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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Barbara Ann Smith Snead, 2010

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Object ID: wv0490.5.001

Description: Snead discusses her early life in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, her service in the United States Air Force as a WAF (Women in the Air Force) member from 1953 to 1955, as well as her life after her service and perspectives on women in the military.

Summary: Snead talks about her passion for piano playing, experiences in her early life, cultural experiences in New York during her technical training as a dental lab technician at New York Community College, and briefly describes her duty stations while in the service. She also addresses potential roles of the military in society and women’s roles in the military.

Creator: Barbara Ann Snead

Biographical Info: Barbara S. Snead (b. 1933) served as a dental technician in the United States Air Force from 1953-1955. She retired with the rank of Airman Second Class.

Collection: Barbara S. Snead Papers

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

Full Text:

Therese Strohmer:

Today is May 18. I’m in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I’m here with Barbara Snead. We’re here to do an oral history interview with the Women Veterans Historical Collection. And Barbara, how would you like your name to read on the—on your collection?

Barbara Snead:

Barbara Ann Smith Snead.

TS:

Okay, excellent. Well, Barbara, thanks for joining us today, and I look forward to hearing about your experience in the air force. What—Why don’t you tell us a little bit about when and where you grew up?

BS:

I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I have just one sister, and I grew up with my mother and my grandmother in a row house.

TS:

Was that, like, in the city of Lancaster?        

BS:

Yes.

TS:

You lived in the city?

BS:

Yes.

TS:

Okay. And so you were born in—during the Depression, right?

BS:

Yes. I was born May 20, 1933.

TS:

So your birthday is coming up here in a few days.

BS:

Yes.

TS:

Very nice.

BS:

I will be seventy-seven. [chuckles]

TS:

Excellent. So it was just you and your sister, your mom, and your grandmother?

BS:

Yes.

TS:

Did your mother work?

BS:

Mother, during that time, was working two and three jobs because everything was kind of part-time.

TS:

Right, because it was during the Depression.

BS:

Right. And my uncle lived with us. He was only sixteen when my sister was born. So consequently, I did grow up with a man in the house, which was important during that time, you know, because I—not having a father around, I still had the—my uncle, who was the male figure in the house.

TS:

Right. But he was fairly young at the time. You said when your sister was born?

BS:

Yes.

TS:

How much younger was your sister than you?

BS:

Fourteen months.

TS:

So not much. [chuckles]

BS:

Not much.

TS:

Okay. Well, what was it like—do you—So do you have any memories of what it was like during the Depression at all? I mean, obviously you were a baby in the middle of it, but do you have—Did your mother and grandmother tell you any stories about that?

BS:

Well, not too much. I don’t remember things when I was real little. I remember more when the war started.

TS:

How old were you when the war started then? You would have been—

BS:

Well it would have started in—

TS:

—about twelve or something.

BS:

—1940.

TS:

Forty-one.

BS:

I was only seven. I was eight—seven or eight.

TS:

And do you remember that?

BS:

Oh, yes.

TS:

What do you remember about it?

BS:

Of course, everybody was upset. They were crying, you know, when war was proclaimed. And during that time, it was—They started the rationing business. And Mother, of course, having two girls, we went through shoes like they were paper. So—But we didn’t have a car. And so Mother would trade gas ration stamps and tire rationing stamps for shoes and sugar. And we didn’t get dessert very often because we had to save the sugar for a special occasion. It was either a birthday or Christmas or something. But we were poor, but I didn’t know it. I mean, everybody during that time was poor so—and we were—I felt like we were blessed, you know.

TS:

What kind of things did you do, as a little girl at that time?

BS:

Well, I remember getting a doll with real hair when I was six years old. In fact, I still have her. And my sister got one that had magic skin. The magic skin dolls came out about that time. And bless her heart, she let hers lay in the sun and the skin bubbled up, and she had to have the arms and legs replaced with the stuff that my doll was made out of.

TS:

Regular, right.

BS:

Yeah. And my doll had a stuffed body, and she has an open mouth with a little felt tongue, and she opens and closes her eyes. I’ve still got her. [laughter]

TS:

Did you play any—Like, did you grow up with kids in your neighborhood? Did you play any neighborhood games or anything?

BS:

Lots of kids in the neighborhood, and we played lots of games. And the boy down the street had a scooter. And of course, it was one of these that you put the foot on the scooter and you pedal with the other foot, you know. Well, I went down over a step that was between our house and the one next door and fell and broke the corner off my front tooth and had to have a cap put on it. They called it a cap. And every so often I would cheat and try to eat a caramel, pull the caramel out of my mouth and there was the cap stuck in the caramel. My mother would get so mad at me because we had to go to the dentist and have the thing cemented back on again. And one time it came off in school. I shouldn’t have been eating a caramel in school, but I did. And the teacher put it in an envelope for me, and when I went home I handed it to my mother, and she thought it was a bug. She started to throw it away, and I said, “Don’t you dare!” [laughter]

TS:

“It’s my cap!”

BS:

But anyway, that was an experience. Of course, now everything’s veneered, you know.

TS:

Yeah. Did you enjoy school?

