Oral History

Sunny Bernardine Interview

Interviewee: Betty Jean "Sunny" Bernardine
Interviewer: Monica Morris
Hawaii, Philippines, Korea, Okinawa, Japan, Chicago, Warrenville, New York, Edwards Air Force Base, San Francisco, Manila, Beppu, Kwajalein, Tokyo, Yokohama, Ginza, Miracle Mile, Stage Door Canteen, Hollywood, Miami, Giles County, Miami Springs, Pearl Harbor, Dai-Ichi Building, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kansas, Wheaton, Illinois, Williams Road Station, PX, Maremont Muffler Factory, U.S.S. William Weigel

Various oral history recording media and period resources

  • 19-page transcript
  • 56 min. audio
  • candid and period photos
  • interview video
  • catalog record
  • biographical material
  • student short film, “V-BernardineSunny-USO-WWII-Performer”
  • published WWII DVD set, “From the Front Porch to the Front Lines”

Centered on the Depression and WWII era, Sunny Bernardine shares her perspectives on traveling the world as a USO dancer.  Betty Jane “Sunny” Bernardine was living in Chicago when World War II began.  At seventeen, she found work as a stick welder making Jeep mufflers at the Maremont Muffler Factory.  Bernardine describes growing up in a small town outside Chicago with weekends spent at the movies.  She answered an advertisement for dancers, “no experience needed,” and soon worked her way onto a USO troupe as part of the chorus line. Their overseas tour included stops in Hawaii, the Philippines, Korea, Okinawa, and Japan. She recounts life on tour, from going to New York for indoctrination and her Army uniform, to her salary, to walking on the beach at Okinawa, to seeing the devastated buildings in Japanese cities. Her younger sister was also in the troupe, and Bernardine discusses their close relationship, extending to careers in the airline industry and travel together after the war. Their mother’s family came from Giles County, Virginia, and Bernardine eventually bought property in Floyd, moving here after she retired.

Depression, welder, women’s movement, jeans, vaudeville, USO tour, chorus girl, Rockettes, soldiers in grease paint, insignia, DC3, rice straw, tatami, six-bys, orphanage, Kabuki Theatre, geisha, Nippon Railway, radiogram, war bonds, quonset hut, getas, Jeep, muffler, Okinawa Hit Parade, occupation armies, troopship, Humane Society, foster dogs, zoris, June Taylor Dancers, Chicago Aurora & Elgin, electric train
Bio Sketch

Betty Jane “Sunny” Bernardine, 1926 – 2013, daughter of William Reynolds and Huldah Solome Medley McAtic, was born in Warrenville, Ohio.  After WWII service in the USO, she married Leroy Umberto Bernardine, moving to Floyd County after his death. In retirement, after a career in the airline industry, Sunny became dedicated to animal rescue and fostered many dogs at her home. Sunny was known for for her feisty Chicago personality, her great sense of humor, and most of all, her compassion for all animals.


The WWII-era interview series was directed by the Floyd Story Center at the Old Church Gallery, where the complete archives are held. The project was guided by a collaborative community-university-public school partnership with Radford University Anthropology professor Dr. Melinda Bollar Wagner. Sunny Bernardine’s WWII-era interview was conducted by members of the Roots with Wings project at Floyd County High School.  The nine-year WWII series, 2007-2015, was compiled into a DVD set and biographical booklet with thirty-eight student films. In addition, Sunny Bernardine’s childhood memoir, written in consult with Randall A. Wells, was published in the Warrenville (IL) Village Chronicles as a serial in 2011.  It was also published on Dr. Well’s blog, “Floydiana,” in 2013.    Generations will be enriched by the recordings of all who shared their memories. Thank you all.