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Aileen Frazier Boggs

Aileen Frazier Boggs was born in 1918 in Des Moines, Iowa. She graduated from Des Moines East High in 1936, and then spent several years doing housework and childcare in private homes. Aileen also worked some months as a clerk at a local Woolworth’s department store. In 1939, she married Mel Boggs. The couple purchased their first house in 1941 and had their first child in 1942. After her husband was discharged from the Army Air Force in 1945, Boggs remained a stay-at-home mother and worked several secretary jobs. In 1968, she began to help manage a plumbing contracting business started by her husband. She retired in 1995.                      

In this interview, Aileen discusses her wartime experience raising a child and running her household, while her husband was overseas on active duty. She also recalls shortages, rationing, and life as a stay-at-home mother after the war. Aileen goes on to relate her husband’s experiences in service and her own memories with other service wives on the home front.

How I Met My Husband

I knew him [my husband] in the junior department at the church. We would have been like twelve years old, and in those days, they had the Sunday school classes separate with the boys and girls. And then they’d all come together, and the boys would sit on one side and the girls would sit on the other. Well, I just knew that he was there and I knew his name—that was it. We weren’t going together. [laughs]

TS: Did you know him in high school, too?

Yes. Well, as we got older, then they had church activities, and we both sang in the choir. And then they’d have what they call “Christian Endeavor” every evening after church—oh no, it was before the church service. Young people would meet together, and we’d have a program and a fellowship and refreshments, and then also we’d have picnics outside during the week, picnics and things. Then, he would come, and I would come, and we got acquainted that way. And then we didn’t start really going together until 11th grade in high school.

Signing Draft Papers for My Husband

TS: Did you talk this over with Mel, this decision to enlist or not to enlist? Was that something you both talked about?

Well, we had to, because I had to sign the papers—so he couldn’t have gone.

TS: What kind of papers are those? As the wife?

Yes.

TS: Is that right? Well, this is something new; this is very interesting. The papers were so you could give consent, in a way, as the wife?

That’s right.

TS: So, you were involved in the decision then.

Yes.

TS: Were you convinced he was doing the right thing, or did he have to convince you?

Well, he’s always been one that knows pretty much what he wants to do, and I respect that. [laughs]. And when he said he wanted to do that; I knew that’s what he wanted to do.

Women Going to Work During the War

TS: Think of the women you knew, either friends or relatives. Were people going out, were women going to work that you knew that maybe hadn’t worked before?

A couple of my friends did, and that was after their husbands left for the war. And one friend, she had a baby, and the family took care of her boy. And then another friend of mine had her sister-in-law live there, and they went to work. But I didn’t want to go to work. I figured that our little guy, Mel was gone, he needed me twice as much. So, I didn’t want to work.

TS: But you do recall other women actually going out and getting jobs who hadn’t worked before—maybe the people you just mentioned there?

By this time, my friends that wanted to work probably were working, because the job market then was better during that time.

Oh, I did remember my sister-in-law went to work at a—what did they call it, arms plant or something like that?

TS: Do you know what they were making at that plant?

I don’t know what they were making. And her mother worked at a place where they were making airplane parts, aircraft parts. So yeah, come to think about it, there were women that were working then.

Friendships with Other Service Wives

TS: You’ve mentioned a number of times now contact with the other service wives. How important was that contact for you?

It was very important. In fact, after a lot of the husbands were gone, several us got together and had what you call a birthday club. And we would meet every once a month, I think, and go out to eat and play cards at somebody’s house. I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t a birthday club—it was just a little club. It wasn’t a birthday party or anything. But that was important.

And my folks would be, they were very helpful. They lived in Des Moines, not close enough we could walk, but it was driving distance. And they would take care of Steve a lot of the time so I could go.

The Lasting Impact of My Husband’s Service

TS: When you think about the war years for you—and that’s age twenty-three to age twenty-seven, so your middle twenties there—what do you think is the most important way that the war changed your life personally

[pauses] I probably didn’t realize how it does change you. But I’m sure that it must have a big impact. But you don’t really notice that, I don’t think, until you get older. Now, as I look back, I wondered how we all got through it. But you just take one day at a time.

TS: Would you say you noticed that more now from being an older person who can think back with retrospect, as opposed to in the middle of it?

I think so. I think, looking back, it impacts me now to think that he was gone from home for three years or more. Then I guess it impacted me when I see in some of the more recent wars, like the Gulf War, and when men were gone just three months and they just seemed to go on and on about that—and that’s okay. I mean, that’s okay. But I thought, “Gee, three months, and Mel was gone three years.” And I think, you know, if my husband was just gonna be gone three months, I would’ve said, “Hooray, hooray!” [laughs] But that’s just the way I see it now.