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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Adele A. Graham, 2009

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Object ID: WV0470.5.001

Description: Adele A Graham tells of her life, education, and forty years of varied service in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and United States Marine Corps Reserve. She also discusses the various civilian jobs that she held.

Summary:

Graham primarily discusses the various roles that she served in the Marine Corps and Reserve. She tells of working primarily as a supply and exchange officer at Quantico, Virginia, and Paris Island, South Carolina.

Other topics included the various civilian jobs Graham worked, her education at The Women’s College of the University of North Carolina, and views on the role of females in the United States military.

Creator: Adele A. Graham

Biographical Info: Colonel Adele A. Graham (b. 1937) served in the United States Marine Corps from 1959-1990.

Collection: Adele A. Graham Oral History

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

Full Text:

Therese Strohmer:

Okay.

Okay, today is July 29th 2009. I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is Therese Strohmer and I’m with Adele Graham. We are doing an oral history interview for the Women’s Veterans [Historical] Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

So Adele, why don’t you tell me how you would like your name on the collection?

Adele Graham:

Under Adele A. Graham.

TS:

Okay, we’re back here—I’m back here with Adele, and we were talking about her father being a career marine. So he traveled some. She was born in the Philadelphia area, but you spent some time then in later years out near—you said San Diego?

AG:

Right. I don’t—I’m blank as to the time between when I was born and the months—maybe up to a year, that I had spent in Philadelphia—to the time when my father was stationed in San Diego, where my younger sister was born.

TS:

Okay.

AG:

An incident.

TS:

An incident?

AG:

It was an incident I distinctly remember—and I know I was four—that my mother had searched in the area we lived in—which was not on the base, we did not have quarters on the base, for a nursery school for me to go to. This school had been recommended and she knew other families who had had their children there. So I was put in this nursery school. And the incident I remember is one day the—one of the teachers I guess—or the owner—had the gate opened and I ran out. And she chased me. And I had to cross this very busy boulevard. And she was right behind me, but I was ahead of her. It was only a few blocks, maybe two blocks or so, when I reached my house. I guess my mother was right there at the door or something, you know.

This woman was right behind me. And my mother was surprised to see me. She said something to the effect—you know— “Why are you here?”  She was very worried.

The woman said, “Well, she ran out. I just wanted to bring her back.” My mother thought that something wasn’t quite right, so she didn’t send me back. Well, she found out later that they had tied my hands behind my back, because I was talking. That was their way of saying “When you quit talking, we’ll untie your hands.” So consequently, I never went back to that nursery school.

But I kind of vaguely remember sitting in a chair with my hands tied, and it was related to my talking. That’s just what I remember. But anyway—

TS:

That’s interesting. So you got out of there?

AG:

So I got out of there. But it might have been—I’m pretty—I can’t think of the words. I’m pretty determined. I say I’m quite determined. I’m—when I decide to do something I am extremely persistent. I don’t give up. [chuckle]

TS:

That’s a good quality. So now, you’re in San Diego and you and your two sisters are also there.

AG:

And my mother and my father. My youngest sister was born there.

TS:

Oh, okay.

AG:

She was born in San Diego.

TS:

Okay.

AG:

In 1940.

TS:

So now what kind of environment was this for you as a child? Do you remember?

AG:

Oh, it was delightful. We had a beautiful house and, interestingly enough, I remember that house from that age. We do have some pictures, but they’re black and white. It had a nice patio. It had a closed-in brick backyard, and there was maybe one house next door; otherwise, it just sat by itself in a totally undeveloped area. But it had the tile roofs. I don’t know what they’re—

TS:

Mission style?

AG:

The—

TS:

Yeah, I know. With the red tile and the—

AG:

Yes, with the wavy—the curved roof.

TS:

[chuckle] I can’t describe it either, but I know what you’re talking about. Yeah.

AG:

I remember as you walked into it—there was this phenomenal staircase that went up to the second floor, and the bedrooms were up there. And the back of the staircase had this gorgeous tile—the backs were all tile, so you had this beautiful color that you could see as you went up it.

Well, a number of years ago I went to San Diego and a friend of the family—because her parents, like mine, were in the Marine Corps together. I said, “Is there any way that you could remember where the house was?

She said, “Oh yeah, I know exactly.” So she drove us over there and I knocked on the door.

I said to the woman that answered—I said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I would like you to know that I used to live here when I was four years old.”  And she was quite astonished.

And so she said, “Would you like to come in and see it?”

I said, “I would be delighted.”

I remember—I remember the stairs. And I remember my bedroom and the kitchen and the patio. It turned out that we had rented the house, and this woman had bought the house from the people who had rented it to us. She had lived there all those years. It was just a very comforting and fond memory that I had of that.

TS:

Excellent. So you didn’t live on the post or anything.

AG:

I don’t remember anything about the post.

TS:

Yeah. So this is—we’re getting close to when you were getting a little older. You would have been about eight or nine for—I was thinking about the Depression and World War II.

AG:

So from there my sister—my sister— my younger sister might have been a year or two—when we moved from there. Oh, wait a minute. Anyway, we ended up—my father got assigned to headquarters of the Marine Corps, so we ended up in Washington.

TS:

So you moved to Washington D.C.?

AG:

We moved to Washington.

TS:

Was this during the war that he got assigned there?

AG:

No. Yeah. No—it was—right, we lived there in Washington for two years. I believe we were there from ‘41 to ‘43. We lived off the base in northwest Washington in a row house. There were other marines who were in that area. But it was totally suburban, you know, housing.

TS:

Well, you were a very young girl during World War II. Do you remember anything about that time?

AG:

Well, my father—my father got orders from there to—my father got orders from there to—his assignment then was at Camp Pendleton in California. They were staging then the—for the Fifth Marine Division. When he was assigned to California, then my mother took the three of us and moved back to Philadelphia—I’m sorry—to Kansas—Philipsburg, because that’s where her folks were from. We lived there for two years while my father was gone to the Pacific.

It took about six months for the staging of the Fifth Marine Division. He was assigned as the commanding officer of the twenty-sixth regiment of the Fifth Marine Division. That division and his three other regiments of that division ended up at Iwo Jima, so he was gone for two solid years, and we went back to Kansas.

But when we were in Washington, I distinctly remember there were air raids [drills] periodically and the rule was that all lights went off inside the houses. My father liked to read, so he would go into the bathroom. And I think—I think—I’m not sure—it had a—what’s the window—

TS:

The sun room?

AG:

No, the curtains that they used to have in old houses then. [blackout curtains] Well, I can’t think of what they are. I can’t think of their name.

TS:

That’s all right.

AG:

There was a window from the top—the roof.

TS:

Giving some light into the bathroom?

AG:

Yes. Had some light in there, I guess. I don’t know.  I do know he went in the bathroom particularly, so he could read. That was one of my recollections about him. But he also—also, he was there—I became closely connected—I had the opportunity to become closely connected to his only sister, because she was in the navy. So she was also stationed actually in the same building, but at opposite ends of where headquarters of the Marine Corps was located. It was called the Navy Annex. She was in the Navy Annex.

TS:

So you had a lot of exposure to the military, for sure.

AG:

And then my mother’s only brother also graduated from the naval academy. I believe he finished in ’31, so he was on active duty from ’31 until he was medically discharged in the late          ‘40s, as I recall.

TS:

So through the war then?

AG:

Oh yes, they were all in.

TS:

Do you remember anything else about, you know, the war?

AG:

Not off hand I don’t. I don’t often—

TS:

Any rationing or anything?

AG:

No, I don’t remember that at all. I remember going to school there. I remember taking dancing lessons.

TS:

Yeah. Dancing?

AG:

And I do know I ended up with scarlet fever shortly after I started school, and then I had to be taken out. I lost a period of time that I wasn’t in school. So when my mother moved us back to Philadelphia—to Pittsburgh [Philipsburg] in Kansas—she then put me back to the beginning in first grade. And it so happened that that was also where most of my friends from Philipsburg were also in the same grade level.

Because my father had orders so many times to different parts—like he was up in—maybe it was Alaska. I can’t remember now. No, Iceland. He was sent to Iceland. Then there were other times he was sent somewhere else. If he was gone a period of time, she would often would take us back to Philadelphia to be with our grandparents.

TS:

I see. Then, what about school—did you like school?

AG:

I did. I did. I did.

TS:

Did you have a favorite teacher or subject or anything?

AG:

No. I liked my teachers, as far as I remember. I can’t say that there was one I was extremely fond of when I got to college. I did like, before that too, eighth grade and before college, but no, school was fine. I had friends.

TS:

What kind of school was that you went to?

AG:

These were—we never went to a base school. All these schools I went to were always public schools in the surrounding areas.

TS:

Were they very large? How many students do you think were in—might have been in them?

AG:

No. They weren’t especially large. After my father returned from Iwo Jima he was assigned then to Little Creek.

TS:

Little Creek?

AG:

Little Creek, Virginia. And he was there for two years. So he was assigned there from ’46 to ’48. That four year period from ’46 to 1950 when he retired from the Marine Corps, we lived in the Norfolk naval shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. We lived in the marine barracks on the base. We first moved to an apartment building. For the first two years we moved—we were on all floors—the first, the second, and the third.

Then, when he was reassigned from Little Creek, he was assigned as the commanding officer of the marine barracks. And we lived in probably the nicest house in the marine barracks. And we lived there for two years before he retired in 1950.

TS:

Do you have any recollection of that?

AG:

Oh yes.

TS:

What kind of memories do you have—living there?

AG:

They were very—they were very fond memories. In fact, when I left North Carolina this year after my fiftieth college reunion, I had rented a car in Washington, because I had flown from Michigan to Washington. I drove from Washington to Greensboro. On my way back up to Washington, to fly back to Michigan, I purposely stopped in Norfolk, Virginia to visit a Marine Corps friend. But part of my mission was my sole trip back to visit the marine compound where we lived.

It just brought back very fond memories of a very stable piece in my life. The beautiful parade ground and the lovely old houses. I had a really good time. I had friends that I could play with. We could go anywhere and do anything. We had bicycles and I always remember going over to the barracks, which is where my father had his office—part of it was also a small post exchange. I could always smell—we could always smell, as kids, this wonderful bread that they were baking on a daily basis. We could go to up the basement window, and invariably they would always hand us out a piece of hot buttered brand new bread, which we devoured. It was just—it was a fun time for us.

TS:

What kind of activities did you do then?

AG:

Well, we just rode our bicycles. There was a small playground with equipment. We just played games. We—you know, played a lot on the parade ground, which was exquisite. We just did a lot of outside things.

TS:

No television?

AG:

No. There was nothing like that. Anyway, my father for some reason—he was never a farmer. He was not raised as a farmer. Because he was born and raised near Penn Yan near Waterloo, New York. I think its Waterloo—yeah, Waterloo, New York.

He had farming in his body, because he had planted alongside the quarters that we had, which kind of sat up on a little knoll. He had planted corn. And I think he had planted potatoes with the corn. This is in the marine barracks—in a naval yard. And he decided that he was going to raise chickens, so I guess—I call them the Snuffies. They prefer the privates or the PFCs—built whatever he wanted to be built. So he had a coop for these chickens. And I had a pet chicken that I named Bootsie—for some reason I gave that name to the chicken. I don’t know.

And so then they laid eggs, so our job was—I was there from the time I was 9 to 13—was to peddle these eggs to anyone in the marine barracks area, or over in the navy section, who wanted the eggs. Now, I assume he gave them away. I don’t think he charged them. One time I got on this bicycle with these eggs, and lo and behold there was an accident. So all the eggs went kasplat[sic] all over the—I guess I came back and said, “I’m sorry I ruined the eggs.”        

He probably said, “Don’t worry about it” or “You’ll just have to be more careful the next time,” or something.

So he ended up then raising capons.

TS:

What’s a capon?

AG:

I think a capon is a chicken that isn’t male nor female [a castrated rooster]. That’s what it is.

TS:

Okay.

AG:

I think that’s what it is.

TS:

No eggs then?

AG:

No eggs. No. And then he decided he was going to raise rabbits to eat. So he got these two rabbits and thought that they would reproduce. He had this rabbit cage with two rabbits. After he got them for a period of time they kept fighting with each other—no babies. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong with these rabbits. Well, then he found out that they were both male.

TS:

Oh, that’s not going to work. [chuckles]

AG:

That ended the experience of, you know, raising rabbits. But anyway, it’s just kind of a funny story.

TS:

That’s funny. What rank was your father then?

AG:

He was a colonel then. He got promoted to colonel, I believe—I believe upon the activation of the Fifth Marine Division. I believe it was at that time, so he then retired in 1950—the first of April in 1950 as a brigadier general, because he received what was then called a “tombstone” retirement. If you had performed admirably, you know, with all your records, then that was kind of the courtesy that the—I don’t know if all services did that. They probably did. They gave people who had served particularly during that difficult time, to have a tombstone retirement. [The Tombstone Retirement allowed officers in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. Combat citation promotions were colloquially known as “tombstone promotions” because they conferred the prestige of the higher rank, but not the additional retirement pay, so their only practical benefit was to allow recipients to engrave a loftier title on their business cards and tombstones.]

TS:

I see. That’s interesting. What was your father’s name?

AG:

Chester Baird Graham.   

TS:

Chester Baird Graham, very good. And your mother’s name?

AG:

Isabelle Meyer Graham. She never had a middle name.

TS:

Meyer? That was her maiden name?

AG:

That was her maiden name.  My middle name is Aden: A-d-e-n. And it was my mother’s—my mother’s mother’s maiden name: A-d-e-n.

TS:

Oh, okay. I’m going to pause it here for just a second while these people are talking.

[recording paused]

TS:

Okay. We took a little short break, and waited for some people to leave behind us here.  We are in a library. So Adele, when you were going to school and you’re growing up as a little girl—here, you’re in the Washington D.C. area, right, we’re talking about? Did you have any conception of what you thought you might be when you grew up? Is there something you wanted to be as a little girl?

AG:

No, not at that age. I don’t recall. Not at that age. In my teens I knew what was most important to me, but it didn’t have to do with a profession.

TS:

What was most important to you?

AG:

Well, I was always was fascinated by babies. I played dolls and I had baby dolls and I made clothes for baby dolls. And I mean, then—I mean, I know—I honestly believe that the last doll I received was when I was—right before my thirteenth birthday, and it was a Toni doll.

TS:

Toni?

AG:

Toni. But I had—before that I had this baby doll that I just loved. I played a lot with my younger sister. We played—we played with dolls. We played house a lot. When I was in Kansas and I—I have a picture of being out in the patio area. Then we had access, I guess, to crates. Those old wooden crates—those small wooden crates that people would use to put a lamp on, or put something on—orange crates, I guess they were called. I have pictures where I must have had six or eight of these crates. So I designed and I was then—well, probably between seven and nine—six or seven, and nine. I designed a layout for a kitchen and then a section for a living room. There was a refrigerator and there was a sink and there was a place for the babies. This was very important to me. I played a lot with paper dolls. I always was designing with wooden blocks. I would block out a house with, you know, the kitchen and the living room and the bathroom and the bedrooms. This was a big focus of my interests.

TS:

Why do you think it was that you were wanting to do with it?

AG:

I just—I really fully intended to get married at some point and have children. I think at some point I envisioned myself that that was going to happen at some point in my mid-twenties. Not [unclear] in my mid-twenties. That was how I envisioned my life, as being a wife and raising children.

