Interview with Dorothy Riley Dempsey aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Conquest,in interviewer's cabin 9/23/06. Interviewer: Kathleen Ryan
KROK. So we are recording at this point and it picked up fairly well. There's aninternal mic so you don't need to worry about talking down, those sorts of things.
KRAnd I start every interview with, which helps for my transcripts, your name.So if you can give me your name as the years that you served in the SPARs.
DDDo you want my name before marriage?
KRIf I could get both.
DDOK. Dorothy Riley Dempsey.
KRAnd Riley -- R-I-L-E-Y?
KROK. And Dempsey -- D-E-M-P-
DDAnd I lived in Pelham Bay and I grew up on Long Island Sound. So that I knew,I loved the water. I grew up opposite a place called City Island, where they made all the sails for the ships. Most of my childhood was with boats and things. When the war came along, my older brother went to work for Sperry Gyroscope out on Long Island working on the Northern Bomb Site. And I wanted to 00:01:00help in some way. I joined something called the American Women's Voluntary Services. Not many people know about it.
DDIt was the first organization for women, because there were not militaryorganizations for us. And they had like a storefront in Pelham Bay and we were trained in home nursing and Red Cross techniques. When we finished the course, we were to take our information back to our neighborhood and get all the neighbors together and teach them how to take care of themselves. Now we were very sure at that time, just, you know, just after Pearl Harbor, that we were the next target. Because we were New York City. If they did to us what they were doing to England, people started digging their foxholes out in the backyard, you know? They felt that every neighborhood should be prepared in some way. So this organization -- we didn't dress in a uniform. We just wore a white blouse and a 00:02:00black skirt. We finished that training, and in the second phase, which often bothered me to think about, we were to learn about soup kitchens. Because if you were bombed, how were you to get food out ot people. You had to know how to do it. So I started that work with them and then, that was I think the Winter of '42, when the Army took the women in. And some of the Navy took them in. In the fall, in November the Coast Guard opened up. So I wanted to go into one of the services that involved sea services. I went down with my best friend and my father wouldn't hear of anybody wearing a uniform. "Are you out of your mind? The neighbors will all be talking about you." I said, "So what?" But anyway, I went down with this good friend. We were sitting in lower New York, I don't know 00:03:00where it was. Whitehall or something. And then took me in one room and her in another across the hall, and I was sworn in. I came out and she was sitting there sobbing. I said, "What happened to you?" She's, "They don't want me." I said, "You're strong and healthy. What do you mean they don't want you?" "I forgot I was born in Ireland." She came here when she was two, two-months old or something, didn't realize it. So I went and said to the recruiter, "Look at her. She's a strong, healthy girl and you need them. You should take her." He said, "Ma'am, if you're not born in this county, you're not going to serve." So anyway, I went ahead and I was sent to boot camp in Florida. I thought at that time that were taking SPARs and WAVES together at Hunter College. I figured, "I'm home," you know? But there was a switch over just about taht time and I ended up going to Florida. And for me it was aaaahhh -- it was another world. I had never seen a palm tree.
KRIt was the hotel there, correct?
DDYes. The Biltmore. And so when, about 14 of us left from New York City. My00:04:00father was so stubborn, he just would not believe I was going until the day I left. So they're standing waving goodbye to all of us in Grand Central, and my father's got the New York the Daily News like this. And I said to my mother, she said -- now my father would never cry, and she said, "He can't see you going into uniform." Well, anyway I went ahead in. And when I was in Florida I wrote home a lot. I was completely unprepared, all of were, and this is what Oliver North wanted to know too. How prepared were we going in. Our generation never had athletics or sports. So we were not prepared for boot camp. So the first thing they did down in Florida was put us in boot camp. We had to jump through the tires, you know. Then the next thing we had to do was we had to scale a wall. We couldn't do it. I said to the girl in back of me, "Quinn, push, because I'll never get over that wall." So we had more fun doing these things. One case, 00:05:00and when I think about it, I shouldn't, I don't know if I mentioned it on Oliver North or not, the first time I was on with him. They, there was a big rope and it had a knot on it. And there was a pit with mud here. We had to back up and jump and my friend Quinn who was with me, I said, "Quinn, I'm never going to make that pit." And she said, "Neither am I." So we sneaked over to another line. We never had to go over it. We didn't get caught. I said, "If we're caught, we're out. They'll get rid of us." But anyway, you could really have a humorous way of living, if you accepted it. But if you sat and took it to heart, you would cry. And a lot of the girls did. You would hear them at night, crying in their bunks. "I can't do this. I can't do this." They were strict, but that was the way they had to be. You lioved with other women in a room, well in that generation, anyway, somebody might have dusting powder on the floor and their stockings hanging off the doorknob. They had to be that tough with us. So when 00:06:00we got to boot camp,t hey gave us our clothing and everything. They said, "Second deck starboard, first ladder." I said, "What language is that?" They said, "This is kind your going to have to speak from now on. Nautical terms." So we had to learn that and it was, it was I think I like that way of living. I mean, this is the way it should be. If we're going to learn, and going to do, we'll do it this way, without it being this one is so smart that that one won't study. Let's just do it the right way. We had, the one thing it's hard for people to understand, there were no doors on any rooms.
KRThey took the doors off of the hotel rooms?
DDAll the doors were takes off. Even in the bathroom.
DDWell, I guess they didn't want anything to go on. In those days, we didn'tknow what was going on! But, you know, and you each had your bunk. All you could 00:07:00have in your room was the suitcase under the bed. And the closets, your shirt ahd to have the tie on it, and the jacket and everything facing in the same direction. And shoes had to be just so. And the caps on the shelf with the flip brim over them. You really had nothing personal in your life anymore. Every two girls had a chest of drawers. And the bottom, they were staggered. So when the inspection party would come in to look over and see if everything was just the it should be. We were even told how to fold our slips and thinks like that, you know? And I still do it today. (laughs) Everything is in three. You know, you fold a towel in three? We fold our slips in three, our underwear in three, and pajamas, everything. Anyway, it was terrific training. Our classes were difficult a first because we had to learn all of military history. What each 00:08:00service meant, what the rank was, what stripes were involved. We knew nothing about htat a all. Drill was very hard for us, because that was Palm Beach, Florida. We were on a white drill ground with little white pebbles. And, oh, it was terrible walking in the heat and that. They alwasy at an ambulance there because someone would always pass out. You couldn't take the heat.
KRWell, if it's like the way it is out here.
