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Interview with Margaret Easterly Canfield [1/15/2004]

Ruth F. Stewart:

Margaret E. Canfield is being interviewed today as a member of the Women's Overseas Service League, San Antonio Unit. This is January the 15th, 2004, and we are recording at the Army Residents Community in San Antonio, Texas. Ruth Stewart is doing the interviewing assisted by Carol Habgood. Margaret, would you start -- Do you prefer being called Margaret or Marge?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Margaret.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Fine, okay. Margaret, would you start by telling us a little bit about your very early life which led you into the life that you are going to tell us more about?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, I was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1930, and during the Depression, we were on welfare. And my first experience with nursing was when I went to the hospital to have my tonsils out, and it was the city hospital, and the nurses were just as kind and gentle as they could be with all the children that there were at that time. And there were a lot of children because all the welfare children were in the same ward. And I think that was my first inkling that I might want to be a nurse when I grow up.

Ruth F. Stewart:

How old were you at that time?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

I think I was about, maybe five.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Pretty young.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Something like that. Yeah, yeah. And all I can remember is from then on, everything that had to do with nursing interested me. And my mother always made costumes for Halloween or something, and she always made me a nurse. And when I started reading books, I started reading all the books I could find that were about nurses. And then during World War Two, when they had the Student Nurse Program or they had the --

Ruth F. Stewart:

Cadet Nurse?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

The Cadet Nurse Program, yeah. I had a cousin who became a cadet nurse, and I think that's when I thought, well, maybe I'd like to join the army. So I did go to nursing right out of high school. I was about 17. So we had to sign a waiver for that, and I went to Hospital School of Nursing in Detroit.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Which hospital is that?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Saint Mary's. But I didn't graduate from that school because the nuns sold that hospital and transferred us to another hospital, Providence Hospital in Detroit. I graduated from there in 1951 and had it in my mind from the very beginning I wanted to be an army nurse.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Was that because of your cousin, you think?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, and you know, the war -- and saw a lot about medical personnel, nurses, etcetera, during the war. So I went down to Recruiter in Detroit and found out that I couldn't join yet because I wasn't 21 and I couldn't take State Boards. I was only 19 when I graduated. So I went back to work in the operating room at what was then called Detroit Memorial Hospital. It had been Saint Mary's, but the doctors bought it and renamed it the Detroit Memorial. So in July of that year, I was able to take State Boards and then went right back to the Recruiter as soon as I got the results from my State Boards and signed the papers. So then it was -- that was in October that everything came through, and I went to Basic in November of 1951 and there was another nurse at the hospital that wanted to go in, too. So the Recruiter arranged we could go together, to Basic. Well, neither one of us had ever heard of Fort Sam Houston, but we got on an airplane to come to Texas and when we got off, we said, well, now how do we get to Fort Sam Houston? And they said, well, that's in San Antonio, Texas. We were in Houston, Texas, so we got to stay there over night and then finally we got sent to San Antonio the next day.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Fort Sam Houston? Sounds like it ought to be in Houston, doesn't it? What a story.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

At that time, Basic Training was only five weeks because it was during the Korean War and they wanted to get everybody out in a hurry. But we've lived over in the quadrangle, and my first experience living with so many people, I think there were like 18 of us in one room, and we had a little cot and one little locker and dresser and we went through all the inspections just like everybody else did, and had to have the beds made just so, and very little room for anything. So there were a few girls who had cars, so on Friday night before inspection, we'd unload everything out of our lockers and our dressers and take them down and stack them in the cars until after inspection.

Ruth F. Stewart:

That's an interesting tidbit.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

So after Basic, I was assigned to Van Camp (ph) Carson, Colorado and the first chief nurse I had was Major Yager, her name was, and she took me to my first quarters and I was amazed because the bathtub was dirty and she cleaned that bathtub. The chief nurse cleaned that bathtub.