TS:

So how was it that you decided to go to college?

AG:

Well, I had a difficult time in high school.  It was a very small school. There were only 110 of us in the school. There were 25 in my class. I had—I had learning disabilities, but I wasn’t aware of it then. I just knew that some of my classes were very hard, but I also worked very hard and I did the best I could do. Out of the twenty-five in the class, I think I was fifth from the top. I knew I was going to go college, but I didn’t know much more than that.

When I think back, I don’t know how I thought this was going to happen.  Because even up to March—when I was graduating from high school—I had not applied anywhere. And my aunt, my Aunt Lucille—who was in the navy, not then, but she was in Washington—in New York. She was there for a weekend. She asked me—she said, “Adele, where are you going to school next year?”

I said, “I don’t know!”

She said, “Well, you better decide because time’s running out.”

I thought, “Oh!”

She said to me, “Well, if you don’t know, I do know of an excellent school. I think perhaps you should write to them and ask them to send you all the pertinent information in order to apply.”

My first words to her was—my first word her were—my first words to her were, “How do you spell pertinent?”

TS:

[chuckles]

AG:

Because I was not familiar with the word. And she said, “Adele, look it up in the dictionary.”  So I did and I proceeded to write a postcard to WC [Woman’s College] UNC and asked them to please send me all the pertinent information I needed in order to apply. I did. They sent me the information back, and I guess then—I gather my folks helped. My aunt was only there periodically—I filled out all the information. Luckily, they did not require then SATs. I don’t ever remember it being mentioned in my high school about SATs, because there were only two or three of us—maybe only a couple of us—who actually went to college out of that 25 group.

Anyway, so as I said. It was lucky that I didn’t because I had great difficulty with tests, and I probably would not have gotten a high enough score in order to be considered college material. So—

TS:

You were at the top of your class, too, right?

AG:

Well, yes but you have to remember this was a very small class. In fact, we never—when I got to WC I didn’t know what a theme was. I had never, ever had written a theme. I didn’t know anything about researching. I was just like a fish out of water. And so many of my friends came from Raleigh: Needham Broughton High School. I know it was an excellent school and I know they were well prepared, you know, to go to WC. So it was just like a fish out of water and it was a real struggle. So anyway—

TS:

Well, let’s talk about that then. So you—how did that feel, then? Do you remember when you first moved away? So you’re going to North Carolina from—where were you living at the time?

AG:

My father and mother had decided that they were going to retire to Vermont. They had never been there. My aunt had been there on a trip, and in the fall preceding his retirement in April of 1950 she had told him, “You know, Vermont is exquisitely beautiful and you might consider retiring there, because it’s a lovely place to live.” Just what she had observed. She said, “In fact, there’s this house that I saw for sale and I think it has connection to the Underground Railroad, you should just come up and take a look at it.”

Because they did not know where they were going. And they did, that fall. It so happened that they stayed in this little village called New Fane in a very tiny little inn and they were, I guess, eating their breakfast the next morning. The innkeeper—the woman—asked them what brought them to Vermont, New Fane specifically, and they said, “Well, we’re here to look at this house up the road, because we’re interested in buying one because we’re retiring.”

And she said, “Oh, this place is for sale.”

They both looked at each other and said, “Really?”

It was a three room, little—maybe she had four at that time—little inn. Anyway, before they left that weekend they bought this inn and they decided, “Well, we can certainly run this little inn, wouldn’t that be fun?” So that’s how we ended up in Vermont after he retired.

TS:

Well, how long did they run the inn?

AG:

Well, they ran the inn from 1950—I guess maybe through the year after I left, which was ’55. I think they ran it for approximately six years.

TS:

Neat. So you went from Vermont then to North Carolina?

AG:

So, I had never been to North Carolina. I had never been to the university, but because of my aunt—she said, “Adele, with your background in sewing” —I did learn to sew from my mother —who had learned it from her mother at an early age. I enjoyed making baby clothes—not baby clothes—doll clothes. I enjoyed making skirts. I wore a lot of skirts, you know, with ties that came around that had a bow in the back, and sometimes they had ruffles around the bottom. I enjoyed that. I liked art. So she said, “You know, I just think women’s college would be a good fit for you”.

So when I first applied and my first year there, I was in art. I had some art training in my high school, but I always felt—I always kept saying, “I can’t draw those figures. I can’t do this. I can’t—” In high school. “I can’t do that”. Finally the headmaster, he was also the art teacher, said, “Adele: ‘can’t’ ‘never could’. I do not want to hear people use the word “can’t” anymore”.

So then I had to rephrase what I said to get across to him that it was very difficult for me to do what he was asking.  But anyway, that’s how—I was in art that first year. And then through my roommate—who was also a Needham Broughton graduate—who was also in art, you know, but was connected to her friends from high school. It was through her and meeting these friends who were all in home economics and talking to them, I realized that that was probably the better field for me to be in.

TS:

Home economics?

AG:

Yes.

TS:

So you switched to that?

AG:

So then I switched to that, yes.

TS:

Did you enjoy that then?

AG:

I did. I did. I did. It was—again, unfortunately—everything was hard for me. At least in that area I did well. I felt comfortable, although it was still a struggle. I devoted the four years that I was in college totally to the labs, my studying—my total focus was on that. I think I went out on a date and they were god awful, four or five times. I seldom went to movies. I did go for weekends in Raleigh periodically, but the rest of my life was devoted to completing my assignments and the course work that was required. It was very hard.

TS:

Well, the time frame that you are there—so it’s ’54-’55 to ‘59ish. So, we’re going to go into politics a little bit because the Cold War was kind of heating up, and you had the Sputnik in ’56.

AG:

Oh, I remember Sputnik.

TS:

What do you remember about that?

AG:

I remember—I think I was in Raleigh at that time with one of my friends that later became my roommate. I recall sitting in what might have been a pub. I never ever drank. I mean, I didn’t even drink coffee. I didn’t drink sodas. I just drank water.  And how we were there, I just don’t recall. I remember being there and talking about the fact that Sputnik had just taken off. It was quite impressive, but it was like “Oh my gosh, what are the Russians doing to us? How are they getting that far ahead of us?”

TS:

Was there that concern? Do you remember that?

AG:

Oh yes, I think it was. I mean, it was like—it was scary. It was scary.

TS:

Do you remember having any kind of fear or anything of the Soviets?

AG:

I mean, it was—they were to be feared. They were to be feared. I was never directly afflicted by all the—what are the buildings—to protect you, you know, in case of?

TS:

Oh yeah.

AG:

What do you call them?

TS:

Shelters—bomb shelters?

AG:

Bomb shelters, yes. I was never directly associated with any bomb shelters. I did know that was a big fear and to have them was a protectant[sic]—protection for you. It was a big fear that something might happen and would need access to a bomb shelter. I don’t think they were called bomb shelters. Were they bomb shelters?         

TS:

There’s probably a better word for them. [“Fallout shelter” is the most common word associated with these structures]. We’ll think of it on the transcript.

AG:

Maybe it was a bomb shelter. I don’t recall.

TS:

Yeah. I’m sure there was probably a better word for it. Well, did you have any sense of Eisenhower, did you have any thoughts on him?

AG:

No, no. In actuality, no—I do remember an incident in high school. I don’t remember the specific class, because we certainly didn’t have political science. I remember in one of the classes, being asked—they were going to take a vote—as to who we would vote for the next president. Without television—we only had local newspaper. We were very, very limited as to our exposure to world events and even national events as children, so I voted for Eisenhower. I’m sure—as I recall—the only reason I voted for him was because he was military and I had a connection. [chuckles]

TS:

Sure.

AG:

I certainly respected my father and my experiences with the military—the Marine Corps specifically—had been basically positive, except for the long durations of absence of my father. So I figured that we’d probably be in good hands to have a military man leading the country.

TS:

Well, there you go. Well, let’s go back to WC for a minute. Do you have any memories of any particular professors at all?

AG:

Well, I just had to work so hard. I was also a perfectionist, which was not a good thing. My advisor in home economics—because I did. My advisor was Ms. Stayley and she was highly respected. She was a perfectionist in her own right. With her perfectionism and my perfectionism, I think I even outdid her.  One of our assignments, I believe, was in tailoring—it might have been tailoring—I think it was tailoring—was to design—and we had our own forms so we had to drape, and make our patterns, et cetera—was to design this outfit. It could be a one-piece or two-piece—maybe it had to be two-piece—I don’t remember.  The top had to have gussets. That wasn’t a problem. I could do the gussets. The bottom, I decided, was going to be pleated.

Well, unfortunately I had selected one of the most difficult fabrics you could possibly have to carry out my design, because it was an uneven plaid.  The colors, I fell in love with, the colors were exquisite and that was what I was going to do. I ended up—this project, I was always working down to the wire. I had decided that the only thing that would be acceptable to her—but it also had to do with my own obsession with perfectionism—was to line up each thread of the fabric. I think at some point she realized what I was doing, and said, “You know, Adele, that is not really necessary”. But it was necessary for me, because that was the standard I had placed on accomplishing this task.

TS:

That’s really neat. How long did that take you?

AG:

I don’t know. I don’t know. Everything in that class took forever. I spent my life over in that home ec building, in that lab specifically.

TS:

Did you now in college have a different sense of what you thought your future might hold for you? Or was it still the same?

AG:

No. I did know one thing, and the thing I knew—the closer graduation came I realized that I would have a job. I would be working. And if all else failed, I might be standing on a corner selling pencils.

TS:

Why did you have that sense?

AG:

Well, I knew basically once I graduated, I mean, I was expected to support myself. I think that was the norm at that time, if you weren’t married. A number of the people that I was close to and affiliated with—some of them already had boyfriends. Some of them were already engaged—some definitely weren’t. It kind of gave you the feeling of floundering. It was like, “You’re going to have to come up with something.” Even though, these classmates of mine, they were going into a working world. They weren’t just going to go home and have babies. It was kind of a nebulous area for me, because I did not know what I wanted to do.

TS:

Do you have kind of an idea of what was out there available for you?

AG:

Well, they did have then—and probably had for many years—a placement office. I started interviewing for jobs in the retail field. I even—and I think it was through my aunt, because she was very good friends with the head of the personnel department at Woodward and Lothrop’s  in Washington D.C. So I had interviewed with her as a possibility for a job in—I think it was the buying field, I’m not sure—as working for Woodward and Lothrop’s . That was another avenue you could pursue with a degree in home economics, particularly clothing and textiles.

Did that answer your question?

TS:

Sure. So what did you end up doing?

AG:

Well, I had an interview with Woodward and Lothrop’s . I also had an interview with—oh dear—I think it was with a company—in North Carolina. I don’t know if it started with a “T” or not. It was a retail store—entering a training program to work with them. But I had those interviews. So I knew that was probably where I was going to end up. I had not been specifically hired. I think I was in the process of these interviews. I had not made a decision on what I was directly going to pursue.

TS:

I see. So how did the military come into play?

AG:

Well, I was pretty shy. I was pretty—well, I guess “shy” is the word. I was very comfortable being in the background, which is totally opposite now. Well, although I’m not comfortable in the background. I shouldn’t have said that. So anyway, right before spring break in my senior year, I was passing through Elliot Hall and I happened to notice in one of the hallways there was a big poster on an A-frame. There were two women marines standing there and talking to probably anybody who passed by to tell them about the possibilities of going into the Marine Corps, you know, after graduating.

Well, first of all, I was very surprised to see them there. Secondly, I was very surprised to know that there were women in the Marine Corps. And I was also very curious. So I did not have the gumption to go up to talk to them. But I was curious enough to know what they were saying to others who did approach them. So I sat on a bench that was quite nearby and got out a book and pretended that I was looking through my book in my bag of books. It had quite an effect. I never did speak to them. I never had the nerve to speak to them.

But I did go home. My folks were living then in Annapolis, Maryland. They had discontinued the inn business and they were both teaching in Annapolis, Maryland. I went home for my spring break, and one of the first things that I mentioned was—to them—and specifically to my father—is, “I did not know there were any women in the Marine Corps.”

He said, “Oh yes.” He said, “Oh yeah, there are women in the Marine Corps. I know Julia Hamlet. You know, she’s the director of women marines.”

I said, “Well, you never told me!” I said, “They just happened to be there. So I was quite astonished to see these two women all dressed up in uniforms and they were talking to whoever would talk to them at WC.”

I just kind of let it go. And then within a day or two, my father—you could almost hear the wheels clicking in his head. Click click click. He would come out, “Oh, Lieutenant.” He would smile, “Oh, Lieutenant Graham.”

I said, “What are you talking about?”

He said, “Oh, you know, hmm, that’s not a bad idea.”

I said, “what do you mean, what’s not a bad idea?’”

He said, “Oh, you know, I hadn’t thought of that. But you don’t really know exactly what you want to do. Oh, this could be a possibility.”

I said, “What are you talking about?”

“Well,” he said. “I think maybe we should go down to headquarters Marine Corps and you should talk to them about the possibility of going in the Marine Corps.”

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me! Even if I were interested in that, I would definitely go to the navy first!”

TS:

Why—why is that?

AG:

Because it was like, “Just because you want me to do this doesn’t mean I would do that! I would go to the navy!”

TS:

I see.

AG:

I would go to the navy first. So obviously what happened was that I did agree, kind of with this—“well, whatever” —only we didn’t use that term then—“whatever.”

TS:

[chuckles] Right.

AG:

In my mind, “All right, just to appease you, then, I’ll go with you.” I know as he drove me there—which was not even quite an hour away—I kept saying, “I just want you to understand that I am going to visit the navy first, then I will go into see who you want me to meet in the Marine Corps.”

Anyway, by the time we got there and we marched in, he of course headed directly to the Marine Corps. Here we are, standing in front of the, you know, office. The director of women marines, I guess it was. He, of course, knew her. He said, “You’re right here. We’re just going to talk to them. Then I will take you down there.”

The end result was that I had met the director of women marines. And within a couple of hours I raised my right hand, and my father raised his right hand and he swore me in. I kept asking, prior to that, I kept asking, “Are you sure I can get trooped and not in for life.” They assured me that I could get out anytime up to the day I accepted my commission. While I went through this twelve week training program, I could get out anytime. But once I was to be—what’s the word?

TS:

Commissioned?

AG:

Commissioned, right, and get my bars pinned on, then—I then was committed for two years. So it was a huge move for me. What went through my head, “Oh my gosh, what are all my North Carolinian friends going to think of me? They’re going to think that I have totally gone to the dogs.” I kept thinking—I kept worrying about, “What are my North Carolina friends going to think of me?”

TS:

Why were you worried about that?

AG:

Because I didn’t think they really knew anything about the military. I think even then it was like, “You couldn’t possibly do that. You’ve been trained to do this other and now you’re going to go in the Marine Corps?” It was like a real let down. It was like a real—I don’t know how to really describe it, but it wasn’t positive in my eyes—of their acceptance. That was what I really was concerned about—not what would my mother think when I went back home, but “what are my friends going to think of me?” It was very important, I guess, to be sure that they didn’t think I was doing something just terrible and almost degrading. I think I felt it would be degrading in their eyes.

TS:

So what was their response?

