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Interview with Charlotte Coleman [9/12/2005]

Steve Estes:

My name is Steve Estes and today is September 12, 2005 and I'm interviewing ...

Charlotte Coleman:

Charlotte Coleman in San Francisco, California

Steve Estes:

Alright, Charlotte. So, The first question is one we just went over, just for the tape, when and where were you born?

Charlotte Coleman:

Cranston, Rhode Island. September 5, 1923.

Steve Estes:

Urn-hum. And what'd your parents do?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, My mother lived-came from Sweden at age seventeen, with 50 American dollars and not one word of English. (laughter) She was a Swedish maid; they were very popular in those days. My father was Irish and he was born in Rhode Island and he was a "rum runner."

Steve Estes:

So he actually sailed or ...

Charlotte Coleman:

Yes he was, he was a person who, I don't even know how much, he didn't have a heck of a lot of education, but he was genius on motors, boats, boats and motors and that kind of thing.

Steve Estes:

So, wait, So this is prohibition era? Is that what you mean?

Charlotte Coleman:

Yes, it was. But he didn't do that forever cause after that he went into business, you know--but that's how he started off.

Steve Estes:

Did he ever run into trouble with the law?

Charlotte Coleman:

Oh yeah. They were chasin' him all the time but they never caught him. (laughter)

Steve Estes:

Good for you. So did you grow up in Rhode Island?

Charlotte Coleman:

No because of the rum runner thing we were in a little town called Somerset, Massachusetts, which was, very ah, there were only two houses there, there was a big dock and we were out in the middle of the bay practically. Mount Hope Bay.

Steve Estes:

Did you spend a lot time on the water when you were a kid?

Charlotte Coleman:

Oh yeah, I got skin cancer all over to prove it (laughter)

Steve Estes:

Urn, were you, were you working on your dad's boat?

Charlotte Coleman:

Oh no. I was just a baby when that was happening.

Steve Estes:

So did you just go out for fun or fishing or what did you do?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well I didn't, I was too young to go out on the boat then, I went on, my father always had boats after that, I went on boats after that, and my mother and father were separated so I didn't go out on boats anymore but I grew up on a-we moved back to that little house on Somerset, ah and ah I lived right on the beach, grew up there, and I was there 'til I went in the service

Steve Estes:

So just a little bit. Was the depression hard on your family?

Charlotte Coleman:

Not really, because my father had made a lot of money, he worked later, but he'd made a lot of money doin' that so we were ok through the depression.

Steve Estes:

Oh good, um and when World War Two started when did you decide to get involved?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, I a, ah, I, you know it was a nice little town I grew up in, it was right on the beach but there was nothing to do, there was, I worked as a bookkeeper for a gas station for a little while and I worked at making torpedoes down at Newport, Rhode Island, but there wasn't any place for women and I didn't, I didn't go to college so when World War Two came I thought "Oh, good! I can get away from Somerset." (laughter)

Steve Estes:

So when you were in the torpedo factory where you a sort of Rosie the Riveter type?

Charlotte Coleman:

I, I was. Yeah I did the, I, I forgot the name of it, I had to cut the thing where the piston fits in. Yes we made the whole thing and when it, when it, if it hit, we made them both for planes and the submarines and it was, it was ah, it made a hit, if your name was on it, if your torpedo made a hit, your name was up there, that you made a torpedo and it worked.

Steve Estes:

So later on, you mean, when the torpedo went into a boat?

Charlotte Coleman:

While we were making them, when it would happen, yeah. I worked down there for a few years.

Steve Estes:

So did you actually put your name on the torpedo?

Charlotte Coleman:

No but they knew who made 'em, they're numbered and they knew who made them and what such and such torpedo sunk a ship and something, your name would go up there.

Steve Estes:

Do you remember how many of your torpedoes ... ?

Charlotte Coleman:

No. [Talking to her cat.] You don't have to be here. (Claps) Go on! Go!

Steve Estes:

Urn, so how long did you work in the torpedo factory, about?

Charlotte Coleman:

Couple of years.

