was this lovely woman. She was very big and she lived in this great apartment in this hotel in downtown Seoul, and she loved the girls, and she was sort of our—she was the go-between. She was the one who sort of took—mother-henned to all the girls that came over. Millie Daniels, I just loved her. But we had this wonderful several days in Seoul because we were staying on the base there and it was full and the officers’ club, and you know, it was just sort of heady kind of adventure. That was like the movies. Oh this is great, you know. Go out dancing at night.

Then they took us to our assigned post. And I think I was very lucky. I think I got the best assignment in Korea. I got a—it was halfway between Seoul and Inchon, going west out of Seoul, and very close to—well, sort of close to the airport. And it was a fairly good-sized post, but it was a hospital was the main thing there, an evacuation hospital. And then it was the replacement depot for—every GI that came into Korea went there first to get assigned, so they had—like they’d be there for a couple of days getting oriented, and so it was a big turnover of people. The main thing was the hospital post. So there were a lot of nurses there, female, and there was a fairly active Red Cross battalion, and the service club. So we had two BOQs for women, so we had I would say twenty-five [to] thirty women at least. Probably more, because I’m not sure I knew all the nurses.

TS:

Between the Red Cross and nurses.

NN:

And Special Services.

TS:

Do you remember the name of the place that you were at?

NN:

The post? ASCOM [Army Support Command], A-S-C-O-M. That was an acronym.

TS:

I could look it up.

NN:

But that was—In fact, I asked—well, my stepson was in—did two Korea duties this past decade, and he doesn’t remember that it was still there. He didn’t think it was still there. And the hospital probably wouldn’t have been there, because the hospital was mainly for—Well, no, it wasn’t. It was the main hospital outside of Seoul, but it was—we got a lot of Vietnam injuries that didn’t get sent back to the States, and we got a lot of ROK, the Republic of Korea army guys who got—well, there were skirmishes up on the DMZ [demilitarized zone] periodically. But no, ASCOM City was how it was referred to, even though the village was called Bupyeong. I don’t know how to spell Bupyeong.

TS:

It’s okay. It’s all right.

NN:

The hospital was the 121st, the 121st [Medical] Evacuation Hospital, fully staffed hospital. And so this is my first real introduction to the military, even though I had admired it from afar and read all this stuff and, you know, thought I knew a lot about it. And this was during Vietnam when there was a draft, so all kinds of people got drafted. Well, I—and this was not a base where there was any military activity, so I never saw anybody with a gun or any kind of weapon. I never saw a tank on the post. It was doctors and psychiatrists and GIs who had—one of my best little GI friends was a—had a master’s from NYU [New York University] in psychology, and he was a private. So the caliber of the GIs was very—they weren’t—I didn’t get the infantry grunts, you know, the—so I got this high IQ level bunch of—so that was my introduction to the army [chuckles]. And the doctors—

And then my favorite group were the pilots, the medevac [medical evacuation] pilots. They had their own little—you went outside the main gate and drove through the village, and then they had their own little compound where the helicopters were kept. And that was our party place. We used to love to go over there, parties every weekend. But it was a small group of officers in the core group there, and we were all very—it was very friendly—The commanding general was wonderful—I mean the commanding colonel. We didn’t have a general commander. And I loved it. And I had—and then my boss, the woman that was the head of the service club when I went there, she was my role model and is probably the most influential person in my—affected my life as much as anybody ever.

TS:

What’s her name?

NN:

Her name was—See, this is where I’m—

TS:

As soon as I ask you, of course.

NN:

See, this is my frightening thing of today. Mary Kay Jenson. How could I ever forget? I didn’t forget, it just didn’t come to me. She was wonderful. I’ll show you a picture of me and Mary Kay on our birth—they gave us a big birthday party in September. I arrived in August, and my birthday and her birthday were both two days apart in September, so they surprised us, our Korean staff. But she was this tall, blonde, California girl, and she’d been there four years and they loved her, everybody, and she was known all over Korea and throughout Special Services. She was like the top club director in Korea. But she really motivated me and got me off my little shy, “I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” She really did influence me, pushed me.

TS:

What—could you describe for people who aren’t familiar with what the service clubs did and Army Special Services, what—could you describe perhaps a typical day for you in Korea?

NN:

The army service club, at the time, was a facility for enlisted men, and the goal was to give them sort of a good, wholesome environment, recreation center, to keep them off the streets and keep them from drinking at the EM [enlisted men?] club, which was the party club. We were open 365 days a year, and what we did—the clubs were all staffed by a club director, a program director, and a recreation specialist. I was the program director. We planned a program, a monthly program of activities all day and night. We were open until nine or ten o’clock every night. I can’t remember. Nine o’clock. Anyway, most days we didn’t open till one. We opened on the weekend in the morning.

But we planned activities so they had an option. Plus we had a huge pool room with lots of pool tables. We had ping pong room, and we had musical instruments so they could check out musical instruments. And we had the game room, you know, where they could play chess or checkers or bridge or whatever. But we planned a program every night of the year, 365 programs, evening entertainment. And that was difficult. And we produced a monthly calendar that we distributed on post.

But in Korea I had a staff. We had a staff. There were twenty-eight Koreans, which was quite—I learned later—unique in the system. We had a full-time cook who was wonderful, who baked sweet rolls and concoctions every morning. And we had—one night a month, we’d have international food night where he would prepare food, and we’d have these different stations set up around the main room where we would have, you know, Italian food at one, and French food at another, and Thai food here. And he cooked it all. And then he had a little staff. And we had full time artist who made signs. So my job was really not difficult. But you had to be there, and you had to be nice to the GIs and keep them, you know, and talk to them.

TS:

What kind of activities would you plan?

NN:

And we had—Well, we had floor shows. We would bring in Korean floor shows. And then we had touring shows from the States, not often, but probably every other month. But we had bingo. That was a popular thing with the GIs. Every Saturday night we had bingo. And we would have tournaments, you know, Pinochle tournaments. The guys liked to play Pinochle. We would have pool tournaments. I devised this one activity that I had to get post command support for: a lock-in, an all-night pool tournament that they could come—because normally the club closed at I guess 11:00[p.m.] on weekends. But they had to get their CO’s [commanding officer] permission, a signed slip like a little kid, so that they could stay all night. And then we locked the doors, and we had military people there to help us. They played pool all night, and that was a big hit. But we had language lessons. We would have travel, travelogue stuff. We’d have people come in and do little talks. We had Korean people come in and talk. We would have arts and crafts. But you had to do something. I probably have a program somewhere of a monthly—

TS:

That’d be neat to see.

