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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Ann Holder Andavall, 2008

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Object ID: WV0444.5.001

Description: Ann Holder Andavall speaks about her early life, work in a war plant, and service in the WAVES.

Summary:

Andavall primarily discusses her experiences as a war plant worker and aerial gunnery instructor. She explains the reasons women entered military service, the treatment women received while enlisted, the rigors of aerial gunnery instruction, and outlines her various roles in the Liberty Aircraft plant.

Andavall describes dating men who died during the war, her collegiate education, the stress of her early life, and her marriage. Other topics include her wartime association with actor Richard Kiley, her political views, the domineering nature of her guardian’s wife, and her feelings regarding the changing role of women in both the civilian and military worlds.

Creator: Ann E. Holder Andavall

Biographical Info: Ann Andavall-Holder (b. 1921) of Ashland, Oregon, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) as an aerial gunnery instructor during World War II.

Collection: Ann Holder Andavall Papers

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

Full Text:

Therese Strohmer:

Well, good morning. This is Therese Strohmer and today is December 26, 2008. We’re in beautiful Ashland, Oregon. This is an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. And I have Ann here with me. Ann, could you state your name the way that you would like it on the collection?

Ann Holder-Andavall:

Ann Holder-Andavall.

TS:

Very good. Okay, Ann, well why don’t we start off by telling me where and when you were born?

AHA:

I was born November 21st, 1921, in New York City. And then my parents moved to a suburban town in New Jersey—Mountain Lakes, New Jersey.  My father died when I was five. And at that point my mother traveled a good bit, and she put me into different schools. I think I went to seven schools in five years and, unfortunately, each school would feel that their school did a better job than the last one. And I keep getting—I think I went to second grade twice and third grade three times.

TS:

Ah.

AHA:

And we went to Europe. And I went to an English boarding school for a year. And my mother’s money ran out.  The Depression had really sunk in and we came home and I lived in a house on Long Island—in Hempstead—for a couple of years. Then we moved to Garden City. When I was sixteen—or just before I was sixteen, I guess—she died. And I appointed my mother’s doctor—and a good friend of hers was his wife—I appointed them as my guardians. They sent me to a Catholic boarding school for the last two years of high school. And then, the doctor’s wife was quite domineering, and she decided that I should go to Pratt Institute [located in Brooklyn, New York] to learn home economics—cooking.

TS:

Oh, my.

AHA:

They had put in a four-years course with a college degree. I had never been exposed to cooking.

TS:

Oh really?

AHA:

The other girls had all taken home-ec[onomics], cooking, in high school. But it was—I’ve got to stop.

TS:

Okay, we have Miki running around here.

[Conversation regarding Miki, a pet cat, redacted]

TS:

Okay we’ve got Miki—she’s [chuckles] trying to escape the room.

AHA:

So I went to school for two years and disliked it and quit and went to work in a war plant. The war had started and there were war plants all over Long Island. And I got a job with Liberty Aircraft that worked for Grumman [Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation]. We made the navy Wildcat—we worked on the navy Wildcat [F4F Wildcat, a carrier-based fighter aircraft]. So—but we were working seven days a week twelve hours a day or longer. And I don’t know—I guess I was feeling sorry for myself and somehow I heard about the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] and I thought that that would be a great way to go.

TS:

Neat.  Well can we back up just a little bit? I’m curious what you did when you were making the Wildcats. What was your part in that—in the line there?

AHA:

It sounds thrilling, no. We worked on ailerons. And we did either drilling or [riveting— added by veteran later]

TS:

That’s okay.

AHA:

Well, anyway, I think because I was so poor at it they had me working with the inspection team and helping them. They were coming around and coming to see—

TS:

Like a quality control?

AHA:

—if it was done properly. And I had to stamp tags and reports for them.

TS:

I see.

AHA:

And then the vice president who was running the place, his secretary asked me to come up and file for her half a day. So that was more interesting. I am not mechanically inclined.

TS:

So you’re not Rosie the Riveter [chuckle].

AHA:

Yeah, I riveted. Oh that was—I know that there was something—

TS:

Oh, I see. Okay.

AHA:

Okay, I drilled or riveted.

TS:

I see.

AHA:

Yeah, you had to do one or the other—or both tasks. So I had never done anything mechanical, and anybody would tell you that I did not know how to work with my hands. So I think I kept getting these others jobs as a result, which was very nice.

TS:

Yeah. Well, can you talk about that time at all because people that—young children or kids listening today—trying to understand what the atmosphere was like for you? So you were, like, a teenager at this time when World War II happened. Can you describe—

AHA:

I was older than a teenager actually, though I behaved like a teenager.

TS:

[Laughs] Okay.

AHA:

For the women, as I listened to them in the war plant, they were absolutely thrilled. I mean, most of them were from working class families, immigrant families, and they—It was the first taste of freedom for them; otherwise they became housewives. And they suddenly knew what it was like to get into a job and be paid and be able to purchase something if they wanted it. They enjoyed—just like here in a retirement community—other people around them—the friendships. It sounds snobbish on my part, but I had never known people like that. But I got to know them and like them.

TS:

Were they mostly women that were working in the plant?

AHA:

Yes, there were some men and as the war progressed, there became fewer and fewer men. I’m not even sure whether the ones who were finally left probably had medical problems.

TS:

Did you stay in a barracks or anything?

AHA:

Oh, no.

TS:

No?

AHA:

People carpooled to their—to work. I didn’t drive. I didn’t learn to drive until I was thirty, which is amazing to people in the west.

TS:

Sure.

