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Interview with Elizabeth L. Peurifoy [6/30/2003]

Judith J. Kent:

Today is June 30, 2003. This is Judith Kent speaking from the private home of Elizabeth "Libby" Peurifoy in Flagler Beach, Florida. Ms. Peurifoy was born November 19th, 1918. Libby, thank you for agreeing to participate in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Will you tell us for the record in which branch of the military you served?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Well, in the beginning, I was taken into the WAAC, Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in November, 1942, and then I proceeded from there to Fort Des Moines for basic training. And as we got through our basic training, we were assigned various places to go to camps and forts and things to do our thing.

Judith J. Kent:

Okay. Well before we get into that, let's, you know, fill it out a little bit. Where were you born?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

I was born in Concord, North Carolina, Cabarrus County, November the 19th, 1918.

Judith J. Kent:

Okay. Tell us a little about your family.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Well, there were five children and my mother and father. And my mother and father were divorced in around 1940. And my brothers -- [Pause in the tape.]

Judith J. Kent:

So you had a big family?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Yes. And I was the only girl. I had four brothers, I was the middle child. And I attended school there. I did take a commercial degree in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is now part of the University of North Carolina. And I worked as a secretary at an office in Concord, North Carolina. And then the war came along and my bothers started feeding off to various areas of the branches of the war. And then I became very interested in becoming part of that.

Judith J. Kent:

That was pretty risky for a woman in those days; wasn't it?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Yes, I remember going home and telling my mother, I think I know what I want to do. And, she said, well, what is it, honey? I said, I think I'm going to join one of the services. She said, that's fine.

Judith J. Kent:

Good for her. So she supported you?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

She supported me. So I found out where I had to go. I went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And I didn't tell the people I was working for what I was doing, and went down to Fort Bragg, and with a day of testing and physical. And before I left, I had already raised my hand and swore to be a soldier or be into the service. Right -- they get you right away. So, anyway. So I came back home and I had not -- my brothers did not know about it. And I remember my oldest brother saying, well, what can we do to get you out of that? I said, I don't want to get out of it. I want to serve. So, anyway, from there -- well I did ask, when I was -- before I left Fort Bragg, I said, well, how long does it take to be called up to go to service? And they said, oh, you won't be called up for a long time, maybe three or four months. Well, so I went back to work at my job. And it wasn't long until we -- it came through on the routine type -- telegraph machine we had in the office. And my mother had sent some note to me saying -- sort of like the computer now, I guess -- and, said you have a very interesting letter here from the government. This was about two weeks after I had been at Fort Bragg. And I said, well, open it and read it. And they had an assignment for me in Fort Des Moines within a certain date, you know. And I was -- so I had to go tell the people I was leaving employment.

Judith J. Kent:

Let's stop for just a moment. [Pause in the tape.] So you were ready to go to basic training?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Uh-huh.

Judith J. Kent:

You were leaving North Carolina and it was a cool --

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Day in November, uh-huh.

Judith J. Kent:

You went to the train station with your mom?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

And friends, a lot of friends, which I did not note -- I'll give you pictures of tha.t, and they put me on the train to Fort Des Moines. And I had never been anywhere in my life except Miami Beach once. And so this was quite an adventure. And when I got there, it was like 20 degrees below.

Judith J. Kent:

Oh, boy.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

And so right away they send you through supplies to pick up your uniform. And they didn't have proper uniforms, so they issued seersucker dresses.

Judith J. Kent:

For 20 below?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

For the people coming in, right.

Judith J. Kent:

Yeah.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

So we had that. And we had enlisted men's coats. And our hat was the knit cap that went inside of the helmet that the men wore, and enlisted men's overcoats. So that was my first initiation to uniforms.

Judith J. Kent:

Snow on the ground?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Oh, yes; oh, yes; oh, yes.

Judith J. Kent:

And you were in a barracks?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

In a barracks. Assigned to barracks that had just been completed. And all around us they were building more barracks. I guess I was sort of frightened because I didn't know what I had done. And this was basic training. And then went through that.

