Interview: Minniellen Kirby (mk)
Medium: audio and video tape
Date: March 29,1998
Place: Home of Kevin Hickland, 405 Vickery Lane, Marion IN 46952
Also: Sharon McKee (Mrs. Kirby's daughter) 409 Vickery Lane, Marion IN
Conducted by: Kevin Hickland (kh)
kh: Is it ok if I interview you? Can you sign this paper?
mk: Give me a book to write on.
kh: I'm going to start out by asking you, could you state your whole name and where we are?
mk: Minniellen Kirby is my name. What's your address?
kh: 405 Vickery.
mk: 405 Vickery Lane, Marion.
kh: OK can you state the date?
mk: March the 28th, 1998.
kh: And do I have permission to tape you with an audiotape?
mk: Yes, but if I had known I would have fixed my hair.
kh: Ok a video tape also right?
kh: OK do I have Permission to submit this information to the Marion Public Library?
mk: Yes sir.
kh: And use it for my U.S. History class?
kh: Allright we can start. Could you tell me about your family life?
mk: 1940-1950, well my husband and I were married October 12, 1940 and he went into the service and was sent overseas. We had no children. He was in the Philippines in conflict with the Japanese, and he was wounded on Lahti Island December 1, 1940, 42, 44, it was 42. I'm not sure if it was 42 or 44. 1942 I think it was.
mk: He was considered adouble amputee and he was 100% disabled when he came home. We had 4 children when he cam home. Well I had one child before he came home, you knoew while he was gone, and we had 3 others. We had 4 children. I worked in the factory and he staye home with the children and done what he could, what he was able to do in the care of children while I worked.
kh: Ok how about your social life? Like you schooling.
mk: My schooling?
mk: My Schooling?
kh: Yeah like when you went to school.
mk: I went to the 9th grade, I went through the 9th grade. My parents didn't have the money to buy books; we didn't go. There were 8 of us children and we didn't go to high school because they couldn't afford to send us. There was 8 of us. That's as much schooling I got.
kh: OK, what did you do for fun back in those times?
mk: Well after we had the children and everything, we, my husband and I went up on the square and sat in the car and watched people in Marion. That's a lot of fun.
kh: That's cool. OK, What was your religion? What church did you go to? Did you attend church?
mk: Well I went to the Church of Christ.
kh: Did you have a strong religous life?
kh: OK, and for entertainment, did you guys have TV? Did you have television back then.
mk: TV just. We just got TV in the 50's I think it was. And there wasn't much on either. "I Love Lucy" was the biggest thing at the time.
kh: Could you tell me about your working, work experience or your husband's?
mk: I worked and RCA for 18 1/2 years. Before that I worked at the Paronite Wire and Cable, that was during the war.
kh: What exactly did you do?
mk: At the Paronite, we make field wire for them to use in the, during the war.
mk: And at RCA I worked in the secret room and a and was making recievers for airplanes. And we weren't allowed to talk about it at all. I also worked at the ketchup factory. What was that called? I don't remember, and they had the German prisons there workind with us, but we weren't allowed to talk to them, no fraternizing at all.
kh: OK, could you tell me about your war-related experience?
mk: Only about my husband's.
kh: About your husband's.
mk: And him being wounded. He was brought back and went to Battle Creek Michigan to the Army hospital in Battle Creek, and I made the Trip ever weekend to go see him before he came home to stay. And then just when Japan was conquered we had a big blow out in Marion.
kh: OK, did you have anything extra you might want to add? Do you have anything extra you might want to say?
kh: Well that's about it. Oh Yeah!
mk: I'm shy about this stuff.
kh: Like flowers and stuff. Gardening? Did they grow their own vegetables?
mk: Yes. Some people didn't have any ground, so they plowed up their yards to plant vegetables and canned. We canned tomatoes, corn, all kinds of vegetables.
kh: Let's see. Could you tell me about some of your husband's war experiences with his friends? Like some of the friends he had.
mk: One was from Syracuse, New York and a when they were overseas there was one fellow that saved Bob's life. (Mrs. Kirby's husband) He went in muck, clear up to his neck. This guy was a big man and he pulled him out from sinking. And then when he was in the hospital there was one fellow named Eddie Dyrick. He was from Chicago, and he had been wounded by one of his own men. Ane he had an artificial arm (hook) and he used to help Bob wash. No Bob used to help him wash his arm.
