BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Margaret ("Peggy") Moore Perdew, March 3, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Margaret ("Peggy") Moore Perdew, March 3, 2004
Date:
March 3, 2004
Description:
Mrs. Margaret Moore Perdew agreed to this video taped oral history with LuAnn Mims. Mrs. Perdew a Wilmington native and daughter of Louis T. Moore, volunteered at Bluethenthal Field during 1941. Later she trained as a professional Red Cross Field Worker. She spent time at Fort Bragg and in Laurinburg. She also volunteered in the filter center in the Wilmington Post Office during World War II. Her memories recall local wartime years and Red Cross work.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Perdew, Margaret Moore ("Peggy") Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview: 3/3/2004 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 60 minutes

Mims: Today is March second, 2004, I’m LuAnn Mims for the Randall Library University and today we are talking with Mrs. Margaret Moore Perdew. Good Morning Mrs. Perdew.

Perdew: Good morning, please call me Peggy.

Mims: Yes ma’am. If you could just give us a little bit about your family background at this time?

Perdew: Well, both of my parents were native Wilmingtonians. My mother was Florence Kidder and lived in a big house down on the corner of Third and Dock street…and my father was Louis Moore and…I’m trying to give you a little bit of background of how…how they…I don’t really know how they got together. But after they were married, my sister and I lived in a house behind the…what we call, the big house, right on Dock Street, and the house is still there. It’s in very bad state of disrepair and it has a plaque on it saying it was the Kidder house, which it was not.

I lived there until I was about eight years old and then my family moved to a Fifth Street residence and I was raised there…walked to the…walked to Tileston School when I was young, and then I went to New Hanover High School for about a year and a half and we used to walk to school there. We had a family car. People didn’t have two and three cars and you were lucky if you finally got an automobile. So I was there for about a year and a half and then I went off to a boarding school outside of Baltimore Maryland called Oldfield School and I was there for two years. And somewhere along the line I graduated…I don’t exactly know what my credits were with all that coming and going.

But we would leave Wilmington on the train and…from the Atlantic Coastline station which has since been demolished, which is very unfortunate, and that was quite an adventure to go up to Maryland on the train overnight and then the school would meet you and we’d go on out in the country where the school was that I attended. After I graduated from Oldfield’s I went for one year to the University of North Carolina…the Women’s University of North Carolina in Greensboro. And that was really back in the old days. I came across an old letter the other day and I had written my mother for permission to come home with the father of one of…of our very good friends…happened to be in Greensboro at that time…but you couldn’t leave the school without permission, and this is college.

And my friend and I, Suzanne Hope…was also a Wilmingtonian…we roomed together…and Mr. Gowry had offered to bring us down to see our parents, you know, for a weekend, but we couldn’t leave the college without permission. I came across that letter the other day and I couldn’t believe it. I thought, golly I didn’t realize college was that strict. I knew the boarding school was strict. And then after I came…I only went to college for that one year and then stayed in Wilmington, kind of messing around, and had one or two clerical jobs, and then Pearl Harbor burst on the country.

I can remember riding down Market Street with a young man from Wilmington and his friend, who was an officer stationed out…at…I think he was stationed out at Camp Davis, and he was a West Pointer…ad it came over his radio…he had a convertible, so we all thought that was just very swish, and I can remember seeing him standing up in his car, letting go of the steering wheel, and saying, “Hooray!” He was very anxious to get into some activity. And then after that we headed, I think for…I believe it was the…the local country club and we all sat around a radio and listened to the…that terrible day that we had.

And shortly thereafter, they opened an air base here in Wilmington, which is now our present International Airport, as they call it. At that time it was called Bluethenthal Field and it was named…probably you have in your records…of Arthur Bluethenthal, who was, I think, the first American to join the Lafayette Espadrille in France…and was killed. So I got very patriotic, I couldn’t understand why we shouldn’t go into some kind of service for our country…most of my friends at that point were getting married and engaged to a lot of these young men who were stationed here. All of them were a lot of fun and very attractive.

I happened to be quite smitten with a British officer who was stationed here for a while. And I remember at the time, I thought…I think I got to join the Women’s Army Corps that was just recently formed…you know, they called it the WAC’s. and I remember Jeffrey wrote a letter and said, “Please don’t join anything like that because you don’t know where you’re gonna be stationed.” Of course, he didn’t know where he was going to be stationed either.

