Interview with Edna Irean Bednekoff about the Carnival Cruise ship Conquest inher cabin 9/23/06. Interviewer: Kathleen Ryan
KRSo I have started the recording now. And I'm going to ask -- I ask this ofeverybody, because it helps with my transcription and who I'm talking to.
KRCan you please tell me your name and then as well as the years that you servedin the WAVES?
IBOK. My name is Edna Irean I-R-E-A-N Bednekoff. And my maiden name was Gartman.
KRCan you spell both of those last names for me?
IBB-E-D-N-E-K-O-F-F as in Frankfurt.
IBGartman is G-A-R-T-M-A N. That's the name that's on my Navy discharge.
KRI just want to make sure we have all the proper spellings because, you know. Ihave notes, but the transcripts might not be with the notes.
IBLast names are weird.
KRExactly. And the transcripts might not always stay with my notes, so I want tomake sure. And you served in the WAVES what years?
IB1944 to 19 -- to the end of 1946.00:01:00
KRLet's start out -- I want to get to the WAVES service, but I want to start outfirst -- tell me a little bit about your background and how you grew up.
IBOh. I'm from a family of 12 children, and we lived in the country. During theDepression, we had, my father had some yokes, a huge farm and so forth, but he had to give that up so I could go to school in the city because we had so many children in school at the same time. In a one-room schoolhouse, you know. (laughs)
KRWhere in the country did you grow up?
IBFairfort, Alabama. I had a chance to go visit my elder sister who was workingat the World's Fiar in San Francisco. When I got out there, she was working as a 00:02:00riveter at the shipyard. All her friends were so active in war projects that I became very patriotic. (laughs)
KRSo this was after Pearl Harbor that you went to go see your sister?
IBYes. After Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was in '41, I believe.
KRDo you remember how you heard that the US has entered the war?
IBOh, it was everywhere. It was everywhere. It was on every poster. I was inhigh school at the time. I would have been in the WAVES earlier, but I didn't graduate from high school until '42. And I went to California thinking I would go to school at Berkeley and live with my sister. But, oh, I don't know, I just decided I had to do something for the war effort. My brother was already in the army, one of my brothers, and they other, two of the older brothers were in the 00:03:00CCC camps already, so everybody wanted you to do, had to do something to help, you know. My mother thinks I won the war by myself (laughs). But anyway, I became, of course in San Francisco, I saw nothing but Navy, Navy, Navy, Navy, Navy. And so I wanted to join the WAVES. I had two girlfriends join the Army Marines, but my mother said, that, "Well, you can remain a lady if you join the Navy." (laughs)
KRWell, you know they tried really hard, I read Mildred McAfee, you know, she'sthe leader of the WAVES.
IBYes, I know her. Captain McAfee.
KRI read her oral history and that was a big concern of hers, to make sure theWAVES had a level of, say decorum. 00:04:00
IBRight, right. So, you know I had never been away from home, and here's thislittle girl from the hicks. I lived 45 miles from civilization. And we had outdoor bathrooms and all that. When I went to San Francisco, my sister was going to give me a proper education anyway. So I decided to join the WAVES. I went on a recruit group, not for the Navy, for me. I formed this group. We cleaned out the International Harvester Company. I wasn't in the Navy. I just recruited everybody in International Harvester Company's office in San Francisco.
KRHow did you do that?
IbWith my big mouth. (laughs). And so we all joined the WAVES. And International00:05:00Harvester gave us each a gold bracelet when we left saying "The Harvester Girls. Take care of the country." It was cute. But everybody was so much more patriotic then they are today.
KRWere you working for International Harvester, or was your sister?
IBI was working with International Harvester.
KRIn San Francisco?
KR You got a job after you moved out there with your sister?
KRHow did you first hear about the WAVES?
IBqI heard about the WAVES in the newspaper in San Francisco and at work.Everybody was talking about it. They thought it was so terrible that women were going to be in the service. We were all going to get pregnant and be a burden on the taxpayers and all this stuff. I wanted to take the dare and join the Navy and get all my friends to do it. Besides, they promised we would come back to San Francisco, which they didn't do with me. Everybody else went back to San 00:06:00Francisco after their boot camp. They put them in the Navy yard. But I got sent back down to the -- Hunter College for boot camp in New York. Actually, it was in the Bronx then. Then from there we were given assignments and I had studied marketing. I had so wanted to go to Oklahoma and be a yeoman or a bookkeeper. But no, I had to go to the Navy exchange, they called it Ship Service stores in those days. I guess I felt that I didn't do anything for the way. But looking back, the men had to have their cigarettes and their shaving cream. And the girls had to have their important things. So I spent my entire life in the 00:07:00exchange. Getting things people needed and getting them out and getting them on the sales floor. Calling, including the admirals, I was sent to New York on Admiral Nimetz's airplane with my Navy commander to pick up things that would make the troops happier and that sort of thing.
