June Williams Smith
June Williams Smith grew up in Boise, went to Boise High and the University of Idaho in Moscow.
Jim: Where'd you grow up?
June: Well, I was born in Calgary in Alberta and came down when I, right after the third grade and been here ever since and Calgary's very nice, but Boise was such a wonderful place to live.
Jim: What was it like in those days?
June: Well when I came down I uh before we bought on Whitney Bench which was really pretty farm like it uh we lived you know down near town just for three months until they found the house they wanted, so I went to Central School which is no more, but uh some people I met, well one in particular that I met in the 4th grade I still see all the time and uh it was fun then to North Junior High which was known as Boise Junior High then the only one and then on to Boise High School.
Jim: And there wasn't a South then?
June: There was no South until I was having children of my own and we lived right in their backyard so to speak.
Jim: In those years coming off the heals of the depression what was this town like, what was the feel?
June: I didn't know there was a depression, but I know that when I see all the clothes and all the shoes and everything that people have now I guess we were in a depression and uh we had two cars and people had one, some had none and uh you went downtown and you would see people you know, well that doesn't happen anymore, you always knew somebody and even at the mall its even worse and uh the weather was about the same and I took a bus to school in Junior High and High School it uh was a bus for us, but in the and maybe I'm going back too far this is, cut out anything you want, um in the 5th Grade Whitney School all of the sudden became, I went to Whitney after Central when we, my folks bought on Owyhee Street and they were so full that they had to send some of us into the city, meaning back to Central School so there were four boys and five, I was the only girl they drew five names out of the hat and they gave us little tickets everyday for the bus and uh five of us would go down and go into Central School and so that was fine because I knew some of the you know students there already.
Jim: What was the town like? Did it feel like a big town and a small town, a western town?
June: Well, it didn't feel like a western town to me, I was Calgary was a larger town and this did not seem like a small town, but when we got out in the bench I was living in the country on Owyhee Street. You know 10 acres to the left of us, cows, my goodness in Calgary I was a city girl and, and Owyhee Street was paved and so was Rose Hill, Vista was not and uh you know we had a lot of uh farm people in our school and that was fine, we all had a good time there and it was only four rooms then and now its about maybe 10 or 12.
Jim: I know people talk about that era before the war, before Pearl Harbor, before all that stuff, and whenever I ask that - and I've asked that of a bunch of people and I'll ask a bunch more that question -
Jim: . . . you all get a little smile in your face.
June: Oh well just growing up in Boise, Idaho, is why we have a smile on our face and I was a little more aware of the war than some of my friends because my mother and I had been visiting Calgary in the summer of 1939 and the war started you know in Europe and so mother and I headed back hoping we would get across the border. I mean you had, we were novices, we had no idea what to expect so that's why I think I uh you know was a little more aware and then you know had an uncle that went and things like that in the Canadian Army and uh so I couldn't believe it when here you know the Japanese bombed us and I can remember where I was its just like you know when one of the presidents dies or something like that and I just knew we would win it anyway, oh I was naïve and it was so hard and we were just sophomores in high school in 1940 so in '41 it was maybe we were into our Junior year by then and uh I just you know was sorry that the boys had to go up and I knew they'd all come back and I knew we would win the war you know naivety.
Jim: Where were you when it . . . ?
June: I was at home and we heard it on the radio, we didn't hear it you know first thing as I remember it was maybe even early afternoon or maybe when I when we heard it in Boise and uh I, it was amazing and the boys started well you ask your questions I will be still. I was at home and my and dad were there and they were having guests and you know they knew so much more about it than I did.
Jim: After you heard about that, was everything the same as it or did it all change?
June: Uh well now I've got to think about that, yeah many things changed uh the fellows that were Seniors in, in well is Cloris in her class you know they'd gone off to college well they were all leaving school to go in the Army and we had some leave and I was looking through the Courier today or last night and uh I looked at all the, the '43 courier, the boys in the class of '41 how many of them were in the service, less in '42 and some of us in the class of '43, well that means that they quit school to go in the service and uh, I don't put this on the air, but I always wondered if they just wanted to get out of school and it was such a glorious, glorious excuse.
Jim: No, I have to put that on the show . . .
June: Well I think that they'll probably all gone by now.
Jim: One of the things I noticed in going through those old yearbooks - I don't mean to say old yearbooks . . .
June: They are.
