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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Caroline Morrison Garrett, 2008

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Object ID: WV0426.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Caroline Morrison Garret’s education at Woman’s College and service as a dietitian for the U.S. Army during WWII.

Summary:

Garrett briefly outlines her parents’ career and her early childhood, but focuses on her time at Woman’s College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), including: her first impressions of the school and the South; her roommates; social restrictions; entertainment; room inspections; resident counselors; majoring in home economics; Dean Harriet Elliot and Chancellor Walter Jackson; living in the home management house and serving beef heart to the acting dean; and graduation.

Of note is Garrett's description of WC during the WWII, including the lack of discussion about the early stages of the war; the attack on Pearl Harbor; Jackson's speech on women's involvement in the war effort; the army training center in Greensboro; mock battles on campus; entertaining soldiers; blackouts on campus; the death of her boyfriend in a military plane accident; students waiting for mail from overseas boyfriends and husbands; riding the trains with soldiers; and being forced by Professor Blanch Tansil to take a civil service exam.

Garrett describes in details her experiences as a dietetic intern and apprentice at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including her first impressions; quarters; intensive workload; typical schedule; the emotional difficulty of working with GIs unlikely to recover; working at Children’s National Medical Center during the polio epidemic; planning meals for hospital patients; making meals for General John Pershing and his sister; and visiting generals after victory in Europe, including George Patton.

Of her tour in the Army Medical Corps, Garrett discusses her arrival at Fort Sam Houston; the barracks; alteration of training exercises when the war ended; Cooks and Bakers field training; being stationed for three weeks in Rome, Georgia; working on the paraplegic ward at Kennedy General Hospital; the German prisoners of war who worked in the kitchen; minimizing food waste; a traumatic dentist visit; contracting Hepatitis and her recovery process, including taking sick-leave and falsifying exit physical examinations; and disconnect between dietitians and other hospital workers. She also talks at length about her post-service life, including working for the Floating Hospital of St. John’s Guild, working for Connecticut Light & Power, and meeting her husband.

Creator: Caroline Morrison Garrett

Biographical Info: Caroline Morrison Garrett (b. 1921) of Bethel, Connecticut, served as a dietitian in the Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1947.

Collection: Caroline Morrison Garrett Papers

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

Full Text:

Hermann Trojanowski:     

Today is Monday August 25, 2008. My name is Hermann Trojanowski. I’m at the home of Caroline Morrison Garrett in Cupertino, California. We’re here to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG].

Mrs. Garrett, it has been a pleasure to meet you already, and I’m just so glad to be here in California to visit with you. If you’ll give me your full name, we’ll see how we both sound on this machine.

Caroline Morrison Garrett:    

Caroline Morrison Garrett.

HT:     

Okay.

[Recording paused]

HT:     

Mrs. Garrett, can you tell me when and where you were born?

CG:    

I was born in Bethel, Connecticut, on September 10, 1921.

HT:     

Is that were you grew up?

CG:    

Well, when I was starting school, my family built a house five miles away in Danbury, Connecticut, so my school years were spent in Danbury, Connecticut.

HT:     

Can you tell me a little bit about your family and home life?

CG:    

Well, I was very fortunate to have a very loving family who always enjoyed being together and always did things together. It wasn’t until I went to the Woman’s College [WC, now UNCG] that I realized how many people weren’t that fortunate.

I had two brothers. One of them, my brother Sam, was thirteen months younger than I was, so of course we were always competitors. Then my younger brother Sherman was six years younger than I was, so I was kind of a little mother for him. We got along very well.

My father was a civil engineer in road construction, and that meant that we were brought up to know how fortunate we were that Dad always had a job during the Depression. That was one the things the government did was build roads to keep people occupied. So he always had a good job.

Mother had graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in 1911 and went to Maine to teach manual training and art in the schools in Sanford, Maine. Four year later she went to Chicopee, Massachusetts, where she was supervisor of art in the school for four years.

All this time she and my father were engaged while he went through a six-year engineering program and then served in the army and wanted to be established before they married. He always told me that every girl should be engaged for ten years. Those are the best years of your life: flowers and the theatre and a letter every day.

When I was still single in my early thirties, I looked ahead and thought that that was sort of a dismal outlook if I were to be engaged for ten years, so I didn’t take that long when I found the man. [laughter]

HT:     

Oh, goodness. Well, did you like school—grammar school and high school?

CG:    

I liked grammar school and junior high very much. When I was a freshman in high school, I was sick so much that I had to drop out. That meant that I was a year behind my friends and older than the ones I was with, so those years weren’t as enjoyable. My senior year my family moved to New Canaan, Connecticut. I thought it was disaster at the time,  but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. That’s where I met Betty Urban, who later became my sister-in-law, and I loved my last year of high school in New Canaan.

HT:     

Do you recall what your favorite subjects were in high school?

CG:    

Well, in spite of the dull books we had, I always loved history. I think it was partly where we lived. We were surrounded by so many historical sites from the early days. I always loved English and enjoyed writing even then.

HT:     

Now, I know you attended Woman’s College. What made you decide to attend Woman’s College, which was in the South and so far away from where you grew up? 

CG:    

Well, I wanted to get away from New England winters. I was always sick so much in the winter, and I was looking for a warmer climate. There weren’t many schools in the South in those days that had a very high scholastic standing, and Woman’s College did. One of my advisors in high school had a niece who was going there, and she could tell me all about it. So those were the reasons I went, but I found it was quite a culture shock when I got there, for a Yankee in North Carolina.

HT:     

Well, I know you attended from 1940 till 1944. Tell me about your first impressions when you first got to the Woman’s College and about Greensboro in 1940.

CG:    

Our first impression was that everyone was so friendly. My father took me into Belk’s department store to buy me a chair to go in my room, and the manager came up and in this lovely Southern accent asked my father if he wouldn’t like to cash a check. My father was so impressed that they would ask a stranger whether he wanted to cash a check. So our first impressions were just that this was a wonderful place and that the campus was so beautiful. We were very much impressed.

Once my parents were gone, I was pretty homesick in the beginning. No one could understand my Yankee twang. I couldn’t understand the Southern accent. It was a little difficult at first. And then a girl came into my room, who I’d never seen before, and tossed her hair back and said, “I had a great aunt who said the proudest day of her life was the day that she shot a Yankee and buried him in the garden.”

My first roommate was Nancy Blue from the mountains of North Carolina. She had never seen a streetcar until the day she arrived in Greensboro, and I was used to taking the train into New York from Connecticut and going all around New York City in a cab and subway and everything else. Our experiences had been very different. And she was working in the dining hall to work her way through. And the first night we were both a little uneasy and a little uncertain where we were. We climbed into bed and she called over through the dark and she said, “Do you like to ride a mule?” Then I thought that I better go home because this wasn’t the place for me. [laughter]

Ms. [Martha Elizabeth] Hathaway, who was the counselor in our dorm in Winfield Hall—no, Hinshaw; I started out in Hinshaw—she got us all together and said, “Now, don’t you think that you’re going to live with the person you’re with now. Three weeks from today everybody is going to move. In the meantime, I’ll be looking you over, and if you have someone you’d like to room with, you let me know.”

That was how I came to with Mary Elizabeth Kushner[?] form York, Pennsylvania, and we were off on a four-year adventure that never ended. We had a wonderful time, and we loved being at Woman’s College.

HT:     

How did you actually get to Woman’s College? Did your dad drive you down?

CG:    

My mother and father drove me down. We spent the first night in Greensboro in the King Cotton Hotel.

HT:     

Oh, yes.

CG:    

The only accommodations they had available were the honeymoon suites, so I thought that that was pretty fancy, being up there on the top floor and all that, with all those beautiful surroundings.

HT:     

Well, after you sort of got settled in, tell me about your days at Woman’s College.

CG:    

Well, right from the beginning we were—Well, I was surprised when I got there that most of the people that I met didn’t seem very much aware of the war in Europe and what was going on.

Coming from New England and being so close to New York, I think that my first real impressions of how serious the situation was was going to the World’s Fair in New York—the huge towering Russian building, and while at the same time the smaller countries were being invaded. So I was surprised to get to the Woman’s College and find that if war was mentioned at all, it was more apt to be the War Between the States than it was what was going on in Europe. [chuckles] But very quickly we began to be affected by what was happening, and I think that was partly due to some of the lecturers that came to Aycock Auditorium in the series. They kept as aware of what was going on in the rest of the world.

I enjoyed my classes right from the beginning. That first semester when we had to be in our rooms from seven o’clock till ten and couldn’t—we could go to the library, but I think that that was the only thing that we could do. A lot of people found those restrictions pretty difficult to live with, but I think it was a pretty good idea because a lot of those young women hadn’t had much experience in this world. It was good for them to be brought kind of slowly up to date of what was going on.

HT:     

Whom do you remember? Who stands out in your mind of the instructors and the professors from that period of time?

CG:    

Well, I was particularly impressed with Ms. [Mildred] Gould, my English teacher. I was majoring in home economics. [I was] not sure what I wanted to do, except for some reason I was sure I didn’t want to teach. I don’t know why, because it turned out later that was a good place for me, but I thought I didn’t want to be a teacher. So I was taking home economics. I had been to Stouffer’s Restaurant in New York and they were just starting this course in management for hotels and restaurants, and I thought that that sounded kind of interesting. Ms. Gould tried to get me to change and major in English. How different my life would have been had I done that. But I stayed with the home economics.

I’m trying to think if there were—[phone rings]. Oh dear—

[Recording paused]

CG:    

Later on I particularly enjoyed Mereb Mossman’s classes. I had so many people in home economics that it’s hard to remember some of the names now. Ms. [Madeleine] Street was one of my professor in home economics, and of course Blanche Tansil taught institutional management and I had many classes with her.

HT:     

So right from the very beginning you were a home economics major?

CG:    

Yes. That turned out to be—my roommate, Mary Kushner, majored in Spanish, so she’d take her book and sit under a tree to study verbs, and I had three-hour lab, after three-hour lab, after three-hour lab. Those of us in dietetics were being trained to meet the requirements of the American Dietetic Association, and that meant we had to have biology and physiology and physics and—so a lot of the courses I took required a lot more time than the people who were majoring in a foreign language or something of that type.

HT:     

I’m assuming that you had all of your classes, or most of your classes probably, in the home ec[onomics] building.

CG:    

Every semester I had at least two classes in home ec, but then I had many other classes, too. Of course, the sciences were all in the science building: the physiology and biology and all of that. It was said that there wasn’t a cat within in three miles of the campus because of the biology students. [laughs] I do remember that I had to dissect one.

HT:     

Well, hopefully you got them from somewhere else other than the neighborhood. Do you recall anything about Dean Harriet Elliot?

CG:    

Well, she was in Washington the first two years that I was there on—they used to call it President [Franklin] Roosevelt’s brain trust—all these people that he had that helped him. She was very seldom on the campus, but we were very proud of the fact that our dean of women had this important position in Washington. So Annie Funderburk filled her position much of the time that I was there.

HT:     

How about Chancellor [Walter Clinton] Jackson?

CG:    

Well, I particularly remember the freshman tea because we were all just—It’s hard to believe now how innocent we all were and how little we had done, but this just seemed like a huge thing, to be invited to Jackson’s for tea. We went downtown to buy gloves because we thought it was very important that we had gloves that matched our hats to wear to tea. I remember how gracious Mrs. Jackson was and how lovely their home was. Of course, he often spoke at chapel, and I remember a very moving talk he gave one time about the war, the approaching war, and how we probably going to be involved and how it was going to be our responsibility as young women to get out there and do our part.

HT:     

Do you recall what you were doing when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

CG:    

[laugh] Very well. My roommate Mary, her sister Eileen Kushner had come to college the next year, so it was our sophomore year and Eileen’s freshmen year. We had a call early that morning from Dr. [Ruth] Collings, the college physician, saying that Eileen had acute appendicitis and had to have surgery right away. So we were down in the hospital sitting in her room, and Eileen was coming out of the anesthetic and was very sick and I was holding her head. This young man burst into the room with a newspaper in his hand saying, “Eileen, wake up, wake up! The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor!”

I grabbed the paper out of his hand. He had a date with her the night before and couldn’t believe that she had already had surgery. So I remember that day well. And I stayed with her until that night when the nurse came and said, well, visiting hours were over and that I would have to leave. I looked in my purse to see if I had enough money for a cab to get back to campus. I had thirty cents, so that was enough to take a taxi.

I remember that there was no one on the streets, absolutely no one, and you knew that everyone was glued to the radio to hear the latest reports.

HT:     

So do you recall—you must have been in downtown Greensboro at the hospital.

CG:    

Yes.

HT:     

Do you recall which hospital it might have been?

CG:    

Well, I’m sure it was the only one there was at the time.

HT:     

I think there was a St. Leo’s Hospital on Summit Avenue.

CG:    

Well, that doesn’t ring a bell, but after sixty-some years, that’s—

HT:     

After sixty-some years, that’s fine.

CG:    

[laughter] Some details have just escaped me.

HT:     

I was just curious. That’s all right. Well, after Pearl Harbor, how did the atmosphere change on campus?

