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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Janet MacCubbin, 2009

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Object ID: wv0463.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Janet MacCubbin’s service in the American Red Cross during World War II, and her education at the Womea’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG).

Summary:

MacCubbin tells of growing up during the Great Depression in New Jersey, and her education at WC. She describes her reasoning for joining the American Red Cross [ARC], and details the various duties that she performed for the ARC during the World War II.

Other topics include her views on the role of women in combat, her marriage, and her views on Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Creator: Janet Murphy MacCubbin

Biographical Info: Janet Murphy MacCubbin (1919-2010) of Brooklyn, New York, served in the American Red Cross from 1944 to 1946.

Collection: Janet MacCubbin 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:

[Equipment check redacted]

Sharon Brown:

Today’s date is May, 14th.

Janet MacCubbin:

May 14th. 

SB:

My name is Sharon Storm Brown, and I am at the home of Janet—

JM:

MacCubbin.

SB:

—MacCubbin, in—

JM:

Cape Corall, Florida.

SB:

—Cape Coral, Florida, to conduct an oral history review [sic] for the Women’s Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greenboro—Greensboro. Please state your name the way that you would like it on the collection.

JM:

Janet Emmitt[?] MacCubbin.   

SB:

Okay. All right, I’m going to start the questions. When and where were you born?

JM:

I was born in Brooklyn, New York.

SB:

Ah.

JM:

Oh, when? April 4th, 1919.

SB:

Okay. Where did you grow up?

JM:

We moved to Montclair when I was three. I don’t remember—I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey.

SB:

Tell me a little about your family and your home life. What did your parents do? Did you have brothers and sisters?

JM:

My mother and father were both Brooklyn—city people. My father, he never liked lawns and things like that. He used to be a great athlete. He went to NYU [New York University], was a star athlete in high school, did all sports. My mother was quieter. As I look back, [she] was not particularly happy in the suburban atmosphere. She went back and saw people. God, the Bedford section of Brooklyn—it is all different.

But anyway, it was just the most wonderful growing up place in the world. It really was. We grew up in the Depression and we didn’t—my father never lost his job. He worked for AT&T. And they had pay cuts, but we were fortunate that he never lost his job. But it was—one month, maybe your sister got a pair of shoes, and then you would have to wait.

SB:

How many siblings did you have?   

JM:

Two.

SB:

Just the two of you?

JM:

Just my sister, who was three years older. We had a great family. Really, I sound like Pollyanna [unclear].

SB:

It sounds good.

JM:

But it was back—it was so—walked to grammar school, walked to junior high. Took a bus to high school. When we had to move—when my husband—When I finally got married my husband was transferred to Pittsburgh, it just broke my heart. I know I am the last friend out of that group of friends that I grew up with. It was just fun. 

SB:

A good place to be.

JM:

A very—as I look back—it was like, nobody had any money and nobody—kids in high school didn’t drink. I mean, you went to people’s houses and played games. You know, it was just a strange life when you look at it today, but nice.

SB:

How did you like school?

JM:

I loved school.

SB:

What was your favorite subject?

JM:

English.

SB:

And where did you graduate high school?

JM:

Montclair.

SB:

Okay. Did you attend college? Yeah.

JM:

I went to the WCU—whatever they call it now. [Women’s College of the University of North Carolina [WC], now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro]

SB:

That was before you were in the service, right?

JM:

Yes. It was ’37 to ’41.

SB:

You loved WC?

JM:

I loved it. I really did. I had a great four years, met a lot friends whom I’ve had all of my life, though they’ve all but died off, but I still have some.   

SB:

Did you feel that you were prepared for your—that they prepared you well for life, that your education was good?

JM:

I felt so. This is—again, you will understand this—I always felt—and I love North Carolina and the people and everything, but being from around New York [City], it was like a different—like you were ahead up in New York—that kind of thing. I never felt that I wasn’t prepared to go up there and work up there and do that. It’s just that when we had a year more school when we went in, your preparation was probably different.

SB:

That’s right.

JM:

It was probably different than the first year, I’m sure they don’t anymore, they were sort of getting everybody up to speed on, say, English and that type of thing.

SB:

Did you have a favorite professor or someone that really stuck with you?

JM:

No, I kind of liked them all. I liked my English professors, because—

SB:

You liked English.

