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Interview with Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan [1/24/2008]

Patricia Redmond:

Hello, Mrs. McMillan. Before we start the interview, what name would you prefer I call you?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I really like to be called by my middle name, which is Lole.

Patricia Redmond:

I would like you to meet my friend, this is Mary Lee Schumeyer. What war did you serve in and what was your branch of service?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I was a civilian and a member of the Cadet Nurse Corp during World War II. I was fourteen years old, or not quite 14 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and soon realized that war was a stupid thing. My father entered the Navy, and I felt that this was the best thing I could do to help my county. I had a friend who was already in the Cadet Nurse Corp and I learned more about it from her, and this is how I made the decision to go into the Cadet Nurse Corp.

I was born is Alachua, Florida, a small town, and as I said, was 14 when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. Little did I know exactly how much that was going to affect my life. The very next day, our social studies teacher brought a radio to school, which was most unusual. We listened to President Roosevelt tell us about the 'day that would live in infamy' and that a state of war now existed between our country and Japan. It wasn't long after that, my father, who was a carpenter and civilian jobs were not easy to find, but much needed in the military; so he joined the Seabees and went overseas. Civilian life was not too hard on us, although there were many things were rationed. We hadn't noticed much about that except that everybody had somebody in the service. My mother went to work for the first time. She worked as a seamstress at Camp Blanding, near Starke, Florida. Her job was to adjust the uniform for the soldiers who could afford to make them fit better. My grandfather had a job working as a cashier at Camp Blanding. My grandmother was busy knitting socks. Everybody was looking for scrap medal. War bonds were everywhere, and we children were buying stamps to put in a book, and if we got enough stamps we bought a bond. I don't ever remember ever having enough stamps to buy a bond.

I remember one day a service man coming to our school in a jeep. For every family that bought a bond, the child could have a ride in the jeep. But my family didn't have money for a bond, so I didn't get to ride around in a jeep. On of the things did was to learn to recognize aircraft flying over. We'd be on the play ground at gym time and if we'd see a plane, we would say, 'Oh, that's a P-24.' One we loved to spot was the P-38 because of the twin fuselage. We thought that was great!

But school really took on a lot of importance as the war progressed, especially for the boys. Many of us concentrated our studies, so that we could finish high school in three years instead of four years. I started college at 16 and it was in the middle of my sophomore year and I was 17 and old enough to enter nurse's training. I wrote for brochures for hospitals all over the United States, but decided on New Orleans with Charity Hospital being my choice. I had a friend there who was 6 months older and had already gone thee. What else can I tell you about that?" Cadet Nurse Corp "The Cadet Nurse Corp offered us all the things we needed to become registered nurses. In return we were obligated to do what was called 'essential nursing for the duration', and for a little time after that. Essential nursing meant that we couldn't take a job as an airline stewardess, or private duty...those were considered frivolous things. At that time, airline stewardesses were all RN's. We needed to work at a civilian hospital, a military hospital, a VA hospital or Indian Reservation. The day I went to New Orleans was in July, 1945. Probably a 12 hour ride on the train from where I lived to get to New Orleans. I'd never been on a long train ride. I'd never been to a big city. I didn't know where Charity Hospital was. I'd never seen so many service people. I was scared!

But somehow, I got to New Orleans ...somehow I was in a taxi and at the nurses' residence. They went through all the explanations of what our obligations would be, what the Cadet Nursing Corp would be and what would be expected of us. This was in July. So we officially became a class, about 120 of us, on August 6, 1945. That was the day the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. You can just imagine all the confusion, chaos and the mixed emotions that went through our class. We were all happy that the war was over, because we knew it would end soon after the bomb was dropped. We didn't know if we could afford to stay in school or not. Anyway, we got answers pretty quick. Our class was the last class to be admitted, but we were Cadet Nurses. One exception; we didn't get those cute little navy blue dress uniforms that the Cadet Nurses got, but we got all the other benefits. We got 14 white student uniforms and the laundry service for the uniforms. We got nice warm navy blue nurse's cape, which we had to wear because in the winter time it would be cold. We had rooms in the nurses' residence...two students to a room, all our meals in the cafeteria, all of our tuition, our books and $15 a month. Until the Nurses Corp came into existence, hospital trained nursed for three years to become registered nurses. But the Cadet Nurses Corp changed that. We concentrated our classes in two and a half years and the last 6 months of that, we acted in the capacity as nurses. We had to do that at our home hospital, or a VA hospital or an Indian Reservation. I happened to be one of the few that was chosen to go to a VA hospital and I had my Senior Cadet Nurse period in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. This hospital specialized in care for quadriplegic and paraplegic patients. We also got 60 dollars a month! We felt rich, with 60 dollars a month. Everybody worked 48 hours a week and that even continued on awhile after that.

