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Interview with Maurine McFerrin DeLeo [7/13/2005]

Steve Estes:

Ok my name is Steve Estes and today is July 13, 2005 and I am in San Francisco California and I am interviewing...

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Maurine Deleo in Maiden, Massachusetts

Steve Estes:

Excellent, and Maureen I want to start with the question you just answered for the record the record and that is when and where were you born?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I was born ah, February 18, 1931 in Marthaville, Louisiana

Steve Estes:

And what was it like growing up in Marthaville, Louisiana?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well ah Marthaville was a very, very small town. A lot of farmers and people who did logging in a small saw mill and it was a very rural community and ah we had a big farm that we worked very hard on and ah everything that we raised we ate which was very good and ah that's about all I knew you know. I kind of thought the world ended at the tree line when the sun went down because there was no televisions and we didn't have a telephone or anything like that but growing up I was really very, very happy. I had two brothers and, ah two sisters and ah we had ah well we'd go fishing and all kinds of things like that and I really enjoyed it.

Steve Estes:

Now when we talked before you had told me that you first had feelings for a woman, or I guess a girl, when you were really young, could you talk about that a little bit?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yes, ah, well, ah, I had really no knowledge, not too much knowledge of the outside world just going to school but ah I when the, I was I believed it was about the first or second grade I remember there was a little girl and I really liked her I had a kind of a crush on her but I, I had no idea or anything what is was I just knew that I liked her. More, it was more of ah, than a friend type, liking.

Steve Estes:

Um-hum. And then when you were in high school, I remember you saying something about...

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah well in high school um, growing up in high school at the end when I graduated I played clarinet so I had a female music teacher for the last couple of years and I had a very mad crush on this woman and ah, I was really physically sick and I had no idea what it was but I knew that it wasn't you know, I just had a crush on her, I liked her, very much. And ah, Gosh, I guess that was where it started for me.

Steve Estes:

Did you have a sense, I mean this is the rural South, I imagine that you must have had a sense that people frowned upon that kind of thing in the South.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, ah I guess I did because you know I know it wasn't kind of right that the people wouldn't understand it. But I didn't know what it was but I knew whatever it was that ah people in my family, and my church, they just didn't go for that.

Steve Estes:

(laughs) right.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

We say cotton to that. It's a southern expression.

Steve Estes:

Right. Now... go ahead, what were you going to say?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

So ah well as I got older, you know, I realized what it was. Was when I went away to school.

Steve Estes:

So where did you go to school?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I went to a it was ah a college out in McPherson Kansas, Central college, McPherson, Kansas. I got a small scholarship there. It was a relgious college, Free Methodist church. But before I went there, there was a minister, a woman, a minister and I had a crush on her. But still I didn't know what it was, you know. And I ah being a southern person, you know well I just said look God this ain't right, take this away from me but he didn't and he hasn't yet. (Both laugh) But that's the way I was raised you know.

Steve Estes:

When you were in college what were you studying?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I was studying to be a, theology and nursing.

Steve Estes:

What attracted you to medicine?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, when I was a young girl ah, I used to read Ann Bertlett: Navy Nurse and I thought that was some life. I mean I like excitement in my life and to me that was, you know here is this young woman out on this boat being blown taking care of the sailors and everything. And also ah, that was a profession in those days that people went into. You got married, or you was a secretary or you went to be nursing. But I went to be a nurse cause I wanted to, you know help take care of people.

Steve Estes:

Why did you, well, you already kind of talked about this so when did you decide you decide you wanted to go into the military?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I went there for two years and well actually me and my mother and father you know, we were farmers and we were poor but we had plenty of food to eat and so I felt that financially I couldn't go onto college so one day I was living in Dallas, Texas and I went across the street to the hotel (inaudible) to the recruiting office and I says I want to join the Air Force. And the lady captain that was the recruiter she looked at my records, you know, school and everything she said are you sure that's what you want to do. And I said yes it is. So I joined the Air Force and cause my brother was in the Navy and he, my mother had to sign for me because I wasn't twenty-one and he didn't want her to sign but I made her sign anyway and I want in to the Air Force.

