Family lore was that my curmudgeon uncle Robert Heizer, who worked in the World War II Kaiser Richmond shipyards as a steamfitter, bristled at the formal security measures in the yards and pasted a photo of a gorilla on his badge. No one noticed.
Wartime vigilance was nothing to joke at, but workers did. Most of the push back was good natured and harmless, and all of the wartime Kaiser factories only experienced a single documented incidence of outright sabotage.
This cover of the weekly Richmond shipyard magazine treats us to a young guard being surprised by the contents of an older worker’s lunchbox. Note the punched IBM computer card in his pocket.
The “On the cover” description says: “In vivid chalk and charcoal Shipfitter Sam Wainwright of Richmond Shipyard Number One portrays a not too impossible scene stemming from his intimate knowledge of the strange things that sometimes turn up in workmen’s lunchboxes.”
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Kaiser Permanente is on a mission to hire more military veterans and is committed to leveraging veterans’ skills, attributes, and experience to further strengthen our diverse and talented workforce.
A previous history blog described Henry J. Kaiser’s support for World War II military veterans, but the Home Front workers during that war also showed their deep commitment during Memorial Day by taking on additional duties. One example was this news item from the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft, June 8, 1945:
“Mobile blood bank a big success”
They turned the personnel training building in Yard Two into an experimental station last week. That is, it began as an experiment, but it wasn’t very long before everyone realized the idea was a huge success which should be carried into the other yards.
The theory was that if a mobile blood bank unit came into the yard it would be swamped with workers who wanted to donate blood. [But with good planning and logistics it worked out.] On Memorial Day there was a continual line of workers to and from the personnel training building from 8:45 a.m. until 2 p.m.
When the final check was made, 265 pints of blood had been donated. Two hundred and sixty-five pints of blood donated in one day by one yard is a record-breaking figure. It’s also much more than that. It’s life to a great many of our fighting men who might otherwise not ever return from battle fronts.
Bringing this Home Front commitment to the present, Kaiser Permanente plays a leadership role in shaping the future of health care delivery both in America and across the globe. Kaiser Permanente offers a challenging and meaningful career at an organization that values the unique strengths veterans bring to the civilian workforce.
Veterans are encouraged to take that next step and visit the Kaiser Permanente Military Careers site. A Military Skills Translator will assess one’s service experience and recommend appropriate civilian Kaiser Permanente career opportunities, and a Military Talent Community email list offers an additional channel to receive career updates and tailored information.
Kaiser Permanente is not just committed to hiring military talent—it promises to provide newly hired veterans with the resources and training they need to perform successfully in their initial roles and the ongoing support to achieve success.
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Between September 8, 1944, and March 30, 1945, a working class hero comic strip named Supermac ran in the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft. An earlier post explained the evolution and role of this remarkable wartime graphic narrative, complete with the first seven strips. He was the empowered spirit of the home front workforce, appearing in an employee magazine with a circulation of 80,000 copies.
These strips, from November 10, 1944 until the end of the year, carry the story arc through a whirley crane made crazy by loco weed as unwitting part of a sinister German sabotage plot and ends on a hopeful New Year’s note. The home front work force desperately needed that boost – the war was turning, but “Victory in Europe” day would not be until May 8, 1945 and “Victory over Japan” day August 15.
These images are from the digital collection of Fore ‘n’ Afts collaboratively produced by Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the Richmond Museum of History.
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Betty Runyen was the only nurse working for Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician Dr. Sidney Garfield at Contractors General Hospital at the construction site of the Colorado River Aqueduct project serving a growing Southern California, 1933-38. She had recently graduated from nursing school in Los Angeles and was eager to begin a job in her profession during the Great Depression.
Nurse Runyen did not join Dr. Garfield on his next health care project when he partnered with Henry J. Kaiser while building the Grand Coulee Dam in 1938. But Betty Runyen’s skill, dedication, and compassion were significant contributors in the early formation of the comprehensive health care program that we now call Kaiser Permanente.
We honor National Nurses Week (this year it’s May 6-12) with this photo of Nurse Runyen enjoying a well-deserved moment of relaxation from caring for those workers in the remote Mojave desert.
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