Kansas MemoryKansas Memory

Kansas Historical SocietyKansas Historical Society

Paul Getto video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

Item Description Bookbag Share

The World War II Years:

An Oral History Interview with Paul Getto

 

 

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.  Some comments by the interviewer and technical assistant are abridged.

 

 

Interviewer:  Dr. Getto, Mrs. Getto, I’m here in your home, and I appreciate you taking the time to do this today.  Just to give us a background on things, if you would tell me your full name, your date of birth, and where you were born.  Just [tell me] a little somethin’ about you before service-time—get you up to that point in time.

 

Paul Getto:  Do you want her first or me?

 

Interviewer:  Either way.

 

Paul Getto:  Well, why don’t I start, and then this maybe [will] help her a little bit.  I was born on October first, 1917 in Jeannette, Pennsylvania and went all the way through school in Jeannette, and high school.  When I finished high school, my brother….  His name was Mike, and he was an assistant football coach here at KU.  He said, “Why don’t you come on out to Kansas and go to school?”  This was during the Depression, of course.  This was 1935.  So I thought, well, that was fine.  I also had a brother who was in the medical school at the same time—in KU Medical School.  So I came out here to go to school at that time.  Nobody had any money.  My brother was married to the people that owned the Eldridge Hotel.

 

Winifred Getto [Mrs. Getto]:  Their daughter.

 

PG:  Yeah, one of the daughters.  The daughter of that family.  So I was able to get a job there.  I worked as a bellhop six hours a day while I was going to KU.  I arranged my schedules in the morning, and then worked from noon to six every day at the Eldridge Hotel.

 

I:  Did you have to wear one of those little uniforms?

 

PG:  Oh, yes, we wore uniforms.  In those days the Eldridge wasn’t air-conditioned.  It was fun workin’ there.  I enjoyed working there at the Eldridge.  I thought that was a great place to work.  I met a lot of people, and I learned a lot there from people.  So that’s how I happened to get out here to Lawrence.  After I was here for four years, I went on into Kansas City to the dental school. It was Kansas City Western Dental in those days. Now it’s the University of Missouri that has the dental school.  It’s the same school, but they’re in with the University of Missouri.  So that’s how I happened to be here.

 

I:  When you graduated from high school, had you planned to go into some medical field, or did you have plans for something else?

 

PG:  I pretty much was interested in dentistry.  I’m of a family of five boys and a girl.  All my brothers were considerably older than I.  I was the baby of the family.  My oldest brother was an electrical engineer.  My second brother owned a garage.  My third brother was a…played football at the University of Pittsburgh.  He was the one that was the assistant coach here.  And an All-American, by the way, at Pittsburgh.  Then the other…my other brother studied medicine.  So I thought, “Well….”   I had a friend in my hometown who was a dentist, and I thought, well, I was interested in dentistry.  I enjoy working with my hands and things like that. That appealed to me, and so I came out here with the intentions of going through KU and then goin’ back to the University of Pittsburgh Dental School.  But while I was out here, somebody said, “Why don’t you check the dental school out in Kansas City?”  So I did, and went down there, and it was really a nice school and pretty modern.  In fact, I thought it looked better to me than the University of Pittsburgh at that time.  So that’s how I ended up in Kansas City.

 

Fortunately for me, my brother’s father-in-law, Mr. Hudson, owned the State Hotel, which is down on the corner of Twelfth and Wyandotte in Kansas City, right across from the Muehlebach [Hotel].  It’s not there any more.  It’s right on the corner.  When I went down there to go to school, he said to me, “Where are you staying, Paul?”  I said, “Well, I’m living down near Twelfth and Troost in a sort of a boarding house where most of the dental students stay.”  He said, “Well, why don’t you come down to the hotel here and stay here?”  Of course, by that time he had given me a job running one of the elevators from five o’clock to nine every night.  So I said, “Well, I can’t afford to stay here.” He said, “Well, come on down, and I’ll give you a room.  It won’t be the best room.  It’ll be near an elevator and be kind of noisy, but it’ll be free.”  So I stayed there at that hotel until I graduated from dental school.  You won’t believe it, but I made a whole dollar and a half a day while I was there.  You know, during those days, I could eat on that.  I could eat on that.

 

I:  That’d have been about 1939, 1940?

 

PG:  Yes, that was….  I finished dental school in ’42, so this was about ’38.  Something like that.

 

I:  Well, a dollar and a half was not bad money then.

 

PG:  Yeah, yeah.  It was good.  I met a lot of people there.  So that was how I got through dental school, by working there at the hotel.  I did get some money from home.  I had an interesting thing that happened to me when I finished at KU.  My dad said to my brother….  He had finished medical school by then.  He said, “Ernie,”—his name was Ernie—he said, “Ernie, I want you to borrow five hundred dollars for Paul to go to dental school.”  And Ernie said, “Dad....”  He had just finished medical school.  He said, “Dad, I don’t have five hundred dollars.”  “Well, you have the ability to borrow it.  So,” he said, “I want you to get that money.”  Which he did.  He gave me a check for five hundred dollars when I went to dental school.  So the rest….  My dad did send me some money, but not a great deal.  He was a laborer in a glass factory and didn’t make an awful lot of money.  Another interesting thing about it was, when I finished dental school, he said to me, “I’m sure glad you’re through school.  I helped to pay for something like 24 or 25 years of college for you boys.”  Of course, my sister was a school teacher.  She had gone to college and was a school teacher.

 

I:  That was pretty good for your family, because at that point in time not that many people went to college.  It wasn’t just assumed.

 

PG:  No.  Well, my mother and dad both were pretty much of the opinion that you had to have a decent education.  So, fortunately for me and the rest of my brothers and my sister, we all helped one another.

 

Winnifred Getto:  Except you.  You were the baby.

 

PG:  Well, I was the baby.  My oldest brother was twenty years old when I was born.  He ended up as a foreman in a glass factory.  Where I grew up, there were a bunch of glass factories: five glass factories and a brewery [in] a town of about seventeen or eighteen thousand.  It’s just east of Pittsburgh.  So I….  I don’t know; it worked out pretty well with our family.  My sister would send me money.  She was teaching school then.  She was my sixth grade teacher when I was goin’ to school.

 

I:  That couldn’t have been easy—for either one of you.

 

PG:  No.  It was funny; I think I did better in school that year than I ever did, because I would tell.…  My mother would say something [like], “Have you done your homework tonight?”  And my sister said, “Well, he better because he has an arithmetic exam tomorrow,” or something like that.  So she had me pretty much pegged to study.

 

I:  Well, you couldn’t say, “The dog ate my homework,” either.

 

PG:  Uh-huh.

 

I:  She’d know too much.

 

PG:  It worked out real fine, and she was a great girl.  I had another interesting thing with my family.  When I was seven years old, my mother and my father had a relative who had two children.  This woman was in her thirties, [had] two girls, and she passed away.  So this one girl….  They had these two young kids.  She was three, and the other one was four, I think.  Her father was a coalminer working in a coal mine.  So my mother and dad got together and said, “We’ll take one of those children.”  And one of my uncles….  My brother had an uncle.  [Corrects himself]: My dad had an uncle.  He lived in Jeannette.  He said, “Well, I’ll take the other girl.”  Well, this girl—her name was Emma—she came and lived with us all the way through grade school and high school.  And she took our name.  She went by “Getto.”  The correct pronunciation is “Jetto.”  [That’s] the way they pronounce it in the east.  My parents did, too.  Anyway, she went all the way through college, but by the time she reached college and had to produce her birth certificate, she had to come up with her true name, which was Emma Calassa [sp?].  She became an R.N., was married after that, and had a nice family—I think three daughters and a set of twins.  And all of that family was educated.  The girls were all nurses or something, and one of the boys was an engineer.  So what she learned from our family rubbed off on her, which was kinda interesting.