Ruth F. Stewart:

She won your respect right off?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, she did. She certainly did. And in that assignment, right after I got there, Tid Simmons in Denver was renovating their TB sections, so they moved their TB patients down to Camp Carson, so we had to open these old wards that hadn't been used for quite a while because we had probably, oh, I would say maybe eight wards full of TB patients, and I was working in that section. And on night duty, you would do the whole ramp. One nurse would take care of all the wards -- could be six wards on a ramp, and you had one foreman on each ward and also with that time, you had to do breakfast. Food service sent -- well, they sent the food down to be cooked, but we cooked the breakfast.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Not just serving it, you cooked it.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Not just serving it, no. Nurse and the foreman on each ward cooked breakfast for the patients in those days. And of course, we had a lot of ambulatory patients and they did all the clean up of the trays, setting up the trays, serving the trays. And it was before food service took over all that work. But the TV patients were quite interesting. They were very ingenious in hiding things. You would find bottles of liquor on a string tied down into the shower drains, tied on the drain, and the bottle would be down in the drain. And they also found ways to have things brought in, like have a taxi come in and bring them illegal things. In those days, it was mostly liquor. Sometimes it was women. Oh, yeah, we had a few surprises when you were on night duty and find women visiting in the wards. But after a few months on that service, I was able to get back into the operating room. I did not have the O.R.M.O.S, however, and about six months later, two nurses with operating room MOS's came in, so I had to leave the operating room. And they needed somebody in OB which was not my favorite service at that time, but I said, okay, I'll go to OB and eventually, that became my MOS. I really started to love doing ___+ and did that for the whole time I was at Carson. Then I got assigned to Japan in 1953 up on Hokito, and up there, the nurses did everything. You did medical, surgical, what obstetrics we did have and even sometimes, operating room. It was a fairly small hospital but we supported the Eighth Cab, and we did get some patients in from Korea but mostly --

Ruth F. Stewart:

This was what year, then?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

1953.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay. During the Korean War -- the end of the Korean War.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

The end of the Korean War. It was quite interesting up there in Hokito. It was winter time almost eight months of the year and we had a commander who was an avid skier, so he made sure there was transportation almost everyday for people to go to the ski slopes which were close by. So about everybody there took advantage of that even though people had not ever skied before, and I was one of those people. So it wasn't unusual to see people running around with their arms in a cast or legs in a cast. There were always two or three people in casts or in slings or something from ski accidents, but somehow we all managed to work.

Ruth F. Stewart:

But you did learn to ski?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

We did learn to ski, yes.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Did you enjoy it?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Oh, yes, very much. Yeah.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Did you do any when you came back to the State?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, I did. Not a lot, but when I was stationed at Fort Belvoir, I used to go up to Pennsylvania and ski. And then when I was stationed in Utah, I did. When I came back from Japan, I went to Fort Belvoir in Virginia where I continued as an OB nurse and my first experience living off base. At that time, the quarters were pretty full so they allowed some people to live off base and collect quarters allowance.

Ruth F. Stewart:

How was that different for you?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, I was used to living in the quarters with somebody. Usually, you know, you had a roommate and I think I was a little lonely sometimes. I worked night duty most of the time, so I slept a lot during the day. Then, one of the nurses I worked with on OB had a sister who was a schoolteacher on the base, and they had lived in an apartment in Washington and they wanted to move closer to Fort Belvoir, so they asked me if I would like to live with them. So the three of us rented a house and that was -- that was very nice. Very nice. So the three of us lived together the whole time we were at Fort Belvoir. From Belvoir, I came down here to Fort Sam, and that was in '57, and I went to the head nurse, what was called Ward Administration in Teaching, and it was the _____+ that they had. It was a six-month course and we all lived together in, what was the name? Oh, I can't even think of the name, one of the new buildings here, which was very nice. And we had all our classes over in the quadrangle. After that, I got assigned to Utah where it was an Ordnance Depot up in Utah. There were civilian nurses running that place up until about a year before we got assigned there, and they started sending army nurses up there because there were some questions of how much work had to be done, and there was a lot of overtime being put in for -- well, when we got up there, we were the second group of army nurses. Actually, we didn't have any patients in the hospital for like almost 80 days. So they closed the hospital and we ran three dispensaries. One at the hospital, one down in the maintenance area, and one 17 miles away in the desert. And that's where they stored all the gases, mustard gas and things like that. It wasn't too great an assignment as far as expanding our experience because we didn't do very much except physicals on civilians and a few military. We had an -- occasionally, there be a minor accident down in the industrial area. And I remember only one incident where we had someone who was exposed to mustard gas, and other than that, it was nearly being there and keeping up supplies and things like that. But the interesting thing at that time, one of the other nurses and I took call every week -- every other weekend, and when I was off, I had an opportunity to chaperon children 8 to 15 years old. The school -- the newspaper ran a ski school for children 8 to 15, and they needed chaperones to ride the buses up to the ski slopes. So every other weekend I acted as a chaperon and got to go up to Brighton and Alta in Utah and ski.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Did you have any experience with the kids or just --

