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Interview with Pearl Judd [3/15/2003]

Jainini Parekh:

Today is Saturday, March 15, 2003. This is the beginning of an interview with Pearl Judd at her home in Ramona Villa in Rancho Cucamonga, California. My name is Jainini Parekh, and I will be the interviewer. And let's start with the questions. So the first question is, what inspired you to join WASP?

Pearl Judd:

My love of flying and the desire to serve my country.

Jainini Parekh:

Had you always dreamt of becoming a pilot?

Pearl Judd:

Yes. I saw my first airplane when I was a small child. It was a red bi-wing plane, World War I vintage. It was the most exciting thing I ever saw. I knew I had to fly.

Jainini Parekh:

Did you experience any hostilities from your parents or your peers because of your decision?

Pearl Judd:

No. When I was 18, my father paid a friend whose son had just received his private pilot's license to take me flying. At that time the cost of one hour flying time was $8. The young man gave me a 30-minute flight. Instead of killing my desire to fly, it intensified it. My father said, "Okay, but you better get a job to pay for it; and if you get a job, you'll have to start paying room and board." So I did go to work and started saving my money to pay for lessons and flight time, and, yes, I did pay room and board and learned to live on a budget.

Jainini Parekh:

Were you subject to harassment and/or discrimination from other male pilots?

Pearl Judd:

The only problem I ever encountered happened when I reported to the post office building in downtown Los Angeles to take the entrance exam. There were about 300 young men in the room, and they wouldn't let me in, saying it was for men pilots only. When the testing officer walked up about then, he set them straight in a hurry with a few pithy words. I then entered and took the exam without any further interruptions.

Jainini Parekh:

What did you love most about flying?

Pearl Judd:

Everything. But the best, and still the best today, is takeoff and landing when I was actually at the controls. It gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment. And also speed. The AT-6 takes off and lands about 95 miles an hour, and that was -- that always was just wonderful. There you are, you know, with all this power.

Jainini Parekh:

Yeah. That's so cool. What types of aircraft did you fly, and which one was your favorite?

Pearl Judd:

The U.S. Army planes I flew were, one, the Stearman, the PT-17; two, North American AT-6; three, Vultee BT-13; four, Cessna UC-78 and AT-17. My overall favorite was North American's AT-6. The Navy had the same plane. It was called an SMJ. And that's all the Army planes I flew.

Jainini Parekh:

So why did you love that one above all of them? Was that the one you showed us earlier?

Pearl Judd:

Yeah. It was fast, and it was easy to control, and it was just -- just a nice airplane.

Jainini Parekh:

Where did you fly in the U.S.?

Pearl Judd:

Well, just about all over the U.S. I missed most of the northern states, but all of the southern states and central, cross-country. I didn't ferry but...

Jainini Parekh:

So did you, like, stop in the states?

Pearl Judd:

Yes. We weren't allowed to go out of the country, even the girls that ferried. They could go to port, where the planes would either be flown by male pilots overseas or they would be put on ships. We did all of our flying in the United States.

Jainini Parekh:

What exactly did your duty entail? Like what missions did you fly?

Pearl Judd:

Well, I was assigned to flight test engineering and pilot spotter for instrument pilot practice time. The main maintenance hangars were at Minner Field, Bakersfield, California. That was where most of the repair work was done. Most of the student pilots left Minner Field each day and did their practice on one to three auxiliary fields assigned to Minner Field separated by about 15 to 20 miles each for safety purposes. They were far enough away so that student pilots from one to the other couldn't run into each other. There were always incidents of one kind or another, something broken or wasn't working right or unsafe at the auxiliary fields. Each day four or five of us would be ferried to one or the other of the fields to fly the problem planes back to Minner Field. Once I had quite a thrill. I was to fly one of the planes back to the base that the instructor said, "It doesn't sound right." He was right. On the way back to the base, I lost the right engine. I was able to fly back safely and land. You cannot taxi a twin-engine plane with only one engine, so I had to wait two hours at the end of the runway for them to send a mechanic to tow the plane and me back to the hangar. I learned later that a cam rod had broken. Flying spotter for an officer pilot to practice instrument flying was just plain boring, and I only did it once. Some of the gals liked to do it, so that made me happy. I preferred to test.

Jainini Parekh:

So in testing did you, like, fly the new aircrafts that they came out with?

Pearl Judd:

No. I just explained on that what we did.

Jainini Parekh:

Right, right. Okay. So what was a cam rod?

Pearl Judd:

That was a part that made the engine go.