AHA:

My guardians, they had four cars there, but they never offered to have me drive. But they—I lost my train of thought.

TS:

You said that you were carpooling to—

AHA:

Yes, that is how they got to the war plant was by carpooling—that management setup. The fellows didn’t get gas unless they had riders. So it was a two way—also, they got paid, which they wanted. The fellow who drove me definitely was looking for the money.

TS:

I see.

AHA:

And I would wear overalls, my first—and I never thought of wearing overalls—you know, [I] carried a lunch pail—

TS:

Do you remember what kind of food you had for lunch?

AHA:

Well, my aunt would make up sandwiches, yeah—my guardian.

TS:

Interesting. That’s—so did you pick the plant that you worked at? How did you come about working at that particular place?

AHA:

That was pull, again. I had wanted to work for Sperry [Corporation, now Sperry Marine Northrop Grumman] in Garden City. I looked very young for my age and I guess was very shy and applied at Sperry and hadn’t gotten the job. It would have been two blocks away. But my guardian was friends with the vice president, and I think that’s how I got the job.

TS:

That’s how you—very good. So how long did you work in the—Pratt, that’s not it—Libby Aircraft—Liberty?

AHA:

I think I worked about a year. It was longer than a year, but I—

TS:

Somewhere in that range?

AHA:

Somewhere in that range.

TS:

Oh, okay. Now so you said you were getting—You were thinking about that maybe this was not the kind of work that you wanted to do; were you thinking about something different?

AHA:

Well I did think—When I went in the WAVES originally I said to the interviewer that I thought I should probably be in cooking, you know, because this what I had had for two years. But she immediately said “no”. [She said that] I wouldn’t like it. Cooks—you better not put this on the recording.

[Off the record discussion about cooks redacted.]

TS:

So when you decided to go into the WAVES—why did you pick the WAVES, because they had the other services too? Do you remember why?

AHA:

Well, one: the uniform was more attractive. Two: I didn’t know anyone in the service but somehow I think the WAVES had a better reputation than the WAACs [Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps].

TS:

Right, now did you go to like a recruiter’s office, is that how—

AHA:

I went into New York City to—I guess it was a recruitment center. I know I had to take a battery of tests and physical exams and be told whether I’d be accepted or not.  

TS:

Do you remember if you had to have any references?

AHA:

Probably did, but I don’t remember.

TS:

It’s just interesting the different ways—like you said the battery of tests and how they placed you for the job and things like that. So then you got accepted into the WAVES?

AHA:

Then I went to boot camp at Hunter College in New York.

TS:

Okay, what was that like?

AHA:

It was the dead of winter and I remember eating—of course we had our over—We got our uniforms with our overcoats. And we had to eat with our overcoats on in so many minutes and so on. And other people have very strong memories of that period. I don’t, particularly. I remember my roommates—we were in an apartment house. I definitely remember my roommates— that I had one from North Carolina who was outstanding—I don’t know whatever happened to her.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

And another one who—I think she also was—she was from a Southern state and she had never been away from home. And she cried. She was homesick and I think they let her out. I don’t think she stayed.

TS:

How did you like it? Was it a different type of environment for you—the way they were—

AHA:

Well I had been in women’s boarding schools enough—

TS:

That’s true.

AHA:

See, I was in public school half of the time and boarding schools half of the time, or away at camp—that I was used to that type of life. It didn’t trouble me—not being a family.

TS:

Right, right, and what about the regiment that you had to do in the military?

AHA:

It was such a short period—yes, we had to march and most of us, as I recall, were getting our shots and getting tested. And there was one test I failed very badly and that was like Morse Code. It was only a code of dot or dot-dot and the woman said, “You know If you hadn’t answered it all you would have gotten fifty percent right, but because you tried to answer it you got thirty percent right!”
So then I was fortunate. When I got through—I was told, of course, for a control tower I didn’t have decent enough eyesight, and link training was the next best billet and they were filled. So I got aerial gunnery.

TS:

Really?

AHA:

And they felt that was the next best. So I was very, very lucky. And I was, because when I finally got down to Pensacola [Naval Air Station], most of the girls had four years of college. We had some of the brightest gals.

[Redacted discussion of a neighbor’s view of WACS at request of veteran]

TS:

Well, I’m interested about your aerial gunnery. I’ve never talked to anyone that did that. What is that all about?

AHA:

Well—so I—my billet was aerial gunnery and they sent me to Pensacola to school. That was the aerial gunnery school. And I went through the courses and then, when I graduated, at the time I went through there were only five of us from boot camp. And the rest were all recalled. They had all been teaching aerial gunnery, but they had never gone to school. They were in the first three classes of WAVES. So we took the course and three of us landed in Pensacola as teachers. The others, as I said, as a group—two went on to Texas and the rest went back to their regular stations.
There’s two kinds of aerial gunnery.

TS:

Okay.

AHA:

One is for a bombing plane—a bomber—and then they have stations with the machine guns off to the side. And they have to learn how to shoot in a different way than a combat pilot in a single plane shooting his gun directly out in front. One is called 3A2 and the other is called GUN-AIR: capital G-U-N, capital A-I-R—dash A-I-R. I was put in the GUN-AIR program with the other two who went, yes. And then the rest of the crew were men. We were all part of aerial gunnery. Some of it was at the outlying fields and some was at main base.  And the gunnery department—and there were other WAVES in gunnery—were up on  the gunnery range at main base. And they were all in the 3A2 program, but we got stuck in a hangar down where the SNJs [T-6 Texan, a trainer aircraft with the naval designation “SNJ”] were.  And so for a long time that’s where we were. And there were about, I guess, twenty men and these three girls. And we taught students—we taught instructors. We did not teach the pilots. We did not teach the machine gunners on the bombers or anything. We were teaching students—

TS:

So what—

AHA:

— instructors, who would go out to other places and teach.

