The World War II Years:
An Oral History Interview with Harold R. Jones
Four dots (….) indicate an incomplete or fragmentary utterance. Three dots (…) indicate an interrupted utterance or the speaker’s self-correction. Square brackets ([ ]) enclose questionable portions of the transcript or transcriber-added material. Comments by the interviewer and by Lela Jones are abridged.
Interviewer: Today is March the 29th, 2006. Mr. Jones, we’re here in your living room, and I appreciate you takin’ the time to do this today. We’re just gonna have a little chat, and you’re going to tell me what happened to you about sixty years ago. Before we go into your war experiences or your service time, if you’d tell me just a little bit about yourself? You said that you were a twin. Where were you and your twin born?
Harold R. Jones: We were born in Oxford, Kansas, June the fourteenth, 1926.
Interviewer: Flag Day babies.
Harold R. Jones: Flag Day, that’s right.
I: Is that your only sibling?
HRJ: No, we had three older brothers and an older sister.
I: What did your father do?
HRJ: My father painted and hung paper.
I: Oh, he was a paper hanger.
HRJ: Right. A good one, too. An excellent one.
I: In those days, when they had to put glue on all the back of it, that was quite a job.
HRJ: Yeah. And I would…. I did plenty of that. I used to paste the paper for him.
I: Did you ever get stuck in any of the paper?
HRJ: Oh, no. No.
I: You said you grew up in Oxford, Kansas?
HRJ: Oxford, Kansas.
I: Tell me again where that is.
HRJ: Well, it’s halfway between Winfield and Wellington on highway 160, and about 38 miles south of Wichita.
I: Had your family been there for a while?
HRJ: Oh, yes. A long time.
I: Had they homesteaded out that way?
HRJ: Well, they lived in a small…. It was a small town. My father painted and hung paper.
I: You went to grade school there?
HRJ: Yes. And high school.
I: And high school. You said your mother was a school teacher?
HRJ: Oh, no. No, no.
Lela Jones [wife]: I thought she taught a little while before she got married.
HRJ: Well, yeah, a long time ago, but not very long
Lela Jones: Well, she was a teacher.
HRJ: She was. Yeah.
I: I’m sure with that large a family she was teaching somebody somethin’ all the time, wasn’t she?
HRJ: Yes, she was. Right. And she was good at it. Very patient.
I: With that many children, boy, you’d have to cultivate that. You were born in, you said, 1920?
I: 1926. So you were just a young man when Pearl Harbor happened.
HRJ: That’s right.
I: Do you remember Pearl Harbor Day?
HRJ: Oh, yes.
I: What were you doin’ that day?
HRJ: Well, let’s see. I don’t remember the date, but I think that we were in school. Yeah, we were in school.
LJ: It was 1941.
HRJ: 1941. We graduated in ’44.
I: So you graduated from high school in 1944?
HRJ: 1944. Right.
LJ: And went immediately into the service.
I: So you were in high school during the war years themselves, too.
I: What did you do? I know Oxford’s a small town, but did you have rubber drives and metal drives? What did you do as a high schooler during that time?
HRJ: Well, I was in athletics: football, basketball and track. So that kept me busy. I didn’t do much of anything else.
I: When you graduated from high school, and you were eighteen years old, were you and your brother afraid you were going to be drafted? Or were you thinking you were going to be drafted?
HRJ: We joined the Navy.
I: Why did you join the Navy? You got two young Kansas boys….
HRJ: Because we didn’t want to go into the Army.
I: Did you have to go into Wichita to be inducted?
HRJ: No, we went to Wellington. It’s west of Oxford.
I: What did your mother and daddy think of you goin’ into the service?
HRJ: Well, I don’t remember all of that. Of course, they were concerned, as all parents were. But we both wanted to join and get into the Navy, so that’s what we did. We didn’t want to go into the Army.
I: Now, you had older brothers. Had they been in the service already?
HRJ: No, none of them were in the service. No.
I: So you two were the first to go in?
HRJ: That’s right.
I: I guess that was kind of a shock for your parents at that time.
HRJ: Well, yes. Since we were the babies in the family. Yeah, that was kinda tough for them.
I: It had to have been. When you went in, did you go to Wellington? Did you get to go home, or did you leave straight from Wellington?
