Life on the Homefront oral history collection, 1984-1985  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Life on the Homefront oral history collection
1984-1985 (inclusive)
1.5 linear feet, (3 boxes)
Collection Number
Oral history interviews with individuals who lived in Seattle during World War II.
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-324-1126
Fax: 206-780-1533
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment. Access to the original analog recordings is restricted due to lack of playback equipment.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Funding to inventory, assess preservation concerns, and rehouse the collection was provided through a grant awarded by 4Culture.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Seattle and King County, as the home of several war industries, the center of a major Japanese population, and a coastal city, was the quintessential homefront city. Executive Order 9066 caused the internment of all local men, women and children of Japanese descent. Security concerns were great, reflected in anti-submarine nets in Puget Sound, air raids and blackouts, coastal patrols and Civic Air Patrol, even the camouflage of vital defense industries such as Boeing. Seattle became a center for airplanes and shipbuilding, and the work roles swelled with defense workers.

Seattle also experienced trends that were common across America. During the war years, shortages affected every city. Food, housing, automobiles, household appliances, all rubber products, and even some cosmetics and dress items were in short supply. Rationing became a part of everyday life.

Yet it was these very shortages that encouraged the spirit and strong will that characterized the homefront. Throughout the war, the people on the homefront never gave up. To counter the shortage of material, for instance, dresses simply became shorter. When nylons were not available, women painted their legs with makeup and lined them with eyebrow pencils to resemble stockings. Responding to manpower shortages, women went to work in large numbers and soon became their families’ chief wage earner while husbands and fathers were overseas. From this point on, women dressed differently, acted differently and played an expanded role in society.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Life on the Homefront Oral History Project was part of a major exhibit at the Museum of History & Industry commemorating the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II, “Life on the Homefront: Seattle and King County During World War II.” The 1985 exhibit looked at the difficulties, sacrifices and heroism of local residents at home during wartime. The project was funded in part by a grant from Humanities Washington.

The 26 oral history interviews captures memories of wartime Seattle from people who lived through it. Interviewees were selected for their collective insight into World War II’s impact on morale, lifestyles, industry, entertainment, and race relations. In this collection, there are interviews with veterans, police officers, activists, entertainers, Japanese evacuees, and war workers. All the interviews were conducted by Lorraine McConaghy.

The collection consists of analog audiocassettes, interview transcripts, and other material, including biographical information, clippings, and ephemera.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

Digital copies of all of the interviews are available. Please contact the repository for more information.

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Life on the Homefront Oral History Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Description Dates
1985.134.1: Morris Alhadeff and Jerry Ross oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 16 pages
Morris Alhadeff was born in 1914 in Seattle, Washington. Alhadeff worked in radio. During World War II, he was a chairman for a War Bond drive and an emcee (with Jerry Ross and Dick Keplinger) for Victory Square, located in downtown Seattle at Fifth Avenue and University Street.
Alhadeff and Ross discuss Victory Square – a war bonds and morale building effort organized by numerous volunteers from civic and business organizations during World War II that featured local and national entertainers. They discuss various entertainments of the day from radio and theater to burlesque.
1985 June 9
1985.134.2: Dave Beck oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 16 pages
Transcript: restrictions may apply
Dave Beck was an officer of the Teamsters during World War II.
This interview starts with discussion of the negative impact of the Great Depression on the trucking industry. Beck speaks at length about the labor movement, ranging from the organizing of the California Teamsters in 1934 to the tactics of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The interview ends with Beck’s faith that it is the common man who can make the difference. File includes newspaper article “Fiesty Ex-Labor Leader Dave Beck Doesn’t Regret His Past,” by Ellen Marks (newspaper and date unknown).
1985 April 27
1985.134.3: Maurice Carlson oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 19 pages
Maurice Carlson was born in Seattle on February 16, 1915. He spent his career as a clerk and later secretary in the Seattle police department.