Life in the VA hospital was a lot nicer for us students. As you can imagine, at Charity Hospital with the sisters of Charity in charge we had a pretty strict rules, and we couldn't violate those rules. At the VA Hospital, there were rules about not dating the patients and all that, but it was easy to 'slide under the fence' and go out with the patients.

Patricia Redmond:

Who were the patients?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

They were all WWII veterans. I don't remember any WWI veterans: I'm sure there were WWI veterans at some of the VA hospitals, but not at the hospital I was at. We did have a lot of paraplegics and quadriplegics. They were a different kind of patients...they were not easy patients to care for. You can imagine why these young men, who were maimed for life...how difficult it was for them. They received the best care that was available for them at the time. Those who were the paraplegics, who could still use their arms, received special automobiles with special hand controls. The quadriplegics, poor guys, they were just being pushed around on stretchers...that was just real sad. Some of our students, as I said about dating the patients, and actually met and married patients that they had taken care of at the hospital.

Patricia Redmond:

How long were you at the VA Hospital?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

At the VA hospital, just 6 months. We had a total of 3 years training. Classes concentrated into 2 V2 years and then 6 months strictly working the capacity of a nurse in the VA hospital. Also at the VA hospital, we had corpsmen who helped do the lifting. We weren't used to having that at our civilian hospital. We did everything that had to be done.

Patricia Redmond:

Did you have graduation after you finished at the VA hospital?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

Actually, our graduation ceremony took place when we finished our classes. But we still had to complete an actual number of days, and that's where the last six months came in. Then after that, which is true of all nursing students whether in the hospital or college...you're required to take an examination to become an RN. The state boards examination at that time consisted of two days, 8 exams. Two in the morning and two in the afternoon for each of two days, and you are examined in all areas of nursing...medical nursing, surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, ob, and psychiatric nursing...all areas. We had to go back to New Orleans to take our state examinations. I think today you can take them on line and it's done a lot differently today. We didn't know for at least 6 weeks after taking our examinations whether we passed them or not. Everyday, sweating it out! Get the mail...have you heard? I remember getting mine and opening the letter...and the first thing I saw was congratulations. I said, thank goodness, that means I passed! I did quite well in my exams. It's not an easy thing to go thru. I guess that's true in any profession...you're going to have a state or national exam to be certified in whatever you are doing.

Patricia Redmond:

What were you doing during those 6 weeks?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

That was another thing. I applied...during my last time at school I had some vacation time. This was after the war. My father went one way, my mother went another and I didn't feel welcome in either place, so I returned to Alachua to my grandparents and met who would be my future husband. I didn't realize it at the time. He was a returning WWII veteran, in the Marine Corp. He was finishing up college...using his GI Bill in the University of Florida, which was just 16 miles away from the town where my grandparents lived. I was finishing up my nursing and home visiting Granny and preparing for my state board exam. And decided if I was going to get married here, I was going to get a job here. So I applied for a job at the Health Department. I was employed before I took state board with the understanding I would have to give up the job if I didn't pass. So actually, I had the job before I had taken the exam, and I did fine on the exam. My first job was with Public Health. The reason I chose Public Health was a real selfish reason, was because Public Health nurses only had to work 44 hours a week. We had Monday through Friday 8 hours and half a day on Saturday and off every Sunday. I had never had anything like that my whole 3 years of nursing. So that did appeal to me. I did like Public Health though. I eventually did hospital nursing.