Jainini Parekh:

Okay. What was the biggest problem you had to overcome in order to be in -- to be a WASP?

Pearl Judd:

To get my wings and graduate, I had to send and receive Morse code, and I'm tone deaf. A dit sounds just like a dah, and I was almost forced out because I really had to sweat and practice to get ten words a minute sending and receiving. I think that was the worst. I had no trouble with ground school or marine biology or flying, but I did have trouble with Morse code. And I figured if you actually went down, you can use your radio to send code. And my husband, that's what he did in the Navy. And he could -- he couldn't type when he went in the Navy, so they taught him how to type and send in code messages, and he could do it 60 words a minute. And I can't type. But it was very difficult for me.

Jainini Parekh:

I'll bet. What did you do once the WASP disbanded?

Pearl Judd:

Well, the same as most returning servicemen and -women did, returned to our prewartime jobs and just picked up our lives. Also, my husband's ship was in San Francisco on VJ day, and with all his combat service, he was released within weeks, and we were able to buy our home and start our family. And I couldn't afford to fly. It was too expensive. So I just had to settle for making trips with the airlines. And now I have been very fortunate to fly across the country and from Hawaii with all women crew.

Jainini Parekh:

Wow.

Pearl Judd:

Because some of the daughters of us WASPs and their daughters and sons are flying for the airlines now or are in the Air Force or the Navy. So when I see them, I'm always so proud. And when I went to the Women in Aviation conference last year, I have never signed so many autographs or had my hand shaken. There were 3,000 women there, and my hand was so swollen when I came home, I couldn't write with it. And, of course, they always said, "If it wasn't for the WASP, we wouldn't be here," because we broke the barrier. We proved that we could fly anything that rolled off the assembly lines and fly it well. There were only 38 of us that were actually killed in active duty.

Jainini Parekh:

Was the flight training harder for women than it was for men?

Pearl Judd:

What number is that one?

Jainini Parekh:

Eleven.

Pearl Judd:

Truthfully, I think it was easier.

Jainini Parekh:

Really?

Pearl Judd:

You know, women are a little more adaptive, and we may get just as angry at what seemed like absurd orders, but we kind of -- we would kind of let it just kind of float over us.

Jainini Parekh:

That makes sense. Did you know how to fly before you started war -- you did your training for WASP?

Pearl Judd:

Yes. That was mandatory.

Jainini Parekh:

Mandatory.

Pearl Judd:

And I happened to be one of the last group to get in, and that's -- they had to have 35 hours flying time, so the minimum, they lowered it to 35 hours time. And I think the next question, this goes into it.

Jainini Parekh:

Was it hard to get into the service?

Pearl Judd:

Yes, it was very hard. 25,000 women applied. We had to have an oral interview, then we had to pass the same written exam as the male pilots. After that, there was a background check by the FBI, then an Army physical. 1,831 women out of the 25,000 were accepted for flight training. Of this number, 1,073 graduated and were given their silver wings. It was difficult to be accepted for admission to training, and it was difficult to pass all the tests that we were given over the seven months of training. I am very grateful I passed, and I treasure my silver wings. During the seven months, it seemed the powers in Washington, D.C., kept thinking up new and difficult ways to test us just to prove we were capable to fly as well as men. We proved that we could fly any plane that had rolled off the assembly line. One WASP even flight-tested a new jet before the Army Air Force accepted it.

Jainini Parekh:

That leads to another question. What makes you most proud about being in the WASP, being a WASP?

Pearl Judd:

That I survived training and got my wings. Just that was an accomplishment. There were 49 of us out of 114 in my class that graduated.

Jainini Parekh:

Wow. That's amazing.

Pearl Judd:

And, you know, there aren't that many of us left. There might be 600 now, but we've thinned out to 600. We've been losing them. I lost my -- I am president of the southern California chapter, and I lost my secretary last month. And I had a call from a friend of another one of my classmates that's very, very ill in northern California. So we are unfortunately -- I don't like the word "age," but we're getting up there.

Jainini Parekh:

So tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences.

