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Interview with Ethel Finley [09/25/1998]

Nancy Durr:

We should be able to start. This is September 25,1998. We are in Omaha, Nebraska at the WASP Reunion. I'm Nancy Durr, and I'm interviewing Ethel Finley, F-I-N-L-E-Y, Class of 43-5. So let's start out Ethel with - tell me a little bit about your childhood. Who your parents were, their names.

Ethel Finley:

Okay. I was born in Lake City, Minnesota, August 29, 1920. My mother's name was Irene Bremer Meyer. My father was Roy Meyer. We lived on a farm about 7 miles outside the city which was on the road to Rochester, Minnesota. Lake City is an interesting little town on the Mississippi River. Here the River becomes three miles wide and forms a thirty-mile long lake caused by twp smaller rivers flowing into the Mississippi just south of the city. Commercial transportation goes up as far as St. Paul.

Nancy Durr:

Uh-huh.

Ethel Finley:

I have one sister three years younger than I am. I'm of the generation that went to a country school, a one-room schoolhouse. My mother had been a teacher so I had the advantage of being read to a lot. Also she was determined that her girls were going to go to college. In those days farm kids didn't even go to high school. But I did.

Nancy Durr:

Did your mother go to college?

Ethel Finley:

No, in those days she had one year of what was called normal school -

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

and then they went out and taught. I think I have inherited many of her characteristics because she too was the kind of person who was one of the first to do things in her generation. She was one of the early girls who rode the bicycle right away when she was young and tells many funny stories about that. She grew up about a mile out of this town, and her father had the milk route. Still a farm, but mostly a dairy farm. Then there was a hill called the mile hill. She tells many funny stories about how they didn't have coaster breaks and how the boys had told her how to stop by putting her foot between the tire and the fender. She put her foot in the center and tore out all the spokes. Well I think those are good stories. I tell them to my children, and they love to hear about that generation. Guess I am a storyteller. I feel you get me started and one story leads to another.

Nancy Durr:

And that is what I want you to do today.

Ethel Finley:

And anyway, then she had one year after high school and she taught country school. So she rode horseback five miles each way everyday to teach school It was About this time that cars were being invented. So she was one of the first women to lean to drive a car. After she married, my mother moved out further into the country where there was no electricity. She was not about to live without it. This was an old homestead they lived on; I'll tell you a little about that. In 1848 Minnesota became a state - that rhymes so I can always remember. Shortly after that my grandfather and his brother came from Germany where they had grown up on farms. When they heard that free farmland was being given away, many from that part of Germany moved directly into the Midwest and took up homesteads including my grandfather. He and his brother had this farm together and had 320 acres. Which is not that big compared to farms in the west, but for the kind of farming they did it was plenty of land. Then as time went by and they married and had children, they divided the land in half and put up another set of buildings nearby. But my father and mother lived in the homestead. Those times the basements were just made of rocks, with dirt in the cracks, really. And my mother plastered and whitewashed it all. She got one of those Delco plants, which is a gasoline engine and a series of about 40 batteries. The engine charges these batteries which store the electricity. So we had electric lights right from the beginning.

Nancy Durr:

No kidding.

Ethel Finley:

She was not going to do without electricity. And she also was not going to have just an outhouse. We had a bathroom and this electricity pumped water into a pressurized tank, so that we had running water. And this was prior to the power line going through. So you know, these were things that in this generation are almost unbelievable.

Nancy Durr:

And you remember that

Ethel Finley:

Oh, yes, I remember, definitely.

Nancy Durr:

This was a gas-fueled engine that charged the batteries?

Ethel Finley:

That charged the batteries, yes; you had to do it every couple of days.

Nancy Durr:

Wow!

Ethel Finley:

There was a whole bank of them. They were about a foot square and a little bit higher than that, and you charged those batteries. That's what gave the electricity to run the water pumps and the lights in the house. We did not get electricity in the bam until after the power line came in. That was not too many years; I was quite young when everything became electrified. We had a gasoline engine that had a milking machine to milk the cows.

Nancy Durr:

No kidding?

Ethel Finley:

Oh, yes. As I said, my mother was determined that she was going to have these things. She was a very hard worker; she worked in the fields, had a big garden, and ran an efficient household. She was the driving force in the family. She kind of controlled the whole situation. And you know, it's interesting the reflections you have of these times. Now it's interesting I can remember my grandparents very well because my mother was one of eleven children and the second oldest. So I was the second oldest grandchild. So I was to go to this country school. But I was only five years old and my mother thought the school was a little too far for me to walk; it was a mile and a half away. I had grandparents who lived in town and close to a school so my mother said she would try having me stay with them. I was five years old on the 29th of August. Since you had to be five before the first of September, I was one of the youngest in the first grade - there was no kindergarten in those days. By Christmas my mother knew this was not working. I was becoming completely spoiled by my grandparents. It was time to stay home.

Nancy Durr:

So you were staying with your grandparents then?

Ethel Finley:

My grandparents - I would be in town for five days and then go home for the weekend.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

So my mother thought, you can go to school a mile and a half away instead of being spoiled rotten. So after Christmas I start school in this one room schoolhouse in the country. And there is no one in the first grade, but there are three little boys in second grade. So the teacher says, well you might as well go in with these boys. Here I am still only five years old and in the second grade. The boys weren't too bright so I had no problem academically. I had had the advantage of having a mother who was interested in education I knew my numbers and the alphabet like they do today. I'm telling you all this background to explain why I never had any problems academically. However there is something about age and social adjustment. I didn't realize it at the time but it took me a long time to catch up socially. I had a sister three years younger than I. She was very ill when she was four years old; she had pneumonia and pleurisy and wasn't expected to live. She and my mother stayed in town with my grandparents that winter in order to be available to the doctor and the hospital. Sometimes the snow and ice of winter did not allow us to leave the farm. Both my mother and sister became very run down physically and the next winter the doctor recommended a warmer climate. Minnesota winters were deadly cold in those days - still are sometimes, I guess. So as I say, the doctor suggested a warmer climate. You can imagine this was not in a farmer's agenda in those days.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

This was 1928. I'll tell you why I remember so definitely. A Lutheran minister, who had grown up with my mother, lived in Pasadena. So it was decided we would go to California. My father had a friend who would drive out with us. It was the fall of 1928; I recall it was the election race between Hoover and Al Smith. It was kinda a real scandal, the thought that a Catholic was running for President.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

So all along the way I can remember their wanting to get the reports and reading the newspaper. We had six months in California. It was memorable. Not the school so much but living in an apartment and we had sidewalks. I had roller skates and a scooter and a lot of kids to play with. We had an empty garage, and we set up a store. That was a unique experience for a form kid. I always think when I watch the Rose Parade - I did that when I was eight years old; I recall walking down the street with everyone carrying their own chair, going early to get the choice location for seeing everything. Then the next fall I went again to sixth grade in the country school. It must have been anticlimactic as the only thing I recall is the big boys only going to school when there wasn't farm work to do and when they came to school in the winter they insisted on having the seats by the big stove in back - it was the warmest place to be. Some of these boys lived down the road from us. There was one girl my age in the family. Every morning when we would start walking to school, the boys would set their lunch buckets down, tell us to carry them so they could run faster. They wanted to play ball. I didn't take that for long and convinced Ruthbelle to leave the buckets. No lunch for a day convinced them we were not their slaves.

Nancy Durr:

Good.

Ethel Finley:

You see, I guess I was a woman's libber when I was very young.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

We were Lutherans. And the church schools were very prevalent in that part of the country. So I went to the Lutheran church school for seventh and eighth grades. And I would stay in town during the school week and go home weekends. One year it was with my grandparents and otherwise I had aunts and uncles who lived in town. I was a built-in-babysitter for my little cousins. All of them liked going home with me for the weekend. So even though I didn't have any brothers or a large family, we always had a lot of children around.

Nancy Durr:

Good.

Ethel Finley:

So I grew up having a big family. I enjoyed living on the farm. It was the best thing for me because there were periods in my life when I could have gotten into trouble, but I never did. My mother did not have the best of marriages. My grandparents on my father's side were always interfering. My mother was a very strong-minded woman and my father was very weak. It led to many problems. I don't know what they call it today, but they would call it a nervous breakdown at that time. So once when I was in seventh grade and again when I was a freshman in high school, my mother was hospitalized. My grandmother would be there, but she didn't know too much about bringing up children, obviously. She hadn't done that great a job with her son, I felt. But I didn't get into trouble. I always loved the outdoors. I worked in the fields and had my own horse. Also I had aunts and uncles who were helpful.

Nancy Durr:

How wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

I was a dreamer, always. So that is why I'm going on and on not worrying too much-

Nancy Durr:

Now in the one room schoolhouse, did they keep you in grades or were you able to float into where you fit academically?

Ethel Finley:

We were in grades. And the teacher was not too much smarter than I was, I sometimes felt. We had an entry room where you hung your coats and left your lunch buckets which was closed off with a door. The rest was one big room with a big stove in the back of the room. No electricity and no running water hence another outhouse situation. The big boys always wanted to sit in back by the stove to keep warm in the winter and also they thought the teacher couldn't see that they were not studying. There were three or four in each class and by the time you were in fourth grade, the teacher could tell which ones had the most ability. The smarter kids would be sent out to the cloakroom with the first and second graders to help them with their numbers and reading - you would help teach the younger students.

Nancy Durr:

I see.

Ethel Finley:

You would help them read or read to them while the teacher was doing something with another class. But we were divided into classes, and we moved up just like other schools. But my mother, I think, I really never thought about it before, with her goal of our going to college got us into the city school system as soon as she could where you had more attention

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

Since I was three years older than my sister when it was time for her to go in for seventh grade, I could drive a car. When you were 15 you could drive and didn't need a license. And I had been driving since I was nine because out in the fields you could learn without running into anything. We had an old truck, and we would load it up with com, drive the truck around the pasture and my father would pull the com off to feed the cows - I would get in the seat of the truck and steer. Then when I got big enough to reach the pedals, I learned that. So when I was 15 I didn't have much to learn since I had been fooling around with driving for years. So we started driving to school when I was in my second year of high school. There again it retarded my social adjustment. I would go home immediately after classes except occasionally I would stay for after school athletics if I did not have to go home and work. This was Depression times so we had little hired help.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah.