BS:

I love school.

TS:

Yeah.

BS:

I loved school. And our elementary school was half a block from where we lived, so we got to go home for lunch. Grandma always fixed the lunch for my sister and I.

TS:

What kind of lunches did she make.

BS:

It was mostly sandwiches—probably peanut butter and jelly—you know, and milk. We always had milk. But on Fridays there was always one or two eggs left, some milk, and a potato or two, and my grandmother would make potato soup. Every Friday was potato soup day. And I never ate potato soup much after I got grown because I just hated it.

TS:

[laughs] You had it so much.

BS:

I had so much of it!

TS:

I’m thinking that sounds really good.

BS:

And I didn’t eat applesauce until I went in the service because it was just something that was a staple. And after a while, if you don’t have to eat it, you know, you don’t. [laughter]

TS:

“I’ll pass on that,” right? Oh, that’s interesting. So you—So you liked school. Was there any particular type of—can’t even think of the right word, but like science or math or anything like that?

BS:

Well, when I was in the third grade, they offered piano lessons.

TS:

Oh!

BS:

And it was a class, and there was about five kids in this class. You took six lessons, and I think they cost fifty cents. And we had a piano at home because my mother played. I never heard my mother play, though. So I don’t know whether she played when I was in school or what, but anyway the piano was there. And she wanted to give me the opportunity to play the piano. So I started these classes. And of course they give you the little songs. I’d go home and I’d sit down and play them, and I’d keep going on through the book. And when we got back to class, I had advanced so far the teacher would kind of rein me in and get me to do everything else with the class. But finally I just outgrew them, so then I went with private piano teachers. And I took piano for about five and a half years—studied with a concert pianist when I was in high school.

TS:

Is that right.

BS:

So once I got to seventh grade, I started playing for the choruses at school. I had advanced enough to be able to play for the glee clubs and the choruses, and I did it all the way through high school. They knew I was a piano lady. They might not have known my name, but they knew I played the piano.

TS:

Well, I have to say that when I called you the other day, I don’t know who I talked to, but they said, “Well, let me get her. She’s playing the piano.” [laughter] So that, you know, you’re still—You must love it, then.

BS:

Oh, I do love it. I love it. And of course, the people I play for are my age now, so I’m playing their kind of music.

TS:

Oh, nice.

BS:

You know, twenties, thirties, forties, the Big Band era.

TS:

Well, do you remember anything else about the war at all? You were telling me before about the blackouts that you had?

BS:

Oh, yes. We—My uncle worked for Armstrong Cork Company, which is now World Industries, that made—and they made linoleum. And part of the war effort was that they made bombs at Armstrong Cork Company. And my—My uncle worked there, and he worked second shift, 11[p.m.] to 7[a.m.]. So of course, he would have to make his lunch before he went to work. And many, many times, we would have blackouts. And the air warden would come by, and he could see just a smidgen of light alongside the curtain in the kitchen, and he’d bang on the door and scare us all together and scream for us to out these lights, you know.

And of course, one—Only one time was I ever at another house when we had an air raid. And I was scared to death. And Mother said, “Just find a chair and sit down and stay there.” Because, see, I could walk all over my house. I knew where everything was.

TS:

Oh, I see.

BS:

But visiting someone else’s house, she said, “Make sure you stay seated. Don’t try to get up and walk around.” And she said, “Then when the air raid is over—.” There was a signal the air raid was over, then we could turn the lights back on again. But that was scary because I was probably six, maybe, you know, and that was quite frightening for a little girl to have to sit in a chair and not be able to move around, you know. And of course it didn’t last very long, but it was just the idea that we weren’t home.

TS:

Yeah. Were you scared at all at that time, knowing that the war was going on?

BS:

No.

TS:

Was there anybody you knew that was in the service?

BS:

My uncle was exempt from the service. He had a heart murmur, so he was not called into the service. But there was a lot of draftees, but none of them were in my particular family. I knew of other families that had draftees, and, of course, when you walk by the house, they had placards in the windows with stars on them, you know.

TS:

Right, yeah.

BS:

And you always knew which people had members of their family in the service.

TS:

Do you know what your mother or your grandmother felt about FDR [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] and maybe [First Lady] Eleanor [Roosevelt]?

BS:

Oh, they loved them.

TS:

Yeah.

BS:

They loved them. And of course, when the fireside chats came on, everybody sat around the radio and listened to them, you know. And of course, when the war was over, I would have been thirteen—fourteen, I guess. And I mean there was so much hoopla, but it was hard at that age to comprehend what it really, really meant when the war was over.

TS:

Sure, sure.

BS:

But it was with everything being rationed and, you know, all that. It didn’t really bother us too much. Now, my husband grew up down here in Johnston County [North Carolina], but he grew up on a farm. And it’s hard for him to realize. See, they had meat any time they wanted it. Ours was so rationed we were lucky if we got it once a week. You had all the milk you wanted, all the chicken, all the pork, all the vegetables. Well, see, we had to go to the grocery store to buy our vegetables. And with Mother working—and my grandmother worked, too, and I started babysitting when I was eleven. I made twenty-five cents an hour.