So I finally settled on the Red Cross and I don’t really know how I happened to get the job that I had out at Bluethenthal Field, I don’t remember the…what I had to go through, but I was a pretty lousy typist at that point, but I could answer the telephone. I could type a little bit. And they set up a Red Cross office out at Bluethenthal Field run by a gentleman…they called him the field Director of the Red Cross. You’re probably familiar of those various categories. And at that point…his name was Mr. David Gaskins, and he and his wife and little daughter lived out there in a bungalow and the Red Cross office was set up in his home there.

And he was the first Field Director that I worked with. And getting out to the air base was rather difficult because you didn’t just get in your car and go up…go anywhere, because gasoline, of course, was rationed. And I can remember…sticks in my mind, that we were staying down at Wrightsville Beach and I was full of patriotic fervor…I really thought I was saving the world, I believe, because I’d get on my bicycle and ride from up by the Carolina Yacht Club where we were renting a cottage, and would ride down to what we called at that time, Station One…and then get on the trolley car and ride to Wilmington, down to Front and Grace Street and then transfer to a bus and get out to Bluethenthal Field. So that was just a…a routine thing and…

Mims: How much time would that take you, do you remember?

Perdew: I…I guess it would probably take about an hour, I don’t really remember now. I think I got up early in the morning. But anyway, so I would go out to the airbase and would be in the office. Mr. Gaskins, as I say, he had his home there and everything was very informal as far as that was concerned. Our main function, I guess, was to take care of the servicemen who came in, who had emergencies. And very often the Red Cross office in Wilmington would contact us if there was…happened to be a family problem and a soldier connected with that family happened to be stationed out at Bluethenthal Field. And then we would go into action and try to get…do the necessary things to work with the military so that he could be sent to home or whatever.

As I say, the office was very informal and all these young soldiers would come over…and you might say, kind of hang around, because the Gaskins kind of ran, I guess you might say, a…a…informal family USO out there for these service men. One of the functions that they asked us to do was to get service men to come in to Wilmington to give blood at that time.

And one day we had a telephone call…and this was a very tragic and sad experience I had…it’s always stuck in my mind…I get very emotional when I think about it and talk about it, but I…I had the Red Cross car and I took in a bunch of soldiers, I’d say maybe there were about four of ‘em, and I had the Field Director’s little girl with me…we thought we were just gonna drive into town and they were gonna screen these soldiers and whichever one had the proper blood, they would take his blood and that would be it. Well, time went on and the soldiers who came in with me were all dismissed except this one young man, Barney Lewis, who was a resident of Winnabow, right across the river…a really very fine young soldier.

And time went on, and I stayed and I kept…I had the Field Director’s little girl with me, and I said, “April, I know your family wants you to come home and I can’t imagine what the delay is.” So, I don’t know how long we waited, but it was a long time, I’d say at least a couple hours, and finally, no one told me anything so I said, “I’ve got to get this child back out to her parents.” So we went on back out to the airbase. I had the Red Cross car that I was driving.

And when I went back in the office, I hadn’t been there very long and one of the soldiers came in and said, “Well we lost a soldier today,” and I heard Mrs. Gaskins say, “What did you say?” He said, “Well, Barney Lewis died.” And he was the young man I had taken in there, of course I was in a great state of shock, and I went in and I said, “What did you say?” and he repeated. Then I said, “What happened?” I don’t really know what happened except it was a terrible thing, they had hooked up the machine in reverse, as I understand, and instead of taking the blood out…it was what you’d say, a terrible medical error.

It happened right out here…at that time it was called James Walker Memorial Hospital. And so, this young man was pumped full of air instead of the other and it was just a great tragedy. And right after that…well, they had a…Barney was buried…fortunately he was nearby…when I say fortunately…I mean, he was in Brunswick County, it’s not as if he were from Chicago or New York. It could have been anybody, it just happened to this local young man.

And so, I can remember they had the service over there in Winnabow…the burial…and, of course, they…it was a military funeral and it was a very, very sad occasion. Right after that they had…I’d guess you’d say some inquest, but that…it was before the days of everybody suing the medical people, you know. But they had pushed the doctor and the nurse out of town, they were nowhere, and all I remember is, it was just a very cut and dried thing and you had to just attribute it to being a war casualty…is the way I’ve always looked at it.

Mims: But, but this took place at James Walker Hospital?

Perdew: Yea.

Mims: They…you took the soldiers there to have their blood…

Perdew: Right, right.

Mims: So the blood bank was there?

Perdew: Right. Yea. So that was a pretty gruesome experience, pretty terrible. And it…and you know, an interesting thing, Barney’s mother worked for the Singer sewing machine office here in Wilmington, and years later…I knew that she, at that time…no…I think it was Barney’s aunt who was pregnant at that time, and they named the young boy who was born for this boy. And years later, the Singer sewing machine had moved out here to Hanover Center, and had an office out there, and I heard that this young man who was named for his uncle who had died that tragic death, worked out there.

