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Interview with Margaret "Glenn" Higgins, February 23, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Margaret "Glenn" Higgins, February 23, 2004
February 23, 2004
Margaret "Glenn" Higgins, a native of New Hanover County, was in charge of Women's Activities at the Second Street USO during World War II. Later she became the secretary at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Her memories reflect on her time spent at the USO.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Higgins, Margaret "Glenn" Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Pate, Brenda Date of Interview: 2/23/2004 Series: Military Length 39 minutes

Mims: Today is Monday, February 23rd. I'm Luanne Mims with Brenda Pate for the Randall Library Special Collections, and today we're talking to Mrs. Glenn Higgins. Mrs. Higgins, where are you from?

Higgins: Wilmington, North Carolina.

Mims: You were born here?

Higgins: In the same house that I lived in until I got married, yes.

Mims: You attended local school?

Higgins: Oh yes, Topsail and New Hanover High. That was all we had in those days, no junior highs.

Mims: What kind of work did your father do?

Higgins: Uh.. insurance. He was a self-taught man. His family, shall I tell you about this?

Mims: Sure.

Higgins: His family moved to Wilmington. They were from little Washington, Washington, North Carolina, and during the Civil War, his family refugeed to Greensboro, North Carolina, where they lived during the War to get away from the fighting on the Pimlico River where they lived in Washington. And after the Civil War, they moved to Wilmington and he set up his business here in Wilmington. Apparently, it was very successful. It was a shipping business, shipping coastwise from New England to- because he was from New England, my [laughs] grandfather was. And my father was born in little Washington, but he moved to Wilmington with his family after the Civil War. He was planning- his family was planning to send him to Yale. They had plenty of money apparently, [laughs] making money in shipping and whatever at that time. They sent him to a prep school in uh.. New Haven where he was prepping for Yale because at that time, there was a crash. I- I don't know anything about the history of it, but there was a crash of some kind, a financial crash and uh.. my grandfather lost everything he had, so young Martin had to come home from prep school and go to work. So my father never had a college education or even a prep school education, but he was a fantastically well-taught man. Oh, I'll have to show you that little book that he wrote in here.

But anyway, my family moved here, my grandfather and all of 'em uh.. about 19- I mean 1867 or something of the sort and he'd bought the house on the corner of 6th and Orange where I lived and grew up. They call it the Bynum-Willard House I believe now and it's owned now by Dr. Lander Anderson and his wife, Connie. They built a bed and breakfast in the backyard, but that's where I grew up.

Mims: Was your mom from here?

Higgins: No, she was from Salem, Virginia. That's where she grew up and so- bottom picture -you can hardly see it in the snow.

Mims: How did she end up in Wilmington?

Higgins: Well, that's another long story. Do you want [laughs] to hear a long story?

Mims: Sure.

Higgins: Uh.. the Episcopal church, I don't know what you know about the Episcopal church, but we have bishops that are elected and go different places and uh.. Tom Doss, Thomas Campbell Doss, was elected bishop for Eastern Carolina Diocese. His wife had previously died and he had three young sons to raise. He had a niece, who was my mother. He called her Glennie. She was Glennie Martin and she came to live with the bishop to take care of his three children. Maybe I'm not going in sequence, but that's...

Mims: That's okay.

Higgins: Uhm.. she lived with him to take care of his three children since his wife had died and the bishop needed a wife. And right next door was this old gentleman who was a widower, his wife had died, and he was- turned out to be the one she married while she was living there at the bishop's house and she was my mother. Where is she? This one over here.

Mims: In the cameo?

Higgins: The- there's another up- th- that's my mother and me. She was a pretty lady. But anyway, that's where she- how she got here was to take care of the bishop's three children. So I've got a picture of her when she was young up here. It would be more appropriate. Somewhere, oh here it is. Don't you love that one?

Pate: Oh yes.

Mims: Oh, that's neat.

Higgins: Yeah. Well, that's the way she got to Wilmington. She married the old man who lived next door, who she made lots of fun of because he was twenty years older than she was.

Pate: I love her hat.

Higgins: Isn't it wonderful? But the old gentleman next door came courting and they married and that was my father and he was twenty years older than she was. And he was a remar- remarkable person because I was his first chi- first child and he was fifty-nine [laughs] and then he had two more after that. So much for my mother and father. [Laughs]

Mims: Well, that's really interesting. So you grew up here.

