Emily Collinsworth Interview
Ques: Emily, where were you born?
Emily: I was born here in Tampa seventy-four years ago. I have lived all my life here.
Ques: I am going to take you back to World War II. Do you remember your reaction when your first heard about the war?
Emily: Well my mom and I were driving to Council, Idaho where my dad was working. I had the radio on and it came over. Of course, I guess you could say it blew us away to know that we were going to be war. From then on, it just got bigger and bigger.
Ques: This was the actual announcement that they were bombing Pearl Harbor.
Ques: Were you in high school at the time?
Emily: No, I had graduated and I had went to one year of college over in Boise. And then I went to Beauty School so I was a beauty operator at the time.
Ques: Were you living at home or had you moved out?
Emily: No, I was still living at home. We're all home people. I was still with my mom and dad. And then when the WAC was started, well, I thought I could do something for my country. It sounds kind of "corny." I really did want to do something for it. And then my brother was married and had a little girl. So, I thought if I went maybe he could stay home longer which he did. I felt like that helped. So, that was my reason for going.
Ques: How did you hear about the WAAC?
Emily: I guess I read it in the paper. I don't remember, but I believe that was where --- it said for women that wanted to be in the service. It was something new and I really thought I would like to do. I didn't want to go overseas. I just wanted to help here at home. I loved to drive so I thought maybe I could drive in the service. That was my idea.
Ques: How did you family and friends react when you told them what you were going to do?
Em: My family didn't like it at all. My sister would hardly speak to me for awhile. And mom and dad they really -- they really didn't want me to g,o but then when I kept talking about it why they soon said it was okay with them. But my sister - it took her a long time to come around.
Ques: Was she younger or older?
Em: Yes, I had two older sisters and an older brother. I was the youngest.
Ques: Can you tell me a little bit about going to basic training? First of all, where did you go for basic?
Em: I was inducted in Salt Lake City and then we got our orders. I went to Des Moines, Iowa for basic training for about 4 weeks. It seemed like it was longer than that. Of course, that was a long time ago.
Ques: If we could go back to the induction, how did you get to Salt Lake City?
Em: Well, they sent me a ticket, and I rode the bus down there. I met some other gals that were being inducted.
Ques: On the bus?
Em: No, after I got there. And then ---- we were inducted there and then I came home and waited for my orders to go, which I think was around February.
Ques: Could you tell me a little bit about the induction? What was it like?
Em: Well, it was just us gals and a --- some commanding officer gave us our oath. I thought it was really neat, but there was no ceremony or anything. We just took the oath and we were inducted.
Ques: Did you feel different after that?
Em: Well, yeah, I was wondering what was going to take place cause I had never been away from home before. So, I knew it was going to be a new experience, but I thought there are a lot of other gals that haven't been away from home either. I was excited and yet I was a little scared too -- what was going to take place.
Ques: Did you get to go home for awhile or was it a while before you were called up for basic training.
Em: No. I went down there in January, and then I got my orders in February. So, it was very long. Of course, you don't take anything with you - only your personal things and then you get rid of your civilian when you get there.
Ques: Was this in '42?
Em: Yes. Because you had to be twenty-one, and my birthday was in December. And so I had to wait till after I was twenty-one before I could be inducted.
Ques: So, you went as quickly as you could. Had you been thinking about this for awhile?
Em: I heard that they had formed an auxiliary was why I was really thinking about it. And so I was getting all ready. It didn't take me long. I just quit my work and got ready to go.
Ques: Did you have any women friends that also went into any of the branches?
Em: There was a gal from ---- that went. We were in basic training for awhile, but I had got appendicitis so I was from that attachment. So, when I went back after they released from the hospital, I was put in a different attachment and ..I wrote to her ... but she went a different way and of course, I did too.
Ques: How did you get to Iowa?
Em: We went on the train. I'm a railroad person. My dad was a railroader and my son is and my brother and my brother-in-law. Everything was by train then. Of course, it was getting pretty crowded, because they had a lot of troops moving. I liked to ride the train so I really enjoyed my trip.
Ques: Had you been that far away from home before?
Em: No. Never. The farthest I had been was Spokane, Washington where my oldest sister lived. We had never ---all we had ever did was go to the mountains on vacations and stuff. We had never traveled a lot. This was all very new to me.
Ques: Did you talk to people on the train? What was the feeling on the train?
Em: I was sort of backward at that time. It was kind of hard for me to talk to people. So, I wasn't too able to strike up a conversation with people.
Ques: Could you tell me what your first day was like in basic training, after you got off the train?
Em: We got off the train. There were trucks that they hauled the troops in. And so we all got in there and sat on the little benches in there just like the men did. It was -- your wondered where you were going and what was going to take place. Then we went out to Fort Des Moines. I can't remember too much.
Ques: Was there a lot of security around this whole thing - things that they weren't telling you, where exactly you were going, things like that?
Em: There wasn't too much. Of course, we had to go through the gates and there was security there, but there wasn't too much like that. When we were going through basic training there were things that we went to class to learn about airplanes, combat, and stuff like that.
Ques: When you got there, did they gather you all together and give you a big speech?
Em: Yeah, and then, of course, we had to pick up all our stuff at the supply office and get all our clothes. And, of course, they weren't very pretty clothes then. They got a little nicer as time went on, but we had men's overcoats. Nothing matched. Wearing regulation shoes - they all looked alike. So, that was an experience getting clothes and we had to ship our clothes home. We couldn't wear them anymore. They took us to where our barracks were.
Ques: Did they give you special insignia? Badges? buttons?
Em: We had a ---- it was a woman's head on one side and WAC on the other side. That was all we had.
Ques: Did anybody talk about your insignia or the symbolism?
Em: Not that I remember.
Ques: You were the first contingent of women to go to Des Moines?
Em: No, there were already WACs there. It had already been formed and there was people older than I was. It was pretty - there was quite a few there. There were a lot of new recruits, too.
Ques: Did they talk to you about a special role of now being women in the Woman's Army Auxiliary?
Em: We had to learn all the regulations that went with our conduct - who we were to salute. Yeah, they gave us all those instructions - how we were to act and what we were to do and showed us we were to keep our beds, our footlockers. There was a lot to learn. It was interesting, and, of course, we kept busy. So, we didn't have time to get lonesome for awhile.
Ques: Did you feel any special pressure as a woman in basically a male military at this point?
Em: No, because all of our officers were women. And so, it was just a little - it was the sergeants and everybody over us. I felt like they knew a lot more and we had to do what they said. It was a little intimidating, but not much.
Ques: Did they give you special rules for dealing with men at the fort?
Em: Not for awhile. After we went to a regular camp - when we went to Camp Hale, they told us about how we were to act and we were to have conduct according to women.
Ques: Going back to Des Moines, were there also men at that encampment?
Em: The commanding officer was a man, but the ones I remember were just women. They gave us our drill and, of course, they were in the mess halls. When we went to class, they taught us. Some men taught us like the airplanes stuff. All of our things were taken care of by women.
Ques: What were the barracks like?
Em: They were very stark - no curtains, just a bed and a footlocker. We had a cupboard above the bed. There were two beds fairly close together and we both had a cupboard above. And then our footlocker. Everything had to be just so - had to be rolled and our shoes had to be shined in a row. We had to pull our covers tight so that a coin would bounce on them. It was just like Army. Everything had to be according to the way they wanted it. We had a lot of fun. You got acquainted with all the girls in your section. It wasn't too bad. Then our latrine - it was just a big latrine where everybody went, cleaned up and showered. A lot of girls were having problems with that because they hadn't been used to that.
Ques: So, you would have like public showers?
Em: Well, they were enclosed, but just to have to go in there and wash with all these girls in there. The latrines were enclosed, but a lot of girls that had come from the East - it was a little hard for them. But us people out here in the West why, heck, it didn't matter.
Ques: You're used to camping out in the mountains?
Ques: I would like to talk about the classes you actually took but before we do that, what was a typical day like in basic training?
Em: Well, we had to get up at 6 o'clock and that was reveille. We had to stand for reveille. Went to breakfast first and then went back to barracks and cleaned up and went to class.
Ques: When your stood reveille - could you tell me what that means?
Em: Well, that's when the flag was raised in the morning. We were all in formation and we stood at attention and saluted as the flag was going up. That was very impressive to me. I always felt real proud to stand there and salute it. After we cleaned up our barracks and stuff, we went to class usually around 9 o'clock. They lasted all morning and then we would go to lunch and back to class again. Then, of course, there was always drilling, too.
