Rosie the Riveter - the Home Front during World War II (Myrtle McKenen)
My name is Myrtle McKenen… and I lived in Baltimore city at the time.
My husband and I worked at Glen L. Martin’s Airplane factory, in Essex, Maryland, in Baltimore County, and we made B-29’s and B-26’s airplanes. My husband and I were married in July 1941, and the war broke out on December 7th, 1941, and in 1942 we came to Baltimore and got the job at Glen L. Martins and we worked there until 1944, and he was drafted into the army, and went to Germany and I quit then.
We worked in the sheet metal department, across from each other. They would put the pieces of metal in a hot plate, to get it soft. And then they would bring it to us in the pattern, and we wore gloves and uniforms, and then we would form it to that pattern. Then there was a table there and when finished that one, and when you got several, they would take it for inspection. We just stood at these tables and they would bring the parts to us out of the hot tank, to get it soft. And then we would frame it before it would harden, we would frame it to fit the pattern. What the parts were for… all I knew was that they were for airplanes.
What was it like working at Glen L. Martin?
Thousands, thousands, there was two big buildings, we worked in the A building.
They were all mixed, men and women. It was a big factory, Glen L. Martins, its now called Martin Marietta. It was exciting, it was exciting. It was something different.
How did you get to work?
We traveled pretty far from Baltimore city to Essex. It was a pretty good distance. And when we first started working we rode on a bus there, but then after we started getting paid, then we got a car. And where we parked our cars, you couldn’t just park anywhere, they had camouflage over the top, and you parked your cars in there, so that if any war planes came over they wouldn’t know that it was a factory, every car was hid under that big tarp. And so we put all the cars under there. One March, there came up a great big snow, I mean big, and we got there, and the whole tarp had fallen in. We went back home.
But there was an A Building and a B building, and we worked in the A building. You would go in and punch your card. There were three shifts, morning from 8-3, we would go in at 3 until 11, and then at 12… it worked continuously all the time.
And we would get one day off a week, we had to work Saturdays and Sundays same just as any other day.
What did you miss most during the war?
Buying clothes. You had to have a ration ticket to buy shoes, and you were just allowed so many, and gas. Yes everything was rationed.
And then of course where we lived in the apartments at night there had to be a black out. You weren’t allowed to have your lights on with a curtain open, in case of the war planes.
It was just being cautious. No there never was.
What would you tell your grandchildren about the war?
Well we didn’t get a whole lot of news back in those days. There was no television. You could only get the news on the radio or go to the theater, but I’ve told my all grandchildren and my children that it was pretty bad.
Well we knew that our boys were over there getting killed. And I had two brothers, one in Italy, and one in the South Pacific. And then of course when my husband went over, he went to Germany. But they were all very fortunate. They all came back, but there were hundreds of thousands that didn’t come back.
Do you meet people in the factory?
We knew people, we met a lot of people. I’ve got an autograph book that I took to Glen L. Martins. And people from Texas, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, everywhere is in that book.
I met one lady, and I was a blonde when I was young, and she would call me Blondie, she was from Texas. I was a very good friend with an Italian girl, and her parents were from Italy, she lived in Pennsylvania. We kept in touch quite a bit, but just finally we didn’t.
And then the Hippodrome Theater, I don’t know if you people heard about the big Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore city. We’d get off of work and we would go and see the movie at the Hippodrome. Well they’ve repaired that now, and they just opened it up last month. Yea, that brings back memories.
What was VE or VJ day like?
It was terrific, cars going up and down North Avenue in Baltimore, blowing their horns. People hollering and kissing each other and hugging each other. It was great. People you didn’t even know. It was great.
Washington County Free Library
McKenen, Myrtle, 1922-2010 ; Martin airplanes --History.