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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Barbara Bagby Battenfeld, 2010

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Object ID: wv0499.5.001

Description: Barbara Bagby Battenfeld discusses her early life, military service, and life after her service. She also notes topics such as women’s roles in the military, her work experiences within the WAVES and outside of the military, and expresses her opinion on combat roles for both men and women.

Summary:

Creator: Barbara Battenfeld

Biographical Info: Barbara Bagby Battenfeld (b. 1919) served with the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) from 1944 to 1946.

Collection: Barbara Bagby Battenfeld 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:

[Begin First Recording]

Therese Strohmer:

This is Therese Strohmer and today is September 22nd, 2010. I am in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This is an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Barbara, go ahead and say your name the way that you’d like it to be on your collection.

Barbara Bagby Battenfeld:

Barbara Bagby Battenfeld.

TS:

We’ve got the three B’s going.

BB:

And Bagby is spelled B-A-G-B-Y.

TS:

Okay. Well, very good. Well, why don’t you go ahead and start off by telling me when and where you were born?

BB:

I was born in New York City in one of those lying-in [maternity] hospitals.

TS:

At a hospital in New York City—

BB:

In New York City, the hospital isn’t there anymore. But it was on—near Riverside Drive.

TS:

Okay. And so did you grow up in New York City?

BB:

No, I was just born there, because my father at that time was stationed in Georgia and my mother didn’t like the hospital in Columbus, Georgia.

TS:

Was she from New York?

BB:

She had two brothers, older brothers.

TS:

And so they lived in New York?

BB:

Yes. So, we went up to New York.

TS:

Oh, okay. While your father was stationed in Georgia?

BB:

Well, actually, at that—no, well.

TS:

Well, he wasn’t in the service yet.

BB:

Yes, he was in the service.

TS:

Oh, he was.

BB:

He went to West Point, so—a long time ago. Well, actually, I think he was on maneuvers, but he wasn’t in New York, anyway.

TS:

I see. So, that’s why you ended up being born there. How long did you live in that area, then?

BB:

Just long enough to be born and then get on the train, go back with my older brother and my mother. We all got pneumonia. [laughs]

TS:

Oh no!

BB:

Ended up in that hospital anyway, in Columbus, Georgia.

TS:

How many—oh, so you did end—so at the hospital she didn’t want to go in, you all ended up in it. Well, that’s interesting.

BB:

But I just had one older brother at that time.

TS:

You had one older brother? What’s his name?

BB:

Well, we called him Kelly, his name was Caroll, after my father. Keleher, an Irish name.  He’s not living, though.

TS:

Okay. Now you had—so you went back to Georgia, and now did you grow up in Georgia for very long?

BB:

No, from—let me see, I have to think. We must have gone down to San Antonio, that’s the first place I sort of remember.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

Fort Sam Houston was there. We weren’t on the base, I remember it was a road, wasn’t paved or anything, and I had the misfortune of—the iceman, when he was delivering the ice, I was petting a dog right in front, and you know how high—well, you wouldn’t remember, but the trucks were real high, and so he started up and—he could have killed me, but he didn’t.

TS:

What happened? I’m not quite sure what happened.

BB:

Well, I was petting the dog and he came in and couldn’t see me.

TS:

Oh, and so he had all the ice—oh, he was rolling the ice in.

BB:

No, he’d already—he’d already delivered the ice in the house.

TS:

Oh, you were petting the dog outside.

BB:

Yes. So, he came back and got in the car, and fortunately I screamed bloody murder, and that made him stall.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BB:

So, all he did was break my collarbone.

TS:

He hit you with the vehicle? Oh!

BB:

Yes, he side-swiped me. [chuckles]

TS:

Oh my goodness. I bet that didn’t feel very good. Back in the hospital again, I’m sure.

BB:

Yes, well, I remember some neighbor carrying me down, like a clinic or a hospital or whatever it was, yes.

TS:

What did your father do in the military?

BB:

Well, a lot of things. I have no idea what he was doing when we were in San Antonio, but after he graduated from West Point, his first duty was up in Alaska, and they were sort of keeping their eye on Russia, I think.

TS:

Okay. This would have been what—approximately what years?

BB:

Nineteen eleven.

TS:

Nineteen eleven, okay.

BB:

And he was up there, I guess, a couple of years. In the meantime, my mother had been in the Philippines, which—I have a complicated family. Her—

TS:

Interesting family, not complicated.

BB:

[laughs] My mother’s father was—had been in the army as a—what did they call him? He went around giving people—paymaster.

TS:

Oh, okay. He was popular.

BB:

In the early days, when they lived in Burlington, Vermont, he had to get in a horse and buggy and go out in the country. But he ended up in the Philippines, and anyway, my mother happened to be in the Philippines for a couple of years, too.

TS:

Okay. So, she—your mother followed—because of her father.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So, here her father was in the military, and your father was in the—you have quite a tradition of military.

BB:

Well, I guess. But anyway, in the meantime, my mother came back from the Philippines.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

And kept house—well, there’s a nice little apartment in San Francisco, it’s still there, in fact, and she kept house for my grandfather. In the meantime, my father had come down from Alaska and the two happened to meet just at the right time.

TS:

In San Francisco?

BB:

Well, he was stationed at—what is the name of the army post there, I can’t even remember what it is.

TS:

They have the Presidio.

BB:

Yes, thank you.

TS:

The Presidio of San Francisco.

BB:

Yes. He was a young lieutenant, don’t ask me what he was doing, I don’t know.

TS:

Oh, that’s okay. So, that’s where they met, so. Ah, very interesting. Chance meeting, and so then your father stayed in the service, and your mother kind of took the family around wherever he was stationed except for having birth in Georgia?

BB:

Yes, right. No, he stayed in his whole career, and back then, once you reached the age of sixty, you had to—unless you had—you had to be at least a—I don’t know what the rank was, you had a certain rank, and then you could stay on, but if you hadn’t reached the rank, and I can’t remember what it is.

TS:

Was he an officer?

BB:

Yes, he was an officer. I just remember, I think maybe he was still a major, but I’m not sure.

TS:

Yes. Well, that’s kind of neat. And so you said your earliest memories are growing up in the San Antonio area?

BB:

Well, that’s because of this accident more than anything, probably. [laughs]

TS:

Oh! How old were you, then?

BB:

Two.

TS:

Oh, little. Okay. So did you travel much more after that?

BB:

Well, after that, I know there are a couple of summers when I was really little, later on when I was all grown up, when we were at the National Rifle Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio.

TS:

Camp Perry?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So, you had gone to Ohio at some point, then.

BB:

Well, that’s because these National Rifle Matches, and my father was an instructor there.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BB:

So, I was there when I was very little, and I remember we lived in tents.

TS:

Oh, you did?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

For a very long period of time, or?

BB:

Well, he was there like six weeks, I guess.

TS:

Oh, okay. So you kind of did bivouacking yourself, then.

BB:

Well, eventually—the first time, I was just in a little tent by myself, and I don’t know if my parents were someplace—but then the next time, my father had higher rank, and so his tent was sort of two tents, the first part of the tent was like the—a porch to sit on, and then the next part was where the children were, and the next part—

TS:

Oh, they’re all attached.

BB:

—where my parents were. Yes.

TS:

Well, that’s interesting.

BB:

But there was—you had to go out if you wanted to go to the bathroom.

TS:

Did they have like a hard wood floor in there, or was it just a dirt floor?

BB:

Oh yes, oh, no.

TS:

A lot of times they put the hard wood in some of those tents, like wood.

BB:

Well, it was wood.

TS:

Some kind of wood.

BB:

Yes, it was wood, I do remember that.

TS:

To make it more of a permanent thing if you’re there for a while.

BB:

Well, of course, we were just there for the summer, that time, too. But that was a fun place.

TS:

Do you remember doing anything to play or anything?

BB:

Lake Erie was right there, so—and I don’t remember too much when I was little, except being in a tent, but then when I was back, later on, I was like 19 or 20, and then I just remember having a lot of dates. [laughs] And swimming in Lake Erie.

TS:

Well, now, you—oh, there you go.

BB:

Taking—helping with the children, and my brothers and sisters.

TS:

Oh, so at this point, when you were born you just had an older brother, and later you had some younger siblings that came along?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

Yes, there were five of us.

TS:

Five. So, you’re the second oldest.

BB:

I was the second oldest.

TS:

Now, did your mother—did she work at this time, at all? Outside the home, I mean, of course.

BB:

Well, interestingly enough, the first time I remember her working was, my father was overseas, and that’s when we ended up in Annapolis, Maryland.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

And she decided she would get a job, and so she got a job at a—I think—can’t remember whether it was a gift shop or—anyway, she loved it, whatever it was, she loved it, but that was the first time that I had ever seen her where she was working and earning money, yes.

TS:

Right. And approximately what year was that, do you recall? Your dad, you said, was stationed overseas.

BB:

Yes, well, that must have been about—he—I would say ’43, maybe. 1943.

TS:

So, during World War II.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

I see, okay. Now, do you remember much about—so you were kind of hopping around as a—you’re like what we call a—not a—what service was your father on?

BB:

I was an army brat.

TS:

Army brat, that’s right, that’s what we call it, an army brat. I didn’t want to say it, Barbara.

BB:

[laughter]

TS:

So, you—did you have much thought about it, I mean, did you have a lot of friends, did you have to change places and make friends again?

BB:

Yes, yes.

TS:

Was it hard at all?

BB:

Yes, I do remember always being the new girl, but I—now, Margie is quieter, has never been quite as—well, she’s six years younger. But I had to develop some kind of skills, you know, meeting people, one thing or another. So—but it still was hard, but one—the first place I remember living was in Swarth—Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, for all four years of my high school. And so that was just great for me, that was where I had a lot of friends.

TS:

In high school?

BB:

Yes, and I played all my favorite sports and was captain on three of them, and—

TS:

What sports did you play?

BB:

Lacrosse, basketball, and field hockey.

TS:

Oh, of those three, I’ve only played one of those. That would be basketball. Bet that was—but you had different kind of basketball game back then, too.

BB:

Oh yes, it was very odd. Two sections.

TS:

Yes. Describe it, for people that maybe don’t know.

BB:

Well, when I first started, actually there were three sections. A guard—two guards, a center, and a center-something else. And then two forwards, so you just pass from that section to the middle section to—[laughs]

TS:

Yes. But you could only take so many dribbles, right?

BB:

Yes, one.

TS:

One dribble.

BB:

One dribble. But then later on, by the time I graduated, we had two whole sections, so you had three forwards and three guards.

TS:

I see.

BB:

And then there was more room to dribble.

TS:

Could you dribble more than one?

BB:

I think you could dribble once and maybe have a dribble up in the air or something.

TS:

Just kind of go and catch it, follow it up? That’s interesting. It’s always interesting to me to see how basketball has changed for women through the years, and girls, you know.

BB:

Oh, I’ll say. I know, I couldn’t play now.

TS:

Has lacrosse changed at all from when you played?

BB:

You know, there’s the—they’re having a women’s lacrosse game at UNC next week, and if I can, I’m going to go down and see it.

TS:

Oh, terrific.

BB:

I don’t think it’s changed so much, no.

