Interview with Sue Unger Eskey conducted by Claudia Watson, Montgomery County Historical Society, during the WAVES reunion, Oct. 20, 2001
CW: This is Claudia Watson and I am interviewing Sue Eskey at the Research Center on October 20, 2001. Sue, could you tell me a little about yourself where you were born, where you grew up.
SE: I was born in Illinois, 70 miles northwest of Chicago in the Rockford, Illinois, area. And I grew up there in a small town outside of Rockford. Went to school there. And then moved into Rockford after I graduated from high school.
CW: Were you living on your own then?
SE: Yes, uh huh.
CW: And what did .. who were your parents and what did they do?
SE: My parents were David and Elly Unger. My father had a store and my mother was a mother a full-time mother. And we were .. I had two sisters, two older sisters, and we were I would say probably a very typical family of that time just coming out of the depression and business was picking up a little bit, you know, and, uh, then the war was starting by the time I was ready to get out of high school.
CW: What year did you graduate?
SE: Well, I graduated in 1940, but we were aware that we were approaching war very much aware of it at that time.
CW: What were .. you got out of high school and did you go to work? Did you go to school?
SE: No, I didn’t go to school right away because I couldn’t afford to. But I went to work for the Bell Telephone Company and I was saving my money to go to college. So that was primarily my occupation before I left.
CW: What were you doing with Bell?
SE: With Bell, I was an operator and I had just started training as supervisory work at that time and then I also worked for Bell for a while when I came home from the WAVES. And then I was supervisor and a teacher and I also worked in the employment office until I was married.
CW: So how did you hear about the WAVES?
SE: Well, I actually had, I think I had made up my mind to do something like that before I even knew there were going to be WAVES because when I was in high school, I was in a social studies class and we were studying about the war on both sides of the world and we were in the middle. And our teacher went around the room and asked us what we would do if someone attacked our country. Well, with all the bravado of a 17 year old, I said, Oh, they wouldn’t dare. We’re the biggest, the best, the brightest and so forth and every superlative I could think of to describe our country. And he just sort of thought about it and said, Well, let’s say they do attack, what are you going to do? And, you know, in those days there really wasn’t much for girls to do. There weren’t many career choices for anyone and women didn’t have a large place on the professional scene. So I wasn’t sure at all what I was going to do. But thinking about this and he came back after I said, Well, we’re the biggest, the best, the brightest country, you know he kept insisting, Well, suppose someone does attack our country, what are you going to do? And finally I said, Well, I really don’t know what I’m going to do because I’m only a girl, but I promise you I will do something. And it was like I was making a vow, you know, to myself and to him. But it sort of stuck, you know, and then, of course, when Pearl Harbor came the following year and then the WAVES were started about seven months after Pearl Harbor, I investigated the WACS and the WAVES and I decided I wanted to become a WAVE because their standards were higher and I liked the uniforms. I thought we looked more like ladies than the WACS did. There were so many things that I considered in these comparisons. So I made up my mind I was going to be a WAVE.
CW: So did you .. how did you go about enlisting? How old were you when you enlisted?
SE: By this time I was 20 years old and I wrote to Chicago because Rockford had a recruiting station, of course, but they didn’t have the information about women going into the service as yet. So Chicago was our main recruiting station. So I received brochures and an application and I read through; and the more I read, the more excited I got about becoming a WAVE. So I filled out all my papers and went home the following weekend and expected my parents to sign them. But my mother just absolutely refused and she said, No daughter of mine is going to go into the service. She was just adamant about it. She just didn’t think women had a place in the military. And my father was usually my mentor when I was growing up, so he read them over and he asked me a few questions and finally he said, Well, mother, I’m going to go ahead and sign her papers because she’s determined and you know she’s going to go when she’s 21. So he signed. Well, my mother was furious. She said, David, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re sending your youngest daughter off to fight in a war.
CW: Oh, I’ll bet. I’ll bet. So how long after you ..
SE: So she ..
CW: I’m sorry. Go ahead.
SE: So she was really disturbed by it and anyway I sent my papers in and I was given orders to report to Chicago in January of 1943 and I passed all the tests and was sworn into the WAVES. But the first class had already started at Hunter College in New York City where I would be assigned, so I waited for the second class which was beginning on March 3, 1943. So mother and dad took me to the train on March 2 to go to New York City. My mother was very tearful and I’ve never forgotten her parting words of advice. She said, Now, darling, if they don’t treat you nicely, you just come right straight home. [SE laughs.] That was my mother. So I’m on my way to New York City to Hunter College.
CW: How did it feel?
SE: Different. Extremely different. Because I wasn’t used to such a regimented lifestyle, you know, and I think it was probably shocking for most of the girls that went there because of the regimentation and then it was .. it seemed to be the middle of winter but it was so cold and so blustery and we had to be marching out in all of it. And we had several classes. And I rather enjoyed the classes. I couldn’t see the use of all of them for us because I thought why do I have to know all the ships of the Navy. We had to learn all the parts of the ships and so on and so forth, which we never used very much at all after that. The ships .. the names .. or the types of ships we did, but some of the other things we didn’t. But we had some high points, too, while we were in training and things that were very enjoyable, that I had enjoyed because I didn’t have opportunity to enjoy them in my younger life. So it was okay.
CW: When they had you .. what kind of tests ..you said they gave you tests when you first got there.
SE: Well, we had to take tests in all the classes that they were giving us. And I can’t remember all the different types of classes that they gave us, but we had .. we had so much time for marching, and we had so many hours of classes every day. And we took examinations in all of those classes. And I really don’t remember ..
CW: That was just the very basic, the very basic training that you’re talking about .. boot camp, I mean .. was there anything special about .. specialized about the training at Hunter College that .. you know, as far as what, what took you to Dayton or did they determine that you would be assigned to the Dayton kind of duty at the end of that with a battery of tests?
SE: I really don’t know how they determined that. I read recently that we were given .. that somehow they picked up on it at Hunter through tests that we had taken at Hunter. But I don’t have any memory of taking uh any special tests and I would not have realized it, you know, even if I did. I would have thought well this is just another test they are giving us, you know. So I really don’t know what process it was. But there was quite a group of us that were chosen and when we got down to Washington .. of course, when they started giving us the test down there, they had all these specialized tests that they were giving us there and I have a very good rememory of some of those. But when we got down there, they would take a few girls out every day and send them off to become store keepers or send them off to direct duty or they would go away to become yeomen or something like that. And then finally they had the core of fifty girls left and so we were really concerned. We thought maybe we hadn’t passed our tests, you know. Why are we here? What are they going to do with us because we were through with this phase of it. But that’s when they told us that we were going off to a secret destination and of course we found out eventually that it was Dayton, Ohio, that was our destination.
