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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Durr's perspective on World War II

Durr explains how her family adapted to the rations and work that accompanied World War II. She also discusses Japanese internment policies and Clifford's stance toward Russia.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

so I had a very direct interest in the war because Esmond was fighting with the British and then he was killed you see. So I had a very direct interest in the war itself. But all during the war my mother was with me and my father was with me a good part of the time. The four years of the war we kept up the poll tax office. The Southern Conference met onee or twice but everything was subordinated to the war. I can remember we all had to go in carpools. We had only so much gas. You know Kenneth Galbraith, the famous economist. He was in our carpool.. It was like I always had to sit on his knees which were extremely bony. We were packed in, you know. Every car that went from Seminary Hill to Washington was just packed with people, because we all had car pools. But the thing I remember is the difficulty you know with the rationing to get enough food. You see Decca was living with me then and Esmond had been killed and she had her baby. And then my mother, who was still in a state of melancholia, and my father was there most of the time and Cliff. And our boy had died my by then, but Lula . . .[When was Lula born?] Lula was born after the war. Lula is 28 so she was born right after the war. But there was Lucy and Tilla and Ann. The house was just full of people. We had this Japanese couple you know that lived with us because Lowell Millett couldn't have them in his house because he was working in the White House. She worked for us; she took care of Decca's child, you know, Dinky Donk, the one that you know, Constantia. She was a wonderful, lovely, beautiful woman, just a wonderful character and half her family were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and she left us soon after that. She told me, she came and told me and she was weeping, and she said she thought we were very nice people and that she had been very happy there but she could not work for americans for a while. She'd have to get back out. You know they just were obliterated. You just wonder why she didn't murder us in our bed. [How did they manage not to get put in a camp?] Well she had been born in Hawaii, so she had American citizenship. And he had been Lowell Millett's butler, and Lowell was in the White House, so I suppose he protected him. But the FBI came and checked on them every month. [How did you feel about the detention camps?] Well I thought the detention camps were terrible, but you know my brother-in-law Hugo Black voted for them. [Did you get into an argument with him about that?] I never argued with Hugo about his cases. He never liked his work on the court being discussed at home. He may have discussed it with Cliff but he never discussed it with me. [Was he later sorry that he had voted that way? Did he ever regret that decision?] Not that I ever heard. Hugo wasn't much . . . Hugo was a very public man, if you know what I mean. All of his life you see, he'd been a public man. From the time he was a boy he wanted to be an orator. And he was a great public man. He could divine the public interest. He did make mistakes, I'm sure, and I think the Japanese concentration camps was one of them. But he had a feeling for what the public wanted and needed. And that's why he was so passionate about the first amendment, you see. He felt that when you got people shut up and they couldn't discuss things . . .I suppose that's one reason I always had this feeling around him of safety-because Cliff felt the same way-they thought you could talk to anybody, talk with anybody about anything. It was all of this underhanded stuff, you know, you would be accused by CT 17; who was T17-you never would know. It was that kind of underhanded, secret stuff. That's why they had no great admiration for Russia. It's not that they didn't think Russia had fed the starving. They never went to Russia, I don't think. Oh, yes, Cliff went to Russia; he liked the Russians, the people very much. He said he never saw such-it was right after the war-he said he never saw such devastation in his life and such terrible misery. The people looked like they were so exhausted and there was so little food. He liked the Russians personally very much-the ones he came in contact with through this communications network that they were trying to reestablish. He liked very much.