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Marina Gardiner makes WAVES her whole life

She served in the Navy, worked for Glenn Jackson and was a city councilor


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - ALWAYS ACTIVE - Marina Gardiner moved into Pacific Pointe Retirement Inn in King City  in 2008 after living in several Oregon cities. Marina Gardiner was one of the first 10 WAVES to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II (and saw Winston Churchill on his only visit to the U.S. during the war), and she wasn't through being a trailblazer after her time in the service.

Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield appointed her to be his delegate to a 1981 Conference on Aging in Washington, D.C., and Gerry Frank, who served as Hatfield's chief of staff and is a trailblazer himself in Oregon business, politics and civic affairs, included Marina on a list of Oregon's most efficient secretaries in 1988.

For 21 years, Marina served as the secretary to Glenn Jackson, who was chairman of the Oregon State Highway Commission and Pacific Corp. and later the Oregon Economic Development Commission and of course is the namesake of the I-205 Glenn L. Jackson Memorial Bridge.

Marina, who lives in King City, is definitely not lacking a sense of humor, as she recalled "the only dirty trick" she pulled while she worked at the Navy's Washington, D.C., air station during WWII, assigning duty watches to the enlisted men and officers.

"A man came in and said that I didn't know what I was doing," she said. "He complained that he had the early watch the previous week and didn't want to miss the movie again."

Marina, who was born in 1917, said, "Look, junior, I've been through two world wars, and I will handle this."

She took him off sentry duty at the air station entrance where there was a heater in the booth and gave him the midnight-to-4-a.m. shift on the icy cold boat dock, "but it gave him a chance to go to the movie," Marina said. 'He never complained again, and that was my first and only complaint.

"If an officer asked to have his duty switched for some reason or other, I would say that I would check with the commanding officer, and they would say, 'I'll stand the watch.'"

Marina was born in Portland but moved with her family when she was 10 years old to Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County in Southern California, where her dad owned one of four restaurants.

Marina was interested in flying at a young age and took her first flight when she was 13 years old as the passenger of the brother of one of her girlfriends.

Marina graduated from Santa Maria High School and then went to junior college and college, majoring in journalism and English. She graduated at age 21 in 1939.

"I worked for two newspapers," she said. "I wrote for the women's page at the Santa Maria Daily Times, and I was a correspondent for the Santa Barbara News Press, mailing in articles. I did things like feature stories and weddings.

"Just before I enlisted in the Navy, I was appointed to the city desk that covered court cases and the police blotter because the editor was drafted. When a story came out that women could join the Navy, I enlisted for four years and was given a man's serial number."

According to Marina, the men's numbers started with a four, and eventually the WAVES' numbers started with a seven, but hers was never changed.

(On July 30, 1942, the U.S. Navy created the WAVES, a division made up entirely of women. It was an acronym for "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service," although the official name was the U.S. Naval Reserve or Women's Reserve.)

After enlisting in 1942, Marina was sent to basic training at Oklahoma A & M, now called Oklahoma State University.

"The other women and I were assigned to live in Willard Hall, and we studied naval training, history and strategy," Marina said. "After I completed my courses, which ran from September to January, they did interviews, and we were given three choices where we wanted to be stationed.

"My first choice was Washington, D.C., my second choice was New Orleans, and my third was any naval air station in California so I could be closer to my family."

Marina scored so well on her tests and in her interview that she was given her first choice.

Because Marina was the first woman assigned to the air station, she was put in a hotel, but after more women came along two months later, they were housed in a dorm on the second floor of the administration building that had previously held aviation cadets.

"They didn't want me rattling around alone up there," she said.

by: COURTESY OF MARINA GARDINER - PROMOTED - Marina Gardiner, accompanying a Navy captain during an inspection during WWII, joined the WAVES as a seaman and became a yeoman second class.Marina started out in the WAVES as a seaman and soon became a yeoman second class.

Her first job was in the personnel office, where for six to eight months she assigned the duty watches.

"Then I was assigned to Project North when it was established," she said. "It was a radar test unit that came aboard our station. It was a highly confidential unit and shared a hanger with air intelligence on the other side of the field from administration.

“One of the technical air intelligence projects was reassembling Japanese airplanes that had been shot down so our pilots could fly them and learn about their capabilities.

"They knew I was available for new opportunities, so they approached me to ask if I was interested in working at Project North, which I was."

According to Marina, a yeoman was similar to a secretary, and one of her duties was handling confidential communications from other stations.

"The WAVES made copies and then put the carbons in a special container to burn them," she said. "I also served as the captain's yeoman for inspections some of the time." (See photo at top of front page.)

During this time, Marina got a glimpse of Great Britain's prime minister and minister of defense.

"I got to see Winston Churchill when he paid his only visit to the U.S. during the war," she said. "After he secretly flew here, he boarded a seaplane that pulled up to our boat dock. Everyone had to serve a watch at least once a week, and I was duty yeoman in the administration building. He left the dock and walked to a waiting car, where he was driven to the Capitol."

