1. LIBRARY CATALOG
  2. DATABASES
  3. JOURNAL A-Z List
  4. SUBJECT GUIDES
  5. LIBRARY SERVICES

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Julia "Judy" Houk Cooley

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: wv0452.5.001

Description: Primarily documents the service of Judy Cooley in the United States Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service [WAVES] during World War II as a radio operator.

Summary:

Cooley tells of growing up in the rural area of Edmonton, New York, her early education, and how she joined the United States Navy after being forced to postpone her collegiate education to care for her mother. She describes her military training, her technical radio training, and her service.

Other topics include the military service records of her brothers, her memories of growing up during the depression, and her experience of taking messages from surrendering German U-boats following the conclusion of wartime hostilities. Additional, Cooley states her views on women in combat, details her first marriage, and describes her civilian life.

Creator: Julia "Judy" Houk Cooley

Biographical Info: Julia "Judy" Houk Smith Cooley (b. 1924) of Edmonton, New York, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES from 1944 to 1947.

Collection: Julia "Judy" Houk Cooley 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:

TS:

Today is March 12, 2009. This is Therese Strohmer and I am in Colfax, North Carolina, with Judy. And this is an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Judy, go ahead and say the name you’d like—how you’d like it to be on your collection.

JC:

Judy Cooley. Well, probably, Judy Hawke Smith Cooley.

TS:

Okay, excellent. Well, Judy, why don’t we start off with telling me about where and when you were born?

JC:

I was born on February 24, 1924, in Edmeston, New York.

TS:

Was that like a rural area?

JC:

Very rural, very small town, probably not over nine hundred people.

TS:

Oh, okay. And how about—Do you have any siblings?

JC:

I had four brothers.

TS:

So you’re the only girl?

JC:

No, I was the only girl and the youngest. The oldest boys were twins.

TS:

Is that right?

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

What are their names?

JC:

Gilbert and Hubert.

TS:

Gilbert and Hubert. And then what were your others brothers’ names?

JC:

Larry and Frank.

TS:

Larry and Frank, very good. So you were the baby girl in the family?

JC:

That’s correct.

TS

What did your folks do for a living?

JC:

My father was just a jack of all trades. He ended up working in a Kraft plant, where they made cream cheese and other things.

TS:

Did he have to go very far to where he worked?

JC:

Oh, about three miles.

TS:

Did he—How did he get there, do you remember?

JC:

Drove.

TS:

Did he drive?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

How about your mother?

JC:

She was a seamstress, when she needed to earn some money.

TS:

So she like took in work as needed?

JC:

Yeah, she was a very good seamstress.

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

And she was much appreciated.

TS:

So, do you—so you’re in a little rural community—

JC:

Right.

TS:

What do you remember about growing up?

JC:

Oh, I have a lot of nice memories. I was close enough to the school so I could go home for lunch if I wanted to. I had some wonderful teachers. My first grade teacher had an old car with a rumble seat, and I remember her taking us for a ride in that.

TS:

Oh, I bet that was fun.

JC:

Never heard of it now, probably.

TS:

The rumble seat?

JC:

Yeah. And—I don’t have an awful lot of memories of my grade school, except that my brothers kept track of me very closely [chuckles].

TS:

[laughs] Well, what can you remember about the school? Was it a one room school, or—

 JC:      Oh, no—

TS:

Or was it—Have a lot of different classes in it?

JC:

It had both grade school and high school—the first school I went to. And then there was—they had centralization, and it became a big school—well, it still had everybody in it, but the—a lot of students came from other places also.

TS:

How did they get there?

JC:

By bus.

TS:

Yeah? So they were bused in?

JC:

Yes. The students who were bused in had mostly been in one room schoolhouses, [chuckles] so it was quite a change for them.

TS:

Yeah, I bet. Did you—Do you remember a particular subject that you liked very much at all, or—

 JC:      Oh, I liked—I liked English of course. That was my favorite, because it was easy for me. And I liked math—up to a point. [chuckles] Some of the algebra floored me for a bit, but I liked geometry. And I wasn’t too fond of history. I liked music and—I guess my favorite was the gym period [chuckling].

TS:

Oh, what did you get to do in gym?

JC:

Oh, lots of things. We even learned tap dancing. Of course, back then we played basketball and softball, and all the games they do now except soccer. We didn’t play soccer.

TS:

I didn’t play soccer either.

JC:

Didn’t you?

TS:

No. So, did you do—Was it organized games that you played—at all—against like other teams, or were they just kind of pick-up games?

JC:

We could go to other schools, but we couldn’t play in competition with them. We had to choose sides, with some of each school on each side, because they we weren’t really allowed any real competition.

TS:

Why is that?

JC:

Well, at that time, they didn’t think girls should be bruised in any way, and that if things got rough—as they would in competition—they might get hurt, and they were pretty protective of ladies.

TS:

I see.

JC:

And girls.

TS:

I see. Now you had mentioned music, did you play any particular instruments at all?

JC:

Yeah. I played an E flat horn, which you’ve never heard of now, because it became a French horn—same music. And, of course, we had chorus and I had the opportunity to go to state choir and—

TS:

How was that?

JC:

That was wonderful.

TS:

Where did you get to go?

JC:

Rochester [New York], and of course there were kids from all over the state that were in that. And it’s quite a thrill to sing with a group that large.

TS:

How many were in the group?

JC:

I imagine around four hundred.

TS:

Oh my goodness.

JC:

They had state band also, but I didn’t go for band. I just went for chorus.

TS:

Now around this time you’re—You’re going to school during the Depression then, I would think?

JC:

Oh yeah.

TS:

How—Do you remember how that might have affected you at all, or did you have any—at that time—as a little girl—any sense that this was something, you know, serious that was happening?