CG:    

Well, it was very interesting even before Pearl Harbor, because they—the year we started out sophomore year, that fall the army had war games in North and South Carolina. They sent every soldier that they had available to take part in these mock battles, and we were all of a sudden told that there were going to be soldiers in town in Greensboro on the weekends, and  therefore we would not be allowed to leave the campus except to go to church. From Friday—I think it was Friday noon till Monday morning we couldn’t leave the campus. We couldn’t even go to the ten cent store while those war games were on because we were Southern ladies and weren’t to meet up with these soldiers. It wasn’t very long before the soldiers began to find their way to the campus. That first fall, we could walk around—we couldn’t leave the campus, but we were free to walk around the quadrangle or wherever. We had to check in every half hour, so every half hour you had to go to the dormitory and sign in and then you could go out for another half hour.

One Sunday morning we woke up and the mock battle had come to Greensboro and there was a soldier under every bush and every tree on campus. Hundreds of soldiers were there. So we—It was very educational for us to talk to these men. They had so few weapons that many of them were using wooden guns. The first parachuters dropped out of planes and landed in trees and all that kind of thing. Right away we began to feel very personally involved, because we began to hear stories of what was going on.

After Pearl Harbor, all of a sudden everybody’s brother and father and sweetheart was going into the war. Soldiers weren’t considered the high hazard they had been before that time. Then they began to have dances on Saturday nights in the gymnasium and three hundred college girls could sign up to go. There would be two hundred soldiers brought by bus from the new army base, [Army Air Force] Basic Training Center #10 in Greensboro. If you signed up to go to the dance, you had to agree that you wouldn’t leave until the dance was over. You weren’t allowed to leave. When the dance ended, the soldiers were lined up along the gymnasium walls and we were escorted back to our dormitories. Once we were all safely out of sight, then the men got on the buses and went back to camp. By the time we came back the next year, we were taken in buses out to the army base to entertain the soldiers. It was very, very, interesting how it changed and how it evolved.

HT:     

While you were there, was there not a lake on campus?

CG:    

Yes.

HT:     

Yes, okay. At the former golf course?

CG:    

Yes. We lived in Winfield Hall for three years. Our room overlooked the little lake. I remember one time when Mary and I took a couple of GIs from Brooklyn canoeing on the lake. That was kind of a joke. You just about started to paddle and you were across the lake. Yes, the lake was brand new then and everyone was very proud of the lake.

HT:     

There was an amphitheater there as well, a grassy outdoor theater.

CG:    

Yes.

HT:     

Did you attend any events at that amphitheater?

CG:    

I don’t ever remember that they had much going on, except I remember a day in the spring when the girls who were in that special group who wore their evening dresses when we went to special events at Aycock all being out there in their gowns. It was May Day and they did something like that. They didn’t use it very much.

Of course the war changed everything. People were—we were all too busy. We were too busy. We wrapped bandages. We volunteered. Everybody was so busy and there was less and less personnel to set up things like that.

HT:     

I was going to ask if you did any volunteer work during the war years, you and friends.

CG:    

Well, that’s about all that I remember. We were all in the Red Cross and we used to go roll bandages and that kind of thing. We really had very little time. We were all so very, very busy. There was very little transportation. We walked everywhere we went. I don’t know whether other people were involved—

HT:     

I know some people were involved in paper drives and scrap metal drives. The Boy Scouts were real active in that.

CG:    

Well, we always did that at home. Sixty years later, anything’s been missing from my home they say, “Well, Carol gave it to the scrap drive.” [laughter] I was the only one home and I really cleaned out. Oh yes. Fat, we all saved fat. Of course, we had rationing on campus. We had to turn in our food stamps for sugar and all that kind of thing. The meals became more and more sketchy and monotonous as the years went on, because they did for everybody.

Being in home economics, we had to put on these special teas and special affairs. We couldn’t get sugar, so we had to use orange marmalade in the tea and put in a little cinnamon and called it Russian tea. I don’t think it was something the Russians would ever have known. We had to make all kinds of adjustments like that because there were fewer and fewer things available for us to use.

HT:     

Could you tell us the story about the time you served—I think it was beef heart— to the dean of women, the acting dean of women.

CG:    

That was when I was a senior and living in the home management house. We had to live on three different budget levels. The least one was something like twenty-five cents per day per person. A moderate income was fifty cents a day and seventy-five cents a day we could really live well.

My roommate in the home management house, Doris McRobertson, and I were in charge of preparing and serving the meal. That meant we had to do the marketing. We had to keep within on our budget. We happened to be on the lowest possible budget when Annie B. Funderburk, who was dean of women acting for Harriot Elliot, came to dinner. She always came once for every group that lived in the home management house.

Doris and I were in a bad state over what we were going to serve for dinner, so we went to go see a butcher. In those days you went to a butcher’s shop and talked to the butcher. He said he had just the thing. He had a beef heart and it was eighteen cents. We thought that that would be just great, so we bought the beef heart. He assured us that it was going to be just fine. We got back to the home management house and we had no idea how to cook it. So Doris said that she would go to Blanche Tansil, who was head of institutional management, and find out how to cook it if I would serve it.

We got ready to serve our meal. Dean Funderburk arrived and the hostess for the evening served her tomato juice and crackers in the living room. Doris and I made sure that every knife and fork and spoon was exactly one inch—took a measure and measured the silver and made sure it was the right edge from the edge of the table and the glasses were in position. Everything was just right.

Then we announced dinner. Everyone came in and sat down to dinner. I was the host, so I sat at the head of the table with a carving knife and fork in front of me. Doris opened the kitchen door and she had on a spotless white apron and she had a white iron-stone platter, this huge platter, and in the middle sat this beef heart. And the only thing she could decorate the platter with was carrot tops, so there were carrot tops all around the beef heart. She gave me kind of a funny look and she put it down in front of me and retreated into the kitchen to get the vegetables. I picked up the fork and I couldn’t piece the beef heart, so I tried again and I didn’t have much luck. So I gave a real jab and the beef heart started across the table right in the direction of Dean Funderburk’s lap. I managed to block it with the carving knife and got it back on the platter. By the time I carved it into pieces, it was just hunks. Doris came in with the gravy and quickly covered it in gravy.

When Dean Funderburk was leaving, she told us that she had a wonderful evening and it was different from any meal that she had ever had. Well, well were sure of that. As we did the dishes we said, well, the next time we’d carve it in the kitchen. We’d never make that mistake again. We figured that probably she called Dean Elliot right away in Washington, and the next morning President Roosevelt heard about it at his meeting with his advisors. It was humiliating to us at the time, but really it was very funny.

HT:     

Well, how did it taste?

CG:    

[laughs] Well, it tasted more like the gravy. It was tough. We obviously hadn’t cooked it right. We probably hadn’t done the right thing to it. The thing was that it looked so unappetizing that how it tasted— I don’t think anybody ate too much of it. They kind of pushed it around under the mashed potatoes and let it go at that.

HT:     

Do you have any other stories about WC that come to mind?

CG:    

Well we had a lot of—we really had to make our own entertainment, because on the weekends there wasn’t gas to go anywhere. Of course, none of us had cars on campus then. It would have been—we would have gone with someone else. We made a lot of our own entertainment.

My Aunt Hannah had sent me a hot plate, and it was absolutely forbidden to have a hot plate in your room. But through those three years—the last three years that we were there—we ate almost as many meals fixing something on that hot plate. As I remember, it was usually bouillon and something out of a can we could fix. Everyone loved to come to our room, and we served lots of meals. We’d have Sunday breakfast, and we’d have a great time fixing things up on that hot plate and serving food in our room.

HT:     

How did you hide the hot plate during inspections and that sort of thing?

CG:    

Oh, in the closest under something or other. And we did have—the inspection weren’t announced. We never knew then they were going to inspect our rooms.

Mary and I were fairly neat, but her sister was absolutely a freak about neatness, and lived with Virginia Haynes, who didn’t mind dust under her bed at all. So finally they drew a chalk line down the floor. And Elaine kept her half as speck and span as she wanted it, and Jenny—who was an art major—had pots of paint and a little dust. And it didn’t matter to Jenny on her side. I can’t remember that anything much ever happened about the inspections, but they did come and inspect.

HT:     

In those days you had resident counselors I believe.

CG:    

Yes.

HT:     

Do you recall the name of your counselor?

CG:    

Well, my freshman year it was—oh, dear, I said—Miss Hathaway, Elizabeth Hathaway. I particularly remember Mrs. Young was our counselor, I think for two years when we lived in Winfield hall. I have forgotten the name of the other one. Of course, we had lots of meetings at night. Sometimes you would be just so exhausted and thought that you were going to go to bed and then they would announce that there was going to be a hall meeting, and we would all go in our pajamas with our hair in curlers.

After awhile we had blackouts in Greensboro. So if there was a blackout, we had to go sit on the floor in the halls, in the dark, until the all clear was sounded. Because the end of the gas line was in Greensboro, they had everyone very much frightened that the Germans were going to bomb the gas line. So we had many, many, blackouts.

For the first few we sat on the floor and sang. They then said, no, we couldn’t sing anymore because we might not hear the next warning or whatever. So then we had—but we got pretty good at taking a blanket and a few snacks and making ourselves as comfortable as we could, sitting for sometimes a long, long, time in the dark in the halls.

HT:     

Now, did the windows to the dorm rooms have blackout curtains on them or anything like that?

CG:    

No.

HT:     

No. Interesting. Well, you graduated in 1944. Can you tell us a little about your senior year, that would have been ’43-’44?

CG:    

Well, by that time, of course, everyone was so involved in the war, and practically everyone had family members and sweethearts and all who were overseas. I remember one Sunday afternoon meeting someone on campus who said, “Oh, there’s a fellow here from Danbury, Connecticut,” which is where I had grown up. “He’s an officer, and he’s very good looking, and you better look for him.”

I went running around the campus until I found him. He was delighted to see someone from home, and I was delighted to see someone from home. He lived on the same street as an aunt of mine. We had a delightful afternoon, just delightful. He was on his way overseas, and he said, “Well, I hope I’ll see you again when all this is over.” But it was no surprise to me when he was killed, because he just seemed to already sense that he wasn’t going to come back.

I had already had a much more personal experience than that, because the fellow that I had been dating my senior year in high school and my first year in college was older than I was. He had been in Europe and had seen Hitler march into Austria, and he knew what was coming. He had just received his master’s degree when we were going together, but he volunteered. He went into the army before we were in the war as a volunteer. He just went as a private, much to his family’s dismay. He spoke several languages and he felt that he would very quickly be given a better position.

He was a staff sergeant stationed in Pine Camp [now Fort Drum], New York, and was hoping to go to Officer Candidate School any day. After my sophomore year, when I went home that year—it always so exciting to have that long train trip and get home at the end of the semester—my mother and brother met me in South Norwalk, Connecticut—which surprised me because I was expecting to take the local from there to Danbury—to tell me that Ernie [Urban] had been killed in a plane accident. We had half an hour to get to the funeral. From the heights of all the excitement of getting home, I went directly to Ernie’s funeral. I was the first person of any of the people I knew who lost someone they were very close to in the war.

Then the two fellows that Mary and I took canoeing on the lake—they were from Brooklyn, and we had a lot of fun because of their accents and how different they were from us—their whole battalion got wiped out in Italy. By the time I left the Woman’s College, I had been personally involved with three people who were gone.

HT:     

Was that quite common for all the girls?

CG:    

Not common, but it did happen. We all knew someone. Of course, as more and more of them married and would come back—they married on a weekend because someone was going overseas—the post office became the most important place on campus because everybody was hoping for mail. Everybody was there everyday, lined up just waiting for the mail to go in the boxes and hoping for those blue letters from people overseas.

HT:     

Do you recall where the post office was at that time? It was in the basement of—

CG:    

It was in the basement.

HT:     

Of the students’ building maybe?

CG:    

Yes, I guess it was the students’ building.

HT:     

You talked a few minutes ago about going home at the end of the semester. Were you able to make trips during the school year back and forth, or was that out of the question?

CG:    

Never went home for Thanksgiving, always went home for Christmas, and for spring break, either went home or went somewhere. Our sophomore year, Mary and I went to Daytona Beach, Florida, to stay with friends of Mother’s and Dad’s who had a cabin cruiser tied up in Fort Lauderdale—or in Daytona Beach. We always laughed and said that we started the student trend to go to Florida because there weren’t any—of course, there weren’t any men going then and we were—that was quite an adventure for two college girls to go to Florida for spring break. Other than that, I either went to—either Mary went with me home to Connecticut, or I went with her to York, Pennsylvania. 

Those trips on the train were—it was six hundred miles and we had to change trains in Washington. That was a real learning experience, as well as what we learned in college, because very quickly there was so many servicemen, and we very quickly learned to look around and spot someone who looked as though they would be someone that would kind of protect us. We used to play bridge a lot on those long train trips, and so a soldier who would come along and offer to be the fourth at bridge was usually someone who was a little more trustworthy than some of the others. We really learned to protect ourselves, and I never had any trouble. But at the same time, it could get pretty wild when you’ve got a whole carload of soldiers.