Ethel Finley:

Although I started messing around with the truck at nine years old, we used horses to cultivate com and work the fields. I would be sent out all day with a team of horses to cultivate com and I loved it. I would probably come home for lunch; they called it dinner at noon. But I would always stay out later at suppertime because then my mother would save me a plate and I could have a picnic in the front yard instead of sitting at the table. I still love picnics.

Nancy Durr:

That's great, just great.

Ethel Finley:

The form kids always loved to gather at our house. And some of the boys from the city would like to come out too in the summer to help with the form work. We had a wonderful time. We had a croquet set in the yard and my mother fixed the lights so we could even play at night as the days grew shorter.

Nancy Durr:

So you worked on the form all day during the summer, and then you still had the energy to -

Ethel Finley:

Oh, sure, kids do.

Nancy Durr:

Now, what kind of athletics did you do in high school? What did they have available for you?

Ethel Finley:

Baseball, I guess they called it Softball for girls. And basketball, not the individual sports. Also I don't recall soccer or hockey in high school, but we did have it in college. I was in the class of 1937 when I graduated from high school. I think it was a class of 42 or 44 people, something like that. I was the second in my class and offered several scholarships. Some from out of state because they were trying to diversify even in those days. I got an application and a catalog from Stevens College in Columbia, Missouri. It was a girl's school, and they taught flying. But when I started looking through it -

Nancy Durr:

Now let me ask one quick question here. Did you have an interest in flying prior to that; and what was your first experience like seeing the airplane? Do you remember seeing any barnstormers as you were growing up?

Ethel Finley:

The first I became aware of airplanes, as you know Lindbergh was a farm boy, but a different kind of form boy. I didn't realize the difference, but he was a different kind of farm boy - his father was a gentleman farmer. But Lindbergh was labeled a form boy from Minnesota. I can remember the day he made that famous trip. I was seven years old when he did that ocean trip. I don't know any of the details, but it impressed me. And I was intrigued by it. I don't know if it had anything to do with learning to fly, but I remember having dreams of being able to fly myself, you know, without an airplane.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

I was jumping off the barn and I would be flying over the wires that went from the house to the barn The barn was much lower than the house. The house was fenced in and we had a well-kept yard. Just outside the yard, about 15 acres were planted in fruit trees and a huge garden, which I hated to weed. That was my first recollection of airplanes and flying.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

In the fall you took the cows out to unfenced pastures to let them graze in the fields that grain had been taken off of but there were still scatterings around. I would go out with my horse and watch that they were kept in control. I can remember lying in the grass, watching the clouds and dreaming. That was really my first recollection of becoming interested in anything pertaining to the air.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

It was almost like it was inborn, I guess. But, as I say, I got this application to college, but I soon realized that no matter that they were going to give me as a scholarship, it would take a lot more money than we could afford to go there. My mother was struggling to find a way for me to go to college. The chicken money was hers, some of the milk money, and she did upholstery work for neighbors and friends. She was determined to find a way for us to go to school. So then I was offered not only a scholarship but also the opportunity to work at Winona Teacher's College. It was only 50 miles away from home, and we knew we could swing it. And I loved it. I did, and as you probably know even with your little exposure to me, I live where I am quite intensely.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

I loved the farm but I didn't miss it. I just loved school. In those days you had two options; you could be a four-year student or a two-year student. The two-year students took a different curriculum and were ready to teach in two years.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

I was a four-year student, but there was a minimum of the fine arts. I knew I was not going back to the farm; I had no idea what I was going to do. I wasn't interested in becoming a teacher. I wonder about this sometimes when I talk about this to other people - there always seems to be a guiding person available to me. If my mother wasn't there, someone who really took an individual interest in me would show up.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah.

Ethel Finley:

The first year or two in college it was the man I worked for; he was a supervisor of what they called the training school. It was a grade school and the two-year college students did their practice teaching there.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

And so I helped do his office work and ran his copy machine - they didn't call it a mimeograph machine. I don't remember the name but it reproduced a purple copy.

Nancy Durr:

Right. I think they were mimeographed machines.

Ethel Finley:

Well, whatever that thing is, I helped do all that work for him. Well, he and his wife took an interest in me. They'd even drive me home, because they knew I would hitch hike if I didn't have any money. You know, it would always happen to me that way, that someone looked after - I don't know if I was - I probably was very innocent, you know. But, there was something, I wasn't helpless; it wasn't that. But I had this kind of innocence that I was exactly who I am even as I am today. And they always loved to go to the farm. And my mother would feed them well, you know.

Nancy Durr:

So would you just go home on the weekends?

Ethel Finley:

I didn't even go home on weekends quite often. I would probably go home every three weeks or so.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

And, as I said, I had a job there. I worked for him for the first two years, but then when I took biology I had quite an aptitude for that. I had signed up to be a major in science and physical education with minors in social studies and math. So I think it was after my second year, I decided to go to summer school for six weeks. I'd go home and drive the tractor in the summers otherwise. So I stayed for six weeks, and the biology teacher needed an assistant. He got two of us that were on this work program, a boy and myself. We were his assistants; we taught all the labs because they were very understaffed and under financed; they didn't get very good financing. And it was cheap for us to go to school. You know I could go for thirty bucks a month and your tuition and books would be paid for by your scholarship. I mean it was not a big expense if you kept your grades up and minded your business.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

So I had this guy - isn't it funny I remember his name now, Eddie Siebold. Eddie and I were Doc Raymond's assistants. Dr. Raymond liked us very much, and we liked him. He was a relatively young man who had gone straight through school and gotten his Ph.D. He was married and I sometimes did some babysitting for them. They also would sometimes take me home and stay for dinner. My mother was a good cook and enjoyed company. Anyway, I worked in the biology lab and then coming into my senior year, Eddie could hardly wait to see me. We had often talked about airplanes and Winona was known to be one of the aviation centers of Minnesota. Max Conrad was located here, and he was one of the best-known barnstorming pilots. So I came in after being home for the summer to start my senior year of college. Eddie could hardly stand it until I got there. He said, guess what? We're going to have flying in college. I asked, "What's it going to cost?" Nothing, he said. And he said, guess what, I signed up for it; it is going to be a class often, and they will take one girl. Well, wow, you couldn't see me for dust. I was immediately down at the president's office; I wasn't going to mess around and see who was in charge. I'd go to the top that is still kind of my tendency. So I signed up. I was the first one, and I got it. Immediately, in fact I guess Max was there talking to them, I ran into Max. I didn't know who he was at the time, but I reported out to the field when I was told. It was one of those instant friendships. And I told him my dilemma in that I was not only practice teaching, but I was working half a day. I would have to fly early. Fine, he said, I'll take you as a student. And that began a life-long friendship.

Nancy Durr:

So another person who kind of took you under his wings so to speak?

Ethel Finley:

Right.

Nancy Durr:

Great.

Ethel Finley:

And we'd get up at six o'clock in the morning. He'd have a carton of orange juice and a sweet roll in the glove compartment. It was embarrassing almost because, oh I would get so tired, I mean it was a long day-- to work in the lab, practice teach or go to classes and get my studying done and still be ready to go fly at six o'clock in the morning. So once in a great while, you know, I would oversleep. By this time four of us had moved out of the dormitory and we had two rooms. In order to save money, we were cooking on a hot plate half the time. But we were living next door to Max's in-laws. Here was Max, and if I wasn't downstairs when he got there, he would start throwing rocks at the window. So, anyway, I tried very hard to be ready most mornings. Then I would have my breakfast on the way out; we'd fly for half an hour, an hour, whatever would fit in, and he would get me back to school by eight o'clock.

Nancy Durr:

Wow.

Ethel Finley:

It was a wonderful program. I would say at least 50% of the WASP got their flying time that way. It wasn't just farmers that were poor; it was a very depressed time even though it was a little bit past the crash of '29. The '30s and '40s were still very difficult. So our economy -

Nancy Durr:

So this was, this was what about 1943?

Ethel Finley:

This was 1940 when I went to fly.

Nancy Durr:

We're talking about the CPT program?

Ethel Finley:

I went into the CPT program, which I'm sure has been described to you, but it was so efficient. I think it was the best program there was because it helped the fix-based operators. It was taught by college professors, you know, for the ground school.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

So that's when I got my license. This was in the fall, and I finished up through the winter, flew on skis, being Minnesota.

Nancy Durr:

Really?

Ethel Finley:

Oh, yes. In a forty horsepower Cub. Max did not know anything about being a teacher, but he could fly anything, knew anything about an airplane. He taught you to fly by flying. And, he said, "Those hills are 600 feet high, your altimeter may not tell you that, but that's what they are." 'Cause, see, we were in the Mississippi valley.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah.

Ethel Finley:

Where the river runs slowly and the hills in that area were 600 feet high. Beginning of Tape 1, Side B

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

You would go up high enough so you weren't going to get into any trouble. And, you did stalls; you would get the feel of how it was to stall. You'd get all these maneuvers; you learned to fly by flying which is a rather interesting experience instead of all these different techniques. That air speed indicator might not be correct, you know.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

So, you sensed the feel in your body of what it felt like when you're coming in, what was the proper -

Nancy Durr:

The feel of it.

Ethel Finley:

Yeah.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

You could glance at it or trust it if you wanted to, but you better know better too if it wasn't right. He had about seven different operations. So we got a lot of experience in cross-country in moving his airplanes around sometimes, if they didn't have the right number at one place or another. Max grew up with quite a bit of money. He is a unique individual in that he only went to a school long enough to get what he wanted, and then he would move on to another and take the subjects he thought he needed. His father owned seven fur stores so Max knew he had enough money to do tins. For all that, he was a shy fellow.

Nancy Durr:

How much older Was he than you when he was teaching you?

Ethel Finley:

Three and twenty-- seventeen years older than me.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, okay.