CW: Uh huh. Now when you went to Washington, where did they send you in Washington .. right after .. and that was right after Hunter, right?
SE: Yes. Right after Hunter. We stayed in a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, and every day we were bused over to Communications Annex in northwest Washington. And from Communications Annex, we went through some .. we went through a guard house. We had to go through a couple sets of guards and then we went into the White Chapel which was at the forefront of the Annex. The Annex was formerly a rather exclusive girls’ school. It was Mt. Vernon Seminary for Young Ladies and the chapel was right at the forefront of the grounds. And that’s as far as we got into the grounds at that particular time. We were only taken into the chapel and that’s where we sat, at the rear part of the chapel, and took our tests.
CW: And how long were you there?
SE: We were there for .. actually we took tests for a full two weeks. But we were there longer than two weeks. And actually .. those tests might even have extended a little bit over two weeks time if I remember right because we arrived in Washington about the 17th of April and we left about the 5th of May to go to Dayton.
CW: Did they let you out and around when you were in Arlington or how .. ?
SE: Yes, they did. Well, within reason they did. Within reason. We had curfew and we had time to do some sightseeing and we were, if I remember right, yes I think we were there Easter Sunday and I do remember four of us going downstairs into a delicatessen and picking up things and going out, going to Lincoln Memorial and the Mall and places like that on Easter Sunday and just having a picnic for ourselves. So we did have some freedom that we could do some things like that. Uh huh.
CW: When did you arrive in Dayton?
SE: We arrived in Dayton, I believe it was May 5th that we arrived in Dayton. I’m a little hazy on some of these dates. But I just got my service record and checked up on some of them because I found I was way off in my timing on some of them. But it was approximately the 5th of May when we arrived.
CW: What size of group did you arrive with?
SE: Fifty girls.
SE: The same 50 that survived the testing and that was the group that was sent here.
CW: Were there, were there WAVES already there?
SE: Yes. The group that came in from Cedar Falls, Iowa, was there and I believe there probably were approximately 40 girls in that group so when we got there, there were probably about 90 of us altogether. And then as time went on, more and more girls were added to the group.
CW: When do you think it reached .. my understanding was that at one point it hit 600. Is that right?
SE: I think that there .. I think that was the total number of WAVES that went through in all the years that Sugar Camp was used. I don’t believe it was 600 at one time because they simply could not accommodated that many with the 60 cabins that they had. And then they doubled up in the cabins, too.
CW: I was wondering about that because when you see the WAVES marching, I mean it doesn’t look like there could ever have been, you know, that many.
SE: No, I don’t believe there were. It seems to me when we went back to Washington in September, there probably were about 200 of us that went back to Washington and I think Evelyn said there were probably about 40 of them that .. I beg your pardon, I think about 80 of them that remained there. And so I know they brought people in after that because Shirley was one of the later .. no Shirley was one of the older ones .. one of the girls told me that she came in after we had left.
CW: I think Joanne may have been one of those that did.
SE: That might have been.
CW: And I think Dolores was too ..
SE: Could be.
CW: Because she was up on Park Road. Um, and when you got here, do you remember any kind of first impressions that you had of Dayton?
SE: Well, I really didn’t know what to think. We were sort of .. some of us were expecting to go to California because they wouldn’t tell us where we were going, but they sort of let it slip that we were going west, you know, when we were leaving Washington. And, of course, west to us in our younger days meant going to California. So we expected to go on to California .. the great Mecca. And so we had no idea until we got off the train and then the sign on the station said, Welcome to Dayton, Ohio. I thought, Dayton, Ohio? You know, so my mind was open. It was okay with me to be in Dayton, Ohio, but I was really surprised. But when they took us up to Sugar Camp, that was wonderful you know because they assigned cabins to us and they took us around and they showed us all the recreational facilities and the big dining hall and the recreation hall was wonderful, too. So it had such wonderful facilities and we enjoyed every bit of it. We just used every bit of it. It was a great life for us. I think we probably had some of the best quarters for WAVES during the war, as far as summer went. And uh, but once we were there, you know, and got into the routine and so forth, we were really thrilled with it. The work was rather tedious and it got to be rather boring at times, too. And I felt a little disappointed at first because I thought I didn’t want to be a WAVE to sit here with a soldering iron in my hand and do this because this just wasn’t my type of thing to do. But when you are with a group of people that you enjoy being with and so forth, it just made a big difference. And we had a wonderful administration. Miss Farrell, who .. or Lt. Farrell, who was in charge of our Sugar Camp group was just tremendous with us. We could go up to her and talk to her about anything. Even what kind of shoes to buy. Where to find hose or something. She was great with the girls. She had been a .. I believe she was in charge of a girls’ school before she went into the Navy. Many of the officers were associated with schools and many of them were girls’ schools and so they seemed to understand us well and we got along very well with them.
CW: So were they ones that maybe had been teachers but joined like you had, during the service they just came in as officers because they might have been teachers? Is that what you are saying?
SE: Uh huh. I believe when they started training WAVES that they initially put out the call for women to become officers, so that they would have someone who could train and lead the groups of girls who were coming in. And I think that most of the officers that we had were some of those that were the earliest trained because we were sort of early birds, you know, going in in early ’43. And we were in some of the first training groups to go through. But our officers were all in place when we got there.
CW: Any concept of their ages?
SE: Well, we had .. well, I don’t think we had any of them that were too terribly young. I would say that Lt. Farrell .. age is hard to judge when you’re very young. But I would say that Lt. Farrell probably was maybe around 40 or maybe a bit older than that and the others .. I would say the others were 30s to 40 .. well, they couldn’t have been too old or they wouldn’t have been accepted. But I don’t think we .. well, I take it back. We did have a few of the girls that went to NCR with us when we were on duty and were in charge of some of the rooms there that they were probably younger. They were probably in their 20s. The older 20s. But I think most of them that were administrative were a little bit older.
CW: It is hard to judge, and especially back then women dressed older. I mean they didn’t, you know .. they .. Of course, I realize they were in uniform, but they tended not to do things that were as youthful to themselves and there was a little different standard.
SE: I think that is why we enjoyed Lt. Farrell so much because she mixed and mingled with us and if she wasn’t busy, we could stop in and talk with her and just stop by and she’d come out and chat with us and was very at ease wasn’t .. didn’t impose herself on us as being a strict officer or something like that. She was firm. She was very fair and she was very friendly. So I think she was an ideal person for something like that. And later on I came across not very many, but a few that I didn’t feel that kindly toward but [SE and CW laughs] but I think most of us were pleased with our officers.