JC:

I got the sense of it when some ladies came with some clothing that they thought my mother could make over for me. And there was a dress with fox tails on the front of it, and my mother insisted that that was beautiful and I hated it; because it [chuckling] just wasn’t something that young girls wore.  That is my only real memory that affected me.

TS:

Yeah, did you have to wear that foxtail dress?

JC:

I wore it once, and no more.

TS:

[chuckles] That’s funny. Yeah, I would—I can see. Now with your—so you didn’t have any sense of like—well, did you—did you have like a—Did you live close to town, or out more in the country?

JC:

No, we lived in town—right on the edge of town.

TS:

Okay.

JC:

We had a real large lot with trees and an outbuilding for an animal and—lots of garden.

TS:

So you grew a lot of your own food too?

JC:

Oh yes.

TS:

Yes.

JC:

My father had a huge garden every year.

TS:

He had?

JC:

And he raised animals. He raised pigs to slaughter in the fall to provide meat, and he would always—he had a cow at one time for our own milk, butter, and stuff; but I don’t recall that that lasted too long. But, of course, we had chickens for eggs, and we were quite self sufficient.

TS:

Right, okay. So, now, did you—So you’re going to school? Your brothers are keeping an eye on you?

JC:

True.

TS:

[chuckles] And then as we’re—you’re progressing through your school years. As a little girl, did you have a sense of what you might like to do, you know, when you got older—did you have any sense of that at all?

JC:

No, I really didn’t have much of an idea. I went to a church camp one summer and there was a missionary there that I just loved, and she made me want to be a missionary.  So that was the first inkling that I had any desire [chuckles] to even grow up, I guess. But my father vetoed that in a hurry.

TS:

Why do you think he did?

JC:

He didn’t want me traveling over to foreign countries like the lady did that I fell in love with.

TS:

Is that what sounded so interesting about being a foreign missionary?

JC:

Yeah. Well, that—just her personality—it was great.

TS:

Yeah, well that’s neat. 

So your father said, “Oh I don’t think you’re going to be traveling around.”

Okay—now did you get any sense of—I don’t know how much older your brothers were.

JC:

My—the youngest one next to me was three years older, and I think my—the next one was about five [years older]—and the twins were about eight years older.

TS:

Okay. So what—When you’re going through the Depression, were your brothers still living at the house with you, or had they—

JC:

Yes. Until the twins graduated, about the time I was getting through—into—first grade. So one of them went on to business school, and the other one just got a job. So, they weren’t around as much as the other two.

TS:

Right.  And so then as—as you’re getting—after you—You’re going through grade school and high school, did you—You were getting closer to where there’s a war going on in Europe, were you aware of that?

JC:

Not until it started in 1941.

TS:

Not until Pearl Harbor?

JC:

Yeah, and that was when I began my senior year.

TS:

Oh, okay.

JC:

And a lot of the boys—I say a lot—several of the boys—just dropped out and joined the army and were gone.

TS:

Do you remember what you—Do you remember when you heard about Pearl Harbor for the first time at all?

JC:

Yeah. I was with one of my girlfriends, and somebody hollered and told us about it. We were out on the street, and they told us we were in war. It was hard to believe.

TS:

Did you have any sense of what that might have meant?

JC:

Not at that time.

TS:

No? And did your brothers join up at all?

JC:

Oh yeah, all four of them were in.

TS:

Did they join up right away, or—

JC:

One of them had joined the army air force [sic] before the war started.

TS:

Okay.

JC:

And then, when the war started, he was sent to Trinidad to start a weather station. He had been to radio school, and got sick before he finished. So then they sent him to weather school [chuckles]. So he became a weather man, whether he wanted to or not. And he spent the whole war there.

TS:

And where was that at?

JC:

Trinidad.

TS:

Oh, in Trinidad still. Was he a good weather man after that?

JC:

Must’ve been. They kept him there all through during the war.

TS:

[laughs] Yeah. So you’re—So when you graduated from high school what’d you do next?

JC:

I went to what was then the New York State College for Teachers in Albany, New York. And I was in my sophomore year when my mother got sick, and I had to go home and take care of her. And I was there for a year and I was not meant to be a nurse [chuckles], and I was awfully glad when she got well. And that’s when I decided I would join the navy, because my brothers, at that time, had all gone in. And I thought, “Well, let’s make it a hundred percent.”

TS:

Is that the reason why that you decided that you—

JC:

That was the—That was the main reason, and I also wanted to get some money in my pocket—even though it would be a minimal amount.

TS:

Yes.

JC:

And I didn’t have that when I was going in college.

TS:

Right. Why did you pick the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service]?

JC:

I don’t know—I guess it was just because I’d rather join the navy than the army. I don’t know what else.

TS:

[chuckles] Did you—Do you remember any of the recruiting posters, were you influenced by any of those at all?

JC:

Not that I recall.

TS:

Did it seem like the patriotic thing to do too, besides, you know, like you say, getting—

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

Yeah. Did you know anybody else that had gone into the military as a woman?

JC:

No, I didn’t. I knew there were some, but I had never met any—

TS:

Okay.

JC:

—at that time.

TS:

So you decided—Now, did you walk into a recruiter’s office? And do you remember how that experience went?

JC:

I don’t remember—I don’t remember—I remember I was sent to Rochester [New York] to enlist, but I don’t remember why.

TS:

Might have been like a main station, or something.

JC:

Other places seemed like it would’ve been closer, but that’s where I went.

TS:

Well, how did your family feel about you joining the WAVES?

JC:

They were very much against it.

TS:

All of them?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

How did that go then? [laughs]

JC:

[chuckles] It went all right after I got in.

TS:

Did you have to convince them? Do you remember any conversations that you had with your—you know—family?

JC:

I remember I wasn’t twenty-one, and my father says, “What am I—what are you going to do if I refuse to sign for you?”

