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Evelyn Ramirez video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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EVELYN RAMIREZ

 

WORLD WAR II ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW

 

     This is an interview of Evelyn J. Ramirez and she lives at 1556 E. U. S. 73, Horton, Kansas.  I am Debra Dee White Eyes.  Evelyn, we are going to start out going through your biography here.  Your place of birth was St. John, North Dakota.  And you were born January 7, 1923.  And you’re Native American from Turtle Mountain Chippewa.  The next question is what branch of service were you in?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I was in the Navy Waves.

 

Dee:  And war time activities was World War II?  And your battalion, regiment, division, ship..?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Oh, we didn’t have a ship.  All I had was an office at the Great Lakes, to the office to the downtown loop, Chicago. 

 

Dee:  And what was your highest rank?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yeoman second class.

 

Dee:  Yeoman?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yeoman was, they did secretarial work.

 

Dee:  OK.  And were you enlisted or drafted?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I was enlisted.

 

Dee:  OK.  And what was the dates of your service?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  March, 1944, to September, 1945.

 

Dee:  OK. 

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I think it was March or December.

 

Dee:  Ok, March or December of 1944.  And just basically during World War II?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes.

 

Dee:  And where else were your locations of military or civilian service, mainly around the Great Lakes?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, I was in Great Lakes for 11 months, and then in downtown Chicago for the rest of the time.

 

Mr. Ramirez:  Well, did you come back to Oklahoma?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I first went to Hunter College, New York, the Bronx, for boot training.  And then I went to service school at Oklahoma, at that time it was designated Oklahoma A & M, at Stillwater.  It is now Oklahoma State University.  And I had a choice of going to Atlanta, Georgia, or Stillwater, Oklahoma, and I should have picked Atlanta, Georgia, because I have not been there yet!!  But Oklahoma, I’ve been there a couple of times but the reason I chose that was because I had a sister working in Horton at the time.  So I thought I would be closer to her and I could come visit her.

 

Dee:  Were you able to do that?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I did once.

 

Dee:  The next part of that might be then…Now the next part of the question is, were you ever in combat?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No.

 

Dee:  Did you have an service-related injuries?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No.  I did have a sore ankle for awhile, so I didn’t have to march around the Bronx.

 

Dee:  Did you get any medals or special service awards?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No.

 

Mr. Ramirez:  Not even a good conduct medal!!

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  They didn’t give good conduct medals to us.  They expected us to be on our best behavior all the time.  We were quite restricted.

 

Dee:  You said something before, that you had a couple of photographs.  Would you be willing to have those be included if they were returned to you?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well,..

 

Dee:  We’ll have to ask how that works.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  OK.

 

Dee:  Did you have anything called a field map?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  A field map in the service?  No.

 

Dee:  OK. 

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  That’s army.  The Navy didn’t have to have maps, they just had to have a….

 

Dee:  Here’s the questions that we kind of put together as a group for this grant.  We already talked about your birth.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.  Of course, you’re married since your husband’s here.  How long have you all been married?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  We’ve been, we’ll be married 60 years in September(2007), this coming September.

 

Dee:  OK.  What year did you get married?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  1947.

 

Dee:  And you were in the military up to ’45?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, uh, huh. Greg was discharged in 1946.  And we have 8 children.

 

Dee:  And where do they live?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Our oldest son lives in Independence, Missouri, and he works at the Holiday.  Our oldest daughter at Haskell, she’s half-time with the diabetes program, and the other half with the youth development. Our third child is a computer technician, it’s a girl, Gloria. She’s at Holton High School as a computer technician.  And a fourth child is Barbara Tucker, who did work at Haskell, now she’s working, she’s kind of between jobs.  She is working temporarily with the Jayhawk agency on aging—she’s a master social worker.  So she’s waiting on another job in Kansas City.  Our next child is son Steve,..went to KU, affirmative action officer.  The next one is Mona.  She’s the daughter that works for the Department of the Interior, Corrections services, Horton, Kansas.  It’s not the BIA; they took the money away from the BIA and put it in this new program.  So that’s where your money is!  Next one is a daughter, Marlice, who is, she and her husband have a farm south of Horton, and she did work for quite awhile since she got married.  She worked in a bank.  Her husband, well, they farm a lot of land and they raise registered Black Angus beef cattle, and they have one son.  He’s very involved in 4-H and so are they.  When children join the 4-H, parents have to be in it too!  Our youngest son lives in Tempe, Arizona, and he works for a paper company in sales.

