Date Interviewed: April 5, 2003
Interviewer: Brittany Mhoon
Topic: World War II work experience
Q: When and where were you born?
A: I was born September 11, 1924 in a log cabin at Indianola, Oklahoma. On my grandpa Week’s home place.
Q: Where did you attend school and for how long?
A: I attended many schools. My daddy was a sharecropper. I went to my first school at Nails, Oklahoma, not very far from where I was born. He moved quite a bit. I went to country schools – Crowder, Massey, and Fairview. Then I went to Arizona and I went to school Phoenix, Arizona, and we came back and I went to Indianola again. When I quit school I was almost through the 10th grade and I was going to Indianola High School.
Q: What were your interests and hobbies as a young woman?
A: I was a horseback rider, a farm girl. I loved sports. I rode calves to entertain my brother, when we were young and living at Massey. He’d pay me a nickel if I’d ride it till it quit bucking! He’d like for it to throw me off in a briar patch or a cow dab, if you know what that is. Then he’d get a big laugh out of it. He was about 12 and I was about 7, I guess. I always enjoyed cooking and home economics in school. And baseball. I was captain on the basketball team. I enjoyed running and I won blue ribbons in Arizona running races and high jumping. I was an outdoors girl. Long legged, slender, energetic, loved to play. But we worked hard on the farm. Learned to milk cows, which I didn’t mind. I enjoyed it. Cut wood, drew water. Helped can, helped raise the garden, helped clean and scrape the hogs, and put the meat up. I learned a lot. We needed it as time went by and the war come on.
Q: When did you begin to get a sense that the US was headed toward war?
A: Well, I knew there was a war in Germany and the other countries there, but I didn’t pay that much attention to it. December 7, 1941 when the bombed Pearl Harbor – that really shook us up. We didn’t have television in those days. My daddy had a battery radio. He would take the battery out of the car and hook it up to the radio. We could listen at it sometimes, but it wasn’t on all the time. I don’t remember hearing about the war news until I got to school on Monday morning. They were talking about it in school, and from then on we kept up with the news fairly well on news days and when he could use the battery. It brought a great fear to my heart because I was certainly afraid of Hitler. I heard so much that he did and I had brothers that were of age for war and it really brought a fear to us.
My sister’s school teacher at Indianola had a radio station in McAlester and he would take the class in and teach them how to be a radio announcer and let them talk on the radio. But come to find out he had a short-wave radio to Germany and he was sending messages over there telling them what all we were doing. The ammunition depot is in McAlester and that’s where he had his broadcast from. But they found him out in the field between Indianola and McAlester with his short-wave radio sending messages back to Germany. You know, they locked him up! My sister lost her teacher. So it was quite fearful to think of the things that began to happen.
Q: What was your reaction?
A: I was young – 17 – and I didn’t really understand much about war, but it didn’t take long to find out what it was all about. It was shocking.
Q: What was the atmosphere like and the mood of people in the town in which you lived?
A: Many knew how terrible it was going to be. My dad did not go to World War I. I think he had his family or for some reason or other didn’t go. But we had relations that had been in the other wars – Civil War and others – so they knew what the war was going to be like and it was fearful. The rationing began right away. Rationing stamps were sent out and you had to sign up to get a book of stamps to buy sugar and to buy some meats and to buy tires for cars and pickups. Gas was rationed. Silk hose were rationed. Shoes were rationed. So many things were rationed. They gave us a book. We had never used saccharin before, but Mom had to start using saccharin to make tea. It was terrible! But you used to learn how to use the saccharin. We had always used sugar to make pies and cakes and ice cream. But when rationing started, you had to really cut back on it. You were only allowed so many stamps for your family.
Q: Were you married at the time? Or seeing anyone on a regular basis?
A: No, I wasn’t married and I really wasn’t dating. I was just playing ball and enjoying living.
Q: When did the government announce that the women were going to be brought into the defense industry?