And I said “I’ll wait until I’m twenty-one,” so he signed.

TS:

How about your mother?

JC:

She didn’t say much about it.

TS:

Did she ever say anything about it?

JC:

No, not either for or against.

TS:

No? How about your brothers?

JC:

My brothers were furious with me [chuckles].

TS:

Really?

JC:

Yeah, my brother Larry, who was in Persia at that time, and he wrote to me and said, “Take all the money I’ve got in the bank saved and get back to college” [chuckles].

But of course I didn’t want to do that.

TS:

Right.

JC:

He was engaged to be married when he got back, and that was his nest egg. But he was serious.

TS:

So all that opposition didn’t influence you to change your mind?

JC:

Not really.

TS:

[laughs] Would you say that you were an independent minded type person at that time?

JC:

Very, very independent.

TS:       Yeah. Well, that’s interesting. So—they’re all saying, “Judy!”

JC:

Afterwards I wondered if it’d been better if I’d waited until I was twenty-one, because then I could’ve gone to officer candidate school.

TS:

Ah, I see.

JC:

But at the time I just wanted to go.

TS:

Right. So, so you signed up. You went to Rochester to sign up, and then what—do you remember like what transpired after that?

JC:

I guess they just sent me—orders to go to Hunter College in New York [City] for basic training.

TS:

Did you have to like take a train or anything like that, or did you—

JC:

I must have. [chuckles]

TS:

[chuckles] Okay. It was just a few years ago.

JC:

I’m sure I did.

TS:

Did—had you been away from home—I know you had gone to Rochester for your choir right—for your chorus? So was this an experience that you were kind of looking forward to you think?

JC:

I guess.

TS:

What did you think when you got there?

JC:

I wasn’t sure. [chuckles] Of course, in basic training, they put you through a lot, and some of the doctors who examine you weren’t too kind. They were very negative about having women in service, and I took that very seriously. I didn’t like that idea at all—that they had that idea that we didn’t belong.

TS:

Did they say anything to you?

JC:

No, it was just their attitude and their actions.

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

One doctor put a thing in my ear to look at my ear, and it came out bloody. And he had to stuff it with cotton, and I had to wear that cotton all the next day; because it didn’t stop, and that was the worst impression I had.

TS:

Yeah, that wouldn’t be any—that wouldn’t be comfortable at all, goodness.

JC:

No, it wasn’t. They made me go back to the same doctor to have him look at it again, and that, of course, really killed me.

TS:

Well, did he treat you any better the second time?

JC:

Oh yeah, the second time he was fine.

TS:

Yeah. Well, how about—so you get through your examinations—yeah, did you have to take tests or anything to—

JC:

Not associated with our physical ability, we took tests to determine what we would be qualified for. And I had made up my mind what I wanted to do, and of course they didn’t agree with that at all. [laughs]

TS:

[laughs] Well, what was it that you wanted to do?

JC:

Well, I thought that I could stay right in New York [City], and go to a school for becoming involved in the postal service. And I had an aunt who was a post-mistress, and she liked it. And she had told me a lot about what she did and everything, and I thought that was great. I thought that would be easy to do and I could stay in New York City, and that was what I wanted to do. And they did not agree to do that.

[Both laugh]

TS:

And what did you think about that?

JC:

I didn’t like it.

TS:

Yeah.  Did they—Did they then give you any other options, or did they just—

JC:

No, they just sent me to radio school.

TS:       Yeah. Well, before we get to radio school, I want to go back to Hunter College and tell—do you remember—One woman told me about how they had to like march through the streets, do you remember that at all? Did you do any of that?

JC:

Only one time. There was a symphony orchestra at Madison Square Garden, and they decided to take our group—quite a large group of us—down there for the concert. And I remember that, but that’s the only time I remember being taken out on the streets. And of course, we had to go on the subway. And it was raining. I think there was a hurricane [chuckles], but we were well dressed. They provided us with everything we needed.

TS:

So what were your—What was your housing like at Hunter College?

JC:

Well, where I was, it was just like a great big old house with bunks every place you could put them in the rooms—beds, I should say, because they weren’t regular bunks. They were real beds. I had no complaints about the housing.

TS:

How about the living, you know, just being in the—you know, being raised the only girl, and then you’re in this environment with all these other women and it’s—was that—

JC:

That was fine.

TS:

That was fine for you?

JC:

Yes. And we—you meet all kinds. At least—And, of course, I was the naïve country girl, So I wasn’t quite prepared for [chuckles] some of the people I met.

TS:

Do you remember any of them?

JC:

I remember one that didn’t stay long.

TS:

Yeah, what happened there?

JC:

Well, she was painted. And afterwards, one of the girls said to me, “She was a prostitute.” I don’t know how she knew, but I could get the picture when she said that. So—

TS:

So, [by] painted you mean—

JC:

Lots of make-up.

TS:

Oh I see, okay. [chuckles]

JC:

Lots of make-up.

TS:

So she didn’t stay very long?

JC:

She didn’t stay. She didn’t finish basic. I don’t think she was there a week.

TS:

[laughs] Oh! Well what kind of things did they have you doing in basic training?

JC:

Well, taking all these tests to determine what they wanted us to do, and learning to march.

TS:

How was that?

JC:

Oh, I loved that. That was fun. When we went—when I went to radio school, they put me in charge of the group going.

TS:

Oh, neat.

JC:

You’re making me think about a lot of things I haven’t thought about in a long time.

TS:

Yeah. That’s the idea.

[Both laugh]

TS:

Anything else that—

JC:

I remember the brother next to me [in age] coming to visit me while I was in basic. He had come home on leave from Trinidad, and came to see me. And at that point, when he came, I was ready to go home [chuckles]. I wasn’t thrilled at all, at first. I don’t know if I had found out that I was going to Ohio at that time or not.