 

Dee:  Wow!!  I’m even afraid to ask this next question.  But with that many children what was your _____after you got out of the war?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, I went to work four days after I got out of service.  I was on military furlough for my job here, so I was able to get my job back.

 

Dee:  And what kind of job was that?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, I worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  I left as the Superintendent’s secretary, and I came back to that.  I worked that for awhile.  But I worked there for 30 years, about 30 years.  I ended up being realty officer.  You know what that is?

 

Dee:  So you were pretty much in the community, weren’t you?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes.  I wondered why I came back.  I guess because he was going to be around!!

 

Dee:  OK.  And your husband is from this community?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  He was born and raised in Horton.

 

Dee:  And what branch of service did you enlist in?  We know it was the Navy, the WAVES.  Why did you decide to join?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, I have no idea.  But there was nothing to do, just work.  And I had some friends that went into the Marines.  They worked here also.  They were women, and so when they went in, why, this one was my roommate.  She talked me into joining.  She went into the Marines.  But I didn’t want to go to the Marines, so I went to the Navy.

 

Dee:  How old were you?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I was 21.  You had to be 21 without your parents’ signature.

 

Dee:  OK.  You talked a little bit about the name of your company or division.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, I can only say about that that I worked at the Great Lakes Naval Base, and I worked in the, they had nine regions throughout the United States, the Navy did.  And I was in the Ninth Naval Region.  And this was Great Lakes, Chicago, this whole area there.  So then, I worked in the stores division, which the stores division is the one that issued supplies, mostly clothing and small stores, is what our outfit was called.  Uniforms, jackets, and hats and all that stuff.

 

Dee:  Did you issue that, then, to all the soldiers?  Or all the Navy men?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Somebody did!  I never did know who.  I worked in the office part.  All I did was, we had to make up for each service man, we gave them a chit.  Well, I had a list of all the things they were being issued.  And then they would have to go in the warehouse and get that stuff.

 

Dee:  And then you didn’t get to travel on the Great Lakes?

 

Mrs. Ramirez: Well, no.  Just around the base.  I didn’t have any transportation, for one.  And it was kind of exciting to watch the planes that were there all day long.  I guess they were training at the Lakes.  Well, see, this was the boot camp, training, for, there were a lot of different camps there, but I never got to see any of ‘em, except I see them from the dorm, the barracks…It was there on the base, there.  And then I worked in Building Z. I tell you, I was very unsophisticated!!  I didn’t get around much, you know.

 

Dee:  Like your friend that talked you into enlisting.  She went to the Marines.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, she did.

 

Dee:  OK.  Did you go down there from high school?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I was at Haskell.  I went to Haskell for seven months in the commercial department and I got a certificate for the two-year course.  And then I came to Horton..

 

Dee:  And worked.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  And worked.  And I didn’t have any money to go anywhere else.  At that time, World War II had started the year I came to Haskell and so they assigned so many telegrams to you at Haskell.  Commercial students had quite a reputation as being really good office people.  So we, all of us, were getting telegrams, letters from Washington, see, they drafted so many people, there were so many vacancies because everybody went to service, you were drafted or enlisted.  So that left a lot of vacancies, so they needed workers.  I went to Haskell, I arrived at Haskell in October, and by January, I could have gone to Washington on a job, but they made it kind of easy for us.  If we wanted to work for the BIA, they had a special test and you didn’t have to pass the long Civil Service test that everybody else had to pass.  Well, I wasn’t going into that anyway.  I had taken that test at Haskell for BIA and that’s when I came over here.