Pearl Judd:

Well, one of mine, my flight was sent to San Antonio in August or September -- this was in 1944 -- to take the high-altitude pressure chamber test. I flew down with my instrument instructor on instruments the whole way. That was a very good thing, too. We flew down one afternoon and had the test early the next morning and were supposed to return to the base that afternoon. Well, Texas was hit -- Texas was hit, San Anton, with the most violent rainstorm in many years. Just picture 30 girls loose in town, first time in several months. We had a great time, believe me. The weather cleared on the afternoon of the fourth day about five in the afternoon. Our lieutenant didn't know, or didn't think about it, but we had yet to receive our night flight training. But all 25 AT-6s took off. I had been flying, solo this time, when it became dark. I looked over the side and saw about a 10-foot sheet of flame along the side of my plane. I thought, "Oh, dear God, I'm on fire, help me." I looked again, nothing had changed. Then flash, my mind clicked, that is why there is always a black streak along the side of the airplane; it's the exhaust. So I settled down and realized I had better get myself on instruments. Thank goodness my instructor had prepared me by making me fly down on instruments. For the first night landing I had ever made, it was probably my best. The gal behind me forgot to put her wheels down so did a beautiful belly landing. As a result, about 15 AT-6s were scattered around central Texas. About six of the gals headed to San Angelo, a male pilot training base. That caused great excitement. They had a wonderful time having dinner and being entertained by the cadets. I think that's enough on that.

Jainini Parekh:

So are the instruments just like the controls?

Pearl Judd:

Yeah. That's what -- most of the planes nowadays, they fly on instruments. It was quite new, and we got much -- I had 30 hours in a trainer before they let me go under the hood to fly the plane, you know, without -- that's what we did when you say a spotter because you go and you sit in the back cockpit, are enclosed, and you have a hood over your head and you can't see. And you fly the plane entirely by listening to it and the ___.

Jainini Parekh:

Wow.

Pearl Judd:

And all men on different stations across the country. And you're watching your instruments. And on instrument flying you can be upside down if you're counting on your feelings when you're not. But it's very strange. You have to learn to trust your instruments. And we received very good training in instrument flying. That's why I ended up in twin engines.

Jainini Parekh:

So what did they have before that, before the instruments? Like how did they fly?

Pearl Judd:

Well, you flew by -- like the private planes. A lot of the private planes don't have instruments. But you flew by sight, and you didn't do much night flying because it was too dangerous. You couldn't -- imagine World War I, and all their fighting was done in the daytime.

Jainini Parekh:

How did you stay in touch with your family?

Pearl Judd:

Well, my father was in the cattle business, and he was buying cattle for the Army, so he was all over the country. And they came by between primary and basic and took me to San Anton for the three-day pass I had. And then my stepmother kept me supplied with goody baskets, cookies or things like that, and letters. And I was in touch with my fiance by mail. I'd get six letters at a time, and then I'd be a month and I wouldn't hear a word, and I'd know they were in another invasion. And one of the girls, she got the letter, and her husband was lost. They never did find him. He was flying what they call "the Hump" in India, and his plane disappeared. She still thinks he's somewhere. She's remarried and had a family, but she has never gotten over it.

Jainini Parekh:

That must be tough. How did people entertain themselves?

Pearl Judd:

Well, on Sundays I went to church in this little Texas town, and they usually -- there was a mother and father and two teenage children, a boy and a girl, and they would take me home with them for dinner, and that was great. And about once a month I would treat them, so they thought it was a treat, to Sunday night supper, which the suppers were always cold cuts; cheese; fruit cocktail, canned; and ice cream. I didn't think, you know -- there was rationing in those days. I had red stamps for meat and cheese, and there was another color for sugar. And, of course, there was gas rationing. So what was boring to me was a treat for them. They got ice cream, and they got fruit cocktail, and they got cold cut sandwiches. You wouldn't spend your coupons, red coupons, meat coupons, on something like that. So then on Saturdays we had a club in downtown Sweetwater called the Fefinela Club, and we could go there and talk and bring guests and dance. And then usually on Saturday I would head for the steakhouse, and I'd have a steak and go to the movies. And I didn't drink, so I didn't go to the club too often. It got a little -- it was not my cup of tea. We never ran out of anything to do, and I have yet to meet a WASP that couldn't talk your leg off.

Jainini Parekh:

So I'm actually not familiar with the rationing. What were the red stamps?

Pearl Judd:

You had to have red -- you got an allocation of so many stamps each month, depending on the size of your family. And if you bought meat, you had to give them red stamps, or if you bought sugar. I don't remember what else was rationed. You know, I didn't -- when I was at home and working before I went to the WASP, a box of Kraft's macaroni and a can of peas would do me, and peanut butter and jelly. So it didn't affect me, but families it did affect, especially -- a lot of people had gardens and raised their vegetables. Of course, people in the country were fine. They'd raise their beef, their pigs, their chickens. Like I went through the Depression not worrying about anything because we lived on a ranch. We raised everything. And I remember as a little girl going to school, and I would have a big biscuit with a piece of steak, and I thought, oh, boring. And I always had friends who would be oh so happy -- they'd have white bread sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly, and they were only too anxious to trade with me and so was I. Only time we got what we called "boughten bread" was when we'd go to town once a month and do our monthly grocery shopping because we lived way out in the country on a big cattle ranch in Texas. I grew up in Texas. Came to California in 1939 after I graduated from high school.