And I went in and…you know, it was as if I had seen a ghost, he looked so much like this uncle who had died, it just gave me such a start. I explained to him who I was, I had been with the Red Cross, and so on, and then I…I got out of there as fast I could because I…it was a very emotional experience for me. But I thought it was a wonderful thing that they did have this young man and he was named for his uncle who was such a fine young man. That was, I’d say, my worst experience I had when I was with the Red Cross. But…

Mims: What were some of the other things that you did out there?

Perdew: Well, as I say, I was mostly…sometimes I was left in charge of the base if the Field Director had to go to an area meeting or something like that. And, as I recall, I think I probably stayed out there, because it was, as I say, the residence of the field director and his wife and little girl were there. And so, I was mostly, I guess, you’d say, in charge when he was gone. And it was a lot of responsibility for a young, inexperienced gal. But at that point, you know, during the war, they had to take what they could get, I guess.

And I stayed with the Red Cross there for several years. And then…I don’t remem…I can’t exactly in my mind…I think…oh, I do know what happened…Mr. Gaskins was transferred and they had several other directors who, you know, would come and they would be transferred just as the troops were transferred, wherever they needed them. And so, I had various, some happy, some unhappy experiences, you might say. Some directors were more conscientious than others.

I remember at one point, we did have one…a…a…a director, I don’t even remember his name (and if I did, I wouldn’t mention it), but he was not the most responsible person in the world. You were never supposed to leave the base uncovered, you might say. But he would take the Red Cross car and go off and the lady who was in charge of the local Red Cross office here used to call me, and we’d have a terrible time trying to track him down, you know, because he was sort of incommunicado at that point. And I do remember that was sort of a hassle and I believe, I got kind of tired of the hassle and I think I finally thought, “Well I’ve had enough of this.”

And so I left. And I went down to Birmingham, Alabama. I had an uncle who was very ill, he’d had a stroke, and they wanted somebody in the family to be with him. And I went down and stayed for several months down there. And then it became real…a situation that I wasn’t able to handle. They needed professional people in there, so they got professional care. And on my way home, I stopped at the Red Cross office in Atlanta, because I really…the war was still going on…and I really felt that that was what I wanted to do. So I was interviewed at the office in Atlanta and they sent me to Washington for a training course and that was a pretty intensive thing, as I recall.

And then, after that training, they sent me to Camp Wheeler in Macon Georgia. And that was right about the time of the Battle of the Bulge, because I can remember we would go over to the Red Cross office…we were in training to be staff aides…and we would be on a bus and ride over there and you’d look out the window and you’d see all these young, young men. And they…I think at that time, they only gave ‘em about…it was such an excruciating situation with that war in Europe, they would give them about three weeks training, and then they would be shipped right out. And it was a very…it was a sad time.

And there was a great big office there with several…I’m trying to think how many…I don’t remember how many members there were on the staff. Some of our experiences were funny. I can remember the head field director there was a…a little short rotund little man, and he was full of fun, and he was quite, you might say, a character. I’m not sure how much training we got, but anyway, after that we were given assignments, and I was sent to Laurinburg-Maxton Airbase, which is not very far from here. And then from there…that was a base that trained glider pilots, and that was quite an interesting assignment…and then I was reassigned to Fort Bragg.

All of my experience was right here in North Carolina. You know, I never went overseas. So I was sent to the office in Fort Bragg and that was a tremendous place, and they had satellite offices all over that big base. And it was…I worked for a man there, I was associated with him…everybody in the main office said, “Nobody can work for him,” and said, “His office is the biggest mess. And I went down, and it sure was a mess! I can remember there were files piled up to the ceiling, and I thought, “I’m gonna get this place straightened out, I can’t work here!”

So, I did work there for quite a while with that Field Director. And I can remember one day, at that time they did not assign women in the offices at night…it was that era when, you know, it was before…everybody’s all mixed up together like they are with a spoon. And I think some of the men resented the fact that…that they had that duty and we didn’t have it. But I can remember one day…so we were put in charge of the big office over the weekends…and I can remember being in there…I don’t know why I was in there by myself one time…but I can remember about…it had been a busy, busy day, with the phone ringing and the teletypes ringing, and all this was going on…I was the only person there…and finally, at four o’clock, I thought, “I can’t help what the emergency is, I’ve got to go have a cup of tea and a cracker or something.”