Ethel Finley:

And, as I say, it was one of those personality things that we immediately clicked. And I became part of the family. By this time they had five children, good Catholics. And it was always fun to go to his house.

Nancy Durr:

Did everybody in your class, in the CPT class, graduate? Anybody wash out? Any of the men wash out?

Ethel Finley:

Oh, I'm sure, yeah.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah.

Ethel Finley:

But he particularly took me because I had that weird schedule. I was only twenty years old when I started flying and a senior in college. So in order to fly I had to have parental permission. So we flew up to see my mother and have her sign a waiver. We landed at the farm in a hayfield.

Nancy Durr:

Tell me about that. How did your mom feel when you told her you wanted to do this?

Ethel Finley:

When we arrived, my mother is in the dining room ironing. I can still see her. Max started his spiel about why she should give me permission to fly and that he would take good care of me. She said, okay, and as long as she keeps doing well in school. That's stuff the parents usually say to kids. "

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

So, that was often what we would do on Saturday to get my time in. He'd say let's go to the farm for breakfast. It was not approved procedure to land anywhere except on designated airports, but we did it anyway. Max always made sure the grass was all out of the landing gear before we got back to the airport where we might get caught for having done something illegal. So we had a good breakfast and some practice in cross- country at the same time. That was the fall of 40. It is interesting that many of the WASP got their flying experience necessary for acceptance in the program during that small window of time that CPT existed.

Nancy Durr:

Especially for women, it was a very small window of opportunity.

Ethel Finley:

Yes, I think it ran only for two years from '39 to '41. They closed out the whole program, including for men, in '42.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

So everything just fit for me. I was not even aware that the WASP program existed. Perhaps someone has told you the story of how we were recruited for the program Jacqueline Cochran was told that she could get a list of people with many hours. She already had set up a small office space in the basement of a government building and had bigger plans. She listed all the women who had any flying time. She had a file of over 3,000 women with differing amounts of time. She had gotten the list from the CAA files so this was perhaps a complete list of women with any flying time. In selecting women to be contacted, she took those with the most hours first.

Nancy Durr:

I know that 43-1 and 43-2 needed 500 hours. So 43-5, how many hours did you need?

Ethel Finley:

Well, they said 100, but not everybody had that many. I had 150. And I'll tell you how I got them. It was interesting. I still didn't have any money to fly. I had graduated and started looking for a job. One of the requirements was that it be close enough to Winona so I could continue flying.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

I got a job in a little town called Rushford, practically on the Iowa border - twenty miles from Winona. And, for 100 dollars a month I had to teach everything under the sun, because that is what you did those days. Basically, I taught Math, Science, and Physical Education courses. Should I stop or go on?

Nancy Durr:

No, keep going.

Ethel Finley:

So I decided that I would fly weekends. By this time, I had used some of the first money I had earned to buy a bicycle. We had a rooming house where for 30 dollars a month we could have room and board. I lived there with three other teachers. Most weekends I would catch a ride with someone and take my bike along in case I needed to ride it back on Sunday. Soon Max said, you are not making much headway in this flying training on this schedule. I thought I would try going to air traffic school and see if I could make more money. The school was in Chicago, and I hated it. So Max came to the rescue and offered me a job operating the Link trainer which is an instrument simulator. He was giving Northwest Airline pilots their instrument time. So I took the job and got free flying time. I wasn't there long. I had taught school a year and six weeks. There was Pearl Harbor Day, and I knew I had to do something different. I remember Pearl Harbor Day very vividly 'cause I was teaching school and they called everybody into the gymnasium and announced what had happened and turned the radio on for Roosevelt's speech. So that's when Max said, I think it's time to make up your mind if you are going to do this. So then I started getting my flight

Nancy Durr:

So when did you go to Chicago for the air traffic school?

Ethel Finley:

I think I did that before I worked for Max. Yeah that's the way it progressed.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

It was a matter of a couple of months and I knew I didn't like that. I hated living in Chicago; it was awful. I lived at the YWCA in a little old square box. I'm an outdoors person. I can't stand apartments even today. So I came back to Winona and worked for Max. That was still 1942. In December I got a wire asking if I was interested in flying for the military and if so to report to Will Chamberlain Field in Minneapolis.

Nancy Durr:

So you had not even heard of the WASP program?

Ethel Finley:

No, not until I received the wire.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

I was told to go to the Navy Base up there for a physical and that Ethel Sheehy would be there to do the interview. And I was accepted. This was December of'42, and I was in the class that began training in March of 1943. So I took off from home; I wouldn't remember the details so well except for the fact that I started a scrapbook right away.

Nancy Durr:

Good.

Ethel Finley:

And I have a picture of me with my mother and the dog as I was leaving the farm

Nancy Durr:

What did Max think?

Ethel Finley:

Oh, he was thrilled - he really was. And he kept in touch; I saw him all over the world. I even saw him while I was in training in Sweetwater. He wasn't eligible for the military since he had that bad accident when he first learned to fly. He had been barnstorming in an open cockpit plane. The accident happened only about seven miles from where I lived. In order to survive financially, he would land in open fields and give rides. One Sunday afternoon a woman who had just had her first ride was so excited she started off the front of the wing. The prop was still turning and Max got hit in the head when he tried to save her. They rushed him to Rochester to the Mayo clinic. Here they were experimenting with brain surgery. So he was one of the first people to have a plate in his head; he would not have lived if this had not been done.

Nancy Durr:

No Kidding.

Ethel Finley:

The reason I know this story is that one night after we had finished flying we stopped to have a sandwich. He was telling a story about a woman with her dog. He was trying to say the word 'leash'. He kept saying 'lash - lish.' So I asked, you mean 'leash'? He said, yes, say it again. And he repeated it after me. And he started telling me this story about the young doctor who was just a resident at the Mayo Clinic. This doctor asked to try his experiment because he knew Max would not live if they didn't do something. During his recovery, the doctor told Max, you know, your brain is going to have to adjust. I don't want you to do anything constructive until I release you - particularly not fly. Well in about six weeks Max was feeling so good, and he was going to lose his airport if he did not do something. So he started flying. Almost immediately, he lost his ability to speak completely.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, really.

Ethel Finley:

And he said, "You know even though I am a man of faith, I considered suicide so often." There is nothing more frustrating than all at once not to be able to talk.

Nancy Durr:

But his other, he was still able to -

Ethel Finley:

He could think and everything else.

Nancy Durr:

But he was not able to speak?

Ethel Finley:

No.

Nancy Durr:

Isn't that interesting?

Ethel Finley:

It hit in his speech center, obviously.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, isn't that interesting.

Ethel Finley:

That is how he got started telling me the story. He said this was the reason it took so long for him to get an instrument rating. He confused numbers.

Nancy Durr:

Really, wow.

Ethel Finley:

And so, all the time it just seemed doors opened for me without a lot of effort on my part. I passed everything and went to Sweetwater. Started out from the farm with my suitcase. I had to take a bus to the train in Texas. And arrived at the old Bluebonnet Hotel where I met other girls waiting for transportation to the field.

Nancy Durr:

What did your mom think about it?

Ethel Finley:

She was so pleased. My grandfather said he thought I had been going to school to be a teacher and I must be crazy to go off and fly. But my mother was my role model, and she encouraged me to do all these things. My teachers in school too were most supportive.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right. She must have been very proud of you.

Ethel Finley:

Oh yes she was.

Nancy Durr:

That's great.

Ethel Finley:

She put me down sometimes - put me in my place, at times, too. I was pretty cocky at times.

Nancy Durr:

That is what a mother is there for, right?

Ethel Finley:

to continue we were in Sweetwater from March to September. It was very very hot and those old coveralls - I'm sure other people have told you all about the clothing and all that sort of stuff so we won't go into that again. We were not one of the classes to be given a choice of assignments like some of the classes.

Nancy Durr:

What was your impression of- you know, you had come from basically being the only female pilot in your general area. And so all of a sudden being thrown in with all these other women pilots, what was your impression of being with all these other women that were so much like you?

Ethel Finley:

I really enjoyed it. I don't know; I don't have any real conscious memories of being overwhelmed by it or anything. I knew I was good at flying and didn't worry too much about the academics.

Nancy Durr:

What about washing out?

Ethel Finley:

Well, I only had one time when I was concerned about that. I mean I always did well. I had no trouble with the ground school courses because I was quite recently out of college and I had taught physics so engines was no problem for me. I have never had too much trouble learning anything. In fact, Marge says, she would never have made it academically if I hadn't been there to coach her on things like engines since she had not gone to college. She went to the business thing, and she was a financial person. So that helped our relationship grow and I enjoyed it. We had a good bay; it was just like more college.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

I just couldn't believe people griping about having to wear those old coveralls or the food or it being hot. It was all okay by me. I still have visions of how I loved sitting under the wing of a plane hot as it was with the black top of the ramp sticky, waiting for my turn to fly. Nothing bothered me. As I said, our class did not get a choice of assignments, but we were the first class to get into special training immediately. They took some of the taller girls to go to B-17 school. There were 17 but I don't think they were all from our class. They had reported to a ferry command first and then were reassigned. Marge and I were with the group assigned to the ferrying command in Dallas, Love Field. But we had - not too good an experience there.

Nancy Durr:

Well, tell me what happened at Love.

Ethel Finley:

Well, I won't use any names, but for one thing there was - it was not discrimination - but every once in a while you would get some jealous males who didn't want to be instructors or check pilots especially for women. And when our group came in they failed us on our check ride even though we had just graduated from Sweetwater with no problems. None of the women in charge spoke up for us and we were just left sitting around. Marge wasn't about to take that. She was a little older and so she called Jacqueline Cochran collect in Washington.