TS:

Around that time maybe they were saying, “Okay you’re not going to stay in New York, and you’re not going to be in the postal service”. So—

JC:

They didn’t say “you’re not going to be”, they just ignored it.

TS:

Oh!

[Both laugh]

TS:

So when your brother came to visit you—this was at Hunter College he visited?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

How did that conversation go?

JC:

You know, I don’t remember.

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

I was very glad to see him.

TS:

Yeah. Did they—Was there anything in the basic training that you do—that you had to do— that seemed difficult physically at all?

JC:

No.

TS:

What about emotionally?

JC:

No. I don’t recall that it was bad.

TS:

Yeah. And so you’re meeting girls from like all over the—

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

Was it all over the country, or just—

JC:

Oh, yeah.

TS:

Was it?

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

Did that—how did that seem to you?

JC:

It was interesting.    

TS:

Did you make any friends there in the—

JC:

Not that I kept in touch with. I was over there for six weeks, and doing different things all the time. So, I wasn’t in contact with any of them for any length of time. So, there was no—no real friendship there.

TS:

Right. So now you’re going to Ohio to the radio school?

JC:

Yes, right.

TS:

What can you tell me about that?

JC:

Well, we traveled in trains with three bunks: one over the other.  And it was an overnight trip on the Southern and Pacific [Transportation Company] I guess it was [chuckles], and it was all right. I chose the top bunk since I had a choice. And that’s the only time that I had that experience, I had never seen another train like that.

But there was one girl in that group that we did become very close friends, and we stuck together all through radio school and then we were sent to Cheltenham, Maryland together because we had been together all that time. She was from Toledo [Ohio]. Now I don’t know where she is.

TS:

How long did you keep in touch with her?

JC:

Oh gosh, a good many years, but I don’t remember how many.

TS:

Yeah. So when you’re in the—in the radio school—was it what you expected at all?

JC:

Well, after the tests that they had given us to determine that that’s where we were going, it wasn’t too much of a surprise; except they thought that we should be able to build a radio, as well as send messages and receive messages. But that wasn’t long—it didn’t last long that they—not, not that much of an educational thing. I think it was just something that they required that we be shown more than learning to do it.

TS:

Right.

JC:

And that part I wasn’t very enthused about.

TS:

The mechanical part of it?

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you like the training otherwise?

JC:

It was all right.

TS:

How was—What kind of housing did you have in this area?

JC:

Well, it was like a college dorm, but it wasn’t a large building that we were in, as I recall: four-door room and bunk beds. The most fun at radio school was the basketball team [laughs].

TS:

Oh, well, tell me about that.

JC:

I had played basketball in high school and did quite well. And we had the opportunity for phys[ical] ed[ucation] to take basketball or play basketball, and the school—every department had their own team. So we played against other teams there, and the only team that beat us was the physical education girls.

TS:

You had a pretty good team then.

JC:

So we made out very well, and the last team that we played was the physical education team. And I was supposed to be on duty that night, and so one of the girls that was on the team—asked our commanding officer if they could change my schedule, so that I could play that night. 

She said, “This isn’t co-ed, this isn’t college. This is—you’re in the navy!”

And then just before the game I got word, “You’re to change schedule.”

TS:

They did it in the last minute.

JC:

And I played, but they beat us anyway.

TS:

Oh. Now what do —what was your—now is this the six man basketball?

JC:

Five man.

TS:

The five man?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

So how did that—how did that work with that basketball? How did that—isn’t that a little different than the way they play it today? Were you—

JC:

No.

TS:

No? It was the same?

JC:

Yes, very much the same.  

TS:

There—it wasn’t the one where you can only take so many dribbles, or—you could dribble all—

JC:

Right, you can only dribble one time.

TS:

One time—oh okay, one time?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

It only—

JC:

If you stop and start again it’s—you lose the ball.

TS:

You lose a ball, okay.

JC:

Just the same as it is now.

TS:

Okay, that’s neat. So you—they got you—did you do anything else socially?

JC:

Well, we went to church. [chuckles] I went to church. I don’t remember if it was in Oxford or in another town nearby. I think it was in Oxford. And the church was so much like my church at home it made me homesick.

TS:

Oh.

JC:

But, they were awfully nice to us, and after church a lady came by and says, “I want you to go home for dinner with us.” And so we went and visited and had dinner with one of the congregation. That was nice.

TS:

That’s real nice.

JC:

I think she could tell that I was homesick. That was the only time I got homesick. Oh, I shouldn’t say that, because the first Christmas I was away I was kind of homesick too.

TS:

Well, now—what—being in Ohio, was that the first time you had been out of New York?

JC:

Yeah, I think it was.

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

As far as I can recall, I don’t remember being out of the state before.

TS:

I was thinking it was probably a little flatter and—

JC:

Oh yeah.

TS:

— [laughs] than where you had grown up.

JC:

Yes.

TS:

Yeah. So you and this other gal got to go to [Naval Radio Station] Cheltenham, Maryland?

JC:

Yes, right.

TS:

So tell me about that. How was that experience?

JC:

Well, that was—it was different, because we immediately went out on a watch program and worked. We had—there was—let me see—we could go to work at seems like it was at three o’clock in the afternoon, or something, and work until—at eleven? No, I don’t know, but those three different shifts.

TS:

The shift work?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

It could be like a three to eleven shift.

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

Yes. So you’d get off in the middle of the night, and then did you go straight home and go to bed, or—

JC:

Oh, yeah.

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

You went to bed between every shift.

TS:

What kind of things did you do in your job? Can you, like, describe a typical day in your job at all?

JC:

You sit with earphones on. And, of course, we had to know Morse code.

TS:

Oh, okay.

JC:

That was part of our training—learning Morse code. And everything was in code. And—we’d type whenever a message came in for us.