JM:

I liked English. Doctor Freedlander, I remember, he was our Shakespeare—he was just great. We had some very interesting people. I took a business—what they called a business course back then—which involved typing, shorthand, accounting, business machines; which was not really academic. You had to spend a lot of time at it. It took up hours. But I wish now—as I look back—that I had taken—had time to take art appreciation and music and more stuff like that, which lives with you your whole life.

SB:

More of a general—yeah.

JM:

I did take any English that I could fit in the schedule, but the thing was that your family struggled to send you to school. And the point was that you get a job when you get out. I didn’t want to teach, so you then—you worked. You worked in an office.

SB:

Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor [Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base on December 7, 1941]?

JM:

I was out to lunch with some fella. [chuckles]

SB:

Yeah. Do you remember?

JM:

Oh, I remember vividly.

SB:

Yeah.

JM:

Because  I really didn’t know—Pearl Harbor, we had not heard much about it. I had met someone fairly recently before that who had gone to Hawaii on a vacation, and was widely enthusiastic and talked about it as being a beautiful place. I didn’t—it was so far—no place—I just sort of half listened and thought, “Well, I’ll certainly never get there.” [laughs]

SB:

You didn’t think that it was the beginning of the war? It was just sort of a—

JM:

Well, I knew. Yes. I felt very strongly that it was the beginning of the war.  Oh yeah, I did.

SB:

A terrible day.

JM:

It was a terrible day.

SB:

My mother remembers it was an exceedingly warm day. The windows were open. She was taking a walk and heard it on somebody else’s radio.

JM:

Yes. And everybody that you met—I went out that night, I went to the movies or something. A fellow said, “Well, this is it. You’re going in the army.” It started. It was scary, it was. I imagine that the West Coast must have been crazy, because there they were over there—more so maybe than the East Coast.

SB:

What branch of the military or which auxiliary did you join, and why?

JM:

I joined the American Red Cross. There was a women—a young women—at the bank who went into the Red Cross while I was working there, as I started in 1941. She went over to South Africa, wrote from there and it just sounded like a wonderful thing that she was doing.

I think—I knew that you had to be twenty-five. I couldn’t do anything until I was twenty-five. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be regimented in the army or the navy. But I—the war—and this sounds insane as I say it—you felt that it was probably the biggest thing would every happen in your lifetime. I was single. I lived at home. I had—it would be—if I didn’t do something in it then I would always regret it.

SB:

That’s well put. I can understand that. Do you remember the date you entered and the date that you were discharged?

JM:

I went in in the fall. I was, what, twenty-five in ’44, I guess. I went right away for interviews. I remember going down to Washington [D.C.], say, in August or September for training.

SB:

Were you influenced by any of the posters or was it your friend mainly?

JM:

It was just—yeah—she introduced the idea to me and it was something that I decided I wanted to do. No. I think not. It was just—I felt this compulsion, almost, to get in it, to be part of it: not to thirty years later, we used to kid, to have your children say, “Well, what did you do in the great war?”

SB:

I’m sorry, when did you get out?

JM:

In forty—Oh, I guess it was January of ’46.

SB:

Okay. This question—A lot of posters stated that if you enlisted you would free a fighting man to fight. Did you view your enlistment as this?

JM:

No.

SB:

How did your parents feel about you joining?

JM:

My mother—who had to quit high school to go to work and was thrilled that I had gone to college. She was quiet. She said, “Go for it.” My father thought that it was great. My sister—at that point her husband was in the navy—was living at home with the most adorable little baby, so there was somebody at home. They just thought—

SB:

How did you friends take it?

JM:

Well, most of my friends at that point were married. A lot of them—

SB:

That’s right.

JM:

—and were starting families and everything. They thought it was—some of them probably thought, “Gee, I wish I could do that.” [chuckle]

SB:

Yeah. That would have been my reaction. Yeah, was this the first time that you had been that far away from home for an extended period of time?

JM:

Oh mercy, yes, yes.

SB:

And where did you join?

JM:

We went down to Washington D.C. for orientation and training and all that kind of thing.

SB:

What do you remember of the first day that you were down there?

JM:

Confusion! Vast confusion. Lots of people—lots of women! Again, with the women from all over, there were women from wealthy families, you know, the hoi polloi, so to speak. There were women like me: just plain old women. It was just sort of overwhelming. Washington was hectic. I mean, to ride the train from New York to Washington—they run every hour, but they were just jammed. You would sit on suitcases and go back and forth.

SB:

It was different.

JM:

Everything was different. I was never homesick. I went to camp and stuff. I was never homesick.