Nancy Durr:

[Laughter]

Ethel Finley:

No messing around with her. And I'm telling you Jackie came down immediately. She was a remarkable woman. I think she knew the majority of the 1074 of us. She didn't take too much guff from anybody. There were some shenanigans going on in the hierarchy at Love Field and a few of them disappeared. Then she said, "I'll be back in touch." And she was. She called in a few days and said how would you two like to go to the training command? They were trying out some new assignments and sending a few to other commands. So we agreed and were sent out to the Southeast Training Command at Maxwell Field, Alabama.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

They didn't know quite what to do with us. So we were assigned to headquarters flying squadron. We were assigned to two young captains, and they were wonderful-- Hallock and Richardson. I still remember them. They were happy to have us as copilots in flying non-flying personnel. And on the days we didn't have an assignment to work for them, they said to go out and get ourselves some airtime and keep in practice. Check out whatever you wanted to, and if you were not checked out, let us know they would check us out. So it was very good for us.

Nancy Durr:

What were you able to fly at Maxwell?

Ethel Finley:

Since this was a training command, most of the planes were trainers. We had BT-12s, AT-6s, and twin engines AT-7 and AT-11. We were in a class that received twin engine training at Sweetwater.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

And so we were checked out and all on most of the planes they had. But then within a short time, they decided to send us out to Shaw Field in Sumpter, South Carolina. There we got a lot of flying time flying non-flying personnel and test flying for engineering. We could take cross-country flights on weekends within a thousand-mile radius in order to keep our proficiency in navigation.

Nancy Durr:

And now an engineering flight, is that like a test?

Ethel Finley:

When flying for engineering, you are really a maintenance pilot. You do slow- time on engines after overhaul or installation of new engines and check on the write-up of cadets as to some malfunction, etc. I think we had only one true test pilot, Ann Baumgartner Carl I don't know if you have interviewed her yet - she was the first woman to fly a jet. She was stationed at Wright-Patterson and tested new equipment and planes. But I don't really consider our engineering assignment to be labeled test pilot. We went up and checked the planes, but not in the true sense of the word testing. Being one of the earlier classes and home-based, we got a lot of flying time. We must have had 500 hours when we were asked to go to instructor's school. They wanted to see if women could instruct men in flying. The war still wasn't going that hot. So I think it must have been February when we received orders to go to Randolph Field, Texas. We received instruction in flying from the back seat - until this time we always flew from the front seat. We were taught acrobatics and formation flying (including take-offs and landings) all from the back seat.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, you got to do formation flying?

Ethel Finley:

Oh, yes. We were going to teach this. Then we were sent back to Shaw Field.

Nancy Durr:

I see. Okay.

Ethel Finley:

Some bases they didn't let them instruct. In fact I think we were two of the few that instructed. Some of COs just weren't going to go along with this, but there was a lieutenant colonel who was the director of training. His name was Fleet Osborne, North Carolina, and we were not militarized, and you know me, I'm pretty comfortable being myself. So when I got done, he called me in. Marge took a couple of days off and went someplace else, so I was the first one to get back. So he called me in, and he said, so you think you want to instruct? And I said, well I think they would like for us to see if it is a good idea and if it is possible. And he said, all right, I'll take you up on your check ride. You know he didn't give check rides; I mean not usually.

Nancy Durr:

He was the CO, right?

Ethel Finley:

He was the CO of the flying; he wasn't the CO of the whole base. We had another guy who was the CO of the whole base. But he was head of the whole flight- training program. So we went up. Those BT's, you know, they are not very - they are pretty underpowered for the size of them, and we were still in BT-lS's at that time. So we went up, and he asked me to do all the maneuvers that we would be teaching. And then he says. All right let's do an immelmann. I don't know if you are familiar with that, but that's when you do a half loop and you turn over and you're supposed to stay level. And I said well, sir, I don't think I can do it in this airplane. He said, don't worry, I can't either. Let's go home. Durr and

Ethel Finley:

[Laughter]

Ethel Finley:

So I gave him the right answer. That goes to show that being smarty and trying to do it would have been a mistake. And he said, well, what I would like to do is assign you to this Captain Roden Berry in the men's squadron. He said, he will be very understanding of what this is all about and give you all the help he can. And you don't have to be concerned about talking to him about any problems. He was a little bit older, and he was just wonderful. And the guys accepted us 'cause they wanted to go out to combat anyway, so that anybody who wanted to do that job would be just fine with them. We just had a great relationship there. That's where I got my name of "High Test." One morning. Bob Archer, who was from Michigan and was a football player with Tom Harmon who was one of the golden football players of Michigan, well, he was in our squadron. Bob and I were sitting there waiting our turn, you know. There were about a couple of hundred airplanes that would be in line waiting. He used to get bored and so he picks up the mike, and you are never supposed to do this, and he says. Good morning High Test. Durr and

Ethel Finley:

[Laughter]

Ethel Finley:

Well it got all over the field, so consequently, that became my name.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, that's great; that's Wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

So we did that, and this is an interesting incident because when we get interviewed so often it is brought out well what was really the conflict between Nancy Love and Cochran and the WAFS and the WASPs and so forth. I like to tell this story, because I always had the impression, and I think I am right on this, that they both did the best they could for our group. Some of the things that happened between them personally was never an issue. They came from such different backgrounds, and I can see where it might possibly been an issue between the two of them, I don't know. But we had only been at Shaw and started instructing for a couple of months when we got these orders to report to Romulus for pursuit training. And, we didn't know why, they just said you are going to go. So we get up to Romulus and, of course, Nancy is the CO up there, and when we reported in, we said, you know, we are really confused and we wonder what's going on. We had just finished all this training and had barely started to see if this was going to be a feasible thing for women to teach men, and here we get these orders. And she said, well, don't you want to fly fighters? Well, we said it would be nice, but you know that is not our life goal necessarily and that we had just been trained and we just wondered - this just doesn't seem exactly what would be best for the program. She said, well, would you like to go back? We'd just as soon because we liked it there. They treated us very well, and it just seemed the best thing to do. So she called up Jackie, they had their conference, and it was agreed that if we wanted to do it that was fine. So I say, that I still feel very strongly that they both wanted the best for the program - that is my own personal experience of it, and I'm sure Marge would confirm this. Sometimes issues got a little confused - Nancy probably just went down the line, and we had a large number of hours and it looked like we were a good potential for this change.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

But, yet it was for the good of the program, I think, that they conferred.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

I just wanted to tell that because I get very annoyed in interviews when they try to bring out the negative aspects of the program or how men treated women and all that stuff. I don't think that's the issue that we want as a group to be our heritage. We do not need to get our reputation at the expense of men.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

And we do not want to be the ones that women's lib people use as examples. I think it should be portrayed accurately. And this is why I like to tell some of these stories. When I get interviewed sometimes for the media, they - Beginning of Tape 2, Side A

Nancy Durr:

Let's see, you were saying in some of the interviews people have approached you; they want to make the discrimination thing an issue when like you said you dealt with it.

Ethel Finley:

Right.

Nancy Durr:

When you were instructing did some of your male students ever give you a hard time?

Ethel Finley:

No, no we were always very honest about it. I don't know exactly what Marge said, but I would start out the first day when I was given my students by saying to them that this is the first time it has been tried in the military to have women instruct men. And if you prefer not to be part of this or to have me as the instructor you may ask for a change. I never had a single one ask for a change.

Nancy Durr:

That's wonderful,

Ethel Finley:

And it's very interesting. There are two things in connection with this that I would like to bring out. One of the first things, when I became President and we had our reunion at San Antonio, the first evening there was a reception, and they had what they call a Tattoo. Are you familiar with what a Tattoo is? It's kind of an honorary ceremony that started in Scotland. They do it for special groups and special dignitaries. I don't know if it is done anywhere except at Randolph. Since I had gone to Randolph to school, I was asked to be the one to represent the WASP, to sit on the podium with the Generals to review this ceremony that was honoring us. The rest were all in their special places. And, it starts right at sunset, and you each have your own car and escort. And you come in from over at the officer's club and you go past a building, it's called the Taj Mahal. The base is probably the best-planned base in the United States. It comes in a boulevard of trees and it ends up in what is the water tower in the center with the administration building, it's all built white, with lights on it and everything. And we were facing that, there's a circle in front of it, and the bells ring just as the sun goes down. I still get goose bumpy at this. I knew that night this whole thing of being president of the WASP was going to be bigger than just me. Then they have a review with the guns and all that stuff and then they have fly bys. Well, that night they had a reception for us at the officer's club, and the General, he's now a three star, he was a Brigadier at the time, Don Peterson was there and he presented me with their award which they give, and it has the Taj Mahal on it. It is a beautiful award. And we were talking afterwards, and he said, "You know, I think it is interesting that you were of that group that went to instructor school here." It was the only one that was a mixed one; we were in a men's squadron there, too. He said. But you know, I'm head of the training squadron, and I prefer to have at least two women in each training squadron, because he said, for two reasons: they tend to be more thorough, they are natural teachers, they have more patience, and they keep the men on their toes.

Nancy Durr:

Always an advantage for women.

Ethel Finley:

And this is the present day Air Force.

Nancy Durr:

Isn't that interesting.

Ethel Finley:

And Don and I have become very good friends since. He is now at the Pentagon, and when I went up - took my grandson to look at the Air Force Academy - he and his wife asked us to stay with them because he was one of the Generals at NORAD at that time. But I thought that was very interesting, but that began another whole new career for me as being a WASP to be exposed to those new things. So it's rather interesting that I never had a single student ask to change way back then. And even today's Air Force is very much in favor of women instructors. So you know, you hear all these negative things. I can be a positive person, and I like to tell all the good things that have happened. I think that there were a few incidents say like of jealousy or where men felt threatened, and it's the same way today.

Nancy Durr:

It's the same way today, right.

Ethel Finley:

I don't think it was that much different, but we didn't make a big deal about it.

Nancy Durr:

You learn to work with it and get on and get over it.

Ethel Finley:

This woman, she was from "48 Hours", and one of the known interviewers kept pressing the point. And I finally said, look, we dealt with it if it happened. I said, "Do you find a problem with it now?" And she quit asking that question of us. Some of them who have not been interviewed very often get taken in, and they will make remarks. There are a few remarks that Jacqueline Cochran made when she was tired or probably not aware and that taught me right away to be a little bit wary. I am sure there are negative things that have happened, and I don't say that they are not true, but that is not our true story.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

There might have been an isolated incident here and there. And I think if you're the first in a new venture that you have to expect things like this.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

I have learned a long time ago that when you are in something like that you have to be extra careful of your own behavior.