We’d type, and there was—I think—three or four of us all with different stations, and getting different signals. And [we would] type them up and then run the teletype message to Washington—anytime that we had to send something we got that from Washington. And mostly it was receiving, until the end of the war, and when the war ended we took the messages from the German U-boats in the Atlantic.

TS:

What was that like?

JC:

They were giving their—it was—it was different, because their signal sounded different than ours did.  But we managed. And got their location to say “reported in”. You never know whether they all reported or not, but there were a bunch of them.

TS:

It must have been actually kind of interesting work to be doing.

JC:

It was. It was. I recall one night that I was getting a signal from a ship in the Pacific, which never happened.

TS:

Oh, I guess you’re a little far away from the Pacific.

JC:

But it did happen that night, just as clear as a bell. And they were trying to reach—there was a radio station in San Francisco which took the northern Pacific, and there was a station in Balboa in the canal zone that got the south Pacific, and neither one of them responded. This ship was trying to call either one of them, and didn’t get any response at all. And I was getting the signal just as clear as if it was next door.

So I told the supervisor that I would like to try to take his message, because it was an important message—and they’re rated differently, and it was next to urgent—so I told him I’d like to take it.

He said, “Oh no, don’t do that! You’re just going to get in trouble. You’ll lose the signal. You’ll get in trouble!”

And well, I ignored him, and took them anyway, because it was just as clear. And I sat there taking messages from that ship until early morning.

TS:

Oh, wow.

JC:

In fact, they were still sending messages when the girl came on to relieve me. But I had to have the signal. We had transmitters in over at the naval station—

TS:

At Norfolk [Virginia]?

JC:

No, where the academy is.

TS:

Oh, Annapolis [Maryland]?

JC:

Annapolis, and they’d give boost our power so we could get a better signal. And that happened twice, that I had to ask for a boost. But I kept going, and afterwards—I don’t know how many weeks it was afterwards that I learned that the supervisor got a commendation. [laughs]

TS:

How about you?

JC:

[laughs] I never heard a thing!

[Both laugh]

JC:

Oh, dear—

TS:

That’s a good story! [chuckles] You were pretty independent minded weren’t you?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

So what kind of—Is it all coming in in Morse code, then?

JC:

Yes. Everything that’s coming in—

TS:

So like, when you’re getting the signal—you’re not—are you putting it down in Morse code, or are you trans—you know—transcribing as it’s coming in?

JC:

You transcribe it.

TS:

That’s a lot of quick work then that you had to do, I would think.

JC:

Well, it becomes automatic like anything.

TS:

Yeah, it was probably. I know, just from my experience, it’s—sometimes you’re so interested in, but you can’t be interested—you have to stay—you know—on the task of getting it.

JC:

Oh yeah, yeah, that was important.

TS:

Yeah. Well, that’s interesting. So did you like the work that you had to do?

JC:

Yeah, I kind of liked it after I got used to it.

TS:

Yeah. And how many—So can you describe your work environment a little? I know you had your headsets on, but like what was the area that you kind of worked in?

JC:

Well, there was a teletype right to the right of my station, which—every—we all used. And, of course, the supervisor had a nice desk nearby, and there was another man that worked all the time that we were there too. I think—expressly in getting signals boosted  if we needed it, and he would confer with Annapolis. I don’t remember though any more than two being there. There was a lot of equipment in the back of the room. They were experimenting with voice—voice messages. And there was one night, they were sending messages back and forth to Puerto Rico, and I asked if I could join them, you know. And I remember when I got on the phone and said something. We weren’t allowed to converse. It was just testing, you know. And word came back, “Modulation excellent.” [Both laugh] Which made me laugh, of course. But that was the end of that.

TS:

Were there—now were there—how many—were there mostly girls in the room or women?

JC:

There were—The supervisor was a man, and his assistant—or whatever he was—they were both radio men too, but they had different jobs.

TS:

But you weren’t working with a lot of other women in the room? It was just—

JC:

No, just—there were four or five of us on a watch at one time.

TS:

Oh, I see, okay. So you worked your eight—or however many hour—shift, and then you went to sleep. And then—now, did you have any other social or extracurricular activity that you did here in Maryland?

JC:

Oh yeah, there was a rec[reation] hall, and we had a bus into Washington [District of Columbia] that ran all the time. And so, we could get to Washington and do anything that we wanted to.

TS:

What did you do?

JC:

Well, I visited most of the tourist places as I recall. I remember when one of the twins—my twin brothers—came to visit me. I took him up in the Washington Monument, and he almost collapsed.

TS:

Afraid of heights?

JC:

No, he just got winded.

TS:

Oh.

JC:

He had been in the hospital, so I shouldn’t have tried to make him do it; but he wanted to.

TS:

Yeah—what had he been in the hospital for?

JC:

I don’t remember—He had been sent overseas and he got sick and they sent him right back to the hospital there for the army in Washington. Whatever its name is—

TS:

The Walter Reed?

JC:

Yeah, Walter Reed [Army Medical Center].

TS:

Yeah. Now which services had your brothers joined then?

JC:

The one next to me was in the air force, and the rest of them were all army.

TS:

Army.

JC:

Yes.

TS:

So where were they stationed during the war?

JC:

The youngest one was in Trinidad—

TS:

Right, oh that’s right.

JC:

And my brother Larry went to Iran—Persia, then.

TS:

Right.

JC:

And the one that got sick, he just went to Europe, and came back. And the other one went to Japan, and he liked Japan.

TS:

Yeah, so were you—were you paying attention to what was going on in the war?

JC:       Oh yeah.

TS:

I mean, obviously, your job was pretty crucial for that. So what were you thinking? Do you remember thinking at the time about the war itself?

JC:

I knew we’d be glad when it was over.

