Interview with Jean Byrd Steward in her cabin aboard the Carnival Cruise shipConquest 9/20/06. Interviewer: Kathleen Ryan
KRAnd we are recording and yes we're good. So, let's start out -- do you want meto take this stuff from you so you don't have to --
JSOh, wait a minute -- it can go right here.
KRAnd then we'll get it back on top of this. So let's start out, again as we didthe last time, if you could tell me your name and when it was that you served in the WAVES.
JSIn the WAVES.
JSMy name is Jean Theresa Byrd, my maiden name. I'm now a Stewart.
KRWas Byrd, B-I --
KRI'm glad I asked.
JSFrom Merlin. And it's an English family.
KRAnd when did you serve, what years were you in the WAVES?
JSI joined Flag Day, 1945.
KRAnd you stayed in through '46?00:01:00
KRTell me a little bit what it was like -- we talked a little bit -- you grew upin New Jersey, right?
JSI was born and raised in Hackensack, which is the county seat of Bergen.Across from the George Washington Bridge which is in New York. Connecting New Jersey and New York.
KRTell me a little bit about your background and growing up.
JSI guess I was fortunate enough for my father, who met my mother when they werein school in Baltimore, Maryland. And his, his major was chemistry. Chemistry, math and English. But chemistry because marrying my mother, she had people in New Jersey in the Passiac/Patterson area. So my father came there, and Maywood, a chemical company, was there and he got a chance to work for it. That was New 00:02:00Jersey, Bergen County. And her people weren't that far. Ten, fifteen miles at the most. We were fortunate enough to live in my grandmother's house until my father had earned some money and we got into a two family house. The company helped him. Later, they found a house. They said, "Gordon," that was his first name, "I think we have something that you'll appreciate." It was owned by a German lady, right 50 feet from the corner, which was a main street. And across the street from that was the high school. The grammar school wasn't far, a ten minute walk. The junior high wasn't far, another ten minute walk. We were in a nice area. Jewish -- not Jewish, Irish, mostly Irish people. And they were very 00:03:00very nice. Very friendly. The people across the street had a business in New York. Their flower garden was as large as our property, which was 200 feet by 200. So it gave us something, me, to gauge yourself on, and what you could do, I thought.
KRWhat do you mean by that? How did the flower garden help you think about those things?
JSWell, seeing all those flowers, I had a love for flowers. I'll tell you too,we had flowers on our property. We had a flower bed, and at the corner was a different rose bush and behind it was a -- lilies, I forget what they call -- tiger lilies. Then at the corner where you walk down, at the sidewalk side was hedges. And that was so nice. Behind it was other flowers, different flower bush 00:04:00and even fruit trees. My father's grandmother had fruit trees at home. There were pears and -- I mean on this particular property -- pear tree, apple and peach -- and a grape vine. At the beginning of the grape vine were purple grapes and at the end were white. There was story that went with that that I thought was nice. Because the dean of the college where they went had to go to New York, and he knew that Gordon had a home in Hackensack. He came by us and seeing it, and liking it, the alumni had a meeting at our property. And, of course, you're supposed to go to bed and be quiet and all those other things. Go to sleep. But how could you with those alumni people that went to school with you mother and father? And one day when you grow up you hope to do the same thing. Go to college and have those kinds of friends. When the meeting was over, with flashlights they went out under the grape vine to pick grapes. They were 00:05:00laughing an talking and having a good time. At the end were white grapes. They had a nice time. I'll never forget that.
KRAnd you were watching them, spying on them?
JSTrying to look through the darkness and see the light of the flashlight andhear the voices and remember the names. It was something.
KREducation was something important in your family.
JSDefinitely. YOu had to if you wanted to move in life and be something. Eventhe girls were going to school, learning a trade. Soemthing to do. Because the men didn't make the kind of money that the white men made, or the family. Maybe the husband made enough money that the wife didn't have to work. And she could do community work or belong to the women's club. Because my aunt worked for a lady like that. Her husband was the head of a bank. And she was active in the 00:06:00community, head of the woman's club. So I said, "That was an angle I can go." You watched the different ones. Up the street lived lawyers, there was a councilman and there was so much to draw on that you could easily pick what you think you would like to do.
KRYou grew up during the Depression, that was part of it.