Jainini Parekh:

Did your family move with you?

Pearl Judd:

Yeah. Oh, yeah. I moved with them. But then they -- during World War II, my father never came back to California. He ended up in Texas and New Mexico. He had feed lots, and he bought and sold cattle. He never really went back to ranching as far as living on the ranch and the day by day. They had their home in town, and they were much more comfortable that way. My stepmother was a city girl, and she liked to live in town.

Jainini Parekh:

Do you recall any humorous or unusual events?

Pearl Judd:

I remember an unusual one. And it was -- it was quite stressful. This is another test that the powers that be thought up. They figured the girls should learn what to do if their planes crashed into the water, so some idiot had the bright idea each one of us must jump off the high diving board at the pool wearing flight gear, including the parachute.

Jainini Parekh:

Oh, my gosh.

Pearl Judd:

We were to pretend we climbed out of the cockpit under water, then dump the parachute, brush away the water above our heads because the water was on fire, and then swim to the side of the pool. I was afraid of water, and to this day I will not put my head under if I can avoid it, so I was petrified. Really, I thought, "Okay, Pearl, go pack your bags." My two friends -- one's still living, and I hear from her often -- she walked in front of me, and the other one, she was behind me. They got me up the ladder, and after -- Doris jumped off the board, and as soon as Doris jumped off the board, Pat gave me a shove. And Doris got out of the way, and Pat came in right after me, so when I came up, they were there. And Pat dove and got the parachute. She did it very fast. I don't think anyone realized that I hadn't brought it up. I was supposed to go down and get it. But I wouldn't have done it without their support, and there was great camaraderie and love between us. There still is, all of us. I think I answered 18 right then.

Jainini Parekh:

Yeah. So you continued the relationships then, huh?

Pearl Judd:

Yes. And it's -- nationwide we have the organization National Women's Airforce Service Pilots. We meet every two years, and we're divided into three regions; the eastern, the central United States, and the western. And then the western is divided into, you know, northern California and southern California; and then Washington and Oregon, they're kind of clumped together. But southern California is the biggest and most active. We have our own mini reunion every year. It was in Indio at Jacqueline Cochran's ranch until the ranch house burned down, and then Jackie's ranch -- she passed away. She is buried in Indio, and it's a golf course now. It's on the golf circuit where they play. And so we meet now in Palm Desert the first week of December every year. And our annual meetings are every other year in October. And the last annual meeting was in October of '02, and the next one would be in Williamsburg in '04. One of my roommates -- classmates was president of National WASP, so we stay in close touch, a lot of us by e-mail and others by letter or telephone or cell phone. Free time on Saturdays and Sundays.

Jainini Parekh:

Free weekend minutes. Did you meet Jacqueline? Well, obviously you met her, but were you close to her, Jacqueline?

Pearl Judd:

No. I met her once, but she wasn't at the base. She spent most of her time in Washington, and so we didn't see very much of her. I did -- all the southern California WASP are quite active. There's a new school being built across the street from the golf course that was her old home, and we're trying to get it named Jacqueline Cochran Elementary School. And they were to decide -- we went to the board meeting, and I've been in touch with the president of the board, and they were going to make the selection in March or April, and I haven't heard anything. And I don't want to be a pest. So I will probably contact her again just to see. But we would be very flattered. We would love to see a woman's name on a school.

Jainini Parekh:

A lot of questions.

Pearl Judd:

Well, good. I have answers.

Jainini Parekh:

Do you just want to tell me in stories or anything?

Pearl Judd:

Well, we did have -- we went on what was going to be a 1,000-mile cross-country, and we were flying AT-6s. And there were probably -- Flight 1, that was me. There were 25 planes, and we were supposed to go to Atlanta. Well, we started out and we got as far as Little Rock, Arkansas. And I guess the weather didn't improve because there was a hurricane coming in, so we changed our flight plan, and we didn't realize why we chose to go to Des Moines, Iowa, until afterwards. And the weather going to Des Moines, Iowa, didn't improve. And when I'm at Little Rock, I flew tree-top level in the Ozarks, and then once I got out of the mountains on the prairie going to Des Moines, there was an electric storm and the rain and the hail. There was a silver -- you know, my propeller, it looked like a big ring of fire around the propeller. Well, when I landed in Des Moines, I landed in water, and I taxied in water, and when I got to the flight line and got out of my plane, I was up to my ankles in water. Well, we were there for three days, only all 25 of us didn't get there. They were scattered all over the country. Three or four of them are in muddy prairies or fields, you know, anywhere they could get down. And we found out later that the lieutenant had a girlfriend in Des Moines. That's why we went to Des Moines. And needless to say, our lieutenant was never around anymore. But that was an experience. I was praying loudly and then singing hymns.