Nancy Durr:

Now were you aware of that while you were going through it?

Ethel Finley:

Not so much. I became aware of it, if you want me to lead into this next subject; I became most aware of it when I was going to start working with women in a halfway house situation.

Nancy Durr:

Okay. Well, we'll come back to the halfway house. I'm not quite ready to get to that point yet.

Ethel Finley:

Okay. I was not as aware of it then.

Nancy Durr:

Were you aware that this was something that was important, that was a little bit different?

Ethel Finley:

I think it was pretty much -

Nancy Durr:

Or were you just too happy to be flying?

Ethel Finley:

Oh, well, I think that Jacqueline Cochran sort of set the tone for that. You were told how it was or it was indicated very strongly what your behavior should be right from the beginning when you came in if you really seriously wanted to stay in and be part of the program. And some of those who were asked to leave; it was for various reasons like that. I think most of us were very serious about being WASPs were not about to jeopardize what we had. I think that was true. We were aware of it to that degree, yes.

Nancy Durr:

Okay, okay. So now when did you get to Randolph to start instructing there? And did you say you and Marge -

Ethel Finley:

We didn't instruct in Randolph.

Nancy Durr:

You and Marge stayed together the whole time?

Ethel Finley:

Yep.

Nancy Durr:

That is very unusual, that is very unusual.

Ethel Finley:

And we were the only two, which was rather interesting. I mean, it wasn't as if there was a whole group of people that did.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

Right from the time we were in the same bay at Sweetwater.

Nancy Durr:

That's very unusual.

Ethel Finley:

Yeah. Absolute the whole time until we were discharged. And even after December 20th. My husband, he ended up being my future husband, he was the director of flying, a Major at the time, and he flew me home for Christmas. Then Marge and I were hired to run the Link Trainers at Shaw as civilians under our Civil Service rating. We did that until I got married in March. Then Marge decided to go to California. So it was no big deal for us, you know the disbandment. It was very traumatic for some of the women to have to return home; that did not happen to us. We stayed on.

Nancy Durr:

Well that really reinforces the fact that the CO there felt very highly of you and your abilities.

Ethel Finley:

Yeah. And we had minded our business. We hadn't misused our privileges or tried to throw our weight around or anything like that. The WACs didn't like us much, but that was okay. That was not unusual.

Nancy Durr:

Tell me, what were your barracks when you were there?

Ethel Finley:

We had to find our own quarters for a short time, and then the upper floor of the WACs barracks was empty so we had the whole floor. And we were quite popular; we had the run of the Officer's Club. We really had fun with the guys because we had been flying with them, and we ate with them and spent time with them. We were flying or doing something all the time. Even after we were instructing, since I loved to fly so much, I would go to operations on weekends and ask, anything you need done? We'd fly non-flying personnel or do whatever they wanted us to do. One month I flew 147 hours; I got called in on that.

Nancy Durr:

Wow.

Ethel Finley:

I had more flying time for the month than anyone on the field. The same Fleet Osborne called me in and asked, "What are you trying to do?" This was October, I remember vividly, the October before we were going to be sent home. And I said, well, I decided I might as well get it while I can, and he just laughed. So if you could say that it was a good experience, and a happy one - we had it. We were busy all the time. But going back to the WACs, we had the second floor and they had the first floor. If we didn't have the time, sometimes we had night flying and many other things to do, so if our room got too dirty, we'd just moved into another room. You know, we had the whole second floor. The WAC who was in charge downstairs didn't appreciate that. She would always be reporting us. Finally, I've forgotten what the captain's name was, I'm sure Marge would remember, anyway he came over and said, "I don't know how to solve this situation." I know exactly what you are doing, but Marge since you are the older of the two, I'll appoint you in charge of the WASP here. You do what you need to do, and I'll tell Lucy to mind her own business.

Nancy Durr:

That's funny. That's great. Now just you and Marge were there, right?

Ethel Finley:

For a long time, and then pretty soon another one came. She had not gone through Randolph. I don't really know if she instructed very much or not. And then, of course, you know it's only a year's time so it's not real long, and then at the very end, the last couple of months they were removing WASP from certain bases. So there were probably 10 or 11 of them who came in, but there wasn't much for them to do. It was just they were putting in time those last months. It wasn't a fair situation for them, so they didn't get as good reviews. I have seen the final reports on the WASP from Shaw Field and they were rather flattering for Marge and me from all of the officers who we worked under. And so it proved exactly what Don Peterson said later that women make good instructors, but you know there again it was more of a gentle transition even though it was a new, very unique thing to have women flying, they had been teachers forever.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

So instructors were not such a drastic move for the men to accept

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

And besides that, they didn't want to do it particularly.

Nancy Durr:

What did Marge do before - Was she a teacher too?

Ethel Finley:

No.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, okay. Oh, you said she was into business.

Ethel Finley:

Well, she was an accountant. And then afterwards, I think she did accounting for about ten businesses or supervised them. But she was not a teacher.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

But she was a very detailed person so that would make her a good teacher. She drives me nuts with her financial details. Finances blow my mind. I can't keep a checkbook for two months in a row. I just say rectified by the bank statement and that takes care of it. I can't be bothered to look for those pennies and nickels. So anyway where do you want to go from here?

Nancy Durr:

Okay. So when the WASP got disbanded, give me a few impressions of, you know, how you felt. You already said that it wasn't as drastic for you, because -

Ethel Finley:

No.

Nancy Durr:

How did you know, did you know right away that you were going to be hired as a Link instructor?

Ethel Finley:

No.

Nancy Durr:

So, you know, some impressions of-

Ethel Finley:

Well let's see. It started about in November. I mean, I had seen Jim around a lot and one day in early November, I had volunteered at operations. Some fellow had to be taken to Atlanta. It was a twin-engine airplane and they required a copilot. I looked around for a guy I had been going with occasionally, nobody serious. I said, "Jim, do you want to be my copilot on a trip to Atlanta?" Nah, I want to stay home and work on my scooter. Jim Finley was standing around operations. I'd seen him around a lot; he was good looking. He stepped up and said, "I'll be your copilot." Oh, really, that blew my mind because he was a Major.

Nancy Durr:

Really.

Ethel Finley:

On the way back to Shaw I kept thinking that he'd probably ask me out for dinner or something that night. I had a date with Jim Fogarity, the one who wanted to stay home and fix his scooter. However, Jim Finley must have been intuitive and he asked me for the next night. We met for dinner at the club and went out every night to a movie or something. So when we disbanded he took me home and stayed for Christmas. Since Jim was already in the service when we entered the war, he ended up in administration. So when the training was cut back due to the war in Europe drawing near to ending, Jim was allowed his choice of going to fighter training. This was the beginning of 1945 and he was sent to Craig Field for transition. He was a very shy fellow and said nothing to me about the future or writing or anything. Fine thing. So when somebody asked me for a date, I went. Leroy Springs, whose father had the cotton mills in South Carolina, was a good friend of mine. So we went out sometimes. One time Jim called and I wasn't in. He was quite upset. What's he got to be mad about? Did he think I was going to sit around and wait for a phone call? He didn't like it much so he decided he'd better do something about it. He said, why don't you get a long weekend leave and come down and see me, 'cause I can't leave. So I went. I liked him fine. I thought he was great. He must have felt the same. He said, well, I guess we will just have to get married if you want to. Before moving to the next field, we got married on March 15. We honeymooned and then were on our way to California. He started his training immediately in P-38s and P-51s. He was still alerted at the time that peace was signed in the Pacific. I was something so completely different from what Jim was used to - he'd been brought up in a Quaker straight family, and I was brought up in the big wide Midwest. We were absolute opposites and so I -

Nancy Durr:

He was a Quaker?

Ethel Finley:

Well, his parents were Quaker. He never really - but he did go to Swarthmore which is a Quaker school.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah.

Ethel Finley:

His parents were very Quakery. So we found out our differences when we got to California. I don't know what he thought I was going to do, but when he went flying, I went to the local airport. The guy needed somebody to take an airplane someplace, and he said he would pick me up. So I went of course. Well Jim got home before I did, and he was so mad. I said, Jim Finley, if you think for one cotton pickin' minute I'm going to sit here in this house waiting for you to come home, you is crazy. Let's get that straight right now. So, you know, we had fun. I learned to play bridge, because he played bridge and I didn't. And I went flying at the local airport for freebies, just for the flying time. And then I got pregnant, so I went home.

Nancy Durr:

Did you get paid for flying while you were out there?

Ethel Finley:

No, no I just wanted to fly. We didn't have many expenses and living was cheap.

Nancy Durr:

Did he ever, did he ever take you up in one of the fighters?

Ethel Finley:

No, you couldn't do that.

Nancy Durr:

He couldn't even sneak you on, huh?

Ethel Finley:

Nope, never did that.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

So anyway, then I went home to the farm, and then he came after the war was over. He hadn't decided whether he would stay in the Reserve or not. And he had been a 25 graduate engineer before he went in, but he couldn't give up flying right away either. And he became a corporate pilot for a while. Interesting times. But, we had children right away. I was 24, and I was ready to have children. I loved children; as I told you from my background with all my little cousins and I loved it. We had fun together. I had fun with my kids, too. His sister was divorced, so we had three of our own and then my nephew grew up with them, too. We invited her to come live with us when we moved to Summit, New Jersey. Jim kept having flying jobs, but then he decided it felt too much like a taxicab driver and went back to engineering. He went with an oil company. We had a good life. We lived in Summit, New Jersey, for 28 years and always went to the farm for one month and to the beach for the other six weeks

Nancy Durr:

That's great.

Ethel Finley:

'cause he grew in Delaware, and his family had a place at the beach.

Nancy Durr:

Now, did you keep flying during this time?

Ethel Finley:

Nope.

Nancy Durr:

No flying.