KRDid that impact your family? Did you know --
JSTo a degree. My father had a good job. Thank God for that. And even during theDepression day when it was rough, sometimes a man would have to give up Monday and just work the rest of the week. But my father worked every day. Uhm -- what was I going to say? And I thought that was nice. There were some people that were on relief. I thought we were poor because of other sides of the family. We 00:07:00weren't poor enough to be on relief, and so (laughs). Whatever my father made we -- we, my mother and my father -- had to gauge you know what we needed to buy and the bills we had to pay. Because at the time, we were in the house. And you had to pay your mortgage and this and the that and the other. So you had a budget. Oh yes, we made it. But that made us feel good because we knew we were on the way up. It almost reminded me when I went to work at Western Electric. We were making nice money back in then. We got, what was it, 35 cents an hour. We were making something like 3,000 dollars and we said, "Oh, that's a lot of money." Then we found out that the middle income people were making 5,000. We said, "Oh, we're almost there." When we got the raise to be 5,000, they were moved up. So here we were tagging behind. But working and earning and living and 00:08:00this is the way the whole life was. You were behind one group but you were living and working.
KRAnd doing better than some.
JSYes. Spending your money sensibly and with a good budget. After awhile, thecompany let it be known that we could buy stock in it. By that time, it was in the '50s, I had been out of the service by then. But you have to pay attention to what's going on around you. Just like it came to my mind about the alumni. The president had to go to New York for a meeting, and did I say it? He knew my father lived near there?
KRYes, we talked about that.
JSAnd I never forget, he was sitting. When they had leather living room sets? Hewas talking about a girl and what she did. He said, "And she did it for pure meanness." And he bounced in the chair laughing and crossed his legs. When he 00:09:00went a week or two later, we imitated Dean Pickens. We said, "And she did it for pure meanness" and bounced. You weren't supposed to do that to the furniture. But that reminded us of him (laughs). His daughter Harriet, when she came out of school, they were asking for women to go into the Navy. And I saw it in the paper, where she went up to Sampson to train for officer's training school. And I said, "So the Navy is for me." This, of course, is in the '50s, and a lot of the women were going into the Army. I said, I want to be different, I want to be something nice. Truman said, "We would like for the ladies to volunteer their services to relieve a man and I think it would help us win the war sooner." I said, "I'll go!" I'm sitting there working for a defense company making 00:10:00apparatus to go into airplanes. The Navy officers, the Army and probably was from the Marine Corps, I don't remember. Anyhow, they were coming through to check on the records and they had their hats on their arms, and all dressed. We could see where our work was going. But I had to leave the company to be free to go. Because when I went over to sign up to go in, and I sent the letter in, they said, "If you think she would be of more service to you than to us, we have not alternative. But she has to be free to go, we cannot accept her on those terms." So I didn't say anything to myself and I thought it over. I said, "I guess I know what I have to do. Get a release." And to me, I thought, of course they 00:11:00didn't issue many of them. It was like a certificate, you know. Probably signed in ink and this and that and the other thing. When I got it, it was the size of a stamp. Paper. The lady wrote it, what did she use, a pencil or a pen, whatever it was, it wasn't as outstanding as I thought. I took it and I help onto it. Because by that time I had been over to sign and that was all I needed to take to New York where I had my examination and tests and whatnot. They said, "We will notify you when they raise the number of persons coming in." Because I thought maybe my aptitude was off, or this was off, or the other was off and they didn't want me. But it wasn't. You just have to hold on. That May, I was doing some work for the Red Cross. I got this letter. Oh, did I hold on to it. Took it to my company and told them. And they gave me a serviceman's leave. 00:12:00
KRJust like what the men would get?
JSYes, yes. You would leave your company at the same rate, they would have youon record, and your time would continue. You wouldn't lose any time, yes. And come back and your job would be there.
KRI want to jump back a little bit, because you had mentioned Harriet. Harrietwas one of the women, she was on of the first African American women allowed into the WAVES?
JSOh, yes. I wouldn't -- I guess so. You know, Mrs. Roosevelt did come throughand she looked around, she said, "Where are the brown skinned ladies?" And there was a man from DC with them. He never said a word. He just turned around and went to the phone. He called Washington to say, "The Navy is open to" I think we were called then Negro girls and blah blah blah. The decree went out that they 00:13:00were accepting. I knew her, through my mother, but I didn't know her by seeing her a lot. I knew that everything would be nice. And who did I run into when I got to Hunter College? And we were being assigned to different billets, they called it billets. Half of our regiment, which was 550, we were a thousand by then, went to the hospital corps because they wanted the people to help get the sick well and whatnot. So I didn't, working for Western Electric we were making telephone apparatus and this and that and the other thing. They were even working on submarines, work, telephone whatnot coming out of there. And had started space work. So I said, "I don't see any singal, any insignia of radio." 00:14:00I said, "I'm going ask can I change." So when I went to ask, who did they send me to but Harriet Pickens. She said, "Well, you know the hospital corps is the area where the Navy women are needed." She said, "It's a good field and what you want to do is nice and you do have a background for it. But I think if maybe you had a higher mark, you might have made it, but because of the need for hospital corps." I don't know whether I asked her or not, but do you know I had a three-point-nine -- now how much higher can you get? But I didn't say anything, because I knew we were needed and I just left it. And thanked her, and went and 00:15:00that was it.