HRJ: I don’t know what you mean. We were inducted in, and went to Wichita. That’s where they…. And then I guess we were…. [To LJ]: What did I tell you about Wellington?
LJ: That’s where you went to enlist.
HRJ: Yes. Right.
LJ: She’s saying, did you go back home then, or did you go…
HRJ: Home again. No, I went back home. Right. Then they called us later.
I: Where did you take basic training?
HRJ: Bainbridge, Maryland.
I: Had you traveled very much before you’d left home?
HRJ: Oh, no. No.
I: Did they put you on a train?
HJ: Yes. I got on a train in Winfield, Kansas.
I: Were you and your brother…? Did you get to stay together?
HRJ: Well, for a little while, but not all the time. They separated us after boot camp.
I: So you had to go to boot camp together?
HRJ: Yeah. In Camp Wallace, Texas.
I: That was where they sent you, eh?
HRJ: That’s where they sent us. And it was a hundred and two in the shade. Man, it was hot!
I: After basic training in Bainbridge, Maryland, they sent you to Camp Wallace. Why did they send you there? Was it for special training? Were you going to be something different?
HRJ: Well, I went to signalman’s school.
I: Now, as a signalman in the Navy, what did you do?
HRJ: Well, I was on the bridge most of the time, and [I] took messages and sent messages, both by semaphore and by light. Uses Morse code, by light.
I: Now, had you done a test that they made you a signalman? Or had you volunteered to do this?
HRJ: No, they just put us in the Signalman’s Corps and sent us to camp.
I: “We need you there,” huh?
HRJ: Yeah. Which was all right. I enjoyed it. I’m glad that happened.
I: How long were you at Camp Wallace?
HRJ: Oh, just for boot camp, and I don’t remember how long that was. Six weeks or so, something like that.
I: Now, you’re in the middle of the war; This wasn’t at the beginning, so you knew you were going to be sent somewhere. Did you have any idea where you might be sent?
I: When did they tell you your next station?
HRJ: I can’t remember that. I’m sorry; I can’t remember a lot of things.
I: You’re doing just great. So you went from Camp Wallace. What was the next place you went to?
HRJ: Bainbridge, Maryland.
LJ: He said Bainbridge first, but he went to Camp Wallace first.
HRJ: I was at Bainbridge first?
LJ: You were?
HRJ: That’s what you said, wasn’t it?
LJ: No, that’s what you said a while ago.
LJ: You went directly to Camp Wallace.
HRJ: That was our basic training. Then I went to Bainbridge, where I took signalman’s school.
LJ: The funny part about that is, he thought he wanted to be in the submarines.
I: Why did you want to be in the submarines?
HRJ: Oh, I don’t know. I just wanted to be. I thought that would be thrilling. Be interesting.
I: Were you disappointed that you didn’t get to go there?
HRJ: Oh, a little, but not bad.
I: Well, being a signalman, that’s…. You were gonna be right in the heart of things there, too.
HRJ: Yeah. You’re up there on that flag deck. Couldn’t hide.
I: No! So you went and took signalman’s training there at Bainbridge. And where was the next place…? What was the next step that you did?
HRJ: Camp Wallace, Texas.
I: Well, you went to Camp Wallace and then Bainbridge.
LJ: You went to Camp Wallace first, then to Bainbridge.
HRJ: Camp Wallace first, then to Bainbridge.
I: Then where did you go? Were you sent overseas yet?
HRJ: I don’t remember.
LJ: Was that when you went to San Francisco?
HRJ: Yeah, I got on board ship in New York. Went down on around to the Panama Canal, and up to San Francisco.
I: What ship were you assigned to? Do you remember?
HJ: Oh, I don’t remember that. I was on the SS Palawan—P-A-L-A-W-A-N.
LJ: Is that the tugboat you were talking about?
HRJ: No. It was big. I was on a tugboat called the Sombrero Key.
I: What were you doin’ on that tugboat?
HRJ: Well, I was a signalman. We pulled ships that were damaged from one port to another, or wherever they needed to go.
I: That had to have been kind of interesting.
HRJ: It was. I had to signal from our ship to the ship we were tugging.
