Lois Mae Hanson McConnell Marshall

Veterans’ Memorial Hall Interview with Lois Marshall

Date: October 13, 2009
Location: Duluth, MN
Interviewed by Daniel Hartman, Program Director of Veterans’ Memorial Hall
Transcribed by Patra Sevastiades, Program Assistant of Veterans’ Memorial Hall

DH: We are beginning an oral interview on October 13, and this was conducted by Daniel Hartman of the St. Louis County Historical Society, and we are interviewing Lois Marshall, who was a World War II Navy WAVE. Say your full name, including your maiden name, and spell out your last name.

LM: Okay, my full name, starting way back: Lois Mae Hanson McConnell Marshall.

DM: Is Marshall two L’s?

LM: Two L’s and . . . Do you want me to spell them all? L-O-I-S M-A-E H-A-N-S-O-N M-C-C-O-N-N-E-L-L M-A-R-S-H-A-L-L.

DH: Sounds good. Well, thank you. And that’s good. And when were you born again?

LM: December 21, 1923.

DH: And what were your parents’ names?

LM: Irvine and Genevieve Hanson.

DH: Did you have any brothers and sisters?

LM: None.

DH: Okay, well, that makes it easy. And what was their ethnic background? Were they living in America before, or did they come here from a different country?

LM: No, they were living here. My mother’s parents were named Chartier. They came from Canada. French Canadians. My grandfather was kind of an entrepreneur and got businesses going and when they were going, then he sold them. As a hobby he had sulky racehorses, you know, race with the little carts. He took them to fairs. That was his fun stuff.

My other grandparents came over from—they got married when they were very young, no children, and came across with a bunch of Swedes and Norwegians from Norway. That whole boatload of people, I think, settled in my hometown because what they said was it was ideal , uh, weather, compared with the Swedes and the Norwegians. This was what they were used to. So it was the Larsons and the Hansons and the Gilbertsons and the Petersons and all in my neighborhood. And that’s where I was born.

My dad, he was the youngest of two boys, that’s all they had, of the Norwegians. After my uncle was in college, he and my grandpa, I mean, my dad and my grandpa, bought a house together because it was cheaper that way. Then he met my mother and married her, and she moved in with them. So for the first ten years of my life, we lived with my grandparents. Then my grandmother died, and then a couple years later my grandpa got married again.

So that’s where it all started. But it was a wonderful town.

DH: And the town was--?

LM: Merrill, Wisconsin. It was about 9,000-10,000 population.

DH: That was actually a decent sized town.

LM: Yes, it was, but it was also . . . When I look back at it . . . I’ve often told my kids that if I had my life to live over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d want the whole thing to go just the way that it went because I really felt that I had a great life.

My mother was a great teacher. That wasn’t what she did for a living, but after I was raising my kids, I realized how smart she was, what she had done. She had a bad heart from rheumatic fever at the age of twelve. In fact, the doctor had told her he didn’t think she should have any children. She said, “What do you get married for?” And so that’s what my mother did.

She just doted, not doted, I mean--it had to be right. Great sense of humor. I could get around my dad, you know, as a teenager. Stuff like that. She would never interfere. She would just kinda watch me, you know, she’d get my eye contact, and I just knew. I felt like a worm. She never said anything. Maybe one or two sentences when he’d walk out of the room or something, and then she’d say, “Why don’t you go to your room and think about that.” Like I said, great sense of humor. Great piano player. She died at the age of 46.

DH: What was her religious background?

LM: Catholic.

DH: And what was your father’s background?

LM: Lutheran.

DH: And how did that mix? Did that mix well?

LM: That mixed very well, because my Lutheran grandmother was , “Okay, this is it.” The Catholic church was on one corner, the Norwegian Lutheran church was on this corner, the Swedish Lutheran church was on that corner. I mean, that’s how our town was.

DH: Did they allow you to go to both churches?

LM: Well, I didn’t go to the other church services. Once in awhile I’d go with my grandma to Lady’s Aid or something.

DH: So you went to the Lutheran church mostly?

LM: No, to the Catholic church.

I was born and raised a Catholic, and my Lutheran grandma came and was so proud of me with first communion and confirmation and all of that.

DH: So there was not much of a fight then at all.

LM: Oh, heavens, no.

DH: With some other people I’ve interviewed it’s been a little bit of a . . .

LM: Oh, no. That was one thing, like I say, I can’t remember my mother and my grandmother arguing, unless that my mother said something, you know, “You can’t do this or that.” And, oh, my grandma she was, “Let her, let her.” But she didn’t say too much. It was--it was great.

DH: What were you parents’ occupations when you were younger?

LM: My dad worked in a grocery store just four blocks from home. My mother, outside of helping sometime when her dad—there were two sisters with my mother—when he’d, like, get a restaurant going, and they’d have, like, sleeping rooms upstairs, stuff like that. My mother learned to pitch in in the restaurant. But that’s about all that her work was.

DH: That works.

LM: Otherwise, that was it.

My dad had died ten years after my mother. He had remarried. But then he had cancer, and he went, so there was just me.

DH: What year was that, about?

LM: My mother, let’s see, I was . . . she was forty-six, I was twenty-three. I just had had my second baby, three weeks.

DH: So it wasn’t during your childhood.

LM: No, it was afterwards.

DH: I’m trying to have somewhat of a chronology here.

LM: Yes. It was after I had gotten married. I mean, she was there.

And the thing is, too, when I joined the Navy, I was only twenty years old. And you had to have, you know, your dad . . . And I would talk about it at home. And then they would kind of talk me out of it, they’d say this or that, or “Maybe later down the road.” And I listened. And I had girlfriends, I worked . . .
See, after the war broke out, my dad’s, the store that my dad had worked at all those years, closed. My aunt lived in Milwaukee. She was a manager of a big apartment complex, and she said, “Come on down here, they’re crying for help.” And so we did. We moved to Milwaukee. That was just a couple of years, you know. And then, I had been asking my girlfriends, you know, at work, ‘cause I worked in a defense plant for a little bit . . .

DH: In a what?

LM: A defense plant.

DH: What did you work on?

LM: They made superchargers for airplanes, which are obsolete now. It would be on a track, you know, and you worked, this was, it got to you, and then you had certain things to do. I developed muscles in those days. I had to put a big—I don’t know what you call it—but it fit over this nut that had to line up so you could tap it down and lock it. It was really a hard thing to do.

DH: So you actually worked in a defense plant helping build superchargers before . . .

LM: . . . before the war, I mean, before the Navy.

My girlfriends had said, “Oh, I’d like to go, too, but not right now. Could you wait awhile?” So I waited and waited, and I talked to this one and that one. And one morning I got up on my day off, and nobody was home, my mother was shopping, and I thought, “If I don’t do this, I’ll never get around to it.” So I went down, and I was going to join the Marines, and I couldn’t find the Marine office, but I found the Navy office, and I joined the Navy.

DH: I’m going to back you up a little bit, because I don’t want to talk about the Navy thing yet.

So when you were growing up in the 1920s, it was a little bit more prosperous than in the 1930s.

LM: We didn’t have any problems, but, I mean, because, you know, we managed very well. But being an only child, you don’t have anybody to turn, get your clothes over, and my mother would get boxes ready. And I was told, “If you see your coat or your boots or whatever on someone else, you don’t go up and say, ‘That used to be mine.’” And I was explained why, how things were tough.