 

I:  Well, you never know how you’re going to affect people.  Look what effect your family had on a lot of people.

 

PG:  That was something to have: five boys and a girl and then an extra, all in one household.  We were real friendly with one another.

 

I:  I bet you you were.  And this isn’t one of those four bedroom houses with three baths.

 

PG:  Yeah.  I’ve mentioned this many times: I was sure tickled to death when Mike, my brother, came out here to KU—when he was in college, I should say.  That way I had another bed to sleep in.   The boys were all bunched up in one room.  As they gradually went, I ended up with a bed of my own.  That was interesting.

 

I:  You would have been going to school out here when wartime was starting up.  Did you all meet here at KU?

 

PG:  We met here at KU.  Where we really met….  And this is sorta interesting.  The people down at the Eldridge like this one.  While I was going to KU, Winnie was going to Lawrence Business College.  That’s not here any more, the Lawrence Business College.  When I came back—I think it was in my junior year in KU…about the second or third year of KU—she was working as a cashier in the coffee shop at the Eldridge.

 

Winnifred Getto:  While I was goin’ to school.

 

PG:  While she was goin’ to school.  And that’s where I met her.  I dated her for a long time before we were married.  We were married in ’42.  I knew her for at least four, five, six years.

 

WG:  Almost five.

 

I:  Well, my goodness, if he was the bellhop and had that uniform…. It was probably the uniform that got you in.

 

PG:  That’s where we met.  I tell the people down at the Eldridge that from time to time.  When we go down there, I’ll say, “We met here.”  Nancy….  I’m trying to think of her name.  She’s the manager of the hotel now.  Nancy….  Her husband’s David.  Anyway, last time we were down to the hotel here, about six months ago, I mentioned that to her, and she had them take a picture of both of us—that we had met there in the hotel.  And the hotel’s kinda home to me.  I know the hotel from top to bottom, of course.  They’ve done a lot of remodeling there and everything, but that’s where we met.

 

I:  Now, Mrs. Getto, you said that you were born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but you moved here when you were five?

 

WG:  I came to….  My mother and father divorced when I was five.  We went to Kansas City, and we were there for a few years.  My mother died when she was 32.  So we were then….  Friends of the family knew us, and we went to live with different people.  All four of us, we were separated—which was bad.

 

I:  You had three siblings?

 

WG:  I had three sisters.  I ended up here in Lawrence because the one that took my youngest sister knew Fanny and Rudolph Glatthaar, who had a farm out west of town.  That’s where our daughter now lives, on that farm.

 

I:  So you came here when you were pretty young.

 

WG:  Yes, I was about twelve years old.  I went to the Lawrence schools, graduated [from] the high school, and then went to business college.  My family didn’t feel like they could afford the university.  I worked at the coffee shop at the Eldridge while I was going to school, and that helped pay for my tuition.

 

I:  The Lawrence business college was a really nice school.  I mean, it gave you a good preparation for things.  What were you planning on…?

 

WG:  Well, I had hoped to be a secretary, and that’s what I ended up as.  I got a job in Kansas City with North American Aviation.  I was there for several years, and then we decided to get married.  He was down in Montgomery, Alabama.  My boss about had a fit.  I said that I was going to get married, and he said, “Well, he’ll be shipped overseas in a big hurry.”  So he said, “Go down and get married, and then you come back.”  I said, “Well, I don’t think I can do that.”  So, anyway, we did get married, and I happened to get a job that paid more than he was getting as a cap[tain].

 

PG:  It was a government job.  You were working for farms….  Some farm….

 

WG:  Farm Security Administration was the name of the company that I worked for.  I worked there until you went….  We thought you were going to go overseas, but he didn’t.  Then he was sent to Selma, Alabama.

 

PG:  That’s where we finished up—in Selma. 

 

WG:  I went to Selma, and my boss had a fit.  He said, “This is ridiculous!  They’re sure gonna ship him.”  He was in charge of the clinic there, and they didn’t ship him.  That’s where we ended up.

 

PG:  You might tell her….  You know, when we were down there at the Chamber [of Commerce], I mentioned about our marriage.

 

I:  In 1942 it’s not the most, shall we say, stable time for knowing what to do.  With both of you here, why is it that you did decide to get married instead of wait to see what would happen?

 

WG:  Well, in the first place, we thought he’d probably be shipped overseas, but he wasn’t.  So it worked out real well.

 

PG:  I don’t know; as I say, we had gone together for quite some time.  I got down there, and asked her if she wanted to come down and get married, and she said she did.  If you remember, I told you that I went to my commanding officer and told him….  I said, “I’m gonna get married.”  He said, “Well, that’s fine.”  I’d been in the service, oh, about a year.  When I first got there, he said to all of us….  He said, “Now remember, fellows, there’s a war on.”  He said, “I don’t expect anybody to expect some time off.”  So I went to him, and I said, “I’m planning on getting married.”  He said, “Well, that’s fine, but you know you don’t have any time off.”  So I said, “Well, okay.”

 

WG:  We got married Saturday afternoon in the parish hall of the Baptist church—[the] First Baptist Church.

 

PG:  It was in the study of the minister’s.

 

WG:  We weren’t in the church.  We were just in the study.

 

I:  From the woman’s point [of view], you were really taking a big step here.  I mean, you were movin’ all the way from Lawrence, goin’ on the train.  He’s asked you to come down and get married, but there’s a lot of unknowns here for you.  What were you thinkin’ about on that train ride all the way down to Montgomery, Alabama?

 

PG:  She knew I was a good catch.

 

WG:  The people that raised me—took me when my mother died—they were just horrified that I would go down there and get married and stay there.  They wanted me to come back home, because they were just sure he’d be shipped out.  So that was really kind of bad for them.

 

I:  Well, you can understand that now.  From an older person’s perspective, you can kind of see where they were looking, going….

 

WG:  Oh, yes, I understood it, but I didn’t….

 

PG:  The people she had lived with were fairly elderly anyway. They had never had any children.

 

WG:  They’d never had children, and they were a friend of the lady who wanted to adopt me.  She worked, though, full time and thought that wouldn’t be a good idea, so she brought me to Lawrence to visit these people.  Two weeks later I came back to live with them, and I had only seen ’em once.  It was tough.  I cried myself to sleep a lot of times.  But it worked out really well.  They were very good to me, and I inherited their farm. They had another farm in…that I inherited.  So it worked out really well, because….  What we did [was] we saved the money that I had, because we could live on his salary.  Then when he went into practice, he had money to set up, and he didn’t have to borrow any money.

 

I:  I think she was a pretty good catch, too.

 

PG:  Oh, yeah.  That’s the reason I wanted to have her down there, you see.  I was afraid she’d get away from me.

 

I:  Now there’s the reason comin’ out!  But that had to have been a long train ride between Lawrence and Montgomery.

 

WG:  It was.

 

PG:  We had an interesting thing that we did.  When she came down there, I told Winnie….  I said, “You know, my folks….”  My mother had passed away.  My mother passed away after my first year in KU.  My dad was still at my home.  We decided that Dad had done an awful lot for me, and the fact that everybody’d been through school, so I said to her, “Why don’t we just send him some money every month?”  So we did.  It didn’t amount to an awful lot, but every month we’d send him a check.

 

WG:  I think it was fifty dollars.

