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Interview with Mary Tener Davidson Hall [Undated]

Ruth F. Stewart:

Mary, how about starting by telling us a little bit about your background, where you were born, your early years, and then on up into getting into the military?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

I was born in Modesto, California, and I was raised, until fourth grade, on a ranch between Modesto and Stockton. When I was nine years old, we moved to Stockton. I finished school at Saint Angus Grammar School, Saint Mary's High School, and then I went to the College of the Pacific. I had a double major in English and history. I always wanted to travel. I intended to go into foreign service. So after I graduated, I did some post-graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley. Then I taught for a year in Lodi, California, hoping to save money to go to Foreign Trade School in Thunderbird Field in Arizona.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What did you teach?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

I taught the fifth and sixth grades. Then I -- the Air Force came out with this offer that if you had a college degree and three years of work experience you could go in as a Second Lieutenant. If you had five years experience, you could go in as a First Lieutenant. Well, I had worked part time while I was in college, so they gave me credit for two years. So the two years of part time, plus the 1 year of teaching, I qualified. So I entered the Air Force as a Second Lieutenant.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What year was that?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

That was in November of 1951.

Ruth F. Stewart:

'51?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Yes.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

And I attended Officer BMOC -- Basic Officer Military Course.

Ruth F. Stewart:

BMOC?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Yes. At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. It was a three month course. There were mostly women there. This was the second class that went through and there were maybe ten men or so but mostly women. And it was a very interesting experience. I traveled all over Texas as much as I could on the weekends and we graduated in February of 1952. From there I went to my first assignment at Olmstead Air Force Base in Middletown, Pennsylvania. I was working in non appropriated funds as a service officer. I replaced a First Lieutenant who went to Korea. That was the beginning of my career.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And that was when?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