Jim: They listed the students who were in the service?
June: Yes that's the page I'm referring to you know and because we were the class of '43 that was the small, because they had left before we graduated and then it got larger and then the class of '41 there were lots of them gone by then.
Jim: There were even little stars next to some that had passed away, that already had been killed in action. What was it like to see those kids go away?
June: Well uh I you know I was then a junior in high school and my friends were not involved at that point and then it was after, in '43 and '44 that you know that's when my class and my friends the fellows started going to war.
Jim: Um one of the things that seems interesting when we talk to folks who were, who were alive and were, were aware during those days is it seems to me so different from the way it is today I mean we're in a war overseas and, and you hear about it, its on the news, but, but in World War II it seemed like everybody was plugged into it.
June: Well they were plugged into it, but they didn't hear anything until after the fact. I mean here you know two people die and you know about it five hours later and when you look at all the people that were killed in World War I and World War II when they say well you know 3,000 people now, which is awful and the people in you know in Iraq the natives that are you know being slaughtered that makes you sick, but we didn't, you know we were not living that close to it, at least and I was young.
Jim: In some ways it seems like when I listen to folks, it seems that the whole country was truly at war.
June: Truly this is right and we were all for it because we had been attacked like we were in New York City.
Jim: What was that like to have that feeling you said you were attacked, what was that like to be alive and know that, that I mean it had to, you, you talk about being naïve that, that naivety had to take a little shot when that happened?
June: Well it, it did, but as I say I just knew we were going to win it and didn't worry how or why and then the fellows starting going and you know this one was killed and that was killed now this is by the time I got to college I don't remember anybody, maybe one I don't know, nobody in my class, but uh that brings it home pretty fast and they were by the time lots of us went to Moscow and various schools and the fellows were all being drafted or signing up in mostly in the fall of '43 and the spring of '44 that's when they all left.
Jim: Was it scary to hear about the bombing on Pearl Harbor? I mean because we're sort of close to the west coast over here.
June: Well I didn't think so because it was pretty far away you know, but then when they you know were coming over to the Oregon Coast then you thought wow, you know they didn't do much, but they were over there. I mean these times are much more scary than that was because you know it instantly and you know the devastation they can do.
Jim: It seemed like there was a lot of fear of the Japanese specifically in those days?
June: Of the Japanese people? That's a shame that there was, because the ones that I knew and there weren't very many were just wonderful dedicated people.
Jim: What about the internment camps and all that stuff that were here in Idaho?
June: Well I you know they were down in Eastern Idaho and uh at the time I thought gee this is, you know is this necessary because they'd lived in the United States, been born here, but I, I didn't know and then the Gowan Field you know was opening and Mountain Home was opening and that, that changed Boise a lot.
Jim: I heard that they had dances and stuff?
June: They did, they did and uh I guess I went to Mountain Home first because there was this lovely doctor's wife, oh you must come over and dance with the fellows well I loved to dance and it was you went over on a long bus ride and you stayed for maybe two or three hours or so and danced with anybody that wanted you to dance with and then you came home and that was fun and then they started, when I was in college, well I must've been in college when I was going over to Mountain Home too, my mommy would not have let me go otherwise and so we went to Gowan and that was so easy and uh lots of the girls around here married fellows from Mountain Home and from uh Gowan and uh I see them to this day and some of them are very happy and many of them got divorced and many of them had to move to timbucktwo, well not quite, but to the south and you know various places.
Jim: Sometimes the south seems like Timbuktu.
June: I think it might have to some of them.
Jim: Well and even Jimmy Stewart was here for a while wasn't he?
June: Yes and he used to go to a club in the Hotel Boise oh its had so many names and now its shops and uh I don't know anybody that dated him because he was so much older, but I did see him once and that was pretty exciting because he was very debonair.
Jim: I don't know how much people were aware of him being stationed [here] but I was actually doing a little checking and he was here for a while?
June: Yeah I think so, yeah.
Jim: Where did you see him, what was that like?
June: Well I think I probably saw him coming out of the Hotel Boise because he I understand and I can't remember the name of the club that was in there, here are the elevators and you went straight back in and uh apparently he was at that club sometimes that's all I know.
Jim: But you saw him and?
June: Once yeah.
Jim: It's kind of a brush with greatness.