KRDid you ever, did you ever find any, was there any any, because there weren'tthan many African American women in --
JSThree out of 1,000 of my class.
KRThat's got to be -- did you feel like anyone, were they making you feeldifferent or anything? Or did you ever feel any prejudice?
JSI never paid any attention because where we lived was a mixed area. I mean,mixed. So you were a person there who had to qualify and be as up as you could so that you would blend with others and would show that you had intelligence and keep up with people. My mother and father went to school and they passed along a lot of things. So as one lady said later on in life, her parents didn't raise any dummies. I was surprised to hear her say it. She was a white girl, but that 00:16:00was the way she expressed it. So you live up to what you know, and have learned and picked up watching by seeing others. You just kept on moving.
KRHad you gone to college before you went into the WAVES?
JSYes, when I came out of high school (laughs). A fellow in my class was goingto Brown. I didn't have the nerve, but I thought about putting down Brown. There was a school (laughs) I'm glad I didn't. I was afraid to say Morgan College because that's where my mother and father went. And I knew my name wasn't on, but you could always say your application was in or something or other. That was too far beyond, so I wouldn't, but I was glad I kept my mouth closed. That would have been something to live down.
KRThat you, you didn't think you could get into Brown?
JSNO! I didn't know it was a boy's college. It's a boy's college!
KRThat's right, at the time it was. I forgot that.
JSYes, yes. I'm so glad I didn't -- I didn't say anything. But you know how you00:17:00wish for things? My mother had a gentleman who would take her, my aunt and another lady -- the reason why I say this is this. He would take them shopping because he had a car. They would go and shop, and they would pay him and I thought that was so nice. So one Saturday, I said, "You know, I would like to buy some property." Well, I was working then and I had a few dollars. I said, "I don't have much, but I'd like find out how much land costs, how much you need" and this and that and the other thing. I had a nice black dress and black pocketbook and this that and the other. I said, "I'm going to get dressed and ask Mr." I forget his name now "to take me out to this place so I can find out something about land." Didn't have a dime. A few dollars. I think my first account I put two dollars in. Well, that's what I got paid. Two dollars a week. That was way back. '40 -- I forget the year. '30, '38 I came out of high school. 00:18:00Anyway, this is what I was going to do. I was going to act like I had some money and I was a lady who had some prestige. But (laughs) I never got the time and I was afraid to really step that far. But that was something I wanted to do, to find out about the ability to buy land. But we got to that a little later. I tell you that was something if I could have.
KRWhere did you go to school?
JSHackensack High School.
KRAnd then the college?
JSPatterson State, and that was a little on the rough side. Because during theDepression, we did have a car. We didn't have money for anti-freeze, so we would, a girl friend of mine who lived around the corner and down a block or two, we went to Patterson State. She took two courses and she ended up working 00:19:00for the government. Not the government, the board of education in Patterson, because a lot of people were moving out of Hackensack into Patterson. I didn't take commercial courses because I knew I wanted to, was going to college. So she had things that would equip her to work in an office. And I took math and English I guess it was. That was just one time. Then we moved to a degree and I found a job in Jersey City.
KRWas this with Western Electric?
JSFirst of all there was a lady we knew a young girl, she went to Bayonne, yeah,Bayonne Naval Base. She said they had openings for people to be a mechanic. 00:20:00Well, during the war they didn't have people to take care of cars. You had to take care of what you had. I said, "Maybe that's what I should apply for" because my brother was in the service. I said, "I could help keep the family car together in case something happened to it." When I went over there, I said, "I understand you have jobs taking care of government cars. I think that might fit my case" and I think I did say something about why I chose it. She looked at my record and this, that and the other, she said, "I think we have something more intelligent you can do. Western Electric has jobs open and I do believe you can read blueprint and do their kind of work and move up the ladder there." Well I didn't say anything, if this is what she thought, but I thought, "Oh boy, there goes the car." (laughs) That's what I thought, you know what I mean, because I thought learning that would help keep it together. Well, anyway, they steered me to Western Electric and sure enough they hired me. That was in '42. 00:21:00
KRAnd you stayed there for a couple of years. Why -- I mean you said - wasHarriet really -- and seeing that Harriet was in the service really the only reason you chose the Navy? Or were there any other reasons for the WAVES? 2115
JSI was going anyway into the Navy because the Army was full of women, I mean,black women -- you went where you saw others because you didn't want to be ostracized or told "we don't handle you" or this or that or the other. You wanted to go where you saw others of your nationality.