DDOh, exactly! It's like you're in a hot tub. But anyway, we got through the, wegot through boot camp with our exams. Then they tested us, for I think two full days. I had gone in, the paster in my parish at home had said, I has always worked with the church at home, doing things. He said, "You should go in as a 00:09:00chaplain's assistant." I said, "Good idea, because I do want to help somehow." So I put that down on my, which is what they were going to do. They were going to send me to William and Mary in Virgina. That's the chaplain's assistant school. The day of graduation we were all on the quarter deck in our dress uniforms. And the lieutentent came and stood in front of us, I think 125 of us, 150. And she called my name. She said, "Seaman Riley, front and center. The commanding officer wants to see you." I thought, "Oh, god, I didn't even get out I didn't graduate. Now what did I do." So I get in there, and I said, she said, "Waht is your religion?" I said, "Roman Catholic, sir." She sayd, "What made you think you could be a chaplain's assistant?" I said, "It's written in the book." Shouldn't have said that. But anyway, she said --
KRWhy shouldn't you have said that?
DDBecause you don't question an officer, and of course I was too new at it. I00:10:00said, "Well, I was told when I enlisted, that would be a fine thing to do. Uh-huh, uh-huh. And she said, "Can you serve on the altar?" I said, "No sir, I can't." "Can you do this and that?" Those were the days when just boys were allowed to do things. She said, "You're not going on." I said, "What will I do?" She said, "Being that you've worked for women all along, we'll put in that rea, you know. Probably in personnel, something like that." So I didn't get to go to William and Mary. I boarded the train with my friends from Long Island and we went up to Boston. That's where we were stationed. We worked in Boston, where, I don't know if your familiar with where Old Ironsides is today? There was a building called the Fargo Building. Navy and Coast Guard shared it. But we weren't allowed to live in the city because that was a sailor's town. So they took over a apartment hotel out in Brookline, out by Wellesley and that's where 00:11:00we lived. The way it ended up was that I was master of artms at that barracks. So my jobs was to oversee the 406 women that were there. You had to know where they were each day on my report, you know the roster. Are they home, are they on leave, are they in the sick bay. Where are the. I gradully got a lot of what they wanted me to do. It was a reponsible job, but if you don't have everytingn just so, you were in for a bad fall. At night, on the night watch, which went on at 11, 11 to seven, I had to do bed check. There were big numbers on every you know. I'd just flash a flashlight on and see a body and check it off, and so on. One of them fooled me. People, some of them said, you probably read it in a book, but I didn't. One girl made pillows look like a figure. And she wasn't 00:12:00there. And when they had roster int he morning she was missing. I got called in. "Where did she go?" I said, "sir, it looked just like a body. I wasn't going to go up and take the blanket off of her head." But, anyway, I got in trouble because I didn't double check. Also,
KRAnd where was, where was she? Had she gone --
KR She went AWOL.
DDAnd, well they finally caught her, you know? But a lot of the once they wentin, found it very hard because our generation never left home. Unless you went to college, and who could afford it in those days? You were really just used to your family: your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. You didn't really have much to do with the outside world. No, all of a sudden you're thrown with a lot of other people that you had to live with. So you had to accept all those personalities. Part of my job too was if, you would see a girl, say when 00:13:00they'd come off duty, crying. You would have to go over, sit and talk with her. A little psychology thrown in. And then, as time went on, I had had a musical background. This fellow in Boston, hhis name was Professor Braslavsky, I think. He wanted to do his share. He was Polish and he formed a glee club in our barracks. I think we had 50 voices. Did a fantastic job. And then one day some people came in and they auditioned quite a few of us and they took six of us out of that chorus. And I said, what are they gong to do with us? We said we didn't know. That was at a time when our finances in the war were at such a pressure. What they came up with was the idea of war bond shows. I don't know if you've heard of that or not. But they would have a show that consisted of all military people, written by them, choreography and so on. And that they would, our group 00:14:00that we were with travelled all over New England. So we were taken off our regular duty. I had been doing some recruiting on Boston radio, singing with a group and then telling them what it was like to be in the women's service. And so I went. We met in boston, six SPARs, six WAVES and six WACs. And you probably don't know the name Caesar Romero, well I worked with Caeser Romero. He was fantastic. As a kid from the Bronx I was in awe of him. But he was such a wonderful guy. anyway, they needed a movie star as an attraction to draw the people in. and foolishly they picked somebody called Veronica Lake. She used to have her hair fall this way. She couldn't get along with anyone in the cast. So they got rid of her and they got Caesar Romero because he had just come back 00:15:00from the south pacific with the coast guard. And he had been through a number of landings that were bad. And he was like recuperating. So they thought they'd put him in the show and he'd just have to speak to the people. So he portrayed something that he was at the time, like a Mexican or something? Well he would do that for them. Well put on our act, put our things together and did our singing and whatnot, and had our tryout in Pawtucket Rhode Island, and it went over so well as the first War Bonds Show that we went on the road and we travelled all over, I don't know. New Bedford. And we would be someplace for maybe the weekend or during the week and we would have rehearsals every day and a show at night. And a lot of things happened during the show which was really funny. This one fellow they brought in, his name was Frankie Fontaine. He was a comedian. 00:16:00
KRI don't know if the name's familiar just because it's one of those names, orif I've acutally heard of him.
DDYou've probably heard of him. He had an act and he was John C. Savonie orsomething like that and he wore this old beat up fedora and he was really funny. So anyway, ne was in the army, they brought him into the show after we started. And he must have been married and had kids because most of us in those days weren't. He kept sneaking off on the weekends or something to go home and see his family. So I don't know what happened, but the men got really mad because he didn't come back one time. So they took his hat from wherever he was sleeping and they hid the hat. Well, the show couldn't go on because his act was part of it. So the lieutenant got everybody together and says, "You're all grounded until that hat shows up." So nobody said a word, but the theater we were playing in, Danvers, Massachusetts, I think it was, it had all these busts of people in 00:17:00the windows and one of them was wearing his hat. Nobody every noticed it. Anyway but there were little things that happened within the show that were really that were really great. But no matter what town we played in, the Kiwanis or somebody would always have us for dinner. We got so sick of chicken, mashed potatoes and peas that we didn't want to look at them again! We said do we have to, you know? And then occasionally we would get a pass for one day to go and see the scenery or whatnot. But that was quite and experience because Skitch Henderson was the arranger and the pianist with the show and just being with these professional people, I mean I wasn't' and a lot of us weren't -- we learned a lot. Toots 00:18:00Camarado was the leader of the band, the bandleader. Some of the names I can't even remember them myself. Years later, Frankie Fontaine came to the theater in the town that I live in in new jersey, Lyndhurst, and my husband said, "Go and see him" and I said, "That was years ago. you know no, I won't go." Anyway, I think it was ten years ago -- yeah, ten years ago. The mayor of my town called and he said, "Dot, did you work with Frank Sin -- with Caesar Romero?" I said, "How did you know? I never told anybody." And he said, "I've got ways." And he said, "He's coming to Rutherford tomorrow and we want you to go and meet with him." I said, "Forget it. He's from Hollywood. He wouldn't remember a kid from the show years ago." And he said, "Bring all your pictures, I'm sending a limo down to get you." I said, "Oh, what would my kids think?" Anyway, I went to the 00:19:00theater and was a nervous wreck. I said, "Look, I'm white haired." I said, "I was 21 when I met him." Anyway, when we got to the theater and they had all the TV lights out and all this business out. And he came up and I said, "Don't even pretend you know me because I know you don't." And he was just so tall, he was really, he was a very striking man. And they had us in a special room and we sat and we talked. He was so nice. I asked, "Did you ever meet with your shipmates?" And after awhile, when I showed him the pictures and I asked him if he remembered the war bonds show, and he said, "Oh yea." He said. I think we ran for I don't know how many months. Anyway he said, "Oh yeah, i remember that." and so we talked for quite awhile. And I asked, "Did you every get together with your own shipmates?" and he said, "Of course I do." And I said, "Did you ever see Sid Caesar?" And he said, "Sid Caesar, Victor Mature --" Who was the third one, I forget. He said, "We were all Coast Guard." And anyway, it was quite an 00:20:00experience. And then when I went back to my regular job I kind of missed all this hullabaloo I had been on. But before that began, because I had been doing some recruiting, singing. They took a few of us, I think there were five or six. Anyway, we were sent to Maine to Senator Margaret Chase Smith's home. I don't know if you know anything about her.