KRSo you were sent shopping by Admiral Nimetz?
IBYes, I was sent shopping. I had to pick up, so in my notebook I wrote downthose three things, those names down so I wouldn't forget them. I got to LaGuardia Airfield, because the plane was going to land in LaGuardia. I knew the pilot, from shopping in the exchanged. I don't remember his name. I remember his name was Red. Anyway, they -- and then -- Mr. Forrestal and lots of others I 00:08:00can't remember now. Tjhose famous people were in and out of our base all the time. Anacostia Naval Air Station. So that's what I did. I tried to take care of the troops.
KRWhat did your parents think when they found out you were joining the WAVES?
IBOh,they thought it was terrible. They thought it was just terrible to do that.But they were proud of me. "Well she did it. We're scared to death something is going to happen to her." But my mother had 12 children, you know. I was just one of them.
KRWas it something that -- because it was something new taht you were beingasked to do. Was it something your parents didn't think it was right for a girl to do? 00:09:00
IBExactly. It wasn't the right thing for a girl to do. It was men's work. And inthose days men did their work and women did their work. Mostly their work was getting married on graduation night and having children. That's all they were good for, they thought.
KRYou showed them wrong though.
IBWe sure did. We sure did.
KRSo tell me a llittle bit, I bet you though, since you were -- you signed up inSan Francisco.
IBYes. And I took a train the first train I had every seen in my life. I hadn'teven seen a train before. And I got these orders in San Francisco to get this train. It was going straight through to -- uhm -- Grand Central Station in New York. When I got there I was to get off the train and there would be some people there to meet me. But I didn't know who, why or where. So, I got on -- I took 00:10:00the train from San Francisco to Washington.
KRWhat was that ride like?
IBIt was absolutely fascinating. I couldn't believe that a big old train couldcarry so many people. We ate in the dining room and the food was good and it was severed well. And I had no idea that sort of thing went on in the United States. Just no idea at all.
KRI've also, women also talked, when they went across the country on those trooptrains, that they were just treated really well.
IBMmm-0hmm. We really were treated well. Throughout my Navy career I was treatedwell. Except some boys played pranks on us sometimes.
KRWhat sort of pranks.00:11:00
IBThey kept the men separated totally from the women because, they shouldn't --we lived in a, like a. When I was sent down to Anacostia, I was first sent down to go to shipyard in Washington to to processed, and then I was sent across the river. When I first got there, everything was in a -- ope -- well it was two-story, and it had an open courtyard in it. They men's barracks were on the other side of a field. But we also, was the Navy photographic lab was there. Gene Kelly was there. They were photographing things. They made photographs and stuff and bringing them back. Well, the men let us know who was boss. They scared the living daylights out of us. We were all in the shower and you about the time everybody was going to bed and stuff. And they burned a whole bunch of film in our courtyard. Made this horrible smoke. Didn't hurt anybody. Wasn't a 00:12:00fire, just a horrible smoke and smell from the film. We all came running. We grabbed blankets from our bunks and wrapped ourselves up in them so we wouldn't be burning up (Luaghs). Weird. That's my only encounter with men when I first went in the Navy. Then I had 13 sailors working for me in Anacostia and they didn't like it. They hated us, because they had to go to sea. We knew exactly where we were going. When we left the Navy Yard in Washginton, DC, we knew which enlisted man we were replacing and exactly what our job was going to be.
KRThey were not happy because --00:13:00
IBThey were not happy at all because they knew they were going to sea. Theminute we walked in, they had their their duffle bag and they were ready to go to seas. Or a cruiser or something.
KRMuch more dangerous assignment
IBMuch more. We didn't even, we didn't have guns or anything, when I was in theNavy. Today they do. But we didn't have guns, we never even saw a gun, you know. We could not got to combat zones. We could not go overseas, the WAVES. But we were all volunteer. We all did mostly clerical work.
KRThe -- tell me a little bit about Hunter College.