Steve Estes:

And um, so when, when did you decide to go from that to actually joining the Coast Guard?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, what happened was (laughs) when we got hired at the torpedo factory, women would get paid the very same amount as men and I was pretty good at this job I was doing. So these high school kids would come in and I taught them how to do that and pretty soon they would be in another shop supervising, so I said you promised, I went down and talked to the admiral, head of the whole thing and I said, "You know, you promised that women would get the same. Here I am training these guys and they go on and get a better job. You keep me on this job." I knew I was doing a good job because it was so hard to cut, it had to fit perfectly so it didn't leak, you know. And ah, he had no excuse for why we, why women weren't getting paid the same but ah, so I quit and he pulled my social security number for six months.

Steve Estes:

So you were kind of black listed?

Charlotte Coleman:

They certainly did, it was so really, completely unfair. And ah, so my mother wasn't working or anything so I tock her social security number, worked as bookkeeper. (laughter) for awhile. But you know, it was, across from where I lived, Somerset, was Fall River, which a, is the saddest city in the world, Fall River, Massachusetts, you know, there was just nothing there, wanted to get away from there.

Steve Estes:

So you said your mom was very opposed to you signing up?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, my mother and father were separated. I was an only child, and you know, and she had no family here. They were all still in Sweden and my father's family weren't the greatest and you know, so I was leaving her alone basically.

Steve Estes:

How did you finally convince her that you should go?

Charlotte Coleman:

Oh I was going, And as soon as I got 21 I went.

Steve Estes:

And why the Coast Guard?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well a friend, you know, a friend of mine had gone in the Coast Guard so I went up to Boston to see what was going on and it was the Coast Guard did something really clever. Every, every, from the bus, all the bus stations, and all the train stations, there was women's feet prints all the way to Coast Guard headquarters where you joined. (laughter)

Steve Estes:

That is a clever recruiting strategy.

Charlotte Coleman:

Yes it was, very clever. [To her cat]: Get out of here! What is it with you?

Steve Estes:

So you, you followed the footprints straight to the recruiting center?

Charlotte Coleman:

Right, yeah but I was too short. I wasn't tall enough, I had, they sent me home and he said every time you go through a door way, reach up and try to touch it. Well, I did it for a few months, well, I went back: "No your still ... go home and do it again." I don't think I got any taller but I guess by then they needed me. (laughter)

Steve Estes:

They we desperate. So you were saying, um, when you went to boot camp, it was the kind of hard core experience ....

Charlotte Coleman:

Dh it's not like that. We were in a, Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Biltmore Hotel, which was closed. It was a very elegant hotel. I mean we had six bunks in a room but you know, it wasn't very nice, it was not hard at all. We were not learning to fight or anything. What we're mostly going to be is office workers. Coast Guard didn't put any women on their, on their ships.

Steve Estes:

Was that your first time out of New England?

Charlotte Coleman:

Yes, I think it was yeah.

Steve Estes:

What were, what were your impressions of the South? You were in Florida, I guess ...

Charlotte Coleman:

Dh no, you're right. I had, I had been to Florida. My father had arthritis. Rheumatism, they called it. And He usually go down to Miami ah, frequently, and I went, think when I was a freshmen in high school. I went down, I went to school half the year in Sommerset and half the year in down there, and luckily I passed but I had, I had been to Florida before and I like Florida.

Steve Estes:

You said on the phone that, urn, you a met a women who you knew was a lesbian in boot camp, can you talk about that?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, I didn't know she was, she picked up on me I guess cause, she'd tell me what gay meant. I had never heard gay before and she ah, she was older but that's how I came to California. We all wanted to get stationed, you know when you get out of storekeeper school, you say where you want to get stationed and she was lucky. She got stationed in Long Beach, most of us had to go to Washington. And ah, so then when, but I kept in touch with her so when I, when we got discharged decided to stay in Long-she came from Chicago, she decided to stay in Long Beach for awhile and so I came out and joined her because as I kid I wanted to come to San Francisco. I just knew I wanted to come so I came to San Fran-I think it was, ah, ah, I don't know what it was called but we paid two cents a mile on the train and we could go as many miles as we wanted.