Steve Estes:

Why didn't he want you, her to sign?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I don't know why maybe he was in the navy and he figured it wasn't the place for me to be, his sister to be. I don't know. I never really asked him.

Steve Estes:

Had any other relatives ever served in the military before you?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I had an uncle years ago, World War One, no, no one else. Cousins in World War Two. But no females or anything like that. I was about the only one from my town that was ever in the service that was female.

Steve Estes:

How did your dad and mom feel about you signing up?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well they didn't want me to because my brother who ah they take everything he says as God sent and that's a fact. And ah but ah once I convinced her, you know, she signed. And didn't bother her that much, you know.

Steve Estes:

Now was the Korean War going on when you enlisted?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yeah, yeah, um-hum, Korean, I think it was over in '53.

Steve Estes:

And you went in, in 1950.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah, um-hum, um-hum.

Steve Estes:

Did that have any influence on you deciding to go, that there was a war on?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

No not really. No.

Steve Estes:

So tell me what basic training was like at Lackland.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well basic training, I mean I know a lot of people and um the book that I was reading they were horrible but no ah basic training for me it was good. I had ah, one of them was from Michigan and I know she was a lesbian. I knew that. And ah, but you know, they treated us pretty good.

Steve Estes:

This was you drill sergeant you mean or your trainer?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yes oh yeah I had a woman, I didn't have a man, thank God. You know, but no she was cool.

Steve Estes:

How could you tell she was a lesbian?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I knew she was. Gaydar, I guess. But I knew they way she acted, the way she walked and this that and the other. And she was very friendly toward me, you know, never made any advances. But she was a good drill sergeant. You know.

Steve Estes:

Was this, was there an auxiliary to the Air Force, a women's auxiliary to the Air Force?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

No.

Steve Estes:

This was just the Air Force?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Air Force, just the Air Force. I forget the Platoon I have a picture upstairs of all the people that I went through basic with in my particular group see there was different barr--groups, barracks. You know. But ah no, we had a gettin up at all hours, you know, you had to wake up for the fire drill. They would wake you up at two, three o'clock in the morning. Get dressed and stumble outside in the sleep you know for fire drill. And had to pull KP and march and ah go out in the field with gas masks and things like that but ah, but also too, we'd go to classes, learn etiquette, and just in case the atomic bomb, you know had to react to that. And ah...

Steve Estes:

Were you especially afraid of atomic bombs? I mean, this is pretty, you know, within five years.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

To tell you the truth, I don't think we started, we thought too much about it til later on in the 50's you know. I don't think pe~, I didn't think that much about it. I don't remember, you know. But we had to react just incase. But I don't think I ever had a great, great fear of it. Maybe I was young and stupid, I don't know. But I didn't. And ah, but I enjoyed basic training. I know, ah, I was kind shy about takin showers with every body, I was like that in high school. And I remember that, ah, KP we had to keep our place real, real clean and the special way you did you socks and your shirts and I still do that to this day even though I have been out all this time and very neat and clean. And I remember my bed one day, you had a, I think it was quarter or a dime or something, it had to bounce on it. It didn't bounce! And we had the two flight chiefs and one of them just walked over and took her hand and grabbed it right in the middle, you know you had to make it up again. But next time I made it and it was proper. But no I had no animosity toward any of them. They treated our group real good, I thought. You know.

Steve Estes:

When you left Lackland, where was, where were you stationed?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, when I left Lackland they sent me to Westover Air Force Base. In November.

Steve Estes:

November of 1950?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah. And it was oh ah, well I had never been out in Louisiana and ah you know there was a lot of racial stuff going on down south but I wasn't raised like that so I remember, they gave us the orders and I was the acting ah, sergeant, I guess, and I had the orders. I don't know why they trusted me but them gave them to me and we had, ah, the was a young black lady, and we had a compartment because we were special, we were carrying the orders, you know, and ah, so ah, people we had a, I remember one girl and she was from Mississippi and she had a little bit too much to drink and she caused some hassles and when we got to Chicago, the MP's got on the train and straightened her out. And when we got to Westover we got a chewin out from the sergeant. But ah, this girl, she had a little bit too much to drink and she brought up the racial thing.

