Sarah Reidinger was born on April 19, 1924 in Ithaca, New York. She had an older brother who broke his arm but later was drafted into the Army and stationed at Saipan. After graduating high school in 1941, she attended Cornell University, where she majored in psychology and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. Between her junior and senior years at Cornell, Sarah worked at Eastman Kodak putting strings on safety pins of grenades. On D-Day, she attended her boyfriend’s graduation as a marine from West Point and married him soon after. She currently lives at Heron Point.
In this interview, Sarah Reidinger recalls her mother learning Morse code, rolling bandages and saving grease cans. She describes her experience hearing about Pearl Harbor on the radio and attending college at Cornell University during the war where she attended USO dances and entertained many soldiers. She speaks about her brother who injured his arm and how his injury impacted his service in the Army.
Injuries in the Army
I had a brother, and he was four and a half years older. And he was driving one day with a couple of his buddies and went off the edge of the road, and he broke his arm. It was a compound fracture. So he was in the hospital for a good long time and thought it would keep him out of the Army. He was afraid it would, and it didn’t though. So he finally got in after several operations, and he ended up in—oh gosh, what’s the name of the island in the Pacific where the atomic bomb was flown off that island? I’m sorry, these things, I just can’t remember like I used to. No, well anyway, that’s where he ended up, and he came back okay.
Morse Code in the Family
Oh yeah, for some reason, she learned dot-dash—what am I trying to say? Morse code. She and her two friends, and they would, I don’t know why. I suppose they hoped that they’d use it sometime. I don’t think they ever did, but they used it between them, and they would talk to each other in Morse code. It was really kind of funny. Dot-dash, dot-dash.
Working at Eastman Kodak
Between my junior and senior years at Cornell, I worked for Eastman Kodak in Rochester? Yeah, I can’t remember these things. And we never knew exactly what we were doing. They said we were putting strings on safety pins for hand grenades. Now I was interested in that because they had a time/motion study about it, and I was majoring in psychology about time motion. It was a boring job but very interesting, and I met a lot of interesting people. I got a room with a friend’s grandmother who was living in Rochester.It was my first experience living away from home. Well, we all thought we ought to be doing something, and that interested me so I went for it.
Westpoint Graduation on D-Day
I had one very interesting experience. I was at a West Point graduation in 1944 on D-Day, and the actual graduation was D-Day, and Eisenhower had radioed a message ’cause his son was graduating in that class. And it was pretty emotional but very interesting. Saw Mamie Eisenhower and John, of course, and there were lots of general’s sons that were graduating in that class.
Did you remember what the telegram said?
Oh, I can’t remember the words. I wish I had a copy of it, but I didn’t keep it. I’ve moved a lot of times since then, and I just have lost all those old keepsakes.
Sorority USO Dances
Yes, we had some kind of a party almost every weekend for—there were so many V-12’s on the campus. And we invited them, and they always came. We had lots of dances.
So were they fun? Were they a lot of fun?
You got to wear dresses and everything?
Oh yes, [laughs], things were very different.
Sorority and Segregation
They [the sorority] were though taken—you won’t believe this, and it’s hard to believe now, but a few years after I graduated, they wanted to take in a black girl, and the sorority cut them off. The National Sorority cut them off. It wasn’t there for a few years, and we fought it. The alums fought it and finally got it back, different place, but they got the sorority back, and it’s doing well now.