Interview with Violet Kloth aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Conquest 9/22/06.Interviewer: Kathleen Ryan
KRThe first thing I want to start with is what we did the last time. If youcould tell me your name and the years that you served in the WAVES.
VKOK. I served in 1945 and '46. That was the end of the war but we didn't knowit was the end of the war. They were still taking huge enlistments.
KRViolet, can I interrupt you before we get too --
VKOh! I'm Violet -- I use my middle initial J. And Kloth -- K-L-O-T-H. Ienlisted under my maiden name Strom -- S-T-R-O-M.
KRAlright. Now let's get into the story. I just wanted to make sure I had thatat the top. So we're know who we're talking -- so I know when I listen back to these who I'm talking to. So you said you enlisted towards the end of the war.
VKYes, yes. Because I had four brothers already serving. I had to wait untilthey were all gone because they were not really keen on women in the service.
KRAlright, so, let's go back. Why don't we start at the beginning. You said youhad four brothers. Let's talk about your upbringing. Where did you grow up?
VKOh, in, actually I was born in Minnesota, but I can't remember anything aboutMinnesota except what I knew from first grade. Dad was a builder. We lived in the country. We didn't have to farm or have any animals. We didn't have -- what Dad did was conduct his building for all of the farmers in the area. And the area was near the county seat of Zimmerman. Zimmerman, Minnesota.
KRBut you lived outside of Zimmerman because you were in the country?
VKYes, just outside in the country. And I have no idea exactly where. We --after we left -- well, when it came time, there were no country schools there. So Dad had to move us into Minneapolis in order to start school. I went through first grade and it was time for another contract, so he, we moved again. That's the way our life was. Wherever Daddy had an important contract, that's where we would live. But it wouldn't, it wasn't a short term thing. They were huge project. Maybe take five years. That would put you through high school, you know? You didn't always have to interrrupt everything in your life.
KRSo where all did you live?
VKWell, (laughs) Dad had been doing this for awhile. That was his chosenvocation. We just lived in that I knew of -- or that I can remember -- was Minneapolis and then we moved to Wisconsin and lived in Minnesota. And then Mother said -- in Milwaukee. And then Mother said to Dad one day, "Albert, you know, I have all these children to take care when you ahead before us and get your job started and get a place for us to live," she said, "It's a little much for me to be without you." So we never moved from Milwaukee. We liked it, we liked it a lot. We liked Lake Michigan. We liked the school system, it was good the way it is here in Minneapolis. We were all very very happy there.
KRThis was also during the Depression.
KRYou would think contracting, doing a lot of building you affect your father'sability to get work. Was that the case or no?
VKWell, yes it was. It was -- oh, I'm sorry.
VKJobs were hard to get. And so, there -- actually though there wasn't a lot ofunemployment in our field, but they had unions. They had very strong unions. They don't have those things any more. Everyone sort of banded together and got through and through the Depression. But I didn't ever feel as though we were being deprived of anything because how can you feel deprived of something you haven't experienced? You know, you can't miss it, because you don't -- you have nothing to compare it with because everybody was in the same as -- facing the same problems.
KRSo you didn't feel as if you were doing without something, you prob -
VKWell, having a large family, you do realize that you can't have five beautifulsweaters, you know, or some of of your friends were only children and they had more things --
KRI'm sorry. We're doing an interview. You're welcome in, but if you couldplease be quiet that's all I"m asking. I'm sorry, you had -- but you didn't --
VKBut what I had always realized also, was where were they spending their time?At our house! Ah ha!
KRPeople liked being there.
VK Yes, yes yes. And they were always welcome. Mama and Dad, we'll make thingsopen for the kids instead of, instead of spending a lot of money, we'll make homemade donuts and serve those (laughs). And you could always ask someone for dinner. Because not that we had a great deal of money, but we had big kettles (laughs).
KRSo you filled a lot of stuff.
VKYes. We always prepared. We -- it was - we had all the accommodation as far asliving quarters and things to do with.
KROK, so this is -- we're picking up after moving with Violet's interview. YOuwere saying that you didn't feel like you were doing without during the Depression. Everyone came over to your house.
