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Jane Oppenheimer

Jane Oppenheimer grew up in Boise and served with the Red Cross in Europe during World War II.

Jim: Where were you when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and what was that like?

[Image: Jane Oppenheimer]

Jane: I was in New York and I had, I used to work in New York and then I'd come home for the summer, I had a list of jobs I wanted to do and then I'd uh come home, I, I wouldn't go back to the same job, I'd try a different occupation, but this particular time I had worked for American Airlines and I liked it so much and I was in their personnel department and so I told this man that I worked for, he was the head of the Personnel Department, Victor Vernon was his name and um so I said I'm going home. I wasn't his assistant I was his assistant's assistant, I was two down, but I liked him very much and uh so I told him the truth I was going home and he said well we can't hold the job for you obviously you know I was going to be home for three months so uh but he said we'll always have a job for you so I didn't have, I could come back and do it you know whenever I wanted there was no specific job. So when I went back I just played around New York for a month or so and while I was playing around New York uh Pearl Harbor happened, but before I came home uh I had this friend who was a man and he uh was with the uh Navy Reserve and he said to me, this was in the spring time, and he said, he wanted me to go down and talk to this Lieutenant Tweety by name who uh just to get on the thing, just in case they ever need, it was very perceptive of him, just in case they ever wanted somebody he just thought it'd be a good thing you know to that I might want a job down there sometime so I didn't think, get me on the books and the security checks and all of that. So I did it and then I came home and I didn't think any more about it, but then after Pearl Harbor came the next day I called him and uh he said come right down this minute you know because I was secure, I'd been checked, I was ready and so um I went to work for the Navy and it was Press, Press Censorship was what it was.

Jim: You know I've heard people talk about where they were when they heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed and what that was like because it was my sense that this was something that everybody knew something was going on obviously over in Europe and Africa and all over the place.

Jane: Yeah.

Jim: Where were you and what were the things that went through your mind when you heard that it actually happened?

Jane: I sort of thought the end of the world had come. I was actually at the (inaudible) Club for Women which is where I was staying and uh I just thought, I was absolutely stunned and I was going out for dinner, my sister lived in New York and her husband I had a date and the four of us were going out for dinner and we went out for dinner and um my sister and I went into the ladies room and I started to cry. I just thought the world would just never be the same and then I thought I've got to do something about this so then the next day as I said I called Lieutenant Tweety and said here I am. And so I went down there and . . . Now tell me if I'm going into too much detail.

Jim: It's fine.

Jane: So uh I went down it was down at 67 Broad Street down in the Financial District and it was very hush hush, very and so much so it was almost funny, but uh and there was this man named Commander Mikeler and they I was just this building bare, no furniture, no nothing and they sent me to Commander, Lieutenant Tweety sent me to Commander Mikeler so he said okay he was a very gruff man, and he said okay I'll tell you what go get a typewriter, a desk and uh get it, do it all before lunch because after lunch I want a typewriter on your desk and I want you ready. Well I didn't have a clue I just stood there, and he left, so I just stood there in this great big baron place and this man named, Skid Moore was his name, and he was a uh Yeoman and he'd been hear the conversation and he came over and he said what are you going to do and I said I have no clue and he said I'm going to help you so he, he knew his way around and he got a desk and he got a typewriter and when Commander Mikeler came back there I was sitting there with the thing so I worked for him for quite a while and then his assistant who I liked tremendously and I kind of ended up working for him for the rest of the time, but it was all these people from the New York Times, from the Sun, from the you know all the, from the newspapers and they would sit at this huge desk and they would read all these cables for they were censored and for instance if there was ever anything that said like heavy water which had to do with the you know with the (inaudible) then they'd delete it. But these men were all kind of high powered, one was named Pop Buyers and he was from the New York Sun and my uncle was with the New York Sun and uh I didn't want my uncle to know who I worked for you know because it was a secret and my uncle, like Pop Buyers this man he had a very good job at the Sun so this was a form of patriotism that people dropped everything because that's the way people were about the war.

Jim: You said just a second ago, you said when you heard about Pearl Harbor and what had happened that your first, your first impulse was that this was going to be the end of the world, but the next thing you said was that I got to do something about it.

Jane: Exactly yeah what can I do, exactly. And you know that was the case during the, that attitude you've heard this of course, but the attitude of people, it was the last good war, you know that people really you know, Rosie the Riveter and um it was something very inspiring about people giving up and changing their lives so completely for the good of their country, it's a form of patriotism that its gone away I think.

Jim: You said that Pearl Harbor when you heard about that, you thought that this is, this is going to change the world - did it?

Jane: It did yeah, yeah I was right on that one. But some of it about mixing people up you know and getting 'em out of their ruts and stuff was good, getting women out of the kitchen was good I think.

Jim: What did people think - I've seen these pictures - you were this lovely young lady who's living in New York, you're from Boise, and you decide to do something about this war. Did people think you were nuts, did they?

Jane: I don't think so and my, my parents understood, my father after I'd worked for the Press Censorship for a couple of years and enough was enough and I wanted to go oversees with the Red Cross and I felt very keenly about it and my father came back to New York and we had lunch at Francois Tavern and I explained to him I was going to go oversees and he said I was wrong and I wasn't. So he was very fair and he said um I'll tell you what we'll make a deal stay at this job, which I really kind of liked, stay at this job for a year and um I'll come back in a year we'll have lunch and if you still want to go okay. I thought that was fair. So and it wasn't such (inaudible) so I did, I guess I'd only worked for the Navy for a year then, so I stayed another year and he came back and I said I'm going so then he asked me one more thing would I come home for the summer and I said yep. So I did and I got in the Red Cross and um oversees I went.