KRBut you said there only three of you, there were only three women --
JSBut I never thought so because I took, I don't know the number, 10 nailpolishers or this or that or the other thing so I could share with others -- and here there were three of us. One was about your complexion and the other was browner than I, and we're still friend. And there were three. And she went to DC, my friend, because she had college education and knew about chemistry and 00:22:00this, that and the other. They sent her to the hospital corps. Out of 500, out of 1,000 over 500 of us went, so that was half of the regiment.
KRMmm-hmm. Most everyone was doing that -- my mom was a pharmacist's mate, Iknow that's just what they needed people to do.
JSRight. In the hospital corps. There were all branches from urinalysis tohemotology to -- I can't even say it right now. Pshnew -- isn't that awful? Person's coming out of O-R for operation.
JSYes. But then to, it was called something else too because there weredifferent branches of that. Even those that were working with persons operating, cleaning up the apparatus, sterilization, all those kinds of things. It was a 00:23:00big field, a big field.
KRSo what exactly did you do as, working in the hospital corps?
JSWell, that's what I was trying to say -- neurosurgery.
JSNeurosurgery. There was -- well, after all the men were aboard the ships withthe sounding of the guns and break vessels, they would bleed, and sometimes it was a long time happening it would end up being -- may I have that sitting up there -- would start a tumor, you know? And, uhm, this gentleman that I first took care of had an operation because he had a tumor. And they were trying to get him well, but he was unconscious. Young man, 27 years of age. He had a 00:24:00little daughter 3 years old and his wife was there. He was in bad shape. He didn't make it through. He was very nice. His wife's name was Barbara. I never forgot that.
KRYou told me about another gentleman, though, you also worked --
JSA young man?
JSI also went -- when he passed they assigned me to someone else. A young boy,he was only 19 years old. He came from Chicago. His mother and father stayed there with him because he wasn't in good shape. He had TB of the spine. Isn't that something? Very nice, very polite. 19 years old. And he went a long time but he didn't make it through. I'm telling you, it would make you cry. Get so you had to think of something a little snappier, a little happier, because there were others who had to be taken care of. And then there was a young fellow, I 00:25:00forget how old he was. He had a brain operation. When they took the bone off of the top, and got ready to put him back together, all of the brain matter didn't fit back in. So we had to cover it with a cloth and keep it a saline, moist, because that's what the sinovial fluid is in your brain. And be careful with him, because it wasn't covered. And he had a friend next door to where he was stationed and he knew it and wanted to see him. At least he was happy he had come this far and wanted to say hello to his friend. And they say, "No, we won't let you go." They had to be careful of whoever took him. So while I was duty, I learned about him and him wanting. I couldn't give him an answer because I wasn't in the position. But one day he wasn't there. And what had he done? He 00:26:00had gone next door to visit his friend. He was so happy he knew what to do. When he finished he came back. He knew where he was, where he had come from and where he had to go. And he came back and he was happy and contented. And what could you do? You didn't want to smile and yet you were happy for him because -- that was something. That was something.
KRMmm-hmm. He's in trouble, but he actually did a really good thing too.
JSYes. He was happy. He was happy.
KRDid he end up surviving?
JSI don't know, because they move you around so fast. They move you around. Heprobably didn't because that brain matter that was out, they had to do something with it. And you can't cut it off. I don't know. I don't know the end of what happened to him, to tell you the truth.
KRWere you taking care of both white soldiers and black soldiers?00:27:00
JSOh, yes, yes. There was everything. There were some Marines in there too,because my name Byrd. They'd call, "Byrdie!" There was a lady, a maid in one of the stories, they call her Birdie. Anyhow, I saw this head under the cover and after a while one day I saw it was a black, "Byrdie would you do this for me?" or something like that. And finally we saw him, he was a Marine Corps when he got dressed and put his clothes on. (laughs) So little by little you learned some of them or go to know something about them.
KRWhich must be really rewarding, that must be rewarding the whole caretakingand getting to know about them.
