By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
World War II history and nostalgia converge with walking and biking opportunities this spring at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front national park in the California community of Richmond, the birthplace of Kaiser Permanente health care.
The park is devoted to memorializing workers who supported the war effort stateside 70 years ago and to tell the stories of all the home front sites across the nation. That includes the women and men who built ships in Henry J. Kaiser’s Richmond and Oregon/Washington shipyards, as well as workers who built warplanes in Long Beach, Calif., Higgins boats in New Orleans, and aircraft and war munitions in many other American ports and cities.
New home front movie
It is fitting, then, that the Rosie the Riveter national park recently debuted a new documentary that was filmed in many home front cities. The 24-minute film highlights the contributions of three individuals and traces their wartime lives through diaries, letters, oral histories and photographs. More than 75 people were interviewed for the film.
The documentary boasts its own original musical score by composer John Califra. One of the filming locations was aboard Richmond’s S.S. Red Oak Victory, which is owned by the Richmond Museum of History and is docked at the Richmond Kaiser Shipyard No. 3.
“The War at Home” has been added to the Visitors Education Center’s repertoire of films and is shown throughout the day, alternating in the center’s theater with Richmond’s own “Home Front Heroes” film. “Blossoms and Thorns,” a film about the Japanese-American internment during WWII, is shown on Thursdays.
The Rosie park visitor center, opened in May 2012 in the restored brick oil house, offers a variety of special interpretive programs, both indoors and out.
A WWII trading cards program, launched in January in Richmond, encourages kids and families to visit the park to earn free cards that are part of the national 550-card “Civil War to Civil Rights” series.
Eight new trading cards, highlighting social change that stems from the Richmond and Port Chicago naval station wartime experiences, have been added to the collection.
History and healthy living as one
In tandem with the city of Richmond’s campaign to get people to exercise, the national park and its partners offer ways to enjoy the park while keeping fit. The park periodically offers a two-mile bike tour along the flat Marina Bay Trail that stretches from the visitor center to the Shimada Friendship Park. Eight interpretive exhibits, including the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, dot the landscape along the trail.
Richmond leads Bay Area communities with 31 miles of the San Francisco Bay Trail, which is planned to be a 500-mile network of hiking, walking and biking trails around San Francisco and San Pablo bays. The city of Richmond, East Bay Regional Park District, and local community groups have made the Richmond trail a reality. The national park recently installed new bike racks at its visitor center to encourage bikers to stop and take part in the park’s activities.
The national park cut the ribbon on a new two-mile section of the Bay Trail last year. The Ferry Point Loop/Shipyard 3 Bay Trail stretches from the docked S.S. Red Oak Victory to Canal Boulevard with an interpretive overlook halfway along with a view of the old shipyard buildings. The Bay Trail continues along Canal Boulevard to West Cutting Boulevard and then to South Garrard and the Richmond Plunge, the city’s restored and operating indoor swimming pool.
The national park will offer the following events in coming months:
- Tours of the restored WWII Maritime Child Care center (1014 Florida Ave.), Friday, March 22, and Thursday, April 18, and showing of “Caring for Rosie’s and California’s Children” and discussion May 18.
- A nostalgic Saturday afternoon sing-along of gospel, pop and patriotic songs from the 1930s and 1940s, March 30. Live music by the Tin Hat Tunesters
- Showing of “Port Chicago Naval Magazine History,” April 6, and “From a Silk Cocoon,” the Japanese-American home front story, April 27, in the visitor’s center theater
- A city bus tour led by park ranger Betty Soskin focusing on the African-American home front experience, April 19
- Ranger-led trail talks about civilians’ home front contributions, March 20, 24, and April 3, 14, 17 and 28.
Learn more about the national park on Facebook.
If you’d like to help keep the Richmond national park thriving, here’s an opportunity. The Rosie the Riveter Trust is sponsoring the 2013 Rosies Then & Now Dinner on April 13 to raise funds for the park.
To learn about the overall benefits of walking and light exercise: view Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson’s “The Gift of Walking” video by everybodywalk.org.