TS:

Yes.

JC:

Because, there were some terrible things happening. One of my closest friends, her brother went down on a ship in the North Atlantic. They were hit by a U-boat. And I was with her a lot. That was before I went in the navy of course. But, now I’m back peddling—

TS:

Oh, that’s okay. Did you have any thoughts about FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] at the time?

JC:

I’m sure I did, but I can’t remember anything precisely.

TS:

Yes. What do you think about him today?

JC:

Yeah, I figure he was a great president.

TS:

Yes. Now, the way that you—did you follow the war in the newspaper or go to the—like— I think the movies did a lot of news reels, and things like that. Did you do any of that?

JC:

Oh yeah. 

TS:

Was there any kind of concern with you and your friends about the war?

JC:

Oh yeah.

TS:

Now, your job is actually really connected in a direct way. Sometimes people were more indirectly involved in the war. Did you have like a clearance or secure—was it—did you have to keep it a secret that—

JC:

No, because everything was coded.

TS:

Okay.

JC:

There was no need for secrecy.

TS:

I see, okay. How did you feel about your participation—the things that that you were doing—as far as the war effort went?

JC:

Well, I was glad to do it. I don’t recall any special feelings, except that I would be glad when it was over I guess.

TS:

Yeah. Did you—after your time when—I forget if you were at Hunter College—when you were like, “I don’t want to go on with this”, did you like feel that way again later?

JC:

No, no.

TS:

So were you in—was it for the duration plus six months, or something? Is that—

JC:

No—I got married before I got out of the navy, and I could get out anytime I wanted to by being married.

TS:

Okay. When you enlisted though, do you remember how many—what time you were supposed to be in for?

JC:

No. I don’t remember.

TS:

I think that that’s how some of them were—for the war plus six months, or something.

JC:

Yeah, I don’t recall.

TS:

Yeah. Did you ever want to go overseas or anything like that?

JC:

Yeah. I would’ve liked to, not necessarily during the war.

[Both chuckle]

TS:

Yeah. Did you have an opportunity to apply for any other jobs, or were you just—this just the one job that you—

JC:

That was it.

TS:

Yeah. Do you feel like you were treated fairly by the people and your supervisors?

JC:

Oh yeah, except they could’ve let me know when they got the commendation.

TS:

Yeah, how you’d you find out about it?

JC:

I don’t remember how I found out—somebody told me.

TS:

Did you feel like you might have gotten something for that too then?

JC:

I should have had the same thing since I started it, but that didn’t matter at that point.

TS:

Yeah, just to get the information to who [sic] it needed to go to.

JC:

Yes.

TS:

Was there anything particularly hard that you had to do in your job?

JC:

No. It was just routine.

TS:

How about—with the music that was going on then—did you go into—did you have any dances that you ever went to?

JC:

No, the station wasn’t big enough. If you wanted to go to a dance, you had to go into Washington. There was a USO [United Service Organizations center] in Washington, but I don’t recall ever going to it.

TS:

So you were at a—Cheltenham was a small station then?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

Did we talk about your housing conditions there? I don’t think we did.

JC:

It was like a naval barracks. [chuckles]

TS:       Was it like an open bay barracks with lots of women, or were they like separated?

JC:

I think there were only nineteen of us in all.

TS:

Oh, on the whole base?

JC:

Yes, in the radio—

TS:

I see.

JC:

—doing the radio station. I recall that there were nineteen of us. And, of course, then there were the medical men, and everything that would be associated with running a base.            

TS:

Yes. When you went out in public did you wear like your civilian clothes, or did you wear your uniform?

JC:

Uniforms.

TS:

What kind of reaction did you get from the public?

JC:

Usually very cordial.

TS:

Did you have any certain pride that you took in wearing the uniform at all?

JC:

Yeah, I was proud of it.

TS:

Did you particularly care—some women have different ideas about what they thought about the uniform they had to wear, or maybe their footwear—Did you have any thoughts about that?

JC:

We just laughed at the footwear.

[Both laugh]

TS:

What was it that you—

JC:

It was just like the regular oxford, ties and all. It wasn’t the least bit becoming, but we suffered through it.

TS:

How about your uniform itself?

JC:

That was fine.

TS:

Did you compare yourself to the other services in relationship to what they had to wear, like what the WACS [Women’s Army Corps] had to wear, or—

JC:

Not really.

TS:

No. Probably in your little station you didn’t have a lot of contact with the other services.

JC:

No, no.

TS:

Did you—did you—

[Extraneous comment about chair redacted]

TS:

Do you remember where you were when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day?

JC:

Yes. VE Day I was in Albany, New York, visiting, and there were service people everywhere. And my brother—my young brother—that was the closest guardian for me was there, and he says, “We’re going to the movie.”

And so we went to a movie and then when we got home, and there was a boy that lived upstairs over the apartment where my brother was [where] my oldest brother had lived. And we had become friends a long time ago, and he says, “You’re coming with me.” So, I avoided my brother and went with him and just roamed the streets for a couple of hours and had fun. [chuckles]

TS:

So, your brother was trying to keep you under wraps?

JC:

Absolutely, absolutely, he was real good at that.

TS:

So what was that like—wandering around and—

JC:

Oh, it was exciting.

TS:

Yeah?

JC:

Everybody hollering and greeting you, and some got so bold as to grab you and give you a kiss and a hug. And, you know, it was exciting.

TS:

Yeah. Did you get a few kisses and hugs?

JC:

Oh yeah.

TS:

Okay, good. And, again, did you have your uniform on?

JC:

Yes, yes.

TS:

So, so that’s the end in Europe; but you still got a brother over in the Pacific then, right, at that time?

JC:

No, he—the one in the Pacific went to Japan—

TS:

Yes.

JC:

And he was there until after VJ [Victory in Japan] Day.