So I remember going back and heating something in the oven and everything going ding ding ding ding ding ding ding…all those machines at that point…I thought, “They’re just going to have to keep on dinging,” that was a pretty strenuous time. And at that time, they didn’t have room on the base for the Red Cross workers and I had a room in Fayetteville with a very nice family. I think someone in her family was associated out there on the base in some capacity, I don’t remember what, but I remember…I said my only experience I had with combat might have been.

I was walking down the street…it was twilight, I guess you’d say, there was a little place called The Toddle House up on the corner, kind of like McDonald’s and all those places are now, I guess, and that’s where I would go for my evening meal. And it was a rainy, cloudy, dusky day and the Red Cross didn’t let you…let you carry an umbrella but we had these little plastic things that fit over your uniform cap…came down kind of like a cape over your shoulders…and I had my head kind of ducked down like that, and this car came up across the street, and I thought it was a gentleman…the husband of the person who’s house I was living in.

It was very…came by very slowly and tooted, and I waved, and I had my head ducked down, and in a few minutes the car came back and stopped…and I thought, “Well, Lordy, isn’t that nice of Mr. Brown or Mr. Smith” (or whatever his name was, I don’t remember now) and I went over…opened the door and I went on and jumped in the car and slammed the door and…I mean…and it was rainy, and he toodled on off and I looked around…it was a man I’d never seen before…kind of a skull cap on, and he says “Geez girl, would you like to have a beer?” And good grief, the Red Cross never prepared for this. I said that’s the closest I ever came to combat. I jumped out of that car the next corner and skittled on home as fast as I could. But that was a funny experience. And…

Mims: Well, you said you were in a uniform, what…

Perdew: Yes.

Mims: Can you tell me about that?

Perdew: Well, when you became a professional, then you were provided with a Red Cross uniform…and I thought I looked pretty snappy.

Mims: What did it look like?

Perdew: They were nice looking, they had little caps, kinda like this, you know, that sit on your head…and then you had…it was before the era of ladies wearing pants, you know, which I think is so wonderful now, because It’s so much more convenient…but we had skirts and a…a…a military looking jacket. And then for your dress uniform, it was really…I can remember coming down from Laurinburg-Maxton Airbase to the wedding of a friend of mine, Louise Borlan, who married a young man we’d grown up with, George Borlan, who later became a general.

And in fact his picture was on the cover of Life Magazine and they did give me my…I remember my mother, she wasn’t very happy over my being away from home at that point, you know, and she wanted me to get all dressed up for the wedding, but I was very proud of my uniform…and they gave you a dress uniform, which was a very pale blue, sort of a silky looking dress with long sleeves, and you had your Red Cross pin and symbol up there, and so I was… decided… that’s what I was gonna wear. I was very proud of my uniform. So that’s what I did, I can remember that particular event.

Mims: And the regular working uniform, what color was that?

Perdew: The regular working uniform was a white shirt with a…sort of a dark blue jacket and skirt and, you know, low-heeled shoes, not…not very attractive shoes you would say. But anyway, that was my…

Mims: Would you…you wore this out in the community? Like, did you ever go to any functions like at the USO dressed in this…to be identified?

Perdew: I never went the USO dressed like that, but I didn’t…I was too…I’ll tell you, really, at that particular point, I don’t remember much social life. You know, that was a…that was a different time. After I finally left the Red Cross and came on home, then, that’s when…I do remember one funny experience when I was there at Bluethenthal…I had forgotten to mention that…you know, all those soldiers were lonesome and they all wanted to date you and all that kind of thing, and so one day I finally consented to this young soldier who was from Chicago and I came home and told my mother that I was going to the movies with this young man from Chicago.

Oh, she was very upset about that because she didn’t…she thought everybody from Chicago, at that point, were gangsters, you know,…that’s they way were raised. And so, of course, he was perfectly harmless, but I do remember his coming to the house and when I opened the door…we lived in a two story house, it wasn’t a mansion or anything like that, but this young man had been raised over on the west side or the east side, I don’t know where out in Chicago and his eyes were big as saucers and he says, “Sheesh Ms. Moore, I didn’t know yous was a swell.” I thought, “Well geez, I didn’t know I was a swell either,” but that’s they way I had been to him; he’d just seen me in the office out there at the Red Cross.

At that point, I wasn’t in uniform, cause I was just a secretary there. But I do remember that was a funny experience. We toodled on off to the movies and came on home and I was still intact and my mother was still pacing the floor wondering what was happening to this girl who’d gone out with somebody from Chicago. I don’t know…that was like my only social occasion that I can remember.

Mims: Well, when you were working as a professional in the Red Cross, was it primarily women, or was it half men, half women, what…?

Perdew: You mean the staff?

Mims: Yea.