NN:

But that’s what we had to do. I mean it was—Then we would do things like every month we had the coffee call for the officers, an officer’s coffee call in the morning when the club wasn’t open to the GIs, and we would have them in and have coffee.

But we worked a lot. And the way we did the schedules, everybody had to work weekends, but the way it was working with three people, everybody got one weekend off a month. So that was nice. It gave you a chance to get away if you wanted to. But other than that, you had to work the remaining weekends. And holidays everybody had to work, so I never got to take a holiday off. But that was okay.

That Christmas there was kind of exciting, because I had worked—Mary Kay had gone to Vietnam in November and they made me club director—actually, acting because I wasn’t ranking. I didn’t have the grade yet. But they wanted me to stay, so they made me acting club director. And the Christmas was very exciting, because there was so much going on. And we had a USO tour coming in on Christmas Eve from Kansas State [University]. I’ll never forget that. And we had a huge group of guys, because of a troop plane had just come in and unloaded a bunch of guys and they hadn’t been assigned out yet, so we had a full house. And I remember I had worked all morning and all day, and I’d taken off just to go get to my hair done to come back for Christmas Eve night. And when I got back, somebody said, “You better go back in the kitchen. The Koreans are drunk.” And they had made a big pot, a big tub of supposed to be punch for the evening, and somebody had brought in a bottle of gin. And several of the Koreas were just, whew, flipping around. And then I was told that the girls, the USO girls, there were a couple of them crying because they were homesick. They were away from home on Christmas, and I had to go back and give them a stern talking to.

TS:

How was that?

NN:

It was kind of interesting. Because they were all sobbing, and I said, “You really should be ashamed of yourself. You’ve got guys out here—.” I’d just talked to a guy whose wife was pregnant and he was going to miss the baby and he was sent away from home. They were very sad, some of these young GIs. I said, “How dare you sit back here and feel sorry for yourself. You chose to come here. You’re having fun. Get out there and smile and entertain these guys.”

But I was so terrified. The first thing I had to do, that Mary Kay made me do, that terrified me no end was I had to call bingo on the first Saturday night I worked. And I said, “No, please. I can’t do it. Please.” Because I had never stood up, I could not stand up in front of a crowd. And here I was in this job that—and she said, “That’s your job. That’s why you’re here. You have to do it.”

I said, “Oh, please give me one more week.”

“No.”

And I went up there. I’m sure my knees were doing like this. And it was a huge room full, because everybody came to bingo on Saturday night. And I’ll never forget pulling that first number and saying something like [weakly] “B-1.”

And some guy shouted out from the back of the room shouted, “What part of the South are you from, honey child?”

And I wanted the floor to just open up and swallow me. [laughter] It was so terrifying. I was just out of my mind. But she was really good for me that way. One day she wanted me to go around with fliers and put them up on the other side of the post where I never went because it was for all the scary GIs were, the ones that I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to go. I just didn’t want to go. I mean that wasn’t my—and she really, you know, let me know that that was my job and that I would be going and I would be doing what I was supposed to do. But she really did help me to, because I’d never had to do anything like that. And she taught me a lot about, you know, managing people and how to get things done.

[End CD 1—Begin CD 2]

TS:

Well, you were there four months and then she—

NN:

She left.

TS:

And then you were program director?

NN:

Then I was the club director.

TS:

That’s pretty quick.

NN:

Yeah, it was pretty quick. Well, I think it’s because the colonel liked me, because normally they rotated women around. They didn’t want them to stay in one place too long. So most women who went to Korea did at least two and usually three clubs, and I stayed at the same club the whole year, which is very unusual. But I think we were spoiled, because Mary Kay had been there four years and, I think, we just had a—I don’t know. They liked us. The commanding officers liked us and wanted us to stay, so we stayed. And I really hated to leave at the end. She had gone to Vietnam in the meantime and wanted me to come. She was really begging me to come to Vietnam, but I just wasn’t sure that was what I wanted to do. It was getting scary.

TS:

Yeah, in Vietnam?

NN:

Yes.

TS:

Did you feel—were you fearful at all in Korea?

NN:

Well, not really. But it had gotten a little tense. In fact, the night before I left, I was going out with this doctor, a surgeon, and we were going out to dinner my last night in Korea. And I had gotten everything all ready all day, gotten all my packing done, and I’d gone and gotten my hair done and was ready, sitting around waiting for John to come pick me up. And he didn’t come and he didn’t call, and I went over to his BOQ, he wasn’t there. And he didn’t call me until about 10:30 [p.m.], all apologetic. He’d been in surgery for twelve hours. They’d had a skirmish on the DMZ and they brought in a bunch of injured Korean soldiers, no Americans. But he had been operating all day. And then right after I left, that’s when the [U.S.S] Pueblo was captured, and they went under high alert in where I had been, because my friends there were telling me what it was like. So the whole place changed really abruptly because then it became very tense.

But when we were there, I went up to the DMZ a couple of times. It was just sort of a standoff, you know. I mean, we had our evacuation plans. We knew what we were supposed to do if the word came to get out.

TS:

And you had said earlier, I think before we started the tape, that you had made tapes to your family?

NN:

Yes.

TS:

Did they send you some tapes back, too?

NN:

No, I didn’t make—When I was saying that, I was talking about music tapes.

TS:

Oh, music tapes. Oh, okay.

NN:

I don’t think I did much tape. In Germany, I did to my sister. Joann and I taped back and forth, audio tapes.

TS:

Well, what—What did your family then? How—were they getting more comfortable with you being in Korea?

NN:

Yeah, yeah. No, I think they were fine with it. Once I got over there and was safe, they didn’t really—I don’t think they thought about it as much. I went on leave about mid-year to Hong Kong, and I ran out of money, and I had to call my mother and ask her to wire me money. [laughs]

TS:

While you’re in Hong Kong? [laughts]

NN:

To pay my hotel bill. Because back then, nobody had a credit card. I didn’t have a credit card. I mean some people did, but I didn’t. And I just had taken money with me to Hong Kong and spent it all. So I had to wire her to send—that was the only time I—And then I did call my sisters from the hotel in Hong Kong, and didn’t pay much attention to the time difference and got them at three o’clock in the morning. [chuckles] Had a not-too-friendly chat.