During World War II, Maurice Carlson worked as a night shift clerk for the Seattle police department. In this interview, he discusses his personal and professional response to Pearl Harbor and World War II. He talks about enforced blackouts, military encampments, Japanese internment, and manpower issues. The interview covers crimes (liquor, prostitution, gambling, child abuse and transience) and police practices (including the ‘bandit phone’). Carlson also explains how he dealt with wartime rationing with carpooling, home parties, Victory gardens and scrap metal drives. He recalls that Seattle shut down for V-J Day. Overall, he has a positive opinion of Seattle during wartime and believes many who came temporarily were decided stay on permanently.
1985 January 8
1985.134.4: Mildred and Parker Cook oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 copy)
Transcript: 19 pages
Parker Cook was a music teacher in the Seattle Public Schools during World War II.
This interview begins with discussion of the demographic make-up of the Garfield High School community. The Cooks and the high school students were “dazed” by the news of Pearl Harbor—and soon thereafter, all Japanese-American students left the school for internment camps. Mr. Cook also saw a shift in the African American community as newcomers joined the locally born. Mr. Cook also discusses curriculum changes at the high school level during World War II. He also trained an interracial singing group, The International Trio. The Cooks also discuss Mrs. Cook’s volunteer work as a first aid teacher, the impact of rationing, and the use of leg paint during nylon shortages.
1984 December 6
1985.134.5: Ewen Dingwall oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 16 pages
Born and raised in Seattle, Ewen Dingwall returned from New York and began his service as Seattle Mayor Devin’s executive secretary in 1943. He later served as the vice president-general manager of the Seattle World’s Fair from 1957-1962. In 1985 he was the director of Seattle Center.
Ewen Dingwall was the executive secretary to Mayor Devin during World War II. As such he had a hand in running the city. A thoughtful speaker, Dingwall is well-read. He shares general memories of Japanese internment and Civil Defense volunteering. He discusses wartime efforts to expand the Seattle Planning Commission’s mission to include long range planning and the federal government’s refusal to offer financial aid to mass transportation projects. He discusses his role in making Seattle more cosmopolitan through his work on the World’s Fair, which provided infrastructure (including the Opera House, the Playhouse, the Exhibition Hall, and Coliseum) for local cultural events.
1985 January 23
1985.134.6: Doris Eason oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 16 pages
Doris Eason was raised in Niagara Falls, New York and came to Seattle following her first husband to his new job. She worked for the Seattle Housing Authority for 28 years, retiring in 1973. Eason, a white woman, married a black man in Seattle.
In an informative and lively interview, Doris Eason shares her perspective on developments in housing and race relations. She moved to Seattle after the United States entered World War II. She set down roots through volunteering with the YWCA and decided to stay when her husband followed his work to California, ending the relationship. She speaks about the development of wartime temporary and permanent housing projects, including Holly Park and Yesler Terrace. She discusses her pursuit of racial integration through her work at the Seattle Housing Authority, and what she saw of war work recruits’ experiences, black servicemen’s experiences, USO organizations, integration activist organizations, and the return of Japanese-Americans to the Seattle area. She feels her efforts toward racial integration in Seattle were undermined by the assertive “Black is Beautiful” efforts of the 1960s.
1985 March 23
1985.134.7: Howard Hurst and Michael Pavone oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 19 pages
Howard Hurst was born in 1910 in Downs, Kansas. He was hired as a fabrication sheet metal worker at Boeing in 1927 and became a fabrication manager in 1939. Michael Pavone was a flight line manager at Boeing. Michael Pavone was a flight line manager at Boeing.
This colorful interview discusses Boeing technology and work culture during the World War II era. Both men relay how luck (Hurst) and diligence (Pavone) got them their jobs at Boeing. They discuss developments in plane technology (including superchargers and fuel injection) and work practices (including the shift from hand-made to assembly line production, the impact of time and method studies on production work, and the recruitment and training of unskilled labors.) They use the language of production lines: “flight squawks,” “travelers,” “cabbage patch,” etc. They also speak to how the introduction of women to Boeing plants changed the rough work culture.
1985 March 24
1985.134.8: Chester Kingsbury and Reverend Robert Shaw oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 20 pages
Shaw and Kingsbury were members of the peace movement during World War II.