TS:

Yes, maybe not. And the field hockey, probably not, either.

BB:

No, I don’t think so.

TS:

Maybe what you wore, right, your outfits are a little different.

BB:

We didn’t wear—now, the girls, when the girls play lacrosse, they wear something around their eyes to protect them.

TS:

Like goggles of some sort?

BB:

Yes, we didn’t wear anything. Hockey, we wear shinguards. I don’t think lacrosse, we had anything.

TS:

No? What kind of—did you wear like a long skirt?

BB:

Oh, those funny little things you wore to the gym.

TS:

Bloomers?

BB:

No, not exactly bloomers. What were they called?

TS:

Were they like longer, kind of?

BB:

They had—you wore a little white blouse, and over it was—it would be like a—if it were just the top, it would be like a vest, and then a little skirt, down to about here.

TS:

So, we’re looking like around the mid ‘30s or so, right?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

For that time frame.

BB:

Yes, right.

TS:

Well, that’s kind of neat. You have to give me some pictures of that.

BB:

Oh, I have some in my scrapbook, but—

TS:

Oh, that’ll be nice, that’d be nice to see. So you—now, when you’re—you’re traveling around and—did you have a sense of what you thought you might want to do, growing up?

BB:

No.

TS:

None? Just enjoyed playing, and—

BB:

When I was a little girl, living in West Point, they would say “What would you like to be?”
And I would say “I want to be a cadet girl.” [chuckles]

TS:

Did you really?

BB:

That’s what I’m told.

TS:

What kind of response did you get from that, I wonder?

BB:

Oh, they thought I was cute.

TS:

Because you’re so little, you’re not a threat to them at that point, right?

BB:

Oh, I was really little then.

TS:

Yes, you showed me the one picture of you and Marjorie at West Point. Yes. We’ll have to put that up. So you—so—but you also grew up during the Depression.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Can you talk about that at all?

BB:

Yes, a lot of it makes me feel guilty. We would be—at that time, we were living in Swarthmore, and I do remember my parents sitting in the little sunroom and often having arguments and worry being about paying bills, so it wasn’t that we didn’t feel the Depression, but my father was getting—the army pay was reduced quite a bit, but he was getting—

TS:

A steady paycheck.

BB:

Hmm?

TS:

A steady paycheck, right?

BB:

Yes, right. And all around me were families where nobody had a job. And I don’t know if I was aware of it so much then, but later on I realized that they must have thought—I wonder what they thought about this army family that moves in. We were the only army family, but I had some good friends there from the high school, but I don’t—in the neighborhood, I didn’t ever get the neighborhood.

TS:

Why, do you think?

BB:

I think because they thought we were a little different, probably.

TS:

Now, why were you the only army family around?

BB:

Well, because—[laughs] there are no army posts there.

TS:

Well, how was it that your dad was—

BB:

My father was called PMS&T, maybe you know what that is.

TS:

I don’t.

BB:

Ah. I’ve forgotten what it stands for. Professor of Military Science and Tactics.

TS:

I see.

BB:

And he was that at PMC [Pennsylvania Military College], which at that time was a small military college. Now, it’s Wharton School of Business. [The location of Pennsylvania Military College seems to be associated with Widener University and is now the Pennsylvania Military College Museum. Wharton School of Business is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Widener is approximately eleven miles away in Chester, Pennsylvania.]

TS:

Oh, okay, so he was teaching.

BB:

Yes, actually he was teaching, and he would have been a great teacher in civilian life.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

Because that’s what he enjoyed. Well, he was teaching a lot to do with military history and tactics, but he was teaching, you know, a lot of other things too.

TS:

That’s why you wouldn’t have—like you weren’t in an army base when you’re in Pennsylvania.

BB:

No. That’s probably good.

TS:

Good, why?

BB:

Well, I don’t think—well, just because I didn’t get the pull to be so much of an army brat.

TS:

[laughs] Yes, different—somebody vacuuming down the hall, I think, so.

BB:

Well, I didn’t—we actually didn’t ever live on a base.

TS:

No?

BB:

Except at West Point and for about one year at Fort Leavenworth, which I hardly remember.

TS:

Do you remember anything about West Point, besides the—

BB:

Oh yes.

TS:

What was that like, then? Tell me about that.

BB:

Oh, I remember—

TS:

You look like you were about six or so in that picture, something like that.

BB:

Well, I was even smaller when I went there. Your turn, Margie!

TS:

We’re just to West Point now, Marjorie.

M:        We’re just at West Point? That’s when I was born.

BB:

Yes. I just showed her the picture.

M:        Oh. [laughs]

TS:

This is Barbara’s sister, Marjorie. I’m talking for the tape, because I’ve got the tape going, so the transcriber will know who just said—[laughter] So, you were born at West Point, though, huh?

BB:

She was asking me what West Point was like.

M:        I was about two, and I—

BB:

But for me, there was snow, sledding in the winter, a lot of woods to get lost in.

TS:

You got to do a lot of fun things?

BB:

There was a little creek that I used to go down and get all wet in.

M:        Where?

BB:

West Point.

M:        At West Point, there was a creek?

BB:

Yes.

M:        There was a river.

BB:

No, there was a little tiny creek.

M:        Really?

BB:

Just down from the quarters.

TS:

Well, how old were you there, Marjorie?

M:        Well, when we left, I was two, so.

TS:

Well, you’re not going to have much—

M:        I know what the place looks like.

BB:

Because she’s been back before, you know.

TS:

I see.

M:        And I remember the river. [laughter]

BB:

It was a creek!

M:        [unclear] the Hudson.

TS:

When I come back, we’ll get your story, what you remember.

BB:

If I can find a picture of the creek—but I don’t think I can find a picture of the creek.

M:        Well, of course, I don’t remember the house that we lived in or anything.

BB:

No.

TS:

Well, you would have been very young. That would have been hard to remember.

M:        But I remember being shown it at some time in my life, I don’t—

TS:

Oh, when you went by it?

BB:

Lot of times, we would stop at West Point, remember, just to—well, because Kelly was there.

TS:

And who’s Kelly?

BB:

Our older brother.

TS:

Oh, okay. So he went to West Point?

M:        Yes.

TS:

Oh, you guys do have a nice military—long military history in your family. [laughter]

M:        That’s—one of Barbara’s grandchildren wrote us something about—talking about her grandmother’s militaristic background.

BB:

That’s right, that was—

TS:

Is that right? Well, I hope to see you soon, then, I’ll give you a call, thank you, Marjorie.

M:        So, you’re not going to do it today?

TS:

No, we’ll do it a different day, I think, that’ll probably be better. So—because I want to get your story first, and then I can figure out how to answer some—we’re in a lobby here, so that’s why we’re back and forth. So, you’re in West Point, and— [background noise]

BB:

We were there for four years, but it was a great place for children.

TS:

Yes, it sounds good.

BB:

And my family, my mother, while she was very strict in a lot of ways, but she never paid much attention when we went outside, to what we were doing, you know? [laughs]

TS:

You had a lot of freedom that way?

BB:

I could’ve been drowning in the creek—now, it was a little tiny creek.

TS:

You enjoyed that. And then you were in Pennsylvania—tell me about your high school years, then?

BB:

Well, that was all in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

TS:

Tell me about that.

BB:

And that was my favorite four years, because I came having moved all over the place, settled down for four years, and all high school in one place, so I quickly made friends there. Well, not quickly, it took me—not right away.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

Swarthmore-ans were very kind of unfriendly.

TS:

Took you—But once you got in it was easier?

BB:

I—one of the girls I met played basketball, and she could see that I knew something about basketball.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

So, she wanted me to try out for basketball. At that time, it was played in a little tiny gym. It wasn’t really basketball, but anyway, I got to know her and then after that—and then I got into all these other sports.

TS:

I see.

BB:

And anyway, and so—

TS:

That’s how you made a lot of your connections, then?

BB:

Yes, well, I was very good in all the sports, and so that’s—if I ever were going to give advice to any of my grandchildren, you know, “Go to school, get involved in something that you do well in, and then you’ll make friends.”

TS:

Yes, that’s good advice, I think. Now, did you like school, itself, the classes?

BB:

Yes, yes.

TS:

Did you have any, like, favorite teachers or subjects?

BB:

Well, English was always—and that was one of my favorite teachers, except that when it came to graduation, they always played that famous thing they played for graduation, [hums/sings a tune], I don’t know what it was. She decided she wanted to have a cello playing at our graduation, and cello didn’t fit in with this—you would recognize this.

TS:

Yes, the march?

BB:

Yes, that everybody has.

TS:

Sure.

BB:

I’ve never forgotten that.

TS:

So, she had a cello play instead of just the regular march.

BB:

Yes, so we didn’t get to have it, and yet we had been hearing that for four years when other classes got to. And I’ve never forgiven that English teacher. I liked her in every other way.

TS:

Yes. [laughter] Well, she made a good story for you, though, for all these years. So, now about what year did you graduate from high school?

BB:

Nineteen thirty-seven.

TS:

Nineteen thirty-seven. We’ve talked a little—

BB:

Nineteen thirty-seven, the end grows nigh, we’re facing life, our hopes are high. [laughter]

TS:

You remember that very well.

BB:

Well, sort of my boyfriend, he wrote the words and another classmate wrote the music, and they had music to it.

TS:

Well, let’s hear it again.

BB:

No, no, no, I can’t sing it.

TS:

Can you hum it? So, you said before you didn’t really have any expectations of what you would do after?

BB:

I don’t think so. I’m trying to think whether I ever did. Now, by the time I got into high school and was about to go off to college, my—well, my favorite teacher was the—was our phys. ed. teacher, who taught both boys and girls, and she taught beginning in sixth and seventh grade all through high school. And she was a marvelous lacrosse player, that’s why we had such a good team.

TS:

Oh, neat.

BB:

And we all would turn—now, her name was Ginger, we called her Ms. Allen most of the time. But she’s the one that hoped that I would go someplace, take phys. ed. and become a—you know—

TS:

Physical education teacher?

BB:

Yes, physical.

TS:

She wanted you to go on to college?

BB:

Yes. I went on to college, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be that. You know, there’s still that prejudice, or was then, a woman playing so good—actually, not so much in the high school, but I didn’t want to get pigeonholed.

TS:

What was the prejudice that people had?

BB:

Well, you know, sort of like a job—being a job, but being a—not so much at Swarthmore, but—I know when I was at the University of Iowa, they didn’t have an intercollegiate team, but we had sort of a team, and that’s where I realized that our little group of field hockey players, you could sort of get the sense that we were—I don’t know if they thought we were lesbian or what, but anyway.

TS:

Oh, so some kind of negative connotation.

BB:

Right, right.

TS:

Because you’re athletic, and—

BB:

Yes, right.

TS:

I see. So, that was kind of the connection?

BB:

Yes, that was just for a short time there. Because Iowa didn’t have an intercollegiate, so we just had a club team, you might say.

TS:

I see.

BB:

Although I went up to Wisconsin and played in some kind of tournament up there. It was very cold.

TS:

Well, tell me how you ended up in Iowa?