I: So you got on board the ship; went through the Panama Canal. Did you go to San Francisco? Or were you sent out to the Pacific from there?
HRJ: I went to…. Well, got on board ship and then went to…. Where? I don’t know. I can’t remember.
LJ: Well, is this when you went down to Hong Kong? Or China?
HRJ: Shanghai. Shanghai and Hong Kong, China. And Sasebo, Japan. We picked up a liberty ship in Sasebo and towed it all the way back to San Francisco. I think I told you that, didn’t I?
I: Not yet, but that’s.…
HRJ: That was quite an undertaking. Of course, I was contact with their signalman.
LJ: Well, tell her…. You were the only Navy man on that. What were the other guys?
HRJ: I was…. They were…. They belonged to the Merchant Marines.
I: So the tug was Merchant Marine?
HRJ: Yeah, right.
I: Whenever you were assigned somewhere, then you just waited to see what messages were going to be sent between ships? As the signalman? You got your messages from the bridge?
HRJ: Uh-huh. Right. We had shifts, of course. You didn’t…. We traded off. The messages came on board. Sometimes they’d come by radio. You know, you had radio. Used some Morse code.
I: What usually were the kind of messages you sent?
HRJ: Oh, tellin’ people where we were going. I don’t remember particularly. All kinds of different things that…. They were written-out messages that the captain or the co-captain would bring down to me.
I: I grew up watchin’ shows like Victory at Sea, and they always had the signalmen there with the Morse code with the lights or with the standards. Did you read them as they were coming from another ship, and tell them as you got it in?
HRJ: Yeah. You’d read the light, and you’d have a corpsman there, and they’d…. You’d tell them what it was, and they’d write it down as you were reading it.
I: You can see such distances. I didn’t realize how far you can see with those lights. At night, you’d have to use the lights, but was there any particular reasons when you’d use the standards as opposed to the light? Did one work better than the other?
HRJ: Well, when you were in close proximity, you just signaled by hand. That was easier.
LJ: You had flags.
HRJ: With flags. Right.
I: Was that hard to learn?
HRJ: No. Over and over, day after day, you’d learn it. A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H. You learned all of ’em.
I: Were some people easier to read than others?
HRJ: Oh, that’s true. Some of ’em were more distinct about their signaling than others. Now, you go too fast…. You can signal real fast with flags.
I: Since you joined up in ’44 and then sent to the Pacific, were you involved in any of the major battles?
I: None of the major ones?
I: Were you there, though, when they were going up into Japan? After the surrender?
HRJ: Yes, right. We went up to Sasebo, Japan.
I: When did you know the war was comin’ up to an end? Do you remember how you…?
HRJ: I don’t remember that.
I: I wondered, since you were on the bridge, if you were getting some of the information before some of the other guys might have been.
HRJ: Well, they picked it up by radio before we got it on the bridge.
I: So you got to go to Hong Kong?
I: And to Shanghai?
HRJ: And Sasebo, Japan.
I: What was your impression of the Pacific? You were a landlocked Kansas boy.
HRJ: It was BIG! Man! Yes. You thought you’d never get across [to] where you’re goin’. That was interesting. I enjoyed it. I got seasick, like most landlubbers.
I: Did you get past that?
HRJ: Oh, yeah. It didn’t take me long to get over that.
I: What was your whole impression of Asia?
HRJ: Oh, I didn’t care for it too much. People went ninety miles an hour—it seemed like. Zip, zip, zip, zip, zip. Really fast-going people. And I was not used to that. The worst was that.
I: Did ya eat the food?
HRJ: Oh, not very much. We ate on board.
I: Now we can go here in town and get Chinese food and such, but at that time it had to be [unintelligible].
HRJ: Well, we have. Haven’t we, Honey? Not much, though.
I: We do that here, and it’s not that uncommon. But for you, I bet that was kind of a cultural shock. Did you bring anything home with you? Did you get souvenirs while you were over there?
LJ: You brought your dad a smokin’ jacket and your mother a robe.
HRJ: A robe. Red. From Shanghai.
LJ: Real elaborate, both of ’em.
I: Did they use them?
I: What experience did your brother have? You became a signalman; did he become a signalman?
HRJ: I can’t remember that. I’m sorry. I think he did, though. I think we both went to signalman school at the same time.