While I was training—and this isn’t relevant to anything—I had a huge infection in my front tooth, which turned into a big root canal. It was horrible. You couldn’t get near a civilian dentist in Washington unless you knew like a senator or something. So I went home, and I was home for over a month getting that treated. They had to drain it. It was just a big thing.

And then when I came back all the women that I had trained with and met had shipped out and had gone to Europe, which is where I wanted—thought I was going, and looked forward to going. So then I was by myself. They couldn’t find my luggage, which I spent a fortune buying. You know, it was just—I’m tramping around Washington finally ending up in the basement of Union Station there, where there are, like, millions of trunks and duffel bags. I found, by sheer fortune, my stuff stashed away back in a corner. But that was sort of—I didn’t feel that well yet. I just felt, “oh my God.”

SB:

Overwhelmed.

JM:

By myself, and “why am I doing this?”

SB:

What kind of basic training did they give you?

JM:

We worked at—we were sent out to work at USOs [United Service Organizations]. The USO, at that time, was doing the recreation for the army and navy in the states and the Red Cross was doing it overseas. So they had—special services also worked on recreation. You would go to Fort [George G.] Meade [Maryland], or various places. Because my maiden name was Murphy, I was sent to the Catholic USO. And I am not a Catholic, and it was difficult for me to say “Hello Father,” or whatever you’re meant to say. They probably wondered what was the matter with me. But anyway, places like that and you worked with soldiers.

I can remember going to Fort Meade, which was an embarkation point; most of these kids were going over. And I say kids because they were young. Just having coming back into Fort Meade and swaggering around—I can see them yet in their jump boots and everything—it was the 82nd Airborne [Division]. They were not easy to get along with. They had their own MPs [Military Police] and they listened to nobody. I mean, they had a swagger. It was just something else.

This was all new. Then you had these poor eighteen year olds who had just left home for the first time. And these tough guys are saying to them, “You’ll be sorry!” But I can see them now. I never—remember seeing someone trained in the paratroopers. They were trained.

Then later on I was stationed with a Marine division when they came back from Iwo Jima [the Battle of Iwo Jima took place between February 19th to March 26th, 1945], until they went on to Japan when the war was over. They were as I say young—eighteen—nineteen. They’d say, “The army gets all the good looking women, and we get all the old.” It was funny. They were just great.

And I was with them. Other than that, I was working at places where—at rest camps—where people came and went. You can’t get attached.  These young guys were just something else.

SB:

So what was your typical day like?

JM:

Well, it was kind of—it was like Chorus Girl—you couldn’t—the troops were not free. They were taking training. Not at the rest camps, at the rest camps you would start early. We had a place where they could go and come and eat if they wanted. We spent the day there. They could send stuff. We could wrap packages for them. They had movies at night. They invited girls from the civilian Hickam Air Depot [Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu]—places like that—for dances. We took them on picnics over to the other side of the island. When I first got there—

SB:

What island?

JM:

On the other side—Oahu is the island. [Oahu is the third largest island in Hawaiian island chain]

SB:

You were on Oahu?

JM:

The other side—yeah. You know, where the beaches were and over the Pali Pass. I can remember when I first got there. It was around Thanksgiving. They said, “Well, we’re going to take the guys on a picnic, and we have to make some potato salad.” And they threw this big army vat thing down. And I made potato salad for all these people.

SB:

[laughs]

JM:

Mushing around. You had to be a quick learner.

SB:

It sounds like you were a little bit of everything.

JM:

It was a little bit of everything.

SB:

Big sister, mother, friend.

JM:

I will tell you this off the record. Oh, you have that tape recorder. I will not tell you that.

[Recording paused]

SB:

Were you stationed at Oahu all the time or did you change?

JM:

No, we went over. When finally we went through all this training and I took a train out to Seattle [Washington], where I think I stood the whole way. I was just amazed at how big the country—it was my first trip. And we’d go for miles and miles through—God— Nebraska, and you’d see this little tiny house with a service star. You’d think, “How did they find that guy?”

I mean, it was just—they said, “Oh, we’re going to see Mount Rainier.” I was so excited. Of course, I never did see it in five days, because it rained and was foggy.