A: I guess it was in 1941, probably December 8 when the Pacific war broke out. Probably President Roosevelt announced it because he put everybody to work. He ordered the planes to be made – many more planes and many more ships. Shipyards just started. And they cleared the land at Richmond [California] and started four shipyards there. They had to dig out the mountains and cut the trees. I’ve got a tape where they used the big cross-cut saws to cut down the trees and dig them out. It is real interesting to see how they brought the steel in and how fast they began to put up the ships. I’m sure the planes were the same way. They really started building more planes and more ships because the Japanese thought they had destroyed us by taking so many ships and destroying so many men at Pearl Harbor, but they didn’t destroy us. So I guess that’s when the door opened for the women to get out and do everything that we could do. When they took all of our young men that were called – and many more that shouldn’t have gone who had families – that left a lot of us here to do things we had never done before.
Q: What was your reaction at the time?
A: Naturally, I was afraid of what might come to us. I didn’t get to hear all the news overseas like we hear today, but knowing that we did have some spies among us. They did call in all the Japanese from California and the states that had them. We didn’t have that many different nationalities in Oklahoma at that time, but they did take them and their families and put them on trains and take them to concentration camps or whatever they called it. They had built government houses with big wire fences around them. They took those families and that’s where they were to go off and stay. They had to walk off and leave their farms and things. I was talking to a lady at the hospital this week and her neighbor in California was Japanese when she was a young girl. They played together. She remembered them taking them off by train loads. We have a documentary film – “The Price for Peace” – one family tells how they took her mother, her daddy, and her family and put them in this government place they had prepared. I’m not sure where it was, whether in the US or if they were taken to Canada. She tells quite a bit about what they did. But they didn’t get their homes when they came back. They paid them $20,000, I believe my husband said, a piece, which is more than they paid them for coming in from the war. But they did reestablish them some enough to get started again if they were American-Japanese.
Q: When did you decide to become a so-called “Rosie the Riveter,” or work in the war effort?
A: In 1943 my husband and I had a baby and my husband was working at the ammunition depot at McAlester, Oklahoma. He had a 2C classification to help his daddy on the farm, but he knew his classification was running out and they wouldn’t give him another one, because his brother had got out of the military with two twin boys and he was helping on the farm. So he decided to quit working at the ammunition depot and we went back to California. That’s when he worked at Richmond, California, and I went to work in the Richmond shipyards in the middle of ’43 as a tack welder. I worked on the Liberty Ships. They gave me two weeks training.A friend that my husband knew worked there – I think she used to be married to his uncle. She was working midnight shift. My sister and her husband came out to California with her little baby and we all lived in a real small trailer house. I went to work as a shipyard worker and Viola took care of the two babies and the two husbands. Her husband and my husband worked in a fish mill there.
They gave me two weeks training. They gave me the leather pants, leather jacket, leather goggles, hood, gloves, steel toed shoes. They told me to weld like crochet, but I didn’t crochet. I could make a neat stitch because I loved home economics. I knew they meat make it neat and fix your mistakes if you made any. So after training they put me 40 feet down in the bottom of the Liberty Ships to be a tack welder on the seams on the big steel they brought in a placed up there. I would lay the beads of hot lead on top of each other for a little strip down, then I would take a steel brush and brush it down, and I could see if I missed a little crack or something, which I don’t think I did [chuckles]. Then the welders came along and they would weld a whole seam to make it strong so it could take the high winds, deep waters, and heavy weights. It was scary working midnight to 8 in the morning. Every once in a while you’d hear of people being killed through the night, but I didn’t run into any danger that I remember. I enjoyed the work. It was very difficult with the baby. I’d go home in the morning and do my laundry and help take care of my husband’s clothes, and help my sister with things that had to be done. We had a shower house, bath, and laundry room outside. Those days we used cloth diapers and there was quite a bit of work to be done. My sister said, “when did you sleep?” I said “I don’t even remember sleeping!” I would get home at 8, help get the work done, take care of the baby, then I’d lay down and go to sleep, then get up and do some more, then sleep some more, until midnight when I went to work.
I made $42.00 a week there, so it wasn’t bad.
Q: How did the people close to you react to your decision?
A: They knew that it was a good thing because they took our boys and our men. My generation – none of my relations objected to it. I’ve talked to a lady at the bank here in Moore and her mother went to work and her daddy just wasn’t going to stand for it at all. He didn’t want that – a woman’s place was in the home. But she went ahead and worked and she’s still living. She was one of the Rosie the Riveters. Another lady I talked to, her husband wasn’t going to stay married to her if she went to work, so she lost her husband over it, but she kept working. In my generation, my family were all workers on the farm and it was no problem with us working.
