Patricia Wilson | Interview 1 | July 8, 2010

Oral History Center, UC Berkeley

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0:02 - Introduction; moving around the West Coast as a child in a military family

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Keywords: Berkeley; Fresno; military; National Guard; Portland; Sacramento; school; the Great Depression

Subjects: Community and Identity ]Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

6:49 - Her parents background and how her father came to join the Army at age 17

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Keywords: Army; California; father; Knoxville; mother; parents; Philippines

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

9:37 - "They were still resentful about the Civil War;" discussing racial tension she witnessed during a summer in Tennessee

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Keywords: African American; Berkeley; Chinatown; Civil War; diversity; race; race relations; San Diego; South; Tennessee

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

13:20 - The war came fast; finishing school, meeting her husband, and her husband's military service

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Keywords: blind date; Cal; chemical engineering; chemical warfare; chemistry; education; foxholes; Girls Club; highs school; husband; mortar division; Pearl Harbor; senior year; tonsillitis

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

20:07 - Feeling "dumbfounded" by the dramatic cultural and academic differences between her high schools in Portland and California

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Keywords: art; childhood; education; high school; intellectual; library; reading; studying; the Great Depression

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

23:15 - Being "terribly" aware of the Great Depression, taking in boarders, and witnessing "a dramatic illustration of poverty"

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Keywords: boarders; economics; hunger; poverty; saving; Shell; the Great Depression

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

28:06 - From butter to colored margarine; recalling the rationing system

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Keywords: butter; Food Stamps; gasoline; icebox; margarine; ration stamps; rationing; refrigerators; stamps

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

30:54 - "You were asked to 'go steady';" youth dating culture, pregnancy scandals, and "options" for women

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Keywords: blind dating; dating; engagement; group dating; marriage; pregnancy; pregnant; scandal

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

39:28 - "All we talking about was this horror;" Pearl Harbor and Japanese internment

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Keywords: air raids; blackouts; compensation; Concentration Camps; Japanese; Japanese internment; Pearl Harbor; racial bias; radio

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

45:15 - Experiencing Cal through the war years, 1941 to 1944

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Keywords: 4-F; draft; Navy; Russian soldiers; servicement; Soviets; summer; V-12; women

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

49:29 - Getting involved in early childhood development and education in the 1970s

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Keywords: child education; children; children centers; education; mental health clinics

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

52:55 - Committing to the "grandiose" art curriculum at UC Berkeley

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Keywords: art; fine arts; fresco; graphics; mosaic; watercolor

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

55:19 - "Hostessing" at the USO dances and the "extra-curricular entertainment"

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Keywords: dances; entertainment; hostessing; morale; servicemen; USO

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

58:01 - Detailing the day to day experience at the Maritime Child Development Center

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Keywords: childcare; children; development; dormitories; food; Henry J. Kaiser; Kaiser; Kaiser Permanente Hospital; Maritime Child Development Center; nutrition; pre-school; public school; Richmond Historical Musuem; shipyards

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

68:38 - Open "around the clock;" how the Maritime Center alleviated the "crisis of childcare" felt by parents who worked in the shipyards

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Keywords: babies; childcare; daycare; diapers; healthcare; hygiene; lice; pediatrician; shipyards; staff; urban; urban life

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

75:50 - "The Cadillac of child care;" how the center maintained high standards for 40 years

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Keywords: high standars; Maritime Child Development Center; retirement

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

78:21 - Daily duties as a substitute at the center in 1943

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Keywords: 1943; arts and crafts; children; entertainment; movie; movies; substitute teacher; TV hour

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

82:58 - How the population boom to Richmond affected the culture and of the Maritime Child Development Center

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Keywords: accents; behavioral problems; population growth; Richmond; speech therapy

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

86:54 - Limitations and changes to enrollment in the center; shipyard children, low-income children, and later Vietnamese refugees

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Keywords: AFDC; income; postwar; shipyards; Vietnam; Vietnamese; Vietnamese children; welfare

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

90:57 - "They pick it up from their parents;" racial and ethnic diversity and attitudes of the children at the Maritime Center

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Keywords: African American; Asian; black; Caucasian; ethnicity; integrated; race; segregated; segregation; white

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

95:06 - Learning on the job and adhering to the changing philosophy of early childhood development

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Keywords: child development; Dr. Catherine Landreth; philosophy; scaled; training

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

97:49 - Describing the makeup of the center as it was in the 1940s

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Keywords: architecture; locker; monument; musuem; National Park; shelves

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

100:50 - "They knew this was going on;" how the young children expressed their understanding of the war

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Keywords: activities; paintings; Richmond Museum; Rosie the Riveter National Park; war

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

104:23 - Substitute teachers and unions to the rescue; difficulties faced by the Maritime Center

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Keywords: challenges; union; union membership

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

108:47 - "It was unbelievable!" experiencing firsthand the "cultural revolution" of women workers during World War II

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Keywords: cultural revolution; Fort Mason; gender; innovative work; keypunch machine; Liberty Ships; riveters; Rosie the Riveter; women; women in the workforce

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

113:51 - Conclusion; sharing her joy about the restoration of the center

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Keywords: Bancroft; children; memory; retirement; Telegraph

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front


STEIN: This is Julie Stein, and I'm here interviewing Patricia Wilson. This is tape number one. The way that we often start these is just asking you to state your name and when and where you were born.

WILSON: Okay. My name is Patricia Wilson. I was born Patricia Sutton. And I was born in Fresno, California, in June of 1924.

STEIN: And I know that you ended up in Berkeley after a little while. What was the transition from Fresno to Berkeley?

WILSON: Well, I lived in Fresno all of two weeks, because my father was in the military, and he was being moved around. He had been transferred from Fresno to 1:00Sacramento. But my mother was just about to give birth, so she stayed behind with her mother and sister and waited for me to arrive. In those days, they kept you for two weeks, in the hospital after delivery. So after two weeks, we got on the train and met my father in Sacramento. And he had rented a home for us, and so we settled into Sacramento for six years altogether.

Then he was transferred again to Pasadena. So we picked up and moved again, and lived there for about three years, I guess. And then he was transferred to Berkeley. The reason all this was happening was that he was detached from the 2:00regular army to the National Guard. It was his job to go to different communities and establish a National Guard post and help them organize it and staff it and show them how to run it, and then he would be moved to another community, and another and another. So we ended up in Berkeley and were here for about, let's see, five or six years, I guess, at which point he retired. And so my grandmother and my mother's sister had traveled around with us and they had settled here. So my father, who was a Southerner, wanted to move back to 3:00Tennessee, where he was from. And my mother said okay. She was used to moving, and so was I. So we went back and stayed with his brother for the summer, in Knoxville.

STEIN: Do you remember how old you were at that point?

WILSON: I was twelve, going on thirteen. I think I turned thirteen while we were there. And he found, looking around, uh-uh, he didn't like it there at all. [laughs] It wasn't what he remembered. So he immediately decided, no, they're rather come back to the West Coast. And then my mother said, "Well, why don't we 4:00go up and live in the Northwest?" Because she had a sister living in southern Washington. So we traveled up to Portland and settled in and lived there for a couple of years. And I loved it. It was just the most wonderful city, wonderful, wonderful schools. The best school I ever went to.

STEIN: Was that high school or--?

WILSON: Yeah. That was a four-year high school. And they were so poor. They were just wretchedly poor. It was the depth of the Depression. We had to buy all our own books, materials, paper, pencils. If you were in art class, which I was, you had to buy your own materials; if you were in a science lab or whatever. The 5:00teachers were paid nothing, and they were the most wonderful teachers. And the academic standards were stratospheric. And a large part of the school population was Japanese. Another large segment was Jewish. The academic achievement was really remarkable.

STEIN: What was that like socially, to have these different groups of people all in the same school?

WILSON: Well, wonderful. Just wonderful. And kids that were so motivated and so determined in what they were doing. And I remember the most coveted club to be invited to join was the literary club. [laughter]

STEIN: It sounds like a very academic place.

WILSON: Not a sorority or a fraternity, but the literary club. Oh.

STEIN: Were there many students who were unable to afford supplies, art supplies 6:00or books?

WILSON: Well, I imagine that that happened. I was too young to really delve into how really poor people could afford their kids to school. They must've had some kind of subsidy or some arrangement like AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children] or something to help them, because you didn't have to pay tuition, but you had to have some resources to send your kids.

STEIN: I'd actually like to ask, to step back a teeny bit in time: I'm so curious about how your father ended up in California from Tennessee.

WILSON: Well, he had joined the Army at a very early age. He was one of six 7:00brothers. And they were a framing family. He grew up on a farm in--

STEIN: Outside Knoxville?

WILSON: Yeah, in the mountains, in a little town called Tazewell. And when he was seventeen, his mother died. And all the boys left home at that point because their father was kind of a dragon and very kind of mean and demanding. And their mother was very darling and loving. And when she was gone, the boys all scattered. And my father lied about his age and joined the Army when he was 8:00seventeen. [chuckles]

Then he was immediately sent to the Philippines. And they were in conflict with the Moro tribe. And so he was sent out into the jungle to contend with the Moros. And then when he came back--oh, then he had to go to Galveston, to help deal with the flood, the great Galveston flood. And after that, then World War I began. And he was not sent overseas, but he was stationed in New York, in Buffalo, I guess. And then after the war, then he was transferred to Seattle. And that's where he met my mother. She was up there with a--she had come out 9:00there to be with her sister, from Wisconsin. Her sister was in Seattle, so she came out to be with her sister and she met my father, and they married. And then he was transferred to Fresno, California.

STEIN: And that's where our story begins.

WILSON: That's how we ended up in California.

STEIN: What were your parents' names?

WILSON: My mother was Marguerite Dumas, and my father was Seavus Sutton.

STEIN: So you started your life in California, on the West Coast, and then had this summer in Tennessee at a fairly impressionable age. What were some of the differences that you noticed in that trip or at that time? Do you recall being 10:00struck by any of the race relations or--?

WILSON: Really strongly. Very strongly. I hear it's still going on. They are still fighting the Civil War, and they still are very resentful of Northerners. And my uncle had six children. And the two boys, they were a few years older than me, they teased me all the time about being a Yankee. And it was good natured, but it was still a very strong element of the culture there. And race relations were very strongly biased. And I guess that really has not changed a 11:00lot in the South.

STEIN: Yeah. I imagine that must have been interesting, as such a young woman, coming from a place where--I don't know whether you were exposed to people of many different racial groups and then--

WILSON: Oh, sure, here in Berkeley. Yeah. Even then. Not as much as it came to be, but there were a lot of--a wonderful big Chinatown in San Francisco, and even one in Oakland at that time. And there was a significant African-American community, even though it was nothing like it got to be during the war. But we were very diverse. There was Japan Town, over in San Francisco. We were just very used to it, very comfortable with a lot of diversity. I was really 12:00impressed--and teenagers aren't too aware of this kind of thing, but I was really impressed with how strongly these people felt still about the Confederacy. And racial bias was rampant and they were still resentful about the Civil War. And I was quite intimidated. [laughter]

STEIN: It sounds like a different world that you were dropped into.

WILSON: Ooh, wow, was it ever! Yes, I was very glad not to be living there for any length.

STEIN: So it sounds like you were very happy when you went back to Portland.

WILSON: Really. Really very much. But the rain got too much for us. We were too used to the sun, so we came back. Actually, we went to San Diego for a year or 13:00so. And that was a little too sunny. And my grandmother and aunt were still here in Berkeley, so we settled here permanently. And we've been here ever since.

STEIN: Did you finish your schooling, your high school, in Portland?

WILSON: No, I went for two years there, and then for a year in San Diego. And then back here for my senior year--which didn't happen because I got very ill. I'd been having lots of trouble with severe tonsillitis. And so when I signed into Berkeley High, the first day of school I came down with a horrendous fever and had to be put to bed. And we didn't have a house to live in yet; we were 14:00staying with my grandmother. And I got really, really, really ill, and I was ill for a couple weeks, and finally went to the hospital. And they said, "As soon as she's over this infection, she's going to have to yank those tonsils." I went back in due time and had a tonsillectomy. And then I was about three months in recovery, so my school term was going by the board. I finally made it back into school for the last half of the senior year and got into some classes and took up with all my old friends from when we'd been in Berkeley before.

And I joined a Girls Club. We had a dance, and I didn't know who to go with; I didn't know any boys. So one of the girls was a neighbor of a young student 15:00named Burt Wilson. And so they set up a blind date with us, and we went off to a dinner dance at a fancy hotel, and fell in love, and that was that. We graduated together. And he was a very serious student of chemistry. So he went to where I went immediately, to Cal. He was expecting to go to Cal, but he was going to go to work for a while and earn some money for school, so he went to work as a lab technician for Shell Development. We were launched into our first semester, 16:00which--surprise, surprise--included December 7 of 1941. We were suddenly at war. He thought, well, he better get back into school, get as much school as he could, before something happened to him in the draft.

So he came back to Cal, and we had a semester or two together. He was encouraged to enlist in the chemical warfare division, with the provision that they would be allowed to continue their education while being actually enlisted in the service in chemical warfare. And lo and behold, after he'd been two semesters, 17:00he was suddenly called up into chemical warfare. But chemical warfare somehow embraced a mortar division, and he was put into the mortar division, and had to go off into boot camp and several stations, several places in the US, Alabama and Texas, and then finally sent over to the Philippines to invade--

STEIN: Was the understanding at first that he likely wouldn't be sent into combat because he would be doing chemical engineering or research?

WILSON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

STEIN: So it must've been quite a surprise.

WILSON: We were all quite surprised. He the most. And so anyway, he participated in the invasion of Mindanao. He spent a good deal of time in--it wasn't 18:00ferocious combat, but out in foxholes, being sniped at and sniping back. And in the meantime, he got red measles, had to be hospitalized. Then he got appendicitis and had to be hospitalized again, so he spent a good deal of time being hospitalized. Then he ended up with jungle rot, and they sent him back to Manila. In the meantime, the war ended. So he came home with his jungle rot, and we were married.

STEIN: When did you get engaged?

WILSON: During the war. He came back on leave from one of his postings, and we announced our engagement at the home of one of our dearest professors at Cal, 19:00who was--we had two who were very nationally significant artists in their own right. And one of our dear professor friends was Erle Loran. And so he would have us to parties at his house. And at one of their parties, we announced our engagement.

STEIN: Did you take many classes together in college?

WILSON: Never.

STEIN: Never?

WILSON: He was in science, and I was in liberal arts, so our paths never crossed except at lunchtime.

STEIN: Had you taken courses together in high school? Were your high school classes--?

WILSON: Never.

STEIN: Were they separate by gender in high school?

WILSON: No, not at all. But he was in higher mathematics and taking a lot of higher chemistry and so forth, and I was taking French and English literature, 20:00and we were very diverse.

STEIN: It sounds like you had a really interesting experience, having gone through three different high schools in four years. Do you remember being struck by any of the differences between them? Were they quite distinct? Or did it seem like there was a more sort of uniform culture?

WILSON: Dramatically different.

STEIN: Could you tell me a little more about that?

WILSON: Yes. Well, our school in Portland, as I say, was very much into academic interests and a very high level of achievement. And I made a very good girlfriend, very close girlfriend, and we together, found two boys who were very close friends in the art department. And I would go up to work in the art department after school hours and they were always there. And so we formed a 21:00little foursome. And our interests were all in going to the library after school and the art museum, which was nearby. And they had wonderful programs, concerts and art exhibits. Or we liked ice skating; we would do some ice skating together. We read books and just had a really kind of academic social life.

When we came back to California, I was dumbfounded because the girls were all talking about nothing but clothes and boys and what kind of cars the boys drove. I was [laughs] not used to this. What are they thinking? I was so amazed by the 22:00fact that they gave you your books and they gave you all your materials. And the kids cared nothing about them. They tossed their books around and dropped them on the floor. They got dirty, they gave them back and got a new one. [laughs] I thought, what is this? There's no end to the differences, both culturally and socially. And academically, nobody was interested in their classes; they never talked about what they were doing in school. And I felt so out of place. And I just didn't know how to get onto this other train track.

STEIN: If you wanted to get onto that train track, even.

WILSON: Yeah, well, it didn't last long because I was only in school for a few months before getting to college. And then of course, that was quite different. 23:00Everybody was into academics and interested in your major and so forth.

STEIN: It sounds like maybe the Depression affected those two areas differently. Do you think that there's any truth to that?

WILSON: Well, in that the schools in Oregon didn't have as much money as the schools in California.

STEIN: Do you remember being very aware of the economic depression?

WILSON: Terribly.

STEIN: Did it affect your family?

WILSON: Well, my father, of course, was in the military, so he never had to worry about losing his job. But our family's best friends, a couple in San Francisco who had a little boy about four years younger than I--and we were 24:00together all the time. And he worked for Shell. And he lost his job. And they had to come and live with us.

STEIN: How long did they live with you?

WILSON: Oh, we were in Pasadena at that time. They came all the way down to Pasadena to be with us. And then he finally got his job back again, and they came back to San Francisco. So I think they were with us about six months.

STEIN: That's a really incredible gesture.

WILSON: Yeah, it was really brought home to me that this was serious. And then I'll never forget an experience after we came back to Berkeley. My grandmother and aunt were living with us at that time. And there came a knock at the kitchen 25:00door one day, and they opened the door and there was this man, kind of forlorn little man standing there, and he had a little grinding wheel. And he said he would sharpen our kitchen knives and scissors, and anything else we had to sharpen, for a little bit of money. And so they felt sorry for him, and they said sure. And so they gave him some knives and scissors, and he was working away on the back porch. And all of a sudden he fainted. And my mother and grandmother helped him into the kitchen and sat him up and they said, "Are you sick?" And he said, "No, I'm not sick; I just haven't eaten for so long." And they were horrified, and they quickly made him some food and fed him and made 26:00him a lunch to carry and got him propped up and sent away. But I just--I went up to my room, and I cried all the rest of the day. Oh, gosh, it still brings--

STEIN: Do you remember how old you were?

WILSON: --tears to my eyes. It was just--I never had such a dramatic illustration of poverty.

STEIN: It really brings it home.

WILSON: And my mother never wasted a thing. She could sew, and if her dress wore out, she would cut it up and make one for me. If her coat wore out, she would cut it up and make one for me. And they were so careful with everything. At 27:00Christmas or birthdays--in those days, they didn't have cellophane tape or anything, so you just folded paper and wrapped a ribbon around it. She would always say, "Be careful when you open it." And then she would take the gift wrap and iron it so we could use it again. And it was just very, very--we were all very economically conscious of every penny. And [chuckles] then, of course, when we went into World War II, we knew very well how to do that. Because they had rationing, and so we had Food Stamps. And you could only buy so much meat, and gasoline was rationed. And I remember I was not taught to drive because they 28:00couldn't afford the gasoline to take the car out.

STEIN: Do you remember, for somebody who doesn't know, how rationing worked? Do you remember the system, how you got your stamps, how you used them?

WILSON: Well, I don't remember clearly about--there was someplace you went to get your stamps. And there were different kinds and colors of stamps, and some were for gas, and some were for meat, and some were for sugar. And then if you were lucky enough to have some bacon, you were told to save all the drippings from the bacon fat and collect that; and then you would turn it in to some center, and they would use it somehow in making explosives. [laughs] I don't know quite how that worked. But yes, then you had to have some certain stamps 29:00for gasoline. Oh, and then I guess there was quite a racket going on with counterfeiting Food Stamps, so you had to be careful that yours were not fake Food Stamps. I don't remember in detail, really, how it worked.

Oh, and I remember you couldn't buy butter anymore, you had to buy margarine. But the margarine came in a tub, and it was white. And then you had a little package of coloring. And it was my job to color the margarine. I would dump it out in a bowl, put this coloring in, and mix it up and put it back. And that was how we got yellow margarine. [chuckles] Oh, and then refrigerators were quite a 30:00luxury. And most of us had iceboxes. And it would have a compartment, and the ice man would come in a truck and sell you a big twenty-five pound chunk of ice. He'd come in and stick it in your ice box. And then, of course, it would be melting gradually, and so you would have to keep a pan under the ice box. And sometimes you'd forget to empty it, and you'd have a flood in your kitchen. Rich people had refrigerators, but most people had ice boxes. And "the ice man cometh" once a week.

STEIN: I think I have a couple more questions about high school, and then we can move on to college. I mentioned before that historians 31:00are now starting to look at things like dating culture, the rules around dances and who went out with whom. Do you remember, in your various high school experiences, any of these sort of rules of dating? Were people steady dating, or were you just going out with all of the boys because you were good friends? Do you remember how that worked?

WILSON: Yeah. There was, of course, blind dating, called blind dating.

STEIN: Which worked quite well for you. [laughter]

WILSON: It really worked for me. And then there was casual dating; group dating, where you'd get together and two or three couples would go out Saturday night to a movie and then go have hamburgers afterwards. But then if you got going with 32:00someone special, then you were asked to go steady. And sometimes you would get a ring or a pin. The guy would give the girl his fraternity pin or a fraternity ring to wear, or just give her a special ring to wear. And that was going steady. That was the next best thing to engagement.

STEIN: Were there people who got engaged or married while they were still in high school?

WILSON: I think we were in college by the time one of our girls' group did get engaged and married. He was not a boy from our school, he was from another 33:00school. And I guess they were kind of engaged, but not formally, while we were in high school. And then after we got into college, they did get married very early on in college. But most of us kind of went on to college and we were still busy with school. But one girl who had been my fiancé's girlfriend before he knew me, she got married to an older young man who was in the Navy. And she got married quite soon out of high school. And a couple of our friends did marry out 34:00of high school, age eighteen or nineteen.

STEIN: Wow. You read sometimes, too about people getting pregnant and leaving for a relative somewhere else or sort of disappearing. Did that ever happen in high school?

WILSON: Well, it happened to one girl while we were in junior high. And she was the topic of the most amazing amount of gossip! Her name was on everybody's--oh, it was shocking. We were horrified!

STEIN: So it wasn't a secret, it wasn't a well-kept secret.

WILSON: Oh, no, it was out there. And so she had to drop out of school. I don't think she left town. But this did happen to my grandmother. In the good old days 35:00before I was ever even thought of, while my mother was still living at home--she was the youngest of three. And I can't remember. I never knew this grandfather, my maternal grandfather. He was a train engineer, so he was out of town a lot. And I guess their relationship was not too good. He died very young, of a stroke. And my grandmother had an affair with the town doctor. And of course, this was local scandal. They lived in a small town in Wisconsin. And so she took my mother and they went to live with one of her sisters in another town, in Eau 36:00Claire. And then my youngest aunt--who was more my sister than my mother; she was only twelve years older than I--she was born in that town. And they never went back to Abbotsford. They moved back to Madison. My mother went to college in Madison for a while before they came out here to Seattle. But that was a scandal that was never told to us, to me, until this aunt, the illegitimate aunt, passed away at a very young age, of cancer. And it wasn't until she 37:00died--and here I was mother, with eight children, and had known her all my life as my mother's sister, and she was only my mother's half sister, and my mother didn't tell us until after she had died who she really was, because--

STEIN: Did your grandmother and your grandfather ever reconcile after that?

WILSON: No, I think he died at that point. I don't know if it was before the affair, or maybe it was ongoing while he was still living, but he died at the age of forty-seven, I think.

STEIN: Oh, wow. That's so young.

WILSON: So that he was never aware of that.

STEIN: That's so interesting, the options that women had and didn't have at those times.

WILSON: [laughs] Really. Yes, I know. My mother, I guess, was not too fond of 38:00her father, and she used to tell stories about how he would complain because my grandmother was always trying to give advantages to the children, give them music lessons and--she worked as a seamstress and made a living for herself. And my mother could remember conversations where they were at the table, and my grandfather would complain about she was having meat so often, and it was expensive and why was she spending all this money having meat all the time? And she said, "Well, that should be a part of their diet." And he would say, "Well, yeah, but why do you have to give it to the children?"

STEIN: Oh, that's so interesting. [laughter]

WILSON: I formed a vision of him in my mind, just from things like that, that he 39:00would complain because she was spending money on giving the kids piano lessons and--he just did not want to share his life with his children. So I guess she had some basic reason for being interested--

STEIN: In somebody else.

WILSON: --outside the marriage. [laughs]

STEIN: Well, let's fast forward a little bit to 1941. Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

WILSON: Yes. I was at home. I think we heard it on the radio.

STEIN: Were you living at home your first year in college?

WILSON: Oh, all through college.

STEIN: The whole time you were in college.

WILSON: Yes. Yes. I never grew up; I never took care of myself. My parents took 40:00care of me; then my husband took care of me. [laughs] So I was a freshman, baby freshman in college. And at that time, there was no television, and we were listening to the radio and we heard it announced over the radio. And I had to go to class the next day, and that's all we talked about was this horror. And it was just dramatically shocking to all of us. And of course, the poor guys were faced with being drafted right away. And it was just terrifying.

And very shortly afterwards, we had to get blackout drapes for our windows because we were in danger of being bombed. And so we were always having practice air raids, and we would have to pull down our blackout drapes and turn out the 41:00lights. And then there were air raid shelters and people would dig air raid shelters in their back yards. [chuckles] Everybody was quite paranoid. It never quite happened to us, but there was always the fear. And then of course, a large Japanese population, and they were all herded into kind of recruitment centers and then sent off into concentration camps.

STEIN: I know that there was a large Japanese student population at Cal at that time.

WILSON: Oh, of course.

STEIN: Did you know anyone closely, who was sent to an internment camp?

WILSON: Yes, yes. One of our most treasured professors in the Art Department. Chiura Obata and his family were taken away and sent to someplace in Utah. And 42:00we were all broken hearted at that because he was a wonderful artist. He was famous in his own right at the time, and a wonderful family. And it was just shocking and horrifying. We just went into mourning over it. And we never got to study with him; those of us who entered at that point just missed him. And he didn't come back until after we had graduated, so we never got to study with him. And that broke our hearts.

STEIN: It's interesting. When you talk to people from Berkeley almost everyone says that when the government sent the Japanese families away, they were heartbroken. It was their close friends and their neighbors. Did you know anyone who was excited about this, who thought that they did pose a real threat? Or was it really against the wishes of the community?

WILSON: Oh, I'm sure there were people who were--well, there was bias, racial 43:00bias. The Chinese were abused after they came here to work in the Gold Rush and the railroads, and they were badly abused. And the Japanese had a certain bias against them. But it was long after the war, and they never gave compensation to these families. They were brought back and some of them had their land taken away from them and had to start over. And so finally, Congress did grant some very limited compensation. And so they got about $20,000 or something, some 44:00pathetic amount of money.

And after that, the media went out to get some commentary. They had a reporter on the street, and he asked a young Japanese gentleman, "Well, how do you feel about it now that the Japanese have finally gotten some compensation?" And he said, "Well, I feel kind of embarrassed, actually." And the reporter said, "Well, why is that?" He said, "Well, because my father really was a Japanese spy." [laughs] That's the only time I ever heard, in a roundabout way, that something was going on. But we were more kind of immersed in the culture of, 45:00isn't this a horrible thing to do to these people and our friends? And so I was never really directly aware of the bias that was held against them.

STEIN: What was it like on campus as, quickly, the men were going away, were being drafted? By the end of your college time, was it mostly women on campus?

WILSON: Actually, there were a couple of programs. I think one was called V-12. And that was for the Navy. And I've forgotten how the Army program was designated. But there were always classes, of course, of study going on, for servicemen on the campus. And so we had a lot of people in uniform on the 46:00campus. And I remember at one point, we even had several companies of Russian soldiers who were being brought in. I forget what they were studying; maybe studying English or something. But we were quite thrilled to have some Soviets in there. [laughs] And the general male population had been reduced by the draft, of course. There were still people who were 4-F for some reason. If you were triple-A, in you went; but if you had flat feet or something--like one of my dearest professors in the Art Department, John Haley, was, I think, 47:00thirty-seven or thirty-eight at the time, and he was drafted into the Navy. We were just horrified. But his contemporary, our other dear friend, Erle Loran, was disqualified for flat feet. So he stayed around during the war. But poor John had to go off and be a part of the war effort.

STEIN: Do you remember there being a big stigma if you were 4-F?

WILSON: I don't remember. You were certainly singular, you were noteworthy. But I don't think there was--

STEIN: It wasn't shameful.

WILSON: I don't think so, no.

STEIN: You mentioned that you did an accelerated program in college.

WILSON: Yeah. We went all year round there. The summer was a full semester, so 48:00that I entered in '41 and graduated in '44. The end of '41 till June of '44. So I was in and out in no time. And that was typical. They just--

STEIN: Cycled you in and out?

WILSON: Yeah, they wanted us to.

STEIN: Why would people decide to do that? Or was it a choice, or was everybody required to go on the accelerated track?

WILSON: You didn't have to go, but--for instance, the way I worked at the children's centers was to take a summer semester off to go and work in the children's centers. So that way, I missed a full semester of--it wasn't just summer classes, but I missed a full semester of class. But that was okay. I 49:00really enjoyed it. And my best friend went to work in the children's centers and stayed there for the--

STEIN: And never went back?

WILSON: She went back later, but she stayed for a couple of years in the program, and then she went back and finished college.

STEIN: So where did your interest in children or in education come from? Was that something that you developed during your time in college?

WILSON: I was an only child, so I didn't know anything about little children. And I just did it because it seemed like a good thing to do, and my best friend was doing it. So I thought, well, I'll go with her and do it. And I really loved 50:00it and had a wonderful time doing it. But then I went back to school, and she kept on. But it always was kind of a treasured memory.

And so years later, after I was married and my kids were all back in school, then I started into another program, actually, where they--Ronald Reagan was Governor at the time, and he took it into his head to close the mental hospitals and put mental patients back in their communities. And so then they were to establish community mental health clinics, and they started a program of training people to volunteer in these mental health clinics. So I got into that 51:00program and we had classes at Cal and a practicum at Napa Hospital. And then went on for over a year. And then the time came and there were no clinics being established. And so there we were, just abroad and afloat, so we started volunteering in different programs. And then I started wanting really to get some work, and it just occurred to me to put in an application at the children's centers, which were still going strong. And that was the only application that 52:00turned up for me. And so I went and interviewed and was accepted and put to work, and so I never got going in mental health. [laughter]

STEIN: Even though you had the training.

WILSON: Yeah. And then of course, we were encouraged to go on and take classes in early childhood education, and so we did a lot of that, and worked at the university nursery school and got our early childhood education on the job, kind of.

STEIN: On the job training. [laughter] So you did all of those classes after, not when you were a college student.

WILSON: No, no, after I went to work.

STEIN: Right, right. Were you aware of the early childhood development classes 53:00or work that was being done at Cal when you were there?

WILSON: I didn't pay any attention to it; I was only interested in art. [laughs] Just art, art, art.

STEIN: Were you doing fine arts?

WILSON: Mm-hmm.

STEIN: What was your medium?

WILSON: Well, all of them. They taught watercolor. We started out with black and white. We weren't allowed to use color for the first year. And so we did it on rice paper and sumi-e ink and brush. And so we worked with that until we some background in drawing and composition; then we were allowed to use watercolor. Or gouache, actually; it wasn't transparent watercolor, it was gouache. And then we graduated into oils. And then we got into sort of grandiose projects in doing 54:00mosaic and fresco. And I don't think it was until after I graduated, they developed a program in graphics. And so they had classes in all kinds of printing--lithograph and etching and engraving. But I was gone by that time. And then of course, Obata not being there, we never got to study the Japanese brushwork that he taught. But my aunt, this youngest aunt, preceded me at Cal, 55:00and she had studied with him, and we had a lot of her artwork that she had done with him. So we had exposure to all media.

STEIN: As there were all of these servicemen studying on the campus, and as it sounds like the campus was almost converting to a wartime education, were there many activities or volunteer efforts that you and your friends joined into?


STEIN: What types of things were they?

WILSON: Well, going to dances. [laughs] Yeah, they had a lot of social entertaining for the servicemen. And the campus girls were all invited to come 56:00and hostess. We called it hostessing. [laughs]

STEIN: Were these mostly USO events, or were there all kids?

WILSON: Well, they were going on in the town, as well, but--

STEIN: But on campus--

WILSON: --these were more or less campus events. Yeah. They would have a dance here in the gym and a dance there in the other gym and different entertainments for them.

STEIN: To keep everyone's morale up or keep them entertained?

WILSON: Right. Right.

STEIN: It must've been difficult, as an engaged woman, to want to participate and want to help the other servicemen, but also not want to overstep any boundaries, I imagine.

WILSON: Oh, yeah. Well, we were designated as hostesses; we were just there to entertain for the evening. And if any associations were made outside, that was all right. But I, being committed, didn't participate in extra-curricular 57:00entertainment. [laughs]

STEIN: So it was more hostessing, more formal than just a big, I don't know, party or a big dance.

WILSON: Yeah. Right. Yes. One of our close group of girlfriends met a naval officer at the USO in San Francisco, which is where she lived. And that ended up in a marriage. So yeah, there were lasting relationships formed. But I already was spoken for.

STEIN: Well, we're winding down on this tape, so I might as well pause here.

WILSON: Have we spoken for an hour? [laughs]

STEIN: Fifty-seven minutes. Can you believe it?

WILSON: Oh, gosh.

STEIN: This is tape two. It's July 8, 2010, and I'm here with Patricia Wilson. 58:00We've talked a little bit about, or a lot about, your childhood and your high school experience and even college and the effect of the war, a little bit on that. The reason that I came here, of course, is to mostly talk about the Maritime Child Development Center. So could you tell me how you found out about it, how you became involved with the center?

WILSON: Well, I can only remember my girlfriend, my best girlfriend--how did she find out about it? I guess through some kind of--she encountered some kind of 59:00recruitment. I'm not really clear as to how we knew about it. But we went out and interviewed, and we hired on as substitutes; that's always how you begin. And so we started making the rounds of the schools.

STEIN: Was this after your sophomore year of college? Or do you remember what year it was?

WILSON: I think it was 1943. I think I was by then a junior. And just took that semester off. And as I say, I'm not clear as to how we learned about it, through 60:00some kind of recruitment. So we were involved in--there was, I think, six. Let's see. There was Maritime, Pullman, Crescent Park, Lake, and Peres. I guess there were five of these scattered around in the city.

STEIN: Now, these were all organized through Kaiser, all five of those child development centers?

WILSON: By Henry Kaiser, who had established the shipyards. And then the healthcare for the workers was the beginning of Kaiser Permanente Hospital, which is still down there on Cutting. And housing. He created apartment housing 61:00for the workers. And miracle of miracles, he devised a program for their children. And it was just phenomenal. What a lovely program it was, because it was an educational program; it wasn't babysitting. But they had a really good developmental program, wonderful nutritional program, and care around the clock, because the shipyards worked twenty-four/seven, and so the centers were open twenty-four/seven. And they had dormitories for the children, with cots for them to sleep when it was time for them all to go to bed. They went upstairs. At that 62:00time, it was before the fire department restrictions, so they had upstairs dormitories for the children.

STEIN: You were eventually not able to use the upstairs, is that right?

WILSON: No, that was a no-no after the fire department stopped having multi-storied schools.

STEIN: Oh, that was earthquake safety?

WILSON: Fire, because of fire. I guess there had been some schools where there had been injuries and so forth.

STEIN: Was the second-floor shut down during the war years?

WILSON: No, after. Yes, after. He was so forward-looking. He wasn't just providing a place for the kids to stay and some toys to play with, but he had a 63:00really concentrated idea about creating a pre-school developmental program, which really worked. And we would feed into the public schools from--our five-year-old room then fed into the public school kindergarten. The teachers in the public school would always say, "We can always tell the children who came from Maritime because they all know how to spell their name; they know their letters, their colors, their alphabet, their numbers. They can pay attention, they can follow directions." We were always very impressed with the fact that this was really working. Their nutritional program was designed by a profession 64:00dietician, and it was just wonderful.

They had a good hot breakfast. Many of the children, of course, had to come early in the morning--we opened at six in the morning--and they would come for breakfast. And we had a hot breakfast--hot cereal, toast and fruit, and milk and fruit juice. And then we had a morning snack with fresh fruit, and juice and milk. Then we had a hot lunch, with an entrée and vegetable and salad and dessert. And then we had an afternoon snack, with more fruit or celery and carrots or something, and milk and juice. And it was really kind of amazing how 65:00many little children--when they first came to the center and they would sit down for their hot lunch and we would serve them a plate, and they would go, "What's that?" And we'd say, "Well, that's your lunch." And he'd say, "But what is it?" And we'd say it was macaroni and cheese or whatever. And he'd say, "Ooh, do I have to eat that?" [laughs] And we would wonder. And we finally began to understand that people were not cooking at home, and they didn't understand freshly-cooked food.

STEIN: Do you know what they were eating at home?

WILSON: Yeah. Like lunch, they would be handed potato chips and a Coke, and more in the nature of processed food. Or McDonald's. [laughs] And they were quite 66:00dumbfounded by having to eat freshly-cooked food. After a week or so--we would always say, "Well, you don't have to eat it if you don't want to, but just try it. If you try it, we'll give you some dessert." And they always wanted dessert, and so they would take a bite and a little bit more and a little bit more, and pretty soon they were good with the kind of food we were serving, which was really good, healthy food. But a lot of them had to get accustomed to eating fresh cooked food. And we had a really good educational program with music, art. And we had a wonderful art director for the children's centers, and she was the 67:00wife of my dear professor at Cal, John Haley.

STEIN: What was her name?

WILSON: Her name was Monica Haley. And she devised this wonderful developmental art program for the children. And I have a--

STEIN: Oh, that's fantastic!

WILSON: --book here, which she wrote. She developed this manual for the teachers, to help them--

STEIN: Actually, could you hold this up for the camera?

WILSON: Yeah, sure.

STEIN: It's not quite far away enough. The Art-Craft Manual for the Richmond Children's Center. That's fantastic.

WILSON: Yeah, she wrote helpful directions to the teachers on how to present different forms of media to the children and help them develop--not just 68:00copying, but doing independent--being very creative, helping them develop their creativity.

STEIN: Oh, this is wonderful.

WILSON: And she made me two copies, so I gave one to the Richmond Historical Museum.

STEIN: Perfect. I was going to ask. [laughs]

WILSON: Though I did give one to the Rosie [museum].

STEIN: Could I look at it?

WILSON: And I think they have placed it there.

STEIN: Yeah. It's really interesting. This seems so backed by research, by real sort of early childhood theory and--

WILSON: It was. It really was.

STEIN: Was that unusual at the time in early childhood centers?

WILSON: I think so. Yes, because there were lots of daycares, but they would go and play with some toys and watch TV or listen to the radio or just play, kind 69:00of play. And there was a real focus on helping them with their social and academic, pre-academic--predisposing them to be prepared for school.

STEIN: So what ages were the children at the Maritime Center?

WILSON: They were eighteen months to five years old.

STEIN: Oh, wow, that's quite a range.

WILSON: Yes, the two-year-old room had to deal with diapers. And then we went on to age five. And then we had extended daycare for school-age children, up to 70:00sixth grade. That was in another building. But we had the same kitchen and facilities for them; it was right across the street from our nursery. And so they would come in the morning, a lot of them, have breakfast; then we'd take them to school; then we'd bring them back for lunch; then we'd take then back to school; then they'd come back in the afternoon and wait for their parents to pick them up. And so we were open until 6:00 at night, and stayed open till 7:00, if somebody was forgotten.

STEIN: Did Maritime ever have children throughout the night? Or were there other--?

WILSON: During the war. Yes.

STEIN: And it would literally be open around the clock.


WILSON: Around the clock.

STEIN: How did they staff it at night? Did you ever work the night shift yourself?

WILSON: No, I never did.

STEIN: Lucky! [laughter]

WILSON: But there was a complete staff, both day and night. Of course, they wouldn't have to have so many aides at night, because the children would all be asleep.

STEIN: Hopefully, be asleep.

WILSON: But normally we'd be staffed with a teacher and two aides during the day, but they wouldn't need that many aides during the night.

STEIN: Yeah. So before Kaiser opened these centers, I've heard that there was something of a crisis in child care. I've heard stories about parents leaving children in cars overnight while they worked the night shift, or people really having trouble figuring out what to do with their children when both parents were working. Did you ever hear stories about the need for these centers?

WILSON: Well, I did not. They were already well established and up and running 72:00by the time I got there, and I wasn't aware of it. I can imagine that was the case, because these people all came in suddenly from all over the country. And I guess a lot of them were not prepared for what to do with their children. And a lot of them didn't even--we heard stories about how they were not used to urban living conditions. And they wouldn't understand about central heat, and they would chop up the floor and make a fire in the bathtub to keep warm, [laughs] because they didn't understand about heating and running water.


STEIN: Right, because so many of these families came from very rural backgrounds.

WILSON: Really, yes.

STEIN: Did you notice that with the children, too? During the wartime, were some of the children at the center not used to some aspects of urban life?

WILSON: Yeah. Like taking baths and washing their hair.

STEIN: Was there sort of hygiene instruction?

WILSON: Yeah. Well, we would very often give a child a bath [laughs] because he needed one. And we had issues with lice. Yes, we had a health inspection for 74:00every child when he came. Every day we would take his temperature and look him over, look in his throat and test to see if he had swollen glands or a rash or anything with health issues. We had a nurse on duty all the time for the--she went around and visited each center every day and was told if anybody was ill or had maybe chicken pox or anything that might be contagious. And we had this full-time nurse. [chuckles] I was at a concert the other night and this woman 75:00came over to me from across the room, and I couldn't believe it; it was our school nurse! And here we were, long retired and running each other. It was so delightful. And we had a pediatrician come around and visit and make sure the children had their--

STEIN: Their vaccinations?

WILSON: --vaccinations, all their DPT and smallpox and all of that. So they had very good healthcare, as well as--

STEIN: So it really was quite comprehensive.

WILSON: Yes. Ultimately--[laughs] by the time I retired--it was the Cadillac of child care. And the city couldn't afford it. It was run by the district, by the 76:00school district, and it was just unaffordable, finally. And so they removed it from the school district and gave it to the county.

STEIN: Do you recall what year that was?

WILSON: It was right after I left, which was in '85; so I think it was around '87, '86 or '87, that it was finally transferred. And many of our teachers were certificated, and they went immediately into the public schools; and others set about to get certificated, and they went into the public schools. And then it became more like babysitting. And the staff were not as well paid. And I don't 77:00know whether they kept up their nutrition and healthcare and music and art and all of that; I'm sure they did not. I don't know that it deteriorated, but it became different.

STEIN: Right. It is impressive that for forty years or so, it did maintain such high standards.

WILSON: Oh, yes!

STEIN: But it really is a shame that--

WILSON: Yes. We were on the teachers' pay schedule and on their annual calendar. So we had three months of vacation, but we didn't have to take it in the summer. So we could take a month at Christmas, a month at Easter, a month in summer, 78:00whenever we wanted or bunch them up together, whatever we wished; and had all the amenities of the district teachers. And it was a joy.

STEIN: So what were your duties like as a substitute teacher in 1943?

WILSON: Well, it depended on your shift. When I had the early shift, I would open up at six o'clock and with the other teachers, would go in and staff the rooms. And I would be in the office, and I would do the health checks of everybody that came in. And then I would go off into my room. And we would serve 79:00breakfast, and then we would have a morning activity. It could be anything or a combination of things. It could be arts and crafts, it could be music, it could be circle time. We would have stories and learning games. And then we would have outdoor play. We would go on the playground, and we would have children's games. They would have sandboxes and climbing apparatus and a lawn where we could play kickball and do hopscotch or all sorts of stuff, little cars that they could drive around. And then come in and wash up for lunch; have a story time and then 80:00serve lunch.

And then it would be nap time. We would clean up lunch, and we would have beds stacked in the hall, get out the beds, make up the beds, and play some soft music and the children would all have naps. And then we would get them up after a couple of hours and have afternoon snack time, sit at the tables. Then we would have playtime, outdoor playtime. Then we would come in and have afternoon activity, another circle time with learning games or music, art, arts and crafts. And once a week, we would have a movie. Or I guess every afternoon at 81:005:00 o'clock, everybody would come in and sit down for Sesame Street. [Correction: Sesame Street began in 1969] We would have a TV hour between 5:00 and 6:00, when the parents would be coming in to take their children home. And then, once a week, we would have a movie in the afternoon. And that was about it. And we had parents' groups meeting in the evening.

STEIN: What were those like?

WILSON: We would have kind of an evening where the teachers would all be in their various rooms and the parents could go in and look at the activities that 82:00the children had been undertaking and visit with the teachers and the staff. Or sometimes there would be just parents' groups with whatever needed to be reported to the parents about what was going on in the school. Or they could ask questions and interact with the staff. And so there was a good rapport with the parents and we got to be very good friends with our parents.

STEIN: Were the parents mostly newcomers to Richmond? Were there many people who had been there for quite a long time?

WILSON: Oh, it was an assortment, yes, of local people and new people. Lots of new people. A lot of new people.

STEIN: Right, because Richmond was growing so quickly.


WILSON: Yeah, just exploded right then.

STEIN: And a lot of people talk about some of the strain that this population growth put on the city of Richmond; that the public schools were running around the clock and nobody had a place to live. Were any of these strains ever visible through your interactions with the parents, or even the children?

WILSON: Not really. But we had some behavioral problems with the children. We also had a speech therapist. And there was actually a school in Richmond dealing with speech development, and we would recommend, if a child was having a speech 84:00problem, to have some time at the school and work on their speech. But it was mostly just being aware that parents would come from rural Georgia or from downtown Chicago or all these very kind of foreign cultures and we would be dealing with the secondary effects of Southern accents or just different ways of 85:00dressing and--as I say, we had occasion to give quite a few children some baths because they weren't used to bathing very regularly or often. But I guess that occasionally, there came to be outside issues of family difficulties that affected--like I think there was one time when the father shot the mother. She had to go to the hospital. That was not typical.

STEIN: I imagine that there were so many changes going on at this time and a lot 86:00of people were under a lot of stress if they didn't have a safe place to live or if they had just been uprooted.

WILSON: Yeah, so many of them were uprooted and trying to adjust to a really bizarre work schedule. Some of them were swing, some of them were graveyard. And leaving their children, being away from their children--it must've been very disturbing to a lot of them.

STEIN: So if you were a family, let's say, just moved to Richmond and were working in the shipyards, how could you qualify to get your children into 87:00Maritime? Was it required that both parents were working the shipyard?


STEIN: If the mother was not employed, could you not send your child to Maritime?

WILSON: I think during the war, it was only for the shipyards. But after the war, when I went back, it was then restricted to people in some kind of welfare program, like AFDC or general welfare; or job training, if they were in job training; or job hunting. But they had to qualify economically, to be in the program. It was not for everyone after the war.

STEIN: And even during the war, it was still limited.


WILSON: During the war, yeah, it was just for the shipyard people. But then when it became open to the general public, it was then only if you qualified economically or were in a program of some kind. And then after the Vietnam War, then we had quite an influx of Vietnamese, who had to flee the country after the Communists took over. And they had been supporting the South Vietnam government, and then they had to leave, and so they came here as refugees. And then they were given housing and were put on welfare. And the parents were then sent to 89:00school, adult school, to learn English, and the children then came to us. And so suddenly, we got this population of little Vietnamese children. And we loved them.

STEIN: Really?

WILSON: They were so well behaved. And so even though they couldn't speak English, they just figured it out. They would watch the other children and do what they were supposed to do, and always cooperated. And their parents were so helpful. They would always come to meetings and always want to help wherever they could, with volunteering at the school.

STEIN: Did they come with translators or were they learning English by this point?

WILSON: They were learning English, and they learned very quickly. And the children learned very quickly. It was rather amusing that as the parents became 90:00established, they immediately got work and lost their qualification to be in the program because they were making too much money. [laughs] And so they had to leave.

STEIN: That's so ironic.

WILSON: It was amazing what a different culture it was. And I guess to them, education is so important that at a very early age, the children become culturally adjusted to learning. And they're doing things at home that predispose them to being educated.

STEIN: Which works out wonderfully for you in the schools. [laughs]

WILSON: And oh boy, they were a joy to have.

STEIN: It's such an interesting perspective on some of the ethnic and racial 91:00changes going on in Richmond, from the perspective of the schools or the Maritime Center. Was the center very integrated during the war years? Was there a large African-American population?


STEIN: Were there Asian students, as well? Or was it mostly black and white? Do you remember?

WILSON: I do. There were just a sprinkling. And I think it had to do with the neighborhood of the school. I think I remember that Lake School had a number of Asian children. I don't know of any more than just a couple at Maritime or 92:00Pullman. I think Crescent Park had some Asian students.

STEIN: Do you remember how it broke down at Maritime? Was it half and half or--?

WILSON: Oh, mostly African American. Maybe not half and half, but a little more than half.

STEIN: So it's interesting. So many other areas of Richmond were segregated. At that point, housing was almost entirely segregated, and a lot of the work that people did--not entirely, but much of it--African Americans were given worse jobs. But it sounds like at the children's center, that didn't really exist. It sounds like it was quite an integrated--

WILSON: Oh, yes. Perfectly.

STEIN: Was there any educational talk about race at that point? Or was that something that wasn't explicitly dealt with with the children?

WILSON: I don't think we had occasion to deal with that. Very young children are 93:00quite oblivious. They can think that everybody in the world speaks a different language, [laughs] and adjust to that; or everybody in the world is a different color, and adjust to that. I think it's when they get older, and they pick it up from their parents, that they begin to distinguish differences and develop opinions and attitudes. But at that very young age, diversity is very accepted.

STEIN: How about the teachers? What were the teachers' backgrounds? Where did 94:00they come from?

WILSON: Most of them were Caucasian. We did have quite a few African-American teachers. And the aides, the same; good assortment of Caucasian and African American.

STEIN: Were they from Berkeley and Richmond or all over the Bay Area?

WILSON: All over. They were from everywhere. And we were all beautifully integrated; we all loved each other and just had wonderful relationships.

STEIN: How did you get yourself to Richmond? You mentioned that you didn't learn to drive for quite a while, and it's not so close to us.

WILSON: On the bus. On the bus. We did a lot of running around on the bus. But of course, after I went back, I did have a car.


STEIN: So one woman who comes up a lot when I've been looking into the Maritime Center is Dr. Catherine Landreth. Do you know of her?

WILSON: Oh, yeah, the name, I remember; I can't remember her function.

STEIN: I believe that she was one of the founders. She studied early childhood development at Cal.

WILSON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yeah, that was where the name came from. I didn't have any interaction with her, but I guess that was where the name came from.

STEIN: And I guess one of the things that was new at this point was--well, it's actually interesting; you mentioned before, I believe, your grandfather saying, 96:00"Why are you feeding the kids all of the meat?" [Wilson laughs] Whereas by the time that you get to the 1940s, there's starting to be this new understanding of children having really specific needs and actually needing things to be scaled to a child's point of view like child-sized furniture. Was that an ideology that was common?

WILSON: Mm-hm. Very definitely. Yeah, their diet was planned for good health and development, physical development. And everything was scaled directly toward children--their little tables and little chairs, and little bathrooms with 97:00little sinks. Everything was made small and convenient for little people.

STEIN: What type of training did you receive before you started working?

WILSON: Well, they just dropped us in--

STEIN: Oh, really?

WILSON: --and there we went. There was no time for--yeah, we just had to learn on the job. And we did. Some were trained teachers, but we being college students, we just sort of went in and did what we were told and took it from there.

STEIN: Do you remember what the classrooms looked like? The building itself is being sort of resurrected as a monument now, or as part of this national park.



STEIN: And I believe that there's going to be an entire classroom that is made to look exactly like it did in the 1940s. Can you describe what that looked like?

WILSON: Yes. It was a big, big room, and it would hold--oh, we didn't want it to, but it would hold thirty little people and a teacher and two aides. And it was structured so that you went in the door and there would be an alcove with all their little lockers. Each child had a little cubby hole, which was his locker. It had shelves where we could put whatever he brought to school--a book or a toy or whatever--a place to hang his clothes. And that was on one side, to 99:00one side of the door. And on the other side was the bathroom. And that would have four little sinks and four little toilets. And then you went out into one big room, and there would be several long tables and a lot of little chairs. And then around the walls would be shelving. And that would be for all the toys and equipment that were needed for the playtime or arts and crafts. And then there were big doors out into the playground. And the playground had a jungle gym and sandboxes and a slide and all of that.


STEIN: So every classroom was connected directly to the playground?

WILSON: Well, there were several different playgrounds. It was an L-shaped building; there were three big rooms and the office on one arm, and then the other arm had two more big rooms. And so each arm had its own playground. So two rooms shared one playground, and I guess two rooms shared another playground, and there was one for the very little children; they had their own.

STEIN: Because they were so small?

WILSON: Yeah. They didn't want to get trampled. [laughs]

STEIN: Exactly. On a tour that I was on recently for the Rosie the Riveter National Park, they mentioned that I believe the Richmond Museum has paintings 101:00that children made about the war. And I thought that was fascinating, that there were ways to try to help the children understand what was going on, but through sort of age-appropriate means.

WILSON: Well, that was Monica. She organized the art program. And she made a wonderful collection of the paintings and artwork that the children did, and donated that to the Richmond Museum.

STEIN: That's wonderful.

WILSON: And so I guess that there are exhibits from time to time, from this collection. And I guess they're viewable; if you go there, you can be allowed to go in and look at them.

STEIN: Was it frequent that the activities would directly relate to current 102:00events, to the war? Or was that not sort of the focus of most of the activities?

WILSON: Well, I don't think that there was a focus, but it would happen that the children would be aware. They would hear their parents or they knew that this was going on, and they would portray it themselves in their work. Especially the older ones, the four- and five-year-olds, would frequently portray some kind of airplanes dropping bombs or just something to do with the theme of warfare. And 103:00the teachers would encourage them to express themselves that way and thought that it would help them to deal with any kind of stress that they would have about it, if they could draw it or paint it or--they had every kind of medium--cut and paste and collage and clay and all of this. And they would sometimes take the opportunity to express how they feel or any kind of stress. And that was always encouraged. I don't think they directed them to do it; but if they happened to do it, that would be encouraged and talked about.

STEIN: It sounds like a really remarkable place.


WILSON: Well, it sure was. I don't think I've ever--well, the University childcare is wonderful in that way. But on the outside, I've never seen anything quite so well organized and well planned.

STEIN: Do you recall some of the challenges that the Maritime Center faced? I imagine it was quite a difficult undertaking and in many ways, it was very path-breaking. Do you remember challenges during the war? And then were there different challenges when you went back several years later, twenty years later, to work there again?

WILSON: I guess institutionally, there was--I guess it happens throughout the 105:00school system. A teacher would leave a permanent job, and it would be filled by a substitute. Then the district would think, "Hm, this is nice. We've got a substitute here; we don't have to pay her full-time salary and we don't have to give her healthcare and pension and all that, so why bother?" And so this roomful of children would then be left to face a new teacher every week or every 106:00month. It was constant coming and going.

STEIN: Was this happening in the seventies and eighties, or also in 1943?

WILSON: All the time. Until the union finally did something and said, "Enough of this." And this is really bad for the children. They really need--really, really need--some kind of stability. And they expect it, and if they don't have it, they get upset. So that was one challenge. But it was being pretty well resolved by the time I had been in the system for quite a while. The union complained and finally got that pretty well resolved. So that was one particular challenge. And then there were some challenges with specific children, with their problems, 107:00behavior problems. And we had an alternative school, where children could go if they were having behavioral difficulties or needed help with their speech. But that was worked out pretty well. But occasionally there would be a child who was having chronic difficulties or family problems. But I'm sure that's true with all schools.

And I think our only challenges were in dealing with what we called downtown, 108:00the administration. And it was the things that trickled down from the administration that we found difficulties in dealing with. So there was a little back and forth going there. But we had a wonderful director and usually a very sympathetic head teacher that could deal with these things pretty successfully.

STEIN: You mentioned at one point when we first spoke, that you were quite aware of the innovative work that women were doing at this time in the shipyards.

WILSON: Boy, oh boy. [laughs]


STEIN: What was sort of your awareness of it at that point? And I'm also curious if that made you think any differently about potentially pursuing a career yourself, or how your experience as a woman in college doing this really quite important work made you think about women and work in general.

WILSON: Well, it was just revolution. It really was. A cultural revolution. And we were [chuckles] unable to even conceive of what a female did in life. She got married and she had children, took care of her family. That was it. You learned how to cook and wash and clean, and that was your job. And when all these men 110:00disappeared and women had to take their place doing their work, we were dumbfounded that women could do that. It was unbelievable! And we were just in awe of these women who were out there riveting and welding [laughs] and putting together Liberty Ships and sending them off once a week. It was just incredible. And my mother went to work.

STEIN: Oh, she did? Where did she work?

WILSON: Yeah. She worked in what they called a keypunch machine. And this was something that was a way of data processing, in the early stages of data processing. And so that was her war job.


STEIN: Your father, did he fight in the war?

WILSON: In the second? No. He was retired by then, and what he did was he went to work at Fort Mason, which was then a military base. And he ran the security for Fort Mason.

STEIN: Was that a military job?

WILSON: I think it was at that time.

STEIN: And what motivated your mother to work?

WILSON: Well, because everybody was going out to work. Everybody had to help.

STEIN: So it was more about joining the war effort than providing for the family, it sounds like, because your father was working.

WILSON: Yeah, I think it just--women were going out and doing stuff. And the men were all gone and everybody had to roll up their sleeves and help out. And she enjoyed her work. She liked it, and did it even after the war.


STEIN: Did that seem like a controversial decision?

WILSON: Well, everybody was doing it. No. It was new and it was different; but the world had just turned upside-down, and so you just did whatever needed to be done. And it was just a time of--the world was just changing forever. And so yes, it was very apparent in my family. But my mother was doing something that you could do in an office. But these women were out there with helmets and great big gloves and boots, and doing all this hard, very--it was just dramatic, the 113:00work that they were doing, and doing it well. And actually sending ships out. Once a week, they were--even less than that--putting a ship in the water.

STEIN: Did you meet any of the women in the shipyards? Were those some of the mothers at your school?


STEIN: Did you hear about their experiences?

WILSON: Well, no, I don't think we went into great detail. We were mostly talking about their kids. But we knew what they were doing and we were very impressed. We were quite awed. [laughs]

STEIN: Did you consider working after the war? Or sort of what was your experience when the war ended?


WILSON: Well, by then, my fiancé came home. We immediately got married, and he went back to school to finish his education--

STEIN: At Cal?

WILSON: --and I went to work--yeah, at Cal. Yes. And I went to work at the bookstore, Cal bookstore, which was across on--

STEIN: Bancroft?

WILSON: It was on Bancroft and Telegraph, right on the corner, a big bookstore. And I worked in the art department there. They had art materials. So I worked there until we had our first baby, which happened in, oh, a year. [laughs] And then I stayed home after that. And our last child was born in 1963. And she was ready for school in five years, and then I started thinking about going back to 115:00work and went into this mental health training program. And then a few years after that, bingo, I was back in the children's centers.

STEIN: It must've been a nice homecoming.


STEIN: We have three minutes left on this tape. [laughter] Time files. Are there any questions that I didn't ask that you would love to talk about or anything that you think is important, critical to know about this time?

WILSON: You've been very thorough. Yes, you've helped me cover--oh, yes. I guess I should mention there are quite a few of our staff still around. And I just went to a retirement party for one of my dear colleagues, who has been in the 116:00public schools ever since. We met in the children's centers, and then I retired and she went on then to a public school. And I just went to her retirement a couple weeks ago. And our dear head teacher, who is now in her nineties, is still living in the same house down in Richmond. And she sends Christmas cards every year and is just such a wonderful person. I still hear from her every year. And the director of the program, who was director while I was there, is still--I think she's living either in Point Richmond or San Francisco now. Mary Hall Prout is still with us. And Mrs. Hufford was at Maritime when I came; and 117:00she retired and then we had Sharon Fogelson as our head teacher. And she is retired and living in Fairfield. So there're many of us still extant. And if there's any insight that you could gain--

STEIN: That would be wonderful.

WILSON: --from them, we can refer you to them.

STEIN: Absolutely, I would love that. Does everybody know about Maritime becoming a part of the park?

WILSON: I think they do. I think they do.

STEIN: What are your feelings on that?

WILSON: We are so overjoyed. [laughs] We just have a very tender place in our 118:00heart for the school and all the wonderful relationships that grew out of it. And we were just overjoyed to find that it was going to be preserved. And we'll love to go there and volunteer or whatever when things get going. And I guess the hospital is going to be restored as well?

STEIN: Yeah.

WILSON: Oh, gosh. [Stein laughs] That is so delightful!

STEIN: Yeah, it's really wonderful. Well, we should stop here; we only have one minute. I just want to say thank you so much for this. Your amazing memory is--you have such amazing recall of these events that happened so long ago. And you were really part of a critically important time period.

WILSON: Well, it was very stressful, and it sticks with you. [laughs]

STEIN: Yeah, I imagine.

WILSON: Well, they call it PMT. Something kind of stress syndrome.


STEIN: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

WILSON: Post-Traumatic.

STEIN: Well, it sounds like it wasn't all traumatic; also lots of fun, perhaps?

WILSON: Yeah. It wasn't all traumatic; it was just a very memorable time.

STEIN: Yeah, yeah, that's absolutely true.

WILSON: Yeah. And I want to thank you for your interest and for helping me have a wonderful time of recollection.

STEIN: Oh, sure. My pleasure.

WILSON: It was very enjoyable.