We were at an embarkation camp where we got more instruction. Then we got on the boat. We had sealed orders all on the train. See, we weren’t meant to know where we were going. Then we got there—got on the ship and then we were going to Hawaii. This ship was a Matson Liner: this one happened to be the Orleans I think it was. They were troop ships. They had, I guess, three levels. Where we were we had guards on our quarters. It was the old beauty salon. We had three or four tiers of bunks and I got the top one. That was the smartest thing because it was very rough sailing. Most people—I was not sick, most people were. Then they fed everybody in shifts—three shifts. The soldiers—it was just, you get up on the deck and there was of course no place to sit. The cabin was airless, we were blacked-out. You would go up there, and you had a life preserver of course. You would put that down on the deck to sit on. Sooner or later a voice would say, “Now hear this. Now hear this. Get those life preservers off the deck!” You think—it was just like “oh my God.” It was a different life from J.P. Morgan’s, I’ll tell you that.

So—

SB:

So you started in Oahu?

JM:

So I started in Oahu. I worked in an air force rest camp—which I was just telling you about—where we took guys, as I say, guys roller skating up at Fort Wadsworth [likely misremembered, as Fort Wadsworth is located in New York]—or wherever—Fort Shafter [Hawaii]—at the permanent army post that had been there.

Or down—the rest camp had a place down near Waikiki—near the Royal Hawaiian [Hotel], where the submariners who came back on a—They were a different group, too. They stayed by themselves. They threw beer bottles out the window, so you wouldn’t want to swim in the sand out there. Just their ideas of recreation were not singing little songs, and—if they had to—they’d play cards. And, of course, in the Red Cross places we didn’t serve liquor. So if they could get wine, women, and song that’s where they would go. If they couldn’t get there then they would—

SB:

Come see you.

JM:

—come and play cards. And we would have coffee and doughnuts.

SB:

Were you anywhere other than Oahu?

JM:

I went over to the island of Hawaii at the Kilauea rest camp, which was a beautiful— beautiful place on the Hawaiian crater. Where these were not air force people, they were regular army people on five day R&R [rest and recuperation].

Then from there—I did my real combat duty which was where the Marines had a camp out in the boonies, because they always garrisoned Marines away from the world. They got in trouble. They were coming back from Iwo Jima, where they were just absolutely cut to ribbons. These eighteen year olds, it was terrible what they went through. We had Quonset huts spread around. We had coffee and doughnuts and helped them out. This was up near Kamuela. We were on a little tiny portion of a ranch, which was a huge ranch. It was the Parker Ranch I think it was. [The section of the Parker Ranch used by the Marines became known as Camp Tarawa, and was predominately used as training area by the 2nd Marine Division. The 3rd Marine Division made use of this camp prior and after the invasion of Iwo Jima] Which was like the King’s Ranch in Texas, but only bigger I think. On this huge ranch this whole [3rd] Marine Division was, which is a lot of people with all the support groups. We lived in—there weren’t any nurses because this was a combat division. They had corpsmen. So we had nurses’ sort of barracks kind of places where we stayed. And we ate at an officers’ mess with the officers. You say, you hoped that you didn’t get with one of the psychiatrists who would say to you, “And why did you join the Red Cross?

“Get away from me!”                           

It was—We were not allowed by the army to date [enlisted men], because we were considered second lieutenants. In case of capture by the Japanese, that was what we were. So we were, you know, sort of cut off from the enlisted men; though, we worked with them in our little Quonset huts.

SB:

So you were just in different parts of Hawaii the whole time?

JM:

Yes. When—just—the war, I guess, was over—or maybe towards the end—they wanted us to go down to—I forget the name of the place—Okinawa [Japan]. But at that point, it came to me that—you put twelve women—however many you were—in a big camp of fifty—how many thousand men—it creates problems. They would be better off if you’re not there, you know. So I didn’t go.

Then the war ended and I stayed there. The Marine division—the forward echelon—went on to Japan—most of them. Then I went back to this rest camp on Kamuela. Then I went over to Oahu. And then I decided—when I was talking to kids who had just come over for ten days—and I thought—we didn’t have to stay in for the duration. You could resign.

SB:

You could resign.

JM:

I thought, “No, I am burning out on this.”

SB:

But all in all, did you enjoy the work?

JM:

Very much. I think it taught me more than I learned at college, working, any place. It taught me that—and everybody is in a uniform which is a great leveler—it didn’t matter where they went to school, or whether they did or didn’t, how much money they had. They were just people that you met, and they were interesting. You would meet a kid, a coal miner, whom never brushed his teeth or took a shower in his whole life until he joined the army, and they threw him in. And while as a civilian in New York, I might think, “What is the matter with those coal miners? They’re striking and there is a war on?” You meet people growing up living that way with no choice but to live that way.