Q: Did you know a lot of other women in your area that were also going to become involved?
A: No, I didn’t know that many people there. My mother came to California in December ’43 and she went to work. My baby sister went to work, but she was only 15 at that time, but she told them she was older. And dad went to work as a janitor, but my sister and Lula Dickens went to work cleaning barrels at Dow Chemical. Mother was working there, but I’m not exactly sure what she did, whether she was working in the office or what, but she was working at Dow.
They cleaned those barrels and then they sent the barrels overseas filled with things and sometimes they used them for water barrels. They put some chemicals in some of them. But people went to work and did many different things. This was in California and I don’t know how many women went to work at the ammunition depot in McAlester. I’m sure quite a few went from the farms to help build the bombs there because quite a few of the men had to leave and I’m sure quite a few of the women from Oklahoma went to work at the ammunition depot.
Q: How did the process unfold as you went from civilian to defense industry worker?
A: You mean from just a housewife to a defense worker? It wasn’t a problem because my sister took care of my baby. I wouldn’t have left her with anybody. It was just more hours of working and different kind of work, because I’ve always worked from the time I started picking up chips and carrying eggs! I was taught to work, but this was a different work, alright. Then my husband went into the Marines, and my older sister’s husband went into the Army. They had three little boys. Eddie was 6 months old and his dad went into the Army, and they were less than two years apart. Her and I stayed together and we raised the four children, my daughter and her three boys, so I stayed with family.
Q: What kind of job or jobs did you work? What were you responsible for?
A: I was a tack welder in the shipyards. I was responsible to make the seams strong and sturdy welds so that the welders could come along to complete the job and make the ships durable enough to put thousands of tons on the ship and boys and everything else they put on it to go across and come back.
Q: How many hours per day did you work and how many days per week did you work?
A: I worked 8 hours and 5 days a week the best I can remember. I don’t think I worked 7 days a week because I know I was home with the family and I think 5 days a week was what I worked. We had 24 hour shifts, so I’m almost sure I worked just 8 hours.
Q: What kind of pay did you receive?
A: Forty-two dollars a week.
Q: How long did your employment last?
A: I worked there from mid-summer until December 7 when my husband went in the Marine Corps. So about five months probably. When he joined the Marines we had to move from Richmond down to Oakley, California, closer to some other relation and then mother and daddy came out. We lived around Oakley and then he went to boot training in San Diego, and after boot training he was shipped to Port Chicago, which was only about 40 to 60 miles from where we had been living and where our other relations were at. He was there for 9 months guarding ships with a big guard dog. My daughter and I lived in an apartment house close to the base. He was able to be home every other weekend. He got leave and we came to Oklahoma and picked up the paper at McAlester and is said Port Chicago blew up [refers to the accidental explosion on July 17, 1944 that killed 320]. Somebody had dropped a bomb on it and it blew all to pieces and killed over 300 people where he had been standing guard. My brother helped to clear the grounds with a big bulldozer. He said he just had to cover up parts or people. Mother went over and looked at the room we had been living in and a big piece of glass had gone through the mattress where we had been sleeping. My daughter and I probably would have been in that bed if we had been home because I think it was about 10:00 PM. In July of 1944.
So when we got back from the vacation, he went back to San Diego and hitchhiked back down to see us – about 500 miles – stayed just a few hours, and turned around and hitchhiked back. Then I went to Bakersfield, California to my brother’s just to meet him one more time, and he hitchhiked there and stayed a few hours and had to hitchhike back. That’s the last time I saw him until March 1946. That was in 1944. He went to Guam, then Okinawa, then on down to China for 6 months.
When I went back to Oakley, there weren’t any shipyards there, so I went to work at Johns Manville roofing company making outside shingles. I got $37.00 a week there, but I only worked 8 hours a day and 5 days a week, I remember that. My oldest sister and her children lived there with me and we shared the rent. So I’d go to work at 8:00 in the morning till 4:00 and she would watch the children and have the evening meal done and the laundry done and I’d be coming in the gate and she’d be going out to go to work at 5:00 at a fountain where she worked until 11:00. I would do the dishes and do the laundry and put the kids to bed, and write a letter, and cry. Then get up a go to work the next day.