CW: You mentioned that you had worked a rotating shift ..
CW: So when they ran three shifts and one week you would work the day and then a week later in the evening and then a night shift. Is that the way that worked?
SE: Yes. Eight hour shifts and we rotated every week which is really difficult because your body clock after a while feels like it’s left home. [SE laughs.] You’re always eating and sleeping at all these different times that it’s a little hard to get adjusted to, I think.
CW: One of the women who worked in Washington described to me that she constantly .. when she was in Washington .. of course, she was working in a lot of heat, she stated she always felt kind of groggy.
SE: You do. You do feel sort of logy, you know, and you don’t always get enough sleep, especially when you’re shifting from night shift to day shift. You know, there’s just that set of hours in there, you know, you feel like you’re just not with it at all. And your meal times are so mixed up because we would be eating .. what would normally be dinner in the evening, we would probably be eating at 2:30 or 3 o’clock in the morning and then you would go home at 8 o’clock and try to go to bed, you know, and maybe have a bite to eat before you go to bed at 8 o’clock .. or 9 o’clock in the morning. But it was hard .. that part of it was hard to adjust to and then also the work in Washington was very, um .. it was very tedious. It wasn’t difficult. It was not difficult at all to learn, but it was extremely tedious and the machines were very noisy and they threw off a tremendous amount of heat. So that part of it was very unpleasant.
CW: Did you have to .. now you’re talking about running the Bombes now, right?
SE: Uh huh.
CW: Did you have to constantly pay attention or was there any like downtime when you were waiting for it to run or was it a constant vigilance?
SE: No. Once we had our machines, um, set .. set up .. we had a menu to set them up .. a printed menu and this told us which wheels to .. how our wheels were to be set. We had 36 wheels on each side of the machine that had to be set. And this told us all of our work instructions and so forth, but we had to check them. And then we checked them again. And then someone else came out and checked them, so they actually were checked three or four times before the machines were turned on. And at first it was not a real slow process. But it took time for us until we got accustomed, you know, to the point where we could just go right down the line with them, so eventually we picked up speed later on. Both speed and accuracy. But we had to be accurate because accuracy was always the name of the game. And speed was very important. So, uh, those things were not too time consuming. Once the machine was turned on, it would sometimes run for very short runs. And I understand after reading Jennifer Wilcox’ books that those were the three wheel Enigma runs that did the short runs and then those that had the .. doing four wheel Enigma runs were the long runs. And I was so glad to discover that because I was on the left-hand side of the room and I would sit and wait and I’d say, Come on, machine, let’s have a little action here, you know because I wouldn’t be getting very many hits and I’d have to wait a long time. And I would look across the room and the girls on the other side of the room were already setting their machines up for another run and I would think, Come on, here, let’s get with it. Let’s go. [SE laughs.] And then after I read her book I realized, well I had to have been on a four wheel Enigma machine and then I know that the officer of the day that I worked under once in a while would sometimes bring special runs out to me and so I knew that whatever I was doing must have been different from what someone else was doing and, uh, at first it was very tedious for us because we had to stay with our machine. We couldn’t turn our back on our machine. It was rather dangerous because they revolved .. those code wheels revolved about I think it was 7,000 times a minute extremely fast, so it could have been extremely dangerous if you weren’t, weren’t careful. And that’s why I say, I always got 4.0 in safety. I checked all my safety rules, you know. On my test I always got a 4.0 in safety.
CW: What was the danger about turning your back on them?
SE: Because there was no cover on the front of the machine and all these wheels were exposed. Of course, they were about this big around maybe 5, 6 inches in diameter but every one of them was spinning at this very high rate of speed. And if you turned your back on them and accidentally backed up to your machine, you know, there would have been a tragic accident. And then each machine .. each of those wheels was locked in by a toggle switch, and we had to be very sure, you know, that it was absolutely clamped down because I always had visions of one of those wheels flying out and decapitating somebody across the room. So we were very careful with it very, very careful. And, um, the heat sometimes I .. we talked about that .. that the heat made you feel sort of logy sometimes, also. So when you were working toward the front of the machine when the machine was on, it would just get awfully hot. And then we had banks of cabinets behind us that had extra wheels in these cabinets. So we were sort of closed in between the machine and the cabinet, you know, so the air didn’t circulate too well at first. And eventually they did put some sort of an air conditioning system in which helped an awfully lot. But it got to the point where they allowed us to write letters. We could bring magazines in as long as they were checked at the guard house when we came through. And if we brought anything else in that couldn’t go in to the room, if we came in with packages or something like that, they were always checked. But we never could take those things in with us. They were always kept at the guardhouse.
CW: It must feel strange to finally be getting an .. it’s still getting revealed to you what certain things, routine things and your routine meant in your workday.
CW: That must be a very strange feeling.
SE: Yes. It is a very, very strange feeling. Because after a while, we just took it for granted, you know, that yes, we’re going to have a lot of surveillance; and yes, we’re going to have our pockets and our purses checked coming and going; and yes, we have to check and see that our name is on the door before we go in and so there was really .. after a while it just became a way of life, you know, and we just learned to live with it. But time wise, though, they had to relent a little bit on that, you know, because you couldn’t sit and look at 32 rotating wheels because that would make you dizzy after a while, you know, and you didn’t want to turn your back on the machine. And we did have two-step stepladders that we could sit on. There were some chairs at the end of the machine, but not very many. And most of those were for the desk. So we would sit on these little stepladders and I used to .. oh, they let us bring writing paper in, too. Of course, the mail was censored, you know. But they used to let us bring writing paper in and then finally magazines and books, so we would have something to do if we did get on a long run instead of standing there for 15 or 20 minutes or just sitting there and trying not to look at the wheels, but not turning your back either. [SE laughs.]
CW: That’s tricky.