Patricia Redmond:

What did you do as a Public Health Nurse?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

We visited homes. I had several areas in the Alachua County. We had a lot of midwife home deliveries and we followed up all the deliveries. We did prenatal teaching, and we did the follow up, writing out the birth certificates, weighing the babies, putting drops in their eyes. We did home teaching, we set up immunization clinics. We had sanitation officers; many of these homes were rural areas, and there was no sanitation in the homes , so we talked about putting in the proper types of outdoor privies -- just many, many, things. Some patients had intestinal parasites... we followed up venereal disease. All these things were part of public health. If there was a school, we were the school nurse. We set up a clinic if we could get enough people together. Sometimes our clinics were established, and sometimes we established them. We had access to a doctor once a week and we could have a doctor come out to our clinic. We became familiar with the places we could refer people to for whatever the aliment.

We were pretty much on our own. The more experience the nurse had, the more efficient she was because we knew where to refer people. There are things that you just learn with experience. I really liked the ability to handle situations like that. I liked public health nursing.

Patricia Redmond:

Did you wear a uniform then?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

Yes a blue and white little stripped thing and a little cap that looked like a military cap. We traveled in our own cars and we were paid for transportation...I don't know what it was, but gas wasn't very expensive then. We had a little black bag that we carried. We folded up news papers and stuck them in a little pocket in our bags. When we got in the home we opened up that newspaper and put your bag on the newspaper. You never put your bag on the furniture or any place in the home because goodness knows what you are going to pick up on your bag. Our bags contained very basic crude things. We had a stethoscope. We had a tube of shaving cream; that was what we used to wash our hands with. We're talking way back a long time ago...we're talking g 1950. So we didn't have antibiotic soaps that we have today. We didn't' have a bar of soap; we had a tube of shaving cream and that was what we washed our hands with. Some places had no running water, and we'd go outside and someone would pump water and you would wash your hands that way. We always started out putting our bag down, getting your shaving cream out and washing your hands...then doing whatever you had to do in the home. Sometimes we'd travel as much as a hundred miles a day; sometime just 25. Keeping records of every patient we saw. Then we put them in a little slot when we came back...this one I have to see in a week, this one in a month. Each day when you finished, you planned your next day by the little cards." Marriage: Jackie and I met when I was finishing [nurses training] and he was also finishing school. We were married just four days after he graduated. He was a senior in high school and Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was just 17 when he graduated. Many of the boys actually dropped out of school the next day and joined the service. He finished high school and went to Camp Blanding and learned how to weld. When he turned 18 he joined the US Marine Corps. He was sent to Norman Oklahoma where he learned medal smith and air craft mechanic. He had basic training at boot camp at Paris Island.

One of the stories I remember him telling was, whatever the order was in the drill field, he ended up exactly the opposite of everyone else in his group. He was so scared! He didn't change, but he could imagine what terrible thing was going to happen to him. What had happened, he was the only one who had done it correctly! They gave him the privilege of running by himself to the PX and buying a candy bar and running all the way back and joining everyone else on the drill field. That's one of the best things he remembered about boot camp. There were some tough things he remembered, crawling across the ground with live ammunition overhead. He told about going to San Diego on the big troop ship, wit blimps following them out, and how kind of lost they felt when the blimps turned around. They zigzagged their way across the Pacific. He went to several islands, most of the time in the Pacific was spent at ?? which is near Pearl Harbor. His main job was as an aircraft mechanic. He was 19 years old and he had four guys working under him. Sometimes the planes were so banged up and they would have to go look at an intact plane to see how everything was. He really didn't talk to me or anybody about his experiences. Most of the things I can tell you about are kind of humorous things or fun things. He would talk about seeing movies on some of the islands. The movies would come in and they would a say to bring your poncho, because it rained all the time. They sat 8 on the coconut tree logs. Before the movies...everybody brought flash lights. One of the guys in one corner would start shining his flashlight on the screen, and then a guy on the opposite corner would, and they would come together like two people shaking hands and then they would fight on the screen. That was great entertainment. A lot of mosquitoes around and some of the non-smokers were smoking just to get rid of them. He remembers being on one island, it was called 'secure', but there were Japanese on the other end of the island. They would start gardening and the Marines would destroy the garden.