I: Did you get to contact him much during the service at all?
I: Was he in the Pacific?
HRJ: No, he went to the Atlantic, and I went to [the] Pacific. Yeah, we were really separated.
LJ: Well, that was after those Sullivan brothers were all drowned. They wouldn’t let ’em serve together.
I: Yeah, which is a wise thing.
HRJ: Well, really, it was. Right. Yeah, that’d be tragic for a family to lose several at the same time.
[The five Sullivan brothers served together on the light cruiser USS Juneau. All five died when a Japanese submarine sank the Juneau on November 13, 1942. The Navy then strictly enforced its prohibition against siblings serving together.]
I: Did your mother and dad write you very often?
HRJ: Oh, yeah. It was hard to get mail, though, when you were going through…a long way.
I: Yeah, how’d it keep up with you? The Navy just kinda scoots all over the place. How did you take rests? When you had downtime—when you could have some time off—what did you do?
HRJ: Read. Yeah, they had…. But if we were not in a seagoing tug, we really didn’t do much. Sleep and rest. ’Cause if you’re up all night, you needed to rest.
I: When were you assigned…? If the tug was Merchant Marine, that’s really a different assignment than bein’ on board a regular Navy vessel. Is it because the Merchant Marines don’t have signalmen?
HRJ: Oh, sure. Yeah. They assigned me to a Merchant Marine ship. They have their own…. They have signalmen, too, but during the war they assigned military personnel to ships.
I: How long were you on that one? For most of the time?
HRJ: I don’t remember. You’ll hear that “I don’t remember” several times, ’cause my memory is shot.
I: Well, we’re gettin’ good stuff here, so whatever you remember is great.
HRJ: Oh, I enjoyed my time in the Navy. It was a good experience.
LJ: Did you get homesick?
HRJ: Oh, yes. Sure, I was homesick.
LJ: First time they were away from home.
I: If you’re twins, growin’ up in a small town, and you’re close enough that you wanted to join the service together, and then you get separated, that had to have been tough.
HRJ: That was really a difficult time for Hobart and me. It was really difficult. We were close up until that time.
I: Were you able to write him? I know your parents were writing you, but were you able to communicate or have any letters with him, or anything?
HRJ: Well, we tried to. But, of course, you know, he was goin’ this way and I was goin’ that way. Why, I think…. [To LJ]: Didn’t we meet goin’ through the Panama Canal?
HRJ: No. I keep thinkin’ that, but that isn’t true.
LJ: No. The only place you got together, I think, is when…. I don’t know which place you were. I think you were in the east, and you were on a train coming…. You were going someplace on a train, and you were both on that train. But I don’t know where you were going.
HRJ: I don’t remember that, Honey. My memory is shot, you know.
LJ: Well, that was a small thing, you know; it wasn’t…. But I just remembered that. That’s the only time I can think of after they got going, that they were together.
I: Tell me a little bit about when you picked up the ship and brought it all the way back. That had to have been hard. I mean, you’re in the ocean, and towing a big ship like that. That couldn’t have been easy.
HRJ: No, it wasn’t. But it was done. We took care of it okay.
LJ: The little guys.
I: I think of this little tug…. Did you have to go through Hawaii to come back up to California, or did you go straight into the West Coast?
LJ: You were in the [Hawaiian] Islands, but you didn’t get off.
HRJ: No. No
LJ: Honolulu. I bet they went to that place.
HRJ: We went through the Canal Zone, and took that ship all the way back up to the East Coast.
LJ: Yes, I know. But I know you were in Honolulu, because you said you always regretted because you didn’t think they would let you off to go in.
I: Bein’ on a tug had to have been pretty interesting.
HRJ: It was; it really was. Being the only Navy man was kind of interesting, too.
I: What was the difference between Navy and Merchant Marines?
HRJ: Oh, yes, but they…. They were really…. I don’t wanta say this. We were really cordial with each other. Yeah.
I: But it had to have been different. That’s not regular service, as such, and so you’d have a whole different mindset, I’m sure.
LJ: If I remember right, he told me that they kinda teased him, because he was so young.
I: Yeah, you were young.
HRJ: Yes, I was.
I: I imagine some of those were pretty old, veteran Merchant Marine guys.