VKNot everybody in the family felt that way. That was my attitude. And I wasvery happy.
KRHow many brothers and sisters?
VKFive of each.
KRWow. That's a huge family.
VKYes it is. That's what they wanted. A big, a very extended healthy Swedishfamily. And it turned out we had as many girls, and then one more, than the boys. (laughs)
KRSo you outnumbered them.
VKYes, and that was nice too, because they gave us a lot to do. We helped, allhelped and did things together and that's what Mama told Dad. She said, "Albert, if you want to have a big family I will have them for you. But we have to do everything together as a family." So that was, that was our focus.
KRSo you went through school and high school in Milwaukee. What happened whenyou heard of -- you were in high school when Pearl Harbor, when there was the attack on Pearl Harbor.
KRTell me about that day, when you heard about that.
VKIt was, it was -- I was with friends, friends who were going to be affected byit. Male friends. Well, we just, it was such a shocking thing. That's all we did: talk talk talk. Talk talk talk. We didn't know what we were saying because we were just trying to surmise how we were going to fit into this. And on, of course, you're thinking pretty hard about all those boys who are going to be affected.
KRHow old were you when Pearl Harbors was attacked.
VKI must have been, it was was in 1941?
VKI was 21. And I had already, I was in the process of higher education, but I Iwas also working. They had a lot of programs, you know. Because of the Depression, our President, Franklin Roosevelt, had all of these, all of these program for people. They had CCC for young men to keep them out trouble. Keep them out of doors and healthy. They had National Youth Administration. Jobs that htey would get for them. They would get all of the, all of the companies like the American Red Cross, you know non - -
VKYes, that's the word. Non-profits would hire you at, well minimum wage. So youcould got to school and work. It was very very nice for us.
KRSo were you working, were you working in one of those kinds of jobs.
VKYes. I started at teh Americna Red Cross. I was in a division where there wereall volunteers except for me. I was a paid employee. I was secretary to the chairman of production. Working in a big office downtown. Taught a lot, a great deal of poise, because all of these people that were volunteeting, or most of them, at least all of the chairmen, different people coming in. A hundred different people every single day, different people. A different hundred peoople. Theyu'd roll bandages. They'd knit garments. T/hey'd sew woolen clothes. And all of this was going to England.
KRSo this was -- I'm sorry --
VKYou know, there was just, it was still considered the Depression days, youknow? People were just coming back because the jobs were just opening. But did you want to know more about the Depression itself? I think we had organized activities in public schools after school hours. That was an advantage because you could -- then it was in a party of the city that had many different European little groups. And they had , they were like first generation. So they brought all their things from Europe. And they had all of their native costumes. Things you would never see otherwise, because we did not -- we had activities in little clubs, in little things. But it was all supervised.
KRWas this connected with the Red Cross, was this in the schools?
VKThis was with the school system actually, all the public schools, they'd usethe buildings, you see. When they had a program for the whole community, they'd dance out on the school yards. They'd have bleachers set up and show us what their culture was. And you learned to live with many different kinds of people.
KRYou were working for the Red Cross when Pearl Harbor ---
VKOh, yes, yes yes. Yes indeed. Oh, what a furor. We, of course, many many youngmen immediately reported. Dropped everything and went into the various services. I did not because my brothers did. Some, some, one of my brothers actually worked in a manufacturing concern Now it's Chalmers that's a huge institute. My association with all of these people is I know the wives of all of these people who owned these companies through the American Red Cross. So I was always invited to the country club. I learned, I leanred so much from them about being a woman of the world. Knowing the right thing to do, how to dress -- it was a great reat graet great thing to happened to me. I really liked it a lot. I had a secret. A secret ambition was to go on the Broadway stages. That was one thing I liked to do a lot. And I even joined a small stock company,. YOu know, Wisconsin put out many many many -- there were a lot of famous actors and actresses, So, I was a kind of involved in that type of thing too. But as far as -- that's what I consider my learning experience. But as far as --- I don't know. I really didn't care too much about the local high school dates that we were having. Because my brothers were all, all their friends were in college. And they're the ones that would come and be at our home with us. You know, and so I thought the little high school kids were just -- tcht tcht -- not measuring up. (laughs)
KRYou were going to college at this time too? When Pearl Harbor>
VKI was taking course at the Milwaukee Vocational school, but these werepreparatory courses. And I also was taking stenography, Courses I never took -- I took all science courses in high school And, but then I -- I was getting to you know, know there were other things you could be doing. I took advantage of --- and I still do. Learning, learning. Knowledge is important to me. I have to be doing something, getting something from the hours I pug in.