TS:

That’s not too bad.

BS:

Turned it over to my mother.

TS:

Yeah.

BS:

And that helped provide for the family, too. And I worked either babysitting or then I finally got a job. Mother lied about my age, [laughter] and I wanted her to because there was an opportunity at—the dentist I went to had an opportunity for a thirteen year old to go down to the hospital, which was about—oh, I don’t know, maybe three, four blocks from my house—and go there very, very early in the morning before the breakfast time would be, because they had a cafeteria for the doctors and nurses and the ones that worked all night, and to fill salt and pepper shakers and the ketchup and the mustard containers. And I was eleven. [TS laughs] And Mother lied about my age, so that I could get this job.

TS:

Right.

BS:

And she would walk me down to the hospital because, I mean, it was pitch black. I mean, of course we had street lights. But I was just eleven years old. She’d walk me down to the hospital. I don’t know how long my hours were, I don’t remember anything else about it, but I would work and then she would walk down and get me and bring me home.

TS:

Well, neat. That’s kind of neat. Well, did you—So when you’re growing up and you’re in school, did you have any sense of what you thought your future was going to be?

BS:

I knew that I wanted to continue my music because music was very, very important to me. In fact, Mother used to ask me to not play the piano so she could read the paper.[TS laughs]  I mean, it was just—I was almost obsessed with it.

TS:

Yeah. You liked to play it a lot.

BS:

Oh, I love it, you know.

TS:

Was it just the piano that you played? Did you play any other instruments?

BS:

No, I never learned any other instruments. As an adult, I tried the guitar, but it hurt my fingertips and I was so afraid that I was going to lose my touch for the piano.

TS:

Right.

BS:

And I said no way was I ever going to play a guitar.

TS:

How about that. So you wanted to stick with music, so you were doing things in school as far as playing for the choir, you said, and other things like that.

BS:

Oh, yes. I played for the glee club, I played for all the soloists, I played for baccalaureates. Whenever we had an assembly, I played. And it was just kind of an unspoken demand almost, you know. But I didn’t mind it because it was something that I loved doing, you know?

TS:

Well, did you think—Did you think of anything else that you were going to do? Did you see yourself as, like, in the working world at all?

BS:

If I did, it would—Well, when I was in high school, I worked in a dress shop. I was a clerk in a dress shop. And at one time, even before that, I worked in a five-and-ten [store]. But I was hired to play the piano. They had a piano in the five-and-ten in the sheet music section, and that’s what I was hired to do. And it was back during the time of “Goodnight, Irene.” It had just come out. And every time I played “Goodnight, Irene” we sold fifty copies. [laughs]

TS:

Wow. Wow, excellent. [laughs] Well, what made you think about joining the air force?

BS:

Well, I didn’t—We didn’t have the money for me to go to college. And I thought if I went in the service, then I would get a vocation of some kind. And I didn’t know what, and it really didn’t matter at that point. But I needed Mother’s permission to do that, of course. And she said—because I wanted to go in the service as soon as I got out of high school, and she didn’t want me to. She said, “I would like for you to work a year. Then if you decide you want to go in the service, I’ll sign for you.” So I worked as a keypunch operator, which was before—you know, during tabulating machines and way before computers. But I was a keypunch operator at Armstrong Cork Company. I got that job myself. I interviewed for it and got the job, and I worked a year. And I told Mother I still wanted to go in the service. And she said, “Okay.” So she signed for me, and I went in.

TS:

Now, how did you decide what service to join?

BS:

Well, I decided when I went down—I had decided I wanted to be in the air force. I just felt like the air force had so many more opportunities than some of the others. And in fact, when I filled out all my forms and all that, one of the girls that was with me at the time couldn’t qualify for the air force, so she ended up going into the army. And there were—They were more strict or required more to get into that service, and I don’t know why. I don’t remember why at this point, you know. But anyway, I was able to get in.

TS:

Yeah. And before we started the tape, you had talked a little bit about—You were working as a dental lab before you came in?

BS:

No.

TS:

Oh, this was—

BS:

No, this was when I went in the service.

TS:

Okay.

BSL     I went through basic training. And then they pulled certain people, and they must have looked at what we filled out as far as our dexterity and mechanical ability and that kind of thing. I don’t know. But anyway, they picked me out and said, “You will be going to Brooklyn, New York, you’re going to be staying in the Hotel St. George, and you’re going to be going to New York Community College [now New York City College of Technology] to learn to be a dental lab technician.”

TS:

What’d you think about that?

BS:

I thought, “Okay.” [laughter] You know, it was a vocation, and I figured that when I got out, if I needed that trade, I could certainly go into it because I would be certainly getting a good—you know, being trained good.

TS:

Well, you’d had that experience with your tooth! [laughter]

BS:

Yes, yes I did.