JSOh yes, you see them survive and improve. Or even if they were shipped out toanother place to get further help taking care of. Then a whole group came in from Ch -- came in from Cleveland. Yes, came in from Cleveland. They had 00:28:00jaundice. Some of the youngsters came from cities where they didn't have x-rays and they weren't able to give them a full examination or this, that or the other thing. And one or two of them had TB, and that had to be taken care of. This group from Cleveland had jaundice, because -- what is it, the kidney or liver? Where the urine passes through. Well, three of them died there, so they said, "We're going to send them to Great Lakes where there are facilities and take care of them so we don't lose any more." And in they came. We had to give them tests. I mean, it was test after test, and watch them. And take care of them. They were alright, but some of them were sick. And you really had to turn around and feed them. They set up the menu, what the system needed. They made it 00:29:00through. They made it through. But three of them died before. I can't remember if any of them were so sick at Great Lakes that they didn't make it through. You have to work on them. I mean you moved, you did what had to be done.
KRWhy Great Lakes>? Why did you end -- how did you -- you told me before how youended up there. How you ended up staying at Great Lakes? You were --
JSOnce we were finished we were assigned there -- segregation was in at thetime. Of course, the girls got very friendly and familiar with those on station. And you went out to dinner with them, or you went shopping. You were together. You really, in the south you couldn't mingle black with whites. Negro girls with white girls. And when it came time for us to choose an assignment for us to go, 00:30:00some of them chose California, Corpus Christi, Bainbridge, all those nice stations. I don't know what I put down, but anyhow, they kept us at Great Lakes, because it was in the North and they knew we wouldn't have any difficulty. And there can be difficulty, because even at Great Lakes one time, I went on a trip somewhere. I was coming to St. Louis, and there they had white -- lavatories for whites and I can't even remember what it said. But anyhow, there were separate places. So when I saw where I was supposed to go I went and I looked and I saw water. I went a little further and I saw water where men had probably been cleaning the vegetables, preparing. That was in the basement, and I figured 00:31:00there probably was a ladies room there. I didn't see one. And I asked, and they said, "Oh, no, there isn't one here." So I asked, I said to the gentleman in charge, "I am going back upstairs where I saw ladies rooms. And I'm going to use that. If you hear any commotion, you know I'm in trouble. Send a Shore Patrol because I might need help," I said. Because there is no ladies room here. And what did that look like? In uniform, that did not look good. So anyhow, I didn't say anything more. I said, "I'm going upstairs." And I did. I went in and you know, you have to wait until there's an open on. And I did, I went into the ladies room, came out, when I came out, I sat down. I took off my hat. I fixed my hair, checked my make-up, stood up to leave, and of course they were around 00:32:00talking and saying. And you say, "Goodbye." Or "I'll see you later." And you get up and you leave. Nothing happened. It shouldn't have, but you never know. But if you're nice, and you're from the same group, everybody is treated the same. You know what they told us when we went in? "You're not an individual. Remember your home training and all the things you're supposed to do and how you're supposed to act. You belong to a group. You're not an individual. You belong to a group and remember your manners." And that was it.
JSYou think of those things. You act dignified and respectable and use all ofyour intelligence, your best manners and you go on.
KRSo you're a WAVE first and whatever -- I mean that's more important than yourskin color or --
JSYes. You belong to a total group and whatever you do it effects the group and00:33:00not you as an individual.
KRIt had to have been though -- where you aware at the time, because the men'sunits --
KRthey were segregated. They weren't integrated like the WAVES. It wasn't as if --
JSYou're right. You're right.
KRthe men had they're own separate, the black soldiers were in their own groups.
JSThey were. And they had their own jobs for them.
KRAnd you were doing everything --
JSAnd very few moved up to be, what were they, Chiefs and those kind of. Butthey had to have a certain number per group. So they took the top ones that qualified, maybe they had been to college or were teachers or something like that. They had to be high.
KRSo did you every think that somehow what you were doing, because the women'sgroup was completely integrated that what you were doing was somehow special or different or unusual? Did you ever think about that at the time? 00:34:00
JSIt was unusual and, yes it was difficult. You know, a lot of them had gone toschool and were really intelligent. When it came to tests, we went to Great Lakes for our -- Great Lake, yeah Great Lakes -- for our hospital training. It was a nurses' book, I still have it. The pages are so -- I don't even touch them. They have it an at archive now in Ohio, that's where it is.
JSYes. The hospital corps book. What was I going to say? Some of them had beento college and were Pharmacist's Mates there and were this or that or the other thing. We would have a test every day.
JSPreparing us for the tests on Friday. I am telling you, when the tests camethrough on Friday, they were 100s. And sometimes five, six, seven, eight nine. 00:35:00And then there were 99.9, 99.8, 98.7 .6 and on down. When we finished, and we had aptitude coming out, oh boy -- my girlfriend, I forget what her number was, but she was something like 99-point-76 in there somewhere. She had been to school and was a good student. Even when I finished, my total mark was 91-point-4. And I was something like 250 or 40-something or other. But I was a little above the 50 percent, because there were 550 of us in the group. I'm telling you, they were back to back in their marks. In their marks. Yes indeedy. 00:36:00You had to get the cobwebs off your brain and keep them off.