KRAll your brothers enilsted?
VKOne was still in high school He didn't go in until the Korean conflict.
KRSo he had to wait behind.
VKYes, right, But Georgie was still going to school, And I had a couple ofsisters still going to school. So they were all in high school.
KRBut you said you brothers didn't approve of women inthe military.
VKI don't know -- I never did ask them specifically.. But they must have seensomething they didn't like about women in uniform. I never pinned it down, because I didn't think too much about it. I was trying to think how I would get over that hero. One day I went with someone who going to see about enlisting and like I say, I was -- Oh, I tried to get a real war job doing men's work. So then I went to Marquette University and took courses in reading instruments and working at that level. Right on the floor with all the men who were -- had punch presses, I don't know, all kinds that made a lot of racket. Had a wash that would keep the machine cool when it was operating so, and that smelled so bad that I had to stop because I lost my appetite. It would smell terrible.
KRWas this at the university or was this as a job you were trying to work at?
VKThis was a job that I was -- see I was always going to school and doing both.
KRSo, you couldn't do the punch press.
VKNo. I didn't have a job doing that. I was just an inspector spot checkingtheir work. And everybody was doing something for the war effort, so I thought, maybe I can get a job operating a small machine. I tried that. That was at A.O. Smith. That's another big firm. And you have to, you have to, you have people timing you to see how much you do an hour, whatever. I never, you have a day rate and I never made day rate (laughs). Because I had to put all these little things together. I could do that rapidly, without even thinking, you know, assemble it. And then you had to, they called it a kick press because you had to kick something underneath the table, and it would take this thing and press it all together and then it would pop out! All this went so fast and blump, all this noise. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I'd always hesitate, you see. And here's this person keeping, timing me, behind me, you know? And I'm thinking, "Oh, the pressure!" (laughs) Oh lord. You know you can be overqualified, and that's what I was. Before, before then when I was with the American Red Cross, I was a secretary. I was a secretary to the chairman of production. I was making more money than all my friends were making. And so, I thought this is pretty neat. But then I had to leave because I wanted to do something more vital. Because here is my brothers going. I have to do something. Violet has to do something. So that was my -- I stayed with the same firm, but they put me back in the office. (laughs) Secretary. I did that real well.
KRSo why did you decide, you were are least working for a contractor. Why didyou decide to join the WAVES.
VKI went down to the recruiting office with this friend who was going in. Shewas determined. She was from this small town in Northern Wisconsin, you know. All these people who were coming here, to Milwaukee to get jobs that were available. And so I went with her. And that in the recruiting office was where I saw these pictures of all the wonderful things you could do. And I saw this Navy control tower operator. And I thought, "Oh, Violet. I think I can do that." I always said that all my life, when people ask me -- oh, write, freelance, do anything. I always ponder, then I think, "I think I can do that." (laughs) It was wonderful.
KRHad you heard of the WAVES before?
VKNo. Well, yes, yes. Wait a minute. I have a sister who also joined the WAVESthe day she was old enough to do so. And she had a friend who was in the WAVES. And so I had seen my sister, who is five years younger than I am. I had seen her friend in uniform. But I never was drawn, just because she -- at least because she was doing it. She wasn't my friend especially. She was a friend of my sister's. And my sister was engaged to her brother, so you know how those family things go. And so, that's why -- the WAVES were not unfamiliar to me because I had seen one in uniform, but as far as knowing what she actually did -- and she didn't stay in the WAVES either. But this came a lot later. It was a medical discharge.
KRJust to clarify, you sister wasn't in the WAVES. It was your sister's friend, right?