Ques: Were there also inspections?
Em: They inspected every day. Boy, you got brownies if things weren't according to ---.
Ques: So, how did you do at inspection?
Em: Well, the first time we were all in front of our footlockers and then the commanding officer from our regiment come in and looked everything over.
Ques: This was a guy?
Em: No, a woman. And, of course, she would see that everything was dusted. Everything had to be real clean. We scrubbed our floors all the time. That first few times was a little nerve racking to have them look at you while you stood at attention and look straight ahead and answer "Yes Ma'am." and "No Ma'am." But after awhile you got sort of used to that and it's sort of routine, so your weren't nervous when it was time to come to attention and stare straight ahead.
Ques: What was it like being in barracks with women from all over the country?
Em: That was a little hard to get used to. Now, there were some who were just very timid, real nice girls. And then there were some that were pretty rough. Used quite a bit of language that I wasn't used to. And so that was a little hard to get used to. After you've been there for awhile and listened to it a lot, why it sort of went in one ear and out the other. Just took it with a grain of salt. Then you got acquainted with them and you learned about their lives and what they had done before. So, it was sort of interesting. And then, of course, you meet a few that you get real close to, which I did. I still write to about four girls that we were together in the motor transport part. It's nice, we've relived a lot of times.
Ques: Could you tell me a little bit about the people you got close to?
Em: Mary Eurich was from Montana. So, we usually always met in Denver when we were on furlough. We would go on furlough together. She would go back to Montana, and I would go to Idaho. Of course, she would tell me about her life in Montana. They lived on a big ranch. Then Nellie Chester - she was from Illinois. Maxine Dragnish - she was from Washington. She was with us in our detachment.
Ques: Was this from Iowa or Camp Hale?
Em: Mary from Montana - she and I went to Motor Transport School. The other girls were going other things. They were with us when we went to Camp Hale, and I got acquainted with them there. I knew Mary longer, because we were going to Transport school together.
Ques: Besides the language, was there anything that surprised you when you were thrown in with all these other women?
Em: Now, we did have some colored people and we had some colored lieutenants, and you had to salute any officer and there were a few girls from the East that I remember said, "My grandparents would turn over in their graves if they knew I was saluting a colored person." To me, they were like everybody else. It didn't bother me a bit. But there were some who were a little resentful that they had to look to them instead of down, I guess. They had come from all walks of life so you really learned a lot. From people from the South, and the East, North. They were from all over. Everybody had lived different lives, so you really learned a lot. Where they worked and what they did. It was real interesting.
Ques: Do you remember anything in particular that you learned?
Em: Well, I learned to march.
Ques: I mean from all these people.
Em: Well, I learned that I could go up and talk to anybody which was real hard for me to do. We had a good time. We went places - to shows. In that respect, I really learned a lot that I could do that I didn't think I could do. So, that really helped me when I got out of the service.
Ques: You had mentioned colored officers before, were there any colored women actually in your barracks?
Em: They were mostly officers that I remember. There wasn't too many of them, but quite a few.
Ques: Let's talk about the classes a little bit. What kind of classes did they start you off with?
Em: Well, we went to hygiene classes, and we went to a class where we had to learn how to detect different airplanes - all the parts of them.
Ques: Are these American planes or enemy planes?
Em: Enemy planes, but also some of ours, but most of them were enemy planes that we had to learn. So, I guess if ever we went overseas, we would know what was going on. I know we went to class, but I guess that stuck in my mind - learning airplanes and detecting them and so forth. I know there were other things we did.
Ques: Can you still see those outlines?
Em: Yeah. Different shapes and how they were built.
Ques: Did they get into weapons on those planes?
Em: We didn't go into guns and things. We just had to learn the shapes and how they were built so we could detect them.
Ques: Tell me about Drills.
Em: To begin with - when they were saying you had to start out with your right foot - that got a little easy - but then when they would tell you to turn right - left, left - right, about - face. Boy, everybody was going every which direction. But soon all of a sudden it just kind of falls in. You were concentrating on what they were going to say so you were paying attention. It didn't take too long for us to learn it. We did a lot of marching and turning and about face. Then we had to learn to stand at attention and at ease. There was quite a bit to learn. They would ask different ones if they wanted to drill. So, one time I thought I think I can do this and I actually did do it. I caught them in the right place and didn't let them run into anything. You had to be really on your toes, cause you had to be watching where they were going and what you were going to say. I thought I really did okay. I had really learned something.
Ques: Were the drill instructors hard on you?
Em: Yeah, they really wanted us to pay attention and not fool around or anything. They could really let you know if you weren't doing it right. There were a few hard-nose ones.
Ques: What did people think about drilling?
Em: A lot of them didn't like it. It did get very tiresome, and we had to be out there a long time and it was hot or cold. It didn't matter what kind of weather was we went out in it. I thought it was sort of fun. It was different. Neil: So, you drill both summer and winter whatever it was.
Em: During basic training. No we didn't drill too much after we went to Camp Hale. It was mostly just learning to do it at basic training. Neil: Was it winter when you got to basic training?
Em: It was still pretty cold, cause it was in February, and Iowa can still be pretty bad. And it can get very hot there, too. I remember the first time we did the whole parade, the whole camp - Pass and Review - it was celebrating something. And we stood out there and waited and waited and it was hot as --- a lot of gals fainted, before the person that we were supposed to be passing in review got there. When you stand - they did put us ease- but even at ease why you get tired of standing in formation in that boiling hot sun. You've got wool clothes on. That was quite a thing and then finally we got to pass and review and that helped. Neil: When you did that, did you wear your regular drill uniform?
Em: Dress uniforms. During just drill practices we wore fatigues. During a regular parade why we had our uniforms on and our hats that had to be at a certain angle. All that - just sharp. Neil: Were the dress uniforms a little tailored or were they men's clothes too?
Em: No, they were tailored but they a lot of them didn't match at that time. Our summer uniforms matched cause they were a khaki color. But the winter ones - you could have a dark green skirt and a lighter top or darker top and lighter skirt. And a lot of girls didn't like that because they wanted to be so - so. It didn't matter to me. Just so I had a uniform to wear. Neil: About how much time a day did you spend on drill?
Em: We didn't go to class all the time because sometimes in the morning we had drill practice or in the afternoon and then we didn't go to class. It was quite awhile that we were out there - at least one or two hours learning how to do it. Then even after we got so we could do it we would still practice. Neil: How did the barracks hold up in the weather?
Em: They were built real good. They were warm. They got awful hot in the summertime. In the winter though it stayed pretty warm. We had two blankets and that was enough for us. Neil: Did you do any classes in case your were under attack like chemical warfare?
Em: Well, we went through chemical warfare. We had to learn to put a gas mask on. It was just tear gas when we went into a gas chamber. We would have our gas masks and they would be in a pack and we would go in there and the gas was on so you had to really hurry to get that out, put your mask on and blow out the air. If you didn't, why you really started crying. You just really had to pay attention. A few times you're fumbling around, cause you've never done this. You practice a little outside, but when you knew you were going to go in there and gas would be on, it was a little different thing. You soon learned to get it on and get the air blown out. Neil: How did you get into the motor pool?
Em: You told them what you would like to do and then you kept your fingers crossed and hoped. I don't think anybody I knew wanted to be a cook. So, we all just held our breath that we didn't assigned to being the cook and have to work in the mess hall. I liked to drive real well and so -when the orders came out I got to go to Motor Transport School. So I was real happy. Then we went into Des Moines to a hotel and we went to another building where we learned all the stuff about cars. Neil: So, that was off base?
Em: After we were put in Motor Transport School, we moved all our stuff and it was this hotel in Des Moines was all WACs doing different things. We lived - they had the same double deck cots and stuff in rooms. Everything else was just taken out. Only that we were in a different room in a hotel, but it was still nothing fancy. We would go over to this other building and learn motor transport skills. Not real heavy maintenance but we had to learn - we would go out of the room and they would do something to the engine and then we had to come back and find what it was. We had to learn to change tires and check the oil and all the stuff that keeps a car running. And then we did learn to go out on bib-whack at night so that we would know how to drive and keep the right distance because you would turn off your lights and you would just have the little lights in the back that you would follow your lead car. If you get too close (there's two of them) if you get too far away there is just one. You have to keep at a certain pace between each car. So, that was sort of exciting. We went out during the daytime - we would go out and check our vehicle when we got to a certain point and a couple of times we would have dinner out there. They would have a mess truck out there. We would eat out in the open and going through all that. We did that quite a few times. Like I said we had to learn to drive all these different vehicles.