Steve Estes:

Was this just for military folks?

Charlotte Coleman:

Yes, when we got discharged, they gave us this deal, so I got as many miles, it took me a month to get here, but I got off at every station, and I went in every direction and I went to every big city all though the United States but I knew I wanted to end up in San Francisco. So I came here and stayed for a few days and went down and joined Shirley in Long Beach cause she was staying at place where they had room for me to stay with her. So I stayed there. At the end of the summer she decided to go back to Chicago and go to school so I came up to San Francisco.

Steve Estes:

When you said it was easy, I want to go back to boot camp, you said easy, what, do you have any memories of what you did? Like what an average day was like, or what you learned?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, I don't, we didn't seem to be in classes too much. We learned how to march and salute (laughter) shake hands with an-one of the officers said that shaking hands with women was like shaking hands with a bunch of fish and believe me, when we graduated he had to have the sorest hand in the world. (laughter) And we got to go to the beach a couple times a week. We march over the beach. I don't remember any kind of hard work, you know, I assigned part of the time to food detail. We served the officers first and the other people then after, then after lunch was over I had to mop the floor (laughter) Just things like that, that's what we did. We were, you know, going to work in offices, we didn't, most of us, you know, knew what we were going to do and knew what kind of work we were going to do. I don't remember what they taught us, probably about the Coast Guard. I don't remember classes there. I remember classes in Storekeeper school.

Steve Estes:

Well, let's go to storekeeper school. You went to Sheepshead Bay, New York. What was that like?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, that we did go to class everyday and they were teaching us how to be (inaudible) you know, just what you would learn in high school classes.

Steve Estes:

You had already been a bookkeeper so did you know all that stuff?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well ah, yeah, yeah, it wasn't anything new but it was for some people. It wasn't for me but I have to say I was rotten at typewriting in high school and we had a, an instructor from somewhere in the South with an accent that we could not understand and he had a stick and he would hit it. I learned how to, In two weeks I learned how to type with a typewriter better than I had in three years of high school.

Steve Estes:

Was he actually hitting you guys?

Charlotte Coleman:

No, he wasn't but he was hitting down and every time he hit we had to stroke a key and something about that made us good. (laughter)

Steve Estes:

I guess it worked.

Charlotte Coleman:

(laughter) I never did understand it.

Steve Estes:

Urn, what were the other women like. I mean were they all about you age? Did you get along with them?

Charlotte Coleman:

There were a lot of older women, but mostly still young. There were a lot school teachers that I guess were bored with school teaching and joined and ah, basically young.

Steve Estes:

Did you know folks who were in ... did you know women who were in the other services?

Steve Estes:

No, so you couldn't compare the SPARs to say, the WAVES or the WACs?

Steve Estes:

Ok. So when you got out of the second school, when did you find out you were going to Washington?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, you know, just, once you finish, then you ask you for this and that, and then they say, "This is where you're going, and then they send you know there." That's it.

Steve Estes:

What were your impressions of wartime Washington?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, gosh, Washington was a beautiful city to be stationed there but it was rotten for service people. You know, there were millions of them, I mean, waiting to get on a bus or something like that was just awful. And like, I got paid eighty dollars a month and I sent twenty home to my mother so we were all in that shape unless it was somebody who had a lot of money, which I didn't have any, and you know, we'd be waiting in line to go to a restaurant or something and they'd take everybody ahead of us. They knew we didn't have any money. Things were really rotten. New York City was wonderful but Washington DC was rotten to us. Ah, but you know we got along. (laughter)

Steve Estes:

And ah, do you remember any friends you made while you were in the Coast Guard?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, the one, yeah the one who told me what gay meant, her name was Shirley Davis, she was from Chicago. My roommate in Washington was from South Carolina, her name was Sarah, I've forgotten that. Oh, another one from Boston. I call her Jonesy, we'd call her, I forget what her first name was. That's all I remember right now but I was friendly with some of them for years, yeah.

Steve Estes:

And were they all gay, were some gay?