DH: And this was in the 20s, not only in the 30s?

Yes, it was before I went to school, because I was seven when I was in first grade.

DH: Many people I have talked to, when I ask about the Great Depression, they usually say, It was bad even before the Great Depression, that a lot of people were poor in the 1920s and then remained poor during the 1930s. Was that true? Could you tell that the Depression came?

LM: I couldn’t rem. . . I just remember being told this and that, and then my dad would come home from work, and he would say, “So-and-so was in the store, and crying, because, you know, they couldn’t pay their grocery bill. And,” he said, “I slipped a few extra oranges in the bag, you know,” stuff like that I can remember. But he would get really kind of upset about it. But Mr. Statz, his boss, was also very good. And that was, you know, like I say . . .

DH: Did you think it helped a lot that he worked for a grocery store, so that you had food?

LM: Oh, yes, because, you know, if there was something that over a weekend, you know, might spoil or something, you know, Mr. Statz would say, “Bring this home.” And so all of those things happened. But with my mother’s health and everything, I remember my dad joking with other people, kind of a, you know, halfway joke, “Yeah, I cash my check at the drug store (which was just a block away) and pay my medical bill there (you know, for the medicines), and then what’s left, I bring home!”

But it was . . . And thank goodness, I mean, he wasn’t sick at that time, you know, but it was my mother. You wouldn’t know that she was sick, outside of that she had to rest in the afternoon. She would play cards. She had scads of friends.

DH: So she handled it really well.

LM: Oh yes, that was one thing: she was perky. When she died, I was the one that had to come after. I had one of my sister-in-laws watch my child, both of them, in Minneapolis, and I went to Eau Claire, ‘cause that’s where my dad had lived with this other lady.

When people came in for the funeral, they were just so amazed: my dad’s sitting in a corner with his head in his hands, you know, “What am I gonna do?”--you know, he was only a year older than my mother. So it was me that had to stand there at the casket and talk to them and listen to them tell about what a great lady she was. And she was.

DH: Yes.

LM: So, but with all of these other people, there were an awful lot of families that two and sometimes three different families of their relatives moved in to save money.

DH: Which is actually what’s going on right now.

LM: Yes. Like I say, I just count my blessings, you know. I have nine children.
And they’re all—I don’t have to worry about any of them, you know.

DH: That’s great.

LM: So I feel fortunate on that. But otherwise, no, I look back and: I can remember my dad, reminding us all after he got the light bill, “It was $2 this month. You know, you gotta be careful, gotta turn off the light when you leave a room,” you know. So I always remembered that.

But it was . . . And I still to this day, one of my mother’s, you know, things was self-discipline. “You’ve got to do this, and you have to do it now, because it’s going to get hot today, and we’re going to get the work done before. And I’ve got dinner all lined up in the icebox, so that we don’t have to worry about that.” And if I’d grumble about anything, she’d just look at me and grin, and she’d say, “Self-discipline.” And around here, I can get lost in a book, and I look up and I think, “Geez, I’ve been reading for two hours,” you know. I’ll say it out loud, “Self-discipline, Lois, get up and do something constructive,” even if it’s cleaning out a drawer, do something. But that’s the way my mother was.

But you know it was—there was really nobody that ever pointed a finger at another student at school as to, you know, “He doesn’t have shoelaces in his shoes,” or something like that, even though he didn’t.

DH: Everyone just kind of realized that everyone was going through some hard times.

LM: Yes. And I went to Catholic school, and across the street was the convent, and I would go over there for my piano lessons.

And I went there one day, and just before I left the classroom, Sister had said to this John, she says, “Oh,” she says, “bring this over to Sister at home”—the cook and the housekeeper, you know—and she says, “I forgot something,” you know. Okay, so he went, and I went to the front door. Sister Roseanne was upstairs; I had to wait for her. And John came in and gave this note to the sister, and so she says, “Oh,” she says, “I gotta run upstairs and look for this and find out what she wants here.” And she says, “Why don’t you sit down in here, I just made this soup for lunch. See if it’s flavored right. Here, sit down and have this soup.” And it clicked: she fed him because Sister at school didn’t think he’d had breakfast. And those are the things that I remember, as to some people had it worse. And especially, I was an only child, so I was well taken care of. But I was very aware of these other kids, what they had—or didn’t have, I should say.

DH: I’ll ask a question on a happier note. When you were growing up, in your childhood, what were some of the games you played for fun? Where were some of the things you did with the neighborhood kids?

LM: In the evening until the sun went down, we would play Run, My Good Sheep, Run, and Red Rover, Red Rover, let so-and-so come over, and you’d hold your arms so they couldn’t break through, and kick-the-can, and hide-and-seek, and all of those things. We lived on a corner.

Eddy was there, the Sivatkes, and the Bronstedders, and the Emericks. So we were all playing in this area. All of a sudden it would be just dark enough that everybody was called in, and it was fine. Everybody quit. Nobody moaning and groaning. Nobody standing there yelling at their kids. They all did what they were told.

On a rainy day or a snowy day, the Bronstedders had five children, and they were older, most of them were older than me. They had a big kitchen, and they made very, very good homemade fudge. So all of a sudden, we kids would go outside, and then we’d get together, and then we’d go into the Bronstedders, and Mrs. Bronstedder, we’d ask her, “Can we sit around your table and play Michigan rummy and make some fudge?” And she’d look at us and laugh. She was a great big Irish lady, you know, with the hair piled up here kind of coming down. But her house was immaculate, you know. So she would say okay, so she would write—like, I was maybe supposed to bring a cup of sugar, and somebody else was supposed to bring this, and everybody had to pitch in towards . . .

DH: . . . the fudge.

LM: . . . making the fudge. And so we made the fudge and sat around that big kitchen table all day and played all down and got out of our mothers’ hair. That’s the kind of a neighborhood it was. It just was . . .

DH: Kind of a neat memory, too.

LM: Oh, yes, the whole thing.

DH: As you grew up in the 1930s and you started to get into your teenage years, one of the things that I hear commonly is that people went to a lot of movies.

LM: Oh, yes, we went to a lot of movies. My mother and dad would go on Wednesday nights because it was, you got some kind of, I don’t know, a box of soap or sometimes it was dishes or something. My dad would take the car out—we always had a car—but we didn’t use it for anything except Wednesday nights, my mother and dad went to the movies, and on another night, one warm night, we went to this other end of town to my other grandparents’ for supper. That was about it. Then as I got a little bit older and things kind of eased off a little bit, my parents would go on Sundays to church chicken dinners, you know, out in the country. Then when I got old enough that I was running around by myself, you know, I didn’t go with those people.

My dad had taught me how to dance, and my mother played the piano. We danced. So then, jitterbugging came in. My dad says to me, “C’mon, Genny,” he says, “I’ll help you with the dishes. You play the piano. Lois is going to teach me how to jitterbug.” So that’s what we did that night.

DH: About how old were you then at this point?

LM: Oh, I was maybe sixteen.

Four miles out of town there was this kind of like a dance hall, and it had a bar in it, so there was a cop was there at the door. But the kids, the girls—see, because a lot of the guys had gone into the service—we’d get all together. Somebody would get their family car, and we would go out there to this dance, just to dance. We were good kids, you know.