Jim: You said you came back for the summer; help me picture a little bit what Boise was like then, you know, with the spirit of what was going on overseas - it always seems kind of like almost like this magical time in the world, but, but was it that way?

Jane: Yeah I think so and I think I did tell you a little about uh my mother and she was very active in the Red Cross she just always had been, not to do with the war, she just was one of her big interest and the March of Dimes she was very community minded. So when the war came she and other people uh started this, it was like a canteen at the Depot and uh she got church groups and clubs and everything and they would take one day and homemade food and all that because when the people, when the troops would come through on their way to the West Coast you see to go over to the CVI Theater uh lots of times, sometimes they wouldn't even let 'em get off the train, they'd have to take it you know and hand it to 'em, occasionally, sometimes they would let 'em get off, but uh Boise just I mean I don't think anyone every turned 'em down you know that the everybody wanted like any church group or any club wanted to be a part of it and the volunteers and the homemade food and every once in a while through the years I've bumped into people who uh who when I'd say I was from Boise, Idaho, they'd say oh that's where we got that wonderful, wonderful homemade food and the ladies that uh I don't know, they probably did it other places, but I don't know.

Jim: This town obviously wasn't as big as it is now, goodness.

Jane: Oh no, no, no it was you know very, you know I don't know figures, but I'd say more like 35 or 40,000.

Jim: It felt like a small town?

Jane: Oh yes and when you'd go down town you'd know everybody and it was a small town, it was a wonderful, I like what's happened to Boise because I think if, if it hadn't my, two out of four of my children live here, a lot of my grandchildren I know will come back, it's a much better place for people. People used to grow up and go away because it's a wonderful place to bring up children and it's a wonderful place to grow up in, but there was a gap in-between for single people or that where it wasn't, there was an age thing there where people didn't have that good of time.

Jim: Sure, no, I've lived in towns like that where it's kind of like, why stay, you know?

Jane: Exactly.

Jim: But you said you'd go downtown and everybody would know who you were . . .

Jane: Yeah.

Jim: Did people feel anymore united because of the war? I mean was that, that summer you came home that was kind of right, that would've been in the summer of '42 is that right, and they made a movie about it. Um what was, what was the spirit like you know in the streets.

Jane: Well we had Gowen Field and uh so Gowen Field was quite a presence here, in fact when I was home for the summer I almost married a man from Gowen Field and then I wouldn't gone oversees and met Arthur so it all worked out better the way it did, but um and we didn't get married because he thought he was going to go to China and I was going oversees and it didn't seem like the thing to do at the time, but I'm so glad I didn't, and when I came home, married, pregnant and so forth he was still here, he never, he never left Boise.

Jim: So you got to see what you missed?

Jane: Yeah.

Jim: Were you thrilled to go overseas? How'd you feel as you were heading over, did you take a boat over?

Jane: Yeah I went over, I'm never sure which is which because I went over on the Queen Elizabeth and came back on the Queen Mary or vice versa, but I went over on one and came back on the other one and uh so when I came back I came back with uh like 11,000 men or something I mean there was a big crowd. Arthur had gotten home before me, but it was a big crowd.

Jim: When you were on your way over - you're sitting there, you're heading over, I'm sure there was the excitement of the trip, there was excitement to be going over - but what was going through your head?

Jane: Excitement and it was something I knew I wanted to do and it was parts of it were very funny because um as I say it was so secure, you would've thought that the war was going to be won or lost by if they found out where these Red Cross girls and they took us over to a place in Brooklyn and kind of hid us and then they did say we were there for a few days waiting for transportation I guess and so um they did say we could call one person, make one phone call and meet somebody you know before we left and I called my sister and her and so we went to Longchamps, I was meeting with, but I mean the whole thing was like a bum movie.

Jim: Had you (inaudible).

Jane: Oh absolutely, absolutely you know and talk out of the side of your mouth and stuff like that.

Jim: Did people realize the gravity of the situation? There was a lot of good spirit, people were certainly galvanized and united, but, you can tell me, I'm not sure how fair it is to think of the war era as being all wonderful and everybody had a great time and all this stuff.

Jane: No, no there was a huge amount of gravity and people were very concerned and people were getting killed and no there was a tremendous amount of gravity, appreciation of the gravity of the situation. I hear what you're saying, but no I think people definitely, I think that's one of the reasons that people were so eager to serve, because they did realize they've got, or why you know women would go and work in the factories because, because of the gravity of the situation. I've, maybe some people did it for a (inaudible), but uh I don't think most people did.

Jim: I think we have a tendency sometimes to think of it as a, as a wonderful sort of golden era where there was wonderful music and, you know, there's so much nostalgia surrounding World War II and that era.

Jane: Yeah.

Jim: But I always wondered if it was like that at the time or did that mostly come as we got a little distance from it?

Jane: I think it, I think it came after we got a little distance from it. I think people uh were aware of the gravity, maybe not everybody, but I think, I think that people had a big, you know because they were losing people, you know people were getting killed so and I was at this rest home for flyers and that was kind of interesting because when you, well you can cut out some of this anecdotal stuff, but uh when I was in Washington they, you could, you know when you sign-up you go wherever they send you so they uh issued hot clothes so I knew I was going to the CBI you know over to the, that, well in the meantime Arthur and I'd gotten together and so I really didn't want to go to the ETO because you know I, I just didn't, but there's nothing I could do about it and I was going to get my shots and when you went to that part of the world you got Cholera you know I mean really Yellow Fever you got serious shots and I was lined up with all these people, all these other Red Cross people and this doctor, this is kind of a miracle and this doctor who was giving the shots when he came to me and he kind of looked at me funny and he said uh, he called me out of the line. I didn't know what I'd done wrong, so he said uh he took my temperature and I had 103 temperature or 104 some high temperature and he said you're not going any place so he said you're, you can't go with this group so uh he said you know you've got to wait and get a, I probably had the flu or whatever so uh my group, so the they went to the CBI and the next group that went, went to the ETO I was, and see I probably wouldn't have married Arthur if I'd gone to the CBI because we would've been, we wouldn't have seen each other for so long.