KRI've heard that the Navy training was -- I mean women I've talked to no matterwhat the job -- the training was really rigorous and top notch.
JSIt was. It was. We did, I guess to get us cued in, they had tests every -- youwere told the day before, this that and the other thing, But every day you had a test to get you sharp and prepared for that Friday.
JSThey didn't play.
JSThey didn't play (laughs).
KRWhat do you mean by that?
JSEverything was aboveboard and A-1. What they call A-1 nowadays. But it keptyou sharp.
KRI would think that it would. Having to, knowing that you constantly had toreview the material, to know it.
JSWorking with sick people to get them well. You couldn't play. Everything hadto be exact. We ended up doing everything the nurses did but carry the key to 00:37:00the narcotic cabinet. So you had to know what you were doing.
KRYou stayed in until -- you --
JSI couldn't get assigned.
KRYes, until you couldn't get any more assignments. Right? How much longer afterthe end of the war did you end up staying? After the VJ Day, how long were you?
JSV-J Day? I wasn't there on V-J Day.
KRI thought you left in '46?
JSYes, May 11th.
JSUhm, let's see.
KRTell me about how your service career ended. Let's --
JSAlright. I went in in '45 and by the time, it must have been about then end of00:38:00-- what comes before May? April. By the time April came, I had enough points to take a discharge. Because I had enough points. I thought maybe I'd stay a little bit longer and learn a bit more. You didn't just pop out because you were eligible to go. And in doing so, I put my name on assignment to go to another camp, to go to another assignment. Before they got to my name, they had the compliment, they had the number, the component needed. So, they said, "Well, you have enough points, your age and the time you've been in" this, that and the other "to qualify for a discharge." So I waited when it came up again, I put my name on, well the same thing. Well, they told me I could go. When it happened 00:39:00the third time, I said, "You know, I've got to stop and remember what I said." I said I would stay for the emergency. And when everything was under control, I would take a discharge and go back to my job. And so when the third came up, and they say, "Well, we don't have an assignment for you. You can take a discharge." I said, "You know, I said I would stay for the emergency and this this emergency must be over" because -- and the place was clearing out. It was thinning down. I said, "I think I will take my discharge and go back to my company. Go back to my company." And I didn't tell them why, but I was earning 90 dollars a week, and there I was getting 90 dollars a month. And the place was closing down, sending them off to nursing homes and rehabilitation places and discharge. Some of them 00:40:00had died too. So, I said, "Well, the danger part is over. It's under control." So I went back home. That was May 11th of '46.
KRWould you have -- is this something -- I know at the time they were alsoencouraging women to leave. Women were supposed to go back to their "real life" not their Navy life. That's what you were being told to do.
JSWhatever they could do best.
KRWould you have, if you could have stayed in the Navy, would you have wantedto? Or did you want to get back to that 90 dollar a week job?
JSOh yes, you know why? My father, working for that chemical company, he stayedevery day and worked and qualified. At that time, it was longevity that counted in your salary and helped you with your social security. Because I had my social 00:41:00security number when I was 16 years old. You know, sometimes you work in the summer between class. And so, and my father worked 32 years. You have to work five, six, seven, eight years to make 30-some years. So yeah, I went back. And I was going to stay until I got somewhere near there.
KRNow, you hadn't met your husband in all of this. You didn't meet him untilafter the war, correct?
KRSo you went back to work. So tell me how you met him.
JSMinding my own business (laughs). My brother came home on a ship and he metthis fellow and came to find out that he was from Brooklyn. My brother was living in Brooklyn because he had met a family that lived in Brooklyn and there 00:42:00were two boys and a girl. He came to know about the sister and he thought she was nice. And this Bill Stewart he lived in Brooklyn. He said, "You know, I have a sister. She's very nice. I think you should meet her. You might like her." And he said, my brother said, "When I go home you can come with me and see if you like her." Now I was working the 3:30 shift until 11, so I'd be away from the boys. Because being in a different city and being away from people, it takes time to learn them. You just don't up and get familiar with a person. You have to learn something about them. If they're nice, or you can be congenial, or get along with them. So I'm minding my business, going to work, I mean going. I hate to say it, but they served me a drink that I just thought was light soda or 00:43:00something or other, because I was going to work. I wasn't going to be home and talk with them. I was going to work. And they said, "You can't go to work because we put something in that, and you just have to take the day off and go on." Well, I didn't like that. Because every day counted, right? Yeah, that's what they did to me. So I didn't go to work that day. I got to learn something more about him. And he got to say something about his birthday was somewhere near, and if we became fond of each other maybe we could get married somewhere near there. Well, he had been over a couple of times by then. And get married then. I said to myself, "This is moving in a hurry." Well we had a sister who was supposed to get married in September. As time when on, I don't even know how 00:44:00long it was, but come to find out he appeared to be nice and I didn't know anything that was against him (laughs). I said, "Well, we'll talk to Lina and Johnny." I said, "It would be rough on my mother to have a wedding for them and have a wedding for us at another time too. What if we get together and have a double wedding?" And so it ended up, that -- it was later than they were planning on getting married, and they said, "This would help us," meaning Lina and Johnny, and of course, we were just planning to get married and needed the time to notify your friends and those sorts of things. So we had a double wedding and got married.