AG:

They were very, very surprised. I think they probably were speechless. Because I don’t think I even mentioned it to my roommate before, maybe I mentioned something about the Marine Corps but it was in passing—you know, whatever. They did not have any idea that it was something I might even consider thinking about. I felt that they would really—I would be lowered in their eyes. I felt it wasn’t a plus—it was a minus.

TS:

So was that the case?

AG:

Well, they were always very nice about it. They never said, I can think of Ann Lee. I can see Ann Lee and they would always kind of go, “Gosh—well, that’s different” —or something. I can see how she would say it.

TS:

Putting a positive spin on it?

AG:

Or, “Wow.” Ann Lee—my other good friend, Ann Sloan, would have been smiling and kind of giggling and saying, “Well, that’s different than home economics,” or something. They never ever treated it—or treated me as a degrading act on my part. I think it was so far out of the blue that it was kind of a shock. It was a shock.

TS:

Well, how did your mom react?

AG:

I think she thought that was fine. I think—I don’t think that she was excited about it or anything. I think she thought, “Adele, that might be good for you”. Because she knew that I was—I just didn’t have—I had not established a direction. I think she thought that was probably a very good move.

And I had almost quit WC after my second year, because it had been such a struggle. I went home and my folks knew.  Every letter that I would write home would say, “I’m failing. I’m failing.” These were all the core classes, you know, we were required to take: economics, I guess, was one, history—world and European history, the languages. I had Spanish in high school. I had Latin because my father made me take all these classes that he had —Latin and physics and Spanish and algebra, which was good, because those things were required for me to get into high school.

I never did well in them and every time I went home I would say—he would say, “How did you do?”

I would say, “Well, I flunked, but I was the highest of the ones who flunked with the test.”

He would say, “Oh, well, I always got A’s”.

Anyway. So when I went into college I signed up for Spanish again. Instead of them putting me—in high school I did get a D one semester in physics. But I did get Cs, Bs, and As generally. I did—there were things I did. However, when I got to WC and they put me in advanced Spanish, it was extremely difficult for me. I ended up with this teacher—she—well, let me precede that for a minute.

My aunt realized after my first year what a difficult time I was having.  So she paid for me to go to New York City and attend a speed reading class that was being taught by New York University. That’s where they had machines where the light—or the line on the page moved down, so you had to read at a certain place. I had trouble comprehending a lot. I would lose my train of thought. I would get distracted and had to go back and read all the time. Anyway, she paid for my way. She paid for my board and room then, which was at a women’s hotel in Greenwich Village.

She also said, “Adele, while you’re here, I want you to be tested at the New York University testing and advisement center.” So she paid for my eighteen hours of testing with them. And their conclusion with all this—which I was very surprised to find that—you know, that the very first paragraph said something to the effect that “This young woman has very superior intelligence, however there are areas that she experiences difficulty with and this is proven by such and such a test we have given her.”

And what’s the word where you’re either an overachiever or you’re an underachiever?

TS:

Sorry.

AG:

I may have this mixed up. I think was underachieving of what I was capable of doing. There were reasons why but this was totally prior to anybody doing tests and classifying anybody with learning disabilities.  But I believe the implication was—

TS:

Something like dyslexia?

AG:

well, it wasn’t dyslexia.

TS:

But a learning disability?

AG:

Yeah, I had learning disabilities. I think it had to do with comprehension and whatever. So they gave me a letter at the New York University when I went back for my sophomore year. They said that you should discuss this with the psychiatrist at the university and see if there is some way that they might be able to help you in order for you to do better in your achievement. And I never did.

TS:

You never did, why?                

AG:

I never did. I’m sure I shared that obviously with my aunt and with my family. But I guess no one had encouraged me or followed up with me to be sure you do this, if this is going to make it easier for me, so I never did. At the end of that sophomore year things were so difficult that I even ended up over in the infirmary. Because I was sure I had swallowed a fishbone, and I was sure that it was stuck in my throat. I was a nervous wreck. It was all nerves.  It was all, “I’m trying, I’m trying, but I’m failing, I’m failing.”

I went home that sophomore year. I said to my mother—I said, “It is so hard, I don’t know that I want to go back.”

My mother said, “Adele, you don’t have to. It’s your decision.”

I talked to her about it. I remember one of my comments was, “If I don’t go back, all of my friends will and they will finish and I won’t. I’ll be left out.” That was really the instigating factor, I think, in my returning. At that point I was getting more and more into the major and the things that I was doing much better, and doing well in them.

TS:

You liked those better too?

AG:

Yes.  I mean I was—I liked those better. I felt that I could make excellent accomplishments in those areas, which I did.

TS:

We’ve been talking for over an hour, so let’s take a little break.

[tape paused]

TS:

We took a short little break. Adele is going to continue with a little bit about when she was at WC and she’s talking about how some of the things that helped her, and other things that have to do with going to college there.

AG:

I just want to go back to my first experience at WC. They tested me—I guess they tested everybody to find out how advanced they were or not advanced in English—as an example—and they placed me in one of their remedial English classes, because they felt  I needed that experience to get caught up. As far as I know, that went well. I learned what a theme was, at least, and I had to write some of those.

I was also put in the advanced class of Spanish, because I had had those two years and they figured that I should know enough to be in the second level of Spanish at WC. I ended up with a teacher that I had a real problem in trying to relate to, because she totally couldn’t relate to me. I remember at the end of one of the classes—and I really, really struggled in that class. I never opened my mouth in any class—particularly that one— unless I had to. I was leaving the class at one point, and one of the students who was much more comfortable in the class than I was—we weren’t basically friends, we just happened to be walking out at the same time. We stopped on our way out, I guess, and the teacher was there. I was saying, “I’m having such a difficult time in your class.” And I also was getting tutored. I don’t know if she knew that or not, but I also was being tutored in Spanish.

She kind of looked at me and she looked at this other classmate and she said, “Well, if you worked half as hard as she does, you would do very well, too.” It was quite crushing to me. It was quite devastating. Neither here nor there, but it was just an experience.

TS:

It was just an experience, yeah.

So you went back and you told your friends that you were going to join the marines. Your dad sounded like he was over the moon. [chuckles] So you graduated from WC in what month? April or May?

AG:

I think it was May of ’59.  

TS:

You actually went into the marines in June of ’59.

AG:

In the middle of June, yes.

TS:

Why don’t you talk about that—that experience? What was it like to go to the basic training? Where did you go?

AG:

Well, I guess I was in Annapolis then—where my folks were living—by the way, when I raised my hand and my father swore me in on the 30th of March, 1959, from that day forward I was a private in the marine corps.

TS:

I see.

AG:

So all the material I got thereafter at WC would come to me as “Private Adele A. Graham,” so I was a private. I believe—I’m trying to think now—I think my father drove me down from Annapolis to Quantico, Virginia, where I had to report to, then, the women marine detachment. However, he took me down the day before, because I had to be there like eight o’clock in the morning—that was when you reported for duty. And one of his very good friends was commandant of the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. So he had contacted them and said, “Oh, by the way, Adele is coming down for duty at such and such a time. I’m just wondering since she has to report so early in the morning, if it’d be okay if she came and spent the night with you.”

And they said “Oh, absolutely, that would be fine. That would be wonderful.”

I believe—I think the commanding general’s last name was Twining, as I recall—General Twining. Anyway, so he drops me off at this very nice brick house they had on the base. You know, it seemed okay to me, whatever. I spent the night and was very impressed, because at dinner they had a waiter, you know, in a white outfit and jacket. He waited on the table. It was very nice. I thought, “Well, that’s very pleasant.”

So I went to bed. The next morning I got up and Mrs. Twining—I guess I called him general—the Marine Corps was so small then that all senior people knew each other and they were all usually by first names. I guess colonels didn’t call generals—whatever, I don’t remember. So she said, “I will drive you over to report.”

I said, “Yeah, that would be fine.”  So I put my suitcases in the car and we get in her car.

And she said, “Well, I’ll give you a little tour of the base first.

I said, “Oh, that would be nice! I would like that!”

So she drove me around the base and showed me where this and that, and the other was. The she said—she said you have to go off the base to go to the little town that is connected with the base. It was just one little street. When we came back on the base I saw—oh God what is it called—the guard at the gate immediately snapped to this sharp salute. Said, you know, “Good morning, Mrs. Twining”. And she nodded her head and she said good morning.

I thought, “Well, that was nice.” Then I thought why was she being saluted, because it wasn’t her husband? Then I realized, you know, they salute the car. Anyway, she drove up in front of what was called WMD—Women Marine Detachment. And I’m getting out of the car and was getting my bag out of the back seat or out of the trunk.

And then I saw this woman marine coming down to the car and she’s saying, “Good morning, Mrs. Twining. How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

And so this woman marine had picked up my bags and I said goodbye to Mrs. Twining and thank you very much. She said, “I wish you all the best and we’ll keep in touch.” I had help carrying my luggage into the office. It was only later that I discovered that someone had seen Mrs. Twining’s car pulling up and saw me get out and—she was actually helping me as well with my bags—and over this sergeant was told—Sergeant Jerry was told—“Sergeant Jerry, will you help the candidate who has just pulled up out front in with her bags—out of Mrs. Twining’s car.”

I think what she said was something like “I’m not helping with [unclear]!”

“Out of Mrs. Twining’s car.”

Of course, then she snapped to. That was their introduction to me. I found that it was something that was obviously very important to forget about and to let nobody know that I knew anybody—particularly someone of that position. That happened on other occasions. I just—I kept it hidden as best I could.

TS:

Why would you say that you had to do that?

AG:

Well, I didn’t want—my father—I just did this on my own. But I didn’t want anyone to feel that I was better than they were, or that I had connections that they didn’t have. I didn’t want to feel different and that was—I got that immediately. So I wanted to be just like everybody else.

TS:

Everybody else.

AG:

Yeah, just like everybody else.

TS:

So once you got settled in then, was the basic training what you expected? Were there any surprises?

AG:

Well, it was—I was like a fish out of water. I was like a fish out of water. I remember, you know, you get assignments almost immediately, duty assignments. One of them was to answer the phones—listen to the phones or something. One of them was shortly after I had—it must have been in the first week or two. Someone had called up on this phone—of course to answer this thing, you had to flatten yourself against the wall and, you know, this and stand at attention and look straight ahead. Anybody who was anybody other than a candidate, you had to sound off with your name—“Candidate Graham, ma’am,” and look straight ahead. Then you could move after they passed. You certainly didn’t walk down the same hallway with them.

So I must have had duty and somebody called for one of the sergeants [laughs]. Oh dear, so I just did what I normally would have done in my own house. We had a fairly good sized house. It was this inn—when guests weren’t there obviously—in Vermont and we had a nice sized house as the M1 quarters in Portsmouth shipyard and all had these big stairways. Well, following, I guess, my father’s lead—which you often did—was bellow when you wanted something or anybody. I stood at the bottom of the stairs and I did what was natural to me. I hollered up, “Sergeant so-and-so you’re wanted on the phone.” Oh God, I got so chewed out. Oh my goodness. And I accumulated, during that twelve-week period, so many chits—you know—“You know, Candidate so-and-so is not allowed. You know, Candidate, that you cannot take food out of the mess hall. You know—” I got all these chits. Anyway, that was another lesson I learned by experience.

TS:

Well, what did you think about it? What did you think?

AG:

Well, I’ll tell you that first two weeks—you know you had to get all these uniforms. We got peanut suits then. We were issued peanut suits.

TS:

What’s a peanut suit?

AG:

That was our quote, unquote “exercise gear”. I still have that—maybe you should have it. It was seersucker, beige—it looked like peanuts—it was material. Seersucker, beige, had short sleeves, and then I think it was kind of a skirt that buttoned in the front and buttoned up. But then underneath it you wore bloomers. They had elastic around them. They weren’t pant-pants. Well anyway, we called these our peanut suits. That’s what we used when we had to scrub the heads. That’s when you also learned it doesn’t take you too long after the first few days. You’ve got head duty and you’re in there scrubbing every single solitary head and every single solitary shower and every single solitary sink. You finally restrict them and there’s only one available for everybody. But everyone has to learn that as a group. We always wore it. We have a picture, I think, of me scrubbing something with my peanut suit on with a tooth brush, oh my God!

I’ll tell you. Those first two weeks for me were—to me, it was a joke. It was like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” [chuckles] I’m polishing, spitting—you’ve got to be kidding. You’re supposed to do what? I never had hair that anyone could deal with. I was born with this fine, fine, thin, straight hair. So every night when it was lights out at 9:00 o’clock, or whatever time it was. Of course, I was always behind. So I would get into this bed and get my bobby pins and I would sit there in bed—lights out. You’re supposed to be dead silent. I got things to do! I would sit there and try to screw up these curls in my hair and stick bobby pins in them. Otherwise, it’d be just straight hair that hung down like a mop. I really cared about how I looked. It didn’t make any difference, but I did the best I could.

I remember sitting there, sitting up in that bunk. I think I had three other roommates, because we weren’t in a squad bay then. It was rooms. She was one of the women I just visited in Norfolk, who is not doing well physically. Anyway, Annette and I have stayed very good friends since then. Annette was seven years older than I, so she was older. Well anyway, I was screwing in this—and I’m sure I was polishing my shoes in the dark. You had to polish every day—spit on your fingers. I was thinking, “This is so Mickey Mouse. This is stupid.” I heard this clickety-click down the hall. Oh, God! I would throw my stuff under the covers and I would just lie there with my eyes shut, you know, like a tin soldier only laying flat. I remember that.

But after two weeks, I finally decided that, you know, this is what you have to do. This is the Mickey Mouse, so if you have to do all the Mickey Mouse then you do the Mickey Mouse and that is how you get through, you get with the program. I wasn’t—what’s the word—I wasn’t “anti” the program. It was just that I couldn’t figure out how they could ask you to do such stupid things. Well anyhow, that’s how I finally got with the program and survived. [chuckles]

TS:

Very good. So your father hadn’t had you shining shoes or anything as kid? Okay.

AG:

No, no, no. There was no connection. I mean, I knew nothing about it. I don’t recall him telling me, you know.

TS:

He didn’t warn you?

AG:

Women were—he knew that there were women, because he knew through—I was out in California where he had met some other women marines and knew this woman, Julia Hamlet, who then became director of women marines. He spoke of her—not fondly, because I don’t think he knew her that well—but in very respectful—not that he wouldn’t have been respectful—very positive terms I should say. Anyway, so that was—it was quite an experience.

TS:

Well, it sounds like you made it out okay, through basic training.

AG:

Yeah.

TS:

Now did you know what you were going to be doing once you finished?

AG:

Well, this was the other story. I mean, oh God, the Marine Corps and the service was—I guess they were trying [unclear]. Then when I went in and was commissioned, there were only 110 women officers.

TS:

In the marines?

AG:

In the Marine Corps. There were only 110 women officers. And women then were either assigned to administrative positions—you were either assigned to disbursing assignments—

TS:

What’s that—disbursing?

AG:

Money.

TS:

Okay.

AG:

It’s dealing with money and checks and things like that. It was disbursing—disbursing. Or, you were assigned—let’s see—administration, disbursing—clerical—well, that’s administration, so maybe that’s not the word. Oh, I know what it was. It was not clerical, telephone operators or whatever. The other thing you were assigned to was working in women’s units, because women were totally separated by the men. They had their own units, their own battalions—if it was large enough they had battalions like at Parris Island. In other places, [they had] companies. You know, they had their own offices and they had their own women marine detachment. I mean, you weren’t in the same buildings as the men. Now, you were working with men in these other jobs, but for women officers your role working with women’s units was as the executive officer in the company—what do you call it?

