Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II
My name is Anna Lorraine Pantages and I am married to George John Pantages. At the time of World War II, I was single and my name was Ana Lorraine George. I was born on April 19, 1923 and reared in Los Altos, California in a very loving and strong Catholic family. I had the normal grade school upbringing and graduated from Mountain View Union High School in June of 1941. I immediately became employed as a saleslady at the F.W.Woolworth store in Palo Alto, California. While working there, World War II began on Dec.7, 1941. When the Japanese were ordered to evacuate to internment camps, they flocked to the store to purchase any and all types of rope to secure their belongings for their move. It was a feeling of mixed emotions to be helping these people to evacuate our area when they were your neighbors, friends and classmates from the time you were a small child.
As time went on, more and more people wanted to be a part of the war effort by working in one of many companies making war related materials. Various schools were set up to train potential workers in many skills. In Palo Alto , just such a school existed called “The Peninsula Defense Training Center.” It had a complete machine shop and a drafting department. Being artistic, an aunt of mine encouraged me to enroll in the drafting class. I kept my job at Woolworth’s but attended night school several nights per week at the Defense Center . As I progressed, an engineer from Hendy Iron Works in Sunnyvale , California came through the class looking for potential draftsmen, admired my work and offered me a position. I accepted the offer and was very surprised when the chief engineer approached me one day and told me that he never had much faith in women draftsmen until I came along! I attributed that compliment to the excellent training I received at the Peninsula Defense Center . Hendy’s was very involved in the war program and I remained there until the division in which I worked finished their contract and closed. Speaking of Hendy”s,eventually my older sister and my father also became employed there. My dad had a day shift and my sister worked the graveyard shift while her husband was stationed in Canada . They had a three year old son whom my family cared for while my sister worked. A neighbor of ours also was a foreman in the machine shop at Hendy’s. His expertise was invaluable,because his father owned and operated an iron works business in Palo Alto , California where our neighbor got his training at an early age. Enclosed is a book I have discovered entitled “The Iron Men of Hendy’s”. From there, I went to work at National Motor Bearing Company in Redwood City , California – also as a draftsman. This Company was also very involved in the war effort. The enclosed picture was taken in the engineering department and the enclosed “Victory Letter” came from National Motor Bearing Company within hours after the end of the war. Two lady friends that I worked with at Hendy’s and National Motor Bearing Company are still my friends to this day and we enjoy every opportunity we can get together for a visit.
To stay informed about the machinery I was drafting, I also attended an Engineering Science and Management War Training Course at Stanford University where I was the only woman in the class and received the enclosed certificate in Elementary Machine and Tool Design.
While I was enrolled in the drafting class I became friends with a nice young lady named Athena Pantages and her younger brother, John. They were also taking the drafting course and we would visit at each other’s homes from time to time. Athena and John’s family owned a candy store in Palo Alto . They would send Care Packages of home made candies, etc. to their brother who was overseas on the aircraft carrier, USS Princeton (CVL-23). Without my knowledge, Athena was also including pictures of me taken on those visits to each other’s homes! Her brother’s name overseas was George and when the war ended, I got to meet him in his family’s candy store. We were married ten months later on October 27, 1946 (Navy Day). We have a wonderful family of five children and two handsome grandsons and will be celebrating our fifty-eighth anniversary this year.
George graduated from the University of California school of Pharmacy before joining the Navy and was assigned to the Pharmacy on the Princeton . He is a “plank owner” being on the ship from the time of it’s commissioning to the time it was sunk. He is a survivor of the USS Princeton, which was lost during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He continued his career as a pharmacist after the war, eventually owning his own pharmacy where I worked in a managerial position, along side George.
We both loved our calling and enjoyed a very successful business through the years. George will be attending a USS Princeton reunion in San Diego , California on October 24, 2004 exactly 60 years to the day that the Princeton was sunk. A memorial service will also be held on the new Princeton .
Another way I was involved in the local war effort was by playing music for the troops. As my sister, brother and I were growing up we all had the opportunity to learn to play musical instruments. I played the accordion, my sister the Bass Viola and my brother the Saxophone. We formed a trio and often entertained our family and friends. We even won first place on Uncle Benny’s Amateur Hour, held at the local high school. When the war presented the need for entertainment for the troops, we were invited to play for dances at the locals USO’s. Most of the soldiers and sailors were from the nearby bases, such as Moffett Field in Mountain View , California and an army camp established on Page Mill Road in Palo Alto . On occasion, the Army would send their military vehicles to pick us up. One particular stormy, rainy night, they had packed us all into this big truck to bring us home when the driver accidentally backed into an open trench. Of course we were a little nervous about the whole thing but they enlisted the help of a “jeep” to pull us out (probably manufactured by Ford Motor Co. because I understand that Ford built thousands of jeeps for the war effort). I remember thinking what makes them think that little jeep is going to pull this big truck out of the mud! Well, it worked and we were delivered to our homes safe and sound! The Military Services were always so happy to have us entertain them they couldn’t do enough to please us.
I was relieved when the war ended because I was very fearful and concerned for the men who were out there fighting for their lives and for the safety of all of those left behind.
My family and I will always treasure the opportunity we have had to enjoy America ’s Freedom accorded us by the bravery and sacrifices of our Military!
Respectfully Submitted, Anna Lorraine Pantages