TS:

And the dentist got you the job at the hospital, so you have this sort of trajectory in there. So you—well, tell me about—First of all, how about: what was it like in basic training for you? Was it what you expected or—

BS:

Basic training I don’t think was any harder than I expected. But they found out I played the piano, so I started playing for the chapel services on the base, and I did it every Sunday that I was there. And while I was at—in Del Rio [Texas], after I got out of school—when I was in Del Rio—of course, I was playing the piano there, too—and one day the chaplain came over to me and he said, “Somebody called the base and they want somebody to come play for a party.” And he said, “Would you be willing to do that?” And of course, the base was outside Del Rio. I didn’t have a car, you know. So he said, “They will come pick you up and you play for the party and they will bring you back.” And the people that I played for: it was some kind of railroad engineers’ Christmas party. And I played for them and we kept up with that family while we were in Del Rio. They had us for dinner. They would take us on picnics. And, of course, I was married then so both of us just—then we kept up with the family and we were—even after we came back to North Carolina, we would go back and visit Mrs. Vassey[?], and she died a couple years ago.

TS:

Oh!

BS:

And we just kept up with her that way.

TS:

Well, that’s really nice.

BS:

So that was neat. That was a nice experience.

TS:

Well, when you were—I’m going to take you back to basic training again. What sort of—Do you remember what you had to do in basic training? Was there anything physically difficult that you had to do?

BS:

Nothing that I remember. The only thing that I really hated about basic training was, you put on all these nice clean clothes, you go outside, and there’s a dust storm. Texas was—Is notorious for dust storms. And I would have my hair all clean, you know, have my hat on, I’d be all dressed up in a nice fresh uniform, nice clean blouse, and here came the dust. [laughs] And so of course, once you get inside—and see, there was no air conditioning, so the windows were open. [laughs] And that was just the main thing that I remember about Texas, was all those dust storms.

TS:

Well, now this is 1953 we’re talking about.

BS:

Yes.

TS:

And so we’re—The Korean War is going on. What did you think about that?

BS:

That was—I got in just at the very end of that. And I figured, at the time, that by the time I got through with basic training, I didn’t think I would ever be sent over there or anything, that I would more than likely stay stateside. And this was something that was told to me when I enlisted was, you know, probably I would not—would never be sent someplace where I didn’t want to go, you know.

TS:

Right. Did you—When you finished your basic training, then you went to Brooklyn to do your technical school and learn the dental lab. What was that like in that hotel—What’s the name of the hotel again?

BS:

The Hotel St. George.

TS:

The hotel, what was that like?

BS:

Oh, it was wonderful. We had—There was a whole floor for the women, where they lived, and then above us was where the men lived, and they were going to school up there, too. And I’m trying to think. We had to go down the elevator, of course, and it seemed like they had some kind of a facility where we ate. I don’t remember. It’s been a long—

TS:

Like a dining room, maybe?

BS:

Like a dining room, yeah. And of course, about half a block away was Horn and Hardart [food service automat].

TS:

Was what?

BS:

Horn and Hardart?

TS:

I don’t know what that is.

BS:

It was—It was a place that is very unique in that you could go in and all your things were in little cases to display, and you put your money in and the little door opened up and you got your food out. [laughs]

TS:

Oh, okay. Yeah. We had one of those in Frankfurt, Michigan, I remember.

BS:

Oh, did you?

TS:

Yeah.

BS:

And my husband, now, was stationed at the Naval Receiving Station in Brooklyn, and one of my friends took me to a USO [United Service Organizations] one night. Well, she came—She had been to the USO and had met him, and she came back and she said, “Barbara, I want you to go with me and meet him.” She said, “He’s really nice.” And so I went and met him. And at the time, with a name like Snead, everybody called him Sam. Nobody called him Waylon, everybody called him Sam. And we—We met and then he took me back to the hotel. He had a car, a ’53 Plymouth.

TS:

Brand new car.

BS:

Brand new car. So he took me back to the hotel, and then we started going together. At the time, he could get tickets—I mean, you were able to get all kinds of tickets free if you were in the military: baseball games and concerts—I saw the Bell Telephone Hour live. And we just went—I saw an opera, my first opera—don’t even remember what it was because it was all in a foreign language. [laughter] But anyway, went to the opera. And it was—We just had a really good time, because you could get all these tickets, you know. And if you had the means to get there, you know, take advantage of all these things.

TS:

So that’s what you did socially.

BS:

Yes.

TS:

You went to a lot of these different events like that. And now, are you still playing your piano in different places here?

BS:

Not too much in New York because it was a regular school. I mean, we had school every day, all day, you know. And then on the weekends, I could take the train and go home. I think I could go from Brooklyn to Lancaster for about three dollars or something like that. And so I would—

TS:

Did you get home very often?

BS:

Yes, I went home pretty often.

TS:

How long was your tech school?

BS:

Let’s see. It started—I think it started about—well, let’s see, I went in in February—February, March, April. I must have gone up there the middle of May, and it wasn’t over until the end of January.

TS:

Oh, really, the next year? That was a long tech school.

BS:

Yes.

TS:

All the time you were in that hotel?

BS:

Yes.

TS:

What was that—I mean, the rooms, was that okay? Did you—Were you pretty comfortable?

BS:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you have a roommate or—

BS:

Yeah, in fact I think I ended up with several roommates, you know—

TS:

As they went.

