||Virginia D. Jiricka Marquardt was born in Oshkosh on July 30, 1923. Her father was born and raised in
Czechoslovakia and came to the U.S. as a young man and married an Oshkosh woman. They had two sons besides Virginia. Virginia's father was employed as a tailor in Oshkosh, a trade learned in Europe. Virginia lived on the north side and attended Merrill grade school, graduated from Oshkosh High School in 1941 and Oshkosh Business College about 18 months later. She was employed at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for a few months until she enlisted in the WAVES in November 1943 at age 20. One had to be 20 years old to enlist in the WAVES. Why the WAVES? She liked the uniform. Boot camp was at Hunter College in New York. It was mostly classroom work with some drilling. Then she was selected for training in office work and sent to the U. of Indiana in Bloomington. There she doubled her speed in shorthand and typing in courses that brought the girls up to speed very quickly. She was then assigned to duty as a storekeeper in the commissary at The Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island. The work was relatively easy but required a lot of record-keeping for things such as ration stamps - yes, some had to use
those even in the armed services! Her week-ends were free to go to places such as New York City, which she did often. Living quarters were comfortable and the food excellent. Flying accidents occurred almost
every day and after the initial shock of hearing about those things, it became sort of routine for the personnel at the Air Station. In late 1945 or early 1946 Virginia was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Station to learn the process of discharging sailors. That program ceased right after her arrival so she was then sent to Washington, D.C. and did commissary work there until her discharge in March 1946. Virginia returned to Oshkosh and went right back to work at Metropolitan. She met her future husband Keith on a blind date and they were married in February 1947. They had three children. Her husband died ten years ago. Her Navy unit has held no reunions but she keeps in touch with two or three of her friends from service. Virginia felt guilty giving the interview because as she put it, "I had two years of fun in the Navy." She realizes however, that she freed up two or three sailors who could go to fight.
||World War II Oral History Project
|Dates of Accumulation
||June 2, 2005
||Cassette recorded oral history interview with Virginia D. Jiricka Marquardt. She enlisted in the WAVES in November 1943 at age 20. Boot camp was at Hunter College in New York. Then she was selected for training in office work and sent to the U. of Indiana in Bloomington. She was then assigned to duty as a storekeeper in the commissary at The Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island. In late 1945 or early 1946 Virginia was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Station to learn the process of discharging sailors. That program ceased right after her arrival so she was then sent to Washington, D.C. and did commissary work there until her discharge in March 1946.
Virginia Marquardt Interview
2 June 2005
Conducted by Thomas M. Sullivan
(T: identifies the interviewer, Tom Sullivan; V: identifies the subject, Virginia Marquardt. Open brackets [ ] or bracketed words indicate that either a word or phrase is not understood, or that proper spelling for the word is unclear).
T: It's June 2nd, 2005 and I'm Tom Sullivan at the home of Virginia Marquardt who served in World War II. Virginia is going to be telling me about her experiences in that war.
Let's begin then Virginia by having you tell me when and where you were born.
V: I was born in Oshkosh.
T: And the date of your birth?
V: July 30th, 1923.
T: Were your mother and dad both from this area as well?
V: My father was from Czechoslovakia and came over here as a, I think he was sixteen. And then he was here the rest of the… My mother was born in the area.
T: I see. What did your dad do for a living here?
V: My father was a tailor and he learned that in Czechoslovakia before he came here.
T: I see. Do you have brothers and sisters?
V: I have two brothers. One is living, the other is dead. They both served in the service but not during the war. They were younger than me.
T: No sisters?
V: No sisters.
T: I see. Okay. Tell me about your childhood Virginia. Where did you live and where did you go to grade school for instance?
V: I lived on the North Side, the last block that was still in the city limits. I went to Merrill School in Oshkosh. Went all through from Kindergarten to junior high, and then Oshkosh High School and then Oshkosh Business College.
T: Was that out near Murdock Street? Was that pretty much the city limits?
V: There was a little bump in there; it went down to Gruenwald. There were four or five streets that were still city limits. Gruenwald was our city limits.
T: When you were in grade school for instance, what kind of activities did you kids engage in for fun?
V: What did we do? We did a lot of hopscotch. We did a lot of "kick the can," games that we played at night in the street. Had neighbors that had a lot on the lake so in good weather we were out there swimming and playing in the water. I roller-skated. Just typical childhood.
T: Now you graduated from Oshkosh High School. What kind of activities did you engage in then?
V: I belonged to the Girls Athletic Association, which was called GAA. And I think that was, that's all I can think of. I was in Campfire Girls all through, when I was old enough to be a Campfire Girl until I graduated from high school.
T: Now you grew up during the Depression years. Can you tell me if your family was affected at all by the Depression? Did your dad have steady employment then or were things tough for him during the Depression?
V: Being a tailor, he worked, at that time I think he worked for the, did alterations. The dry-cleaners business was slow because they had to re-finance their home. They had to take a mortgage on it in order to get through.
T: Oshkosh I guess, from what I gather, was pretty hard hit during the Depression because of the lumber industry that was down. I guess there were a lot of people out of work.
V: I had cousins that had to go to the CCC camp for the boys. Things like that.
T: After you got out of high school, you went to business college.
V: That's right. My parents said there were three choices for a girl in Oshkosh at that time: business college, Oshkosh Teachers College and Mercy Hospital (the school of nursing). And they said they would borrow the money on their life insurance and I'd have to pay it back.
I chose Business College because that was the shortest; I would start to work faster.
T: How long a course of instruction was it at the Oshkosh Business College?
V: Well, it was supposed to be a year but they sent me out to work in September. I went in, in January and in September Miles Kimball was just really getting a start here in Oshkosh and he needed help. So he got help from the Business College.
T: Now what year was it that you graduated from high school Virginia?
V: '46? Don't I have that someplace? No, no, no.
T: Probably around 1940 I would think.
V: Yeah right. Isn't that terrible? It was January of '41.
T: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when Pearl Harbor was attacked? A lot of us can remember.
V: I remember because it was my first day of work at Metropolitan Insurance Co. The Monday after Pearl Harbor.
T: In the late thirties and early 1940's there was war over in Europe and there was war in the Far East. Did you and your girl friends pay any attention to that? Or was it pretty far removed from your mind?
V: My father was very interested in the European war because he had a lot of family in Czechoslovakia. He was very, very worried and interested in that.
T: Did you think that we might get involved in it at any time?
V: I really didn't. I never thought that we would. However, every fellow in my high school graduating class ended up going in the service.
T: So when you completed your training at business college you went to work for?
V: Metropolitan Insurance Co.
T: Where were they located?
V: They were in the First National Bank building.
T: That's where my dad had an office. In the First National Bank building. I guess there really isn't much in the First National Bank Building anymore.
V: I guess not but it was a very active, Prudential Insurance, there were offices on every floor. We were on the fourth or fifth, I don't remember which floor we were on any more. My dentist was also in that building.
T: Then how long did you work at Metropolitan before you went in the service?
V: I went in the service right from my job.
T: So that was in '43 that you enlisted. What made you choose that branch of service, the WAVES?
V: I hate to admit it but I didn't like the color of the khaki uniforms that WACS wore. I thought the Navy looked a lot better! (Laughter).
T: I think that's a pretty good explanation.
V: At that age.
T: Well you know there were fellows that joined the Marines because they liked the looks of that dress uniform. It was so slick.
V: Oh, you bet! Right, right.
T: After you enlisted in the WAVES what was the next step then? I suppose you had to get basic training.
V: Basic training was at Hunter College in New York City, which I believe was in the Bronx. The Navy took over several large apartment buildings and we were billeted in the apartment buildings. All we did there was sleep. We got up in the morning and marched off to school. Had classes all day; went back to our rooms late afternoon.
T: Was it mostly classwork or did you have physical training as well. It was mostly classwork?
V: Every Saturday we had what they called special parades. We had to parade in groups across the big athletic field. We had to learn to march and stay in order, in formation. And there were other WAVES that took the part of the sergeants that drilled. You know, like a drill sergeant. Those were all women.
T: Did they lord it over you or were they kind?
V: Oh, I had no problem. Everybody was good.
T: Some fellows that were in the Army and so forth had instructors that were brutal.
V: They were rough. They still do. My granddaughter was at her cousin's who's in the Marines. And they were watching there and one Marine sergeant bawled somebody out and my granddaughter cried. And told my cousin, "They're not supposed to talk to those boys like that." So in this day and age they still do that. At least in the Marines they do.
T: How long did that part of your training last Virginia?
V: I believe it was six weeks. I don't have a sheet there with my dates on it?
T: Now Virginia you said that you had this classroom work. What did that consist of? What kind of courses were you taking? Now you probably knew the typing business, shorthand and perhaps some bookkeeping.
V: Basic training was mostly the marching and the history, history of the Navy. And what was expected of us as recruits. And we did a lot of testing, personality testing and ability testing to decide where we would go at the end of our basic training.
T: Sort of an aptitude test. It's interesting that you had to be 20 years old in order to join the WAVES because as you know, the guys, they took them…
V: They took them right away.
T: And you could even get into the service at age 17 if your parents would sign. But the gals all had to be twenty years old.
V: Right, they all had to be twenty.
T: That's interesting. Well after you finished boot camp, where did you go then?
V: From the aptitude test they said I would have to stay in office work. It would be office work.
T: Well, it stands to reason because you certainly were well trained for that type of work.
V: Right, that was what I had to do. And from basic training I went to the University of Indiana and that was where I got the military office training. We were in barracks there. We marched back and forth to the University. We had breakfast in the morning. By eight o'clock we were at the university. We were there to five o'clock. We ate lunch someplace on the university grounds. We ate supper back in the barracks and were free like from seven at night to the next morning.
T: Were your accommodations pretty good and the meals and that sort of thing?
V: I was very happy. There was always… In basic training there were three double bunks, bunk beds in the room. There were six of us. There were two rooms in the apartment. That was twelve of us and we shared the one bathroom. And everything was fine.
T: With twelve of you gals sharing one bathroom I imagine it was a fight to get in and out of there.
V: You learned cooperation very fast.
T: I guess so.
V: And you learned to go to bed at, you know?
T: Couldn't stay up to all hours of the night.
V: No, because that's if somebody was tired and wanted to go to bed, everything. I think we had lights out at any rate, I'm sure we did.
T: What kind of training was it that you were getting at the University of Indiana? You mentioned office…
V: Bookkeeping. My shorthand speed was more than doubled while I was there. My typing speed more than doubled while I was there. So it was very, very - what's the word - cond….
V: Well very hard. I mean it was concentrated. I would say very concentrated probably because both speeds definitely improved. More than doubled.
T: During this part of your training were there some girls that were sort of washed out so to speak? Let go. They said, "Well, you can't hack it?" Or did everybody make the grade?
V: Well if you didn't, a lot of it depended on your scores on the aptitude tests. Now when I interviewed to see where I would go - you can put what you wanted, where you wanted to go - and I put down California or stay with Rosemary Bell who was a good friend of mine. I met her on a train going to Hunter College. And we were roommates all the time there.
And they called me in and said, "Well, Rosemary didn't qualify for anything but office work." And so you had your choice. "Do you want to go to the University of Indiana under the Storekeeper's Program, or do you want to go to California without Rosemary?" And for some reason I decided to stay with Rosemary. I still know Rosemary. I'm still in contact with her. I was in her wedding.
T: That's nice. How long did your training there at the University of Indiana last?
V: It'll be on the back of that discharge paper. Maybe six months.
T: they don't really give a date, unless it's on…
V: Well what about, I went after six weeks and then that thing that Joanie made for me, my graduation from there, I don't know if we can see the date. I don't remember dates.
T: Okay, so you completed your training at Indiana in August of '44. Then I assume that you got assigned somewhere.
V: It wasn't August of '44. (It was March 1944).
(The tape machine was accidentally turned off for a few moments here. Virginia is assigned to duty at Quonset Point, Rhode Island Naval Air Station).
T: Well I'm going to go back a little bit and we'll go over this again.
V: You were asking about the barracks.
T: The barracks at Quonset Point. And you were…
V: They were brand new. We were the second bunch of WAVES to be assigned there.
T: Were you quite separated from the male…?
V: Yes. There were four barracks, one right after the other and there were no male barracks at that, not even nearby.
T: I see. How many girls in total were on that base? WAVES that is.
V: I don't really know.
T: Was it quite a few?
V: Well, there were four barracks. The barracks were two stories high and there were eight in every section. I really don't remember how many sections there were. Probably eight to ten. Then after the sections with the bunks, that was where the laundry and shower rooms and bathrooms. So I don't know if there were six or eight but it seems like a lot. I know I went past two or three sections before I got to mine. And there must have been two or three after mine. But it was fairly open for eight people, four on each side of the hall. Because the hall was open. There were no doors on it. It was always open.
T: Were your hours quite restricted? Or were they a little more loose.
V: Mine was just like a civilian job. I went to work Monday through Friday. I worked eight to five every day. I had every Saturday and Sunday off. I did not have to do anything. No guard duty or any assignment like that.
T: And you could come in late?
V: The barracks supposedly were locked at two AM.
T: And now your duties were in this commissary and as you say, you were…
V: It was just like a big grocery store. Just like Copps or anything.
T: And everybody that shopped there had to have an…
V: An ID card to shop there. Had to be military.
T: And I think you mentioned that they used food stamps.
V: Not food stamps but ration points. Oh yes, a lot of our time, we had to collect them for everything.
T: Just like civilians?
V: They were the same ration stamps.
T: I would think that wouldn't apply when you were in the service.
V: Oh it did. We had to bundle them up, I don't how many millions and millions of stamps we had to mail away. Count them and bundle them up. And write a report of how many were in there, what points they were, quantities. I don't remember a lot of it because I didn't have to do much of the counting. Another girl in the office did most of the counting. I did more of the typing.
T: When you had your meals was it all girls or did you eat in a big hall with the men?
V: We ate in a large mess hall but there was just one group that was for the WAVES. And the WAVES went to the head of the line. No matter when we came in we walked past all the sailors that were - there might have been two hundred sailors in line - and we walked right past and go to the head of the line. We'd get a few cat calls.
T: I suppose. I was going to ask you if there were any remarks made about that.
V: In fact two different times when I walked down the line I ran across two fellows that I knew from high school. Of course I wouldn't look. I walked with my eyes straight ahead but they holler, "Hey Jiricka!" I turned.
T: What was your maiden name?
V: J I R I C K A. It's pronounced "jureeka." In Czech it's "yezichka."
T: Was the food good?
V: Yes. I had no problems with the food. Not anyplace. When I was in the school in Indiana, when I was in basic training. I should take that back. Basic training Rosemary and I ate a lot of [ ] delicious homemade bread with butter and sugar on it. We passed up other things but we ate the fruit and the bread was delicious. But the meat and some of the other stuff was not that great. The fruits were good.
T: What was your opinion in those days of the enemy? Of the Germans and the Japanese? You know we had a lot of propaganda that showed these fellows not in a very good light. Did you have any opinion of the enemy or didn't you think about it too much?
V: They were enemy. I hated them. They were enemy and they were killing our boys. But we had, well there was a Seabee station right next to ours. And it happened that my friend Rosemary had a cousin who was a Seabee. And we got to go down, Glen Miller was there for one of the first times, right shortly before he went overseas. And so we got to see him there. Bob Hope came to our base. We did get entertainment.
T: I guess those entertainers traveled far and wide. I suppose there were some people that didn't get to see them but I know a lot of them did.
V: One thing about Bob Hope, when he came on he said, "All you officers in front, all you officers get out of the front and get up in the balcony. I want all enlisted men, I want all enlisted people in my line of vision."
V: And so he made a big hit with us.
T: That was pretty neat. I guess he was a pretty decent sort of a guy.
V: But they saved the whole front section. They came in later than we did, you know. And they had guaranteed the front seats. And he made em all move. He wouldn't start the program until… Frances Langford was with him and Jerry Colona.
T: That's pretty nice that he would do that. So your day to day activities were pretty much…
V: Just like working at home. Just like being a civilian other than you were in uniform.
T: Now you say you didn't work on week-ends.
V: I had every weekend off.
T: Did you travel then?
V: I went to New York City at least two weekends a month. I spent a lot of time in New York City. I actually met a fella who lived in New York City who was stationed at a Navy base near us. We'd gone there for a dance. They would bus the WAVES over to the station and then for the dance.
And so I would get on the train at Quonset, we'd go to his place, the first stop was the base that he was at. And then we'd go into New York and he lived in New York City so we spent the weekend. I would leave work at five o'clock. I'd stop at the barracks, pick up my suitcase, get on the bus and take it into Providence. Get on the train. We would stay up all night, all night Friday, all night Saturday. We used to sit on the rooftops and watch the sun come up or watch the moon go down.
To me, when I think back, it was row houses. It was very poor. They were not a wealthy family. To me everything was glamorous. This was new. This was different. There'd be railroad apartment. I didn't look at it and say, "What a dump." After coming from a home by myself, I thought of that afterwards, I was just having so much fun on the weekends.
T: Well that was pretty nice. Did you travel elsewhere besides New York City?
V: I went from Maine down to D.C. (Washington D.C.). Sometimes with the girls and sometimes with this fellow that I dated.
T: Now you had a limited bunch of girls on a big base with mostly men. I imagine you gals were pretty popular.
V: Oh, we were popular with some and we were disliked by some.
T: Really? Why would they dislike you?
V: I would say the biggest disappointment in my life was when another girl, her name was Marcy, and I were assigned to the office work at the commissary. Seven sailors had to ship out. And we knew that the whole idea was, the girls do the work at home so the boys could go and fight. But these
boys - this was a new base and they all lived in the area and for recruiting things - they were promised a certain length of time at Quonset. Most of the fellows that I worked with went home every night to their wives or to their parents. Came back in the morning, that was just their job. My boss, his parents ran a grocery store in Massachusetts. He was a lieutenant and he was running the commissary in service. He was running a commissary just like he would be doing at home.
T: So those fellows had good duty and you gals spoiled it for them.
V: We spoiled it for them. In fact two or three said, "If I get killed, I hope you're happy."
T: Oh gosh, I don't imagine that made you feel very good but…
V: I had second thoughts for a little while but then I thought, what the heck, everybody else is in. All the kids I went to high school with are over there fighting. Why should they be going home every night to their wives or their family. But it hurt and it upset me the first time. But I got over that.
T: Yes, I suppose it would. You mentioned the fact that there were a lot of casualties in the training process of these Navy fliers.
V: I think it was their initial pilot training.
T: Was it something that bothered you when you learned about these things? Or was it sort of far removed?
V: It almost became a day to day [ ]. Another plane went down, yeah.
T: Tell me about some of your most memorable experiences you had when you were there at Quonset Point?
V: Well, the main thing was having my weekends free and traveling. And my friend Rosemary had a chief in her office, she was in a large office where there's rows and rows of typists. I was fortunate, there was only the two of us in our office. But she had a chief at that office who treated her like a daughter. And he and his wife would have us down for meals. And then she had another girl that she worked with and that girl's family would have us down for meals. So we did get to know some of the civilian workers that worked with Rosemary.
T: Were there a fair number of civilian workers on that base?
V: Oh, a great deal. A great deal. That was the first time that I had ever seen a large room with maybe 50 desks at it and a girl at every desk. And when the WAVES came, they were doin the same work that the civilian girls were doing. That's the first time I ran across this row, after row after row of desks in this large room. And everybody was busy. Everybody was working.
T: You know, most of us who were in the service, we met people from all over. You probably met people from far, far away. Far from your locale in Oshkosh. And some of these people were just exemplary characters and some were quite strange. Did you run into any gals that were different? That were sort of weird?
V: Only in the basic training. One of the apartments was all girls from the south. And their personalities were entirely different. They were bickering a lot and I don't know, [ ]. We thought, "What's the matter with those girls? They're not getting along." There was a lot of bickering going on.
T: They don't talk like we do either.
V: You couldn't always understand what they said. When I was in basic training I had to take up smoking because there was one room, it was the only room in the whole apartment building that you could smoke. And the sign would come out after supper; "The Smoking Lamp Is Lit." And you could go down there and smoke. If you didn't go there, you sat in your room and didn't know anybody but the people that you worked with all day and were in your room. If you wanted to meet anybody else you had to go down there. And of course it had to be one smoke haze. In one room and everybody on the floor had to go there. So we must have smelled of smoke all the time. I never did become a good smoker but that was the thing.
And the same thing happened when I was in D.C. To get out, I was in an office in the commissary and if I wanted to meet anybody else but my boss I had to go down on the break, take a break. And then everybody took a break and smoked.
T: Now you didn't spend all your time at Quonset Pt., Rhode Island. You went to D.C.?
V: I was in Quonset Pt. the longest of any. And after the war, the end of the war I was sent to a school back to Great Lakes. I went from Quonset back to Great Lakes to learn how to do the bookwork of discharging all the fellows that were coming back. We got there, a week before we got there they closed the school. So we had to line up for muster every morning and then we were free all day long until the next morning. And from there they sent me to D.C.
T: What kind of work did you do in Washington, D.C.?
V: Office work. In the mess hall there was a commissary. I worked for the officer in charge of the mess hall. I was his secretary.
T: Was it a different duty than you were…?
V: It was still office work. Office work is office work.
T: It was pretty much the same thing.
V: Whether it's bookkeeping, whether it's typing it's the same work. I didn't learn anything other than to increase my speed. My proficiency and my speed.
T: I suppose that you had opportunity to travel around Washington a lot.
V: Oh yes. While I was in Quonset Point they had a contest going for selling war bonds. And my friend Rosemary had an uncle who was stationed near Quonset Point. And we would visit him and his wife every so often. And my boss said that everybody that sold at least one bond would get five days leave. And so Rosemary's uncle bought a bond from me. He said, "I'm buying em all the time anyway so I'll buy one from you." So I got to go down to Washington, D.C. and there I stayed with two girls I had known at Indiana who had gotten stationed in D.C. So I picked up their acquaintance
then again. And both those girls and their husbands have visited me in Oshkosh.
T: Did your friend Rosemary go with you to Washington, D.C. as well? Were you together?
V: Rosemary got married while she was in Quonset Point. She met a sailor. It was a sailor that she met at the first dance that we went to. She ended up marrying him. I was in her wedding. She got married back in Wisconsin. And then I went back and…
T: Was she a gal from Wisconsin?
V: She was from West Bend. I met her, the train went from Oshkosh, I think West Bend or Milwaukee, Milwaukee would have been the next stop. She got on the train there and just happened to sit next to me and we hit it off.
T: How long did your duty in Washington, D.C. last?
V: Not very long because that was the last place I was. I got discharged from there. But they don't give any dates on that paper either?
T: Well we've got the date of your discharge but it doesn't say…
V: The dates I've never really kept track of. It had to be after the war because I went there after the school at Great Lakes was closed.
T: So you were discharged in March of '46 it says here.
V: I think I spent the Christmas in D.C.
T: Now where did you get discharged from?
V: I asked to be discharged from D.C. I was thinking of getting married at that time. I met a Marine at Quonset Point who was on guard duty there. And I dated him quite a bit and then he was sent overseas. And then he came back and was stationed in the New York area. And he had family in the New York area. And so I saw him several times. I'd go up from Washington. That was a hop, skip and a jump to go from D.C. to New York City, central station. So I would spend weekends there with his family very often. And we were thinking of getting married. So I asked to be discharged from D.C. After I was discharged we decided not to get married. So I came back home.
Came back home and guess what? I went back to work at Metropolitan Insurance. The job was guaranteed us. Metropolitan was very good to me. They gave me $200.00 when I went in and I was guaranteed my job back, which I hadn't applied for but it just happened. Oshkosh is a small enough city and I was just walking down Main Street and my boss from Metropolitan ran into me at noon. "Oh, you're back! Good! We need you." One of the girls was pregnant and was going to be leaving so I didn't take over somebody else's job. She was leaving. So I went back to Metropolitan and I continued working for them until I became pregnant after I got married in town.
T: Early in the war when we had suffered some severe setbacks, right after Pearl Harbor, was there any thought in your mind that we might not win the war? Or did you think that we were bound to win?
V: I was always positive.
T: I think most people were. Very few people had any doubts.
V: And the girls in D.C. were very positive too.
T: Were you in Washington, D.C. when they dropped the atomic bomb? Where were you stationed?
V: You know, I don't remember.
T: When you heard about that, what were your thoughts? I think most of us were quite happy.
V: It was wonderful.
T: That was going to end the war.
V: Right, it was wonderful.
T: So after you got out of service you went right back to Metropolitan. How did you meet your husband and when did you get married?
V: I met him when I came out after I was discharged from the service. There were dances at the Eagles. If you lived in Oshkosh you know that the Eagles was a big ballroom. And Jack Teagarden was playing there. And my husband was a blind date. I called one of my girlfriends and said, "Let's go to the Eagles Saturday night and see Jack Teagarden." She said, "Oh, I just accepted a date last night." So she said,"I can't go." She called me back and she said, "My friend has a friend." And we double-dated and that's how I met my husband.
T: So it was love at first sight or something like that?
V: Close enough. We had a good time and ended up with some mutual friends.
T: When did you get married Virginia?
V: I was discharged in March. I met Keith, I got married in February the year after I got out of the service. I met him shortly after I was home. We dated.
T: That was '47. What was his first name?
T: Keith. I never knew him. Do you think the war changed you and if so, in what way?
V: I think it gave me more self-confidence. That would be about the only way. I used to be kind of shy and hung back. And I did get a lot more self-confidence.
T: A lot of the young fellows said that it made a man out of them.
V: I suppose that's the same thing - self-confidence.
T: You grew up in that era. Were any of your friends from Oshkosh killed during World War II? People that you knew for instance in high school or elsewhere?
V: Some of the high school boys were. They were acquaintances, people that had been in school with me.
T: Can you recall the names of any of those fellows that were killed?
V: I should know. I probably have it written down someplace.
T: It was a long time ago. Do you think about World War II very much today?
V: Well, I don't know.
T: Do you ever get together with people that you were in the service with? Does your unit have reunions?
V: None of the units that I was in have reunions. I have the three girls, the two that I met in D.C. and Rosemary. Rosemary ended up in Milwaukee. But my family and I, our children, they moved to California for awhile. We visited them. And one from D.C., one lives in Rockford, Illinois and one lives in Connecticut. And I've kept in touch with them. In fact they came to Oshkosh one time. We went over to Manitowoc to the submarine base that was there. And they stayed at our house for a long weekend. And the ones from Rhode Island, we saw a lot of them. They came down to Florida and stayed with us in our motor home. In fact they came from Connecticut to our house in Oshkosh. And then the motor home, the four of us drove from Oshkosh over to Seattle, Washington and on up into Canada and came back across Canada. So we had about a two-week trip with them. So we were close friends. We still exchange Christmas cards and e-mail. And I do with the other two girls too.