VKYes, but my sister was determined to go in the WAVES. And I was already gone.And then she enlisted when she was 20 years old. She went in. She said, "Vi that was the first thing I ever did on my own." Because you know when you have older brothers and sisters, they try to take care of you. They help you with hurdles, and she said, "I did that all on my own." She was really proud of that.
VKShe went into the hospital corps and I went to control tower school inAtlanta, Georgia, wrenching myself away from the family. Oh lord.
KRBut you had to wrench yourself first when you went to Hunter College for bootcamp, right?
VKYes. Right. Oh yes. At Hunter, it was, they had so many people alreadyenlisted, but they were still -- the week I arrived there with my orders I -- I left Milwaukee and I had my orders and I took them to the station manager. The station master they called them. And said, "What train do I get to go to this place." And it was Atlanta, Georgia. And he said, "I don't know." No, we were going to New York. We were going to Hunter. And he said, "But I'll give you a ticket to Baltimore." There I was, out the door, Where am I going to end up now? (laughs). OH! Because nobody really knows and everything was moving so fast. You just can't -- can't imagine. I've never seen anything mobilized so rapidly and so well done, actually. We came out and won the war, so that was a very good thing to happen.
KRIt seems in looking back to me that the atmosphere was so very different than now.
VKAbsolutely. People had to start economizing on the use, they were restrictedby coupons how much sugar they could have. We couldn't have things like butter. We had to have oleo. I hate it to this day. I'd rather not put anything on the bread that we baked. It was just, shoes, we tried, you just, all of the tires, any rubber things. All of these were going into the war effort. When I think about Germany on the other hand, I think about the actual food they were allowed to raise, but Hitler took all the food so the farmers were starving themselves. I had a brother in Germany who was a prisoner of war, and he didn't have enough to eat. He had potatoes and cabbage and that was all. Just the starchy carbohydrates and that left everybody that came out of that prisoner of war camp, they weren't really mistreated. It's just that they didn't have enough to eat and they all had starvation TB. But that's terrible too you see.
KRWas he taken prisoner before you joined up?
VKYes. I was home the day Mama got the telegram.
KRDo you think that played any role in your --
VKOh, yes yes yes. Surely. We, you know, the boys were going so I had to bedoing something too. Really important. The Red Cross was not enough. The war plant not - I was overqualified. I just wasn't good enough to do it. I was quite disappointed at that point. And so that is something that kind of made me lean towards going into the military myself. Because I couldn't do anything that was -- I had to keep up with my brothers, you see. (laughs). Two older brothers, yes, yes. And then two younger brothers. Oh, we did everything together. That meant if the boys started going to a local roller skating rink, we'd have to go too, you see. So we'd exchange with them. We'd teach them to dance on the dance floor and they'd teach us to dance on skates! (laughs) But there again -- and when we'd go out for an evening, this is the way the family as it -- now we were all in school. And if we'd go out for an evening, well usually every Saturday night, Friday night. Well, the next morning we're all in one bedroom talking over our dates. The men, yeah, the boys and the girls.
VKYeah, it was nice.
KRAfter Hunter you got, you saw -- even though you saw the picture of the flightschool and the control tower, that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a WAVE in a control tower.
VKThat doesn't mean you're going to be a control tower operator or go to school.Yes, yes. Because there were 2,000 of us that came that same week. That enlisted. That's quite an addition to a course that's a big, Hunter College. We didn't even have any classrooms. We had -- our barracks was empty classrooms. And the ones that had gone before us had apartments. Apartments that they had to clean themselves. For us it was just moving in a locker and bunk bed.
KRHow did you get selected to go to air traffic control tower school?
VKI wish I knew. I often wondered. I finally came to the decision that I didn'thave so much accredited knowledge, but I must have - someone saw some potential. That was it. Potential. With the interview that was conducted, we were interrupted, as soon as we were free to talk again, I initiated, I started it. I was so enthused. The lieutenant who was in charge, the woman lieutenant said, "Why do you want to go and be a controller?" I said, "Because it's so exciting!" I left afterwards and I thought, "Oh, what a dumb thing to do."