Neal: What kind of vehicles did you learn to drive?
Em: A jeep and a staff car which is just a regular car and a ton and half truck. Those were the sizes that we drove. Oh, and then there was a carry all and an ambulance - they're a little heavier but we drove all those. I remember that when we were at Camp Hale (this is going ahead a little) but Mary and I wanted to learn to drive a semi. they told us if we could back a semi up the ramp that they would give us a driver's license but we never made it. It always jack-knifed and we never got it up there where is should have been.
Neal: After you finished the Motor Transport, was there a graduation or some sort of transition?
Em: They just sent us a slip that we had completed our Motor Transport School and then we were sent out back to Des Moines.
Neal: How long did the Motor Transport School last?
Em: Six weeks. Then we were sent out to a staging area to wait for orders to where we were going to go.
Neal: What is a staging area?
Em: Well, you don't do much. Your just sit out there and wait. Of course, we drilled. More or less just waited for orders in a staging area. Of course, there were places in the East and the South and I thought that was a long ways from home. So, I did get closer home.
Neal: Was the staging area in Des Moines?
Em: It was at camp - Fort Des Moines.
Neal: You mentioned that you got appendicitis in the middle of all this?
Em: Well, that was during basic training.
Neal: Could you tell me about that?
Em: Well, I was at class and I got real sick to my stomach. I went to the latrine. I had such a pain in my side - just really sick. And finally, a sergeant came in and asked what was wrong. She took me to my barracks and it just got worse. Pretty soon they took me in a ambulance to the hospital.
Neal: Was this an army hospital?
Em: Yeah, there on the camp. And then it was about 12 o'clock midnight when they took my appendix out. Of course, I was away from my folks. I didn't have anybody. It was really scary. I didn't know where the hospital was, who was going to do the surgery or what was wrong with me. I can remember they did a spinal. So I was awake quite a bit. I remember asking if I could see my appendix. I was in the hospital. They put you in a little room all by yourself at first when you're first out of surgery. In those days you didn't get up as early as you do now. I was in bed quite awhile. But my folks came. They Red Cross had sent them word that I had had surgery. So, they came out and I got to see them. That really helped. There was another girl that was real sick and she later passed away. My folks went and visited her and took her flowers. So, that sort of helped her. After you got so that you could get up and it was okay well then they put in sort of like a barrack. There were just beds all open. We had to make our beds. It was the same old thing. We had to have inspections. Wash windows and do all of that so we would get our strength back, I guess.
Neal: So, what was it like going back into basic, you must have been part of another class.
Em: Yeah, I was put into a different barrack. So, I got acquainted with new people and you soon do, you know because you're all in the same boat.
Neal: What did you do for recreation? Was the evening time your own?
Em: Yeah. We went to shows but none of us had too much money so you didn't do too much. On weekends, we could take a pass into Des Moines. A lot of us went in there. They would haul us in there in a truck. We had to be there at a certain time to get picked up to go back to camp. We would got in and sometimes have dinner and eat some different kinds of food than army food. Although our food was real good but it was different. And then we went to shows and sometimes we got to stay overnight if we wanted a pass for over-night. We would go to a hotel. Sometimes we went to church. It was relaxing to get away from it. We went out to look at all the sights like the Capital, just sight-seeing.
Neal: Were there particular rules? Were you told not to go into bars?
Em: If you drank, you could go drinking. I wasn't so I didn't do that. They just always told us to be real ladylike and conduct ourselves in very army way when we were in town so people would like us. Most people did. Everybody was real nice that I remember.
Neal: So, people in the city were nice to you?
Em: Everybody was real nice.
Neal: When you were waiting orders, did you get to put in request where you would want to be?
Em: We had just said when we started out what we would really like. Going to Motor Transport School well I felt that we would be sent to drive cars. But you never know what they're going to do. We all held our breath to see where we were going or what we were going to get. So, when they said I would get to go to Camp Hale, boy, I was really tickled.
Neal: So, you know about Camp Hale?
Em: They told us where it was. I knew it was closer to home. So, that made a difference. It was in the mountains and I love the mountains so that made it nice too. We were real excited to leave. There was a lot of us that went. It was a whole detachment that went out there, about 5 barracks of us - almost a hundred of us.
Neal: How many people were in camp? That seems to be a pretty big ---
Em: At Des Moines. I don't think I ever got around all of it. It was an old fort that they had turned into the WACs. It was pretty good size. The regular buildings that had been there were fairly old, like the hospital. Only the ones they had built on. All the barracks, of course, were new. I don't think I ever saw how big it was.
Neal: By the time that you got your orders, were you still the auxiliary or ?
Em: Still auxiliary we didn't go into the regular army until we were at Camp Hale.
Neal: When you got your orders to go to Camp Hale, did they give you a leave to go home or you just went?
Em: No. We just got our orders, packed up, and they took us to the train and we went by train up to Denver. We came from Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs and then on up to the camp. I remember the train was going toward Leadville.
Neal: That was a pretty long ride.
Em: Yeah, it was; it took us a couple of days and nights. We had berths. We were on a pullman so that we didn't have beds to sleep in. Of course, it was a regular train so we got to eat first - go back to the diner. Everybody else had to wait for us. We went in groups because they couldn't put us all back there.
Neal: So there was civilians on this train as well. Did it stop over any place? Did you get to sight see?
Em: The only place that I remember getting off was at the Royal Gorge. The train stopped there, I guess, for other people. We all got to get off the train there look at the gorge. It was really pretty. I had never been there before. We weren't there very long.
Neal: When you were on the train, could you sort of roam around the train or were there certain cars that were yours and you weren't suppose to mingle?
Em: They didn't like for us to. I know I remember I was talking to a soldier or somebody and my lieutenant told me to get back with the group. They wanted us to stay together. We didn't talk to many people, just among us.
Neal: Were you allowed to tell people where you were going?
Em: Yeah. I was able to write my folks and tell them I was going to Camp Hale.
Neal: Do you remember arriving at Camp Hale?
Em: Yeah. It was two really pretty mountains. The train goes along the side of the mountain and then the camp is through this valley. So we all got off and got in formation. We had to march over to our barracks which was about a mile or mile and a half. Of course, We were trying to look at all there was. It was exciting to see where Camp Hale and that we were actually going to be stationed someplace and do a job.
Neal: Were you actually in the mountains? Was it very pretty?
Em: Big mountains on both sides. Camp Hales is situated in a long narrow valley. Then the mountain take right up. The Holy Cross mountain is there. We could see from camp. Big rocky cliffs. On the other sides were big mountains; we were just surrounded by mountains and they were all covered with pine trees. It was beautiful up there.
Neal: Physically, what the actual camp like?
Em: It was barracks and the hospital was up on one side of the mountain. Rows of barracks. There was a chapel for each section. The motor pool - it was as you came into the camp. Our barracks were the first barracks as you came into camp. There was a big open field and then our barracks. There was a service club. Our mess halls. There was 116 engineers and some mule packers. They had their mules and then at the end of the camp was where the 10th Mountain Ski Division was. It was strictly....
Neal: When you first got there, what were the difference between Camp Hale and the other camp?
Em: Well, we still had to do calisthenics in the morning (we had to be thin, I guess) We still stood revelry and retreat. We got up and cleaned up our barracks because they still inspected and had our breakfast. We would go to whatever ....A lot of the kids worked in headquarters and then this Nellie Chester- she worked as a secretary for a chaplain. We went to the transport.
Neal: At this camp there was also men. Were you given instructions about that?
Em: A little bit. We weren't suppose to.... well, we got acquainted with a lot of guys. Our barracks was at the end. I guess they had been instructed too because they weren't supposed to be around our barracks. and we weren't suppose to go around theirs. We were told to be lady like and conduct ourselves in a mannerly way.
Neal: You said your barracks were at the end - so was it closer to the men's barracks or farther away?
Em: Farther away. We were at the end and all the men barracks started from across the street from us toward Leadville into the camp. So ours was just across one end.
Neal: Were there also men working in the motor pool, side by side with men?
Em: There were all the mechanics - they were men. And then the dispatchers. A couple of the girls started dispatching.