Jim: Now tell me what CBI and ETO stand for.

Jane: Oh China Burma Indian Theatre that's the over in the Far East and the ETO, you're just a little baby aren't you, European Theatre of Operations.

Jim: Gotcha, okay, say that to me again.

Jane: Chinese Burma India was over in that section that was in the far east and that was hot and (inaudible) and the um that was the Japanese part of the war and the European Theatre then ETO was the European Theater of Operations which was Europe you know the Germany part.

Jim: What did you do when you were at the rest home?

Jane: Well I'm glad you asked.

Jim: Well, I don't get the big bucks for nothing Jane, come on!

Jane: That's a good one. Well when I got to England and we were all kind of lined up with our gas masks you know ready to fight the war, but the first thing they did, they had us go to, well they had me go to be interviewed for um it turned out it was rest homes for flyers and it was a very small group, there were only 60 of us in the whole thing, which is a small group, and so when I got to there for my interview it turned out, all these things were so amazing that it turned out that uh one of the people, in fact she was here a couple of weeks ago, uh Katy Regan who lived, the Regan family lived in Boise and they were big and I'd always known the Regans, in fact Skip and Ester live in their house now. So Katy Regan was, she wasn't the one that interviewed me, but she was the, I suppose she put in a good word for me and um I still see some of these people in San Francisco, but uh so then I got into that rest home group and they sent me down to an Officers, see they take over these beautiful castles or homes and it was not exactly a rough life, but you could get tired of pleasure I found out too, but, but they sent me to (inaudible) and it was Officers and you, I just didn't like it I thought this is not what I came over here for it was just you know I, it was just nothing about it I liked, but we would go for, we'd have baseball games see the, the purpose of rest homes was that flyers like um sometimes there'd be if they'd had an accident or a nervous breakdown or something like that uh so or their mission, just something had happened, or sometimes they'd just felt they needed it, so at some point like usually halfway through their missions they'd send 'em to the rest home to one of our rest homes and so there was Officers rest homes and enlisted men. So, but we'd have ball games when I was at this Officers thing, I was only there for about a month, and uh go over to Hampton House and I never wanted to leave, I wanted to stay with those people and they had, there were, we had about 60 men every week that would come in and they, they were having a rotten time and it was just and they loved, they were so appreciative, so I put in for a transfer and I got it. So and so I served the rest of the time at Wall Hampton.

Jim: What kind of stuff were you doing when you were over there?

Jane: Just fun things, but as I say you get tired of like Monday we'd play volleyball, it was just and we'd give 'me civilian clothes and we'd call 'em by their first names you'd have to learn the 60 names every Wednesday and uh then we would go to the isle, we were right across from the isle of white, we'd go over to the isle of white was one day, horseback riding was one day, I've never liked horseback riding since it was so awful because these crazy, crazy boys they'd just let their horses run, oh it was awful a little how I learned, how I learned to dislike horseback riding. But uh um and oh we played games with 'em and we'd have um singing and we'd play bingo the it was just.

Jim: That was part of their rehabilitation?

Jane: This was rehabilitation for them and uh then also and we worked very hard on this, we wanted them to feel they could come back when they wanted to, which was hard to do because we were always full, but sometimes they'd come back and stay in the town and come and, and you know get to, so they felt and quite a few of the people I knew were killed that and one of them who was a very good friend of mine was killed uh after V.E. Day and uh they hadn't gotten the word you know so there were a lot of very sad moments, but uh I think it was, I felt it was a very needed thing, because I think it helped a lot of people uh and that book I can't find one of the people was from Idaho, he was the best looking man you ever saw, and he uh, he was from Northern Idaho, but I don't, I kind of lost track of him.

Jim: It must've been kind of an up and down thing; I mean there were parts where obviously you're doing wonderful work and trying to sort of (inaudible) these fella's spirits and things, but then they're going back to something pretty horrible?

Jane: Yeah it's a week out of their life, but uh you know and it's not like they're going to go home from there, but then the fact that they could come back, it gave 'em a little base to over there and the people in this little town, Limington, Enhampshire and uh it was uh they were just the English people were just darling, just wonderful and very good with the boys and then there was a butler and his name was Crooks and he looked, he was just perfect for the part and his wife was the housekeeper and so he'd um and he would treat the boys like the butler in the movies, sir you know, I mean this was you know somebody from Minneapolis who probably hadn't had a butler.

Jim: Now, you said if you hadn't gone to Europe you wouldn't have met your husband, how did that happen?

Jane: If I, what do you mean?

Jim: You said if had stayed in Boise, if you hadn't have gone oversees, you wouldn't have met your husband?

Jane: Well I wouldn't have married him.

Jim: You wouldn't have married him, okay.

Jane: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: How, how did that happen?

Jane: Well I actually had met him, but uh actually at a dinner party and I was with this, this person that gave the party's younger brother and I thought he was just darling and I kept looking down the table at him, but he wasn't looking back and so I'd met him and I went home and wrote in my diary and I still have the diary, I have finally met a man, and I was like 20, I have finally met a man I would like to marry, I didn't know I'd been looking that desperately, but uh so he and he used to take out, we had sort of connections and so uh we got together and got engaged, but we just kind of got engaged because, because we liked each other, but I don't think either one of us thought that chances were too good that we were going to ever get together with it, but we did. You know I mean that it was going to work out that we'd be in the same place and we didn't get married until we came back to New York and um got married.

