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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)
»Video interview of Betty Leiding 
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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