Higgins: Um hmm.

Mims: How did you end up over here on the Masonboro Sound?

Higgins: Well, my father uh.. at these- well, I don't know whether it was before his first wife died or afterward, but he bought property on Masonboro Sound. And Brenda, if you would go downstairs and look in that little uh.. table right at the foot of the stairs and get a sheet of paper out of that, it tells about the property he bought on Masonboro Sound in- right- right at the foot of the stairs. Uhm.. and he bought all this property. I don't know what he planned to do with it, but in the 1920s, he sold off lots. They probably paid two hundred dollars a lot and now they're two hundred dollars a foot. But he saved a thousand feet for his family, a thousand feet of waterfront 'cause we could never afford to buy it now. But uh.. do you see it down there?

Pate: You talking about the desk?

Higgins: Yeah, no not the desk, the little table right at the foot of the stairs. It's a letter that my mother apparently asked to have this property appraised in 1949. She died the following year and she wanted to have it uh.. evaluated for her three children of one of- one of which- one of whom- one of whom I am.

Mims: Your being one.

Higgins: [Laughs] My being one. And this is to tell the evaluation of the property at that time. And you'd be amazed at everything. Would you want me to tell you just a little bit about that?

Mims: Sure.

Higgins: There was a road over there on the other side of the Masonboro Sound Road called the Military Road [clears throat]. And the land on the east side, which is here, of the Military Road that would include the sound frontage is twenty acres more or less. A fair value of this would be two thousand dollars. Within this land is the residence and outbuildings that I consider a reasonable value of three thousand dollars for the whole thing, the property. And- and then on the other side of the road going toward the Masonboro Loop Road, it was uh.. how much uh.. a hundred and five acres of the land more or less and considered all that to have a fair value of four thousand, seven hundred and twenty-five, all those acres. It's uh.. we s- uh.. he sold some of that and my brother still owns some of it over there. I don't, I just own this.

Pate: This is the brother that lives next door?

Higgins: Um hmm, the- the two brothers, yeah. They're here, but we couldn't afford to live here if he hadn't saved a thousand feet of this waterfront for the family, but the whole thing was valued at two thousand dollars.

Mims: Well, after you finished high school, what did you end up doing at that time?

Higgins: I went to Peace Junior College and graduated from there in Raleigh and I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do [laughs] at age seventeen. I went to the Presbyterian School for Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia, for a couple of years and got a Bachelor of Religious Education degree. I still wanted to have a BA and so I got a job as Presbyterian student secretary at the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville, Georgia. And I went there and then I was a student and I was uh.. in charge of the Presbyterian children on camp- children, women, men- no, there weren't any men, women on campus at the Georgia Military College there. And I didn't like it because I was a student and yet I was working. I was neither fish nor fowl.

Mims: We know about that.

Pate: We know about that.

Higgins: Yeah, so uh.. but I did get my BA down there, so that was the end of my education. [Laughs]

Mims: And then you came back to Wilmington?

Higgins: No, I got a job in uh.. Statesville, North Carolina, in the Presbyterian Church there and that was in 1941, the fall of '41, many moons ago. And uh.. I was there until after World- I was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked. When was that? December '42.

Mims: December.

Higgins: '42.

Mims: '41.

Higgins: '41? Was it '41?

Pate: December 7th, 1941.

Higgins: Well, I lose years every now and then.

Mims: We do too.

Higgins: But uh.. I- I applied with the uhm.. National Board YWCA, I mean USO, for a job. And of course the USO as such, I don't know what they do now, but they did not hire. It was the different agencies, YWCA, YMCA, Jewish Welfare Board, National Catholic Community Service, Travelers Aid. They were made up of all of those and uh.. I went to New York to- for a course with the National Board YWCA and then got a job at the Wilmington USO, where I picked up my spouse.

Mims: [Laughs] What was your job at the USO?

Higgins: Uh.. well uhm.. YWCA assistant director. We had a director, an assistant director of the YW, and a director and an assistant director of the YM, and then one Jewish Welfare and one uhm.. Travelers Aid. And the Catholic- National Catholic Community Service, NCCS, had separate quarters. They had the one right next to the Catholic school on Fourth Street, had a USO, and then they had a women's residence on the corner of Fifth and Orange, an old house which has now been restored, and uh.. then there was another one on the corner of Third and was it Red Cross? I'm not sure of what uh.. where uh.. Walnut or Red Cross or something, but anyway uhm.. So that's where I was--at the USO all during the War.

