Honoring the veterans of the assembly lines

`Rosie' reunion gathers women who worked during World War II

May 21, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

In 1942, Julia Yoder, barely out of high school, took a bus to Baltimore from her home in the Pennsylvania mountains, rented a room at the YWCA and landed a job as a solderer at the Glenn L. Martin factory in Middle River. All within 24 hours.

"It was not hard to get a job then," said Yoder, 77. "I made $36 a week and that was big money. And the Y was a treat - it had electricity and running water."

Yoder, a Finksburg resident, reminisced at a Rosie reunion Saturday at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. She is part of an exclusive sisterhood named after the riveter icon that defines the women who worked in the factories, shipyards and hangars during World War II.

Rosies were sprinkled throughout the audience of about 60 who heard a musical salute to their wartime effort - titled "Rosie." It brought back memories.

Mary Nichols of Towson also worked at Martin's right out of high school and, at 75, remembers the precision and minute measurements the company required from draftswomen like her.

Nichols, who gave up drafting for teaching, said Rosies worked hard and learned a lot.

"There has never been a time when there was such unity in this country," she said. "We were all united to win the war and to bring the men home. And we did it."

Angie Bosley of Catonsville, 76, spray-painted rockets at Kopper's Co. on Washington Boulevard and prayed that her fiance would return safely. Calvert Bosley, an Army veteran of the China/Burma theater, accompanied his wife of 54 years to the reunion.

A plane on exhibit at the museum reminded Rosedale resident Violet Davis Boris, 75, of her factory days. "Working on those big planes was like painting by numbers," she said.

Eleanore Derbil, 76, once lived a half-block from the shipyards where she worked as a fitter. She walked to work and put in eight to 10 hours on the nightshift.

"It was fun," said Derbil of Brooklyn. "But there was lots of sadness, especially when telegrams [with news of war casualties] came to the job. I was lucky. My two brothers came back alive. But a lot of people got those telegrams."

The speaker, Dr. Frances Tunnell Carter of Birmingham, Ala., founded the American Rosie the Riveter Association to ensure that these memories are preserved. Carter, 78, covered her hair with a red bandana and donned blue coveralls with the logo of an airplane factory. She still has a mission.

"We Rosies are getting pretty old and dying at the same rate as World War II veterans," she said. "We are trying to establish a legacy. Our names will be in the World War II memorial. We helped pave the way for the opportunities we have this century."

For Girl Scout Troop 757 from Randallstown, the reunion was enlightening.

"We learned about women who worked men's jobs even when men thought they couldn't do it," said Raven Robinson, 10.

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