IBIt was a great -- Hunter College was in the Bronx at that time. It had abeautiful campus, as any campus would be. They utilized the space, like the 00:14:00dorms, for us. We had like two -- twin beds, up. What do you call those things?
IBBunk beds -- right. We had bunk beds. There were eight of us in one dorm area.We had a little tiny closet about two feet wide. We put all of our gear, we called it, in that locker. That's what we could have. Our makeup, we were told exactly how to do it. Line it up on the kitchen shelf. Put it in a straight line. Tall things to the back and short things to the front. Made good housekeepers out of all us. Had to be real careful lining up everything, because the captain checked it on Saturdays. It was different. I had never slept in a 00:15:00room with a strange person in my life. Even thought I have six, five sisters. We had to drill. We had to get those horrible shots. All of the -- the pneumonia shot, the tetnus shot, the malaria shot, the flu shot, everything you can think of. I gave into it, because I couldn't move. I was hurting. A WAVE officer came and yanked my arm out and said, "Roll it around 20 times. It will get better." (laughs). And it HURT.
KROh, I would think so.
IBIt did. Then you learned to laugh about those little unfortunate things. Itwas just part of a drill and just don't worry about it. The next day I was fine. I ran into the shower and put hot water under it. I saw my first shower in the Navy, too. 00:16:00
KRYou hadn't had one at your home?
IBNo. We had a tub.
KRThat you would heat on the stove?
IBUh-huh. The Navy was a wonderful thing for me to get involved in, because itput me in a whole, whole different world than what I was accustomed to. I learned so much.
KRWell, looking at your notebook that you loaned me. The notes you took, youtook very detailed notes.
IBBut I didn't write enough about what went on each day. I did write down thesongs we sang and things like that. But I did take details some of what we were trying to study and understand so that a sailor could to me but couldn't snow me. (laughs). He couldn't get a snow job, you knew what it was. I tried to take 00:17:00good notes. I learned about the history of the Navy and so forth when I was in boot came and it was pretty good. Pretty interesting.
IBWhen I was in, after I got into Anacostia. We got into a routine that was apretty normal work routine, like anybody else, you know? You got up, you had breakfast. We mustered in the morning. I got chills every time I saluted the flag and taps at night. But we had a theater and we could see movies. And the USO shows came. That was wonderful. I remember I saw Jos Uturb play the piano one night and it was just fantastic. My mother played the piano and the organ in the church. My grandfather was a preacher and my family was the singers and that was about as much of society as I had seen! (laughs) 00:18:00
KRSo now you're beginning to see things that are a little bit different.
IBA little bit different, yes. A little bit different.
KRCan you explain for me, for people who might read this transcript later andnot know what mustering is. What is mustering.
IBMustering is getting up and get in line and get ready to go to work.
KRSo you're lining up. Would you march to go to work?
IBMMM-HMM. We usually mustered together and then we marched.
KRDid you have to go to any speciality training for this?
IBAt Anacostia -- No.
KRYou went directly from Hunter College to Anacostia?
IBBecause I had studied marketing in high school. In those days they had apost-graduate course you could take and study marketing and I took that. And so I had already worked in stores and ordered, you know. I worked in a jewelry 00:19:00store and ordered the jewelry and this that and the other. So they didn't have very many people, girls, age twenty who could do that. So they just sent me straight to my billet. So I didn't have to go to a school. A lot of the girls did, they went to yeoman's school and storekeeper's school. I didn't have to.
KROK. What was it like when you to Anacostia? Because, again, it's differentfrom Hunter College.
IBOh, much different, much different. Well, it was, it was where I tell you inthe barracks, on Sundays -- they were good to us, but it was different. You had to share just everything, and you had to keep everything spotlessly clean and in order. At home, my mother had servants that, in the country, you know, they 00:20:00lived on our farm and they took care of things. So there were a lot of things I didn't know about. It was just -- and even my vocabulary was so pure. I heard girls use cuss words, I didn't know what they were talking about (laughs). It was different. But it was just like going to work at Kahn Jewelry Company in the morning only I had five thousand line items of things to keep up with. And also help with the cashier. In the Navy they paid me -- we had our regular income which I don't remember how much it was, it wasn't much. Fifty a month or something like that. Then they gave me 40 dollars extra each month because I worked with the -- our comptroller was a civilian. I worked with a civilian. And 00:21:00they had to try and increase my pay somehow or other. The Navy department decided I should ahve a little extra pay. So they paid me 40 dollars a month for running the store. I never did know where it came from.