TS:

[laughs] Well, how was Hong Kong?

NN:

Oh, it was great.

TS:

What did you do there?

NN:

Now that was—there was a UNCG grad, a woman that I had known, who was Chinese and she lived in Hong Kong, Geki Wu[?]. And she told me if I ever gotten to Hong Kong to call her, and I’d gotten in touch with her. And she met me and took me on a tour and took me to lunch my first time—dim sum, I guess, is the way it is here—but it was in a Chinese, all-Chinese restaurant with no English signs anywhere, and all Chinese people and eating off of trays passing by, and it was fabulous.

My co-worker that time, she was very interesting. Her name was Michaela Cohan. She was [entertainer] George M. Cohan’s granddaughter. She was a New York girl. And she and I went to Hong Kong together, and we had quite an adventure. We got stuck. We were flying—back then you could fly “space available” as a civilian. You just had to get to an airport and get—you know.  And this is, I’ll tell you, one of the the most memorable experiences of my life, and it chokes me up every time I think about it. Mike and I took off and we were flying. We flew to Okinawa [Japan], and that was about as far as we got on the first leg, and then we had to wait for a plane to get us out of Okinawa. In the mean time, my luggage was lost. So we couldn’t get out of Okinawa, and we sat there three days, two and a half days—two nights. And I sat there the whole time. I mean I’m sure I slept at some point, put my head back. But it was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. And this is what began to turn me against Vietnam. The flights would come in from the States, and it was a steady stream of people through that terminal with all these bright-eyed, crisp khakis, bright-eyed, crew cut, rosy-cheeked young guys, and they’d be going out to Vietnam. And then a couple hours later a flight would come in from Vietnam, and it would knock your socks off. And I sat there and cried for three, two days. Because these guys would come in, they’d be dirty looking, their things were torn. And it was their eyes. They were—their eyes were dead. And it just had the greatest impact on me, seeing the change in a year.

That was just—I still can’t think those—that one and my going home trip when I left Korea. I went to Hawaii for a couple days with a woman that I didn’t know really well. It was hot. Everybody said, “Oh, you’ve got to go to Hawaii. Hawaii’s beautiful and it’s breezy,” because it was August.

And I said, “Hawaii? It’ll be hot.”

“No, it’ll be fabulous.”

It was hot. Let me tell you, there were no trade winds. It was hot. So I just got fed up after two days. I thought—and I was kind of anxious to get home. So I said to my companion, I said, “I’m going out to the airport to see if I could get on a flight.” So I go out to the airport to wait around, and they put me on this flight going to San Francisco. And I get on, and there was no assigned seating and I just took a seat, and there were no people on the plane.

And this guy came on and said, “Oh, you’re not Tony.”

I said, “No.”

He said, “Well, that’s okay. Tony was sitting here, but he can sit somewhere else.”

It was a plane full of men coming back from Vietnam, and me. And I was so sad, because I’d heard this whole story how they’d gone on from a ship. They’d been a whole battalion, and this was all that was left of their whatever. And then we were flying into Travis, I guess, the air force base above San Francisco. And the flight, the pilot flew us over the Golden Gate Bridge [getting choked up]. See, I still can’t talk about it. I do that every time I try—they played Tony Bennett singing [“I Left My Heart in San Francisco"], and every guy on that plane just sobbed. It was really touching. But that was—there were two of those experiences I had that made me question Vietnam, to get to talk to these people.

And then my dear mentor friend, Mary Kay, she was a victim. I mean she’s a—she came home and committed suicide two years after she got back. And I’d never known—I never knew. I never saw her.

TS:

That’s very sad.

NN:

It was very sad. But that was just so heartbreaking, that trip with those men that had been a big group, you know, and they—it was just something dead about them. They didn’t come home all hyped-up.

TS:

When you landed in San Francisco on that plane coming home with them, did you get off the plane with them? Do you remember any kind of reception that you got or they got?

NN:

Well, you know that was the weird thing, too, because I’ve got confusing memories about that. And I still can’t pull that together. I remember having two heavy suitcases and being on the bus. I remember being on a bus and they dropping us in the middle of a field—I mean of an air thing, field. And I—

TS:

On the tarmac?

NN:

Yeah. And I can’t remember how that worked, whether I—I remember getting back to San Francisco International, but I can’t remember how I got—I mean I guess I got there on the—But no, I don’t remember any reception for anybody. I don’t think it was good or bad. We didn’t like get disembarked into an airport all in one. We were out in—all I remember is they left me—I was in the middle of a field, and I had to get on foot. Somebody obviously helped me, a soldier, but I had to get from the middle of this field to a building. And I don’t know why they did that. I can’t remember why they did that. And I remember I had time and I had to go take a shower in the San Francisco airport. [chuckles] But I don’t—I don’t remember. Because I know—that would’ve been—that was summer of ’67. That was the summer that there was a lot of racial unrest. And I don’t know—because I remember being back in D.C. that fall for an anti-war protest when I was still supporting the war.

TS:

Were you in the protest?

NN:

No, no, no, no.

TS:

There was a protest going on when you were in D.C.

NN:

Yeah. I was living in D.C., and I was still sort of lukewarm. I wasn’t rabid. I wasn’t out there throwing things at the protesters, but I was still arguing that we were doing the right thing. I can’t believe that.

TS:

Well, you were helping the soldiers.

NN:

Yeah.

TS:

Right?

NN:

Yeah.

TS:

What happened when—then where did you go from—Did you stay with the Army Special Services then for a period of time?

NN:

No, I didn’t. I got out at the end of that contract. I mean they wanted me to go to Vietnam, and I just wanted to come home and kind of get my head together. Because I still wanted to go to Germany. See, that was my initial reason for getting in this. So I came back and I moved up to D.C., because both my, two of my sisters were living there. And so they were living in a one bedroom apartment and they let me move in. Well, that was not a good plan, three sisters in one bedroom. And then one of my younger sister’s friends moved in with us because her husband was at [Marine Corps Base] Quantico [Virginia] or Fort Belvoir [Virginia], one or the other, and she came up to see him. And there were four of us in a one bedroom apartment. [chuckles]

And I got a job at the American Chemical Society—I’ll never forget that—as an editorial assistant for the Journal of Analytical Chemistry. Now you may recall chemistry was my worst subject in school, and here I am editorial assistant on the Journal of Analytical Chemistry. And I just couldn’t take it. After a while, I just walked in one day and said, “I can’t take this.” So I quit and I went down to special services and said, “Can you get me to Germany?”

