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"I never regretted that I didn’t go into the Navy or the Army." (Video Interview, 14:54)

   Betty Tosti Leiding
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Betty Leiding [2002]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: SPAR (Women's Coast Guard Reserve)
Service Location: Palm Beach, Florida; New York, New York
Rank: Storekeeper First Class
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A persuasive Coast Guard recruiter opened the door to a life of adventure for 20-year-old Betty Tosti of Framingham, Massachusetts. After training in Palm Beach, Florida, where she learned to swim, she was assigned to an office in lower Manhattan. A brief stint in the Finance Office led to an offer she couldn’t refuse—since it was an order: becoming an assistant to a genial commander. Social life in New York included dating officers (a no-no for an enlisted woman) and meeting her future husband, a Merchant Mariner in training. Leiding admits that going off to war, even if it only meant office work in the States, offered her a different perspective on the world from that of her younger sisters, who stayed close to home all their lives.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (40 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
After graduating from business college at 20, coming upon a Coast Guard recruiting station and deciding to sign up; needed permission from her parents; father refused, mother agreed; trained in Palm Beach, Florida; given work similar to what she was used to, working in a bank; assigned to finance office and eventually came to New York City. (03:08) Assigned to New York finance office at 42 Broadway; commander asked her to work for him; she didn't realize she had no choice in the matter; taken back to her hotel every night by her boss's chauffeur; how she met her future husband, who was serving in the Merchant Marines. (02:04) At times, experience seemed like a dream; married the month after she was discharged; description of her uniform; still has her Navy blue uniform; friends went into other branches of service, but the Coast Guard recruiter's pitch worked on her. (02:07)
Only in finance office briefly; worked with one other woman for the commander, so her daily contacts at work were limited, though she did some work for two other officers in an adjacent office; didn't regret not going into the bigger services; liked the modest size of the Coast Guard; training consisted mainly of marching and calisthenics; she did learn how to swim from a good instructor but has never overcome an aversion to water. (02:32) Ignored the rule that enlisted personnel could not mix with officers; she dated several; trained by women; experience broadened her, offered her a more adventurous life than if she had stayed in her hometown, as her younger sisters did. (02:22) Showing photos from her days in New York: her in a park in winter; her and her husband in Central Park; a group shot from her original Finance Office; her boss; her in her dress whites; her in uniform early in her career. (03:38)

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  October 26, 2011
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