Mims: Functioning in that capacity?

Higgins: Um hmm. And YW was mainly in charge of the women. The- well, we had the girls, the- the dancing girls, we called 'em Victory Belles that- that danced.

Pate: I remember you telling me about that.

Higgins: We had parties- I mean dances, formal every Saturday night, long dresses and whatnot and we had square dances and we had informals. And then the service wives, they came from all over the country to bid farewell to their husbands and sweethearts or whatever it might be. And we planned activities for the women, for the wives, take 'em to the beach, take 'em bowling, uh.. provide. But they all had to get their own places to stay and at that time, they were renting rooms for three different people at one time and- and they keep the- the hot beds as they called 'em.

Pate: Didn't you say your mother rented some rooms?

Higgins: She didn't rent 'em, no, she let people stay there.

Pate: She let them stay?

Higgins: Um hmm. We always had soldiers and sailors and Marines and Coast Guard and everybody sh- because she had three extra bedrooms and she was by herself and so she had 'em staying there. And my brother found a- oh, a trunk full of letters that she had received from soldiers not long ago and I went through every one of 'em and read 'em and tossed 'em. I kept the ones that I remembered, but the ones that- but they were from all over the world to my mother.

Mims: That's incredible.

Higgins: But that's the way she wrote. That was her writing. Can you imagine anybody that wrote like that?

Pate: That's beautiful.

Mims: So what was Wilmington like during the War?

Higgins: A nice, quiet, sleepy southern town.

Mims: During the War it was?

Higgins: Oh no, it was bustling then. You can just leave 'em right there, Brenda, you don't have to take 'em back down. That's fine.

Pate: Well no, I'll put it up 'cause I've got to close the desk too.

Higgins: Okay. Uhm.. no, it was- it was just full of servicemen and everybody took them in, everybody that could took them in just as part of the family. Lots of people rented rooms if they had space to spare and uhm.. the streets were just covered with servicemen. And from Camp Davis, which was a tremendous uhm.. antiaircraft establishment at Holly Ridge, they'd bring double-decker buses into the USO and uh.. during the weekends were the busiest times of course and they'd dump 'em all out right there at the USO. And the OCS, Officers County School, out there, they had a little badge on their uniform to identify 'em and they had to be so careful. When they _____________ they had to keep their noses clean because the MPs everywhere were looking for them to bust 'em because uh.. and they graduated I don't know how many second lieutenants are out there at Camp Davis. Every week they'd have a graduation. But Wilmington was just full of servicemen.

Mims: And where did you live during this time?

Higgins: I lived at home on uh.. the corner of Sixth and Orange.

Mims: Until you said you met your husband?

Higgins: Met my husband?

Mims: At the USO?

Higgins: Yeah, I picked him up.

Mims: [Laughs] What was he doing?

Higgins: Well, I hadn't been working there but a week and a whole bunch of sailors came in. They were on a mine sweep up and they had been sweeping around the uh.. mouth of the river at Southport. And this particular mine sweeper, they always would run into a sandbar and they'd have to come thirty miles up to Wilmington up the river to go to the Broadford Ironworks. And Miles had come up on his mine sweeper which was in dry-dock getting work done and he came in the USO to phone his mother. And at that time, you- you didn't mind walking around at night by yourself in town. I just lived three blocks from the USO and so he- anybody that came in to call his mother I thought was innocent enough and so I asked him to walk me home. [Laughs] That began a beautiful friendship and we laughed. He- he was going to the Mediterranean in August- we were mine sweeping and he said he probably would never get back, but if he did, maybe we ought to get married. So that was that.

Mims: So he made it back I take it?

Higgins: He made it back. [Laughs]

Mims: Were you surprised to see him when he came back?

Higgins: Oh no. No, I kept up with him. [Laughs] And we were married in 1945 and I moved to New England then. So..

Mims: So let's back up just a little bit before you left Wilmington. You said that you were still single during the War. What would be some of the things that you would do for fun in Wilmington?