He was stationed near Honolulu on V-J Day. They had a big celebration going on there. I was in New Orleans on V-J Day and they had a big celebration on Canal Street then, too. We had just been there for a short while, so we didn't' have many responsibilities. We were doing pre-clinicals and we had a lot more time off. We all went down to Canal Street. This was different than the Mardi Gras...even greater. Everybody was talking ... service men all over... a lot of churches in New Orleans and all the churches were chiming. It was such a delirious and wonderful, wonderful time. Up until the end...WWII, our nation didn't know anything about war. Unfortunately, the children of today know nothing but war. We didn't know about war. Then when war came, it affected every home, everybody. Then suddenly war is over! It was the most wonderful thing. We never thought there would be war again. The guys were coming home. The daddies were coming home. It was wonderful! It is difficult to express the emotion we felt on V-J Day! It was excitement beyond anything I can describe to you. It was wonderful!" Family: "My husband and I had four daughters and a son. Before graduation, he had worked part time in the post office as a student, and then after graduation, he worked more hours. Eventually he was appointed Post Master and worked for the post office for 30 years and retired. We live in a rural area, and addition to his postal work he raised cattle. The children had pets...you can just imagine what can happen on a farm, we did. My husband died in 2005, just 10 days after our 55th wedding anniversary. I still miss him. I still live in the house we built 50 years ago. I live alone. My five children live within an hours drive from me. Some are not more than a half hours drive away. I spend a lot of time volunteering. I volunteer one day a week in one of my schoolteacher daughter's classroom.

I volunteer another day a week at the Alzheimer's Day Care facility. My husband had Alzheimer's before he passed away. I was fortunate enough to keep him home the whole time with the help of the VA supplying the bed and a lift, a wheelchair...all the equipment I needed to take care of him. I was very happy to do that. It is a long debilitating condition. It is a very emotional thing and a very sad thing to see, a man of such strength and ability dwindle down to the way it happened. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.

Patricia Redmond:

Did you work after you had children?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I worked as a nurse when we first were married in public health, and then after children, we felt that we would live on whatever my husband made and my job would be at home. After five children, my youngest child was a year old, my mother-in-law died and my father-in-law came to live with us. He was blind. He was a WWI veteran. So he was with us for 12 years, blind, and with the five children ...I stayed home. For maybe 20 years I stayed home. When the children got in high school, I decided it was time to try nursing again. I took a refreshed course and went back to college and got a nursing degree. I enjoyed being back in the hospital again. I would have worked longer, but my husband was getting worse, and I was aware of what was going on. I quit working and we did a little bit of traveling while he could still drive. I have been involved in nursing my entire life. Besides my father in law, a neighbor lady, who lived close by, had a stroke... she was in a vegetative state. I brought her into my home and took care of her. I was much involved in nursing care on voluntary bases. Nursing has served me well. The Cadet Nursing Corp was a good decision on my part...for myself, my family and my community.

Patricia Redmond:

You have a daughter who is married to a West Point graduate, right?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I have a daughter who is married to a West Point grad. This daughter is also a nurse. Her husband is a doctor; he was in the Class of 1962. After tours in Vietnam, he went to medical school at the University of Miami. He's an Obstetrician. He's semi retired now, working...filling in for another doctor in the state of Georgia about five days a week when the other doctor wants to have a vacation. My daughter is still working at a hospital from time to time. It's not the first marriage for either of them. He's eleven years younger than I am and eleven years older than she is. . He has a couple grandchildren and they are enjoying the grandchildren.

Patricia Redmond:

We met, at the Class of '62 West Point Reunion.

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

Right. I had a wonderful time. My son-in-law loves history. They have taken me to three trips with them... twice to West Point and once on another trip. If we come to a battlefield, he can tell me everything about what happened; he really knows his history. I love it too and I get to learn a lot from him. They just treat me wonderfully on a trip. I can't afford these things. And they do that for me. If makes me feel so good to do these things with them.

Another thing that I love is football. I am a football nut. I have gotten to go to Army-Navy games with them. I really fit in with the things that they do, and I enjoy it. I'm very excited about getting to be part of the Class of '62.

Patricia Redmond:

I'm sure that they enjoy you too. I did enjoy meeting you. This has been a wonderful interview. You have been very good in telling the whole story. Is there anything else you want to tell us?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

Well, I have a grand son who is a veteran. He joined the Army out of high school. He was sent to Bosnia during the conflict there, and then continued his Reserves for another eight years. A month before those eight years were up, he was called back in and sent to Iraq. Now he is back home again; he is single...29 years old. He lives in a little cottage in the back of my property. He is attending college and the things he learned in the Army, he loved his job in the Army. He debated about re-upping and just staying in the Army, but he thought about money, and now he is going to college and hoping to get a civilian job like the job in the Army.

