Woman recalls 1940s dream to fly

She took all the art courses available at high school to avoid home economics. When she ran out of art classes, she took mechanical drawing.

After graduating from Troy High School not long following Pearl Harbor, the then Jean Terrell went to work at a busy place in town — the WACO airplane manufacturing business that was looking for draftsmen.

“I am sitting in the drafting department and the guys are talking about taking flying lessons at Treaty City Airport in Greenville. I said, ‘I want to do that,’ ” she recalled.

The men said she couldn’t go because she talked too much, but she managed to set in the backseat for the drives to Greenville and always waited her turn to fly, which came at the end of the day.

Those lessons, and an article in Life Magazine about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) set the course for McCreery’s coming adventures: She wanted to fly.

“My mother didn’t want me to do it, but my dad said if I paid for it myself, I could do it. Everyone else thought I was nuts,” McCreery, now 91, recalled. “All the other girls had money to buy clothes. Instead, I spent my money on flying lessons.” She also took a ground course through Ohio University.

In 1943, she was off to the WASP for training in Sweetwater, Texas, a location she said had no nightlife and was located in the middle of nowhere. The courses were the same as the males took minus combat training.

“The thought at the time was women couldn’t fly airplanes. We flew them all,” McCreery said. The WASPs flew every plane the U.S. had, including a new jet, she said.

By the time the women in Terrell’s group finished their training, the war was coming to an end, and their further service wasn’t needed.

After returning home, she married long time boyfriend Earl Moreo of Lima, a Navy pilot. They had 10 children and lived in a large house on Martindale Road in Butler Twp. McCreery today lives at the Brookdale unit on Union Boulevard.

Over the years, though, the WASPs were McCreery’s sisters she never had as an only child. She remains active in the WASP organization, whose numbers continue to dwindle as they age and pass away.

Around 120 WASPs including McCreery remain. She enjoys attending reunions and airshows such as the Oshkosh, Wis., annual show. Wherever they go, the WASPs attract attention as a part of history.

“I like to talk to children, especially girls. I tell them women did everything a man did,” McCreery said. “I tell girls, ‘You can do anything you want to do. You can do it if you work hard enough.’ That isn’t what people told us.”

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Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com.

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