Kansas MemoryKansas Memory

Kansas Historical SocietyKansas Historical Society

Interview on experiences in World War II

Item Description Bookbag Share

The World War II Years:

An Oral History Interview with Ellis Hayden

 

 

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 Mary Hayden have been edited.

 

 

Interviewer:  Here we are on June 21, 2007.  The first day of summer.  We’re here at your home.  If you’d just start off and give me your complete name and where you were born and a little somethin’ there.

 

Ellis Hayden:  My complete name is Ellis, E-L-L-I-S, Ralph, R-A-L-P-H, Hayden, H-A-Y-D-E-N.  I was born in Ottaway [Ottowa], Kansas February the fourth, 1924.

 

I:  What did your dad do?

 

EH:  My dad was a baker.

 

I:  You dad was a baker, too?

 

EH:  Oh, yeah.  He was a good baker.  Better than I was.  We had a good relationship with the bakery.

 

I:  Did he own a bakery?  

 

EH:  He did.  He owned a Martha Washington bakery down in Ottaway [Ottowa], Kansas.  That was when bread sold five loaves for a quarter.

 

I:  Did you go to school in Ottawa?

 

EH:  To the seventh grade.  Yeah, from the first to the seventh grade.

 

I:  Had you planned to be a baker?

 

EH:  Well, I was….  I’d go to work with my dad and stay all night.  It just came natural.

 

I:  So you didn’t really plan on doin’ anything else?

 

EH:  Not really, I guess.

 

I:  December seventh, 1941 what were you doin’?

 

Mary Hayden [EH’s wife]:  He was here. 

 

EH:  [to Mary Hayden]:  I was in Lawrence then, wasn’t I?  Yeah, we moved up here.  I think I was on the way home from Topeka in the car.  I heard it on the radio.  That’s the way it was.  Uh-huh.  And I don’t regret one day in the Navy.

 

I:  When did you enlist?

 

Mary Hayden:  You went to Kansas City, didn’t you? 

 

EH:  Yeah, I went into Kansas City.

 

I:  You [said you] were inducted in 1942.  Did you join and immediately go in, or did you wait a little bit?

 

EH:  No.  I joined in Kansas City, and away we went to boot camp.

 

I:  Was it, you said, February?

 

Mary Hayden:  No, that’s his….  That’s when he was born.

 

I:  Oh, I’m sorry.  When did you go into the service, then?

 

EH:  ’41. 

 

MH:  No.  ’43.  Linda was born in ’43, and you left three days before she was born.

 

EH:  Yeah, I did do it that way. 

 

MH:  It was maybe six weeks before that.  He joined and then waited to be called  up.  I don’t know what day he actually joined.  I think him and his dad probably went down, because he was gonna be called up into the Army, and he didn’t wanna go into it.

 

I:  Like you said, you didn’t want….  You’d rather be in the Navy than the Army?

 

EH:  I liked the Navy, and it liked me.  That’s a good answer.

 

I:  Could ya swim?

 

EH:  Oh, yes.  I’ve been swimmin’ since I can remember.

 

I:  Okay, then.  So you said you were inducted in Kansas City.  Where were you sent for basic training?

 

EH:  Farragut, Idaho.

 

I:  Had ya traveled very much before you got in the service?

 

EH:  Oh, I was, I was quite a kid.  I even….  I had an aunt and an uncle that lived in Farragut, Ida… [corrects himself] no, lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and I even hitchhiked down there from here once to stay with them for a couple of a weeks or so.  Hitchhiked back to Lawrence.  I get a lot out life.  I don’t have any enemies that I know of.

 

I:  That’s good.  That’s a good thing to say.

 

EH:  Well, I don’t have any that I know of.

 

I:  So did you like basic training?

 

EH:  Oh, yeah, I always did….  I liked everything about….  I know when I got paid, the first pay, thirteen dollars and somethin’….  First pay check.  I didn’t even have enough money to buy a train ticket home on…for leave—from boot camp.  But I think between sellin’ a wristwatch and this and that, I rounded up enough.

 

I:  It was kind of important for you to come home after basic training, wasn’t it?

 

EH:  Well, yeah.

 

MH:  He wanted to see the baby.

 

I:  When did you get married?

 

MH:  June the fifth, 1942.  Right after high school.  We just graduated, then we didn’t know what else to do with ourselves, so we got married.

 

I:  So when you joined up [in] the service, you were already an old married man.

 

EH:  Uh-huh.

 

I:  With a baby on the way.

 

EH:  I guess, yeah!

 

I:  Eleven months after you all got married, there ya had the baby, but you were at basic training.

 

EH:  Yeah, Linda.  Uh-huh.  Yeah, we raised three children.  Life’s been good; that’s all there is to it.

 

I:  You said you were good to the Navy, and the Navy was good to you, but now you had a new baby.  Did that make any difference in how you thought about joinin’ the service?

 

EH:  I don’t think so.  I knew one thing: I didn’t want no Army.

 

MH:  Even before we were married he always wanted to join the Navy.  He knew that was somethin’ he wanted to do.

 

EH:  Yeah, it was somethin’ I wanted to do, anyway.

 

I:  So after basic training, and you sold your watch and came home to see the new baby, how soon after that were you sent to your first assignment?

 

EH:  Well, I went….  Oh.  They sent me back here to Lawrence, Kansas to machinist mate’s school at KU.  But I never turned out to be a very good machinist, because after I got assigned to my ship, they heard that I was a baker, and the fellow who was doin’….  The baker on the ship at the time….  The ship only had forty men and five officers, and he just wasn’t a good enough baker to complete [compete?] for the job.  So they turned it over to me.

 

I:  So you became the cook’s….