BB:

Well, because my father was—he had been at Plattsburgh Barracks, New York, if you know New York at all.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

It’s in Plattsburgh, and he was the assistant—he wasn’t the—

TS:

Commandant, but he was—

BB:

He wasn’t the commanding officer, but he was the second in command of this regiment, and we were there just two years, but that’s one of the—in the summer, we went to Camp Perry, you know, I mentioned he always did that in the summer. But anyway, then after he left Plattsburgh, then he was—he was ordered out to the University of Iowa to be the PMS&T I mentioned.

TS:

Oh, right, so he was at a different place, and he got to do that training.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

I see. So—but you were out of high school by then.

BB:

Yes, oh yes, I started college there. Oh, no, I started at Vermont.

TS:

Oh, you went to Vermont first?

BB:

I’d forgotten I was at Vermont for two years. [laughs]

TS:

What’d you do in Vermont? How did you end up in Vermont, then, what—

BB:

Well, I—again, here living in Swarthmore, and I really would have liked to go to another college, Middlebury, but I was too late to apply at Middlebury by the time my father knew where he was going, so I ended up—I liked Vermont, University of Vermont, very nice college.

TS:

What—did you have an expectation of what you thought you might do there?

BB:

[laughs] Well, again, I played in sports, but not intercollegiate.

TS:

What about for academics?

BB:

Oh, but I also was—helped put out the little newspaper. I—that’s it, I did begin to think of something.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BB:

Being a journalist, actually.

TS:

Oh, that’s pretty interesting, too, yes.

BB:

Yes, right, because I helped to put out the newspaper, and so, jumping many, many years, my parents had retired to Palo Alto [California], let’s see.

TS:

I know where that’s at.

BB:

Now what had I been doing? I had been in the navy, maybe I’d been in the navy, I don’t—anyway, Margie and I ended up—oh, I know, I taught school, Rowland Hall School for Girls in Salt Lake City, which you’ve never heard of. And the school was really a big building where Brigham Young’s wives lived.

TS:

You have lived in a lot of different places.

BB:

As you can tell, I forget them.

TS:

Yes, well, but let’s back up, I want to get back to when you were going to college in Vermont and in Iowa. Now, you’re—it’s still the Depression, the tail end and then the beginning of like World War II.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

I have a couple questions I want to ask you about that. First of all, you—your formative years, really, were when Roosevelt was president. For a good part of that.

BB:

Yes, right.

TS:

What did you think of him and what did your family think of Roosevelt at that time?

BB:

I think we all liked Roosevelt.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

Although my mother’s—one of my mother’s brothers was very anti-Semitic, I don’t know why that had to do with—oh, Roosevelt, a lot of people, yes, that was it.

TS:

He hired people that were Jewish?

BB:

Well, the name Roosevelt, I think some people—

TS:

Oh, thought was Jewish?

BB:

It was, but this was an uncle I was not fond of, of my mother’s. But I—we were in Washington [D.C.], my father went to a school called the Command and something—that every officer had to go through, and that happened to be in Washington, and so I was made very much aware of Roosevelt, and would have loved to have gone down and see him at a parade, but never—but I did get to see Mrs. Roosevelt a couple times.

TS:

Oh, you did?

BB:

Well, for one thing, that Easter egg roll they have?

TS:

Okay, on the White House lawn.

BB:

I went with my little brothers and sisters, and at that time, one of the Roosevelt daughters, with their grandchildren, Sissy and Buzzy or something, came out on the balcony. We all waved to them. And then, again, in Washington, one time, we were at—with my family, went to Mount Vernon, and as we were just sort of out in front, this little roadster came roaring up and stopped right in front. Who should hop out—Eleanor Roosevelt.

TS:

[chuckles]

BB:

Real sporty kind, I mean, you know that—

TS:

Was she driving?

BB:

Yes, and you know she’d gotten away from her security. [laughter]

TS:

I don’t think they had as much security then as they do, you know.

BB:

Yes, but it was one of these really, really sporty cars, you know. She came quite fast, and I don’t know why—but anyway, then she went inside, so.

TS:

Well, what’d you think of Eleanor Roosevelt?

BB:

Oh, I loved her.

TS:

What did you like about her?

BB:

Well, I liked her because she was her own person, and, you know, she wasn’t just the president’s wife. She did her own thing, very important things, besides helping her husband, and I didn’t know about the affair that her husband was going to have and all.

TS:

I don’t think anybody knew.

BB:

No, no. So, I just admired her, because I thought—and I guess, I guess that’s sort of—I guess I wanted to grow up and be somebody that was my own person, as well as—

TS:

That was inspirational as a—you know, a young girl growing up, to have her as a role model?

BB:

Yes, right, yes, yes it was. Yes.

TS:

So, where—do you remember when Pearl Harbor was bombed; do you remember?

BB:

Oh, yes, I know exactly because at that point my father was at Fort Benning, Georgia.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

And my best friend, Venita, and I—they had regimental football games, you know, between different—

TS:

Right, the regiments.

BB:

Yes. And at halftime, we always liked to go back to—well, anyway, Venita had a car with a radio, her family car. So, we went back to the car, turned on the radio, and that’s when we heard about Pearl Harbor. And then suddenly, I realized when we went back to the stadiums, most of the men of military age left, and that was the last time you saw any of those men in civilian clothes. From then on, you would see them in uniform.

TS:

Oh, that’s interesting.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So what—

BB:

Except when they were in their quarters.

TS:

Right.

BB:

But before, they didn’t—they just wore civilian clothes when they were outside.

TS:

Right, but once the war got on, everybody had their uniform. Now, where—were you still in Iowa at this time?

BB:

You mean, when Pearl Harbor—

TS:

Were you going to school then?

BB:

I was working at Fort Benning, actually.

TS:

You were working at Fort Benning?

BB:

Yes, well, see, my first real job was IBM. I was a tabulating machine operator.

TS:

Is that right?

BB:

Right out of college. And Fort Benning, they had a finance office and they needed—they had tabulating machines, so I got a job there with my good friend Venita.

TS:

Now, so when did you graduate from Iowa?

BB:

Nineteen forty-one, just when the war was—in fact, all the time, I was—

TS:

So, it would have been in the spring or something of that year, right?

BB:

In June, right, and then I sort of—that’s the break, for me, between peace and war, right after that. But anyway, I remember even at Vermont, we were all very much worried about the—you know, the Nazis, and—

TS:

What was happening—

BB:

And the war, and of course it came, but that was the first time I remember listening to the news and everything.

TS:

Were you—so that’s interesting, because sometimes when I talk to people, they weren’t really aware of what was happening. I mean, they were aware, but they weren’t really concerned, you know, their daily lives. But your father was in the military, too.

BB:

Yes, right.

TS:

Do you think that made a difference to you?

BB:

Well, I suppose so, although I wasn’t, you know, particularly worried about him, but just the whole idea of war and the Nazis and—you know, and that’s when they first invaded Poland, and so I was very much aware of all those invasions.

TS:

Did you listen to the Fireside Chats by Roosevelt, at all, at this time?

BB:

Oh, yes.

TS:

Yes?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So, you listened to the radio. Did you go to the movies at all?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Do you have a favorite actor or actress?

BB:

Back then, in fact some of them—like when we were at Plattsburgh Barracks, there was a movie right across the parade ground, it cost ten cents. I can’t tell you any of the movies I saw then, but let’s see, when—oh, the one at Fort Benning, oh yes, one of the greatest movies of all. Can you figure out [chuckles]—well, you were too young then, you wouldn’t know. But they still play it now.

TS:

Gone with the Wind?

BB:

Well, that’s close.

TS:

Greatest—Casablanca would have been later.

BB:

Yes!

TS:

But that would have been later, right, because I would have been—well, that was a war movie. What year was that? Well, shoot— [Casablanca was released on January 23, 1942.]

BB:

Well, it must have been, because we didn’t go to Fort Benning until ’40, ’41.

TS:

You’re making me guess movies, all my friends are going to say—

BB:

Forty-two, I think.

TS:

Yes. Well, that’s—

BB:

Yes, Casablanca. Yes.

TS:

So, that was some of the things you did for fun?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Did you have dances that you went to, or—

BB:

Well, actually, my father’s regiment, or maybe—there were, yes, dances. I was kind of tall, and anyway, that wasn’t my—

TS:

Wasn’t your thing, necessarily?

BB:

I loved to watch people dance.

TS:

Yes. But not necessarily get up there and dance yourself.

BB:

No, no, not then, not then. I felt more like an awkward teenager. [chuckling]

TS:

So, what did you—and so, in the period from June through when Pearl Harbor hit, you’re working at—some time in there, you’re working at IBM, punching—

BB:

That was before the war.

TS:

Before the war.

BB:

I went up to New York in the winter of—winter of ’42, could that be before the war? Well, we were worried about actually being bombed in New York at that time, and the submarines. If you lived in New York, that’s what you worried about. [The attack on Pearl Harbor was on December 7th, 1941]

TS:

Yes, and that happened before the war, before Pearl Harbor, anyhow.

BB:

Yes. Now, I can’t exactly remember which—I remember that’s when I worked at IBM. Yes, I had—I had somehow interviewed somebody, one summer, from IBM. I knew somebody, an older woman—well, she was a girl, but older than I, that had gone to IBM and she told me that that would be a good place to work. And so I was interviewed one summer, forgot all about it, and then I got a phone call or a telegram from IBM—well, about that interview, that winter, or something.

TS:

Maybe just—

BB:

In fact, it was New Year’s Eve.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BB:

And I was at a dance, I remember, at that particular time. And so my mother was horrified, she said “You’re going to New York City?” Because I just called IBM and said “Yes, I’m coming.” [chuckles] I didn’t know anybody there, although I did run in, believe it or not—there was a hotel for women, and my first night there, who should come out of [unclear] but two of my sorority sisters from the University of Iowa.

TS:

Is that right? Just kind of ran into them.

BB:

Yes, and we ended up rooming together, with another—there were four of us.

TS:

What were they doing there?

BB:

Well, one of them was kind of a—she looked like Hedy Lamarr [actress], she was trying to get—she was trying to get little jobs where she sort of danced. [laughs] And my other roommate, I think she was in advertising, worked for one of the advertising firms.

TS:

New York City would have been the place to go for that, then.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So, what made you—how—at what point did you then join the service?

BB:

Well, I joined the service, first joined, was going to be a WAC [Women’s Army Corps].

TS:

Oh, at first you were going to be a WAC.

BB:

Well, because there was no WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], actually.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

Now, this is when I was in New York, and I don’t know if this was about the time we’re talking about.

TS:

Sounds like ‘42ish or something, maybe.

BB:

Yes, but the WACs were known, and there were no WAVES, and so I—and in fact, the doctor who examined me, my physical exam was the doctor who delivered me at birth. And also, Margie and I were delivered by the same doctor, six years apart in the same hospital.

TS:

Lot of irony.

BB:

Yes. But anyway, so, then I got cold feet. I thought, I didn’t want the uniforms, and—

TS:

Is that right? That was the reason?

BB:

Doesn’t that sound like a silly reason?

TS:

Is that—you think that’s the only reason that you might have backed out, or was there other—because there was some not always nice things said about the WACs.

BB:

Yes, well, that probably didn’t—that—I imagine, yes.