SE: Yes it is tricky. So I used to push my little stepstool up towards the end of my machine and stand on the top step which was about this high and I would put my writing paper and everything on top of the Bombe and that was my desk and my study area back there. And then in the summer of 1944, they notified us that classes were going to be offered and I don’t know for sure but I think this might have been .. it might have been about the beginning of the GI Bill. I’ve never found exactly, the exact dates of when this started .. but I think it was passed by Congress in about ’42, but I don’t know when we actually go going with it. I mean, or it was entered in or presented to Congress or something, but I’m not sure .. but anyway they let us know that we could take extension classes out of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. So I ran over right after work because I wanted to take some classes. And I was all primed. I was going to ask for class in English Literature and a class in Sociology. And when I got over there, I told the lady what I wanted and she said, I’m sorry, we don’t have classes like that. [SE laughs.] And I said, What kind of classes do you have? And she said, Well, we have all of these classes. Well all of these classes proved to be all the classes that the men would want to take because they were engineering classes and the physical sciences and this sort of thing. So I thought about it. I thought, Well, now I know I’m going to have to have some science electives. So I went down the list and I came across Electricity 101. And I’d had a little smattering of it at Dayton when we were there, you know. We learned to read graphs and this sort of thing with the work we were doing. So I thought, well I’ll just sign up for Electricity 101. So I did. Only girl in the class. And we studied outside of class and then we went in once a week and took examinations, so class went on probably about .. I think it was probably about six weeks. Sort of like a summer school class. So I went in, took my final examination. I think I got about an 89 in it and I thought, Well, you know, for a class like that, that’s not too bad a grade for a girl because I don’t like the physical sciences. So when they posted the grades .. they posted all the grades .. and I looked at the fellows’ grades and thought, Gee, I got higher grades than these guys. I got higher grades. I thought, You know, that’s a pretty good grade for a girl. So then I felt pretty good about that. Unfortunately years later after my husband died, I went back to college and I tried to bring in my transcripts and when they contact the University of Wisconsin, they had no record of my ever having classes from them. And I think that was another way that they sort of left us out in limbo, you know, because I did want those credits. But I didn’t have the credits later on. But anyway, I did get my class. But a good thing came of it because in late 1944, the officer of the day came in one time and he asked me if I would like to move to another office and it sounded very appealing because just working in this noisy, hot environment was wearing, you know. I had been with something like this for about a year and a half at that time. So I asked him what sort of work would I be doing. And he said well there was an opening in another office. The officer in charge needed a girl that had some knowledge of electricity. Of course, I had just taken this class. But this class didn’t have any practicum with it at all, it was all book learning, and it was all outside of class except for these examinations. So I was very skeptical, you know, that I could do the work. So I told him I had some reservations about it. And I may not be able to live up to what he expected me to know or be able to do. And he said, Oh, I think you’ll be able to do it all right, he says, I think he already knows your background and so forth because that’s why I’m here asking you. And I said, But you know, I didn’t have any hands-on at all. I had a little bit before, but I didn’t have any hands-on at all in this class. I can recognize all my symbols and so forth and knew what their functions were at that time but I didn’t ever try to use any of it, you know. So anyway, then he said the magic words. He said, Well, the nice thing about it is you won’t have any more rotating watches. You’ll work straight 8-5, Monday through Saturday. And that was sheer heaven in those days, you know. And I said, Good, I’ll take it. Because I’d had a good year and a half of rotating watches and so I was really anxious to get out of that. And so the following Monday then I started work for another office. I couldn’t tell you what the name of the office was because I never knew and I was the only girl in the office. There were two other girls attached to it, but they worked in different places. But it was very interesting work and I worked on quite a variety of things. But the first thing that they taught me when I went in was electrical drafting and they had a man there that taught me electrical drafting in three weeks. [SE laughs.] So it was very concentrated and here again, you know, it was just .. you just went right through the day and you did what you had to do. That’s the only way I can put it. But anyway, I had electrical drafting and then life became very much more interesting than it was before. I worked on .. uh, I worked on kind of a variety of different projects. I worked on some things I had no idea what they were. But I could recognize my symbols and I learned to put those together with the different parts and so on and so forth. So I got rather adept at doing that and then I worked with a team that was very interesting and they would take some captured encryption machines that were coming in and they would take them apart, bit by bit, and I would stand by and draw sketches and sometimes these machines would need a lot of work done to them. I can remember one that came in was just as green as moss, you know. It had been under the water or maybe in a jungle some place. But anyway, it was totally green inside and these fellows would take them apart and clean them up and then when they got to a certain point I would come and do sketches of what they had done. And then when they would have them ready to go back in the machines, I would draw up the .. put my sketches together and draw up the total machine. And then I would go to the drawing table and put it down on velum. So that was interesting. That was far more interesting than working on .. far more quiet, too, you know, and much more comfortable than working on the Bombes. So that was my second job and then I did some of the office work, too. And I can’t think what some of the .. I worked along with some of the other fellows on some of the .. I can’t remember what it was. I remember, uh .. well, I guess I just don’t have a memory left, but I remember working along with some of the other fellows on sketching things and once in a while they would bring something in for me to work on. But I enjoyed that office because there were many officers that coming and going in this office and some of them were just extremely bright, you know, and it was just .. it was .. well, it was very interesting. It was just very interesting because some of them would be extremely bright and not very practical, you know. They were kind of ivory tower type and so on and so forth. But anyway, I enjoyed that very much. So that’s what I did then until the war was over and then I went home at the end of November when everything was done.
CW: Let’s catch your time line a little bit. You were in Dayton from when to when?
SE: I was in Dayton from approximately the 5th of May until September. I thought we left at the end of September, but I just got my service records the end of September of last month I got my service records for the first time and .. and it .. I .. some of that information is not there. So I show .. it shows me attached to Washington on September 3rd. But I’m skeptical. It may not have been September 3rd because my memory tells me it was later in the month and some of the girls feel it was later in the month that we came back. So .. but I have some other discrepancies, too, in my papers so there could be mistakes made or not.
CW: Give me, if you can, a little bit of an idea of, you know, your typical day or week when .. we’ll go back to Dayton at the moment .. in Dayton. Let’s say .. and maybe a good example is taking the day shift here. Um, what was a typical day?
SE: Well, we didn’t have alarm clocks and we were awakened in the morning by one of the officers that would come down through and call the girls who were on day shift and we would hop into our shower and get ourselves into uniforms and go to breakfast. Then after breakfast, we would muster or gather in front of the administration office and form into platoons and that was the way we marched the mile down the hill to NCR. And when we got to NCR, we had to pass through the guards. We always had armed guards around all the time. Outside and inside. And we had to just go into the one room where we were allowed to go into. As a matter of fact, I think we even ate in that room when we were on other watches. But we’d go into this particular room that we were assigned to and work would be .. work would be laid out to us to a certain extent. They would bring things to us that we were to be working on. And one of the jobs that I was assigned to do was to do the uh, uh, commutator wheels because I had very nimble fingers and I could get my fingers inside, you know, and do these things. So I became quite adept at doing them and I could go right along with them pretty fast and so that was one of the things that I guess I more or less specialized in was getting inside these little commutator wheels and some of them .. um, some of them that I worked on .. I thought they were bringing them over for me to correct sometimes because they might have loose joints or something and then I would have to repair them. Well, actually I would be working on the other side .. I can’t figure .. I just can’t quite .. uh, uh .. quite get the picture of what I actually was doing with some of those things. But I did those and that was primarily my big job. And then at mealtime, they brought the meals in to us if I remember right. I don’t ever remember going over to NCR to eat in a cafeteria or anything like that. They brought our meals into the room. And, uh, that would have been lunch and it seems to me that we just ate right there. And, uh, we didn’t leave .. I don’t think we left the building until it was time to go home. I don’t remember leaving the building until it was time to go home.