So this one night, my mother and my dad and their best friends, Mary and George, on Saturday night they would go out for dinner. So my dad had said, “I’m going to drive out and see”—because it was just four miles out of town, this dance hall was—so my dad came prancing in. They didn’t even pay at the door to get in, because he knew the cop that was there. Mary and George and my mother just stood there. He said, “I’m just gonna dance with my daughter.” So he spotted me on the floor, came over, tapped me on the shoulder, said, “Cut in.” And he grabbed me, and he jitterbugged with me. I wanted to die. I was so embarrassed. But I danced. ’Cause I wouldn’t hurt my dad’s feelings. But then afterwards, away they went.

The kids thought my dad was just fantastic, you know. I came home just really . . .
DH: Happy with him . . .?

LM: Yes, that he came to check up on me and did this dancing with me. I thought that was really good.

DH: And when you were still in high school, did you ever go on dates with guys?

LM: Oh, yes. I was a cheerleader, and I had a very good time in high school. Like I say, I was just, you know, on the go.

One time I was leading a cheer, and, oh, we’d had rain, just terrible, the days before. So I put on a pair of overshoes—because that’s what we wore in those days. At the end of the cheer—you know, we had the big megaphones, you know, we didn’t have these hotsy-totsy things like they’ve got now—and I jumped, and you’re supposed to arch up your back. Well, when I came down, my boots hit the mud, and I went face first into this pile of mud. I wanted to die. It was— I mean, really, I was so embarrassed. And I sat up, and I looked up, and everybody’s looking at me from the bleachers. There were a lot of town people there, too, it wasn’t just kids. I just went like that, you know, started wiping my face off. And I got a standing ovation!

I had more fun at that dance that night because they always let the team that came to play stay for an hour or so afterwards for the dance. They lined up. They thought that was just great that I could do that.

DH: What sport was it that you were cheerleading for? Football?

LM: Football, basketball, anything, if it was inside, whatever. That’s what we did.

DH: So cheerleading was, I imagine, a big part of what you did back then?

LM: Oh, yes, because you had to try out and get in on that.

DH: What other activities did you do in the late ’30s?

LM: Oh, I had summer jobs.

DH: What were some of those jobs?

LM: The first one I that I ever had was at Christmastime, ’cause it was just before my sixteenth birthday. I got twenty-five cents an hour working at Woolworth’s. I learned that. Then one summer I worked at a shoe factory. My job was to pick up the ones that had flaws in them after going to the inspectors. And with the marks, I knew as to what floor to take them to, I had them on a thing to push around, you know.

One year I worked at a candy factory, and I got fired, because I was on a line where the candy was coming down with the boxes here. They had told me in the beginning when I, that when I started that that, that day—’cause I’d been there a couple weeks—“Put the candy in the wrapper.” Now get this: “Turn it over, and you twist it.” Okay, well, with me, I thought twisting it this way would work just as well, and it went easier. Anyhow, Mr. Chevy, who owned the place, and he was an old crab—even the women that had worked there for thirty years were scared to death of this man because he would sneak around and creep up on you, you know. He came over, and he said, “You’re doing that wrong,” and he’s telling me how to do it his way. I looked at him, and I said, “Well, what’s the difference?” And he said to me, “Get your coat, and go home,” he says, “you talk too much.” So that’s it, I lost my job because I questioned what he had to say.

DH: Which way you twisted the wrapper on the candy.

LM: Yes. I thought that was the most ridiculous thing that I had ever run into.
And the rest of the things. I got involved with the union at this defense plant that I worked with, because of my, I had my mouth open. We had a couple of guys that were 4F, older men, making these airplane things, you know, and they were going to . . . We had worked the whole month of July, and we had to work overtime, too. We were trying to get the union going. Everybody—in those days, you thought that men were smarter than women. And so we get this Charlie, and I can’t remember the other guy’s name, but I can picture him: “Oh, yeah, we’ll do the talking, we’ll get up at this union meeting and do this talking . . . ”

So, okay, we’re there, and the bosses are standing up there and saying this and that, and we’re, “In a little while we’ll get to this point, but not right now, and blah, blah, blah.”

DH: Do you mean the union bosses, or the bosses of the business?

LM: The bosses of the business. They were the ones there. And we were just getting this thing started.

So we were all looking down at Charlie and this other guy to get up: it’s time to say something! Here they were, really, just slinking down. Well I jumped up with my big mouth, and I knew what they were going to say, because we had . . .

DH: . . . already talked.

LM: Yes—so I spoke up! And then they said, Okay, they would be about two to three days, and they’d get back.

Lo and behold, the next morning they came, and they all came around my thing that I was working on. Just as nice to me, I mean, really, saying this, that, and the other thing, and—I got it done, whatever it was we were looking for!

And even when I went home that night and I’m telling my mother and my dad at the dinner table what I had done, my dad looks and me, and he says, “You’d better learn to keep your mouth shut. You’re gonna get into trouble.” And I said, “Well, no, right is . . .”

DH: Yes, right is right.

LM: Yes.

And that is where I saw my first black people, was in Milwaukee. You know, to this day, I’m so against discrimination, because people are people, regardless of what color you are. It’s what’s inside.

DH: Yes.

LM: I had one boyfriend that I almost married, down there. He was 4F—everybody ran down to, you know—but he had something wrong with his ear when he was a baby, and they wouldn’t take him. He had said to me, “Take the streetcar,” because I had to work shift work at different hours, and we’d take the streetcar after a movie, and he would then go back into Milwaukee. So we’d stand outside as the people were coming to work, and people would say, “Hi, Lois! Hi, Lois,” and some of them were black. I think Joe was very unhappy because he couldn’t get into the military, and people look at this big, healthy-looking person, and, you know. He said he didn’t like it, he thought I should quit there, because I had to rub shoulders with anybody. Then I got home, and it dawned on me what this “anybody” was, and then that kind of soured me on that.

Then, the runner-up to Joe was Phil. He had gotten in the service, and he was in New Guinea. When he left, he said, “Would you continue writing?” So I did. Besides that, I had made up my mind I wanted five or six children by the time I was thirty, because I thought thirty was old. But I never said that to anybody. Then I mentioned it to Joe, and Joe almost fell over. I thought he was gonna die. One, maybe two. Well, I wasn’t real happy with that. And then, like I said, when Phil left, I just wrote to him, and he kept saying, “If you change your mind about Joe, I’m waiting here.” That’s after I joined the service. So I thought that was it, I wasn’t going to marry anybody.

DH: I’m going to back you up a little bit.

LM: Okay.

DH: We talked about your work in the defense plant. On December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor took place, do you remember that day?

LM: I remember that night. My dad was sitting watching—not watching!—listening to the radio, here. I’m sitting at the dining room table doing my schoolwork, because it was a Sunday night. I just sat back, and I listened, because my dad said, “Genny!” She came running to listen. War had been declared. I just was numb. I was a senior in high school that year.

DH: So the first thing that you heard was President Roosevelt announcing the declaration of war, not the news bulletin that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

LM: Oh, no. It was that we were involved in war.

DH: And what were you thinking when you heard that?