This was February of 1952.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

And we oversaw all money generating things like the BX, the commissary, the Officer's Club, NCO Club, housing, BOQs, anything that generated money. It was a great way to get acquainted with a lot of various aspects of the Air Force. In May of 1953, I think it was a rigged deal, they said they were going to do cross-training and so I should do cross-training for personnel. So I went up to personnel and my assignment for that day was to see the new assignments that were coming in. And as I pulled off all these telegraphs and things coming in, I pulled off my own assignment to Japan. I think they had previously arranged that. I left for Japan in May of 1953 and traveled across the United States. I started out, and on the first day went to Pittsburgh. Then I back tracked and went to Niagra Falls. Then I cut over through Canada and came down through Chicago. And finally got to Cheyenne, Wyoming. I had planned to go up to Yellowstone, but the car was snowed in under a couple feet of snow. So I decided to go south. I headed south and finally got home to California. Camp Stoneman. I left from Camp Stoneman about two weeks later. I was able to go home on weekends and see my parents in Stockton. So I arrived in Japan in the middle of May of 1953. I was supposed to be assigned to the Officer's Club, but they were short of supply officers. I was moved to supply. The AFC numbers are very similar, 62--I can't--64324 and 6434--and so I became a supply officer. I was what was called a "plan account" officer. I was responsible for all property given to the different organizations, like furniture, office equipment, things like that, and items that were authorized by the table of allowances. You were authorized so many things per number of people in the squadron. And I had to keep track and make sure that the people got what they were authorized and got only what they were authorized, and that they accounted for it, and returned it when they signed it "officer departed." One of my most memorable experiences was, I was fairly new on the job, and there was a terrible storm that night, and the chaplain was trying to clear the base in order to leave the next morning. His supply records were in terrible shape and we were working at the supply building, trying to straighten out his records, and all the electricity went off. We worked by the light of a candle. He didn't get to leave the next day like he wanted. He had to stay another day or two in order to clear up his accounts. But he finally got them straightened and left. It was a very interesting job. I had accounts in several places in Japan. And I was dating a pilot from down in Kyushu, and he was flying F94s, and every once in a while he would come up and pick me up and take me to one of my supply accounts in Atami, or wherever it happened to be. And so I have some pictures of myself in an F94 that I flew around in. I'm not sure just how authorized that was, but it was a lot of fun. I had a supply account in Korea, and they were very hesitant about letting me go there. It made me unhappy because nurses and civilian workers, women, were allowed to go, but not the Air Force officers. Finally they relented and said I could go visit my account. That was very interesting. I was only there for a short time, but I do remember that they had no water during the day time. The water would come on at three o'clock in the morning. They would sound an alarm so everybody would get up and rush in to take showers. Then we would go back to bed again until it was time to get up. Then, let's see, oh, there was a Lieutenant to be court martialed for -- I can't remember the charges now -- but they appointed me to the board. I kept insisting that I couldn't serve because I was not of equal rank to him, but they sent me to Niigata. So I got to see that part of Japan. There were a couple other lieutenants on the board with me and we found the Lieutenant Colonel guilty. Of course the verdict was thrown out later because, as I said, we were not of equal rank. But it was an interesting experience, and I got to see some more of Japan. I used to travel as much as I possibly could. I went to Hoki, Nikushu, and to everywhere possible on Honshu. We'd go down to Hamamatsu to go to the beach and we'd go to Kyoto, Nara, and, of course, Tokyo. They had an overnight train to Tokyo. You'd get up on it around midnight and go to sleep and the next morning they would side track the car you were in. You'd get up at your leisure and go spend time in Tokyo. It was the same way coming home again. I liked that very much. I also did as much traveling by plane as I could. I'd hitchhike rides to Okinawa, and the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong. One time another gal and I were doing this and she had driven to the airport. In Japan we drove on right hand side, and we alternated every place we went. When we got back, after stopping in four different places where they drove on four different sides of the roads, we sat in the car and couldn't remember what side of the road we were supposed to drive on. We had to wait until somebody drove by before it came back to us that in Japan we drove on the right hand side. Then I went skiing in Japan where they later held the Olympic games. I was not much of a skier. I had not grown up in snow, but we could visit it once in a while. But I remember going down one of the slopes and one ski came off. There I was, in the middle of the slope, with one ski and one leg, and that was the last time I have ever been skiing. It probably will remain the last time. Let's see, one of the interesting places in Nagoya was a little tiny restaurant out on the street and it was called Seven Stools. It was extremely popular with everybody. There was always a waiting line to sit on one of the seven stools. But about all you could eat was kalbi beef and fried rice. The chef was a little Japanese man who would toss the steaks up in the air and catch them and it was really quite a sight to see and very, very popular. I have talked with many other people who were in Japan and they all seemed to remember Seven Stools. It was a highlight.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Were there only seven stools?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Only seven stools. You had this little place and that was it. I had several Japanese people work for me. My secretary was called Baby San. I don't know what her real name was. There was Junior, and they were both extremely nice people. They took me to their homes. Junior had just moved into a new home. He and his wife were so proud of it. I was one of the first visitors and they showed it to me.

Ruth F. Stewart:

That's always special.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

It was very nice. It was a new area that had opened up. Nagoya had been bombed very heavily and I always wondered why the buildings were so stretched out. We were in a supply building downtown, then the hospital was a couple miles away, and the headquarters was another way. Finally I saw a picture of Nagoya, and the thing was we took every building that was standing and they had shuttle buses that ran through the different places. We were located where we were because those were the only available buildings. Finally, towards the end of the tour, we had been doing extensive work out at the Kamaki Air Base, which was outside of Nagoya, and we moved out to there in a nice brand new supply building. I remember ordering all the new furniture for the BOQs, and that I was so proud of the BOQs when I left. They turned the base over to the Japanese within months after I left and I kept wondering what happened to my beautiful furniture. We lived in a hotel, all the women, the Chiyoda Hotel, and we each had a room -- .

Ruth F. Stewart:

What was the name of the hotel?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Chiyoda, c-h-i-y-o-d-a. Chiyoda. The Officer's Club was in another building. That's where the men lived, in the Officer's Club. It was a former hotel, a very nice one. Much more elegant than our Chiyoda. We had a nice room and there was a beauty shop there. The maids did our laundry and ironed our uniforms, which was a plus. I thoroughly enjoyed my tour there. At first I had a WAF Staff Sergeant who worked for me, and then they sent all the enlisted WAF home. The officers stayed, but no female enlisted people. I don't know why they did that. There must have been about 30 WAF officers in the hotel. Maybe more than that. But we became quite close and had parties and entertained and traveled a lot. I left Japan on Halloween night, 1955. Another WAF lieutenant, Lieutenant Edith Evans, and I had saved up our leave and had gotten permission to travel home by any means available rather than take our scheduled flights back to the States. We had to have enough money to pay our way in case we got stuck anywhere. Mostly we hitchhiked on embassy flights, the planes that were regularly scheduled to fly from Japan all the way across Asia and Europe. The hardest part to get a flight was out of the Philippines's. That was a very busy place. We got from Tokyo to Manila and then we had to wait a few days. We'd been there before. Then we went from Manila to Bangkok. We stayed there about a week. We wanted to go to Ankervod, but we could never get two vacancies on the plane at the same time. There was only one seat. Instead we decided to go to Singapore. So we took a train down to Singapore, and there were a few troops on the train. We didn't think anything about it until we entered Penang. And we stayed at Penang overnight, and the next morning when we left Penang, the train was absolutely filled with armed forces and troops and out in front of the train was this little carriage that proceeded the engine. We asked, of course, what was going on. They said the little carriage was to blow up any bombs that were in the train tracks, and the troops were to repel any of the communist guerillas that came down out of the hillside and attacked the train. We had a wonderful time in Singapore, but we decided to fly back. While we were there, we met this British correspondent for, I guess, the London Times. He took us all over Singapore, and in boats out to the various islands. We got to see the area around Singapore. I really liked Singapore. It was clean and neat and well laid out. Its probably my favorite Asia city. From Singapore we went back to Bangkok, and then we went to Vietnam very briefly. So I got to Vietnam in '55.

Ruth F. Stewart:

That was just visiting?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Just visiting. A very short visit to Saigon. Very briefly. And then we flew over Burma. We couldn't land there. We went to Bangladesh and were there for a couple of days, and then on to India. We stayed in India for about two weeks, and we toured all around the central part of India. Of course Abra and the Taj Mahal, and Delhi, and the Red Fort, and Jaipur. I also remember that Jackie Kennedy rode an elephant from one spot up to the abandoned city of Fatehpur, Sikri, and I rode that elephant before she did. Or one of the same elephants. That was a deserted city in beautiful condition, but they ran out of water. It was just a wonderful glimpse, a look into the past, to see how the wealthy people had lived. The area was filled with palaces. We stayed in a palace one night. It was now a hotel, but it had belonged to a raja, and we stayed there. We went on to Jaipur, and saw all the pink palaces. We tried to go to Kashmir. We went to the state department several times and tried to get Visas to go to Kashmir. We became such a fixture that finally one of the workers who was there came to our hotel at night and said, "You might as well give up on going to Kashmir. They're never going to give you permission to go. They think you're spies." So we never did get to Kashmir. From India we went to Pakistan and were there for a few day. Then on to Iran and Kiran. Then Saudi Arabia and Dhahran. We stayed in these places no more than two or three days. And then we went to Egypt. We went to Alexandria and then down to Cairo. We were there about a week or so and we really explored everything that we possibly could. We went to the largest mosque in Cairo. I always remember the stone work, how they formed the mammoth arches. Beautiful stone work that they did. We went to King Farouk's palace. He had recently been overthrown. I think it was the year before or two years. And, of course, to the Pyramids and to the Sphinx, and to the underground temples or storage places where they had lots of bulls mummified. And we thoroughly enjoyed Egypt. I road a camel for the first time there. From Egypt we went to Libya, to Wheelus Air Force Base. We were only there a couple of days, but we did get into Tripoli, I believe it was. And then we took an Air Evac plane up to Italy. It went to Naples and we stayed in Naples for several days. We went to Capri and lounged around in the sunshine. It was so nice. Somewhere in here we had been carrying two suitcases. One was summer clothes which we had worn until we left Egypt. And then we had winter clothes which we put on as soon as we got to Italy. We shipped the summer clothes back to the States at that time so we didn't have to carry the extra suitcase. We had a wonderful time in Naples. Then we took an Italian bus up to Rome. We met some Navy pilots there. They took us sightseeing all over Rome on those little motor scooters. We saw all the regular sights, the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Forum, and just everything we could possibly see. We went around town on those little scooters. I don't think I'd do it today. But it was fun. And from Rome we flew up to Frankfurt and visited a lot of WAF friends that we knew, and took a train over to Paris and we met some more Air Force Officers over there. I know we went to all check into this one hotel and we wanted two rooms -- Edie and I and the other two male officers. When we got to the rooms, the hotel people had put one man's luggage and one woman's luggage in one room and the same in the other one. We had to straighten that out. We saw all the sights of Paris. The thing I'm afraid we remember most is we were taking a taxi and it was noon time and we were in the middle of crossing the square. And the taxi driver pulled to a sudden halt and he said, "Get out." We said, "This isn't where we were going." I think we were on our way to the Louvre. And he said, "Well it's lunch time and I have to go eat." So we had to get of the cab and flag down another cab and continue on our way. By this time it's cold, it's December, and very dark in the mornings. I remember waking up in Paris at 8:00 in the morning and it being pitch black. Then we returned to Germany. We didn't get to see an awful lot of Germany outside of Frankfurt and Wiesbaden. So we left Germany. We had saved up 75 days of leave, but at the last minute my new assignment said that I had to report in on the first of January. So we had to cut out 15 days. We had Visas to go to Australia and New Zealand, but we had to eliminate that part. So it was now getting close to Christmas, so we left Germany and started off to the U.S. We took different planes because Edith had more time than I did. I had to get back. So our plane landed at Azureus and we had brake trouble. We started leaving a couple of times and the plane would return for additional work on the brakes. Finally they said we would just stay there for a day or so. We all got disembarked and got settled in the BOQ. I went up to the Officer's Club. When I'd been in Homestead, it was an AMC base and the Portuguese officers used to fly in to get their B17's worked on. So I became acquainted with several of them then. I used to lend them my car. When we arrived at the Azureus, low and behold, there was one of my old friends, who was now the base commander.