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Actually, once we got up there, the ski instructors took over and so I was free to ski. So we were only getting them on and off the bus and getting on the bus with them, there and back. After my --

Ruth F. Stewart:

What did you do for recreation there? You said it didn't sound like there was a whole lot of professional activities there, and you did ski, but was there other --

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

We did have a bowling alley and we did have little __ club, so there was socializing. There weren't really very many military people assigned there. There were, let's see, two, three doctors and three army nurses, and few military down in the industrial areas, and a few enlisted people. But I can't remember how many were there, but really not very many military. Most of the workers on the base were civilians that lived in the area, so.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Yeah. Well, was the purpose of your being there because of the gases that were being stored out there or --

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, you had to have some -- some personnel -- medical personnel there in case of emergencies.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Because of that --

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Because of the gases that was out of the desert. In their main depot itself, they used a lot of Trichloro ethylene, cleaning engines and things like that. It was an Ordnance Depot, not ammunition. At that point, it was mostly vehicles maintaining vehicles. And there would be accidents now and then, but nothing serious the whole time I was there. So you know, we put on band-aids and we treated cuts and bruises and things like that. But not much of anything else.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And how long were you there?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

I was there, let's see. I think 18 months.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And you were ready to go?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

I was ready to go, yes. Wanted to get back to work. Actually, I really did wanted to get back to work, so I asked to go to Hawaii and I did get the assignment to Tripler Hospital in Hawaii. And I went back to obstetrics when I got there.

Ruth F. Stewart:

You keep going back to obstetrics, don't you?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

I guess -- I guess, really, that was not my preference when I went into the army. I really -- I really loved it. So it was a happy place to work most of the time. While I was at Tripler, I did attend University of Hawaii, evening courses. I worked mostly night duty for the first few years in labor and delivery. And then I became head nurse in labor and delivery and I was lucky, I was able to stay in Hawaii for, I think it was four years and eight months. It was a long time but they flew in crisis that had occurred during that time and they weren't moving people, and I found out that you can stay up to a period of five years and equal six-month increments. So I went down and signed up to stay, so.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And did you finish your degree, then?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

No, I didn't.

Ruth F. Stewart:

You didn't?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

No. And I did not come back to Deaconess the whole time I was there, so I finally -- the last year I was there I took some leave and I took a trip to India and Thailand and Hong Kong and I was able to get transportation on one of the military flights the whole way there and the whole way back. So that -- most of the other times I took leave was to study for exams or something like that.

Ruth F. Stewart:

You were a dedicated student, weren't you?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

No. I just took one class like, you know. Several semesters I think I went about three or four semesters while I was there. But I never did finish my degree.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Mm-hmm.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

So after Hawaii, I went to ___ Texas and again, I was on OB and we were in the old cantonment type hospital where you could see in the delivery room. You could look down through the floorboards and see all the bugs crawling on the ground. We'd find them in the cribs and the nurseries, the crickets in the cribs with the babies. Somehow, everybody managed to survive, but we were building a new hospital at that time, so I was able to have some input as to what was going to be in the labor and delivery and whole OB section actually, and that was interesting. I had a good friend who was one of the project officers -- was the nurse project officer I'm at. So I worked with her a lot and learned a lot about ordering equipment and setting up the units and things like that. And that was interesting, and we did move to the new hospital while I was still there. And shortly after we moved there, we had a manpower survey, and our chief nurse had just left him. We didn't have a new chief nurse yet. And the assistant chief nurse had a husband and she was not interested in spending a lot of extra time there. So two sergeants and this friend of mine who had been the project officer and I did the whole manpower survey for nursing service for that hospital without any statistics.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Now, what did this include?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, it included lighting up what you needed, you know, to run the service. Each ward for every section, each ward, each clinic, etcetera, as far as the nursing service went.