Charlotte Coleman:

Oh no, none oh them were gay. Shirley was but none of the others were, no.

Steve Estes:

Did they have any idea that you were?

Charlotte Coleman:

I don't think so. I wasn't about to get into trouble.

Steve Estes:

Was it pretty well understood that if someone was openly lesbian that they would get kicked out of the Coast Guard?

Charlotte Coleman:

Never was mentioned.

Steve Estes:

Really?

Charlotte Coleman:

The only lesbians that we recognized I knew, I don't know if! told you that were cooks and bakers and they were also our softball team. And they were, you know, obvious to me they were and I think most people and we loved them. They played good softball and cooked good food and nobody ever mentioned anything what they were or anything but you know, you just knew it. And nobody talked about it, said anything about, thought about it. Certainly the officers knew but they didn't, they behaved themselves, they never got into trouble. They were all pretty obvious.

Steve Estes:

Did you ever play softball?

Charlotte Coleman:

No.

Steve Estes:

That wasn't your thing?

Charlotte Coleman:

No.

Steve Estes:

What did you do for fun?

Charlotte Coleman:

Drank beer. (laughter) Ten cents a glass, it was. Right near or barracks. And, I don't know, went sightseeing cause there was a lot to see in Washington, you know. And we every weekend we'd go somewhere--every weekend we could also go to New York City. Stay in the Waldorf Astoria for three dollars a night. (laughter) Well, they had four or five of us to a room. And we got free passes for restaurants, I mean, good ones too, and plays and everything. New York City was absolutely wonderful to service people. We had this one, I think it was 99 something Broadway and we stood in line there and we get up and we got right to the, what do they call it in New York, subway, and we could right to that address and get a ticket for dinner, a ticket for hotel, whatever we want. And right down in Times Square, I think it was Pepsi-Cola, right there in the middle, all the Pepsi you wanted to drink and free hotdogs.

Steve Estes:

So you were in your uniforms'?

Charlotte Coleman:

We had to wear our uniforms. We didn't have anything else.

Steve Estes:

What did you think of your uniform'?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, let me tell you 'bout 'em. We were, every weekend we were in New York practically and ah Easter Sunday down 5th A venue we voted the best dressed people on the street. (laughter) In the uniform. Yeah, the uniform was fine, easy and what not.

Steve Estes:

So you looked pretty sharp'?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, we looked pretty good, I guess.

Steve Estes:

And urn, let me see, I know you were just, you say you just doing bookkeeping but what kind of stuff would come across your desk'?

Charlotte Coleman:

In the service'? Well, first, my first job was, that, Coast Guard pe-all the men that manned the lighthouses all over the United States, they were Coast Guard people too. Coast Guard was in charge of them anyway. And they got a pension and they were retired and they were all over the world. They would be in New England and some of them were down in Miami, well, they had to send in a postcard when they got their check saying they were still alive. They were old, God, they were old and you could hardly read their names, the way they wrote their names on the thing. And that was my job to match up the postcards with the guy so he'd get another check and it was hard to do. And so I did that for a while but then in, when you're in the service you have an insurance policy. And everybody had it, they almost made you buy it, called NSLI, National Service Life Insurance, I guess it was, and they came in from all the Coast Guard people, all over the place and it was my job to take these cards, take this information whatever from the checks and run a, tape on an adding machine and it went on for three or four days and it all went into a big box. Nobody was to come near it, or touch it. Just me. Until I got to the end. And whenever, nobody knew when I made a mistake or not, but whatever the total said, that's what, then they gave me a check and I delivered it. They didn't want anybody to know about it. It was millions of dollars and, but they gave it to me cause no one expected me to bring this million dollar check over to the insurance company and I got the rest of the day off. And I'd always try to get it finished early in the morning. (laughter)

Steve Estes:

Well, I've got one more, better take a couple hours on this until I start the next day. (laughter)

Charlotte Coleman:

But no one ever knew if it was correct or not. I think that I had but running another, and I guess they thought I did that ok so they just accepted it. There was no way you could go through and corrected it. It would take you forever. I thought I did most of it right.