Steve Estes:

Do you remember what she said? I mean it was a long time ago.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Probably called her a nigger, which is to say I hate that word, and ah, actually I don't remember exactly what she said but I was never like that. But my best buddy in the Air Force, I wish I could find her, was a young black person from Alabama. We were good, good buddies. Good buddies with a lot of 'em, we played a you know.. .but ah, traveling across the United States on the train you get to see a lot of stuff.. .when we finally got to Westover, well you've never been in New England have you?

Steve Estes:

Never, lived there, no.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well I can tell you it's like it is in November in New England. Miserable. Rainy! Oh! Misty! Uh! It was the most miserable weather in the world! And I said, oh my God, you know. This is where I'm gonna be. For the next four years! But I learned to love it and it was right before Thanksgiving and I had a sister that lived in New York that I could go and visit. I did that first Christmas, I went to visit her. And ah, I learned to love New England and I wouldn't live anywhere else except maybe San Francisco.

Steve Estes:

Right, good (laughs) Where were, or were you guys treating wounded folks from Korea at Westover?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I worked in, I worked in medical supply. That was didn't have computers or anything. Then everything was done by hand. Any medications or anything that went out to the hospital, we had to keep a track of that and also, I used to have to do Psych duty for mostly it was the service personal wives. Came back nuts. Psych duty which I despised. I hated it and I usually have to take a couple of shots of whiskey before I went. It was, it was very depressing. Plus also it was a military transport base and they would bring personnel, wounded personnel back from the lines or from over in a Germany, Korea, or wherever they were and then would ship them to hospitals closer to their home. And also, that was a lot of rednecks and there goes the, you know, nigger thing and about the blacks. But I worked with some nice people. I worked mostly with guys and they treated me like a sister and if anybody had a done anything, you know, they would've really, they did, they treated me like a sister. There was civilian personal that worked in there also. But also, I had to ah, we had to take body bags and take them to the morgue. We did a lot of things and also I had to work in the, like a family care, go and you know, give shots to service personnel or take their blood pressure and things, just a lot of medical things. And I was not a registered nurse and I never wanted to be one really after that. You know, because one thing I hate needles (laughs) but I enjoyed giving shots to the, to the guys with syphilis, (laughter) Oh yeah, that was fun. (laughter) But ah no, ah, but Psych duty, I hated psych duty. I did not like it at all.

Steve Estes:

So these women that you were dealing with on psych duty, they were the wives of people who were serving over seas?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yes, very, very few service personnel. It was mostly the men's wives. And the reason I had to do that is because, at different times, I guess there was a complaint from one of the patients that somebody, a doctor or somebody had made a pass at her. And they says well we can't have this and ah, which I think the service has changed, you know, from what is was then but we can't have this and we have to have a female patient there.

Steve Estes:

A female medic you mean?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

A female medic and some of these people were in straight jackets. They could get out of them too. Oh yeah. It was, to me it was draining mentally and physically. I just (inaudible) I just felt like blah.

Steve Estes:

They were just having a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that their husbands were serving in a war right?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah, I think a lot of people did, you know, it was a new country, a new place, and maybe there husbands were not there all the time and they just could not deal with living over there in Germany. I mean a lot of people did but some of these people particularly didn't.

Steve Estes:

You said an bef--yesterday or a couple days ago when we were talking that you did have fun on the base. You played softball and stuff like that. I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yes, I played softball. Oh yeah, played on the softball team. I was catcher, pitcher, and ah, right field and I enjoyed that and ah we used to play civilians...

Steve Estes:

You know there.. .go ahead what were you going to say?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, we used to play civilian teams up around Chicopee, I mean up around Westover and Holy Oak, Diamond Match Company, Sickles, which was a wire, made special wires, and any teams up there, around there we used to play softball.