TS:

Oh, so you went back in?

NN:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay.

NN:

So I re—

TS:

Do you remember about when that was?

NN:

Yeah, it was—Well, I went down to sign in in December and then I left in February.

TS:

Of what?

NN:

Sixty-eight.

TS:

December of ’68?

NN:

Sixty-seven, December—

TS:

Okay.

NN:

—I left—

TS:

Oh, so it was a few months—really not that long.

NN:

Yeah, I came home in August.  And I went back in February of ’68.

TS:

And where did you head—so where did you go after that? Did you get to go to Germany?

NN:

Yeah. And they—to go to Germany you had to sign a three-year contract, so I signed a three-year contract in February of ’68. And then we had a little orientation in Washington, and there were seven of us that travelled together. It was much more organized than it had been going to Korea. So we all travelled together, flew into Frankfurt. They trained us down to Munich, and we had four days in Munich.

It was funny, because before you went, you were asked to give your three preferences, your three choice assignments. So naturally I put Munich, Nuremburg, Stuttgart. I wanted to be in a city where there was opera, because my whole goal was to get over there and get involved with the opera singers, you know, so I wanted to be where the singers were. So there were seven of us, I believe, so they were going around the last day with the assignments, and I got a place called Grafenwoehr, which was the training center of the Seventh Army and NATO in Europe. And it was supposed to be the pits of the army. I mean, it was the worst—for GIs, it was the worst place. The name was just anathema to the GIs.

So we go out to lunch and we came back and this major was out there, and he looked around and he said, “Okay who is it? Who’s the one that drew the short straw?” And we didn’t know what he was talking about. And he laughed and said, “Which one’s going up to Graf?”

And I said, “That’s—that would be me.”

He said, “Oh, you poor thing.”

Well, I didn’t know what to expect. But it turned out it was bad for the GIs that train there, because it was a training center, but for me it was a really nice assignment except it got me out—I was still not near a city where I could get into opera, so it kind of got me totally off the track in my music.

TS:

Where was it by?

NN:

It was north of Nuremburg in northern Bavaria. Between Nuremburg and Bayreuth which is the home of the [composer Richard] Wagner Festival. But it was one of—it’s been a training center since the eighteenth century, I guess. Its where [German Field Marshal Erwin] Rommel trained the Afrika Korps, and I understand from one of my German friends today, that George Bush just put a gazillion dollars into Grafenwoehr to make it a major—it’s kind of a secret. We’re supposed to be closing bases in Germany, and they’re putting millions of dollars into Grafenwoehr to beef it up.

But it was this setting, and for me it was kind of romantic. It was like Germany the way it should be. There was a castle or a tower that had been there since the beginning of the training center and it was all done with the engravings of the Bavarians, you know. But it was this huge hundred thousand acre—I forget how big—huge training center where Seventh Army and NATO troops came for six weeks. And I don’t know why, but they weren’t allowed into the place where we lived and where we had what they called a “permanent party” of ninety military support [personnel for] the activities and training center. So our service club was out in the field, literally in the field. We had to cross tank trails to get there. And it was very isolated. It was out in the middle of nowhere. But German troops came, British troops came, French troops came, at different times during the year. They didn’t come as long. And then American artillery armor and infantry [came].

And I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but, you know, at this point in the period, the Vietnam period, these were really the bottom of the barrel GIs. So it was pretty scummy after what I was accustomed to in Korea, all these medics and upper—But they were—I mean, they needed the service club desperately, because it was all they had. They weren’t allowed to go in and go to the EM club, so they had no choice. We had a captive audience, so we really had to be creative in our—and we didn’t have nearly the support that I had in Korea. It was funny, when we were doing our orientation in Munich and some woman was talking to us about our respective clubs, and I said something about, “Well, do we have a cook?”

And she said, “You must have come from Korea!” She said, “Cook? You’re the—If anything is to be cooked,” she said, “You’ll be the cook.”

I was like, “Oh, my goodness.”

TS:

Very different.

NN:

Because I was spoiled. I’d had all this staff doing things. And here I had one German secretary and two Germans who didn’t speak English who would, like, around the [base] clean up, did the handyman work. And there was one German artistic person who was sort of a photographer-artist and he—We had two clubs. We had one on post for the regular GIs, and I was at the field club. And then later, during the year I was there, another, a third club opened, and this one Grafenwoehr. But we had to do all the work, and it was a—The building didn’t compare at all to our building in Korea. It was a very small, ratty kind of building.

TS:

Did you do the same sort of programs?

NN:

Yes.

TS:

Did they have the USO come there, too?

NN:

No. I don’t think we ever had any USO come there. No, because that was—no, we didn’t. Because nobody was there for any length of time, they were just there for six weeks’ training, and then they’d go back to their main, their regular army place.

TS:

How did you like it there?

NN:

I liked it. It was—the work was kind of—I don’t know. I liked it. It was interesting because we had variety. You didn’t have the same people all the time. And it was fun when the Germans were there, and the British, oh my gosh, the British. My sister Joann had come over to visit me. And she came for a six-week trip, and she was going to be around and about, and we were going to—I was going to take off with her in June and we were going to go down to Switzerland, visit some friends. But so she was coming to my place the first week of June. She’d been to Czechoslovakia with somebody.

Well, this was when [Robert] Bobby Kennedy was just shot, and the British had just come, and they’d invited us, the American party there, permanent party, to a luncheon. And they were in the field training, and normally when the Americans came, it was just dirty GIs in trucks and tanks and that was it, and they served them out in the field, you know, they had mess tents set up. Well, the British brought out this lavish spread, and it was elegant. And we went to lunch and it was a curry—I’ll never forget, it was a curried chicken lunch or whatever. And Joann went to the—had to go to the ladies room, and she came out and she said, “You’ve got to go to the ladies room. You won’t believe it. They’ve got pink soap and pink tissue in there and everything, little pink towels.” But they did everything so elegant for us. But we were supposed not—we were supposed to be in mourning for a week and they couldn’t have music or we couldn’t dance or do anything because of Bobby Kennedy.

