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park honors war effort
Tribute salutes generation's sacrifices
in a charged time
By Michelle Locke,
Article Launched: 12/31/2007 02:59:04 AM PST
The Rosie the Riveter Memorial in
(Contra Costa Times/Mark DuFrene)
-- Fog drifts over the old shipyard, casting a thin veil over
the bulky shoulders of empty factories.
years ago, these factories hummed, with hundreds of women
welding and hammering and typing and filing as they put
face on the war effort at home.
is the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National
Historical Park, a sprawling tribute to the sacrifices
of a generation located in what was once a wartime boomtown
on the shores of the Bay.
is no more charged period in history -- hate, love, fear,
despair, everything that goes along with a human emotion
is just heightened during a period of war. No one was left
untouched by this experience," said Lucy Lawliss, a National
Parks Service landscape architect and one of the people
working to create the park.
almost waited too late." said Mary Head, now in her mid-80s,
a former Rosie who worked in the
Betty Reid Soskin, a black woman already living in the
Bay Area when World War II started, life on the home front
meant confusion and change.
male and female, were recruited from all over the country
to work in the shipyards, including people from states
where blacks and whites wouldn't be sharing drinking fountains
for another 20 years.
went to work, too, keeping clerical records for the segregated
union set up for black shipyard workers.
days, Soskin tells stories, her own and those of others,
as a community outreach worker for the Rosie the Riveter
hesitates to call herself a "Rosie." She didn't wear a
welder's mask or build tanks or even know much about the
massive effort going on at the
shipyards. At the time, she didn't really feel like she was
part of the war effort, filing cards and making address changes.
looking back, she sees it differently.
you're in the middle of that, you don't have a sense of
what you were involved in, historically. I certainly didn't," she
says. "But now, at 86, I look back, and I can see the pattern
as it swept across the country and can have the pride in
that heroism of the people who suffered through that, who
learned from that."
shipyards produced 747 ships, an enormous effort that required
Roosevelt said everybody go to work and find something
to do. We went in there to work and to win the war and
win we did," said Kate Grant, a former
shipyard welder now living in
Head worked with the welders, knocking off the rough surfaces
and priming paint for the next step of construction. She
was a relief worker, stepping in when someone took a break
or was late.
remembers the work as "greasy and dirty and cold. Honey,
it was cold," she says, her voice drawing out the vowels
carefully down the crumbling steps that lead to the old "galleries," long,
multileveled chambers where hundreds of workers could work
on the same ship at one time, and it's easy to imagine
just how hard and gritty the work was.
with pre-assembled pieces, it was a hand-crafted industry," Lawliss
said. "It required thousands of people doing individual
jobs to assemble this huge thing."
Rosie the Riveter park is a work in progress. A memorial
walkway, flanked by metal structures meant to evoke the
hull of a ship, was dedicated some years ago. Park officials
also were allotted space in a refurbished Ford assembly
plant, a cathedral-like expanse of soaring, glass-paned
walls. They hope to open an exhibit there soon.
get a map and directions to the park's landmarks, such
as a housing development built for shipyard workers and
Shipyard No. 3, home to the USS Red Oak Victory -- which
is being restored by a volunteer group of World War II
those who have visited the park is Rosie Kate Grant, a
former Rosie who recalled her experiences in a telephone
interview from her
was a tack welder and used to go 40 feet down to the bottom
of the ship to lay beads of hot lead on seams. She worked
the graveyard shift, midnight to 8 a.m., getting home in
time to take care of her baby, who was watched at night
by Grant's younger sister.
had two weeks of training and was outfitted with a hood,
goggles, leather pants, gloves and instructions to stay
wrapped up when the acetylene torch was going. She was
careful; she never got burned.
husband, Melvin, joined the Marines and was shipped overseas.
She can laugh now about the can of Spam she sent him as
a care package.
there was a serious side to her work.
said, 'Honey, I feel like I'm building a ship for you to
come home in.'"
IF YOU GO
park visitor center is at
1401 Marina Way South
. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except
major holidays. Call 510-507-2276 for more information, or