CW: Did you have any other breaks other than the lunch?
SE: I think we did. We had a few little breaks where we could rest and stretch, you know, and get away from it all. And we used to do .. as we said this morning .. we used to do a lot of singing and things like that, you know, that we could hum along while we were working or something. And they never objected to that because I think they realized that we really needed something because we really worked with a lot of pressure sometimes, you know, especially as the summer went on we had to produce more and more because we did have production standards that we had to keep up to and you had to keep up to it. So they set goals for us and we had to achieve that.
CW: How many people were in your room usually?
SE: You know, I’m not really sure. I would .. I would expect there probably were 20 in our room and we worked at the long wooden tables that you have upstairs and, uh, I would say probably 15 to 20. I’m not, I’m not too terribly sure about that.
CW: You’d have 15 to 20 Waves and would you have a supervisor and was it a ..
SE: Yes, we did. We had .. we had someone who was there .. we had a man who came into our room, but I don’t believe he was there all the time and I think he came in when he brought us our jobs to do during the day and I think that he came in occasionally to check and check our work and so on and so forth, but I don’t believe that he was there all the time with us. And I think after a certain length of time we were on our own and we just worked on our own.
CW: Was there a Marine inside the room or just outside the room?
SE: Outside, in the hallway. Uh huh. And if you walked outside your room and went down the hall instead of to the bathroom or where ever you were supposed to be going, he would be right there. And he would say, Where are you going? you know and he would catch us right away. But we learned fast. We just didn’t pull little jokes like that, you know. Actually I think we were a pretty good bunch of kids because we didn’t give them too many problems, I don’t believe.
CW: At the end of the day, you had to march back?
SE: No, we did not have to march back at the end of the day. At the end of the day we were free to go and we could .. and if we wanted to go shopping in downtown Dayton, we would do so. And we often would do that when we were on day watch. And or maybe go out to dinner for a change or sometimes we’d run home. I remember a few times we ran home and got in .. we could wear recreation clothes, you know, when we were out for recreation. We’d run home and get into our shorts and go out and play badminton or something before dinner time or go for a swim. So, you know, we had a lot of freedom. When we were around the grounds, we could do much anything that we wanted to do. So you’ll see a lot of girls in sports clothes, you know, when .. during their free time. But our time coming home was our own. And one nice thing about it, I think we forgot to bring that up this morning but I know we really appreciated it .. Col. Deeds occasionally would pick up girls that were going to be walking up the hill, you know. And if he was going up the hill at the same time, he would stop and [SE laughs] we’d pile into a big limousine and he would take us up to the top of the hill. I forgot to bring that in this morning.
CW: I’m glad you brought that up.
SE: Yeah, and he would bring us up. Now only a few times, only a few girls had the chance to ride up the hill with Col. Deeds. But once in a while he would send his chauffeur out or if his chauffeur happened to be going up that way, he would always stop and pick up girls and go up the hill. And I remember one really stormy .. it was kind of a late summer storm afternoon when we got out of work, he was right outside the gate. We piled into the limousine and up the hill we went, you know. [SE laughs.] So he would do that occasionally, you know, when his chauffeur was free apparently. I thought that was really nice. And I was surprised when I saw his pictures in a museum because .. of course, they were probably done at a much younger age because .. but I remembered him as being a much older person.
CW: He was.
SE: Uh huh. And ..
CW: I was thinking about that this morning. I think he would have been in his.. I think he would have been in his sixties mid-to-late 60s.
SE: Uh huh.
CW: Yeah. I think.
SE: Yeah, because he seemed quite, quite old to me and I think I saw him maybe once or twice and we didn’t know exactly what his function was. I always thought he owned NCR and we weren’t sure, you know. [SE laughs.] But anyway, but that was fun. We do remember riding .. I remember I was so thrilled to ride in that limousine and specially not to have to walk a mile home in the storm. But the people of Dayton were so good about picking us up. You know, so very often during these stormy days they would just stop and say, Pile in, girls, you know and we would and they would take a car full and drop us off at the gate. They couldn’t go on it, you know. They’d just drop us off at the gate and they were very good to us. People .. all the people were always good to us. I don’t think we have anything at all to complain about as far as, as uh, being in a place where they just take you .. take you in, you know. And like I say, it sort of became our hometown, too. Because this is the way we were treated at home. And we never hesitated to ride with people. Of course, we didn’t have much to worry about in those days, you know, like people have now. So we always felt very safe, very secure, and I think if we ever had gotten into trouble or something like that, you know, I don’t think that we would have hesitated to say to someone, I’m lost, or I’m stuck, or Can you help me? or something, you know. We wouldn’t have hesitated because we just felt very much at home. And it was .. it was .. I think it was an unusual situation because I talk to so many other girls I’m president of our local Cactus Waves group out in Arizona and I hear some of these other girls talk and I thought, gee, we didn’t do that. We didn’t have tough times like you had or, you know, we weren’t allowed to do what you girls did, and so on and so forth because we really were .. we really towed the line pretty well. Well, some of them every once in a while went out and had some fun and so forth, but overall I think that we were just a pretty good bunch of girls.
CW: About how many .. about how many do you think was on per shift? Do you have any idea?
SE: I have no idea because we don’t know .. we don’t even know how many rooms were being used at that ..
CW: But you all marched down in a group to a shift.
SE: Yeah, we marched down in a group.
CW: Do you have any idea how many were in the group?
SE: Uh ..
CW: Because I’m starting to get the idea now that there were so many in at any time.
SE: I’m sure there must have been at least a hundred because ..
CW: Really? Okay.
SE: I’ll have to check that because we marched four abreast and I have a picture of us marching in formation. I don’t know that I even show the end of the line but it would give some indication of how many of us went down. But I really don’t remember, but there were a great number of us that would go in. But we would only see the people when we got there .. we would only see the people that were in the same room that we worked in.
CW: Could you wear casual clothes when you went downtown in the evenings or did you have to be in uniform?