BS:

—because they were—Well, I have a couple pictures at home, I think, of how we would, get together. We’d all put on our pajamas and go to somebody else’s room, you know, and sit around chatting, talking.

TS:

Sure.

BS:

That kind of thing. But I don’t know, all that has kind of flown away. [laughter]

TS:

So you met your future husband.

BS:

Yes.

TS:

So he’s in the navy and you’re in the air force, and you’re going to your tech school. And is he stationed where he’s at then?

BS:

Yes. He’s in the Naval Receiving Station.

TS:

Okay.

BS:

And he—We were married the twenty-third of January in the chapel, at the naval receiving station.

TS:

You have some pictures of that here, okay.

BS:

Yes. Now, I’m leaving to go to Del Rio, Texas, and he doesn’t get out of the navy until June of that year.

TS:

Of ’54?

BS:

Yeah. So I’m down in Del Rio, Texas, by myself. And he—when he got his discharge—I don’t even remember where I lived when I was first down there.

TS:

By yourself. Like in barracks, maybe?

BS:

Yeah, I think I lived in the barracks. I’m sure I lived in the barracks. And then when he came down, we had to look for a place to live. And he had no job, so he tried to look for a job in Del Rio. And the town is so small there was nothing there. And then about that time there was all these rumblings about it becoming a SAC base—strategic air command. And the—It was up in the air as to whether they would leave WAFs [Women in the Air Force] there or not.

TS:

Right.

BS:

And then they decided that they were not. So that’s when I was transferred to Randolph [Air Force Base], which is at San Antonio. And then he found a job at—Why can’t I remember? Anyway, it was the army base there. Sam Houston.

TS:

Sam Houston, okay.

BS:

Fort Sam Houston, yeah. He worked the tabulating department at Sam Houston.

TS:

Well, can you describe what a typical day was like at work for you, either at Del Rio or at Randolph, if there’s any differences?

BS:

Well, it was get up in the morning and drive to work. And in working in the dental clinic, I would do whatever was necessary in the dental clinic. But then I also assisted some of the dentists because they use the people from the dental clinic to—to assist with like cementing the partials that we made or cementing the veneers that we made. So we worked with the dentists as well, as working with the dental clinic.

TS:

Was it like an 8[a.m.] to 5[p.m.] job or—

BS:

Yes. Yes, it was 8 to 5.

TS:

And so what did you—did you have to do any kind of formation in the morning or any kind of—

BS:

No.

TS:

No exercise, no running, no nothing like that?

BS:

No. No, it was—as best I remember! It’s been so long, but as best I remember we went directly to the dental clinic and went to work. There would be, you know, orders there. They would tell us—And of course, I had a supervisor, and I had several people over me, that were in charge of this whole clinic, so I was like just one of the worker bees, you know. And they would get all the information of what was necessary, and then we would go ahead and do whatever they—you know, the partial or whatever we were told to do.

TS:

Well, in the 1950s, there weren’t that many women in the military, let alone even in the air force.

BS:

Right.

TS:

What was it like working, at that time, with the men?

BS:

I got along well with them, you know. And we kidded around but, you know—well, there was nothing, no sexual abuse, nothing like that, you know. We were just—We just worked really well together.

TS:

Yeah. Did you have anybody, like, any mentors that helped you maybe learn your job better, things like that?

BS:

No, because we were so schooled.

TS:

You sure were. You did have quite a long training, yeah.

BS:

Yeah, because if we went up there in June—July, August, September, October, November, December, January—I was up there for seven months, you know. So we were trained well.

TS:

Did—how was—So you think that, before your husband got there, you were living in the barracks?

BS:

Yes.

TS:

And then your husband got there and you got a place—was it on post or on base?

BS:

Oh, no, it was in Del Rio.

TS:

In Del Rio.

BS:

It was a little tiny house and—In fact, I think that we lived on one side of the house, and the owner lived on the other side of the house. And there was a hallway straight down the middle. And of course, you know, I mean, we visited back and forth. Anyway, we had our own side of the house, and we rented a piano—cost fifty dollars a month.

TS:

Wow.

BS:

But I—and when we first moved down there, I said, “I cannot live without my piano.” So we went to the music store, and they agreed to rent us a piano for fifty dollars a month. I loved that piano. [TS laughs] I played—It was an upright, but I played that piano any chance I got. And of course, while I was at the base, I played for all kinds of things: for parties or if they needed me for worship service, if they needed a substitute or if they had a—of course, it was memorial services, too, you know, and I would play for them.

TS:

Now, did you do other things for your social activities?

BS:

Yeah, but it was mostly during the day. At night, that close to the Mexican border, we were—I don’t know. I guess I was afraid to go out because there was shootings and, you know. I mean, you would hear on the news where somebody killed somebody for a quarter, you know. And we just stayed home. We enjoyed each other’s company. [laughter]

TS:

Well, probably—did you have a TV at that time, or radio, or—

BS:

No. We had a radio, I know. And yeah, I guess we did finally get a TV while we were down there. Because when we left, everything we owned we packed in that ’53 Plymouth.

TS:

Is that right?

BS:

And drove all the way back east.

TS:

Oh, when you left Randolph.