 

PG:  Yeah.  Well, around sixty dollars.  The first time I did get on leave, she was with us, and we went back, and I said to dad….  I said, “Dad, what did you do with that money I sent you?  I sent you that to maybe go out and buy some new clothes and enjoy yourself, because….”   He was getting older.  My dad was thirteen years older than my mother, to start with, and so he was gettin’ old.  He said, “Oh, don’t worry, I’m using it okay.” Well, when he passed away, my older brother was the executor of the estate.  All that money that I had sent to my dad, he had earmarked to give it back to me.  So I thought that was kinda interesting that….  I had sent that money to him, so when we got back the money, we mentioned that we had saved our money.  So we did.

 

When I had got out of the service, we came back here to Lawrence to live, we thought.  We couldn’t find any place to live.  Her folks were still out on the farm.  There was no office space—very little office space; very little place to set up.  So my brother, then, who was practicing in Du Bois, Pennsylvania said, “Well, why don’t you come back to Pennsylvania?”  He didn’t have to go into service.  He was in….  This was a small town, like seventeen or eighteen thousand.  They had depleted most of their physicians there, so he was exempt from goin’ into the service.  He was seven years older than I.  He said, “Well, why don’t you come back to where I am.  I’m in a bank building here, and I know there’s space.”  I had already taken the Pennsylvania state board.  I did that when I graduated [from] dental school.  I figured, going to school out of state, that possibly I better go back there and take the exam.  I knew I could get by the Kansas one easier than I would the Pennsylvania [exam].  So I did; I took that board when I got out of dental school.  So when I got out of the service, I had already passed the board.  So we went there for three years.  We bought a home, and we set up an office. We were there for three years.

 

WG:   I was the office girl.

 

PG:  We were tryin’ to save money, so she was the office girl.  We did come back to Lawrence on visits to see her folks.  I told my brother, “If anything opens up in Lawrence, keep an eye out for me.”  He called me on the phone after we had been back there for three years, or maybe close to four, and said, “They’re building a new building where the Lawrence National Bank building is.”  That was a four-story building.  It was a big, old bank.  You don’t know enough about Lawrence, I guess, to remember back that that far.

 

I:  I don’t think I remember a bank building there.

 

PG:  Well, it was a four-story building there—an old building.  They tore that down and built what is now where the Gap is—that building right there.  That’s the Lawrence National Bank building.  That’s the buildin’ I’m talking about.  He said he knew the president, Riley Burcham, who Burcham Park is named after.  He said, “I’ve talked to Riley, and he said there’s space there if you’re interested.”  I said, “Well, what do you think?”  He said, “Paul, you’ve gotta make your own decision.”  So I was on Easter holiday.  I said to her, “What do you think?”  She said, “Well, you know I want to go back to Lawrence.”  So I got on a plane.  Went to Pittsburgh.  I was about a hundred miles away from Pittsburgh.  Then I got on a plane, [and] came out here.  I called, and I talked to Riley Burcham, and he had this space.  I called a dental supply house in Kansas City that I knew while I was here, goin’ to school in Kansas City.  The fellow came up and looked it over.  He said, “Yeah, we can….”  The building was just in the process….  The shell was up, but the inside wasn’t finished.  He said, “We’re in the process of finishing this building,” Riley said.  So to this fellow I said, “Do you think I can set up an office here?”  He said, “Oh, yeah, we can design it.”  Then I said, “Well, why don’t you go ahead and do that,” and I signed a lease with Riley Burcham.  I flew back to Du Bois.  We sold our home, and sold our office and everything, and just brought what we could with us out here.  That’s how we got back to Lawrence.

 

I:  What year was that?

 

PG:  This was in….  Well, let’s see.  About ’46…about ’49.  I was in the service from ’42 to ’46, the full four years, and then we were back there for better than three.  Then I had to come back to take the Kansas board.  So I was takin’ a chance there.  If I didn’t pass it, I’d be in bad shape.  But I knew that I could get by with it.

 

[PG discusses the dental board exam]

 

I:  [to WG]:  I’m going to pull you back a little bit.  You got down to Montgomery to get married.  He picks you up.  You go over to the Baptist parsonage to get married.

 

PG:  That’s at noon.  I had met a young couple there that were from Illinois, and I asked him if he wouldn’t stand up with us.  A lot of the fellows weren’t married yet.  He said, “Sure.”  So he went over there with us.  There was one other couple that came over that I had met in the service.  They saw us goin’ through this ceremony.  We took the best man and his wife over to a restaurant, had somethin’ to eat, and they put us on a train to go to Birmingham.  That was where we were gonna [have] our honeymoon.  So we got on that train, and it was a troop train.  Soldiers were movin’ in all directions then.  We got on this train, and people were layin’ on the floor; they were sleepin’ all over.  This was in late evening we were going out there.

 

WG:  No place to sit.

 

PG:  No place to sit.  So we worked our way [up the train], steppin’ across people and everything.  Got up to where the things are coupled.

 

WG:  Where the trains are joined.

 

PG:  There was an open space there, so we just put our….  You had a suitcase, and I had one.  We just sat on ’em ’til we got to Birmingham.  Then, of course, when we got to Birmingham we went up to the hotel.  The next day, I guess, we had breakfast and lunch and got on a train and came back to Montgomery.  Of course, that was Sunday night. Monday morning at seven o’clock, I was back in the clinic.  All the fellows were givin’ me a hard time there.  They knew that we had just got married two days before.  But it worked out real fine.  We were able to find a little apartment for 35 dollars a month.  It was in a home where the people who owned the home lived there.  There were two apartments, one up and one down.  The up one was 35 dollars.  After we’d been there about six or eight months, the fellow who was down in the bottom apartment was transferred out.  He wasn’t a dentist.  He was transferred out, so we moved down to the lower one for fifty dollars a month.  It worked out real fine.  Of course, I knew so many of the dentists out there.  By that time, a lot of ’em had cars.  I was a young dude when I was down there.  I was young, but I had outranked some of them.  In time I outranked some of these guys, because they came in after I did.  Anyway, I had to get rides back and forth out to the clinic and out to the field.  We were in about two or three blocks from where you worked.  You walked there.  She walked to work.

 

I:  Now, you said you got an apartment later, but when you first came down you were an officer on post.  Where did you stay?  What kind of billet did you have at that point?

 

PG:  Well, when I first went there, my commanding officer said, “Go on over to where you check in.”   They told me, “The B.O.Q. is full.”  This was where the single people stayed.

 

WG:  Bachelor Officers’ Quarters.

 

PG:  He said, “You go into town and find you a place to live.”  So I went into town—that was before she came—and was able to get a room in a private home.  I was there in that private home until….  But I can’t remember what happened between when we got there, and that apartment.

 

WG:  Well, that apartment became available because he was shipped out.

 

PG:  But, anyhow it worked out real good.  It was close.  It was only about two blocks from the capital of Alabama, and about two or three blocks from where she worked.  And I could always bum a ride out there.

 

I:  Now, which camp…?  This is Maxwell Field?

PG:  Maxwell Field.

 

I:  You were laughin’ a while ago at that.  You were one of the few guys can probably say you went to your first assignment and stayed there.

 

WG:  Yeah, that’s what he did.

 

PG:  I was fortunate because my orders….  There were about fourteen dentists on that order.  When I got there, I was given an assignment, along with these fellows.  There were about five or six dentists already there.  I got this assignment to go there.

 

WG:  Some of ’em had been in practice.