Steve Estes:

Now, one of the things that people have studies women in the military, and especially lesbians in the military, they say softball is kind of a meeting place for lesbians in the military. Did you find that that was true?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well yeah, see the people that played softball was the people that we hung out with and we knew that they were lesbians and ah, a lot, oh yeah, a lot of these civilians teams, they were. Oh yeah, they were real dykes, you know. And ah, they would say well cheated, I don't care, well we cheated. Well, you know where to meet us. And we'd have a few drinks and usually end up in a fight, (laughter) I'm serious! (more laughter)

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yeah! But they were tough, well we were tough too. You know, so we used to go, go to, to other bases like Otis Air Force Base down at Cape Cod. They actually put us in an airplane and flew us down there and put parachutes on us.

Steve Estes:

Just to play softball?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah! (laughter) And I wouldn't have dropped out of an airplane for a million dollars. And we used to take bus trips and go ah, New York and play different bases. And we had a coach and she was a son of a gun, you know, you no drinking, and no this and no that. And we, we had a day room where just women went, you know a t. v., and you could cigarettes and buy beer and stuff. And we were there and she'd come down and smell what we were drinkin'. Everybody knew she was coming and then she'd leave, we'd have a few beers. No hard liquor on the base. But ah, oh yeah. But ah, no, I don't think I played basketball. I played basketball in college and in high school.

Steve Estes:

Let me ask you a couple of questions, um, about Korea and the Cold War. Why do you think Korea is seen as the forgotten war?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I guess with World War Two and then Vietnam, you know, it was kind of in the middle and people just forgot all about it. Why.. .1 really don't know why but they call it the forgotten war.

Steve Estes:

Was that hard for you being a veteran of the Korean Conflict?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah, it was. It was you know because I never had to take up arms but I certainly would have if I'd a had to. And I know people who had gone to Korea and that was a brutal place too, but Vietnam was hot as hell but Korea was cold and freezing. And hot too. Just as sad. You know, the jungles and the mud, and the muck, and the myer(????) and everything. And ah, I don't why they call it the forgotten war. I say it was because it was in between World War Two and maybe Vietnam. Maybe it....

Steve Estes:

They were just bigger and ah, not necessarily bigger, just more ah, one was bigger and one was more controversial maybe.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah, yeah. Well, Vietnam it seems, you know, like most people think Vietnam, and this is the way I feel, maybe this is because I'm a Korean veteran, but most people think, Vietnam, Vietnam veterans. That was the only war that was fought. That is the way that I feel and I think that is the way a lot of Korean veterans feel that way too. But they weren't. I mean, you know, I don't know how many people got killed in the Korean conflict, I think it was fifty-eight thousand that got kill--, oh I don't know how many, but it was a lot.

Steve Estes:

I think that is about right. And I think it was about fifty thousand for Vietnam so it's not that different in terms of casualty rates.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah, yeah. A little more than Vietnam. Both which were I think were stupid.

Steve Estes:

Let me talk to you about the Cold War for a second. Did you feel like there was a Red Scare or a Lavender Scare going on. Lavender Scare being, you know, Red Scare being a fear of Communism, Lavender Scare being that you know, gays and lesbians were some how security risks, or that kind of thing.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yes, oh yes.

Steve Estes:

Talk about that.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, no, ah because and why I don't know. I mean most enlisted personnel, they had no secrets. They didn't know anything and our officers did but there was still a scare. You know, like well, you'd, they'd send in this gorgeous blonde ah, as a spy to seduce you, and to me that was a crock. And of course the reds, were you know the red scare, God, you didn't know what Russia was going to do. But the Lavender Scare, it was a farce. You know, I don't know of anybody, all I guess I was, but I don't know of anybody ever told any secrets to ag--secret spy agents. That's only in the movies! Well, I guess there was a few I'm sure, for money. But not for sex. And I thought it was a dumb thing.

