JN: “She and I got to talking about it, and we decided that we’d enlist in the service, and save the world.”

What is your birth year?

I was born in 1922. 

How old does that make you today?

I was 96 this December. 

What branch of the United States Armed Forces did you serve in?

I was in the US Navy Aviation. 

Where were you born?

I was born on a farm. It was a 40 acre farm in Cedarville, Washington. The state of Washington. 

What was the technology available during your upbringing- did your family have an automobile or telephone?

They didn’t have a telephone, and they didn’t have a radio. My uncle had the acres adjoining our 40 acres, and they were very conservative with their radio. We weren’t on the best of terms, the two brothers living side by side- you might imagine how that went. We had to walk quite a ways to catch the bus from where our house was, and the mail- we had to walk even farther to get that. I went to Cedarville Grade School, and it was a very small school. When we would be eligible for high school, we would catch the bus at the Cedarville Grade School, and we would play handball until the bus came. We’d get all hot, and sweaty, and then we’d go to high school and spend the rest of the day there. We didn’t mind it at all in those days. On the ways to the bus, the road led through all these trees and things. They did have a railway track that went through there; we would swing from the maplewood trees like a bunch of apes.  

How did WW1 affect your family? Did family members serve?

My father was too young. My uncle did. 

Did the Great Depression have any impact on your family?

Life on the farm was wonderful. We grew all our vegetables- everything we could, we grew, so we never went hungry. My folks joined the WPA- that was Roosevelt’s program. We would get the bulk things that we couldn’t- cereal, and things like that. 

Roosevelt and Hoover were presidents- do you remember hearing about them?

No. Of course, we were all in favor of his projects, because we were receiving. What really interested me in the service was that the government took part of our land, part of our 40 acres. The 41st division was encamped on our property. They were a lovely bunch of Army soldiers, and they were getting trained- that would be in 1940. They were getting trained to go overseas. I met a nice soldier there, and he was my friend. Some of my schoolmates had already been in training. I was out of high school by then, and I was going to a business college in Aberdeen, Washington; when I’d come home on weekends, I’d see them. They were just really good friends.

On her schooling and college experiences:

I was only 16 when I graduated, because at our little school- I started when I was 5 years old. They didn’t have anyone else for the first grade that year, so they put me in the second grade. When I graduated from grade school, I was pretty young! My folks couldn’t afford to send me, so my sister paid for my tuition, because my folks had enough money to pay for her tuition, so she in turn paid for mine. I worked for a lovely family for my board and room. That was rough, because I had to get up really early in the mornings- they had a screened-in porch, and I’d have to get out there and wash those windows early in the morning. Then, I’d go to business college. Here’s all these rich kids- “Let’s go [somewhere] after school!” No, no, I had to get home; they had a little child. Even later, after I got another job, I stayed with them, and worked for my board and room, because they become such good friends. When I went to business college, it was supposed to be an 11 months course, and I went about 6 months. Then, they sent me out on a job- they said that my learning on the job was sufficient to graduate, because I’d learn more that way then if I’d stayed. I learned a trade. My first job was The Bank of Aberdeen, Washington. I was so nervous. I was secretary to the president- it was just a little bank. {Laughs} I’d stay late, and he’d want everything letter-perfect. I was his secretary, and so when he’d go home- I’d make so many mistakes until I got everything perfect from his dictation- I’d get it all out of the wastebasket. I guess I thought he’d look and see [my mistakes]. They told my folks that I couldn’t leave, because they’d taught me everything I knew from the bank, but I left. I went to work for a lovely company, a logging company. I worked with the purchaser there, and I went into the service from there. 

Do you recall hearing about Pearl Harbor? 

Oh, of course. I don’t know exactly where I was. Because it was just my sister and myself- we had two years- when we went to go work for the logging company. The office manager gal was my good friend, and she lived [on] the coast. She and I got to talking about it, and we decided that we’d enlist in the service, and save the world. We wanted to save the world! {Laughs} My friends had gone, and my schoolmate had been killed. I don’t remember why we picked the Navy, but we went down and took our physical, and she couldn’t pass. I did. I went alone; here I was, thrown in with thousands of women, back in New York. They couldn’t give me shoes that exactly fit, so I marched in heels that were [a few inches high]. 

How old were you when you enlisted? 

By that time I was 22. 

What was your family and friends’ reactions to your enlistment? 

My mother worried about everything, just like I have done all my life. {Laughs} Her worry was that I would meet some fellow that she didn’t know, and fall in love and marry him and not come home. I wanted to go overseas, but I didn’t have the capabilities- I wanted to work on airplanes or something. I had to be secretary and bookkeeper. 

Where were you stationed?