KRI know of the name. 2034
DDBut she pioneered women in the military.
KRThat's right. That's why I know the name.
DDShe was the first woman in the Senate. She replaced her husband when he died.So she wanted us to come to Maine. She signed personal invitations to every eligible girl from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. We were to go to her home, act as hostesses, show slides from the SPARs, tell them what life was like, our jobs 00:21:00were like and so on, help serve tea. She had a huge Victorian mansion. I couldn't believe I was in a Senator's house. She was just, she was lovely, you know?
DDAnd she said, "I hope you girls appreciate the fact that you are the pioneersand keep going. Keep at it as long as you can. Do everything you can for women." So we worked with her for that, I guess it must have been a weekend. And one of the very funny incidents I, when I look back at that day, when we arrived at this town called Skowhegan, Maine, the lieutenant that was with us. She was an Army lieutenant, but I don't know how -- she must have been in PR work. She said to us, "You're to march down the main street." We said, "There's only" say six "of us." She said, "You're still to march down the main street." We looked out at the main street and there were two hotels with porches on them. Everybody in 00:22:00town was sitting there, rocking away, waiting for this big parade. There was no parade. It was us. There was this brass band in front of us. I said, "Hey, let's go shoulder to shoulder because they're going to wonder where we came from." We marched down that street with everybody clapping and cheering. We felt like goofs, you know. But they, a lot of things you learned to appreciate the amount of work and planning that went into it. I did miss my own job with working with the women. So when I got back -- that was just twice that I was taken off on temporary duty. I really did enjoy working with the women and the jobs that we had to do. I had met this fellow before I had went into uniform. I met him at Christmas-time and I went in in March. He had just graduated from officer's 00:23:00training in Texas. He had went overseas and I thought, "I'll never see him again. Boy, he's the kind of fellow I'd have liked to get to better." So I think it was toward the end of my term. I was in from '43 to '46. In the Spring of '46 they came up with the points system. You could accumulate so many points then you could get out. Well, I actually liked being in there, you know? But then, this fellow had been writing to me all the time, sending me pictures and wanting to see me. And I thought, "Well, let's see what happens." He came up to Boston when he came home and I waited for him in BAck Bay Station. He walked right by me. I thought, "Wait a minute. He never did see me in uniform. He probably doesn't recognize me." But anyway, he spent three days or so up in Boston and we 00:24:00got to know one another a little bit better. He was on terminal leave. He was finished. He spent five years in the Army. So I thought, "Well, I'll see how things go. I probably should get out now. Go home" and so on. But all of the experiences, I think, I had when I in is just - it's lasted with me. It was a big imprint in my life. And I think it encouraged me to do other things with women ever since then, which I've done. And to get back to this business of being on with Oliver North, I didn't know anything about this. I got a call from channel five and they said, "Would you be willing to come in and speak to us about the women in the Coast Guard?" And I said, "Yes, I certainly would. I'd like to tell the world about what we did." We were not only mechanics, a lot of 00:25:00our women worked in decoding, those sorts of things. So she said, "We'd like to ask you some questions." And "Could you wear your uniform?" and so on. Which doesn't fit, of course. It comes to here these days. I just bought a navy blue blazer and transferred all my insignias. I went into New York City and they taped. I thought they would have all the make-up people and that but they didn't. I thought, "Oh, boy, wait until they see these wrinkles!" But that was what he wanted. He wanted people to see that those World War II women were still around. And this is what they had done with their lives after they left there. And like many of the women I've know, not only in the Coast Guard but the Navy, we used our GI Bill. We got our degrees that way. And even though we were having these children, we got them on Saturdays, weekends and whatnot. We used our knowledge that we had. But I think of anything I did in my life, my greatest 00:26:00education was being in the military. 2613
KRLet me, let me jump back here. Because this was wonderful. There were so manyplaces that I wanted to say "But -- " But I'm glad that I just let you talk.
DDWell, I thought you would ask me questions. I probably --
DDTalked your ear off.
KRNo, no. Please this is wonderful, but there are so many things. Let's back way back.
KRAnd start with, tell me a little bit about growing up in the Bronx.
DDAlright. I grew up in Fordham, near Fordham University. My family moved toPelham Bay. They thought it was getting too city-like. They wanted us out of that situation. And in Pelham Bay --
KRHow old were you when you moved there?
DDTo Pelham Bay?
DDMaybe about eight. And in those days everything was homebound. Families. There00:27:00was a lot of closeness. And our church, that was an unusual thing. There was no church. So this priest --
KRWhat do you mean there was no church?
DDThere was no building.
DDThis priest was real sharp. A real sharpie. He rented a circus tent. And heput up this circus, believe me a huge circus tent. And rented all these chairs, and so had his first parish.
KR(laughs) Was this in Fordham or Pelham Bay?
DDPelham Bay. Near Pelham Bay Park. And I thought, "Oh, this is great. We can goto church in a tent." (laughs). But anyway, life up there was very -- we went to the Catholic school. And he was also very smart enough to buy the Westchester Country Club which they were selling and moving further up in Westchester. This country club was in, just off from Pelham Bay. It was called the "country club 00:28:00section" and had two of the staunchions, like where somebody was sitting in a box, but they didn't by the time we bought the house in there. We, it was growing up in just a wonderful way I think, with picnics and families sharing things. We had, oh like, church bazaars and big picnics in the park. All the neighborhood would go. We, those people who bought houses in the country club, it was at a time in the '30s when nobody had money. And I didn't know how my father ever got money, but I was too young to realize. He had saved every nickel. In fact, I found a book that he had every nickel and quarter he got listed in there. Because he had come up from nothing. His father died when he 00:29:00was oh maybe 14, I guess. He had to quit school and take care of his mother and the three other children. His mother used to do the wash for the New York University, the teachers in the heights. Did you ever hear of the heights?
