Angiolillo: I'm going to start by asking you a little bit about your background. Where and when were you born?
San Angelo: I was born in Naugatuck, 1925. I lived in a section which they call Little Italy, my mother and father had 10 children. Ah, I went to school in Naugatuck, we were very poor. [laughter] And it was during the Depression, at the time, and I guess everyone was about the same. My father never took anything from anyone, he worked for ten dollars a week digging graves. And with that my mother bought flour, made homemade bread, and everything was homemade. Garden, stuff like that. Ah, I had a good childhood. There was plenty of music and dancing. Ah, everyone seemed to be so happy in my family, they loved a good time. So, on Sundays, we'd put the radio on, and we would put it full blast and on comes the President of the United States, President Roosevelt. December 7, 19- [tapping her fingers to remember the date] 41. 1941. We all stopped and everybody went to the radio. The President spoke, sincere and with his heart, like he was sad to think that we were getting into a war. Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. And, it was on a Sunday, and all the men on this ship in Pearl Harbor was just lying' around and it was a surprise attack, and that's when President Roosevelt said that we would be into war.
MA: You were at home when you heard the news?
CS: Yeah, I just got through telling you.
MA: OK, I couldn't really tell, that's why Gram.
CS: That was good?
MA: Yes, you are doing good. So, now you remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, before Pearl Harbor, did you and your family follow the events of war over in Europe?
CS: Yes. Every one of us. And I would read the paper to my mother or father, because they didn't know how to read, and one of my brothers, and we followed all the events of the war.
MA: OK, let's just go back a little bit, to your family background. You say your parents didn't speak English. Were they born in America?
CS: No, they were born in Italy, but they spoke, they understood English very well.
MA: You mentioned going to school. How many years did you go to school?
CS: I only went to school till 8th grade because at the time of the Depression, it seemed like everyone was going to work. School was not a thing then. The most important thing was money, and to survive. It's called survive, that's what we did. Everyone, mostly that was born during the Depression, so they didn't stress school, they stressed work.
MA: Now you were saying you followed the events of the war, even before America became involved. How did you feel about Italy?
CS: My father, I used to listen to him all the time, he said Mussolini was good in Italy, he was for the people when he first got in to office. And when he ever got in with Hitler, us Italians were very ashamed of him. Very ashamed of him. To think that he put Italy with Germany into the war. And he didn't take care of his people, he just followed, he was a follower. He was a fascist, OK.
MA: So, you remember hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and you told us a little bit about what your thoughts were right after. I'm interested to know did your life change in any way after the attack on Pearl Harbor?
CS: Yes, everyone's life changed where I lived. It seemed like everybody just went into the factories. And in the factories, and every place in Connecticut, we were making war material for the GIs. They made parachutes down the chemical, they made Sikorsky made tubes in the rubber factory, Lewis engineering made equipment for the planes, instruments.
MA: Now, did you have a job before the war broke out?
CS: Yeah, I was an aide.
MA: An aide where?
CS: St. Mary's hospital.
MA: Was it common for women of your age to have a job?
CS: Yes, very common.
MA: Did you continue on at the hospital after the war broke out?
CS: No. I left, and then I went into Scovil's, and when I went into Scovil's, we ah, made mortars. On two big machines. Seven days a week. They would send and Army band to play for us, there was just women no men. [emphasizes this point] Women were taught to fix the machines, be mechanics, to drill, to do anything a man could do at the time. We were determined to win this war, we were.
MA: Who do you mean by "we" ?
CS: Us Americans.
MA: Now you said that there were two big machines. Were you responsible to work both?
CS: Yeah. Stick one tube in and it would do work, and then you stick another one, and you'd be on a platform. With grease pouring down.
MA: How did you feel about this work, about working the two machines?
CS: Oh, I didn't mind, I didn't mind at all. Because every time we'd make a tube, we'd say, "This will be for the boys," which was true.
MA: And you say that there were no men around, even in higher positions?
CS: They all got drafted. Maybe the owner, he was old, but ah, the other ones, no men.
MA: What was the mood like in the factory with all these women working together?
CS: The mood was good, people would go in on a Sunday, because their husbands were fighting a war and it seemed like a happy mood because they were doing something, they felt like they were adding on to something.
MA: Do you know--
CS: Excuse me, I have to get a drink of water. [Laughter] Michelle. I love you Michelle.
MA: OK. [tape paused]
MA: OK, we were talking about Scovil's. You were telling me about how women felt like they were doing something. I don't know if you have any knowledge of this but, ah, for most women, was this their first job?