KRWhy did they decide they needed to pay you the extra money.
IBBecause of civilian competition. I think, I don't know. I don't remember why.But they did, you couldn't be paid a lot less than a civilian. They couldn't bring in cheap labor to replace a civilian in a job, to replace a sailor in a job. It had to be commensurate. And you had to transfer, if you replaced a sailor taht was third class, you had to be a third class. I had to do a lot of 00:22:00studying, take a lot of tests to get up to his rank so that he could go on an go to sea. I see a lot of girls here with the seaman second stripes. I had like three red stripes, it's like a sword you know. So I had to study for it. They didn't have ranks like they have today. They had radiomen and storekeepers and this that and the other. Wll, they didn't, they couldn't find a rank for me. And I had to have one to manage that store. So they made me a ship service man's tailor.
KROK. Which sounds like you would be working with clothing.
IBClothing, right. You know, you are working with clothing. You're sellingundershirts and shorts and stockings. We didn't have nylons in those days. But 00:23:00that's what they came up with. S-S-M-T-1-C. First Class.
KRHOw long did it take for you to get from your seaman's ranking to first class?
IBAbout, oh, less than a year. It would take a man 20 years to get there. I hadto just keep on taking tests so that I could go and release people. As I learned a job I would teach somebody coming up behind me everything I could possibly think of that I knew. Then I could go forward and replace a higher rank, and a high rank could go. All of the dignitaries came into the exchange, my exchange in Anacostia Naval Station. And they would call from the gate and I had to go 00:24:00and greet them at the front door when they would come in. I was kind of the hostess for the store. It was much different that it is today. Much different than it is today.
IBWell, you don't pay much attention to men in a PX or a ship service storetoday. People come in if they want to buy and they pick up their stuff and they go. You ring it up, kind of like Wal-Mart, you know, today, it's much different. In those days you gave personal attention to the high ranking officers who were so busy fighting the war. We had parachute folders on that base, and we had that big photo lab and we had movies stars on that base and high ranking naval people. So even the Secretary of the Navy was Mr. Forrestal, and he would come 00:25:00in and out. Their airplanes were kept on our base. You had to help their wives morale. I used to have to go and make speeches to the wives and so forth.
KRTo keep them feeling hopeful about their husbands and everything?
IBExactly. Exactly. And plan a fashion show or plan a dinner party or somethingso they would be busy all the time. But, you know, it really was the best thing that ever happened to me because when I got out of the Navy they needed someone to do that as a civilian because that rank had been cut out.
KRYour special rank that you got.
IBUh-huh. That rank had been cut out. I got a contract with the Navy to work.And I worked in lots of overseas stations for the government and for the head 00:26:00office in New York where we did the buying for 172 stores then. So, it was good training for me.
KRWhat sort of things did you sell at the exchange? Was it like an exchange nowwhere you have everything --
KRfrom corn to televisions?
IBIn my civilian job as a Navy exchange officer I did the full -- I boughteverything that you said you needed. But in those days, everything was rationed. Butter was rationed. Stockings were rationed. Sugar was rationed. WE had to just biuy necessities, mostly. We didn't sell -- let me think. We had a compact store in those days. We had a big tailor shop where the uniforms were made. We had just, just sundries, really. Just shave cream, film for your camera, make-up for 00:27:00the girls, sanitary napkins in plain wrappers. That sort of stuff. But we didn't have any clothing other than uniforms. Because we weren't allowed to wear it. It was wartime. Everyone had to stay in uniform all the time. So if they need you they can grab you to do something else. So we had to stay in uniform.
KRTell me about the uniform.
IBThe uniform was wonderful. We had navy blue pants and jacket to match. And adrill cap, just plain navy blue. Then for summer we had seersucker dresses. We had a little cloche-like, and it was navy blue and had white top. Oh, God, when 00:28:00I first went in, we had to wear energetic shoes, those old Mother Hubbard shoes they sell. Little black heels, I'm sure the other girls have told you that, and cotton lisle stockings. They didn't - -they had run out of uniforms. I had, I thought it was the most gorgeous coat in the world. I had bought in San Francisco a pale blue wool coat with a pale fox fur collar. If I didn't look funny in those energetic shoes and nylon stockings, my parade cap and a fur trimmed coat! (laughs) With energetics! I'm 82 years old now (laughs) -- I wouldn't even look at them today! They were horrible. I went into the Waldorf 00:29:00Astoria in New York and I asked where the head was, because I had it drilled into me you don't have a bathroom anymore, you have a head. (laughs) I asked the maitre d' where the head, and he laughed. He said, "You must be over at Hunter College at the training camp." I said, "Yes, I am." (laughs)
KRWell, at least he knew the translation. That's a good thing.