Higgins: Go to the USO, fend off hundreds and hundreds of [laughs] military. Uh.. we- the USO operated in three shifts from early in the morning till something and then from then till something else and then all night and then to the night duty. And so I was two out of three shifts with the USO every day. I didn't have any other life, but that was enough. [Laughs]

Mims: If a military person came in and was sick, where would you send them?

Higgins: I don't remember them- anybody being sick. Uh.. you said sick?

Mims: Yeah, if they were sick, like if they had to have medical care, what facility would..?

Higgins: Yeah, they were all stationed close by. They'd go back to where they'd come from, I mean Camp Davis or Camp Lejeune or the quarter boat, it was a uhm.. Coast Guard boat. And I asked my brother yesterday, I said, "Why was that thing called the quarter boat?" And he said, "'Cause that was their quarters and [laughs] that's where they lived." And I've never thought of it. It's just always the quarter boat. And uh.. they were close enough to go back home, uh.. back to where they'd come from. I never had any medical problems, not that I recall.

Mims: 'Cause I've heard about sailors coming into town now and through the volunteer over at the port that they send them to certain facilities local.

Higgins: Well, that's entirely different. Uh.. they're not connected with a uh.. unit- I mean uhm.. part of a military and everybody that came into the USO was connected with the military. And some of them, you know, I mean the hospital or whatever it might have been.

Mims: What was your work with the Red Cross?

Higgins: Nothing. [Laughs] I told Brenda I had nothing to do with the Red Cross because they uh.. were a separate entity. I'm sure they helped with lots of military people and we may have referred them to the Red Cross, I don't remember. But uh.. we had no really connection with them at all.

Pate: Was there no Red Cross unit at the USO?

Higgins: No, mm mm. Mm mm, they had their own quarters down on Front Street catty-cornered across from the Governor Dudley. And I wish Mrs. Ormond was still alive. She'd love to tell you about her adventures with the gray ladies.

Mims: Yeah, that's what I was wanting to find out.

Higgins: There's a picture of her down at the Red Cross building in her gray lady uniform. They have memorabilia down there uhm.. in a cabinet or- or glass cabinet. And in fact one of- one of the things that I found in somewhere, I don't know where I found it, my father had joined me to the [laughs] Red Cross when I was just born. He paid twenty-five cents and I got a little card, uh.. postcard sized with my name and birth date and twenty-five cents that I was a Red Cross member. [Laughs]

Mims: And he did that when you were a baby?

Higgins: Yeah, right. Apparently, he was a believer in the Red Cross.

Mims: What about the like USO up in Jacksonville? Did you guys have any contact with them?

Higgins: No. Their- our director would have meetings with the director from there, but I was just an associate or assistant or whatever I was called. I was not involved in the hierarchy, so to speak.

Mims: I'm just trying to link you with what other agencies in town. I know there was a big Y there on the corner of Market and Third I believe.

Higgins: Between Third and Fourth right in the middle of the block.

Mims: Right. Did you have anything to do with them?

Higgins: No, mm mm. No, we were busy with our own things, USO.

Mims: So not a lot of interagency..?

Higgins: Not that I recall. Well, there was uh.. between- see there were about eight USOs in Wilmington and there was uh.. interaction between all of those. The Catholics, they were, I think they had three separate ones, but uhm...

Pate: But you always worked at the Second and Orange Street?

Higgins: Second and Orange, um hmm. I don't remember anything about the Red Cross, but I'm sure they probably helped a lot of people during the War with housing and whatnot.

Mims: And you guys didn't help with any housing other than to see that the wives..

Higgins: The Travelers- the Travelers Aid did. They had a desk at the uh.. Second and Orange USO and the Travelers Aid was the one that did the housing mostly. And the Travelers Aid had a station at the train station too. Do you remember the train station?

Pate: Vaguely. I never rode the train in Wilmington.

Higgins: Um hmm. Uhm.. but anyway, the tra- no, we didn't do. We were busy- busy trying to entertain the women, [clears throat] the girls.

Mims: How many people would be there at a time?

Higgins: Well, it depended. I mean we had cots downstairs in the basement of the USO and they spent the night there.

Mims: They did?

Higgins: I don't know how many hundreds they may have had there.

Pate: Yeah, I've heard of that.

Mims: I haven't.

Higgins: Yeah, they're where your pot shop is.

Mims: Down underneath the building?

Higgins: Um hmm. And there was a photography room down there where they developed their pictures.

Pate: It's still there.

