Cowley grad makes WAVES after graduation '41
Always giving of herself and never asking for anything in return, Betty Joe Fisher, Class of 1941, has helped numerous individuals during her life.
Since graduation from Arkansas City Junior College, Fisher went on to join the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and then spent39 years as a teacher.
Fisher, who grew up on the oil fields near Arkansas City in company housing, has fond memories of her time at ACJC.
“Most of the teachers were kind and helpful,” Fisher said. “I became good friends with many of the student body and continue to keep in touch with some of them. My years at ACJC were the happiest years of my college career.”
At ACJC, Fisher played a clarinet in the pep band. The superintendent of schools arranged for Fisher to teach a Business Women’s’ Volleyball class one night a week to help defray her college expenses. A few of the women professors at the college enrolled in the class.
“I became the teacher and they became the students, I loved it,” Fisher said.
Fisher recalls Edith Joyce Davis being the girls’ physical education instructor. “She was strict but she was the best,” Fisher said. Fisher returned to Arkansas City when Davis turned 100 years old.
She also has fond memories of helping create a recreation area for the students to enjoy. She helped clean and paint the recreation area, which upon completion would include a phonograph to play records.
“Having a place to call our own was great,” Fisher said. “Free time from class found us in our newly decorated domain, visiting, dancing and recreating us before going to our next class.”
Fisher received her degree from ACJC in elementary education. She enrolled a third year at ACJC, taking mostly teachers’ courses, which would qualify her for teaching.
Mrs. Thelma Hall was in charge of student teachers. Those striving to become teachers were enrolled in an observation class, where they observed classes one week at a time in grades one through six. After the six weeks, the student teachers were assigned to a classroom, teaching the remainder of the semester.
Fisher’s assignment was teaching third and fourth grades at Washington School in Arkansas City. After the first day of class, Mrs. Jones, Fisher’s student training teacher, repeated to Fisher what she had been told by Mrs. Hall, who had observed Fisher’s class from the back of the room.
She said, “Betty Joe is doing well. I have no worries about her approach to teaching” That was all Fisher needed to hear to realize she was in the right profession.
“From that day on, teaching was a breeze and I had found my nitch,” Fisher said.
However, her teaching career would be put on hold as spurred by the death of a family friend in World War II, Fisher joined the WAVES, the non-combat women’s reserve of the U.S. Navy in 1944.
Fisher’s job with the WAVES consisted of doing clerical and secretarial work to make young men available for combat.
The U.S. government campaigned to involve women in the war effort. One year after the WAVES were started by an act of Congress, 27,000 women wore the uniform. Thousands of others joined the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign by going to work in factories.
At the age of 21, Fisher got on a train to go to 12 weeks of “women’s boot camp” at Hunter College in Bronx, N.Y. This was quite a trip for Fisher considering the farthest she had traveled from home was to nearby Arkansas City.
There were 1,680 women in Fisher’s regiment. Training consisted of physical education and endurance. The rest of the time, the women were tested on Navy history, bookkeeping, finance and other things.
Fisher was ultimately trained in clerical work and sent to Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater for more training. There she learned to play the snare drum and joined the drum and bugle corps.
At Stillwater, she was close enough to catch a “puddle-jumper” train across the border into Kansas to visit her family.
She was eventually stationed close to Virginia Beach at Camp Shelton, where she wrote orders for in-coming and out-going officers.
She left the WAVES in 1946 and became a teacher in Boise, Idaho, where she currently resides in the same home she bought back in 1947.
After receiving her Honorable Discharge from the Navy, she was offered a federal job in Washington D.C., but turned down the opportunity because her first love was teaching. “The pay would have been great, but I have always felt that money is not my priority,” Fisher said. “I love people!”
While in Boise, Fisher had the desire to go to college and earn her B.A. Degree. She applied for a position in the Boise School District and was given a third grade class with 35 students, meaning she would teach during the winter months and attend summer school. She did this for nine consecutive summers before receiving her B.A. Degree from the College of Idaho.
She taught third grade for seven years, and then was offered a girls’ counselor position along with teaching physical education in a remedial junior high school. After three years, she was hired as a full time counselor.
Her next goal was to earn her Master’s Degree. She worked toward this goal by attending night and summer classes and eventually graduated from Boise State University with a Master’s Degree.
For one of her Thesis chapters, Fisher chose to write a book on hearing entitled “The Ear Book”, “A Handbook for Parents and Teachers To Help Identify Children With Hearing Impairments”. The book was copyright in 1977.
She retired in 1983 to care for her mother after spending 39 years as a teacher. Fisher was featured in a front page article in the Idaho Statesman newspaper in November 2006.
Fisher is a Charter Member of the WAVES National, along with being a member of a Teachers’ Honorary Society called “Delta Kappa Gamma Society International”. She has held every office in the Alpha Chapter and completed eight years as President of the chapter in 2006.
With her long list of accomplishments, Fisher is a member of the Boise Women’s Hall of Fame.
She enjoys growing flowers and entering them in the Idaho State Fair. At the 2006 Idaho State Fair, she won 10 first place ribbons, two second place ribbons, one third place ribbon, and also received an honorable mention ribbon.