HT:     

Those troop trains, I guess, were quite something else. But did you have any outstanding adventures on some of those train trips?

CG:    

Well, one time we—coming back at Christmas—we missed connections in Washington, D.C.  We always had to change trains in Washington, and that was where Mary and I parted because she would go to Pennsylvania and I would go on to New York. But I always would meet a few people coming back. When I got on the train in New York, there’d always be two or three that I recognized, and we’d all travel together. When we got to Washington, we missed our connections. And they said, well, there was a local that we could take.

You weren’t supposed to miss the last class before a vacation or after a vacation. It was very important to us to get back on time. So we said, all right, we’d take the local. It turned out to be a mail train, and there were just three cars. There was the car that had the mail in, and then a middle car where they were sorting mail, and then one passenger car, which was where we were. It had a potbellied stove in it and just one or two little windows up at the front. We stopped to pick up milk and mail, so we stopped it seems as though every few feet. It took hours and hours and hours. Along in the middle of the night, the trainman came in from the mailroom and said, “Well, girls put on your coats. We’re going to get some supper.”

We stopped somewhere in the wilds of Virginia at a roundhouse. He had at lantern, and we looked down the steps, and of course there was no platform or anything. He said, “It’s all right. I’ll catch you.” So he put down his lantern. He thought this was just great to catch each one of us, but we thought that we’d break our necks. When we went into this roundhouse, there was one light bulb burning outside, just this dim, dim light. We went in and we were in a roundhouse, and the engineers were sitting around playing checkers and passing the time. They had red checked tablecloths, oil cloth, and heavy, heavy, mugs. They brought us coffee and brought us something to eat. We had a great time. We thought that this was just loads of fun. But the trainman had the best time of all, because when he had to boost us back up that high, high, step onto the train, he had more than a little—a little trouble. So we were—I can’t remember how many hours it was, but we were absolutely beat by the time we got back to college.

HT:     

Oh, my goodness. Well, when did you decide that you wanted to join the army as a dietitian?

CG:    

Well, I didn’t really decide it. It got decided for me. When I was a senior, along in December, Blanche Tansil, who was our instructor, told us that we were going to take a civil service exam. She said, “I just think that this just a good experience. With this war on, everybody is going to have to take a civil service exam sooner or later. So I’m sending you all down to the post office to take an exam to be a student apprentice dietitian and then go into the army.”

Well, it meant giving up our time. We left on an early Saturday morning in the pitch dark, walked down to the post office, and it was cold and miserable and we didn’t want to go. Some people had studied all night, and I couldn’t understand that because who knew what was going to be on that exam. The only way I could ever explain the results was the fact that I hadn’t take it that seriously. We sat in the basement of the post office under dripping steam pipes in a hot, hot, room. For three hours we took this exam—mostly multiple choice questions, page after page after page. Mary was waiting for me to go Christmas shopping. I just went zoom, zoom, zoom as fast as I could. It didn’t mean anything except we had to take it.

About six weeks later, I got a letter from the war department saying I passed the exam, and I was one of sixteen from throughout the United States to be awarded a year’s training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after which I would commissioned a second lieutenant in the army, and that I would have to agree to serve for the duration of the war, plus six months. Well, now we know how it all came out. But in that day you didn’t know how many years of your life you were going to be signing away. I think I always knew I was going to accept it because I felt that it was my duty to complete what Ernie had started, and he’d been killed. It just seemed as though it was kind of my destiny. But at the same time, I really agonized over it. Of course, everyone at Woman’s College was very, very, anxious for me to accept the appointment because this meant a lot to them if there were only going to be sixteen of them from throughout the United States.

HT:     

So you were the only one from Woman’s College?

CG:    

Oh, yes. There were only sixteen.

HT:     

Do you know why you were chosen?

CG:    

Well, I passed that exam.

HT:     

And the others didn’t or didn’t get as good of a score, I guess?

CG:    

Well, hundreds and hundreds of people took the exam from all over the United States, and they only chose sixteen of us. So that—you know, they felt that that was a real achievement. They were very anxious for me to do it. My parents just said, “Well, we know that you’ll make the right decision.” I was just longing for them to say, “You should,” or, “You shouldn’t.”

You know, we all were so patriotic. It is hard to explain to people today how patriotic we were and how everyone wanted to do their part. They were saying at the time that women would probably be drafted very soon, so the opportunity to go in as an officer was a good point. In the end, of course, I accepted the appointment.

HT:     

Now were you at this time—while you were at Woman’s College, were you aware of the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Service—U.S. Navy] and the WAC [Women’s Army Corps]?

CG:    

Oh, yes. And I remember when—I think it was Mildred McAfee [Horton], who was head of the WAVES, came and spoke at the college. Some of the girls did join up. You know, it was—these things were just the things that we talked about and thought about all the time.

HT:     

But you never had any inclination to join the WAVES or the WAC prior to—

CG:    

Oh, I had never even considered that possibility until this. It just kind of happened to me.

HT:     

So tell me about your graduation from Woman’s College in 1944.

CG:    

Well, my—the first big problem was the ball, because all the men we knew were overseas, and where were we going to get dates to the senior ball? Finally, my roommate asked her father, and he accepted readily. Her mother was very upset because she said, “Well, he’s going to have to have his tux let out.” It didn’t seem worth it for one night to have the tux made over so it would fit. I wanted—hoped that my brother Sam, who was nearer my age, could come. But he was at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] in a speed-up government program, so he couldn’t get away. But my younger brother, Sherman, was a cadet at Admiral Farragut Naval Academy on Toms River, New Jersey. He was sixteen. So I wrote to Sherman and asked him if he thought we were too old, and if he didn’t mind coming and taking me to the ball. He wrote back that he would love to come if I’d make sure he got all blondes on the dance card. So Sherman came from Connecticut.

Mary was very much in love with in love with a soldier named Dave Monroe, who was stationed in Mississippi, and he had told her that it was impossible, there was no way that he could come. The day before the ball, who showed up but Dave? He had pulled some strings and got leave, so he came for the ball.

We had a terrible dilemma for two college girls, because we had Mary’s father with his tux let out, Dave there to take Mary to the dance, and what were we going to do? Our best friends across the hall were Nancy and—Nancy Davis and her sister Barbara—Barbara, Nancy Davis. Barbara had a date for the ball, but Nancy did not. So we wondered if Nancy would be willing to go with Mary’s father. Nancy was a real good sport. So when we asked her she said, “Sure, if he’s willing to go with me, I’m willing to go with him.” So I went with my sixteen-year-old brother, Nancy went with Mary’s father—who was a dentist—and Mary went with Dave.

Dr. Kushner, Mary’s father, arrived at the dormitory and no one was around. There was no one at the reception desk; we were all busy getting ready for the dance. So he just opened the door and started down the hall. There were these screeches of, “Man on the hall. Man on the hall!” The resident counselor had to come and rescue him. He said, “What did I do? I’ve got three daughters!” It didn’t mean anything to him, but it certainly upset the girls in Winfield Hall.

So we had a wonderful time. The governor was there. It was in the alumni house, which was such a beautiful place to have a dance. When the intermission came, we went out on those broad marble steps, and Dr. Kushner said, “Nancy, I’m sorry but I’ve got to sit down.” So he sat down on the top step and he took his shoes off. We all stood there and we looked down, and coming down the street was Mary’s mother with my parents just coming to see what was going on at the alumni house. Mary’s mother stood at the bottom of the steps and she said, “George, George!” He just smiled down at her. She said, “George, come down here!” He slipped on his shoes and said, “Come on, Nancy,” and they disappeared back into the alumni house. My parents just about cracked up. We had a lot of fun about that.

So that was big thing. When we went to graduation, we were warned, “Now be careful. You’re going to have to move fast and don’t fall.” So, of course, we’d been lined up in the hot sun for a long time waiting for the processional to start. We were going down quite a steep incline, and, of course, I was the one whose high heel caught in the rough place in the pavement. I sprawled flat on the cement sidewalk. I had to scramble up and keep going or I’d have been run over by the people behind me. I skinned my knee, and I was more concerned with the hole in my nylons than anything else because nylons were a very precious commodity at this time during the war.

I took all of the skin off of my hand. I don’t remember too much about what people said or what went on at graduation. I sat there in agony trying to hold myself together. When it came time to accept my diploma, and the governor—who was a large man—held out his hand and took my hand and the tears poured down my face, I’m sure he thought I was very affected to be graduating, but actually it was pain more than anything else. [laughs]

HT:     

Do you recall were graduation was being held?

CG:    

In Aycock Auditorium.

HT:     

Aycock.  [pause] What did you do after you graduated?

CG:    

Well, that—we went back to our room. Mary’s boyfriend had sent her a little bottle of champagne. None of us had ever had champagne, and we had it in ice cubes in the washbasin in our room. We went back and we opened this bottle of champagne. Nancy Davis took one sip and said she thought she was drinking antifreeze. We all asked her how she knew what antifreeze was.

The real climax to our graduation was the next morning because we were up early getting the last packing done and getting ready to leave for the train, and that was D-Day.  No one wanted to leave the radio. We all huddled around the radios and we had to go, we had to go. I met my parents at the railroad station, and everywhere the train stopped my dad would get off and try to get the very latest news of what was going on. It was a real climatic ending to our graduation.

HT:     

So what did you do that summer, the summer of 1944?

CG:    

I kind of worried about going to Walter Reed and ending up in the army. [laughs] That was very much on my mind.

HT:     

Because you were scheduled to go in September 1, I think.

CG:    

September first I was to report to Walter Reed for this year of training. For several weeks I helped my Aunt Pauline with the Red Cross program teaching canning to people. Everyone had a victory garden and they had all these fruits and vegetables. Most of their mothers had canned, but they had never canned. They didn’t know what to do. So we worked through long, hot summer days in a church kitchen teaching people how to can.  

Then I went to my mother and father—my father was a civil engineer, but he had a heart attack and couldn’t go on with engineering. He and Mother had bought an orange grove in Homestead, Florida. There was a drought and he had to have wells drilled in the grove, and I went down with him. He was very suspicious that the wells weren’t as deep as they were supposed to be. It was difficult drilling through that coral rock.

I went down and helped him measure the wells. We found a few that weren’t what they were supposed to be. By then the summer was over, and it was time to report to Walter Reed.

HT:     

Tell me about reporting to Walter Reed.

CG:    

Well, I took the—I went by myself. I remember leaving the station and getting a taxi cab and being so surprised when I got to Walter Reed at how beautiful the grounds were. The buildings were Georgian colonial brick buildings with white trim. Of course, the main entrance to the hospital at Walter Reed was very imposing with wide marble steps and a portico and a fountain in front and these staff cars pulling up in front of the hospital. It was very imposing.

We were to live in the nurses’ quarters, which were in another beautiful—kind of reminded me of Winfield Hall where I lived in college—beautiful brick building. There was an officer there, Lieutenant Childress, to meet us. We walked into this beautiful lounge with mahogany furniture, very much like it had been in college. I thought, “Isn’t this wonderful?” I can’t remember if I ever saw that room again.

She took us downstairs and our rooms were in the basement, in what had been the beauty parlor before the war. They had torn out the petitions, so we had a bed and a washbasin and a bed and a washbasin—six of us in a row—down the row. Tile wall, tile floors, all the lights on one switch, and a bathroom way at the end of the room, and that was to be our home for the next six months. Then there was another room like that next to it where the others were.

Actually, the year at Walter Reed was—we were officers in everything except name. It was much harder work than—much more rigid than the army protocol anywhere I was every stationed after I got my commission. Because being the army medical center, everything was very much done strictly according to the book.

Everyone seemed to come to Walter Reed sooner or later. Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt came once a week to entertain the boys. All the movie stars—everyone came. We had all the sickest patients that the army had—anyone that had something that they couldn’t take care of somewhere else, they were sent to the army medical center. It was a very busy place and a lot going on. We were just—that first six months was the most difficult six months of my life.

We would be assigned to one position for usually about three weeks. If you were working on a ward with patients, you went to work at six in the morning. We worked until we fed them breakfast, and then we went and had our own breakfast. Then went back and worked till noon, mainly talking to patients about their diets and that sort of thing and working with patients. Then we had lunch, and then from one till four we had very intense classes with medical personnel. We had to learn all about army routine. And then we had many, many classes with doctors on various things that we’d be meeting up with in feeding the patients. Then we had half an hour to get back to the wards, and worked until suppertime. Once we the patients were fed, then we had our supper and then we went to the library to study, and studied until you dropped. In the reference room, we were not allowed to sit down because we were potential officers, but we were not officers. So if you were using reference material, you had to stand up. [laughs]

If you were working—well, one three weeks I was with a mess sergeant buying army food. For that position, we left at four in the morning for the wholesale markets in downtown Washington and bought all these huge amounts, huge quantities, the best that was available. We worked in many different positions. We had to spend several weeks at Children’s Hospital [now Children’s National Medical Center], because to meet the requirements of the [American] Dietetic Association, we had to have worked with children. Then we had to be out standing at a bus stop, on the edge of Rock Creek Park, at six o’clock in the morning, waiting for the first bus to take us down to Children’s Hospital.