Ruth F. Stewart:

It was serendipity.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Yes. It was wonderful. So he introduced me to his family and I spent the evening with them and we had a wonderful time. So I was celebrating Christmas Eve Portuguese style. We sang lots of songs and ate and danced. It was wonderful. So then I guess it was Christmas; no the day after that. The 26th, I think, we left and we got back to the States on the 27th. I stayed in -- I went to New York for a couple of days to see my aunt and then I went down to Eglin, Florida, and reported in, I think, on the first of January. They said, "Oh. We didn't expect you until next week." I was very unhappy.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Now, where was that?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Still as a supply officer?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Yes.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

So I was a squadron supply officer now, and I was supposed to take over as Adjutant when the present Adjutant left, which was going to be three or four months down the road. After I was there about three months, I was sent to Squadron Officer School in Montgomery, Alabama, at Maxwell Air Force Base. I was 1 of 5 women and 597 men, and that was a wonderful experience. I liked school anyhow, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the lectures and assignments.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Did you say that was Maxwell?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Maxwell, yes. I met a First Lieutenant. I out ranked him by six weeks. When we'd go out on dates he would give me Second Lieutenant bars to wear so he would be in charge. Lieutenant William Davidson. By the time school ended we had decided to get married. We got married the day after graduation so all of our classmates could attend. One of the other girls became engaged while we were there. So we depleted the ranks there. So after our honeymoon in Florida, Bill returned to Clovis, New Mexico, where he was a fighter pilot at Cannon Air Force Base. I went back to Eglin and he would fly in every weekend or so. Low and behold, I became pregnant. I stayed in three months, the required three months, and then I was discharged.

Ruth F. Stewart:

That was a requirement at that time?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Yes. That ended my Air Force Career. But I wasn't away from the Air Force because my husband remained in the Air Force for another 25 years and we traveled a lot.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What year were you discharged?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