But that was a hard year. And looking back on it, it’s taken me until recently to catch up on what happened in the U.S. in ’68—the most tumultuous year of the century almost. And I missed it, because I was in Europe and we didn’t have access. You have to understand, we didn’t have TV. And we had Armed Forces Radio, and we had TIMEMagazine and we had the Stars and Stripes and that was it. And the International Herald Tribune. There were—and I didn’t have access always to the Tribune. I mean we didn’t have news. And when Martin Luther King got shot, we were all—I mean it was a very scary time, because they didn’t know if there were going to be race riots. I remember this friend of mine, very special black colonel who—he was the intelligence officer on post. But he would follow me to work. He didn’t want me going to work by myself because he was afraid of what might happen. It was very tense. But we didn’t know what was going on. And Joann, my sister, was sending me these dramatic tapes about Washington burning and blah, blah, blah, and having to—she sounded like Scarlet O’Hara, you know: “We’re driving out of the city looking behind us, city burning.” [laughter] But then Bobby Kennedy got shot, and then there was the democratic—and we missed all that around the [1968] Democratic [National] Convention. We were not getting the news. So it’s like that whole year was just blurred.

TS:

Well, you had a different perspective of it.

NN:

Absolutely. But it was funny, the great thing about being in Germany was travelling. Because again, we had—at that club, there were four women, great gals. I’m still really close to two of them that I worked with in Grafenwoehr. And because there were four of us, we could—we all got one long weekend off, but we could work it out sometimes so that two of us could take a long weekend together. So we did a lot of travelling, because you can get almost anywhere. I mean, Germany’s so central you could drive. So I saw all of Europe, pretty much.

TS:

Was there a special spot in Europe that you liked best?

NN:

I loved Germany. I really did enjoy exploring all the towns in Germany. Now, France was a different thing back then, because like I said initially, de Gaulle had kicked people out, and in ’68 were the student riots. Because I had what was called a diplomatic—I mean, an official passport. It was not a diplomatic, but it was official. It was awarded me by virtue of the fact that I had this job. So we were advised—we weren’t forbidden—but we were advised not to travel to France. So I never went to Paris. I went to France, but it’s strange that I never went to Paris during that period. I did Scandinavia, and I did, you know, Austria, Switzerland, Italy. I never went to Prague, either. We were nineteen miles from the Czech border, but for some reason I never went into Prague. Now, that was a scary time, that summer of ’68. Joann, during that period she visited me, she had been to Prague, and it was very tense then. And then in August is when the Soviets invaded and—

TS:

August of ’68?

NN:

August of ’68. And we were under very intense—We were under high alert on our post, and there were MiG [Mikoyan—Russian military aircraft] sightings, and the artillery was firing every night. They would have night firing, heavy maneuvers, and all the native troops were there. And one day, I’ll never forget, in my little BOQ I had an army bed, you know, just a single bed, and in the middle of the night my bed collapsed because the artillery was so severe, they literally would knock pictures off the wall. And in my mind I thought the Russians were coming. [laughs] I was so scared. I thought, “I’m not going to move. I’m just not going to get up. I’m going to lie here.” [chuckles] But it was pretty scary there for a couple of weeks.

TS:

Yeah, I bet it was.

NN:

Yeah. But then I was there thirteen, fourteen months, I guess. And then they—And I really enjoyed it. I mean it was very different. It was so pretty, and we were close to Bayreuth. I got to go hear Wagner, the old Wagner, at the old Festspielhaus. And we went to Munich a lot. Munich was—How long did it take to get to Munich? And I had a Volkswagen. That was—I bought a Volkswagen, because you had to have a car, I mean, to get to work. And I’d never driven stick shift really, and I buy a Volkswagen and learn to drive it in the Alps. I drove down to Switzerland with my sister. Neither one of us were very adept. But I had this little Volkswagen which I kept for twelve years and it was still running. But I drove that all over the place. My mom and her friend came to visit the second year I was there, and she couldn’t believe how fast I would drive on the Autobahn, with all these Mercedes and other things passing me. So I can’t tell you how far—it took me three hours, I guess—two hours to get from Munich to Nuremburg.

But then the army had these recreation places down in the Alps: Garmisch and Berchtesgaden. We could go down there if we wanted to get away. And things were so cheap then in Europe. You know, that’s when the book Europe on 5 Dollars a Day really worked. You saw things and you did things, and it didn’t cost very much. Hotels were very cheap. I remember I was coming home on leave on New Years Day of ’70, and so I’d go down to spend the night in the Sheraton in the airport in Frankfort, and I’d pay $30. I’d go, “Oh, my gosh. That’s a lot of money.” Thirty dollars! [laughs]

TS:

It was a lot in those days, for sure.

NN:

It sure was.

TS:

Well now, did you stay at—I can’t pronounce the name of the place.

NN:

Grafenwoehr.

TS:

Grafenwoehr, okay. Grafenwoehr. You stayed there for thirteen months? But you were in Germany three years, so where else were you?

NN:

They moved me to another place that I didn’t like, Butzbach, which was a little town north of Frankfurt. And that was kind of interesting because it was sort of going downhill for me, at that point now, with my military experience. Because I had really loved Korea, and Grafenwoehr was good and fine, and then I went to Butzbach, and it really wasn’t. Plus the army was changing, it was—I was becoming very tired of the army because of—I think a lot of it had to do with the people that were around, because it just wasn’t the same kind of people. I wasn’t seeing the GIs.

But anyway, it was a small—this was a town, and it was a small signal battalion, as I recall, was all that was there pretty much. It wasn’t very big. And there were two women there, and we had a big house. We had a big old German house right outside the gates, four bedroom, three story house, and that was kind of fun. That was part of housing. It was actually a duplex. There was a family on the other side of us. We had a big yard so I got a dog, and it was very domestic living there. It’s the first time I’d had, like, my own place.

TS:

Before you were like in—

NN:

BOQs, bachelor officers’ quarters.

TS:

Right.