Neal: How did that work out?
Em: Oh fine. We got a long with them real well. They all treated us real nice. It worked out ok.
Neal: Did you form new friendships at the camp?
Em: You mean with the girls?
Neal: First with the girls and then the boys.
Em: Well like Marla. I hadn't know her and I got acquainted with her. Her and I went on some passes together.
Neal: Were these peoples from the barracks or that you met...
Em: These were gals from the barracks. We didn't get acquainted with too many civilian women. Mostly the men in headquarters had WACs up there. There were some civilians that worked at PXs and recreation places. There were a few civilians but not too many. So. we got acquainted with different girls that were in our detachment. Some of them were really crazy. This Johnson and Kersey - they were real pals. They would get pretty drunk sometimes. They got so that started barking. Why they did this I have no idea. But they wouldn't have to be intoxicated they would bark anytime. If someone would go by, they would bark you. It was really crazy but it real got to be funny. It was one of those things we all laughed at.
Neal: Were there other characters?
Em: There was a gal that we called "footsie" - she worked in the motor pool - she had read big feet. I don't even remember her real name. We did have a real good time, all of us. Especially, on your floor you would get more acquainted with those kids cause you were living with them side by side. We used to go to shows. This Mary and I, we became very close.
Neal: Were these shows on camp?
Em: Yeah, there were two or three theaters. There was a bowling alley. So, we got started in bowling - every night that we could. That was good entertainment. You could relax there and just be yourself and we could go in civilian clothes - slacks. That was nice too.
Neal: When you were off duty were there restrictions...?
Em: That was about the only place that we could or if we went hiking, we could wear slacks. Most of the time we were in uniform or fatigues. We hiked, the shows and the bowling alley.
Neal: Were these regular movies?
Em: Yeah, but we had to pay for it but it wasn't very much. They were all the leading movies that they were making. That kind of gave you an outlet to think about something else besides army life.
Neal: Did they show you news reels from the war?
Em: Yeah, you kind of got caught up what was going on.
Neal: What was that like?
Em: When it was really bad, you wondered how we were going to last and all the men that were going over there. It really made you stop and think what we were doing and hope that everything worked out alright.
Em: It showed all the fighting over there and VJ and D Day. It showed down in Africa where Troburk was and Rommel was down there. Italy - where they were fighting. That's where the mule packers and the ski patrol went. They were shipped over there. See, they had been trained in snow conditions to ski. They had their white outfits. When they got over there, the snow hadn't come, the really did take a beating - the 10th Mountain Division. I knew a couple of the guys that got killed. The mule packers, of course, blended in with all the dirt and the mud and the dark colors whereas the ski patrol were just sitting ducks really. That's where they went. Seeing what was going on really made you realize what you were in there for. It made you know the things our country was doing. I thought it was very scary and I certainly didn't want to go over there. I was brave sometimes but I wasn't that brave. I know there was a couple of times we would have overseas physicals. Once at Camp Hale and once at Camp Crowder where we were sent after Camp Hale. Oh boy, I was really scared. There were a few of the girls that I knew that did go overseas - went to Australia. They wanted to go, I guess. I was strictly a home fighter. I was trying to do my bit at home.
Neal:What type of movies did they show?
Em: Well, the movies then were real nice. They weren't like they are today. There were a lot of love stories, funny movies. Things that made you laugh and forget where you were. There were some that were a little more violent. I never did like those very much. I just wanted pretty shows and musicals. There were a lot of musicals then and a lot of bands you could understand then. So, we always went to the nice or the real funny ones.
Neal: How did you feel when a depressing news reel showed us losing a battle?
Em: The musical helped you forget it but we really sat up and watched the newsreel - how awful it was and how many we were losing - things just weren't going the way we wanted it to do. That made you feel a little depressed - thinking of all the guys who were getting killed and wounded. We had newsletters - there was a camp newspaper that always had articles in there about war. We were always pretty well up to date.
Neal: What was the camp newspaper? Did it just cover what was going on around camp?
Em: It was just what each outfit was doing. The 10th Mountain Division would say what they were doing, the mule packers, and then the engineers. There was one column about what they WACs were doing. It gave you an idea of what was going on in camp.
Neal: Let's get back to friendships - ------?
Em: Well, where we worked we met kids - like Nellie - she worked for the chaplain. We used go over to the chapel and the chaplain there was very nice. We all liked him really well. He always talked to us; he didn't preach to us. Just gave us good advice and visited with us. You sort felt like he was your dad. If you needed to talk to him seriously, he was always there. The kids that worked up in headquarters - we did a lot of driving for headquarters. We did mostly staff cars at Camp Hale. We drove officers. We would take them to headquarters and they always told if they were going to be long so you could talk to the kids that were working in there. We all went by our last names, so I never knew their names. We got acquainted with those kids and go on passes to Leadville with different girls and go to shows up there, eat out. Of course, we always had to wait until payday. We didn't get much money then but of course we didn't have much to pay out. We always had to pay for laundry. If we had a pass we had to pay for our hotel, food and getting up there. There were a lot of the kids, different groups - there were always a couple of us that always went together but we went with other groups too. So that way we got acquainted with a lot. We always had a good time no matter where we went, laughed and talked and visited. We always learned where they were from, what they did before. You just learned a lot. And you learned where they were from and what their part of their country was like. We always did a lot of visiting and then at the motor pool, if we weren't out we were in the building just visiting and talking and having coffee.
Neal: You mentioned that you drove officers around, do you think you saw a lot more of the camp than the other people?
Em: I think we did because we were able to go more places in the camp, take officers up to different sections of the camp and took them....I used to have one (he was a captain)and he was real nice and I always got him early in the morning. He smoked a cigar and oh, that smelled so good. It reminded me of my Dad. And he was really nice. We did get to a lot more than the kids that were in offices. We got to drive to Leadville and down to Glenwood Springs. We got to get off the camp without a pass or anything. We got to see a lot more, too.
Neal: Did people develop friendships on these weekend outings outside the base --------
Em: Yeah, we just sort of stuck together. We would get two or three, four or five of us would go out on pass and have a good time. We looked and shopped. We sort of had our own little groups that we stayed in.
Neal: When you went on these passes, did you take a truck or a bus?
Em: We had to take the bus or the train. We went to Denver a couple of times, four or five of us. We would go to Denver over a weekend and we always went on the train. Going to Leadville we had to take a bus or if we wanted to we could take the train. Usually, it was a bus that took us up there. We were on our own then.
Neal: On these trips - were there men on the bus or train too?
Em: Yeah, they could go on passes too on the weekend, just the weekend. During they week everybody worked. We didn't go all that often. Oh maybe, once or twice a month. We did all our recreation at the camp.
Neal: When you weren't on the base, how did people treat you?
Em: I think everybody treated us okay. They were nice to us. They always looked at us because we were in uniform and probably wondered about us. Everybody was real nice to us. Where we went, they always talked to us. I didn't think they treated us much different. Most of them thought it was nice we were doing something for our country. There were some that probably thought we weren't doing a thing.
Neal: Between all of this when did the auxiliary become ----
Em: It was about a year after we had been at Camp Hale that we were told we could either join the regular army or at that time you could get out if you wanted to. You would have a honorable discharge and then they wouldn't question you or anything. But if you wanted to stay in, it was in August I believe. We all marched down to the field house and took the oath of regular army. We had all the privileges of regular army men. We did have insurance and we had the same pay they did. Just all the things they got, we got. We didn't have insurance and stuff when we were just auxiliary. We got to have a lot more things than we had before. We marched home and passed in review for the commanding officer and then we had a play day because we were in the army, we got the day off.
Neal: What did you think -----
Em: I was really glad. I didn't think we were really in the army because we were just an auxiliary. We weren't a real part of the army. So, I was really glad to know that I was actually in regular army. I know a few girls got out. It wasn't what they wanted and they were able to get out. But most of us stayed in at Camp Hale. I thought it was very impressive taking the oath for the regular army. There were a lot of guys there too. The whole field house was full. A lot of the guys, though, didn't like us because we could take their job and they would have to go overseas. That was the idea of the WAC was to join and release the men for active duty. That wasn't my idea. I went because of my brother and I wanted to do something for my country. A lot of the men sorted of resented us because they could be released to go to active duty. And a lot of them had real easy jobs. They thought they had it made.
Neal: Did the guys talk to you about this?