TS:

Commander?

AG:

Commander. It was companies and executive officers and commanding officers of the units. So that was where we knew, basically, our assignments were. Now, it was about this time that they were then expanding more of what women could take part in. And one of the areas—as I recall, we might have been the first class where they had selected women to go into supply. They put two and two together. “Supply uniforms supply clothing—ah—this would be a connection.” I think, this is my feeling. That is how I got assigned to supply.

I did not know supply from a hole in the wall. I knew I did not want to work in a women’s unit. You have to understand I had just spent four years at a women’s college, and frankly that first twelve weeks of training I went through before I was commissioned, I never saw a male marine. I did not know at that point from my observation and experience, that there were any men in the Marine Corps.

TS:

[chuckles] Except for your father perhaps?

AG:

Right. So I just knew that I really didn’t want to work solely with women. But—

TS:

Any particular reason?                                                        

AG:

Well, I just think that, you know, there were men around. And I guess that—well, I just didn’t want to work solely with women. I guess that would not have been my first preference, I think, but I wasn’t given a preference. They test you for your GCT—you know what it is? General Classification Training. And for whatever reason, I happened to excel in spatial perception. That is one of the areas that they tested us in. That didn’t have to do with anything, but, however—so, I guess with whatever forms you had to fill out they decided that I would be good in supply.

So they sent me, and I think it was because of my connection of my background with clothing and clothing and supply and warehouses and whatever. They sent me for two months of training to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. And I think there were five of us out of my class who were sent to supply, and five of us were in this class with about thirty men. Two solid weeks—months. I never drank coffee, because I never had coffee, I didn’t drink coffee. I had the worst time trying to stay awake. I had the worst time trying to concentrate. I had the worst time trying to feign interest. It was so dull. It was so boring. But I had to do it. I got through the class, but it was terrible.

TS:

What were you thinking about at that time?

AG:

Getting through it—getting through it and getting on to a life.

TS:

Yeah.

AG:

And thinking, “Oh my God, is this all there is?”

TS:

I was going to ask you too. Off the tape earlier, you said you were offered a regular commission.

AG:

Yes.

TS:

Do you want to talk about that?  Why you accepted?

AG:

Well, you know, I’ve never felt—I was never made to feel that there was any—that there was anything that I couldn’t do, basically. But I was never made to feel that at any time that I was any better than anybody else. I wasn’t any better than anybody else. And—what was the question?

TS:

The commission you accepted. Why did you accept? You were offered a regular commission.

AG:

Oh! Then after that first two weeks and I had finally made up my mind that “You are just going to have to get with the program if you’re going to continue with this.”

So anything they would say, “Well, we need a volunteer to do this.”

Well, after that I learned that you never volunteer for anything. You’re an idiot if you volunteer. Well anyway, I was really willing to do anything that was available. I didn’t shy away from volunteering for things. I did a lot of volunteering. I made myself available. I have to tell you that I was scared to death of my own voice. I never, ever sought any positions where I had to be in front of people, or I had to quote, unquote, “lead” people. You know, I was very happy to be in the background. I would do anything. I would mop floors and sweep floors; anything. Whatever had to be to done—it didn’t bother me in the least.

And while I was at Quantico, before I finished my basic school. This was part of it. We had to go two weeks of training in their—I can’t think of the name of the school now. It is almost like public speaking. I was literally terrified. I had already had experience—not by choice—but because that was what I was assigned to do—to drill my platoon. And had to develop a cadence, which was pathetic. I knew when I marched them if I didn’t say “halt” that they would march up the side of the building and across and down the other side. They would have marched across the street in traffic. I mean I knew that and I would stand out there and inside I was shaking. And I had to do this voice—this deeper voice like I was in control. I hated it. I just feared when I had to be acting—commanding—platoon commander. So I never volunteered for anything, that I had to speak and be in front of people and perform.

So in this class that trained you to speak before others, one of the first assignments they gave us was an impromptu—you had to give an impromptu speech. I can even feel it now. I am shaking. I literally thought I would drop dead once I got up there. I was terrified, but I couldn’t pick up my skirt and run out the door. You know, I couldn’t say, “No, no, no, I can’t do this.” You can’t do that. So you have to do whatever it takes in your inner self to pretend that you can. So God, I pretended. Somehow my feet got me up there to the front. I don’t remember, I think it was maybe, “How did I get into the Marine Corps”. And I was able to get through that minute and half or three minute spiel.

When that two weeks was over I was amazed that I did not go out on a stretcher. I was amazed that I still was standing, and I had done what I had to do. It was a great feeling of accomplishment, and—of accomplishment—and what’s the word? It starts with a “C”.  Accomplishment and—

TS:

Confidence?

AG:

Confidence! That was—so, anyway.

TS:

It gave you great confidence?

AG:

I desperately needed that. I never had confidence. So anyway, whatever.

TS:

So you’re seeing yourself—are you seeing yourself in a different light, maybe?

AG:

Getting back to the—

TS:

Oh, the commission, that’s right. We didn’t go there.

AG:

I told you I had diarrhea of the mouth.

TS:

No, it’s okay.

AG:

So I was, I guess based on—well, their grading system. I honestly don’t believe it was because of my father’s position. I never ever brought that up. Some of my closest friends, you know, they would know that—none of the staff. I was—I graduated number one. There were only twenty-six in the basic course and there was only one basic class a year. And I was number one.

TS:

This is co-ed though, right?

AG:

No, no, no.

TS:

Oh, this is basic training.

AG:

This WOBT—Women’s Officer Basic Training. Anyway, so if you’re number one in the class then you’re automatically offered a regular commission. When they told me I would be offered a regular commission—now I don’t know if this was up for discussion or not—but I made sure that they understood I was only on this for two years. And I didn’t want a regular commission, because women were not allowed to have children under the age of eighteen. And a regular commission meant you were a lifer and I was no lifer, because my goal was to eventually get married and have children—to have this family. “I’m not a lifer. I’m only here for two years, so don’t give me a regular commission.”

I didn’t accept the regular commission. I said to them—I knew the second one was my good friend that I met that I just reconnected with in Norfolk. She was number two. I said, “I think she is very deserving of a regular commission.”  Her father was a master sergeant during World War One. Her mother was a Marionette: one of the first women marines. She was born in Guantanamo Bay. She had a sister who was in the Marine Corps during World War II. I was very happy that she would then be offered it. She did accept it as a regular commission.

TS:

Excellent. How did the supply training go then for you?

AG:

Well, I found out—for a number of years after that—that to be a reservist at that time was really second class. You were looked at on a lower level than people with regular commissions. That’s kind of what I found out the longer I was working at Headquarters Marine Corps. So anyway, that’s okay. It didn’t bother me. I got what I really basically wanted, and I didn’t want them to think that I was a lifer.

TS:

So you went—Where did you go to then for your first duty station after your training?

AG:

I went back to Quantico. I was in a supply department which they called “Materiel Division”.  I was in charge—so green and wet behind the years. Now that I think about it, I don’t even know how I survived it. It was minor. But anyway, I was in charge of the issue section. The issue section had—there were—one, two—I think there were about five people of us. There was me and four people that I was in charge of quote, unquote. One of them was a gunnery sergeant who probably had eighteen or twenty years in, and here I was with not even a year behind me.

It had to do with all the IBM cards. They had little holes punched in them. These cards would come in from the warehouse, because these items had been issued. Then there were these long metal tables with holes—well, not holes—with trays set inside them. Those trays were all filled full of these IBM cards. Then they had to be filed exactly where they were supposed to go. You had to be sure that the records were kept straight. And I didn’t have any idea of what I was going. And this very kind gunnery sergeant kind of basically held my hand. They knew I didn’t know what I was doing. I think they thought I knew more than did, but I didn’t. So he was very nice to me. The women were very nice to me. So it was a nice experience, but it was dull as dish water.

TS:

Did you find that while you were in the marines that you had people that did this, sort of helped you along and helped you find your way? Do you think that was—

AG:

Well, you know, I will say that generally speaking—particularly that first experience I had—I think I was well received. I think part of it was because at no time did I give the impression that I was somebody. And whether I was—they didn’t know about my military background—but I wasn’t “Here I am. I am a lieutenant and I know this.” I was very—what’s the word—

TS:

Receptive?

AG:

Well, not just receptive. I was very—I can’t think of the word. I was very low key. And the men I was working with—the ones who were over me. They were very nice to me. In fact, I think within a year that I was there—because I worked there for two years—it might have been the second year—I was invited to go to with either nine of ten of the supply officers—to go down to Albany, Georgia, to go to the supply depot, which was where a lot of the warehouses were to supply troops.  So I was invited to go to—it wasn’t a base—it wasn’t a Marine Corps base. If it was it was minute—maybe it was a Marine Corps supply center.

Anyway I don’t recall just now. But I was the only woman with these eight or nine other men, but I had a nice relationship with them. They just kind of took care of me. And I must say, I had a lot of fun with them—other than whatever we did during the day with these different meetings and all. I was green behind the ears. I said, “Oh yes, I think that is very true.” I just tried my best to act like I knew something, which I didn’t. In the evenings they were—we were going to go bar hopping. I didn’t know bar hopping from a hole in the ground. So they’d take me with them. Here I was—we didn’t have to be in uniform, so here I was in my civilian clothes. And we’d go bar hopping from one to the other. And we’d laugh and tell jokes. If they had music on then someone would be dancing. And I really had a great time. I remember they wrote up in the paper—I think I have a copy of this—that I was the first distaff. I think they said, “Distaff”. They called me a distaff.

Are you familiar with that term?

TS:

Yes. You can explain for people that aren’t.

AG:

Well, I—a distaff meant that I was the first woman who had been—had ever visited that supply depot. So they had a picture of me. I think they said that I had graduated from the University of North Carolina, or whatever it was, I don’t know. Well, anyway, I did. I had lots of fun with them. So I had a nice relationship with the people that I worked under and with the people who were quote, unquote, under me. So it was—they did, I think they did look out after me. One of them kind of got interested in me and I let him know that I wasn’t—you know, forget it. You know whatever. Some of them, it didn’t matter if they were married or not, but he wasn’t.

TS:

Now what did you think about then—what you wanted to do, you said early, was to work with men—and maybe women too—but not exclusively with just women. So how was that working out for you?

AG:

Well, I mean I liked men. I’ll have to tell you too—it was when later, as a reservist, I was in my mid to late thirties, believe it or not, when I finally really realized that men were not smarter than I was. I think that was a carryover from my father. Because he always said, “Well, I used to get A’s. Well, I used to get A’s”. I guess he felt he needed to do that. So I always felt I was dumb or I was stupid, and everybody knew more than I did. Later, about this incident that occurred, it was then that I realized that, “You really are dumber than I am.”

TS:

What happened?

AG:

Well, one of my reserve affiliations was with a Marine Corps helicopter squadron at Selfridge National Guard Base, north of Detroit. Yes. And this was when I joined there—and again—I had again gotten off active duty. I had moved here to Ann Arbor and I joined that unit in ’71. It was several years after that when someone—I think he and I were both the same rank, but he out ranked me—I think we were lieutenant colonels, but he outranked me. His date of rank was before mine, but we were both lieutenant colonels.

I remember passing by his office, because he was then the commanding officer of the squadron. I remember passing by his office and there was, I think, a corporal sitting there. I remember this quote, unquote, commanding officer stating to this little corporal—the exact words were—all right, let me get it right. “I don’t want to hear your problems. I have plenty of my own.”

I was floored. I was floored. I thought, “How could you, as his commanding officer—I don’t care what the situation was—be so stupid to utter that to someone that you are supposed to be leading.” I tell you—it’s just like a light bulb went on. And then I knew I was not—I was smarter than at least some of them. Anyway, whatever, and I was the only women in that 400—I really outranked them all at one time.

TS:

That was in ’71?

AG:

Well, eventually ’74-’75. But I was happy. I was very—I don’t care that I outranked them by four ranks, I was very happy to have a reserve assignment. So I didn’t care—whatever I had to do to cowtail [sic, kow-tow] to them to do whatever. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. I was happy to have an assignment. I liked the affiliation.

TS:

Well, if we go back—where were we at—were we at Parris Island yet?

AG:

I know you’re getting tired of this.

TS:

No, I’m not, actually.

AG:

I told you its diarrhea of the mouth.   

TS:

So you were at Quantico for?

AG:

I was at Quantico for four years. After two years in this supply—which was so boring—I then requested which was—anyway—let me back up a minute. When I finished my women officer’s basic class then, that’s when we were put in—we were separated from men even for six weeks when we became brand new lieutenants. Once we finished that women officer’s basic class—it must have been around the middle of October, end of October—then we were billeted with the men in a BOQ. Now, women still had their own wing of the BOQ. The men had the other wing. So, in order to get to the women’s wing, you had to walk through the women’s common living area and then up to your rooms.

What was the question? How did I tell you that? Do you remember what question you asked me before that?

TS:

Actually, I don’t. But that’s okay. That’s an interesting story. You were talking about—you were at Quantico for four years?

AG:

Okay. I decided—how did I get off on that?

So because we were in this way, I got to know this woman. She was a warrant officer and she was probably fifteen years at least—maybe twenty years senior to me. She was with the exchange field as a finance officer. That’s how I got—now we’re back to something I can relate to: exchange, women’s clothing, feminine things. That is related to my retailing areas. [unclear] They weren’t assigning many women to exchange, but I submit a request for a change of MOS and assignment to the exchange field. Well, somehow someway, I think the guys in supply knew that “This really isn’t your cup of tea. You can be better utilized in, you know, in another area.” I think they realized that and they appreciated my desire to apply.

So that’s how I got assigned to the exchange field and basically I loved it. I was assigned as a personnel officer. I was assigned as an assistant exchange officer first and then my additional duties were the personnel officer and I was also the finance officer. I think this warrant officer then had received orders to go elsewhere. Really, it was a nice assignment. I had a lot to do. I realized that I was comfortable—what’s the word—I liked dealing with people. I realized that I was drawn towards an area that dealt directly with personnel and what have you.

TS:

Where were you at when you started?

AG:

That was at Quantico. I was at Quantico.

TS:

Okay. You started there.

AG:

And I did fine until my two year duty there ended abruptly.

I had become—when was—was that the one? Yes, abruptly.

It got so that I knew some of the women who were secretaries there. I didn’t have a secretary, but the exchange officers did. I got to know Mrs. Russell and she was always nice to me. And, you know, I would chit-chat now and then. And, you know, I think the women—I think they appreciated me because I was very—what’s the word?  I was very communicative with them. And I was very comfortable with them. It was never, “Well, I’m this and I’m that.”

Anyway, so an incident—a situation had occurred. I was seeking therapy. My aunt in Washington, who worked for the CIA, she said, “Adele, you know, the person I could refer you to” —because I just felt that I needed to sit down and talk to someone about my own personal life. She said, “I believe this” —I can’t think of his name now—“He would be someone I would recommend you to.” I think he had retired from the CIA, but he had been the head psychiatrist at Langley with the CIA.