Jim: So he was over in Europe or is he?

Jane: He was with OSS so he was going back and forth, Officers Strategic Services, which was a pre-runner of CIA and uh so he was kind of around so we used to occasionally meet in London, but the Red Cross and the Army did not like people to get married, they made it very difficult because they didn't want people to go around getting married you know making mistakes so we'd actually didn't get married until we got back to New York and he got home before I did and he was engaged to my mother because my mother came back, they planned the whole wedding at the plaza, they borrowed my a wedding dress for me and uh then I showed up and uh had a nice time at the wedding.

Jim: I'm thinking about what it would've been like to have been over there with this guy you're engaged to . . . did it almost feel ever like, like you were in some sort of a movie? I mean it had to feel, have a special feeling to it.

Jane: Well it was funny because and Arthur always teased about this I wouldn't let him come down to Wall Hampton House because he was a Major and I didn't want some Major coming down there and I have some funny little quarks, he was a very understanding man, but um and he had some narrow escapes, but um in London actually that uh, but uh he came through it.

Jim: Did the war bring people closer together do you think, I mean, not just families, but people - friendships and things like that?

Jane: I don't know that it did, um I can't think of a for instance that uh well I don't know I still see those Red Cross friends of mine, which says something, maybe it does. They live in San Francisco and they're not exactly spring chickens, but the one who was my boss at Wall Hampton House I saw her last month and um those have been very enduring, I guess it did because those have been very enduring friendships, you know much more than my college friends or any of that, so I guess it did.

Jim: Yeah, I would think it would. Is it for you a time that stands out in your life or does it sort of blend in to the tapestry of everything else?

Jane: Well I don't think about it a lot because um you know that was a long-time ago, I've thought about it more right now than I have in, and this morning when I was trying to find the books, but uh and one of the reasons that I'm doing this with Skip is I think it'll be interesting to my grandchildren at some point and they sometimes ask me questions, but I don't discuss it with them much. I had an uncle whom I liked very much and he was in World War I and every time he'd start to bring it up I'd say oh I think there's someone at the door you know what I mean.

: Just didn't like hearing about it or just (inaudible) too much or . . . ?

Jane: It just, I think it just was not that violently interesting to me and I think I wouldn't want to overdue talking about it, occasionally in the pool one of my granddaughters says you know tell me some World War II stuff, but uh.

Jim: What do you tell her when she asks you about it?

Jane: Well actually she doesn't say, that's not the truth, she doesn't say tell me World War II stuff, she tells me tell me about when you had Polio she has, she has specific stories that she's. I don't know that they're violently interested in the war, it uh and lots of times something comes up and I say well if you want to know about it you have to buy my book.

Jim: What do you tell people when - I mean we're talking about the war and all these different parts of it - but when people [ask] you, what was it like? How do you answer that question?

Jane: Well actually it's so different for everybody's thing, because mine was not a typical oversees, even with the Red Cross mine was not typical because I was in that particular branch, which was a pretty choice branch and uh I think that some, in some ways I'm sort of sorry that I didn't get out giving out donuts because what I was, I liked what I was doing, but I don't think, I wasn't in the front lines. They were bombing it, I was halfway between South Hampton and (inaudible) and they did do bomb South Hampton and I, I did get up to London when they had the buzz bombs and stuff, but I didn't have to so uh and I was so impressed with the courage of the English, its generalizing, but uh they were so gutsy. And lots of times you know we'd go up there people would go in the shelters because they'd just figured it wasn't going to hit them and with the buzz bombs there wasn't warnings so it wouldn't have helped, you couldn't get in the shelters really, because you didn't have warning.

Jim: What did they think of Americans when you showed up? What did they think, how were you received?

Jane: Oh they loved us, oh you see England was just oh they loved us, we were kind of the saviors that uh and Churchill was and Roosevelt was so close, oh no we were very, very popular. And uh the nicest thing I ever did for my husband, I never let him forget it either, was he was a great admirer of Churchill's and we were in London one weekend and somebody had given me two tickets to go and hear Churchill at Parliament and I mean one ticket, one ticket and I gave it to him. I was glad I did, I said I'll have other chances, well I didn't, but uh so he got to hear Churchill who was his hero so that was nice.

Jim: When people talk about World War II they talk about Pearl Harbor and D-Day and V-E Day and all that; do those, do those days mean things to you when they, when they come around on the calendar or when you hear people?

Jane: No, no that was then and now is now, but uh in fact I don't even know what the date of V-E Day is. But we know I don't do dates that doesn't mean anything.

Jim: Do you remember where you were on D-Day?

Jane: No, but I sure remember V-E.

Jim: What was that like?

Jane: Well we just were celebrating like crazy and we all got, we got, we all put on our best clothes and, and you can imagine it was just, it was thrilling.

Jim: It must've been thrilling, sounds like it's sort of an understatement.

Jane: Yes, yea it was, It was, but then VJ day (Victory over Japan day) that didn't, I was married by that time and living in Washington, and that didn't happen, I'd been married I guess about a month or so and Arthur was going overseas to that part of the war and I was coming home on my little sojourn, Boise, and Arthur never let me live that down, because, after VJ day he said I said, I don't think I said this but he said I said does that mean I don't get to go home for the summer, I don't think I said that.

Jim: That's alright, it makes a good story.

Jane: Yea I always like to tell by the story.

Jim: I know you were you were all over the place during the war; if you were trying to tell your grandkids what Idaho was like then - what was it like, were there dances . . . ?