TS:

So was it all unusual to have a woman teaching how to use the aerial gunnery?

AHA:

Well, this is long-winded. I’m glossing.

TS:

No, no, it’s fine. It’s very interesting, Ann.

AHA:

The course took probably six weeks or two months, I’ve long forgotten. My part of it was using a mock plane. You’d get in this little Quonset hut thing with a mock plane, and you’d climb in the cockpit if you were the student. And then you would try to hit this target—this moving target—on—it was a film.

TS:

Oh, okay. Was that live ammunition?

AHA:

No.

TS:

Okay.

AHA:

No. It was all with lights and movie screens.

TS:

Oh I see.

AHA:

The jist of any of it no matter what kind of a gun it is—plane—you have to aim ahead of the target. You don’t look at the bird and shoot the bird, because the bird has flown by the time your bullet comes. So you have to learn to shoot it at a distance. And I don’t know—

TS:

Interesting.

AHA:

Now they had rings around the thing and you knew how many rings to—

TS:

To go out?

AHA:

To go out.

TS:

To the side of it, I see.

AHA:

Depending on the angle of the bird. If you’re in a fighter plane and the plane is directly ahead of you, yes, you shoot that way. But if the plane is at a slight angle then you shoot this way. And if the plane is straight, you’re going be shooting out to there.

TS:

Right.

AHA:

So that’s really the whole jist of that.

TS:

So now the GUN-AIR is the one on the side of the plane? Is this the pilot that’s shooting out the front or this the one that is shooting out of the side?

AHA:

This is with any of them.

TS:

Oh, okay.

AHA: They all have to shoot at angle.

TS:

I see. Okay. Interesting. What did you think about this job?

AHA:

Oh, it was, well, it was Pensacola. It was un-air conditioned. It’s hot. It’s humid weather. You’re getting used to that. Two: the students came sporadically. At times we would have classes every day of the week, every— We were teaching one hour on, and one hour off. So nothing to do, you know, in the meanwhile. But then classes wouldn’t show up. We wouldn’t have anyone for maybe two weeks or more, and you’d sit—you’d go to class—nothing to do. So I said to you I was interviewed by this other woman. She wanted us to feel patriotic. That’s wonderful if you’re a nurse and you’re working on people every single day. But there’s a difference if you’re in a hot tropical climate sitting there—

TS:

In a hangar.

AHA:

With nothing to do. I mean now, grant you, I’d take books out of the library and I’d fiddle with that and so on. But you can see the difference in attitudes. The second thing, all the male instructors we had were ex-cadets.   And they were bitter about it. They had been washed out. Some had been washed out early in the game, some of them really weren’t maybe intelligent enough to be pilots, but some had been washed out on the last day. And that happened afterwards. I went with an instructor—I dated an instructor—I knew him a long time. And the same thing happened even in gunnery. The best billets went to the students we thought were nice and we gave an “A” to. But there were times when there were no billets for—The war was “hurry up, slow down”. It was not ideal like in movies for us.

TS:

Right. So sometimes maybe your student would do fine but there was no billet for them to go anywhere, so then they’d get put into a different assignment. Is that what would happen? I see.

AHA:

Or they’d be sent some place they really didn’t want to go, you know. Some places were more desirable than others.

TS:

What was your living quarters like Ann?

AHA:

Perfect.

TS:       Yeah?

AHA:

When I graduated—oh, that was another thing. When I graduated from gunnery school, I had a choice of going to Texas or staying at Pensacola. Texas was barracks. At Pensacola we lived four in a room. We had a reception area where our dates came to meet us.  In Texas, they had to meet at a fire hydrant, I was told. So there was—I chose of course not to go to Texas.

TS:

Yeah. So more like a dorm, I guess, than a barracks in Pensacola—like a dorm?

AHA:

Yeah.  They were large dorms, yes, with a laundry room and a shower room. You did have to take showers publicly with the other girls, but I was used to that because of boarding school.

TS:

Right.

AHA:

And camp.

[Clock ringing]

TS:

Oh, that’s lovely.

AHA:

Then, of course, there were very few women on base.

TS:

Right.

AHA:

Oh, and across the street from us were the male cadets going to school. And they were South Americans with all this gold braid on them—they looked like admirals—and Englishmen, in their knee socks and shorts, as well as American cadets. And we had dates—you could have as many dates as you wanted. And I just enjoyed it. I had been very secluded and I thought that it was very wonderful to go out. And I don’t mean that I was immoral. I mean that it was fun to go dancing, to be invited out to dinner, to laugh with a group of people.

TS:

Yeah. Now, I’ve heard a number of women that have talked about that there were lots of dances. Was that the case for you too—that there were lots of dances to go to?

AHA:

Well, yes. Yeah. There were dances. There was the USO [United Service Organizations]. There was night clubs. Yeah, there was all sorts of—

TS:

So was there activity on the base and then off the base, that you—

AHA:

No, all off the base.

TS:

All off the base?

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Were there swing bands or anything that you—

AHA:

Oh, yeah, there were bands there but then—I mean off of the base—little bands and so on. But then, in addition, Pensacola would attract symphonies and bands, and movies changed twice a week. There were always good movies. I mean, what we thought were good movies in those days.

TS:

Yeah. So those were the type of activities—you went to dances and movies and things like that?

AHA:

Yeah, yeah.