KROther, other girls that were there with you though had more experience.
VKOh, yes, they had flying of some kind or other. And I was a secretary. Somepeople marvel that I was even put in that position. I -- we were half men and half women in the tower, so that's who went to tower school. But the men all already had pilot training because they washed out of pilot training school. But they had had all those subjects and that's who we were competing with. And you had to maintain an average -- tested everyday -- and you had to maintain an 85 point average or you washed out of tower school. We pretty much paid attention to what we were learning and that's what we were there for.
KRHow many girls from your boot camp class ended up making it to tower school,besides, you know, you? Do you remember?
VKI don't know. I have no idea what the proportion was. I do that there wereonly two billets for tower school. Two billets.
KRAnd you got one of them.
VKYes. I really thought afterwards it must have been my enthusiasm, you know.Because I was -- that helped me, you know. That enthusiasm made me work hard. It also gave me a release from worrying about my brothers so that I could concentrate on my job. Bill was flying a B17 out of England. They had 35 missions they were supposed to complete before they could take rest and relaxation. They call the R&R. They got to 35 and they didn't have any pilots to replace them. They went to 50, they raise the -- you see, they kept raising the number of missions and it was after they ahd reached 50 that one of the planes, they were flying in formation and one of the planes was hit by flack from down below and there, that plane crashed into Bill's plane so taht he -- they had to parachute out. The Germans -- it was in the woods in Germany. I walked through those woods in Germany. We were there as an air force family. Now this was a strange feeling.
KRKnowing where your brother had been taken captive.
VKYes. They had dogs, of course. You know you don't know what you would do inthe same situation. You have an invading army. Even if you started the war, they were taking you prisoner. People did throw some stones at them when they marched into the area. But also there was a humanitarian treatment. Bill had a football knee. It was an injury from when he was in school sports. And it would sometimes go out of place and it did when he landed the parachute. They sent him to a hospital in Muenster. They fixed up his leg. And then he went to the prison camp. He wasn't -- he didn't have any duties. He showed me a notebook that he had. He kept all his bridge scores in it. And all through the whole notebook, he was, he was writing Tilde all the time. Tilde was his very own special name for our Mother. So he got strength from that,you know. Of course, that was one of the things -- you say, did I know about when she received the news. Well, she wasn't one to wail or moan in grief. She knew it. That's, that's when I came home with my little button saying "I'm a WAVE enlistee" a tin button. I had it. Right there in the recruiter's office I made arrangements for my physical. Right then I took the general GED. I had made up my mind and it was allowed. But she still kept saying, "Violet, you don't really have to go. Because your brothers are all gone." Her friends were giving me going away parties. Her friends. (laughs) And she was still saying -- and here they just give you maybe a month before, before you leave. And I thought, "How, what am I going to do with Mama?" (laughs) One day I came home and there is a whole matched set of luggage with my initials on it. Mama bought that for me. I knew that meant I was going to get to go. I was going to go, but then I knew it was with her approval. And, of course, my dad was such a sweetheart of a Swede. He wanted everything that Mother -0 they were so much in love. They -- all of their life together. T/here was a closeness there. I never heard any arguments. Nothing like that. If they had anything private to discuss, there were so many children. They had their bedroom, you see. We weren't - I didn't know that people fought. I thought everybody lived like that. I was really surprised when I got out in the world and saw what the real world was like because we were just a loving family. We were quite nice. I thought that marriage was perfect. Their's was. (laughs)
KRWhere did you end up serving when you got out of flight tower training school?
VKWell that's -- that's when they gave assignment according to your average.Once again I was second from the top. Competing against all those guys, so I got my choice, you know. And they said Scott Air Force -- Chicago was very close to Milwaukee. So I thought, "I could go home every weekend. I could see everybody that comes home on leave," and so I put down that my choice was Scott. And then that didn't work out.
KRThere wasn't an opening there?