June: Well yeah sort of remote and then I think I heard that Lena Horne's husband was here for a while and so she may have stayed at the Owyhee and I don't know whether he was at Mountain Home or Gowan or whether he was even here and I never saw her, but I, I think I remember hearing that once that she had come to town.
Jim: What was it like having all of these servicemen around, I mean young guys in and out of town and flying off and . . . ?
June: Oh gosh well it, it was busy and anybody that wanted to date they could certainly find a date and my only brush with 'em was going you know on these dances with this lovely lady that would take us out and chaperone us and bring us home safely.
Jim: You make it sound like such a simpler time.
June: It was for me. I was an only child and uh, uh I just thought well this is the way things go and that was my bit I didn't do anything else, I didn't roll bandages, my mother did and uh, you know, but some, many of the girls did marry fellows from the service that came to here.
Jim: What about all the, like somebody was talking about taffy pulls was that something that?
June: Oh gosh I, my friends and I this would be Junior High I think did taffy pulls and uh we walked so far you know I mean I'd stay with my friend in the north end and then walk you know up to some other house and uh you didn't think about going to town you know or walking the streets at night it was a much safer time and maybe it still is in parts, but with your children particularly grandchildren I think I'm much more concerned now that times have changed.
Jim: What was a big Friday or Saturday night in Boise back then?
June: Oh well sometimes the LDS would have Friday night dances and that was fun and we'd go to a lot of shows and people would have private parties you know, come over and we'll have you know maybe people to dance and because I lived on the bench if ever I had a date and there would be one car and lots of us in it I always got taken home first, well June lives the furthest away so I always had to come home early and that was fine.
June: No I was not I did other activities I was an activity girl, but I looked in all those pictures today and Helen was one, I don't know whether Isabelle was or not. . . . That was by another doctor's wife that started that.
Jim: Oh there was.
June: And I was a little bit envious I wasn't invited to that, to join that, I have joined other things since so it's okay.
June: Yeah they were fun and they were very crisp and very white.
Jim: But they didn't ask you to?
June: No, its all right I you know we all have a little disappointment. No I was really busy with activities so I really never missed it I don't think, but I was aware that I wasn't invited to it.
Jim: I'll ask them about that and see.
June: Yeah why wasn't June in there.
Jim: Get them to feel a little guilt afterwards.
June: No they won't.
Jim: Did you ever go up to the troop trains at the Depot and all that stuff?
June: No, no.
Jim: What music do you remember from the day?
June: Oh gosh give me Glen Miller anytime, he may have died early, but that was what we all you know enjoyed and still do. I'm in the oldie moldies, they'll never be replaced.
Jim: And if they I mean I, I know at least for me when I hear music from certain times of my life it just zips me back there; does that happen to you?
June: Instantly, instantly yeah, and what you said what else did you do because I lived a long way out it was never to get to my house and uh, uh I had a couple of friends that wonderful dancers and they'd come out maybe one or, one now and then and uh we would dance on the rug to Glen Miller, oh its glorious.
Jim: Music isn't the same these days?
June: Oh well they've got some interesting music now, but those were the best. Well the 50s were good too, because I heard that with my children so much so I learned to love some of that.
Jim: What do you think about (inaudible)?
June: Oh it gives me goosebumps today. Yeah it's Glen Miller all the way and uh I, I did like the other music I mean there were lots of wonderful records then you know the records and, but literally I got Goosebumps when you serenaded me.
Jim: Is it fair, people, people have referred to it as the greatest generation, do you think its fair?
June: Well there's so many great generations you know I, I've heard it and you know read parts of it, but every generation is great in its own way, but we had some wonderful people that did wonderful things.
Jim: Did you feel that it was any particularly special time when you were in the middle of it?
June: No you know, but there again I was young and uh I just thought well this is what you do and this is how you react until the boys started getting killed and there were a few of them and uh it, it was sad, but those guys were gone for a long time and when they came home it was a whole new ballgame, I was up at Moscow by then and the first year there were, not that you are interested in this, but there were 900 girls and 100 guys, well at the end of my, was it my Sophomore year or my Junior year it was such a reversal of fortune the, the fellows all came back and they all wanted to get back in school, they all could be on the G.I. Bill and uh that's you know what I remember I there's one thing that maybe nobody else would tell you, Helen might, they had a Senior Sneak and you always wanted to go some place, they probably still do have the Senior Sneak well this was during the war so one of the girls could get her dad's car, but we each had to give her a gallon of gas from our dad's ration so we all gave Doris our gas and off we went up toward Idaho City some place and had a lovely picnic, but uh you just you know you did have to consider what you did and when you did it.