Steve Estes:

Now, did, you, I think you were saying before that, that you were at a party with a lot of women that went bad. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I had friends, as I said it was a military transport base and I had friends, well they had special quarters and ah, because they come in at all hours of the day and all hours of the night, but I had friends that used to fly, that there was one particular girl that I was seeing and ah, so ah, there was a party and ah, I was invited but I know there was one of these flight attendants that did not like me. Didn't like.. .1 could sense that, an association with this particular woman. And you know after reading this book, the book, and that I didn't know these two guys from Adam's house cat and I was thinking and it just hit me that that could have been a set up. To get even with me for seeing this person.

Steve Estes:

How so?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I mean, they says, oh you can drive Maureen home, you know, which they did, we went out in the boon docks before they took me home and that just, I just couldn't get that out of my mind that I could have been set up.

Steve Estes:

So were these two, you are talking about two officers right?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yep.

Steve Estes:

Were they there to close down the party or what was the story?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

No, they, they were pilots. They were pilots and it was a birthday party for someone, I don't remember, they were invited and ah, I just can't get this out of my mind.

Steve Estes:

Well tell, I mean, I know it's very difficult, but can you tell me what happened?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I know we were going home and all of a sudden we going this pitch dark and I was young, I didn't know too much about life, and ah, so, then this guy you know, in the front seat just jumps all over me and then the guy in the back seat, open then front door, and after you, the same thing. I was dumbfounded, well I was afraid I could be killed. Because I know there was an incident of another person that was raped by a sailor on the base because they used to have sailors and he beat her up pretty badly and I didn't want to get beat up, you know, but now I would fight tooth and toenail. They would have to kill me first. But when you're young and you're afraid but I'm not afraid anymore.

Steve Estes:

Now they were officers and you were enlisted. Did they use that over you?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

That's right. Pardon?

Steve Estes:

Did they hold that over you, that they were more powerful than you, had they out ranked you?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Ah, no. No, I don't believe rank was mentioned. I think it just happened so quickly, I was dumbfounded, you know, and ah, I didn't say thing to anybody I was so ashamed and everything and then later on I did to my commanding officer.

Steve Estes:

And how did your commanding officer react when you told him?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, ah...

Steve Estes:

Or was it a her?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

It was, oh it was a she, but ah I had a ah, no, they said they said they would check into it but my command--, my, the major that was head of the 1600th medical group he was a wonderful, wonderful person. I used to baby-sit for his kids, go to his house for thanksgiving and stuff but we had this sergeant and he was a real ass, jackass, he was a jerk. But the major, he was very understanding, you know, when he found out. The officers, I don't know how they traced them down and ah because I didn't know their names, and ah, naturally they claimed, that ah, they didn't.

Steve Estes:

Did anything ever happen to them?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Not as far as I know. Yep, not as far as I know. Now ah, could you turn that machine off for a minute?

Steve Estes:

Sure, (tape stops)

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Ok.

Steve Estes:

Ok.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

But even being raped was devastating, devastating, devastating, I used to have nightmares and ah faces, people with no faces and wake up in hot, in a cold sweat and ah also it was the ra--the anger and the rage, you know, taken out on people.

Steve Estes:

Sure, sure.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I mean I was married but that was, that meant nothing. You know, that meant nothing.

Steve Estes:

You were married at the time or?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

No, no, no I got married...

Steve Estes:

Later on.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Afterwards.

Steve Estes:

right, right, right That's what I thought

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

But that meant nothing you know.

Steve Estes:

Were there, were the women supportive of you, the ones that knew, I mean you said the major was very supportive...

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yeah, the major and ah my two commanding officers, they were nice, and the people, you know, friends, they were just great because I used to go back and visit the base every so often you know, when I lived in New York ah I came went to New York to my sisters, and I came here, that was in August and I came to Boston Christmas Eve.

Steve Estes:

Of 1953?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

1953. And I stayed. I had friends living in Boston you know.

Steve Estes:

Did you know, when you were in the service, did you know any women who were kicked out because they were lesbians and could you talk about that a little bit?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah, well, we had these two girls, they played softball but ah, see thy would have too much to drink and we knew, I mean ah, we knew that, I was seeing a civilian person too and ah off base but they would get you know feeling good and get in an argument and get in a fight well, then they'd come in with black eyes and everything and they did get kicked out. They did get kicked out. But we used to run, outrun OSI many times. We'd have a big laugh about it you know, because we knew where they were.