Steve Estes:

Were your superior officers mostly women or were they all women?

Charlotte Coleman:

Dh they were all women.

Steve Estes:

Did you feel like that same tension that you felt at the torpedo factory between the SPARs and any men?

Charlotte Coleman:

Oh no, no. There wasn't any of that, no.

Steve Estes:

So you had a pretty good relationship with the officers?

Charlotte Coleman:

I had a very enjoyable time with, with everybody and what I was doing. And when they disbanded it, I would have liked to stayed on. They offered me job because I was (inaudible) Coast Guard headquarters, they offered me a Grade-7 job, well I was not about to stay and work in (inaudible), no matter what they paid me. I mean, I'd been there long enough and I wanted to come to California.

Steve Estes:

Do you remember when the war ended, what V-E Day or V-J Day, what your feelings were?

Charlotte Coleman:

I don't really, I don't remember ah, I remember when Franklin Roosevelt died because they had, we had kind of funny stockings, awful stockings they made us wear and they made us parade down and they made us, it wasn't dirt, it was something that didn't get muddy in winter time, it was cinders like, and they made us knell down, in the cinders. (laughter) I remember that because we were down on our knees for a long time and it was hard.

Steve Estes:

Praying for the fallen president. ..

Charlotte Coleman:

That the country didn't fall apart. I remember Washington DC always had parades. Anytime anybody came to town we'd have a parade. If you volunteered for the parade, then you got the rest of the day off I was always doing that. That was fine.

Steve Estes:

Who were some of the people that came to town? Do you remember any?

Charlotte Coleman:

I don't remember. We didn't know them. Admirals and generals and you know, and they came to town and we'd have big parades, especially during the war.

Steve Estes:

Were there any celebrities that came through? I know for troops sent over seas they got to see some the leading lights of the day.

Charlotte Coleman:

No there wasn't. There was a couple oftimes that some entertainers came to town and sometimes, somebody get a free pass but it wasn't anybody that I think I ever paid much attention to.

Steve Estes:

I had a question that just slipped out of my head. So, I guess one of the formal questions I have down here is did you or anyone else face discrimination because of your sexuality?

Charlotte Coleman:

They didn't know it. Nobody knew it. No. And I don't know anybody there that I ever heard it any, I know down in Long Beach where my friend had been, they certainly, and they did the black drum thing, beat them out, cut the buttons off their uniforms. Yeah, they did that down in Long Beach.

Steve Estes:

Really? For women?

Charlotte Coleman:

Yeah, but I wasn't-they were disbanded by the time I got down there. But she told me about that, it happened a couple of times. And they just drummed on the drums, beat them, and then they stood them up there, cut all their buttons off.

Steve Estes:

Did you ever talk to anybody that it happened to?

Charlotte Coleman:

No, I didn't. I only heard from her because she was stationed there, that that happened. There must have, if anybody would be in our barracks, or anything, certainly, we never knew it, you know and ah, but obviously they were obvious, which was dumb.

Steve Estes:

But you were saying that the people on the softball team, were the cooks and bakers, they were obvious.

Charlotte Coleman:

They were obvious yeah. And for some reason no one ever, I mean I never heard anybody ever, you know, we'd look out there, look at them, we no one ever, they never, I don't think they ever got into any trouble but, they looked (inaudible) but you couldn't prove it. No. When I got fired from the Internal Revenue for being gay, they couldn't, they never could say, even though they read my mail, tapped my telephone, and came on vacation, every weekend they went, followed me. They (inaudible) They fired me for association with persons of ill repute. They could never say I was gay. They just couldn't. They couldn't prove that.

Steve Estes:

When was that? I mean this is years later I know but. ..

Charlotte Coleman:

Yeah. I, don't ask me what year it was. I worked for the Internal Revenue about ten years.

Steve Estes:

But was it the '50s, the '60s ...

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, when I came out of the service, came out here, I worked as a book keeper for awhile and then I got (inaudible) so ...

Steve Estes:

Like '46 or '47.

Charlotte Coleman:

I worked about eight years with one company. What would that make it?