TS:

Okay.

JC:

Well, maybe he didn’t go until after the war was over. I can’t remember.

TS:

Because he wouldn’t have actually been on Japan until—

JC:

No, I think it was after the war when he left.

TS:

I see, okay.

JC:

So, he might have still been at home—I don’t think so, but maybe. [chuckles] I can’t remember.

TS:

So then when the war—Do you remember when they announced that the atomic bomb had gone off? Did you have any thoughts about that at all?

JC:

Well, I think probably we all thought it had been a necessity in order to end the war. But, it was a tragic thing. But, you can’t govern what other people think, and it did end the war.

TS:

Yes. So that celebration, was that as happy as the—

JC:

I think I was back in Washington D.C. at that time so—

TS:

So you said, after the war ended, you were taking a lot of messages from U-boats?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

So what were they doing—they trying to—

JC:

They were giving us the locations.

TS:

So to say, “Okay, we’re here”. So was that like a surrendering kind of thing?

JC:

I guess. Yeah.

TS:

So you did that for a little while, were you anxious to get out of the service then?

JC:

I wasn’t necessarily so eager to get out, but my husband was. We had gotten married, and he was anxious for me to get out. I was the only one in our little circle of houses that was working—the only woman—and he didn’t like that. He said women were supposed to stay home, and men were supposed to take care of them. That was his attitude, and so I finally consented and got out.

TS:

What was your attitude about that?

JC:

Well, I didn’t see any harm in my continuing to work for a while, but I conceded.

TS:

Had he been in the war too?

JC:

Yeah, he was in the navy.

TS:

Where did you meet him at?

JC:

There at Cheltenham.

TS:

Cheltenham?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

What was his job? What did he—

JC:

He was a commissary man.

TS:

I see.

JC:

Yes. He did all of the ordering of the basics for the food department, and kept things running.

TS:

So you got—So you went in at ’44, so did you get married in ’45?

JC:

The last of ’45.

TS:

The last of ’45, so it was after the war ended?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

Okay. So you mustered out, then, eventually, in ’46 you said—you told me the month.

JC:

February of ’46.

TS:

That’s right. And then, what did you do after that?

JC:

Well, we stayed there until he got orders to go to Greenland. And then I went back to Edmeston [New York], and waited until he got out and away from Greenland.

TS:

How long was he in Greenland?

JC:

Oh, I think about eight months.

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

It wasn’t a real long tour.

TS:

Was he staying in the service then?

JC:

Yeah, he stayed in.

TS:

How long did he stay in for?

JC:

Well, he had been in for twelve—fourteen years—fourteen years, I guess, when he died. And we had been married for twelve years, and then he got sick. And I remarried three years later.

TS:

So he had planned on staying in then?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

I see. Did you travel around as a—

JC:

Oh yeah.

TS:

So you were military—had your uniform, and then you were a military dependent?

JC:

Right.

TS:

How was that?

JC:

Oh, it was interesting. I liked going different places. After he came back from Greenland we went to Memphis, Tennessee—or the station—it was called [Naval Air Station] Memphis, but it was above Memphis: Millington, an air base. We were there for over four years, and then he got orders to go to a ship, I guess. I’m not sure.

He went to another school up in—Connecticut. We were there for one summer, which was nice. Then he went on a ship—a repair ship that was stationed at [Naval Station] Norfolk [Virginia], so we lived in Norfolk for quite a while. And from there we went to Puerto Rico.

TS:

How was that?

JC:

That was fine. I loved Puerto Rico.

TS:

Yeah? What’d you get to do there?

JC:

Well—

TS:

And what—approximately, what timeframe would this have been?

JC:

That would’ve been in nineteen—probably—fifty-six, because he died in ’58; before we had finished the tour in Puerto Rico. [pause] Next?

TS:

I was just wondered—what you—did you go to the beaches?

JC:

Oh, yeah! It was nice.

TS:

I’ve never been to Puerto Rico, so I’m wondering what it was like.

JC:

Haven’t you? Well, it was beautiful. It was a beautiful island. I loved it. My daughter loved it, and—I hadn’t brought up my daughter, had I?

TS:

No, when did she come along?

JC:

She came along in—gosh—

TS:

So you were married in ’45—

JC:

It wasn’t long—She must’ve been born in ’46, because we were married in December of ’45. And I remember that after [chuckles]—this shouldn’t be on there—that after we had been married for nine months my husband says, “If you’d have been on the ball you’d have given me a son or daughter.”

And then, the very next week, I become ill and had to go to the hospital and have a baby. And she was a preemie, she was a little bit of a thing, and I couldn’t take her home of course. She had to be in the hospital over a month before I could take her home.

TS:

Oh my.

JC:

She was a little thing. So I told him it was his fault that I had the preemie.

TS:

[laughs] It sounds that way. Now you talked before we started the interview about—I asked you if you had ever used the GI Bill and you said that you had. Do you want to talk about that?

JC:

Well, that was in a short interlude in Key West, Florida.

TS:

Okay.

JC:

I don’t remember what—where—that was in his duty, but we ended up in Key West, Florida. And I didn’t like it. There were so many Cubans in the business and everything, and I didn’t like it at all. And I had taken five or six basic lessons when I had been in radio school.

TS:

What kind of lessons?

JC:

Flying lessons.

TS:

Okay.

JC:

And I thought, “Well, I want to continue that.”

And, of course, it was expensive, so I decided to use the GI Bill to get some more of that. So I did, and it was fine. I loved it until I got through the cross country—and I had to learn to dive to stall and dive to start the motor again—I couldn’t do it.

TS:

Oh!     

JC:

I could not do it. It just—I blanked out, and it’s positively impossible for me. And so, I gave up right then.

TS:

Yeah? But you liked flying, other than the stall?

JC:

Right.