Steve Estes:

OSI?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yeah, yeah, you knew where they were. They'd be at the gate sometimes but we were very careful, very careful. We used to go off base when we'd play softball or something like that, go off base and ah they played polish music and ah, believe it or not you could get a pitcher of beer for fifty cents, (laughter) Fifty cents! Cigarettes were twenty cents a pack!

Steve Estes:

That's a lot of sin for not a lot of money.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yeah! And you know, we used to do the polka and dance with the guys but we never dated them or anything like that and if they, these people that followed us, you know, they'd think well... but you had to be discreet and some people just weren't. Now there were officers and I used to go to their house, a major, and ah, they lived off base, and ah, you would be discreet about it. But ah, you just can't go around just like today while in Boston, like walkin down South with arm around a black person, you just couldn't do that and a lot of people didn't. Plus you know, there was one guy that worked in the medical supply, I mean worked in the medics, we were just good friends and we to go out to dinner, go to a movie, in fact the night that I went to this party I was supposed, we were supposed to go to the movies and I kinda stood him up anyway, but he understood. But ah, no you just, you know, you couldn't, couldn't be, ah, I used to go, I don't think there, no we didn't go to gay bars. There was one in Springfield that we went to but you couldn't in gay bars because you never knew who was going to be there. We used to go to the American Legion and a few other places and ah, we were a pretty tough group too I remember after I got out and I went back to visit. We were at the American Legion club. Well my nick name was "Tex" when I went in for when I was enlisted from Texas so they called me "Tex." And ah, so I was sittin there and I'm talking to the bartender cause I hadn't seen him in awhile and ah, these people came in on a motorcycle, gang, a couple of guys and women and this one woman sat down and she knew, looked around and she figured we were in the service and she said "oh yeah, these women in the service are nothing but whores and lesbians." I said "what did you say?" She said, "You're nothing but a bunch of whores!" Well, I had a beer in my hand, I took the beer, set it on bar and I think the beer jumped up about a foot and a big, fat fight broke out. (laughter) You know because we weren't going to stand for that. Even the guys, wouldn't stand for that because the knew us. We were there all the time. They knew we were good people. We just enjoyed, liked to enjoy life. But ah, as long as we were there in that uniform, class A uniform, had to be at work at eight o'clock, nobody said to much. But before I got out there, we had this a, these two young girls got thrown out, they had a new leutient in, well I don't know who sent her, maybe OSI, I don't know, but she would go around doing bed check with a flashlight. Well, now everybody knew so you think anybody's going to be stupid enough to be in bed with somebody else and ah, but, ah the other two officers they didn't particularly like that. But that was her orders and she had to bed check. And ah, Westover was the only base that there was a bed check, you had to be in at a certain time but she used to go around with a flashlight looking at them because when we played down at the Cape ah, they had to be in bed by eleven o'clock but we didn't. You know, Westover really had no specific time to be in, as I said, if you were there when I was there, they might have changed it afterwards was in your uniform ready to go to work. Cause then they changed it to ah, SAC, Strategic Air Command. That was a little more security there. And they had to be a little more secure.

Steve Estes:

Let me ask you to fast forward a little bit. What do you think about the don't ask, don't tell policy?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I think it's stupid.

Steve Estes:

Why?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, don't ask, don't tell. I don't even understand what that means. If somebody asks you are you a lesbian, if they ask you, you don't tell them. Well, that is stupid, who is going to tell ya in the service. If you asked me if I was a lesbian and I worked at a place where they didn't want lesbians there, I would, I wouldn't tell them. I don't know. Clinton, I thought he had more sense than that.

Steve Estes:

Where you asked when you went in whether you were a lesbian?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yes I did and when I ah left and I put no naturally.

Steve Estes:

They asked you when you left too?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh yeah. Oh they did.