Judith J. Kent:

So was it very demanding physically?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Well I'm pretty -- I was pretty physical anyway. I mean, I liked sports and stuff. So that didn't bother me. It was just the cold weather that really got to me. In fact, I ended up in the hospital for about -- about four or five days after. I had pneumonia.

Judith J. Kent:

Oh, my.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

And they let me sleep three days so I guess I was tired. Well I got through that and all. And then I thought, well, now we're going to have assignments. And I thought, boy, I hope they send me to somewhere in the south, you know. And they kept coming. So I became one of the runners to take the orders from headquarters over to the barracks and all for that. And my name didn't come up, and it didn't come up. It was on the last sheet that arrived, my name. I was assigned to headquarters in Des Moines.

Judith J. Kent:

Oh, boy. Not your favorite place.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Still didn't have a uniform. And so I was assigned to publications. And it was sort of like, it was publications for the WAAC, and it was sort of off limits. It was confidential stuff that we printed all the material that went out for WAAC. So then all I had to do was go into a different barrack, which came a nicer barrack. We were put -- I was in a barrack around the parade ground where the men that were in the cavalry used to be there. And so all the headquarter gals were there. And so I reported to duty and worked there, and didn't have a very interesting job at first. They were collating material and I was at the end of the line and I hit the stapler. So, anyway, then the major who was in charge came in and said, we need someone over here. And so I went and I learned how to do a printing machine. I don't remember the name of it, but I was in charge of the printing. And then before long they were putting me on -- at night shift by myself. I was sort of frightened then really, really, you know. And I was a little distance from the barracks where I was. So.

Judith J. Kent:

Were you working exclusively with women?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Yes, except for the commanding officer. He was a major. So. Then one day when I got home, I was working late and I didn't have to get up and go to revelry because I didn't get home until about midnight. So I was out there by myself walking to -- scared to death, really, all the time. Anyway, the sergeant of the company of headquarters there called and said the commanding officer wanted to see me. And so I went in. I got up and got on my uniform, polished my shoes, went in. And she said, we have some papers for you to sign. And I said -- fill out, fill out. And she said -- I said, well, what are they for? She said, well, I'm recommending you to go to OCS. And I said, I can't go to OCS, I don't have a private stripe yet. She said, don't worry about that. I said, well, I'm not going to fill them out. So, anyway, she called the sergeant in and said, fill these papers out. So that one thing led to another. And then the thing about OCS, you go and then your name comes up and you go before a board and all that. I'm going to try to make this a little shorter. And within no time, this gal that -- I had the upper bunk, she had the lower bunk. The younger ones slept in -- and she worked in personnel. And she came home and she said, you're going to be leaving us. And I said, where am I going? Because she saw all the orders. And I was in the next class of OCS.

Judith J. Kent:

Good for you.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Yeah, right. See, they go by point system from the interview. And if you have 90 points and if everybody else after you keeps having like 95, 97 -- I'm just using this as an example -- you didn't get called, you didn't get called. So I went almost right away. And that was a nice boost for me. So then I called my mother in North Carolina to tell her. I said, don't tell anybody because they are flunking out like crazy. And they did. And so my brother in the Marines came home. It was Easter time and I was in OCS. And she had made a box of dyed Easter eggs and she wanted him to take them to the mailbox to mail them to me. So he jumps out in the car and then he jumps back in. Mother, do you know what OCS means? Mother said, yes. So she said, well, she didn't want anyone to know she was in OCS until it was over. Don't you tell anybody. This was on a Saturday. Sunday morning he went to church and told everybody in church.

Judith J. Kent:

{Laughter.}

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

So it was all over. Then my mother came out and pinned my bars on.

Judith J. Kent:

Where was OCS?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Fort Des Moines.

Judith J. Kent:

Still there?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Still there.