DDThe he would, he built a wagon and he would take the wash back and forth andso on. And the tape that he did for me is when all of this came out. I didn't know anything about, he never talked about he. He said he used to go to the railroad yards, which were not far from the house and he would scrounge for coal. And that would give them the heat to heat the apartment that they had. Then he got a job doing something for a dollar a week. And he said, "That at least gave us a dollar." Anyway, we, we didn't learn about that until we were maybe 10 or so, that he had had this kind of a hard life. Here we were, living 00:30:00in this beautiful, it was a Tudor house. With the big beams in the living room and the Tudor front door. To me it was a house. I didn't know it was different, but when I got older the girls said, "Wow, what a house." It was just my home. Growing up as, in those years, I was say 10, 11 and 12, all of the families that owned houses in that area belonged to a country club. We had our swimming meets. In fact, we used to swim at night. We'd meet on the beach and everybody brought their own potato and hot dog and we'd have a beach fire. We'd swim at night. When you swim in the dark the water looks silver. Pospherous or something. Then, we were always doing things. We never needed chaperones or anything. We had a great time. 00:31:00
KRWas, did you -- a lot of these years when you were growing up, it was theDepression, during the Depression.
KRBut it sounds like it didn't really affect your family.
DDIt did to a degree. My father just bought the house when he lost his job. Andhe thought he was going to lose everything. We were not allowed to listen to the conversations. We were sent down to the cellar, and nobody could hear what they were talking about. My mother said she could go and cook at the convent. Get paid that way and so on. My father decided that the best thing he could do -- he had been working for General Motors and they let every one of the older employees go. He was a mechanic. And they replaced them with younger men. My father said that he had spent all those years working for General Motors. For the Buick company. He deserved more than that. They made him a salesman and he 00:32:00said, "I'm not a salesman. I'm a mechanic." But anyway, he got the books from the library and he studied on salesmanship and everything. His, the office, rather the shop that he worked in was on the Grand Concourse, which was a lot of the Jewish movie stars. Sylvia Syndey and everybody and he got to know all of them. They depended on him when they bought a car and different things. He kind of worked his way though losing his job. He said my mother, "I've got to have a different -- a different way of having something in our future." So he went into civil service in New York City. And he worked for the "little flower" did you ever hear? Fiorello LaGuardia.
KROh, yes yes.
DDWell, he was my father's boss. My father did something with cars and things00:33:00that belonged to the mayor, the fire chief, and all this sort of thing. My father went to worth the first day, and the cleaning woman was in there. Nobody was sitting at a desk. And he said, "Where is everybody?" She said, "What do you come to work for? This is St. Rocko's feast day. The Mayor said, 'No work, no work.'" So my mother said, "You lose the job the first day?" He said, "No. It was St. Rocko's feast day or something! Nobody was there." Things began to pick up and his job was doing well. My older brother was working at the local library and he started at NYU at night. And my younger brother was too young at the time to do anything. So when the war came along, Pearl Harbor, that was Sunday. We were all sitting in the house. I think I was -- I like to paint and sketch and I 00:34:00think I was doing something and we heard this "Extra! Extra!" out in the street. And we said, "Extra?" Somebody was selling papers. "United States has been attacked by Japan." My father says, "Japan? They couldn't attack us? Where is Pearl Harbor?" So he had to get the globe of the world out and we're all looking at the globe. "What are they doing down there?" We really couldn't believe that such a thing could happen. From that day on all life changed. Definitely changed. And everybody went out to do something. Like when the air raid siren blew, my mother would put on her Red Cross cap and she would go to the school where they had bandages. They were cutting material. My father would get his air raid warden hat. My brother that was older than me that couldn't go into the military because he was working on the Norton Bomb Site. I forget what he did. But the younger one was a Boy Scout and he had to go around making sure all of 00:35:00the windows had no light coming out of them. So I think we were a very typical family. Everybody in the family wanted to help and do something. That was the start of how our life changed.
KRHow did you, you told me about the service group, this just something you werein initially.
DDThe American Women's Voluntary Service.
KRWas this just in New York-based group? Or were there branches all over thecountry? I've just never heard of them before.
DDThey might have been just New York. I don't know. I've never checked into it.
DDBecause New York was so sure. If they could bomb Pearl Harbor. And look whatthey're doing in London with all of this --
DDWe're next. People today don't believe that. But they did start building theirshelters in their back yard. And people started putting water on the side. But everybody was taking part in something, you know? It was really, it was hard to 00:36:00say, but there was a distinct change from that Sunday on. Life never was the quiet Sunday afternoons and that sort of thing. Everybody was busy doing something.
KRI know that in New York at that time, specifically, in a lot of the enclavesof the Bronx and East New York and those sorts of things, there was a lot of the New Left and those sorts of organizations.
DDOh, yes yes.
KRWere you involved with any of that?
DDWell, you know they did try to get into -- it was a communist, communistbackground kind of thing.
DDBecause we were so eager to do something, we didn't recognize what was beingthrown at us. Finally, in the schools they began to say, "You've got to watch who you're talking to" and whatnot and so on. So we were going by a newsstand or something. It had all the papers out about the communists doing so-and-so. I 00:37:00don't know how I got the nerve to do it, but I "accidentally" on purpose bumped the newsstand and the papers went all over the ground. We all started to run. I said, "Well, you know I did my bit," laughingly. But the world definitely changed. It was very very ahrd to -- I found it hard to leave home. But as I say, women didn't leave home unless they went to college. We didn't have that much becasue the Depression had just been over. And --
KRWhat did you -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
DDbecause of being involved in music, I thought this was nice, growing up, inthe house on Sunday afternoons all the neighbors would gather at my house, because the ceiling was a cathedral ceiling and the sound would go up. Somebody brought his violin and somebody else brought his drums. And my father had his 00:38:00banjo and my brother had his saxophone. I played the piano. The women would bring in baked beans or a cake. And we'd sit around and chit-chat and play all these songs. It was Sunday afternoons and it was great. From that, my brother who was just two years older than me, he was in a band, a dance band. I think that was before Pearl Harbor. Matty James and his Country Club Orchestra. They, the piano player used to drink a lot. And when he was drunk and couldn't go for a gig, my brother would say, "Come on, get your clothes on. You've gotta fill in for him." Which I loved. And so every time they had a gig, I eventually ended up playing for them. But then Pearl Harbor hit like about two years into that. This one got drafted and that one got drafted. This one enlisted and I enlisted. And so the whole band fell apart.
KRHow old were you when Pearl Harbor happened?00:39:00
DDLet's see. What was that -- forty --
DD'41. Yeah. I must have been 19.
KROK. Did --
DDI couldn't go in right away because the Coast Guard didn't take them.
KRRight, no I know. The Coast Guard, I realize that. Before you, before PearlHarbor, what did you think you were going to do with your life? You said everything changed after Pearl Harbor, so before then, what were your thoughts?