VKNo. So then -- oh, but that turned out to be better yet, because I went toPawtucksett, Maryland and that was a naval air testing base. And they had everything there. They had every kind of Navy plane. They had all of these pilots that were testing the planes. We were open around the clock. Lord we were serving in shifts because these planes were flying. The pilot could choose where they wanted to fly, as long as the area was authorized. And so they would just go to operations and say, "I'm going to so and so. This is my plane." And we didn't care where they would, where they would fly the plane just as long as they would keep it in the air. Because that's what we wanted to know. If it was safe for our pilots. They'd test it for endurance and managability and all of the things that would affect the pilots that were going to fly those planes.
KRAnd you worked with a lot of top notch pilots.
VKYeah. We talked to them. (laughs). That's how I talked to John Glenn anddidn't even know who he was going to be. I knew that he was a Marine pilot from Quantico. We had all of these bases right around us that were different Marines -- all under the Navy. We would get all the -- all of the voices of everybody and we knew what was going on around us. Of course we had flight plans on a big board that would, that we were referring to all the time. So we knew who had filed a plan to come onto our field. Of course we knew all the requirement to know where to direct them. Which of the landing sites -- we had auxiallary sites where we would take turns working alone, where they could come in and touch down and fly off again. Never really land. We had, we had, of course that area had a lot of water so we had planes that would land on the water. We had anything you could think of. So there was a lot of variety. Our assignments were not just one thing, they were many different things.
KRDid you ever have a pilot -- its seems if they're testing these planes,there's a huge risk the planes may not work as they anticipate.
VKYes. But I never had a crash while I was on duty. Now that's not to say thatPawtucksett didn't have any crashes, but not while I was on duty. I was really lucky. That's all silence in the tower. But outside you can hear all these engines going. One day I left. They had what they call jinking. They had mock, mock fight among these little planes. And these little planes were nothing compared to the air force. These planes were tiny. They had to land on the aircraft carriers, you see, they didn't have the room. We even had set up on the field we had a mock aircraft carrier deck where they would practice coming in and landing. They had everything they had in the Navy, so - Naval air. So I was exposed to it. AS many as, I would say as many as seven years after they were first at that point, they were first publishing in magazines concerning aircraft all the things we were doing for that period of time. It was just never advertised. The lady said, "top secret." Boy! They really investigated you too. I found out later they went to all the neighbors. To all the stores in the neighborhood where we lived. We lived on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. And they really had to get, I had to be approved. Of course I alreadya had some clearance from working in these war plants. But then, it all helped. Everything kind of fell into place in my life. It still does. Oh, lookit, here I am talking to you about my experiences. Isn't it wonderful?
KRIt is. I mean it's fascinating.
KROne of the things that was on, that you talked to before, is how youdiscovered John Glenn had been one of the pilots you were dealing with.
VKYes. Because he had help writing it, but he published him memoirs. And it'sfairly early in the book that he started talking about Quantico, and I thought, "Oh, oh. That's where I was." That area. And he talked about being stationed at Pawtucksett (laughs). And then I knew. I knew that I had talked to him almost every day he was airborne. Oh, what a shock that was. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. (laughs) Oh, and then to make that discovery, because by this time, by the time he wrote, he had already been an astronaut twice. He was a United States Senator for 28 years. And there he was writing his memoirs (lalughs). Then, he was, I read that he was the same age I was. I thought, "I can write him a letter." I made two columns in my letter. I wanted to make sure that he would get, read it. So I wanted to make it interesting. So I just listed all of the things from his memoirs places that he'd been, things he'd done. Then I did the same thing for me. I went like this -- any place where we could have met. And we actually ended up at Pawtucksett together. Not knowing each other socially. Just knowing that we were doing a good job. You see, I was just as enthused as he was. He's still flying. He's just -- that's his whole life. Did I tell you that he goes to air shows and appears?