Jane: Yes, and um, there was a very active social life here because of Gowen field, and so people were entertained at Gowen field people, there was a fellow, oh I think he was Mountain Home, but named Killer Kane because he'd been in one of the big battles I guess killed, oh I don't know, but anyway he was referred to as Killer Kane, but ah, oh there was, Boise was very entertaining the troops. . . . I think Killer Kane was at Gowen Field.

Jim: What do you remember about stuff like the music back then? It seems like we had some great music that came out of that era.

Jane: Well one was, uh, that the boys used to sing all the time and one of the Red Cross people, see we'd have sing-a-longs after dinner and Jeanie and I and this friend of mine kind of played the piano and kind of improvised and it was lovely, and one, do you want to hear one, I won't sing it, I don't sing, um, I want to go home, I want to go home, those P51's they rattle and roar I don't want to fly over Berlin no more, take me out to LA, let me watch those war workers play, oh nuts, I ain't got no guts I just want to go home. I can't remember what the tune was obviously, but. I haven't thought of that for a long time.

Jim: Today the war going on overseas has a whole different feel than it did back then, it seems . . .

Jane: Totally, totally, it's so different that it's almost impossible to even compare them, that and a soldier then, as I say people wanted to wine and dine and would do anything in the world for them, just anybody in uniform was really revered. And that's hard for you to picture that, but um, really revered.

Jim: It seems like there was almost a sense that all those people were heroes.

Jane: Yeah, just the fact that they were, and people that didn't go to war you know, 4F's and why were they 4F's, um, I had one cousin who I always kind of liked, but I didn't like him as well cause he tried to get out and it was the only person that I know in that whole thing, and I knew a lot of people, I think he was the only person that didn't, that was trying to find ways to get out. It was so universal, you see and that was of course not true of Vietnam or any wars that you'd know about.

Jim: Was there a sense that you really knew what you were fighting for back then?

Jane: Yes, I think so, I think so, that's a good question. There was some vent, or people wouldn't have felt so (inaudible)

Jim: When you talk about Pearl Harbor being bombed and wanting to do something and then other people went and people didn't try to get out of it . . . what was the essence of the (inaudible)?

Jane: I think that people felt we could loose America, you know, if Germany and Japan won, I think there was a feeling that we could loose America. I think there must have been that kind of feeling that um, and I think that uh, there was a huge patriotism and revered the flag, you know, all, it was a whole different ball game, I don't know exactly where it, well, it was maybe a more understandable war, kind of good and bad and right and wrong, but it certainly, that's one of the biggest changes that's happened in life, I think when you, when people they revered the soldiers and Roosevelt was a very good war time President because he is, fireside chats and um, it appealed to people, he put it, and Churchill, it made people want to do something I think.

Jim: We were back in D.C., one of the places we went was the Roosevelt memorial, have you been there?

Jane: Yes, fairly recently.

Jim: There's that bronze cast of the guy leaning over and listening to the radio like with the fireside chats; that was something I think people don't even know what that is.

Jane: Yeah, see I went at spring break last year with some of my grand people and Doug, and we did all the tourist things, and you know I've been in Washington a lot and I'd never done all those tourist things and it was just wonderful. I'd never seen the Vietnam thing,

Jim: That was some great stuff.

Jane: And I'd never seen those huge Korean soldiers.

Jim: Yeah where they are walking across the field kind of thing.

Jane: I didn't even know about that.

Jim: Well, what was it like when the radio would come crackling to life and Roosevelt would come on and talk about this stuff?

Jane: People would kind of hang on his every word, but uh, a lot of people didn't like Roosevelt at all, my father didn't, he was a big Republican, but uh, I think Roosevelt did an awful lot of good.

Jim: When he came on everybody knew it and it seems life kind of stopped.

Jane: Yeah, people wanted to hear him and I think the same was true of Churchill over there, that uh, and we'd have British girls come over, we'd have dances at our Walhampton house, we'd invite some of the, I forgot what they called him, it was like our WAF, but you know, they'd come over and uh, it was very much, we were very in tune with the British at uh, and they wanted us to, they wanted those boys to have a good time, it was, I make it sound like a, but it was true, it was very much more like the world should be and I'm sure that I was in a pocket where things, you know it was a small town and everything, I'm sure there were places that weren't as ideal as this, but.

Jim: You went and did your part, other people, your husband or future husband at that time - what was it like for the people that were left back at home, I know you were here, but, what did you think, what did you hear from them?

Jane: Well, one thing there was very active here and they did a wonderful job with the gray ladies, and they were um, volunteers like in the hospitals and stuff, and I can't remember exactly , but there was a very strong feeling about the gray ladies that worked in the hospital. People, um, that were here, you know, like my mother and people, they did, people tried to find something to do for the war effort.

Jim: It seem like this would have been one of the towns, that the way some people describe [it] almost seems like it has a Normal Rockwell feel to it. Was that true?

Jane: I think so, I think so, 'cause everybody was sort of, and as I say I think the fact that Gowen Field was here, and I can't remember when Mountain Home really got going, whether um, 'cause I think most of this was Gowen Field.

Jim: What was that like . . .?

Jane: You mean VE Day?

Jim: Yeah

Jane: Well see, it was still going on with Japan, so it wasn't really over. And, I mean there was all that joy, cause I was over in that theatre, but um, and then as I say, Japan, my reaction was, can I go home, but um,

Jim: What was it like going home?

Jane: Well, I was married and pregnant and all kinds of things, my life, you know, another chapter was great. and my interest had changed, we were staying in this house actually, but we were going to have our first child and we didn't want to have our first child with mommy and daddy, and so we bought the only house in Boise that was for sale, and it was on North 23rd street, in fact I went by it just last week, somebody wanted to go by it, but so you know, I, life was completely different and lovely.