IBThat was a real good thing. We were some homesick the first Thanksgiving. Iwent on in June, I think, and by Thanksgiving we were all homesick. And so, I rounded up some girls, we didn't eat on base. We had a duty pass and went in and had Thanksgiving dinner at the Salvation Army. I knew where to find a free meal 00:30:00for us. Oh, they had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal for us! We had candy bars. We had a soda fountain where we could get a simple grilled cheese sandwich or something, but mostly ice cream. We had that. We had, wehad pretty good facilities. I moved off base in 1943. I moved off base and four of us girls got us an apartment on, of all places, Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House, you could walk on the White House lawn in those days. As a matter of fact, I think I have a picture of myself out on the lawn of the White House, somebody -- in cowboy boots and a bright pink coat. 00:31:00
KRThat doesn't sound like a Navy uniform.
KRSo how did, how were you off base with that uniform?
IBI just did it. (laughs) I thought that would be so fun. If they caught, theworst thing they could do was close down the exchange, because there wasn't anyone to replace me. (laughs) You know, in the exchange systerm you had your own, recreation-wise you had to make your own fun. We had a coke machine. You put in a nickel or something. So we put all that change in a kitty and every five or six months we'd have a party. We'd have hot dogs and beer and drink coffee or whatever you wanted. We'd have a party within the exchange for everybody who worked there. So it was a pretty good morale builder. We all 00:32:00became very close because of that. Because we all knew each other. We had a uniform shop. We had a service department where you can take, you could get up to New York in a train in an hour and a half. You could get around DC easily, you know. They would do tours for us. I saw, I went to the Library of Congress and and saw, heard in the Supreme Court they were arguing the waterway they were going to finally agree to let ships go all they way up the Mississippi River up to St. Louis. They were finally accomplished that a few years back but they were arguing that. So I was allowed to go sit in the Supreme Court and listen to it, because that was my state. So it was really an interesting time in my life. 00:33:00
KROh, I think it would be really interesting to see some of those things. Kindof seeing history being made in front of you.
IBIt is. I mean, looking back, at the time, I thought it was, well it wasalright. I had been a drum -- we ran across an old -- Life magazines were popular in those days, and we ran across a Life magazine that had my picture on it. Because I was a little drum majorette in high school. And they have a tunnel that goes under the Mobile River and part of the bay to get over to the Florida side. They cut the ribbon along in 1941 there at the mouth of the tunnel I was leading the American Legion band through that tunnel to come up. Well, there was 00:34:00a shadow on my knees and if I didn't look the funniest thing you ever saw. But they did put it on the cover of the magazine. It's (laughs) -- my commanding officer and everybody called me "twinkle-knees" because my knees, the photograph had a big shadow and my knees looked like (laughs) Popeye's girlfriend in the paper. Weird.
KRThis picture was taken, of course, before you ever joined the WAVES. IT waswhen you were in high school?
IBYeah, I was in high school!
KRThey just happened to see it when you were back on base
KRAnd they realized it was you?
KRAnd it was the cover of Life Magazine?
IBIN 1941 I believe.
KRI'll have to look for that. We have a big collection at the university.
IBIt might be, I think that's the year, it's '41.
KRI'll take a look, I'll take a look. There's a way you can search just coverpicture too, so I'll take a look. 00:35:00
IBWe'll I'm sorry I didn't save a picture. That was a momenteous thing that gotFlorida to Alabama, the tunnel under the river going.
KRMmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm. You joined again in 1943? Was it?
IBNo, I joined in 1941.
IBNo, I didn't join in 1941. I graduated from high school in '41 and then Igraduated again in '42 because I took a post-graduate class.
IBIn marketing. I went into the Navy in 1944 the summer of '44.
KRSo you were in about --
IBJust about two years.
KRTell me about it was like --
IBThe war was over. V-J Day, everybody at the base streaked the WashingtonMonument. Oh my God, it was just people. There were 40 women to every man in 00:36:00Washginton. So you didn't have to worry too much about rape. Men had to worry but not the girls. But everybody came out, from the Pentagon, from all the buildings. Everywhere and wer in the streets and so forth when V-E Day hit.
KRAnd V-J Day?
