Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II

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Jean Dreckman

original photograph size: 5"x3.5"

The beginning of my adventure started at the age of 18 when I needed to find work. I wasn’t looking for just any kind of work – it had to be something exciting. Then I heard there was a training session in Sioux City, IA for women who wanted to work in a factory preparing weapons for the war. We were being given the opportunity to fill in for our men since so many of them had been drafted or enlisted for the war. I didn’t have to think about it long to realize “this is for me”. My dad was already working in Sioux City and belonged to a car pool, since gas was being rationed at 5 gallons a week, so I had a way to get down to Sioux City. The only problem was getting home. I had a two hour wait before my dad finished work so quite often I walked the 25 miles home to LeMars. I didn’t have to worry about getting picked up since there were very few cars and trucks on the highway and nobody stopped. Training lasted about 3 months and was during the warm months but the day we left for the state of Washington I remember having to wear galoshes and warmer clothes. Arriving there we were surprised by how mild and beautiful it was. The government paid our way out by way of train and when we reached Seattle, there was a bus waiting to take us to Bremerton, WA. Then we got on a ferry which was to take us to our destination, Poulsbo, WA, an island about 25 miles from Bremerton. At our first stop, 3 other girls and I got off with some sailors, thinking we were at our destination. Boy, was that a mistake, as lo and behold, we found ourselves at the US Naval Torpedo Station in Keyport, WA .without a pass. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by a lot of military personnel asking all sorts of questions and expecting an explanation about why we were at this base. We were frightened to death. All we had was our identification for housing and that was it. It seemed like forever to get it all straightened out even though it was probably only a couple of hours. The Navy then called for a ferry to take us to our destination at Poulsbo. After all was said and done, and we were safely at our barracks, we couldn’t help but laugh at the predicament we had gotten ourselves into. I stayed friends with 2 of the girls from that point on. We then received our legal identification to work at Keyport and found ourselves riding the ferry to and from work. I was surprised when we were first taken to a barrack where we had to stay for about 2 weeks with strict supervision. We sure learned fast about what K.P. was. Each group had to work at different jobs throughout the time we were there. Truly, it was a great learning experience. We were then moved to a completely furnished, two bedroom apartment which housed four girls to each unit. The first day at work we were really excited. We packed our lunch and got on the ferry that took us to work. We were all scheduled to work in certain departments. Mine was in the flask department (torpedo head) where tested torpedoes had to be taken apart and then cleaned, re-assembled and then filled with air. I was assigned to Bldg #98. Different times I even helped out at the testing dock to take care of reports that came back from a trial run and occasionally, I rode the retriever boat in recovering some of the latest data. I was even asked to help with the bookkeeping in our department. For a short while I also worked in Bldg.82. We had 2 work shifts – 7AM-3PM and 3PM-11PM, which we alternated. Usually, when we worked the late shift, and 11o’clock came around, we would go dancing-mostly with each other because we loved to jitterbug. My plans were to stay in Washington, even after the war was over, but my mother needed help at home as my dad fell and broke his hip, so I went home. I was offered a job, working at Wells Dairy in LeMars, a week after I got home. It is still going strong and is now known as the Ice Cream Capital of the World. I couldn’t believe that I was starting out at .40 an hour when I was getting $1.87 at Keyport, WA. I missed my friends and the work I did when I came home but I brought back some wonderful memories, souvenirs and awards. These are the awards I received: Recognition of Service Certificate, Us Navy Civilian Service Pin and an “E” Pin for skill, industry and devotion on the production front. I don’t regret one moment I spent there. Thank you so much for letting me share them with you.

Sincerely,Regine(Jean) Herrmann Dreckman

 

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