I came home with this great crusade that education was the important thing. Everybody should have a shot.

SB:

That’s what makes a difference.

JM:

I would have been a teacher, except I went and got teacher training when I lived in Pittsburgh. I was not a good teacher. I just was not—I am not patient. Smart kids would be fun to teach if they were interested in what you [are teaching]—if not, it’s just hard.

SB:

I think it’s a calling. I really do. I think it’s a calling.

JM:

I do too. I just think I admire teachers more than anybody in this world.

SB:

Were there men in the Red Cross doing different jobs?

JM:

There were men in supervisory positions—not working in—

SB:

The question here is: “Were you treated equally and professionally as the men that you worked with?” It’s really not applicable, because you didn’t really work with any.

JM:

Not really. When you’re one of a few women around a whole bunch of men that—no, that you get special—like you’re flying to another island and the pilot would say, “Why don’t you come up and sit up here?” You know, these boys guys are sitting, puking in buckets back there. No, it is—you got privileges just from being not a man.

SB:

What was the hardest thing that you had to do physically or emotionally while in the service?

JM:

The hardest thing—I think to be—not cheerful—because nobody likes a Pollyanna [fictional children’s character whose name became a popular term for someone with a consistently optimistic attitude] around—but to feel empathy for what they’re doing. Some guy would come up and say, “Oh, I just got a ‘Dear John’ [letter informing him of the end of their relationship] letter from my wife.” Things like that. These are tough guys who worked on the docks in Brooklyn. They had fights. I didn’t know men fought. [chuckles] They would fight and they would empty [unclear] and they would all be out there— “How great.”

And if somebody—and people did—they would get drunk at any opportunity. Of course they didn’t have many in the Marine Corps, because—as I said—they were out in the boonies. But they would—some tough guy would come up, and say—and drag this guy out and punch him out. And come back in and say, “Don’t let somebody talk to you like that. I wouldn’t talk like that to anybody like that on a street corner.” They were very—I don’t think it’s like that. I wouldn’t go and put myself in that position now really. I feel that women in the military are brave, because I don’t care what you say—men are going to be men and women are going to be women. But I think women are probably smarter, enough to handle it all. I don’t know that a little—

SB:

Were you ever afraid or in personal danger?

JM:

[chuckle] Not really. There were—physically afraid. I can remember taking a bunch of kids on a picnic over across the Pali Pass, which if you’ve ever been to—we came back in a blackout, and the soldiers were all drunk. And the driver was drunk, because everybody was. Then we get half way up, and I’m nervous about the driver, the driver is telling me how he used to drive dynamite trucks in Texas.

“He’s a good driver.”

“Okay.”

All of a sudden he can’t go up. He says “we’ve got to back down.” Well, this is like a snake in the pitch dark. Those are times that made me a little nervous. I never was afraid of the soldiers really, though we had a guard on our quarters who was always asleep on the back porch.

SB:

Well, we all need our rest.

JM:

But they were really—I wouldn’t say respectful, or what they really thought of us—our being there. They were not—they yelled. We played a lot of cards, and they would yell at us. They would say, “Yeah, you should just go out with us” or whatever. They were never menacing. Who knows—

SB:

That’s clear. What about your social life? What did you do for fun?

JM:

Well, you went out at night. You dated. You would find somebody: usually an officer that you had met. I saw lots of people—everybody pass through know Pearl [Harbor] on their way out to the war. My sister’s husband’s friend from high school. People I met would take you out to dinner when if they could—not when we were with the Marines, because we were too far out. But we—you just met people. 

SB:

Now, how long were you in the—

JM:

Just from that time—a couple of years.

SB:

You never thought of making it a career or—

JM:

No. No. I always—No.

SB:

I’m just saying that for you because—

JM:

No. I always thought of going home. I thought of going home and perhaps—maybe being a teacher. Or not going back to J.P. [Morgan]’s. I always wanted to work in advertising. Don’t ask me why—because I liked writing. But when I came back—and I looked around—and I went back to the bank, because it seemed like my best bet at that point. Then this fellow whom I had known before I went to the Red Cross came home—he had been in the army over in Europe—we started to go out. And then we got married. So—

SB:

Okay. In your opinion what was the mood of the country at the time: fearful, confident? How did you take it?