kh: His arm?
mk: Wash his arm.
kh: OK, let's take a short little break here.
mk: I think Sharon is remembering things I'm not.
kh: Could you tell me who leroyce Howell is?
mk: He was one of his boyhood friends, Bob's boyhood friends. He was from Gas City and he was one of the 1st Navy personnel that was killed in action in Pearl Harbor. And they have Leroyce Howell Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Gas City in his name. They were raised together and were real good friends.
kh: Did you have any pets? Any kind of pets? Animals?
mk: We had a couple of dogs. One dog we had was a cocker spaniel. He bit our youngest daughter's lip in two. Whick is Sharon, and we had to sew it up. Needless to say we got rid of the dog.
kh: Was it common for women to work outside the home?
kh: Was it common for women to work outside of their home?
mk: Oh yeah during the war. Everybody worked outside the home.
kh: Why was that?
mk: Because our husbands were in the service. And we had to make a living. We only had our allotment. By the way boys in the Army got $50 a month and it was for hazardous pay. The allotment it wasn't very much you had to work to eat.
kh: OK, could you telme about the ration program?
mk: Well sugar was rationed and anything like Karo syrup, which we used in baby formula that was rationed. And nylons, you couldn't buy nylons there was so many things that was rationed, but I remember mostly the sugar. Gas was rationed, everybody walked. You went on Shank's Pon y when you went some place during the war.
kh: What ship was Leroyce Howell on?
mk: The U.S.S. Arizona, he was hit. It went down, one torpedo went down through the smokestack and blew up the ship. They lost about all the men.
kh: Oh yeah! Did your husband recieve any medals in the service?
mk: Oh, he had the Purple Heart for being wounded. 2 Silver stars, ooh Bronze stars, good conduct medals.
kh: What kind of things did he do to get them?
kh: What things did he do to get them?
mk: I don't know. He wouldn't talk about it. He only talked about when he was wounded. He said everything was in shadows but he thought he was going to die. Well I can't die cause I told Minnie I'd be home. So he came back.
kh: How did the husbands communicate with the wives while they were in the service?
mk: V Mail letters, little letters. Everything was censored. They blacked out a lot of things. What I wrote to him, What he wrote to me. They didn't want you knowing too much.
kh: Yeah, about the war. How did they get their news? Like to keep up with the new of the war. Like, how we got our news, and the news paper.
mk: How did I know? Um. Radio, we had radio back then. No TV. We listened to the radio, that's how we got our new, and the newspaper.
kh: How's life different now from then?
mk: Its fast, fast! Much going on all the time. A lot of killing, lot of violence in the country now. Which shouldn't be and I think America is changing their views about whites and blacks, which is good.
kh: OK, do you think it's better now than back then?
mk: I'd love to be living back then.
kh: Why is that?
mk: Because it was a slower pace and everybody helped everybody. You were closer knit. Not just families, but neighbors. You knew more about each other and you helped one another. I used to help, this was during the depression, used to rool up ball tickets. You know what ball tickets are?
mk: You know these tip boards? You knowwhat tip boards are? They pull off a ticket and win some money.
kh: OK, yeah!
mk: OK, it's called ball tickets. That's what we called them back then. We licked them and put them together, helped neighbors that didn't have any. Used to make them so they could get a little money to buy food. We didn't have and problems with food or anything. We always had food and clothing and a place to lay our heads. OUr dad worked at the VA hospital and he was assured of a job.
kh: Was there any problems with unemployment?
mk: Well before the war there was. There was so many people without jobs. When war came along and everything boomed. We built things for fighting for the was. It was pretty good up until now. People have to go to work for minimum wage and they have families. They can't make it. They have a terrible time.
kh: What was the economy like?
kh: What was the economy like?
mk: It was real good back then, after the war.
kh: And during the war?
mk: During the war and after the war.
kh: What kind of work did you do?
mk: I worked, I worked, it was the Farnsworth. It's the RCA now, but it was the Farnsworth at the time. I worked to help make reciever at the Farnsworth. I soldered wires.
kh: Did they teach you guys how or did you kike have to watch someone do it or learn it on your own?
mk: You want to know if I had to watch someone do it?