SE: We were supposed to be in uniform then. I don’t know how it was for the girls who were here later on, but I know in .. it seems to me that once the war was over in Washington that we were allowed to wear civies once in a while. But maybe it was just because we were sneaking them out. I don’t know for sure. [SE laughs.] But I know I went down and bought a coral colored suit as soon as I could. [SE laughs.]
CW: I’ll bet. I’ll bet. [CW laughs.] You were probably glad to get out of the uniform a little bit that way.
SE: Yes. Two and a half .. or almost three years in navy blue. I didn’t wear navy blue for 30 years after that.
CW: Do you have any particularly special memories of your experience in the Waves .. fun times?
SE: Oh, I have so many. I have so many, many memories. I wouldn’t know where to start really. [SE and CW laugh.] You mean fun times?
CW: Fun times or ..
SE: Fun times? Well, I think some .. in Washington?
CW: Uh huh.
SE: Uh, yeah. I thoroughly enjoyed Washington because there was always some place special to go to and I loved touring Washington. I even went to Supreme Court and sat through a session of Supreme Court. [SE laughs.] I went to the Library of Congress and we went down to the Capitol one day and we could get into the Capitol then. You couldn’t go into the White House, but one of my friends and I went into the Capitol one day. And it was late in the day because we went after we were off of day watch. Actually we weren’t supposed to be in there, but they let us in because we were in uniform. [SE laughs.] And so we wandered through the Capitol and looked it over and we got lost which is very easy to do there because it’s huge. And we, we wondered all over. We didn’t even realize what floor we were on. And it was getting rather late and people had already left, you know, and there weren’t very many people around and we wanted to find our way out. We didn’t find a soul around. So we wandered probably up to about the third floor or something like that and finally we saw a man in an office. And he looked very official and we didn’t know if we should just walk in and say we were lost [SE laughs] or what to do. So anyway, we said well we’ll have to because we can’t get out of this place. And so we walked in and asked if he would please help us because we were lost in the Capitol and we couldn’t find our way out. He said, I’ll take you out, girls. And so we talked to him on the way down, you know, as he led us through all these corridors and it turned out he was the national architect. So he was interesting to talk to.
CW: That’s interesting.
SE: Uh huh. And he led us out and that was sort of a fun thing. And I remember Eleanor Roosevelt. That was quite an experience, too. We had a new recreation hall built at Wave Headquarters D and when they had a dedication they invited Mamie Eisenhower, Mrs. Chenault, oh I can’t think .. there were four wives of famous generals. It seems to me we had .. it seems to me we had an Admiral’s wife there. But anyway, they were very pleasant and very gracious and when, uh, the, uh.. when the program was about half way over, everything stopped. Just died dead, you know. And you couldn’t hear a peep in the room. The Secret Service men walked down the aisle and so forth. And here came Eleanor Roosevelt. And she was a very striking figure and when you were close to her, and close enough to .. she wouldn’t be talking to you directly she might be talking to five or six other girls at the same time but you felt that .. she had so much charisma .. that you just knew she was talking to you. You know. She just had that ability to .. I, I can hardly describe it .. it just an ability she had to attract people .. or you were attracted to her. You know. You just felt a very personal attraction. She was not an attractive person to look at, but you didn’t realize that once you were talking to her. But she was very gracious and just as charming as she could be. And when she came down the aisle, I saw her to or three times like this, and she always wore a long black gown and this long rope of pearls. It was about mid-thigh long [SE laughs] it seems, and you know, just graciously smiling as she went down the aisle and went up on the stage and addressed everyone. And then she stayed there a few minutes. But she left before the program was totally over. And then when the program was over, they let us go up and chat with the ladies, you know, and shake hands and so on and so forth. So that was quite thrilling, too. But in those days, Eleanor had a newspaper column called My Day and I used to read it all the time and I had the clipping of it that I saved that when she had been to Wave Headquarters D and addressed the Waves. And it was a nice little write-up and I kept it in my memory book for a long time and then I looked at it one day and the paper was yellow and everything fell apart, so I don’t have it any longer. But, yeah, I really cherish that memory. And then we used to go to, uh, uh, some of the official things that were going on in Washington. We went to the Pan American celebration one year and all the Pan American countries had their representatives in this .. it was like a big embassy. It’s Pan American Union or something like this, it’s called. And, but it’s over in Embassy Row and it was open to the public so we went. And it was a very moving experience because they played the National Anthems for every one of the countries and everyone would stand and the tears would roll down their faces, you know. It was quite an emotional evening. But once again, right in the middle of the evening everything stopped dead and Eleanor Roosevelt .. first the Secret Service came in, and then Eleanor Roosevelt came in again and, uh, did an address and then she left after that. But see, she was Franklin’s legs because he did not walk. He was crippled and she did a lot of things that .. that .. well, I think she was probably about the first of the president’s wives that was so public. You know, really out in public. But she was .. to me she was just a great, great woman. But she was, um, um, um .. they made caricatures of her because she was not pretty and they uh, they used to accuse her of running the country and so on and so forth. But she was in places that Franklin couldn’t be. And she even went overseas during the war and even got into some of the battle zones. She was such a terrific woman. Really terrific woman. And, uh, we just had tremendous respect for her, you know, after seeing her and reading about her and so on and so forth. But I know that there were so many people who were anti-Eleanor and they were too when she went into United Nations. You know, they were so opposed to having .. having her .. having anything ..that was the United Nations, wasn’t it? They were so opposed to having her, you know, involved in something like that. And I thought hey, you don’t know how lucky you are, you know, that you have some .. especially a woman, you know .. and she paved the way for a lot of things. Civil rights and everything else. She was just a fantastic woman. So anyway, that was really enjoyable.