BS:

And the television was in it. And they were not little televisions back then, either. They were great big fat because they had a tube in them, you know.

TS:

Yeah. And you had how many channels?

BS:

Probably three. [laughter] If you didn’t like what was on those three, you just cut it off and read.

TS:

That’s right. Now, in Randolph, was that different than Del Rio for the kind of work you did, or was it pretty much the same?

BS:

Oh, it was the same thing. I was doing about the same thing.

TS:

Did you do anything different at that base that you didn’t do at Del Rio? Besides the fact that your husband had a job here, right?

BS:

Not too much different, you know, because it—I don’t know, our social life was pretty limited because of working all day and then coming home at night. See, I was still doing the cooking and the washing and that kind of thing, you know.

TS:

Right. Your double day. [laughs]

BS:

Yes, yes.

TS:

And so do you remember any of—So this is the early fifties. Do you remember any of the—obviously, you probably do because you’re musical—but any of the music that was playing at that time? [pause] Like in the big band or—

BS:

Yeah, the big band era was still going on. I mean, we still had Guy Lombardo and Tex Benneke and people like that. I mean, their orchestras were still going on. There was a lot of—a lot of ballads, you know, and then, of course, there was the music change where it was a little bit more upbeat, but we weren’t yet into the Beatles era. Of course, there was the Everly Brothers, and, you know, that kind of thing. But the music was—to me, it was more melodic. I love that era from the twenties on through about mid fifties. But after we get past—when we got into the Elvis Presley and that era, I just—I mean, it was okay, I guess. [TS laughs] But it was not my forte. My piano teacher used to tell me that I was a romantic. I liked Chopin and, you know, Beethoven and the W.C.—the classics that were pretty. I didn’t—and dissonant things, I just didn’t like, you know.

TS:

Right.

BS:

It was almost like you just opened a pot and threw a bunch of junk in and it. [laughs] It grated on my ear.

TS:

Yeah, I’m sure it did.

BS:

That’s why he called me a romantic. And I guess I am, you know, because I just—I like things that are controlled, I guess is what you’d say. [laughs]

TS:

So was the air force—when you thought, “Okay, I need a trade,” and you went and you got your trade for the dental lab making the different apparatuses for the teeth things.

BS:

Right.

TS:

And then you met your husband, future husband, and you got married. Now, was the air force at that time, as a—You’re a WAF, right?

BS:

Yes.

TS:

Was it what you expected? Like, did you have any preconceived notions of what your life was going to be like and then—

BS:

No, I didn’t. I was rather adventurous and I think that, you know, whatever came along, I was going to take advantage of it, because I grew up with so little because we didn’t have very much money, you know. And having to work and I gave Mother the money because she was paying for my piano lessons. And my piano lessons, when I was in high school, they cost five dollars an hour. And I was the very last pupil, so he always gave me more than an hour. Then he went up to $7.50, and I had to take—start taking lessons every other week. I couldn’t afford the $7.50 every week. And it was—But I was so interested in what I was doing. I mean, he could have given me a whole month’s worth of stuff and I still would have done it in two lessons because I was so interested in it that that’s what I wanted to do.

TS:

Right. Yeah. Well, so now you’re getting—You’re working at Randolph, and your husband has come down. Did you initially enlist for two years? Was that your enlistment period?

BS:

No, I enlisted for four years.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BS:

Yeah, you had to enlist for four.

TS:

Okay.

BS:

But while we were down there—See, the only way I could get out of the service was to become pregnant.

TS:

Oh.

BS:

You weren’t allowed to be pregnant in the service back then, so we were trying, and I finally got pregnant. [laughs]

TS:

So you were hoping to get out of the service early.

BS:

Yes. I was hoping to get out early because he was already out, and it was like—I mean, the roles were reversed, and it’s not supposed to be like that. He is not supposed to be following me, I’m supposed to be following him, and it didn’t work out that way. So I ended up getting pregnant with our oldest daughter and got my discharge as soon as it was confirmed.

TS:

Were you able to have your daughter on base or anything?

BS:

No.

TS:

No?

BS:

No. I mean, I could have continued to live down there, you know. But I was from Pennsylvania, he was from North Carolina; we wanted to come back East, you know. I was too far away. Even then I was just too far away. I wanted to get back East, at least a little bit closer home. I’m still four hundred miles away from home, but it’s closer than Texas. And when we came back here then, you know, of course, I had gotten my discharge and moved everything back here. And from that point on, I just—it was family, you know. I was family oriented then, and all the—I don’t even have my uniform anymore. I got rid of all of it. I don’t even—I don’t even have my dog tags.

TS:

Well, you’ve got some pictures to share.

BS:

But I’ve got pictures, yeah. I have my pictures.

TS:

And some of the—your enlistment documents and the letter for your mom. So we have some things here.

BS:

Well, I saved a few things, you know, but—I don’t know, that’s part of my life. I don’t want to forget it, but it’s part of my life that’s in the past now.

TS:

Well, it’s interesting that you said that about, you know, the roles were reversed, right?

BS:

Yes.

TS:

And how was your husband taking that at the time?