HRJ: Oh my, yes!
I: I bet they had tattoos.
HRJ: Oh, yes! Some of ’em did; some of ’em didn’t.
I: You said that you were in Sasebo, Japan. So you were there after the surrender?
HRJ: Yeah. Right.
I: Do you remember much about Japan? Did you get to go and see much of the area?
HRJ: Not really. We didn’t. We stayed on board most of the time, but we did go ashore. It was kind of interesting to see the Japanese.
I: How did they treat you?
HRJ: Fine. We never went by ourselves. I think I told you that. We were always two…at least two of us together. I was pleased to be in a foreign country. My first time to do that, and probably…. I knew it was goin’ to probably be my last time, and it was.
LJ: How did you feel about being there, knowing that we had bombed them and all that?
HRJ: That was kind of strange. You know, you were the conqueror, and they were the victims. It was kind of a strange feeling. I don’t know just how to describe that. You’re always on the lookout—always cautious. Never went anywhere by yourself. Always in pairs or groups.
I: You obviously had a feeling for what they’d gone through.
HRJ: Oh, sure. Yeah.
I: Were there any difficulties? It had to have been hard to shift…. You’d been fighting the Japanese. That had been the enemy for five years.
HRJ: I never experienced any fighting—not so ever.
I: But you grew up…. You were a young man, hearing…. There was propaganda. We do it; they do it. It had to have been a little off-putting or difficult. Kind of a disconnect after all of those years, and then, as you said, to come into their country.
HRJ: Yeah, that was a…. I dunno how they explain that feeling. You’re going into a country that you had conquered, wondering what the situation was going to be, how people would treat you, how they would accept you. Or if they wouldn’t. They did. We didn’t have much relationship with them, actually. I wasn’t ashore too much. I’ve always been glad that I’d had that experience.
I: That had to have been somethin’ you’d probably have thought you’d never do.
HRJ: That’s right.
I: What had you planned to do? If the war hadn’t have come on, and you and your brother graduated from high school, what did you want to do?
HRJ: We wanted to be teachers—go to college and become a teacher. We always wanted to do that. I wanted to teach industrial arts, and I did.
I: So when the war came, you just kinda put that on hold for a bit, didn’t you?
HRJ: Yes, we had to put it on hold. Fortunately, Uncle Sam paid for our education.
I: So when did you know…? You were in Japan, and you were bringin’ the tugboat back. When did you know you were going to be discharged?
HRJ: I don’t remember that.
I: Were you discharged pretty close after the war?
HRJ: Oh, yes…
HRJ: ’46. Yeah.
I: You said your brother must have gotten discharged before you did.
HRJ: Yeah. He was on the East Coast, and I was on the West Coast.
I: How did you get home? Do you remember? Did they discharge you and give you a train ticket?
HRJ: Yeah. I went home on a train. It was a looong ways. But it was okay. Turned out okay.
I: Well, it’s always longer when you’ve been gone…. You’ve been gone for a little while from home. No matter quick or how short that trip was going to be, it’s going to be too long, wasn’t it?
I: Did you go home with any other of the boys that came this way, or were you pretty well travelin’ by yourself?
HRJ: Well, there were Navy and Marines and Army guys on board the train, but no one from my hometown at that time. We’d stop, and somebody’d get off, and then we’d go on and let a few more off.
I: You weren’t the last one to get off, were you?
HRJ: No, no. No.
I: Did you get in to Wichita, or did you get to go into Wellington?
HRJ: No, I went into…. Let’s see; where did…?
LJ: I think you said the train stopped at Winfield.
HRJ: Winfield. Yeah. We stopped at Winfield. Yeah.
I: Who picked you up?
HRJ: My father.
I: Were you awful glad to see him?
HRJ: Oh my, yes! Yeah.
I: What was the first thing you wanted to eat when you got home?
HRJ: Oh, I don’t remember that.
LJ: Probably fried chicken.
HRJ: Fortunately, I had good food in the Navy. Yes. Yeah.
I: Did you grow, in inches? Did you get heavier while you were in the service, or anything?
HRJ: No, no. I stayed pretty much the same.
I: So when you came home, daddy met you at the train station. I bet you were awful glad to see your mother.
