Paula Roberts was 19 years old in the spring of 1943. She had graduated from Waite High School in Toledo and was working for the telephone company when she saw a “Tars & SPARS” recruiting presentation at Toledo’s Paramount Theater. She was hooked! Paula went home to tell her mom: “I’m joining the Coast Guard, Mom. I’m going to become a SPAR (Semper Paratus, Always Ready = Women’s Coast Guard Auxiliary).” Her mom agreed only reluctantly to sign Paula’s enlistment papers, imploring: “Please don’t let them send you overseas…”
Basic training for Paula and her small group of recruits took place at Palm Beach, Florida. It was composed of classroom instruction in military life, Coast Guard history and nautical terms. It also include physical training and drilling. Paula remembers that she did “an awful lot of marching” in that six month span!
She was assigned duty station Seattle as her active duty Coast Guard post. Her recruit group was transported by train to Seattle. During that long transit, Paula remembers sitting in a conventional passenger car by day, but sleeping on cots in a boxcar as the train steamed westward at night.
She and her fellow SPARS were put up at Seattle’s Assembly Hotel, which became the fully furnished and centralized home for SPARS. While on duty, Paula’s previous expertise in telephone communications was put to good use. She also remembers a midnight shift task she routinely handled involving charting positions for all American ships at sea around the world…and having a completed report available for the duty officer by 7 AM the next morning!
SPARS made remarkable wartime contributions. By June of 1944, the SPARS working at Port Seattle had accounted for 249 male Coast Guardsmen being released from their duties and sent off to war.
Paula giggles when she recalls that the formal definition of a nautical ‘spars’ – “tall, tapering objects” – was often applied in an altogether different way to members of her female Coast Guard group by admiring male Coast Guardsmen!
These days, the proud veteran makes her home at Toledo’s Oakleaf Village. According to Oakleaf Marketing Director Dena Marvin, there is no one who is more enthusiastic about bingo than Paula Roberts!