DDWell, I wanted to do something in -- I had worked a little bit in photography,doing retouching. Back in those days, they took portraits in studios and where I worked with little companies, before I, you know, went into service, we worked in a darkroom with the negative and we we taught how to etch on that negative with a scalpel or something and then fill it in. So I liked photography very 00:40:00much and I thought maybe I could make it a life's work. But it was very hard for women to get into. You couldn't do that.
KRDid you think that as a woman you would have what nowadays we call a "career"?Or were you, you were expecting to do that? 4016
DDYes. I wanted to yeah, I really did. As I say, my father was very strongwilled. I guess he had a reason to do that. But he said, "You're not going in for any kind of artsy thing because you're going to get married some time. Forget it. You're going to business school." I said, "I hate working in, I don't want to work in an office." Well, anyway, I went into an office, I took a course called catometer, which is something similar to an adding machine. Added, multiplied, subtracted and whatnot. And then I worked for, I thought this was funny, you know Oscar Meyer?
DDWell, this was Saul Meyer. Two little German fellows. They looked like GermanSmith brothers. No hair, mustaches, same size. And they had this big factory in 00:41:00Harlem and they made the hot dogs, the sausages, the liverwurst and that sort of stuff. I had always loved that kind of thing. My mother would say, "What's the matter with you? I've got a roast beef and you want a liverwurst sandwich?" But I liked that sort of thing. So anyway, when I got this job she said, "Thank God, now you won't want all this liverwurst." I loved it even more. But that's when they were bringing in air raid drills, and because this was a German company, they were very tough. We worked in the office part above the plant. In order to get out of the building we had to go through all these machines. I saw all the spices, and I loved it. When, that's where I left when I went to go into the military.
KRHow did you hear about the SPARs?
DDWell, I looked up the Navy and I didn't want the Army. I thought, "Gosh, the00:42:00Coast Guard." I had seen boats and ships out here every once in awhile in our bay. And one thig I found different, this was, I don't know when it was. But one Easter I was down there with my brother and some other friends on the dock at the Country Club. And I said, "What is that stick coming out of the water?" It was a conning tower from a sub. But we didn't know that. And we were talking about it later, and my brother, the older brother, said, "You know, I think that's part of a sub." I said, "How would a sub get into Pelham Bay?" But it was able to do it. If it could get into Pelham Bay, down past Kings' Point where the Merchant Marine Academy was, it could be right in New York. And so that the area where we lived in was really being staked out. It wasn't until after the war and years later that we really thought about it. You know, they tried to get in here, you know. But I just wanted to be with anything that had anything to do 00:43:00with water.
KRDo you remember seeing, you know, like any newsreels about it, or anymagazines articles or anything?
KRBecause I'm just wondering, curious about how they got the word out there thatyou could join.
DDWell, at first it came out I would say in the movies. And you could see thewomen marching at Hunter College. And I thought, "Gee, that's really something." I thought, "Maybe I could work in my photography with that." You had to have a letter of admittance and my father wouldn't give it to me. So I went to the pastor because I played the organ with him for different things, and he said, "Yes, you can go in as a chaplain's assistant." And I really thought I could. So, it didn't ease my father's attitude at all, but anyway I used his letter when I went in. After I did, I was a nervous wreck because My friend Pat and I were going to do everything together as we always had done.
KRAnd then she didn't get accepted.00:44:00
DDThen she couldn't go. She cried all the way home. She said, "You're leavingme." I said, "I'm not leaving you. You'll get to see me wherever I am." She said, "You know I can't travel" and whatnot. My friends, the girls I had always hung out with at school, they gave me a shower. They gave me my id bracelet and all this type of stuff. But as time got nearer, I really got scared. "Where am going?" You know, I'm leaving my own bedroom and so on, but I said, "I made the choice. I'm going to have to follow it through."
KRIt was a huge adventure. 4441
DDOh, yeah. And I think that was the beginning of my being able to make choices.A lot of people can't do that, couldn't, and that taught me it was very important. You took a chance, you do something. I think I brought that out. This last time I was Oliver North in May -- I didn't even know I was on. But what he 00:45:00did, he took segments of this original program that he had, which was Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and so on, and his objective was this Mother's Day -- that's when this came on -- yes, they are mothers. They are m,others who were nurses, mothers who were this, that. And there were mothers who served in World War II. And these are the mothers we should be remembering today. And he took different segments out and that's, somebody called me they said, "You're on TV." I said, "I don't think so." They said, "You are." I said, "Oh, geez." (laughs). But it was the greatest education in the world. Even the college education that I did get, I went to Rutgers and then I went to Kane College, Kane University and got my degree in teaching. But what I always seemed to lean to, I taught the 00:46:00fourth grade through the eighth grade, and history wasn't my major, education was. But the more I went into what I had done that people didn't know about, I felt they should know about women who served. So I, after I retired, 16 years ago, the teachers kept calling to say, "Would you talk about women in the military?" I said, "Sure, I will." I worked out a program and I've been doing it since I retired. When I first started, when I first started I thought -- this is an example. They set up the really good students, the honor students, in the seventh and eighth grades. And they said, "If you'll talk to them about World War II." And I thought, I'm going to let them tell me what they know. And I said, "What do you remember of World War II." And they all looked at each other. World War II? I said, "Pearl Harbor." "Was that World War II?" I said, "It sure 00:47:00was." And I said, "Hitler." "You mean the crazy guy?" They knew nothing about it. I said, "OK, we're going to start from scratch." So anyway, I worked up a different way of making a presentation. I would bring in my SPAR uniform on a hangar and my husband's tank destroyer, he was in the hell on wheels division, and I would hang them up in the classroom. I went to the American Legion and they gave me a flag from the south Pacific. A big Jap flag, the huge one. I think ti was the VFW I got them to give me a flag that flew at the Nurenburg Trial and had all the signatures on it. I thought, this is the way I'll work it out. When I'd go into a room, I'd say, "I need you, you, you and you to hold this flag." And they'd wonder what was going on. Once I got their attention and 00:48:00got their -- the major thing I tried to tell everyone was this was a world war. It wasn't fought in one place for one person. It was fought to save lives and so on. So I asked the teachers, "If I'm going to speak to them, you have to give me a map of the world with the red felt marker," so that they can all have it. So they know we were in the South Pacific and we were in Europe. And how could you supply that many people with manpower? And that was the purpose of women. That the men would be released for active duty and we would do the shore jobs. Because we never served overseas. Hawaii and Alaska, that was about it.
KRDid you, do you ever think -- because you've talked about it, you've talkedaround some of this. This -- one of the women, the Senator you went to go visit with saying, "You were trailblazers." 00:49:00
DDMargaret Chase Smith.
KRYou were pioneers. Did that kind of, did you feel a sense of responsibilitynow to the next generation.