Jim: I bet it was different in a lot of ways, wasn't it, at that time

Jane: The re-entry?, Yea. I think maybe if I hadn't been going into such a, you know, marrying Arthur and having kids and stuff, I think some people like even my Red Cross friends, the re-entry could be very difficult. And one friend of mine joined the Quakers and went, worked with the Quakers in Europe, and um, it's a funny thing, because out of the group of my friends, you know like that I still see and stuff, I don't think, there was only one that was happily married. I think that there was re-entry problems for a lot of people.

Jim: I guess when you look at the landscape of your life, um, how does that fit in, the war era, I mean not just the being over there, but that time period? You said earlier that it's not something that you think a lot about, but what kind of a piece if the puzzle is it?

Jane: I don't know, 'cause I really don't think about it, you see, that was then and now is now, and that was a long time ago and so many things have happened to me in the meantime that it would, it would be very seldom that it would come to mind probably, you know, and then I married Arthur and he took me on a trip around the world, he never let life get very dull, so I was very lucky, you know, that I went into a wonderful life.

Jim: I think everybody that we've talked to, their view of WWII and that era has been a little different, it's definitely not a cookie cutter kind of thing.

Jane: Yeah.

Jim: And some people really feel it is the thing that stands out in their life.

Jane: I think so. I think so and now I haven't finished my part of the Tom Brokaw book, I haven't, and I, you know, the Greatest, what is it?, the Greatest. I have to read that again. But I think for some of them, and maybe I'm wrong cause I haven't read it that thoroughly, that was the high spot in their lives, which is too bad.

Jim: Why, how come?

Jane: How come . . .

Jim: Why is it too bad?

Jane: I wouldn't want WWII to be the high spot in my life, I think that says something about the rest of your life, don't you? If WWII which was quite a few years ago, was the high spot in your life, something is missing, I mean, it was a chapter, and it was an interesting chapter and I've never had a moment's regret that I did it, but I certainly wouldn't want to think that it was the high spot in my life.

Jim: Is it fair to call that the greatest generation?

Jane: I don't know, that's a good question, I don't know that it's fair, I think, probably, I never thought about it, I think there are just as many greatest people now as there were then. No I don't think it's the greatest generation, I think for sure there is just as many great people now as there were then.

Jim: That seems like a very optimistic view of the world.

Jane: Yeah, I've got to read that, like I said I read that a little then I put it down and I've never really gotten back to it.

Jim: Well, sometimes I almost feel like it's said that this was a wonderful era and everything else kind of . . . I guess when I say you almost seem more optimistic when you say that [is] because I think some people think that we've been on a long slide since then . . .

Jane: Yeah, well there has been such radical changes and when people talk about the good old day, I can see how they do because there were an awful lot of things about the good old days that were, but I think that right now, things are very, there are quite a few things I'd change, but um, there are an awful lot of good things right now that, you know, when I want to tear myself up when things are not good, I may have told you this, I read history, because I think it's encouraging, you know, when the industrial revolution people thought that was the end of the world, they were loosing there jobs, or the depression people, you know, just thought, it seems as what I'm trying to say is, it seemed as bad then, if you were in the depression, as things now, when things are bad in so many different way, but to the people who were living through the depression that seems as bad to them as you know, things seem bad to people now.

Jim: And as good to them. I hear people talk about the depression, and talk about the good things that happened during the depression, how it brought people together and how it had these moments that were so wonderful . . . [but] you know, it was a tremendously difficult time period.

Jane: Yeah, or the Civil War. I mean I've always thought that would have been the worst time to live through, you know, brother against brother, and um, so I think probably, um, I'm sure people that lived through the civil war thought things were just (inaudible). We came through it.

Jim: Was the war era, was that really a simpler time, were they really the good old days>

Jane: WWII? No I think they really were, because the good old days is a form of nostalgia, you know the good old days were when you went downtown and everybody knew ya. But um, I'm sure there were the same number of problems you know, little itty gritty problems that there are now and I think that a lot of people now look back on this as the good old days, it's a little harder to figure why but

Jim: And as you said a little bit earlier, the war wasn't always the sort of wonderfully golden nostalgia thing, it was a reward . . .

Jane: And people were getting killed. And if you had a son or a loved one over there, you know, of course it wasn't the good old days. Or separation, to have your husband you know, back to Rosie the Riveter, to have your husband overseas and the separation, so they really weren't the good old days. The separations, the deaths, you know, I was talking in kind of a light minded way, but all those other things, those are not good old days.

Jim: Well, and people used to put up - what were the flags people used to put up? They had a star on them - and people would hang those in windows and things like that.

Jane: Was that if somebody was killed?

Jim: I think that's what they were, like if you had one if you had someone in the service and if they were wounded or killed or something like that.

Jane: I don't know.

Jim: But you hear about friends that never came back, and family members that never came back and so it couldn't always have been such great old days.

Jane: Or, came back so changed. You know, of course, you hear more about how people came back from Vietnam so changed, but I think a lot of WWII veterans came back and were not ever the same, or for some of those boys I knew as I say, that friend of mine that was killed after war and that just seemed, somehow they didn't get word and so they went on a mission and the war was, VE day had come and gone, I can't remember all the details but that just seems to awful to me and I got a letter from him, after I heard he was killed, and that was so spooky, you know, that whole thing like that was so spooky.

Jim: We talked a little bit about your grandkids, and even your own children; there must have come a time, especially with your own children and perhaps it will still come with your grandchildren, where they say, Grandma, what was the war like? I know that I talk to my grandparents about that stuff . . . What do you tell them? Is that too long and complicated of an answer or is there a way to sum that up to tell people?