Ethel Finley:

He flew and we had the use of the airplane. We would take the kids and go to Minnesota with it. The company was good, and they let us use it. I'd get some trips, and I could fly with him, but I never kept my license active. I did get my written instructors done; I did convert my military time to a commercial. But I still feel that way when people ask if I fly, I think there is a certain time in life when you do things. I don't know if I believe in fate or destiny or what, but whenever it is time for me to move on, if I don't do it consciously myself, I get pushed into it.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah.

Ethel Finley:

You know, I still feel that way.

Nancy Durr:

So you have got three kids?

Ethel Finley:

Three children, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren.

Nancy Durr:

Name your kids for me.

Ethel Finley:

Janet is the oldest and she is 53 years old. When my kids get to be 50, they get a trip of their choice with me, just the kid.

Nancy Durr:

That's wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

So we went to Alaska. She was the first one. And then the next year, Michael, Michael James was 50, and so last January we went to Australia.

Nancy Durr:

Wow.

Ethel Finley:

And in the year 2000 we are going to have a blast. The youngest is a girl, Joanne. She will be 50, I will be 80, and we are going to New Zealand and Fiji. She said if you throw Fiji in too.

Nancy Durr:

How wonderful. How wonderful. Are any of your kids pilots?

Ethel Finley:

Michael was a Navy pilot,

Nancy Durr:

Great.

Ethel Finley:

but he didn't stay in. He got a full scholarship to Duke University from the Navy. And he flew off Carriers and such. But, he didn't choose to stay in flying. He was a graduate engineer, too. He was at odds with the establishment so he took off for Saint Thomas and lived there for ten years and built up his skills, loves working with his hands. He came home and took over an old family building that we had had in the family since before 1850 in Delaware which was originally Jim's great-grandfather's as a blacksmith's and carriage making shop. It's a beautiful building in a little village in Delaware, which he has completely restored. He and his wife, who was in the Navy and has just retired, made a wonderful second floor apartment and they've re-pointed all the bricks and done wonderful landscaping. And he has his shop on the first floor.

Nancy Durr:

And what does he do?

Ethel Finley:

He does special custom kitchens and furniture and stuff like that. He is quite altruistic in a way, trains young boys, you know and has two young men working for him. And just loves it. He only lives about an hour and a half from me so he always takes me to the airport. So we had a wonderful trip to Australia.

Nancy Durr:

How wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

And there was an interesting thing, too, going back to flying. When I was running the Oshkosh thing for the WASP, three years ago a Tom Poberezny comes along in his little red car and there's a woman sitting in it, and he comes into our tent which we are setting up a couple of days ahead. He said to me, I have a woman in the car, and I have a little problem maybe you can help me with. He said, she's from Australia, and she has no place to stay. Her name is Nancy Bird-Walton who is one of the early, maybe the first woman pilot in Australia, I don't know.

Nancy Durr:

Wow.

Ethel Finley:

She was 80 years old, and she was walking down the street pulling her suitcase dressed in a navy blue dress with white trim and shoes with heels, but had no place to stay. I said, well we've got room for a couple of nights. I said, but Tom, you have enough to do, I'll deal with it. And so we took her home with us. She is a great lady. She and I have kept up our correspondence, and she thought I was her savior for giving her a place to stay. So when I was coming to Australia she said she would contact me and make some contacts for us. In the meantime, I go to Europe most years. I haven't gone for two years, but I'm going now again in October. I go to this ecumenical religious community where I meet people from all over the world. About two and a half years ago, I had met two priests from Australia. One of them I had kept in touch with all the time. He lives just outside Sydney. So Bob picked us up at the airport and got us a place to stay while we were in Sydney. Then Nancy had us to lunch and invited several of her friends. While there Nancy asked where we were staying in Melbourne. We had no arrangements planned so she called up a friend Marty Gething who lived there and had been an ATA pilot. Marty always has room for people. Her husband was a RAF pilot. They had a guesthouse which they gave to Michael and me while we toured the area. We had a wonderful time and discovered we had a mutual friend, Roberta Leveau. Marty was the godmother of Roberta's son. It was very interesting to meet all of these pilot friends over there.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

And in October I am going to Europe to renew friendships; we met young women German pilots at the Forest of Friendship and they have invited me to Munich. But it is interesting how life keeps presenting these interesting opportunities.

Nancy Durr:

Well, let's go back here for a minute and tell me a little bit about your career in starting halfway houses.

Ethel Finley:

Well after my children were grown, as you know, I always have to have a cause. It seems that I need something more challenging than just volunteer work.

Nancy Durr:

Your career for quite a while was being a mother then?

Ethel Finley:

Yes.

Nancy Durr:

Okay.

Ethel Finley:

I did the things that mothers do: PTA, sew clothes, and drive children wherever. Every summer I took all the kids, packed them in the car and drove off to Minnesota. There were four children and the dog. Jim's sister and son lived with us so Eric would go along. He was a year younger than Joanne so I said we had four children all the same age. There were the four of them within five years of age, and I loved having them all. Then after a month on the farm, I'd pack them up again and head for the beach in Delaware. After flying for a few years Jim took a job as a sales engineer. We were living in a suburban town and although I didn't drink anything to speak of until I was 39 years old, I soon had a problem. I'm not saying I didn’t have a drink, but it was never anything to speak to I didn't like it. Fortunately, I had kind of a built in protection, and I don't understand how that happened to me either. But, anyway, when we moved to Summit, New Jersey, which is a suburb of New York, and very junior leaguish, I guess I was uncomfortable socially which led to my drinking in the beginning. It was just parties on the weekend at first. But I think my body's chemistry is such, I realized after I began learning something about addiction, that it did not take me much of anything to become addicted. But this was not immediately. But by the time I was 50. And so I went through the program, and Beginning of Tape 2, Side B

Ethel Finley:

As I said, this was 1973. So it was probably I became a volunteer at a small treatment center where I was. And discovered how many of these women did not get enough in a three or four week program and were repeaters. So another woman and I started taking in, I could take two at a time. And kind of because of my own situation, realized that we had to become responsible for ourselves. It was our responsibility, our recovery. And the fastest way with younger people that you can do this to help them assume their responsibility, make them be financially responsible for themselves, the first thing you do is get a job. So, it is really based on a work program. And don't bother me if you are not serious about this. But soon, there were just beginning to be too many people who needed this, and another woman was doing the same thing as I was doing. And a non-alcoholic friend, his wife had had problems and kind of admired what we were doing. He introduced us. And so we started working on how can we get a house so we can have a support system for more people. And there were no halfway houses for women. See this was better than twenty-five years ago in New Jersey. And there were very few in the country. So we did our homework, and we came home and got together, and then somebody signed a mortgage for us. So we bought an old house, five stories, real trash. You can't imagine what shape it was in. It had been kind of a boarding house. It had originally been a mansion and then became a boarding house where people would put another rug on top of a rug and never clean it out. And it was awful. But anyway, we did this, and the people from AA helped us. We got our first one in Morristown, New Jersey, as an airline pilot signed for the mortgage, and we would pay to him until we got enough equity to do it ourselves. It was a very interesting experience. Because I was not a counselor, but I went back on how to manage non-profits. And I got my counselor's, and we did all the jobs, and as we got money we would peddle off the different jobs. And I was the live-in, and my husband was probably the only husband that ever lived in a halfway house where he came home for weekends to a halfway house for women that is. He was wonderful, you know. He was just as enthusiastic about my doing things as I was. You know, I mean he was very supportive.

Nancy Durr:

That's wonderful. So ever since that first time way back in California when you said, I'm going to do this, he always supported you.

Ethel Finley:

Well, it was funny. One of my friends came to visit. She said, "You know, Jim, I think it is so wonderful the way you let Ethel do all these things." He said, Well, I might as well, she'll do them anyway.

Ethel Finley:

It actually, I think we were the best type personalities for each other. You know it wasn't all this great romantic stuff all the time. However we had a mutual respect and the same type of value system. And he had many problems with depression. He said, "Look you put up with me for 19 years, the least I can do is be supportive of you." As my Mend Dawn said, he was the last of the great gentlemen; she loved him dearly. And he was, he was very much a gentleman, and he became much more outgoing because he lived with me. And I learned a lot of, you know, of various things that - I think it is interesting to mix different cultures. The Midwestern culture is quite different from the Eastern, but we both appreciated each other. It made for a good relationship. And we remained independent, very independent. And it was almost necessary because -

Nancy Durr:

Well when he was traveling all the time.

Ethel Finley:

He's traveling all the time. In feet, the kids were pretty smart about that, too. There was a kind of two system - you know, they knew weekends, dad was coming. But it was wonderful because they could adjust - you know, I always had this kind of funny sense of humor where I sympathized with the kids a little bit too much, and he could handle them. It was amazing, coining from that kind of background, our kids and grandchildren are adjusted in any social situation. The farm kids could hardly wait for them to come, and when they were growing up here in suburban New York, and it was a very free and easy and different kind of open life. But then they would come to the beach where it was still - Jim's mother was still very structured, people stayed in their places. And every weekend on Sundays we had formal dinners, and the children took turns serving. The kids, two and two, there were four. We served formally, and they cleared, and they took their turns. And it was polite conversation, you were dressed up, and you had been to church. This is what we did. And at the beach there was a proper respect, even at the beach if an older person came, you got up and waited until the older person sat down. There was none of this nonsense. I think it was good for them.

Nancy Durr:

Very good for them.

Ethel Finley:

They are very comfortable socially anywhere, and people love to have them come. And grandchildren too. I have a grandson who is flying helicopters; he's the only one who is really interested.

Nancy Durr:

Great.

Ethel Finley:

He decided against the Academy. He said, Grandma, I hope you don't mind but I want to be in rescue, and fly helicopters, and they told me I had a better chance if I took this ROTC scholarship and did the army ROTC.

Nancy Durr:

Really.

Ethel Finley:

Yep. He switched after one year, and he just loves it. He is a senior this year, but because they had problems, you know, in Grand Forks, N.D., and they let school out early. He's got to get his flying in this year, so he'll probably do a fifth year. Then he'll be in the Army for five years. He's a good kid, he's doing well, and I'm very happy with him.