BS:

Pretty good, I mean. he really did want to get a job, you know. And of course, he was hoping to get it in his vocation because he was an IBM tab—tabulation operator. And he wanted—and of course, when we moved back to North Carolina, that’s what he did for the state. He got a job with the State of North Carolina. And he started out with the Board of Health, and then he went over to the Employment Security Commission, and that’s where he retired after thirty-four years.

TS:

Excellent. Did you ever use your dental lab work again?

BS:

No, never used it again.

TS:

Be interesting to see what they do today compared to what—you know, what they did then.

BS:

I know. My dentist is always taking computer-generated things in my mouth, you know. [laughter]

TS:

A little different than from what you did before. Well, you had said one thing about wanting to have an adventure, a little bit. Do you think you had it?

BS:

Yes, yes. And I was—I’m very, very pleased that I did it. Because I—At the time, when I was getting out of high school, scholarships were available. And I had thought, you know, I’ll take some college credits while I’m in school because maybe I can get into Julliard. And I really was seriously thinking about getting into Julliard. But the closer I came to my senior year, I knew there was absolutely no way. Even with scholarship money, I could never go to college.

TS:

Just because of the cost?

BS:

Because of the cost, yeah. We just did not have the money. And I didn’t pursue it. I—in fact, I was asked one time, by somebody who took piano lessons at the same teacher that I did, whether I would consider competing for Miss Lancaster County and then go on for the Miss Pennsylvania pageant. But I got to thinking about it, and I thought, “There is absolutely no way my mother could afford the clothes that I would require to enter something like that.” And I don’t know. I might have been able to win, but the money just was not there.

TS:

At what cost, right?

BS:

Yeah. And back then, I think that—of course, growing up during the Depression and during World War—World War II, you ended up being mature a lot earlier than I think people now, children now. In fact, I can look at my grandchildren and I’m thinking, “Holy cow, you don’t work for anything! I mean your parents provide, you have a cell phone, you have a computer, you have a laptop, you have this, you have that, you have something else.” And I’m thinking, “If I had wanted that when I was growing up, I would’ve had to earn it. I would’ve had to get a job. I would have had to save my money.” But I appreciate that because it made me more conscious of the value of money, and—I don’t know, just being more concerned with how to save and how to—Now, we have the money that we can do things with. We’ve been on cruises. We go to Pennsylvania once a year. We own a share at the Outer Banks, so we go camping. We own a 31-foot travel trailer. But this stuff would have never occurred to me when I was young. But it’s—But we have that sense of value of money, saving for the future, that kind of thing that I think a lot of kids—they just aren’t able to do that now because everything is so handed to them.

TS:

Did any of your children or your grandchildren, any of them connect—go to the military, think about the military, anything like that?

BS:

No, no.

TS:

Would you have encouraged any of them to do it if they’d wanted to?

BS:

Well, right now, my second oldest grandchild, granddaughter, is an au pair in England. And I am so proud of her because she graduated from ECU [East Carolina University] as an early education teacher. Well, you know what the teaching situation is right now. She couldn’t find a job. I mean, she looked for over a year. Finally, one of her friends, who was an au pair in Yorkshire [England], told Elisa to look online and see whether any of this would interest her. She’s having a ball, and I am so excited for her because this is something that I would have done, you know, had I been that age, not—unattached, gone off somewhere. I mean, I was encouraging. I was really pushing her!

And her father was the one that was, “Well, I’m not so sure I want you to do this,” you know. [laughter]

And I’m saying, “What an experience, you know. Give her the opportunity! Oh, my gosh!”

TS:

So you had that sense of adventure for her, too. Oh, I see.

BS:

Oh, yeah. And I think it’s just wonderful that she’s able to do things like this. And we talked to her yesterday for the first time. She sounded like she was next door. But we just had the best time. And of course, she’s loving it. She really is having a good experience. And I’m—That’s a blessing. Because her friend, the one that got her into that, ended up with a very—

TS:

Difficult situation?

BS:

Difficult situation at the end and ended up flying home early because it, you know, that kind of thing.

TS:

That’s too bad.

BS:

But she’s having a wonderful time.

TS:

Well, that’s terrific. Well, do you think that in any way that your life is different because of your time in the military?

BS:

I think so. I think I’m a little bit more regimented than I was. Of course, I’m a squirrel. I save everything. But as you can tell—[laughs]

TS:

I appreciate it!

BS:

Some of the stuff I saved is now coming to the fore. And I—my daughter keeps threatening to back a pick-up to my house when I die. She’s going to throw it all away. And I keep threatening her with, “You make sure you examine everything before you pitch it because you don’t know.”

TS:

That’s right. Well, write something so we get the—[laugh] the archival stuff from your military service.

Well, what do you feel about—Now, in the fifties, there were limited jobs for women in the military. Today is different. Now we have two wars, we have women who are flying jet planes, we have—

BS:

Right.

TS:

And what do you think about all that?