LM: I didn’t . . . I just was stunned. It’s almost like, “What’s going to happen?” I think possibly I might have even thought, “Could it get up to my little hometown? Was this going to happen, was it going to be brought here?”

Then the next day, going to school, I can remember, that’s all they talked about. We went to classes, but we just talked about this. The different teachers had different ideas. Everybody was stunned, and so many of the young men didn’t even show up for school that day because they were down enlisting. Then they had people that were drafted.

DH: And before December 7th, were there a lot of people talking about that they thought we were going to go to war? Did you believe the President that we weren’t?

LM: No. I can’t remember any . . . It came . . . If it was in the paper . . . and yet—I’ve read papers since—I could read before I went to school; my mother saw to that. And they were avid newspaper readers. I would sit there and listen to them discuss this, that, and the other thing. I can’t remember anything, except my mother cried when she gave my dad a hug that night and said she was glad that he was his age and that he didn’t have to go. I remember that.

DH: So it was definitely an absolute shock to you when you found out.

LM: Yes, I thought it couldn’t happen here, it was something that you read about, in a book.

DH: I imagine everything began to change a little bit after that.

LM: Oh, yes. That’s when Mr. Statz—you know, because you couldn’t . . . things were different in terms of commerce. He said he was old enough: he was going to close his store. So my dad was out of work.

The only thing . . . You had your CC camps in those days.

DH: Did you have quite a few friends who were in it?

LM: A lot of families that I knew, there was somebody that was in it. If I’ve got this right, now, that I remember, they got about $30 a month. They were allowed to keep $5 and had to send the other $25 home. They worked and did this to help support their families. But I didn’t have anybody that was in there.

I had a cousin who was killed during World War II. A freak thing. He joined right away after he graduated from high school.

He was down in Florida training to be a pilot. He was working at the hangar one day. One of the instructors had to make some kind of a run, and then he was gonna come back again. He saw Junior—his nickname was Junior—he saw him there and he said, “You want a ride? I’m just going to go over there. You could come with me.” Oh, he was on cloud nine, because he hadn’t gotten into real training yet, so he jumped into the plane with this guy, it was just a little two-seater. They went over to the next state for whatever it was and picked it up or dropped off, and on the way back, the plane crashed into a swamp. I don’t know what caused this, I can’t recall what happened to the plane. The pilot was killed and my cousin died a week later. He was only eighteen.

DH: So that was kind of a tragedy that struck your family personally.

LM: Yes, a tragedy that we had to go through.

DH: Were quite a few of your friends being sent over to war?

LM: Oh, yes. It was just a couple of weeks after this one boy had left and was overseas—his dad was a butcher in some shop; he was the first one killed. They wrote that down. We had an assembly on that. Sort of a memorial service, you might say. Everybody was kind of uptight after that, because you didn’t know what was going to happen.

Then we ended up down in Milwaukee, and I joined the Navy. I came home, and I needed my dad’s signature. My Aunt Grace was down to our apartment. My dad walked in, and he’s looking at us. My mother and my aunt were just, you know, well, what’s gonna happen here, is he going to sign the papers, or what is he going to do? He’s standing in front of the couch. And he says, “What’s going on?” My mother says, “You’ve got to do something for Lois.” And he said, “What?” And I came, and I brought him the paper. I said, “I need your signature. I joined the Navy.” Down he went on the couch. And he just stared at me. Dead silence, I still remember that. Then he said, “Well, you’ve been a pretty good girl. It’s up to you. You made the decision.” He said, “You’d better give me that paper fast before I change my mind.” And that’s how I got in.

DH: And what made you want to join the WAVES? How did you hear about it? Did they recruit you?

LM: No, I had no clue, really. But I had read about how they had started these women’s things, and I thought, “That would be interesting.” I had none of these glamour dreams as to what I wanted to be at that time, outside of that, when I did get married, that I wanted a lot of kids. It was just, more or less, I wanted to see things, I wanted to learn things. I’ve been a traveler ever since. I’ve been all over the world.

DH: So this was your first real shot on seeing the world?

LM: Yes, just going someplace. I was still in Wisconsin. I hadn’t even been out of the perimeter of Wisconsin.

DH: And then you joined the WAVES.

LM: And then I joined the WAVES. And that was a crazy thing, too.

DH: So, you got your dad to sign the paperwork, and then what happened after that?

LM: Then we had a big meeting. This is another thing. With the women that joined the WAVES, there was so much yackety-yacking about “women just use it because they’re chasing men.” And “you turn into a streetwalker.” All of these things that they were saying. They had this big meeting, and they had speakers from the different military groups up there talking. And I went with my mother and dad to listen to that, too. And it said, “If you’ve raised your daughter right, she is not going to be that way. She is going to be protected. She is going to go to classes.” And all of this.

DH: So there was definitely fear from some parents.

LM: Oh, yes, that their daughter was going to be . . . turn into . . .

DH: Hanging out with the sailors.

LM: Yes. Then once I got in, it was like they really jumped on the bandwagon. They just couldn’t believe that. But on the way—when I joined, like I say, I joined by myself—got down to Chicago, and I’m sitting there to get on this next train that took me to New York.

DH: So your training was in New York?

LM: Yes, at the Hunter College. They took over the whole campus and apartments around it to put us in.

A couple of years before this . . . Now, I’m not a singer. I can sing, but the thing is, if someone is standing next to me and singing first soprano, and I’m singing second soprano, I go high! I sang in a triple trio at church. Mrs. Fanuken had drilled this one song into us. We sang it at luncheons and different things, but that was all.

So, anyhow, I get on this train, and there are three girls from Green Bay, Wisconsin, on there. In those days, you could take the train seat and move it so you could be face-to-face. So I sat with those three girls, and they said, “We’re going to sing all the way to New York,” which is a two-day thing, “because they’ve got a Singing Platoon.” I said I didn’t know what they were talking about. Oh, yes, they sang and everything, at school and at church and everything, and they were going to try out, because you get to do this, and you get to do that, and sing on the radio, and march in the parades.

DH: As a WAVE.

LM: Oh, yes. So all the way, they made me practice with them.

So we get there, and they had this big armory. And, oh, so many people were coming from all directions. I mean, that place was packed. But the music thing, if you were going to go for that, you had to sit over there. So this man that was the instructor for the music, he’d come to the door. Four people at a time. Pull them in there. What he did—I was the last one of our four—he had them sing ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. And he’s listening. Then he picks up this Golden Songbook, opens it up, points to a song—you know, it could be anything—and says, “Sing this,” one at a time, you know. And then he made a few notes, and then they left.

Well, here I am, the last thing. When I was supposed to the do the ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah thing, he got a knock on the door, and he had to go and answer the door, and he forgot to ask me. And then he opens this Golden Book, and he said, “Sing that.” And wouldn’t you know it, it was “When Day Is Done and Shadows Fall,” and I knew that second soprano thing, and I belted it out! I got in, the other three didn’t.
Then I had to start making friends all over again.

So that’s what . . .When I called home and told them that I got in the Singing Platoon, everyone, my relatives, said, “She can’t sing!” Anyhow, that was a fun thing.

DH: It’s a great story. What did that mean, the Singing Platoon?

LM: Well, we got to go to things, like I say, we sang on the radio. My mother and my Aunt Grace were listening to this thing when I called and told them “I’m going to be with that group.”