Ruth F. Stewart:

The personnel part?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

What your requirements were for that, and you had a narrative, and you had to have statistics, you know, to back it all up. Well, unfortunately the four of us had to make it all up because we just moved to that hospital and so we had no real statistics from that.

Ruth F. Stewart:

You were doing educated guessing? (Laughs)

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Educated guessing. We did take what we had from the old hospital, but the configuration of the wards and things, they weren't the same anymore. So years later, this friend of mine was working up in SGO and somebody said to her, were you at Fort Hood when that manpower survey was done? And she just laughed. She had been one of the people who had to do this. But we got a lot of laughs out of that. But we worked very hard, and until midnight some nights trying to write all this stuff as honestly as we could --

Ruth F. Stewart:

Sure.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

-- with a little statistics that we had. But then we finally -- we did get a new chief nurse in and and my friend and I both and another nurse decided we all wanted to go to Vietnam. So we all went down at the same time and signed up to go. Needless to say, the chief nurse was not very happy with us, the three of us doing it, but I'm the only one of the three that went at that time. And that was in February of 1967 and went over with the unit from the 91st Evac with all the nursing -- the nurses. The men had already been over there. And when we got there, the hospital was not open yet. It had been built, but there was still a lot to do to set up the different wards and open the equipment and get things set up. And we did a lot of scrounging from the air ___ for things like paint to paint things, and it took us, oh, probably about two to three weeks to setup enough that we can start getting patients in, so.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What kind of a building were you in?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

We were in permanent-type buildings, like quonset types. And at that time I was head nurse in Surgical Intensive Care and Recovery. And we did get a lot of Vietnam civilians in at first, more than we did American casualties.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What were the conditions in which you would get them?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, they were wounded. They had shrapnel wounds or they had -- actually, some had bullet wounds. And we did get some Vietnam prisoners. And that was really kind of interesting. I can remember several of them that we really got to know quite well. And you know, they would show us pictures of their families and it was hard to dislike these people. I mean, they were just like anybody else and they had families who they worried about and were worried about them. And I think we gave them, you know, care that was as good as we would give to anybody. Then we get -- start getting some U.S. casualties in and also some Korean from the Korean Forces. But I was only there until -

Ruth F. Stewart:

You weren't an OB at that time?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

No.

Ruth F. Stewart:

You finally got out of babies?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

I was in Surgical Intensive Care and Recovery. Well, after we were there, about I think, six weeks or so, they decided to start moving people around so that we would not all have the same DEROS since we all went over at the same time. They didn't want us to all leave at the same time so I was sent to Pleiku as Chief Nurse of the 18th Surgical Hospital.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And that's in Vietnam?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, in Vietnam, yeah.

Ruth F. Stewart:

So you were chief nurse there, then?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes. Uh-huh.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And that was your first experience as chief nurse?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, it was.

Ruth F. Stewart:

How did that feel?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

A little bit scary. But we were so busy, you know. Other than some of the paperwork I had to do and looking after the nurses somewhat, I worked just like anybody else did. I worked mostly in re-op and receiving area when we get the casualties in because everybody went to work when you got a bunch of casualties in. And at that time, they were building the 71st Evac in Pleiku, so when that hospital was finished, they were planning to close the 18th Surge and move it up north rather. Well, then they decided to make it an all-male unit, so all the female nurses had to be reassigned. And I had, let's see, that was in October, so I still had until the following February on my tour of duty and talked to the chief nurse of Vietnam at that time and said I would be willing to stay another year -- an extra year if I could go to another surgical hospital. So she agreed that I could stay and I would go down to the Third Surgical Hospital in Duncan in December of that year. In the meantime, I was to stay up and work in the 71st Evac, and that's where several of the nurses who were going to be ___ in the next few months worked. And we still lived in our quarters at the 18th Surge and they drove us back and forth in ambulances to 71st and back. So I was up there several months and while I was there, they had the Dokto (ph) incident and there were lots and lots of wounded. In fact, sometimes we would just leave work and get back to our own quarters and get to bed, and they'd call and say come back to work again because they were bringing in the wounded by Chinook loads. That was my first experience with real severe wounds of head and neck and other neurological problems because up there, the 71st Evac, they had the neurosurgeon. And I worked as night supervisor up there. So again, I spent most of my time in -- in the pre-op __ area working.

