Interview with Kim Benton of Mrs. Lieutenant by Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Kim Benton, I’m pleased to interview you here in May 1970 after you’ve just been at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for two weeks for your husband to attend Armor Officers Basic — AOB.

Thank you’all for talking to me.

Where are you from?

A small town in North Carolina .

And is this your first time in Kentucky?

It’s my first time anywhere except North Carolina .

What did you think when you got here?

I was a little nervous about living in the North.

This seems like the North to you?

Yes’m.  It’s the first time I met a … I mean the first day of AOB my husband arranged for me to share a car with a Jewish woman from Chicago .  I was real surprised when her husband invited us over without even knowing us.

And what happened after you met this woman?

We’ve been spending every day together and now we’re on an entertainment committee together with a Ne …. black and two Puerto Ricans.  I didn’t even know why there were any Puerto Ricans in my husband’s AOB class.  Then I found out that the men in Puerto Rico are also subject to the draft for the Vietnam War.

What are these other women like?

The Ne…black is also from the South.  And one Puerto Rican speaks English with no accent – she’s the daughter of a career enlisted man.  She’s finding it kind of hard to adjust to being the wife of an officer.  The other Puerto Rican doesn’t speak any English.  But we found out she’s already pregnant because she doesn’t know anything about birth control.

To return to spending much of your time with a Northerner, what is that like?

Sharon doesn’t understand what we Southerners know.  For example, when we were walking up to the entrance to the post exchange – a black soldier held the door open for us.  I told Sharon that he was looking at us.  She insisted he was just being polite.  But I knew better.

Do you have any other examples of these differences?

I told Sharon that back home we couldn’t go swimming in our town’s swimming hole b

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se the blacks now go there.  She couldn’t understand.  And she’s reading a book called “While Six Million Died.”  She told me that in World War II the Germans killed six million Jews.  But I never heard of that and my husband told me I didn’t have to believe that book.

How about one more example of how different you find the people you’re meeting at Ft. Knox?

Sharon told me that Jews don’t celebrate Christmas.  I told her everyone celebrates Christmas because it’s a national holiday.  She told me it wasn’t – that it’s a Christian holiday. And then she told me that Jesus was Jewish, which I don’t believe because I would have known.  Back home I always went to church and sang in the church choir.

Where is your husband assigned to go to after AOB training?

Ft. Jackson in South Carolina .

Will you be happy to return to the South?

Yes’m.  I just hope … I just hope that he stays at Ft. Jackson and doesn’t have to go to … Vietnam .

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About Nyx

Author, baker, zine maker.

Posted on October 7, 2008, in Character Interview. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think you nailed Kim’s character. Its painful to read her comments but most likely that is how she would answer. As a Jewish American raised in New York I was exposured to so many cultures, religions and races that it astounds me that even in the 60’s people still were so ignorant and narrow minded. But Kim is a victim of her upbringing and unfortunately hatred and predjudice have to be taught. Army life is a microcosm of the rest of the nation and a painful mirror into the nation’s soul.

    Thanks for your interesting take on a very interesting book. I’m half way through it and enjoying it very much.

  2. Thanks for your comment. And I hope that one benefit of the internet is to expose people to a wider variety of other people so that it is harder for prejudice to flourish.

  3. Wow, if she thought Kentucky was North, what would she think of Massachusetts! I agree with Susan about how difficult it is to read this woman’s opinion. I am so glad that I was raised with a more open mind than this. But, you can’t really fault her because she is a product of her upbringing and this is being perpetuated by her husband and his beliefs. I get the feeling, though, that both of them are going to have their eyes opened by the whole experience.

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