Em: We just knew; we heard it through the grapevine. And I guess there were a lot of guys didn't like us there because we were women and it was their camp. Most of them were real nice.
Neal: Were there women already there when you got there?
Em: No. We were the first detachment. We were the one and only there. Then we left as a group too. We all left at the same time. And that was in summer; it was hot. We went to Camp Crowder and it was very hot there in Missouri.
Neal: Did you feel that too in the motor pool - that they guys could be sent overseas?
Em: All these men were doing this driving. So, we took their jobs. I never knew who we took their jobs from. I guess it was just as well we didn't. There were still a few men there. All of us drove the staff cars. We all had our own car that we maintained and checked. We had the same one everyday.
Neal: You would take officers off base?
Em: One time I took an officer to Glenwood. That was quite a drive and a beautiful canyon. I really did enjoy that. He was a finance officer and he was doing banking at Glenwood. I always got to eat out too. I used to take (he was a real rough officer) but he treated me real nice. He was a real old army guy. I used to take him to Leadville a lot. I know he went up to investigate soldiers. I know there was a little girl; she had been molested. I took him up there to investigate that. He did his business and I just waited. You had to do a lot of waiting. But there was okay too. I never did know what happened but I do know that's why I took him up there. There were all these things going on too because there were all kinds of people there from all walks of life. So, you didn't know who was good and who was bad.
Neal: Was that real unusual or was there confrontations between the camp ----?
Em: With the men there was. I know every once in awhile in the paper or we would hear about something what some soldier had done up at Leadville. Of course, they went to drink and get rowdy and there was a lot of that that went on. You didn't really want to hear about but you did.
Neal: Would you hear this through the grapevine?
Em: Yeah, sometimes it would be in the camp paper but mostly we heard it - it just travels real fast in the army.
Neal: Were there ring leader in the grapevine?
Em: Of course, the girls all worked different places so they got information. Some of it, I suppose, weren't suppose to tell us. We always indulged in a little of it. When you're working someplace and hear something you always think about it. It just when you have people from walks of life, they're bound to happen even in the army. Even though they're supposed to right and conduct themselves good, they don't.
Neal: Through the grapevine, was it usually harmless gossip or ------?
Em: Sometimes it was. They would talk about somebody, what they had done. Didn't think was very nice. Some of it wasn't too good and some of it was just gossip that you liked to hear.
Neal: Were there rumors --- ----- ?
Em: We didn't hear too much. We knew when they were going out on bivouac because you could see them marching. What was going on with men, we didn't know too much about. So, we never heard what was going on. Of course, our officers never confided in us because we were just their drivers. It was just we heard and you didn't know whether to believe or not.
Neal: What were friendships with the men like?
Em: I met a lot of nice guys and I went with quite a few.
Neal: You mean you dated?
Em: I dated. I don't know where I got acquainted with them. I really don't know where. I went with quite a few guys. We would go hiking and take a picnic and eat. We would go to shows and we had a day room where we came back and visited. It was interesting to meet them. I met one from New York. I went with him quite awhile. I bowled with a guy who was in engineers. I went with another guy who was from the 10th Mountain Division. He was one that didn't come back. Everybody was going out. Of course, all those guys wanted to go and had no women to go with so it was really nice. And then later on, we ....
Neal: Were you a PFC?
Em: No, I was just a Private. I didn't get a PFC until I went to Crowder. They finally made us, I guess, it had been an office or something. They called it the "WAC Shack" We could go over there by ourselves but no men could go there unless they went with a date. We could have coke or they could have beer. We had snacks. They could dance. So, we had our own little place that we could go and visit, laugh and talk and have our dates go there with us.
Neal: How did that come about? It wasn't there when you go there.
Em: It wasn't there for a long time and why they...I guess some of the gals thought we should have some place to go that we could call our own, instead of going to all the men's things. Just one day they decided to fix this up and we had tables, a little dance floor. It was just records and stuff that they danced to. We could just sit and visit and laugh and talk and have a good time.
Neal: Were there rules about the dancing? Could you jitter-bug?
Em: They could do any kind of dancing they wanted to. Most of them just danced the jitter-bug and regular dances that they were doing at that time. I didn't dance so I just sat and watched.
Neal: So what else went on in the "WAC Shack?"
Em: We really looked forward to evenings to go walk over there. It was behind our barracks away. It was always packed; there were always kids over there. Dancing, visiting, drinking, and eating - snacks, potato chips. It was a way to let go and be ourselves and not worry about anybody watching us or thinking we weren't doing right or something. It was just a real relaxing place to go. It got a little loud once in awhile with everybody talking and it wasn't too big a room. It was lots of fun.
Neal: Do you remember any stories about the "WAC Shack"?
Em: No, we just had a good time there.
Neal: Were there rules regarding dating?
Em: We couldn't date officers; we could non-com's. Of course, officers were above us and we didn't associate much with the, only what we did as our work. So, all the other guys we could. There was no restrictions there. If you liked him you would get to go; and if they liked you.
Neal: The 10th Mountain Division tended to be an elite division. Did they tend to be officers or enlisted men?
Em: They were mostly enlisted. They were on the ski patrol.
Em: We got acquainted with quite a lot of them, but there was some who didn't especially like us, which was okay because there was a lot of them. Just as long as there was a few who liked us.
Neal: Why do you think there was some that didn't like you?
Em: Because we were intruding on their territory, I guess. Because we were part of them now. Before it was strictly all men. I guess, it is just like it is now. Women want to go where men have always been. Of course, I don't like that now. I think women should be where they're supposed to be and not intrude on men's clubs and so forth. They should all have their own space. So, maybe that's what they felt like; that we were just women and didn't know much. A lot of them would never talk to us, wave, or anything. But most of them were real friendly.
Neal: Was there a change in attitude from going from auxiliary and now being officially part of the army?
Em: No, we were just the same except we dropped one "A" in the WAC. There wasn't any difference there. They treated us just the same.
Neal: Were there things that people got disciplined about, or punished?
Em: There were some that were reprimanded - when you went AWOL. I went once but this was at Crowder though. I was going to meet a guy I had met on the train. We corresponded and he want to know if I wanted to come. I was supposed to work but I thought maybe I could get away with it. So, I went on pass and I came home and they knew about it. So, I was restricted to my barracks and then I had to do some extra work. I had to clean the supply room. I had to take all the screens of the barracks and haul them to the supply room. I was punished a little. But I thought, well at least I did it once. It wasn't all that bad.
Neal: How long were you restricted to the barracks?
Em: It was a couple of weeks. All I could do was go eat and stay in my barracks and I did get to go to work - drive. Other than that, I didn't go no place.
Neal: What was it like at Camp Hale; were people resentful for being restricted or being punished? Maybe they thought it was minor
Em: Some of them did. If some of the gals did something that they were told they had to do something for, why some of them didn't like it a bit. Others - they did it so they had to be punished for it. I guess, that was the way I felt. I did wrong so you have to pay the consequences. Some didn't mind and others resented it a little.
Neal: Were there a lot of fraction around men dating?
Em: I went with Privates and I went with Sergeants. It was just like any other date you went on. We just had a good time. I guess they sort of got to relax and we did too. You could talk to man instead of a woman all the time. So, that was nice.
Neal: Where else did men and women meet besides the bowling alley and the WAC Shack?
Em: There was a place we used to go that you could buy food and eat. Everybody went there - the men and the women and you could go by yourself. Sometimes they would come up and talk to you. Sometimes they wouldn't. We got acquainted with the guys that way. I can't remember what that building was. It was a recreation place that they had there in camp.
Neal: Did you bowl?
Em: Yeah, I did. I bowled 217 once. Most of the time it was the 100s - 150 or some where around there. We did get pretty good because we bowled all the time. Of course, we would hurry to the bowling alley so we could get our right ball- they right weight and everything.
Neal: What time of day would you get off duty?
Em: Around 4 o'clock and then we always went to Mess and then we always had Retreat which was at 6 o'clock. Then we were off duty until 6 o'clock the next morning. Then it started over again.
Neal: What time did you have to be back at the barracks?
Em: Lights went out at 9 o'clock. If you were late or went to a show or something, it was pretty dark in there. But you so you knew where your bed was and how to put your clothes away and stuff. There were like street lights and stuff that helped a little bit. That light would come awfully early. Revelry came very early too.
Neal: Was is it before the sun came up?