CS: Oh yes, definitely, yes. For most women, this was their job. They never worked. Most women stayed at home.
MA: Today, the image of the women on the homefront is Rosie the Riveter.
CS: That's right.
MA: How do you feel about that?
CS: On the homefront, Rosie the Riveter?
MA: Have you ever seen the picture of Rosie the Riveter?
CS: Oh, yeah. [says it as though it is dumb to ask this]
MA: How does that make you feel?
CS: That makes me feel OK. Because its, they were out there to work, to accomplish something, if they were called Rosie the Riveter, hey they worked on planes! [lights a cigarette in the no smoking hospital]
MA: [gestures for her to stop]
Oh, OK I'll quit.
MA: No, its OK.
CS: Open the window.
MA: Now, what was the racial makeup of Scovil's?
CS: Oh, a lot. I just can't . . .Scovil's was big. . . I don't know.
MA: Was it just white women, or-
CS: Oh, black! And we got along just fine. Oh yes. We didn't know what racial was or prejudice was, that came after. We all worked together.
MA: How would you feel when the Army band would come and play for you down at the factory?
CS: Oh, we just loved it. We would like stamp our feet, and they would come over and talk to us on the machines and say, "Well would you like to dance." I says, "Well we ain't got time to dance, we got to do these things. But they just wanted us to come to work. To keep up the morale.
MA: Did it work?
MA: What would you talk about as you were working?
CS: Oh, you couldn't say nothing, Michelle. The machines made a lot of noise. But when we went to wash up, you know, "Are you comin' in tomorrow," "We had a pretty good day," "My machine broke down," things like that. But during working, there was too much noise.
MA: Did a lot of women continue on with this work after the war. Did many stay?
CS: They all stayed until after the war. And after the war, everyone left and they turned it into, like Westinghouse appliances, different things like that. Most, some people left, some people stayed. I left.
MA: Why did you personally leave?
CS: Well, I think because I got married and had kids. And then I stayed home for a while.
MA: Was that your only option once you were married, staying home?
CS: That was it, when you had children, yeah.
MA: Why do you think most other women left after the war?
CS: I think most women went back home, mostly for their children, or got married, or moved away, or things like that.
MA: Do you think they wanted to? How did they feel about having to leave the factory?
CS: Well, I don't think they minded, they accomplished something.
MA: Did you mind?
CS: No, not at all. Shut the window, my legs are getting cold.
CS: I won't smoke. Don't break any of my things. They're antiques. [sarcastic]
MA: I won't [annoyed]
CS: You know that.
MA: Did anyone in your family serve in the war?
CS: Yes they did, ah my brother served in Alaska, my other brother served here in America, he didn't go overseas. My other brother was in the Marines, but he was in the Korean War.
MA: Did they enlist or were they drafted?
CS: They were drafted.
MA: How did your family feel about that?
CS: Oh, my mother was heartbroken, especially when my one brother, you know, he did good though, you know, he was a cook. And um, she always worried about him for some reason cause he was, he was good to us kids.
MA: Which brother is this?
CS: My brother Rocco.
MA: The oldest one?
CS: No, he just taught us to brush our teeth, and comb our hair, and groom us, my mother had so many kids.
MA: Did you keep in contact with your brothers?
CS: Oh, yes, all the time. Letters um-hum. They were censored.
MA: What types of things were censored?
CS: Oh, anything to do with the war, or talk about the war was censored.
MA: So what would you write to them about?
CS: Oh, family life, what was going on in the family, that's all.
MA: What would they write to you about?
CS: They would write to us about the boys, and the camp or ah, what they were doing, you know.
MA: Did the war impact your social life at all?
CS: Damn right it did! It sure did. But, social life, I don't think anyone had a social life. The only thing is that every once in a while we'd go to the New London base and they'd have dances don there, and we'd go and dance, but the sailors came and went and- but that was the only social life we'd have.
MA: When you would go to the dances at the sub-base, what was the mood. What was the attitude of the sailors and the people there?
CS: Oh some were sad because they were shipping out, some were happy that they were staying. But, I guess, in all they tried to have a good time.
MA: Would you do anything else in your leisure time?
CS: No, Michelle.
MA: OK. Today we read a lot about changes on the homefront, how people's day to day lives were changed. Besides what you've already mentioned, did your life change in any other way?
CS: No, it was just, there was no one around. It was sad.
MA: Did you write to anyone else besides your brothers?
CS: Yes. Different people that, my brothers would give me addresses that ah didn't have anybody. I don't even remember half of them.