T: One question that comes to my mind Virginia, you were in the Navy and you were stationed out on the coast more or less. Did you ever get a chance to go to sea? To get on a ship. Was there ever any duty on shipboard?
V: No duty on shipboard but we had dances on the flight deck of the aircraft carriers that stopped there. I was on the flight deck a lot. They was coming to town. Two fellows from Oshkosh that I knew, that were in my graduating class, I met going down the mess hall line and saw them.
T: Were there ever any WAVES that went to sea? That were stationed on ships? I don't really know.
V: No. The WAVES were not allowed overseas until quite late and then they were only allowed to go to Hawaii. And by this time Rosemary was married and I was thinking of signing up for Hawaii. And one fellow told me, "Oh, it'll be wonderful for three weeks and after that it's the same old thing day in and day out." He said, "It's not worth going there." I've been there four times since and I think I agree with him. I listened to him. I didn't put in for it.
The WACS could go all over. Rosemary had cousins that were in the WACS that were stationed in Massachusetts and we would go and visit them. Their quarters were - I knew I did the right thing - their quarters were not as nice as ours and I never did like their uniforms. And they wore Government Issue underwear. At least we could wear our own underthings. And we could wear nylons, we could wear stockings if they were available. We used to dye our legs.
T: Oh I can remember that when gals would paint their legs.
V: These WACS had to wear those old cotton pants and stockings.
T: I guess the Navy was pretty good duty.
V: It was very good to me.
T: And I think the men that were in the Navy would agree with that. It was pretty good duty if you didn't get yourself killed.
V: I have a brother that spent 25 years in the Navy but he's younger than I am. He was in China during some of the wartime things. Both my brothers put in time in the Navy but they're both younger than me. So actually all three of us are Navy veterans. My youngest brother was in the Army for a short time and came home on furlough, went back and enlisted in the Navy. My other one had his 25 years in the Navy.
T: Did your experiences in the military influence the way you think about the military today? Or didn't it make any difference?
V: I don't really think it did. The main thing is it brought me in contact with people before they went overseas. And you did worry about them. You felt kind of sad and you were a little worried when they went overseas.
T: When did you lose you husband? When did you lose Keith?
V: Ten years ago.
T: And how many children do you have?
V: I have three.
T: Are they all living?
V: Yes. And I have a nephew who is a Marine pilot at this time. When he was younger I had a poster on our basement rec. hall saying "Gee I wish I was a girl; gee I wish I were a man." And underneath it, it says, "Join the Navy and do a man's job." That was a recruiting poster that I had hanging there and my grandson asked for that when he was younger. Had it in his bedroom and he ended up going to ROTC and the Marines. Right now he's an F19 pilot.
T: Well that's pretty demanding work I guess and you really have to be on the ball to fly one of those things.
V: Yup, they do. He's over in Kuwait and he's been in Japan.
T: Is there anything else that relates to World War II Virginia that we've missed, that you'd like to tell me about?
V: I can't think of anything.
T: Well I certainly appreciate your taking the time to talk to us about your experiences. We appreciate it very, very much.
V: We worked hard and we played hard.
T: Well it sounds like you had an enjoyable time in the service.
V: We did and I still felt useful.
T: I'm sure you were. I'm sure that all you gals performed a useful service.
V: Like I said, when the two of us went into the commissary at Quonset Point, seven sailors were shipped out. Of course they didn't know anything about office work. We couldn't believe the way things were. And the two of us still had free time. We did what those seven did by ourselves and still weren't overworked.
T: Well thanks again Virginia.
||World War II
||6: T&E For Communication
||Oshkosh Public Museum
|Location of Originals
||Oshkosh Public Museum
||Jiricka, Virginia D.
Marquardt, Virginia D. Jiricka
||World War II
United States Navy
Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES)
||Oral History Interview with Virginia D. Jiricka Marquardt.