 

Dee:  But at that time Haskell was just a two-year college?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, uh, huh.  It was not a university.  It was a commercial school.

 

Dee:  I guess I’m looking here to see what else we have on here.  Where did you go to boot camp?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Hunter College, New York, the Bronx.

 

Dee:  OK, that’s the one you were talking about when you were talking about your ankle.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Hunter College was an all-girl college.

 

Dee:  How did you like it there?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I didn’t like that.

 

Dee: The Bronx was like…a little bit scary if you’re from Horton!

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I tell you the people from the Bronx…they had an accent.

 

Dee:  How did your friends and family react to you being a woman and enlisting in the service?  Was there any feelings about that?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No, no, nobody ever talked about it.  I think my parents were kind of proud, you know, that I was in service.  My mother, anyway, I don’t know about my dad.  My father was very quiet, a very quiet man.

 

Dee:  So they didn’t think you were foolhardy or anything like that?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No.  The reason I joined the Navy was I think they had a higher standards than the Army!!

 

Dee:  And your not talking about anyone in particular, are you?!!!

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No, no.  I’m not talking about the men, I’m talking about the WACs.

 

Dee:  The WACs.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, I had heard stories from time to time about some of the WACs. Well, when I went to Chicago and I could see the difference in how we acted when we were in our uniforms, as compared to the WACs, I knew what they were talking about.

 

Dee:  So you kind of chose the right one for you?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes.

 

Dee:  Do you have any significant memories or experiences that you kind of thought you might want to share?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  In the service?

 

Dee:  Uh, huh.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, they did open up a little overseas duty to Hawaii.  Of course, everybody wanted to go to Hawaii, including myself.  However, one of the, you had to have permission of your commanding officer and my commanding officer would not release me to go.  He was an old codger.  Well, I thought he was old!  He had been in the Navy for 64 years!!  I don’t know how old he was, he was 17 when he went in, he said.  And he was an old grump, you know, and so I had to do his work for him.  And he would not let me go.  When I transferred to Fleet Hometown News Center, that was real interesting, you know.  So I forgot about Hawaii then.  I had to move from Chicago, and we had to find an apartment that was, it had to be inspected by the Navy people and approved for living.

 

Dee:  And was there more than one woman in the apartment with you?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I had a roommate.  She worked in the same.  When I went to work in the Fleet Hometown News Center, it was a newspaper office.  They got the news articles from all over the Navy installations, wherever they were, you know, overseas, on the seas, and everywhere.  And they would send these newspaper articles in and our office re-edited them and they sent pictures too.  We reproduced pictures there where I worked and then they had a directory for each service, each Navy personnel, of their hometown.  They had a list of all the newspapers that served this hometown, like if they were from Horton, we would send the news article to Hiawatha, Horton, Atchison, St. Joe, Kansas City, Topeka, you know, the newspaper article.  Then they could put it in the paper.  The news article came from USNCC, which is the U. S. Naval Hometown Newspaper Center.  I worked in that.  It was a new office that they opened up, in 1945, the early part of ’45, and they rented this office space in downtown, the Loop, and they had several floors.  But this one floor where I worked had a hundred typists there.  I was one of the first five that was assigned there, and so there were five of us there in the office.  And then they started coming in a few at a time, three or four a day, until that room was just filled up!!  It was a large building, you know.

 

Dee:  I can imagine hearing the sound of the typewriters of that many people!

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Oh, yes!!

 

Dee:  Did you make any long-lasting friendships, like any women that you served with?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Oh, yes.  I still have one that I am in contact with, that lives in Arizona, across the Colorado River, Laughlin.  So I looked her up.  We went through her little town, so I called her up, and said, “So this is where you’ve been hiding!”  She and her husband, George, came to Horton.  We still correspond with each other, you know.  She lost her husband.  She named one of her daughters Evelyn. 

 

Dee:  One of the other questions is how has being in the military enriched or effected your life?  How do you think it had an effect on your life?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, I don’t know.  I never gave it that much thought, you know.