I took my training in the Bronx, in New York. After we passed the test for what we were capable of doing, I was sent to storekeeper’s school in Milledgeville, Georgia. I was there for 11 weeks. I got good grades, and they said I could have my choice, of where I wanted to be. By that time, I was pretty homesick, and I wanted to come come, so I chose the West Coast. That was stupid, because I should’ve picked something in the North, or the East, and gotten acquainted with those states, but I was too homesick. Then, I was transferred to Alameda Air Station in Alameda, California. From there, I went to the Naval Air Station in Oakland. Everything was wonderful- I was on the softball team, I took part in things.

They wanted to get the WAVES established at Moffett Field, where they had [blimps]. I was so afraid of the [blimps]- they would awaken us every morning. The officer that was in charge of me- I was his secretary- he wanted to take me to Moffett Field. I was the only WAVE there, and I worked with all the civilians. In fact, after all these many years, I still have one friend that I still hear from.  

Tell me about any specific memories or experiences that stand out.

I couldn’t go overseas, and so I kind of envied [those who could]. I can’t remember the actual actions- we were busy, and it was a whole new world for me, just to be in the service and helping out. 

How did you feel about the United State’s ability during the war? Were you ever worried for the men that you’d met who were overseas?

Well, of course I was. My schoolmate was killed over there. I wrote to his parents afterwards- that was [a lot of] heartache. They had both sons- all three of them were in the service. This one was the farm boy- he got deferred all the time, and he thought he wouldn’t have to go, and then he went. 

Do you remember first hearing about Hitler and the Third Reich?

Yes, I read the papers. 

Did you have a lot of free time? What were your hobbies?

When I was in Oakland, we had to go down and take the little water taxi across to San Francisco. We had no worries, no troubles at all. All the service people respected each other. We would go dancing- we did a lot of dancing. Skating and dancing. 

What was your WAVE uniform?

We had a standard uniform, and I wasn’t an officer, so we had a cap that would indicate. We always had to wear our uniform off-base. You couldn’t go in civilian clothes at all. When we were in bootcamp in New York and got leave and went to New York City, we’d be saluting the attendants in the big hotels [because] we didn’t know the difference! {Laughs} The officers would see us coming, and they’d cross the street, because they didn’t want to acknowledge all the salutes we’d been giving- we didn’t know the difference! 

What did you think of the women you were with? Did you meet people from around the country?

Yeah, we did. It’s just like living [in the retirement community] with the 50 some women here- we all have individual personalities, and you just have to be patient. You’re just one person, and you have to have patience and listen to them. You can’t complain about an ache or a pain, because they’ve had worse, no matter what it is. It’s just a matter of the personality. 

Do you recall hearing about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

I wasn’t happy, of course, I was sad, but I trusted. I wouldn’t have gone into the service if I hadn’t trusted the government. I might not now, but I did then. I trusted whatever they decided was to be done. I have no grudge against the poor soldiers of the other countries and such things like that. Before they [planned] to invade Japan, they were training all these troops; if they hadn’t dropped the bomb, there would’ve been hundreds of thousands of our soldiers that would’ve been killed. 

Why, or when, did your service end?

It was the end of the war. 

How did you feel?

I was so happy that things had ended, and that there was no more killing. 

How did you get home? Where did you relocate to?

I went back to my job with the logging company, where I’d worked before. I didn’t get married when I was in the service, and I had enough friends there, but I didn’t, so my mother wasn’t worried. She was happy to have me home. 

Did you have a family after the war? 

While I was working at the logging company, there was this young fellow. He had been in the Coast Guard, and he was staying at the Oaks Club there with some friends. He was close friends with one of the employees where I worked, so that’s how I met him. Our first date was skating, and that. Eventually, we got married. 

What was your job or career after the war?

After my husband and I were married, we moved. He wanted to be separate from [our folks], so we moved to Portland. I’ve been a resident of Oregon ever since. We had a baby, then later a boy, who we dearly loved. However, later he was killed in an accident. My daughter is still here, and the light of my life. We separated after the children were big enough. I worked part-time; I never wanted to work. I wanted to raise children. I worked for different places. After the divorce, about 5 years later, I met the love of my life, and we were married for 30 years. 

Have you found adequate resources and connections in Portland?

Yes. I have received very good service from the VA. I used my GI bill to build a home, and then I took several classes at the community college. 

How did your service affect your life?

I think it was wonderful experience for me. Later, when my husband retired- he was a captain in the Army, and he would say, “The only thing that my wife and I disagree on- I was in the Army and she was in the Navy!” We were all in favor of the military. 


img_4007-1.jpgAuthor’s Note: This project was recently featured in Portland’s Street Roots Newspaper. Read the article here: http://news.streetroots.org/2017/11/10/these-veterans-have-lived-something-extraordinary-portland-student-listens-shares

This interview has been lightly edited for readability. However, to maintain integrity, and to respect the stories of the veteran, content has not been altered from the original transcription. This interview was originally recorded and later transcribed. Questions partially retrieved from:

“Guidelines.” Veterans History Project. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 23 June 2017. <www.loc.gov/vets/guidelines.html>.

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