Rosie the Riveter - the Home Front during World War II (Reba Williams)
My name is Reba Williams. And at that time my name was Reba Ambrose. I live in Tammany Manor, Williamsport.
Where did you work before Fairchild?
I lived in Martinsburg; I worked at the Perfection Garment shop. And I had worked in dry cleaning at the Individual Laundry in Hagerstown.
Why did you work at Fairchild?
I thought it was a good idea to help your country, and of course they paid a whole lot more than where I was working and I had three children and I needed some extra money.
Was there childcare provided by Fairchild?
Well, I don’t remember if there was, I think there may have been, but my aunt lived with me.
What were your first impressions of Fairchild?
It was, I thought it was such a big place, and so noisy.
Were there many other women?
There weren’t very many women there. My lead lady was a woman that I learned to know real well. And then a few other woman came to work there that I learned to know well. But the funny thing was, the boys that they hired, we would teach these boys. I had to go to school but they didn’t have time to wait for people to get through school so what they had to do was hire then and teach them on the job. So I had lots of young men that I taught how to rivet. I hardly got one taught till he was called and drafted and then another one came and another one, till finally we were almost all women. Well, I just showed them on the job, it was on the job training. They didn't have time to wait to go to school anymore. I did go to the Defence School, it was up on West Washington Street School, and I worked in day time, and went to school at night.
What planes did you work on?
First when we were there we were working on Martin Marietta for Glen L. Martin. We were building a wing, then I went to C82, C119 and I guess that’s about all during the war. But then after that I worked on other departments, worked on Boeing, and B52’s. This is what I was working on when I left in 1981, this is a helicopter, when I left I was making the tail rotor blade. Until 1981, of course I was laid off at different times. One time I was laid off for about 2 or 3 years. When I was laid off I was living on Howard Street at that time, and the Regulas had a laundry around the corner from me, and they were good friends of mine, so I worked at their dry cleaning department. They didn’t do the dry cleaning there, but they checked it in and checked it out. My job was to check it in, check it out, and do the mending that needed to be done on it.
Have you stayed in contact with the the women you worked with?
I did until most of them, but most of them aren’t here anymore. One time we worked a bunch of us, about 6 of us, worked together for years, but there are none of them left either.
Was there a union?
It was great that we had a union, because after the war the company would have laid us off, the women, cause they didn’t need us anymore. But the unions said oh no, they were good enough to work during the war they will stay here and keep their seniority. It was voluntary; you could join if you wanted to you, you didn’t have to, at that time, but I don’t think it was ever that you really had to be a member.
What were conditions like?
My problem was that it was so loud, the riveting, it really affected my hearing. I knew that right soon after I worked there a couple years, that my hearing was not as good and it has gradually decreased over these years.
What was your favorite memory?
Of course you had to do a little assembly work along with that, and at that time that was about all we did, put it together, and riveted. When I first went there, of course we had to pass a physical to get there, to get a job, and you were supposed to make 110 lbs. and I didn’t make 110 lbs. but luckily they sent me to the family doctor for a physical so he put 110 on my application. Often times they would borrow me to get into some small places to do some rivetting and also on top of the wings, to put some extra screws and things in because you had to walk around on top of the wings. And so they would put me on a ladder up to the wing and take the ladder away, and then would come back after a bit and got me. I liked my job at the Fairchild, I really enjoyed being there. We had an awful lot of nice girls and a lot of nice men that I worked with during that time.
Washington County Free Library
Williams, Reba, Ambrose, 1917-2010; Aircraft industry--Maryland--Hagerstown--Employees; Fairchild Aircraft Company (Hagerstown, Md.)--History