IBOh, V-J Day was even bigger. V-J day was much bigger. Much, much bigger. Wehad parades and everything for V-J Day.
KRI'm sure it was just amazing.
IBWell, to be in Washington, DC, where the action was, it was fun. One day wedid a boat drill. I guess we were trying to confuse the Japanese or something, but every person on our base got onto a huge carrier. We had to load on and load 00:37:00off. Sail off beyond the Statue of Liberty. Then at night we came back in. It looked like we were going somewhere, but we weren't. I never could understand that. Why we did it.
KRSo you were one of the few WAVES who actually made it on a boat.
IBYes. But not for long! Only for four hours!
IBBut we didn't get to go to Hawaii and Korea until I think about 1950. I thinkthe nurses got to go.
KRI think a few WAVES from World War II made it to Hawaii, but not many.
KRNot many. Maybe 200. Maybe.
IBThey had to be nurses. They were all nurses. Not line people. They were allnurses. They had women folding parachutes and planning the parachutes on our 00:38:00base. And they also had, well they ahd the control towers there. They had all women mechanics. There were no men mechanics. Every mechanic was relief for national duty. For sea duty.
KRMmm-hmm. I've talked to a number of women who had that for their job, which, Iknow they were --
KRYeah. Were you, what were your -- I'm sure when the war ended you were excitedit was ending.
KRBut did you also kind of -- did you have mixed feelings? Were you ready? Orwere you --
IBOh, I was glad that the war was over. I wanted, we have a close-knit familyand I wanted to get home to the family. I got married, though, just before I got 00:39:00out of the Navy.
KRHow did you meet your husband?
IBHe was a Marine on base. And we got married just before. That rule was you hadto get out of the Navy if you got married. Otherwise, I probably would have stayed in. They changed it shortly thereafter. But in '46, I was ready to come home and got back to school and what have you. But then I got this job offer to go back to the exchange as a civilian. I worked for the Department of Defense as a civilian and managed about 172 exchanges for the government. And took care of, we took care of the supplies for the 12th fleet. So that was fun.
KRWhere were you -- was you husband in the military at this time or did he leave00:40:00at the end of the war as well?
IBMy husband, my husband left. He left the military. He taught at UC in Berkeley.
KRIn California. So that's where you got offered this job, in California?
IBMmm-hmm. I was in California at the Navy ships' store office in California. AtOakland Navy Supply center. Iwas working at Treasure Island. I got a job at Treasure Island working at the store. I was assisting with the purchasing. Then they opened a West Coast office. At first everything came out of New York. the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Then they closed, that became much smaller and they opened a department, the Navy Supply Center in Oakland. And that is when I got this job.
KRWhen was that?00:41:00
IBSee, I got in in '46. About '47 or '48, along in there.
KRAnd your intention initially was to go to U-C Berkeley. Did you ever go tocollege there?
IBYes, I took quite a few classes from there. Quite a few. I didn't graduatefrom college from Berkeley. But I took a lot of classes later on in my life in Alaska, at the University of Alaska. Out of boredom.
KRHow did you end up in Alaska?
IBWell, my husband is a airline captain, was an airline captain and he was based there.
KRIs this the same husband who was at Berkeley?
KROK. So this is a different --
IBIt was a different,. I get bored every 18 years and get a divorce. (laughs)
KR(Laughs) You have a pattern, so that's OK. You have a system.00:42:00
IB I have a system. (laughs). No, I met him in Hong Kong on a buying trip, whenI was one a buying trip for the Navy ship store office in New York. I got this job working in the West Coast office of the Navy ship store office which even today is in New York. But they renamed it, I don't know what they call it.
KRThey call it something different?
IBJust Navy ship store office is what it was.
KRDid you ever have any kid?
IBI have a daughter.
KRA daughter. I know earlier we talked a little bit about girls were good forgetting married and having kids. After graduation, get married, have kids.
IBThat was it.
KRWhat did you -- what did you teach your daughter?
IBMy daughter wanted to join the air force and I said, "No." I didn't want herto. Well, she had studied for the opera and I was atrying to push her into 00:43:00pursing a music career because seh was really talented. Still is very talented. I wanted her to do that. So I wouldn't let her do it. I only have one child.
KRBut you were pushing her towards a career.
KRSo what did she end up doing?
IB(Laughs). Yeah, she got tired of music. She's a banker. She got involved infinance. So she likes taht.
KRI know that some of the women I've talked to, they say the WAVES was one ofthe things taht helped them to realize they could do something other than that.