Higgins: It's still in use? Really?

Pate: Still in use.

Higgins: And then there was one room that we used to make recordings uh.. the little tapes for them to mail home. What were they, six-inch, eight-inch tapes or something of the sort? But we'd record tapes down there in one of the rooms. And the only thing we had to eat was donuts and coffee. They made the donuts right there. They had a donut machine and made them.

Mims: So like in today's situation, a business would donate stuff to somebody doing this kind of work?

Higgins: I guess so.

Mims: No businesses would do that at that time?

Higgins: I don't remember any- anything like that. In fact, the room there at the uhm.. Second and Orange building, uh.. you're familiar with it I'm sure, as you go in the door, the one on the right hand side before you go into the big auditorium, six desks in there and all the six ___________. I mean touching.

Mims: You were really crowded.

Higgins: Touching, uh.. six..

Mims: Are you talking about the little windowed area?

Higgins: Um hmm.

Mims: Really?

Higgins: Yeah. There were six desks in there. I mean they were just touching, backed up to each other.

Mims: How would a facility like that do with the rationing situation that was going on?

Higgins: I don't know. I don't know how they got all the supplies that they needed, but I guess they did. I know how my mother did. She just had a coupon book. We all had coupon books and then the- the military people that would come in every weekend would bring things. They might bring a pound of coffee or a little butter or so- I don't know where they got 'em. Nobody questioned them. [Laughs>] But they- if they could, they would bring things to supplement what we had and- and we didn't have any gasoline, we couldn't go anywhere. So..

Mims: There was also a big farm community around here. Did any of those people come into play?

Higgins: No, well I- there were no such thing as those farmers' markets like we have nowadays. And at one time, there was the city market down at the foot of Mark- of uh.. Market Street, but I don't recall that being in a- in action or it being active during World War II. I wasn't cooking then.

Pate: Living at home, your mom was doing the cooking?

Higgins: Yeah. [Laughs] No, everybody I knew had a cook.

Mims: And cooks usually had Wednesday nights off, didn't they?

Higgins: I've forgotten when it was. I remember we had one over on Brandy Creek too.

Mims: Yeah. I'm just trying to think of how everything played in with the USO because that structure is still there, but a lot of the other things are not still left standing. What was across the street where St. John's was for a while?

Higgins: It was a- a restaurant. The old uhm.. St. John's Tavern was a- was the restaurant where the Masonic Eye is in there. That was a restaurant. Jimmy McCoy ran that. [Clears throat] And that was the only thing that was- well, there was just no place to eat at all in Wilmington almost; one Chinese restaurant I recall.

Mims: Really? Where was that?

Higgins: It- the same one that's out on Oleander now. What is it? The New China.

Mims: New China. And they were downtown at one time?

Higgins: No, I- as I recall, they were always out there.

Mims: Really?

Higgins: But there were drugstores downtown that served uh.. lunches and things like that and a cafeteria.

Mims: Oh, where was that?

Higgins: The Friendly Cafeteria, right next to the uh.. Cape Fear Hotel on Chestnut Street, The Friendly Cafeteria. I think they were good friends of ours and I have a big pot about this big and about this heavy, aluminum. It came from there. [Laughs] But that was only- there was just no eateries 'cause people didn't eat out.

Mims: So what was mainly in the downtown area? I know there was a dress shop downtown.

Higgins: Shoes and dress shop, insurance companies. My father had- his office was on Princess Street right behind the uhm.. Custom House. [Clears throat] And it was a cute little building. They've destroyed it.

Pate: It's in that book of places that used to be here.

Mims: Then and Now that Andy Kopel [ph?]..

Pate: Yeah, it was a nice little building.

Mims: How about service places like banks and barbers and that kind of stuff?

Higgins: Well, there were plenty of banks I guess, but they were all downtown. There were- there were no suburbs, I mean no Forest Hills or whatever. Everything was downtown. You could walk everywhere.

Pate: When did your family build out here?

Higgins: My father. Back in 1910 when he got the property, he built that house next door.

Pate: Okay, and then this one, did you and Miles build this house?

Higgins: This- a little part of it was attached to that one and we moved it over here and then we built the front part and the back part. We moved down here for good in 1968 I think it was, a long time ago. I wish I knew more about the Red Cross, but I just don't, but these other people can help you.

