Prewar Life to WAVES

Kennedy and King

Closing Thoughts


Margaret Stephensen was born in March 1923 in Bradford, Pennsylvania. She grew up there and played in the band. After high school, she was not interested in college. She and some girlfriends saw a WAVE [Annotator's Note: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service; United States Naval Women's Reserve] and got information from her. Her mother told her it was good idea to consider. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer asks Stephensen what she remembers about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941.] She went down the road to tell a neighbor about the war. It did not mean anything to her at the time as far the consequences were concerned to her at 18. It struck home a few days later. Every Saturday they were sending more boys off to war. She went to Rochester, New York to be sworn in. She then did basic training at Hunter College, New York on Long Island. She was there six weeks, four girls to a room. There was a smoking room at the end of the hall. She went to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. The bus picked them up at the barracks every morning. They worked in the enlisted records division. They had a mess hall for lunch. Stephensen had a nice supervisor. It was a very exciting time for her. She was never homesick. They went out every night. There was so much to see, and the town was loaded with servicemen. They were instructed on hygiene and venereal diseases. She met people from all over the United States.


[Annotator's Note: Margaret Stephensen was an administrative clerk at the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C.] It was mostly a pretty straightforward job every day. They had the weekends to do as they pleased. The town was full of military people. There was no television then. 18-year-old girls were not that interested in the war. She was downtown when everybody was celebrating the end of the war and it was not a pleasant scene. It was awful and was utter chaos. She remained a couple more months. She only had a high school diploma and knew she needed more education, so she chose to get out of the service. She went to business college in Charlotte, North Carolina on the G.I. Bill. She returned to Washington, D.C. and worked for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. She worked in accounting there for eight years. She left there and went to work for lumber dealers around the country. She has been in every state in the union. She was in Washington, D.C. when John Kennedy [Annotator's Note: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States] was assassinated [Annotator's Note: in Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963]. It was a terrible weekend. She saw Ruby [Annotator's Note: Jack Leon Ruby, born Jacob Leon Rubenstein, night club owner] shoot Oswald [Annotator's Note: Lee Harvey Oswald] on television [Annotator's Note: 24 November 1963]. When Martin Luther King [Annotator's Note: The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; American civil rights leader] came to town, they all stayed home due to the people and the rioting.


Margaret Stephensen was in Tucson, Arizona after she was discharged from the Navy. She had gone to San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California] with a friend and they had a stop there in 1946. She was miserable. She married a sailor and that did not last long. She was busy with her career. She met a man who lived in California and married him. She moved to California. He got a job in Phoenix [Annotator's Note: Phoenix, Arizona] and then they bought a company in Tucson in 1976. In 1980, IBM [Annotator's Note: International Business Machines] came to town and built a big plant. That put Tucson on the map. Raytheon [Annotator's Note: Raytheon Company] and the military are there. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is there. Her husband had been in the Navy. Her war service gives her a feeling that she contributed. [Annotator's Note: Stephensen gets emotional.] There were sacrifices. She does not feel that the civilians today understand the sacrifices of the people who served. She thinks every child should have some kind of military training out of high school.

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