JM:

I never felt—I didn’t move in maybe high enough echelons to know about fear, and how scary it all was. I never felt any lack of confidence that, “Yes, we were going to win it.” Even from these SA[?] marines who had these horrible jobs.

They always said—oh, their big bugaboo was [General Douglas] MacArthur—they gave all the money to the army and when the war—I will never forget the day that [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt died. It was—now what surprised me—the whole camp—these kids were just devastated. They loved him dearly, only president that they had ever known. He died in April. And aside from feeling grief from over that—it was—really they did. They felt, “Now maybe we’ll get some help over here in the Pacific.” Because they felt that they had been concentrating in Europe.

SB:

Yeah. What did you think of Roosevelt and [President Harry S.] Truman?

JM:

I was—I had mixed emotions about them both. I was never a great fan of Roosevelt. But I think he did—looking back and reading about it in retrospect—he did a magnificent job in working with [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill and Russia and all these people. They had to be difficult people to work with. And Truman—I don’t know, I was never—my husband worked in the steel business, and there was something with the steel business with Truman that made my husband not a fan of him. [In 1952 Truman nationalized the American steel industry mere hours before a planned national strike, which cumulated in a Supreme Court ruling against Truman.] But again—in retrospect—you got to wait a few years and look back on those people.

SB:

Did you have any hero or heroine at that time that you thought was terrific?

JM:

I was twenty-five. Not really. You’re past that I think.

SB:

Did you have any favorite songs or movies from that time?

JM:

Casablanca, I remember that. They showed it—I guess—was it the Marine Corps—no, it couldn’t have been—maybe it was. Anyway, that was one of the movies that we did see, yes, I remember that.

SB:

How about songs?

JM:

Songs, yes. Because in this Quonset hut I speak of—where we served coffee and doughnuts—we had a turntable, or whatever they had back then. And those big V-Discs [recordings produced by the United States Government and the American recording industry as a means of boosting morale]. We had music—you know, Benny Goodman. They were sent over. The Red Cross gave them to us. Oh yes, I could hear those songs and be instantly back there—instantly back there.

SB:

Where were you when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day?

JM:

Oh, that was such a wonderful night. I was in my little Quonset hut, and the guys all came running in. They had heard that the [atomic] bomb had been dropped. They felt the war—they were all packed on board ship to go invade Japan, keep in mind, so that this was tremendously wonderful for them. They came in and they had a little pick-up band. It was just thrilling to see—this was without booze or anything—that they were elated and high. And it just a memorable, memorable night that I will never forget. [This is referring to the events leading to the surrender of Japan, and not the end of the war in Europe]

SB:

What about VJ [Victory over Japan] day?

JM:

Well, that was just right there shortly thereafter. This was just maybe a day ahead or so. Just hanging on, because they thought that as soon as they dropped the bomb that they wouldn’t have to go. And actually they did go, but they went and the war was over.

SB:

Did you feel that you were encouraged to return to traditional female roles after you came home?

JM:

Not really, no.

SB:

Did you have a hard adjustment back to your civilian life after being a—

JM:

Not hard, but there were—it took some settling in.

SB:

Do you consider yourself an independent person? And do you feel the military helped make you that way?

JM:

I feel I was married for like fifty-four years, I am independent now, I feel. The military it taught you to think on your own and to work with what you had. If you had to make a Christmas tree, hanging spoons on it or whatever you had to do, you did. That type of thing.

SB:

Many women—Many considered women in the service in your day to be pioneers. Do you feel that way? Do you feel any connection to the idea of the Women’s Liberation Movement?

JM:

No, not really.

SB:

Did any of your kids join the military? Did or would you have encourage them to join?

JM:

I certainly wouldn’t discourage them. When I came home I had this feeling that—and I still do to a point—that everybody out of high school should serve a year of—not necessarily military service—but work in a hospital, or, you know, do something.

SB:

That’s a great idea.

JM:

Because I don’t think at eighteen, you’re ready. I must say—well, I won’t even say it.

SB:

How do you feel about women in combat positions? Should some work be off limits to women?

JM:

I just actually—as I say—I go back to my, I think sometimes you’re just in the way, or people feel you’re in the way, you feel that you’re in the way. I don’t care what they say, men and women will never be the same. They think differently, they react differently, they do different things. It’s not that I don’t admire the women that fly planes. It’s not that I don’t admire them. I do. I think it takes a special person, but just that they’re there might complicate it a little bit. It causes troubles, not huge troubles, but things come up.

