Rosie the Riveter - the Home Front during World War II (June Reeves)
I was June Mullan. I lived in Westernport. I graduated from Bruce High School in 1943. That year they had a program in the schools, any girl that wanted to went to the industrial arts room and we learned to run the lathe and the drill press and even learned welding. When I graduated the first job I had was in a 5 and 10 and I worked there a couple of months.
Then I went to Akron, Ohio where my grandparents and aunts and uncles lived. I got a job at it was called MONCO, which was a department store warehouse that made small parts for Goodyear, Goodrich and Firestone. And I worked first in the dope room that put lacquer on small surfaces of a plane, but not for very long. Then I worked as a rib stitcher that tied square knots on airplane surfaces. The airplanes that we worked on were the Navy F6F Hellcat and the Navy Corsair. I worked there for about a year.
Then I came back and I worked at Celanese. I worked knit for a while, running machines for the men that were in service. It wasn't war things - we worked for the men who were in the service, working the machines.
What was it like working in Akron during the war?
That was the first job I had and I was right out of high school. It was an experience in itself. There were very few men because they were all in service. There were older men. Mainly the men that worked there were the bosses at the places where they worked. You know what I mean. It was the M. O'Neill company which was a big department store, but everything was converted to work on aircraft. In Akron they made tires. Well, except for military everything was turned over to airplanes down there.
At Christmas time they gave us a nice bonus - it felt good to get a bonus. We worked five days a week except when we had extra work to do, we worked 6 and 7. We worked Monday through Friday and then we'd go in Saturday and Sunday if there was extra work to do.
But at that time I wasn't experienced, you know what I mean, in the whole area. I was small town and I went to the big city and I walked to work, which was about 10 blocks, and I walked with a neighbor woman which was more middle aged and she would call me and we would leave. We were never ever bothered. One time some body tried to pick us up with a car but it didn't seem like people bothered you much.
How much did you make?
I kind of figure I made $80 a week. Why I remember that - I sent my mother $20 because there were three younger children still in high school. And I gave my grandmother $20. And the rest was mine. It wasn't too bad. I was paid more than I was even at Celanese. I worked at the 5 and 10 for a couple of months, and I got $11 a week for 6 days. $11, mhum.
What kind of training did you have?
Well I was a Girl Scout. You learned to tie a square knot with Girl Scouts, so that wasn't any problem. And it wasn't a problem if you could take a paint brush and work in the dope room with a big gallon can of I always said was finger nail polish, that’s what it seemed like to me at the time, and a big paintbrush. All we did was go up and down the surfaces. But I didn't work there very long.
The rib stitching. The surfaces were up higher and the pieces, there were metal pieces covered with, I said muslin, that’s what I thought, and what we had to do was take these big long needles with, they called it thread, and you'd go through and you had to go up through the top and tie your square knot. And you had to do that probably every inch or so all the way down each rib of the piece. And the pieces were small pieces because these were either the tail pieces or the flaps on the navy planes and the navy planes were small planes.
How did you get to Akron?
I rode the train from Cumberland to Akron and it was always at night time and it was full of service men and you had to sit on your suitcases. And they stopped at Connellsville for the canteen. The service men all got out of the train, most of them did, and they gave them cigarettes and drinks and a snack. We usually stopped there for a half hour for them to get off.
Were there blackouts in Akron?
Well in Akron I didn't run into the blackouts like I did before I went out there. We had blackouts and they had neighbor women who went around and checked. I remember babysitting then and we had to have blankets at the windows and everything and you couldn't have any lights that could show. Ok.
During that time before I went out there we had scrap drives and we'd gather everything we could find, pots and pans and everything you could think of for the scrap drive.
How did you celebrate the end of the war?
After the war, I remember it plain because I was back. By that time we had a confectionary store on Piedmont Hill and the war was over in Europe and we knew it was going to be over because they had dropped the atomic bomb, the second atomic bomb. They blew the fire whistles it seemed like at about 6 o'clock in the evening but I'm not quite sure, and the girl friends that I was running around with, they all met us and we went down to the American Legion in Piedmont and they have us all flags and the fire companies came around with their fire trucks and we got on their trucks and they drove us around, Westernport, Piedmont and Luke and we waved our flags and we had a great time.
June Reeves, Westernport, Akron; Celanese Corporation of America.
Western Maryland, 2004