KRWhen did you get married?
JSYou know, sometimes I have to stop and remember.
KRI have to do the same thing (laughs).
JSIsn't that awful? Because the girls who are getting married at different timeson the job. It must have been November. November 6th or the 8th. Because fall 00:45:00had just began to set it. They were going to get married in September and it was back a little further in case they needed time. I'm sure it was November. Either the 6th or the 8th.
KROf the same year you met him? It was the same year you met him?
JSYes, because we met in, what was it May, June. Yes, because his birthday isJune 6th, yes it is. You just don't up and get married. You have to learn something about the person.
KRI think so. I think that's probably a good thing. But you, when you gotmarried you continued working?
JSDefinitely I wasn't going to give my job up (laughs). I wasn't going to givemy job. I think he told his friends that his wife was a housewife. Because at 00:46:00that time most of them were. So I said to myself, and I think I said to him, "You don't have to tell them anything." Because we were in New Jersey and chose to live in New Jersey in the meantime. Even the girl who I said was a friend of mine who was in the Navy, Con Edison was hiring and her husband went to work there. My husband went to see about a job and he got a job there. He stayed until he retired. He was a supervisor. He did very good a Con Edison.
KRYes, they were a good company at the time.
JSYes, uh-huh. The helped us, of course I started with the GI Home and being aman, the company had home extension for buying homes. So I said, "He's a man, I'll let him do it." We got it through Con Edison, got our home. 00:47:00
KRAnd used the GI Bill to help finance it? Is that right?
JSWell, I don't know. It could have come through there, but Con Edison theyhelped us get the house.
KRThat's nice. That's really good.
KRNow, you also though, you were telling me the other day, you also were verymuch volunteered and did other things, especially after you retired.
KRBut definitely all your life. You weren't -- you've been going going. Youretired from Western Electric and you still had another complete career.
KRTell me about that.
JSOh my goodness. Well, being in the Navy, that's an insignia that follows youthrough it seems. Because when they did over Jersey City, the urban renewal, I 00:48:00was in the health division. I represented the state in health. I had to go to meetings and bring back information. It just followed you all the way through. Then when I retired, what did I do? I was -- I was working for a florist because I thought maybe I would do that in retirement. A man from the board of education that knew me -- and living there in the city and my brother actor too, the youngest one. He said, "You don't need to work for a florist twirling flowers and putting them together. We need you for the Title One program." 4847 So I worked in the Title One program and I was assigned to two Catholic schools and later this that and the other thing. After awhile a lady who worked for the government said, "You're needed in the government." She said, what is it, 00:49:00Service for America?
JSI didn't say anything, because to me it was a step up. And I put in anapplication and I was to go to Baton Rouge. One of the tests took a week, you know, like you have a blood test and it takes a week for it to come back. And tchoo! I didn't go to Baton Rouge. And that was near New Orleans and I was just going to have a nice time learning the area. Well, anyhow, when it did come through it was for Missouri, Hannibel, Missouri. I said, "I've seen nothing, there's got to be something nice there." And so I was sent to, up to Hannibel, Missouri. It was interested working with senior citizens. Then there were some handicapped, disabled children there. And that was a learning experience. That 00:50:00was only a year, and when that was over I came home my mother was sick. She had had a, I guess you'd call it a light stroke. This one was taking care of her, and being that I was off in the summer it was my turn to help her. I went to school, the county had a college and I needed a couple more points. I went there. Biology and I forget what the other thing was. One of the teachers knew my brother, and oh my god, I put my foot down to do a good job. Anyhow, I got those two done through Hudson County Community College. Then St. Peter's College, I had the brother I was speaking about, he was teaching there. One foot led to another and I had enough to, I say, "Well, maybe I'll move on." What was 00:51:00it that I did? I forget what it was. Anyhow, when they looked at my records they said, "You have enough college credits. You don't have to take any tests. We'll give you in lieu of what you have done, we think you have more than enough credits." Oh, going into the Peace Corps. Was it the Peace?