TS:

Did your father have any opinion one way or the other on—

BB:

I’m not sure. Was he already overseas? I’m trying to think, now, whether he was around. Don’t think he—I think he must have gone over—he went to Iceland first, and so—

TS:

I see. Well, he was a career military man, so he had some seniority, then.

BB:

Yes. I’m trying to remember—anyway, he—he ended up being in Alaska, and I think the war must have started, and then from Alaska to England and England to France. And his regiment wasn’t in the front lines, although one of his companies got captured during the Battle of the Bulge.

TS:

Oh, is that right?

BB:

I do remember that.

TS:

What was his role during the war, then?

BB:

Well, he was commanding officer of a regiment.

TS:

He was?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So he put all that training to use.

BB:

Right, and he would have loved to have been a general, but you know, he wasn’t the kind of—I didn’t like the generals anyway. [laughter]

TS:

You had to be kind of political, too.

BB:

Yes, right, right.

TS:

Well, so you wanted to join the WACs. Now, did you sign up, or were you just thinking about it?

BB:

I had my exam, I don’t remember—I think I decided—

TS:

Just said “I’m not going to go for it.”

BB:

Yes, right.

TS:

And so what did your mom think about that?

BB:

Hmm, she was around. I don’t know. [laughs]

TS:

So, then you—

BB:

Well, she wasn’t living in—where was she living then? I don’t know. She must have—I don’t know where she—for a while, she lived at the Thayer Hotel in West Point, actually, after my father went overseas. She was very restless, and she was familiar with West Point, and so we all lived there for a while. I hated it, myself.

TS:

When you were older, you hated it, when you were younger, you loved it.

BB:

Yes, yes, well, I guess it did seem to be the place to be.

TS:

Well, it would have been a different kind of environment, sure.

BB:

Right, right. But I had a job there, too, actually.

TS:

What rank was your father at this point?

BB:

He must have been a colonel.

TS:

A colonel? What’s your father’s name?

BB:

Caroll.

TS:

Caroll. And the last name?

BB:

Bagby.

TS:

Bagby, I see.

BB:

Caroll Keleher—no, he was an Armstrong, he was a C-A-B. Caroll Armstrong Bagby, born in a little town in Missouri. And—

[The University of Iowa has a photograph of Colonel Caroll Bagby in their collection, available at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/ictcs,1482. The Online Archive of California/Hoover Institution also has his papers, but as of June of 2011 they are not available online. http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt500036x4/ ]

TS:

There you go. So, you had a period of time between when you were thinking about joining the WACs—and what made you want to join the military service at all?

BB:

Well, I guess because—having so many—and actually, one of my favorite cousins, was early on was shot down—no, he wasn’t shot down, he had a midair collision with an airplane. Now, that was while I was living in New York. I had other cousins in the submarine service, it might have just been that whole thing. I had other family who were involved.

TS:

Did they survive the collision? The midair collision?

BB:

The submariners did. My one cousin was the one who was in a midair—he was still in training, and he was—I felt very bad about him.

TS:

He didn’t survive the collision?

BB:

No, no, I remember I was still living in New York and I got a telegram and of course that alarmed me, even though it wasn’t anybody closer than—he was one of my favorite cousins, though. Yes, so that was the first casualty. And then—then there was somebody else. I won’t go into my romance with—

TS:

Oh, go ahead.

BB:

[laughter] No, I met somebody while we were at Fort Benning, but shortly after that, my father went overseas, and that’s when my—well, anyway. But I met a real cool guy named Al, and he was with a different regiment, and I don’t know, he was just fun to be with. So, at some point we had decided that we would probably get married, and at that time, my father—we left Fort Benning, and actually—I don’t know why we were in New York—Al was going off on leave, and then coming down to see me, and he never showed up. Turned out that he went home on leave and found out a girl he had known before was about to have a baby. [laughs]

TS:

Oh, and it was his baby, perhaps?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

I see.

BB:

And later on, when I was at Fort Benning to visit my friend Venita, I went down there just because I was curious.

TS:

What happened, right?

BB:

Yes. Well, also, I heard that he also had been fooling around with one of the Hollywood starlets at that time, and I thought, that’s kind of curious. So, I got an invite from my friend Venita at Fort Benning, and was sitting in the officer’s club waiting to meet her and I looked up, and by God there was Al Shaplin[?], you know, in the middle of, like, the lobby? And I didn’t know what to do, but I just got up and went over.

TS:

You talked to him?

BB:

Yes, yes, and he had a very attractive young woman with him, that looked a little like me, I could tell that, later on, you know. And she’d been in the navy. And so anyway, and then they had a baby that was born, a little baby. But that was a very awkward conversation. [laughs]

TS:

I would think; I would think so. So, when he—he didn’t show up, did you have no idea really what happened, or had you heard rumors, did he call you or anything?

BB:

Oh yes. No, no, he didn’t, but later on, there was a little cafeteria sort of at the club, and I knew he was going overseas, his regiment was about to go overseas, that I knew.
And the wife was very nice, and so they were sitting there, and she said “Come sit down.” And she said “I’m going to go up and look after the baby and I’m just going to let you two stay here, I think you have probably something you’d like to—” So wasn’t that nice of her?

TS:

That was very nice of her.

BB:

She was very nice.

TS:

What did you think about that, at the time?

BB:

Well, I was in shock, you know. And I could hardly talk to Al, first of all. But by that time, you know, and then I found out that he was coming to see me, and he was definitely in love with me, planned—you know, we had planned to get married, and that’s what he was hoping to do. But then when he got back to—he lived in Redding, Pennsylvania, I think it was, and found that the girl he had dated and he knew they’d had intercourse somewhere in New York [laughs]—when they ran into each other during the wartime. So, he did the right thing and he married her, but the wrong thing was not letting me know about this.

TS:

Right.

BB:

Because I had no idea about any of this. That’s why I went down to Fort Benning.

TS:

I see.

BB:

And that’s when I found out.

TS:

That’s interesting.

BB:

But anyway, we had a nice conversation and I didn’t yell at him or anything like that.

TS:

Did he come back from the war okay?

BB:

No, he didn’t.

TS:

He didn’t?

BB:

No. He was the one really close, you know—he went off and he was in—it was Hürtgen Forest, there was a big battle, I remember. And it was my mother—I was in the navy then, at this air base in Conklin, and I had the night duty. There was only one of us who had the night duty, because sometimes we’d get messages we had to decode. And in the morning we had to encode, and so I was there alone and my mother called me, middle of the night, and she had—she kept track of casualties, because my father was overseas, and she saw Al’s name.

TS:

Oh.

BB:

So anyway, I wrote a note to his mother, and I’ve often wondered, you know, what happened to the little girl, and his wife.

TS:

You never had any contact with them again?

BB:

I wrote her, her name is Shaplin[?], and I wrote her to tell her how sorry I was about Al. I didn’t try to write the wife, I didn’t know her address. But years later, I was in that military museum they now have in Washington, and where you can go and find out—I did look up Al’s, and all I found out, which I already knew, was that he had been killed.

TS:

And the date or something, probably.

BB:

Yes, right. So, that was only—that was the real sadness in the, you know, not just because I had been in love with him, but because he had been killed.

TS:

Right. Even if he had just been a friend it would have been very difficult.

BB:

Yes, right, right.

TS:

Now, did your older brother join the service?

BB:

Oh, yes.

TS:

What service was he in?

BB:

He was in the army.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

Margie and I don’t talk as much about Kelly, because he turned out to be an—later on, an alcoholic.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BB:

And, kind of, a mean S.O.B.

TS:

Yes? [laughter]

TS:

Well, that would—every family has somebody.

BB:

But when he was younger—he was my older brother, you know, and I had that feeling you have for older brothers.

TS:

Yes, idolize and things like that.

BB:

Well, yes, I admired him, and he went to West Point, and he was doing all right until—I don’t know when all this happened, but.

TS:

Do you think it was after the war?

BB:

Well, he resigned, actually, from the army. He could have stayed in, at least had a good pay, but then after—he sort of went downhill, and he didn’t have very good jobs, or—

TS:

Do you think, you know, today we talk about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

BB:

But he wasn’t really in any—

TS:

No?

BB:

Well, he did get lost in the jungle in India. Maybe that could’ve—because he was stationed in the Indian theatre.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

Somehow or other—because he was kind of nutty—he walked out and got lost, literally, in the jungle, and was missing for about five days.

TS:

Oh my. Well, I just—sometimes, you know, we don’t talk about those kind of things.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Occurring back in World War I and World War II, but doesn’t mean that men and women didn’t react the same as they do today.

BB:

No. So, he wasn’t in any particular battle situation, that I can remember.

TS:

He just, kind of, had that—turned out not quite the way that—

BB:

Because he came back, and by that time I was living in Washington with my ex-navy friends, actually we ended up having a house in Chevy Chase [neighborhood of Washington D.C.]. By this time we were all—no, we were still in the navy then, no.

TS:

Well, now, tell me how you ended up in the WAVES? Let’s hear that story.

BB:

Oh, how I ended up in the WAVES? Have to stop a moment. Well, I think—

TS:

I can pause this for a second if you want. You want to do that for a second?

BB:

Yes.

[Recording Paused]

TS:

Okay, I’m back with Barbara again.

BB:

Okay, so I went up to Baltimore and I—

TS:

And you said your family was living in Annapolis, now?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

My father was overseas.

TS:

Now, he’s still overseas, but your mom is moved to Annapolis.

BB:

Yes, because her favorite sister-in-law was there, and my favorite cousins lived there.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

But then, you know, Margie and I are what you call army brats, but down in Annapolis, all the young women our age are called “navy juniors”.

TS:

Oh, is that right? [laughs]

BB:

So, they used to rib us all the time, you know, about being not from Annapolis, but West Point background.

TS:

But the army—yes. I’m sure there’s that rivalry, too.

BB:

But it wasn’t—it was a pleasant year, that year in Annapolis.

TS:

When we paused for a minute, you were saying that you think this might have been inspiration for you to join the WAVES. Why would that be, do you think?

BB:

Well, that’s because I had become—my mother was too dependent on me.

TS:

Too dependent.

BB:

That’s when we were living in Annapolis, and my brother Bobby, who was another problem child, as it turned out, when he was kind of—he was kind of a victim as well—anyway, he was having all sorts of problems, and my father wasn’t there.

TS:

Right.

BB:

And Bobby adored my father, and I think that changed his life. But anyway, my mother depended on me, you know, she wanted me to help her with Bobby. Oh, and she even persuaded me to get on the train with Bobby with one of my cousins, I don’t know where we went with Bobby, but I didn’t want to do that. I can’t remember where we were taking him to; maybe a school of some kind? Anyway, I just decided I—it was just this too much mother, you know, I wasn’t able—she depended on me like I was, you know—

TS:

You were probably like about your mid-twenties, now, aren’t you?

BB:

Yes, well, I was born in—let’s say 1920 because it’s almost ’20. [1919—BB later clarified]

TS:

Yes, early twenties.

BB:

Yes, yes, right. So, that’s really the reason why I joined the navy, was I thought I wanted to get out of all this responsibility.

TS:

I see, get away from the responsibilities laid on you by your mother?