Ruth F. Stewart:

How did this affect you to have all this severely wounded coming in during that time?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

You don't think about it much at the time. I mean, the whole time I was in Vietnam, I was fine with it. But I did find when I came back, and still, I do not like to watch movies about the War or read books about the Vietnam War. I just can't do it. But while I was there, I mean, I had a job to do. And I think I was so busy that I really -- it really didn't bother me too much. The only time it did was when we had a bunch of -- well, they were DOA that came in and they had been out there in the field for quite a while before they could get to them, and they had them pegs all laid out on the helicopter pad, and I caught some of the people over there taking pictures. And that upset me a lot, to think that people would go try to take pictures of these poor men laying there. But other that that, like I said, we were kept so busy most of time that you didn't have time to feel really sad.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Mm-hm. What was it like for you to live there during that period? Did you have -- you were very, very busy. Did you have any time to get away, to relax, to do anything?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, when I was in up in Pleiku, we weren't really busy. When I was at the 18th Surge, I mean, we were always full of patients and we had what we called a push every now and then when we get a lot of casualties in. Then we'd have times when it was fairly quiet because before the 71st Evac opened up, we had to evac our patients to like the 65th or the 67th Evac. So after, we would stabilize the patients at the surgical hospital, then we would evac them someplace else. The only patients that we kept were patients who had malaria who might not be there too long and we could get back to duty, or minor injuries that we could get back to duty. So there were times when we weren't real busy. And we had a little club, so we could go over there and listen to music or work puzzles or you know, do things like that.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Hm-mm. And you lived in barracks, did you?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, we did.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Right.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

In fact the officer barracks -- the nurses lived downstairs and the doctors and the administrative officers lived upstairs.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Assuming those were all male, then?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes.

Ruth F. Stewart:

The doctors and --

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, at that time they were all male.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Were they separating by occupation or gender?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

It just worked out then. But we did have a few male -- I did have a few male nurses and they lived upstairs. That's true, yeah.

Ruth F. Stewart:

All right.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

When I left Pleiku in the 71st Evac finally, I went down to Dongtam to the 3rd Surgical Hospital which was a must unit, one of the inflatable hospitals, and that was in December of '67.

Ruth F. Stewart:

So where was that?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Dongtam. D-O-N-G-T-A-M, Dongtam. It was -- it was down on the delta ___+. And we were very busy -- very busy down there. We took care of a lot of marines and a lot of navy as well as the 9th Infantry Division -- we supported the 9th Infantry Division. And at that time, they were all up -- most of them were up at Barecat (ph) north of us. But we did get in the wounded from them. Later on the -- the 9th Infantry Division moved down to Dongtam. But we -- we had a lot of wounded come in down there. We were busy all the time down there. But during Tet of '98, excuse me, '68, we were under water fire a lot. And in fact during Tet, I think we had 52 direct hits on our compound and our hospital was more or less destroyed. Being an inflatable, any little bits of shrapnel could put you almost out of business. And at that time, we had to evac most of our patients every night. All those that we could evac we would get out of there because come nighttime, we knew that we were going to get mardered. So any patient that we were able to safely move, we would evac and other patients that we couldn't evac but we could move, we would put into -- oh, I'm having a mental block right now. Oh gee. I'm having a mental block. Can we stop for a minute? (Brief recess) The others we moved into bunkers that we had beside each ward, and some of those were just big conexes that were surrounded by sandbags. And if we couldn't move them -- we had patients on respirators -- we would just put them under the bed and try to keep them as safe as possible. We never slept in our quarters. We slept in a bunker, and it started out we just slept in the dirt on the floor. Then the engineers -- one night, two of them were walking by when the ____+ started and they darted into our bunker and saw how we were sleeping and until they came over and they suspended lidders (ph) from the ceiling and they put up cots for us so we at least weren't sleeping in the dirt anymore. But we did have three direct hits on our nurses quarter during that period. And fortunately, nobody was in there. I remember one night we had evac just about all our patients and I went over to the surgical ward to help the nurses that were there in the coremant (ph) clean up so we could be ready the next day, or whenever we got more wounded in, and we started getting mardered And all we could do was crawl into the beds and wait until it was over with. And I just said, everybody get to the bunkers and we'll worry about cleaning all this stuff up another time. So this is a little bit funny, too. The other two nurses and I went back to where our quarters were, and of course we had outside latrines at that time and all three of us were in there when a marder Hit right behind us, and we never saw three people run so fast with their __ still down around their ankles. And we ran to the nearest bunker which was right outside our quarters there and spent the rest of the night -- the three of us huddled in that small bunker. And I can remember we were shaking so hard. The three of us, our knees were bumping together, all three of us, and the bunker, was it just on the edge on the outside, but everybody was safe. Everybody was safe. And as far as I can remember, we had two members of the unit wounded, but they were two lab technicians who did not go to the bunker, who wanted to stay out in the open and take pictures of the marders Coming. But those were the only casualties from our unit, and it was their own fault that they got wounded. They had minor shrapnel wounds. Fortunately, it wasn't anything serious. So after Vietnam, I spent almost 21 months in Vietnam, and I came back and was assigned to Fort Gordon in Georgia where I went once again back to OB. But I wasn't there too long when I was made afternoon supervisor. And that assignment didn't last very long because the chief nurse down at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia decided to retire, and they sent me down there as chief nurse. So I was at Hunter Army Airfield all for, oh, let's see, almost --