KRYou told me it was the Peace Corps, yeah. So where did you do for the PeaceCorps? What was your assignment there?
JSWait a minute. Let me stop and think. The Peace Corps. First of all, they hadan opening in South Africa. But they said, "Wait a minute, you need to hold" because they were having some disturbance. And it is true, they were having some disturbance.
KRWhat year was this?
JSUhm -- what year? '82? '82. I went into the Peace Corps in '82. Anyhow, they00:52:00did have some disturbance, so they said, "You'll have to wait. We'll assign you some place." I said, "I heard the other day that" what was it that some country was opening. They said, "Oh, no, you don't want to go there." Anyway, do you know that someone shot the president of that country in South Africa. Anyhow, I waited for an assignment and the next one that came up was the Philippines and that's where I went.
KRWhat did you do in the Philippines for the Peace Corps.
JSEverything. First of all, knowing that I had -- I went in as an agriculturist.Agriculturist, that's what was needed. I worked with the people up in Missouri, backyard gardening. And my father had a place and with eight children, 200 feet 00:53:00deep on both sides and you learned to plant and this and take care of it and keep the ground nourished and keep the weeds out. So I went in as an agriculturist. I have to work with the, around city hall, that was number one. Then work with the farmers, upgrading them, so that they could raise a good crop of rice and this and that and the other thing. Green grass and shrubbery to hold the dirt whenever it rained. That was all a part of it too.
KRTo me it's just so fascinating. All of the things that you've done.
JSPlus the help. Oh my God. They had a day care center and I had to help withthe children. There was some that were malnourished. We had to give them a one bone meal to keep them alive and going. One lady was going to have a baby. She wanted me to deliver her baby because I had been in health. You were here, you 00:54:00were there and the other place. They had a day care center. I could hardly pass there, they were waving to me. I could hardly stop, because I had to go to the office and work. You were needed in so many places. The school needed someone to help raise money. Being from America, they knew I could touch and money would pop up. MOney for tables, money for chairs, for the children to do their homework. The places they needed you and wanted you to work was endless.
KRWhy do you think that you always -- this started with the WAVES but it seemsto be echoing throughout your life, you're volunteering for all of these different projects and doing all of these different things and constantly giving of your time. Why?
JSWell, that's because they knew what you had done and they said, "Oh she willfit in here. She could help us here. This needs to be done."
KRBut you could always say no.
JSPsh! Yes, but I hadn't learned to say no. I hadn't learned to say no. A fellow00:55:00said, "All you do is say, 'NOOO.'"
KRBut you didn't do that.
JSSo it seemed. I went from one thing to another.
KRIt must have been very -- was it rewarding to do these sorts of things?
JSIt was a stepping stone all the way.
KRAnd what do you mean by that?
JSMoving from place to place, sort of upgraded yourself. You got a chance tolearn and to do. Added to your service record. What you had done and qualified to do, but it sort of got you in trouble sometimes, because it was another thing that they found out you could do.
KRIs -- looking back would you have done anything differently? Would you havenot wanted to have some of these experiences?
JSI don't know. It puts you on a different level. It helped, it really helped.00:56:00So you went as far as you could go. All of this different information I used to record. And that's how I got to write my book about my days in the Peace Corps. I have papers from when I was in the seventh grade and when I get back I've got to stop all of this, because somebody, if something happened to me, they would probably throw the papers out because they didn't mean anything to them. It's the toning up of all the days in my life. That's what I want to put together. And I'm happy for this. This will help me too. Because a lady told me told me eight, maybe it was nine years ago, "Send me your papers. I'll put them in the computer and then you can go ahead with your book."
KRHave you written another book or just --
JSJust that one.
KRThat's you're still trying to finesse.
JSYes. And there was a to-do in Washington, DC, after the women had been in 5000:57:00years. I had to write of my involvement at the Navy. All of us that spoke at that particular affair, that was supposed to have been put together in a book form. Some of them sent it back typed up and some didn't. I still have mine. You should see the paper. Even when I went to Africa, that was something. I saved that. I can add that to my book. All those things blend together and come to something decent.
KRYou've had just amazing experiences. I just really --
JSWhen I get back home, I will have to say, "No." Because you know what I mean,there has to come an end.
KRAnd you need to spend time recording all of this stuff.
JSRight. I've done for others. As someone said, "Do for yourself." And that'snot being selfish because I've given a lot of years to other people. 00:58:00
KRAbsolutely. Well, I think this is probably a good place to stop. It seems likea logical spot.