Jane: I say, read my book. Buy the book. . . . . I told you to Skip, when he said I was getting a little ahead of my time, I said should I go on Oprah, that was when Katie Curric was, I said which one do you, Skid thought maybe we should have more than 80 pages before I made my plans.

Jim: Probably so, before the press agent start really working.

Jane: Yes, I agree, we may have to have a little more than that.

Jim: But I know that something, when they ask you a question like that, something must come to mind for you.

Jane: Actually, they haven't asked me.

Jim: Well, I'm asking.

Jane: And what's the question?

Jim: How would you sum that up? Is it a huge answer or is there a way to say it was this or that?

Jane: It's a huge answer. I couldn't answer you because it was different things to different people and um, I can only do it from my desk, you know. So, I couldn't, it's to big a question and it depends on sort of, um, well what would we be discussing, are you talking about you know, was it depressing, was it sad, it's different things to different people at different times.

Jim: When you were in the middle of it all, did it seem that you would look back one day and think of this as nostalgia?

Jane: No, no I was too busy living and then also I was never frightened, and it's not that I'm so brave, it's human nature or youth or whatever, even when I went into the Savoy that night and all these peoples houses had been bombed because it was a section where the people that worked there and they'd had all these terrible bombings, even then, you never think it's going to hit you, I think that's human nature. Your not going to get run over, the buzz bomb isn't gonna come down where you are and I think that's why people are such survivors cause you know it's not gonna hit you.

Jim: Did you ever think we were going to lose?

Jane: I think there was some frightening moments when England you know, like the song, "There Will Be Blue Birds over the White Cliffs of Dover" - do you know that song? I'm not going to sing it, don't worry. No I think there were moments that it were frightening that it was possible to loose the war or that England would have had it, you know. Yeah.

Jim: Knowing what happened I think there is always the feeling that, from younger people maybe who don't think about it that much, well yes it must have been bad, but at the time you didn't know if you were gonna win or lose, or how it was gonna go.

Jane: No, there were definitely times, when, so, when I say it was kind of nostalgia and happy, you know, there were, I didn't make that clear that there were times when it was very worrisome, whether we were going to win or not. But ah, yeah I kind of overlooked that fact. Good point.

Jim: Was that something people talked about? I mean, was it sort of taken for granted that when it's over and we all go back to our lives, or was it a big question mark, kind of an open ended thing?

Jane: Well you know that famous quotation, there is nothing to fear but fear itself, so people did have fears, have I got that right? Nothing to fear but fear, I've got it almost right, close enough. Was that Churchill or Roosevelt?

Jim: I think that was Roosevelt, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. And fear can be kind of scary, if you don't know what . . . I mean this being a true world war and the different time . . . I guess what I'm trying to ask is - were people confident that it was going to be won, or did you think that the world truly might change and that everybody in Boise would be speaking German or Japanese?

Jane: I don't think that I ever got as far after that first night, I don't think that I ever got as far as thinking it was going to be fought on our soil, you know, now we think about it, but you know, cause the missiles and all that, but I don't think I pictured in my mind that it was ever going to be fought on our soil.

JIm: Were you aware, did people talk about Hitler and Mussolini and all that? Was that a regular conversation that people talked about?

Jane: It depended on the person. My grandmother who was a darling woman, I loved her very much, but she never went out and she was kind of an invalid, and she had 6 children and she lost her husband early on, and she was just a wonderful wonderful woman, but she worried herself to death. For one thing, she had some relatives that were still in Bavaria or still in Germany and my grandmother was a real worrier, and then she did bring over some people, you know the family did, but oh I think some people particularly if they had kind of connections over there, did worry, a lot.

Jim: Did your husband talk about it much after the war?

Jane: No not really, it was more antidotal, that, you know, more about his experiences and stuff. And his experiences, well the OSS was like CIA it was, kind of hush hush, so uh.

Jim: When you got back, you're married, you're pregnant, and you're on to the rest of your life - it must have been kind of an interesting and exciting time I would think.

Jane: Yes, I don't think we spent too much time thinking about, ah, you know we were moving onto other things. You'd have like my husband, he was darling, if I do say so. 55 years, I ought to know.

Jim: Well, he certainly had good taste in women.

Jane: Oh, that's very suave.

Jim: Well, it's just honest. You must have felt that being over there with him, you must feel like you guys went through some really interesting times together.

Jane: Yea, well I had a cousin who lived in London, she was actually American but she lived in England, married an Englishman, and her name was Eanne and she was a wonderful woman, and their house was totally bombed, I mean total. So they took an apartment at Grovener House, Grovener Hotel which is also where the officers club and a lot of things were, so sometimes when I'd just get sick of all those people, I'd go up there for the weekend and stay with them and stuff. And she was the head of, I guess it ran in the family, I think it was a Houston Station, one of the biggest railroad stations, she did that over there, and she had three children, and her children, that was when they sent children away you know, and so she sent her 3 children with their Aunt, typical English woman, oh she was so pretty, she was born in Britain, but so they came over and they came to visit us in Tahoe, this was before we were in the war. That was so hard on people like Eanne Lewis because they didn't see their children, they didn't know if they were going to ever see them again. The separation for English people and it was kind of their duty to get them out of there, that's when they thought England was going to be so totally bombed and those children really, I kind of lost track of them, it's to bad, cause when I was in London I thought I shouldn't just let that go, but I really don't even know exactly how to find them, but I may do something about that, but, the daughter did come to visit me in Boise within the last few years and she was a kind of an odd little duck, and you could see she's never married, it had a very bad effect on a lot of those children, their lives, you know, separated from their family and not knowing what there, it was awfully tough on people like Eanne Lewis.

Jim: Are there any things, as you look back, and I'll wrap this up with you soon, but are there any things you look back on from that time and kind of miss?

Jane: Like what?