Judith J. Kent:

They couldn't get you out of there.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

{Laughter} Right, right. And then about that time, there was a lot of things going on about we were going to become a part of the Army. I was still WAAC. And then I had a temporary assignment out in Camp Upton, out on Long island. And then I came back to Fort Des Moines for this transfer into that. And then when we became a part of the Army, then the Air Corps, Air Force I should say, came and all of us that were there, they called all the officers back to Fort Des Moines. And they came by and selected, there must have been about 53 of us I think, something like that, out of about, what, 11-, 1200. And I just happened to be one of those. And we went down to St. Joseph, Missouri for another assignment. And then some captain came, a female captain from Washington, and interviewed all of us. And I said, just get me back to the east coast and the south, you know. But then I was assigned to 33 Pine Street, which goes through to Wall Street. Like 40 Wall Street is on the other side or whatever. So I was there quite a while.

Judith J. Kent:

I hope you were doing things more interesting than stapling.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Oh, yes. I had progressed from that. Yeah, right. I progressed from that shortly when I got on the machine, so to speak, back then. But then I was -- became personnel in the medical part of where I was on this assignment. And I went from there to Dayton, Ohio, to Wright-Patterson Field. And I was trained for air priorities, for what went on planes. And after I stayed there, about a year I guess, I was working with a male captain who was -- helped training me. And then after a while there, I was assigned to San Bernadino, California, and that's where I ended up. And I was air priorities for like -- by this time, the priority things, they were sending almost like an airline schedule of materials and all. And we had priorities and manuals that we had to go by.

Judith J. Kent:

What would an average day have been like for you then?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Very busy, because there were a lot of people wanting to fly. And certain people did fly, but only after we had done things with -- now I was one working with the air priorities where the Manhattan Project was being worked on. And that was, you know, the atomic bomb. And that got everything first. And then if you had things left over, materials or -- and if you had seats for personnel, and then you had to weed that out. So I had a very nice thing. And I lived on base there in the officers' quarters. And then I went to Camp Beal, California, to be discharged.

Judith J. Kent:

And did you have a choice about being discharged?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Well, I didn't -- I didn't ask to stay in the service. I think I should note, though, that I did ask not to be sent overseas because I knew my four brothers would probably be sent overseas and I didn't think that would be fair to my mother. So I did ask my records to be marked not to be sent overseas unless it was an emergency.

Judith J. Kent:

Okay. You have spoken about your mother and her patriotism.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Oh, very.

Judith J. Kent:

Tell us that story about her, the flag for her window.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Well, while I was away in service [Pause in tape.]

Judith J. Kent:

Okay.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

The Cabarrus Chapter of American War Mothers met Friday, June the 7th, 1944 in memory -- Memorial Hall in the community center. It was the final meeting until September. There were 52 members present, and my mother was one of them. And they -- a program highlight was the presentation of a pin bearing five blue stars to Mrs. Lillian Scott Peurifoy because of her five children. Four sons and a daughter were in service in World War II.

Judith J. Kent:

That was quite an honor; wasn't it?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

She was real proud of it.

Judith J. Kent:

I'll bet. With good reason. Okay. When you did get out of the service, did you have an opportunity, like some people did, to use the GI Bill or to --

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

I was going to get into that because what I did when I got out of the service, I went back to work for the place that I had left when I went into the service in 1942. And I decided I had -- you know, I had had a lot of experiences and all and this was sort of not what I wanted to spend my life doing. So I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill of Rights.

Judith J. Kent:

Good for you.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

And I went to Bowling Green State University and got a degree in business administration with educational qualifications, too. And then I did my student teaching in Maumee, Ohio. And the superintendent there -- it is very near Toledo -- and the superintendent in this high school where I was doing business education courses, shorthand and that kind of thing, I did that, student teaching. And then he hired me for that job. And then the first year I was there, I left and went over to New York City from Toledo, Maumee, and entered into a graduate program at Columbia University, which is Teachers College. And I did that for two summers following my work, and then decided to stay because I had a job there. And I was going under the GI Bill of Rights or I couldn't have done this, of course. And then I stayed at Columbia University, Teachers College, and worked there in the residential part and helped out with that and finished and took a couple of extra courses. And in the meantime, the superintendent who had hired me was going to Highland Park, Illinois. And he wrote me and wanted me to come there to instigate a program for -- well, it turned out to be mandatory typing for seventh grade and eighth grade students. It was one of the first in the world -- country, I guess. So I knew I had a job, a good job, and the pay was pretty good. So I got my master's degree in guidance and pupil personnel. So I went there and then I started that program. And then I went into guidance and pupil personnel and did a lot of testing for children. And then I was -- became our district guidance consultant. And I did a lot of conferences with teachers and staff and testing, psychological testing, and all that for children. And that's where I retired from. And in that pursuit of all that, I became very active in the Highland Park Education Association and I became one of the original members of the negotiating team. They had never had anything like this before. And then I presided over that for two years and did a lot of things like that.

Judith J. Kent:

Were you involved in Veterans organizations?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

I'm a life member of the VFW chapter in Concord, North Carolina. And, no, I did not become a reservist or anything like that. I probably should have, but I didn't. I was too busy running a lot of -- I was doing two jobs at a time sometimes, sometimes three. But they were kind and nice and they had a good school system there, very good school system. And they were fair to their staff. And I was -- enjoyed it very much and made a lot of friends.

Judith J. Kent:

Going back for just a minute to your career in the service, I didn't ask you whether or not you won any medals. I know that you progressed in rank, up to the rank of captain.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Here is one.

Judith J. Kent:

Okay. Women's Service Auxiliary Corps Service Medal, the American Theater Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Those are the three; uh-huh, uh-huh.

Judith J. Kent:

And I know you are proud of the medals that your brother earned.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

I'm very proud of my youngest brother who was in the Marine Corps. And he won an awful lot of medals. And we were all very proud of him. He did come home injured, though. He was the only one of us that really sustained any injury during the war, World War II. So is there anything else?

Judith J. Kent:

Did you maintain any friendships with people that you met in the service?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

I did keep up with one or two for a while, you know. And it sort of faded away and -- well, one died, and that kind of thing. And we tried to, you know, keep up a relationship, Christmastime and all of that. And then when I got into education, you create other friendships and things which I have now kept up with even though I've been retired since '78. So that's 20, what, almost 25 years. So I'm still keeping up with probably five or six or seven of those. And then I have friends here. And I do volunteer work here. I'm getting older, so I'm getting too old to do all this.

Judith J. Kent:

How did you happen to come to Flagler County?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Well I had been -- being in education, I had started coming down to Florida, Highland Park, Illinois, which is north of Chicago, also had critical winter weather, and I wanted sunshine. So when we had some time off, say two months in the summertime, I would head to Florida, and sometimes come through North Carolina, of course. And then I was coming down A1A one day, that's the big highway over here next to the ocean, and I liked the area of Ormond Beach as I was going through it. And that's -- I went on down to Miami Beach and had an apartment there for a while. And then I came back and I bought a house there, my first big, you know, deal there. And so that's how. And then when I had the house, I kept coming back and forth and I rented it out between times when I could.

Judith J. Kent:

Then you moved here?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Then I came to Flagler Beach, which is paradise, I think. {Laughter} The ocean is there, the Halifax River is over here.

Judith J. Kent:

How do you spend your days here?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Oh, golly, every day get up and go out. I don't even know sometimes. I do some volunteer work. I was very active in the Flagler Women's Club and I belonged to that since 1983. And I became president for two years and I volunteered a great deal there. And I volunteered for the Flagler County Cancer Society very, very much because my mother died of cancer and my oldest brother died of cancer. So I have spent a lot of time with that. And I'm trying to think. Oh, and I drove -- I used to drive patients to their oncology for their treatments. And I would come to Palm Coast and pick them up. And I thought, where are the people in Palm Coast, you know? Because I had to drive 17 to 20 miles to pick them up, take them down to Ormond area and then bring them back. And I was glad I could do it. But I have my eye problem now. My vision is poor so I don't do those things any more, right, uh-huh. And I play a lot of bridge with the large print cards. And I love bridge. And I used to do crossword puzzles. I used to read a lot, but that's fading away.