BB:

Yes, yes. And I didn’t make any bones about it, you know.

TS:

No?

BB:

I mean, I didn’t tell the recruiters that.

TS:

[laughs] But your mother, did you tell her that?

BB:

No, I didn’t tell her, no. It would have rolled off her.

TS:

So, she—so you decided—so—and why did you decide on the WAVES, then?

BB:

Well, I had already eliminated the WACs. [laughs]

TS:

Right, that’s right.

BB:

And you have to admit that the WAVES had very attractive uniforms.

TS:

I don’t admit that to anyone. I stay neutral on this topic. [laughs]

BB:

But by—of course, my favorite—the aunt of mine [Sarah Bagby Dry—BB added later], who was just two years older than me, she was the one who ended up in the air force.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BB:

And she had this fantastic life, you know, being a general’s aide [aide to General Carl Spaatz in North Africa, Europe, and Pacific—BB later added] and being involved in the atomic bomb. [background noise]

TS:

That’s later, though, you didn’t have that idea of her yet.

BB:

Yes, right, right.

TS:

So, was there—did you know any—was your aunt in the—well, she wouldn’t have been in—would she have been in the WAF [Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron] then? [Sarah Bagby joined WACs in 1942 and was a major—BB later clarified]

BB:

When I joined the navy? No.

TS:

I mean, did you have any other role models for yourself, I guess is what I’m saying, of other women in the military at this time?

BB:      Well, later certainly, and she died a rather early death of cancer, and she’s certainly a role model.

TS:

Who would that be?

BB:

My aunt, Sarah. Who was just two years younger, because she was so great during her cancer, you know. We didn’t even know it for a long time, then she had—and she had only been able to have one child, so they adopted three. She had three adopted children. And we used to stop and visit her on the way from Florida going up north and we would stop and visit. They lived in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. And she was always so glad to see us, so later on, when we were younger, she was kind of a rival, because she was just two years younger [My father was the oldest of twelve and Sarah was the youngest sister—BB later clarified], and she was doing all these fantastic things in the WACs, you know, and even when we were younger than that—she was the youngest child. When I had visited New Haven, Missouri, my grandfather made a big thing out of me. I was the newest baby, except I wasn’t a baby, and Sarah wasn’t too keen about all of that. [laughs] But then, you know, later on we became really good friends.

TS:

Yes, as you did different things in your life. So—so you’re in Annapolis. Is that where you decided to enlist; was Annapolis?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

That was because—yes, that seemed like a good thing to do.

TS:

Well, you said you were trying to get out from underneath these responsibilities.

BB:

Yes, so I just decided to do that.

TS:

Do you remember talking to the recruiter at all? Were you influenced at all by any of the brochures that, you know, the posters or—

BB:

No.

TS:

—things that? No? It was just—well, you’d already known about the military, it’s not like it was a mystery.

BB:

Yes. So I don’t know, living in Annapolis, I don’t know how I actually got in touch with whoever—I mean, I must have been in touch with somebody before I went up to Baltimore to become—to enlist, because first of all, you enlisted, not as an officer. I don’t know; can’t remember that much of it.

TS:

So, what kind of—what was your experience like, then, when you—where did they send you?

BB:

Well, I had to wait for about two months, anyway, and then I went up to do my WAVE training.

TS:

I was thinking—

BB:

And that—that was Smith College.

TS:

Okay. And this is in April of ’44.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So you went to do your training at Smith College, and how was that?

BB:

Oh, that was great.

TS:

What kind of things did you have to do?

BB:

Well, [laughs] we had bunk beds and all that. We lived in dormitories, and there was this one hotel there, and half the time, we moved down there and we had small rooms and double-decker bunks, and did a lot of—I loved to march, that was one thing I loved to do. So, we had a lot of marching, and I used to—as a child, I used to march and see all the cadets march, and they had these wonderful parades at West Point. So, that was great with me. But there was a wonderful march, that after we—this was—after we finished marching around one day, and you know, we had no rank or anything then, these were young ensigns who were yelling at us, you know, there was a new—suddenly she said, you know, like “Hup-hup-hup, [unclear] stop” or something like, whatever they said; “company stop.” And then she said “To the winds march.” That was a fun march where suddenly we went off into the woods. [laughter]

TS:

Just into the woods, no—

BB:

Well, just into the woods right there.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

To the winds march. I’ve never forgotten that. [laughs]

TS:

That’s a little different. So, did you enjoy this kind of training?

BB:

Yes, I did.

TS:

Was it—anything about it particularly difficult?

BB:

No, I wouldn’t say there was anything really difficult. We took classes, a lot of classes, and learned a lot about the navy and about ships and we had to be able to recognize airplanes and ships, and I liked all that. And one of my roommates, it turned out, she had been a—in the medical corps, and she had become pregnant just before we got to Smith College, and I—anyway, she was bounced out of there, and I felt really bad about that.

TS:

That she had to leave because she was pregnant?

BB:

Yes, right. And had no husband.

TS:

Right.

BB:

Now, there was another person, I’m not sure of the difference of the kind of discrimination, somebody else in our platoon, that was earlier, was also pregnant. She had a husband. So we marched around singing marching—what are the songs? About babies. [chuckles] Down will come something, baby and all. [Rock-a-bye Baby—BB later clarified]

TS:

Baby will fall—yes, when the bough breaks, and—

BB:

Yes, that’s what we—see, wasn’t that different? Because she had a husband.

TS:

She was able to stay in?

BB:

No, she wasn’t able to stay in, but she—the other girl just suddenly disappeared.

TS:

Disappeared?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

So you think her treatment because she was married was a little bit better than the girl who wasn’t?

BB:

Well, she also came out of the enlisted ranks, and the rest of us just came from—there were quite a few that came from enlisted ranks, but I think she was singled out because they thought of her as an enlisted medical person.

TS:

Like the lower class, you mean?

BB:

Yes, exactly. Yes.

[End First Recording, Begin Second Recording]

TS:

So, there was some kind of stigma or discrimination or something.

BB:

I think so.

TS:

Prejudice, maybe, just—

BB:

Yes. Anyway, I felt very bad about that. I never—anyway, she just—I knew about it, but then suddenly she was gone.

TS:

Right. Well, did you see very much of that—those kind of prejudices in the time that you were in the WAVES?

BB:

Well, that would have been sort of a particular kind.

TS:

Right. [pause] When the issue, like you were talking about earlier, about what kind of women go in the military sort of thing, did that come up at all? For other women?

BB:

No, well, because so many of us—in fact, when I first went to Smith College, I was there like for two months. And I—and suddenly, I kept seeing people who were the class behind me, that I’d known in high school. So suddenly it seems to be the thing to do.

TS:

Huh. More popular, then, in ’44 than maybe in ’43.

BB:

Yes. There were at least three people from Swarthmore High who had been behind me.

TS:

I see.

BB:

I would say “Hey, hey so-and-so,” you know, “What are you doing here?”

TS:

So, more people you knew showed up in later years.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

I see.

BB:

And it must have been going on all over the country, too.

TS:

That is actually kind of interesting. So now, did you have an idea of what kind of job you were going to do?

BB:

Well, early on I did because of the training, when I was at Smith, after getting the two months training and also being—became an officer. What did they call it when you become an officer, well anyway, that little ceremony they had.

TS:

Yes, I should know that term. [laughs]

BB:

Anyway, we became officers, and a very famous actress, and I remembered her name today and now I’ve forgotten it again. Very well known, I wish—anyway, she’s the one who spoke at our graduation. But anyway, then I went to communication school, so I knew that I wanted to do that. Now why I wanted to do that, I don’t know, but it turned out to be where you learned to do coding and decoding.

TS:

I see.

BB:

Well, our training was typing, I hated that, but that—I didn’t realize, later on when we were using machines, we had to type, you see.

TS:

Right. But that seemed more purposeful, right? [laughs]

BB:

Yes. Well, that was kind of fun, because there were these big machines, and you had to reset it every day.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

And if you wanted to—if you wanted to encode, you did the encoding, all the funny letters, you know.

TS:

Right.

BB:

But it came out as a dispatch if you wanted to take them down to the navy, it came out in English. That kind of fascinated me, and then the other way around I could make English turn out into—

TS:

A code.

BB:

Yes, yes.

TS:

Interesting. So, that was very—kind of, an intriguing sort of job to have.

BB:

Yes, and anyway, what I learned at communication school, you see, led into that.

TS:

Did you know what kind of role you were playing in the war at this time, with the coding and encoding?

BB:

Well, that was just sort of—didn’t do that all the time. I was in an air station. Now, some of my roommates that I lived with in Washington, they did that full-time in the hush-hush places along the Potomac River.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

But this was a small air station [Naval Air Station Squantum—BB later added], and we only did it—occasionally we would get something from an airplane, and the radio men would bring in the message to us, and we had the funny little strips we had to figure out what the code was. That was kind of fun, like doing a puzzle. But ordinarily, it would come over the—remember what those machines were?

TS:

Yes. They just kind of spit out the paper, right?

BB:

Yes. Anyway, they were—

TS:

Kind of like a teletype—

BB:

Yes, they were teletype. I think they were teletype, yes.

TS:

They might have been called something different.

BB:

Yes, but anyway, somehow or other, a message would come through. Oh, I know. No, I would find out what the message was. I would put together this machine in the morning, and find out—I would get messages, decoded, and—anyway, I’d—

TS:

Things that had happened.

BB:

Yes, ships coming in, coming into the Boston harbor. That’s how I got the information, by my—and then one of us from that little air station would have to take them into the naval dispatch.

TS:

I see.

BB:

And by that time they were—I don’t know, they must have been in English by that time, but we were supposed to wear a gun.

TS:

Did you?

BB:

Oh, I did one time until I found out that none of the other WAVES were. That they were all laughing, because they didn’t—they wore them the first time, but that was the last time, because for one thing, my experience when I got in a—you know, there’s a big gun right on my hip. You know, the first naval district, all these guys, the old guys around, started singing “Pistol Packing Mama”, you know that song?

TS:

Yes.

BB:

And that annoyed me.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

And I wasn’t going to go through that again.

TS:

Every time that you came in you didn’t want to hear that?

BB:

Yes. So, I announced to my colleagues there—so there were only about five of us on duty, various times. And they all started laughing, because they went through this too, and also decided not to wear the gun.

TS:

And nobody kind of talked about it till—nobody warned you about it, or—

BB:

Oh, no, they were waiting.

TS:

Oh. [laughs]

BB:

Oh, of course not, they weren’t going to tell me about it. [laughs]

TS:

Well, how do you think that relations were between men and women in the service at this time?

BB:

Well, the only time I—it was fine in terms of just, well, association with the people I was—at the air station, you know, no problem there. But occasionally—this also was the training station for the flyboys. That’s where they would come in and spend three months, they used to come down and land—when I was on duty, they would take off and land. So when you would go in to the mess and there were mostly them, they’d—they would just give you an unfriendly look.

TS:

Mostly the flyboys, that you’re talking about, doing that?