 

EH:  A baker.  But I carried a machinist mate rate.

 

I:  Well, that was probably a little bit better, wasn’t it?

 

EH:  Oh, yes.  Bakin’ came natural to me, anyway.

 

I:  How did you get recipes?  We’re not talkin’ about just setting a table for six.  You’re talkin’about a whole ship’s company.

 

EH:  My dad would send ’em to me.  I cooked for forty men and five officers.

 

I:  Did you work with the cook?

 

EH:  Yeah, they had cooks, too.

 

I:  Did you have to kinda coordinate with them?

 

EH:  Actually, I was in charge of the whole galley.  It was just forty men and five officers.   It was good duty.  It really was.

 

I:  How did you decide what you were going to fix?  What you were going to cook? 


EH:   You always….  You had beans once a week for breakfast.  I just did the baking.  The cooks took care of the rest it.

 

I:  Yeah, but you got to choose what you wanted to fix, though?

 

EH:  Oh, yes.  I even made cinnamon rolls for breakfast for ’em.  When I didn’t have nothin’ else to do, I spent a lot of time just bakin’ things that….  But I was kinda onery.  I even baked ’em pumpkin pie for breakfast a time or two.  They liked it!

 

I:  I imagine they thought you were a pretty good guy.

 

EH:  Yeah.  Yeah, we got along fine.

 

I:  When you were assigned to your ship….  You said it was the Kahlua?

 

EH:  Kailua.

 

I:  Did you join it up at San Diego, or San Francisco?  Where were you?

 

EH:  No, they sent me….  After machinist mate’s school, they sent me to California, and put me aboard a baby aircraft carrier, and I used that for transportation to New Guinea to catch the Kailua.   And comin’ home, I was on the USS Texas as a passenger.  It was a battleship.  That’s how we got back to Oklahoma, where they discharged us.

 

I:  So you were put on the small aircraft carrier.  Was that kind of a different situation?

 

EH:  It was a baby aircraft carrier, they called it.  The name of it was the Copahee.  I don’t even know how to spell that—USS Copahee.

 

I:  Did you go through Hawaii and then over into the South Pacific?

 

EH:  Yeah, I been to Hawaii on the Copahee…[corrects himself] USS Kailua.  I been there lot of times.

 

I:  How did it feel?  I mean, here you were going into enemy territory, into enemy waters.

 

EH:  I don’t think you even give it a thought.   This ship was such good duty.  We played poker.  Even the officers played poker with us.  It was actually real good duty.

 

I:  By the time you got to New Guinea and picked up your own ship, were things starting to heat up a little bit?  You said that the Kailua was a cable-layer?

 

EH:  Uh-huh.

 

I:  Now, can you tell me what that really does?

 

EH:  Well, there was a big tank in the middle of it of cable, and they would lay cable across the mouth of a bay in case a submarine went under it or over it or whatever.  They used it for…for that, I guess.  Thirteen knots is as fast as it’d go.  That’s pretty slow.  But all in all, I don’t regret one day I put in the Navy.  In fact, I should ha[ve] stayed.

 

I:  So, essentially, what you all would do, then, is there would be the battle, [and it] would be ahead of you.  They went in to take over the island, and then you’d come in behind and lay the cable.

 

EH:  Yeah, come in behind, after they’d secured it and everything.  I been to Wake Island, [Unintelligible], New Guinea… all kinda islands.

 

I:  Are there too many islands out there that you weren’t at?

 

EH:  Wake.  Been there, [but] didn’t go ashore. 

 

MH:  You was at Midway, weren’t ya?  And you said there wasn’t a leaf left or nothin’.

 

EH:  Where?

 

MH:  Midway. 

 

EH:  Yeah, I been to Midway.  That’s where the gooney birds are.  They make a nest and lay an egg on the runway.

 

I:  No wonder they’re called “gooney.”  You were talking about the different islands.  Where did you follow up?  What battles did you follow up on?

 

EH:  Not necessarily any battles, but we been to a lot of different islands.   And after they decided they didn’t need the cable, well, they could pick it up and go to another spot.

 

I:  So you kept movin’ around a lot.

 

EH:  We kept movin’ a lot around.

 

I:  How did you take leave?

 

EH:  How did I take leave?  Well, I didn’t have…. 

 

MH:  You came to dry dock several times in Seattle, ’cause I went out to see you. 

 

EH:  Yeah, I came to dry dock in Seattle.  I don’t know….  It was a small ship, and the relationship between the officers and the men is different—a lot different.  As far as duty and this one…. It was just good.  It was home.

 

I:  So you all came back to Seattle several times.

 

EH:  Several times.

 

I:  You didn’t have to stay in that South Pacific area?

 

EH:  No, we came back to Seattle.

 

I:  Did you get to come back to Ottawa?

 

EH:  No, I came to Lawrence.

 

I:  You were given, what, a ten-day leave or a thirty-day leave?  How many…?  What did you get?

 

EH:  Well, maybe I had more leaves than I was entitled to.  I don’t know.  I got along good with the officers. 

 

MH:  I took little Linda and went out there.  I never had been on a train before.  I was scared to death.  I was nineteen, twenty years old, and I had a little baby.  He called and said he was gonna be there.  We went….  Then we came home, and then he….  Was that about a year [later], or something?  He was gonna come home again, and we went out.  Then he came home, and then we left Linda here and went back.  Or the other way around.  I don’t know.  We just took one trip without her. 