DDThat was the first time I did. I don't think any of us, we went on with ourjobs and just got into everything, you know? But never realizing the impact we were going to have on people until she said that. She said, "Stand up for what you believe in and let them know why you wanted to help your country." So that's what we tried to do. I felt it anyway. I felt a personal responsibility.
KRAnd so what about afterwards when you raised your daughter and that sort ofthings. How did it influence your raising of her?
DDI never did speak much about it when I was raising them because I was reallybusy, and, unfortunately, my husband had been in so much combat that he was 00:50:00going through these depressions. In the beginning I didn't recognize it. As time went on, and he would not go to work, and he'd stayed home, I didn't know how to handle it. Because I couldn't work, I had two girls by then. Just wasn't working out. So I didn't really have much time to think of anything. When they got older and they -- one of them said to me one day, "Can I wear your uniform to a masquerade?" And I said, "Sure, Joan, go get it in the attic and so on." And then occasionally, they would -- I did keep in touch with my best friends. The roommates in the SPARs. Unfortunately, they're all gone. They got to know them and they got to realize what I had done compared to what they had done too. It 00:51:00worked out sort of that way. And then what I did -- my husband passed away. They finally decided he had bipolar for years and never knew it. I didn't know. I just fought with it all along and finally in desperation he had to go into the New Jersey Veteran's Home in Paramus. He had been an ordained Catholic deacon and he acted as a deacon there and I helped with the programs. He would do the religious end and I would do the music end. The girls always went along with us, whatever we were doing. And the oldest girl, she lives in Cambridgeshire, England. And she, when she finished graduate school at the University of Kentucky, somebody said to my husband and I, "That's great that Susan's going to teach in a third world country." We said, "What?" Neither of us knew anything 00:52:00about it. So we, we said, "What's going on?" She said, "You and Daddy do things to help other people. Now it's my turn." I said, "Wait a minute. You've got all your sisters coming after you. You could be -" She had such good offers for jobs and she turned them all down. So she went to Africa and she taught in other third world countries. She was an ag student, so she would teach them how to raise the food and so on. Then it ended up they needed teachers and there was no school. You've got to give her credit. She built the school by hand. She, when she first went to this place, it's called Lusutu. It's South Africa. She was teaching outdoors, there was no school. I said, "Susan, how can you teach?" She said, "In the dirt, Mom. With sticks." I said, "Well suppose you're doing math 00:53:00and somebody cheats?" She said, "I just turn my back and they beat them with the sticks. That's all." Because they know that they cheated. She eventually, she wrote to Cardinal Cook in New York because he lived in the Bronx. He lived in the next parish to ours near Pelham Bay. And she said that her mother and father and grandmother and grandfather had always contributed to the church and never asked for anything, now she wanted it. She wanted money to build a school in this village where it was like a missionary post. But it was huge, it was a big village. So, she listed everything she wanted. The bricks and the mortar and the whatnot. So Cardinal Cook sent his own check. He said, "It's too bad we don't have more people like you." Because my daughter said, "All of these donations I've seen given to the church, I've seen not one bit of it in Africa. So let's 00:54:00do it the right way." When she told my father, he was oh, through the roof. "You went to the Cardinal and asked for money?" "I sure did." This one's great, believe me. She just came back from Sri Lanka and where she is now, I don't know. When she was in South Africa this fellow came from England with the Save the Children Foundation. He came with two Mercedes Benz trucks to build roads and show them how to. So I don't know how long after she was there he came, but she wrote to my husband and I and said, "John has asked me to marry him." We didn't know who John was. That was black Africa. You can't bring somebody into Lyndhurst. So, I said, "Please send us a picture of our future son-in-law." He had on a safari hat like this -- couldn't see his face. (laughs). Anyway, they were married in Africa and they backpacked. The experiences she had you would never believe it.
KRIt sounds like you raised some very strong, independent daughters.00:55:00
DDAnd I never thought of that. They were just my kids. But she sent a note to meand she said, "We've watched you and Daddy help people and do things all your life. Why should we sit back and not do it?" And when Beth came along, the second girl, she's in nursing. So, in her book, the second book that is in the 11th printing, that's how she begins it. "I never realized what my mother stood for until I was grown up. And this is the type of story I want you to hear." About these women who were captured and - it's quite a book. You should read it someday.
KRYes, I'd like to.
DDBut anyway, the new book comes out in December. It's called "Cries in theDarkness." About the men that were in the Death March, British and American, and they were -- she finally got permission from the Japanese government to go to 00:56:00Japan with her husband and interview the guards that were there. They found 20 of them. I said, "How could you find them? That was years ago." She said, "The Japs took them in when they were 16 and 17," so they're young. Up to that point, she had written to get permission, but they would never admit what they had done. They finally did. I think it was three -- I don't know how many years ago. She and her husband went to Japan and got an interpreter from the university. They interviewed these Japanese guards. Of course, they asked the same thing, "Did you ever kill Americans?" "Oh, yes, yes, yes." "Why?" "It was war." And they were saying how the Americans, this one man said he had to get them up every morning to get them to go down into the mines. He said the British they would walk along and sing. The Americans, they didn't care. So Beth said to the 00:57:00interpreter, "Ask him what they sang?" So he put his hat down, and goes, "It's a long way to Tipperary." She -- that's an old World War I song. What they tried to do I think was a bit barmy, but she and her husband went to Manilla where the prisoner of war camp was that the American women were in after they were taken from. They were going to walk the 65 miles.
KROf the march?
DDOf the Death March. And she bought all this special lightweight clothing andwhatnot. They couldn't do it. It was too overgrown. I don't know how far into it they got. I don't know, whoever sponsoring them must have said, "It's too dangerous." But what they did get information from, and I thought that was interesting, there were Americans that stayed in the Philippines and married 00:58:00Philippines, Philippinos. They lived there and stayed in the little pockets where the march had been.