NN:

But the club there wasn’t appealing. I mean the GIs didn’t really come very much because there were other—I mean there was a town, and Frankfurt was twenty miles away on the train. So they came in and played pool a couple hours in the afternoon if they were off, or they would come in and play musical instruments, but it was—really it got more boring. We had a—it was a service—Special Services also had a craft division. They had service clubs, crafts, and photos—or was that part of crafts? I guess it was. But anyway, this American woman and her husband, who was some—I don’t know what he did—they were fun and they did a lot of crafts. She did a lot of craft stuff with us, and then we played bridge.

My accountant here now—who I encountered here when I moved back down here a couple years ago, and I hadn’t seen him in thirty years—he was my bridge buddy in Butzbach. He was a smart guy. He’s very smart. And he was a young GI, good looking, really knockout good looking guy, who married my putzfrau [cleaning woman]. I played for their wedding, and that lasted not too long. But we used to play bridge all the time. I’d play bridge with the guys.

Because we would try to do programs. You know when I said earlier we’d do a program every night of the year, 365? Well we still had to do that. The bureaucracy required it, and we had to turn them in every month. But nobody would show up, so it was sort of pointless, but we still had to do them. And so we did. I ended up playing bridge probably four nights a week. I mean, you had to walk around and check on people and make sure they were okay. But as far as doing a program and having anybody participate? I think we did still have bingo. I still think we could draw a crowd because we’d give away prizes. But for some reason these guys liked to play bingo. I don’t know. I swore that after I left the army I’d never, ever go near bingo. My mom was in a retirement home here in Raleigh. She used to look forward to her bingo nights and would want me to go. I said, “Please. I’ll do anything for you. No bingo. Never, ever again.” [laughter]

TS:

Well, where’d you go after Butzbach?

NN:

I quit. I came back. I broke my contract. I resigned the day after Kent State [University shootings].

TS:

Oh, okay.

NN:

I had become sort of anti-war at that point. We were getting a lot of drug problems, and I was becoming aware of what was going on more, just from talking to people and getting out among the Germans and Americans who weren’t so brainwashed by the military. But it had become very difficult. And so in May—I think it was the first week of May when Kent State—do you know—do you remember? Well, you don’t remember. You’re not old enough. But Kent State was May ’75. No, not ’75.

TS:

No, sooner than—

NN:

[Nineteen] seventy, May ’70.

TS:

Seventy, yeah.

NN:

I just thought, “I’ve had it. I cannot do it.” Well, and there were other personal reasons, too. My—I had missed two of my sisters’ weddings, two out of three. My first sister got married September ’66 when I’d gone off to Korea. My second sister got married Christmas of ’69, and I couldn’t get home. So Joann, my youngest sister, had told me she was engaged and planning to get married the summer of ’70, and I thought, “Darn it. I don’t want to miss a third sister’s wedding.” And then my other, first sister Mary Lou, had just had a baby. And there were all kinds of personal things that I was—I didn’t have this draw, and I wasn’t doing music like I had planned to do.

So when Kent State happened I thought, “I’ve had it. I can’t take it another day.” So I wrote a letter of resignation, and the director up in wherever she was based called me in her office and tried to talk me into staying and giving me—and then getting kind of stern about what it was going to cost because they were going to cut me off. I would not be able to travel and they wouldn’t send my baggage. I was on my own. I said, “I can’t help it. I have to quit.” And I always felt bad about it, that I hadn’t done it, that I hadn’t fulfilled my obligation, but I just couldn’t take it any longer. If I’d stayed—sometimes I think I should’ve stayed because then I could’ve gone to Italy, which I love. [It’s] my favorite place in the whole world. But I just couldn’t take it any longer. I didn’t feel like I was accomp—I didn’t feel like I was contributing, where as in Korea, definitely,  and even in Grafenwoehr, I felt we really did serve a purpose and I was contributing welfare and the mental, you know, keeping these guys off the streets. You know, I felt like there was some purpose. But this last assignment in Germany, it just didn’t seem like the best use of my time.

TS:

You’re busy playing bridge, right?

NN:

Yeah, well, I mean, there were no challenges. And there was a lot of tension on the post. There were a lot of—there was just—people would get in fights. There were some racial tensions. And the GIs were just not very—

TS:

So you had kind of an evolving feeling about the war, too, it sounds like.

NN:

Yeah. Yeah, right. And then I had come home in January of ’70 and got to catch up on what was really happening in the world, you know. So I think that must surely have had some impact on—

TS:

Well, what were your feelings then when you came back?

NN:

Not good. Came back here to the States?

TS:

Yes.

NN:

I was very opposed to Vietnam and to [President Richard] Nixon. I mean, I was really anti- what was going on. And then I went back to D.C. and went to work. So I didn’t get really involved in the anti-war movement, particularly, but I was very much against the war.

TS:

What about the hippie culture that was happening at that time, too. You probably saw some of that with the troops.

NN:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

TS:

Did that strike you in any particular way?

NN:

Again, see, I missed the revolution. I missed ’67 and ’68 altogether, really. So I missed the Summer of Love and the whole thing. I didn’t get back till—well, I came back in the summer of ’70, but I felt like I had missed a big chunk of stuff that was really important because we were getting the trailings from it. I mean Europe, certainly, as far as the hippie culture, was advanced. There was a lot going on in Europe when you got out among the Germans and the—I mean among the civilians. It was real. And the GIs, again with the drug thing, that was sort of new, because I don’t remember being aware of any drugs. A little bit at Grafenwoehr, but certainly not in Korea. [If] anybody did drugs, I wasn’t aware of it.

TS:

How do you feel like you were treated in the Army Special Services?

NN:

By whom?

TS:

Well, by—say, by your supervisors, superiors. You talked about one.

NN:

Yes.

TS:

Your one mentor.

NN:

Yeah.

TS:

How about anybody else? Do you feel like you were treated well? And the service people, did they treat you—?

NN:

Yeah. I didn’t care for my mentor at Grafenwoehr—I mean, my mentor? my supervisor—because the bureaucracy got to me. I’m not a good bureaucrat. I’m not and never have been, that’s why even despite thirty years in Washington, I acknowledge I never fit into the bureaucratic mold. And she would stand at her door or window and look out, because she was in a different building from us, and if we didn’t wear our hat in the morning to—we had to wear this uniform which included hats, and if we didn’t have our hat on, we got demerits, which I found such ridiculous behavior. I mean who cared? If it wasn’t cold, if I didn’t need it to warm my head, why should I put it on to mess up my hair? It was just—

TS:

Did you get to wear pants?