DH: And you got to travel around the country, I imagine?

LM: No, it was in different areas—bond drives. We would get up there on the stage and sing before and after bond drives. Stuff like that. Besides that, you had to go to all these different classes. Tests, oh, we were tested, to see what we could do. Well, I had read the newspaper before I joined this, and one thing they did say in there at one time that I read, that the worst town for crime was Washington, D.C. Well, I also read everything that there was on these papers that I signed when I joined the service, which said you have one choice; if you don’t like where they want to send you, you have once choice to deny that one and have them given you a second chance.

So I took the test, I did real well on my test, and they wanted to send me to Washington, D.C., to Communications Specialist School. And I said, “No, I won’t go.” And that officer, she just about jumped across the table at me. And I said, “I don’t have to.” She said, “I could have you washing dishes.” I said, “I don’t care, as long as it’s anyplace but Washington, D.C.” She was really mad. She didn’t say where I was going to go. We just went about our business with the rest of the training, being fitted for uniforms, and all this sort of stuff. And after this training was over, let’s see, I would say we were there, maybe, two months, ten weeks, something like that, and then you were supposed to be shipped out. Well, guess what? Everybody got shipped out except me.

I was put on shore patrol duty on the campus. Sometimes I was at the gate, letting people in, looking at their papers. Sometimes I was at an intersection of the streets where the supply trucks would come in real early in the morning, and I had to check their things.

Three months later, I got my orders. I was to travel alone, not with a group, alone, to Ottumwa, Iowa, which was a naval air station there. I would get into Ottumwa at 10:30 at night, but somebody would be there to pick me up. If you don’t think that this kid was scared, I was. I was very nervous about that. And I got there, and there was nobody walking around looking for me, but I gave it enough time.
DH: You went by train, I imagine?

LM: Oh, yes. Then this guy came up, and he asked if I was Lois Hansen. I said yes. And he said, “I came to give you your ride to Ottumwa.” It was just on the outskirts of town, three or four miles down the road. He brought me in and, like I say, it was after 10:00 at night. He said, “Are you hungry?” I said yes, because I didn’t eat very much on the way. He took me to the chow hall that was open 24 hours a day. They fed me, and I got in the barracks, and that was it.

Then, the next day, I was told I was to show up at one of the hangars. I was going to be trained as an aviation machinist specialist. I said, “That’s fine.” And I always liked to have my nails good.

So here are these training planes where these cadets might have nosed over and did this. They have these regular check-ups: so many miles—30 miles, you check the tires; 120 miles, you change the tires. You had to crawl up between the wings, there was something that you had to drain out of there, I can’t even recall what it was.

DH: So you did all of this.

LM: Yes, I was taught all of this.

DH: So not you only did you work in a defense plant where you actually helped build the superchargers, you also worked in mechanical aviation.

LM: Yes, and here they introduced me to the crew I was going to work with, they were four or five guys. And they were standing there kind of grinning at me. And this one was gonna be in charge, tell me what to do. And they all looked at me. They said, “Now, you have to take this tire here, get that off, and get this big nut here, and then you gotta wash it off with gasoline.” Then they opened up this other can of stuff, GOOP, and he took his hand, and he showed me how you grease up this thing. My mother had always said, “Whatever you go through, if you smile it’s a lot easier.” And I’m smiling, and I’m greasing up this thing, and I’m just hating every minute of it, putting that on. I tried washing my hands. It took me a couple of weeks to get that grease out from under there. But I got it out. But the thing is, I never once, after that, had to do that job. They were jumping right there to, “I’ll do that for you.” But, see, if I would’ve thrown a fit, they would’ve kept on hounding me. I made friends.

DH: Were you one of the few WAVES at that base?

LM: I would say maybe there were, like, two hundred.

DH: How many personnel were at that base, do you think, total?

LM: There were an awful lot of them.

DH: A couple thousand?

LM: I’m just trying to think how many classes that they had for these cadets. One bunch would get up here. You’d bring in some more. During the night, that’s when they’d take them. They wouldn’t let them know where they were going or what. You’d wake up the next morning, and so-and-so’s gone. It was a big base.

DH: Part of the reason that I’ve read of why the WAVES got introduced was because they needed your help. Did you feel like you were an integral part of the system?

LM: Oh, believe me, I did. I really felt so pleased with myself that I was doing something beneficial.

It was quite the time. The hardest things that I had to do was get used to, in the barracks, you know, bunk beds. I got a lower bunk—no place to hide behind to dress. And I wasn’t used to brothers and sisters running around, and I can see the difference between—they understand that. Then they had the gang showers. They had one shower, a single shower, if you had athlete’s foot.

And the rest were . . . You walk in, and you got all of these things coming out of the wall, and you’ve gotta take a shower, with no clothes on. And even if it’s just women, you know, in those days, you were uncomfortable. And so I started—
DH: And I suppose it was only women, right?

LM: Oh, yes, it was just women! I would wait, and I would kind of figure out when everybody else was taking their shower. I would stay at the last—they’d be down listening to the radio, something on the radio in the lounge, and I’d run like crazy, you know, and I wouldn’t watch, wouldn’t listen to anything. I was in there trying to get my shower before anybody else come walking in. Or if I’m dressing, you know, everybody’s walking down the middle of the aisle and talking to you . . . That was a hard thing for me to get used to.

DH: So did you live with other WAVES then?

LM: Yes.

DH: So it was kind of a WAVES barracks?

LM: Yes, it was a WAVES barracks.

DH: So tell me a little bit about living with the WAVES. I imagine a lot of you felt proud as a group.

LM: Yes, but there were a lot of people—some people just did not like certain people. There were a lot of women that had joined the service that were in their late 30s-early 40s, and several of them were, you know, good education, schoolteachers. They got tired of dealing with kids, they wanted to do something, you know, real. I can understand that, but those older women, they seemed to think that they were boss, and, if you were younger, you know, “You’ve gotta do this, you’ve gotta do that.”

DH: So there was kind of a divide between the older women and the younger?

LM: Yes. Now, this is a thing that really hit me: We had—like I said, I worked with a lot of black people—we didn’t have as many black women, we had a few, but not a lot, but we had a lot of black men. So, anyhow, it was in the wintertime, and the weather had been so bad that they couldn’t have their planes out, so nothing went wrong with the planes, so there was no work for us to do.

But, here’s your hangar, and then you go up a flight of stairs, and there’s a walkway around, so you could look down and see what’s going on down there. There was a beautiful lounge there for us. So for three days, we played games, they had snacks for us from the kitchen, they had coffee pots going. Very comfortable furniture. And I thought this was great.

So for some reason I went downstairs, and I’m walking along, you know, and I bump into this black guy that I work with. I said, “Hey, where you been? You should come up there,” I said. “Boy, it’s really nice up there!” And he looked at me, and he grabbed me by the arm, and he says, “Come here.” We walked down, and there was a room, when you changed the tires on the airplanes, and had to take them off, you went there and tossed them into this room. And here’s this whole room, half full of used tires, and there’s about ten black guys sitting there, on top of these tires, they couldn’t . . . Then he explained to me, that they were not allowed up there. And that was a real jolt for me.

And then, I get up there, and I made some remark, and there was one of these schoolteachers . . .