VKOh, right. The last time that I heard -- and this is, would be two years ago,but he does it all the time. Just appears at these air shows. At that time he was in Reno, Nevada. He was co-piloting with John Travolta who is also a real nut about flying. He also builds his own planes. He's got quite a few, quite a few aircraft of his own. To know somebody who is that involved and to know how they must feel. I had an experience one time. I thought, "This is how athletes feel. This is how pilots must feel." You get a physical reaction. I had done a rock climb and rappelled down and I was 70 years old. (laughs)
KRSee, I'm too scared to do that. So I admire you. (laughs)
VKWell, it was under the, this program for adults, seniors, you know. It was,what they did was take over universities and colleges where they had dormitories and they would get people to teach all these courses. You could chose what you wanted to learn at a for a particular area. So I did that several times taht I would join. It was another learning experience. But I forget now, I lost my train of thought how I chose -- well I always chose something really active. I had to always prove myself. If I went to the Grand Canyon I'd have to prove myself by walking down instead of having to take the elevator. Or walking up and down up and down. In Carlsbad Caverns, you see I always had that competitiveness. I think that was because we were a close family and we were always learning new games and new ways and competing against each other. Nicely though. It was just such a joy to win (laughs). And one time, I really didn't like my name Violet. I thought it was too sissy. I think I kind of liked the idea, "Why couldn't I have been a boy?" They did more things. In those days they did do more things. But in my family we were encouraged to do new things. So I really didn't miss out. And, oh dear. Running out of breath.
KRTell -- are you OK to continue?
VKYeah, I can.
KRTell me about the end of the war.
VKOh. Where would I start. Oh, yes. So I was given a --what do you call it, ahumanitarian discharge because at that time my mother had to have a kidney removed. I still had these three brothers, siblings, who were in high school. Somebody had to take care of her when she came home. So we applied through the American Red Cross for me to get this special discharge.
KRBut the war was over at this point?
VKAnd I would have been discharged in six month through normal process, but theyjust hurried it up. There wasn't much to do except follow their orders. And get out and get home and take over. And what did I know? I didn't know (laughs). But at least I was old enough, you see, to have the responsibility. If I didn't know something, I knew enough to go to somebody who did. And my sister came home six months later. She was given the routine, they were discharging them as fast as they could because it was an expense even to keep us. One thing I did find out, the Navy was the last one to use women, and they were very happy to get rid of us (laughs). Well, it was such a problem for them because they didn't have any means of transporting us. Ships were not built for women and men. Each woman had to have her own head. She had to have her own private bathing facility. Men could do everything together. Just a mass of men and it didn't really matter, but somehow they thought that women did. So it was hard for them, it was hard for the Navy to get us somewhere where they could use us. That's why they didn't have many women overseas.
KRDid you -- if your mother hadn't have had the health problems and you had togo home -- and you could have stayed on in the Navy -- would you have --
VKAlready had plans. Because see, I was near, I was on the East Coast. I wasgoing to see everything on the East Coast. I was going to stay there and get familiar with that whole part of the country. Instead I just went back to Milwaukee.
KRWould you have wanted to stay in the Navy if you could have?
VKI didn't consider that. I had to get home to my brothers, you see. That --many people did and it was a smart thing to do. No, I couldn't wait to get home. I could wait, but the war was over. We had done our job. I felt satisfied.
KRDid you end up -- you ended up marrying?
VKWell, yes. You see I was engaged. Ray was in it too. He was gone four and ahalf years. Four and a half years,you know, when you don't see somebody.
KRIt's a long time.
VKEspecially at that age. Early 20s. So, I had many friends who would come homeon leave and we would go out together. But they were friends, you know, friends of my brothers. That's another thing. I thought I'd never get any experience in dating. Because my brothers would always go and talk to them and say, "Remember, that's my sister." (laughs)
KRKept them on good behavior.
VKAnother thing I started to tell you was about my name Violet. I really thoughtthat that was not, I don't know, I really thought it wasn't
VKWell, so, I liked Vi. That was alright. That's what my brothers used. When Ifound out after, after I was home. Bill had, he -during an actual attack he manned a midship gun and he had Vi on his gun. Johnny was in the submarine and those torpedos, he would put Vi for good luck. They all had some way they were relating me to the military. I guess it was my enthusiasm, you know. I just felt, I just felt, well, I just made it evident that I felt we were doing the right thing.
KRHow many kids -- did you have children?