TS:

Did you play any games at all?

AHA:

I’m not a—I have poor—I’ve always had poor hand and eye coordination. We had a beach.

TS:

Oh.

AHA:

So we went to the beach all the time—went swimming all the time.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

And then the gunnery—finally, oh yeah, we graduated. They built a new building for GUN-AIR and we went up to the gunnery range. And the gunnery range was next to the riding stables.

TS:

Oh, okay.

AHA:

So we would spend a lot of time at the riding stable.

TS:

Did you like that—with horses and—

AHA:

Yes.

TS:

Yeah, riding horses? Had you ever done that before?

AHA:

I had ridden in boarding schools and camps—really not well, or anything.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA: Just—

TS:

Just as an activity to do?

AHA:

As an activity, yeah.

TS:

Well, that’s kind of neat. So when you moved up—when you moved your gunnery school was that in better conditions than—because you were saying that you were in a hangar?

AHA:

Yes. Yeah, it was better conditions. We also got a better officer in charge of us. And it was much more businesslike.

TS:       Yeah.

AHA:

Oh, and one of the things that they had to learn was recognition—recognizing a plane or recognizing a ship. Whether it was American or Japanese, or so on. And unfortunately I have terrible eyesight. I was just lucky to make—how I ever got gunnery I don’t know. Towards the end of the war they suddenly one day said to me, “teach recognition”.
And one of the students I got to know said, “We thought that you were the dumbest female that we had ever encountered.”
Because I couldn’t see, I’d look in this dark light and say, “What is it?”
And they were at that point all former gunners from overseas coming back, sitting around not—I don’t know what—the navy was just holding them up, not knowing what to do with them or something. And they of course knew what the damn plane was.

TS:

That’s pretty good. So did you like your job?

AHA:

Yeah, yeah.

TS:

Yeah? What—

AHA:

I didn’t describe this mock plane—you’d get in. You’d sit in it, you see. And as you turned the wheel, it would—the screen would turn.

TS:

Oh okay.

AHA:

If you were turning a—well you can imagine in a car. But it was upside down and down and up and so on.

TS:

Oh my.

AHA: I had one student who was always with a hangover from drinking Southern Comfort [a whiskey flavored liqueur]. And here’s this little room with a plane and a screen going this way, this way, and up and down, and around [laughs]. But I normally taught five students at a time. I guess I hadn’t told you that. Some of the classes that officers—Oh yeah, the officers we worked for, for the most part, were former college professors or lawyers.  They would be teaching the theory of gunnery. They would teach the theory of gunnery. Say you went through the whole course—well, I did as a student—they would teach theories. One of them taught recognition. And then, after you had all this schooling, you’d go out on a range and you would get target shooting with a gun.

TS:

A live range? Oh okay.

AHA:

And a machine gun and—oh we had to know how to assemble and disassemble a—I think it was a—

TS:

Some type of machine gun?

AHA:

Yeah. [Actually a rifle—corrected later by veteran]

TS:

Take it apart and put it back together again?

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you enjoy doing that?

AHA:

No.

TS:

[Laughter] That’s okay!

AHA:

I had never been around guns.

TS:

Oh, okay.

AHA:

There’s an ex-WAVE in Jacksonville, and she taught aerial gunnery. But she never went through school and the reason she was chosen for the job was that she had been around guns since she was knee high.

TS:

Ah.

AHA:

She had constantly hunted with her brothers and her father. She knew everything there was to know about guns. I had never been—I had seen one. There was a detective who was a friend of the family and he would come in and put his gun down—it was a revolver—on the table. And that was my experience.

TS:

That was your experience? Looking at that gun? Very good—did it make you uncomfortable at first to be around them, or—

AHA:

Well I wasn’t around guns. I was—Yes, I was uncomfortable at that point of instruction, but I wasn’t around guns.

TS:

Right, because you were doing the film and the—

AHA:

Right. My unit did that. And the men in my unit also did things like—I don’t know—if you went to an amusement park they had games like—

TS:

An arcade? 

AHA:

Like an arcade.  Right. You’ve got it.

TS:

Okay. They’d like shoot at the ducks sort of thing.

AHA:

Right.

TS:

Knock it down?

AHA:

Right.

TS:

Interesting.

AHA:

There was a group of men who had that department.

TS:

Interesting, it’s just that—so there were three—did you say three women in your group that were teaching—

AHA:

Yeah, one gal became the secretary to the lieutenant in charge of us. And the others, Mary and I, taught. Then they added three other gals. But for some reason—then, later, we got another—towards the end of the war, we got a man who decided that he didn’t want women in the unit. So they started to put us up at 3A2. But I think it was within a month of leaving.

TS:

Yeah. Mostly though, was there anyone who had concerns about women in this unit at all?

AHA:

I didn’t encounter any hostility where I was.

TS:

So it was just this is the way it is, and we’re going to learn, and—

AHA:

I guess I was oblivious to it if there was any.

TS:

Interesting.

AHA:

No, we were treated like little princesses.

TS:

Yeah?  Well, so, if you could think about like a typical day—can you kind of describe a typical day for someone?