Perdew: I would say most of the field directors were men, as I recall. I think they were all men, as I…I mean, the ones that I was associated with.

Mims: You said that women weren’t allowed to work in the evening in the night shift.

Perdew: That was at Fayetteville.

Mims: Right, so I didn’t know what the kind of mix it was…like…

Perdew: Well, I think the men were…I think most of them were…I guess some of then were staff aides…I don’t know, Fort Bragg was so big, and you know, the office was so big…and then, as I say, I was not stationed on the base…I had to live in town because they didn’t have room for the Red Cross workers. Now when I was at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, down there for that training…we were quartered in the nurses quarters. You know, with the regular military personnel…the women…but of course the women and men are all separated in that…in that era.

Mims: Ah, what was your connection with like, Walker Hospital, other than just taking the soldiers there or just…?

Perdew: Right, for the blood. That’s all that I can recall.

Mims: If…if somebody came into town and they were ill, was…like when you were up at…at the airport, here locally…what…where would the soldiers…?

Perdew: They would go to the local chapter of the Red Cross in town. Ours…we were strictly military out there at the base. But if somebody came in and needed help from the Red Cross, they would go to the Red Cross office in town. Now if they had a relative or someone stationed out where I was, the local Red Cross office here would contact the Red Cross office out there. And I supposed it was all turned over to the military as far as making contact with a soldier who was stationed there or anything like that.

Mims: Did you ever get up to Camp Davis?

Perdew: I went up to Camp Davis one time, that was before I was working for the Red Cross, when they used to herd all the birds…the girls together and take them up there for a dance. But that wasn’t…I wasn’t one that went…I think I went up there one time…we went up there all dressed up in long evening dresses and I…I don’t remember much about that. I think a lot of girls did go up and have a good time, but I…that was not my thing. Once was enough!

Mims: I was just trying to figure out some of the people you may have come into contact with. Like, medical personnel or, you know, administrative personnel, you know, between the different bases.

Perdew: Right. No, well, when I was out there at Bluethental, I was strictly…I was…you’d say, an employee that did typing and the…that kind of thing, the filing and although it didn’t…wasn’t restricted to that, because as I told you, if the field director weren’t there and a soldier might come over and say, “I’ve just had a letter from home and my mother is very ill and what am I gonna do?” we would try to contact the Red Cross in town and two working together along with the military would try to get the soldier emergency leave, or something like that.

Mims: Do you remember…this sounds crazy…but do you remember your equipment that you worked with at any of these places? You were saying at one…

Perdew: At what?

Mims: At like, at one place you said the lights and buzzers were all going off…I’m trying to get an idea of what kind of, like, office equipment that you used…

Perdew: Oh, oh, oh, oh, well our office out here was very simple, it was mostly just a small room with a typewriter and a telephone and that’s the way the communication was. Now, at Fort Bragg, which was, of course a tremendous base, they had a huge office and then they had the satellite offices and that’s where I worked…I think I told you was…everybody said, “You’re not going to be able to work with that guy because he’s too hard to get along with”…but I got along with him alright, we got that office straightened out.

And…but at Fort Bragg, the big office…in my mind, I’m trying to visualize it and it just sticks in my mind, that one occasion when I was left in charge of it, and as I said it was a very busy, busy time, because teletypes…I’m trying to think of what you called those machines, but that’s what they were…the messages came over the teletype and they probably had four or five or six of them in there, I don’t know how many they had, but I do remember that particular day, the phone was ringing and the teletypes were ringing and it was pretty hectic. And I thought, “How did I get into this situation?”.

Mims: You kind of cut short before you left…what…about what year did you leave…was it after the war…when you terminated…?

Perdew: No, not…no, no…ah, I think after Fort Bragg is when I finally decided I’d had…I guess you’d say…I’d had enough, I was worn out. So luckily I was able to come on home. And then, that was…you know, I left the Red Cross experience behind and just…we had a lot of fun you know, but I’m sure Glenn Willard has told you about all that in her interview with you.

Mims: We talked mainly about…we talked mainly about the USO and her function there.

Perdew: Yea, but I…I mean, Wilmington, of course, was just…I don’t know how we met all these very nice young men who were stationed…some of them at Lejeune and some of them at Camp Davis…I don’t ever remember anybody dating…that I knew, dating…the office and the people out at the…at Bluethenthal…I’m sure there were people who did. But it seems to me…it was amazing the connections that people would have…someone would write and say, “My son is going to be stationed out at Camp Lejeune and would you try to be kind to him”…but…but you did have a lot of connections and we met an awful lot of nice young men and had a lot of fun with them.

Mims: Well, we were talking off camera a little bit about your work at the filter center.