Nancy Durr:

That's wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

Of course I like all my - I have a wonderful support system with my children. My husband died, next month it will be ten years. And you know, it's like you live three lives. The life prior to marriage and then you've got this adjustment for forty-three years, and then I have so many friends all over the world that now I have time for my friends. And I spend - I'm staying here for another two nights, because I have become an honorary Jesuit, so to speak. I'm going over to Creighton here and stay with my Jesuit friends for two nights. Part of our halfway house program was developing a meaningful spirituality. I think so much of addiction; people are looking for, searching for meaning. In feet, Carl Jung has expressed it well when he said, "Addiction is man's search for meaning." In order for a person to become well, it has to be a complete program, physical, mental, and spiritual. And so we had them go, while in our halfway house program they could stay six months in one house and then progress to another house for six more months with less - having a house manager and maintaining it more themselves. But they had to go to two retreat weekends. I had some priest friends in the program, too. And I would assist with it, and we would take them away to this Episcopal camp for a weekend. We would help them get started on a meaningful spirituality. And we had people from other halfway houses asking; please can we send ours, because we don't have that part in our program. And so we used to get women from two different halfway houses in the Washington area that would join us at this camp. When I got back active with my flying group and I had done this for twenty-five years I was ready to move on I had started five halfway houses, three in New Jersey and two in Delaware -

Nancy Durr:

And you always worked with women?

Ethel Finley:

Just women. They went to AA which was mixed, but I started women's AA meetings, too. I know it's all the same problem, however, the point of identification is so different for women than for men. And this was part of the reason they were not getting a good start or that they were going back to the bad environments. I also thought it was very important to have women's AA meetings for the older women. There was no point in sending them to treatment because they would go back to the same environment, either living alone or with an alcoholic husband and they were not about to leave. And so, I would see them at my home, but soon found they needed a support group. So we developed a special women's AA groups we called them so others could come in, but it was really like a group therapy, we are whatever is needed at the moment. I'm still involved in that, once a week, when I'm home. But I could not be in charge of the halfway houses and be really involved with the WASP because I don't do anything half way, as you have probably gotten. When I became President, I said, look, I can't be a working person and run the Board, so I'll help you anyway I can and remain a consultant whenever you need me, and I'll help you financially, but I've chosen to do this now.

Nancy Durr:

When you were running the halfway house and you said your husband would come home on the weekends and stayed at the halfway house with you, had you sold your family house?

Ethel Finley:

Well, what had happened is, we sold the one in Summit and moved to the shore permanently, to Rehoboth Beach. We converted our summerhouse into the year-round house and so we no longer had a New Jersey house. And so, if you wanted to see me, I would be living at the halfway house. Once in a while I'd have a long weekend; that's another thing, I found out my limits. I thought I could work two or three weeks and take off a week; you can't do it. Because it was a whole twenty-four hour around the clock job, you were always on duty - if you were the live-in. And I found 18 days was my maximum. So I would try and go less than that.

Nancy Durr:

I see.

Ethel Finley:

Then I would go down to the shore for five or six days to our house. That's why Jim lived in halfway houses. We had three of them by this time.

Nancy Durr:

And your program was, you said they had spent six months in the first home and so assuming that that was pretty intensive kind of care in the first home -

Ethel Finley:

You had to get a job right away.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, they did. Okay.

Ethel Finley:

You had two weeks to get a job. They could come with no money, but you had two weeks to get a job.

Nancy Durr:

Did they bring their children with them if they had kids?

Ethel Finley:

No, we - some programs had that, but we couldn't do that. You really have to have a lot of money behind it and run another whole staffing for that. So no, but they could have their children on weekends,

Nancy Durr:

I see.

Ethel Finley:

if there was space or if they wanted to keep them in their room. But you couldn't do it in the first house, but they could in the second house. We called those a three- quarter's house. But, they had to have a job. Usually there would be about ten women to a house. You would have to take your turn cooking. You learned to plan the meals; I mean it was a complete program. We even found you had to help them with budgeting. You bring your check home; we'll take out 50 bucks, or whatever it Was per week, and we'll help you with budgeting. You did meal planning, you had group therapy, you had AA people come in and do the step program once a week. They had, I mean it was intense, and they had to really want to get well or don't bother coming. It was wonderful. Within two months they began to respect themselves, and it just was amazing to watch, you know. So I could get real excited about that, and I still support them very much. We have two in Delaware. They hadn't had any in New Jersey, and when I got to Delaware, they hadn't had any either. So they were going to have me be a consultant, but then everybody drifts away when they see how hard it is. By that time you know the need and you've got to do it. So we did it again. And I'm still very dedicated to them.

Nancy Durr:

So are the five homes still open?

Ethel Finley:

Yep.

Nancy Durr:

That is wonderful; that is fantastic.

Ethel Finley:

And they all take a different flavor when you turn them over, but I get away from it then. That's your business now. I feel that's very important to be able to delegate it and not hang on to it. Because it will change, but that doesn't mean it is bad.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right. If it is still working then leave it to them.

Ethel Finley:

I was involved minimally before I quit completely. I began being active here. I was Regional One Director 1986 to 88, and have never stopped being active since. So I'm back again being Regional Director starting tomorrow.

Nancy Durr:

So for twenty-five years is how long you helped run the halfway houses. Now let's get into your Presidency of the WASP. How did you first get involved in that? And tell me a little about your Presidency.

Ethel Finley:

Well, all through this period of time, I have been talking about having no contact with the WASP after we disbanded. I got married, and Marge went to California. Marge got married, and her husband was a crop duster, her first husband, and he got killed, and she came home. She was coming to her family who lived in Florida. She came home by way of Buffalo, New York, because that's where she had friends and had lived. We were living in Reading, Pennsylvania, and I get this call from her. We had corresponded a little bit and kept track of each other. She called me from Buffalo and said, I'll be coming through Reading tomorrow and I will stop and see you. By this time, I had two little kids, and we had a snowstorm. She never arrived, and I never heard anything from her. And I think she was probably a little bit devastated and trying to get her life in order. So she went back home, and she stayed with her mother until she got herself adjusted down there. Then she began her own life again. We probably moved a couple of times, because we were moving often. So she couldn't find me when she decided to look me up one time. So twenty years later at the time when they were looking for WASP to get them active again after the Washington hearings on getting veteran status. They were trying to find everybody.

Nancy Durr:

And we're 1977-1978 we'll talk about, right in here

Ethel Finley:

And they were trying to notify people about their honorable discharges. Those who had hung together a little bit or occasionally gotten together, they were trying to form this thing up again. So she had no idea where to start looking, except she remembered my hometown. And she had met my mother. So she writes to the local newspaper. Lake City, Minnesota. And she sends this corny picture of me in a zoot suit and says. Please publish this. Ethel Meyer Finley, where are you?

Nancy Durr:

That's great.

Ethel Finley:

Well the publisher knew my mother, so he said I'm going to publish this because it is such a laugh, but I'll give it to you and you can send it to your daughter. So that's how Marge found out where I was. So I contacted her.

Nancy Durr:

You do not happen to still have that newspaper clipping, do you?

Ethel Finley:

I may have it, I'll have to look for it.

Nancy Durr:

Oh, that would be wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

But, it was really funny. And then so ever after that we got together. Jim and I went down and visited them. She had married another fellow, and they were living in Naples, Florida. And it was great. It was just as if that twenty years had not passed. And she was still trying to make me be her flunky, but I had grown up in the meantime and didn't respond as well as I used to. She said, "She just doesn't pay attention to me the way she used to." Our friendship has just gotten better, you know. And when Dawn Seymour rooms with us she says, you know, when I first started rooming with you two, I thought it was awful the way you talked to each other. You sound like you are really angry or going to kill each other. But you know it's just that same kind of banter we used to have when we were younger.

Nancy Durr:

When she was picking on you.

Ethel Finley:

Yeah, well she was picking on me, and I'm not taking it any more, but I'm still getting requests like their breakfast this morning.

Nancy Durr:

Well, you're the young one aren't you?

Ethel Finley:

Yep.

Nancy Durr:

Well.

Ethel Finley:

That's what they tell me all the time, you're younger than we are. We love these reunions. Well, anyway, I got involved. Marge said to me, it's time for you to go to a reunion. I said, "Oh Marge, I hate reunions." She said, Ah, come on, she said. Jane is going to fly in from California and we've got this motor home, and we'll come up to Delaware and pick you up. Which they did, and they were hardly speaking to each other by the time they got there because they had two dogs with them. They both had such set routines at this age that they barely made 200 miles per day. So I said, I'll drive, so we'll get there. We went to Cleveland. So 1982 was my first reunion. And Dawn Seymour was President who was in our class also. And it was fun; we had a great time. And I don't think that I Went to the next reunion 'cause I had something else I had to do. But, I've been to every one since. By '861 was trying to think the other day, I still don't know how I got to be nominated Regional Director. So I became a Regional Director. Doris Tanner was President. This was in Texas - Sweetwater. And once I got in there I have not stopped. Each one of the Presidents seems to have contributed something. It's different, and it's always exciting. Doris got the idea that we start working the committee system a little bit more, and she wanted a Board member to be an ad hoc member of each committee. And I chose memorials and awards, which was Dawn's committee. And I never have gotten off of it really. Then they wanted me to run for President several times. I was still involved in the halfway thing, and I said, I'm really am not quite ready, I won't say that I never will be and that's when I started thinking about it. All the time staying on this Memorial Committee, I arranged the first regional reunion at Kitty Hawk, had the first regional newspaper which they had never had. Our group has just evolved to be more involved and meet oftener in small groups since that time. So when they approached me in '92 again, I said I was ready. So that's when I was elected President. And it started, I told you, at that Tattoo. That was just prior to my installation as President.

Nancy Durr:

Is that spelled like Tattoo, like T-a-t-t-o-o?