The first morning a limousine pulled up and out got a Russian soldier and asked us where we were going. We told him and he went and conferred with his officer, who was sitting in the front of this limousine, and they said that they would take us. So this Russian officer took us to Children’s Hospital.

The next couple of mornings we waited for the bus. Then a man stopped, and when a car stopped, you were a little uneasy. He said what were we doing out there at that hour in the morning? We told him we had to get the bus. He said he didn’t think much of anybody who would send us out there at that hour. He said, “I go by here every morning, and I will pick you up every morning.” So he did. When our time was up and it was someone else’s, that man never failed to be there every morning to drive to us Children’s Hospital.

That turned out to be another very educational experience, because there was a polio epidemic and many children of diplomats and government officials were in halls lined with iron lungs. The conditions in the kitchen were so bad that we refused to eat anything in the place. For lunch we always had a banana and a carton of milk because we absolutely refused to eat the food. We used to just wish that one of the parents of those poor children had gone downstairs and seen what the conditions were in the kitchen. So that was a real eye opener.

HT:     

Now the Children’s Hospital was not part of the Walter Reed?

CG:    

No, they had just made arrangements because we had to have—to meet this requirement.

HT:     

Oh, I see.

CG:    

The most interesting experiences I had came after we were apprentice dietitians. There were fewer of us. They did give us a final chance to say no to going in after we finished as students. One of my best friends decided not to go on. She wanted to be married and she left, which we didn’t think was fair that she’d taken the training and then for that reason didn’t go on. The rest of us decided we would go on as apprentices. If you went on to the apprentice program, then that meant that six months later you were going to be in the army. You had no choice. When we were apprentice dietitians, we no longer had classes. We were really working just like anyone else. Of course, there was a supervisor way above us to make sure that we were doing it right.

I happened to be on a officer’s surgical ward—had sixty officer patients—and also had to take care of the meals for General [John J.] Pershing, who had a penthouse at the top floor and had lived at Walter Reed for many years. He was in his eighties and not in good health. We would read in the paper how General [George] Marshall had been to Walter Reed to confer with General Pershing, the hero of World War I, and that kind of thing. But actually he wasn’t up to as much as the papers implied.

Every morning I had to meet at ten o’clock with his sister, Miss Mae Pershing. I never found the officers to be any problem at all, but their relatives could be enough to drive you crazy. And Miss Mae Pershing felt her position as General Pershing’s sister. She came to confer on his meals. She was very, very, difficult. I would have to put down whatever she wanted. She had lunch with him and dinner. But as an example, we had sugar shakers which had plastic tops on them, and some of the tops were red and some of them were black. She insisted that at lunch that she should have the black top and the general should have the red, and at dinner she should have the red and he should have the black. Of course, the tray carriers knew that, and so they’d immediately switch them as soon as they got out in the hall. The first thing I would hear every morning was, “Miss Morrison, I can’t understand why you can’t even get the right color sugar shaker on the trays.” She would get down to things that minute. I always enjoyed Tuesdays, because on Tuesdays General Pershing’s son came for lunch. He was a major. And when Major Pershing came, we always had steak and ice cream, so it made my day with Miss Pershing much less difficult.

So I was doing that and was on that service when the war in Europe ended. It was protocol that when the generals came back from Europe, they’d go to see President [Harry] Truman at the White House, and then they’d come pay their respects to General Pershing from World War I. [Dwight] Eisenhower came first, and it was announced all over the hospital that General Eisenhower would be there. Everyone was out in the halls, and he went along greeting everyone with his great grin and his familiar smile and went to see General Pershing. The corpsmen who came to get General Pershing’s meal, he and I had lots of experiences together, so we were very good friends, and I asked him how it went. He said, “Well, for three days Miss Pershing had been practicing with the general over what he was to say when Eisenhower came.” And he said, “General Pershing sat up as straight as he could in bed, in his striped pajamas, and saluted he General Eisenhower. And he said, ‘General, I want to congratulate you. I want to congratulate you,’ and that was as far as he could get. He couldn’t remember. And Miss Pershing had to pitch in and answer.” When Pershing died, there was a picture in the newspaper which I found of that event, showing Eisenhower’s back and General Pershing sitting in bed and Ms. Pershing next to him.

Three days later, General [George] Patton came back. The word was out to all the staff that General Patton would be coming to see General Pershing, but no one was to be in the halls, no one. There was to be nothing made of his visit whatsoever. In the room next to my ward kitchen was Colonel [Johnny K.] Waters, who was a son-in-law of General Patton.  He had been a prisoner of the Germans, and General Patton had gotten him out of prison during the Battle of the Bulge. So he came. He had been injured at that time. So he had an injury and, of course, he was very, very, thin from his years in the concentration camp. He was in the room next to the kitchen—delightful man. And Miss Pershing often used to knock on the kitchen door and say, “Oh, could you do me a favor? I’ve made Colonel some wine-jelly for his lunch, and could you keep it in your refrigerator till lunch?”

Of course I would say, “Of course, Miss Pershing.”

Then I would have the worst time—I had to practically give up my morning to standing guard over the refrigerator so no one would take a taste of the colonel’s jelly for lunch. I knew that General Patton would not only been seeing General Pershing, but he would be coming to see his son-in-law in the room next door.

To serve these sixty officers—all of whom were on selective diets and selected whatever they wanted to eat from the menu—then I had to go through and modify it depending on what their diet allowed. The food was fixed four floors below in the main kitchen and came up in a heated steam cart. We would have dozens of containers because of all these different modifications to the diets. We had three black girls to serve the meals, plus Williston, who was a corporal, who had marched all the way across North Africa and should have been a patient himself; he was in no condition to be doing anything. So with the help of Williston and the three girls, I had to serve these sixty patients as well General Pershing and Miss Pershing at noon.

So I knew they’d all be interested, so I went into the ward kitchen and I said to them, “Now, I’ve got a big secret to tell you.” I said that, “General Patton is coming today and no one is to see him, but I know that he’ll be going to visit Colonel Waters, and that you’d be interested to know that he will be here. But remember, no one is to make anything of this.”

I went down to hall to see a patient, and as I came back, the door to Colonel Water’s room opened and a little boy of about four stuck his head out. He was wearing this overseas cap with these four stars on it that just—the light just shot off them, they were shining so bright. And he said, “Bang, bang I’ve got you.”  So I knew that Grandpa Patton had arrived to see Colonel Waters.

I went on down to my office, which I shared with a nurse, and had just gotten down there when clomp, clomp, clomp down the hall came General Patton. He burst into the room and came up to me. And we wore white uniforms as apprentice dietitians, so if he had been thinking, he would have known that I wasn’t the nurse because she would be striped seersucker, which everybody in the army wore. He came up to me and he had a riding crop in his hand, and he hit the desk with the riding crop. He said, “I’d like to see General Meade in the recovery room.”

I said, “I’m sorry, sir. I’m the dietitian. Lieutenant So-and-so over here can help you.”

He turned to her and said, “I want to see General [Meade?] in the recovery room.”

She said, “Sir, he just came from surgery and I would have to get permission from the chief surgeon.”

He said, “Well, get it!” and he hit the table again. [laughs] Everything rattled he hit it so hard.

We read in the paper afterwards that he couldn’t wear his ivory handled—the paper always called them pearl handled, but they weren’t pearl handed, they were ivory handled—revolvers. He wasn’t allowed to wear them to the White House, so he had this riding crop instead.  So she called the chief surgeon, and in a very loud voice so that he made sure that General Patton would hear what he was saying, he said, “He may see him for five minutes and not a minute longer.” So she pointed him in the right direction and he left. She was so upset. She said, “Did I do the right thing? Did I do the right thing?” I said, “Of course you did. That’s how the army’s set up. Your rules were that no one could see General Meade. You had no choice. You had to do that.”

Just about then we heard someone coming up the stairs—which were just outside—just bounding up the stairs two or three at a time. In burst this colonel, and he said, “Did you call me about General Patton?”

“Yes, sir.”

He stuck out his hand and said “I want to congratulate you. That was a very brave thing you did.”

HT:     

General Patton must have been a terrible person.

CG:    

Oh, he—and his wife was just delightful. She was so lovely. Well, he was kind of two people. He felt that was the way you had to treat soldiers to keep up the morale, the discipline, and all that. That you had to be tough, and that you always had to be tough. But the other side of him: he played polo when he was stationed in San Antonio and they entertained a great deal. You know, he just kind of [laughs]—He just kind of had two lives. But everyone was—I knew lots of nurses who said that when he came through the camps and when they were overseas that they just fled. They weren’t going to listen to that kind of language. They just weren’t going to take that. Everybody kind of shook when he around.

HT:     

Well, do you have any other stories from your apprenticeship at Walter Reed that you can recall?

CG:    

Well, one thing that is rather amusing because not many people seem to be aware of it— of course, the whole way of dealing with well known people in those days was so different. The fact that no one ever talked the fact that Roosevelt couldn’t walk and they never showed—that wasn’t a rule that came from anywhere, it was just accepted that they didn’t talk about that. People’s personal lives weren’t discussed in the newspapers the way they are now. One day when George came to get the trays for the general and Miss Pershing for lunch, I said “George, I don’t know what I’m going to do. That woman is driving me crazy.” I said, “This morning she told me the tomato juice was much too pale and the bullion was much too dark.”  I said, “What can I do about the tomato juice and the bullion?”

He said, “Oh, we’re all getting it.” He said, “Don’t mind her.” He said, “She’s down on all of us.”

Because General Pershing had a friend named Fifi who had come back with him after World War I. Fifi lived in the Shoreham Hotel. Miss Pershing came at ten to meet with me, and then she stayed and had lunch with the general, and then a staff car took her back to apartment for her afternoon rest. Fifteen minutes after that staff car left, a great big black limousine drove up to the side door of Walter Reed and out stepped Fifi dressed in the styles of 1918, with long skirts and pointed toed shoes and a huge hat. She was whisked up to the general’s quarters, and she stayed with General Pershing until four. Then she left, and at 4:15 Miss Pershing came back. George said that Miss Pershing told the general that she thought that he was getting too tired with Fifi there in the afternoon, and it made the general so mad that he hadn’t talked to his sister in three days. So she was taking it out on all of us.

HT:     

So did Fifi visit every day?

CG:    

Pardon?

HT:     

Did Fifi visit General Pershing every day?

CG:    

As I remember, yes, everyday.

HT:     

Oh, wow.

CG:    

I mean this was just, you know—the timing was worked out just perfectly. They never met. Now, someone today would have picked up on that, but it was never in the papers. It was never talked about. Of course, General Pershing had had a very tragic life because when he was so involved in World War I, his wife and their three daughters all died in the fire at the Presidio in San Francisco. It was a tragic event. They were living in army housing at the Presidio, and the army kept all the floors highly polished using wax. Mrs. Pershing—General Pershing was in El Paso, Texas, sitting up quarters they were to live in there. And Mrs. Pershing entertained in the evening and had a fire in the fireplace. After she had gone to bed, a coal fell out of the grate and hit that wax floor, and that wood house just went up in seconds. The nursemaid saved the general’s son—who was the one I knew, Major [Warren] Pershing—but Mrs. Pershing and her three daughters all perished in that fire. That had been a very tragic event in his life.

HT:     

What type of illness did General Pershing have? Was it just a—

CG:    

Oh. I think he’d had a stroke. He was, you know—

HT:     

So he was a permanent resident of Walter Reed?

CG:    

Oh, yes. He lived there, yeah. He lived there for years.

HT:     

Wow.

CG:    

It was beautiful grounds, great place to live. I don’t think he had any aliments that required it when he went there; he just found it an enjoyable place to be.

HT:     

Well, after you finished your year’s worth of training, what was the next step in your adventures?

CG:    

Well, when finished our training in September in 1945—I really scarcely remember the day that we were taken into the army. I was so busy. We were trying to pack. We were getting ready to leave. We were taken down to an army outfitter in Washington and each measured for a uniform. I had real trouble because the shoes that they issued were I think B-width, and I wore quadruple-A, so it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get very far in the shoes that the army had to offer. All the time I was in the army, I spent half of my days off looking for shoes that would meet their requirements and would fit my narrow feet. We were given half an hour’s training how to salute. And they said, “All right, now report in one month for basic training in San Antonio, Texas.”

So we—I had a month off, and then one of my friends from the class, Marie Lanoue[?], came down from Burlington, Vermont. We left New York for three days—two nights and three days to get to San Antonio, Texas. She had said, “Oh, we’re going to have such fun.” Well, we found out we weren’t going to have any fun at all, because we didn’t know enough about army protocol to know what to do. We hadn’t been on that train a half hour when a sergeant—who recognized a couple of greenhorns when he saw them—stopped us and told us that we were out of uniform and our neckties didn’t match our skirts. [laughs] I looked him in the eye and said, “This came from the best outfitter in Washington, D.C.; now let us go by.” We spent our time holed up in our compartment because we were scared to death. We didn’t know what to do. We really didn’t feel that we could appear anywhere.