Pate: That's helpful right there just getting all their names too.

Mims: Well, and I'm also very interested in the whole situation of downtown Wilmington, especially during the War. I mean you were here during the War. I know one of the things that's talked about a lot is the bottom of the post office that they had people that were doing plane tracking.

Higgins: What did they call it? I can't...

Mims: I can't think of it either.

Higgins: I've forgotten. But the only thing I was involved in then and it was toward the end of the War, I was a s- plane spotter on top of the Cape Fear Hotel. All I knew was if anything started coming in that had three wings [laughs] or three engines I guess it was, it would be German and I had to do something. [Laughs] But other than that, I knew nothing.

Pate: Did you ever see anything?

Higgins: No. No.

Pate: But they had to have the people out there looking.

Higgins: People up on top of the Cape Fear Hotel.

Mims: How often did you do that?

Higgins: I don't remember, but I never saw anything exciting up there. [Laughs] Uhm.. oh, what did they call that thing down in the basement? I never went down there, but I knew a lot of people who did.

Mims: It's like they plotted things that came in so they could..

Higgins: They had big plots.

Mims: So that they could keep a record of the air traffic in the area.

Higgins: Um hmm.

Mims: Yeah. You hear a lot about that. You hear about the blackouts that happened. Did you guys have to do that at the USO?

Higgins: Uh.. no, because we were right in town. We were not close enough to the beach, but [clears throat] we had to uh.. on the beach. We were not living down here during the War. My mother rented the house next door. That was the only house that was here and she rented that to a service person. I've forgotten what kind. And we never came down here. We didn't have any gas. We couldn't come down here, so..

Mims: You stayed in town.

Higgins: Um hmm, um hmm.

Mims: So this was just more of like a retreat for vacation?

Higgins: It was just a summer- summer place uh.. and after the War, we came down every summer.

Mims: What was transportation in town like?

Higgins: If there was any, it was- we had a streetcar line. I don't know if there were any buses or not. I never went anywhere [laughs], so I shouldn't have to- except walking. We did an awful lot of walking.

Mims: We'd heard the other day that there was a miniature golf course down near the..

Higgins: Downtown?

Mims: Down the Coast- nearby the Coastline. Do you remember that at all?

Higgins: No, I don't remember that.

Pate: Mrs. Meyer was telling us about that.

Mims: Bertha Meyer.

Higgins: Um hmm. Well, she had her dress shop down on the corner of Front and Chestnut, Beulah Meyer.

Mims: Yeah, this is Bertha. She was a nurse, but she talked about the miniature golf there right..

Higgins: Well, Bertha is Tankie [ph?] Meyer's mother, isn't she? Do you know Tankie Meyer?

Pate: I do, but I don't know if I can..

Higgins: I think Bertha's his mother. I'm not sure, but Beulah Meyer had the dress shop.

Mims: Right, and then there was the Sally Shop that was down there too.

Higgins: Um hmm. And the movies were down there.

Mims: Oh yeah.

Higgins: There was uh.. the Bijou and the- what was the other one's name? And then there was the Carolina that was on- on uhm.. Chestnut Street almost at the corner of Second.

Mims: Colony?

Higgins: Colony? It could be.

Mims: Bailey was down the..

Higgins: The Bailey, yeah.

Pate: Well, you said you set up activities for the women that were coming in. Did they pay their own way when they went to these places like bowling and to the movies?

Higgins: Now, Brenda, how do I remember who paid to go bowling?

Pate: Well, you were handling the paperwork. I thought maybe..

Higgins: I don't know. [Laughs]

Pate: But you just kind of arranged activities for them.

Higgins: Yeah. I don't remember collecting money, but we may have done it. I know we had to interview all the Victory Belles, all the little girls that were dancing.

Mims: Now tell us more about them.

Higgins: Well, they had to be a certain age.

Mims: Well, what was the age?

Higgins: Something like seventeen I think it was. And uh.. they had to have three recommendations, one of 'em had to be a minister. I don't know what good it did, but anyways we had to interview 'em and uh.. then they had to put in a certain number of hours. And we had senior hostesses also, a lot of s- the mothers or friends that were senior hostesses, but theoretically, we scrutinized 'em and [laughs] they were all good people hopefully.

Mims: Well how would the Victory Belles work? They would come in and be on duty for so many hours?