1956. November of 1956. I was 11 days short of five years, I think.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay. Then, since you remained an Air Force wife, did you stay involved in any kind of Veteran or Air Force related activities?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Well, at one point I used to -- my husband was Student Squadron Commander at Enid Air Force Base -- and I used to address all the young incoming wives and tell them about the Air Force and what they could expect. I found that the best way to get them acquainted was to ask them how they met their husbands. The fabulous stories that they used to tell. They would find out that they came from the same school or that they came from the same area of the country, so that was really an ice breaker. They got to know each other as well as becoming more acquainted with me. So that was very good. And then I volunteered in the family services -- the thrift shop, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, the libraries. I went back to school in 1959 to get my master's in history at Eastern New Mexico University. My husband was in Taiwan at the time, but when he came home we went to Germany. I lost all those credit, but I did get some of the paperwork out that I didn't have to repeat again. Then I didn't get back to school again until 1972. I went to Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and got my master's in library science. We then went -- I was lacking about eight units I guess. We went to Columbus, Mississippi, and I took the last eight units there at Mississippi University for Women. I transferred those back and got my master's from Our Lady of the Lake in 1974, I guess, officially. Then, while I was -- when my husband was attending Command and Staff at Maxwell Air Force Base, I started working again. I had three children and the youngest was then in the first grade, so I worked part-time in the educational office. And from that time on I usually tried to work part-time somewhere. I volunteered in libraries a lot, and, let's see, Enid, and in Wichita Falls, and Keizer, and everywhere I went I volunteered in the libraries. When I was in Turkey, my husband was the base commander at Balgat, at Ankara, Turkey, and the librarian suddenly left so I took over the library for three months until they got a replacement. I couldn't be hired because my husband was the base commander, and that would be nepotism, but it was a lot of fun working there. One of the things I'm proudest of is that while I was in Ankara I used to go to these schools with the Turkish women. We'd go visit three little Turkish schools each week, every other week, and take them books. I became acquainted with the professor's wife, the head of the University in Ankara. We were not on the most friendly terms with Turkey at the time. We couldn't receive packages except in December, and we couldn't send things out. So we had all these extra books from the schools and from the library that they were going to dispose of. About ten thousand books. I made arrangements with the Turkish American Association to have the books distributed to all the schools in Ankara that spoke English, from kindergarten on up through the universities. We gave them about ten thousand books and they were most appreciative of them. They put a plaque up in the University thanking Balgat for contributing the books. I also volunteered in the American Research Institute in Turkey which was an archeological institute. I set up their magazine system and cataloged their books. I had to have the archeologist translate the titles because most of them were in foreign languages. I would volunteer there two afternoons a week, and that was really a fabulous experience. The archeologist would take me out to the digs sometime. To Gourdian, Sardis, and Aphrodisias. I really enjoyed that. Turkey was by far my favorite tour of anywhere we went. The people were so friendly and they liked the Americans and there was so much to see. I'm a history buff and I really enjoyed everything from the Hittites to the Crusaders to the Ottomans up to present day Turkey. We returned to the States. We went back to Germany again -- our second tour in Germany. Our youngest son had been born there in 1961. We left Germany and came back to Wichita Falls, Shepherd Air Force Base, and he was the base commander there. By this time I had been playing golf off and on for 20 years, I guess. We played a lot of golf and I thoroughly enjoyed life. I ran the thrift shop there and I managed to keep busy. I went back to school and took real estate courses. After my husband retired in 1982, we went to Austin, Texas, and I started in real estate and that was good just before the crash in, I think, it was '85. And then I went into property management and leasing. I did that for the next 10 years or so. Usually part-time. My husband died in 1991.

Ruth F. Stewart:

He retired at Wichita Falls?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Yes.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And that was in what year?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

1982.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

I guess the official date March the first or something of 1982.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

We moved to Austin in April of '82 and I stayed there until '95. He had died in '91 and in '95 I moved to Air Force Village II. I met my soon-to-be second husband there and we got married in '97.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Now, when was it you moved to Air Force Village?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

'95. August of '95.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay. So you have had a very, very interesting life and made the most of the opportunities you have had. It's been very, very interesting to hear all this. Is there anything that you'd like to add to this, in terms of your special memories?

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Well, I just like to keep busy. I read to the children at Saint Louis School now once a week, and I volunteer in the library down at the Institute of Texan Cultures in their archive down there. And I've been taking classes -- I'm not doing it this semester -- but ever since I arrived, I usually take spring and fall classes down at the Aler, they call it--Adult Learning and Retirement -- down there. I've taken anything from geology and art appreciation to computer science and lots of history courses, Texas and World War II, and Indians and things like that. Just keep busy. And I've been active in the AFWOA -- Air Force Women's Officer Association -- for the last 15 years or so. And I belong to the Women's Overseas Service League.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Which is what brought us here together today.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Yep, that's it.

Ruth F. Stewart:

I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. This is a wonderful story that we have here. We will be getting back to you later, but this will go to the Library of Congress.

Mary Tener Davidson Hall:

Okay.

 
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