AHA:

Well, of course—Oh, that was another thing, our living conditions. Mary and I—I don’t know—Kitty went off on her own sort of. Mary and I roomed together. And at first we were put in a barracks where there were machinists and gals who worked in other jobs. We were lonely. We didn’t particularly like it. And then finally we got in the barracks where all the gunnery girls were. And we were like a family. There were four in my room, four across the hall. We kind of meshed together and did things together and knew one another—well, I knew all the gunnery girls. I didn’t get to know—it took me a lot longer to get to know them, because for a year I was down in the hangar. But gradually, I got to know all the girls and who they were and so on. And also they had been my instructor going through, or some of them had. So I was as wrapped up in their lives.
And let’s see—a typical day, yes. Get up—and we didn’t have to—in Jacksonville, the WAVES had to do their own cooking. The men had a bakers’ school and we went there for our meals. And it was fairly poor, but for the sailors it was much worse. The navy was—I mean—well, I guess I shouldn’t—

TS:

No, you should say! [Chuckle]

AHA:

Well, it was very snobbish. It was like the old British navy. The officers had a far better diet, far better living conditions, sailboats, and all sorts of motorboats and all sorts of things—and the riding academy and their own swimming pool and a far better diet. And then the WAVES were treated fairly well. We were kind of in the middle. And then, the enlisted men had a terrible diet, poor living conditions, and were not treated well at all.

TS:

Did you recognize that at the time that you were there?

AHA:

Yes.

TS:

Yeah?

AHA:

Yes.

TS:

Did you think that it was not—

AHA:

I was very angry about it. And then, of course, the ex-cadets—this is what the last interviewer didn’t like—the idea. The ex-cadets were pretty bitter. And they got a break to live at Fort Barrancas.

TS:

One of the air force bases there?

AHA:

No. The—Fort Barrancas was next to us and it was army. And it housed men who had physical disabilities who—or mental disabilities, who really couldn’t go into active service. But it was army. And our GUN-AIR boys, I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to change and get a barracks over there; because the food was so much better and the living conditions were so much better. And so they also pulled rank, so they went over there to the—
But a typical day, yes. You got up, went to breakfast, and went up to work. It was about a probably a half-mile walk, as I recall, or you could take a bus. They had a bus for us. And then we’d go to school and teach every other hour or if there was nothing to do—sneak off to the riding stable. Or nothing to do, you read books.

TS:

Yeah what did you do, if you were working, on your off hour? What did you do with that hour—

AHA:

Well that was what I was—we had to stay there. We weren’t supposed to leave the gunnery range. Oh, we snuck off to the hospital to get ice cream sodas.

TS:

They had them at the hospital?

AHA:

Hospital—

[Sound missing 42:03-42:16]

AHA:

A lot of bridge. At the time I did not know how to play bridge.

TS:

I was wondering if you played cards at all.

AHA:

What?

TS:

I was wondering if cards were one of the activities that people played.

AHA:

The men I worked with played Hearts.  Yeah, they weren’t particularly well educated. Some of them, they—bridge would have been too much for them.

TS:

Bridge is too much for me [chuckles].

AHA:

We had one fellow who became quite famous on the stage and in the movies—Richard Kiley.

TS:

What was he an instructor?

AHA:

Yeah. And Dick would sketch photographs—I mean, sketch pirates and costumed people all day long. He had been on radio before he was in—he’d been in Bobby Benson or some radio show for kids. So he would draw—he was thinking of future acts of how he would look as a pirate, I guess—or something. So he did a lot of sketching.

TS:

What did he go on to do later?

AHA:

What?

TS:

What did he go to do later?

AHA:

He was—he took the lead in Cervantes’ Man from La Mancha. He took the lead in that. He’s dead now. He did go on to the movies, but he didn’t—I saw him in a detective story and it didn’t go over to well.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

But he did play on Broadway and did well there.  Yeah.

TS:

That’s neat. So you had quite a different— a lot of different types of people that you worked with from all over the country.

AHA:

Pretty much East Coast. Most of the boys came from Massachusetts as I recall. Dick came from Chicago. I remember when I went through the gunnery school with these gals from around the country. One was from Alameda [California].  She sort of stood out. And there, oh yeah, was another gal—all knew was that I called her “Tex”, Tex Wilson, and who was from Texas—and obviously very much from Texas. Yeah and I know I had a roommate from Michigan. Sally was from Tennessee. We had Tennessee, yeah.

TS:

So they were from different places.

AHA:

Different places, yeah. But after the war, one married a diplomat—I’ve lost track of her, Yvonne.  Sally became a teacher at the University of Tennessee before she married. Martha—I went up to Syracuse after the war and Martha got her master’s up there.

[Phone rings]

TS:

We’ll pause it. We’ll ask you about the hot plate.

[Recording Paused]

TS:

Well we had just a slight break there. And you were saying in the dorm about what it was like.

AHA:

There were four in our room, yeah. And of course at boot camp you went through this terrible rigmarole of cleaning over clean. I mean that was the only way I ever learned how to clean. It was terrible. But in the dorm with—after—The officer would supposedly give a white glove inspection once a week or whatever, but she didn’t. She’d just look in and say “hi” and go on. And life was very relaxed. And we would have—We decided that we didn’t like the way they scrambled eggs over at the dining hall. So we would make our own. And somebody had a phonograph and they’d play music. And it was my first introduction, really, to classical music. And we—Well, the four gals across the hall were even more domesticated than I was. I mean they—late in the war, they built a WAVE building with a kitchen and hair dresser and so on. These gals would go over there and cook and think that was fun. I guess—I don’t know— I didn’t want to cook [laughs].

TS:

You had enough of that right?

AHA:

But we got—it was a—We learned about people. I mean it was wonderful for me. I had never met people from all over the country. When I went home I after the war—went to tea or something—and the women said, “Oh, Chicago. That’s out west. You would never want to go beyond that. It’s uncivilized.” That was the way they thought. And here I had met people— listening to boys talk about Minnesota and hunting and so on. I had never been exposed to that. It was loads of fun.