Steve Estes:

Huh. Why do you think they asked you when you left?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I have, I don't know. But they did.

Steve Estes:

Huh.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

And I put no. You put no down. And I'm sure everybody else did. Well, in, in, when I went in, I had a pretty good idea, I hadn't had an affair or anything, you know with a woman or anything like that, but I knew couldn't do that.

Steve Estes:

Right. (coughs) excuse me. When you left they military, what was your career, or what did you do?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, I came to Boston, ah well I went to New York, I worked for a dentist, you know, for several months, and I came to Boston to go to Forsythe Institute. That is for dental hygienist. And I ah, I started looking for a job and I went to work in the credit department of Boston Music a big publishing company, and sold music. I sold Rock and Roll. And ah, I lived right on 113 Beacon Street in Boston. And I could walk home every night between, in the Common, someday you have to come to Boston. Boston Common and Boston Garden and nobody bothered you. Nobody bothered you. I could walk home. I wasn't afraid. It was a few blocks but at 113 Beacon Street there was a rooming house and ah, two or three women, nice women that lived there. I got a room there. I saw an ad and I got a room there. And I'd go to work there. And I met a young woman there and ah, lived here in Maiden, and through I met my husband, (laughs) He was gay. Defiantly was, oh yeah. We used to go to New York and his friends and people, you know friends, used to hang out in some gay bars here in Boston. Oh, he was defiantly gay. And ah, but she and I had an affair for awhile, you know.

Steve Estes:

So did you and your husband have a kind of arrangement?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

More or less. Yeah. Yeah.

Steve Estes:

Unspoken?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yeah. Mum-hum

Steve Estes:

And did you raise your kids at that point or did you just keep working as a dental hygienist?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I had ah, Michael, and a Christopher, no I just didn't ah, wasn't there you know. I just didn't want to be married. You know, to tell you the truth we had separate bedrooms. Yeah and ah, no. He was good person. He was a good man didn't drink, gamble, anything like that but he passed away a few years ago but we remained friends til the day he died. Well, he died in a nursing home of Alzheimer's. Which was very sad and I at the time, after I retired I was working at Court Street, Boston's shelter for homeless veterans, and they had an honor guard there, and I had them, I asked the guy in charge, the honor guard, I asked them, said you know Phillip's passed away, sure anything for you, so they brought the honor guard to Maiden. Very, very moving. He was a flamboyant man, person. And I'm sure at such a thing him looking down, he was clicking his heels. You know, he had his fifteen minutes of fame.

Steve Estes:

Did he, was he in the military also?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yes, he was. He was in World War Two. Yeah, he was in the military, he was a few years older than I am. He was in the military.

Steve Estes:

Ok. You kind of touched on this before. What affect do you think the military had on your life? What legacy did it have for you?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Well, ah. Like ah, Some people find out I was in the military, what do you have three stripes tattooed on your arm? You know because it's like well maybe I wouldn't been like that if maybe I hadn't been in the military or maybe it's because I've been a single mom all these years but I ah, you know, ah, I'm very authoritative and I think that was from the military and well, not that I, well I was acting sergeant over some of the people and in the medical supply and I did have to take charge and ah, but it ah made me a strong person, it ah, I regret that I didn't get to stay in to go into be an officer. But who knows. You know you always have to look at things like this, things happen for the best. I could have been thrown out, you know, like a lot of women. Discharged, disgraced. You know? And a lot of women were.

Steve Estes:

But you got an honorable discharge.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I got an honorable discharge. We had a couple came through the shelter, they had dishonorable discharge and one was young girl, beautiful black young girl and ah, well, she was suing them. She was protesting her discharge. I don't know whatever became of it.

Steve Estes:

How long did you work at the homeless veteran's shelter?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Probably, four, I left there in 2000, 2000, probably, four years, a little over four years. Because I worked in the hospital, in, in Stonham and I worked in maintenance, believe it or not for twenty years.