IBExactly. Exactly. See I had worked in the jewelry store and really had thoughtthat I would just do well to work for one of the big jewelry companies and knew 00:44:00I could get into some of them through my contacts in the WAVES. But this offer came up and then hen I went I went right back. I retired in 1969 from it. I spent 20 years, plus those two, in the Navy really for all practical purposes. But I was sent on this first job as a civilian for the Department of Defense, I was sent to Taipei, Taiwan. To help convert an exchange from Army and Air Force to the Navy. This was after World War II an they, the government were consolidating things. I knew about the record keeping and all that and 00:45:00reordering stock and keeping the -- we had a "never out" list. Keeping the never out list on schedule. If the men were going to Korea, what they needed. I had to be sure they had that.
KRIt was always in store.
IBIt was always in stock. Right.
KRI'm just making sure I understand what it means. Kind of self explanatory, butmaking sure I know what it means.
KRThe "never out" concept.
IBRight. They don't do that now.
IBThey have a whole different set-up now. They ended up with so many differentyoung people they couldn't understand anything, they had to give everything stock numbers. It's a numbers game now. It's just this this this. It's all given a number and that's what you do. You don't use your head.
KRDo you, did you think at the time when you were in the WAVES did you think youwere doing something that was maybe unusual, or out of the ordinary or a pioneer 00:46:00in a way? I know looking back now people say it, but did you think of it at the time.
IBNo. No. I never thought of it that way until I was in a civilian capacity andI was sent out from the New York office to help establish a -- a base, I guess you'd call it, to expand the women's wear market in Los Angeles. They were just strung all over and they wanted the government to buy some things from Los Angeles instead of from some other city. So I went out there to Los Angeles and we sent up the Navy purchasing office down there in Seventh Street -- no Seventh 00:47:00Street was New York. We sent it up in Los Angeles. So the manufacturers in Los Angeles would get some of the government business. So I worked on that project for awhile for DOD. They were really, you know, the Navy does more things that simply get on the ship and sail away. This has nothing to do with sailors or anything. But their wives have to be kept happy, nowadays. If their wives are happy, the sailors are happy. But if you got a bunch of grumbling wives, the men aren't going to be happy to volunteer.
KRBecause they hear from it, and -0-
KRMakes it uncomfortable. That makes sense.
IBI kind of think I did more as a civilian for a Navy than I did for the WAVES.But I got my background in the WAVES. 00:48:00
KRIf you had to do it again, would you have joined the WAVES again?
IBYes, I would. I would. If my daughter had wanted to joined the WAVES, Iprobably would have let her.
KRIf they had existed in that form?
IBIf they had existed in that form. But things got too mixed up for me to lether, an only child, go off in the Army. I just couldn't see it. It's too many chances. YOu know. But if I had several children, I guess it would be alright. But with one, you kind of keep them under your wing.
KRA little big closer tether.
IBRight, right right.
KRWhat about the role with WAVES National. How did you get involved with them?
IBWith WAVES National, it took me awhile to find the WAVES National group. Ittook me many years to find it. I'd see things about WAVES and I thought, "That 00:49:00can't be my WAVES because we're all old. We're going to die any day." (alughs) I think that. But one day I walked into the senior citizen center in Mobile, which I live in, on an island south of Mobile, and I went in there to the senior citizens center to, oh, play bridge or something. And I saw the WAVES having a meeting. So that's how I found out about it.
KRWhen was that?
IBOh, about 10 years ago. Ten or 15 years ago, I guess. So, anyway, I'mpresident of our group now. Mobile Seafarers Unit. They do a lot of things in the WAVES National taht people don't, I don't think we get enough publicity at 00:50:00all. Because we do scholarships for students, and we help at those veteran's homes. We go up to Baymonet and visit this one home that only has two women in it and the rest men. We go up to see them and take them things. We help out at the American Legion with the wounded men. The American Legion sends a bus to Biloxi to bring anybody who wants to to Mobile for the day. We're a bigger city and can, and they can, go shopping and go shopping or whatever they want to do. And we help with that. We help the VA Hospital make coffee on the first day of the month. I'm sure you've heard from other people what they do. Our chapter's 00:51:00very small. We can't do a lot. They're old We lost three members this year. It's terrible. Just a few weeks ago.