Her husband was killed on Okinawa, May 13, 1945. My husband’s brother was killed on June 17, 1945, just a few days before the war was over. But my husband did not get the word of his brother nor my brother-in-law until I sent him a sympathy card. My sister’s telegram went back to Oklahoma to his mother and dad because that’s where she lived. They had her address in Pittsburgh, California, and I don’t know why they sent it back to them. So it was late getting back to Pittsburgh, California, and she said a little boy rode his bicycle up to the house and delivered her the telegram that he was killed. I was at work. She was crying, hollering and screaming and the neighbors came over and found out what was wrong and they called mother and daddy up at Belle Vista, California, and they came down. When I got home from work, there she was with news of her husband dead. She just lost it. She went out – fainted and they could hardly bring her around to live. Mother and daddy took her out to Belle Vista and took care of her three little boys. But for months she would just barely eat enough and take care of herself a little bit and back to bed. She just didn’t want to face life. Mom said she was out in the yard doing her flowers one day and Dale came out there and she said “what are you doing out here?” And she said “[her husband] came to my bed and said get up and go help granny raise our three boys.” That pulled her out of it. So from then on, she came back to life and realized her responsibility. So I know what a lot of people are going through now in this war [in Iraq].
I felt like my husband would be home, and he felt like he would be home. We prepared for him to be home. I worked and saved my money, and put my allotment check in the bank, $100.00 per month. When he got home he had $1800 waiting for him, not knowing what kind of condition he’d be in when he came home, being able to work or what. It was a good thing I did because his health was gone for awhile.
Q: What was the mood of your fellow female workers?
A: They were all good. I don’t remember working with any women, really. I rode to work with Aunt Lillie and outside of that, I didn’t have no fellowship with them. I took my welding rods and my equipment and went 40 feet down in the bottom of the ship and I worked till 8 in the morning when I was ready to catch my ride and go home. I do remember seeing them christen a ship one morning. President Roosevelt’s wife hit it with a champagne bottle and I saw the ship go out before I got off my shift. And they had some bands playing music when they christened the ship. Some of them would go out to lunch together and some of them got together and went to movies together and things like that – the day shift, I guess, had a been chance of getting acquainted. But the night shift there wasn’t entertaining going on and I didn’t keep with anybody. I had too much to do at home and too much to do on the job. Everybody got along well to my knowledge.
Q: Was there a sense of camaraderie among the female workers? Did you make any lifelong friends?
A: As far as friendship and fellowship with them and enjoyment with them, I didn’t know that much about them. Some, I’m sure, made long-lasting friends, but I didn’t because I lost contact with the one I did know. Our lives went different routes. If I had gotten to keep working at Richmond all those three years, I probably would have had a lot more time and gotten off the graveyard shift. But, no I didn’t make any life-long friends. At Pittsburgh I worked with Elsie Ward, and she was from Arkansas. We’d have some fellowship together. We went to church together and go to the theater together on Sunday afternoon. I went to see the news to see if I could see my husband or see Scott or see Potter on the news. That’s about the only way I got any news of what was going on in the war in the battles. Her and I had some pictures made together and we’d eat our lunch together at work. Then when her husband came home before mine did, I rented her apartment, instead of the house my sister and I had been living in. Where she lived in Arkansas, I didn’t get the address. I don’t even know her husband’s name. I’d like to know where she was. She had no children, but she was always so thrilled to get to be with my daughter.
I enjoyed my work at Johns Manville Roofing Company. We went back out there two years ago and went through the plant and I showed our son Gary and my husband where I worked and the way those asbestos belts were set up. They put the dry asbestos down the big shoot box and then put the water on top of it and it came down and was wet by the time it got on our belt. Then we had to take a steel plate and put under the wet asbestos and as it rolled on the steel plate, put a plastic strip on top of that and then stack it on a rack. They weighed about 30 pounds, I think, with the steel and all. It was quite heavy. I gained a few muscles! But I enjoyed it. Then we used a drying rack and shook them loose, then stack them again and get them ready.
