BARBARA J. MILLER
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I was born October 12, 1932, in a log cabin built by my father and grandfather in the country in central Michigan. I was the fifth child and fifth girl in a family of six girls and two boys.
Our family moved twenty times in eighteen years and we remember events not so much by years as by where we were living at the time. In March 1941, the house we were living in burned down and we moved for the last time.
I graduated from Portland, Michigan High School in June 1950. The only girl and the first in my family to graduate from high school.
An aunt, knowing that I had always wanted to join the Air Force, sent my mother a clipping from the Lansing, MI paper that an Air Force recruiter would be in town. My mother drove me into Lansing and I signed up. After taking an IQ test and a physical test I was sworn in. There were eight of us from the Lansing area and we were sworn in on February 13, 1951. We were put on a train and sent to San Antonio, Texas. In St. Louis, MO, we were hooked up to a troop train with recruits from all over the United States.
At Lackland Air Force base we were assigned to our barracks where we would be for our basic training. The barracks were divided into rooms of 3, 4, 5 and 7. The bathrooms were divided into cubicles, too.
When we had our twelve hour pass, I must have gone somewhere I shouldn’t have. It was on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday, I came down with the three-day measles. My flight leader took me to the hospital and that is where I spent the next week.
I was assigned to Teletype Mechanics School at Francis E. Warren AFB at Cheyenne, Wyoming. There were four of us assigned to this school and two of these girls became my best friends. One was from South Carolina and the other was from New Jersey. The Air Force sent us and also the girls going to Teletype Operators School to Wyoming by plane.. It was the first time any of us had been on a plane. We ran into bad weather and the plane had to land at Colorado Springs to wait it out.
The teletype course was sixteen weeks long and since we went to school six days a week, it didn’t take as long. The classes were from 6:00 AM to noon and from noon to 6:00 PM. We went to the morning class and had all afternoon off.
The barracks were the open kind. That is one big room, also the bathroom and showers. It had been a men’s barracks and I guess that is the way they had them.
After school and a short visit home, I was assigned to my permanent base, Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and near Washington, D.C. I was with the Airways and Air Communication Service (AACS). I was the only girl in the teletype shop. I lived in the WAF barracks which were a converted Bachelor Officer’s Quarters. There were two girls in a room with a bath between two rooms. My roommate was a Weather Observer from California. Another friend was also a Weather Observer from Massachusetts.
In the fall of 1951, a Staff Sergeant was transferred from Johnson Island (off Hawaii) to Andrews Air Force Base and became the boss of my shift. The next spring we had our first date. We went to Mount Vernon. We dated regularly after that.
Later, I was put on orders to go to Hawaii to Hickam Air Force Base. I told them that I couldn’t go, that I was getting married. (Dumb me!). We had not been planning on getting married and probably wouldn’t have. I think I was just scared of the unknown.
We got married on June 21, 1952, in the base chapel at Andrews AFB. My family came from Michigan for the ceremony. We moved into an apartment in Washington, D.C. I was taken off shift work and put on permanent days.
I got pregnant almost immediately. As my husband was getting out in November and I wanted to get out at the same time, we didn’t tell anyone right away. I was discharged on November 14, 1952, and my husband on November 17, 1952.
We moved to Olympia, WA to live. Our son was born on April 24, 1953, at McChord AFB in Tacoma. A daughter followed on August 9, 1955.
We went to school under the GI Bill. One of my teachers suggested that I make a scrapbook of my service experiences and I did and I still have it.
After my divorces in 1960 and 1963 (I married the same man twice), I moved to Michigan where I married and divorced again. I returned in 1988 and moved to Spokane to be near my children.
I met Mary Ellen Harrison at church and we started talking about the service. When she told me about WAVES National, I asked her if there was one for the Air Force. She told me there wasn’t that she knew of, but that I could join their group as an Associate Member if I wanted to. I joined in May of 1998.
I never hid the fact that I had been in the service, but I never shouted it from the rooftops either.
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