MA: Did you keep up the correspondence?
CS: Yeah. You should see how I- Whatever [gestures with hand, makes a face].
MA: Go ahead, tell me.
CS: Well, it was kind of hard because I didn't know them. I didn't know what to say.
MA: Did you want to write to them?
CS: Oh, yes, anything, a card, anything, just so they'd get mail.
MA: Now, do you remember anything about rationing?
CS: [nods yes]
MA: What do you remember about that?
CS: They would ration, give you stamps for sugar, butter, but I don't think anybody minded.
MA: Did rationing impact your life in a major way?
MA: Did you ever feel frightened during the war?
CS: Just one time, when they threw the atomic bomb. Uh, nobody was told, it was the after effect. they announced it. They said it was just such a big thing, so many people died in it, and then the war stopped. I also felt frightened when they showed pictures of the Holocaust. Men, Jewish men were in prisons, starved, bones, Ewww! They showed how they dumped them into, just one big grave, in the paper, you know.
MA: What were people's responses?
CS: Horrified. It seemed like nobody knew what was going on.
MA: Why were you afraid of the atomic bomb? You said something about after effect?
MA: What do you mean by that?
CS: Well, I always figured if they threw it once, they'd probably try, do it again. You know.
MA: When you heard the announcement about the atomic bomb, how did you feel? Other than frightened?
CS: I think we were just shocked, all of us.
MA: How did you feel about the decision to drop the bomb?
CS: Truman made that decision. After um . . .I think they could have won the war without dropping the bomb.
MA: Did you feel that way at the time?
MA: Was this an opinion that others agreed with?
CS: I don't know, Michelle.
MA: What do you remember as the most significant events of the war, for you?
CS: Of the war? One of then was when MacArthur got fired, for no reason at all. History proves it. He wanted to fight Communists, and the President fired him. He wanted to continue. But history proves it. He was a good soldier and um . . .And when they hung Mussolini. I think our family was kind of happy about that. Cause he had, you know, no business getting into the war.
MA: Now being Italian, Italian-Americans, did anyone give you a hard time about that during the war?
CS: During the war? No. We were discriminated at school, that's about it.
MA: In what ways?
CS: Because we didn't have the proper clothes, and during the Depression and stuff. You know, we were . . .They called us all kinds of names.
MA: Such as?
CS: Such as "dirty guinea," "greasy guinea," all we do is eat macaroni and . . .
MA: How did that make you feel.
CS: Made me feel lousy because I was born here in America, we're all aliens.
MA: How were you, how did you view the Germans during the war?
CS: Let's see . . . Ruthless, um the Gestapo, just ruthless.
MA: What about the Japanese?
CS: The Japanese, when they did hara-kiri, you know what hara-kiri is, we viewed them as cowards, because they were going in there and they knew what they were doing with their planes.
MA: During the war, do you recall ever reading about the Japanese Internment?
MA: When they put the Japanese in camps-
CS: Oh yeah, yes. Intern-e-ment, I couldn't get that. Yes, they put all the Japanese, they were really Americans citizens into the camps. And they lived in camps. And ah, I , as a young girl, I saw no reason for this because half of them were fighting for us. and uh, they just didn't trust them.
MA: Was there ever any talk of imprisoning German-Americans or Italian- Americans?
CS: Is this off the record? [laughs] the Italian Army were cowards! They wanted to get caught. Because they knew the American would treat them good! And the Americans did treat them very good. So they stuck their hands up in the air right away.
MA: How do you know this?
MA: How do you know this?
CS: By reading!
MA: During the war years, did you go to the movies at all?
CS: Oh yes, um-huh.
MA: How was the war depicted when you would go to the movies?
CS: Oh we would always win. [laughs] You know. Planes and everything.
MA: Do you recall any blackouts or air raids?
CS: Oh, yes, we had quite a few. Blackouts, everything, you know, and everybody would sit on the street and be quiet for a while and they had air raid wardens, you now, they were women. They'd yell, "Shut the lights, shut the light!" You know, mm-huh.
MA: How did you feel about the air raids?
CS: I didn't care, you know.
MA: How did you feel about the wardens?
CS: Oh, they were funny, they were. All women.
MA: Did any of your sisters or you mother become involved in the war effort such as you did?
CS: Yes, excuse me, they all worked in factories too.
MA: Did any of you consider joining the armed forces, such as the WACS or WAVES?
CS: I did. I went to New Haven, I was too young. They wouldn't take me. I was very disappointed!
MA: Why did you want to join?