Ruth F. Stewart:

Army Airfield, that was --

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Hunter Army Airfield.

Ruth F. Stewart:

It was still combined then? I mean, what it was -- when it was, Army Air Force?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

No, it was called Army Airfield. Though it had been an Air Force base, but it became an Army Airfield and it was a helicopter base.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Oh, I see. It wasn't the Army Air Corps then, that was after that?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

No, it was just called Hunter Army Airfield.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

In Savannah, Georgia.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

And we we were quite busy there. Fort Stewart was not too far away but they -- at that time had no surgical capability, so all the troops that they had down there, and all the dependents that required surgery and delivery for pregnant women, they were all sent up to Hunter Army Airfield. So we were very busy. And the chief nurse down at Stewart became a good friend of mine, and so she would send some of her nurses up occasionally through them to get some experience. Particularly in the OB section and operating room. So -- and while I was there, they refurbished the whole hospital. So I had an opportunity to do some nice things in some of the wards there as far as colorful curtains, drapes and bedside curtains and things like that. And so that was another interesting experience. From there I went to Germany and I was chief nurse at the Second General Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for two years. Had quite a number of opportunities to travel while I was there, and it was very interesting. When I was down at Fort Sam at the course in 1957, I had met some Air Force nurses and turned out that one of them who had been my best friend at that time was the chief nurse at Ramstein Airforce Base which was right across the road practically from Landstuhl. So the two of us did most of our traveling together. We were both able to get away because we were in different units. So we renewed our friendship and did a lot of traveling to Greece and to Spain and Austria.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Great.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

While I was at Landstuhl, they were talking about getting the prisoners released that were -- was it Iran that all those people were prisoners -- and they thought maybe they might be coming through our area, so we had to prepare some of the wards to take care of them. Oh, I'm sorry, that's wrong. Excuse me. These were prisoners from Vietnam.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Oh.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Not from Iran. They were the POWs.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

And so we had to prepare a lot of wards to get ready for them, and it was sort of a secret thing. I had to get these things ready, but I wasn't able to tell any of the staff.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Why?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Why we were doing all of this stuff?

Ruth F. Stewart:

Mm-hm.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

But as it turned out, they didn't send them through there after all. But that was a different experience, so.

Ruth F. Stewart:

You've had a variety of experiences, for sure.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, when I was due to leave there, I got orders from William Beaumont. I had asked to go back to obstetrics. My father had been diagnosed with cancer and I felt that I probably wouldn't be staying in too much longer, so I decided I'd like to go back to obstetrics, just to finish up what little time I might have left in the service. So I was chief of Maternal and Child Healthcare at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And that's El Paso?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

El Paso, Texas, uh-huh.