Jainini Parekh:

So how was -- can you explain, like, the flight situation, like copilots and pilots and how that all --

Pearl Judd:

Well, on the twin-engine planes, we'd fly a pilot and copilot. But the only time we ever did that was if we were hauling -- you know, like the pilot would haul four people out to the auxiliary field. Well, one of us would act as copilot. I flew the planes solo. I guess they figured we were expendable. And that plane, it was no more horse- -- it was only about 450 horsepower in the two engines. And if it was full, like it could hold five people, it couldn't stay in the air if you lost an engine. I didn't weigh very much then, and I had no problem flying it with one engine. But one of the girls that was in my class, she was killed in a UC-78 in December. She was flying copilot, and they were based in Oklahoma, and they ran into one of the ice storms in the prairie, and her plane iced up and crashed.

Jainini Parekh:

Oh, my gosh.

Pearl Judd:

And that was another interesting situation. The WASPs were civilians. We thought we were going to be Army. They treated us like we were Army, except we didn't get paid equal to what the men got paid. When we'd get paid at Sweetwater, they'd line card tables up, always in alphabetical order, and you'd get your money. And then there's the card tables of all the people you owed money to. You know, they deducted room and board. And I should back up a bit. When we got to the base the first time, they hauled us in what we called cattle trucks. And so we got out to the base, and we lined up in alphabetical order, and they marched us to the room with our suitcases. The base were the two rooms with a bathroom between, and they were made for -- Avenger Field was built in 1940, I think, and the original use was to train pilots for the Royal Air Force. Then Pearl Harbor, and it became a male training base. Then they -- Avenger Field was given to Jacqueline Cochran as the women's flight training battalion, and the first class graduated -- the second class of WASPs graduated at Minner Field. The first class -- the first and second class started at Houston, and then they moved to Avenger Field. And when we got there, we walked into this room that was built to house two men. One room was for two men and the other room was for two men, and between at one end of this bathroom was four stalls of toilets. The other side was a shower with four shower faucets. Between on each side were four medicine cabinets with mirrors and four wash bowls, so the men could each have their own wash bowl and shower. Well, when we entered our room, the first seven women to the first room, the next seven women to the next, and all the way down the line. There were seven beds, seven chairs, seven desks, and seven little wardrobes. And the desk was a cot with just a wire frame on it, you know, no -- you had a mattress, but you didn't have any springs. And the mattress was rolled up at the end and the pillow on top. Well, we were given a few minutes to get our stuff stowed in our cabinet and our suitcase under the bed when they marched us over, and the first thing we were given was a blanket, two sheets, and a pillow case, and two pairs of overalls. Now, the overalls were well-worn men's, well-washed, some with holes in it, and starting at size 40. I got a 44. We also, which we loved, we got leather jackets. That was nice. And we got fleece-lined boots, fleece-lined pants, fleece-lined jacket, fleece-lined helmet because in Texas in March it's cold, icy. So let's see. What else. I guess that's all we got there. So then we went back and we went to dinner. And the next morning we got up. Flight 1 went to the med center where we started getting our shots, and we had a doctor and three nurses. And you'd go through the line and get two on each side, so you were getting binged on both arms. Smallpox, I mean, I don't remember what we got. Flight 2, they had the card tables out along the walk, and this was where we got our uniforms, per se. We got two pair of khaki pants. Like it was our turn then, so we got two pair of khaki pants, two white shirts, and an awful white knit thing that you had to tie around your head. I don't know if you've ever -- it was -- you'd put it on -- it was kind of sewed together at the top, and you'd put it on and wrap it and tie it around your head and wear that. We also got a little kind of a baseball cap. No, we bought those. We had to buy those. So we did get the baseball cap there and a little flat thing that you open up and put on your head kind of at an angle. And you could wear it -- when you weren't wearing it, you could put it under your belt and flop it over. And if we didn't have loafers or flat shoes, we had to buy those. And let's see. Oh, yes, our exercise uniform, and next to that were two -- we had to buy two white girdles. Now, the girdles weren't to wear under skirts or pants; they were to wear under our exercise suit so we didn't show anything to the sergeant that was leading us in drill and calisthenics. So then the first of the month when we got paid, after they took our room and board out, then we went down the line and we paid for all these things. Now, we had paid our way to Sweetwater. We paid for our flying lessons. We paid for our transportation for our interviews and all of that. And as I was going to say, when my friend Betty Webster died on active duty, we had to take up a collection to get her body home to Washington state, to where her family was. We didn't get our veterans status. It was passed by law, I think, in 1977 and signed by Jimmy Carter. I was one of the first. I kept all my papers. I got my medal and my ___ -- that's that little gold pin -- and my formal papers that I am officially a veteran, honorably discharged. So it took us a long time, and we did run into a stumbling block last summer, last spring. One of the WASPs, her husband was buried at Arlington. He was a pilot and an officer. And her daughter wanted her to have the flag and full honors military burial. And Arlington Cemetery in D.C. said, "No, she can't have it. She wasn't -- the way her orders read, she's not entitled to the flag on her coffin." Well, the WASP -- the girl was a pretty smart girl, her daughter, and she's a lawyer. And Texas Women University is the seat of our memorabilia, and I guess they were working double-time going through the paperworks that we have sent. And they had one girl who had bills from the officers' club at her base that were identical to bills that they sent to the men. If they treated her like an officer at the officers' club on her base, isn't that proof enough? So anyway, she was buried in Arlington with full military honors, the flag and the whole thing. And a couple of my friends were there for it. But we still haven't gotten any title other than service pilot. We should have been commissioned second lieutenants. And I think some of the people in Washington are still working on it, but I don't really expect to see it. We're still the forgotten wings.