VKYes, I had a son, but I didn't have my first pregnancy until I was 37 yearsold. I had been married 13 years and I had my first pregnancy. Wonderful, wonderful. Birth. And then two years later I had a daughter. And this was at the time there was a window that was established by law that you couldn't adopt after the age of 35. So I didn't really even know that I was going to be able to have any children of my own, and that was limiting me for adopting. At that time also we weren't adopting from other countries. This is so common today. Not that it's easy to get a child by adoption. But it happens.
KRDo you think taht you, you had said, taht at the time growing up, and itwasn't so much true in your family, but you wanted to be a boy because could do certain things that girls couldn't do.
VKYeah, yeah yeah.
KRDo you think by the time you started raising your daughter did --
VKYeah, overall. My goodness.
KRThings were different.
VKYes. Women had come home and women had won the war. At home, you see. Come infrom little towns and worked in the big city and proved themselves. And from then on -- and even when they were married to military and men had to go TDY and they couldn't accompany them.
KRWhat does TDY mean?
VKTemporary duty. And this was -- now wait a minute -- I'm digressing here. Iwas in the -- after we were married, we both liked military life but we both had been discharged. And that's when the big decision was made that Ray would enlist in the Air Force. So I was still military you see. Almost all of my life, except for school. And that's when we lived all over the world. Every assignment. He would always go down and see what was available. And what always had concurrent travel. I went, I saw so many things and as the children were growing up they experienced those things. And they're so thankful for it. Because in this time of their life they, they really, they know so much more. They're cosmopolitan. They've seen all these beautiful paintings all over the world, you know. We've gone to three different countries we've lived in. Together. In Europe. Lived in Okinawa in the far East. My goodness. And every time we returned to the States we'd go to a different part of the United States, which is like going to another country. YOu have learn what the local people are doing and what they are about. And you have to represent your service. So we were Air Force people.
KRWhat does your daughter do, what do your kids do now?
VKNeither one of them have any children. I have no grandchildren. People aretalking about now, great-grandchildren, people my age, you see. But there again, you can't really miss something you've never known. So I don't feel that I've been deprived not having any grandchildren. Actually, when I formulated, when I was alone, I formulated a plan for living alone which entailed, every three years going to someplace where I had never lived. Find me something to do which I knew nothing about. And really not having grandchildren didn't keep me in one locality or a couple, you see. Because I had a son who was -- he went -- he became involved with fiber optics. They wanted him to teach, but that would have meant indoors. He liked the outdoors. Still does. Met his wife on a ski slope in California (laughs). Courted her. They now live in Nevada in 40 acres with no fences. They have wild mustangs that come up and weed their garden, mow their lawn. (laughs) They're living the kind of life that they love. Of course, they get really fierce winters but they snowshoe, they have snowmobiles. These people are, the crowd that her mother and dad pal around with are people that retired at the age of 40 and have been playing ever since. But not only just playing. They'll go out and get youngsters from a big city to come out and they'll give them experiences they'll never have. They'll go out and do that, They're very community minded and, but they too, they're outdoor people.
VKAmy is, well, both of them, all four of them are working in some way oranother. My son's daughter works in a retail store for tourists. Knows the whole history of where they live and likes to talk about it to the customers that come in. Susan is a sweetheart, but she just works part-time as it suits her. She's just very very -- they never have had to scrimp for anything. And my daughter is in Dallas, TExas living in the fast lane. She has a -- I don't know what they call it, a traffic manager? She brings everybody together at this company that deals in very fine jewelry. What she does she helps with the advertising. That's marketing really. So that's what the two kids do. But like they come on trip to places like this for their long weekend. So they still have that love of travel and seeing things and knowing things about anything.
KRIs there anything you would like to add at this point? That you think isimportant for me to know?
VKWell, just that I have a cyst and I treat it carefully. Because I didn't wantto go out. And you know, when you're 86 years old you think about those things. Is there anything that I haven't done that I really wanted to do? And I think I've covered all the important things. I still have these opportunities because I belong to national organizations. I go to other conventions. I don't just run around. I budget according to my income and I had an income from the Federal Government because I worked for the federal government. So that's a guaranteed income so long as we have a government. I really feel as though I've had the best of everything.
KRI really feel as if this is a good place to stop.