BB:

Yes. Yes. There were so few of us, we were intruding on their territory. Oh yes. And another time, they had a big dance, the whole station, and it was a small air station, but they had a dance, and we went. It was in a hangar, and we thought “Oh, that’s sort of fun.” Do you know what they did? They had kind of a—chairs all up against a wall, and that’s where all the men and their wives were sitting. There were six of us, I think, WAVES, and they found a table right in the middle of the floor about as far away as that elevator, and that made us really mad, so we kept saying as many nasty things as we could. Now, I just thought that was the—the commanding officer, that—so, oh yes, there was a lot of discrimination about—about the women. Unless you were serving with men, you know, your own—

TS:

You think that maybe, like, if you’re working directly with them they treat you with respect?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

But if they see you outside of a work, you know, close work environment—

BB:

Right.

TS:

And they just see you as some military woman that maybe shouldn’t be in the service, sort of thing, or what? Or what was the animosity?

BB:

Well—it was just this one episode that came home to me, and that was a sort of deliberate thing. I don’t know whether the wives—

TS:

Oh.

BB:

--put the husbands up to it.

TS:

Oh, because you’re women, and they—

BB:

Because—

TS:

I see.

BB:

It always seemed—oh, that was sort of the—I never had it happen to me, but it happened to some WAVES, where the wife would come in going “You’re just here to get—”

TS:

“To get my husband”?

BB:

Or a husband, and the implication was, you know—but of course, well, it may have happened, it probably did happen, but not for most of us, you know?

TS:

Right. That wasn’t your main reason for—well, that’s interesting, because you think about today, the idea, now, of putting women on submarines. That same sort of issue has come to the surface—

BB:

Yes, right.

TS:

—it’s the wives that are upset about it.

BB:

Yes, right. I know.

TS:

Isn’t that interesting?

BB:

I wouldn’t want—I had several cousins who were in submarines, and one time, when we were living in Columbus, and I was about seven months pregnant—Columbus, Ohio—Cleveland, Ohio! This one cousin, he came in with his submarine up the Cuyahoga River, what he was doing there, I don’t know, but he invited David, my husband, and me to come and have supper in their—what do you call the—for the officers?

TS:

In the mess?

BB:

Yes, thank you, the mess. And only trouble was I had to go down these funny steps and I was out like this. [laughs]

TS:

Pretty narrow, isn’t it, yes?

BB:

And so—so what did I—Oh. [background noise] So, I don’t know—there were no WAVES at that time. I’m wondering how that would have worked out if there had been—at that time, submarines had just all men.

TS:

Right, exactly, they didn’t put women—and not really—well, ships, really, not—only the nursing, the hospital ships, I guess.

BB:

Right. Well, I think nurses didn’t ever have—nurses, because they were ministering to men for the most part, I think they were looked at differently. Did you—have you met Jessie McIntyre, here?

TS:

No.

BB:

She was a—an army nurse.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

And she’s had fantastic experiences.

TS:

Well, we’ll have to check—talk with her, too.

BB:

No, in fact, she was already married when she—but he was in the army. And she joined the—as an army nurse, mostly because she figured she might run into him, which she did.

TS:

Oh, did she?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

That’s interesting.

BB:

But anyway, Jessie ended up like—being right near one of the Auschwitz or—there was camps—

TS:

Auschwitz?

BB:

Yes. And even the medical supplies being bombed, so she—I realize the nurses were often right in the middle of it.

TS:

Yes, because they were close to the front lines, or even sometimes—in Italy, I think.

BB:

Right, right.

TS:

That’s interesting. So, was there anything that you did in your job that you had—you said you did different things, besides the coding. But was there anything that was particularly difficult for you, to try to do? Like emotionally or physically, not necessarily just—

BB:

No, I can’t remember. Except, as I say, going into the mess hall and having men give  you the—what do you call that, when they—when they’re—there’s a term for it.

TS:

What are they doing?

BB:

Well, they’re ignoring you completely, and implying that you don’t belong here. But there is a term for that. Now, at West Point, they do—you know, when plebes have their—

TS:

Right.

BB:

Their—

TS:

Their—end of the first year. Their initiation.

BB:

And they have to do all—yes, yes.

TS:

So, they’re kind of icing you out a little bit.

BB:

Yes, definitely, that—

TS:

Did that last the whole time, or was that just—

BB:

Well, just when I went into the mess. And in fact—

TS:

Well, didn’t you have to do that every day?

BB:

Well, probably.

TS:

[laughs]

BB:

But anyway, but I did meet a young pilot, I don’t know how I happened to meet this young pilot, but anyway, he—he asked me out on a date and took me up in his airplane, so—you know, if you ran into an individual, you didn’t get that. He just saw a nice-looking young woman that he wanted to date. But this was the whole mob thing, you know, when they were—all the flyboys were all in there together, so.

TS:

Having to kind of show their macho-ness or something?

BB:

Yes, right, right.

TS:

Well, that’s really actually an interesting way to think about it, so.

BB:

But I don’t remember doing anything in terms of duties I had that I didn’t like.

TS:

No? What other kind of things did you have to do?

BB:

Well, one thing we had to do, this was down when I was in the navy yards, actually, and—messages would come, and they would have to be routed, you’d look at the message and you’d know it would go to the commanding officer or the supply officer, you know, this was—that wasn’t much fun, actually, but again, my friend Corky Bamber, someone who I—her name was really Mary. We were in the same class at Smith College and we ended up being stationed together in Washington, and she was part of the group that I lived with, but all the others I told you went to hush-hush places. Well, Mary and I, we both went down to the navy yard, and I had the car, [unclear] drive down, but—so that’s when we had to do this routing, and I didn’t like that much.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

I also didn’t like—it was an old, old post office. It’s right on the river, the president used to come down in his car, and also, somebody had to go down—the last person on duty had to go down the basement of this—what used to be an old post office, and turn on the lights and check it out, and guess what was there? Cockroaches.

TS:

Oh.

BB:

I didn’t like that much either. [laughs]

TS:

Going down into any room where there’s going to be—cockroaches are going to come out is never any fun. So, what—can you talk a little bit about, like, the general mood of the country at this time? Did you see a shift in, like, worry or, you know—as time went by with the war, was there less worry about, you know, winning the war or anything like that?

BB:

I used to worry about things like that, but—of course, when I was in Washington, that was my last duty, so after that, I think—oh, actually, by that time, enlisted men mostly, were getting discharged. So—

TS:

By the time you got—when you were getting close to getting out, you mean?

BB:

Yes, well, that was my first duty when I got the Bureau of Naval Personnel—did I mention to you all of these jackets? I was telling somebody that.

TS:

Nope.

BB:

Well anyway, I got there and I didn’t like my commanding officer, who was—he was certainly prejudiced against the women, but you know, wasn’t that—anyway, that was a time when a lot of men—I think most of the men were getting discharged, and their—all their medical records—well, no, their whole records were in these little kind of jackets in these leather-like things. And so when I got the Bureau of Naval Personnel, that was all I had to do, and they’re piled up like that, and the commanding officer, who was a commander, I think, had made no attempt to have anything done with those. He was supposed to have an assistant. So, when I got there, I had to get those all done, and I got them down so fast that my commanding officer was angry, because that was—that was something he could show that was getting done. [laughs] He would take credit for it.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

But I wanted to get it over with.

TS:

Yes. So by having “This is this pile of work, I have so much to do”, sort of thing? Yes. You had mentioned before we started talking that this wasn’t—this was a place that you were not very happy at.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Your least favorite place you were stationed, I think is what you—

BB:

That was it, yes, right.

TS:

And so what reasons—besides your commander, was there any—just the job itself, or—

BB:

Well, I didn’t like going through those damn—that was boring.

TS:

Those files, getting—

BB:

Yes. I’ll say, the only funny time—was I mentioning this when you were here? The only funny time, when I came across somebody I knew who wanted to be discharged. And his reason was, because they had to give a reason—it was an early discharge.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

So, many of them were. That he and his wife wanted to have a baby, he wanted to get home so he and his wife could have a baby.

TS:

That’s the reason he put on there, huh? Did it go through?

BB:

I had three piles, I had a “oh yes”, “don’t know”, and “no”, and I put it in the “no” pile. [laughs]

TS:

You did? You didn’t think that was a good enough reason? Everybody wanted to get—

BB:

So, I don’t know whether the [unclear] ever happened. [laughter] That was my little joke.

TS:

There you go. Now, when you said about your—this commanding officer.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Didn’t like women in the military. What made you think that he didn’t like women, what kind of things would he do or say or—

BB:

Well, he came up from the—he was somebody who had come up from the ranks, and so—and he probably felt that he had been discriminated against, or maybe still was, because he didn’t—he hadn’t gone—

TS:

Hadn’t been promoted as quickly as he thought he should have been?

BB:

Well, didn’t come out of—certainly out of West Point or Annapolis or—

TS:

Oh, I see.

BB:

There was a name for somebody like that, and I can’t remember.

TS:

Boots—what is that.

BB:

I don’t know.

TS:

Wasn’t a warrant officer, was he? Where one enlisted, to—

BB:

I don’t think he was a warrant officer, no, I don’t think he was. No, he was lower than that.

TS:

I’m thinking like a bootstrap or something, but I can’t think of the term. [There was a “Bootstrap” program in the Air Force which allowed enlisted members to take a leave of absence but remain technically on active duty, in order to complete a degree program. This is now known as AFELA (Air Force Educational Leave of Absence Program).]

BB:

But that’s why—

TS:

So, he kind of had a chip on his shoulder or something?

BB:

Yes, yes. That’s why he was making me do all these things.

TS:

I see.

BB:

Although later on, it turned out that we all pooled off—went off together [carpooled?]. He lived in the same neighborhood, I didn’t know it at the time. And so we would—sometimes I would drive and sometimes he would drive, and after—actually, we became quite friendly. [laughter] In our car—

TS:

Were you still working together?

BB:

Oh yes.

TS:

Oh, okay. Because I thought maybe you’re not in that work environment or something.

BB:

And yes, I don’t know—but no, because we were going to the same place.

TS:

But I mean, in the car, you’re not—

BB:

No, no, no. But—so that was all right. Later on, I didn’t get out of [unclear], and that’s when I ended up at the navy yard and that’s when my friend that I’d started naval training with, and—I sent her, by the way, I sent her one of those little folders. I don’t know—

TS:

Oh, where does she live?

BB:

She lives in—funny name in Pennsylvania, I don’t have my address book now. She’s in a retirement place that has a lot of military, off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

TS:

Well, you’ll have to give me her name, then.

BB:

So, I wonder if she—I sent her what you sent me, and it seems to me I did get a reply back, and—I think maybe she said she’d gotten something similar.

TS:

Okay. Hm, interesting. Wonder if she—somehow someone knew her that—I’m not quite sure how you got on the list for this, we drew your name out of a hat or something.

BB:

I don’t know either. That’s interesting. No idea.

TS:

Probably somebody in the complex that—in here, that we have interviewed might have known that you were in the service or something.

BB:

But there’re not that many—

TS:

Yes. Well, there actually—there’s about six of you, that I just have on a list.

BB:

Yes, right. I don’t know.

TS:

But you know, I did want to ask you something about—knowing that your father was a career military, army guy, old school probably, right? What did he think about you being in the military?