 

PG:  Yeah.   A lot of them had been in practice, and they had been called back because they were in the Reserves.  They weren’t real happy about that.  They didn’t like it.  They didn’t like the service.  You could understand somebody, maybe, that’d had a nice home and a nice office and had children….   We had one family that….  A real good friend of ours by the name of Kochel [sp?] from Chicago….  They had two children, two boys.  He came down with his wife.   He had to buy a trailer to live in.  No place to live.  Nobody wanted him in a place with children.  So he bought a trailer and lived in the trailer all the while he was there at Maxwell Field.

 

As she mentioned, I stayed there for the biggest part of four years.  When I was….  About that time the war was winding down, in ’46, my commanding officer, who was a full colonel, said to me, “I want you to go over to Selma and take over that clinic over there.”  The fellow that was there was….  Usually if you were head of a clinic you’re a major.  I was a captain.  He said, “If you go over there [and] take over that clinic, you’ll be promoted to a major.”  I said, “Fine.”  I didn’t want to go at first, because as I told him, “We’ve got a job here.  We don’t want to leave here.  We’re makin’ money here.  We’ve got to stay here.”  So he said….  What he did say, though, was….  In order to get out of the service, you had to have over a hundred points.  Every month you got a point, and I had had, like, 39 points or something.  He said, “You’re gonna be in the service a long time.”  That’s what he told me.  He said, “You better go.”  I said, “Okay, I’ll go.”  So we went over there.

 

I was there for two or three months.  All of the fellows that were there were older than I am, but I outranked them, of course.  They were majors and first lieutenants.  I mean, they were captains and first lieutenants.  You go in as a first lieutenant when you go in the service.  I was there, and a guy come in there one day who was a captain.  He said, “I’m going to get to go home.”  I said, “How are you gonna go home?”  He hadn’t been in the service [but] just a few years.  He told me, “If you’re declared a nonessential, and you can get the right people to sign your forms, you can go home.”  So I said, “Who signed that form?”  We were all under the medical.  He said, “This so-and-so M.D.”  So I went over there, and I told this guy, “Is this true that if you’re a nonessential?”  And we weren’t real busy there at Selma.  I think there were six or eight dentists there, and I was in charge.  [I] said, “If I get that form, will you sign that for me?”  He said, “Yeah.”  He was disgusted.  This guy was an older physician.  He said, “My M.O.S. is that I can’t get out of the service by some time.  Anytime anybody wants to get out of the service, I wouldn’t keep ’em from goin’.”  He said, “Get the form.”  So I brought the form over there, and he signed it. 

 

But the worst part was I had to go back to Maxwell to separate.  I went to Maxwell with this form that said I’m goin’ home.  I went in there, and Colonel Cathrow [sp?]….  He was a full colonel.  He ended up as a brigadier general, but he was a full colonel [then].  He said, “What are you doin’, Paul?”   I said, “I’m goin’ home.”  He said, “What!  How’re you doin’ that?”  I showed him the papers.  He was a Regular, a Regular man.  He said, “Sit down over there.”  I can still remember, I was in the little cubby hole where he had his office.  He said, “Sit down.  Look at me.”  He had the birds up on his shoulder.  He had been in the service for maybe fifteen or sixteen years, and [unintelligible] tellin’ about all of the advantages.  And he did have it good.  He had sat in there and filed his fingernails while we were workin’ on people.  He just turned the paperwork in to the government.  He said, “Civilian life is tough.  You’re gonna have to go out, and you’re gonna have to work hard.”  I said, “Oh, I’m willing to take those chances. I’m just tired of the service.  I have nothing against you or anything.  I just want to go home.  That’s all.”  So he finally said, “Well, if you want to go home, you can go home.”  So that’s how I got out of the service.

 

I:  You were discharged, you said, there at Montgomery?

 

PG:  Back at Maxwell Field—back at Montgomery.  Actually, the papers, I picked them up in Selma.  I got the papers in Selma, but for some reason….  I guess I had to go back to Maxwell because that was headquarters for that area.  It worked out real fine.  We did real well.  And we were lucky.  When we went to Du Bois, my brother had been there for, oh, maybe ten or twelve years or so.  He knew a lot of people.  He introduced me to everybody in town.  And I wasn’t there any time at all [before] I was busy.  I was workin’.  I wasn’t makin’ a lot of money, but I was busy.

 

I:  A lot of guys [were] comin’ home, [and] things were shiftin’ around a bit at that point.

 

PG:  Yeah.  Everything was unsettled, and everybody was tryin’ to settle down a little bit.  It worked out real fine for us.

 

I:  Were you inducted at Fort Leavenworth?

 

PG:  No, no.  It was a funny thing about my goin’ into the service.  This was crazy.  When I got out of dental school, I wanted to go into the service, because I wanted to make some money.  I knew I could make 166 dollars a month.  When I went back home, I was under the [Selective Service] Board in Pennsylvania, but [because of] the fact that I’d been in Kansas, I guess they kind of lost track of me.  When I got back there, I called….  It was in Pittsburgh.  I called them, and I said, “I’ve finished dental school, and I’m anxious to go into the service, and I haven’t received any orders.”  I gave them my name and my address and all that stuff.  He said, “You wait two weeks, and if you don’t hear anything you let us know.”  Boy, within a week I had a paper there for me to report to Montgomery, and it also had all of the…what I had to get.  You see, I had to buy my uniforms.  They sent me the….  I don’t know whether they sent me the money or what.  I went into Pittsburgh with my sister, and went down to a large department store that was selling uniforms.  I showed ’em the orders, and they outfitted me with everything I needed.  

 

I got on the train and went down to Montgomery in uniform.  Of course, [about] trains I didn’t know anything.  I didn’t know much what to do.  But I met a guy on the train from Chicago.  His name was Ellman.  I saw his insignia, dental insignia, and I sat down with him.  I asked him where he was going.  “I’m goin’ to Montgomery,” he said.  “I’m just goin’ into the service.”  “Fine, I’m goin’ with you.”  We ended up in Montgomery.  The first thing when we got to Montgomery….  This was interesting.  We got in there in the morning.  He said, “Maybe we ought to go get some breakfast.”  I said, “Fine.”  So we went over to a restaurant, and there was a black gentleman in there waiting on the tables.  I’ll never forget this.  We ordered ham and eggs and all that stuff. He said, “Grits?”  This guy from Chicago didn’t know grits.  And I’d never eaten grits. The guy from Chicago said, “Grits?” to the waiter.  He said, “Yes, would you want some grits?”  He said, “What are grits?”  This black guy just shook his head.  We were in the South!  He just shook his head, and he walked off!  I tell that story every time I eat grits.  My first experience with grits was in Montgomery, Alabama, and I didn’t know what it was, and Ellman didn’t know what grits were.  I like grits, but I’d never had any.

 

I:  I’m sure he’s thinkin’, “This is so sad.”

 

PG:  It was as much as to say, “You damn Yankees, you don’t know anything!”

 

I:  I imagine he would have seen a lot of folks that didn’t know about grits, too.

 

WG:  Probably.

 

PG:  I had an assistant to work with me, from Georgia.  Perry Crews was his name.  He was a buck private.  Real nice guy.  He was so nice that we’d invite him to our house to eat.  Remember that?

 

WG:  Yes, to dinner.

 

PG:  He told me two or three times….  He said, “Captain Getto, you’re a real nice guy, but you’re still a damned Yankee.”  He was really a nice guy.  He was my assistant for a long, long time there, ’til the WACs came along.  The WAVs are in the Navy; the WACs are in the service.  And then I had a girl assistant.  She was a Mexican girl from some place down in New Mexico, I guess, or Texas or something.  Her name was Irene.  She was a nice girl.