SB:

How has your life been different because of your time in the military?

JM:

I think—as I say—it’s taught me more. I think I am a much more flexible person. I’m not—just because I meet somebody who went to Harvard [University], I don’t think “oh, he’s going to be a neat guy.” He might not. He might be a real—you know. I can meet somebody that you might not normally meet socially and they’re just great—nice people.

SB:

Generally rounded you out.

JM:

Yes it did. It made me—it just un-narrowed me, if there’s such a word.

SB:

That’s a very good word. Is there anything that you would like to add about your service experience?

JM:

Not really. There were lots of things, funny things, sad things, but you know.

SB:

You already said that you don’t have any papers or photos or stuff.

JM:

Not to give. No, that’s all I have.

SB:

And that is beautiful.

Okay, Women’s College questions. Were you the first in your family to go to college?

JM:

No, my father went to college.

SB:

Why did you choose Women’s College?

JM:

Because, I had a friend—my college advisor—steered me down there.

SB:

What was your major?

JM:

Secretarial Administration, I think they called it then.

SB:

Where did you live while on campus?

JM:

I lived in a dormitory.

SB:

Who were your favorite professors?

JM:

Well, I had an English—Dr. Freedlander. Their names are gone, but I had several.

SB:

Do you remember Dr. [Walter Clinton] Jackson or Ms. [Harriet] Elliot?

JM:

Oh, Ms. Elliot. God! An unforgettable character. And Doctor Jackson, of course, but he was more remote. Ms. Elliot, yes, I remember her. She was funny. She had a friend—Ms. Alexander—who—I forget what she taught—business law maybe. She had been clerk of the city court for many years. Oh, I know—I knew her. And she was—I was on the judicial board my senior year. She was a faculty advisor for the judicial board. She is just a great gal. I had her in political science or some class. She said—and you will laugh, because she said to me, “Miss Murphy,” she said, “You are from New Jersey.”

And I said, “Yes.”

She said, “Well, I’m just using this as an example. Well, Mayor [Frank] Hague in Jersey City—” Who was like what’s his name in Chicago for many years. “He’s entrenched, and he’s got a machine and it’s well oiled.” Then she said, “We get reform people who say, ‘We have to get him out of there.’ And they get him out of there. Then they get these new eager people in there,” But she said, “These little places that are so smooth and so worn, these people fall into these same places.”Anyway—

SB:

Stuck with you?

JM:

It stuck with me. It’s so true.

SB:

It is.

JM:

You can watch Washington. They make the same dumb mistakes over and over and over—to me.  

SB:

Did you—how did you use your education: teacher, business, homemaker?

JM:

I wish I could have been a teacher, but I wasn’t. We had this—who was it—I guess it was [Charles Duncan] McIver, who said, “You educate a man, you educate a person. You educate a woman, you educate a whole family.” And I would really feel that is true and would try to do my best with my children—to do that.

SB:

Generally, did you enjoy your time at WC?

JM:

I loved it—loved it. I had a good time, felt I learned a lot. As I say, I learned more as a person in my Red Cross days. It expanded me. Made me a better person I hope. Not that college made me worse, [chuckle] it was just different. I was used to as a commuter and living in the suburbs, you meet people all on one level, I mean, pretty much. You live amongst them, and that’s the way that they are. But there are people equally as nice and as helpful. You just can’t arbitrarily say, “Well, what does he know?” because he might know a lot.

SB:

How about that? Well, that’s the end of our interview.

JM:

Well, how boring for you!

SB:

That was wonderful! Thank you!

[recording paused]

JM:

In the midst of all the fear and the horror of these men who were in combat were in—and the boredom of the ones who weren’t and just sitting around and working in the background. It’s the humor. I just—they were just so funny. They just were great to be around. And while I, as I say, I enjoyed being in the Women’s College and knowing women, I think men in groups—I still think so—are funny. You go some place and there’s a group of men at a golf thing. And they’re eating dinner and they’re hilarious. While a group of women might be entirely different. There is just something.

SB:

You enjoy the camaraderie of the men.

JM:

I enjoy the camaraderie. I don’t mean to sound that I don’t like women, which I do very much—enjoyed school. They don’t take things so personally. I don’t know what it is, or why I think that. But they were fun. And you can always count on going through the day, and something funny would always happen or somebody would say something. If you didn’t mind, you didn’t let your feelings get hurt, they were just fun.

[End of interview]