Marina had regular leaves every summer and flew home on Navy planes, plus there was another perk to her job: "The policy was that you could fly on any plane where there was an empty seat," she said. "I would pack a bag and sit in the operations building to wait for a flight. There were flights going everywhere every day - both Navy and Marine Corps - and if I had a weekend leave, I would catch a ride with a pilot flying home for the weekend if he was going to New Orleans or some other place I wanted to see.

"Usually they flew SNJ planes, and I saw a lot of states that way. I took advantage of every opportunity, although some of the WAVES were reluctant to do that."

WAVES could get married, and Marina's best friend in the service got married.

"I stayed at Project North until I was discharged after serving 35 months," Marina said. "I was the first woman to be discharged under a new point system the Navy established to determine when WAVES got discharged. I was discharged Aug. 25, 1945."

Marina went back to California and worked at the Santa Barbara County Welfare Office in Santa Maria until she decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and took flying lessons at the Bradley School of Flying in Boise, Idaho, from March to July 1948.

"Under the G.I. bill, you had to take other subjects too, and I studied radio, plane maintenance and meteorology," Marina said. "I chose Bradley because it was well-known. To get your license, you had to fly a lot of different planes, and I got my license in 1948. I mostly flew an Ercoupe. Amelia Earhart was flying then, and a lot of women were flying by that time."

Marina decided to move back to Oregon and settled in Medford. She chose that southern city "because I wrote letters to several cities' chambers of commerce, and Medford sent me the best letter back."

Marina's first job was as the mayor's secretary, and then she became Glenn Jackson's secretary, a post she held for 21 years.

"He was far-sighted and so knowledgeable," she said. "He was wonderful to work for."

Marina also met her future husband thanks to Jackson, who became chairman of Pacific Corp. while she worked for him. Companies selling new appliances would take old ones in on trade, and the local gas company was right across the street from Pacific Corp., which provided electrical power and appliances.

"They were always trading gas for electric appliances and rolling them back and forth across the street," Marina said. "When Mr. Jackson needed something at the gas company, he would say, 'Get me Murray Gardiner on the phone.'

"One day this handsome man came into the office - he was so cute and had the sweetest smile. I asked Mr. Jackson who he was, and he said, 'You've talked to him many times on the phone.'"

Alas, Murray Gardiner worked for the competition, and after he and Marina decided to get married, "I said to Mr. Jackson, 'Should I find a new job?' and he said, 'No, that won't be necessary.'"

Marina continued flying while living in Medford and for a while she co-owned a plane with another couple.

The Murrays worked in Medford until they both retired in 1974, and Marina's on-the-job efforts were recognized by Gerry Frank in his "Friday Surprise" column in the May 6, 1988, issue of the Oregonian.

Frank commented that the previous week had been Secretaries Week, and midway through his column, he wrote: "In Southern Oregon, and particularly in the Medford area, Glenn Jackson was the area's best known and most influential citizen. Although he spent a good deal of time in the Portland area at Pacific Power and Light Co., home base in his Medford office was most important to him.

"When he was present there, and more important when he wasn't, Marina Gardiner was the expediter. She knew Glenn like the back of her hand and could answer nearly any question that would be posed to him.

"Gardiner was very much a community person. Because Jackson was involved in such a diversity of activities, from ranching to power to transportation to politics, the contacts that she made on the staff level in all of those areas were of particular value. She knew where the right buttons could be pressed."

Frank explained that Jackson's speaker telephone was in constant use, so everyone within earshot overheard his conversations.

"Gardiner listened also and thus knew just about everything that was going on," Frank wrote. "She then could take care of the details without any participation from Glenn himself."

After the Gardiners retired, they built a home on the Oregon coast in Bandon and lived there for eight years, while Marina served on the Bandon City Council and was a two-term director of the League of Oregon Cities.

"But we were coming to Portland for concerts and other things so much that we decided to move to Charbonneau in Wilsonville in 1982," Marina said.

She was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Wilsonville City Council and then ran for a four-year term, serving from 1982 to 1987.

"My greatest accomplishment was getting the new library built," Marina said. "My husband and I put up signs promoting a library bond measure. I was on the library planning committee and did more than almost anyone to get it built.

"I also worked on Wilsonville's water system, which relied on wells."

In both cities where she served on the city councils, Marina chaired committees to study changing the cities from administrator to city manager form of government.

"People had to vote, and I managed to get both cities to change," she said.

In 1987, the Gardiners moved to Lake Oswego and lived there until 1992, when Murray became ill. They lived in Calaroga Terrace in Portland until Murray had to move into a nursing home in Beaverton, and Marina took an apartment there to be close to him.

After 41 years of marriage, Murray died in 1997, and Marina continued to live in Beaverton until in September 2008 she moved into Pacific Pointe Retirement Inn, where until recently she was the substitute writer of brief biographies of newcomers.

"I've had a wonderful life," she said. "I am grateful every day to someone up there."

Marina credits her longevity to living stress-free by not using new-fangled technology like voicemail and email, and she likes to tell a joke about her last name: "People without the 'i' are blind gardeners."