BB:

[chuckles] Well, I can tell you a funny story about that.

TS:

Well, all right.

BB:

When my father was still in the states, he would get awfully good tickets for the army-navy game. And the one year—but he would give them to his sister; my aunt. But then one year I said I wanted them; asked my father.

TS:

Right.

BB:

So, he give—and my aunt almost never spoke to me. [chuckles]

TS:

Is this the one that was two years younger? Okay.

BB:

Yes. Or, two years older.

TS:

Oh, older, I’m sorry.

BB:

But anyway, so that year, I went with—my friend married Brewster Bamber [Bill Bamber—BB corrected later], and we got three or four tickets, I remember, and—because my father was class of 1911, he got really good tickets. So we were sitting there on the army side, wearing our navy uniforms.

TS:

[laughs] That went over really well, I’m sure.

BB:

And then suddenly I hear this voice behind me. He said—I think he knew my name, even. He said “Barbara, what would your father think of this?” [laughter]

TS:

Sure, he’d be rooting for army, and you’re rooting for navy, right?

BB:

So, that was pretty funny.

TS:

Well, that’s a great rivalry.

BB:

My answer was, I said “I don’t know, but he’s not around.”

TS:

He’s not here.

BB:

He was overseas, actually.

TS:

That’s pretty funny. So you’ve got that—now, did you ever have any thought of staying in the military at all?

BB:

No, I didn’t.

TS:

No? So when you signed up, what was your expectation?

BB:

Going to graduate school.

TS:

Oh, really?

BB:

Which I did.

TS:

You wanted to be able to use your—

BB:

I thought I’d be going into teaching, probably.

TS:

Did you know they had the GI Bill, then, is that what—

BB:

Yes, that’s—

TS:

That was part of the incentive to sign up?

BB:

Well, that’s why—I knew I had the GI Bill to get my books and tuition.

TS:

Oh, okay.

BB:

And since I’d been stationed in the air station near Boston, I—yes, I decided to go to graduate school, so I went to the best one in the area. Radcliffe, and she informed me that my grades in college were not good enough for Radcliffe. [laughs]

TS:

When you went to apply, that’s what they said?

BB:

Yes, well, I thought that would be a good place, it was—they were still part of Harvard.

TS:

Right.

BB:

Thought that would be pretty cool. So she suggested I try, you know, some other kind of college. And anyway, I ended up going to Boston University, which is perfectly fine, except that it didn’t have the ambiance. But it turns out that my friend Mary, again, was going to the Katie Gibbs School [Katharine Gibbs School, possibly? Now closed] in Boston nearby, and so we ended up having—

TS:

At the same time?

BB:

Yes. So, we ended up having a little walk-up, just a one-room kind of thing, and so—

TS:

Well, that’s kind of neat. Now, did you—so, what—

BB:

So anyway, so that’s—I did, I went to graduate school, and I got planned, and then I put my name in to teach someplace. And they had all these jobs for me at the placement place at Boston University for Massachusetts, and I kept saying “I don’t want to stay in Massachusetts.”
So one day I came in, they said that “Ah-hah, how would you like to go to Salt Lake City, Utah?”
And I said “Oh, that’s great, great.”
And anyway, and then they showed me a letter, and there was a school called Rowland Hall School for Girls, and the bishop of Utah, who was the—also ran the school, was looking for a teacher, and that’s how I came. So I wrote to him and told him I was a Roman Catholic, not a very good one. So, he wrote back and said it’s fine with him.

TS:

Did you put that in your letter? Not—

BB:

Yes!

TS:

You did? [laughs]

BB:

Well, I thought he should know, I didn’t know anything about—they were Episcopal, I forgot to tell you.

TS:

Oh, Episcopal.

BB:

They were an Episcopal boarding school, and they also had a day school.

TS:

I see.

BB:

So anyway, and the bishop was a great guy, as I later found out. So that’s where I ended up.

TS:

You must have been getting itchy feet for needing to move again, right?

BB:

That’s what Margie says. Margie says she could always tell, you know, every four years or so—

TS:

For you or for—yes. Her too?

BB:

Yes. No, she says—well, I don’t know. She moved around—well, I’m going to let her tell her story.

TS:

Yes. Okay. Well, I’ll have to ask her about that. Now did you—what kind of things did you do on your off time, while you were in the WAVES?

BB:

Well, let me see. While I was in the WAVES. Sometimes I went to the symphony, the Boston Symphony, and the summer one. And often with, you know, a couple of my buddies that I roomed with, and oh yes, my mother comes into it.

TS:

Oh, okay. You said that with a tone, so.

BB:

Well, my mother had followed me up to Boston when I was at the air station. She lived in a place called Needham, which was actually about—over a half an hour away, but it was—I was able to go there, so I ended up often going there and spending the weekend. You asked me what I did, so often I went home.

TS:

On your off time.

BB:

Yup. But I did other things too.

TS:

When you say your mother followed you, did you not want her to follow you, or?

BB:

I felt—no, I felt like I wanted to get away. [laughs]

TS:

You still had that little tie to her?

BB:

But see, my father was overseas, and so she wanted to be near me. So, when I left Annapolis, and then she decided—well, she did have her, one of her cousins did live in Needham. She did have family there.

TS:

Now, so you’re—so you know you’re going to get out, you know you’re going to go to graduate school. But now as you’re winding down your time, and you’re in about a year before the war’s over, right, so—

BB:

Right, I got out in June.

TS:

Well, before you got out, I want to ask you a couple questions before you got out, because we had a couple things happen. We had—Roosevelt died, do you remember that?

BB:

Yes, I—I’m not sure I was in the navy then.

TS:

You should have been.

BB:

I should have been?

TS:

If you were in from ’44 to ’46, it would have happened in ’45, when he died, just before the end of the war.

BB:

Hmm, isn’t that funny, because I remember seeing the pictures that everybody saw of the train; and all about it.

TS:

Well, maybe—

BB:

Oh, well, I do remember when it happened. Yes, I’d forgotten. That was when I was at Squantum [Naval Air Station].

TS:

Okay.

BB:

At that time I was rooming with—do you know Alan Shepard, the astronaut?

TS:

Yes.

BB:

Well, this was his first cousin, that I met in the navy, and we ended up having an apartment together, because at Squantum, they had no quarters for officers. For enlisted, but not officers. So we shared a cute little apartment, and the Massachusetts Bay was right down nearby, and it was while we were going down and having martinis down along the bay, that’s—I remember now.

TS:

Finding out about Roosevelt?

BB:

Yes, on the radio. That’s right. Oh yes, that was quite a shock, yes. Of course, he had looked so unwell, it wasn’t too surprising. Isn’t that funny, I would have forgotten that if you hadn’t pressed me on it. I said, well, how come I don’t remember?

TS:

Well, did you have any thoughts about Truman?

BB:

I liked Truman, yes. When—you mean, when he died?

TS:

Well, because a lot of people have said, you know, when—nobody really knew who Truman was, right, when he became president, because he’d only been vice president for a short period of time, and, you know, not—

BB:

Well, I think I had negative feelings, probably, at first. But then of course, my father was from Missouri [laughs].

TS:

Had to have some kind of good connection there, yes.

BB:

I figured there must—and I liked Bess [Truman].

TS:

That’s right.

BB:

No, so I had that for a while, that feeling, I’m sure. But not for very long.

TS:

And then soon after—

BB:

And also, I very much supported him when he ordered MacArthur back. I was teaching at Rowland Hall at that time, and I remember they played—we sat in the study hall at Rowland Hall, all of us students and teachers, when MacArthur gave his “Old Soldiers Never Die,” or whatever it is, speech.

TS:

That’s ironic, my mother was talking about that speech just yesterday. [laughs] She did. She said “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

BB:

That’s right, that’s right.

TS:

She said she has a better understanding of that now.

BB:

Well, now, when my father was just a young lieutenant, he and my mother, they happened to be stationed at the Presidio, and you know, one of the most prestigious, interesting places—and this was a young lieutenant. And—but all the quarters were pretty much the same, no matter what rank, you know, quarters on this side in a red brick. And my mother used to tell me that right—a couple of doors away, Douglas MacArthur lived with his mother, and all these stories about “Oh, Mrs. MacArthur, she had her thumbs on that,” or something.

TS:

There’s an example of her living with him.

BB:

I forgot about that.

TS:

Oh, that’s interesting, too. Well, so then, soon we’re getting to the end of the war in Europe.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

And then we had the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan. Do you remember what you were thinking about at that time, when those things happened?

BB:

Well, that’s when my sister [aunt—BB corrected later], Sarah, got involved in the first—no, horror, wishing that it hadn’t happened. And I—of course, again, my husband, who’d been out in the jungles as a young kid and didn’t even realize there was an armistice, and he and I used to have disagreements, because he realized that except for that atomic bomb, he would have been on his way to fight in the Philippines or—where were they fighting then, wherever it was. So I realize that that ended the war, but I just hated the horror of it.

TS:

Even at that time?

BB:

Oh yes.

TS:

Yes. Now, did you meet your husband after the service?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

He was in graduate school at Stanford, this is when—by this time, Margie and I had both decided to go back and live with our parents because Palo Alto—

TS:

Oh, Palo Alto, sure.

BB:

And that’s where she met Elias.

TS:

I see.

BB:

He was in graduate school, David was in graduate school—they knew each other.

TS:

Oh, really?

BB:

Yes!

TS:

Your husbands knew each other?

BB:

Yes, yes, yes. [chuckles]

TS:

Well, we’re kind of winding down, here.

BB:

Yes, I’m sorry, I—

TS:

Oh, no, no, this has been wonderful, I probably could just spend all afternoon with you. But do you—couple of questions that I ask some of the women, is when they’re in the service, did you consider yourself an independent person when you went in the service?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

I would say probably that’s true for you. But do you think it changed you in any way, did the military have any kind of influence on you, personally?

BB:

Don’t think so. I mean, the inner me, or something, you mean, or?

TS:

However you want to answer that, I guess. I mean, you have a background of this army—what did we call you, an army what?

BB:

Army brat.

TS:

That’s it, army brat. So, you have that background, that’s not something entirely new, but being in the service yourself is certainly different.

BB:

Yes. No, I—although one of the interesting things happened to me when my husband was teaching in a school in Cleveland, Ohio, and there were—there were officers who had—who also taught there in some fashion or other. And so I remember once, we had a big party, and having been in the army, I thought, well, I should go introduce myself. And do you know, they wouldn’t have anything to do with me.

TS:

Really?

BB:

No. I wasn’t one of them.

TS:

Why do you think?

BB:

Well [laughs] I can’t remember—they were a very tight group.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

And—oh, I remember what it was that made them mad at me. We had a big discussion at some point about whether enlisted wives should be part of this group.

TS:

Okay.

BB:

And I was—said “Of course they should.” And I could speak pretty forcefully when I wanted to. So anyway, we all voted, except for the army wives, and that’s why they were mad at me. I’d forgotten that. But I went up and tried to be friendly with them, you know, because I’d grown up in the army and my mother was an army wife and—but no, they gave me the—[makes noise]

TS:

The cold shoulder? Oh my. Well, did you—do you think, now, in this time in World War II, a lot of women are looked at as kind of pioneers in the service. Do you see yourself in that role at all, or in that—

BB:

No, just when I read about it.

