Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II

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Rosemary Jarvis Wilkes

original photograph size: 7"x5"

World War II Life and Job Experience

Rosemary was born in Hubbard, Texas on April 5, 1921, the only daughter of Ray Hughes Jarvis and Onie Tanner Jarvis a graduate of Southwestern University. My father who was a graduate of Washington and Less University was a grain merchant in Texas. I was graduated from Hubbard High School in 1938. Our teachers were truly dedicated to education and highly respected. Then I was graduated from the University of Texas in 1942 with a degree in Home Econonics that included courses in food, clothing, home management and chemistry.

At the time of World War II I was married to Lowell L. Wilkes, Jr. who was a graduate of the University of Texas and the United States Military Academy , West Point , New York . We were married in our hometown of Hubbard , Texas on January 25, 1943 . We later had four children after World War II, our wonderful and loving sons Lyn, Ray, Bill and daughter Barbara.

During World War II our Country was solidly united in supporting the war effort of the Country’s Armed Forces and homefront. I lived with two Dallas , Texas school teachers who made a room available for me while I worked on a war support project. These kind ladies not only provided housing but also family like friendship. Whenever a V-Mail letter arrived from my husband who was serving in the U S Army in Italy they were excited and anxious to hand me the letter the minute I got home from work. All of this kindness helped me endure the separation from my husband. Aside from the separation, my work life was affected by rotating work shifts which changed each week from day shift, to swing shift to night shift. Social life was quite limited. Once in a while I went out to lunch with friends and went shopping in downtown Dallas .

During the War I kept in touch with my husband, family and friends mostly by mail and occasional phone calls. Due to gas rationing and other shortages family get-togethers and entertainment were limited. Fortunately I was blessed with good health during the War. As was the case throughout the United States our community was solidly in support of the national war effort and local civil defense. Even though there were many wartime shortages we learned to adjust and accept the realities of the times. Recycling of grease, rubber and metal was quite common. Some loyal citizens had their ornate iron fences given as scrap metal to support the war effort. The most memorable experience during the Wartime period was when the War as over with the Allied victory, the death and destruction stopped and families could be reunited as in my own personal case I was rejoined with my husband.

My wartime work was with Magnolia Petroleum Company in Dallas , Texas . The company later became a part of Exxon-Mobil Corporation. I worked in the Podbylniac Laboratory project to take the lead out of gasoline to reduce the downtime of military portable generators, vehicles and other gasoline powered equipment. As a Rosie I was chosen for this work because I had studies Chemistry at the University of Texas . My title was that of Laboratory Technician. I liked the people I worked with and the importance of the work realted to the war. I really didn’t have any dislikes to what I was doing, even with the rotating shifts. I was glad to do whatever I could to help shorten the war, especially with my husband overseas in Italy and my brother in the South Pacific.

Prior to the work in the Magnolia Petroleum Lab in Dallas I was employed for a shorter period of time in a similar laboratory operated by the United States Army Signal Corps in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. I was classified as a Civil Service Employee with a professional grade. At that time my Lieutenant husband was receiving Signal Corps training.

When World War II was over I was gratefully happy. At the end of the War I was still working in Dallas , Texas in my wartime job. This was my situation on both V-E and V-J Day. I kept my wartime job until May of 1946 because the project of taking lead out of gasoline was important to civilian applications as well as for military uses.

The major change in my life was the two year separation from my husband while he was overseas and the extended delay in starting our family. After the war we were Blessed to have four healthy children born into the family making us happy parents.

My own personal experience typical of individuals in all freedom loving countries is that liberty and justice for all inspires unity, sacrifice and dedication to the common welfare.

 

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