Steve Estes:

Really.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Yep. Climbing the ladder, fixing beds, doing this, doing that. Because I love to fix things and ah, so ah, when I needed a job and I used to work for Mass Save, I don't know if you know what that is. They do energy on houses, Mass Save energy. So then a lot of us left, and a so I knew somebody worked at the hospital, well why don't you come up here, well, I worked as a housekeeper for a few months but the guy in head of housekeeping, there was an opening in maintenance and I went to him and I said I want that job. And I got it. The only woman, in maintenance.

Steve Estes:

And you worked there for...

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

80... 15 years or more, yeah, oh I loved it yeah. And ah, I could climb ladders, put lights in, crawl under beds, do this, do that everything.

Steve Estes:

Do you, this is switching horses a little bit, do you have a partner today? Now?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Ah, I had one, no, yeah and it's an on and off situation. Yeah, you know, oh I've had yeah , several years. I don't like being tied down. I'm a free sprit.

Steve Estes:

Oh I can tell.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh, I'm a free spirit. I was with one person that I care for very, very much. Think I met her in church.

Steve Estes:

What church did you go to?

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

I attend Church of the Nazarene. I'm a member. Now they're about as fundamental as Jerry Falwell is and ah so I met her there. We taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and ah, she lived with me for about 7 years and ah took me a long time to get over her. A long time, long, long time. And a so I just bought this house here and ah, 7 years since, 72. Oh yeah, ah, people think I'm rich cause I own a house and but ah pastor came one day, invited some people up for lunch and I told him you know, and he, oh he was wonderful, passed away now but he was a wonderful man, I told him, you know, that I was gay and he said look Maureen, lesbian, God still loves you anyway and he knew. He knew that, he never preached derogatory sermons from the pulpit and if he wanted me to read the scripture, he'd ask me to read the scripture, he did not put me down he love me.

Steve Estes:

That's great.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

And my friend too.

Steve Estes:

That's very good.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Oh, he was an awesome, awesome man. I was just talking about him today to my son. He was a wonderful, wonderful man. He didn't care who you were.

Steve Estes:

Let me ask you one last question, and that is did I not, are there any questions that I didn't ask you and I'm going to stop and turn the tape over because it's about, yeah it's about.. .(side of tape ends)

Steve Estes:

Um, are there any questions that I didn't ask you about your time in the military that you think are important topics that you want to talk about for the library of Congress or...

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

Ah, well ah, no, well ah I think they ought to get rid of this whole bit of gays in the military. I mean there's other countries that serve openly. And they're not going to hurt anybody, in fact when I ordered this book, I order from Overstock.com and I order six of these books I'm giving out to different people. I was telling my psychiatrist, the other day, I see her, she gives...she helps me sleep and she, I showed her the book and she said you should hear the stories my patients tell me about in the military and I'm going to give her one of the books and ah but I no, they didn't have a review on this particular book so I wrote them a little review because I'm a very outspoken person and I'm surprised the FBI hasn't come knocking on my door. Especially in the last few year, when I came out, I came out really openly when I was 65 to somebody that I was gay, I told, you know, and a of people knew I was gay and I'd been living with women and this, that, and the other, I didn't care anymore. So I wrote them a little review, told them I was a veteran, I'd served in the military and blah, blah, blah and I said oh by the way gays and lesbians, we don't eat people (laughter) you know, and it's wrong, he's wrong. We pay our taxes, I mean I don't, in San Francisco, I don't know but I can tell you in Maiden and in the surrounding area, the people that have the money, that drive the BMW's and have the big homes, they are homosexuals. They are. It's like this person that I used to see, ah well, you know we're friends. I said look I like to live by myself and she said, well gee maybe we should get married before they ban it, and said well I'm not gonna marry nobody. I might if I met somebody else I think I would, you know but this friend that I lived with from the church, we were more or less considered to be married. And ah, I think they ought to do away with it.

Steve Estes:

Well, Maureen, that's all the questions I have, but I had, I mean this is a very powerful one, interview. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and um, I just want to say thank you basically.

Maurine McFerrin DeLeo:

well, thank you very much.

Steve Estes:

No problem. (Tape ends)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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