Q: Did the women enjoy the work, or did the work prove difficult for some of the women?
A: Not too difficult that I know of. Some of them at Tinker – I heard them talking. They talked about some of their loved ones couldn’t continue work because it was difficult for them, but not where I was that I know of.
Q: Were the women from every kind of economic, ethnic, racial, and social background?
A: Yes, they came from all different states. It was the first time that women had really left their homes to go out to work in the public areas and work among men like they did. The first time we worked the blacks and the whites together. It was quite a change, but everybody needed the money and the government needed us all to work. So I don’t know that there were any fights over who was working with who. If there was, I didn’t know it.
Q: Could you please elaborate whether or not all women were treated equal or if some women, because of their background, had a more difficult time than others. Please feel free to expand on anything to do with this?
A: Well, I didn’t know of any, but I have heard a few of them in our Rosie the Riveters is California and some of the articles they wrote that I have in my magazine. They had difficulties, but I didn’t know them. I’m sure there was some, but I guess it wasn’t enough to cause too much distress. But I didn’t know of any.
Q: What was the reaction of the fellow male workers?
A: All that I worked with, they needed me! They needed me to get in there and do that tacking to seam it together enough before they came along and did that good welding jobs. So I felt like I was needed. I needed the paycheck and they needed the work, too, so nobody harassed me or gave me any problems. I just minded my own business like I was taught when I was young and stayed in my place and didn’t fool around with anybody, and didn’t give them the opportunity to fool around with me! Some people can’t even be true to their companion 18 hours – I was true to mine 18 months! Never entered my mine to be unfaithful or to fool around. My home, my family, my daughter, my husband, and myself – I think too much of myself to fool around and cheapen myself.
Q: How were you treated by them, as well as by the bosses who were in charge?
A: I was treated good. I don’t remember a boss at the shipyard. Our inspectors would come and inspect our work and as far as I remember it was all OK. My boss at Johns Manville was a Portuguese and he was always kind to us. He couldn’t call my name right – I was called Maggie at that time because my name is Kate Magdaline, and he would say “moggy.” He was real nice to me. On Saturdays I would go to work one hour early and I remember walking to work one morning in the wintertime. It was still dark and I hadn’t got too far from my house there in Pittsburgh, and a couple of Mexican men were in a car and they hollered “Hey, mam, mam!” I saw their car in the shadows. I began to walk fast, and they kept hollering, and I walked faster. And then I began to run, and I made my block and ran back to the house and shut the door. Then I went back to work after daylight and I told my boss. He said “I don’t blame you, moggie!” He was very understanding. So I was treated nice.
Q: What was the overall atmosphere at Tinker Air Force Base and the surrounding area?
A: I didn’t work at Tinker, but I have been there. They had us out for a luncheon two years ago and it was very nice to take the ride through Tinker Air Force Base and see where the women all worked on the planes and the way the riveters worked and the painters worked. To see the planes ready to come out of their stalls and be ready for the air – it was very rewarding to see that! Just like it was to see our ships getting ready to go.
Q: What kinds of memorable occurrences did you witness or experience?
A: Like I said at the shipyard, I saw Mrs. Roosevelt christen that one. Then when I worked at Johns Mansville on VJ-Day I was going home from work and they were throwing papers out of the buildings and horns were honking and everybody was rejoicing. The town was just full of papers being thrown from the buildings. But I was heavy hearted and very sad because I had to go home to face my sister who had just lost her husband. I well remember the atmosphere and the joy – I was happy because as far as I knew my husband was still alive, but many times his letters had blood or mud – I wasn’t sure what was on them. Many of them were cut up because they were all censored. At that time, we had only lost Scott and Potter. But I remember that everyone was shouting, and I was very happy too, but still I was heavy hearted and sad because we had already lost two and I was trusting that I wouldn’t lose a third one.
Q: After the war, was there any kind of pressure from the government and the media for women to leave the workplace and return to homes so that male veterans could once again have access to jobs?