So I met with him. Now, this was something that I did on my own. A lot of it had to do with issues from my background and the fellow that I was dating. I needed someone to help me get things straightened out. I also knew that in no way, shape, or form, could the military be informed that I was going to seek treatment with a psychiatrist—or whomever it was—because if that came to be a part of my record, then it was reason for being unstable and probably eventual separation. So it was a secret.

Now, when I went to see him he said, “All right, this is how much I charge” —which was twenty dollars an hour and I guess he set it up—“I will expect to see you once a week for an hour and I—the commitment is for two years.”

Now, there was no way that I could commit myself to two years on my own, because I could get orders anytime to go anywhere. So I took the leap of going directly to the director of Women Marines. The director of the Women Marines came directly under the commandant of the Marine Corps. The director of Women Marines dealt with all women marines. That was her function. So any business that any women had—orders, discipline, discharges—went through her office.

Are you doing okay?

TS:

I’m doing great. This is very interesting.

AG:

Do you want to take another break?

TS:

No, no, not yet. Is this the same women marine director that your father knew?

AG:

Yes, yes, yes. So I—I think she had left then but there another—there were a Colonel Henderson in her place. So I felt that in order for me to make this commitment—it had to do with my own personal well-being—I had to talk with the director of Women Marines directly in private to see if there was some way that she could assure that I would not receive orders during that two year period, because it was very important for me to make this commitment and make it two years.

So I went—that was part of the problem—all of the sudden—no, no, that wasn’t it. As soon as I saw him I made this appointment with her. I went up and I talked with her. She basically said, “Well, I don’t think that that would be a problem.” Basically she said, “I will see that you don’t have orders within that two year period”. It was only two years. We put down the date of when it was, you know, May of two years later, whenever it was.

So I went back about my business. That was when I applied to the exchange field. Then, out of the clear blue sky, after a year and a half, all of a sudden I got orders. I got orders to—I don’t remember where I got orders to. I think they were going to send me to—I don’t remember where I got orders to. I got orders and I just nearly dropped my teeth. This can’t happen! Well, the exchange officer was out of the office at that point. Now if he had gone elsewhere, or was just gone for the afternoon—I don’t know. There was a sergeant major who wasn’t an officer, and I guess the other assistant was around. I don’t know. I don’t understand. I think it was a sergeant major. If not, it was another warrant officer—maybe it was another warrant officer who was below me in rank. I said to him—whoever it was—I said, “I have something very unexpected that has come up. And I need to go to Headquarters Marine Corps this afternoon and speak with the director of Women Marines.” So I did.

The next day when I went into work, the exchange officer—his name was Major Sisson—called me in. And he said he wanted to speak to me. And he did. He told me I was being reassigned effective immediately. And I had demonstrated—for the reason of being derelict in my assignment—in leaving my—I don’t know if he said “post”—leaving my assigned duty without permission and taking personal matters ahead of  Marine Corps matters.

That was it. I walked out of the office. He didn’t know this. And I had to pass by Mrs. Russell. I was in tears. I was shaking. I was very, very hurt. I guess I told her that this was such a shock. I couldn’t tell him why. And I couldn’t tell her why. I said, “I only did this because it was absolutely necessary.”

And he claimed “The gall you had to go directly up there to the Women Marines, that’s just like if I go directly to the commandant” —he said. Well, my feelings were hurt and I was crushed. So, I was assigned to the women marine detachment, where it was all women.

TS:

That was still at Quantico?

AG:

That was at Quantico. Because of that then, I received a bad fitness report. It said I was incompetent and I had left my duty assignment without any notification—without leaving anybody officially in charge. It just went on and on. I had signed documents that had errors in them. He just threw a bunch of stuff, so finally when I got that—one of the—this major, head of the detachment, she said “I’m going to suggest you talk to so-and-so, and she’ll help you write your letter of rebuttal.” They realized—but I don’t know even then if I shared what it was with them. So anyway—

Because of that—anytime a woman—I don’t know about men—but I do know anytime a woman got a bad fitness report, then you had a red stamp on your official record—Marine Corps record. We called it a strawberry stamp—you had a strawberry stamp on your record. So anytime that somebody pulled that record for any reason without having to go through it, they already knew that you had received a bad fitness report—an unsatisfactory fitness report. So it was almost like you were doomed. You carried that around almost like the “Scarlet Letter” [Nathanael Hawthorne novel] with the A. It was like you were stuck with that the rest of your career.

Later, after the women’s lib[eration] movement, they eliminated it. You know how they eliminated it? They cut it off. They cut it off—the corner, they cut off of your record. I mean really, I ask you. So anyway, that was that. That was really a side that led into this—whatever you had asked me about.

TS:

Well, that’s very interesting. Let us take another break because you have gone another        hour.

AG:

I know. I know. So what are we going to do about this? Is it 1:30?

TS:

Yeah. We’re doing alright.

AG:

But you—

TS:

Let me turn if off here for a second.

Okay, we’re back here with Adele. We had a little break. She’s still chewing so I will just recap a little bit. We were talking about Quantico and you had a performance evaluation report that maybe was not so favorable. Also, I was wondering at this time—so you had told me from the beginning—two years and that was it. Now, you’re already more than two years at this point. What was it that made you go beyond that two years?

AG:

Well, because—well, when I signed up for two years it was like signing up for your life. Two years was eternity and that was all that I could handle. It was like, “What else is there?” So you might as well hang in there. I wasn’t getting married or having children. What else was I going to do? So I kept extending. Those two years were over, and I guess I extended for a year.

TS:

Were there any other benefits that you saw?

AG:

No. It was just, “Well, this is a job. You’re getting paid for it. You don’t have anything else on the horizon so you might as well just—” I only saw—I only could see short distances ahead.  I just couldn’t have handled the fact that I would be in for twenty-some years, which meant that if I was in for twenty-some years that I would not have the opportunity to get married and have children. So I just couldn’t—that was not part of my—

TS:

So you saw that as a road blocking to having—

AG:

Absolutely. “I’m only here temporarily.” Six months at a time? Fine. I didn’t need any more than that.

TS:

So you just kept extending it? Okay.

AG:

That’s all part of this DD 214. [A DD 214 is a document issued by the United States Department of Defense upon military service member’s retirement, release, or discharge from the military]

TS:

That’s funny [chuckles]. What do you think about the idea that—I totally lost my train of thought. Where was I going to go on that? I was going to get you to Parris Island, that’s what we’ll do.

AG:

That’s another story.

TS:

Okay. Getting to Parris Island. What happens there?

AG:

So, out of the clear blue sky, as soon as my two years was up—meanwhile they sent me back to this women marine detachment. I didn’t like the lieutenant colonel who was in charge. I mean, nobody really liked her. And I was working with all these women again. I remember we had an inspection coming up. I worked in the supply department and got issued toilet paper and paper towels. I don’t know what it was. And the sergeant says, “Oh, you’ve got to get ready for this inspection.” The normal routine of course was you’ve got to clean. I said, “Okay, here hand me that vacuum cleaner and I will go on vacuum.”

“Captain, you cannot vacuum!”

“Yes, I can! It’s not a big deal.”

“Captain, you cannot vacuum!”

So I guess I finally said, “Okay.” So anyway, I didn’t enjoy my six months there. The six months brought me to end of that two-year period of my therapy. As soon as that two years was up, on almost the exact day I had another set of orders. And these orders were to report to—of all places—Parris Island, South Carolina. It was never on my list of California, Europe, and Hawaii. So feeling, “Oh my god, what are they doing to me?” I reported into Parris Island. I’m telling you I’m going through the marshes and all of the Spanish moss hanging down from these trees and all the swamps I crossed—and I thought, “Oh my god, what are they doing to me?” 

So anyway, I reported in.  And we lived in cinder blocks again.

TS:

What do you mean by that—cinder blocks?

AG:

That’s what all the BOQs were made out of, was cinder blocks. I had then two rooms because I was a captain. That was also where I requested my second request mass. Are you familiar with request mass? Well, remind me. So anyway, we had two rooms. Of course, there was one room with a bath in between and then there was another room.

TS:

Kind of like a suite?

AG:

Well, that’s a loose term.

Anyway, so I knew that I was not going to be there long because I did not want to leave Washington. I was happy in Washington, I mean, there was civilization up there. And I felt I was being put away. I mean, I might as well have been put away. I had no intention of being there any longer than I could figure out how not to be there. Therefore, one whole room, I kept with my boxes packed ready to go.

TS:

At a moment’s notice?

AG:

In the other room is where I had I think one of those, whatever they were. Swedish couches—wooden things with the cushion. I had my single iron bed. Anyway, the reason I got sent there, I found out was—I thought, “Oh how could you do this to me?” —was because of my father’s friend Julia Hamlet, who then after she had finished her tour as director of Women Marines—which was probably a two or four year tour—I don’t know. At that point, she had the option of either be released from active duty or to accept another assignment as a lieutenant colonel, because there were no permanent colonels in any services at that point.

TS:

For women.

AG:

For women.

So she decided, “I will accept assignment to lieutenant colonel.” So she was assigned to Parris Island as the commanding officer of the women marine battalion—recruit battalion. And she thought Adele—Captain Graham—with her home ec background and interest in clothing, she would be the perfect one to assign to the women’s clothing unit, which solely was responsible for issuing women’s clothing to all the recruits. Of course I did not find this to my liking, but, you know, you have to pretend.

So of course, I pretended that this was fine. I kept thinking, “Oh my god, why are you doing this to me in this warehouse with all these women’s clothing.”

I had the nicest—of course it was working with women—nicest woman sergeant. And her name—what was her name? —White. She was a staff sergeant—Staff Sergeant White. She was darling. And she appreciated me. I don’t know how, but she appreciated me. I liked her very much, so we got along together very well. I even saw her about twenty-five years later at a semi-annual—semiannual—biannual—whatever it is—aniv—

TS:

A reunion of sorts?

AG:

Not a reunion—anniversary of the Women Marine Association.

TS:

Oh, okay.

AG:

And she hadn’t changed a bit. Anyway, so it was really nice to see her. Anyway, so that’s what I did. With my background, of course, I couldn’t issue these uniforms and let these young women marines walk out of there with these ill fitting skirts and jackets. So I took it upon myself that I would be directly involved in the alterations.

So consequently, I am sure that the alteration budget went from, you know, low-low to extremely high, because I knew how they should be fit. And so I was directing the women who did the actual pinning, and saying “No, no, this needs to be taken in here. No, no, this is not even. No, no the skirt has to go so and so.” So anyway—whatever—I think I did that for probably about six months. And I thought, “I’ve got to get out of here. There’s got to be something else.”

I guess I went over to the exchange. And I said to—I met with the exchange officer and I said, “You know, I have an exchange MOS—”

[Tape paused]

TS:

This is Therese Strohmer. It is July 29th, 2009. I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m here with Adele. We’re on tape two—actually disc two for the Women’s Veteran’s Historical Collection for the oral history project. We’re going to continue here talking to her. We’re going to talk about—Adele was going to Parris Island. She was telling us about some of her experiences there.

[chuckles] She’s getting some pretzels. We were talking about going to the filling station.

AG:

Yes. I was going—the exchange officer had gone on two weeks leave. And I was in the position of running the exchanges as his assistant exchange officer. Well, I’m still very green around the ears.

And I think I had begun—I had already started telling about the fact that there was this young man who was, I would just guess, in his teens. He was fairly stocky. He was not real swift. He was black. We were in the South, which was a new experience for me. He also worked at the filling station which was part of the exchange. I know—I had always been getting gas there, so I was aware of him working there. He usually filled the tanks and he washed the windows, and probably put in oil if they needed it—whatever. I did know that I had heard on other occasions when I was there that some of the people that serviced—which were officers and enlisted—I heard them use the term—the derogatory term of “boy”.

And when they would call him to do something that they wanted done or he wasn’t moving fast enough—he would always be referred to as “Boy”. “Boy, come here, I need this done now. Boy, would you go get so-and-so?”

It was never in a pleasant—never said pleasantly. To me it was degrading.

So here I am, brand new to this exchange. The exchange officer is gone, and within a few days that I’m there one of the enlisted in the exchange—he worked in the exchange as part of the staff—he came up to me and presented me with a piece of paper. He said, “We have to fire this boy.” He said, “He is inefficient. He does not do the job that he was hired to do. He is not an asset. It is time for him to go.” And whatever spiel they gave me, I did my best to believe them.

And I felt that as an assistant exchange officer that it was my duty then to follow their recommendations and to fire him. Which I did. Now, I should have known enough to know that there had to be some guidelines for firing him: such as a two week’s notice, or prior paperwork that stipulated that this was the last time, if he was reprimanded again or whatever. I don’t recall, but I did—I fired him.

When the exchange officer returned, luckily he didn’t fire me.  He did say, “Oh this could have been a real problem by your doing this on the spot, because legally the exchange office—the exchange—has to give two week’s notice” —or whatever it was.

Well, anyway, that was just an experience that I got involved in. I didn’t act—I didn’t follow the correct procedures. Luckily, there were no repercussions. It has always, always, always bothered me. It’s just always bothered me. I really didn’t do the right thing.

TS:

Well, let me ask you a little bit about being in the South—having been raised outside the South—what other kind of experiences or feelings did you have about that with race relations and things like that? You were talking about ‘63-ish or so, maybe.  

AG:

Yes, in fact that was probably ‘65.

TS:

Okay, maybe a little later.

AG:

It was ‘65. Well, you know—when I joined the Marine Corps as officer candidates, there were no black women who were in the officer candidate training we had for the twelve weeks before it was commissioned. Anyone who was an officer candidate then moved up to go to the women officer’s basic course, and there were no blacks in that of any students who returned after they graduated to complete women officer’s basic course. And there were no Asians. It was a Caucasian society—period. Now, there definitely were enlisted women. There definitely were enlisted women. My only contact with them mainly was—either they worked in the exchange, and I mentioned Sergeant White. I think Sergeant White was black. She was light skinned—not real light. As I said, she was highly respected. She just—I just loved her. I could really depend upon her. I don’t think I ever had prejudices myself, but I had just—I guess I was really persuaded by these senior enlisted men in the exchange field. They just persuaded me and convinced me, and I just—

TS:

You mean for this one incident?

AG:

For the one incident with the young black man at the service station.

Anyway, I never—I mean, they were just like I was. I never distinguished myself from them. As I said, I did not have any immediate contemporaries. As far as I know, none of the other women who were of Asian descent or were black—as far as I know—I never heard of any discrimination towards them. I never saw any discrimination towards them. I never—I wasn’t aware that they were treated any differently. That’s why I feel so badly about what I did to this young man.

TS:

Did you think that they wanted him gone because of his race, though? Did it have to do with his work?

AG:

It was derogatory the way that they referred to him. And I wish that I would have had enough wherewithal to really have been able to step back and look at the situation more carefully and analyze it little more. Because it may have been solely race oriented, but I kind of don’t think so. I think it was basically because they wanted him to hop a lot faster than he was. I don’t think probably he was capable of that. I have a feeling he was mentally impaired in some manner. But he shouldn’t have been treated—I should not have treated him that way. He never should have been treated that way, being called “Boy” —I don’t care whatever, never, never, never.

TS:

Right. Well, this is a period of time too—we’re backing up little bit then. You went in first with Eisenhower and then with John F. Kennedy.

AG:

Yeah.