Perdew: Well, that’s really where, I guess, I started out with any connection with the military. They were asking for volunteers to come and I don’t exactly remember what…I remember it was down in the basement of the post office, and I think we were plotting…plotting airplanes, I suppose. I don’t exactly know what it…what the significance of it was, if any. But we all felt very important…it was an important thing to do and I suppose it probably was.

Mims: Well, I understand they had plane spotters which Ms…

Perdew: I think that’s what it was.

Mims: Ms. Higgins said that she was one…would go up on the tall hotels and watch for airplanes, and then she had to report to people in the filter centers.

Perdew: Yea, well I didn’t do anything like that, mine was strictly in the basement. But the…this didn’t have anything to do with the Red Cross, but I guess she told you about that…the one experience we had…I’m sure somebody’s told you this…that we were told if the…you know, we would have practice air raids, I guess you’d call them at the time, and everybody…plus we were all…Wrightsville Beach was all completely blacked out…all the beaches…I’m sure you, you know, people have told you about that…and I do remember the most exciting night there was when the shipyard lights went out… ‘cause we were told the shipyard would continue around the clock…even during these blackouts that we had all of the time.

But they said if the shipyard lights ever went out, that meant it was very… something… something important happening…like a submarine, or…we didn’t know…but we were down at Wrightsville Beach when we did experience that time when the shipyard blacked out. And I’ve never ever been told exactly what it was, but everybody thought it was a submarine off the coast and I assume that must have been what it was.

Mims: Um.

Perdew: I remember we had a military family living next door to us…he was an officer up at Lejeune…and it was funny to us because every night, you know, the beach was patrolled by these young privates, I guess, or sergeants, and the…this…this gentleman next door…I call him a gentleman, I don’t know whether he was or not, we always thought he must have been a spy, because he had a very German sounding name…but they would always open their doors wide and this light would pour out. Every…it seemed to me, every night…we lived next door to these people…and it seems to me, every night they’d…the privates would have to go up and tell the major that it was a blackout and to close his things.

And the night that the shipyard blacked out and everything…we were all didn’t know whether it was an airplane…whether we were being bombed, or what…they turned on every light in the house…right there, next door to us. Because I remember my sister was married at that time and my brother-in-law made himself a self appointed air raid warden and I can hear right now going and saying, “Turn out those lights, turn out those lights”…telling the major what to do…they turned them out. But it was kind of scary because we didn’t know what it was all about…and I still don’t know what it was all about. But I think it was something about a submarine…

Mims: Well, I’ve heard that they…

Perdew: …surfacing, maybe.

Mims: …they had to cut the lights off at the Lumina, I guess, during the whole time.

Perdew: Oh yea, everybody…oh, every…Wrightsville Beach was all black…Carolina Beach…all the beaches along here.

Mims: I’ve even heard stories that if you were running your car, you couldn’t have your headlights on during blackouts.

Perdew: I guess you couldn’t, I…that’s kind of hazy in my mind now, as I said, we had…

Mims: It’s just incredible to think about how this went on.

Perdew: Well…

Mims: So it was like a community effort, you know, to…to get things done, like a lot of people worked down at the filter center in town…?

Perdew: Oh yea. And I don’t even remember who was down there at the time when I was there. I can remember, at that point… ‘cause I’m an older lady now…but at that point, some older ladies worked down there that were very conscientious and…and of course a lot of those ladies were Gray Ladies at the hospital, I guess that’s what they called them, and all that kind of thing…but I never did any actual hospital work. I had that one bad experience that I told you about and I guess that finished me off.

Mims: Well, in your Red Cross experience, how was the racial issues handled? I know that you know, there were blacks in the military…

Perdew: Yea, I have no idea. I don’t remember anything about anything like that. I remember when I was in Washington being trained to be a staff aid or field director, that there were several, as they call them now, African-Americans there in training…men, I don’t remember any women, I guess there were some, but I don’t remember any particular conflict at that point. Everybody was too busy worrying about trying to win the war, you know, it…of course there was segregation at that time and in the military there was segregation. But I…I don’t remember any…at Bluethenthal…I don’t remember…that particular…particular units there…we did have some German prisoners out there at one time, and…

Mims: Yea, I’ve heard about that, but I don’t…I know very little about it…can you…tell me what you know?

Perdew: Well, all I remember is that they were pretty free as I recall. They…seems to me they kind of wandered around the base, and we always thought that was sort of odd, that they were allowed as much freedom as they were. But they must not have been too afraid of them. I don’t remember them being segregated in a unit…I don’t remember whether they brought them out there to the base to do particularly menial things that had to be done, since they were prisoners…but that’s…I do remember that there were some.