 

Dee:  It seems like you got some experience.  When you came back, you honed your secretarial skills.

 

Mrs. Ramirez: Well, I was doing that as a junior in high school.  But I got to go to some places that I would never have been able to travel.

 

Dee:  Did you take advantage of the GI Bill or anything like that?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  The only part we did was we bought our mini-farm at Everest.  See, I didn’t have that much, I wouldn’t have had that much educational benefits when I was in.  Like Greg, he was in for over three years, so if I had been in that long, I probably could have taken advantage of some of that, but I had post-high school at Haskell.

 

Dee:  Did you meet your husband while you were in the military?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No.

 

Dee:  How did that work?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, how did we meet?  Well, he lived down in the south part of the county, and I’d see him a lot.  But we didn’t really, I guess we spoke to each other once in a while.  I’d see him at church, but it wasn’t until I came back from the service, and he was out of the service, that we…

 

Dee:  So you both went ahead and served, and when you came back, you were here in town.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  I didn’t even know his name before.  But I used to see him, you know.  We lived in the same neighborhood. After this, I will probably think of all kinds of things I could tell.

 

Dee:  How do you think the war changed American society?  Did you notice anything different when you came back?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, they’ve always said about World War II veterans, they didn’t always give them all the credit they should have.  I don’t think. 

 

Dee:  A lot of ‘em they didn’t listen to their stories, and that’s what we are trying to do now.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  And like Dole, he made a name for himself, and all these World War II veterans that he…and his Dole Institute, it’s next to the Lied Center at KU.  So if you ever go there, you’ll have to drop in.

 

Dee:  I graduated from KU with my master’s in social work.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Oh, did you? 

 

Dee:  Being a Native American, did that make any difference when you were in the military?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No, well, the only thing, a lot of the girls envied my tan!!!  They asked me if I’d just come back from Florida!  It was in February or March. 

 

Dee:  So it was not necessarily a negative thing. They thought you had a pretty nice tan.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes.  I had no problem.  I didn’t need, I ran across one of my old Haskell roommates who absconded with my luggage, and she went to Washington from Haskell.  And she was supposed to send my luggage back, but she didn’t.  So I met up with her, she was in boot camp the same time I was but I never did see her, but I saw her when she went to service school.  She went to the same service school I did in Oklahoma,…

 

Dee:  Some of the men had, maybe words were used related to their culture, and you didn’t have any derogatory words?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No, nobody ever said anything like that.  I never ran across anything like that.

 

Dee: …When you came back, did they have a big parade for you?  Did they welcome you back?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No, like I said, they didn’t even miss me!

 

Dee:  They didn’t even notice you were gone!

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No, I really didn’t know a whole lot of people, you know.  Except the business people downtown, I never went out to the reservations.  There was a reason for that.  I hate to say it.  We had a superintendent who did not allow the employees to fraternize with the local Indians.  And his justification for that was that there was so much confidentiality in our work at the agency, supposedly, that he said that if any, some of the stuff that should not get out, did get out, then they would blame, they would have to blame somebody from their agency.  So that was the…..philosophy. 

 

Dee:  So you couldn’t even go out to the reservation.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  When I came back, I did get to go once in a while because the BIA had hired another Michigan Pottawatomie, he was a Michigan Pottawatomie Indian,____, and he was an Indian policeman.  His family kind of took me in as their adopted daughter.  So I did get to go a few places with them, like went to the Iowa reservation.  They had the police building there, and they had dances, so Joe would have to go police the dances.  His daughter and I, his wife, his son didn’t care about dancing so he didn’t go.  The Pottawatomies had _____too, but I didn’t get over there very much.

 

Dee:  So you don’t feel they mistreated you or did anything differently than with the military part?  Just when you came back, there were still some problems here in town.

 

Mrs. Ramirez: Well, not with the people.  I was well acquainted with the business people up and down Main Street, but with the local residents I didn’t socialize too much.