HRJ: Oh my, yes! Right. Yes.
I: I imagine she couldn’t wait for that day.
HRJ: That was a nice day—one of the nicest days of my life was coming home.
I: Did you stay home very long? Or did you just kinda stay in Oxford for a little while? You told me that your brother already had you signed up to go to Oklahoma A&M.
[In 1957, Oklahoma A&M was renamed Oklahoma State University.]
I: So did you get to stay home for a little while?
HRJ: Well, just a little while. Then that fall, we went off to school.
I: Now, both of you had wanted to be teachers.
HRJ: Yes. Both were….
LJ: And coaches.
HRJ: And coaches.
I: Well, you’d both been athletes, so that makes sense. Why did you go to Oklahoma A&M?
HRJ: Because he signed us up there.
LJ: Well, tell about the coach there and the coach here. They wanted to play for Hank Iba.
[Henry (Hank) Iba (1904-1993) coached men’s basketball at Oklahoma A&M / Oklahoma State from 1934 to 1970. He led the Aggies to NCAA championships in 1945 and 1946, and was known as one of the toughest coaches in the NCAA.]
HRJ: Hank Iba was the coach at Oklahoma A&M. We wanted to play for him. Didn’t get to, but…. Anyway.
I: Did ya try out?
HRJ: Oh, yes. But there was a lot of…. At that time, there was a lot of the veterans were coming home, and some of them were ex-ball players there that were returning to play, and so they really didn’t take on new ballplayers.
I: Even though you didn’t get to play, did you work with the coach? Did you get to do something with the athletics while you were there?
HRJ: Well, I took coaching classes so I could coach. And sometimes he’d come into the classrooms.
I: So you actually got taught by Mr. Iba?
HRJ: Yes. Right.
I: What kind of gentleman was he?
HRJ: Oh, he was a great individual. He was a wonderful man. He really was.
I: You learned a lot from him?
HRJ: Oh yes. Right. I learned a lot watchin’ him coach. He was….
LJ: Well, one thing: they tried out for basketball and were practicing and everything, but he wanted them to be there—what? Thanksgiving Day?
HRJ: Yeah. We hadn’t been home.
LJ: He wanted to go home. He hadn’t been home much. So they parted ways.
I: It had to have been hard. You were close enough to be able to go home for the holidays, and after bein’ in the service, that would have been tough.
HRJ: Well, by that time, we knew we weren’t gonna be on the team, so we really didn’t hurt anything. Didn’t cause anything. Well, there were so many returning veterans, that they…. They were gonna get first choice, of course. And should.
I: Describe goin’ to school. I’ve always heard, just from what I’ve read, that when the veterans came back, that there were a lot of you on campus. Findin’ a place to stay was kind of tight. Was it that way in Oklahoma?
I: You and your brother, did you room together?
HRJ: Yes, we roomed together. We stayed in a dormitory—Thatcher Hall. How do I remember that? Thatcher Hall.
LJ: Well, you were there four years.
HRJ: Yeah. Mother Williams. Her name was Williams. It was a great place.
I: You had to have been a little different, too, because you all are comin’ back from four years of service. You were with a lot of older guys that had been in the service. The G.I. Bill is gonna be able to send you to school. Do you think that made a difference that these guys had been through an awful lot to go back to school?
HRJ: Well, sometimes they’d share things with you. Of course, a lot of times they didn’t want to talk about it, but sometimes they’d share things with you to get it off their mind. That was always a good experience, to learn what they’d been through and understand how they’d come out of it, and so on. And know why they were the way they were.
I: Were most of them pretty strict on what…. They were there to go to school; they were there to get their degree?
HRJ: Your motivation was a lot different then. Just an ordinary person, that hadn’t been in the service…. But there were a lot of us come back at the same time, and so…. We shared our experiences, and that helped.
I: It had to have been good for you all to be there together.
HRJ: Yes. Oh my, yes. Right.
I: Was there anything that you can think of [that] being a signalman, being in the service…. Was there something that you think made it better for you? Did you learn better? [Did your experiences] make school more important to you?
HRJ: Doin’ what?
I: Did you think that your time in service made being in school more important?