Jainini Parekh:

So how long were you in the service?

Pearl Judd:

Officially, not very long, from March 15th to December 20th. And we were all out at one time. They decided there were enough men coming home from Europe to fill our spots. And they weren't very -- the men that came to Avenger Field weren't a bit happy. It was kind of a step down from a B-17 or a pursuit ship, P-38 or something like that, to come to this little old UC-78, which was known as the Bamboo Bomber. One of the first things we did when we got to the base is all five of us would get in the plane, and our instructor, "How fast can you get out," and he's sitting there with a stopwatch. The plane was supposed to burn within seconds if it caught on fire.

Jainini Parekh:

Wow.

Pearl Judd:

But an awful lot of our B-17 pilots were trained in it. We've come a long way.

Jainini Parekh:

Tell us another story. What was your most amazing story?

Pearl Judd:

Oh, I don't know. Another one, it wasn't really funny, but I guess it could have been. My first instructor -- you'd have an instructor to five students -- he had just come back from Guadalcanal where he flew Piper Cubs as spotters. He would hover and land in the jungle so he could say, "Here, here, fire over here." And they made a mistake. They sent him to our base to primary training. They should have tested him, but here he's a veteran; he's been in combat. Well, he was teaching us to fly the Stearman like he flew the Piper Cub in the jungle. So we'd get in the plane. Now, we all knew how to fly, but this is what he told us. Put full brakes on, pull the stick back as far as it will go, and give it full throttle. Well, that Stearman would go up like that, and that's the way all five of us were flying that plane. Ho, ho, ho, come the first Army check ride with the lieutenant, I alphabetically -- B for Brummett, I was the first one up. I actually got the plane off the ground and tried to exit when he hit my knee with it. He was in the back seat, and they hit the stick. At that time, that you fly with a stick. It would get you like this, and he'd take it and go (indicating), and you'd have bruises. Well, he brought the plane down, and he said, "You go over there and sit down, and don't you say a word." I was scared to death. I'm packing my bags, packing, what did I do wrong. So he took the next girl up. She didn't get off the ground. The minute she gave it full throttle, he cut the engine. So he came back and he sent us all to our bay, "Go back to your room and stay there until you hear from me." Well, we didn't know what to do. We went to dinner, and we were back on the flight line and went to ground school that afternoon, and we had a new instructor. So we started all over. We learned how to take the Stearman off the way the Army wanted us to take it off. Oh, we had fun things, like when we were practicing spot landings with the AT-6. This we did at the main field, not the auxiliary. They'd paint big lines across the runway, and you were supposed to land all three wheels at one time between those lines. Well, we were out there with our instructor by the one T. It was a big T they painted. And it was kind of nice out there, and I know we were sitting out there with our pants rolled up and chocolate bars watching, you know, as we were taking our turns. And when I taxied back for the next gal, I knew I had done good. You had to make three passes. And I got out of the plane, and they're all down on their hands and knees surrounding me. I was the only one to grease it. You know, when all three wheels touch at one time, they squeal. So that was fun. That was great. We had lots of fun. And between basic and advanced, Patty lived in Texas and she had a car, so we went to Dallas, Doris and Patty and I, the two girls that got me off the diving board. And, of course, we picked up some cadets. We had fun. We went to tea at Neiman Marcus; that was the first thing we did when we got to town. Patty knew Neiman Marcus, and she had her mother's charge card. So we weren't to buy anything, but we could eat. So then we met these boys and we partied, and the next day we partied and, you know, covered the town. And then we went back to the base, and we had fun there. And there was never any problem finding something to do or somebody to do it with. Patty was the first -- well, Betty Webster was the first in our class to die. She died on active duty. I told you about her. Funny thing happened to her. She fell out of the Stearman in primary. Either she caught her belt, her seat belt, or she forgot to lock it, and they were doing slow rolls, and she fell out.