Jim: What do you remember about victory gardens and rationing and all of that?
June: Well rationing I was interested in and my dad had a gentlemen that would come to help put a victory garden in out back and we ate some of the vegetables, but you were limited in shoes and girls liked shoes and there, you know those little tickets were interesting and nylons were gone and uh lets see I, I don't we were never short of sugar or things like that and when you go to Moscow you would take your little book with you so the cook could have all those you know things too.
Jim: Yeah I heard that nylons were a big deal.
June: Oh boy when Carol's got some in and I don't even know what year, and they were not a good color, but they, it was so nice to be, the rayon ones and you'd wash them and they'd take hours, days practically to and they bagged on you oh nylons they were wonderful to be back in production.
Jim: What kind of stores were downtown Boise?
June: Oh the Mode was there and that was wonderful and C.C. Andersons was there and Willicks was there and I'm just trying to go and up down the streets during World War II and the oh the place where we went to dinner so often across from the Owyhee oh my gosh we used to have supper there a lot, The Royal, the Royal was a big, a wonderful place to go for dinner and then there was a hamburger place and what did, across from the post office on Bannock and Smokey Davis owned that and then he went out and started his other you know business at the other end, but uh and people bowled and they went to movies a lot because there was no television and you saw a lot of movies.
Jim: When you go around town today or uh or even around Idaho today do you still see sort of the ghosts of those old times?
June: Well I, well I've tried, I went from here to Moscow a lot and uh that hasn't changed you know going up there, the road is so much better now that's what I think about most of all changed and it took a long time for the road between north and south Idaho to become passable otherwise it was go up this hill and down that hill and uh you know you took the bus back and forth to school sometimes you know to get, get to Moscow.
Jim: What was Moscow like in those days?
June: Uh small town, very small, the University you know made the whole thing go round but it was fun because even though we, 900 girls and 100 fellows uh you just did everything with the girls and you danced a lot you know because that was fun and I was a very good leader so they liked to dance with me and we went to movies you know and uh went to Spokane, that was the big thing to get on the bus and maybe weekend a semester or something to go to Spokane because then you could do some shopping.
Jim: Do you remember places you used to go in, in Moscow?
June: Oh my gosh well I didn't go to the bars particularly I and uh the Moscow Hotel was important because that's where your folks would stay when they would come up and your mothers would come up for Mother's Day that was right after the war I think though and oh there was a wonderful candy store I'm trying to think of the name of that, I can't think of it, but it was not too far, you came down from the University and you went there for the candy and you went up there to the Moscow Hotel and David's Store, that was uh the store and then there was a place called Cratons that had some nice things to buy too.
Jim: People on the street friendly?
June: Oh yes Idaho's a friendly place as you know and Moscow they like the students and we you know sort of ran our own little world, but we helped them all along it was nice.
Jim: Sometimes some of the people that I've talked with when I, when we talk about the war years, the war era, they talk about the excitement, they talk about what it was like and talk about some people it seems like that, that's the kind of the time in their lives that defined them was, was that, do you feel that at all?
June: Not particularly, no, I never even thought about that either. I enjoyed it I you know when everybody was off fighting the war it, it was a good time, but I was awfully glad when our gentlemen, our high school friends came back and they all came back about the same time and uh it was nice to have them all home and 99% of the ones I knew came home safely.
Jim: What did your parents say about the war when you talked with them?
June: Well they were from Canada and they'd become aware of it because of England you know being in the war so soon and oh this is another thing you might want to know, because we were foreigners, all three of us we'd come down from Canada and uh when the war came the three of us had to go down and be fingerprinted and I was, I don't know I suppose around 16 and that was interesting, but any foreigner had to go down, so we went to the post office downtown and all three of us were fingerprinted, my folks never did become a citizen, I did. I mean by then you know they were having everything except the right to vote and I they were older and I knew I was staying forever.
Jim: What when you talked about um grandchildren and stuff like that, do they, have they ever asked you about what, what that time was like?
June: Huh uh, huh uh.
Jim: Well what how do you, if they did how would you describe it to 'em how would you?
June: Well I might do it selfishly, I don't know until you have somebody else asking you, or answer that.