Em: A lot of times, especially, well at Camp Crowder too. I know we would go out when it was dark. Of course, at Camp Hale it got darker because of the high mountains. No matter where you were, if you heard retreat why you had to stand at attention until the flay was lowered. We used to be out in the field coming back from work. We would have to stand at retreat.
Neal: So, you didn't gather at the parade room?
Em: No, during working hours. If there was a ceremony or anything then we all got dressed up and went to retreat. For revelry we were always sort of grubby then. Some of them would put their coats over their pajamas so they would think they were dressed. They did a lot of things. I know a lot of them did that. When we were doing calisthenics - a lot of times it was cold - we did it in our barracks beside our bed. Boy, there was a lot of them - the person that was giving it to us couldn't see and they would be laying down under their bed just waiting 'til they got through. You always learned little tricks and stuff.
Neal: Did you have any favorite tricks?
Em: No. I didn't mind doing it. I always thought well I'm supposed to do it and it's good for me. I did pretty much what we were supposed to do.
Neal: So how did you view yourself in terms of the social life in the barracks?
Em: I got along with all of them. I think they liked me. It was all very congenial. Once in awhile somebody would get down or lonesome or something and they would be kind of quiet and to themselves. I know once in awhile I would get pretty lonesome. It makes you stop and think about home. Even though you were with all those people, you still kind of feel all by yourself. There were times that we acted half way decent. Most generally everybody came in with Hi and laughed and we took pictures. There were two or three older ladies who thought we were kind of young and they were more reserved. So, they didn't cut up as much as the rest of the us.
Neal: What kind of stuff did you do?
Em: They would dance. I know one time - we had really pretty underclothes, you know. They were very drab. So, one time I was in my - it was when we had sort of long-johns and cotton socks and big old overshoes. We would dress up and we would take pictures of one another and laugh and think that was so funny.
Neal: Did the older ladies ----?
Em: No, the older ladies didn't think that was funny. Most of us did. And we told jokes; some of them were a little raunchy, but we thought they were funny. It gave you something to laugh at.
Neal: --- ---- -----
Em: Not too much when you were busy. We wrote a lot of letters. Seemed like we always had things to do. On the weekend if you weren't going on pass, things kind of went slow. We got to lay on our bunks and not have to worry about inspection or anything and do what hand washing we did. It seemed like we were pretty busy. Once in awhile - maybe a lot of the kids were out of the barracks and there would just be a few of us. They were sort of in their thoughts. It would be a little lonesome. It made you stop and think. Everybody would come back and it would get exciting again.
Neal: How did people deal ----- what did the army do ----
Em: I think, on the whole, the kids that had been out on their own, away from families, they could accept it a lot better than us kids that were real close to our families. We all missed our families real much. We were there on our own free will so we had to cope with as best we could. If we got too down-in-the-dumps, we could always go to the chaplain and he could talk to us and give us encouragement. It was more or less that you were on your own. I remember our first Christmas. We did get to have a Christmas tree at the end of the barracks. We decorated it. This Mary that I chummed with - she was catholic - so, Christmas I went to Mass with her. We had to walk a long ways up there and of course it was cold. A lot of snow. We came back and both of us were so lonesome; our first Christmas away from home. We sat on our bed and we had a flashlight. She would open a present and then we would cry. I would open one and I would cry. It was after midnight so it was Christmas. We opened all our presents just her and I together. I guess we sort of got it off our chests a little bit - got it all out. Got over with it. The next day we were fine. We had a big Christmas dinner. We all had a good time and everybody seemed to be real happy. After coming home from church, that was terrible. We were a long ways from home. You would remember what all went on at home. Here we were just all by ourselves in the barracks. No excitement or anything; everyday thing. It was quite an experience first Christmas away from home. The next time wasn't quite as bad.
Neal: Were there any other particular difficult times?
Em: My dad came to see me once. He came on the train. I had a room for him. I got to visit with him. And then I had a couple of girl friends that came up and visited. On the whole, I did pretty good, except that first Christmas. Other than that, I would call my folks once in awhile. So, I got to hear them. One the whole, I think, I did pretty good for the first time being away from home.
Neal: ----- -----
Em: They were really impressed with it. They got to see where we lived and where we ate. They could go to the mess hall with us. It was nice for them to see where I was. I thought that was real special. Not many of the kids had anybody come. So, I was very fortunate.
Neal: I understand there was a prisoner of war camp. How did that work?
Em: They built their confinement quite a ways from us. Of course, there was a high fence with barb wire around it. They were really prisoners. They took them out and did things at the camp - they worked. We were not to associate with them at all. We were very well informed of that. We had nothing to do with them. Not to talk to them or anything. I guess a few gals did but they were told about it. We'd seen them, you know. They were all in one - in fatigues - but we had no contact with them at all.
Neal: Were they from Germany?
Em: Yeah, they were all German. There was quite a few of them. I really wouldn't know how many. They guarded and them and boy they watched them.
Neal: --- ------
Em: Well, it made you wonder where they were from and what kind of life they had before the war. If they were all that mean. When you're in battle why you have to take care of yourself and they were fighting for their country the same as we were. It made you wonder what they thought and being prisoners. None of them spoke English - they were all German. It brought the war a little closer to home when they came. Because we knew they were prisoners and that we were fighting them. It made you stop and think about it. Like I said we never had any contact with them at all. We all wondered what they were like, if they were nice. We didn't like them too well because they were German.
Neal: You think it was a difference in attitude - ----- -----
Em: I don't think the men liked having them there at all. They really didn't like having them in our camp. They could have been in somebody else's camp, but not ours. I don't think they liked too well and sort of resented them being there. But I guess, they had to be someplace. We never really talked about too much.
Neal: So, when they were working in the camp did you get really close to them or were they always at a distance?
Em: Well, when we were driving - that was about the only time we would be close to them. We would drive by them. We always looked. We just never really had that much contact close to them.
Neal: Did you hear anything about letters between WACs and POWs?
Em: No, I never heard anything about that. Like I said, I think there were two or three girls that went up there just to talk to them. They were certainly told to get away from there and stay away from there. We weren't supposed to be anywhere near there. That was all I ever knew. Of course, they were guarded and the guards told them to get away. They were also told by our officers. I was a little leery of them too. You know, they were prisoners and you never know.
Neal: Did people talk about them in the barracks?
Em: We talked about them; especially, when they first came. After they had been there for awhile, I guess, the news kind of wore off. They were just there. We hoped that they stayed in that; that they guarded them real good.
Neal: Did people express a variety of opinions?
Em: Most of them didn't like them because they were who we were fighting. I don't think anybody really enjoyed it - knowing they were that close.
Neal: How long were you there ---- ?
Em: We were there about a year and a half. Then we got our orders to go out. From then on I never knew what really happened to the camp.
Neal: Why were you told to ship out?
Em: I guess, because they were all leaving - the Division. So, there really wasn't any use for us to be there. So, then we were sent to a camp where there were lots of soldiers.
Neal: Was the Mtn. Division and the Mule Division all shipped out at once?
Em: I don't know when they left. We knew that they were leaving and where they were going. Of course, with the news we heard where they were shipped to. There were some that left when we were still there. Most of them left after we did. I always wondered about the camp, if they sent more people back there. But, I guess, they didn't; they just closed it down.
Neal: Did it come to a surprise to you when you were told you were going to leave?
Em: No. It sort of surprised us because I just thought we would stay there the whole time. We were really a little shocked that we were all leaving at once, and we all did. We went to Camp Crowder.
Neal: How did they tell you? Were you in the parade ground?
Em: Yeah, that's what they did. They just had us all out in formation and told us that we were being shipped out and when. To get all of our belongings together. One day we put everything in the duffel bag and away we went.
Neal: How long was it after they made the announcement?
Em: Not too long. I was working out at the signal office. I got my orders and took them over to our headquarters. It was summer time and summer time back there. It was less than a month before we left. It was quite fast.
Neal: Did most of you go the same place?
Em: We all went to Camp Crowder. Of course, because of their work we went to different detachments. We were all in the same area but then they went to work in different places. We still stayed in contact. The motor pool was still together. We were all together in one barrack. They would come and pick us up and take us to the motor pool. We would work all day and they would take us home.
Neal: Was that another train ride?
Em: Yeah. Wondering what this was going to be like. It was quite different to go to Missouri because it's more or less flat, a little hilly but altogether different. Very hot and humid. And then it got pretty cold in the winter too. It was a big camp; it was a signal camp. We drove different vehicles then. We drove ton and a half trucks, jeeps. Where at Camp Hale, we just drove staff cars. I got to have a jeep which I really liked.