We got to San Antonio, Texas, at night and took a cab out to this army base and drove by mile after mile after mile of barracks. All of a sudden we saw one of our friends standing on the steps, so we knew we’d found the right barracks. We were the last two to arrive. They said, “You’re going to get the worst beds because you’re the last two to arrive.” They said, “This was some place. They’ve never had women in this part of the base before. There’re no window shades, there’s nothing.” So we did, we got the worst beds. Our footlockers had arrived, and here we are in our dress uniforms and heels, and we had to struggle getting our footlockers up the stairs to this one room where thirty women were going to be sleeping. We had to turn out all of the lights so we could get undressed because we didn’t have any curtains.

The first one to arrive had thought that she’d beat the crowd and take a shower. Well, since this was barracks that had just been used by men, the shower consisted of one pipe that ran the whole length of a long room with holes punched in it. The water came down right on top of your head either boiling hot or ice cold. This one gal tried—went to try it, and they said she let out a scream that was the worst that had been heard since the Alamo. It wasn’t the water coming out of the pipe that bothered her, it was the cockroaches. The cockroaches were so huge! We were all new to Texas; we hadn’t seen these size things before. The next morning at six o’clock, all thirty of us, all these modest maidens lost their modesty mighty fast. We all went at once to fight off the cockroaches. From then on we all showered together because the cockroaches were a worse menace than anything else. By the next noon, we had curtains and we had a sentry who marched around the building twenty four hours a day as long as we were there.

So we, of course, had to take our basic training. They were still—the war had been over for a few months, but they were still—the last class had had to crawl on their stomachs under the barbed wire with the bullets flying over their heads. We thought that that was pretty silly when the war was over, but they said that nothing will be changed till orders came from the top. But they did. The day before we were to do that, they canceled that. They realized that there was no need to do that.

But we did go to cook and bakers school out in the desert in a tent with a coal range. We had to learn to cook dehydrated foods, all the things that we would have to use if we were in a field kitchen overseas. That was—the heat was just almost unbearable in a tent out in the desert, in the—

HT:     

This was in the September—

CG:    

September.     

HT:     

—of ‘45?

CG:    

Forty-five. So it was very, very hot. And one day we were supposed to be making cakes with dehydrated eggs and dehydrated milk and all this stuff. We had all these great big bowls. Everybody was mixing up a cake, and all of a sudden the mess sergeant—who had to train us, and who couldn’t have thought that anything was worse than to have a bunch of women that he was supposed to train to cook dehydrated foods—he yelled, “Attention.” We all dropped the spoons and there was this terrible clatter. An inspecting officer came through, and after the officer had gone, we all got reprimanded for being so silly, and why on earth did we drop those spoons? [laughs] You don’t do things like that in the army. We had lots to learn. We had lots to learn.

HT:     

So these were all dietitians, all thirty of you?

CG:    

Yes.

HT:     

Oh, my goodness.

CG:    

And then of course we were all sent to different places. So two by two we began to get orders to where we where to go, and that meant that there were less and less people living in this barracks. It got down to the place where there was six of us left who didn’t have any orders. We had no idea where we—it was a terribly uneasy feeling. You were an officer, but you knew you were still kind of a greenhorn and that you had to prove yourself. It was a very uncomfortable position.

All of a sudden I had to report to the chief dietitian. So I said [gasp] “I’m going to find out where I’m going.” I got there and she said, “Lieutenant.” She said, “You know how to paint don’t you?” Well, I didn’t quite know how to respond. I didn’t know what she meant. So she said, “Of course you do.” She said, “Here’s a can of black paint and a paint brush.” And she said, “In the next room there are three hundred pumpkins for the Halloween party, and would you please paint faces on them?” All by myself. So for a whole day I sat there all alone, and thought, “I’ve gone through all of this, gone through basic training and everything else, and this how I end up, painting faces on pumpkins?” I tell you, I didn’t make very many happy faces on those pumpkins. And even though it was the officer’s Halloween party, they didn’t even invite me after I got the pumpkins done.

Two days later I got orders all by myself—never did find out why I had to go by myself—to report to Rome, Georgia. I left on a train to go to Rome, Georgia. [I] had never heard of Rome, Georgia, had no idea where it was. The other officer who had the same compartment I did turned out to be a delightful man.  He was planning a new kitchen for his wife, so we had a great time. I helped him with the plans and we planned the kitchen. We had a layover in New Orleans. And I had never been to New Orleans before, so he took me to a little New Orleans restaurant he knew. So that was a very pleasant experience.

I got to Rome, Georgia dead tired, got off the train—only person who got off this little sideline train that I was on—and there was a staff car, a jeep, standing there and this—looked like a farmer in farm clothes—came over and asked if I was Lieutenant Morrison. I said, “Yeah.” He said, well, he was there to take me to the army camp. He said, “I don’t know why they’ve sent you here. It’s going to close in three weeks.”

Sure enough, I got there and the place was going to close. Typical of the army are the things you could never figure out. No one knew why I had been sent there. My first morning on duty, I was standing with the chief dietitian in the kitchen, and the commanding officer of the base came through. She saluted him and said, “Good morning, sir!”

He turned around and just snarled at her and he said, “I’ll decide for myself when the morning’s good and when it isn’t.” [laughs]

I thought, “I don’t know why I ever got into this.” But after three weeks, I moved on to Kennedy General Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. There I worked with paraplegic patients. They all were paralyzed from wherever a bullet had hit them in the spine. Alaritia[?] could only move his head. The chief dietitian told me that you were only expected to stay on that service for six weeks because it was considered such demanding work and so hard. But after six weeks, my boys made up a petition on a scroll and sent it to the chief dietitian and all signed it. So she said, “Well, it’s up to you whether you stay or whether you don’t.” Of course, what could I do? I stayed. I stayed on. I think I did pay a price for it later with my health. I don’t know if I would have contracted infectious hepatitis if I had not been so rundown or not. It was very, very demanding, but very rewarding.

At that time I had three German prisoners of war in the kitchen. Of course, the food all came up from downstairs. Because these patients got such terrible infections, I got their plasma proteins from the labs and knew which ones were falling. They were most apt to come down with an infection. After we served the meals—we served the very best food that you could get—then I’d go around to the ones who hadn’t eaten and the ones who I knew were in the most danger and check. “Well, would you drink a milkshake if I spiked it? Would you eat this? Would you eat that?” It meant that both the German prisoners and myself, we missed an awful lot of meals. Because it took us so long to fix all these special things and try to feed these patients, then we would often lose our meals.

Of course, they lived out in a compound—locked in a compound at night. They’d been carefully screened. The ones who worked in the hospital were considered the ones who were the most reliable. You could tell the prisoners who worked in the kitchens in the hospital from those who worked on the grounds because they were about fifteen or twenty pounds heavier than the ones who didn’t get access to the good food that we had. I knew no German. They, in the beginning, knew very little English, although they studied it at night. I learned the hard way about the problem that was, because they were wonderful help, so helpful and very efficient. They had their problems, too, because some of the patients looked at it, “Well, here they are safe while my buddies are over there getting killed.” They were so helpful and so good. There weren’t very many where that attitude lasted very long. We were all in this thing together and we were all doing what we had to do.

But there was one expression I heard them use with each other over and over again, so one day when I thought the situation was probably about right, I said it to them in German. I never saw three men blush so much in all my life. And they never said it again and I never found out. I have no idea what I said, but it must have been pretty bad. [laughs] They were wonderful help, and we got on just fine. As they learned English, of course, it became easier.

I had a directive from the commanding officer saying that our rate of the garbage was the worst of any ward in the hospital. I had one week to correct this situation or I would report to him personally. After each meal the garbage was taken down and weighed before it was disposed of, so they knew. Well, of course, these patients were paralyzed. They had very little appetite. Then the Red Cross ladies would come and feed them all these cupcakes and all this fancy stuff, and sometimes that would get on the trays and be sent back. But the commanding officer didn’t care about that. It was just, “Ours was the worst ward.”

So I got my three helpers together and I’d point at the garbage can and say, “Too much! Too much!” And finally went, “Oh, yeah, yeah.” The next night we had baked beans, so we served dinner. We had just finished serving when all of a sudden the call went on the loudspeaker all over the hospital, “Emergency! Emergency! A plumber to ward 2B!”  The—my good helpers had disposed of the baked beans down the toilets and plugged up the whole wing of the hospital. [laughs]

They got very good. The only thing that we had up there were boxes of saltine crackers, so we’d save the saltine cracker boxes. And when we had beets, which were notoriously unpopular, they’d put the beets in the saltine cracker boxes, and then they could put it in the waste paper, and then it wouldn’t get weighed. The very next week I had a letter from the commanding officer commending me for having the lowest weight of garbage of any ward in the hospital. We stayed right there. As long as they were there, we were the best ward in the hospital as far as garbage weight. 

HT:     

Why were they so concerned about the amount of garbage?

CG:    

Who knows? [laughter]

HT:     

The war was over.

CG:    

The war was over, but the rules went on. You know, sometimes they don’t get rid of the rules for years. I suppose—supposedly it was they were trying to keep down the waste and all that. There was no way on that ward that we could do anything differently from what we were doing.

HT:     

For how long did you work on that particular ward?

CG:    

I was there for about three months, and then the Veterans Administration took over the hospital. So then, of course, all army personnel were moved out. And at that time the German prisoners were sent back home. One of these three that I had said to me, “I don’t know politics. I’m from Czechoslovakia. I’m a shopkeeper. I was a prisoner of the Germans, then I was a prisoner of the Russians, then a prisoner of the Americans. I don’t know whether my wife is alive. I don’t know.” And he wanted my address. I hesitated to give it to him. I didn’t know whether that was permissible, but I did. A year later I had a letter from him in Germany saying that he had found his wife in Czechoslovakia, but they had moved to Germany. He said, “Conditions are so much worse than anything we knew before.” He said that he would never forget the dietitian who closed her eyes when he was hungry. Because I would go into the kitchen and tell them when I was leaving, and they’d open the oven and they’d laugh and they’d say, “Somebody get hungry later.” They would keep the food that came back on the trays, so they ate well. They knew and I knew that if any of us got caught we’d be in terrible trouble. They made sure that I was never caught.

HT:     

So supposedly what were they supposed to eat?

CG:    

Well, they were—they were given some kind of a lunch to bring with them while they were working during the day. Out at the compound at night, they got mostly beans that had been cooked in a pressure cooker and coffee and black bread, very inadequate food. So it meant a great deal to them.

On Christmas we served all of the patients in the rec[reation] room instead of in their rooms. That was a terrifically big undertaking. One of these prisoners had taken poster paint and he painted paintings of the Alps on every water glass. They were just gorgeous. They were just beautiful. We really went all out and had this wonderful meal for the patients, and we all missed our own Christmas dinner. I always felt so badly because that one day they were giving the prisoners a real meal, they insisted that it didn’t matter.

And when we got back into the kitchen just exhausted and still had to deal with the dishes and everything, they brought in a chair—there was no chair in the kitchen. They brought in a chair—they figured nobody was going to be around on Christmas to complain about what we did—they sat me down and they brought out a bottle. They got three of these painted glasses, and they put about half an inch in the bottom of each glass. [laughs]. They said [German word]. I took one sip of this stuff. My goodness, I almost saw stars. I never—they never would—all I could ever find out is that they started with the rinds form the orange and the grapefruit. But where they fermented this stuff, I don’t know.  They sure gave me a Christmas present. [laughter] So we all had a drink together on Christmas. All felt the same way: all wished we were home and worrying about other people. So it was very interesting.

HT:     

What was your next assignment after Kennedy General?

CG:    

Well, then I was sent to [William] Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso, Texas. Before I left Kennedy, I had a friend who said that she hated to go to the dentist. She was afraid to go to the dentist. I said, “Well, I’ll go with you.” We went to the dentist and we both had our teeth cleaned. He said hers were just fine. He said to me, “You’ve got a wisdom tooth that’s really going to give you trouble any day.” He said, “I think you better let me take it out.” I had been in the army long enough to know that if you meet somebody that you thought you could trust, you better take advantage of it. So the next week he was to remove this wisdom tooth. 

When I got to the dental clinic, he wasn’t there and there was no one there but the old colonel who had been in the army for it looked like since World War I. He looked at the x-ray and he said, “This can’t be right. I’ve never seen a tooth with a root this long.” I knew that the dentist at home, it was always a joke that he put my father on the floor and put his knee on my father’s chest to pull the tooth because Dad had such long roots. I knew that a root could be that long. He fumbled around and he finally got out the needle. I remember he got it ready to give me the Novocain, and then he put it down somewhere. He gave me a shot of Novocain, and then he started to pull and that tooth just wouldn’t budge. He pulled harder and harder and his language got worse and worse and worse. When he got to the worst language he knew and he gave a pull, the tooth broke into a million pieces.

He just went to the door and he turned around and said, “Lieutenant, follow me.” I staggered out of the chair and down this long hall. By the time I got to the end of the hall, he was going up a flight of stairs. And he turned and he just bellowed at me, “I said follow me!” I managed to get up the stairs, and he went all the way down the hall. There was a patient in each room. And when he got to the last room, he said to the poor GI in the chair, “Get up!” He said to me, “Sit down.” And I sat down. Then a call went out for the oral surgeon.