For Shaw and Kingsbury, the fight against the war began in 1925 when Frederick Libby, head of the National Council for the Prevention of War, came to speak in Tacoma. They came to the peace movement due to their religious convictions. Both anticipated an event like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and both responded to Pearl Harbor by trying to undermine the racism of the American response. They discuss wartime issues such as religious organizing for peace, controversy over military chaplains, pulpit advocacy of military service, conscientious objectors, union activity, and consumer cooperatives.File also includes photocopies of a protest meeting flyer, of three 1945 newspaper articles about protests at which Robert Shaw spoke, and of World Peace Committee documents.
1985 April 18
1985.134.9: Aki Kurose oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 15 pages
Aki Kurose was a Japanese American who grew up in Seattle.
Prior to Pearl Harbor, Aki Kurose felt like an American despite being part of the Japanese-American community. She discusses how internment camps undermined the traditional closeness of Japanese-American families and the particular response of her own family to Pearl Harbor and internment at Puyallup Assembly Center and later, Minidoka in Idaho. Later she went to Salt Lake City as a domestic servant and completed a degree at a business college at night. Kurose also relays her experiences as part of the first Japanese-American family to return to Seattle – and the fact that her in-laws chose never to return.
1985 January 31
1985.134.10: Henry MacLeod oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 14 pages
Henry MacLeod was born in 1911 in Tacoma, Washington. He earned a BA degree at University of Washington in 1932. He joined the Seattle Times in 1932 and worked as the city editor during World War II.
Henry MacLeod discusses the state of local journalism during World War II. He recalls few decrying Japanese-American internment at the time. MacLeod discusses the impact of rationing on personal consumption and on the Seattle Times. MacLeod also describes Seattle as a city during World War II and changes that occurred in journalism during the war years.
1985 March 26
1985.134.11: Harold and Eileen Mansfield oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 17 pages
Harold Mansfield was born in 1912 in White Salmon, Washington. He earned a BA in journalism. He joined Boeing as a publicity manager in 1936, and was the author of Vision: A Saga of the Sky (1956), a history of the Boeing Airplane Company.
Mansfield discusses how the war started for Boeing in 1939 due to European contracts; the camouflaging of the Boeing plant; workers at Boeing (women, unions, training); product security; issues of product production, including cooperative production in the airplane industry and improving productivity with music; and the impact of Pearl Harbor on his personal life.
1984 December 27
1985.134.12: Robert McAusland oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
1 audiocassette plus copy
Transcript: 22 pages
Robert McAusland was a twelve-year old boarding at Lakeside School on the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He recalls airplanes, the camouflaged Boeing plant, and the airplane crash at Frye Packing Plant. He speaks about youth culture during the war and Seattle demographic geography. He talks about the impact of rationing and rumors on youth.
1984 December 17
1985.134.13: H.W. McCurdy oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 21 pages
H.W. McCurdy was a ship-builder during World War II.
H.W. McCurdy built Naval bases in Alaska and ships in Seattle during the 1930s. He talks of the trials of running his business prior to and during World War II. He discusses being under attack from the Japanese on Kodiak Island. He speaks of Pearl Harbor, relations with the Soviet Union, and the influence of unions.The interview has quotes from McCurdy’s book Don’t Leave Any Holidays.
1985 April 25
1985.134.14: Lucile McDonald oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 17 pages
Lucile Saunders McDonald was born in 1898 in Portland, Oregon. She worked as a journalist in Oregon, Argentina, and New York before an eleven-year hiatus while living in Europe. At the start of World War II, she joined the staff of the Seattle Times and stayed there for 23 years.
Lucile McDonald talks of how Pearl Harbor changed her life. As a woman and a mother, it was expected that she volunteer – which inspired her to find paying newspaper work again. She started back on as a copy reader, the first female copy reader at the Seattle Times. She speaks of the rumors prevalent after Pearl Harbor, the difficulties of rationing, workplace strains because of gender, and moving from Seattle to Denny Park. McDonald reads from her letters from the era during this interview.