Ethel Finley:

Yeah. It has a great history. I have the history if anybody is interested. They do it at Randolph all the time; I don't hear that they do it anywhere but Randolph. That whole weekend was wonderful At my first Board meeting, I received a note from Tom Poberezny saying. We would like for the WASP to be our honored guests for this two- year period where it's the 50th anniversary of World War II events. We are honoring all the different, several flying groups. The first year they had the Tuskegee Airmen, the Doolittle Raiders, and the Glider pilots. And the second year, we were asked to be one of the three groups. It began such a wonderful relationship. Five of us had our way paid and then so many more wanted to come that -

Nancy Durr:

What year was this?

Ethel Finley:

1993. Peggy Beatty was on the Foundation Board for EAA and she was assigned to our group. And she said. Parks College, where I am teaching, uses the Jesuit Retreat House, I'll see if I can get you some rooms there. Five of us were given rooms at Pioneer Inn, which was a real plumb, as you heard from Caro last night, and then we had about 60 WASP there. The Virginia Director of Aviation called me and wanted to sponsor five WASP. They said, "We'll fly them up in our Gooney Bird and we'll pay their way for them." I gave them the names of the people I thought would be good; so they flew them up. We had about 60 WASP there that first year.

Nancy Durr:

And that was the first year that the WASP were at Oshkosh right?

Ethel Finley:

Since there were five of us, I had gone out there in June because it sounded so big to me. I wanted to know what I was doing. So Father Richard invited me to stay at the Retreat House. We hit it off right away; we are fantastic friends. He loves the WASP. He just thinks we are the greatest group that ever comes there; they close the Retreat house for retreats because they say the airplanes are flying around here; it's right next to the sea plane base. He says there is so much noise we can't give retreats anyway. He's got a wonderful sense of humor. Every year they invite us back. I said to these four women who were with me, Look we are getting our whole way paid and they're going to get their money's worth. We gave two programs a day, at ten o'clock and 2 o'clock. We did theater in the woods for over 8,000 people on Saturday night. We each gave five minute talks, the five of us, and then we got the whole batch of us up there to sing songs and that Julie Stege kicked as high as her head, and she can still do it; she did it at the museum for them today.

Nancy Durr:

Did she really? That's great.

Ethel Finley:

They cracked up; the Danish people photographed it. Anyway, we did this. I said to Tom, you know, so many WASP would still like to come. I wrote to him, and I said we don't mind sharing a tent or even paying for one. He called me up right away and he said, "What did you have in mind?" I said, well we're just getting too old to wander around this place. We need a base for one thing. He said, "Listen, you did such a wonderful job, you may have a tent any day you want it." He is a wonderful young man. He is my children's age. I love him dearly. Every time I come down, I say you have to come and see me, you know. I just had a letter from him, he said, When you come in December, he said, I want you to come in so we can make plans for next year. So we're on again for next year.

Nancy Durr:

Great.

Ethel Finley:

Yep. And it's just great. And I'm thrilled. I have been trying ever since I established the relationship to do something to commemorate us at Oshkosh. And so finally I think I am getting seed money to start; now I can investigate what kind of thing we can do. They have an EAA Air Academy for youth. They have even built a lodging facility, and they have a wonderful program. I want to talk to their Director of Education when I go out there and Tom, tell them we will fund a scholarship if they will manage it, and people can contribute to it. We don't have to go through the mechanics of all the dirty work of keeping accounts, which I can't do anyway. So life is great.

Nancy Durr:

So now these are your years as President. Tell me a little more about your Presidency.

Ethel Finley:

Well it was the first we were introduced there at Oshkosh to general aviation. It seemed at that time that perhaps this was just a flash in the pan because we were celebrating the 50th anniversary. But what happened, it opened it up to the public by being at Oshkosh. In particular we would have people coming in saying, do you think 36 you could do a program? Who are the WASPs in our area? My job kind of after being President sort of evolved because I had made all these contacts. We have been invited to Columbia, Missouri. I represented them there. They have the biggest salute to veterans that is put on by civilians at Columbia, Missouri. Every year it is a non-profit organization of a couple of thousand people who work all year long just to put on that one weekend. And everything is a freebie including the air show.

Nancy Durr:

That's interesting.

Ethel Finley:

Dana is our go-between. She's here today and she said we're ready again. So, I'll publicize it, and I've got a sign-up sheet. So once we've been a place, we don't seem to ever lose them. They honor their Missouri WASP. Their way is all paid including their rooms and everything every year. Now we are getting a lot of people. We had a Region Two reunion there a year ago. I am very involved at Kitty Hawk, which is the birthplace of flight. And I'm working on the 2003 Committee, which is going to honor the 100th anniversary of powered flight.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

I'm taking reservations for that because our group wants to be there. We are making room reservations at the Ramada Inn already.

Nancy Durr:

Great.

Ethel Finley:

And where else is it, Oshkosh, Missouri, and Kitty Hawk are the only three I'm signing up right now. But there will be more. We go to Genesee, we go to wherever -

Nancy Durr:

Now tell me, was it at Oshkosh or was it when you first became WASP President that you began getting into more of your public speaking?

Ethel Finley:

Yes. Individual WASP had been speaking at schools a little bit, but this was really our great introduction to it. We do a lot of speaking during Women's History Month. And between Marty, who is our historian, and a couple of us, we get the phone calls. I get a lot from you down at TWU. You know, Dawn phones me quite often. We go to schools, we go to women's groups, and we go to Kiwanis. If they give us any money we turn it in to our treasury. But I do think the interest really began with Oshkosh and the fiftieth anniversary celebrations. And the Academy is very interested. I just wrote the General again and I gave them all the reports on it, and their team wants to come to Oshkosh next year. Their competition wants to come and be in our tent. Their head of admission was in our tent, and they brought their falcon mascot - a bird. Beginning of Tape 3, Side A

Ethel Finley:

Program at CAF, too, at the Heritage Museum. That's taped if you want to get it.

Nancy Durr:

Which one?

Ethel Finley:

Sleeping Giant Awakens

Nancy Durr:

Okay, okay.

Ethel Finley:

I have a copy of it.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah, yeah. It would be nice to have it. I don't think we've got that.

Ethel Finley:

Really.

Nancy Durr:

We've got a number of videos, but I don't think we've got that. And I just recently cataloged our videos so that we would know because we are getting more and more requests for videos. So it would be nice to have that.

Ethel Finley:

I've got some really wonderful ones; some are only 10 and 20 minutes long. But like the one that was a woman fire fighter. She just died out of Missouri the fire fighters did one. Got one of Fran Sargent when she was getting the award with Tibbits; I've got a lot of these.

Nancy Durr:

Oh that would be wonderful. See we don't have a lot of that.

Ethel Finley:

Oh, I've got 'em all.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah. It would be wonderful 'cause we can make copies of them too.

Ethel Finley:

I've got our forums at Oshkosh.

Nancy Durr:

Yeah. That would be very nice to have. We don't have very much of that.

Ethel Finley:

Because they tell the stories.

Nancy Durr:

That would be wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

Okay.

Nancy Durr:

So, one of the questions I wanted to ask you - How do you feel your WASP experience influenced the rest of your life?

Ethel Finley:

Well, I don't know I would say for one thing, I don't think it is because I am old fashioned or trying to be project my values on the next generation. The influence that women have in running a household and how much time it takes and the value of it, I feel it is very important. I had the satisfying experience as a WASP prior to getting married. I did not feel the need for my own self-image to make a place in the outside world. I think that was one of the big influences. Also it gave me an awful lot of confidence, not that I didn't have it, but it kind of really brought it out that to be responsible for those types of airplanes, to be responsible in teaching other people the values in flying. I think those are probably the most obvious but also I think I'm a flag waver, and I would say if there were a secondary thing that all of us had was a very great sense of patriotism. And I'm not embarrassed about being a flag waver today.

Nancy Durr:

Right.

Ethel Finley:

And I'm going to put that in my article for Nancy's TV or her Internet presentation for November 11.

Nancy Durr:

Her Internet-

Ethel Finley:

She wants me to write for Veteran's Day, and I don't want to call it Veteran's Day; I want it to be Armistice Day. Or at least recognize it means peace; and what you do for peace. I think that was one of the things that was a very much a factor in many of our lives at that time. You know, I wasn't just a starry-eyed kid; I still really believe in our country, and patriotism and the values. And even when I go abroad, I'm glad to get home. I still have that great feeling of it.

Nancy Durr:

That's wonderful, that's wonderful. And this is just kind of an aside, you had talked about you have kept your scrapbooks, did you also keep scrapbooks on your, when you were putting your halfway houses together?

Ethel Finley:

I didn't. I really didn't have time, but I think other people have.

Nancy Durr:

That would also be very interesting. I just find that fascinating that you did that. It's incredible.

Ethel Finley:

Well, I'll tell you it was a very good progression for me.

Nancy Durr:

It was very important kind of progression.

Ethel Finley:

The progression for me was in that it really gave me a sense of my own worth. I was never going to work with women, you know. I, we had worked with men all through this, and I could not believe the poor self-image women had and what they would let be imposed on them, the lack of opportunities, you know. I just couldn't believe that. And, so out of this whole experience of starting the halfway houses, I learned about non- profits. I became President at a time when I needed all of that experience not that the present women are not good Presidents. I don't try to tell them how to do it, but I will say that anytime you think I can be of service to you, I want to be there for the WASP as well as I was for these other women.

Nancy Durr:

Right, right.

Ethel Finley:

And I find that those are two of the most amazing support groups that I have; my background with the WASP and a great support group at home. Every Thursday morning, if I am home, you'll know where I'll be for one hour.

Nancy Durr:

Good.

Ethel Finley:

So that's kind of what I think. I love this time of my life.

Nancy Durr:

That's wonderful.

Ethel Finley:

It's simply, like this close Priest friend of mine says, well, with age does come wisdom, and isn't it wonderful that I have the opportunity to use it.

Nancy Durr:

[Laughter]. That's wonderful, that's great, and that's a good place for us to stop, I think.

Ethel Finley:

Good.

Nancy Durr:

I know you've got to go.

Ethel Finley:

Thank you.

Nancy Durr:

Thank you very much, Ethel. I really appreciate it.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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