Beck: Hi Mrs. Morrow. It is a pleasure to meet you.
Morrow: Hi Dr. Beck. Its a pleasure to meet you too.
Beck: I know youve had an amazing career, and you have been as close to history as anyone could get, and youve played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in those events.
Morrow: Thank you, its been very exciting and rewarding for me.
Beck: How is it that you got involved with the Starkey Hearing Foundation?
Morrow: Well, as you know Dr. Beck, Scott Carpenter was one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and I worked with him back in the early 1960s. Anyway, Scott is very particular and a good friend of mine. When I heard he was wearing Starkey hearing aids, I called him and he said Lola, its a dandy! He told me that he was hearing better than ever before and he was very happy with them. So basically, I thought it was about time for me to try them.
Beck: Would you please tell me a little about your hearing history?
Morrow: For the last 5 or 6 years or so, hearing the TV and the voices around me have been difficult. I can understand most men pretty well, but softer, higher pitched female voices have really become a problem for me. Also, in cocktail party situations and luncheons, it has become very difficult for me to communicate. Ive had a hard time separating out one voice from another. My daughter actually noticed my hearing difficulty, and I also had some difficulty in noisy business situations.
Beck: I saw your test results earlier today and you do have a moderate sensorineural (nerve) hearing loss. Which means without amplification, you would barely be aware of people speaking and many of them would simply not be loud enough for you to hear.
Morrow: Yes, that does describe it pretty well. However, even with my hearing problems, in one-on-one situations Im OK, but even in a little bit of noise, it gets very difficult for me to hear correctly.
Beck: I know youre just now in the process of having your hearing aids made and learning how to use them. So probably the best thing to do is well follow-up with you in 2004, once your new book is published and Id love to review the book, and check on your hearing aid progress at that time, if thats OK?
Morrow: Yes, that would be very nice.
Beck: But as long as I have a few moments of your time, would you please tell me a little about your NASA experiences?
Morrow: Absolutely. I started in 1962 with NASA at Cape Canaveral when there was 7 Mercury astronauts, and those fellows had been working together since 1959. I started right after Scott Carpenters flight. In fact, as I was driving from Connecticut to Florida, I ended up on US1, heading south. At Titusville, Scotts flight launched in front of me. Apparently, the Cape was just to the east of US 1. I had been listening to the radio detailing the flight and there it was. I was totally surprised and overwhelmed to see the capsule blazing skyward into space. I said out loud, Thats where I want to be!
It took some time to get to NASA but pretty soon I started out in the Travel Office arranging ground transportation for the astronauts and from there I went to Astronaut Training. It was so interesting. The astronauts trained in the Mercury and Gemini flight simulators. By that time NASA had brought in 9 new astronauts. Along with my daily assignments, I found myself doing some secretarial duties for them. With 16 astronauts training and preparing for flight, Deke Slayton felt it was time to open an astronaut office at the Cape. When I was asked to be their secretary, I said no.
Beck: Oh my goodness! Its hard for me to imagine you saying that!
Morrow: Well, I was very young, and a little scared, and I didnt think I had all of the skills required. There were other women who were more talented than I was. In fact, I said that whoever they chose, I would help them in any way that I could but I didnt think I would be the best person for the job. They explained that they wanted me to be part of the program and again I said No.
That Friday afternoon at 2 PM, Deke Slayton walked in. He was the big boss, and he just took charge of the whole thing and he said Lola, on Monday morning youll report to the 4th floor and youll set-up the astronaut office.
He then grabbed his brief case and left. And that was about it. He had the power and the authority, and he decided thats what we were going to do, and so thats what happened. On Monday morning, I told the mail delivery person that the new office symbol was HO/Astronaut Office. HO was for Ho Ho here we go!
Beck: Seems like he made the right decision! I think I could probably name 3 or 4 of the Mercury 7, but I wonder if youd review all of their names.
Morrow: Sure, its my pleasure. The Mercury 7 were; Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Gordon Cooper and Wally Schirra. The 9 new astronauts were; Jim Lovell, Pete Conrad, Ed White, Tom Stafford, Neil Armstrong, Frank Borman, John Young, Elliot See and Jim McDivitt.
Beck: What an amazing group of talented guys! Did you have a favorite?
Morrow: I cant answer that. I had a special relationship with each of them that I cant explain. They called me their den mother, but I really couldnt say who my favorite astronaut was. Although I worked with 65 astronauts during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, they were all special.
Beck: Lola, it is an absolute and total delight to speak with you. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing your book in 2004, and well look forward to also learning about your experience with hearing aids later in the year.
Morrow: Thanks Dr. Beck. Its been fun spending time with you too.
Beck: Hi Mrs. Morrow. It is a pleasure to meet you.