Steve Estes:

That would make it like '54 ...

Charlotte Coleman:

'54. That's when I went to work at Internal Revenue. I worked about ten years.

Steve Estes:

So mid '60s ...

Charlotte Coleman:

Early '60s cause I started in (inaudible) early '60s. That's why, I had a very good job at Internal Revenue and I like it but they were, came a point where they cutting down on employees and weren't hiring anybody. Internal Revenue had an investigation staff where they investigated your very good, before you were hired. And ah, the investigation staff had nothing to do because nobody was being hired, they investigated anybody that was going up for a grade raise and boy they spent a lot oftime with me. (laughter) But they couldn't say, they could never say you were gay. They couldn't. They would like to but ah, association with persons of ill repute. (laughter)

Steve Estes:

So did you feel that was a kind of like Cold War thing or was that just homophobia, straight up?

Charlotte Coleman:

Oh yeah. Well, yes, you know, the Internal Revenue, they want, that's why they investigated it, you know, in called you in and I said you (inaudible) tax and this and that and they say, you know, if they had seen you sitting in a bar, or something "I'm not ah, that guy I saw him sitting down in the bar drinking, he's just a bum, I don't have to pay this tax." That's the kind of stuff you got back, you know, so they wanted us to be clear, pure.

Steve Estes:

Oh right. So you would be beyond reproach, so if you got challenged.

Charlotte Coleman:

They did. They got caught in their tax return and you were the one that had to tell them they're gonna have to pay some more and if they had seen you doing anything wrong or anything like that (inaudible) Heard of that one all the time. But that was why they were tough. I mean, the personnel office were tough. There's no other agency that it would make this much difference to.

Steve Estes:

And after that, is that when you went, began, when you went to bar?

Charlotte Coleman:

Yeah, I did.

Steve Estes:

Where was the bar and what was it called?

Charlotte Coleman:

It was the Front, Front and Jackson. It was in the old produce section.

Steve Estes:

It was just called the Front, or the Front and Jackson?

Charlotte Coleman:

It was, the name of it was the Front but it was on Front and Jackson. It was just beer and wine cause I didn't have enough money to buy a liquor license. (laughs)

Steve Estes:

Why did you deicide to go into being a bar owner after being a bookkeeper for so long?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, I don't know. I guess I was ready to do something-you know being a bookkeeper, working in an office, is not (laughs) (inaudible) I had already, I went to Golden Gate College for ah, seven or eight years, nights, because when I got hired, when I got hired as an auditor, my passing test pretty good because I got ten points for having been in the service and they hired seventy of us and sixty nine had college degrees and one didn't. And that was me. So I talked to my boss, I said, you know, I suppose I could, there was a G.I. Bill and I suppose I could, you know if! ever want to get a raise, I guess I should go. And she said that wouldn't be a bad idea so I went nights to school-I don't what I started that for.

Steve Estes:

Well, we were talking about how you became a bartender, not a bartender, a bar owner.

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, of course I went to the gay bars all the time at that point in my life and ah, I had more fun I guess in bars than I did being a bookkeeper. (laughs) I was gonna take the a, I was gonna take the CPA, the G. I. Bill was running out and I was just a junior I was never going to have enough time to graduate so I did a CPA review course and at the end and then I broke up with my girlfriend and I never did take the test. (laughs) And I wasn't a CPA (laughs) And I, so I had to do something and I heard about this bar for sale for practically nothing, some guy wanting to get out. And that was it.

Steve Estes:

And I don't know if you ever read Coming Out Under Fire, did you ever read that book? By (inaudible)

Charlotte Coleman:

I don't think, if I ever read it, it was years ago, but I don't, I can't remember.

Steve Estes:

Well, it's basically about how you know, the war opened up all these possibilities for gay women, or gay men and lesbians, as they left towns, left small towns and went to these big cities. One of the things he says is like, San Francisco, the gay community kind of exploded because you had all these veterans here ...

Charlotte Coleman:

That's why I wanted to come to San Francisco. I heard about it gay or what not even back then, you know, that's why I was always heading this way, that's it.