Patricia Redmond:

What's his name?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

His name is Eric Freelover.

Patricia Redmond:

How many grandchildren do you have now?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

You would think with five children, I expected to have a house fiill of grandchildren. I have three, and they all belong to my oldest daughter, Lorraine. There's Eric, and Mark who is 19, 20 maybe, in his senior year in studying hospital administration. And she has a daughter who is 30 years old who has been in and out of college. She's back in college and studying environmental science at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Patricia Redmond:

Lorraine, her daughter, graduated form the University of Florida.

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

If you follow football, we're gator fans! The other four children, two of my children are school teachers, one is a veterinarian, and my son is a hospital technician, who works for a company who repairs big hospital, electronic equipment. He travels from hospital to hospital mostly in Florida.

Patricia Redmond:

So you have had an impact on your children, who are in the medical field.

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

Yes, you're right... either medical or teaching. And I started out to be a school teacher... and then switched over to be a nurse. Now I'm back to teaching, once a week I'm dong that as a volunteer. So...I'm incorporating both of my loves.

Patricia Redmond:

Well, is there anything else we haven't covered?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I don't think so; Jackie just didn't talk about his experiences during WWII, except he would talk about the fun things. One of the guys on the islands, the officers had a bar, but the enlisted men weren't allowed in the bar. One of the guys would steam off the bottle label, so they weren't disturbed, open the bottle and take the labels back to his bunk. Every now and then he would steal a shot of whiskey, put it in a Coke bottle and bring it back to his bunk, gradually filling the bottle. Then he would put the labels back on and sell it for $50. This is the some of the enterprising things the guys did.

Another fellow was a gambler. He turned his blanket over and put squares and all on it...I don't know how this thing worked. But before the war was over, he had collected $12,000! He sent it to his wife and at $12,000, she was able to buy them a home. When he got back from the Pacific, she had bought them a home with the money.

Another thing that they did was take the inner tubes from the tires of the wrecked airplanes ...the ones that were discarded, and cut them into strips. Take the canvas off their cots and stretch the inner tube over to make it more bouncy, comfortable beds. They lots of ways of improvising with what they had to make life on the island seem a little more like home life.

Patricia Redmond:

They were very enterprising, weren't they?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

They certainly were! I'm sure that all these things they did...these were the things they liked to talk about...the crazy things, the fun things they did. They don't like to talk about the battles...that's just not a subject up for discussion... They don't talk about the buddies they lost. To hear several of them get together.. Jackie had Marine Corp friends he kept up with throughout his life and they would be in our home and occasionally they would talk. But I never heard them talk about anything gory. They would just talk about the crazy things that they had done. That wasn't a topic of conservation.

Patricia Redmond:

Do you have an advice for the young people today?

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

Have some kind of profession or trade...don't settle for a part time job that is 13 exciting and gets you some change in your pocket for now. Plan for the future and... Obey the laws... all the things that Mothers are telling kids and very few are listening to, unfortunately.

Patricia Redmond:

You are very glad that you did go into the Cadet Nurse Corps, even though you didn't get to serve your country? [during WWII]

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I really am glad that I went into the Cadet Nurse Corps, and I feel that I have served mankind my entire life. It was because of the training I received as a Cadet Nurse. It was not necessarily with the military although I have worked with military people and I have taken care of military people. Most of my nursing has been with civilian jobs. Goodness knows wherever a nurse is...there always seems to be a shortage of nurses. I think we would do well to establish the Cadet Nurse Corp again. It was a good thing our government did at the time that they did it.

Thank you for letting me express my I hope that it will be of benefit, or someone will learn something about my generation from having heard me talk. Eighty year old women don't often get people interested in what they have to say.

Patricia Redmond:

Thank you for this interview. I think you have done well in explaining about the Cadet Nurse Corps, and I think your idea that we start one today is a good one.

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I think so too.

Patricia Redmond:

I will send you a transcript and we will be in touch, and you will send all the paperwork back to me as you can.

Eula Lole MacPherson McMillan:

I can do that. Thank you for calling me.

Patricia Redmond:

Thank you, we appreciate your time. It was really interesting to listen to your story. Good bye for now.

 
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