Jainini Parekh:

Oh, my God.

Pearl Judd:

Well, in our yearbook we have a picture of her hanging in her parachute. You know, that was our big thing. And when they found her, she didn't have her shoes on. They had fallen off because she had penny loafers. And the way the story goes a lot of the time, she had rolled up her parachute and she was sitting on it because she was afraid of rattle snakes. Well, that wasn't the truth. She had landed in the prairie, and she wasn't going to walk without shoes in that cactus that grows all over the prairie. But the next morning we had shoe inspection. Everybody that had penny loafers had to buy new shoes. You had to buy the shoes with laces. Well, I can't wear penny loafers to this day because they don't come narrow. So I was safe. I had shoestrings in my shoes. But that was the main thing I remember about that, other than we kidded her about it. I guess girls fell out in other flights -- I mean, other classes. But in our class we didn't have anyone killed. When we were there, two girls in the 4406 ran into each other and were both killed. One was coming back from cross-country, and the other was -- you know, they were trying to enter the pattern at the same time. But I think a lot of that was probably the fault of the tower. They kept us -- kept it pretty quiet from us. I mean, a lot of the time we didn't know what was going on. At night flying, that's when I discovered coffee really. There was a little stand by the hangars that you kind of come through this little entrance to go to the barracks. It was primarily for the workers. They had coffee. And early in the morning, I guess when they'd bring the doughnuts out at midnight or something when they would change shifts, there's nothing better than coffee and a hot doughnut at three o'clock in the morning. To this day, I know where all the good doughnut places. I go to the gym and work out and do the treadmill, stop at this doughnut place or that doughnut place or this doughnut place. Of course, that doughnut place up there, they have cinnamon rolls. And the Coffee Klatsch down near the gym, they have muffins. So I had a muffin this morning after I worked out. So I'm just getting back in gear. I broke my foot last fall, so I was out of commission. I did it the end of September, so I had to have surgery on it. So I was -- just went from the cast to the boot, the cam boot, when my mother died in Texas. So I had to go to Texas and take care of everything there. And then my son wanted me to come to St. Louis, so I went to St. Louis, and I got pneumonia. So when I came home, I still wasn't walking all that good, so it's just been this last month that I've gotten back to the gym, so I'm not up to speed yet. I started over on the treadmill going slow. I did 20 minutes today, and I got almost a mile in 20 minutes. My aim is a 20-minute mile. That's what we had to do in the service. But I think I'm about a 26-minute mile now.

Jainini Parekh:

That's good.

Pearl Judd:

Then I work out on the machines a little. I got my body fat down to 11 percent.

Jainini Parekh:

Goodness. That's really good. How many people had cars back then?

Pearl Judd:

Not very many.

Jainini Parekh:

Not very many?

Pearl Judd:

No. Now, Doris had a car when we were learning to fly. See, I didn't have enough time the first -- enough hours when I first read about the WASP. And I had been saving my money, and at the time I was 21 and could apply, I didn't have -- you had to have $75 then. So I went to Lone Pine -- Independence, California. It's just between Lone Pine and Bishop. It's up near the High Sierras, near Brittany, and that's where I learned to fly. And Doris Booth, she was from Modesto. She was up there, and she had her Packard convertible. And this other girl, Doris -- I mean Kay Elliott, she was from down in San Diego area. We were all three there, and we all three rented a screened-in porch from this lady, little widow lady there in Independence. And we were all three accepted, and we were all three assigned to 4408, and we all three crashed later. And that was very good. And all three of us are still living. Doris, again, as I said, she called me not too long ago, and she was still running around and having a good time. And she stopped to see me when I had my first baby, and she said later, "I'm not going to get married." So she and some friends went to Europe, and she met this guy. He was a geologist, and he worked in the oil fields there in Europe -- not in Europe, in Asia. I don't know where, Iran or just where. Well, she got married. She went back to the desert with him. The next thing I know she's back in Modesto. He's decided he thinks he could be a cowboy, and he went to work for her father on the ranch, and he's been there ever since. And she has four kids. Has that run out, I hope?