TS:

That’s neat.

AHA:

I was learning about people.

TS:

That’s one of the more interesting parts about the service is that—

AHA:

Yeah, and I can remember—I don’t—maybe it would be dull to somebody else—but just interviewing some little Frenchman saying, “what is your life like at home?” Or a little Britisher I dated for awhile—The poor guy died and the reason I know was his sister wrote me and told me. And he had never been a teenager. He had been twelve when the war started and he became a stretcher bearer. And at eighteen, he just had never been a little kid. He still was a little kid, really.

TS:

Right.

AHA:

And I still say prayers for him, because I just feel that he got cheated.

TS:

Did he die during the war?

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Oh, I see.

AHA:

He was a glider pilot, and on his first mission across the channel, he lost his life. I don’t mean I was in love with him. I was too immature really. But I just feel so sorry for that young person. So that’s way over—out of the field of what we were talking about.

TS:

That’s okay.

AHA:

But—

TS:

Go ahead.

AHA:

My life wasn’t made up of going and teaching all the time. My life was made up of getting along with girls: finding out how they lived, what their childhoods were, and so on. And the same with all these men I met—I mean my students constantly coming through.  The boys that I worked with—And it was a growing up for me.

TS:       What was—Can you tell me one of the most difficult things, maybe emotionally, that you had to do at that time?

AHA:

Oh, I fell in love naturally. And I realize now, because of my background, I wasn’t looking for sex. I was looking for love. I had not had love in my life. And anyway the student—I met this student. My roommate and I went out on—I don’t know—somehow—pick-ups [?] I guess we were all.  And these two cadets—And she fell in love with this cadet and I had his roommate—so the two of us kind of looked at one another. Anyway, Mary’s date, Bill, washed out on the last day. And Bob not only graduated but he became an instructor at Pensacola. I guess he was pretty bright. So I continued to date him. But at the end of the war we had had a falling out. And then we got back together, and I saw him after the war. And I guess I got him out of my system. I didn’t marry him, but that was okay.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Was it difficult for you to train all of these young men, knowing that they were going to go off into the war? Was that hard at all?

AHA:

I don’t think that we ever thought about it. I don’t think—no—I never—I mean everybody—I don’t think I thought of them dying. And yet, I had known—I dated a young pilot before he went in service, and he got killed the next day on a training accident. So I knew people died in the war, but young people are positive. You know, I don’t think they—I don’t know. It didn’t occur to me.

TS:

Someone once told me that they were—how did she word it—basically that her life was a small circle of friends and what she was doing. You know, it wasn’t— She didn’t really get the big picture of what the war was all about.

AHA:

I would say that that was true of me. My roommate Martha and Helen across the way—Helen got the New York Times, and those two understood the war and what the Battle of the Bulge or something. It was blank to me. We weren’t getting any information, or at least it wasn’t sinking in. Nobody around me was talking about it other than those two gals.

TS:

So it was just what you had—what your focus was on. Not everybody’s was the same.

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you—when you went to the—

AHA:

It sounds very shallow—

TS:

Oh no.

AHA:

—and it is. I was—I admit. I mean this is why I hated that other interview, because I came across as a very shallow person. Yes, I was interested in dating. I was interested in where I was going to dinner or—

TS:

But that’s the life that you were living. So that’s the life that a lot of young people were living at that time.

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

I don’t think it’s shallow. [Chuckle]

AHA:

Well, it is.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

That’s the age you’re at.

TS:

That’s right. Well you were in your early twenties, right?

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Yeah. What do you think about kids today, with the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan that we have going on?

AHA:

I don’t know that—Around here, we discuss politics and the war far more than I have heard any group talk. Yeah.

TS:

Well, what—let’s see if I’ve—

AHA:

Yeah, I don’t think people ever talked politics during—

TS:

At that time?

AHA:

At that time, I don’t ever recall—

TS:

Do you remember any—did you have any opinion about of FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] at that time?

AHA:

I was brought up in a Republican stronghold, where they were not happy with the NRA [National Recovery Act] and so on. And they ridiculed the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] and so forth. I am now a wild eyed Democrat [chuckle]. But I was surrounded by Republicans. My mother wasn’t interested in politics. My guardian’s wife was. But not really—I think just as a way to be entertained—to get out.

TS:

Yeah. So not really—would you say that you were kind of apolitical—didn’t have any political leaning in your twenties at all? Or did you? Do you remember?

AHA:

Just as—I was a Republican.

TS:

So did you have any views of Eisenhower then at that time?

AHA:

Eisenhower was much later. I was married and had a child. He came to—we were—My husband and I were in Tampa and I took a photograph of Eisenhower, I remember. And he came in a motorcade and he was just about as far as that—and oh, I took a photograph. Well we had these cameras that have gone—went off the market. But you would send the whole camera in, and then they would develop the picture and send [them] back to you with a new camera.  And they sent me back Kefauver [Carey Estes Kefauver, 1952 presidential candidate] the fellow with a raccoon hat, a Democrat. I think they did it as a joke [chuckle]. So I never got the photograph of Eisenhower.

TS:

You didn’t get the—Oh no! Or you got somebody else’s camera back, I guess.

AHA:

Well, no, somebody had done it deliberately [laughs].

TS:

Oh, is that right? Oh that’s pretty funny.  Well, in general, if we go back to the gunnery range and the gunnery job that you had, how would you say your relations were with your peers that you worked with?