HRJ: Oh, I grew up a lot. Goin’ to school was more important to me than it was when I just graduated outta high school. Yeah. Appreciative of being alive. Being able to go to school. Knowing that Uncle Sam was gonna pay for it was good, too.
I: You graduated from Oklahoma A&M four years later. Had you been dating anybody special at that time? Or did you not meet somebody until after you came home?
HRJ: Oh, I had a full-time girlfriend when I was in high school, and we were still close when I came home.
I: Had you been writing during the service?
HRJ: Oh, sure.
I: And so what happened with that young lady?
HRJ: Well, I found out she was goin’ out with other guys, and that was it!
LJ: I don’t think he dated much, if at all, when he was in the service.
HRJ: No. I didn’t.
LJ: He just had…. I don’t think he did. At least he didn’t say anything to me about it.
I: But not a lot of guys did.
LJ: Not a lot of opportunities, really.
HRJ: No, I was being faithful! Why, I don’t know. But I was!
I: Well, you were
just doin’ what you thought you were supposed to be
I: So when did you meet?
LJ: Oh, we met in the summer that he was…. He was in college. It would have been his last year. After his junior year, in other words. That summer, we met. This was in Wichita. We were in…. I was in a group with the Methodist church. Young people. We had a hamburger fry out at Yentruoc Lake. I don’t suppose you know where that is? Anyway, it’s Courtney Davis’ place, and spelled “Yentruoc.” Anyway, I was on the food committee, and so I was fryin’ hamburgers. He was sittin’ there watchin’ me. That’s where we met. That was…. Oh, gosh. Well, it would have been in 1949. Then we got married that December. He came back to get married, and then he went back to school.
I: That means you’re still in school! And you’re in Wichita! You’re in Stillwater. Now, how did this happen?
LJ: Well, I don’t know. It just…. For me, it just seemed like he was the right guy. I don’t know about him. Anyway, it just worked out that way, and we decided that we wouldn’t…. No reason to wait. He would come home on weekends. It worked out all right. A lot of people think, you know, if you get married, boy, you want to be together. But I didn’t, and I don’t think he felt that way, either. We were apart from people that we were close to, anyway. I was working at Beech Aircraft.
I: What did you [do] during the war years? Were you in school?
LJ: No, I was working at Beech. I went to business college in Oklahoma City. Then I came to Wichita and went to work at Boeing... [corrects herself] Beech. I was there until a year…well, that summer after we got married, which would have been 1950. He was gonna go back…. He was gonna get a job, of course, when he graduated. So we stayed in Wichita until he got his first job.
I: What did you do at Beech?
LJ: I was a secretary.
I: That had to have been interesting during that time period.
LJ: Yes. When I first went out there, I was out in the plant. We had a little office there. Boy, it was noisy. We were on the line—where you’d go out, and the planes were there, sittin’. I was a secretary.
I: Wichita had to have been pretty interesting, with all the aircraft going on….
LJ: Yes. Everything open all night. Of course, I was there…. I went there in ’42, in the spring of ’42, so I was there all during that. Lots of servicemen, and…. I don’t know—just really…. Everything open.
I: Women worked a lot at Beech and at Boeing, because the guys were in the service. Did you see things changing? How did you kinda see the women…? How did they act? That was a big change.
LJ: Well, you know, I was pretty young. I guess we just accepted it. It was there; we had to do it. We needed to do it. It was just something we had to do. Nobody minded. Of course, I think we appreciated the money, because we got paid better there than we did in offices downtown, so that helped. Yeah, the women in our department…. It was the paint department, and they worked in a big room where they were putting [on]—oh, I don’t know—something that smelled real bad. Paint, maybe. I can’t remember. Anyway, I’d go in there, and…. Well, they had these blowers going, of course, so it wasn’t so bad, but it was noisy. It was noisy. I really think that’s what started my hearing loss—all that noise.
I: Now we look at this and say, “You can’t go in there without the ear covers,” but at that time, that’s what you did. Did the women…? You had seen Wichita as it was changing a little bit. Did the whole idea of what you could do…? Like you said, it was open all night, because of shift work. That was a little different than what had been happening. Did you feel comfortable with some of those changes?