 

Dee:  One of the other questions that they have is did you receive any veterans’ medical benefits?  Have you taken advantage of that?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  No.  We haven’t, we applied for the medical benefits, but we were not approved for anything because of income.  Yeah, because we worked!

 

Dee:  OK.  Let me see if there is any other things here on my sheet of paper.  Are you part of a veterans’ organization?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, Greg and I both belong to a Kickapoo American Legion, Post 415.  We have uniforms, we have our caps, we have everything we need.

 

Dee:  OK.  And do you go like to parades?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, we do.  We go to the meetings once a month.

 

Dee:  Are there quite a few World War II veterans in the group?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Oh, no, not very many.  People are getting older.  The others died off.  One was Harvey Ross.  He was in the 101st Airborne Division. 

 

Dee:  Any last things you want to share?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Well, you know, I don’t know what I started to say.

 

Dee:  I think just going back and reflecting on it.  You see this young girl, taking off, going to the Bronx, going to North Dakota,…and coming back to Horton.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, like I said, I did not have to come back to Horton, because I could have gotten a job at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, but I guess I came back because of the fact I had my job here and I felt kind of bad about having to claim my job and then reclaim it and this girl have to give up the job.  She was a young lady from town and I got to know her later…Greg knows more about Horton than I do; he was born and raised here.  And he loves more people than I do, you know!!  I had a good friend and she was kind of my guidance counselor.  She and I were roommates here in Horton when I came back from the service.  She was twelve years older than I, and she was a home demonstration agent.  Her name was Miss Mona Emmick.  I used to go with her once in a while when she went to the meetings, at the different farms.  She was there when they made their maple sugar, or maple syrup, or whatever they made.  And all of the Pottawatomies, they made dolls, Indian dolls, she taught ‘em all to do that.  She had a big collection of Indian dolls.  She traveled to Europe with her collection.  She was quite a great lady.  She was a direct descendant of Geronimo.  And when they made that movie about Geronimo, she was invited to the premiere.  Well, you know, the Apaches were in prison and did Mona say she was born in prison when her mother was in prison, in New Mexico, I think?  Fort Apache, or somewhere.  Then they came up to Oklahoma, and they were allotted in Oklahoma. 

 

Dee:  And this was right after the war?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, and then she got married.  She was single.  We got married before she did. 

 

Dee:  And that was 1947 when you got married?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  1947, and she helped me.  She and my boss’ wife, I had no family here, so my family was poor and they were up in North Dakota and couldn’t help, so the boss’ wife and Mildred were the ones that arranged our wedding.

 

Dee:  And how many years have you been married?

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  It’ll be 60 years in September. 

 

Dee: That’s amazing.  That’s a good story right there, all the children.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Yes, in fact we’re having a get together.  Oh, anyway, I started to tell you about my roommate.  She taught me a lot of things, how to cook, how to serve.  We always had to sit down, with plates and knives and forks and spoons and napkins, all that, every day.  And we never ate on the run.  We never had company.  Just the two of us!!  One time somebody came to visit and she asked them to stay and we had celery, I remember.  And this guy had been in Japan or somewhere, he was a veteran, and he was at that time, they claimed he was, had a lot of, ah, because of the war he had a lot of hangups.  Anyway, so we were eating lunch, we had celery, I started chewing a piece of celery, it makes noise you know, and he would glare at me!!  How could you do it quietly!  Anyway, that was Francis.

 

Dee:  Well, Evelyn, I am just amazed!  When we were doing this program, I hadn’t thought so much about that there would be women that would be interviewed. I’m really glad we asked you, a lady who had been in the military.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  The thing of it is, there are a couple more.  There’s Rose Allen.  Are you wanting more?

 

Dee:  What we’ll probably do here, is say goodbye.  Then afterwards you could write down some names for us.

 

Mrs. Ramirez:  Rose Allen lives out on the ranch.  And there’s Shelly Cadue.  She’s one.  Angie Cadue.  Angie is Steve Cadue’s half sister. 

 

Dee:  Well, we want to thank you very much for letting us come into your home today and if you have anything else to ask, you can do that later.  Thank you.

  



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