And when the oral surgeon arrived, he took one look at my mouth and he turned and said to the colonel, “What in the hell did you think you were doing to her?”

I said, “Come on! Do something for me!” [laughter]

Well, of course the Novocain wore off, and they had to hold me down while he got all that stuff out of my tooth. As I look back on it, from that day I never really recovered. I just didn’t feel right.

By the time I got to Texas three weeks later, I had only been there a couple of days and I went on sick call and said that I couldn’t keep down any food. I felt horrible. They said, “Well, it’s probably the heat and the humidity. You’ll get over it.” I kept going back on sick call. By this time, all the good people in the army were getting out and were being replaced by trainees who hadn’t had much training. We used to call some of these doctors “ninety day wonders.” You know, they just—I’m sure that I was probably the first women patient that doctor had ever seen. He had been trained just to handle men who had been in battle conditions. Finally he said to me, “I don’t know whether you don’t like Texas or whether you trying to get out of the army, but you’d do better to snap out of it.” The chief dietitian told me if I wasn’t sick enough to be in the hospital, I wasn’t too sick to work.

This went on for quite a few days. And one day I was sitting in the mess hall looking at a bowl of soup when an officer—a doctor came in. He said, “You shouldn’t be eating that.”

I said, “Why not?”

He said, “Well, I’ve been watching you for a week and wondering what you were doing on duty.” He said, “Have you been on sick call?”

I said, “Everyday.”

He said, “You sit right there. Don’t you move.” When he came back he said, “Well, I’ve talked to the chief dietitian and I’ve called the ambulance, and you’re on the way to the hospital.”

Of course, when the ambulance arrived—it was just a huge truck with wooden benches in the back—this great big, black corporal was driving. He got out and he said, “I’m not putting you back there with those guys.” He picked me up and put me in the seat in the truck, which was the ambulance, and took me to the hospital. By a couple of days later and when they had done some tests, I had infectious hepatitis.  I was down to ninety-some pounds. I was on the critical list for awhile. I know it all began with that tooth. So my days in Texas didn’t get off to a very good start. I worked for three weeks, and then I was in the hospital myself for five months.

HT:     

Wow.

[End of CD 1— Begin CD 2]

HT:     

Okay—

CG:    

Once I became a patient in the hospital, it turned out that my condition was a lot more serious than they’d anticipated. The second morning I was there, they told me not to eat anything after midnight. In the morning a corpsman came to my bed with a wheelchair and he said, “Get in. We’re going to the bloody bar.”

I said, “The bloody bar, [Neil?]”

“We’re going to the bloody bar.”

Well, someone—of course, I had to rely on total strangers—but someone, who was also a patient there, had taken my key and gone three miles on the bus back to the main hospital to my quarters and brought me my robe and my slippers, toothbrush, and some writing paper. So here I was in a robe with pink rosebuds on it and lace down the front in this army hospital. I get in this wheelchair and this fellow starts down the hall—these long, long, quarters. This was out in the desert so this was just a real rough building—just really rough. He was going so fast and I was so weak. I was trying to hold on to the arms of the chair, and he ran right into a fire extinguisher. [coughs] He knocked the fire extinguisher off the wall and the foam was going all over my feet. He put his hand on his shoulder and he said, “Lieutenant, I’m so sorry. I got married Saturday night and this is the first time I’ve been sober.” [Laughter]

So when we got to the bloody bar, sure enough over the door it said “Bloody Bar.” And we went in it was just a plank on an angle covered in butcher paper, and probably twenty fellows with their arms up on the butcher paper having their blood taken. They were so amazed to see a woman—because there were several hundred patients there, and I think there were twenty women who were patients—and particularly one in her robe, so they all got up and moved over and had me go next. I didn’t think there could be any blood left in my by the time I—they got through.

That was the last time that I was out of bed for several weeks. After that the lab always came to me. So every morning I would look up and here would be an eighteen-year-old draftee with his little basket of test tubes shaking like a leaf and saying, “I never tried to do this on a woman before.” [laughs] I was black and blue literally almost from my shoulder to my wrist. They missed the vein, they couldn’t find the vein. By Friday I had them pretty well trained. On Friday I’d say, “Now you tell your buddy who comes Monday to practice on an orange or something before he comes in.” And I don’t know how many I trained, but I figured that was one of my big contributions to the army, was all the people who learned how to get blood out a woman’s veins on of me. [laughs]

HT:     

Oh my goodness. [clears throat] So you—How long did it actually take you to get over the hepatitis?

CG:    

Well, to actually get over it it took me—It was two or three years after I was out of the service before I really began to feel better. In a sense, it’s never completely left me. I mean I still have to be careful what I eat. I think the fatigue—I always felt a lot of it—it just never went completely away, just because it was so mishandled in the beginning and so misdiagnosed. Of course nobody had heard of it. When I got it we didn’t know what it was; nobody had heard of hepatitis. So it was a long struggle to get back. Finally—I went into the hospital in July, and in November I finally got home on sick leave. There was an order out from the commanding officer that no one would be issued a sick leave.

And you know I didn’t meet up with very many people in the army who were really difficult to get along with. The worst one I met was a woman, and she was the chief dietitian. Usually the dietitians were a very cohesive little unit because there were so few of us. I mean there might be three or four hundred nurses and there’d be maybe twenty dietitians. And we all had a college education and a year’s training afterwards, before we were in the army. So we were older and more experienced and it was usually a real nice group. We were all kind of interested in the same things and we had a lot of fun.

But Captain Lord, the chief dietitian there, was very, very difficult to get along with. I’d had a run-in with her when I first arrived because my first assignment was in a mess hall, and I went out on the loading dock to check the fruits and vegetables. There were two crates of cantaloupe melons, and they were so rotten that the flies were all flying around them. I pushed my finger into one and my finger went right into the melon. So I refused to sign for the melons.

It wasn’t ten minutes until I had orders to report to Captain Lord. She wanted to know what business I thought I had refusing the order. I said, “We couldn’t use it. It wasn’t good.” I was straight out of Walter Reed where everything for the army was just right.

She said, “In the future, I would accept whatever came and I would not refuse to sign anything.”

I went out of her office and the mess sergeant came up to me and said, “She got you didn’t she?” I kind of rolled my eyes and he said, “Well, you know here in El Paso we’re four hundred miles from the next place where you can get fresh things.” So he said, “She’s got a little deal going with the wholesalers in town to take the stuff they can’t sell and then she gets a kickback.” He said, “What can we do? We just live with it.”

So she had it in for me from then on. All the time that I was a patient she never came to see me once, and anywhere else I’d been the chief dietitian was almost like our mother. She was so interested in what we were doing and so helpful. I went to see her, and I told her that the doctor said the only thing they knew was diet and rest. And I wasn’t getting either one, and they wanted me to go home on sick leave. No one could have a sick leave. She said well, “I’ll talk to the adjutant.” The next day she said, “Well, we’re going to see the adjutant.” So we went and it turned out he was a captain—a lovely young man—and he was from Connecticut. So we got to talking about Connecticut and we had this real nice visit. Finally Captain Lord said, “Well, that’s enough, we’re going to go.” I had no word.

The next day I had my orders to go home on sick leave. So I was lying in bed in this ward with twenty-four beds in it. I was the only bed patient—out in the desert, no air conditioning¸ hot as blazes. I heard this commotion in the hall, and I heard this man’s voice say, “Lieutenant Morrison.” In came the commanding officer and marched up to my bed. And I jumped out of bed and I stood there in my bare feet, and I looked down at my robe and I thought, “Well, I wonder if I should salute.”  I thought, “Well, I’m in the army, I guess I better.” [laughs] This is so ridiculous. So I saluted and I stand there in my bare feet and he let me have it. Who in the hell did I think I was going over his head? Well, I had no idea I had gone over his head! All I did was go see Captain Lord, and she took me to see the adjutant. He was furious, but I got my sick leave.

I was home for six weeks, and I got back just before Christmas. The day I got back the doctor called me and he said, “Well, I hate to tell you.” He said, “I don’t think you’re in any condition to go on duty.” He said, “I’ve got orders you’re to be on duty tomorrow morning.” So I was discharged as a patient and sent back to work. And I always—at the time I thought that Captain Lord had done it because I knew how she disliked me. I figured that she hadn’t thought I’d be sick that long, and she’d given so many people Christmas leave that she just needed somebody. So I had to go back to work. But years later, when I was finally able to get my army records, it was the colonel who was the commanding officer who had sent me back to work. So I worked for seven months and it was just very, very exhausting—just very exhausting. It was amazing.

That was a long five months, but there’s always someone when you’re—There’s always someone who comes along who’s a real help. Through some friends of my mother’s in Washington, D.C., they contacted friends of theirs who lived in El Paso named Caroline and Herbert Hesley. They had me over to dinner a couple of times, and we just a wonderful time. They didn’t have a car because they said that there was nowhere to use a car around El Paso. If they went anywhere they flew. They spent half of their time in Washington, D.C. —he was a high up in the government—so they just didn’t have a car. So when the doctor finally said that I could be out of bed and I could go out of the hospital, they went out and bought a car so they could take me to their apartment. So you always meet someone when you need them the most.

HT:     

Now this would have been in late ’45, early ’46, I guess?

CG:    

Well, that was ’46.

HT:     

Forty-six, right. And did you get out of the army after this?

CG:    

I worked for seven months. I served my two years, and then I got out in ’47—in September of ’47. Of course, you had to take a physical to get out, and you were supposed to be in as good of shape as when you went in. There again I had a lucky break, because the doctor who did the physical called me back and said, “You flunked every liver function test in the book.” But he said, “Frankly, I’m afraid you’re not going to live to get out of here, because we know nothing to do for this but diet and rest.” He said, “You aren’t getting either here.” He said, “Now this conversation is strictly just between you and me.” But he said, “If you want me to, I can destroy those lab tests and put in the report that you passed.” He said, “The way things are going in this army now, before anyone ever catches up with it—if they ever do—you and I will both be long gone.” He said, “If I did that you’d have to be aware that you could probably never get any help from the Veterans Administration with your hepatitis.”

He said to think it over overnight. I said, “Sir, I don’t need to think it over overnight, go ahead.” I was afraid that he might be like the dentist and disappear before the next day. I mean that was really taking a real chance on his part. When someone tells you they don’t think that you’re going to live if you—you know, it was worth it to me to get out rather than to—so I got out. Of course, that was what happened when I applied for disabilities to the veterans. They turned me down because they—

HT:     

No records.

CG:    

No records that—but that was all right, because I think he was right, particularly in Texas in all that heat. It was—I never would have made it that far without the GIs. They were wonderful. They did everything they could to help me. When I—I’d only been back on duty a few weeks when I fell and sprained my ankle very badly, so I had to go  back to work on crutches. One of these little GIs—an eighteen-year-old fellow—he said, “Lieutenant, go on the walk-in box and look behind the potatoes.”

So I go into this cold box, and behind the potatoes he had eggnog in there that he had spiked. Of course, the last thing in the world that I could have was alcohol in the state that my liver was in. I looked around and there was this drain there, so I very carefully poured the milkshake—the eggnog down the drain and told him, “It was just wonderful. That really helped.”

Oh, they did everything they could to try to help me out. They were just great.

HT:     

So after you got out, what did you do next?

CG:    

Oh, you won’t believe this. My father had written to me and said, “I hope you planned to take a year off. I think you need a year before you’re ready to do anything.” So I went home feeling that that was true. And it was very traumatic, more so—you know, you want to get home so much and you think that everything is going to be fine. But my outlook on everything had changed so much. And my mother, who was so enthusiastic about everything, when she and Dad met me in New York the night I came home, she said, “Oh, dear,” she said, “we’re just going to have the most wonderful times now that you’re out of the army.” She said, “Haven’t you felt that everything always works out for the best?” And I kind of breathed deep and thought of all the fellows I had seen and the terrible shape they were in and what I had been through myself for the last five months. I couldn’t say it to my mother. “No, I really don’t.” I mean right away you change and there’s that difference. It’s very difficult.  It was a very long winter.

Mother was just sure that what I needed was people and more going on. And she kept inviting people to dinner, and then they’d want me to talk and talk and talk and talk about the army. I was really very sick. She had no idea that what I really needed was really rest and not to be on display all of the time.

In the spring she had a friend with whom they played bridge. The friend called her and said that her daughter was trying to find someone who had experience as dietitian, and they wondered if I wouldn’t be interested in a job. Mother right away jumped and said, “Oh yes! Oh yes! I think—.” I know she felt I needed to get out, I needed to get away. She just didn’t understand really where I was at.

Well, it turned out that this was the Floating Hospital of St. John’s Guild in New York. It was a charity organization that had been setup a hundred years before by the Meth—by the Episcopal Church. It was no longer church affiliated. But it—The premise was that the reason that so many babies died in the city in the summer was from the air. They didn’t know about pasteurized milk. And so they—this boat took children everyday out on the water. So this had been going on for a hundred years, and everyday they took two thousand children three days a week from Brooklyn and three days a week from New York. It was actually a barge, which was pulled by a tugboat. So Mother’s friend—this Mrs. Spots—her husband had been the man in charge. He had a job in the winter as a coach at a private school in New York, but in the summer he managed the floating hospital. His wife, Mrs. Spots, was the dietitian and the housekeeper and the hostess on the floating hospital.