 

EH:  I could ha[ve] been discharged three days earlier than I was, because I was tryin’ to make up my mind whether to stay in or not.  When I went aboard the Kailua, an older fella who was actually light heavyweight champion of the state of Texas as a boxer—he was in the Navy—he more or less adopted me.  He was older than I was.  Charlie Cobb—his name was Charlie Cobb.  He boxed [as] “Cowboy Charlie Cobb,” and he was just a wonderful fella.  That’s all there was to it.  In fact, he’d even babysit for Linda, didn’t he?  In Seattle.

 

I:  It kind of helps, doesn’t it?  You were a kid when you got on board that ship.

 

EH:  Oh, yeah. 

 

MH:  We didn’t know it, though.  We didn’t know we were kids, did we? 

 

EH:  No. 

 

MH:  We thought we screwed up.

 

EH:  Whoever thought when we got married [that] we’d be married 65 years!  I don’t know; I guess we have words every day. 

 

I:  But that keeps it exciting, doesn’t it?  Did you mind being in a war zone? 

 

EH:  No.  You don’t….  You just take whatever’s dished out to ya.  You don’t ask no questions.  It’s just….  No, I didn’t mind it, no.

 

I:  You mentioned, also, [that] in addition to having the cable you had depth charges?

 

EH:  We had depth charges we rolled off by hand, off the fantail.  They were barrels.

 

I:  And so there were opportunities that you had to do that?  There were submarines, or did you…?


EH:  I think we more or less practiced.  I think that’s what that amounted to. 

 

I:  You’re away from home; you’ve got a new wife; you’ve got a new baby; you’re still young enough that the whole world and all is there.  But it’s wartime, and you’re going through rationing.  You’re in the service.  What really was goin’ through your mind of what is it that’s gonna happen afterwards?  What did you think was gonna be the rest of your life?

 

EH:  Well, let’s see.  I had a….  I can’t put my….  I thought this was great when I got a discharge.  I kept a[n] insurance policy for a thousand dollars.  Well, a thousand dollars won’t buy nothin’ nowadays.

 

I:  But it sure looked big at the time.

 

EH:  Yeah, it was big then.  But I remember that part: a thousand dollars!  Goodness!

 

MH:  You know, I don’t think we thought too much about the future, ’cause we were young, and we didn’t know anything but the war. I mean, we didn’t have any bad….  I grew up in the country, and poorer than poor.  We were both poor.  Everybody was poor.  And you didn’t think; you just knew that the day was comin’.  And hopefully it’d come. 

 

EH:  When I got married—I don’t like to tell this—I was workin’ at Brinkman’s Bakery here in Lawrence.  My daddy was foreman of the night shift, and I’m makin’ eighteen dollars a week, workin’ twelve hours a night.  Saturday night I got off.  That was [all]—eighteen dollars.  And we made it, didn’t we?

 

MH:  Yeah.

 

I:  But that’s in the time when bread was five loaves for a dollar.

 

EH:  Yeah, [unintelligible]. 

 

MH:  We put seven dollars for rent, seven dollars for groceries—and you could live pretty good on a dollar a day—and, oh, maybe two dollars for gas.  The rest of it was free.  It was just….  You just [unintelligible] and did it.

 

I:  Yeah, because it was a different time.  Normally when I talk to the veterans, they were saying, “We did what we were supposed to do.” 

 

EH:  Uh-huh.

 

I:  It was a different time period; you didn’t question it as much as perhaps now.  Had you been kinda paying…?  Now when Pearl Harbor happened, you said you enlisted.  You didn’t want to get drafted, but you had been talking about going in anyway.

 

EH:  I didn’t wanna be in the Army.

 

I:  Had you been following any of the things that had been goin’ on?  Did you think that you were gonna get in the war?

 

EH:  You know, actually, I don’t think I did.  I don’t think I did.  I just knew that when my time….  When it was my time to go, I didn’t want no Army, so I went to Kansas City and joined the Navy.

 

I:  [To MH]: You said your daddy was in World War I.  [To EH]: Was your dad in World War I?

 

EH:  No.  My boy was in Vietnam.

 

I:  What did your dad tell you about goin’ in the Navy?

 

EH:  He would ha[ve] joined, too, if they’d ha[ve] let him.  Really. They told him he was a little age-y.

 

I:  Just a little too old?

 

EH:  Yeah, but he would actually have joined, if they’d ha[ve] let him.  My dad and I, we had a great relationship.  We really did.  I don’t know if there’s any man on earth any better than he ever was.  He was really somethin’ extra.  Yeah.

 

I:  Did you write letters to your dad from overseas?

 

EH:  Oh, yes. 

 

MH:  I got a letter every day.  Most of ’em had a little money in it, because he played poker all the time.  He won a lot.

 

I:  Well, you were onboard ship; what else are you gonna do?  And those officers’ money is as good as the enlisted men[’s], wasn’t it?

 

EH:  Towards the….  I think it was after the war ended, so still on the ship, we hauled….  Don’t publish this.

 

[Pause]

 

I:  Officers were given stipends of whiskey.  Now, were the enlisted men given stipends of beer?

 

EH:  I’m not sure.

 

I:  Did you ever get beer just on your own? 

 

EH:  Yeah.  It was in green cans.

 

I:  What kind was it?

 

EH:  I don’t know.

 

MH:  Where’d you get it?  On the ship? 

 

EH:  Oh, yeah.

 

I:  Government-issued beer?

 

EH:  Well, we’d haul liquor to the officer’s club.  It seemed like one box would always get broke along the way.

 

I:   Well, ships roll and tumble.

 

EH:  The greatest experience I had when I was in the Navy….  Aboard my ship, we had a punching bag, and it was up on deck.  I was up there punchin’ the thing one day, and it fell off the hook and went overboard.  I never thought; I just dived in after it.  It was only one arm’s length ahead of me.  This was in Pearl Harbor—in there.  I wore out, but a couple a Hawaiian people picked me up in their….  They had a fishin’ boat or somethin’.    I’ll never forget that.  I never gived it a thought; I just dived in after that there punchin’ bag.