DDThey talked to them, got a lot of information from them on what actuallyhappened on the march and everything. Where they didn't have much luck is, if you got weak in that march, they would knock you out and then shoot you and kick you to the side of the road. But the Philippinos couldn't let them lay there in that hot weather. So they just dug graves and half the time their dog tags were gone. They didn't know who they were. So there was no way they could get that together. They tried for a long while but it didn't work. So anyway, she, when she started to work with these women who were in that prisoner of war camp, she said to me one day, "Do you want to meet Cassie?" She said, "When you write a 00:59:00book, Mom, you can't write about 100 people or something. You have to narrow it down." And she said, "I'm taking this one person who lives outside of Trenton, Germantown, Pennsylvania," and she said, "I'm going to pick up this other woman who just moved from the West Coast who was in this prisoner of war camp with Cassie." I said, "I'd love to go" and going down, I said, "Geez, Beth, I'm getting goose flesh thinking about it." So we got down to the restaurant outside of Trenton. Cassie is a big, strapping woman standing in the hallway with her hands on her hips, and a thin little woman walked in with Beth and I. And she said, "My God, Millie, you haven't changed." 53 years after, and they hugged and the restaurant didn't know what was going on. They said the thin little woman with us is the only one who had the strength to climb a tree. Every night she climbed to look at the horizon and see if they were going to be rescued. Every night! While they Japs, this is odd, but the Japs never raped one of them. The 01:00:00beat them. And they starved them. When I listened to some of the things that those women did to stay alive -- unbelievable. But the Japs didn't do that because they needed our American nurses. They didn't have their own. One incident I thought was unusual, but you'll read it in the book when you get it, the Japanese came to take over. Skinny Wainwright, General Wainwright had to surrender. It was the first time in American history that we surrendered. But he said, "I can't let them take you 69 women. I know what they'll do to you." And so he went out with the white flag, but he said, "I want all of you to dress not in your nurse's uniform, but in you Army uniforms. And to stand there, keep your eyes on the ground. Don't look at them." So the Japs were standing opposite them. And the Jap officer kept going back and forth, shaking his head. He went 01:01:00over to the one woman, felt her lapels and felt his. IT was the same. He didn't know who they were. Men dressed in women's uniforms? He didn't know what they were. Well, anyway, and they were scared to death. They didn't know what was going to happen to them. Well, anyway, they were eventually released, when the Americans got there. It was three-and-a-half years later. Because we didn't have the manpower, didn't have the
DDTo go in there and rescue these women. But after we went in there the Japs gotthe word, they were going to incinerate the camp. Four thousand people there. And they were bringing in all these big oil drums and the women and everybody didn't know what was going on. So the Americans got the jump on them and they, I think they had a drop, a parachute drop. Right in back of them were the tanks, and the Japs cleared out the morning they arrived. And when the Americans came 01:02:00over, the nurses didn't believe they were Americans. So this one soldier said, "Look. We're one of you." She went over and pinched his cheek and said, "You're real, aren't you?" And he said, "Yeah, I am."
KRYou know, I have to wonder, did your -- you said your daughters you didn'tthink about. They were just your daughters.
DDYes. They were, yes.
KRBut do you think that your experiences that you had as a SPAR helped influence this?
DDYes. Yes it did.
KRHow? I mean, as you're raising them.
DDWell, I think a little of the, how can I say it now. The way they lived, likefive girls together, that's miserable. I mean you're stealing my clothes, that kind of thing. I was rigid about that. These are, you're sharing but let's not 01:03:00haggle over them. I tried to reason with them as much as I could. They tried to get away with everything as all kids did, but I tried to reason with them because financially we were never too well off. We could never go on vacations. We bought a tent with green stamps or plaid stamps, I forget, and we camped. We did a lot of things together taht I think helped a lot in having them grow. And we're avid readers, all of them. And I get a kick out of this when I go to their homes today. They're all married. They've all got bathroom book racks with their books in them. I think, "Oh, at least they picked that up." And different things that I did when they were living at home I see in their houses too. I guess it was an influence on them.
KRIt just seems like this idea that they could do whatever they wanted to do.01:04:00
DDNo, they couldn't.
KRNo, I mean as far as for their future, not anything --
DDOh, their future. My husband and I tried very strongly to influence them ifthey were going in the wrong direction. The oldest girl had always loved the land and the garden and whatnot. And she definitely wanted to go into ag. That was fine, and she did. In fact, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Kentucky Ag School. When we went down to graduation there was a big plaque, a brown plaque with Susan Dempsey on the wall,. We were so proud.
DDThen when Beth came along and got her, she went to Rutgers, that's a five yearnursing program. She eventually taught there. Then when she got this chance to go to NYU, she said, "I don't think they're going to take me Mom. They're taking 01:05:00more mature women." And I said, "Well, stick to it, they might." And they did, so that worked out very well. The third girl, the only oddball, there's one in every family. Happy-go-lucky. "Don't send me to college. I'm not going to learn. Don't do it. Don't waste your money on me." So we said, "Alright, so you go to business school." So she went out and did secretarial work and whatnot. She was always a fly by night. Happy go lucky. That's the way it is. Oddly enough, when my oldest girl backpacked from South Africa to the north and went home to live in England, in Harrow, where her husband's people were. Of course, we knew that would be where she lived the rest of her life. This middle girl said, "I'd like to see my sister in a foreign country at Christmas." So we said, "Alright. We'll pay for you to go over and give you our Christmas presents." And she met the 01:06:00brother that Christmas. And she had never met anybody like him. She was engaged to somebody here in New Jersey, but she never met anybody like this fellow. But the British are quiet, but they're strong. Anyway, so when she came home she said, "I don't know what to do mom." She said, "I've never met anybody like him." And I said, "Don't jump into the other situation. Don't rush into it." So then English fellow she had just met, after she, he came to America finally. We met him and so on. He had been a teacher in England, and he gave it up. 'Cause when he finished his education they put him in an all-girls' school He was a young, good-looking British guy, so that the Headmaster got mad and made him mow the lawn. Wash the windows. He said, "I'm a professional, not a gardener." He quit after a year. He said, "I'd never go back to teaching." You know, oddly 01:07:00enough, I was thinking about this recently, all five of those girls are married, and no divorces, but somehow they all get along with their mates really well. I sometimes sit back and say, "How can that be?" They just mesh. For some reason or other. Anyway, this fellow, this English fellow, sent a letter to my husband and me after he went home. He said, "I've never met anybody like your daughter." He went on to say what he admired in her, that he never had seen many of the English girls. He asked for our permission for her hand in marriage. I turned to my husband Jack and said, "Wow. That's never been done." We said yes, we would be more than happy for him to be our son-in-law. So they were married. In the summer, I don't live in Jersey, I live up on the Canadian border, up near Lake 01:08:00Ontario. Do you know where the Thousand Islands are?
DDWell, I'm, as you come down the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, that'swhere I live. The American side. You can see Canada from the kitchen. The kids were all raised up there, from I guess the youngest one was four. I don't know whether it was that we stuck together as a family. I don't know what the reason is. You know, why these things are - am I keeping you from something?
KRNo, not at all.
DDIt's somehow or other it's worked out with all of them. So the third one,that's that. The fourth one, she, she was always a little different from the other girls. But she is a teacher. And, unfortunately, six years ago she had a massive brain tumor. She said, "Mom, I think my eyes are going bad." And they did an MRI. The tumor started here in the nose, in the sinuses, and went up 01:09:00across the forehead, almost like the shape of a tree. And her chances were not good. And she had, she had three children young. She said, "You can't take care of them any more, Mom. I can't leave them." I'm going to talk chance, I'm going through with it. So the girl that's in nursing, she said, "Well get the best brain tumor, the best doctor for that type of tumor." Where was it but in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She lives eight miles from Hershey. It was an 11 1/2 hour surgery. I didn't know that was done. The whole face came down. The only thing the surgeon was telling us is taht he couldn't get part of it that was in the -- there was so much of it in the sinuses or something. So she had no sense of smell or taste but she said, "That's nothing."
DDAnd she's doing beautifully back teaching.