Steve Estes:

And your bar became kind, I mean I guess it's kind of a legendary place ...

Charlotte Coleman:

I don't know, you know the archives place for gays, whatever, they had a list of all the bars and they didn't have it down. I told them, I said, I never read about it, they didn't have it down, so they hadn't ah, I think they do now cause I told them but they, they hadn't gotten it. That was, wasn't way back then, you know, they aren't an old organization but I think they do now.

Steve Estes:

So when you started The Front, did you feel like it was, I mean this is going to sound kind of funny because you probably started it as a business but did you also start it as a community place, like a place to meet or ...

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, I just started it as a business but urn, it did get to start of what, (inaudible) Dell and Phil would be the same to lesbians in San Francisco, Daughters of Billitus. I just saw them the other night and they ah, they had already started the Daughter of Billitus and they didn't, there wasn't any other gay bar owner by women so they had, when they wanted to do a fundraiser or what not, they came down and talked to me so of course, I went along with it so some of my first fundraising things, not, I don't think we particularly raised a lot of money but we did it there, you know, I did a few things with them but they were reminding me I remember one but they reminded me of a couple others that (inaudible) so that's how that happened, you know.

Steve Estes:

Urn. Let me see. Why did join the American Legion Coast--or are you a member of Coast 448? So why did you decide to join.

Charlotte Coleman:

Yeah. Well, just because one, some guy I knew ah, talked, he was in with all enthusiasm about it, just opened up and when he found out I was a vet, he said of you've got to join and I joined and I always stayed there because they had such few women and I thought they need some women, whenever something special going on and they need some women, I came down and I don't go the meetings anyway but I do when they call me up and say please come to this and that so I do. And just because it's a good little group of guys and we're gay. That's it. The more members they have the better I think. That's all.

Steve Estes:

If you look back over your time in the service, which wasn't too long but you know, it was, you were young, what would it's legacy be for you? I mean, did it have a legacy for your life, being in the Coast Guard?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, I don't know if you'd call it a legacy but I, I came out with the idea that going into the service would be good for everybody. You know, you had to live by the rules, you've got to do this and that and it at such and such and take care of yourself, you know take, we had to do everything fro ourselves, nobody was helping us with anything and that was good. It was good training, you know, I thought it was good. I think it wouldn't hurt anybody. I don't about, a legacy but that was my feeling. Get out ofhere! (yelling at animal?) His name is Casey. Irish. (laughs)

Steve Estes:

Like you, halfIrish. I guess one last question. Well, two last questions and that is what do you think of don't ask, don't tell today?

Charlotte Coleman:

I think it's stupid. (laughs)

Steve Estes:

Why?

Charlotte Coleman:

Well, it didn't add up to anything. Well, certainly you know that all the years there's always been many, many gay people in the service. Don't get caught or I don't think the overall percentage did and so they did, well, I don't know if you saw that article they wrote about the American Legion. Gay people could do the job just as good as anybody else, just because we're gay doesn't men we can't do what we're supposed to do. You know. I just though it was stupid. I never did see the point of it and obviously it didn't work too good.

Steve Estes:

And I guess the last question is kind of a catch all question, are there any thing I didn't ask you about your military service or your time in the Coast Guard that you wanted to talk about?

Charlotte Coleman:

No. I don't think so. It wasn't a, it was a wonderful time for me and all that but it wasn't exciting, there was nothing special about it you know. I've been through it (inaudible) write a book about.

Steve Estes:

Well, a lot of people say that. Even folks who were in combat say, oh you know, just a small part of much bigger thing and my little part doesn't mean anything.

Charlotte Coleman:

That's right, it doesn't. I'm a bookkeeper. I just had to wear a uniform and that's it but it got me any from home.

Steve Estes:

That's a big deal. And now you're thousands of miles anyway on two cents a mile or whatever.

Charlotte Coleman:

Yeah, right. That was a wonderful thing.

Steve Estes:

Alight, well I think that's it. The last thing I should say is thank you very much for talking.

Charlotte Coleman:

You're welcome.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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