Jim: Um, events that used to happen, stuff you used to do, people you used to know, places you used to go to, the way things were.

Jane: No. And when I was in London, you know last week, week before last, I don't know my way around London at all anymore because it's so different. And London, have you been to London? I mean recently?

Jim: Um, I'm think it's been about 5 years.

Jane: Because for some reason, I imagine that's about what I had been, it's so light and bright. They've cleaned it up somehow. And I don't mean from the war years cause you know we've been back a few times since, but ah, I don't know the buildings all look cleaner and I had a different feeling about London.

Jim: Think they did a bit of scrubbing?

Jane: Something that just happened, and maybe because I was staying with John and Dee Dee and I was staying in a residential area and it was so pretty, so that may have been part of it. Oh and this house, all John ever says it's so small, well he is sorta right, the house isn't so small but the rooms are so small and you know there 4 flights up and my room, I was the only one who got to stay there because I fit in better because I'm not that big I guess, but my room was smaller than from here to that wall, and it had room for one double bed, well I kind of liked it because I'd just sit there on the bed and reach for this and reach for . . .

Jim: It was so small you had to go outside to change your mind. Well, like I said, I was going to wrap this up, but is there anything, for people who are listening to what you have to say, is there anything, or any thoughts you want to leave them with as to what that time was like or anything that occurs to you.

Jane: Well, I'd like to say something brilliant and inspirational so, could you tell me something brilliant and inspirational.

Jim: See that's why I'm talking to you because I'm empty. Is there anything you think people should know about what that time was like, maybe that they don't quite grasp?

Jane: I don't know, I don't think I could sum it up in a sentence 'cause I don't know exactly what I think would, I'd like to say something brilliant, but you'll have to see me on more of a brilliant (inaudible).

Jim: Do you think people understand what it was like, what the war time was like?

Jane: What age group are you talking about?

Jim: I guess anybody, anybody who looks back at it.

Jane: I don't think so. I don't think you can, I don't think my kids can, I'm sure my grandkids can't, um, no I don't think there is anyway really, you can read about it and get an idea, you know, a lot of books have been written about it, from different view points, so you can read about it. I think it's the sort of think you really had to live through, cause there was so many different facets and it depended on who and where you were. So I don't think that there is anyway I could capsulize it because it would depend so much on the person, does that make sense?

Jim: It's interesting, it sounds like something that no matter where you were [or what] you really did, people seemed like they didn't float around the periphery of life, but [as] you said you had to live through [it], and that seems sort of an apt way to put it I guess.

Jane: Yeah, because there is nothing I can think of right this minute in your life or mine that would be comparable to then, you see, cause you certainly can't compare the wars or any war since, so, there is no way to compare it, and you know a lot of things we make up our minds about is because we are comparing it with something we've experienced. So I don't think there is any way that a person could have much understanding about it, they could read about it and get some understanding, but I think you had to be there, so what do you think of that?

Jim: I like that.

Jane: Is that profound enough for you?

Jim: Well I think it's more profound, 'cause I think that sometimes people think that they do understand it, but I think that's sometimes why it comes off seeming so, or people tend to write it off as being such this wonderful golden nostalgic era, because they weren't there.

Jane: Yeah, and which it wasn't you know, as I say, I've gone on the light side on some of it, but it wasn't. OK the interview is over because when you start repeating yourself, it means that the interview is over.

Jim: Well but it's interesting that people seem to almost want to put it in this little golden box, I think.

Jane: Are you talking about people like the greater generation, the people that were there?

Jim: Those too, but I think it's more the historians, the collective . . .

Jane: Like Tom Brokaw and the Greater Generation?

Jim: Maybe yeah, and I don't mean to trivialize that, but it just seems from the people I've talked to that it was something you lived through; it wasn't something that anybody could necessarily ignore.

Jane: Yeah, and I think that people rise to the occasion, look at Churchill who rose to the occasion, Roosevelt, you know people rise to the occasion very often. We need somebody to rise to the occasion right now.

Jim: No, this is it, just when you start thinking about these things I always have to remember to (inaudible). It was an interesting time, and I think you're right - you can't get it unless you live through it and I think people enjoy hearing these kinds of stories and that's one of the things I hope that when people watch this, they get a different perspective from it; that it's not just the same old, Pearl Harbor was horrible and this and that, that it doesn't become trite.

Jane: Yeah, well you know, I kind of lost that thought there. Oh, I think, that I used to feel sometimes sort of guilty, I'm not saying I was having a good time, well I was having kind of a good time, but um, I think, I hope I was accomplishing something with some of those boys and I, but I feel sort of guilty because I wasn't out in the trenches and I feel guilty because I wasn't suffering. But , my suffering wouldn't have changed anything, I wasn't suffering, I wasn't hurt, I was doing the best I could, but I was having kind of a good time. Which gives you the guilts.

Jim: Sure, sure, but it seems like you were helping folks that were . . .

Jane: I hope so, and I think so cause I used to hear from them quite a bit afterwards and stuff, in fact, it's a wonder that Arthur didn't divorce me, because he wrote me some beautiful letters but I destroyed them, but I saved the ones from the boys, and he couldn't quite understand that, but I said I was going to be with him the rest of my life and I thought it was important to save those of people I'd never see again. It was a little hard for him to grasp. Where were his letters, gone.

Interviewed by Jim Peck, producer of The Idaho Homefront: World War II

walmart logoFunding provided in part by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, Anne Staton Voilleque in memory of her Uncle Keith Ingalls, and by contributions from these supporters of Idaho Public Television: The Shelton Foundation, Pete and Freda Cenarrusa, Jane Pritchett, and Gritman Medical Center. Special thanks to Bob Wakefield.