Jeanne lived in the northeastern United States when the war began. She had just graduated from Queen’s College and was able to find a job at Ranger Aircraft Engines in New York, a factory affiliated with Fairchild Aircraft Company. She recalls the nation’s sentiment as the war began, the extended depression through the war and what it was like to work for the aircraft industry. She also recalls stories of her husband’s service in the Aleutian Islands during the war and adaptation to marriage and life post war for her and her extended family. Listen to Jeanne’s interview below to learn more about the home front during the WWII.
Download a full transcript of Jeanne Finnegan's interview
Jeanne Finnegan Transcript Summary (full transcript available above)
[0:00:15] Agreement to be tape recorded.
[0:00: 53] Memories of when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
[0:04:11] When Charles Lindberg came into the war effort in 1943; marriage to Anne Morrow whose father was an ambassador to Mexico; Morrow as a navigator for Lindberg; Morrow gave birth within weeks after she and Charles returned from an extended trip.
[0:10:11] Hearing others accounts of what was happening and who was influential around WWII.
[0:10:32] The 7th Avenue “L” train in Manhattan; Japanese purchase of the scrap metal from the elevated train track when it was demolished; Japanese use of scrap metal to make bullets to use against Americans in WWII; Kaiser built ships; her husband was on one the Kaiser ships when he came to Alaska to work construction; rough trip to Alaska on a ship; her husband’s stories of working in the construction industry.
[0:13:11] Graduated in ’41, began working in 1942; the Depression in the northeast part of the country; lasting nature of the depression, particularly in the northeastern US; son-in-laws job making parts for medical machinery; plastics industry in New York City; exploding plastic.
[0:16:52] Problems with warehousing in the northeastern states; chemical storage hazards; warehouse fires; New York City closure of all warehouses until they could be inspected; flood of industries leave for New Jersey or other places; dangers of welding without safety equipment and health risks.
[0:19:15] Father worked for the city of New York starting right after WWI; father was in charge of fire prevention in Brooklyn.
[0:20:03] Scrap; father served as Italian translator for immigrants; father’s work in fire prevention industry.
[0:22:44] Pay, benefits and retirement for fire fighters; difficulty in collecting what an employee was due at retirement; back pay entitlement; ponzi schemes.
[0:25:38] Marriage after the war; draft of older men at the end of WWII, including her husband; draft of men with disabilities; husbands job with Bechtel in Alaska; traveling to Alaska; husband working in the Aleutians.
[0:29:28] Shift work in Alaska; gambling in the Aleutians.
[0:31:40] Hazards of gambling; cousins addiction to gambling.
[0:33:09] Husbands work in Alaska; travel from Alaska to New York; prohibition; working construction in the heat.
[0:37:36] How to prevent sickness in everyday life; difference in how school teachers teach and treat children during 40s and now; how advanced today’s kids are when they start.
[0:42:01] Family history; meeting husband-to-be.
[0:46:12] Characterization of life in Burlington Vermont as a young wife; social life in Burlington; moving to farm; traveling to see family; farming in New England after the bottom fell out; husband’s career as a traveling carpenter under the Burlington Local Union and the effect on their family life; work life during the winter; working on the farm.
[0:52:06] Husbands work in Vermont; working as a clerk for the Ranger Aircraft Division of Fairchild in Jamaica, New York; extensive background check by the FBI before being hired in 1943; inner workings of the Fairchild plant; company rivalry
[1:05:22] difficulty for men to get jobs; low wages for women.
[1:07:55] Parts of Depression were caused by unions gaining strength; production of cigars; family vacations as a kid to Massachusetts and seeing the tobacco fields.
[1:12:16] Before all the roads were built, rivers used to be the main way to travel; plank road from New York to Massachusetts was made from wood planks; before plowing the roads were “rolled”; a doctor’s prescription was needed to buy alcohol; remembers a well repeated story about the roads being “rolled”; during break up the roads were impassable, also the time of year to start making maple syrup.
[1:16:52] Describes the original snowmachines and how they were used in agriculture; seasonal work.
[1:21:11] Describes taking an overnight train from northern Vermont, transferring to a boat on the Hudson River to New York City, round trip, all in one weekend. She mentions that the Canadian railway from western Canada connected to the northeastern USA railway network.
[1:23:42] Ranger Aircraft Division of Fairchild made airplane engines during the war; describes the tight security at the plant and needing a badge; never was allowed to see where the engines were made; company treated workers to bowling; three shifts kept the plant operating for twenty-four hours, seven days a week.
[1:28:33] Women worked on the assembly line but not in the tool crib; recalls the story of a woman on the assembly getting her hair caught in the line; describes in the inner workings of women working on the assembly lines; there were inspectors to make sure nothing was being slipped in or out of the plant that shouldn’t be.
[1:33:01] Personal stories of contributions to the war effort, describes how important women pilots were, flying the newly assembled planes to their destination; women had important roles serving in the military; the women pilots weren’t recognized for their service; describes how men object to being taught how to fly the new planes by women.
[1:38:25] Transferred to Farmingdale’s payroll division after the plant closed when the war ended; describes trying to find work after being laid off; got married.
[1:41:28] Describes going to the movies, the circus, and seeing family in her spare time; belonged to a sorority; didn’t like the big crowds on New Year’s Eve in New York City; bought a car after the war that fell apart short thereafter.
[1:45:00] People knew the war was going to end, companies did too; describes how tool making changed after the war and the Japanese and German involvement; describes how some American companies went out of business.
[1:48:47] Describes her nuclear family.