There were four decks that you had to cover, and it was a very demanding job. Mother said, “Well, dear, it won’t hurt you if we go down to New York with Mrs. Sports and just look. It would make her feel so much better.”  So we went and it was just taken out of my hands. By the time we got back they were talking about how wonderful this was going to be. And I was saying, “Mother, I can’t do it.”

Mother was saying, “But, oh, you know—you know what it would mean to Mrs. Spots.”  Because the previous winter, when her husband had to coach a game in New York, he would stay on the floating hospital. The mate and the captain lived on the boat all winter to protect it. He would call them and say, “Put a heater in my room, I’m going to come stay in the boat.”  So he called his wife and said, “Well, I won’t be home tonight; I’m coaching a game. I’ll call you at seven in the morning.” He didn’t call at seven, and she called the captain of the floating hospital and he went out and looked. Mr. Spots’ suitcase was on the pier, and no Mr. Spots. Eventually, they dragged the river and found his body between the floating hospital and pier. So Mother, all of her sympathy was with Mrs. Spots. “Oh, poor Mrs. Spots. You know you could do this, dear. Just think what she’s going through.”

So against my better judgment, I ended up as the housekeeper and the hostess [laughs] on the floating hospital. You wouldn’t believe what that was like. I lived on the boat with twenty-nine Norwegian seamen and the Swedish cook. The cook and I were the only women, and all these Norwegian seamen. We were tied up at the sanitation department pier in the East River, at 23rd Street in New York. And every day we took two thousand children—the social agencies in the city gave out the tickets to children who need medical or dental care. And any child who got a ticket, the mother and all the children under the age of twelve got tickets to come for the day on the floating hospital. We once had a family of twelve children with the mother. It took several nuns to carry and take care of all the sets of twins the woman had—six sets of twins! [laughs] And they all came. The doctors and the nurses and all that were—Well, we were all really working for charity in a sense. We didn’t make enough money to count. If they found that someone needed more care, then they would be given a ticket to come back for another time.

So I ran up and down these four decks from morning to night trying to keep all these people fed. I had—let’s see—I had fifteen cents per child for lunch, and it took seven and half cents for milk, so that left seven and a half cents for what we were going to feed them, unless we could get some fruit or something from the government, which happened once in a while but not very often. As soon as we set sail, then they’d setup tables on deck. All the Norwegian seaman, when we were out at sea, most of their job was watching so the children wouldn’t fall overboard. But they all had to help make sandwiches. We had to make four thousand sandwiches [laughs] and we’d have to make it outs of things like Lekvar, which was a prune concoction, and cottage cheese. Or peanut butter which came in thirty pound tubs and it wasn’t homogenized in those days, so it seemed like you’d have to stand there with a stick and—. [laughter] We’d feed them peanut butter sandwiches, and then hopefully a cookie or a piece of fruit or something.

But it was the only outing that some of those children had all summer. The mothers enjoyed it the most because we had baby’s baths, and a little Puerto Rican woman who was in her nineties who gave babies’ baths. The mothers could have a hot shower and wash their hair and sit in the sun and know that their children were safe. So it meant a great deal to them, but it was one strenuous job. So the few pounds I picked up since I left the army had long since left my slender frame by the time that summer was over.

HT:     

So how long did you do this job?

CG:    

I did it that one summer, and that was—oh, that was—never, never again. But the day we—the first day that we were there with Mr. Palmer, who was the new director, he said, “You know,” he said, “there have been some mighty strange things go on here.” He said, “There’s a lot of money missing.” He said, “There are records that are gone.” And he said, “Between you and me, Mr. Spots did not fall in the river.” He said, “To begin with, he wouldn’t have left his suitcase on the pier. He would have tossed that over on to the ship.” Of course the gang plank wasn’t down, but he was a very athletic man, and he’d done this hundreds of times. And the police conducted an investigation, and of course they said they found nothing. Nothing ever came of it, although Mrs. Spots tried to get them to purse it further. But Mr. Palmer said to me, “And I think the engineer on this boat knows what happened to Mr. Spots.”

I was scared to death of that engineer. He was just the surliest, most difficult character. I very seldom went off the boat at night, but one night I just felt that I had to get away from there. I was walking down 23rd Street and I saw him kind of shadowing me on the other side of the street. So I hailed a cab and jumped in the cab and he said, “Where do you want to go?” I thought, “Well, where do I want to go?” So I said, “Grand Central Station.” So I went to Grand Central Station and walked around for an hour and took a cab back. So it was a very uneasy summer, because I really was afraid of that man. I really was.

HT:     

Now you said that there were Norwegian sailors aboard. What were they doing there?

CG:    

Well, they were acting as watchmen to keep the children from falling overboard. They—when we were at the pier—I mean there’s quite a lot—even with that kind of a boat there’s quite a lot of maintenance. It took a lot of painting. We had these huge hawsers that were attached to the pier, and they had these great big tin things on them to try to keep the rats from running on the ropes and onto the ship. So they had a lot of maintenance to do, and then when we were out at sea they had to help make sandwiches. [laughter] Then they—some of them helped with the games, sometimes, for the children, that kind of thing. But mainly they each had a checkpoint where they were supposed to be. Once a child got on the tow rope that was going over to the barge that was towing us, but they caught it in time before anything happened. They were really there mostly—and they were all retired. They were all much, much older—older men. So that was an experience.

HT:     

Sounds like it. [laughter] Well after you left that experience, what was your next adventure?

CG:    

Well my next adventure was very delightful. I spent two years in Philadelphia living with Robert Lincoln McNeil, who was president of McNeil Laboratories, one of the finest drug companies that was around at that time. His wife, Gracie McNeil, had been a schoolgirl chum of my mother’s in Bethel; they were devoted friends. “Aunt Grace,” as I always called her—my brother always said, “Why do we have to call everybody aunt and uncle? I don’t know who we were related to and who we weren’t.” Aunt Grace McNeil, as I always called her, had multiple sclerosis and she was in a wheelchair. The last time that she was ever away from home in Philadelphia was when they were spending the weekend with Mother and Dad when I came home for Sunday from the floating hospital.

Uncle Lincoln said to me, “There’s something wrong with you.” He started asking me about my medical history. And he said, “Well, I have access to the finest doctors in Philadelphia, and you’re coming down and spend a week with us and I’m going to find out what is wrong with you. So soon as this job is over, you’re coming down.” Well, I was there for two years. It turned out that when I was so thin and working so hard, one of my kidneys had broken lose and that was what was causing a lot of the pain in my side and keeping me from eating a lot of food. Also, I had surgery to repair it. By that time I had become so valuable to Aunt Grace, helping her—they had a large home and entertained a great deal, some really big people. She could do less and less. So here I’d gone to the floating hospital and living in the East River to living in this beautiful home. The next thing I knew, I was sitting behind the silver service. The butler would bring in the coffee and I would pour it because Aunt Grace couldn’t use her hands to do it.

It was—I was never with anyone my own age, but it was a wonderful, wonderful two years. I was there the second year because Uncle Lincoln was president of the drug manufacturers’ association, and he said he couldn’t go on and do the second year unless I would stay and help Aunt Grace run the house. So it was wonderful in many ways, and that gave me a chance to get back up on my feet. So that was really a great—something always comes along when you really need it the most.

HT:     

It appears that way. That’s wonderful. And his name was Robert Lincoln McNeil right?

CG:    

Yes. And now McNeil Laboratories is part of Johnson & Johnson. His son, Robert Lincoln McNeil—who is now in his nineties, and whom I’ve known all of my life—he’s the one who developed Tylenol. And so I’m still in touch with Bob all the time, and of course he’s a multimillionaire now. They were great people and they never forgot their roots.  It never went to their heads, even though they had this lovely house in Philadelphia. That was—that was a big help.

HT:     

Tell me how you met your husband.

CG:    

[laughs] Well, after that I had to have a real job. In desperation I took one. I said I’d never go back to hospital work, but I was on the private patient staff at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center [now New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center]. That was another job that was much, much more than I was really up to doing. And I stayed with that for two years, and then there again my health began to deteriorate and I left that.

Then I got a fun job. I was home service representative at Connecticut Light & Power in Norwalk, Connecticut. And after the war, when all these new appliances came along—there had been nothing new for so long—and all of a sudden ranges had bells and whistles, and washers did one thing and dryers did another. No one knew how to operate all these new appliances. So the utility companies felt that it was good publicity to have someone on their staff who could help people with all these problems in their new electrical and gas appliances. I worked for Connecticut Light & Power, and I—any dealer on the power lines could call and ask me to go out and demonstrate a new appliance—washer, dryer, whatever. I demonstrated the first microwave in Connecticut. My boss said to me, “How did you do that?”

I said, “Well, I read the book.” [laughs] That was all I knew, what was in the booklet. But anyway, I got through it.

So I had been with Connecticut Light & Power for over four years, and there was a whole development of new houses. You know, a subdivision. You know how in the fifties they were sprouting up everywhere. And they had the most inefficient ovens built into the wall, and they were just horrible. They got so hot. I was always warning the housewives to make sure that your toddler doesn’t touch that oven, it gets so hot. In an electric oven, you had to have some air in it if you wanted to broil, and there was no stop to keep the door open. So I carried clothespins with me, and everywhere I went I would give the woman a clothes pin and show her how to prop the door with a clothes pen.

Well, I got so disgusted that I went in to see the dealer who put these ovens in the houses, and he’d come over from Long Island. His name was Mickey Wolf. I went in and I had fire in my eyes. I said, “Mr. Wolf, those ovens are a piece of junk, and you know it and I know it. What am I supposed to tell the woman who’s got to put up with that oven?”

He patted my hand and he said, “Deary, you just tell her she’s got the best of the cheapest.”

Before I could even think of a response to that, this women with red hair piled high on her head and glasses—those cat [eye] kind of glasses with rhinestones all around—stuck her head out from the back room. And she said, “Say, are you attached?”

I said, “What did you say?”

She said, “Are you attached—married?”

I said, “No.”

She said, “Say, have I got the man for you.” I didn’t know who she was.

And he said, “The wife.” [laughs]

She said, “I want you to come for dessert Friday night.” She said, “I know—we just had a customer come in to buy a new stove.” She said, “You need to meet him.”

“Oh, I can’t possibly come Friday night.”

“Oh, yes you can.”

“No, I can’t.”

I went back to the office and there was a note on her desk to call Mrs. Wolf. Well, I wasn’t going to call her from the office where everyone could listen in. I went back to my apartment and I called. She said, “Listen, deary, make it dinner. It will be much friendlier that way. And don’t bring your car, then he’ll have to drive you home.” Well, I could see that I was never going to get out of this, so I thought, ‘Well, I guess I might as well get this over with.

So Friday afternoon I was way out in the hills of Connecticut demonstrating a washing machine in a basement, and I came up out of the basement and the snow was already about an inch and a half thick. I slipped and slid on those bad roads all the way back to the company garage, and got there and the gate was already locked. My car was on the inside, and I was on the outside with the company car, which I could only use for business. Oh, I was so annoyed.

So I drove home, and I had to call a cab. And the first cab didn’t show up. I had to go back in and call a second cab. It was one of those times that I just—you know, just wanted to just get this over with or whatever. So when I finally got there—and I was a little late, which I just detested—and I walked in, my Eliot was already there. This man sat there with this kind of amused look on his face, and they introduced us, and we went into kosher dinner on Friday night. And we sat down at the table, and Mickey Wolf said, “Eliot, you’re sitting across from the best cook in Connecticut.” I thought, “How does he know? He’s never tasted anything I cooked.”

She spoke up to say, “Oh, Carol, wait till you meet his daughter. Oh, he has the loveliest little daughter and how she does need a mother.”

Well, they kept this up all through dinner, and we went into the living room to have coffee. And she said to me, “Carol, I don’t think you’ve ever seen upstairs.” Well, of course not! I’d never been in her house. Before we got to the top of the stairs, she was saying, “Isn’t he handsome! Didn’t I tell you he was handsome?” Well, we finally came back down the stairs, and before we got to the bottom Mickey Wolf jumps up and says, “Eliot, let me show you the cellar.” [laughs] And they head for the cellar and he said, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

And I go “Well, that’s a first.” No one ever called me beautiful before.

In the wall they had a round porthole and a fish tank behind it. And this horrible fish—it looked like a catfish—it kept swimming up, and just seemed to me that it was looking right at my face and saying, “Ha, ha, ha.” [laughter]

Well, of course eventually I said, I would have to be going, and I would like to call a cab.

So what could he do but say, “I will drive you home.” So he said to me, “Would you like to get some coffee?”

I said, “Well, that would be nice.”

We went in an all-night coffee place, and we were still there at one o’clock in the morning. And I was saying, “And then she said—.” And he would say, “And he said—.” We just—we just cracked up.