Higgins: Um hmm, but they loved to come. I mean uh.. one girl to fifty or sixty men, [laughs] they loved to come. And so we- we would have as many as would come. And they didn't lack for dance partners.

Mims: Is that mainly what they did was dance?

Higgins: Um hmm, um hmm, or just sit and listen to 'em talk. We had one room at the USO there, uhm.. I don't know what they've got in it now, we had stationery, USO stationery and we had record players. And we had one- one uh.. closet that was full of uhm.. what do you call that? Twelve in- I guess they were twelve-inch records, the big ones. But anyway, we had a lot of those, classical ones mostly because these people that you're on a ship or on a camp or something where you don't get to listen to Rachmaninov or Beethoven and they'd just come and listen and listen. They loved to sit there by the hour listening to these records and just get away from it all.

Mims: You hear so much about USO, but not any of the particulars that went on there. Whenever the girls were dancing, was it to a band that would be there?

Higgins: We never had bands. Oh no, they were just uh.. jukebox. And my mother said when we were married, uh.. she told my husband- my husband, "The first piece of furniture you're gonna have to buy for Glenn is a jukebox 'cause she's been living with one for two years constantly." You didn't have to put nickels and quarters and dimes in it. In those days, you just punched the button and it played. All day long it would go.

Pate: Did you get a chance to get out and dance some?

Higgins: Well yeah, when I- sure, you had your- you'd just get pushed around the floor. There was not much da- it was so crowded. [Laughs] Oh yeah.

Mims: What would the girls usually wear when they had to come and work?

Higgins: They had uh.. I don't know what we wore in those days, but I know we didn't wear pants. [Laughs] We didn't wear pants. They all had to wear long dresses on Saturday night. We always had the formal [clears throat] and then informal, skirts. And then one time we uhm.. had uh.. roller-skating. They- they sprinkled whatever you sprinkle on the floor and had to sweep it up the next day. But uh.. they wore- I don't know what they wore, but I know it wasn't pants. This was years ago.

Mims: I didn't know whether there was a standard that they had to have their stockings on.

Higgins: I don't remember that. I don't think so. May have been, may have been. Good gosh, girls.

Pate: You're doing great remembering all these things.

Higgins: It was sixty-five years ago. Ai yi yi.

Mims: When did you guys move back from New England?

Higgins: 1968 I believe it was. And see, we had had this little house, just two rooms and a kitchen and a bath was attached to this summer house over here and we moved it over here. And then we bui- uh.. then we built the porch all the way around and we came down many years just uh.. living on the porch. And I can remember one spring we came and the porch had just been built and we spent the whole time putting up the screen around the porch. It took the whole week or two weeks or whatever we were here.

Pate: It's a nice porch. I like sitting on that porch.

Higgins: Um hmm, me too. But we moved down for good in '67. The New England Yankee had just gotten tired of New England. And, you know, until- until he died which was just a year- it'll be two- what is this? Uh.. this is..

Mims: 2004.

Higgins: A year- a year and a half. He died in 1-2-2-1-0-2. That's the way I can remember it. But he- until the very end, he kept saying, "There's no reason I can't go back to Cape Cod. Why won't you let me drive that car? No reason I can't go back to Cape Cod." He wouldn't have enjoyed it if he hadn't gone and two of the children took him back, oh six months, eight months before he died and he just sort of sat and so they ha- they decided that- this is off the subject completely, but they decided they'd take some of his ashes and bury 'em at Cape Cod. So they have- we haven't gotten 'em back. We willed his body to medical research for the hospital in uh.. Greensboro.

Mims: Well, when you guys moved back here, did you do any kind of work at that time?

Higgins: Miles was an artist, an advertising artist and he said, "Here I am. I've got my pen and pencil and my drawing paper. You want some work done?" And he did not uh.. he was not a go-getter. He didn't seek out work, but uhm.. he supported the family. And I got a job right soon after we had gotten here. I started selling Avon and I had no more interest in Avon than a cat. I lost money. [Laughs>] I had Harbor Island. And I'd drive over there and park and wander around Harbor Island uh.. not selling a thing 'cause I- I don't uhm.. use products very much. [Laughs] But I had to get out of here while they were building the house right around me. I started doing that and then uh.. this job came up at St. Paul's Episcopal Church as a secretary. I guess that was just a few months after we had been here, so I started there and stayed there for over twenty years. In the meantime, started working half-time at the University library. I had a morning job and an afternoon job.