TS:

Do you have any remembrances of JFK?

AG:

As far as its effect on military?

TS:

Well, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis while you were in. Do you remember that?

AG:

I did. I did.

TS:

She’s rolling her eyes; I don’t know what that means.

AG:

Well, all right. I will tell you. I really—you know—when you are on a base and elections are coming up—at least the bases I was on at that time in my life—there was no to-do about politics. It was never discussed. There weren’t any banners up. It was never discussed. You were never encouraged, nor there banners or signs or flyers—“Be sure you register in your home state so you can vote. Be sure there will be a meeting of those who have democratic affiliations”. There was zero of that—zero. 

And you know I didn’t read papers when I was in college. I only had a needle in my hand or a pencil, and I just—forget it. And I went into the Marine Corps right after I got out of college. So I didn’t automatically jump into reading the newspaper. There were other things to do, so I didn’t [read the newspaper]. I really was not much into any politics or party affiliation until, you know, a number of years.

TS:

Well, when you first went in we had the Bay of Pigs. Do you remember any of that?

AG:

I remember this.  I don’t—I remember Kennedy’s—I definitely remember television. We had black television screens. The only place that you television was in the communal areas you know. I remember when Kennedy gave his spiel about the Bay of Pigs. I remember very definitely. We all sat there and listened very carefully to his speech. But there wasn’t—there wasn’t any. I just don’t remember lengthy discussions or arguments, what we should do or what we shouldn’t do. It was a matter of being informed of what was happening, and in our world, it didn’t affect us directly, you know, that’s the way we kind of looked at it. I don’t think I was an exception to the rule. I think that was just the way we were.

TS:

What about when he was assassinated?

AG:

Well, I was at the exchange, the one I got fired from, when I think I was coming back from my lunch break. We had an hour and half for lunch. I got to work at eight and had an hour and half off for lunch. I went home to take a nap, and then you were out at 4:30.  It was great, believe me. And I remember coming back from lunch and I think I had my radio on. I had heard about what had happened. I remember walking in and one of the six exchange officers was there. In fact, I think he was sergeant major. I remember saying, “Did you hear about what happened to Kennedy?”

And he said, “Oh yes, I did.”

I mean, we were devastated. We really were devastated. That was how I found about it.

TS:

So it’s ’65 when you were at Parris Island. And now you have a point here where you are going to get out of the active.

AG:

Off active duty.

TS:

Why do you tell me why you decided to do that?

AG:

Well as I said, I felt I was being put away. I mean this was not my cup of tea. I was not ready to be put away. I liked to be in a place where I felt there was be socialization. I liked to be able to get in my car—and if it meant driving around the Washington beltway three or four times because I was sure that they moved one of exits, I couldn’t find it, so I had to go around again—you know—up and down from Quantico to Washington to Annapolis. I was much more restricted there. And there was much less chance to socialize. It was just very limited. You had less—less—you really couldn’t—your only affiliation was with military period. You obviously had some people you liked better than other and some that really became your friend—be your friends. And I just—I just said, “I don’t want this. I want to be where the things were happening. I don’t like this.” And I was not one of the people who liked to go out on the beaches. It was too remote.

So I decided. I had put my eighteen months in and that was it. It was time for me to leave. So I requested—prior to that time, back up a minute, the most important part of my military life was—I’m sorry to say this but I might as well be honest and frank—were my leaves.  That was the most important part.

TS:

Well, let’s talk about them.

AG:

So, when I knew that I could have thirty days leave; that was wonderful. You could get an extra two days if you covered a weekend with it or whatever. I had been on several trips because of hops prior to this time, but this one trip I went on from Parris Island.  I had already been there a good year, when I asked for a month’s leave because I wanted to go to—I think—I can’t remember, where I was going. Oh, I think I was going—I think I was going to Europe. I wanted a month. And then my good friend Julia Hamlet—Colonel Hamlet—not a good friend—I mean a nice person and not certainly Julia, but colonel. She decided that I could only be gone three weeks, so that really was cutting down my freedom. Anyway, I went and had a good time.

TS:

Where did you go?

AG:

I went to Europe.

TS:

Where?

AG:

I think I went to Scandinavia. I think I might be getting my trips mixed up.

TS:

That’s okay. We don’t have to get them in order.

AG:

It might have been Scandinavia? Was it Scandinavia? Anyhow, the upshot of that was when I got back I found out that someone who was four years junior to me—I had just made captain and think she just made second lieutenant—she was four years junior to me—lived in the BOQ—she had just got—men were separated from women in the BOQ—lived in the women’s BOQ and had not been there very long—but while I was gone—I got back and I found out that she had been given permission to move off the BOQ and to  live in civilian quarters—live off the base in her own apartment. And she was junior to me!  

I was not happy about that, because you know, RHIP.        

TS:

RHIP?

AG:

Yes.

TS:

What’s that stand for?  

AG:

Rank Has Its Privileges.

TS:

There we go.

AG:

Therefore, because I was upset about this, I decided I had to request mass with the commanding general. This was my second request mass—not with him. My first was at Quantico, and anyway, so I requested mass. I was not very fond of this general, but whatever. I said that I had not been given the opportunity to move off base. And basically his explanation was, well, I wasn’t there. And the opportunity came up for someone to move off base, and the lieutenant who requested it was, I guess, the next senior person who wanted to go. I guess they went down by rank, who wanted to go, and hers came up. She had the opportunity and she moved off base.

I said, “I think this was very unfair.”

He then explained to me that, “You have it all wrong. It is a privilege to live aboard the base.”

Therese just rolled her eyes.

TS:

You’re not supposed to share that, Adele! [laughs]

AG:

It was a privilege to live aboard the base. “So Captain, you do not know what you are speaking of and therefore you have no”—basically, he didn’t say it in these words—“you have no legs to stand on. And that’s the end of the story. You may leave.” Then I found out that it was always a privilege to live aboard the base—always, even though people were out in their own houses—et cetera. Anyway, that’s the end of that.

TS:

So that didn’t set real well with you?

AG:

No, no, no.

TS:

Okay. So now you’re at this point where you’re not real crazy about your options?

AG:

I’ll just tell you another quick story.

TS:

Okay.

AG:

My father—

TS:

Your father—

AG:

—happened to have been very good friends with the commanding general of the base of Parris Island. He was a major general then—Major General Berkley. Now, because the Marine Corps was very small in the thirties and into the forties and all the senior officers knew each other, so everyone was like friends and family. We all grew up calling them Phil and Marge Berkley, like we did Vivian and whatever his name was, Twining, in Quantico. So Phil was the commanding general of Parris Island, and here I report as a captain.

Oh no, you know what it was? It wasn’t Parris Island. That happened at Camp Lejeune.

TS:

Okay.

AG:

Phil Berkley was a commanding general of Camp Lejeune, and I had been down there and took two weeks of school. He gave out the certificates after you finished school. He knew that I was there, so they had invited me over one evening to a party at their quarters. And I snuck.

[Cellular phone ringing]

TS:

Okay.

AG:

And I snuck out of the BOQ where I was living. I snuck out of it and I went over. Someone said, “Where are you going?”

I said, “Oh, well, I have to meet somebody but I’ll be right back”.  And I went over and had this cocktail party. It was like—I was almost like “Well, you really shouldn’t be here” —I was saying to myself. But I felt very comfortable with them. I felt very—I mean it was Marge and Phil—whatever.

It ended up that he was there to hand out the certificates after we’d completed school. So here he is sitting up on the stage—

TS:

Podium, well, not podium—

AG:

Well, anyway, he was just sitting kind of relaxed. I go up to get mine and he gives it to me, and then he says to me as I’m standing there in front of whomever—it was certainly more than me—there were a lot of people there. He says, “Oh Adele, I wanted to talk to you afterwards. Would you stay? I’ve got a couple of questions I want to ask you.”

And of course I nearly could have almost absolutely dropped dead. It was like, “Oh my god, don’t say that to me in front of all these people! They don’t know that I know you! You’re embarrassing me!”

TS:

But you stayed I’m sure.

AG:

Well, I stayed, but if there was a hole I would have just fallen down into it. “Nobody knew that I knew anybody and now my life is ruined.”

TS:

Tell me, now, what was your thinking when you decided to change from active to reserve status, because that’s what is happening here pretty soon right?

AG:

Okay, so what I did was I got off of active duty.

TS:

You just snapped? Okay.

AG:

That was it, because I didn’t really have any—I’m trying to think. Somewhere along here—I don’t know just when—I don’t think it happened at that point—Maybe it did—I don’t know, I’m a little confused here.

TS:

That’s okay; we don’t have to be exactly chronological.

AG:

There was somewhere along the line that—either I got wind that  I was getting orders, I think to New Orleans, and put in the recruiting field. I’m a Northerner.

TS:

She’s pointing up. [chuckle]

AG:

And I’m a Northerner. And I guess New Orleans—I didn’t really want to go to New Orleans. I really wanted to go back up to where my stomping grounds were, and that was in Washington and up into New England. That was where I was comfortable. Somewhere somehow, I let it be known that I didn’t really want to go to New Orleans.

And whether this was at that incident I don’t know, but I did get off active duty.  I had accepted a job at Jordan Marsh Company, which was New England’s largest department store. I entered their executive training program for assistant buyers, which was a year long program. So during that time—I did that basically because I had such good experiences—generally speaking—with working in that phase of businesses: departments stores or exchanges. However—and they did hire me, for—I think I got a 110 dollars a week and this was in 19—seventy—1967, I think—a hundred and ten dollars a week. That was what women were hired in as while in the executive training program. But men got paid an extra five dollars a week. I think it was five—if not, it was ten—five, I think—because they probably had families and they needed it more. Which did not set with us well then at all, but what could we do?

TS:

What were feeling about that—in the military where you got equal pay?

AG:

Well, that was a big deal. But I will tell you what irritated us as women marines at Quantico. Here were all these young school teachers. They were being paid by the Marine Corps to teach children in school on Marine Corps bases. And yet, they could live in civilian housing like normal people. But for single women—and obviously, you know, single women and single men had to live in BOQs—I guess—I never paid that much attention to men, but I think that that was true. I think that might have been true. Even if you might have been a captain or you might have been a major or a warrant officer, you were confined to one room. That really irritated us as women, that we were confined to one cinder block room, that’s what that was made out of. And they were all painted a pale green and we had tin furniture. But, these young women had houses that—they were paid to live in houses and to teach the children. That really irritated us. So, whatever. All right.

You were asking me something about—so I got up to—I went to Boston and then I finished that year’s program. I ended after that. And I joined a unit—I joined a unit while I was there. When was that? Okay. I joined—shoot. Oh dear, I joined—

TS:

That’s okay.

AG:

Well, anyway. I ended up back in Washington. I finished that program and there was a difference in being a chief cook and a bottle washer. I went from a chief cook position to a bottle washer position with Jordan Marsh Company. And, you know, I was a do-e and not the doer. I didn’t like this boss I had to work under. This women—buyer—I thought, “Oh jeez, I don’t know.” I missed Washington, so I went back to Washington and— finished the program and got my certificate and went back to Washington. Then—they had some—what did they call it—maybe, you know? They have some, not special jobs—temporary.

TS:

TDY?

AG:

Yeah.

TS:

Temporary Duty?

AG:

Yeah, temporary duty jobs. So I found out that there were some of those available. For six weeks I was hired for a specific project. You know, I went back on active duty for that  six weeks. That was great. And then, you know, whatever. Finally they said that they could really use me on a full time basis. I went back another couple of years or so. I was back for two or three years. I think I told you—I already told you about when I was going to be promoted to major. Did we put that on the tape?

TS:

I don’t remember.

AG:

And I went to this major, and I said “Whatever you do, don’t submit the special report”?

TS:

Oh no, I don’t think we put that on tape.

AG:

You didn’t put that on tape? Well I was going through a very difficult divorce at that time. It was very, very difficult. I went to the major. I didn’t work under her, but she was the administrator of the office for the colonel who headed that branch where I was working. It was common then that when anyone was going before a board that a special report was submitted on that person covering any period of time that had not been covered already by the annual fitness report that had been sent in. And I purposely went to her. I said, “Please do not submit a special report for me.” I said, “I am not qualified to be promoted from captain to major. I just have to tell you this so that you don’t do this.” I was just in a very traumatic period of my life.

Well, rather she submitted it or not—or a report was submitted—and she didn’t write it. It would have been submitted by the officer in charge of where I worked. But I got promoted. I just grit my teeth and kept my fingers crossed and thought, “Oh my god, how am I going to do this now as a major? I don’t know anything!” So I got through that in spite of myself.

TS:

In spite of yourself. That’s right.

AG:

Oh man.

TS:

So you were—okay— I want to make sure I understand.

AG:

It’s very confusing.

TS:

No, it’s not very confusing. It’s just a little confusing [chuckles]. You went active duty from about ’59 to about ’65-ish? Then you got out of active duty but you went to a reserve unit. You were attached to a reserve unit.

AG:

Oh, you know what?

TS:

We’re missing something?

AG:

No. I—hang on. I tried to get into a unit for that year that I was with Jordan Marsh Company in Boston. And they were filled—there was no slot for me. Only—I mean I was just getting ready to finish my training program and move back to Washington—did they then say “There is a spot.” So I was not actually affiliated directly with the unit, as a reservist while I was there. So actually it turned out to be an inactive year for me.

TS:

I see.

AG:

In the whole scheme of my thirty-one years.

TS:

Oh, okay. Then when you went back to the Washington D.C. area, then you joined?

AG:

Well, I didn’t join a unit then, because that’s when I—

TS:

Went back active?

AG:

Yes. I was a reservist on active duty.

TS:

Now, did you stay a reservist on active duty for the rest of the time that you were in?

AG:

I think pretty much. I said—I think I got one or two short assignments. Then there was a longer term assignment—you could come on then as a reservist to be there for a year and you could extend it for another year as long as you were filling a billet, and you were needed. That suited me fine.

TS:

So did you do any other job besides the marines while you were on the—

AG:

Oh, I did. I did.

TS:

What else were you doing, while catching hops and— [chuckles]

AG:

Yes, I took advantage of my spare time and all my leave. What was I doing? Well, I was working for Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics for a while.

TS:

Okay. What is that?   

AG:

You haven’t heard of Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics?

TS:

I’m afraid I haven’t.

AG:

Okay, well. That’s because it was before your time. Evelyn Wood—this was this special system that had been developed by Evelyn Wood. And it taught you how to read very rapidly and retain all the stuff you had read—whether you were reading technical books or you were reading novels—I mean, there was no need to spend days reading a novel if you can read it in hours—or an hour.

TS:

I might need this for my comprehensive exams.

AG:

Yes, you might need this. And so, I had taken one of the classes, because there was a marine who said, “I did this on the side. You might like doing this Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics.”

I said, “Well, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with myself here and all”. So I said, “Okay”. So I took the class. I said, “Oh”.

They said, “Well, we’re looking for people to teach”.

I thought, “Oh. Well, I don’t know. How much do you have to know to teach?” So I ended up that I took their program to train me to teach. Then I was conducting these classes and standing up there like I knew what I was doing—you know—saying this and that and the other. Here you’re trying to get people to sign up. Then I think I was in charge of group lessons meaning with certain companies and whatever. So I would go and give these spiels and signed up whomever and how many I could.  But I think at some point they decided that I hadn’t signed up enough people, so I got fired the second time in my life.