DH: And this was in Iowa?

LM: This was in Iowa.

DH: This wasn’t in Alabama.

LM: No, it’s in Iowa, but that was . . . at that time. People had to get up from their seats in the buses, if you were black, you had to stand up and let the whites sit down, you know. That’s not right.

DH: And you remember that.

LM: Oh, I knew. And then those things really made a . . . I used to preach to my kids, “You can’t do that. It’s not color, or lack of education, or anything. It’s what a person is inside—those are the things.”

But then this one teacher, a gal that joined the service, when I went upstairs, and I said, “How come they’re doing that?” She said, “I won’t even talk to those things.” She said, “I don’t have to.” She said, “If they talk to me,” she says, “I can report ’em.”

So I made it my point—see, they ’cause were in the barracks, and you could walk toward the barracks at night when you’d get off work. I’d deliberately find a couple of black guys and walk to my barracks with them and talk and laugh and just let people see that . . .

DH: That’s okay.

LM: Yes. No those . . . things like that, I mean, it’s an eye-opener. And that’s why so I’m glad that I did this. Because in my little town, you’re not prepared for all of this sort of stuff.

Then, like I said, we got a new band on the base. And that’s how I met my husband.

DH: So he was in the band?

LM: Yes. He had joined, his teacher got him . . . He wanted to get a musical education, but he couldn’t afford to go to a college.

DH: So you didn’t stay with Phil?

LM: No, I didn’t stay with Phil, and I didn’t stay with Joe.

Well, see, with Phil, then, he kept after me in those letters. And I thought, “Well, I scared Joe with that,” so I wrote to Phil, and I told him. But Phil wrote back just before the band came, and he said, “We’ll discuss that when I come out.” And I thought, “Oh, sure, I know what you’re gonna say,” so I was really kind of down in the dumps.

Anyhow, I went to a party, and we met the new band. And Mac was right after me, you know, and—nope. But the thing is, I avoided him. But my girlfriends all said, “He’s so nice. He doesn’t drink. He’s polite. He’s clean”—because some of those guys would they’d, “Oh, I can wear this again another time”! But not Mac, he was Mr. Clean. So, but I avoided him.

But this one day, I was coming out of the PX, and he was coming out of an office, and so he walked with me to my barracks. And this was about 4:00 in the afternoon. And he starts in again, you know, “I think we’d make a great pair.”

DH: So he was pretty aggressive about it.

LM: Oh, yes, he wasn’t shy. And I thought, “Well, I’ll throw this at him. It scared those other guys,” so I told him that. And you know what he did? He put his packages down, grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me around and he looked me right in the eye, and he said, “You can have as many kids as you want, and I’ll work my ass off to support them.”

DH: (Laughter.)

LM: But that’s what he said.

DH: Yes.

LM: And we were married two months later.

DH: Wow.

LM: And my parents, they said, “Are you sure? You don’t know this man.” I said, “No,” I said, “everybody on the base that knows him . . .” And that’s just the way it was. And, like I said, when I got to be thirty, I did have my six children. And then I thought, “Well, that’s not so old, I’ll have two more by the time I’m thirty-five.” So I did. Then I thought I was all through, and then seven-and-a-half years later, I had a bonus. But that was it. And we raised a great family.

And he died at the age of 54. He had had a bad heart attack first. And his personality changed, he just—he was like a different person. Then one day I told him, I said, “I can’t live with you, but,” I said, “I’ll always be your best friend.” Here was a man that would go to a convention, you know, and you’ve got some people there, they get a few drinks . . . and then there were a lot of women in the office, you know, that had never married or anything, old, you know, and they’d tell him the dirtiest jokes and things, and my husband would get so upset at that, and then all of a sudden he starts in the same thing. And then, like I say, shortly after that, then, he got cancer and died.

DH: Yes . . .

Now I’ll bring you back again to your WAVES days. As a WAVE, were there any fun stories you want to say? Anything that you remember that was part of your duties, or was there something you guys did for recreation that was kind of fun, as a group?

LM: No, more or less the same things, the dances, you know, that you would do any other places.

DH: They wouldn’t send you somewhere else as a group for recreation as a WAVE?

LM: Oh, no. No.

DH: Did you ever get furloughs and go home to see the family during this time? I imagine the family was wanting . . .

LM: There was just one time—one time that I got to go back to Milwaukee. But that was the only time. You had so many days that you were allowed.

I just . . . One of the things that I . . . I had a lot of friends on that base, you know. This one little cadet—he wasn’t so little, it was just that, he and I clicked, because he had no brothers and sisters, and neither did I. He was from South Dakota, North Dakota, someplace like that. He was kind of a shy guy. We talked. I never went out with him, but we talked. Also, when these kids, in their training, there’d be times when they’d have to learn to fly in formation, and then you needed passengers. So I got a call one day, somebody called and said, “Hey, we need one more passenger here. We’re going to fly into Iowa City,” which is only about 100 miles, but I mean, you know, “and we’ll be there about an hour, and then we’ll turn around and come back. Would you like to go?” I had never been in a plane.
I had been in my training, one of the things I had to do was to help with the planes that were fixed. I sat with my feet on the brakes, and the pole pulled back, and then I watched to see that the dials and everything, you know, registered what they were supposed to register. And then I would push the throttle ahead, as to, okay, I’d get the signal from outside to push it ahead so it was going full blast, you know. And one time they hadn’t put the props under the back wheel, and so when I pushed it full speed ahead for the engine, the prop wash went back, and it was in March, and there was ice, you know, and that think went swirling around!—and I thought I was going to be taking off! And they all came running and stopped the plane. And I said to the chief, you know, I said, “I’m going home!” I was really scared. He said, “You’re going to be fine.”

DH: [Laughter.]

LM: But I did that. But anyhow, this other thing, I got called to see if I wanted to ride in this plane up to Iowa City. And this was in March, too: wind. Oh, I was all excited; I was going to ride in a plane. So I get in the plane, and I was with the teacher, and so he handed me a map as to where we were going, so I could see it. It was just one of these planes where you would just pull the plastic over you, or fiberglass, or whatever you call it. But what I had to wear to work was a chambray shirt and jeans. But on your hair you had to put a little cap, it wasn’t with a brim, or anything, but I had that. So I got decked out in the flight gear, ’cause it’s cold up there, and strapped everything under my chin, and the goggles. And one thing, too, you’re not supposed to throw anything out of the plane, that’s a law, you know. Anyhow, we get up there, and they put the recall flags up when we were out of sight, and that was the only way they could try to contact us and tell us that we should turn around, ’cause it’s too windy. So that little plane got bounced all over. And I got so-o-o-o sick.

The rule was, too, you get sick, you clean up your flight gear, you clean up the plane and everything. And I—first, I took my hat off, from under my helmet, you know, that little cap, and I opened up—I’m telling you, I really had a time! And then all the while we were at Iowa City, I was on the floor in the bathroom, until it was time to go back again. And boy, was I washed out. And the guy, the pilot said, “Are you all right?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Maybe you should go back to the barracks.” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “I’ve got paperwork to do.” And away he went.