 

I:   I’m really surprised, because you said there were 54 dentists in this picture that you showed.  You said this was a major transfer in and out [area].  Was it a basic training area, or was it just a transfer area?

 

PG:  No, this area here was….  When these young fellows came into the service, they had to have….  They were interested in becoming pilots.  These were people who wanted to be pilots.  So we had to process them.  That was one of their….  The first thing, if they were gonna be pilots, they had to have decent teeth.  That was for sure.  And they had to have two years of college.  So most of the people who came through there were in reasonably good shape.  If you go to college for a few years….  If you leave home, you have your teeth worked over.  So they were in pretty good shape.  We would get, oh, big bunches of ’em come through there.  We would spend days just surveying—looking at their teeth.  Then we had regular charts.  This guy needs it; this this guys doesn’t.  This guy needs this; this guy needs that.  We had an office force of maybe eight or ten women.  I think they were civilian women.  They put all that stuff together, then they’d start callin’ these guys back.

 

While they were calling ’em back, they were getting used to [the] military. They were marchin’ ’em around, and [doing] all the stuff they had to do.  They were living in barracks, and what have you.  They would put ’em in simulated planes, where they’d lower the pressure and see if they could handle that.  I guess they’d turn ’em upside down, and all that kind of stuff.  I don’t know what all they did with them.  Quite a few of ’em we would have…that would get into those conditions would have toothaches.  They’d send ’em back to us and say, “This guy gets a toothache when he’s in a certain area.”  We’d try to figure out why.  We’d maybe X-ray that tooth.  Maybe if they had fillings we’d take ’em out and put a temporary…a  medicated filling in and send ’em back for another try—give ’em another run and see what happened.  That was what we did most of the time.

 

And then, as I mentioned, there were about…supposedly on that field twenty thousand people that were pilots.  They already had their wings.  These were instructors.  So we had to take care of all of those.  I always worked on young guys.  But a few of these people, in those pictures there, they were fellows who had been out in practice maybe ten years or so, and they took care of the upper crust.  I’d go to the officers’ club with this one fellow especially, George Kuhlkel [sp?]….  They had a beautiful officers’ club and a golf course and a…something like a handball court, but it wasn’t a handball..

 

I:  Racquetball?

PG:  Yeah, racquetball.  It was a beautiful field.  Beautiful homes.  Beautiful, beautiful homes.  A lot of big planes there.  Big, big planes.  B-17s and all that kind of stuff.  But when I’d go to the officers’ club with this one fella, we’d go in there, and he’d see maybe a guy over there who was a full colonel.  Or maybe he could even have been a general.  He’d say, “You missed your appointment today.”  The guy would give himself an excuse and say, “Well I had to do this and this.”  He was doing….  This friend of mine, he was doin’ gold work on people.  If a guy had some rank, and he had a cavity in a tooth, they didn’t put any silver fillings in or that white material like they use on front teeth.  He was doin’ a lot of gold work.  He was a real good dentist—real good dentist.  And they work right in the hospital themselves.  We were right adjacent to the hospital.  We had clinics that were as long as this house all lined up with chairs all along there.  They were open.  The guys right next to me would be working on one fellow, and I’d be working on another, and they’d just keep bringing ’em in there.  We would finish one; they’d bring another one in.  The clinics were open from seven in the morning ’til midnight.

 

I:  Well, you had different duty shifts.

 

PG:  We’d go in at seven in the morning and work ’til noon.  I mean, ’til two.  And then we had to go take Phys. Ed.  My first three or four months in the service about killed me.  We’d have to run obstacle courses.  We were in that upstairs apartment, and I had to crawl up on my hands and knees.  Both of my ankles got swollen.  We went back to….  I didn’t go back, which didn’t help me a bit.  But some of the fellows who were a little bit older than I went back to the instructors and said “I think you should grade us in different age categories.  You know, a twenty-year-old guy can do a lot more than we [can].  We’re 35 and forty.”  Some of ’em were that old, because they were in the Reserves. They were the ones that got called back and weren’t happy, because they’d had all that gravy in the Reserves.  Then all at once the war came along, and they got ’em!

 

When I came back to Lawrence….  This is another thing that was an interesting experience.  When I came back to Lawrence, I got a call that I had to go down to the Watkins Museum and re-register.  I went down there, and I said, “What’s goin’ on?”  He said, “Well, we’re re-registering you people, because we’ve had physicians and dentists who have been educated by the government.”  When the war was pretty much over and they didn’t need ’em any more, these people went out and went into private practice.  Then all at once the Korean War came along, and they needed ’em, and they wanted ’em back, and they were having trouble getting ’em.  So when I went down there and told ’em….  I said, “I’ve been in the service for four years.”  They reclassified me.  They said, “You’re free.  You can go home.  You can go back to work.”  But that was interesting that I came back and had to go back down there to [re-register].  I don’t remember what I was classified, but they said, “Don’t worry about it.  We’re not going to bother you anymore.  You’ve had enough.” 

 

But I didn’t like it in the service.  I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like the….  Our work was too hard, for one thing.  You don’t get any rest between one and another.  When you’re there for eight hours….  You’d get a little break to go over and eat, and we’d go over to the hospital.  We’d go through the chow line there.  They had those big trays, and they’d put a little dab of this and a little dab of that [on the tray].  They fed us okay, but I didn’t like the hard…   There was another thing that I didn’t particularly like in the service.  It wasn’t too bad there, but you get a lot of people that don’t want to have any dental work done.  It’s not like [in] civilian life.  [In] civilian life they come to you because they like you. A lot of those people would come in there, and they’d [say], “I don’t know why the hell I’m here.”

 

I:  They’re going to tense up.  They’re not going to be a good patient for you.

 

PG:  Of course, in some respects, these were young people who wanted to become pilots, and they could see we had rank.  You’d have your name up in front of you: Captain So-and-So or Major So-and-So or Lieutenant-Colonel So-and-So.  All that kinda stuff.  That would settle ’em down a little bit.

 

[interviewer changes tape]

 

I’d been in service about two years, and my commanding officer came in.  This was a different fellow.  He was a lieutenant colonel.  He came in and said to me….  He said, “Paul, I want you to go down to Florida—down to Orlando, Florida—and take a course down there.”  I [thought], “Oh-oh.  This is gonna [be] overseas stuff.”  I said, “I’m not….  I don’t want to go down there.  I don’t want to go down to Florida.”  He said, “You can take your wife with you, too.”  I said, “I don’t want to go down there.”  And he was a real gruff guy.  He was from Ohio.  He started cussin’ a blue streak.  “Damn it,” he said, “civilians are payin’ big money to go down there where I wanted to send you, and you don’t want to go!”  So I said, “Well, let me think about it a little bit.”  I asked somebody…  I kinda inquired around and asked somebody.  I said, “Do you know anything about that thing down at Orlando?”  The fella said…. “Oh,” he said, “if you get a chance, go down there.”  I was gonna go for five weeks.  He said, “Go down there.  There’s nothing to it.” 

 

So we went down there, and we rented a room in a private home.  Every day I’d go out with a group of people.  I didn’t know these people.  I’d go with a group of other dentists, and they’d take us out on the coast.  They’d feed us strange stuff: K-rations and snake meat or some kind of crazy stuff.  They’d have us set up equipment like you’d use if you were out in the field.  We called it a “Chest-Sixty.”  It’s about that big.  The whole thing is….  All your dental equipment’s right in there.  You can….  These were people who were really up on the front lines.   They’d have their equipment with ’em, and if somebody’d have a toothache, they could….  So they showed us how to set this all up.  Of course, I wasn’t very interested in that.  I didn’t particularly worry about how you put that together, because where we were, we had beautiful equipment.  We had just all the most modern stuff that you could have in those days.  But what was nice about it, we’d go out there and pretend three or four or five hours, maybe.  Then in the evening we were free.  We used to….  They had a beautiful officers’ club there.  The story down there was, this was Hap Arnold’s favorite officers’ club. 