TS:

It was like a sales position then?

AG:

So I thought “This is unfair.” I’m learning more and more about—I thought that this is unfair—because he said, “Oh, you’re fired”, or, “We don’t need you anymore—or something. Because of this, this, and this.”  So anyway, I guess he walked out the door.

The next day I said, “No, this is not fair.” So I went back again and I said, “This is very unfair. I want to show you what I have done and what I have accomplished and how many people I have signed up, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I said, “Based on what you told me about your firing, there are no grounds for that.” I guess he listened to me and I must have convinced him, because he rehired me on the spot.

So I did that.  It seems to me that there were other things. I did do some designing, and I did sell some things that I had made at a small boutique in the Washington area. And I took some art classes. I don’t know what else I did. I guess that is kind of what I did.

TS:

So what are you doing on the marine side of the table there? Are you doing different projects?

AG:

Well, I was hired for specific projects.

TS:

Did it have to do with the supply and exchange or—

AG:

No, no, no. One of them I was hired for was a survey they were doing—or compiling information on race and inequality, you know, in the services. And this was some information that was being compiled from the Marine Corps. I do remember working on that for maybe six weeks or so. And then I also served a lot on boards—mostly on promotion boards. I had a number of periods of separate Marine Corps assignments, but I just kind of made myself available for pretty much anything that came up and I could pick and choose what I would apply for.

TS:

I see. All this is based out of headquarters?

AG:

Yeah. I was living in Washington, so I was able to do that. Then something more permanent came up, and it was you know extended into a year and then two years. I was there—I worked there for two or three years on a straight period of active duty as a reservist.

TS:

For a young girl who joined in 1959 for two years you went up through 1990, right? That’s when you retired?           

AG:

Yes. I had an extra year.

As a matter of fact—I don’t know what they had in the air force—but in the Marine Corps we have what’s called a Blue Book—we used to have what was called a Blue Book. And the Blue Book showed the name, the serial number, the birthday, the MOS, the rank, whatever, of all Marine Corps officers by rank. That’s called the Blue Book. They don’t—your name—wait a minute, I might be getting this mixed up. It’s been about twenty some years since I saw this Blue Book. I think—wait a minute—I think—I don’t know if they had one for active duty, regulars, or reserves. But I know there’s one for reserves. There is probably one for active duty, but I was involved with the one for reserves. For each rank—and depending on your longevity, I think—has the name of the regular officer that you’re listed with. So when he becomes eligible for promotion—then if his name is opposite yours—then you too become eligible and everyone, I think, under you to the next name of the regular.

Do you know anything like, I don’t think they have it for every—

TS:

I’m not really familiar with that—no.

AG:

So anyway, what it boils down to—because women—until a very few years—until the late eighties I recall—mid to late eighties—women could not be promoted above colonel in all the services. I think it was—I don’t think it was before the mid eighties.

TS;       It was actually the late sixties.

AG:

To colonel—I mean to general?

TS:

They could be, not that they were.

AG:     [unclear] I know the captain who was—

TS:

Late sixties, early seventies, I’m pretty sure.

AG:

All right, well—

TS:

Because you had General Bailey in the army. I don’t know who it would have been in the marines.

AG:

Well, the first woman marine we ever had promoted was a woman who graduated from the University of Michigan. [Margaret Brewer became the first female general officer in the United States Marine Corps in 1978. She did receive her BA from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.]

TS:

And here we are in Ann Arbor. That’s something we can look up.

AG:

But you can’t put all this in here.

TS:

No, we’re doing fine. Here’s a question for you, that you can do like a generalization.

AG:

No, I was going to tell you something.

TS:

Oh. Tell me something first then.                    

AG:

Did you turn it on?

TS:

Okay. We’re pausing and then we’re going to go back. Okay we’re going to go look some of these up. Adele might have a name for us.

AG:

The first woman marine who was ever promoted was promoted for a specific job, and it was, I believe, head of personnel at Headquarters Marine Corps—I believe that was it [Brigadier General Margaret Brewer (retired) was Director of the Division of Information at Headquarters Marine Corps]. She was the first woman. And she happened to have been one of the three platoon commanders of the three platoons we had in going through officer candidate school. And after—you know they started out with three platoons—and then pretty soon, after people dropped out for whatever reason—and then it boiled down—I guess there was three platoons in the first six weeks out of twelve weeks. And then it ended up the last there was—there were two platoons in the beginning. Then it ended up with one platoon the second six weeks of going through officer candidate school at Quantico in ’59. Of course, it was the most junior platoon commander who left after the first six weeks. Then you had the next junior platoon commander to get you through that next six weeks in officer candidate school. Then you had, in officer’s basic school, you had the most senior. She was the most senior—which we didn’t know. She was the one we liked the least. She was very difficult to talk with. Anytime you were called into her office you kind of sat there and stared at each other.  She was a nice woman but she was difficult to relate to. But for whatever--

TS:

What were you getting called into her office Adele?

AG:

Well, probably for all my chits. [laughs]

TS:

Oh yeah! That’s right.

AG:

“You know, I have this other chit here, Candidate Graham. Don’t you know you cannot fall asleep listening to a lecture?” Those were usually what I got chits for, you know. So I learned to listen to these lectures in sixty degree temperatures in the middle of the summer at Quantico, Virginia, with my eyes open. “You know, you got a chit because I saw your eyes closed. You’ve got to have your eyes open!”

Anyway, so she was selected for a specific billet. One of the problems was, in selecting women to the general ranks was they figured that you had to have experience, and almost—very few women had command experience. And because of that, you know, they just didn’t feel that you should be in that position—unless you had—so it was difficult. And maybe she was assigned in the seventies—you say the sixties.

TS:

Late sixties, early seventies, I’m sure I can look that up.

AG:

Well—

TS:

I’ll email you on that.

AG:

Okay, do.

TS:

Sixty-seven sticks in my head but I’m not sure why.

AG:

I don’t think—I don’t think—Did the Marine Corps have the first women promoted to general?

TS:

It was army.

AG:

It was army, okay, whatever. So then we had another one promoted who was one year junior to me. She was promoted, I guess. She had been in Vietnam in administration. She wasn’t—she was in administration and she was a mustang [military slang for a commissioned officer who was previously enlisted, generally a positive term]. She had come up through the ranks. She was promoted to a position. [This probably refers to Angela Salinas, who entered the U.S. Marine Corps as an enlisted service member and was later selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and received her commission in 1977. In 2010, she was selected for promotion to major general.]

TS:

Petty officer, you mean?

AG:

Yes. But most of my contemporaries—how to put this—I think they were a little surprised.

TS:

At what?

AG:

Well, that she had been selected.

TS:

Which one?

AG:

The second one.

TS:

The mustang?

AG:

Yeah. I think she had a difficult position, because she was not a man. She was not one of them. And yet, women looked at her as, “Okay, now you’ve got to help us. We’re women and these are things that need to be addressed and you’re in a position to take care—“ And I think she resented—and I think this came out in something she later wrote—that she felt pressure by women—and yet, she felt she wasn’t put there nor should she take on the role of having to solve all of the women’s problems just because she held that rank.

TS:

And because she was a woman?

AG:

Yes. So it was—I think it was a difficult position for her. I think in some respects some of the women—well, I think, they felt they had some trouble relating to her. I remember going to her specifically for something that I had experienced with as well with a lot of women. You know, the higher up in rank you go there the more isolated you became. Because you had no buddies, and that’s really important, because you’re basically out there on your own. You know, you have to sink or swim. I remember—I can’t recall it exactly now. I remember being in a position where I felt I was treated unfairly, and I just thought that she ought to be aware of this because I was not the only one. And yet, it was something—it was kind an additional duty or something that she would kind of have to undertake on her own, which probably would not have been condoned by her male contemporary generals.  You kind of understand what I’m saying.

TS:

Do you want to share your one?

AG:

I can’t remember now what it was.

TS:

Something that you felt that was just not quite right?

AG:

I remember—you know—I saved it. So if I come upon it—

TS:

So, since you started out in 1959 and you experienced the Marine Corps all the way through 1990, what would you say were some of the significant changes for marines as it relates to women? Just put that in a tight little synopsis for me. [laughs]

AG:

Wait a minute. Over that thirty year period—I was going to start to tell you which was kind of interesting. I think, in the very end, when I retired in one July—

TS:

1990.

AG:

I think I did finally find it in a recent—at that point of time—the most recent blue book we had—I think I was the most senior—I was the most senior reserve colonel, women colonel. I think I was the most senior Marine Corps reserve colonel, because you had to retire—you automatically retired at the end of 30 years if you had not been promoted to flag rank— because they were not at that point promoting any women to flag rank as a reservist.

TS:

Were they promoting men?

AG:

Oh yes, men. Oh yeah, colonels. There were definitely, for sure, colonel reservists who were promoted to general, but not women. And so it just kind of happened the way things worked out—and I still don’t understand how I got that extra year—no one said, “Oh here, have an extra year.” I don’t know if I fell through the cracks or—

TS:

There was that one year back in ’65 that you didn’t join the [chuckle] —

AG:

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. Anyway, it was 31 years from the time I went in. It was interesting, because in the actual end—here I was scared of my own shadow—yet I turned out to be the most senior colonel, male or female, when I retired.

TS:

How did that happen, Adele?

AG:

It was a fluke. It was an accident. It didn’t mean anything. It’s just that it turned out that way.

TS:

You said earlier—and I don’t think we got this on tape either—but you were talking about how you had two different personas.

AG:

Two different—on yeah, two people.

TS:

I don’t remember the words you used to describe.

AG:

I was—I don’t know what I said.

TS:

You pretend? You said you pretended to be a—somebody.

AG:

It may just fall out of my mouth in a bit. Impersonation—I impersonated.

TS:

That’s it, yeah.  You were impersonating.

AG:

I was impersonating me as a—

TS:

Marine.

AG:

As a Marine officer. It was an impersonation.  It wasn’t really me.

TS:

And she says that she did that for thirty years. She’s a good actress.

AG:

Well, whatever, kind of.

TS:

So what other changes do you think might have—

AG:

What changes happened?

Well, I’ll tell you what huge, huge, huge change was. It was when—well—I’m just—there’s in no particular order. It’s just what pops in my head—is when a lot of the MOSs were opened up to women. That was a huge change. You know, in all honesty—to this day—because the question always comes up about “how do you feel about women in combat”—I have always felt this way. I wouldn’t want to be in combat. That is not something I think I would not want to have to prove for myself, or that because men can do it I can do it. Personally, I would not want to be. Now does—you know—but that doesn’t eliminate maybe somebody who wants to be. There are a lot of ramifications about it, and I understand that, and of course that is why it has not been passed in Congress. Because nobody has the answers, they don’t want to do it as a trial period. Obviously, a lot of this came out in the—both in the Gulf War and in Iraq. It’s not a good situation. I don’t think it has opened any more doors. As far as pilots, that’s a different situation. It shows you that people even in the back, in supply can be taken as prisoners and can be sexually assaulted. I just—I can’t say, “No, no, never, never, never.” Frankly, to me, it’s almost like—you probably don’t want this personal opinion, but I’ll give it to you anyway. I would never—I believe in abortions, but I would never want to be—I don’t think I could ever have sanctioned that for myself.

TS:

You mean the right for someone to have one, you mean?

AG:

Yes, yes.

TS:

I see.

AG:

I can’t say that because this is something that I would personally want to do that nobody else should be allowed to do that. I think that is their decision. I think it’s similar with women in combat.  I mean, it can’t be—it has to be women can go or they can’t go. It can’t be “Well, if you want to go, you go.” I mean, that’s not established now. That’s kind—if that is how I understand that I relate to this. You know what I’m saying?

TS:

Like if women could be drafted and couldn’t pick and choose necessarily, unless you use the same standards.

AG:

You know, I’m sure there are some women. I mean, way back in the Civil War and other wars. I mean there were women who went to fight—and they—they wore men’s clothing, and that was okay. That was what they wanted to. I don’t think that’s a question, that because a woman is going to be allowed to be in that position—combat situation—that therefore all the men who serve with her, their lives are going to be on the line. I think then that, that’s questionable.

If your decisions have a lot of repercussions for other people around you—I mean directly for their welfare—I think that is something that has to be taken very, very seriously. Whatever that means.

TS:

Are you saying then that you think that, say, if you had a bunch of men in the foxhole and there was a woman in it, the men would want to protect the woman? Or is that an argument that people make? I’m not—

AG:

I think that was an argument that people made years ago, but with, you know, the experiences that woman have had now—and men with women—in closer combat situations like in Iraq and the Gulf War—I think it’s turning out to be every quote, unquote, “man for themselves”. That’s what I have gathered from what has been shared with us. I don’t think it’s so much, “Oh my god, get down. You can’t shoot, this is a woman.” I think the situations are happening so quickly that it’s every man for himself.

TS:

They’re just doing what they’re trained to do?

AG:

I think so. I think so.

TS:

Well, we have certainly talked quite a lot. Do you have some more?

AG:

There are a couple of more little incidents.

TS:

Oh, let’s hear them. I got to ask you a couple of questions though.

AG:

This had to do with my hops.

TS:

Okay, don’t forget that.

AG:

I’ll try not.

TS:

I’m going to ask you a question about the Vietnam War.

AG:

Okay.

TS:       Got any opinions on that since you were in the marines during it?

AG:

Well, I was at Headquarters Marine Corps from—what did we figure out?

TS:

Sixty—

AG:

Seventy—

TS:

Sixty seven to—

AG:

Yeah. ‘67 through ’71, which was the heat of the Vietnam War. And interestingly enough while I was there—you know—the men—some of them had come and gone—some of them hadn’t gone—some of them never went. But I will say during that time in the late sixties—the conversations we had there was, “This is a losing battle. We don’t understand why, you know, you don’t cut the losses and get out.” We really did believe that. We really believed that. You know, when you’re on active duty you cannot join any protests. You cannot march, et cetera, so we really observed all of that from a distance.

I remember when Washington was burning, because my office was over near Key Bridge, looking right over Key Bridge. You went over the bridge and you were in Washington.  So we were in, I think it was called Rosslyn. We were up on the—I don’t know—the tenth or eleventh floor. You could look out in the distance and see the smoke from the fires burning.

TS:

Was that in ‘68?

AG:

That was ‘68. I guess I had some of my father in me. I had some work to do there, and, you know, there is a curfew so you were to be off the streets in Washington by—I don’t know, whatever time it was—seven or eight at night—and I had something that I was working on. The building I worked in was the Donata[?] building—but it was rented by the Marine Corps—the government. Anyway, I just stayed and worked on this. And so, I thought, well, I’m driving back into Washington and the curfew was up. I was really pleased. I just all but said to myself, “Well, I’m sorry, but you know, if you have to work to do then you’ve got to do it and that’s the way it goes”. So I had the whole streets to myself. I drove back. I lived on the hill then and I drove into Washington.

But it was—I remember seeing Washington burn. It was a very moving and a very serious situation. And I was so close to Eighth Street and I—and that had a lot of ransacking of buildings.

TS:

Were you ever scared?