So here I’m sitting in this plane thinking, “I’m going to die, ’cause I can’t get out of here, and I’ve got to clean this up. How am I going to manage that?” And all of a sudden I heard somebody say, “Lois?” And I look, and here’s this Bud Swanson. And he says, “Tough ride?” And I said, “Yep.” And he says, “Stay right there.” He went and got ahold of my chief and told him to send a jeep, ’cause he could see that I was—and he told him that I was sick—and he says, take me back, to the barracks, not to work. And so he helped me out. And I said, “I’ve gotta wash this.” And he said, “No, you get in the jeep,” he says, “I’ll take care of everything.” And he did, he cleaned up the whole works for me. So I thought that was pretty nice.
DH: Yes.

LM: It wasn’t everybody that would’ve done that.

DH: Not at all. And what ever happened to Bud Swanson?

LM: Well, about two nights later, they—during the night—they took him out. They don’t give you a chance to say good-bye, because they know that you make friends—and I never heard from him again.

DH: So he was shipped out?

LM: Yes, he was shipped out for, this was, regular duty, I don’t know what country or where he had to go.

DH: And what was his full name? Something Swanson? Bud Swanson?

LM: I couldn’t tell you what his first name was, but it was “Bud” because he had the same name as his dad. And his dad had a big turkey ranch in one of the Dakotas. That I knew. But, you know, every once in awhile when I buy one of these Swanson dinners, I kinda—you know, that’s where they come from—and I keep thinking, “I wonder if that could be Bud Swanson?” So I have no clue. But anyhow, that’s what happened. So like I say, I was very fortunate.
DH: It’s a good story, though. I’m sorry you had to go through all that.
LM: But, no; like I say, things happen. But it’s all a learning experience as to people. I’m a people person. I can sit there and watch people. Sit in an airport and watch people.
DH: Are there any other stories from your WAVE experience that you want to have for the record?
LM: No, the only thing, like I say, I was just very, very . . . proud of the fact that I went in.
DH: And it sounds like your parents were proud of you as well?
LM: Oh, yes, and my friends, when I went back to class reunions.
DH: So you never regretted your service in the WAVES ever?
LM: Oh, no, I was . . . there was one other girl in our class, there were 155 in my graduation, and she was in a different area, but she was in the WAVES. I don’t know if anybody else . . .
DH: Did you keep your uniform?
LH: I did up until I moved here. When I sold the house, I thought, “I’ve been carrying that around.” But I’ll show you this picture.
Here, that’s my wedding picture.
DH: May I take a photo of this before I leave?
LM: Oh, sure.
DH: . . . because this is a great photo.
One question I have . . . I was doing a little research on the WAVES before I came over. When the WAVES started, it was illegal to marry someone that you met while you were in the service. Were you aware of that change?
LM: No, I was not ever aware of that.
DH: Yes, but due to so many people meeting each other.
LM: Oh, and having to be separated . . .
DM: And so, do you remember the separation?
LM: Well, see, with us, he was going to get out in six months, because he had signed . . .When he joined, you know, he signed for six years, so he’d get into this school of music, in Washington. Like, he was 1st Class. He’d made it to Chief a couple of times, but he argued with somebody, and they’d got him cut.
[Apparently gesturing to a document:]
And then right after that—see, that shows that I was 1st Class—I mean, Seaman 1st Class; but I got my certificate saying that I had qualified for Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class. And that way, I was—’cause this just made me a seaman, I was still learning.
DH: This is a great photo. Do you have any other photos of you when you were a WAVE?
LM: My kids have more or less taken—you know, with so many kids, you know, that they take this and take that, “Can I have this, can I have that?” And I figure it’s good that they want that.
DH: Very much.
LM: But anyhow, like I say, that’s how things were, and we did, we worked really good together having, with our family. I mean, he helped in the house, and things if—we really did, we got along. The first 25 years were just fantastic. That picture on the wall there is our 25th anniversary picture.
DH: I’ve got one last question in regard to the WAVES. This was kind of a new thing at the time.
LM: Oh, yes.
DH: The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of people who helped move civil rights forward for African Americans. But also, the WAVES were seen as a group of people who really helped empower women as well. Did you feel a part of that movement?
LM: Oh, yes, oh, yes. I let everybody know that I had been in the WAVES!
I can remember walking down 5th Avenue in New York. And I was . . . You know, when you’re in a marching group, the right-hand row is the—you’ve got to have a good, somebody that can keep the right distance, so the rest of them can look down and see, “Okay, I’ve got out too far.” And I was one of those there; so that when we got in front of the bandstands—or when the Presidents were around, or the big cheese—and “Eyes right!” and we all could look, and I could see real good as to what it was, I didn’t—you know, somebody down on that end . . . but I remember all those days.
Sometimes, you know, I think, well . . . Like when you’re telling the kids about it, you know . . .
But my kids have been in the military. My one daughter was in the Air Force, my youngest daughter, for, what was it, eight years. She was going to make a career of it, but then she developed a tumor on the pituitary gland. So she’s mustered out, but before she got mustered out, she ended up marrying her boss, he was a major. He’s an attorney. They live out in California. But she’s got a lot of health problems.
But outside of that, like I say, it’s a . . . Mike and Pat, my two oldest boys, they were in the National Guard, and they went down for six months’ training, and then they were on call, you might say.
And then Jim was, he graduated from high school just when Vietnam was going full blast, and he enlisted in that, got blown up. He didn’t die, but he had two Purple Hearts for shots in the legs, and he was back on duty again.
He was in a special unit that was . . . They took care of themselves. The planes would come by and drop mail, drop food, but they were protecting these poor neighborhoods, you know, people, and sometimes they had to eat with them. But Jim was watching the plane and stepped in a mine. And that’s when I got the Marines coming in dress uniform, and, you know, that, oh, God, I thought I was going to die that day.
But after he recovered and everything, then he came back. But he’d have good, you know, months, and then all of a sudden, he’d start getting the nightmares again. And that, you know, then . . . it was back, you know, to the VA, and talk to this, and get this done. And then the shrapnel that he had throughout his back and everything would move towards the spine, and the closer it would get to the spine, he’d be in more pain, and he’s had more surgeries and stuff. But a couple of years—let’s see, Jim is fifty-nine, and it was about four or five years ago that the VA decided that he couldn’t work anymore, that they would be completely responsible for him.
And as it turned out, he tried to tell the boss that he had at that time. They had changed owners, and Jim had been asked to speak at the owner’s retirement party, and he did. He got up there and talked without even notes or anything, and he had them laughing one minute and crying the next minute, you know. And so Weyerhauser [the company that bought them out] then came and said, “We want you. I don’t know why you’re manager of this outfit. You’re a salesman. You’ve got the personality.” And Jim kept trying to tell them, “No, no, I do not.” “Well, if you don’t take this job, you’re out a job.”
So Jim took the job. And they told him that they would insure him, which they did. So, like I say, he lucked out that when he couldn’t . . . when the VA says he could not work anymore, that policy paid off, and he’s set for life, you might say. But the thing is, that he’s got to be so careful. Like he says, you know, you go to pick something up, you think you can handle it, but you’ve to make sure: Okay, is it going to hurt my back this way, or is it going to hurt my back that way? He’s in a lot of pain.