LJ: Yes. I always felt safe in Wichita. Of course, we didn’t really go anyplace by ourselves. It wasn’t that we were afraid; it was just that that’s what we did. Of course, at that time there were a lot of young men working out there. They weren’t going to be drafted, because they were in that…. For a while, anyway. But then they started being drafted. [Corrects herself]: Or joining up, because they didn’t want to be drafted. That was a sad time, because a lot of those young men that we knew were leaving. It wasn’t that I was involved with anybody special, but they were good friends. Then some of ’em were killed—that kind of thing. A sad time.
I: So you all got married. You stay in Wichita. Now, you said you got your degree in education, and you wanted to be an industrial arts teacher?
I: Where did you get your first school? Where did you start teaching?
HRJ: At Dexter, Kansas. Southeast Kansas.
I: Where is that near?
HRJ: A small high school, southeast of Winfield. Well, Wichita. Winfield is south and east of Wichita, and this…. Dexter was farther east and a little farther south.
I: Like headin’ toward Belle Plain?
HRJ: Oh, Belle Plain was south of Wichita, and we were way south of that, even. And east of that.
I: A little place.
LJ: a little farming community.
HRJ: Yes. A small town.
I: Well, you grew up in a little town.
HRJ: Yeah, Oxford was a small town.
LJ: That’s why he took it. He thought, “Boy, that’s just gonna be perfect, ’cause it’d be like Oxford.” And it wasn’t.
I: It wasn’t? What was different?
HRJ: No. Oh, I don’t know. The people were different. Just how different, I can’t tell ya that. But they were just different. But that, you know…. Well, that follows. I knew all the people in Oxford.
I: You were used to ’em, too.
HRJ: Yes, right.
I: How long did you stay in Dexter?
HRJ: Ooh, two years.
I: Where did you go after Dexter?
HRJ: I went to Hoisington, west of…. Out west. And enjoyed my stay there. That was a good experience.
LJ: This was junior high. He decided he didn’t like high schools.
I: You mentioned that you had been an industrial arts teacher, and you were a coach. What did you like coaching the best?
HRJ: Basketball. That’s my favorite. And I coached baseball, which I’d never played. The boys I had taught me everything I had to know, and were…. It turned out real well. And some of their fathers helped. I enjoyed coaching baseball. It was a good experience.
I: You became a teacher, but then you became a principal?
I: Where were you a principal?
LJ: Well, after we were out there in Hoisington five years, he got a better-paying job in Hutchinson. That’s where we spent most of our time.
I: That’s a nice community.
HRJ: Yes. We really enjoyed Hutchinson. They have a good school system. Still do.
LJ: He taught, oh, about five…seven years. Seven or eight years. And then he became a principal.
I: You had children.
HRJ: One. I have a boy.
I: When did he join ya?
LJ: He was born in Winfield the summer between the sessions at Dexter, and so he was a little over a year when we moved to Hoisington.
I: That makes a difference in how you make decisions of what you want to do, and what you want to do within the family. Do you think your time in service made a difference in what you did with your career?
HRJ: No. I think that…. The thing is…. As I told you, the thing that the service did was I grew up. It does that to ya. I think so. Bein’ from a small town and a small family, [and] not very mature until you get out in the service and go to Japan and China and…. Just different. Just different.
I: From your time in service, during your time in World War II, what would you want me to remember the most of that time period? You both had things that you contributed during World War II. What do you want my generation to remember of that time?
HRJ: Oh, I enjoyed bein’ in the Navy. Of course, we didn’t have any fear, because the war was over. But I got this…. I just got to see some things and go some places that I would never have been able to go to. Or to experience.
LJ: Well, the thing I think needs to be emphasized is that people of our time did what was expected of them. They didn’t argue about a bunch of stuff, or…. What do I want to say? Get out…. What did they do when they…. Protest? Protest. There wasn’t any protesting. You just did what needed to be done. No argument. Of course, you…. I was paid, but, still, it was just something that was expected of you, and you did it.
I: I appreciate you givin’ up that part of your young adulthood to do what you felt was supposed to be done. Because the world would be a very different place if you hadn’t.
HRJ: I didn’t like going, but I’m glad that I went and had the experience of going places I would never have gone to had I not been in the Navy. And I met lots of very nice young men during that time.
I: Well, I appreciate this today and thank you for sharing both of your stories.
Length: 55 minutes