A: Well, not to my knowledge because I had worked and saved our money for my husband to go to work. He came home in March and we came home on a vacation Oklahoma, and then we got back and he started working on the road part time. Then he got work that his dad was at the point of death, so he and his brothers and sisters came back for the funeral. They were farmers down near McAlester. They had several head of cattle and he asked his mother what would become of them, and she said she would sell them. He said he was going to buy them. So he bought their cattle and sent a letter back to California to me by his brother that he’d bought papa’s cows and for me to get the train and come on back. Well, I didn’t want that at all. I said I’m not going to be a farmer no more. I didn’t understand that at all. But I cried and I reconsidered and I packed my little trunk and got our baby and here we came on that train. In those days the [train] windows were down and it was dirty and hot and crowded. So I came back to McAlester and we lived on the farm for three years, and birthed two sons. And he took care of the cattle and worked in peanuts and bought a new pickup. But he had a chance to recuperate from the war. In California, even the traffic would make him so nervous and his stomach was drawn up so small from no food and sleeping in foxholes for 82 days and night and carrying a flame-thrower that weighed 72 pounds. His health was broken. His nerves were shot. After going down to China for six months and not a bit of milk or bread the whole six months he was there. So I can look back and see that since his dad was taken and I had saved that money for him to use when he got home, and that’s the best way we could have used it, I guess. Although I didn’t want to draw water and cut wood and live out on dirt roads with no electricity. I was afraid out in the country, although I was raised out there. Those hoot-owls would hoot – Who? Who? Who are you? [laughing] It seemed like someone was right outside my window! We had no telephone and nobody out there! But we made it, and it was the best thing for him. We sold out and went back to California. We went into the service station-garage business and we both got converted and got in the ministry and pastured 35 years and we’re semi-retired. He does memorials for military or churches. We had four sons – two born in Oklahoma and two in California, and our daughter. So we’re blessed. He just turned 80 the 30th of March. I’m just 78 – I’m young!
Q: When the war was over, did you quit working?
A: Yes, I did. But I signed up to get unemployment in McAlester, but I had done a little bit of café work before we married, and I put that on my card. Well, naturally, they were going to find me a job in McAlester in café work. I couldn’t drive 22 miles into town – I didn’t even know how to drive a car. So I just lost my money [unemployment]. If I hadn’t have put that down and just put shipyard, they might not have put me to work in McAlester.
Q: How do you think the war years impacted the lives of women in this country?
A: I think it opened the door for women to go to work and complete their career. Like Gail at Tinker, she said, “Katie, you all opened the door for us. If you all hadn’t have gone out and did what you did, we wouldn’t have the privileges we have today.” And women have been respected to go forth in their career. I know in my young days there were so many things I would have liked to went ahead and done. I didn’t finish school because the war came along. I wasn’t planning on leaving school when I went to California with my girlfriend when she married my husband’s brother. I was planning to come back and go to school, but it didn’t work out that way. But women are so energetic and so brilliant and their minds are so intelligent. And they can still be a good wife and mother and house-builder and still work – be true to their own selves. My mother worked in the fields and my husband’s mother worked in the fields. All women worked, they just didn’t go to public places. But mom raised her chickens and killed them and cooked them and cleaned them – all those things. She canned and put up hundreds of jars of fruits and vegetables every year to feed us through the winter. She preserved the meats. And dad helped. They were just real all-around providers. There were 7 of us children, and mother and dad made nine. My husband had 12 brothers and sisters living. They lost 3 or 4 at birth and she miscarried some. But we were all workers.
So I think it helped the women to go forth, although sometimes I think some women kind of abuse the home in ways. They get carried away and some jobs I wish that women didn’t take and would let the men have them. But that’s their desire. We have a lot of good reporters and good secretaries and nurses and doctors and teachers and workers and students and housewives and grandparents – it’s making America beautiful! America is a wonderful place to be. We went to several countries and there is nothing like America. We went back to Okinawa, Japan. Steven Speilberg and Steven Ambrose sent my husband back to Okinawa year before last. They paid his way and my way to go back where he fought. And our daughter and her daughter and our two sons paid their way and we toured Okinawa. We had been there a few years before at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. We were there at that time. We were there on our own to see it and preach revivals in the military. The Baptist preacher furnished us a guide and the chaplain furnished us a guide when we were there the other time. But then Steven Speilberg and Steven Ambrose furnished us rides and paid our way in March 2001. It was good to go back to see it and they interviewed my husband where he fought and the places that he was. Our children were so amazed and get to see the battle where their uncle was killed and their daddy fought in. Then they went on to Tokoyo, Japan, and when they got home they said it was so good to be back in Oklahoma and Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. There’s nothing like getting home!