NN:

No.

TS:

So you still had to wear skirts again, right?

NN:

Skirts were the uniform. I really wish I’d kept that uniform. I was so glad to leave I think I just threw it in the garbage. I didn’t even bring it home with me, which was kind of dumb.

And the other thing was we had a winter uniform and a summer uniform. The winter uniform was worsted—I mean heavy wool—a jacket and a skirt. And the summer was seersucker, short-sleeved. You put on the summer uniform on May 15. On May 20th—in Germany, especially, it could go to thirty-eight degrees—you wore the summer uniform. The same thing happened in October. On October 15, you put on the winter uniform. It could be eighty-five degrees, you wore the winter uniform. And I just found that so—and we were not in the army, but that was—I wasn’t a good soldier that way. I wasn’t good at the rules. I mean I did it.

And the other thing in Germany, and this had happened when I first joined, they measured you for your uniform, and it had to hit you at a certain point on your knee. It couldn’t be above your—your knee couldn’t show. Well, of course, in the late sixties: miniskirts. In London they were wearing—mods [subculture group] [were wearing] six inch skirts. Well, we weren’t going to go around walking around in skirts down to our knees. So we all had big fat waists, because we all rolled our skirts up so we could—as soon as we got our ward, we’d put on our little—do our little miniskirt routine. But—

TS:

What kind of music did you listen to at that time?

NN:

All that—the whole range of sixties music. It was more—Motown I remember in Korea, and then I remember Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass were big, and I got so sick and tired of hearing—and The Supremes. And one day at the service club and I went out and picked a record—because they had an LP turntable out there, and sort of our club manager, he played the music, but it was put on a—piped throughout the building on a PA system. And I had heard enough Supremes one day I just lost it and I went up there and grabbed the record off the turntable and broke it over my knee. And he was standing there. And I said, “I’m sorry. You’re going to have to find some new—There has to be other records in here you can play. I do not ever want to hear that record again.” And I later became a really big Supremes fan. And the other one that drove me nuts in 1966, Nancy Sinatra “These Boots are Made for Walking.” Oh! And the thing is—

TS:

Did you break that one, too?

NN:

No, that was the only one I ever broke was that Supremes record, which I was kind of sorry about later. But then we just loved to hear them. And these guys would like to hear the same—they’d come up and request, “Could you play Nancy Sinatra, the boot song or whatever.” But then, of course, in Germany it was different. It was more the—more of the rock music and then The Beatles, of course, [The Rolling] Stones, and The Doors, and everybody was big. You know, it was a good music scene. And there were places to go and discos then and later. I had a German boyfriend for a while, and we went to a lot of discos in Munich and Stuttgart. That was fun. I mean that was a whole different scene.

But there were, you know, my older sister was living in Antwerp for a year and a half, and we’d go do things together. We’d go to opera in Munich. Once we went—I remember us going to hear Tony Bennett and Count Basie do a concert in Frankfurt. And I did go to the opera in Bayreuth, which was exciting. Where else did we go to hear music? [pause] There was a club at Grafenwoehr right outside the gate that apparently Elvis Presley had bought into. It was called Mickey’s. It was one of those wild GI clubs outside the post. And there they liked Tom Jones. What was that song he had that was so— “Delilah.” And you could hear that as soon as you would leave the front gate at the post of the army at Grafenwoehr. Any hour of the day and night the people at the Mickey’s club would be playing Tom Jones. [chuckles]

TS:

Well now, you would’ve been in Germany when the moon landing happened. Do you remember that at all?

NN:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

TS:

What did the Germans think?

NN:

But we didn’t get up.

TS:

No?

NN:

Because for us it would’ve been—so I watched that. We did have a TV on—I had a TV in my house in Germany. But we watched the moon landing, yeah. They were excited about that. No, I missed a lot of events that you don’t really appreciate. Chappaquiddick [incident], [involving Senator Edward] “Ted” Kennedy—do you get—

TS:

Is that ’69?

NN:

Summer of ’69 you get bits and pieces of things like that.

TS:

Of course, a lot of people here missed it, too.

NN:

Right. That’s true.

TS:

You had to be tuned in, I think, for some things. Well, did you think that your—It’s interesting how you talk about being shy and—going in—and being forced to call bingo [and then change in] to the woman who went up and grabbed a record and broke it over her knee. [laughs] So there was some—

NN:

Oh, I changed a lot.

TS:

Do you think it had to do with your—the experiences and where you’d been and the travelling? Why do you think that you changed?

NN:

I don’t know. It’s interesting, my mom, she just thinks that was horrible what happened to me, that I went to Korea and changed so much. I was this nice little quiet little thing and meek, and then I became so aggressive and blah, blah, blah. She didn’t like how I had become, really. But I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I think it’s a monumental change—thing in my life that—and I often think of, you know, you come to certain points in your life and it’s like this fork in the road, and you’ve got to go one way or the other. And I went that way, and I know what it did.  I have no idea what would’ve happened if it’d gone the other route, but I can’t worry about it, you know. [sound of door opening and closing]

TS:

That’s a little kitty going outside there, for the transcriber.

NN:

I don’t know. I really was shy. In fact, in my recent life, people—when I refer back to my pre-Special Services days and my shyness, they don’t believe it. They say, “I can’t believe you were ever shy.” But I really was. I went through all those years at UNCG and I never spoke up in class once ever, never. Even if I knew all the answers and had done all my work, that just wasn’t me. I was not I wasn’t good in crowds. I was terrified to go into a room and speak to people I didn’t know. And I really got over that and I’m very glad for that that I was able to.

Because I think being thrust into it the way I was is what forced it. And part of it was—and I was reading something in a magazine recently that kind of interested me; it was about Beyoncé [Knowles], the singer, and how she’s afraid to go into—not afraid, but she’s shy about going to crowd. And she said she takes on her alter ego; she becomes somebody else. And I think that’s what I did starting with that night in the hotel in Seattle when I was so terrified. I just sort of stepped out of myself. I was no longer this little scared Millbrook girl on my own. I was this world traveler that was just doing my thing. So I think I just sort of forced myself out of one personality. Because I’d sort of been run over, I mean anyone could stampede me anywhere up to that point. [chuckles]

TS:

Do you think that having an association with the military, did that have any influence on you?