CS: Contribute to the war. I should say run away from my family. [laughter]
MA: So what was the main reason? Contributing to the war or running away from your family?
CS: Contributing to the war Michelle. [laughter]
MA: Why would you want to run away from your family?
CS: Too many kids! Is that all Michelle, I'm getting tired.
MA: Just a few more?
CS: All right.
MA: Did your family know that you wanted to join the WACS?
CS: Oh, yes. My mother thought she'd kill me.
MA: So how did she feel about it?
CS: Oh no, you can't go.
MA: How about your father?
CS: He was worse.
MA: What did you think you'd be doing if you were able to join the WACS? What did you think your role would be?
CS: I think as a cook because I couldn't do anything else.
MA: So, you were too young so you tried to join in the beginning?
CS: Yeah, they had all office people and typing, and stuff like that.
MA: Once you became old enough to join did you try to join again?
CS: No, no.
MA: How come?
CS: I don't know. I just too busy I guess, I don't know.
MS: What can you tell me about your remembrances of V.E. day and V.J. day.
CS: V.E. day we worked in Scovil's. We build the biggest bonfire in the street, stopped all the machines. And hugged and kissed and screamed and hollered. We did that then. At the end of the war I was in New London. The sailors were bouncing people around all over. Trying to get trains to go home, the streets were cluttered with people all over. Everybody was dancing in the street and singing and-- That was in New London. I got a little scared though Michelle, they were picking up benches and everything, oh yeah. Yeah.
MA: Was the mood happy though?
CS: Oh yeah. They broke up, they broke up a few bars, chairs, everything, yeah. They-- really.
MA: So when you say the sailors were bouncing everybody all over, were--
CS: Um-hm, the sailors and ah, people.
MA: So you were frightened?
CS: A little bit, yeah. I had to get home.
MA: Who were you there with?
CS: A bunch of girls.
MA: Were the sailors paying attention at all to the girls?
CS: No, just a happy mood like, you know.
MA: Now, once the war ended, did you life change in any way? We talked about how when the war started your life changed?
CS: So when did I get married. Then it changed.
MA: Now the man you married, William Angiolillo, did you meet him before the war?
CS: I grew up with him.
MA: Did he serve in the war?
CS: Yes, he was in the service. He was a sergeant. But he didn't serve overseas, he had asthma and hayfever. He was very proud to be in the service, very proud.
MA: Did you keep in contact with him?
CS: Yes I did, I wrote to him a lot, he wrote to me.
MA: So, before you went, were you at item? Were you dating?
CS: We were like brother and sister, I don't know. We were always together for some reason, I don't know.
MA: So, you say when you came home from the war you got married. So, did your relationship develop over the course of the letters? Or-
MA: When did he ask you to marry him?
CS: I don't remember that.
MA: You don't remember?
MA: Do you remember, was it through a letter? Or was it in person after the war?
CS: It was in person. He was a nice man. He was.
MA: Did many of your friends or sisters, did they strike up a correspondence with soldiers?
CS: Yes, a lot of them got married.
CS: Um-hm. Honest to God. Yup.
MA: To soldiers?
CS: Yeah. Sailors. Submarine, yup.
MA: Did they know these men before?
CS: Nope. Through correspondence.
MA: Do you know anything about how their marriages worked out?
CS: A lot of them are still married.
MA: Was it a big change for them when their husbands, these husbands that they really didn't know came back?
CS: I imagine so. I don't really know.
MA: What do you think-- What would you like today's generation to remember most about World War Two?
CS: Today's generation? Remember? The atomic bomb. Killing people. Guns. Nobody's a winner in a war.
MA: How did most people during World War Two, how did most people feel about the war?
CS: World War Two? They were there to fight and to win. There was no buts. It wasn't Vietnam. It was to win.
MA: And what's the difference between--
CS: Vietnam? Our boys should have never gone there. Because we were hit first then we tolerated. Did I say that right?
MA: Are you trying to say Retaliated?
CS: Yeah, re-- That's all Michelle I'm getting--
CS: Well wait, go ahead.
MA: Okay. Um, do you think today's generation understands what you went through during World War Two?
CS: Look at the squirrel. [referring to what is going on outside her window] I don't think so. Today's generation is, what could you do for me. It's not what could they do for themselves. That's terrible isn't it?
MA: It's your opinion. I've asked you lot's of questions today. Um, we talked about a lot of things. Is there anything you feel we didn't cover, anything you want to say?
CS: Let me see. There should come a time in everyone's life where they have peace on earth.
CS: Did it take?
MA: Um hm.