 

I:  Did they miss you off board the ship?

 

EH:  No.  You know, really, I don’t think anybody knew anything about it except me and the two guys that picked me up.  I went back, crawled up the ladder, and put the punchin’ bag back on the hook.

 

I:  There it was.

 

EH:  There it was.  Yeah.

 

I:  You said you had a punching bag.  I know you played poker; I know you played cards.  What else did you do on ship when you weren’t layin’ cable?

 

EH:  Played poker.

 

I:  Playin’ poker—pretty much that’s it?

 

EH:  Yeah.  Uh-huh.

 

I:  Did they not have classes?

 

EH:  We’d go on leave, and we’d drink any kinda beer or whiskey or whatever we could come up with.  Uh-huh.  Really.  Uh-huh.

 

I:  Well, you get kind of bored, I guess, don’t you?

 

EH:  Well, I don’t know.  Oh, no.  No one did.  And I….  There was forty men on there, and, actually, every one of ’em had a tattoo before they left that ship.  That’s a fact.

 

I:  Where’s yours?

 

EH:  I got three.

 

I:  You got three!

 

EH:  Yeah, I got “Mary” on here.  See.  And one up here.  And one there.  Yeah.  I got the right name on there, even.

 

I:  They spelled it right and everything else?

 

EH:  Yeah, M-A-R-Y.

 

I:  Now, let me see your other one there.

 

EH:  Yeah, I got it….  This one here, and then I got a little one up here.

 

I:  Now, what exactly are those, though?

 

EH:  I guess this is an American flag, and it says….  I think that says “Mother.”  It’s kinda faded.  This is “Mary,” and I’m not a bit ashamed of ’em, ’cause there was forty men that had these, all on the same ship.  And this is a joke.  A cook….  I was in charge of him, too.  But, anyway, he held out.  He didn’t get no tattoo.  Finally he gave in.  He come back with two big bluebirds.  He was from Maysville, Kentucky.  I can still remember where he was from.  And his name was [Levonne].  Uh-oh, [Levonne.]

 

I:  Where did you get yours?  Were they all at the same place?

 

EH:  Hawaii.

 

I:  Why did it seem like all the guys had to get a tattoo?

 

EH:  Well, I don’t know.  My boy’s got one.  He was in the Army.  Went to Vietnam.  My dad had one.  I don’t know why people get ’em, but they do.

 

MH:  Somethin’ to do.

 

I:  Yeah, you’re off ship.

 

EH:  Most girls are getting ’em nowadays.  But my Mary didn’t.

 

I:  You’re not gonna get one? 

 

MH:  I never did like ’em.

 

EH:  I got all three of mine when I was in the Navy.  And every man on that ship….  It was awful….  It was wonderful duty.

 

I:  What was the best place in the South Pacific that you went?

 

EH:  The best place?  Well, I guess I’d have to say Hawaii.

 

I:  What was the most interesting place you went to?

 

EH:  The most interesting place I ever went to was Brisbane, Australia.

 

I:  Why was that the most interesting?

 

EH:  I don’t know.  I guess ’cause it was in Australia.  I know everything down there was backwards.  They made gasoline out of potatoes some way.

 

I:  Well, if it works….

 

EH:  It worked.

 

I:  Rationing and getting supplies to Australia, I imagine, was pretty tough.

 

EH:  Yeah, it [was].  But Australia, it’s changed now, I think; it’s a lot better.  If you went to the movies down there, they played “God Save the King,” I believe it was, and you had to stand up.

 

I:  Well, it was British.


EH:  Oh, yeah.  Uh-huh.  And I bought….  I don’t know if we….  For some unknown reason I needed a pair of shoes, so I bought a pair at a dry goods store in Brisbane, Australia, and I walked where….  I’d wear ’em, and I was….  The SP’s [shore patrols] picked me up for bein’ out of uniform in Seattle, Washington—for the wrong kind of shoes on.  I remember that.

 

I:  Did you explain to them that this was Australian shoes?

 

EH:  Oh, yeah, we got it all over all right, but it was kinda funny.

 

I:  Where were you when the war ended?

 

EH:  On my ship.

 

I:  And where was the ship?

 

EH:  Somewhere in the South Pacific.

 

I:  Did you all have an idea that the war was winding down?

 

EH:  I really don’t know, but I know one thing: them Japs were fighters.  Oh, yes.  They’re a good race to have on your side, if you’re gonna have to go to war.  They sure are.  I don’t know what I did, but they’re….  They’re….  They’re good.

 

I:  What did you think when you heard about the atomic bomb?  In my lifetime, I’ve lived with it, but you all didn’t know what it was.

 

EH:  Harry Truman was one of my favorite presidents.  He knew how to stop the war.  He knew how to fight a war, ’cause, he’d been in World War I.  He believed in usin’ everything that you had to whip the other fella with.  And if he hadn’t ha[ve] dropped that bomb, there’d have been a lot more Americans that got killed.  He done what he had to do.

 

I:  When you first heard that, though, and they said that this is what had happened, did you get the idea of how big this bomb was?

 

EH:  No.  We didn’t.  We’d heard the word “atomic bomb,” but….  But Harry knew how to win a war.  There’s just no question about it.

 

I:  Both of you had grown up pretty much with FDR as the president, and so when Harry Truman took over I imagine it was a bit of a shock, or a little bit [of] “Who’s Harry Truman?”

 

EH:  Yeah.  But Harry, he turned out to be one of my favorite presidents.

 

I:  So how long before you got to come home?

 

EH:  I don’t know.  Four or five months, probably.  I had enough—whaddaya call ’em?  points?—to discharge two men. 

 

MH:  He came home in November.   Same as our little Stanley.  He was born November the second, and he came home three weeks later to stay.  I had two babies by myself.

 

I:  You just missed all the excitement all the way around!  So that would have been in 1945?

 

EH:  Uh-huh.

 

I:  You said that the ship returned to the west coast, but you were discharged in Oklahoma?

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  Norman, Oklahoma.

 

I:  Why were you discharged in Norman, Oklahoma?

 

EH:  Well, I don’t understand it, either, but it was the discharge point, I guess.

 

I:  The closest one to Kansas City at that time, maybe?

 

EH:  [Unintelligible] stay there, somewhere there.  Yeah.  Uh-huh.

 

I:  How did you get from the west coast to Norman, Oklahoma?

 

EH:  Train.

 

I:  Troop train?

 

EH:  Yeah.  Two men to the bunk.

 

I:  So it was a whole group of you.  You weren’t just given your ticket and then sent to Oklahoma.  You pretty well were all there.  How did you get back to Lawrence?

 

EH:  Train, I guess, if I remember.  Yeah.  One time when you was in Seattle, the train broke down, didn’t it, Mary?

 

MH:  On the way home. 

 

EH:  On the way home.  We was comin’ home on leave. 

 

MH:  A bunch of us got off and got on a bus and rode and rode and rode.  Whenever we got to somewhere, the train was there. 

 

EH:  Denver. 

 

MH:  We got on the same train again.  We had an exciting time. 

 

EH:  Lotta interesting experiences.  It doesn’t hurt anybody to put a little time in the service.  I just don’t think it does.  In fact… well, I don’t know whether to use the word “draft dodgers” or what, but just the same, it don’t hurt nobody to go put a little time into the service. 

 

MH:  I think it helped our son.

 

I:  There’s a sense of discipline and responsibility.

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  It’s good for ya. 

 

I:  I’m gonna ask you, and then I’ll ask you, too.  You were the wife.  You’re at home.  You had the one baby for a while, then you had the second baby, but mostly Linda was little [in] the major part of the war.  What was that like raising a child by yourself?

 

MH:  Well, I lived with Mom and Dad, and I had two sisters and a brother lived there, so it wasn’t….  I was busy, I mean, you know.

 

I:  What did you do?

 

MH:  Well, just helped Mom.  She had her teeth all pulled and wasn’t too well that year, and then I was pregnant.

 

I:  Did you ever think about working yourself?

 

MH:  I did, but there was nobody to keep Linda, and Mom wasn’t able at that time to do it.  So I just didn’t do it.  I think I would have probably went to work, and a lot of people wanted me to, but then I got pregnant again, and I was so sick for awhile.

 

EH:  You were working at Penney’s when we got married, wasn’t it?

 

MH:  Yeah.

 

I:  Describe to me riding a troop train.

 

EH:  Ridin’ a troop train?  Two men to the bunk, and….  They fed us.

 

I:  How did they feed you, though?  Did they bring it in?  How did they do this?

 

EH:  One car at a time, I think.

 

I:  So you did get to go down to the dining car, though?

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  Yeah.

 

I:  So car by car you went down to the….

 

EH:  It was good.

 

I:  And you just kind of played cards?  Just slept?  What did you do?  It had to be awfully crowded.

 

EH:  Really, if you rode the train from Lawrence to Farragut, Idaho…. it’s kinda in the mountains, you know.  You got to see country you’d never seen before.  And it was…. We liked Farragut.  Cold up there.

 

I:  [To MH]: I asked him the same question.  What was it like to ride a troop train?

 

MH:  Oh, it was terrible.  I mean, there was no place to sit down…[corrects herself] lay down.  You sat for three days and three nights.  And with that little kid climbin’ over ya….  But you learned to….  They would come through and tell you it was lunchtime or suppertime or breakfast or whatever, and you’d go eat.  The rest of the time, you’d sleep or do whatever you could do.  Play with the baby.  I couldn’t do it today.

 

I:  Were you able to get off at all?  When they stopped did they…?

 

MH:  Let’s see; [in] the plains.  We got off someplace and got on the train, but I can’t remember where it….  Colorado, probably.

 

I:  Did you ever hesitate to go to Seattle when he came in?

 

MH:  No.  No.  I never had been on a train before, and I never….  I was petrified.  His dad went….  The first time I went with him, and he helped me with the little…with the baby, ’cause she was walkin’.  I couldn’t do it today.

 

I:  What did your mom and dad think about you all being so young when you got married, and then the war happened?

 

MH:  Well, I don’t think they was very happy about it, but they liked him.  He took good care of me. 


EH:  Yeah.  Her dad and I, we did a lot of fishin’, so we got along pretty good.  We’d seine for bait down here on the cr[eek], between here and….

 

MH:  Baldwin Junction.

 

EH:  Yeah.  Ditches.  And we fished in the Wakarusa.

 

I:  So here it is, you’re a Kansas guy, and you’re getting on board ship with guys from all over the country.  How did that work out for you?

 

EH:  Fine.

 

I:  Well, I’m sure!  [With] your personality, you’re gonna get along with everybody.  But that had to have been different, because….  Now we’re so used to seeing people from different parts of the country, but at that time you didn’t travel as much and to say somebody was from Maysville, Kentucky….  How did that work out for you guys?

 

EH:  Well, on my ship, forty men…. We were….  I imagine they represented about one from every state.  Uh-huh.  We had quite a few people from Texas who were Mexican.  Uh-huh.  They were good people.

 

I:  How did guys mix?  Was it difficult?  Or did everybody seem to think that it was just interesting?

 

EH:  I never seen a fight between anybody…between ’em all the time. 

 

MH:  It was wartime.  We did things that otherwise we wouldn’t ha[ve] done.  And, you know, that was supposed to be the last war.

 

EH:  There’ll always be war. 

 

MH:  We did without sugar and meat and shoes and hose.  There was no such thing as hose.

 

I:  Did you paint your legs?

 

MH:  I tried.  I never….  Back in those days, they had a line up the back.  I never could do that.

 

I:  Especially with a new baby, how did you get formula? 

 

MH:  Well, she was very good.  I nursed her as long as I could, but I was too active, too nervous.  And I walked from Kroger’s to AMP to Safeway—all those stores downtown.  And then I….  She was on milk and Karo syrup and stuff, so it wasn’t too bad.

 

I:  Were you ever given extra rationing because of having a baby?

 

MH:  Oh, I walked all the time.  We never thought anything…. You didn’t drive.  I mean, you didn’t ride.

 

I:  I guess I was thinkin’ of Karo syrup.  Now, sugar was rationed, but syrup wasn’t?

 

MH:  Probably was, but I had enough food stamps that I could get it, and they kept it for me, then, after awhile.

 

EH:  Didn’t have no nylon hose.

 

I:  You wore anklets?

 

MH:  Probably.

 

EH:  There was a shortage of nylon hose. 

 

MH:  I’ve still got some ration stamps around here.  You had stamps, and every month you got so many stamps.  If you could find something to spend it on, you was all right.  But Mother and Dad….  We lived in North Lawrence, and we bought all our groceries down to Wiley’s store on the corner there.  Sometimes they didn’t have meat.

 

[Wiley’s was located at 401 Elm Street in North Lawrence.]

 

EH:  Lawrence, Kansas is actually an oasis.  It is.

 

I:  What was it like prior to the war and then during the war?

 

MH:  I can’t remember back that far.

 

I:  I’ve heard it said that when the Hercules plant opened up, it really changed the town.

 

MH:  It did.  I worked at Penney’s after school and for a little while after I got married.  And they bought sheets.  There was everything.   People that knew, older people, came in and would buy ten or twelve sheets at a time and put ’em away.  Well, you know, we didn’t have the money or even think about things like that.

 

I:  Yeah.  Very different.  So the war’s windin’ up; you’re getting discharged in Norman, Oklahoma; you’re comin’ back to Lawrence.  You said you debated, though, about stayin’ in the Navy.

 

MH:  Yeah, he did.  And I wanted him to, too.

 

EH:  Brinkman’s Bakery give me my old job back when I got to Lawrence.  I went back to work there.

 

I:  Is that the reason why you didn’t stay in the Navy?

 

EH:  No.  She’s the reason.

 

I:  Now, you just said you wanted him to stay.

 

MH:  But I didn’t tell him that.  You can’t very well say, “Please stay in the Navy,” you know.  You just don’t do things like that.  It was all up to him.  And I had saved up a thousand dollars, which was a lot of money.

 

I:  Well, in 1945 a thousand dollars is good money.

 

EH:  What’d you do with it? 

 

MH:  He took it out of the savings and bought a car—the one car that was for sale.  It was a ’45 Buick, wasn’t it?  I think.  And we could have bought a house.  You could buy a fairly good house for 750 dollars.

 

EH:  She’s always tryin’ to….  [Re-rah-rah]  “I could’ve bought for practically nothin’ these houses.”

 

MH:  I bought that, and then we couldn’t find a place to live in….  Green’s Grocery—do you know where that is?  Off of Connecticut, across there?  He fixed us up a[n] apartment in the back, and we bought a new stove and a new refrigerator.

 

I:  So you got a car and a new stove and a refrigerator.

 

M:  Yeah.  Of course, I had bought tables and chairs and our bedding and things like that, so I had all that stuff.

 

I:  You were talking about the gentleman… the old sailor.

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  He was a wonderful man.

 

I:  Did he try to convince you to stay?  Did he ever tell you, “Ellis, it would be good.”

 

EH:  No, he got transferred off the ship before I did.  I don’t know what become of him. 

 

MH:  Never did know. 

 

EH:  He babysitted for us in Seattle, didn’t he?

 

I:  In all of the years that you were there….  You were in it, what, three years?  What do you think it did the best for you?  I mean, it’s wartime; there’s a lot of other things goin’ on, but what do you think, really, it did the best for you?

 

EH:  Well, if I’d ha[ve] stayed in, at my age, I could get a big check out there in the mailbox—when I was pretty young.  Uh-huh.  So whether I made a mistake or not, I don’t know.  But I know one thing: the government, you don’t have to worry about your paycheck.  They ain’t going to run out of money.  They’ll just print some more, maybe.

 

I:  What did you learn the most that stayed with you from the Navy?

 

EH:  From the Navy?   That’s hard to place, I think.  What I learnt the most….  I don’t know.  Maybe discipline.  I’m not sure.

 

MH:  We were kinda just like in a vacuum, you know.  We were just waitin’ till it was over.  We didn’t think or plan or nothin’ else, did we, much?

 

EH:  Uh-uh.  No.

 

I:  What was the first thing that you thought of when you heard he was comin’ home?

 

MH:  Well, I was….  I had my little baby.  He was just three weeks old, and I was just waitin’ on him to get big enough.  I was gonna buy a home and move, with my two kids and my sister, and….  So I just thought, well, [that] it was very nice that he was comin’ home.

 

I:  You had the two babies; you thought about gettin’ a new home.  Life was gonna start in a different way for ya.  And then he comes home and buys a car!

 

MH:  He bought a car.  I haven’t quite got over it yet.