The next day I called her to thank her for the dinner. She said, “Well, deary, there’s just one thing I ask and that’s that you invite us to the wedding.”

But it worked. [laughter] Then the day of our wedding she had the flu and they didn’t come.

HT:     

Oh, gosh.

CG:    

[chuckles]

HT:     

So what was—from the time you met him until the time you were married, what period of time was that?

CG:    

About four months.

HT:     

Oh, my goodness.

CG:    

I was thirty-seven years old. We didn’t have any time to fool around. I wasn’t going to be engaged any ten years like my mother. [laughter]

Well, part of it was that his first wife had died when Pam was six. Pam was twelve at that time. It was so difficult. I mean I felt that we shouldn’t be leaving her alone to go out. Of course, she was bored stiff to go out with us. I think one reason we married as quickly as we did was it just seemed so much simpler to kind of get this family straightened out. Everything worked fine until Rob was born a year later, and then I lost Pam. It was years before—she’d never been around any children in her life. Her mother had died when she was six, and both of her grandmothers all those years had said, “Poor little Pam. Poor little Pam. Her mother died. Poor little Pam.” So I took on a whole lot. You know, it was quite a few years before—now Pam thinks I’m wonderful, but it really took quite awhile for things to straighten out.

HT:     

Twelve is a difficult age.

CG:    

Twelve is a difficult age, and all of a sudden here was her grandmothers saying, “Oh, isn’t he a dear little boy.” You know it was—it was just very difficult.

So you see the army just wasn’t the end of it. [laughter]

HT:     

No, there’s much more to tell. [laughter] So after that you moved around quite a bit, I think you said.

CG:    

Yes, he was—Eliot was an engineer.

HT:     

All right.

CG:    

And we moved to Pittsburg, which was very good because it got us away from those grandmothers. They both had hearts of gold, but they were doing absolutely the wrong thing. When I went to school—she was in seventh grade—and I went to school, no one had ever been to a school meeting before to see what she was doing in school. It was just—you know, it was so—when we got away things began to straighten out a little bit. We were in Pittsburg for a couple of years, then we were in Salt Lake City, and then we came to California.

When Elliot said he’d seen—he had a lead on a very good job in Australia I said, “Well, you go. I’m staying here.” [laughs] But as I told you it was really—we felt we had to be where there was a good veterans hospital because he had so many health problems and his years in the service.

HT:     

Now what did he do in the service?

CG:    

He was training to be a pilot when the planned crash. He was very badly—his face was just smashed to bits. They sent to his mother and got his high school graduation picture, and it’s amazing because he didn’t—he had one little tiny scar on his face and that was all. It was amazing what the—he had a better experience with the army doctors than I did. They really did very well for him. But he always had problems as he got older and his teeth began to shift and all, a little bit. He had a lot of trouble. So we always had to live where there was a good veterans hospital.

HT:     

Well, I just have a few more questions to ask you about your time with the service. I know we’ve covered quite a bit already this afternoon. But it sounds like you enjoyed your work for the most part while you were in the service as a dietitian, except maybe towards the end.

CG:    

Physically it was very—it was very difficult. I really—that year at Walter Reed had just drained me so completely that I was—it was always a little hard physically to keep up, and then of course after I had hepatitis particularly. But the patients were so wonderful. And it was a terrific shock when I went to Walter Reed. This wasn’t something I planned to do, and I’d never had any hospital experience, and all of a sudden you’re surrounded by hundreds of men your own age, most of whom were never going to recover.

HT:     

That was probably very hard for you emotionally.

CG:    

Emotionally it was terrific. It was just terrifically difficult. They always say that if you’re in the medical field, don’t—you just can’t get emotionally involved with your patients. But for instance when I was in—at Kennedy in Memphis, I spent almost every day off I had off going to the grocery stores trying to find things that the patients wanted to eat that we didn’t have. They were on selective menus and they could select what they wanted. It listed about ten breakfast cereals, but no matter what they checked they got Wheaties because we had a warehouse full of Wheaties. [laughter] So I’d be downtown buying Cornflakes and whatever they wanted. They were wonderful. And as I say, the GIs that I worked with, they were just—they were just great. You did—you knew you were doing something important. You really did feel that you were doing something worthwhile.

HT:     

Well, one of the questions that I was going to ask was about what was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally and physically.

CG:    

Well, I think emotionally was those first months at Walter Reed. The first ward that I was assigned to, all of the patients to had Hodgkin’s disease. Here were these young fellows, eighteen to twenty-one years old, they had been given a hero’s sendoff to go away to war and to fight to protect their country, and then came down with a fatal disease that no one knew how to do anything about at the time. And it was just—Of course the way they handled a lot of it was humor, just brutal kind of humor. And it took some getting used to. It really did. But they were wonderful.

For instance, I had—they had two private rooms across from the ward kitchen, and when someone was moved into the private room you knew they weren’t going to be there much longer. So there was a mother I used to see out in the hall, so I would always stop and talk to her and tell her how wonderful her son was. In just a few minutes here and there we became very close. One morning when I went to work at six she was already there. And I said, “Well, how was he today?” And she just kind of shook her head. When we went to class at one o’clock—we had class in the morgue—they were so short of space that they had to use every place there was. So we went to class in the morgue and as we walked in to this place—it was just all stone seats and all that they could wash down—there was this row of jars on the shelf and I looked at the jars and here was his name. They had already done the autopsy before. It was hard when you were that age. It took a long time to get over that kind of thing. Particularly when you were so far away from the family and the people you knew, you didn’t have that kind of support. You had your friends, which you grew mighty close to mighty quickly, but some of those experiences, you know, just—they just stay with you forever.

HT:     

Gosh.  Were you ever afraid or were you ever in physical danger while you were in the service at all?

CG:    

Not from—no. I mean you were careful. I mean all those fellas, they drank so much. Everybody drank so much. The officers drank so much. Alcohol was so much a part of it. And I think that—As I said, we were older, we were more experienced. We had the dates when we were in college. So we lived kind of a different life, I think, from a lot of people that were in the service, even the nurses. We were such a small group, and we always went around to see anything historical that was around or anything interesting in town. We were much more apt to—three or four of us to go to the theater than to go sit in a bar and drink half the night, that kind of thing.

HT:     

The next question I was going to ask was: What did you do for a social life? It sounds like you did a lot of cultural type things.

CG:    

Yeah. We did cultural type of things. We—Well, one place I was we all took a class in leather craft and we were busy making purses. We just did—We were more into the cultural things and doing things on our own than this—most of the social life that existed.

I’m going to do a TV program on Friday with a woman who was in the Marines, and when we got together to talk like this and plan it, they asked her if she had many dates. And she was in the army—the Marine band. She said, “Oh, yeah.” She said, “Often three a night.” They’d go to the movies with one, they’d go to the second movie with another, and then they’d go to the first movie with a third one [laughs] all in one night.

They said to me, “Did you have many dates while you were in the army?”

I said, “Not very many.” So I thought that the contrast was going to be interesting.

I think that it was mainly that we were older and more established, you know, that we didn’t go somewhere. I did—when I was in Memphis for about three weeks I went with a warrant officer and had a wonderful time. He hired a plane and took me up to see the sunset over the Mississippi River. That was just wonderful. And one night we went to a dance at a colonial mansion, which some wealthy person in town had given to the army for an officers’ club. And that was the most glamorous night I ever had. It really was just, you know, just wonderful. Then after three weeks I was going back to Connecticut on leave to go to my cousin’s wedding, and the night before I was going he said that he hated to tell me but he had orders for Japan. He was leaving for Japan. So that was it. We never were in contact with each other again. You just kind of live by the moment.

HT:     

You had to. Especially with guys, because they knew they might not come back.

CG:    

And we knew that they might not come back, so yeah.

HT:     

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

CG:    

Oh. [laughs]

HT:     

And do you think that the military had anything to do with—

CG:    

[laughs] Ask my son and daughter. Yes, I guess you could say that I was independent person.

HT:     

So you were probably independent before you joined the military? 

CG:    

Well, I think I was very shy before I joined the military. I think I gained a lot in self-confidence. I mean you were put into so many positions that you didn’t know until you got there that you could do it, you know, and then you had to and you did it.

I noticed a difference—even here with the kind of things that I do so easily and so many of the women that I see here say, “Oh, you do that? You did that?”  You know, it just gave you a whole different perspective, I think, on things. You had to be. You had to learn to be independent.   

HT:     

Well, you know, sort of moving from Connecticut down to North Carolina to go to school, you know, leaving family and friends, that was a rather independent thing to do, I think.

CG:    

It was, and it was very lucky that I had done that, because that made the things that came later on much easier to do. I’d already made the break with the family.

HT:     

Many of the women I’ve talked to joined the service right out of high school, perhaps, and they were fairly young at that time.

CG:    

Yes. That’s what I said.

HT:     

Seventeen, eighteen.

CG:    

Yeah. This gal who was in the Marine band, she thought all that sitting around and drinking all night, going out with three men a night, was just great. I always looked at it as, well, you can’t really—you’ve got to make sure of the person you’re going with.

I had a friend who was a dietitian who was very much in love with a captain who was, we thought, a very disagreeable person. He was—She was talking about her wedding dress and getting married, and he was transferred and she never heard from him again and found out that he was married, and she ended up in the mental hospital. I’m not sure that she ever got out. It was just more than she could take. But you had to protect yourself. In those pre-pill days, we did things a little differently [laughter], which is quite different from your students today.

HT:     

Oh my goodness. Well, how do you feel about woman in combat positions? You know recently—in your day women were not allowed in combat.

CG:    

Oh, no. No.

HT:     

Now they’re in the forefront of the War in Iraq and places like that.

CG:    

Well, I think the way things are going it can hardly be avoided. I mean the more and more—it’s just coming closer and closer to anyone who’s in the military. I think that there’s certainly some jobs that physically, no matter what they say, it’s pretty difficult to do. I’d prefer not to see them on the battlefield, but I know that a lot of them feel that that’s the place for them to be. And I think that the men are beginning to adjust to it, but it’s bound to make some problems, it seems to me.

HT:     

Well, do you think that your life has been different since you spent some time in the military?

CG:    

Oh, yes. I think for one thing I learned to enjoy all kinds of people and not be at all judgmental about people. You learn to get along with all kinds of people, from the Eskimo who wanted me to learn Aleut and he was going to take me back to be a missionary on the Aleutian Islands. [laughs] He was about five feet tall. His name Yakana, and Yakana wanted me to go be a missionary.

HT:     

Where did you meet this person?

CG:    

Oh, he was a patient—

HT:     

A patient?

CG:    

—in the hospital. He would go through the mess hall, and he started handing me little slips of paper with words on them in Aleut. I think there are some of them in one of those scrapbooks. You know, like “Hello” and “Goodbye.” And then when he handed me a sheet that said “boy girl love,” I decided that we’d gone far enough and I told him I was too busy and I didn’t have time to learn Aleut.

But you did. You learned—you know, some pretty rough characters, and yet I found if you treated them the way you wanted to be treated it was no problem. I never had any trouble with anyone. I loaned some of the roughest looking soldiers you ever saw money, and everybody said, “You’ll never get it back.” I never lost a penny. They always paid me back. I think that you learn a lot about people, and you have a much broader view of things than people who have never done it.  “I can’t imagine how this would happen and how that would happen.”

HT:     

Have any of your children ever been in the military?

CG:    

No, because it just wasn’t the time.

HT:     

The time, right. Well, we have talked about so much—you have talked about so much this afternoon. Is there anything that you’d like to add to the oral history interview that I haven’t asked or that we haven’t covered that you can think of?

CG:    

Well, I just think it’s so important that everyone—well, everyone has a story tell, whether they were in the military or whether they weren’t. But I think that it is the more of these stories that we can have in a permanent place the better it is, because we can only learn from the past. And when you look at the interest there is now in the [United States] Civil War and the histories from then, I think that is very important that all this be down.

I was very interested of course on Ken Burn’s series on The War. Even there it’s interesting what a small world it is, because he interviewed Joe Vaghi from Bethel, Connecticut, who was one of the four Vaghi boys who was in the army in World War II. When I was back in Connecticut a few weeks ago to speak to the historical society, I looked up the Vaghis. And it turned out there were six Vaghi boys in the service, but the other two came a couple of years later so they didn’t get included in that series. I had mentioned in my book going to the wedding of a friend of my parents—Mary Krill—when she married one of the Vaghi boys. So I had to find out before I got back there which one she married. I thought that after sixty-five years, I don’t remember. Was it one that Ken Burns interviewed or not? But it wasn’t. She married John and his family had me to dinner and we had a wonderful time. Joe Vaghi—the one who was interviewed—is an architect and lives in Washington, D.C. So it was interesting that from that little town of three thousand people that someone I was in contact with should be on his program.

HT:     

That’s great. Well, Mrs. Garrett, thank you so much. It has been absolutely wonderful hearing your stories this afternoon. I can’t wait to have them transcribed and listen to them again. [laughs]

CG:    

Well, thank you.

HT:     

Well, thank you so much.  

[End of interview]