TS:

[laughs] When you—

BB:

[laughs]

TS:

Why do you think when you read about it, you have that idea of your own service?

BB:

Well, I guess I think about my sister—my aunt, you know.

TS:

Two years ahead of you.

BB:

And who would certainly be a role model, for lots of reasons.

TS:

Is it because of the type of things she did while she was in the service? [background noise]

BB:

Yes, because she was an important person.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

And I admired her anyway. But—what was the question again?

TS:

Well, in general, if you look back, because there weren’t a lot of women—there were very, very few women in the military before World War II, so when the war happened and so many, you know, three hundred thousand women were in the service, it showed that women, you know, maybe could do things that—expectations might have changed a little bit, about what might be acceptable for women.

BB:

Right, yes.

TS:

And so in that way—and also, you know, you had the Rosie the Riveter idea, too.

BB:

Oh yes, we had one in our training.

TS:

Did you?

BB:

Yes.

TS:

That she had worked as a riveter?

BB:

Yes, she’d been a riveter, we used to sing funny songs to her.

TS:

Well, so you have this whole idea then, of women’s roles might be changing, and so that’s something that people talk about, you know.

BB:

Well, when I went in, I think the roles were changing. After I got out of the navy, or—

TS:

Well, what do you think about it? That’s what I’m wondering.

BB:

Well, I think we are all aware that the roles were changing, as—but I think—I think I sort of was just doing what I would have done, somehow or other.

TS:

Is that because of that independent part of you?

BB:

I think I—didn’t think it was because—right. I mean, I think they were, that was one of the reasons I could do the things I did, because the roles had been changing. But I was a fairly independent person, and so I just wanted to do it, so I did it.

TS:

Right. So, you didn’t have a lot of barriers, you know, stopping you from doing things that you might have wanted to do. Was there anything that you kind of wished you could have done that you weren’t able to do?

BB:

No, I even almost became—you know, I told you about being a journalist?

TS:

Right.

BB:

When I went to Palo Alto, I got a job and I went to the newspaper—the three newspapers that worked together, and hoped to become a reporter. Well, they didn’t have any reporting jobs at the time, but there was a woman who grabbed hold of me who needed an assistant. And my job would pay a little bit more than a reporter and so I became her assistant, and did sort of interesting things. We were in charge of the newsprint, when they came in to Redwood City on boats, we had to go—I didn’t really like her personally, but it was a pretty good job. [chuckles] So we’d have to go down and climb around and see whether the newsprint was damaged or not.

TS:

Oh, I see.

BB:

So, that was kind of fun. And then the owner of the newspapers took a shine to me and he had me—he would write in his terrible handwriting and I would have to type letters going back to his buddies in New England, and I also babysat for him. And so it was nothing romantic at all, and I also babysat for his children. But anyway, that was kind of an interesting job. I liked it, and I also had—I was the one who figured out how much newsprint we had to order for each of the three papers. And I figured out—and I was terrible in math, but I figured out some way that I could predict, and everybody thought I was a genius. [laughter]

TS:

Because you were pretty spot-on, then, on your calculations?

BB:

No—yes, I was. Well, I did in some—

TS:

In some convoluted way, and it just kind of came out.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Well, what do you think about—now, if you think about your time in the service, and you know, Marjorie’s time and your father’s time, and then fast-forward to today, where we’re in—you know, we’re still in two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. And the roles of women now have even changed.

BB:

Oh, I know.

TS:

What do you think about that?

BB:

I don’t—well, they get killed now.

TS:

Well, they got killed before. Maybe not—

BB:

Well, the nurses did, yes. But I don’t think too many—well, WACs—WAVES couldn’t—it was—it’s true, WACs could go overseas, but not as a WAVE, I couldn’t. So I was never in any danger myself, that way.

TS:

But do you think there’s roles, because of the different types of—you know, there’s jet fighter pilots and—

BB:

Oh, yes, yes. They are doing a lot more things. Yes, well, they’re all up front now. But that’s what’s changed.

TS:

But do you think that that—a lot of people are not—think that that is not acceptable for women, to do those kinds of roles. Is there anything you think that they should not be able to do?

BB:

Well, I think a lot of people feel that direct combat’s not such a good thing, and I just—I don’t think anybody should be in direct combat, you know, but I—I wouldn’t be unhappy if women were kept, just because that’s a personal feeling, but I would feel that way about men, too, if I could.

TS:

Keep them all out of the—

BB:

Yes. I wish we’d get out of Afghanistan and Pakistan and—you know, that’s one thing, I thought that the president, Obama, would somehow or other keep us out of trouble. But he hasn’t really because they haven’t really closed down Iraq yet.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

They still have troops in.

TS:

Yes. Well, do you—

BB:

So that still bothers me.

TS:

That we’re still over there, just the fact that we’re in the military. Well, what would you—my gosh, you have such a history of military—what was it Marjorie said, militaristic women? [laughs]

BB:

Yes, yes. [laughs]

TS:

Are any of your children or grandchildren or nieces—you know, the younger generation, have any of them joined and are any of them women? That have been in the military?

BB:

No, I’m trying to think. I don’t have any grandchildren [in the military?]. None of my children, except Margie and me. I don’t think any of my sons were in the military, actually. Three sons. Isn’t that funny, I—cousins, but I can’t remember. The draft, I was lucky with my sons.

TS:

The timing of that?

BB:

Yes, the timing.

TS:

Yes, I saw that with the years.

BB:

Yes, the timing of it, so Joe had to sign up, actually, and he was pretty—he kept refusing, actually, by that time, he wouldn’t have been sent in harm’s way, but he just didn’t like the idea about having to—

TS:

Be called up for the draft?

BB:

Or just being eligible and have to sign on to that. So, he resisted a long time. They kept sending him—

TS:

Oh, really, so he didn’t go, but he didn’t like—

BB:

Oh, he finally gave in.

TS:

I was thinking—

BB:

He did, he finally gave in.

TS:

Is this Paul that we’re talking about?

BB:

No, no, it’s Joe, my youngest son.

TS:

Oh, Joe. The—okay.

BB:

No, he finally gave in, and he did whatever he was supposed to do. He was supposed to sign on, didn’t mean he had to do anything.

TS:

Right. The selective service.

BB:

Yes.

TS:

Yes, okay. Because he’s kind of my age, I think.

BB:

I think he’s—Joe is—

TS:

You said fifty, fifty-one or so, I think.

BB:

Yes, yes.

TS:

Well, that’s interesting. Now, but if you had a daughter or a granddaughter that wanted to join the service, how would you respond to that today?

BB:

Oh, it’d be fine with me if they joined. No. I would hope that they wouldn’t—no, my—I have eleven [twelve—BB corrected later] grandchildren, and my oldest granddaughter is about twenty, twenty-one. And most of my grandchildren are little, because they were adopted when they were little. So I’m not worried about them. [chuckles]

TS:

Oh, you mean, because the time of the war, I see.

BB:

Yes, they’re not going to be drafted or anything, but.

TS:

Well, do you think anything about your life is—

BB:

I’m going to have to go to the bathroom for a minute.

TS:

Oh, okay. We’re pretty much done. I just was going to ask you if there’s anything that you’d like to add that you haven’t—we haven’t talked about.

BB:

I feel like I talked so much.

TS:

I can—I can pause it and you can run and come back, how about that, we’ll do that.

[recording paused]

TS:

Yes, here, let me turn this on.

BB:

Okay.

TS:

So, Barbara’s back, so she was going to say something about—I asked you a question about going back in the navy, have you ever thought about that?

BB:

Some time, oh, I could still get into my uniform, but just barely. Anyway, they used to have WAVE reunions in the San Francisco area.

TS:

Yes.

BB:

So, I decided to go one time and even had a picture taken—well, my current boyfriend, I sent him a picture of me. Anyway, so, at some point, they put us on an aircraft carrier and we went out as far as the Farallon Islands [group of islands twenty-seven miles west of San Francisco] and came back, under the bridge. And there—anyway, I guess I saw somebody who remembered me, and she said—well, she could tell I wasn’t in the navy—I think I was in uniform, but anyway, when she found that I wasn’t in the navy—“Why didn’t you stay in?”, you know. For her, she thought, well, why didn’t you stay in? And I didn’t know exactly what to say. But I never did.

TS:

But you didn’t have that—when you signed up, that wasn’t your goal, was to stay in, right?

BB:

No, no, no.

TS:

Right.

BB:

But she just seemed surprised that—because she had done, and she had pretty good rank at that time.

TS:

Oh, I see. So she’s thinking, oh, you have all these benefits, and—ah.

BB:

But that was kind of fun, going on the aircraft carrier.

TS:

I bet; I bet it was. Well, we have covered quite a lot, and—but is there something about your time in the service or that you would like to tell people who aren’t—you know, who never were in the military or maybe don’t know anything about military service, that you would like them to know?

BB:

[chuckles] Well, I don’t know. It’s sort of hard to explain, if people don’t know anything about it, you know. And most of the people here in Carol Woods have known—a lot of the men have. But there are not too many women who have had, you know, military service. Well, anyway, I found that it was interesting, but it would be interesting—you know, a lot of other jobs would be more interesting.

TS:

Yes. You don’t think it stands out as something in particular, your service years?

BB:

Oh, yes, to me? It did, yes, to me, it did. Yes. But I mean, if I were talking to somebody about—oh yes, my own years, yes. I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Even though I didn’t want to stay in, but oh, no, I’m awfully glad that I—that I did become a WAVE, but mostly, I think the things you get out of anything are the people you meet. And like my friend Mary Bamber, you know, and—there were a whole group of us, I remember, some of them—a lot of the people I knew have died. See, I’m going to be ninety-one my next birthday, so.

TS:

That’s hard to believe. [laughs]

BB:

I’ve outlived a lot of people. [laughs]

TS:

Well, there’s something to be said, too, for—I mean, even though you were a military brat and you traveled a lot, when you were in the service, you meet people from all over the country, and it’s a different kind of environment, I think, than what a lot of people experience just in their regular jobs that they have.

BB:

Right.

TS:

Did you find—although, like I say, you’ve been traipsing around everywhere. Did you—did that strike you at all, when you were in the service?

BB:

I’m trying to think. I didn’t—see, I was only in the service for what, two—

TS:

About two years.

BB:

Two years plus. And I was at—some of it was in training, and then the air station, and then the end of it, when I was in Washington, so I didn’t—I don’t know if I met a lot of people. I met the people that I was stationed with, you know. But most of them, I don’t remember, actually, either.

TS:

Yes, yes.

BB:

Because we were there for eight hours—excepting, again, my friend Mary. She and I were stationed together.

TS:

[laughs] I know, I’m going to have to find her somewhere.

BB:

Yes, you will, yes.

TS:

Well, Barbara, it’s been wonderful to talk to you today. Is there anything that you would like to add?

BB:

No, but I think this is great, what you’re doing. [laughs] Doesn’t it get kind of boring?

TS:

No! [laughs] No, no, it doesn’t get boring at all. So—but I’m going to go ahead and turn it off, then.

[End of Interview]