But we all had to pitch in, but we didn't know that we didn't have much. Yes, we did know we didn't have any money. We knew it.

Mims: Well, the University library has undergone a lot of changes.

Higgins: Absolutely, um hmm.

Mims: Were you there when they remodeled it?

Higgins: Oh yeah, when they built the front part of it and I was out there at Christmastime. They always have a luncheon for old grads, so to speak, and we were talking then about moving all of the books over during- I don't know whether it was spring vacation or winter vacation or something. But we all had to move books from- they- they built the new part and had the old part closed off and then when they finished the new, they took down the barrier and we could push everything across from the old part to the new part.

Pate: I know, Glenn, ever since I've know you, you've been involved in a lot of volunteer organizations in town. And I know Wilmington couldn't operate without people like you doing that sort of thing.

Higgins: Well, that's true, dear, but I don't do many anymore, but uhm..

Pate: But you had something every day of the week I believe when I first met you.

Higgins: Well, that's possible, but I don't do anything now except uh.. I go to the Red Cross one afternoon a week. I just uh.. register people to give blood, that's all. And then one uh.. day a week out the uh.. airport. And it is so boring out there now because there's so few people going and- and coming.

Mims: What do you do out at the airport?

Higgins: I just sit there at the information desk and wish somebody would come by and ask me questions. It really is very boring, but somebody I guess has to be there. And uh.. at information, they're renovating the whole place out there now.

Pate: Like it needs to be done again.

Higgins: Yeah, well they had columns in the middle, these beautiful big round columns after they took down the big trees. You know, they had palm trees, then they had big round columns and now we've got square columns, as if we needed square columns. It's boon-doggling as far as I'm concerned.

Mims: So you do do a little bit of volunteer work with the Red Cross?

Higgins: Yeah, just- just um hmm, that's all, just one day a week.

Mims: Do you get a lot of business whenever you're there?

Higgins: Uh.. the seasons, it depends on the seasons. Since Christmas, we've just had report- I just go one day a week and there have been piles in there and then it will slack off and after 9-11, my God- [knock on door] Come in. Uh.. Michelle? [tape break]

Mims: And your husband collected all this war memorabilia?

Higgins: Oh yeah, um hmm.

Pate: Are these family portraits up on the wall?

Higgins: Yes, they were my father's grandmother's and on the back it tells who they are and their ancestors and everything. I can't remember it [laughs], so I have it written down on the back of each picture.

Pate: Oh, wonderful. Wonderful.

Higgins: Yeah. The last one over there is too.

Pate: That's your grandparents?

Higgins: No, I ha- they were- preceded them. I've forgotten, but it tells on the back who they are. Uh.. they were before grandparents. I don't remember what they were.

Mims: Well, I'm glad we had a chance to talk to you today. I'm gonna go on and turn the tape off, okay? Okay, we were talking about the Civil War and you said that the Salt Works were..

Higgins: Yes, uh huh, and they panned for salt. They had great big things that- vats that they put the saltwater in and the sun would dry 'em. And my son found one not too long ago. He took it to the museum. Now what they did with it, I don't know.

Pate: The Cape Fear Museum?

Higgins: Um hmm, but he took the salt pan there, but that was before my day. And also the first Masonic Lodge in North Carolina, so we are told, had their headquarters down here and were built right down here and there's nothing left but a few bricks.

Mims: Really?

Higgins: That was the time of William Hooper. There's a- a marker out on the road tells of it and he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Mims: So this was Hooper property at one time?

Higgins: Yeah, I think he got- he lived here. I don't know whether it belonged to 'em, I don't know. You read the marker out there [laughs] on the Loop Road.

Mims: But there's some remnants of a Masonic Temple here?

Higgins: There were at one time, there were some bricks, but I- I don't know whether there are any there now and I doubt it. It was when I was a child and that was a long time ago, but I don't know where the- I doubt if there's anything there now. But people tell the stories and I heard somebody say not long ago, "Well, you know, the Masonic Lodge was down there and the foundations are still there." And I'm, "Hmm, well." I mean you hear all kinds of stories, but uh.. I had a good friend. She said, "Don't ever let the truth interfere with a good story." So most people don't, I think. 'Cause you found that- I found that out.

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