"I Kind of Liked to Think of Myself as a Singer, an Actress, or
Anything but a School Teacher"
How WWII Changed My Career Dreams
December 5, 1994
Interviewer: Rheba Massey
Fran was born in a small town in Texas and earned a
Bachelor of Science in Art Education, but she wasn't very
excited about having to make a living and present herself
seriously to the farmers who served on the Board of
Education. She fell into some teaching jobs, but still
didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. And then
Pearl Harbor was bombed, and the next day the principal
got all the children together to listen to President
Roosevelt declare war on Japan. Now Fran was in a
dilemma. She wanted to do something for the war effort,
but if she went into the WAVES or WACS, she feared she
would spend the rest of her life with a typewriter.
undecided, she took a typing job for the summer in a
school for glider pilots. She had gone up in small planes
several times with her brother who was a pilot, and when
the woman who had been teaching meteorology to the glider
pilots moved on, she fell into that job. She had saved
some money and thought she wanted to be a fashion
designer, so she moved to Florida to work for an art
school. Then one day she read that the Surgeon General's
office was looking for people with backgrounds in art and
psychology and with varied work experience. She applied,
and was stunned two weeks later to get a telegram telling
her to report to Mills College in Oakland California to
be trained as an Occupational Therapist.
The field was so new, she could hardly speculate about
her new career. Although a few women had served injured
soldiers during WWI as "reconstruction aides,"
OT was a field that basically began during WWII. In 1945
when Fran studied, a whole year's training was compressed
into a four-month period, followed by an internship.
Fran was sent to Brook Medical Army Center in San
Antonio, Texas, a vast medical center. She worked with
patients with physical and mental disabilities and had
special training in working with tuberculosis patients.
The TB patients suffered from boredom, as they had to be
isolated and were delighted for the chance to learn a
craft. She later worked with polio patients in the Army
Navy General Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
During most of this time, Fran was a civilian, but in
l947 she was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the
WMSC. After the war ended in 1948, she was stationed in
Georgia and later Hawaii. It was while she was in
Honolulu that the Korean Conflict began and she became a
chief therapist specializing in the treatment of physical
disabilities - such as teaching blinded veterans to type.
After 10 years in the military, she was ready for a
change and wanted to put her knowledge to use - so she
did end up teaching, after all! She taught for four years
in the OT school at CSU starting in 1955. She came to
Fort Collins because she liked the mountains; but she had
a hard time feeling at home here, having enjoyed a sense
of family in the military. Although she was given the
rank of assistant professor, she was poorly paid. When
she married and had a child, she wanted to work only part
time, but the department wouldn't permit that. She
eventually became involved with the League of Women
Voters, an influential organization in Fort Collins, and
became one of the founders of the Volunteer Clearing
House, working to help the Hispanic Community to gain
greater acceptance and success in the community.