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amandabeech

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Member since: Wed Aug 13, 2003, 08:17 PM
Number of posts: 9,893

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My Mom made bullets and land mines in a factory in Jackson, MI.

She started the war as a teacher in a rural one-room school house, but quit to do her part in the factory. The factory was integrated, and it was the first time that my Mom had come into contact with blacks. She grew up in a small farming community and there were no blacks in her neighborhood or in her school system, and she just didn't know much about Black America. When she has talked about the war years, she has always said that the Black women that she worked with were just as bright and capable as she and the other white women. She became very friendly with one of the black women who talked to her a lot about what it was like being a black woman. Being a white woman then was difficult enough, but it was clear to my Mom that being a black woman was much more difficult. My Mom went back to teaching in a country school after the war but only for a year. She didn't like going back to a rural area again, and soon made her way back to the plant, which was making locks for cars, and was rehired, unlike most other women. One day, she was walking along the street, and came upon her black friend. She asked her friend what she where she was working. Her friend acted very uncomfortable, and said that she was working as a domestic, and it was hard for my Mom to realize why she herself was in the factory, and her friend, who was an excellent worker, was not. Mom never saw her freind again.

Mom went back to teaching after another year or so--she decided that factory work was too boring-- before she met my Dad, who who had been stationed on an escort carrier patrolling the southern US coastline and the Caribbean for German subs. He finished the war doing what he was trained to do, which was fixing the exteriors and frames of beat-up planes at Naval Air Stations up and down the East Coast. Dad passed years ago, but Mom is 92 and still drives and lives independently.

Her middle sister, Millie, was a high school student in Fremont, Michigan, home of Gerber Baby Food. During the war, there were few babies born, and Gerber changed all but one of its lines from canning baby food to canning all kinds of food, from apples to beef, for the war effort. When school let out, Aunt Millie and many of her classmates walked to the Gerber plant where they did a full shift. They then did their homework, got some sleep, and went back to school. The baby food line was staffed by volunteer German POWs, who lived in a camp outside town, and were paid a bit to work in what was obviously a non-military job. Aunt Millie said that the Germans were very young, and she and the other girls would smile and wave at them, which the young Germans appreciated very much. She said that it was hard to imagine that they had been shooting at our young men. It was a very awkward situation. WWII was a just war, but many regular people died, along with the baddies.

Aunt Millie became an Air Force nurse, and was stationed in Guam during the Korean War, where she met her husband, who was a pilot. Like my Dad, she and her husband have passed, but like Dad, are with me in my memories.

I originally wrote this post without mentioning my Mom's black friend, but I decided that I wanted to honor her, too, since my Mom thought so highly of her.

Go Mom and Aunt Millie! And go Mom's Friend and all her friends, too!

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