Jainini Parekh:

Well, not yet. We can stop it if you want.

Pearl Judd:

Well, I don't know how much of this you want.

Jainini Parekh:

Everything. It's wonderful.

Pearl Judd:

I should talk about my husband. He was in the Navy, and he made -- started with the invasion at Sitka in Alaska. He made all the invasions in the Pacific except Iwo Jima. At the time we were married, which was the 15th of December, 1944, his ship came back from the Philippine invasion and into San Francisco. So he came to L.A. for two weeks, and, of course, he contacted me at Bakersfield. That's the first time we had seen each other in over two years.

Jainini Parekh:

Wow. Oh, my gosh.

Pearl Judd:

And we ended up getting married the last day of his leave. And on the 16th of December, I put him on a plane to go back to San Francisco, and I went back to Bakersfield. And they started back to the Pacific and broke down, and they came back in, and they were dry-docked then for two months. So we had two months up there together before they went back to the Pacific. And then he went to Okinawa. He was there, and his ship was an amphibious transport. They took the men and all their equipment into the invasions. And they had these things that were not exactly tanks, but they were, that they could put them in the water with all the Marines or the Army men, and they could go through the water and then come up on the sand. And they got very superstitious on his ship. The only people that got promoted and transferred were the troublemakers, because all that time -- they were in the Pacific for a full three years in battle -- they never once got hit. They just seemed to lead a charmed life. So they had the same captain and almost the entire crew. If they got somebody that wasn't compatible, he got promoted and transferred out. And I still hear occasionally they still have their reunion going, but there's not -- there's just very few of them left. What else?

Jainini Parekh:

I don't know.

Pearl Judd:

Our uniforms were beautiful. When I got out, I went and joined my husband in San Francisco, and that's the only thing I had to wear was my uniform. So I took the insignia off and wore it as a suit. And in those days, housing was very bad. You could stay in one hotel room for five days, and then you had to find another place to stay. And our hotel room for five days cost as much as he made in a month, so I had to have a job. So the day after Christmas -- I got out there on the 21st because I got out on the 20th, and we had Christmas. And the day after Christmas, "Okay, Pearl, you get a job or you're going to go home," where I knew -- L.A. I knew I'd have a job. So I was looking for Bank of America. I had worked for Bank of America before. And as I was walking down the street, I saw these people going up these steps, and the door opened before they got there. Well, what was that? Why does that door open? So I go tromping up there, and a man was standing there, and he said, "You're the third woman that's come in this morning dressed like that. We don't have any flying jobs." I said, "I'm not looking for a job." He said, "What are you doing in here?" I said, "I wanted to see what made the doors work." He said, "Well, why don't you want a job?" I said, "I do. I'm going to Bank of America and look for a job." "Well, what do you do?" I said, "I've done accounting work." "Come in." So I went in the office, filled out the papers, he took me upstairs to the 17th floor to the accounting department and introduced me, and I went to work. I had on slacks. Of course, I had on my blue shirt and my tie and my battle jacket, and I had my overcoat on, and I had my purse and my shoes. And I didn't have my beret on. I was hatless because I had taken -- it looked like an officer's uniform, but it didn't have... But I was at a party in Sonoma, California, some, oh, 55 years later. And you know how you all chitchat, and they were from San Francisco, and they had retired in this area. And, "Well, what did you do? What did you do?" And they said worked for Standard Oil. I said, "Well, I worked for Standard Oil for a little while." I said, "I worked for Standard Oil in the accounting department up on the 17th floor." "Yeah, we know." I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "The second day you were there we grieved you." "Why?" "Well, you were wearing slacks and it was not in the dress code." So these two girls worked in the mailing room, and they had to wear hose and heels. Well, here I am wearing my flats and my slacks. They were allowed to have -- wear slacks. So I broke the dress code in Standard Oil and didn't even know it for 50 years.

Jainini Parekh:

Wow. That's really cool.

Pearl Judd:

I think you better turn that off now. I hope you have enough.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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