Judith J. Kent:

That's hard?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Uh-huh. So I know I probably only have another year or two, probably a year, driving. I never drive at night. But I have a lot of friends that pick me up and take me places. As you get older, you eat out more and that kind of thing.

Judith J. Kent:

Yeah, you don't need to go to the grocery store as much.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Right, right. But I love this area. And it is great. The temperature is right for me.

Judith J. Kent:

Before we started the interview, you said that -- asked me if I had seen the movie, Private Benjamin. And I think you had something in mind when you asked me that.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Well, that was hilarious, as you know. And mine was -- I was so naive, I was just like Private Benjamin. When I went in, I didn't know what I was getting in for. But one of the things just as we got there and got our uniforms and all, and they took us into these barracks and they were giving us some of the basic things. And they said, now we are going to give you 30 minutes or 15, I forget now what, and I want everybody to be busy and go in and clean up the latrine. I didn't even know what a latrine was. I had never heard the word before. And so they all started flying. And I walked in, just strolling in. And I said, what are you doing in here? The girls said, you better look busy if you want to stay. So -- and then one time we were having -- this is shortly before, too, because we didn't have any clothing that fit us. We had these men's shoes on and everything. And they called us to fall out in front. Well that meant to get out to the -- we faced the parade ground because we were in Fort Des Moines and they had a parade ground there. So everybody started running. And you go by height. And I was right in the center because I was like five feet six and a half. And I was right in the center of everything. And I was on this front row and I was rushing to get there. I slid and fell in the ditch between -- between where we were supposed to be in formation. And the commanding officer up there, he just looked down, you know. Things like that. And, oh, it was so cold. And I'll tell you -- and we were out in the boondocks. You pull duty -- this is after I had the pneumonia thing. And I hadn't had any charge of quarters like you do in basic training. You take your turn at all of these things. And KP, kitchen whatever.

Judith J. Kent:

Kitchen patrol?

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Yeah, right. So I hadn't had all those. And so they caught up with me. They said, okay, you are going to be, not kitchen patrol, but QT, whatever that is, where you go and you stay out, you wake people up in the morning and you take calls and that kind of thing. And then you had to go in this little house that was not in the barracks where the people were. And I had about three barracks and I had to -- I was scared to death. I mean, I was really frightened. And there was a sergeant who had -- she was a home company, so they came and visited. She and the supply sergeant came and they visited with me and all. I said, don't go, don't go. And they said -- so they would stay a little while longer. And finally one girl said, I have got to go. I have got to go get my sleep. And finally after she left, the sergeant said to me, are you afraid? Is something wrong with you? You keep asking us to stay. I said, I'm scared to -- oh, we had to go outside with a pail and pick up the coal and bring it back in to put it into the potbelly stove where we were. I said, let me go get the coal. And I figured I could stay in there. And she said, are you all right? She said -- I said, you really want to know? I said, I'm scared to death. I said, you leave here, I'll probably be just sitting in a chair right here stiff. And she said, you go to your barracks now and sleep. I'm going to stay here. And she stayed there that night for me.

Judith J. Kent:

Oh, how nice.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Isn't that nice? Yes, there were a lot of nice -- oh, gosh, I don't know. I grew up fast. I grew up fast in the service. Oh, I was so naive. I didn't really know. But then I got along all right once I got in gear, I guess you would say. Well, you know, the guy came and said, go over here and learn that machine, it was a printing machine that they had on the steel plates or something. And you run off so many. And then I told this officer when she chose me, they get to choose a person to go to OCS once every class, I guess, and she had chosen me. I said, I can't do that. I don't have a private's stripe yet. And she said, you can do it. You can do it.

Judith J. Kent:

Okay. Well let's stop here for just a minute.

Elizabeth L. Peurifoy:

Maybe I'm saying too much.

[End of interview]

 
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