AG:

No, no, but I do remember up on the hill passing some of these small parks where there were all these tanks and soldiers in uniform—military in uniform—or whatever. Another quick thing. I was selected as a lieutenant at Quantico, I was my fourth—had been in for about four years. Out of the clear blue sky I was asked if I would like to be a military escort for the first family at the inauguration of the Nixon’s. They weren’t my number one choice, but I said, “That would be fine.”

So for five days, there were two women selected from each service. The first time—no women had ever been selected. They always had men. There was, you know, two from the Marine Corps, two from the navy etcetera, et cetera. We worked in offices getting things setup. And our primary job was to escort the families of the first family, you know, the cousins and the aunts and the uncles. People came out of the wood work, believe me, to claim that they were family. So we did get to go to the inaugural ball.

I did have a mess dress [formal evening military uniform], but I wanted to be like other women as I recall. I believe that I wore like a regular long dress.

TS:

Like a gown?

AG:

Gown.

But anyway, the fellow who escorted me—who I was dating briefly—was a navy commander. Anyway, it was so funny. We were standing there at this ball. And Nixon—this is about his seventh ball—we did not have two dozen or whatever they have now. He was entering with Mrs. Nixon. I’ll be darned. It was priceless, because we were towards the back. I could hear his family saying—this was his family’s ball evidently—out of the wood work—they were all dressed up—they always had long gloves then. And these women were saying, “Do you see him up there? Don’t you see? Isn’t this wonderful? Oh my goodness and look at her. This is so exciting.” It was priceless.

Oh dear. But we escorted them to Constitution Hall. We escorted them to luncheons. We escorted them over to the White House to meet—who was there before—whatever—I guess—no, no, no—neither of them, I’m getting that mixed up to something else. Anyway, it was a fun experience. It was very enlightening. It was a privilege—a real privilege.

TS:

What was enlightening about it?

AG:

It was just enlightening to see that all this family would come out of the wood work. And to think that—you would have thought that it would have been “isn’t that nice”. They were more excited than strangers standing on the street.

TS:

Kind of star struck themselves?

AG:

They were star struck.

And was there something else I was going to mention about that? So anyways, we found out through the men that they were all invited afterwards to the White House as a thank you.

TS:

All the males?

AG:

As a thank you—as a thank you for their service. And we were told by whoever who had organized this that, “I am sorry. The women are not included, but we will try to get you in if we can.” Of course, we never did, so we never got there.

TS:

Is that right?

AG:

Oh yes.  So none of the women—

TS:

What did you think about that?

AG:

Well, you know, it was man’s society. We were an afterthought, but someone at least thought to put us there. And next year, I’m sure the women were included. And pretty soon the women were included on the military staff of the White House, which I would have loved that assignment. I would have really, really loved that assignment, but it wasn’t available to me, you know, when I was there.

Another thing I was going to tell you is—you know—we took these military hops where ever and whenever we could, and I traveled pretty much to different parts of the world because of that. And I’ll never forget those two assignments. One assignment—I mean one hop I took to Bermuda. I was always running late. And I tore out of Quantico in my Volkswagen full speed ahead, in uniform, to get to Andrew’s Air Force Base, so I could get on this flight. It was a navigational flight—a training flight- out of Andrews to Bermuda. And I was going to hook up there with a woman marine friend of mine from Quantico, who was going via another route and we were going to be in Bermuda for a week. She ended up at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and never got out of there. I got there.

Now, I was in a hurry. I was late. I had needed to use the restroom before I left Quantico but I thought “I don’t have time before I got on the plane.” I thought I’ll quickly and then I’ll go. In our everyday dress uniform, not dress uniform.

So I get there. I pull in my car. I jumped out with my suitcase. Ran up to the whatever, and they say, “Get the plane! The plane is waiting, the plane is waiting. You better hurry up! Get on the plane now! They’re waiting! They’re ready to take off!”

I thought, “Okay, alright well, I’ll just use the restroom—the head that they have on the plane when I get there”. I get on the plane and I notice when I get on the plane is small and instead of seats being across like in normal planes, these were side by side. There were four side by side, on either side. So four and four. Each one had a desk or whatever—flat surface—and this radar thing in front of them. That was it. There was one seat for me, so I sat down.

“Hurry up. We’re about to take off.”

I thought to myself, “I really need to use the facilities”. I thought that “Okay, just wait until they’ll take off”.

So then they said, “Okay, buckle up”. As soon as everyone gets unbuckled we can move.

So about half an hour later after we’ve taken off, I think “Now is the time”. I’m the only woman. “Excuse me sir, could you tell me where the head is.”

“We don’t have a head.”

I said, “Oh really? Oh, okay!” And I thought, “Oh my god, how am I ever going to make this.” I didn’t swallow. I just kept my fingers crossed and my legs closely together.

And then I think I asked the question, “How long is this flight to Bermuda.” I’m telling you it was four or five hours. I was going to say nine. I don’t think it was nine. It had to be four or five hours. I thought, “What am I going to do? I am never going to make it, or I’m going to explode.”

TS:

Right.

AG:

I made it!

TS:

Did you? Oh my goodness!

AG:

I don’t know how. [unclear] “I can’t wet my uniform. How am I going to do this? I can’t do this? What am I going to do?” I had to be calm. I was a captain or something, maybe I was a major or something. I had to be calm, “Okay, this is not a problem.”

TS:

This is one of your impersonation things that you do.

AG:

Well, that that was one story. When we got there of course with my legs crossed. I got off the plane, and I couldn’t get there fast enough. I couldn’t leave once I was there.

So anyway, then the other thing happened when another friend of mine, we were going to the Far East. We were going to Hawaii and then from Hawaii to Okinawa, and then from Okinawa to Japan. I can’t remember. And again, it was one these planes. So I had to wait. I finally got on the plane. I said, “Where is the head?”

They said, “Oh, it’s to the back there.”

I said, “Okay.” So I got up whenever back there. When I go there—this is a pretty smooth ride—they managed to tip the wings back and forth when they knew that I was back there. This is just one of the things that they would do to let you know that you were welcomed as a woman among these men. You know, so they—there were little things like that that would happen. There were a lot of kind of fun things.

I learned about on a two week active duty period. Where was it?  I think it was in North Carolina, but I don’t remember exactly where. Anyway, I can’t remember when that assignment was. We had our own BOQ rooms and then there was a—what do you call it—an officer’s club. So we were in there. This was the first time that I found out what carrier quals were.

TS:

What?

AG:

Carrier quals. Now, I was with pilots. This was when I belonged to this helicopter squadron. I was with pilots. I was the only woman. As soon as, I guess, they got several beers under their belt they were demonstrating who really was able to qualify for flying. The way they did this was by doing—what did I call it?

TS:

Carrier—

AG:

Carrier quals, that’s where you would fly off the carrier and on the carrier. You had to get hooked so you don’t fall off the end of the thing. So they cleared off a table. Then, they have their belts on and they have to have had several drinks. I tell you. I didn’t drink at all. I was just an observer to all this. They would step back a number of feet and then they’d take a running leap and leap on the table. And then they would qualify for carrier quals if their belt catches at the corner of the table before they go sliding off on the floor at other end. God, what they didn’t do. And I know I only saw one tenth of the things they would do.

In that same two week period, for some reason, they let the grease pig loose.

You’ve heard about that? Oh god! They were all about four sheets to the wind, but I was an observer. You know, it was either—you didn’t have to join them, but you had to have fun with them; or, like everything else—if you didn’t learn how to work with the men and if you didn’t learn how to associate with them, then you cannot—no woman, I don’t believe, could have made it in any of the services if you totally stood alone—because you just didn’t—you couldn’t get anywhere by yourself. There were ways that you could—I can’t—but you know what I mean.

TS:

Well, you can explain it for the people that are listening.

AG:

I don’t know how to say it, but you can say if for me.

TS:

No, that’s all right.

AG:

But you know what I mean.

TS:

Yeah.

AG:

You didn’t have to be one of them. You didn’t have to do what they did. But I think you had to have a sense of humor, and you had to be able to roll with the punches. So this was another thing. You let the grease pig loose and you had to catch the grease pig. And I think if you catch the grease pig, then you don’t have to buy the bar. They had this little pig and they greased it and they let run all the way around the thing, and they each had to fall all over themselves to get it.

They would play this other game in the bar. I did have fun with these guys. They would play this other game in the bar, and they would holler, “Dead dog down” or something like that. Oh god—oh god—“Dead Dog Down” and as soon as anyone hollered this—no matter what they were doing—“Dead Dog Down—if you were the last “Dead Dog Down” then you had to pay rounds for everybody. I didn’t take part in this, I observed this. That meant immediately—whatever you were doing—wherever you were in the bar area—you  immediately threw yourself down on the floor on your back, and you put your feet and your hands up in the air. I mean, really, it is just absurd. But I did have a good time. I did.

There was something else, what was the other thing that was funny. What was it? Oh yeah, they knew that I was very gullible. This was when I was outranking most of them at this helicopter squadron in Selfridge [Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan]. After we’d finished—we met there for our drill weekends. I came from Ann Arbor. Most of them came from Illinois or somewhere—Minnesota. A lot of them were pilots with Northwest. So we’re sitting around happy afterwards. I almost always had a Coke or something, because I never drank. We’d be telling stories, and all of them watched then Archie Bunker. What was the thing called? Remember that? What was that called? Archie Bunker?

TS:

“All in the Family”?

AG:

“All in the Family”. They would just roll on the floor about that. They thought it was just the funniest thing ever.  I mean, when I saw it, it was funny, there is no doubt about that, but when they saw it they really got a charge out of this. So then they got to talking. Somehow it came up—the subject of—now I can’t think of the name. Oh shoot. “Three Man Lift”.

TS:

“Three Man Left”?

AG:

Have you ever heard of “Three Man Lift”?

TS:

Oh, “Three Man Lift”.

AG:

“Three Man Lift”. So they said something about, “Oh, you remember that time that we did the “Three Man Lift”? They would look at each other and say, “Oh yeah”. They kept talking about the “Three Man Lift”.

Finally I said, “What is the “Three Man Lift?” We were all in uniform. I only had one uniform and I kept it very carefully.  It was always neat and pressed and nice and clean—always, but I had to be very careful to keep it that way. They kept talking about it. I said, “What are you talking about? What do you mean the “Three Man Lift”?”

They said, “Oh, you don’t know about the “Three Man Lift”?”

I said, “No, I don’t know about the “Three Man Lift. I don’t know what you’re talking about with the “Three Man Lift!”

“Oh, you’ve never played the “Three Man Lift”?”

I said, “No.”

They said to each other—they looked at each other—“Colonel Graham” —or whomever she was, we were pretty much equals, they’d probably said, “Well, Adele has never played the “Three Man Lift”. Don’t you”—

Is that a snake or worm out there?

TS:

Snake.

AG:

Is he little?

TS:

Yeah.

AG:

Oh, my goodness.

TS:

Just looking at us.

AG:

And he said, “Don’t you think that we ought to teach her how to play the “Three Man Lift”?”

I said, “Well, yes! I want to know. You can’t leave me out of this. I want to know!”

They said, “Okay. Well, she wants to know so we might as well teach her.”

“Oh okay.”

“Well, this is what you’ve got to do.” They said, “All right, you’ve got to turn around. You’ve got to sit at the table like this. Do what we’re doing. Here we are. We’re sitting at the table. You have to do this. Then you’ve got to set your hands on your lap”.

“All right.” God, I was a live wire. Believe me. What do you call it? I was a sitting duck—that was what it was.

TS:

Sitting duck. [chuckle]

AG:

So “All right”

“You got to be sure.”

“Are my hands right?”

“Your hands are right.”

“Okay”.

“Now you’ve got to put your head straight up, like this.”

TS:

You pretty much need video for this.

AG:

“You have to put your head straight up.”

Where’s your thing?

TS:

It’s right here.

AG:

“And you look straight ahead. Now, close your eyes.”

“What are you doing?”

“You want to know what the “Three Man Lift” is? This is the way it works. Close your eyes.”

So I closed my eyes. The next thing I know, they have poured a whole pitcher of beer on my head!

TS:

In your uniform?

AG:

In my uniform that I had to wear the next day, because we still had to drill in the morning. I mean, it was a cold pitcher of beer. I was flabbergasted. My mouth dropped open. I was like “How dare you do this to me?” You know, some of these guys I drill with them all the time. I said, “And I call you a friend? How could you do this to me? How could you do this to me?”

Oh, they laughed and they roared and they thought this was funny.

“You asked to learn how to do the Three Man Lift. Don’t look at us!”

So anyway, that’s, I think, the end of my—

TS:

That’s a good one to end on.

AG:

The end of my tales, but anyway that was it.

TS:

Well, gosh Adele, we’ve covered a lot.

AG:

Well, I told you that I have diarrhea of the mouth.

TS:

No, no, they’ve been great. But what—is there anything that you would like to tell women who are in the service today or a woman who might want to join any military service?

AG:

I did talk to a couple in Ann Arbor. You know, I guess they’d been referred to me about joining. And I—if I—we never had to do—what do you call it—calisthenics or whatever.

TS:

PT?

AG:

We never, never, never. When I went through training the only things I ever had to do when we had physical fitness—

TS:

Training—PT.

AG:

Whatever you want to call it. The only thing we had to do—we had to choose between swimming, horseback riding, golfing—swimming, horseback riding, golfing—and it seemed to me there was five things.

So I thought, well, my folks used to ride horseback which was very common back then when my father was brand new second lieutenant. I thought, “Okay, well” —I had taken some lessons. I thought to myself, “I’ll take horseback riding”. That is what I did. That was our training.

We always watched. We had to don on our utilities. We were issued utilities just for this incident—exercise. We were issued canteens and the belts. I guess we must have been issued the boots, too, in training. And then we went out to the basic school where the men would train. We all sat on bleachers in our outfits and we watched the war games that they did, and all the flares that went off. But we watched, to watch the men as to what they could do and what they had to do and all of that. We watched that.

So we went through something called XBX. It was a Canadian air force exercise manual or something. We had to pass those. I remember being at Parris Island—not at Quantico—at Parris Island—we had to pass those where you had to lift your leg up so many times, straight. You had to do knee pushups or something. Then you had to do, I guess, running in space for a second or two. Don’t ask me. I mean, I never had trouble doing it. I never practiced, so whenever they came to test you, I just did it. I don’t know now if I—I don’t know now if I would go in, if—knowing all the physical requirements—I don’t know if I would have gone in then if I had realized all of the physical requirements. But then they were so different than they are now, you know.

TS:

So are the women in what they do to prepare before they go in.

AG:

Oh yes, yes, yes. So I don’t know, but I’ll tell you very, very, very, honestly. I would encourage any—I guess I would encourage any woman—or young woman — to go in for the experience, and to be able to take advantage of all the opportunities there are. I would not discourage anybody. And I think it’s a question of you take your chances—I think that is—I would not discourage—it was probably one of the best things to ever happen to me. Because it helped me gain confidence. It helped me to, well, to put my feet on the ground, to be pushed in areas that I never would have been pushed in. I’ve been able to travel.  I don’t know. It was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me.

TS:

Well, that might be a good place to end it. What do you think?

AG:

Okay.

TS:

Anything else you want to add? No?

AG:

I can’t think of anything. I’ve been talking my mouth off anyway—maybe another pretzel.

TS:

Thank you, very much.

AG:

You’re welcome. Therese, it was my pleasure.

TS:

It was my pleasure too.

[End of Interview]