Jim: Well, but you're right here so I figured.
June: Well I would tell 'em that you know grandpa went to war and grandpa came home safely and Richard was in Europe for a long time, well quite a while two or three years and his dad was sick so he got to come home a little earlier than some of them because his dad was really became sick. But I think its so interesting to think of the friends I known in high school and I still see a lot of them, I'm very fortunate and uh I, I see how well they've done and I see how much how hard people worked to make their own way you know they said no Helen, I'm getting tongue tied, huh, it uh they worked hard and they've stayed around and they've made Boise what it is today. There's so many people well you said Bethine she came to town and boy Frank zeroed in on her in a hurry and uh he was student body president you know about the time shortly after she came and they were a wonderful, well Bethine still is a wonderful person and Frank was really so outstanding in high school and its been fun to see them and then I look at my husband and I look at his good friends that he still has lunch with you know every once in a while and how they all made Boise a better place and I would say that about almost everybody that stayed in Boise has helped make it what it is today.
Jim: You were talking about Bethine coming here from . . . ?
June: Idaho Falls.
Jim: Yeah, from Idaho Falls. Today I know with my kids people come and go in their classes all the time, but that was something special when she started?
June: You bet. The Governor's daughter came to our town you know and uh we all knew where she lived and she was very friendly even then, so you just got to know Bethine in a hurry.
Jim: What was she like in high school?
June: Very much like she is now, very outgoing, very friendly and uh you know she was only here I suppose about one semester and then she went off to college, but uh she just uh has been a pleasure to have in Boise, Idaho, because she was the, she was the celebrity, I'll tell you, when she came to Boise High School.
Jim: And you said Frank zeroed, he didn't waste any time?
June: Well I think they started dating when you know about the end of his junior year and I'm not positive about that, but as I remember she went with a couple of other guys too, but anyway it was a very nice marriage.
Jim: Tell me a little bit about Helen; you said she was one of your good friends?
June: Oh heavens Helen was my bridesmaid at our wedding and we met in the 8th grade and uh we were you know doing this together and that together and sort of our gang, Isabelle was a year younger, but a wonderful, wonderful friend anyway and Helen's always been queen of the hill, she's so bright and she's so friendly and she works very hard. Helen and Isabelle uh Mrs. Jones married I mean raised three lovely girls and I just know the sister that lives in Oregon too and she's darling and, but Isabelle and Helen are really special people.
Jim: Somebody else that we were talking to said the same thing. What, what do you think, what makes them stand out to you?
June: Well they're very compassionate, they work very hard, uh they give so much to their family and also to their community and uh I just you know get a smile on my face when I think about the Jones' girls.
Jim: Is it fun to think about them as little kids?
June: Well I didn't know, my life began when I in the 8th grade when they, it did socially at least uh having always gone to Whitney School they took 'em there through the 8th grade, well finally in the at the end of the 7th grade we got to go into this big school and that is when my husband, 90% of our friends I met there at Junior High School and because I've been fortunate to live here all these years, my school days really you know they say everything you've learned you've learned in the kindergarten or something, well my learning experience was in the 8th grade going to Junior High School.
Jim: That's very cool. Anything else you want to tell me about?
June: . . . . I got a little quarter or whatever it was to high school because they sold stamps and war bonds and that was done like every Wednesday or something like that two outstanding people of Boise, Idaho, ran that thing when we were seniors in high school, my husband Richard B. Smith and Bob Hendrin and they both went on to be sign salesman and I know it started in that booth in the main hall of Boise High School.
Jim: Probably a lot of good stuff started back in high school?
June: Yeah it did.
Jim: Traditions and . . .
June: That's what I'm saying, you betcha, thank you and remember Jack (Inaudible) he was the goer in our class he was the Senior Class President, he went on, he ran KIDO here and then he ran maybe do you know Jack Link?
Jim: I don't.
June: Well he has more spirit than anybody I've ever known and he was our senior class president and he's kept us together and our reunions with Helen and June and many other people running them uh for all these years and then he was the MC over at the Fiddlers Contest for like 35 years, but he's live in Seattle for many, many years.
Jim: Interesting, interesting.
June: So I wish you could interview him.
Jim: Well I wish we could too; they're wonderful people.
June: Well thank you.
Interviewed by Jim Peck, producer of The Idaho Homefront: World War II