BS:

Well, [pause] I think that it’s wonderful that the opportunities are there, if they want to do that. But I’ve always been a little apprehensive about sending women right into the front lines, that kind of thing. I don’t know. Of course, during World War II, women were in more conservative things. They were nurses and that kind of thing, where they may have been on the front lines, but they weren’t being shot at, you know? I mean, they weren’t—they didn’t—I guess they were in danger, to a point, but it isn’t like actually carrying a gun and going over a hill, you know. And that—

TS:

Not the offensive part of it, is what you’re saying? Okay.

BS:

Right, yeah. But to me, that’s scary. And of course, I don’t think there should be any wars at all. I don’t know why people can’t get along, you know, why there has to be any kind of war. But if you do have to have war, I think that the women can be more of a supportive-type thing than getting really into the—into the—I don’t know.

TS:

Actual combat roles?

BS:

Yeah, yeah. And now they’re talking about putting them on submarines, and I—when you put two women on a submarine with four hundred guys, I just think—I don’t know. I think you’re asking for trouble. But you know, if the woman is that persistent and that determined, I say go for it. [laughter]

TS:

So you have kind of mixed feelings about it, I guess.

BS:

Well, yeah, I do, because I can see the dangers. You know, putting two women on a submarine with four hundred men, I mean, let’s face it here. But then again, it’s their right. You know, and that’s what they’ve been fighting for all this time, you know, is to be on an even keel, to be able to do the same—have the same opportunities that the men have.

TS:

[laughter] Barbara’s shaking her head; she’s not sure. Well, is there anything that you’d like to add to tell anybody about your experience in the military that we haven’t discussed?

BS:

Nothing that I can think of, but if there—I think the opportunity is there for—and I’m thinking this way, but I’m not sure that it’s the solution, but I wish that maybe there was a portion of the service that would take delinquents. I think that a lot of the delinquents don’t have the respect that they need to have, they do not have the discipline, they do not have to listen to someone who is in authority and not question it. But if you do question it, be nice about it, you know. But I am wondering—And of course, the service will not take delinquents. But I swear, if the service did take them, I don’t believe that we would have a lot of the problems that we have right now, because they would—The authority would be there, and they would have to learn to respect other people and their property.

And I just think the military is—It’s a wonderful organization, and I would encourage anybody to go in. If—you know, especially if they didn’t have a goal, and if they didn’t have the money, because the opportunity is there; you’re being paid while you’re learning, you know. Back when I was in, it wasn’t much. It was like a hundred and fifty dollars a month, but that was a lot of money, because your—Everything you needed was being taken care of. Your clothes, your food, your lodging, everything was being taken care of. And that was like cream, you know.

TS:

Especially with the background that you came from, too.

BS:

Yes.

TS:

So you think that would turn a lot of kids around, if they had that.

BS:

I think so.

TS:

It’s that kind of environment that—

BS:

Yes, I really do.

TS:

That’s interesting.

BS:

And I’m just sorry that the military does not make concessions or something to at least take these kids and put them through boot camp. I think just even putting them through boot camp. Well, they would have to learn. They would have to work as a group. They would have to take orders from somebody else. If they questioned them, you don’t yell back at them. You ask in a nice way, “Why am I having to do this?” you know. And I think it would turn a lot of people around—a lot of these kids around. Especially, it would give them more of a direction. Then when they got out, then they would have a work ethic, they would have—you know, they would be able to answer to authority, where now so many of them, they just don’t do that.

TS:

That’s interesting, Barbara.

BS:

Well, that’s the way I feel about it. In fact, I think basic—I think basic—Kids that are delinquent should have to go through basic training. I really do. It’s only twelve weeks, [TS laughs] but boy I think they would come out of it with a whole lot better understanding of what you have to do to get along in this world. And it isn’t “me.” It has to be the people that you deal with, and not just you, because you are a miniscule part of what goes on around you. You really are.

TS:

Well, that’s a nice way to look at it. So anything else you want to add? You’ve done a little testimonial for military service. Anything else?

BS:

Nothing that I can think of.

TS:

Yeah. Well, you met your husband in there, so that’s—

BS:

Yes. Yeah, that’s been a blessing.

TS:

—changed your life in that way.

BS:

Oh, yes. And we have three daughters. They’re all married. I now have six grandchildren.

TS:

Oh, excellent.

BS:

Very, very proud of my grandchildren. And the military was a good experience for both of us, I think. And of course, he—His vocation, you know, became his avocation. And he retired from the State of North Carolina doing the same thing that he was doing when he was in the service.

TS:

How about that. And now, you said you didn’t use the GI Bill, but your husband used—like for buying a house or things like that?

BS:

I’m not exactly sure if he used it. It may have been offered. I’m sure it was offered to him. And I really don’t know. But the house we’re living in right now cost 20,834 dollars. [laughter] We’ve been living in that house—

TS:

Not to tell me exactly!

BS:

—since 1963.

TS:

Is that right?

BS:

Nineteen sixty-three.

TS:

Well, excellent.

BS:

Has four steps, and I will live there as long as I can crawl those four steps.

TS:

As long as I can get up the steps.

BS:

Because it’s all on one level

TS:

Well, it’s been a pleasure talking with you.

BS:

Thank you. Thank you.

TS:

Thank you so much for joining me for this interview.

BS:

Well, you’re welcome. You’re welcome.