So, but otherwise, like I say, with the military, yes. The kids were in that, and so they know what’s going on. Mike and Pat were trained as medics for what they did, and they had to sign on for six years. But their dad and I talked the military up sky high. And because my daughter was stationed over in Spain . . .
DH: So your daughter had followed your heritage a little bit?
LM: Oh, yes. And then with my second husband, you know, we flew over to Spain. She had her own car, so she had thirty days’ leave, and we were there for three weeks, and I read the books— when my kids go someplace.
And my youngest son, he was in the military for six years. He got his degree in business. (He’s a flight attendant.) He got out, and he had his application in all over. But then somebody says, “Well, if you want a part-time job, they’re hiring flight attendants at Northwest.” He wasn’t going to do that part-time, but he fell in love with that job. His one brother said, “Well, you’re not using your degree.” And he said, “Yes, but they can never it away from me.” He’s a purser now. He flies mostly international flights. So he makes good money.
And so that’s . . . the kids have been great.
So like I say, when P.D. [Paul David] was stationed in Turkey, I went over and backpacked—I was sixty-four years old, and backpacked across Turkey for two weeks with my son.
DH: Wow.
LM: And then I went back a year-and-a half later, because he got taken out of Adana and moved over to Izmir. He sent me some more books, he says, “You want to do this again?” So I went back and backpacked again.
My oldest son—I didn’t do any backpacking, we went on cruises, in the Baltic area. I flew alone over to London and met Mike and his wife. Then we took a train and then had to get on a ship in Amsterdam. Then we did this Baltic area, all around Sweden, Norway, and Russia. I got into Russia. We had our own driver and our own guide.
DH: You’ve seen the world pretty good now.
LM: Oh, yes. I’ve been to Hawaii three times, that, those are nothing when you can go to these other places. I’ve been to Alaska on a cruise. My last trip, my oldest son had said . . .
There were two things that I hadn’t done yet, that I had wanted, on my list. Because when I went over to Spain with Kathy, I got into France, I got into Greece, you know, all of these different places, and I talk. You know I talk!
DH: [Laughter.]
LM: But all of these people, you know, you learn from them.
DH: And so where were the two places that you hadn’t been yet that you wanted to go?
LM: I wanted to go on a safari. That’s the only one that I didn’t get on. And the other one was Egypt: I wanted to go down the Nile.
My son called, and he said, “Well,” he says, “I’ve got it all figured out.” He said, “We’re going to leave on such-and-such. We’re going to Egypt.” And I said, “Okay.” My daughter that lives here in Duluth, she’s listening to me tell her about this, and she said, “How much does that cost?” And I gave her a ballpark figure. I said, “Why, you want to come along?” She says “Yes.” I says, “You got the money?” She says, “Yes.” And I said, “Okay.” So Jean went with us. We did two weeks going along the Nile and on side trips. We had our own driver and English-speaking guide, explaining things. And when you get to know people, and they know you’re interested in their country, they will take you and show you so many things that aren’t even on the list. And I have friends that thought that, “You’re spending your money for stuff like that? You could help this kid or that kid.” I said, “They’re all workers, they all handle their money good. This is my time.”
And then what I did one year, the first time I was over in Turkey, I . . . the kids told me, “Okay, have your picture taken on a camel!” So, okay, here we are out on something that we had to hire a taxi to take us to it. It was these buildings that were halfway torn down, you know, I mean, it was really a gorgeous place. We’re having our sandwich that we brought with us. It was lunchtime. And here comes this guy on a camel, gets off the camel, and he’s sitting under a tree having his sandwich. And P.D. says, “I bet you if you offered that guy some money, he’d let me take a picture of you on that camel.” So over we went. And, oh, yes! I got on that camel, and P.D. took my picture. And then when I got home, I ordered calendars, the kind that you hang on the wall, with that picture of me on the camel. And that was their stocking stuffer for Christmas, everybody got one of those calendars with the mosque.
DH: It definitely sounds as if you’ve seen the world and you’ve had a pretty adventurous life, even before you were in the WAVES.
LM: Oh, yes. Everything just kind of fell into place for me. I just feel very good, you know.
And raising kids—I mean, I had no clue. I was never allowed to babysit or anything, because my mother or dad thought that was too much responsibility for a child. But I had no clue. And when I used to tell my cousins that I was going to have a lot of kids, everybody was laughing behind my back: “Ha, ha, ha! She has one, and that’ll be the end of that!” But no, I kept on going.
DH: Yes, you did!
LM: It’s sense of accomplishment. You know, you make up your mind to do something . . .
DH: . . . and it’s done.
LM: And it’s done.
DH: Or you keep on trying.
LM: So that’s, like I say . . . It wasn’t one of those times . . .
I remember back home during the Depression, there was a company called Heinemann’s Lumber Company. They had them all over the United States. And, boy, their house was real fancy. They had a swimming pool—just for the summer—and they had tennis courts on their property, you know. They were really up there.
Boom, all of a sudden, the house is empty. They had to move someplace else where they consolidated with some of their other relatives, you know, because of that. And it wasn’t until, oh, a long time after that that the family came back. They never rented that house out. They had a caretaker come and make sure that the grass was cut and things, but that was all. But they couldn’t afford to live there anymore.
DH: Because of the Depression.
LM: Yes. And so many of their companies, you know, went down.
It’s just like last March, the few dollars that I’ve got stuck away, you know. I get my report, and—oh, my God! But I’ve got a good financial person, you know, and it’s starting to come around again, but, you know, not that I’ve got a lot. It’s just the idea that this is mine, you know.
DH: And it’s kind of scary when you think that it’s not just yours that went down, it’s the whole thing, but that’s a whole other conversation.
Well, I want to thank you for your service during the WAVES. I think that’s very impressive and pretty amazing. Thank you for telling me your story today.
LM: Like I say, I would never forget my life. Like when I tell my kids and everybody else that if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t want to change places with anybody, because it was . . . Not that you didn’t have sad times. Like when my mother died and was sick. But most of the time—you know, I mean, you have to have bumps.
DH: Yes.
LM: And like, when I left my husband because I couldn’t live with him anymore, but I said, “I’ll be you’re best friend,” and I was. But the thing is, those were bumps. But you have to have bumps to appreciate the good times.
DH: I agree.
LM: Like my oldest son, his wife, his first wife, she was a honey. On their first anniversary—she had gone to the doctor for a check-up for something—and on their first anniversary they were getting ready to go out for dinner. And the doctor called, and he said, “Could you stop at my office? I want to talk to you.” She had Hodgkin’s disease. She lived eight years, and on and off with the chemo and stuff like that. She was a saint, never complained, was so beautiful. And when Mike called to tell me that Chrissy had died, she was twenty-eight years old . . . But those things happen. Everybody gets bumps.
One of my sons called and he was telling me that his wife was stepping out at night, saying she’s going out with the girls, and leaving her wedding rings home. He said, “What am I going to do?” and he fell all apart. I said, “Get a lawyer,” you know? I mean, there’s a right way, there’s a wrong way. There’s things you can forgive, there’s things you can’t forgive.
And, you know, it worked out.
When you stop and think how life is, and even with your own life: I’ll bet you, you know, you go along, and then something happens. And then down the road, you get back on your feet, and then something really good happens. And you think, “Well, now, if this wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t be in this position that I am now to have the good stuff come.”
DH: Very true. Makes sense to me.
Well, thank you so much again.

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