 

EH:  We lived in veteran housing.

 

I:  Where was that?

 

EH:  Nineteenth and Massa[chusetts Streets]?  Where was it?

 

MH:  Nineteenth and Massachusetts [Streets]. 

 

EH:  No. 

 

MH:  Oh, Across from where the new high school is.  [Corrects herself]:  Or, where the old high school is.

 

EH:  That park out there now.

 

I:  Oh, Veteran’s Park?

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  Yeah, that’s where we lived.

 

I:  Oh, really!  At Nineteenth and Louisiana [Streets]?

 

EH:  I don’t know; I guess you call ’em “barrack houses” or somethin’ in there.  Lots of us lived there.

 

I:  I knew about Sunnyside for the guys that were goin’ to school, but I hadn’t heard about at Nineteenth and Louisiana.

 

MH:  Ellis’ dad bought us a house on Connecticut Street, and Ellis was gonna go to school.  What was you gonna be?  Hair?

 

EH:  A barber.

 

MH:  So we sold it and bought a mobile home.  Put it behind Ellis’ mother’s and dad’s house.  And he didn’t go.  We didn’t have any place to live, so I called up and cried a little bit, ’cause our little Linda was gettin’ ready to start to school, and I didn’t know where to start her.  So he found us a place out there, and we lived out there.  A lot of people you would know, or your mom would know, lived out there at that time.  But it was fun livin’ there.  It was just two bedrooms.  And just a very….  You go into the kitchen, you know, and it was just bare.  But it was a place to live.

 

EH:  Name some of the people that lived there when we did.

 

MH:  Oh, I can’t remember nobody’s name.

 

EH:  Wasn’t Carl Hurd lived there?

 

MH:   Oh, I can’t tell ya.  But then we built a house.  We bought some land out there on Prospect, or somewhere like that out there.

 

I:  There were a lot of the veterans that came back, [and] when they came back, they didn’t always all go to school.  So there was a bunch of you comin’ back into town tryin’ to find the same places to live.


EH:  I don’t know how many houses we actually built and sold here in this town.

 

MH:  Then we built a house in….  Grandpa hired out a carpenter, and he didn’t know what he was doin’, but he got it up so far, so then…

 

EH:  But he sure was cheap!  Dad took time off from his…

 

EH:  And then he’d tell her, “What we do next takes care of that.”  That’s what he said.

 

MH:  He got to the place where there wasn’t nothing to cover up.

 

EH:  She even shingled.  She got up on the roof.

 

I:  Did you veterans talk much about where you’d been and what you’d done when you came back?

 

EH:  No.  Veterans don’t….  They really don’t talk.

 

I:  Even though you’re living right there together in kind of close quarters?  Did you ever say, “What did you do in the war?’  Or “What service…?”  None of that?

 

EH:  Not [unintelligible].

 

I:  Why do you suppose you didn’t?


EH:  I really don’t know.

 

MH:  I think he wanted to forget it.

 

I:  Did ya want to forget it?

 

MH:  Put it past, you know.

 

EH:  I liked to talk about the good times I had in there.  That’s it.  I think that’s it, don’t you?  I can’t remember any of the bad times.  Really.

 

M:  Norman and Peggy Bartlett lived next door to us.  And little Gary.  They had Gary, and I had Karen.

 

EH:  I don’t think….  Of all the fellas that went to school up here—machinist mate school in Lawrence, in the Navy—very few of ’em stayed here in Lawrence, didn’t they, Mary?

 

MH:  No, I don’t think so.  Uh-uh.

 

EH:  Norman’s about the only one I know of.

 

MH:  Frank Case.

 

EH:  Yeah, Frank Case. 

 

MH:  He died.

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  He sold cars.

 

MH:  We still miss him.

 

I:  So, really, you just picked up your life and went on from there.  You decided not to go to barber school and just stayed to be the baker.

 

MH:  Then he decided to build houses.

 

EH:  I don’t know. We built—what?—25 or thirty.  I don’t know exactly how many we did build.

 

MH:  He always went back to the bakery, though.

 

I:  When did you decide to be a baker full-time again?

 

EH:  Well, you see, Joe’s Bakery….  That’s my sister.  Joe was my sister’s husband.

 

MH:  All my kids worked there.

 

EH:  And then when Joe died, his son took over.  Yeah.  And so that made….  Well, I don’t know how to say it….  It was almost a family bakery.

 

MH:  Well, they made a lot of money.  Not now, because there’s too many places have bakeries.

 

EH:  Yeah, every grocery store’s got a bakery.

 

I:  It was different when you guys had….  Now, wasn’t there a bakery downtown?

 

EH:  Yeah.  Brinkman’s and Drake’s.

 

I:  And then Joe’s had theirs.

 

EH:  And Zephyr’s.

 

I:  Zephyrs?

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  You know where you go across the bridge?  Where the courthouse is now, or whatever that building is?  [EH is referring to the Lawrence City Hall.]  There used to be Zephyr’s flour mill there, and there was a bakery there.

 

I:  There was a bakery in the flour mill?

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  It was open.  You know, go down, buy bread.  They put bread in the grocery stores.

 

I:  And you worked there?

 

EH:  Yeah, I worked there, too.  And I worked for Drake’s.

 

I:  Did you work at Joe’s?

 

EH:  No.  The kids all did.

 

I:  And then you went to work for Rusty’s.

 

EH:  Yeah, I worked for Rusty.

 

I:  That’s when you retired—[it] was from Rusty’s, wasn’t it? 

 

EH:  I got along fine out there.  Yeah.  I remember Lloyd Bass.  He was in the Army, of course.  You could tell….  Every now and then he’d get started, and he’d tell you something about the war.