1985 April 6
1985.134.15: Wilfred Miller, Nels Nelson, Roy St. Clair oral history interview
4 audiocassettes (2 originals and 2 duplicates)
Transcript: 42 pages
Nels Nelson was born in 1917 in British Columbia to Swedish immigrants. His father died weeks after he was born, his mother remarried and they eventually moved to Mt. Vernon, Washington in 1932. He began his career as a logger but studied welding. He became a ship-builder during World War II. Roy St. Clair was born in 1911 in Spokane, Washington. He moved to Seattle in 1923. Originally a landscape gardener, he requested training as a welder in the Lake Washington shipyards in February 1942 -- where he stayed until the end of the war.All three men were employed at the Lake Washington Shipyards during World War II.
The interview begins with each man’s story of how he came to work at Lake Washington shipyard. They speak about the changes war brought to production, the shortage of Navy inspectors, worker wages, working conditions, safety standards, transportation, women welders, a worker strike before Pearl Harbor, union activity, goofing off at work, shipyard security, and wartime entertainments, including shipyard prostitution.
1985 January 17
1985.134.16: Frank Miyamoto oral history interview
2 audiocassettes
Transcript: 14 pages
S. Frank Miyamoto was born in 1912 in Seattle to Issei immigrants. He earned his Bachelor of Arts (1936) and Master of Arts (1938) degrees in sociology from the University of Washington. His first faculty appointment was at the University of Washington in 1941 -- an appointment that was terminated when he was evacuated due to his Japanese heritage. After the war, he received another appointment at the University of Washington. He completed his doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1950.
Miyamoto discusses the Issei experience including their slow transition to a U.S. identity; the Nisei experience, including economic discrimination, linguistic alienation; Kibei experience, including social dislocation; Japanese immigrant world views; and experiences of discrimination and accommodation.
1985 April 23
1985.134.17: Frances Owen oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 17 pages
Frances Owen was born in Walla Walla, Washington.
Frances Owen learned of Pearl Harbor on the radio. Soon afterwards, her husband volunteered for service. She learned to be quite handy in his absence, had a variety of extra people share her home, and volunteered for children’s causes while her husband was away. She speaks of the racism of the day and how war helped break covert racist attitudes. She discusses her experiences on Mayor Devin’s Civic Unity Committee.
1985 January 29
1985.134.18: Dr. Erroll Rawson oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 14 pages
Erroll Rawson was a Seattle doctor who volunteered his skills on the wartime homefront (including creating an emergency medicine system) and maintained a private practice as World War II began. He speaks about medical care in wartime Seattle area and racial unease. He also retells his brother’s story of the Philippines during World War II, including imprisonment, and jailbreak with the aid of local insurgents.File also includes Rawson’s handwritten notes on war gardens, Japanese demand for scrap metal, and rationing.
1985 April 28
1985.134.19: G. Spencer Reeves oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 15 pages
G. Spencer Reeves worked in health education during World War II.
G. Spencer Reeves taught first aid and swimming during World War II. He speaks about the University of Washington campus experience during the war and justifies Japanese internment because of fear. He talks about volunteer medical networks created for the war effort.
1985 May 21
1985.134.20: Edith Robertson oral history interview
2 audiocassettes
Transcript: 22 pages
Edith Robertson was born in Kansas City. She moved to Spokane in the early 1930s and Seattle in 1933. She worked as a waitress and a beautician before going to work in the shipyards during World War II.
Edith Robertson recalls the bombing of Pearl Harbor; getting a job at the shipyard where her husband worked (without his help) as one of the first female workers in the sheet metal department on the graveyard shift; female worker resistance to wearing bandannas; workplace culture; her assumption that her shipyard work would not last; Japanese internment; and changes in fashion.
1985 January 6
1985.134.21: Inez Sauer oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 18 pages
Inez Sauer was born in West Seattle in 1910. She married in 1929 and moved to Akron, Ohio. The family returned to Seattle with three children at the start of World War II. She divorced her husband and went to work at Boeing.
Inez Sauer returned to Seattle to live in her parents’ small home with three children during World War II because her husband could no longer get rubber for his used tire company. She set out to find war work out of a sense of patriotism and found a job at Boeing as a tool clerk. She speaks about adjusting to factory life from a “gentle” upbringing, including a divorce from her husband who didn’t want her to work; she also details what she saw as a Boeing employee, including helping to uncover spies. She also discusses family life and entertainment.