Ruth F. Stewart:

So you started in Texas and you ended in Texas, and your still in Texas.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Still in Texas, anyway, yeah. So it was 1975 -- '74, and I decided that -- was it '70 -- no, it was '75. I decided I had better retire and go home because my father was terminal and my mother was not well, so I did put in my retirement papers. In August of that year, I retired.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And how many years has that been?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

24.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What were the highlights of your military career?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, my experience in Vietnam was the biggest thing. And one of the things that -- that I remember most is how cooperative everybody was.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Throughout your career?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, in Vietnam, particularly. In how everybody worked together and nobody complained. And then when I came back and I went to Fort Gordon, I -- I had a hard time, I think, at first, because things were so different. I mean, people complained if they had to work any overtime or come back and cover another shift or go work another ward to help somebody out. It was such a drastic change from the way things were in Vietnam. Even though, you know, the work situation wasn't the greatest in Vietnam, but the people were -- the people were the greatest.

Ruth F. Stewart:

As a nurse then, how did your career -- how do you reflect on your career as a nurse in terms of what your nursing did for you, or what you did for nursing?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Oh, goodness. That's difficult to answer. I'm not sure that I contributed a whole lot to any advances in nursing. I think I did a good job at what I was doing.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Sounds to me like you were an excellent role model. You must have done some teaching along the way, and certainly your behavior reflected that.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, you know, of course you always teach the younger onces who are coming up. And while I was at Tripler, I did teach the Maternal and Child Healthcare classes to the pregnant women, that sort of thing. But no real formal classroom-type teaching.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Teaching is teaching.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yes, yes.

Ruth F. Stewart:

So then, you feel that you chose the right career?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Oh, definitely.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Both in nursing and in the military?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Oh, yes I wouldn't -- I wouldn't change any of that, no.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And since you retired then, '75, that's been quite a while. What's your life been like since then?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, of course, I returned and went back to Michigan and I took care of my father. He had lung cancer and I took care of him until he died in '76, and I came back here to San Antonio. Well, my mother wasn't well. So in 1980 I went back for four years and took care of my mother. And after she died, I came back to San Antonio again and by that time, of course, I was so far behind as far as nursing that it wouldn't be safe for me to go back into nursing, so. I just did volunteer work.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What kind of volunteer work?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

I worked for the Army Medical Museum Foundation. At that time, we were soliciting funds to build the museum. So I worked for them ever since -- actually about 1978, I started working and I was on the Board of Directors -- on the executive board for a couple of years, and I'm still on the Board of Directors. And I volunteered at the gift shop, Army Medical Museum Foundation Gift Shop. Then, for seven years I drove one of the care mobiles at Bamsey (ph). So that was another one of my jobs. And for a while I worked for the American Red Cross as a volunteer. And during the -- let's see, was it 19 -- 1985 when they had the -- they were afraid of the storms on the coast in Corpus and they evacuated all the people up here. I worked from 12 hour shifts at night for the Red Cross in some of their shelters and that was an interesting experience. I worked in one that had air-conditioning in the high school, and so they sent a lot of the sick people there, people who were diabetics, cardiacs, a lot of old people that came up from Corpus came there, and we took care of them there. So I did that at that time.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Once a nurse, always a nurse.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yeah, but you need to keep up with all the latest trends, and if you're not working, it's very hard to do.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Well, the technical things, yes, but there's other -- there's a certain process you go through in working with people that you never lose. It's always a part of you.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yeah.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Is there anything else you'd like to finish up with?

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Well, one thing. I think from my time in the service, we made a lot of friends who were lifelong lasting friends. I don't think that it's true as much today as it used to be. I mean, when when we used to live in the quarters and work together all the time, I think, you know, you became very close, almost like a family, and now everybody's married or living off the base and they hardly know anybody else that works in the same hospital that they work in. And the retiree group here, as a matter of fact, has been known as the White Shoe Mafia.

Ruth F. Stewart:

The which --

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

White Shoe Mafia, right. And everybody knows what's going on, and if somebody needs some help, there's somebody there -- right there to help them. And it's still that way with the older people -- the older retirees.

Ruth F. Stewart:

That's wonderful.

Margaret Easterly Canfield:

Yeah.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Well, thank you very much, Margaret. We really appreciate you taking the time to do this and to record this for the history of our Country, the women, and the military and nursing. So this is an added segment to that history. Thank you very much. (END OF CD)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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