Neal: Was there a different feeling to being in this camp than in Camp Hale?
Em: No. Because there had been WACs there when we got there. It was just the same. We were in an army camp. Routine went along the same. We just got to drive different vehicles and the motor pool was a lot bigger. It made it a little more interesting because we got different runs. We weren't just taking officers. We got to go the hospital and deliver things. Most of the time I drove a ton and half and then I got jeep it drove for the signal office. I delivered telegrams all over the base. That was nice because I got to go a lot of different places and I got drive a lot.
Neal: You had more interesting job than most of the WACs had.
Em: I really fell like it was. All the other kids just went to an office. Just like going to work in an office in civilian life. Same thing everyday. We got to go different places and we got to go off camp. One year, this Mary and I, the Post Office had us deliver packages - Christmas packages through the ----. That was nice because it was all different. I really think that we got to do a lot more, see a lot more, and we met a lot of different people. The others met the same people everyday. We got to go to these different headquarters and meet these people. We were outside a lot. I liked that; I didn't like being cooped up someplace.
Neal: So, you were at this camp until the end of the year.
Em: I was there a year and a half.
Neal: --- ---- ----
Em: They were getting a better hold on the war over there. We were a little more encouraged that maybe we would get to go home soon. It was still a year and a half before we did. The news was a lot and made us feel a lot better. We still bowled and went to shows. We found that bowling alley really fast.
Neal: Was the bowling just to while away the hours?
Em: I really enjoyed it. Of course, there wasn't too much recreation to do. I had never bowled before so learning to bowl and trying to do a little better each time we went. It was just a lot of fun. It gave us an outlet rather than the regular routine all the time. That was our mainstay - bowling. We got acquainted with the people that ran the bowling alley. They were civilians an they were very nice, especially at Camp Crowder. We went to visit them in Joplin and they had us to dinner. We got real close to them and wrote to them for a long time after we were out of the service. It was just a real nice pastime.
Neal: I'm curious about dating. One question - was it different dating in the service before you went in?
Em: To be truthful, I never dated very much. I went out with a couple of people. Of course, we didn't have much to do - go to a show, go for a hike or a walk or just sit and talk. It was sort of fun for me because I had never went very much. It was fun to go with somebody. There were a couple of them I went with quite awhile. Something happened and I would find somebody else to go with.
Neal: So, was there a lot of heartache and heartbreak?
Em: A little bit. All the kids dated and sometimes it went really well and other times things didn't work out. They would go for awhile and then meet somebody else and start dating again.
Neal: So, there were a lot of guys to get over it?
Em: There was plenty to do that. I was real tall and skinny. A lot of the guys were short and I just felt... But, then, I met a lot of tall ones too. That was really nice.
Neal: Did anybody really get serious or engaged?
Em: This Curry that I was talking about, she got married. She got out of the army after that. There were a few that got engaged and married.
Neal: Would there be weddings on base?
Em: No. They usually went off the base and got married. They came back and they had to live in our barracks. There wasn't any place for husband and wife the. The men had to go back to their barracks til they went on pass together. It was a little difficult for the married people. There wasn't all that many that got married, that I remember. A lot of nice friendships came out of this. I did write to a lot of them afterwards. There's just about four of them that I write to all the time now. We stayed in contact all these years.
Neal: Do you ever see other?
Em: This Nellie that lives in Kansas City. When we went back to visit my husband's folks in Missouri. That's where he is from. We would fly there and stay a couple of days with her and visit and then go on down. I went to see this Mary up in Montana once. And she has been down here once. And then Maxine - she lives in Washington, D.C. She came a couple of times. Nellie had some real bad surgery this past winter so I called her quite often to check on her. I've called quite a few of them but they never call me. If I want to talk to the, I call. It's nice to keep in contact. We always get cards at Easter and Christmas. We all write a big letter. It's real interesting to hear about all of them. Sometimes we reminisce about what we did. Especially, when we were all together. They would remember some that you forgot and then I would remember some. We would hash over all those people - the times we had and what we did. It's nice to see them. They had a little reunion but at that time we weren't able to afford to go. It was back in Missouri and I couldn't afford to go so I didn't get with them.
Neal: When was this?
Em: About the 60s, I think it was. They sent me some picture. We surely had changed.
Neal: When the war ended, was there awhile that you stayed in? How did that work?
Em: Well, there was a point system. And the ones that had been in the longest got out sooner. The war was over in August. I didn't get discharge until January. We weren't through our discharge and they gave us our money to go home. So, it was in January that I came home.
Neal: When you left, you were PFC?
Em: No, I was a T5 Corporal, not a full corporal but a T5. I did make it to something besides a private. When I got a PFC I thought that was really neat. Got another little ribbon.
Neal: Tell me about that promotion.
Em: Well, it took a long time. A lot of the kids got promoted faster. The ones in the motor pool didn't get promoted too fast; I don't know why. I was a PFC for a long time before I --- I was so tickled when I got that Corporal rating. Couldn't wait to sew it on all my stuff. It was almost the end of the war before I got corporal. And I got to make a little more money.
Neal: Was that because you had so much fun in the motor pool or because the rest of the army didn't think that highly?
Em: I don't know because there were a lot of kids who made sergeant and master sergeant. There was this one girl at Camp Hale that got Master Sergeant in the Motor Pool. She didn't hold it over us or anything. She was still just one of us. That was nice. Some of them that got a little rank thought they were better or smarter than us. I don't know why we didn't. I always wondered because we were doing a really good job. We were always busy. My family thought I should go to Officer Training School but I didn't want to do that. I rather have somebody over me than me over them. I just rather be where I was and not an officer.
Neal: You didn't like the ideas of giving orders.
Em: Nope, I really didn't. I just wanted to be where I was and with the group of kids I was. Of course, when you get an officer, there's that dividing line between non-com and officer. They don't visit with you as much or anything. I just never did want to be an officer. I liked driving my jeep and my truck.
Neal: Were there other medals or citations?
Em: Oh yeah, we got Good Conduct. We had the WAC Medal - when we were in the Auxiliary. And then we got one when we went into the regular army. We got a Good Conduct ribbon. I kept them all. That's all I got is my hat and my ribbons. The suit I got, I got rid of. I got heavier and outgrew it so I didn't think I had any use to keep it. Probably should have, just for sentimental reasons.
Neal: Did you, at any of these camps, carry a weapon?
Em: No. We were not allowed to? So, we never did learn anything about them.
Neal: You didn't take marksmanship?
Em: No. We didn't do anything like that. I don't why. You would think that if they were thinking about sending us overseas that they would train us to carry arms and how to throw grenades that went with going into combat. I guess they thought that we would never be on the front lines like they do now.
Neal: What do you think about women soldiers --- ------
Em: I think it would be awful hard. You have to have all those packs and guns and ammunition and all that gear. I don't know how women do it, really. It's just like fire fighting - I don't know how women do that. To go into combat - I just don't think it's any place for a woman. Boy, there a lot of them that think they should be up there. And if they want to be, that's fine. I don't people in the United States - like when we were in the Persian Gulf - there were some that killed and they didn't like that a all. If they want to take that chance of being on the front line, That's what they wanted to do. So, I don't think they should think much worse than a man being killed. I just don't think that's any place for a woman. I don't know how they can be up there with all those men and just a few women - how they do it. I just don't think the front line is any place for a woman.
Neal: Do you think people felt the same way about what you were doing when you were at Camp Hale?
Em: Maybe, they did. Thinking that it really was a man's world and then we went into it. So, they probably did. See, when I went I never did think about that. Now, I think why do women want to do this or want to be forest fire fighters or on construction. It seems like that is very, very hard work for a woman and that it was always a man's job - to me, it is. That's probably the way they thought about us women going into the service. They way people feel now - all these women wanting to do all these jobs - I don't know how they do it. I don't know how their so strong, they can do those things. I know I certainly couldn't even if I was young. I thought I did pretty good.
Neal: Where did you go when you got out of the service?
Em: We went to Kansas City and then I caught a train and came home. I came right back to Napa. I had met my husband at Camp Crowder.
Neal: Oh, tell me about that.