1985 February 26
1985.134.22: Tomo Shoji oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 18 pages
Tomo Shoji was born in Seattle to immigrant Japanese parents.
Tomo Shoji’s story begins with her parents’ arrival in the United States and their work at a sawmill camp. Later her mother moved to Seattle and set up a midwifery practice for the Japanese community. Shoji was in Los Angeles during Pearl Harbor and internment, from which she was dismayed her American citizenship did not protect her. She talks about discrimination, fighting with her husband over returning to Japan (he was Kibei but she didn’t want to go since she had never been there) and not believing that Japanese behavior changed Caucasian attitudes for better or worse.
1985 April 10
1985.134.23: Bernice Simet oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 19 pages
Bernice M. Simet was born in Spokane, Washington. She graduated from Washington State University with a degree in business administration. She enlisted with the U.S. Coast Guard in 1943. She served in the Thirteenth Coast Guard division, then for the Army of Occupation in Japan. She returned to the United States and became a personnel officer for an insurance company.
Bernice Simet joined the Coast Guard SPARS (Women’s Reserve) and worked as a recruiter and barracks manager during World War II. She chose not to stay with the Coast Guard after the war but regrets losing the pension she would have accrued.
1985 March 16
1985.134.24: Marjorie Sotero oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 18 pages
Marjorie E. (Polk) Sotero was born in Montana and moved to Washington when she was five years old. She worked as a hospital ward clerk and department store detective before joining the United States Army where she served as a finance clerk and as a director of service clubs.
Marjorie Sotero speaks of her childhood family experiences as the daughter of an inventive man in a traditional family isolated by racial discrimination. She also tells of seeking work as a young African-American woman; the dropping of racial barriers with the onset of war; service clubs that entertained soldiers; segregated Camp Jordan; working as a USO junior hostess; planning the first mixed race dance at Fort Lawton; and military integration.File also includes a photocopy of a photograph of Sotero and her sister and photocopies of 2 clippings about Sergeant George Jordan and the closing of Camp George Jordan.
1985 April 12
1985.134.25: Olive Smith and Jean Sprague oral history interview
2 audiocassettes (1 original and 1 duplicate)
Transcript: 23 pages
Olive Smith was a model for clothing in Seattle. Jean Sprague was a buyer for Seattle department stores.
Olive Smith and Jean Sprague discuss wartime fashion, including discussion of local department stores such as Frederick & Nelson, and the shopping experience; the effect of wartime restrictions on clothing design; women’s beauty routines; and other aspects of everyday life in wartime.
1985 March 12
1985.134.26: Arline and Letcher Yarbrough oral history interview
1 audiocassette
Transcript: 16 pages
Arline J. Yarbrough was born in Colorado. She joined her older sister in Seattle during high school and enjoyed the fellowship of other African-Americans. The Great Depression ended her college career. She began a career in clerical and stenographic work during World War II -- an opportunity that had previously been closed to her due to her race. She worked for the State in varying capacities, including the Health Department, public schools and the University of Washington, for 20 years before her retirement n 1972. Since retirement, she has been active in professional and civic organizations.Letcher Leslie Yarbrough was born in Pennsylvania in 1908. He served in the Army from 1941-1944. After the war he worked in various government jobs for 31 years, retiring in 1972 .
The Yarbroughs discuss the black experience in Depression and pre-war Seattle, including racism and segregation in the Armed Forces; the reception of Southern black “newcomers” in the community looking for work during the war; and integration in government agencies. Mr. Yarbrough discusses his experience with discrimination and segregation in the Army. Mrs. Yarbrough talks about her experience looking for clerical work in Seattle.File also includes a color photograph of the Yarbroughs and newspaper article “A woman of courage,” about Arline Yarbrough, written by Bob Welch and published in the Journal-American, May 12, 1985.
1985 January 26

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • World War, 1939-1945--African Americans
  • World War, 1939-1945--Japanese Americans
  • Geographical Names :
  • Seattle (Wash.)