IBSo, we need, right now, I've been trying to recruit some younger people who'vegotten out of the Navy since we did to come in. The original ones are all for it. (laughs) But I had a good time. I've enjoyed it so much. Do you know that I've had a life of travel that a lot of people would die for just through the Navy. My job was with the Department of Defense. Traveling to Japan and Hong Kong and Okinawa and all those islands for the government. There's not enough money in the world to pay for that. So I've been really lucky. 00:52:00
KRIt sounds like it's been a very valuable experience.
IBBut not really a lot for the government. Sometimes, you know. But I guess theystill need their exchanges, they're important. But you're not really fighting except that you do see that the men -- like during the Korean War, I was at Treasure Island when the men were departing and, you know, we had gift packets for them and everything for the men going overseas. And our group, today sends, we collect stamps off envelopes and mail them to the military hospitals for people that are collecting stamps so that they have something to do. Single packets of stamps and stationary and things like that to for the ships.
KRI'm always struck when I talk to the women, they volunteer with WAVESNational, but they always have this healthy volunteer life outside of it. Giving 00:53:00back --
IBYes, they do.
KRis very important.
IBIt's very important to us. We do. We do. I go over to the senior citizen'sgroup, but I go to the VA hospital all the time, take magazines and go visit the people that are in there that are retired. Try to find out who's widowed, who needs help, that sort of thing.
KRWhy do you think it's important to, because you've said, "I don't know thatI've done a job that was that important," why do you want to tell your story? Why do think its important for your oral history to be be there.
IBWell, I didn't think it was important at all. My daughter thinks itsimportant. Because she said, you know, "Every little bit helps." But I've never 00:54:00- because I'm not a nurse. I envied the nurses because they could really help, you know? And physically do something. But all I could do really was try to take care of their needs, their necessities.
KRBut that's doing something.
IB(laughs). I know. But it doesn't feel like it's doing. It's not veryglamorous. But that's why, I -- you know, they say everybody has a story. Well, everybody does have a story. But mine's just not too interesting.
KRAre you kidding? It's wonderful. It's a wonderful story.
IBBut I think, you know, if I had a chance I might do it over in Pensacola,00:55:00because I know I can help recruit people with my story. Because I've had a totally different life from what I had before. Totally different. Travelled in a totally different world, literally. I was, I did inventory control, too. That was important. I did inventory control in Washington then with Navy Ship store office, the place I worked for when I got out. I did inventory control for them too. That's an important job. Planning the budgets and all that. Just to make the size scales for the clothing. For instance it takes 36 pairs of shoes to 00:56:00sell one. Because you've got to have all the selection of shoes. Of sizes, of colors, of this, that and the other to get enough selection for the man or woman to look at and to buy. If you're overseas, you have whole families that you have to clothe. So that was fun making those plans. The officers wives used to go to Hong Kong and buy all these dress -- the fabrics, bring them back, put the suitcase full of fabrics on my desk and say, "Have something made for me." We had over a hundred tailors working for us in Taiwan. So we'd sketch out something for them and have them a party dress when they needed it. So, you see, that sounds so silly, but those women were a long way from home and their men 00:57:00were all in Vietnam fighting or whatever during the Korean War. And we're back on shore. They don't know what to do with their time, unless they start chasing around. And hat wrecks everybody's morale.
KRNo, they are important jobs. I know that each of these jobs, they may not bethe more -- you're not flying a plane or being a nurse, but they're crucial. If those jobs didn't exist, the Navy wouldn't be operating.
IBWell, that's true.
IBI never thought of it that way. But you know the women pilots -- I took aflight in an SNG trainer flight from Washington, DC to Pensacola.
KRWas this during World War II?
IBMmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm. And I tell you, I was scared to death and the plane had toland in the Red Caverns of Virginia because it was stormy and the weather 00:58:00wouldn't permit us to get in, back in. I was scared to death. I was scared to death that something was going to happen to that plane and I'd never see the light of day again. I didn't go out the front gate of the field to give them my leave pass, I flew out and I still had it one me. So that was weird.
KRWas that the first time you'd been on a plane?
IBYeah! And the pilot, dumb pilot, there's only two seats on the SNG. That's theNavy's trainer plane. He sits up front and I sit back here and he says sit down and buckle up. Oh God. I can't tell you how -- and it was my first air flight. I had my first air flight and I had my first train ride in the Navy. In the WAVES. 00:59:00
KRLike you said, they changed your life.
IBThey did. It did.
KRIs there anything you would like to add at this point?
IBI can't think of anything.
KROK. I'm going to pause this.