Q: What impact did the working women of World War II and their experiences have on future generations of American women?
A: We opened the door for women to go to work and keep the doors open. I understand some of them have been mistreated in the military – insulted and raped – and even on the jobs, some of them have been mistreated and insulted. I hate that that has happened to them. I guess there are some men who don’t want women out there where they’re at, or they can’t control themselves. But I think if women want to work they have to pay the price of what they are going out there to work with and for. They do have their rights. Nowadays, everybody has to be cautious. It wasn’t that way when we were younger. We were respected. Men opened the door for women. They tipped their hats. They said “yes mam.” They treated us like ladies. But we dressed and acted like ladies. They knew we were ladies and we respected the men. It’s changed.
Q: Did the skills you learned during the war serve you in any kind of way in the subsequent years after the war?
A: If I had to be a welder, I could still weld! If I needed to and had to, I think I could still tack and even be a welder if it came to that point. And if I had to go back out to hard labor work, I could probably still to that at 78 – almost 79. They were so happy there for me at the plant at Pittsburgh, California. I was so enthused and showing them where I worked, and so enthused about our job and how it went and our paycheck, and this manager said “I wish I could get you to talk to my workers here today.” I said “Bring them together and I’ll tell them how blessed they are to get a good paycheck and have a job!” It’s an honor to be healthy enough to go to work! So I think even before the war I was taught to work and be energetic. I’ve never let it slip.
Q: What things stand out most in regard to your experience as a Rosie the Riveter or any of the other kinds of work you did during World War II?
A: In World War II we didn’t think of ourselves as being anything special. We felt like it was our duty and just until Donna Powers got the ladies all together at Richmond and began to promote the Richmond shipyards and those that worked there have they begun to honor the women who worked there through the war. And then Fern Carter got the national Rosie the Riveter charter together. It’s called the FDR Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. And they have all that has been sent into them. They send you a big certificate if you worked and they are trying to get it into Washington, D.C. and get something there in honor of the women that worked. But no, I didn’t think I was doing anything to be complimented or bragged on during the war. It was just our duty. I felt like the boys and the men who went to war were the ones that should be honored. And I still think they should be honored. We honor my husband – our children and their children honor his work. He talks freely about his war days and wrote a book. That’s one of the reasons Steven Speilberg and Steven Ambrose chose him to go to Okinawa because he would talk. They said a lot of warriors will not talk. Some we’ve talked to and they said “if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t understand it.” So they won’t say anything about what they did. We’ve talked to several that their daddies have died, or their grandfather has died, or their husband has died and they say “he never would tell us what happened. We just know he went, but he wouldn’t tell us anything.” That’s sad when they can’t find someone who could understand. My husband started talking as soon as he got home. We let him talk. I didn’t question him, but when he wanted to talk, he talked. So my advice to the young people today would be if they want to talk, let them talk. You weren’t there – although now that they are seeing some of it, they will understand a lot better than what we did – but some of them can’t stand to talk about and others will go ahead and talk even though it hurts. My husband got converted and then he could talk more. He was drinking pretty heavy for quite a while after he got home, but when he got converted it all left him and he got cleaned and healed of all the killing and the flame-throwing and all the horror. He got a new heart and new person. He does a ceremony now and says it’s a sin not to go to war. You go to defend your country.
Q: What kind of lessons did you learn?
A: Well, I learned to be grateful for America. If anything grieves our heart its to hear someone speak against America. My husband said “they better not try to burn a flag in front of me.” I learned that one generation after another is going to have to keep standing up for America, because we’re the richest and the best country that there is and people are jealous of us and they hate us for it. And they’d like to destroy us and take it over, but I think we’re strong enough to stand against them and keep it. I think we need to all pull together more. During World War II we pulled together. We were together because we all came through the Depression and the hard times. That’s why we went to Arizona because we had to get out and go where there was work and make a living.
Q: If you would like to discuss or expand on anything at this time, please feel free to do so. Would you like to add anything?
A: I think I pretty well covered everything.