TS:

When you said cross country, did you go on a cross country?

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

Where did you go on that?

JC:

An island—another island from Key West.

TS:

Oh, okay! So you were flying a lot over the water too then?

JC:

Oh yeah.

TS:

How was that?

JC:

Beautiful.

TS:

Yeah, really nice. Well, that’s kind of neat, so you got to use your GI Bill for something fun.

JC:

Yes.

TS:

And did you—we already talked about that. So did you—you said your husband wanted you to stay at home and not work?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

Did you ever work again then?

JC:

The only time I worked while I was married to him was when he went on Operation Deepfreeze from Norfolk.

TS:

What was that, Operation Deepfreeze?

JC:

First navy trip to Antarctica.

TS:

Oh!

JC:

It was Operation Deepfreeze. It was the first one they had done. And I decided that I was going to get out and do something while he was gone. And I saw somewhere where I could take a test—civil service test—and I went and took it, and I did very well. And I went right to work on the radio, or on the naval base, and worked until just before he came back. I had an opportunity to go to another grade right away, but I couldn’t do it; because it was at night, and I couldn’t—I wouldn’t leave my daughter.

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

I got a call from personnel, I remember.

They got my test, and they said, “This is the first time we have ever seen a grade like that, and we want to make a copy for you.” [chuckles]

TS:

[chuckles] Well, that’s terrific!

JC:

Yeah, and they did. But I couldn’t—I wouldn’t leave my daughter at night. It worked out fine for the day job; because my neighbor had a daughter, who was close to my daughter’s age, and they played together until I got home. So, that worked fine.

TS:

So you gave it up before he finished his tour?

JC:

Yes.

TS:

About how long was that then?

JC:

That was about six months.

TS:

Six months. Yeah. And then did you work later?

JC:

Not until after he died.

TS:

Yeah. What did you do then?

JC:

Well, I went back home, and there was an opening for a town librarian, [chuckles] which included an apartment. So I immediately applied for that, because I wanted that apartment, and I got that. A night after I got that, a lady in the bank called me and says, “Don’t you take another job until you come and talk to us.” So I went and talked them, and then I went to work at the bank [chuckles].

TS:

[laughs] What happened to your apartment?

JC:

Well, I kept it until I found another apartment. I kept up with the library as best I could with help from a niece who was able to come in after school and open it up and keep it going until I got home. And then—I moved to another apartment, and gave up the library.

TS:

So you were working two jobs then for a little while?

JC:

For a little while.

TS:

I see. Well, very good. Well, what—Do you think that your experience in the military affected you at all—like for your life—did it make an impact on you?

JC:

I don’t really know. It was an experience, and I am glad that I had the experience; but, as far as it affecting me for the rest of my life, I don’t know that it did.

TS:

Well, I mean, like, when you were around people from all over the country—

JC:

Yeah.

TS:

You know, meeting people like that, and doing a job that was really connected directly to the war effort. Do you look back at that at all and—

JC:

Well, it’s some satisfaction in knowing that I did it.

TS:

Well, and then, you got to travel a little bit after too. So—

JC:

Oh yeah, yes.

TS:

Do you have any thoughts about—well you said what you thought about FDR, how about [Harry] Truman? What’d you think of him?

JC:

You know I wasn’t too political back then—

TS:

Yeah.

JC:

I don’t even know if I voted at that time.

TS:

[chuckles] Well, that’s alright. That’s okay. Do you have any thoughts about how—well— because women—A lot of people felt that women who served in World War Two were pioneers for helping women get into different types of non-traditional work?

JC:

I think that’s true.

TS:

Yeah. Do you feel like maybe you helped out with that at all?

JC:

I wouldn’t know how much [laughs]. They don’t even have radio—ship to shore radio anymore—everything is voice. But I’m sure there are some women doing it that—

TS:

Yes. Well, it certainly has changed a little bit from the women in World War Two. The jobs that you could do then—although—you did—women flew planes, and did lots of different things—to today—we’re in two wars: in Iraq and Afghanistan. What do you think about that, the role that women play in those?

JC:

If women want to do that, I think it is fine. That’s their privilege, but I wouldn’t want to— not in a war zone.

TS:

What about—Do you think there’s any role that women should not be able to participate in as far as the military goes?

JC:

I think it’s a little much to put them on the front line in different places, and in places where they can be in danger.

TS:

Yes.

JC:

But of course it’s kind of hard to draw a line, I guess.

TS:

What if your daughter had said to you, “Mom, I want to join the navy,” what would you have thought?

JC:

I’m glad she never did. [chuckles]

TS:

Why is that?

JC:

Because she had her career, and she did what she wanted to do.

TS:

Sure. But if that was one of those things that she wanted to do, how would you have felt about it?

JC:

I don’t know. I don’t think I would’ve encouraged her.

TS:

Any particular reason?

JC

Well, it very seldom leads to a good career; unless you have a career to begin with. And I always thought that I should have gone back, and got my degree; but I didn’t. I just took courses here and there and everywhere, and did what I wanted to do.

TS:

I think you were saying that earlier—that if you had taken your brother’s advice and gone back to school, and then you could’ve gone into officer training.

JC:

Well, I could have anyway, if I had waited until I was twenty-one.

TS:

Oh, I see.

JC:

Because, I had had some college and that was all they required then.

TS:

Oh I see, yeah. Do you think you would’ve had a different experience then?

JC:

Oh, I’m sure I would have.

TS:

Yeah, interesting. Well, you sure have covered a lot of time. Is there anything that you would like to add to your thoughts about your experience during World War II?

JC:

Not that I can think of. I think we’ve covered a lot.

TS:

Yeah, I think so too. Well, Judy, I really appreciate you letting me come and talk with you.

JC:

Well, that’s fine.

TS:

Thank you very much.

[End of Interview]