DDBut all of the girls stood toge -- I sat there at the bed with her with herface black for days. Just held her hand. I said, "Joan, did you know I was there?" She said, "Mmm-hmm. I could tell by your hand." So, she survived it.
DDAnd she, my fifth girl, she was also an agricultural major and she sort ofliked the earth like the older girl did. She went to Penn State and she met her husband at Penn State. He was graduating and she had another year to go. They farm in the Berkshires, in Northampton? In Massachusetts?
DDNear Smith College. They, when I look at them and see how well they get along.They have a big spread, almost part of a valley. They, it's like a business, you know. They get along so well. And the girl who had the brain tumor, that fellow 01:11:00never left her side. And still even today he does so much for her. The English fellow that asked for our permission, he'd do anything for her. And she can do kooky things, I'll tell you. He had said to my husband and I, he lost his mother and his father just after they were married. He said, "I'll always be there for you and Dot." And he still is. He drives me up to Lake Ontario because I can't drive that far anymore. And he stays for a day or two and comes bring me back at the end of the summer. He does everything for me. Both British son-in-laws are just wonderful, I tell you. There's a stick-togetherness with them, you know? The girl that's the writer, she and her husband do everything together. So I guess we fortunate in the way that they just happened to meet people who fit in 01:12:00with what they're doing.
KRYeah, and really nicely.
DDI guess, they never say it openly. They're not the gushy kind. I heard theolder girl say one time, "Well, you set the pace and we followed." I don't know, but she's the one that taught in Africa and she's been all over creation. Oh, she's in Albania this week. She teach -- she did some teaching at, where she's in school, in Cambridge. But only for awhile, and then she went into some other field of education. You'll get a laugh out of this. I went over there five, six years ago. I took my best friend with me. I got off the plane and she said, "Mom, you're on BBC on Friday." I said, "For what?" She said, "They're having a discussion here about why American women went into the military when they 01:13:00weren't conscripted like here in England." I said, "Well, didn't they know we wanted to help?" She said, "That's what they want you to tell them." I said, "I don't have anything prepared." She said, "Let them ask you," you know?
DDShe said, "And you're to take Eileen with you." So we went into Cambridge tothe BBC and they set us up for this broadcast. They said, "Now, we're going to ask you a few questions and you answer them" and so on. And Eileen said, "Oh, I was never in the military." They said, "Well, what did you do?" And she said, "Well, I worked for" oh, what was it, "the telephone company something in New York." He said, "During the war? What did you do?" She said, "I went to apply for the job," and she said, "they asked me if I could roller skate. And I said, 'Sure, I can roller skate.' They said, 'Bring your skates with you when you come to work.'" It was a big huge loft in New York City and she had to go around, if 01:14:00you had a message, you'd stick it in one finger, roller skate to the next one - I never heard of such a thing. It was hysterical! So, anyway, he said, "Have you been friends for long?" and she said, "Yeah, she's a year younger than me, though." Laughing, but I said, "Don't tell them how old we are." But anyway, they wanted to know how I went in and everything and why did we go in when we didn't have to go in like their women. And I said, "Because we wanted to help and your women set the precedent for us." I said, "Did you know that it was through England and Canada that we went in? We used your basis to start our military." He said, "No, but that's interesting." I said, "We met the British woman who did that in Washington one time." Anyway, it was really interesting. When we came out of the BBC, I said to Eileen, "Can you beat it? We're both on BBC and we're only here one day!" (laughs) So then I keep in touch with somebody 01:15:00in her village who was with the Royal Navy. When she goes to her reunions, she sends me her things and I send her mine from America. I didn't know that we had WRENs in America working in Washington.
DDShe said, "Oh yes, we had them." And I said, "Isn't it funny. I never knew that."
DDBut my whole objective in life now is to keep promoting the fact that womenserved in the military. Waht I did was, after I retired from teaching, I went into it in a deeper way and I'm alwasy trying to find out something else about the women who served through the years. And I vary it and I break it down. I speak to the Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Legion, those type of people. These, I think it was I don't know how many years ago. It was 2003. Did you know that there are very few monuments ever to women. I think I 01:16:00could find five or six. I think it's a disgrace. I said, "We should have one here in New Jersey." I've been serving in the New Jersey Commission on Women Veterans. I just resigned in the fall because New Jersey's having a shake up and I don't know where we're at. I think I've done my share. Anyway, I was sitting at this board table and they said, "You like to sketch, don't you?" And I said, "Yeah." "Sketch something and see if we can get that made into a monument." I said, "Wait a minute. You can't give it a World War II uniform, or Vietnam -- what'll we do?" So I said, "Why don't we bring it back -- there were minutewomen at the time they had the minutemen, before they had the military groups." So I said, "Why don't we bring it back to that era" and sketch a woman -- oh, I don't have it with me. I might have the pin with me, it's upstairs on my uniform. I sketched a woman dressed in 1700s clothes. I used the posture, you know the 01:17:00minuteman's posture, the famous?
DDI used the same posture, the famous leaning in the same direction. Where hehad a gun and a plough, I gave her a musket with a child at her skirt. And she's holding a lantern. Each piece is symbolic. The lantern is she is lighting a way for her family to a new life by helping our country. And the child, she's protecting the home. And the musket, she can use it if she has to. She's trained in it. So anyway, they sent it in and the governor approved it. I think about two years later, I got this letter that they were casting it in clay. Would I go down to Tom's River, to this studio to see if I approved. So I thought, "Geez, I'm just" -- I don't think I'm anybody, really, but to have a monument made. So 01:18:00I went down, went to this studio, way out in the woods in Tom's River and there's this big, maybe as big as I was, statue of the minutewoman in clay. And oh, my heart was beating right up into my throat. And he said, "Do you like it? I changed the head a little bit." I said, "It doesn't matter. Whatever you did, it represents the women who served." So, anyway, it was approved and cast in the bronze, and it's in the New Jersey Veteran's Cemetary at Arneytown (?). It was unveiled 2003. The base of it, a Marine woman put, "Dedicated to all women who served their country." American woman veterans, you know. I was down to see it again, sometime last year. And every time I see that I get a lump in my throat. She represents the women, you know, in our country. It was really -- if I have 01:19:00the pin with me I'll have to show it to you.
DDWe had it made into little pins because New Jersey said they would pay for thecasting and everything an then they backed out.
KROf course, since they have no money.
DDSo we had -- how are we going to -- we're from different parts of the stateand all that. So we tried, we had these made into little pins and we sold them for five dollars I think. We were able to do pretty well with sales and things, you know. But, then we really made a contact in Trenton and got somebody to say that they would pick up what was left. And they did. We're only one of maybe, I don't know how many states. I tried to go all over to find. Long Island has one, but she's got boots on, like a Vietnam era.
KRYes, there's not that many. I think, does this seem like a logical place forus to pause? 01:20:00
KR I mean, I know that we could continue talking for hours.