 

[Henry H. (“Hap”) Arnold (1886-1950) was a five-star general in the U.S. Army, and later in the U. S. Air Force.  Immediately prior to World War II, he commanded the Army Air Forces.]

 

It was out there in Orlando, and it was out on a lake.  We could go out there in the evening.  Food wasn’t expensive in the service.  I can’t remember what it was.  We’d sit out there and watch the sailboats goin’ all around.  It was my first experience with eating shrimp cocktail.    They’d have a great big shrimp [cocktail] every night with that hot sauce on it.  I’d never eaten shrimp cocktail before.  We were down there for that time, and it….  They showed us a lot of stuff and taught us a lot of stuff, but most of it, as I say….  That equipment part, I wasn’t very interested [in], because I knew I was gonna go back to Maxwell.  The guy told me.  He said, “You’re not gonna go overseas.”  He said, “I just want to give you a vacation.”  I said, “Well, that’s good.”

 

I:  You know, that does bring up….  I wondered about it.  You always hear about medics bein’ with the front lines or with the guys out in the field.  But what do they do about dentists out in the field?

 

PG:  Well, they have….  Dr. [Richard] Haun, who you will see, he has the set up.  He set up with that equipment.  He started out in Hawaii, and I don’t know where all he’s been.  But he set up with that.  He tells me about….  He had a [Medical] Corpsman workin’ with him.  That equipment, you had to pump it with your foot, and he’d have a guy standin’ there pumpin’ while he was….  They don’t do anything fancy, but if a guy comes along and says, “I’ve got a terrible toothache,” they have ways of maybe….  I don’t know whether they have X-ray equipment.  I didn’t remember that.  But they’ll maybe….  The guy’ll maybe have a broken filling, and they’ll take it out, [and] put a new….  If he doesn’t put a filling in, he’ll put a temporary filling in.  I’ve heard guys in the service….  Now, I don’t know how true this is.  I’ve heard guys in the service [say] that these guys were ready to go in for really action, where they’d a good chance of gettin’ killed.  They’d put temporary fillings in their teeth.  They’d say, “He may not get back, so let’s just seal this up, make it comfortable, and if he gets back, then we’ll go from there.”

 

Another thing that happened in the service that was interesting….  I never had this happen, but I know it does happen.  When they had somebody that had a denture, for instance…upper denture, maybe.   A G.I. that was carryin’ a gun, with an upper denture, if he….  If they had to re-bite….  Maybe he broke that denture.  They would put his name and serial number inside that denture, and seal it in there.  It was sealed in.  A lot of times, some of these guys, when they was due to [for] some action, they would throw those dentures away.   Or they could use ’em for identification.  But on the other hand, if a guy was ready, he’d say, “Well, I’m supposed to get some new teeth, and I’m just waitin’ to get these teeth.  It’s gonna take six weeks or so.  They was hopin’ to kill time.  This was stories that I’ve heard from fellows that I’ve [met], because I’ve been around a lot of these fellows that have been in….  I was in a study club in Kansas City: Dental Veterans Study Club.

 

[PG discusses this study club]

 

I:  Mrs. Getto, I’m gonna ask you a little bit, because you were a wife.  You were a wife on post.  He talks about goin’ to work.  You said that you had a job.  What was it like bein’ the wife on the post?

 

WG:  Well, it was fun, but it was scary, because you were afraid he’d go overseas.  But I had a job, and so that helped.  You didn’t have time to worry too much, because you had to do your work.  As I told ya, I was a private secretary for this….  He was upset with me, because I wanted to go with him down to Florida.  But, anyway, I did.  The man that I worked for, his daughter was in the service.  Part of my duty was to go out and buy things that he wanted to mail to her, and I was using government time to do that.  But I was under orders to do it.

 

PG:  You weren’t very busy.  You didn’t work too hard there, did you?  That was a government job.  That wasn’t very busy, was it?

 

WG:  No, it wasn’t very busy.  No.

 

I:  Did you and the other wives do things together?

 

WG:  Well, a lot of the wives that we knew, they already had families.  Their children were with ’em, so they were busy with that.   

 

PG:  Most of your [unintelligible], those other wives, would be at the country club.

 

WG:  Yeah.  They would spend their time there with the kids, swimming and that sorta thing.  We only went out in the evening, because he’d get off, and [that’s] when I would be off.

 

I:  Did the government provide you with anything?  You said you lived in a private house, but did the government provide you with anything?

 

WG:  No.

 

PG:  No, no.  We had to live on my salary, I guess.  I don’t ever remember gettin’ anything from the government.

 

WG:  You were on your own to find a place to live.

 

I:  Well, officers, that’s a little different than enlisted.

 

PG:  Yeah, that is different.  Yeah.  They’d think they gave you enough money that you oughta be able to get along with it.

 

I:  You said at one point you really thought he was going to be transferred over.

 

WG:  Yes.

 

I:  That had to have been a little upsetting or scary for you.

 

WG:  That was, yes.  And when they sent him down to Florida, as I said, my boss just got hysterical.  “You can’t go!  Just go down and see him and then come right back, because he’s gonna be shipped overseas.”  Well, I didn’t do that.  I just quit my job and left.

 

I:  It was worth that effort to say, “Whatever time we have, I’m gonna be with him.”

 

WG:  Right.

 

PG:  The thing that was scary to a certain extent, but it didn’t seem to hit me at all….  I worked with fellows that would actually be working there on the line, and the commanding officer would come in and tap ’em on the shoulder and say, “You’re goin’ overseas.”  There was a guy standin’—a worker right next to you….  The commanding officer wasn’t pleased with him.  In fact, I remember the one guy that….  He was always gripin’ about the service—really gripin’ about the service.

 

WG:  Well, he had been in practice, and he didn’t like it.

 

PG:  Yeah.  He had been in practice.  He was a Pennsylvania [dentist].

 

WG:  [It] disrupted his life.

 

PG:  Disrupted his life.  And I think he was married.

 

WG:  He was married.

 

PG:  I remember this one time….  His name was Falocco.  The guy come—he was right beside me, facin’ that way—and tapped him on the shoulder.  He says, “Falocco, you’re goin’ on a boat ride.”  Falocco, he had a mustache.  His mouth just flew open.  But that’s always in the back of your mind that you might have to go.  Your luck can’t last forever.  You gotta go someplace sooner or later.

 

WG:  Well, you did your work and kept your mouth shut.

 

PG:  That’s right.  Somebody said, “How was it that you stayed there so long?”  And I said, “The reason I stayed there so long, I think, [was] I tried to do good work, and I tried to….  I listened, and I never griped.  If the boss would say, “You come in tomorrow in at midnight,” I’d say, “Yes, sir.”  That’s all there is to it.  I think it’s like anything else: if people like you, they feel like you’re doin’ a good job.  The people that got shipped overseas, especially where I was, they were shipped because they….  And I had fellows that wanted to go overseas.  I had some that’d say, “I don’t want to spend all my career right here in the service.  I want to see this,” or “I want to see that.”  As long as they weren’t doin’ [unintelligible].  In the Air Force, you’re not likely to get killed.  You’d go to a base some place.  You’re back some place.  You’re not right up front where this fellow, Bob Piller, I’m tellin’ you about [was].  He has told me about….  [He talks about Bob Piller’s experiences.]  His are really war stories.  Mine aren’t war stories.

 

I:  You were seeing all these boys goin’ in and out, and you knew these boys were more than likely gonna be sent overseas.  Did you ever think about that?

 

PG:  Well, you don’t know.  Most of those people we worked on wanted to be there, though.   See, these were kids.  If they’re gonna go into the service, they want to be a pilot.  It’s like the people, they want to go to O.C.S. to have a commission.  Young people don’t think about stuff like that.  Apparently only the parents or the wives are concerned.  Even in the Iraq War, you see these people come back [after] losing something, an arm or a hand or something, and they’ll say, “I want to go back again.”  It’s kinda hard to figure that out.  I guess if you think long enough, it’s kinda foolish, but they want to serve their country.  I don’t know.  But I think you had a good experience in the service, Winnie.  We met a lot of nice people in the service.

 

WG:  Kept in touch with them for quite a while.  Some of ’em are gone now.

 

PG:  Yeah, a lot of the people in this group here are all gone.  There’s not too many….

 

WG:  Some of ’em were older.

 

PG:  [Referring to a photograph]: In this front line here, most of these guys are gone.

 

WG:  That’s amazing to have that many dentists in one place.

 

I:  I know!  I think that 54….  Even though, Maxwell was a little city.  It wasn’t just a little post or anything.  That’s a big place.

 

PG:  You know, one thing that was interesting to hear, though….  Most of these dentists were from the north.  We had a few people….  I remember one guy in the service [who] I was with, he was from Mississippi.  You could tell he grew up in Mississippi.  He wouldn’t pay much attention to the….  We had black people that cleaned up the clinic and stuff.  They’d come behind us and work cleaning up the floor or something.  They’d come up behind me and say, “How are you this morning?  How’s everything?  How’re things goin’?”  We’d turn around and say….  This one kid, I remember we called him “Bobo.”  “Bobo, how’re things goin’ with you?”  He had a gold tooth right in the front that was new.  As soon as he smiled, we’d say, “Bobo, you’ve got a new gold tooth there.”  He had got it for Christmas.  But the guy next door, over here, he was from Mississippi, and he never said anything.  He’d just go past him, you know.  I thought it was kinda interesting, because I grew up up in the north.  I went to school with a lot of….  Back in Jeannette, where I grew up, there’s an industrial town and just lots of colored people, and a lot of ’em were friends of mine.  But they could tell right away….  These people could tell right away if you’re gonna fraternize with ’em.  That’s just people.  

 

I:  You all were down there for four years.  Did you ever get to come back?  [To PG]:  Now, you didn’t have the time off, but [to WG] did you ever get to come back and visit family?

 

WG:  No, I never left without him.

 

PG:  No, we were all together.

 

WG:  I had a job.

 

I:  I’m sure you wrote, then.

 

WG:  Oh, yes.

 

I:  Now you pick up the phone and call.

 

WG:  That was too expensive.

 

PG:  Another thing we’ve talked about….  You’ve talked about it, Winnie….  About these laundry facilities.  These laundries like they have now: gee, that would’ve been nice then [unintelligible] if you could’ve taken your clothes down there, and washed ’em in a laundry.  They just didn’t have stuff like that.

 

I:  How did you do your laundry?

 

PG:  We’d send it out.

 

WG:  We sent out his shirts and pants, mainly.  A lot of my things I did by hand.  His uniforms we sent out.

 

I:  I imagine if you were livin’ in an apartment….  But even if they had a washing machine and such, you couldn’t…

 

PG:  No, we didn’t have any facilities like that in this area.

 

I:  Evidently, then, a lot of homes opened up apartments for the families.

 

PG:  Yeah, you take one of your…a place like we were down there….  There were a lot of homes….  Well, that first one I went into was a beautiful home.  Before she came.  It was a comparatively new home.  This was just a couple.  They didn’t have any children, and they rented out this one bedroom.  I just had a bed room—just a place to sleep and all—but it was in a real nice area.  I can remember [that] down there….  I guess this must be before the time of air-conditioning.

 

WG:  No, we didn’t have air-conditioning.

 

PG:  But in this house they had a big central ceiling fan, and this person would tell me, “We’re gonna turn the fan on tonight and cool the house down.”  Which they would do—open up their windows and cool the house down for you.  Then they’d turn it off.  But we did have air-conditioning in the dental clinic, though.  We had to have it there. 

 

I:  A lot of places, like you said….  Some of the offices [had air-conditioning].  Theatres.  Sometimes movie theatres, I guess, would have the air-conditioning.  But it had to have been kind of tough.  Now, you’re from Pennsylvania, but you’ve been in Kansas awhile, [and you were] going down to an area where it’s hotter and more humid.  That had to have been kind of an adjustment for you, as well as a lot of other things.

 

PG:  I don’t know; you just have to say, “There’s a war on.” 

 

I:  Were you all affected by the rationing?

 

WG:  Oh, yes.  We had a ration book, and when you went shopping certain things you’d have trouble getting, because the supply was limited.

 

I:  Did that make it a little difficult?  From what I hear, you had the rationing book, and you could go down….  Or they’d say, “We’re going to have bananas,” or something like that.  But with you working, that made it a little tough.

 

WG:  It made a little difference, yes.

 

PG:  Well, you didn’t work on Saturday, though, did you?

 

WG:  No, I didn’t work on Saturday.  I worked five days a week.

 

PG:  I’ll tell you what was tough was that gasoline.  After I’d been down there for well over two years….  This is another interesting story about my dad.  We’d been married….  We were married, and I did get a week or so off, and we flew back to Pennsylvania.  In the mean time, I had written my brother, who owned a garage, and told him….  I said, “I’m interested in an automobile.  If you can help me get one, I’ll buy it when I’m there, and I’ll drive it back to Montgomery.”  When I got there, he said, “I have a car here that’s….”  This was in 1943 or [194]4, and it was a ’41 Oldsmobile.  It was a small Oldsmobile.  He said, “This fellow left this car here at the garage to be under cover, and I’ve heard from him.  He’s goin’ overseas, and he wants to sell the car.”  So my brother said, “If you’re interested, you might as well buy this one.”  Well, the car was for five hundred dollars.  I wanted to get the money, and so my sister went to the bank with me and signed a note with me.  But my dad—this is the funny part—my dad says, “Are you gonna borrow that money from the bank?”  I said, “Yes.”  He said, “What do you need a car for?  You’re in the service.  Let them drive you around.  You don’t need a car.”  He was one of the old school.  We talked about that.  We’re pretty much that way.  We’ve got two boys and a girl, and I never would let them have a car.  They didn’t drive cars when they were sixteen or seventeen.  When they were old enough to earn a living, then they could buy a car, but I wasn’t gonna buy ’em any car.  [Referring to his father]: He thought this was crazy for me to get this car, but we did.   It worked out real fine. 

 

I:  And then you drove it back to Montgomery?

 

PG:  Yeah.   We drove it back.

 

I:  That kinda had to have been a trip, too, to get back, because of the rationing.

 

PG:  Yeah.  We came out to Kansas one time, and we saved up all our rationing coupons.  I think people used to trade ’em back and forth.  The other thing we did down in Montgomery [was], you could buy a license for a car in Georgia cheaper than—I mean the license on the back of the car—cheaper than you could get…buy ’em in Alabama.  And most of the guys I was with down there all had a Georgia license on their car.

 

I:  I guess you do what you need to do.

 

PG:  Yeah.  I guess [because of] the fact that you were in the military, you could fake an address or somethin’.  I don’t remember exactly how it was done, but I know I had a Georgia license at the last there.  Somebody told me how to do it, so I did, and it was much, much cheaper than…

 

I:  How hard was it to adjust after the war?  You said you’d go down with your ration book, [and] you would do your shopping, probably on a Saturday.  How was it to make the adjustment after the war?  Now, rationing went a little bit after the surrender and such, but how was it to adjust to civilian life?

 

WG:  Oh, that wasn’t any problem.  There was a lot more things available to you in civilian life than there was in the service, so we didn’t have any problem adjusting.

 

I:  You’re in Montgomery, Alabama, pretty well sure you’re not gonna be moved around that much at all.  Did you pay much attention to the war news—to what was goin’ on—on the radio and in the newspapers and such?

 

PG:  Well, you didn’t get the news like you do now.

 

WG:  You had newspapers.

 

PG:  We didn’t have any….  There was no television or anything, just listenin’ to the radio and what you hear on the radio.  If somethin’ happened, it’d be two days before you’d really find out about it.  You couldn’t see the war right in front of you, like you do now.  I don’t know; it was just another job for us.

 

I:  I don’t know if it piqued your interest to know what was goin’ on in other places, or not.  But like you said, you had your jobs to do, and you liked to live, too.

 

PG:  Yeah, you’d lose contact with people.  I did one time run into one fellow from my hometown, who was a cadet.  The girl came in, or said, “There’s So-and-So out here.”  His name was Dribiano [sp?]  I still remember him.  The assistant came in….  The office girl came in and says, “There’s a fellow out here that wants you as his dentist.”  “Oh!”  Sure enough, it was this….  We called him “Peck.”  I knew him in school.  I knew his family.  He was younger, of course, quite a bit younger than I was.  But I knew his family when I was in Jeannette.  So as soon as she told me who it was, I said, “Yeah.  Bring him in.”  I had had….  I kept contact with him for a few years after I got out of the service.  I visited him there in Jeannette.  He owned….  He ended up owning a Chevrolet…sold Chevrolet automobiles.  But there was just a lotta, lotta people comin’ there all the time.

 

I:  Now, I’m going to ask you both the same question, and I assume [your answers] would probably be a little different, because [of] just the nature of the way things are.  What would you say the biggest influence on the rest of your life was, during your time?  What during your time of service, those four years, had the biggest influence on you that stayed with you for the rest of your life?

 

WG:  Being frugal, for me.  We were on a limited income, and you were careful what you did when you went shopping.  And we’re still that way.

 

PG:  Well, followin’ up on what she says….  As I mentioned, my folks never had very much money, and we just struggled to get through college and everything.  In the situation she had, where she’d lost her mother when she was a young girl….  We were very, very careful with our money, and we still are, to a certain extent.  I remember when we built this house….  We built this house in 1950.  It was right when I came back from Pennsylvania.  We didn’t have much furniture, and we had decided that we were going to buy a piece at a time as we could afford it.  We’re still that way.  Our kids come over here, and they’ll say, “Why don’t you do this?  Why don’t you do that?”  “Oh, it costs too much money!”  “Why’re you worried about that kind of stuff?”  They all make pretty good money.   I have a son in Kansas City that’s an attorney.  He makes more money in a week than I did in a month, I’m sure.  But they always bring it up to us.  In fact, they were here just last week.  All three of our kids were here for dinner.  They were talking about some stuff.  You know, I’m always worrying about stuff.  Her folks always used to say, “You never know how much you’re gonna need.”  I’ve brought this up with the children a few times.  They’ll say, “Why don’t you do this,” or “Why don’t you do that?”  “Noooo.”  We’ve done a lot of traveling earlier. 

 

[PG talks about trips they have taken and a vacation time-share they had for twenty years.] 

 

We’ve been all over the United States, and we’ve been to many places, and we’re just satisfied to stay here.  They will encourage us to….  “Why don’t you go here, and why don’t you do that?”  Now we’ve reached the point where they’re worried about us.  They’re looking after us.  If she has a medical appointment, my daughter goes with her.  Doesn’t think she can drive out to there, I guess.  And my daughter does the same thing with me.  If I have something that I’m gonna do, she’ll say, “Why don’t I go along with you, Dad?”  “Oh, I can take care of that, you know.”

 

WG:  We’ve become the child.  That’s what we are.  They think we can’t think for ourselves.

 

I:  Did you all talk much about what happened during this time period with your family?

 

PG:  With our children?  Not a great deal.

 

WG:  Past history.  They have other interests.

 

PG:  I think they’re treating us like I was with my folks.  I’ve often wondered…  I wish I knew more about my mother and father.  But when we was growin’ up, everybody was tryin’ to make a living and go to school and pay your bills and all that, and I don’t know too much about my genealogy.  I really don’t know.  I know my father was born….  I was over there where he was born and lived.  My mother came from Turin, Italy.  We were there and visited there, but I don’t know too much about….  For some reason or other, our kids don’t ask us much about stuff like that.  I talk about when I was growing up back in Pennsylvania and some of the crazy things that we used to do as kids, and they get a big kick out of that.  They laugh about that.  When you grow up in an industrial area, it’s a different life than in Lawrence, Kansas.  The people are different, because they’re all blue-collar workers.  And the kids are different, because they’re raised in situations like that.  Everybody in the area where I grew up had nicknames.  I’ll tell the kids about one kid that we called “Grandpap,” and another one we called “Cabbage.”  As I was growing up, I was “Skinny”—everbody called me “Skinny,” because I was skinny.  They think that’s funny.  They think that’s crazy.

 

I:  Well, it’s like a whole different world.

 

PG:  Yeah.  We talk about that all the time, because we think our kids do a lot of stuff that we wouldn’t be doing.  But this is a different era—a different time.

 

I:  Sometimes families are interested, and sometimes they’re really not.

 

PG:  I did have something interesting happen here.  About three or four years ago, my son that’s an attorney came over one day with a camcorder.

 

[PG talks about the oral history interview his son did with him, then reminisces further about his family in Pennsylvania.] 

 

I:  What do you want me to remember of that time period [the World War II years]?

 

PG:  About the only thing I….  Do you have anything in mind, Winnie?  I’m reasonably happy with the way my life went.  We’ve been….  Both of us have worked real hard to raise these three kids to be good, honest people.

 

WG:  Thankfully, none of ’em ever got in trouble and were in jail.  That’s a lot to be thankful for these days.  They’re all good citizens.

 

PG:  All three of ’em have good positions, and they have nice children.

 

[WG and PG talk about their son’s adopted children.]

 

I:  You did a mighty fine job when you came back home, too.

 

PG:  We tried hard.  We’re still tryin’ hard.

 

I:  I appreciate you takin’ this time today.

 

PG:  Well, as I told you beforehand, my military experience has not been a great deal, but our life has been very good.  We’ve been very, very fortunate.  Her health is good; she has asthma.  My health has been good, and our children’s health has been good.

 

WG:  We have a lot to be thankful for.

 

PG:  We’ve been real thankful for that.  I hope and I know we’ve been reasonably good citizens.

 

I:  The examples that you give for us—for my generation and for the next generations down—that’s what we wanted to get down on here, too.  I do thank you for this.

 

PG:  Well, I think that it’s just a matter of going from one generation to another generation.  [He talks about their oldest son, who mentors a child in Topeka, and about their daughter, who helps a friend in need.]

 

Length:  107 minutes

 



Item Description

Copyright © 2007-2019 - Kansas Historical Society - Contact Us
This website was developed in part with funding provided by the Information Network of Kansas.