kh: Or how you learned how to do this work.
mk: They showed you how to do it, then you started doing it. As time went on you got a little faster.
kh: Was there a 40-hour workweek?
mk: Yes $15 a week. That's good money back then.
kh: About how much do you think would that be now?
mk: Right now they make $13 and hour. They probably need it at the RCA, I mean Thompson's what it is now. They need it to get along.
kh: Allright. We will take a short break at this time.
mk: Kevin I wnt to tell you about the U.S.S. Arizona. After they blew up with a bomb down the smokestack, it went to the bottom of the ocean in the Arizona. They could not, they can't bring it up. They have tried to bring it up, but there is so much oil that when they try to lift the ship it catches fire. It causes fire. There's a bubble an hour that comes to the surface. All those men are still at the bottom of the sea in the Arizona.
kh: And this is like near Hawaii?
mk: Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. They had a sneak attack from the Japanese and the boys were in bed and they came in and bombed everything. And killed so many boys that was there stationed at Honolulu.
kh: What was the age group of men going in the war?
mk: 17-21 some a little older, but they were young men, boys.
kh: Were there any children working?
mk: Like how old were the...I never knew any children working only to make the ball tickets and stuff like that. Whole families would work like that to get food to eat.
kh: Earlier you said you walked around every were, what was that called again?
mk: Shank's Ponies. You didn't have cars to go in. You didn't ride a bicycle, so we walked everyplace.
kh: What did you think about Hitler?
mk: He's crazy maniac. All he could think of was killing Jews. He was raised by a Jewish family and he just murdered them at random. And he took them and put them in concetration camps. Took everything they owned, now if they had anything valuable they kept that, the Germans did. Then they put them in these gas chambers and gassed them. They stripped them naked and put them all in there and gassed them and when they were dead they put them in ovens and burned them. And some Jewish people to save themselves would work for the Germans and it took or carried food or stuff to the other Jewish that were in the concentration camps. They didn't do it to help the Germans, they wanted to help people have food and they wanted to save their own lives. And anybody would do that no matter who they are.
mk: Some of those lived and some of those died.
kh: Let's see?
mk: That's why they call it the Holocaust, and it was. The same thing happened in Africa. Just there it's been in the news. I'm sure you've seen it.
kh: Yeah OK, about Hitler, he was a pretty powerful man.
mk: The German people loved him. They still love him. They thought he was a smart man.
kh: How do you feel about that?
mk: Well I can understand how they'd feel that way because he led them into their economy was better but they didn't realize what kind of person he was they think he was a smart man. Which he knew how to fight. He knew how to he done a lot. You know, went along ways in his fight with France, Poland over ran Poland, even Russia, but Russia came out on top. The United States did too.
kh: If you had a chance to say a few words to Hitler, what would you say to him?
mk: Die, that's the way I feel about Hitler.
kh: Were people glad that the United States went in the war.
mk: Were people glad?
kh: Yeah, were people happy?
mk: Oh yes, you should have been in downtown Marion.
kh: What happened?
mk: They went crazy! They screamed and rang bells and shot guns, just hugged eachother, laughed and cried. It was just, it ws just crazy with joy. You never seen anything like it. I hope you never do.
kh: This time I'd like to say thank you for letting me interview you.
mk: Well I hope I helped.
kh: Yeah, you did, a lot.
sm: Ask a few more questions.
mk: My husband used to baby sit while I worked and he would, he would cook for them. About all he could cook was eggs. He cooked for the children eggs, and hot dogs, pork and beans, and fed the kids. And he would bathe them and get them ready for school. He used to run the sweeper, which was hard for him because he was a double amputee. And he would mop the floor and sit on the floor and scoot and mop with a rag and do it all by hand. He done dishes, he never allowed me to have a dishwasher, so I let him do dishes.
kh: Anything else you'd like to add.
mk: Kevin wants to know about the patriotism, back at that time. Everyone was patriotic and that time. And when the war broke out and we eneteren the war we went to win because we had to win. When the boys came back it was far different that when it was with Vietnam. They praised boys and saluted them and laughed with them and cried with them. And if you noticed today elderly people whenever you see a parade with the American flag the elderly people have their hands on the heart, the men take their hats off and they are still as patriotic now as they were back in the second world war.