 

I:  So your Navy time was good?

 

EH:  Good.  Got no regrets whatsoever.  I can’t say anything bad about the Navy.  In fact, I recommend it for a young fella that ain’t got nothin’ else to do.  He might as well join the Navy.

 

I:  If you want me to remember one thing about you all’s time during World War II—whether it’s something that affected you or how the world seems to have been—what do you want me to remember about that time?

 

EH:  About how the war affected me?

 

I:  About anything about that time period.  What do you want me, my generation, your grandkids….  What would you like for them to not ever forget?

 

EH:  Well, think of the places I got to go that I wouldn’t ha[ve] got to go.  There’s very few islands that I haven’t been to in the South Pacific.

 

I:  Kind of broadened your whole world, didn’t it?

 

EH:  Yeah, it did.

 

I:  You met guys you’d have never met.

 

EH:  Oh, I met guys….  Most of ’em were wonderful.  All of ’em.  I can’t say nothin’ bad about any of ’em.

 

I:  Your World War II experiences, considering it was wartime and you were away from your family….  It wasn’t a bad thing for you?

 

EH:  No, and we won the war.  Harry Truman, he knew how to win the war.  There was just no question about it.  Think if we’d invaded Japan how many men we’d ha[ve] lost.  He put a stop to that war.

 

MH:  I remember gettin’ the newspaper every night about four o’clock.  I guess it was the Journal-World then.  We’d always look to see who had died, and you always knew somebody that had got killed.  It was pretty pitiful.

 

I:  You were probably more afraid than he was, then, weren’t ya?  Or were you?

 

MH:  Well, for a long time they wouldn’t tell us where he was at, and they would take out part of the….  If he wrote something they don’t think he should’ve, they’d tear it out.

 

EH:  Yeah, they’d take it out of your mail.  They read your mail, you know.  When I was in New Guinea, I told my grandmother and people I’d write to where I was at.  Guess how I told ’em?

 

I:  How?

 

EH:  “You used to have one in your chicken house.”

 

I:  A guinea hen.

 

EH:  And they figured it out!  Guinea.  “One in your chicken house.”  Grandma’s chicken….  Guinea.

 

I:  You had little things like that, because you knew the censors were gonna be [unintelligible].  Did it worry you that…?   I mean, you knew he wasn’t on a battleship.  How much did it worry you?

 

MH:  I was so busy takin’ care of my baby, and I got a letter from him every day, about.  Just about every day I got a letter.

 

EH:  And money.

 

MH:  And money.

 

EH:  I actually gambled a lot.

 

MH:  I don’t think we worried too much about him.  I know when the war was over my sister ran up to town, and they had a big thing.  I was so pregnant I couldn’t go.

 

I:  So you said you gambled a lot, eh?

 

EH:  On my ship. 

 

I:  Poker? 

 

EH:  I doubt if there was hardly any letter I didn’t have at least a twenty dollar bill in it.

 

MH:  That’s how I saved my thousand dollars.

 

EH:  You know, Hawaiian….  American money had “Hawaii” printed on it.

 

I:  Well, that was foreign territory.  It wasn’t a state.  It was overseas duty. 

 

EH:  United States money, though.

 

MH:  I wish I’d ha[ve] kept one of those.  I didn’t.  So many things you could ha[ve] kept, but we didn’t.   I’m not a keeper, anyway.  I’m not a historian person.

 

I:  Well, I’m gonna say thank you for doin’ this today.

 

EH:  Well, I wish I could do more for ya.

 

I:  No, you’ve done a lot.  Like I said, everybody had a piece of the puzzle.  Your piece was bein’ on the cable-layer.

 

EH:  You bet.  Good duty. 

 

I:  It was important what you did.

 

EH:  It really was. 

 

I:  I appreciate your time away from your family, and doing that so that we could be sitting here doing this today.

 

EH:  I still remember the names of most of the people on that ship, and where they was from, even.  Yeah, it was just plain, good duty.  And you make the most of it.  We had a small… what we called a small store on there.  They had a Mexican fella in charge of it, and he kept the keys to it.  He had candy bars in there, and this and that and the other thing, every now and then.  Shavin’ lotion.  We even had one soldier on there drink the shavin’ lotion.   He was a sailor on the ship, and he was an idiot.  Oh, I tell ya, he was a happy fella.  Yeah.  He didn’t have no enemies on that ship.  He died here awhile back.  He even came to our fiftieth anniversary and everything.  You still call his wife, don’t ya?

 

MH:  I still get letters from his wife.  She’s the only one of all of ’em that I’d wanna hear from.

 

I:  Well, you make bonds that’s different than any other place.

 

EH:  You sure do.  I got no regrets—none whatsoever.

 

I:  That’s a good way to have your life.

 

EH:  Yeah, it was a good ’un.  It was just plain….  Part of my life that’s….  No regrets.  Wonderful.   You don’t remember the bad part.  No.   You don’t remember the bad part.  You don’t remember the turkeys we had for Thanksgiving.  They still had their heads on.  They was froze.  And the cheese came [in] a great, big ball.  Now, I was fortunate.  I carried the keys to the refrigerators.   Just plain, wonderful duty.  Now there ain’t everybody had that kind of duty.  No.

 

I:  But you were lucky.

 

EH:  Yeah, I was lucky.

 

I:  It was lucky that your background as a baker put you in a different place.

 

EH:  Uh-huh.  Life’s been good.  I worked with good people up to Rusty’s all them years, too.  They was all good people.  Yeah.

 

 

Length:  59 minutes

 

 

 

 

 



Item Description

Copyright © 2007-2022 - Kansas Historical Society - Contact Us
This website was developed in part with funding provided by the Information Network of Kansas.