Mims: Were these German prisoners or incarcerated American citizens that were of German nationality…do you know?

Perdew: Oh no, these were…these were prisoners.

Mims: Hum.

Perdew: These weren’t like the Japanese that were incarcerated during the war or anything like that. No, these were young men who had…I guess they had been captured somewhere and brought over and…

Mims: Free trip to the United States!

Perdew: I don’t know…

Mims: I heard that there was another prison camp…and I want to say it was near Williston High School?

Perdew: Yea, that’s where they were quartered I think, out there in that area. But that’s kind of hazy in my mind.

Mims: Um hum. It’s still interesting, cause there’s no visual reference for us right now, so we have to, you know, rely on people who remember…

Perdew: Yea, right.

Mims: …remember this kind of…

Perdew: I just remember there was an area out there that was…where there were…people were incarcerated…that were military people…Germans…and I guess we all thought that was…we were all scared. And I’m sure they weren’t going to do anything to us, but during the war, we all kind of lived on that…lived on the edge, you might say. And Wilmington, of course, was just bursting at the seams, you know, with Marines, and Air Force, and infantrymen and all…and then after the war, we did have…I guess Glenn may have told you this…I don’t know whether…Glenn may have been married by then, but we had some Dutch Marines stationed here. And we all had a…they were going over to Indonesia, which had been…of course that had been under the rule of the Netherlands…the Netherlands…and I remember the young men we would meet…now I’m off the track from the Red Cross…

Mims: That’s okay…

Perdew: …if you want to hear all this.

Mims: That’s okay.

Perdew: But I can remember them being very military and they had all suffered under the German occupation and so then…we would say, “Why are you going to Indonesia to do the same thing that the Germans have done to you?” and they would click their heels and stand up real straight and say, “It is my duty.” They were very military and…and very…very loyal to their queen, you know, but that’s…that’s what…I do remember that, that’s what happened with those young men. They were all wonderful dancers and we used to have a good time waltzing with them.

Mims: So I was going to ask…what…you said you had very little time for extra curricular activities but it sounds like you…you had a nice social life. What did you do when you met these gentlemen? What activities were there to do?

Perdew: Oh well, what do you mean? Well, let’s see, well, you know, there wasn’t much to do except go to the movies…if you were lucky enough to…if you were a member of the country club, you could go over there and dance, you know, and then at Wrightsville Beach…a lot of these young men that we knew that were officers, would rent a cottage and…oh I’ve got pictures of all of us, you know, sitting out on the porch…men drinking beer…and all of us just having a good time, socializing and being together…and we’d go down and cook steaks…they could get steaks.

We couldn’t get steaks because you know, everything was rationed…and you only had a certain coupon that you could use for sugar and all that kind of stuff. But these young men in the military, they could get…these officers could…if they were lucky, they could get hold of something like that…we’d go down and cook a steak or hamburger and that was…that was great…a lot of fun. And of course in the summer time we could all go swimming and that kind of thing.

Mims: Down at the beach?

Perdew: Yea.

Mims: Did you ever go to Carolina Beach?

Perdew: No, we didn’t go to Carolina Beach. Carolina Beach…we were very snobbish and snooty and we thought Wrightsville Beach was the place that you had to go. We had all been raised down there and our parents had had cottages and we would go down there on the trolley car and that kind of thing…but that’s another story…off the beaten track.

Mims: I’m just trying to piece, you know, everybody talks about how vibrant the port city of Wilmington was during World War II, so I’m trying to put together, you know, an idea of what activities people had to do. I heard one lady talk about a miniature golf course down town Wilmington. Do you recall that at all?

Perdew: I don’t recall anything like that downtown.

Mims: Down in front of the Coastline Convention Center.

Perdew: I don’t remember…

Mims: Well, you know, where…it used to be…

Perdew: …don’t remember anything like that and I wouldn’t be surprised, because I would think that the port was really guarded…a little more securely, I would think, at that time.

Mims: Do you think it was?

Perdew: I assume, but, you know, who am I to say? I don’t know. I’m trying to think…they did have those…those British ships that were stationed here for a while, as I told you…and…I’m trying to think…I remember…this was not when I was connected with the Red Cross…I was head of something called the…what was it called?…the Christmas Bureau, and that was kind of a supplementary thing to…to help families at Christmastime with food and presents for the children and that sort of thing.