AHA:

It was so unreal now, I realize. I mean I think—those poor men. I never heard a foul word from them. And for a long time we all had sat around a table. Then, when we moved to the range they had their room and we had ours, and there were romances, and we’d meet out in the hall and so on. But I think I just—They were just very kind to me— very good to me, really. And I don’t know—Well, I dated one for a while and then, because I went with Bob, he was an officer, so I think they resented that a bit. They called me “gold-braid Annie” or something—one fellow did. Because they were sailors and had washed out. And then, they did get their chance at the end of the war. They got a chance to go to navigational school and if they graduated they became officers. And they all took off, yeah.

TS:

Well that’s good.

AHA:

It was a happy ending for them.

TS:

Yeah. That’s good.

AHA:

Yeah and some of them were married. Some of them were older and married. I remember  Bloom was married. He was a policeman in Massachusetts.

TS:

Did you keep in touch with them after the war?

AHA:

I kept in touch with a few of the girls, and then, now I only keep in touch with two. I haven’t heard from them this Christmas, but right up until this Christmas.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

If I have to, I’ll call one of them and see if she’s okay.

TS:

That’s quite a long time to keep in touch, if you think about it.

AHA:

Oh, yeah.

TS:

Sixty some years.

AHA:

Well I started to look up my favorite roommate Sally, and I learned she had died. I felt very badly. And I probably should look up Mary. And I—Martha and I never really got along well. I don’t mean we fought—we just didn’t get along well.

TS:

Sometimes you just don’t connect with a person, right?

AHA:

Right. And—But she went to Syracuse, as I said. She was getting her master’s while I was still an undergraduate. I went back up to finish school. We saw one another a few times. But I—She left service saying, “I never want to think about it again. It was a disruption in my life and I don’t want to even think that I was part of it”—which amazed me, because I just thoroughly enjoyed it.  And I wonder if it didn’t happen again to her, because Syracuse University told me that they had no record of her and she had gotten her master’s there. And if I could learn where she was—So, I knew that she had gone overseas after she graduated. And she wrote me that she had married a Polish count, and he was becoming a medical student in Italy and she was working while he went to school. And then they came back to the [United] States and she had two sons. And I think they got a divorce. So she had her problems.

TS:

Yeah. Now you said that went back to school to finish your school. Did you do that on the G.I. Bill?

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

What did you think about having that opportunity to—

AHA:

I’m ashamed to say that I have made more money because of it than I deserved for sure. It was wonderful, because when I did marry at school. And my husband had the G.I. Bill and I was on the G.I. Bill and when—in the summers, I would finish up school. I would go to school—unfortunately we had a baby too. So we didn’t both go to school at once.  But he would work and I would go to school. So we both got through.

TS:

So you kind of helped each other at different times get—

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

That’s a good way to do it.

AHA:

And then even now I go out to the VA [Veteran’s Administration] for physical and get my prescriptions.

TS:

Well good. Over here in what is it—Central Point —White City [Oregon]?

AHA:

White City.

TS:

Yeah, White City VA.

AHA:

And we got a—he got a mortgage—a GI mortgage once. Actually, he got recalled in service so he had two coming. And I could have gotten one. But we only used it once.

TS:

Yeah. He got recalled like for the Korean War, maybe?

AHA:

Yes.

TS:

I see. Well that’s good that you were able to use your benefits.

AHA:

Yeah. It was very worthwhile.

TS:

Well, when you look back at your service years, at this time, did you consider yourself a pioneer in any way?

AHA:

No, I didn’t. No. It’s only been of recent when you come around and want to interview us.

TS:

Well, if you’re reflecting on it though, Ann—if you think about the kind of jobs that you did at that time, do you, upon reflection, do you see yourself as maybe being a trail blazer in anyway?

AHA:

I thought women in the war plant were the trailblazers.

TS:

Working in the civilian war plants?  

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Why do you think they were trail blazers?

AHA:

Because they had always been at home—traditionally been at home.

TS:

So joining the military wasn’t non-traditional?

AHA:

I didn’t think of it that way until of recent, yeah.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

When people around here hear about it.

TS:

Well, is there any—You were talking about how you belonged to a WAVES chapter here, right?

AHA:

Yes, yeah.

TS:

How long—Do you know about how long you have been a member of that group?

AHA:

Oh, I think I came to the valley in 1976. And I think I found them in about 1977 or ‘8.

TS:

Oh, so for quite a while then—

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

—you’ve been a member. So do you have a sense of pride about—and maybe patriotism—about the time that you served in the military?

AHA:

I’m trying to think of why it’s—This little group has struggled along. It has changed. People my age have disappeared pretty much and younger ones have come along. And we used to meet once a month. They’re actually down to four times a year, and are having a very difficult time finding officers with younger women—women who have been in the service twenty years. But we met a week or so ago and I was trying to think what brings us together. I never knew these women before but I like them. Somebody said that they’re very independent.

TS:

Do you think that that’s true?

AHA:

Probably.

[Phone rings]

TS:

It’s okay we’ll pause again.

[Recording paused]

TS:

You joined and why?

AHA:

Oh, they said that they are all independent minded. And I think that’s probably true.

TS:

Do you see yourself as independent minded?

AHA:

I guess.  Yeah. People have wondered that I have been willing to travel alone or do something.

TS:

Do you think that’s something that was in you before you joined the military—that sense?

AHA:

Well—Yes, I suppose. Yeah. I didn’t bother to tell you—are we recording?

TS:

We’re recording.

AHA:

I had a very unhappy home life and I think that that pushed me into it. And that was something. Most of the women that I knew in the military hadn’t gone in to save the world or to be adventuresome.  They were getting away from situations at home that they wanted to get away from.

TS:

Yeah. That’s understandable.

AHA:

Yeah.  Well, that’s what bothered the last interviewer. She couldn’t accept that. That I was—Oh, there was one gal from a small town. Her father was a lawyer—very prominent in town. He had been having an affair with his secretary for years, but the family kept it a secret because it would ruin his career.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

And she wanted out of it. I mean, the girl [his daughter—clarified by the veterans later] wanted out of it.

TS:

Right.

AHA:

Oh, Mary—Mary’s mother was—Oh well, I could go on about that one forever. Her mother was a national figure as a child educator—family life. She taught school. She was a professor. She had the most mixed up, worst family in the world. She had no idea how to bring up a family. Mary’s brother was in prison. And I know we went to her wedding and I learned what her mother was like.

TS:

Oh yeah?

AHA:

And Sally was married to a flier. And his friends had seen his plane go down in the Pacific, but his mother wouldn’t accept the fact that he was lost. She was dominating Sally’s life. So I’m sure that’s why Sally went in.

TS:

Yeah. Well, so when the war was winding up and it was time to get out, what—Do you remember about that time when you left the WAVES? When you were getting out of the service?

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

Can you describe that time for me?

AHA:

I wanted to finish college. I knew I wanted more education.

TS:

Yeah. And you knew that you could get the GI Bill at that time. Where you aware of that?

AHA:

I’m sure. I mean I did use the GI Bill but that was something, yes. I had owed my guardian money. That is one of the reasons why I went into the war plant, why I quit college, and went into the war plant. Peg was—My guardian was the doctor, but his wife ran the family.

TS:

I understand.

AHA:

And Peg was telling me that I owed this money. She wanted some stock I owned and so one of the reasons I quit college was to make money to repay that loan, which I did. Of course being in the service was great because I was—I had an income plus I was—all my needs were paid for. And I was saving money with my own income, and building it up. So yeah, I guess I did think about the GI Bill, because after the war I went in and I talked to some guidance counselors: women who were supposed to advise young women where to go to school, or something. And this one woman wanted me to go to a small Southern girls’ school. And I thought that I couldn’t use the GI Bill. I might as well use the GI Bill, rather than pay tuition.

TS:       Yeah.

AHA:

So, sure—yeah.

TS:

Where did you end up getting your degree?

AHA:

Syracuse University.

TS:

Syracuse? Oh, okay. What did you get it in?

AHA:

Well, I still had the damn home ec.

TS:

[Laughs] You couldn’t shake that.

AHA:

I couldn’t shake that and I put it together with journalism. But then I had a husband who didn’t want me to work. So I never worked.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

And we moved around, and really the only place I could think of working was in New York City working with a magazine—a food magazine; Ladies Home Journal type of thing, or something like that. So I didn’t get into that. It was too bad, because when the war ended that field for women was wonderful. I mean it was opening up, it was paying well, and I could have gotten a better job than my husband.

TS:

What did he do?

AHA:

He took forestry in school, but the retail end of it: sales of lumber products.

TS:

I see interesting.

AHA:

Or building products.

TS:

Yeah.  Well, your service years are very interesting, Ann. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you’d like to add about that time? Or your experience—

AHA:

Just that I was happy and I had a good time. I was meeting people from all over the world from all walks of life. And I was fascinated by them.

TS:

Yeah. You know I meant to add—is there any—What do you think about today [and] the women in the military? It’s a little different; well it’s a lot different.

AHA:

Oh, they amaze me.

TS:

Yeah.

AHA:

Yeah. The way they go out on battleships and so on. Most of the women—the few I’ve met over in the army[?]—in World War II they were nurses. Well the gal in Jacksonville is a nurse, yeah. But then there was one who was president of our unit for a while. And I guess she was a machinist or something like that. And on a battleship, I can’t imagine life like that. I’m too timid. I don’t think I’d go for that [chuckle].

TS:

Well do you think that there is any field that the woman should not be able to do in the military?

AHA:

It’s a different world today. I mean I hear that, say in college, that they have co-ed dorms and so on. I couldn’t handle that.

TS:

Yeah, it’s just a different world. That’s true.

AHA:

So I wouldn’t tell a young what to do.

TS:

Would you give them any advice at all?

AHA:

No.

TS:

No?

AHA:

How about you? You’re closer to them.

TS:

[Chuckle] That’s a good question, Ann. You’re going to have to interview me next time.

AHA:

Yeah.

TS:

I don’t know. I think you’re right. I think it is a different world.

AHA:

You say you’re working on your doctorate?

TS:

Yeah. I am.

AHA:

The last elder hostel trip I took—several years ago now—this gal judged—she got students ready for their doctorate. And she judged them, also.

TS:

Oh okay.

AHA:

It was kind of interesting to listen to her. To meet her, you’d never believe it.  I mean she was kind of a blousy Italian, very—

TS:

Flamboyant like?

AHA:

Flamboyant, yeah, that’s the right word for her. And yet when she wanted to talk about that, her educational field, she used all the right terms and so forth. But yeah, I imagine she was a pretty tough cookie to discipline her students and so on.  And she seemed kind of snobbish about them—saying that they didn’t work hard enough.

TS:

Well, we’ll see. Well, I really appreciate you letting me into your home and letting me talk to you about your experiences.

AHA:

Well, I think that you’re charming.

TS:

Oh well, thank you, Ann. Well, Mickey here, the little kitty, has been great too. So is there anything else that you would like to add, if not, we could go ahead an—

AHA:

No. I think that you’re really very nice.

TS:

Oh. Well, thank you, Ann. We’ll go ahead and turn it off. Thank you.                 

[End of interview]