It was April 1944, andRandy Tidmore was on her first official break with her all-female platoon followinga month of boot camp at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Unlike the women in the Army or Navy, who were respectively dubbed WACs(Women’s Army Corps) and WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service),the women Marines were “not to let anybody call us anything but Marines,” Randyrecalls. But not everyone inthe military afforded them the same respect. As the women of Platoon 4, CompanyC waited for a bus, a drunk man in a Navy uniform approached them and yelled, “BAMs!” “That’s thenickname that they had for us, and it was not a good nickname,” Randy explains. (It stood for ‘Broad-Assed Marines.’) “SoI hit him. And I said, ‘Don’t you call me a BAM.’” He took a swipe back, but missed, she recalls with a laugh. She was one of 18,000 women who joined the Marines by that year. While comprising just 4 percent of the Marines, women worked as clerks, mechanics, and aerial gunnery instructors, among other jobs, and they helped pave the way for more than 1 million women who have since served in the U.S. military. Roberta ‘Randy’ JaneRandolph was born in 1922 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Clyde and Laura (Mildenstein)Randolph. In1931, when she was nine, her mother died of pneumonia. A couple years later, Clydebecame seriously ill and lost his job as a traveling salesman. He remarried and eventually opened a grocerystore; the family "always somehow had enough money toeat."
Randyentered a five-year dual-degree (B.S./R.N.) nursing program at the University of Iowa, where she became close with three other girls inher dorm. After two years of liberal arts studies, she began classes at the nursing school. But she would only stay there for oneyear. By 1943, everyonearound her was doing something to support the war effort. She and her bestfriends wanted to be part of it, and the four decided to become Rosies together, moving to Rockford, Ill. towork at the J.I. Case Company, a farm equipment manufacturer that was producingairplane parts for the war. Randy workedon B-26 wings for six months before enlisting in the Marine Corps in Chicagoalongside one of her closest friends, Mo. During boot camp, thewomen lived in the Camp Lejeune barracks. The gunnery sergeant woke them eachmorning so they could put on their dungarees and boondockers for pre-breakfast calisthenics. Afterwards, they cleaned up and changed into shirts and ties for marching. In the classroom, the women learned about logistics: “Icould tell you every airplane that was flying at the time,” she says. Outside, they learned to crawl under barbedwire, don gas masks and carry unloaded guns. After graduating fromboot camp in April 1944, Randy went to motor transport school, where shelearned to drive trucks, change spark plugs, and back up trailers, and discovered a lifelong love ofdriving. Her firstassignment was at Quantico, Virginia, where she drove staff cars and sometimeschauffeured officers to restaurants in Washington, D.C. She also drove agarbage truck around Quantico, while two men in the back lifted the cans. Thatdetail offered her a rare chance to work with African-American service members ata time when the armed services were still segregated. During breaks, the three would sit together on the tail gate, eating doughnuts. Her garbage truckassignment was soon cut short when she inadvertently crossed an intersectionwithout yielding to a general’s marked car. After that, as punishment, she was reassigned to the mess for two months, washing dishes in the scullery and then operating anindustrial potato peeler. Then, for the next nine months, she swept Quantico’sstreets with a push broom.
Eventually, she was transferred to San Diego, where she got her licenseback, hauling luggage and shuttling male Marines to their training grounds. When the war ended,Randy was reassigned to San Francisco, where she made train reservations for returningsoldiers. By the time she was discharged in August 1946, she had attained the rank ofSergeant. Afterdischarge, Randy and Mo went together to take the qualification exam for UnitedAirlines. Mo became a reservation agent, while Randy went to Chicago for stewardesstraining. She flew out of Salt Lake City and then out of Los Angeles, getting toknow the UCLA football team by doing their flights for a season. (She remains an ardent UCLA fan.) She also flew some chartered flights for Bob Hope, "but we didn't become friends," she says. "He was a very private man." She continued to work for United for 15 yearsand rose through the ranks, eventually becoming chief stewardess in LosAngeles. Randy found hermilitary experience helped her in the real world. “The Marine Corps did me a lot of good,” shereflects. “I think I learned respect for my job and for others." In 1955, she met TerryTidmore, a handsome salesman, at a New Year’s Eve party in L.A. That year, she recalls, he was “drunk andmarried,” but when she saw him again at the next New Year’s, he was “sober anddivorced.” In February, hecalled her and asked if she would go away with him for a weekend. She refused: “Idon’t even know you.” He called backwith another offer: dinner at the Biltmore Hotel. After dinner and dancing,they went for coffee at a drive-in at Western Avenue and Wilshire, where theysat and talked until 4 a.m. A month later, heasked her to marry him. She said no. But five years later, when he asked her again, she said yes. She remembers thinking, “He’s not going to goaway, and I don’t want him to.” They married twominutes after midnight on July 4, 1960 in Winterhaven, California. Randy, who was then 38, lefther job at United, as married women were required to do at the time. In 1965, the couplestarted a successful vine-ripened tomato farm in Baja California, Mexico, 200 miles south of SanDiego. Terry ran the daily operations at the ranch, and Randy managed thebusiness side from home. Late on Friday nights, she would drive down, with enough cash in the trunk to pay the farm workers and hertwo boxers, Jezebel (Jez) and Fatima (Tima), a mother-daughter duo, riding in the backseat.
In 1979, Terry died. Randy ran the farm herself until 1986. After retirement,she stayed active through dancing, and she and her teacher reachedthe finals at a national competition in New York for their tango. Now, at age 96, she enjoys Pilates and recentlytried indoor skydiving alongside her nine-year-old step-great-grandson. And she continues to put her driving skills togood use by venturing on road trips. “I loved—and I still love—to drive,” she says.