And, oh, another thing that we enjoyed. We went to Watergate concerts down on the banks of the Potomac River in the summertime and you would take your blanket or something to sit on on shore and they had the stage built out over the Potomac and then the concert band would sit there and they had opera singers come in and I heard Izaac Stern concert Izaac Stern play his violin and I heard a wonderful opera singer and I cannot remember her name. And I heard a black Navy man sing, which was very unusual for those times because there was so much prejudice. And he was, um .. and I think he was an opera singer, too. But, but he was a tremendous singer. So that was, that was really nice to do. They did that for I think maybe six weeks in the summertime. A concert a week, you know. It was great. So we enjoyed that, too. And, um, of course we went to Arlington. That was the first time I saw President Roosevelt. When we went back from Dayton to Washington, they didn’t have our quarters built so we stayed in a hotel at the foot of Arlington National Cemetery. And, uh, on Veterans Day we girls were not .. well, it was a holiday, I guess .. we were not working that day.. for some reason or other we were off. Maybe it was our day off or something, and we decided to walk all the way up into Arlington Cemetery and go to the services there and go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which we hadn’t seen yet. And so, as you know, from the entrance it’s quite a steep hill going up and we were walking up the hill. This was the old entrance to it. So we were walking up the hill and we were aware of some hustle and bustle behind us and we looked around and saw this big motorcade coming. And so we pulled over to the edge of the road .. of course, we were afoot .. but we went over to the edge of the road and just stood there, you know, until this motorcade would go by, and then we realized that this was the President’s limousine going by and President Roosevelt was sitting in the back. And so one of the girls [SE laughs] said, Gee, it’s our President. We have to salute. And my hand froze. I got my hand up about this high [SE laughs] and just froze. I was looking at him over the top of my hand, you know. It was so exciting. But anyway, we, we saluted our President. And then we went on up the hill and went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. But there’s a rotunda behind that where they held the services, and so we thought we would have to stand on the outside and hear these memorial services they were going to do. And an American Legion man walked out and we were surprised that he even recognized that there were women in the Waves because we were still fairly new, you know. But he came out and he said, Are you ladies here for the program? And we said, Yes. And he said, Well, do you have tickets. You know, they apparently had given out tickets because of limited number of seats. And we said, No, but we’ll stay out here and listen. He gave us tickets to one of the loges inside the area, so we had wonderful seats for this program. And, uh, so that was another good memory, too.
CW: Wow. Wow.
SE: I have so many, many memories.
CW: I’ll bet.
SE: We just .. we did a lot of .. you know, instead of just goofing around and running around, we really did some good things and some very interesting things.
CW: It sounds like you did.
SE: Yeah. So I had some very treasured memories.
CW: When the Waves were in Dayton, did they do any parading? Were you involved in any kind of parades or ..
SE: Yes, we were. You mean besides marching down . . but, I never considered that to be a parade .. [SE laughs.]
CW: That’s not a parade.
SE: .. marching down .. [SE laughs.]
CW: That’s going to work.
SE: Yeah [SE laughs], that’s just marching to work. Yes, we did. When we arrived in May, we marched in the Memorial Day parade. The full group of us. And by that time there were quite a few of us. Because other girls, some other girls came in later in May. And I have no idea how many of us there must have been, but there must have been quite a group of us that marched. And we came into downtown Dayton and they put on a special parade with bands and marching groups and I don’t remember that there were any floats, but we took part in that. Uh huh.
CW: Neat. Did you ever go down to Island Park at all? Or any of those parks like that?
SE: We went down to Old River. Old River was right down the hill.
CW: Right there.
SE: Uh huh. We used to go down there and there was a place where you could rent boats and [SE laughs] I remember my girlfriend tried to get me to .. to .. to go with her in a canoe. And I said, Ginnie, can you paddle a canoe? She said, No, I thought you could. I said, No, I can’t paddle a canoe. So we stepped out, you know. [SE laughs.] We stepped out and went back and got a rowboat and went up and down the river in the rowboat. But we did that a few times. But we used to go down there occasionally and just sometimes go down to walk around, you know. It was very nice. And then there was a restaurant that was very close by called Avery’s. And so once in a great while we would go and eat a bite there, you know, instead of going back up to Sugar Camp to eat. And they had such good hamburgers there. But I still have a place mat from there that says best .. Avery’s best hamburgers in Dayton. [SE and CW laugh.]
CW: Any special places you went downtown?
SE: I didn’t actually get downtown very much. I mean I did a lot of shopping and went to movies and things like that. And I only went to the hotels maybe once or twice. I wasn’t in to that too much, you know, and it seemed that they had .. when the girls went to dances over at Wright Patterson or something like that, I was always on night duty when that happened. So I never got to go to any of the dances. But the girls who were here longer did quite a bit of that. They had a lot of places that they could go to. But, uh, we who were here a short time probably didn’t do too much of that.
CW: You were here so briefly. Yeah.
SE: About four, four and a half months. Something like that. Uh huh. But it was wonderful. [SE laughs.]
CW: You were here at the right time of the year.
SE: It was. It was just really nice.
CW: Nice time of the year to take advantage of all that stuff.
SE: And then, of course, we had all those recreational facilities, you know, that we thoroughly enjoyed because there was always something to do there. And, uh, we, we really used everything we had there as far as the facilities were concerned.
CW: So what happened after the war? When did you muster out?
SE: I went out the latter part of November. I had enough points to go home. I was just on the eve of taking my test for first class petty officer. I said, No, I’m going to take my points and go home and get on with my life, cause I really had had enough. And so I went home and I went back to the telephone company and I remember I was so anxious to go back to work again. So when I went in to report and find out when I could come back .. because they held my job for me .. and I went in to find out when I could report back and they said, Oh, you don’t have to come back yet. We’re going to give you three weeks paid vacation. [SE laughs.] So, gosh, I said, But I don’t want to. I want to see my friends and get together with my friends again, and so forth. And they said, Oh, no. We have all this vacation stacked up for you and it’s coming to the end of the year. So go ahead and take a vacation and travel and have some fun. And I thought I want to stay home. I just want to be home for a while and catch up on things. Because it seemed like I had been gone an awfully long time. But things were really different when I came back.
CW: Were they?
SE: Oh, yeah. You change so much, you know. I think we all grew up in a hurry. I think we were just girls when we went in. When we came home, I think probably because of the work we were doing and the security orders and so forth, you know, that we had and the things that we had done, we matured an awfully lot while we were gone. So when I went home, a lot of my friends seemed very silly to me and, uh, I didn’t have the same interest with them that I did before, but I enjoyed them before. You know, we did a lot of things together and so forth, but it just seemed like I had left them behind in some ways and then in other ways, they were doing things now that didn’t interest me at all. And, uh, so one of my other Wave friends and I started taking some classes and we went out and had fun and so on and so forth. But I was going steady, too. Only I was going steady with a Naval officer who was on sea duty so I didn’t get to go out an awfully lot with him until he could come back to Illinois. But we missed each other, we girls did, when we got home. I guess it was because we were so close and most of us went home .. most in our group ..
NCR Archive Sue Eskey Oct. 20, 2001 Disc 2
CW: Interview with Sue Eskey October 20, 2001, at the Research Center. This is tape 2.
SE: So I decided it was sort of ridiculous to have to commute and take classes this way. So I just moved back down in the Valley. And I took a year off and I worked in the Department of Library Science grad assistant for the year. I worked half time and I went to school half time. So I finally got another degree in Education and Library Science and then I got started on my Masters Degree and I eventually got that finished, too. So, I was busy. [SE laughs.]
CW: You sure were. You sure were. So you still live .. you live in ..