Em: Well, that was really something. He was in the European theater. It was when that war was over but the South Pacific - they were still fighting. And so, the men with the last numbers who hadn't been there as long. They were shipping them home and then they were going to have furloughs and then go to the South Pacific. The oldest got to stay back there. On the way home the war was over. So, my husband got out of the service and then he came to Crowder to work as a civilian. I was working in the signal office and that's where they sent him. He walked in there and that was it. We went together - that was in late summer - we went together until I got discharged. I went back and got married. We stayed there for a couple of months and then came out here. We have been here ever since. He was nice and tall and good looking. We had a lot of fun. He was delivering telegrams. So, we would take one jeep and both of us would go and deliver mine and then we would deliver his. We would stop and have coffee. So, I dated him from then on and nobody else. He was a civilian and I was the army person. He was supposed to come out here and we be married here. He was working in the mines then after he left Crowder; he was starting working back cause he had been a miner.
Neal: ---- -----
Em: Around Gramby. Missouri - yes.
Neal: What kind of mines?
Em: They were lead mines. He had mined in Oklahoma and then he was working in Missouri. He couldn't get off. That's why I had to go back there and get married.
Neal: ---- ----
Em: I didn't like that at all. I was so glad when he said - well, we were headed for Washington because a lot of Missourians went there and did harvest-- The wheat and apple harvest. And that's where we were headed, but then, of course, we got to Napa. My sister had a whole lot of jobs that were open.
Neal: So, she lined this up?
Em: She got that really taken take of. So, he got a job at a sugar factory.
Neal: ---- ------
Em: I thought we were just going to stop here and we had to go on to Washington, but boy, I thought, maybe we could stay. And she had it all figured out. So we stayed and he always liked it here. He liked my family and we all got along real well. We liked to go the mountains and fish and hunt. He was real happy here. He said he would never go back to Missouri to live again. He goes back and visits family that he has back there, but that's all. This is home, which I am very thankful for.
Neal: Had your parents met him before you got married?
Neal: What did they think when you showed up with him?
Em: Well, his family lived - they were very poor. I think it shocked my mom to see where they lived. But they were very nice people. My mom sort of hated to leave me back there because we had rented a nice little house, but living conditions back there are not the greatest. I guess there better now, but there still not as high as a lot of places. They felt really bad. They liked him real well and they like his family but it was just leaving me back there. So, they were tickled when I moved out here too. And then my sister and brother-in-law - my brother-in-law and him got along just like they were brothers. My brother like to hunt and fish - so, Jim hunted and fished with him. We all got a long real well.
Neal: So, when you came back, did you get a house on your own or did you live with your parents for awhile?
Em: We lived in my sister's basement for awhile. She had it all set up, boy. She was ready for us. We stayed there and he got a job at the sugar factory. And then, a friend of my sister's had a little house (where you came in on Yale). They had bought it but her husband had died. And so, she was going to move away. We rented it from her and then we got the option to buy it. We didn't have any furniture but she did and let us use it rather than put it in storage. So, we used her furniture and finally bought it and that's how we got started. And then we traded in for this house and have lived here for forty-four years. We've just stayed put.
Neal: Did you ever use any of your GI benefits?
Em: Yes, we bought this house with it. We used his so I still have mine GI. Yeah, we used his GI bill which the payments a lot smaller. We finally got it all paid for before he retired.
Neal: Did you ever work again?
Em: I tried going back to beauty operator, but I really didn't enjoy it. And then, I had my little girl. I didn't work anymore. I did go out and top corn and do a few things like that, but I never had a steady job. I just stayed home and took care of my little girl and my husband.
Neal: Did you every get involved in any WAC organizations?
Em: No. I don't even know if there are any around here. Well, I belong to Eastern Star and that's they only thing I belonged to.
Neal: How did you feel when you left the WACs? Were you ready to get out?
Em: I was really ready to come home, especially when the war was over. Everybody was going home and I was ready too. I had really enjoyed my time. And like I said, I had met a lot of people, different people, made a lot of friends. I was ready to come home. I thought it was time.
Neal: You mentioned your brother before; where was he finally shipped out?
Em: He joined the Navy. He was on a destroyer. I did see him once. He was stationed in Maryland, I believe. We wrote to one another and so he got a pass to come to St. Louis and I went and met him there in St. Louis. We had the weekend together but that was the only time I saw him while he was in the service. Then he went to the south pacific on a destroyer during the war. The ship almost got torpedoed but he came home fine and didn't have any injuries. He didn't have to stay in as long either.
Neal: How do you feel about fifty years later?
Em: We have had lots of goods times and we have had some sad times. But on the whole, we have had a real good life. We have a lot more than a lot of people have. We're not rich but we're richer in a lot of other ways. It's been a real good fifty years. We're excited.
Neal: When you think about it, what place would you put the whole WAC experience?
Em: Well it was a very learning experience. I think, I learned a whole lot. Not only to learning to get along with people, which you have to do. Meeting people and being more outward than I had ever been before. I could talk to strangers where before I was afraid to ask for directions or anything. I really think. I'm glad I did. I learned a lot. On the whole, I like it all. If I was young, I might do it again. But not now, unless we went to war and they needed me. Then I would go. I'd crip along.
Neal: --- ----
Em: I think they have come a long way. I think they did a lot. I think it was really the beginning because they were going to do it.
Neal: What would you say to women in the service today ---- ----
Em: Well, it's a good experience and they're going to learn a lot. Learn to get along. Of course, they learn a lot more than we did with going to combat. I think we really started it and it's just growing and I guess there are more women in it too.
Neal: Where did you actually meet the people that became your friends.?
Em: I believe it was when we got our orders to go to Camp Hale - meeting on the train, because we were all on the same coach. You started to talking; you just didn't sit there. Then when we got to Camp Hale and assigned to our barracks, then you started talking to people that were going to be next to you, sleeping by you, and across from you. And the at the Motor Pool, of course, we got more acquainted.
Neal: The women on the train, were they actually assigned to your barracks or were they scattered?
Em: They were scattered.
Neal: ---- -----
Em: Some of them were in my barracks and some were in the next barracks.
Neal: You mentioned that your main job at the camp was driving officers around in the staff car, were those officers from the 10th Mtn. Division or were they from other ..?
Em: They were from the different.... It was all over the camp.
Neal: What exact contact the WACs have with the 10th Mountain Division?
Em: Just by getting acquainted with some of the guys and watching them drill. When we were driving through there taking an officer or something, we would see them. It was just the field house where we went to have coffee and we could buy things there. We would meet them there, but other than that, they all had their work to do and we had our work to do.
Neal: Did you have more contact with them or with people in other divisions?
Em: No, it was just about the same because they all had their routines and they worked all worked and we worked all week. It was just on the weekends that we could communicate with them and meet them.
Neal: What were some of your most memorable experiences at Camp Hale?
Em: Of course, I liked being there; it was a beautiful setting. That was where I made the closest friendships that continued when we went to Crowder and since we've been civilians. That was the main thing - making such good friendships.
Neal: Do you believe there was a higher standard of behavior or conducted expected of the WACs than expected of the men?
Em: Well, of course, we were really instructed on how we should behave and conduct. They wanted us to be really an example, I suppose. Maybe, we were a little more. They were fighting soldiers so they were rough and tough. And we were supposed to be more ladies, I guess.
Neal: Why do you think women in the women had to be such --- ---
Em: Well, because they had just formed and people would be looking at us and wondering if we really should be there. I think, that was it; to show people that we were worthy of doing it.
Neal: Did you feel that the eyes of the country were on you?
Em: Well, yes - to a certain extent because when we were out on pass or something, people always looked at us and so, I guess we were kind of on parade all the time.
Em: I did forget to tell you about KP. Well, there was always a roster that was put up on Sunday evening. It gave for the whole week who was going to do KP - just for day. We were always woke up by the charge of quarters earlier than the other girls so we can get over there. We always helped and then after everyone was through eating, then the work started. We had to mop the mess hall, wash all the tables, and reset them, and then do all the pots and pans and dishes. It was a pretty hard job. Of course, nobody liked it but then too, you got to eat a little more. The cooks would give you more snacks and stuff. And we didn't have to go to work that day; we just worked in the mess hall. I remembered that.
Neal: So, were the pot inspected; did they have to be shiny clean?
Em: The cooks always liked them that way. Boy, they told us what to do and how to do it. They were cooks but they could also tell us what to do. Some of them tried to slough-off a little bit and they got told about it.
Neal: Was KP also a punishment detail?
Em: No. It was just a regular thing we had to do.