NN:

I don’t know. I don’t know, maybe. But I don’t know that it was the military per se. That may be what has lead to my anti-bureaucracy bent. I really—I know—I learned a lot about the military over four year period, and I don’t have this starry-eyed view of the military that many Americans have. I know a lot of things that most people don’t know, and it’s frightening to me how we put the military up on a pedestal. Not to say that the people who go to war and fight for us, I’m not putting them down, no disparaging of the people who do, the troops. But the military, the brass, is not saintly. I shouldn’t say this for the record. I probably have.

TS:

Well, it’s—

NN:

But no, there are a lot of very strange things that go on in the military, and it’s not all good.

TS:

Well, of course, that was a very turbulent time in the military—

NN:

Yes, it was.

TS:

—when you were—you know, from ’66 through ’70.

NN:

Seventy. Yes, very much so.

TS:

Well, what do you think about—if you—you know, patriotism is thrown around a lot. What are your thoughts on, you know, patriotism?

NN:

[Comments deleted by request of veteran] People think of patriotism as nationalism. Like today, there’s a parade going on in downtown Raleigh. And I haven’t really gotten into all the nuts and bolts of it, but they’re just—reading the letters and the paper. It’s the bankers’ association. The bankers are in dire straits right now. They’re sponsoring a parade to honor the military. Big parade with a fly over and all. So there’s been all this back and forth. “Why should we be having a parade honoring the military?” And the views of the anti-people are: “It’s glorifying war and its spending money in a time when there’s not money to pay for the medical—It’s the wrong statement.” And then of course, the “patriots” who are out there [say], “What do you mean? You’re anti-troops. You’re against the troops? You should move to China,” or whatever. There’s no understanding of the two sides.

And what I learned in working around the army all those years is the army’s not always right. They’re not always right. The government is not always right. And that’s what I think Jeremiah Wright was trying to say. The government is not the people always. It’s the government who’s making these choices on the people’s behalf, and it’s not the best. It’s not good. And I’ve just been watching the [HBO mini-series] John Adams. Somebody taped them for me, so I haven’t watched the end yet. I don’t know, it just—they were patriots then, but those guys—but you’ve got to be able to protest. You’ve got to be able to dissent. You don’t want a country where everybody follows in lock step. And that’s sort of what parts of the country are trying to encourage now, that we all get behind the military. And I’m—boy, I’ll go out there and lie down in front of a tank before—I mean I think it’s wrong. I think it’s the most dangerous thing that could happen in this country right now. But you don’t want to get me started on my political views.

TS:

[chuckles] That’s great.

NN:

But no, I think there’s some confusion between supporting the GIs, a young guy that has to go off and give his life—but I’m not sure that the GIs that are giving their life are protecting my freedom today. I think they’re over there because someone has an ulterior motive, and it has nothing to do with the greater freedoms.

TS:

Is this—Would this view be the view that you would’ve had in 1966 when you went into the Army Special Services?

NN:

No. I didn’t know enough, quite—see, I was part of that culture. I mean, growing up in North Carolina, I didn’t have any immediate—now, my uncle who I never met was shell-shocked in World War I and spent his—he died the year I graduated from college, and I never met him. He was in a VA [Veterans Affairs] hospital. And I had—we had a lot of his memorabilia, and he was sort of a World War I trenches guy. But you know, we had this view of—and me wanting to go to the naval academy. The military was good. I mean we had the World War II, post-World War II view of the military. It was a good and honorable thing to have gone, fight Nazis and all that. But Vietnam, especially now in retrospect when you read and understand what really went on, it’s a tragedy that our—that governments can lead people down these paths of—the wrong paths.

TS:

If you had a young girl who had an opportunity today to go and do what you did in Special Services—

NN:

They don’t even have it any more.

TS:

But if they did?

NN:

No.

TS:

You wouldn’t recommend it?

NN:

No.

TS:

What would you recommend?

NN:

Well, it’s a different world altogether today. You know what interests me today, and it’s so different world for the military. Like the kids I knew, you know, they drank and they went out and picked up women off the post. But drinking was a big part of the culture. And even like at the officers club, I remember on Friday night we could get scotch for fifty cents a shot and beer was fifteen cents, and they encouraged drinking, and it became a real problem for a lot of people.

But I guess now, in Iraq, there’s no drinking. And the GIs [are] different. I read these sad stories. Almost every one of these death notices that appear in the Raleigh paper from a local—they’re twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. They all have wives and children. And almost all the GIs I knew were single, the enlisted men—I mean the young men, sergeants once they got a certain—but all the young enlisted men were single. And now almost everyone you read about is married and has a baby or two babies. So I don’t know. It’s a whole different—it’s a whole different culture.

TS:

It’s true.

NN:

And the army—I don’t know when they stopped the actual service club they had. Because when I went back to Grafenwoehr when I took my husband back to see where I worked back in ’80, we were allowed—we got on post and went out there and it was a community. It’s called the family center, community center, because they, I guess, had more dependents, people with children. But they no longer, at that point in ’80, had the service clubs. So I don’t know how long they existed.

TS:

Well, you’ve covered a lot of ground today.

NN:

Probably more than you wanted.

TS:

No, no. It’s been very nice. Is there anything that you want to add that we haven’t talked about?

NN:

I don’t know. I can’t think of anything. I wouldn’t—I mean, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I’m really glad I did it. When I came back down here a few years ago, I decided to get back into music, because I’d worked in public broadcasting the whole time I was in D.C. And some days I’ll have this twinge, like this little thing, “What if I’d only—what if I’d stayed in music? What if I’d really—.” Because now I’ve kind of hooked up with some musicians who’ve been in it all their life and they’ve done—their whole world has been—then I stop and think about what I had, what an adventure I had, and I’m grateful. I’m much happier that I did what I did. And at the time I did it, I think that being there during the Vietnam early days, you know, and feeling like you were really providing a service—because we really did, I think—I’m glad I did it. And I’m surely happy that I had all those travel opportunities, because I probably would never have seen as much of the world that I have seen—as I’ve seen.

TS:

You’ve seen a lot. That’s true.

NN:

Yeah.

TS:

Well, Nancy, thank you very much. I really appreciate you talking to me today. We’ll go ahead and shut it off for the transcriber here.

[End of interview]