SE: In Mesa.
SE: Uh huh.
CW: How far is that from .. is that in the vicinity of where you were working or is that a ways away ..
SE: Oh, yes. No, it’s right there. Tempe and Mesa are .. you just drive from one into the next town, you know. We’re all part of the greater Phoenix area and all those Scottsdale .. we’re close to Scottsdale and you just drive all the way around from one town to the next. They’re all connected.
CW: How do you think being in the Waves changed what you life .. I know that’s a tricky question to ask and it’s hard to figure, but it sounds like you have some ideas about that.
SE: I think it made tremendous changes. It certainly .. it changed my focus on life. I know that because when I was growing up I was .. I was the kind of kid that was doing everything. And I just expected that my life was going to be .. uh, uh .. I don’t know, I think I expected a lot of fun in life because I loved school. And I had a lot of fun in school. I did everything in school. I played drums. I played in six musical organizations and I was cheerleader for five years and I was in class plays and, uh, I just did everything. You know, I was active in everything. I just had a ball in school. I loved it. And, uh, I didn’t get too bad of grades either. I managed to keep up with it. But, but I almost hated to graduate. I really did. [SE laughs.] But anyway, I .. and I was sort of a happy-go-lucky person. And, you know, I was .. I laughed over everything. I think I laughed about things that weren’t even funny because everything was funny to me, you know, and I just laughed and laughed over everything. And when I came home, I was a very sober person. And I sent my mother a picture of me when I went into the Waves and it was my first platoon picture and I’m not smiling. And she wrote back and she said, Honey, I’ve never seen you look so sober. Are you all right? [SE laughs.] And I said, I’m fine, mom. And she said, But you’re not smiling, you know. [SE laughs.] So anyway, I was just sort of a happy-to-lucky person and I suppose I probably would not have been nearly as serious if I hadn’t have gone into the Waves because when I came back, like I say, I just didn’t seem to, um, enjoy some of my old friends like I used to because my expectations were different, my ideas were different, I had a .. I had a more serious outlook on things and I was concerned with things that were serious, but they would sort of slough off and say well .. But, it changed me. But I think also it, you know, in the Navy you can do anything. I don’t mean that you can do it with liberty but you can do anything because they expect you to do it and get it done. And so this is one thing that I learned. And, uh, so when these things happened to me .. like when my husband died, you know, and I thought oh Gosh, you know, it was so devastating to have this little boy to grow up without a dad. But, you know, you learned it some place, you know, that you can do it. And so that was a great help to me .. just the fact that I had the ability to do these things, that I could go ahead.
CW: Do you think you, um .. but you had planned to go to college before that, hadn’t you?
SE: Yeah. Uh huh.
CW: Do .. had you .. do you think you would have pursued Library Science, and I know some of these things you have no way of knowing. Was that a ..
SE: I sort of had a feeling for it because when I was in high school I hung out .. I read everybody’s books around me. I always loved to read when I was a kid and I read all my friends books and everybody else’s books. Anything I could put my hands on usually. And then .. I started reading my older sister’s books when I was in 4th grade and she was in 8th grade and I wrote every book report that girl for every book she was supposed to have read until she graduated from high school. She just did not like to read. And I loved to read. And so she would bring her books to me and at that .. when I was in 4th grade I would read the book and tell her the story and she would write her report. But later on, you know, I would just go ahead and sometimes do the report, too. So by the time I got to high school, I had a whole file of book reports. But it didn’t stop me from reading and some of the books I read again. Yeah, I had a whole file of book reports. As a matter of fact, I used to pass them to some of the boys especially the football players that never read books it seemed, you know. They’d say, I’ve got to have a book report by next Friday. Have you got any? [SE laughs.] So, under the table, I had book reports. But I was a student librarian in school and I had the library all to myself, too, which was quite a bit of responsibility for a freshman at that time. But, the kids took advantage of it. I was always afraid that the teacher who was in charge was going to come in and say, All right, Miss Unger, that’s it. You’re no longer the student librarian. Because we had big waste baskets like this, you know, and they would .. these upper classmen .. I was kind of short, I was 5′ 2 .. and these upper classmen would come in two of them and they would stuff me down in that waste basket with just my arms and my legs hanging out and then they’d pick it up and sit it on top of the desk. They’d steal my library keys out of the desk and lock me in the library for the rest of the period. I would sit there on top of the desk until the period was over. And that would happen about three or four times and one time they didn’t come back [SE laughs]. I was always afraid, I was always afraid I was going to get caught up on top of the desk in this waste basket. Oh, dear. [SE and CW laugh.] So anyway, it’s like I said. It’s good experiences in school, but that didn’t persuade me to be a librarian. [SE and CW laugh.]
CW: Before we wrap up, do you have any other comments about your experiences as Waves or women in military in general that you want to pass along.
SE: I just think it was a wonderful experience that we had and it was .. it was remarkable for women in our day, you know, to go out and do things like this and I think that .. that .. I think we sort of broke the ice in a lot of areas for other women to follow because now they have women who are out doing these things, you know, taking over the jobs and so on and so forth that were always considered to be men’s territory. Even working in offices and things like this, you know. And, um, so I think that.. I think in some ways we sort of did break the ice for those who followed. And I think it was a great thing for all of us and I think when we were raised we were raised as kids in a different type of environment that was far more patriotic than today’s youth has been. But I think that what we’re going through now, the youngsters are beginning to realize, hey we have a country, you know. And it wasn’t that evident I don’t think and as a school teacher you could see interest in patriotism and this sort of thing are just sort of dwindling away, you know. A lot of the kids don’t even know the words to the Pledge to Allegiance and so forth and so you don’t really see much … much regard for their country. But I think now it’s different and I think that it’s a … it’s a horrible way to have to wake up to it. But I think it’s about time that we do realize that yes, we are a country, and yes, you should be loyal to your country. So, anyway. But I think that when we were in school, we didn’t have all the … we always had a lot of history in school … but we didn’t have all the history to learn that young people have these days because think of the tremendous amount of history from the 40s on. You know, there’s been more history in the last 50-52 years than there has been since anything was written, .. any known history was ever recorded.
CW: Really true.
SE: And so, some people say today that the kids don’t really know history and I say..you know the kids have a lot more history to learn these days, .. and .. they’re just going to have to beef up the classes or give them more classes or start when they’re younger or something because I think that some things are neglected. But I could see this, you know, too in school, but … I do think the way the nation has turned out in this last five weeks has been tremendous and I hope that it stays with us for a long time. I think we need it.
[Note: This interview was conducted shortly after September 11, 2001]