And I remember we had a party scheduled for some of these less fortunate children on one of the Coast Guard ships that was stationed at the port. And I remember working with a young man, I believe he was in the Coast Guard, not the Navy, to organize this party for these…these children to be on the ship. And it was a funny experience that time because Santa Claus was…had had slightly too much Christmas cheer apparently and he was rowing up the river…or being rowed up the river in a little row boat…and all these children…that we must have considered under privileged and had given them…I think they had been distributed…along with the…with the presents…apples and oranges, and so.

But Santa Claus out there was too much for them…they started pelting Santa Claus with oranges and apples that had been given to them…that was the Christmas party on the…the Coast Guard ship there…I do remember that funny experience. That was quite a hilarious time.

Mims: Well, did you eventually meet your husband here, or…?

Perdew: No, my…my husband was a local person and we had gone out together and so we were…he was off in the Air Force, you know, and we were just casual friends. But we did have a lot of dates with a lot of interesting young men that were here in the various units. And I have a friend now who…they came here from Boston…she was from Dunn, North Carolina, and her husband…she met her husband here in Wilmington and…I’m trying to…she said he proposed to her on the steps of the French House, which is on Fourth Street.

She had come here…all the girls wanted to come here, you know, because Wilmington had so many men, I guess. And she was living there…she had come here to work as a secretary somewhere and she met her present husband…I don’t know how she met him, but anyway, they have since come back here to live. They live down at Landfall. And so we have a good time talking about meeting all these soldiers. And we did have a good time because they all wanted to come into town because they wanted to get away from their bases…from Lejeune and from Camp Davis, and all the other places. So…so we did have a good time.

Mims: Well, Ms. Higgins talked a little bit about the Victory Bells…the girls that would come and work at the USO…

Perdew: Well, now she would be familiar with that because that’s where she did her stent was at the USO.

Mims: I didn’t know whether you knew any people who did that?

Perdew: No, I really…I really didn’t.

Mims: You stayed so busy doing your own…

Perdew: Yea, we were kind of doing our own thing and a lot of these young soldiers would, you know, come to the house. We’d…we’d generally kind of travel in groups, you know, we didn’t…it wasn’t like it is today where you apparently have one special boyfriend or significant other and all that…times have really changed. We…we had a lot of fun, dated a lot of men, a lot of it was casual and a lot of them fell in love and married them and we had a lot of military…a lot of my friends, you know, married men who were stationed here…and a lot of them have come back to Wilmington to live. And some of them just stayed where they were. But it was quite an exciting time. It really was.

Mims: It sounds like it was. I’m trying to think of what else I can ask you here. I…is there anything else you wanted to add? Something that maybe I haven’t…haven’t covered?

Perdew: I can’t think of anything except with the…I did have a funny experience with the…the Dutch Marines. I had one who was quite attentive and…you know, during the war, shoes were rationed, and so when we’d go downtown to the movies, there was a shoe store called Freeman’s Shoe Store, right next to the theater down there…and we’d be strolling the streets…that was kind of…I guess probably what we had to do and I’d look in the window at Freeman Shoe Store and say, “Oh look at those shoes, golly I sure wish I had a pair,” but we were rationed to two pair of shoes a year, I believe is the way it was…not very many.

So…Freeman’s happened to be displaying all these pretty shoes, but they were…they were some that I wished I had, and one day my Netherlands Marine friend arrived with a big box and he said, “That is a little something for you.” And I thought, “Good gosh! What on Earth could that be in this big box?” I knew it wasn’t going to be a black silk nightgown or anything like that but I thought, “I’m not going to open it right now…what in the world this could be?” We went on to the movies and then I said, “Good night.” When we came home, I opened the box and it was the biggest, clumsiest pair of…I think they must have been shoes that the lady Marines must have had…you know, big oxford type things, and clumpy.

And I thought, “Oh, he thought he was doing the nicest thing for me, to give me these shoes.” And whenever he would come in, he would look at my feet and he would wonder why I wasn’t wearing his shoes. And I’d say, “Oh I’ve had them on all day John, thank you so much, but I had to put these others on,” and then, after they were all…after they all left, I hauled the shoes out and they had some kind of relief to send overseas, you know, for all these poor people that probably have any shoes to wear, so I remember donating those shoes to that worthy cause.

Mims: Well, I do want to thank you for talking with me today.

Perdew: Well, I don’t feel like I’ve given you a lot of…too much pertinent information because…there were some ladies stationed with the Red Cross and I don’t know whether you’ve interviewed them…but they had a program on the Red Cross down at the Latimer House about two years ago, and there were some very interesting women who participated in that. And they are local people…I mean they were living here now and you might want to get the names of those women if you haven’t already had them, because most of them were overseas and they had some very interesting experiences to talk about.

Mims: I’ll check that out.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign