Gala guests to fete traveling Rosies; SF Bay Area girls to benefit
By Ginny McPartland
Rosie the Riveters who broke gender barriers to join the World War II production industry 70 years ago leave a legacy that directly influences the career opportunities of today’s young women.
The older (85-plus) generation’s work experience is especially poignant for those who are coming of age in former war town Richmond, California, where many of the youth are disadvantaged and susceptible to questionable life paths.
It’s fitting then that female Kaiser Shipyard workers, six honored in the Obama White House last week, should be feted at the Rosie the Riveter Trust annual fundraising gala, whose main beneficiary is Rosie’s Girls, a career development program whose catchphrase is: Building Strong Girls.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust supports the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in its work to collect and tell the stories of the Home Front and to preserve historical sites in the Bay Area and the nation.
The park is installing permanent educational exhibits at its Visitor’s Education Center in Richmond, which will be unveiled and opened to the public at the end of May.
Restored cannery setting for fundraiser
The fundraising party is set for 6 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the F&P Cannery, 1200 Harbour Bay South, Richmond. The restored cannery is near the Kaiser Shipyard site where workers built 747 cargo ships for the Allied Forces in the 1940s and where the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan was born.
Keynote speaker will be Christina Goldfuss, National Park Service deputy director for Congressional and External Affairs. Ms. Goldfuss, a former staffer on the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, took on her new role in November of 2013.
Goldfuss has also served as director of the Public Lands Project for the Center for American Progress, and she has experience as a television news reporter in California, Nevada and Virginia.
JAC’s Vocal Trio will entertain the gala revelers with World War II era songs, likely including “Smooth Sailing,” the official launching song of the Kaiser Shipyards.
For dinner tickets, contact the Rosie the Riveter Trust.
Also this weekend at the Rosie park:
The SS Red Oak Victory volunteers are cooking up the first Pancake Breakfast of 2014 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday (April 13) on the ship berthed at 1337 Canal Blvd, Berth 6A, Richmond. For information, call 510-237-2933.
The ship volunteers have been working on the Red Oak all winter and they are excited to show off their progress. The breakfast proceeds ($7 per person) will help continue the ship’s restoration. Tours of the ship are offered for an additional $5.
The volunteers’ work is chronicled in a new photo exhibit at the Richmond Harbormaster’s Building. The show is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through April 30.
by Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Healthy living benefits, women’s progress, and nursing history among past year’s blog subjects
In 2013, the quest to bring to light the best episodes in Kaiser Permanente’s history led us to a wide range of topics.
Our blog subjects included World War II Home Front stories, a little known saga about pioneering nurse practitioners in Sacramento, and the highlights of the 60-year career of Kaiser Permanente researcher/physician Morris Collen, MD, who turned 100 this fall.
We covered a special event featuring actor Geena Davis that showcased women, including a few Kaiser Permanente leaders, who overcame gender and ethnic discrimination to achieve success.
We got to unearth little known facts about Henry J. Kaiser’s part in the construction of the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge, and we found buried video assets in our archive to tell the Bay Bridge story in film for the first time.
We were also able to produce a video clip capturing scenes of the medical staff who worked with Sidney Garfield, MD, caring for workers at the Grand Coulee Dam site in Washington State in the 1930s.
Healthy lifestyle promotion has deep roots
In our collaboration with the National Park Service, we enjoyed an opportunity to revisit the surprising benefits of food rationing during World War II. We also carried stories of the Rosie the Riveter Trust and its funding of community projects in Richmond, Calif., including “Rosie’s Girls”, an initiative to motivate girls from low-income families in their career choices.
Also, in Richmond, we participated in the 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr., volunteer day with Urban Tilth, a growing community garden project that harvests a crop of fresh fruits and vegetables for local consumption. Healthy lifestyles also got a push with a blog about the health benefits of walking.
Mining for history nuggets
For Lincoln Cushing, a highlight of the year was the opportunity to interview Jim Gersbach, Senior Hospital Communication Consultant for the Kaiser Permanente Northwest Region.
Gersbach, who was with Kaiser Permanente for 27 years, lived through much of our history and has an amazing understanding of the organization.
The Gersbach interview will find its way into Kaiser Permanente’s collection of its leaders’ oral histories, many developed by UC Berkeley Regional Oral History Office. Here’s a taste of the conversation with Gersbach:
“Having worked (at Kaiser Permanente) for a quarter century, I strangely enough find that I have personal memories about what have now become historical periods of time.
“We’ve been doing this for 20, 30, 40 years, even back in the 1940s. (Looking back on our history), it’s really about asking, “What are (Kaiser Permanente’s) consistent values that don’t change over time?”
Collaborating to tell our story
Over the past year, we’ve collaborated with our partners at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park to help tell the Kaiser Permanente origins story in the permanent museum displays to be unveiled in the spring. In 2014, we will carry stories in our blog about news and events at the budding park.
We also look forward to sharing the stories about the opening of the Oakland Medical Center’s historical displays within the state-of-the-art hospital to open in 2014.
We’ve worked with the medical center staff to congregate assets for dynamic displays to tell the multifaceted 75-year history of Kaiser Permanente, including a section on the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing.
Heritage staff has supplied historical photos and factual material for other publications, including the Kaiser Permanente Procurement and Supply Department’s print newsletter, The Source, which won a national award.
We also contributed to materials developed by the Kaiser Permanente Latino Association and the Labor Management Partnership, which carried several short articles about labor history in the magazine Hank.
Other assets surfacing this year in Kaiser Permanente archives allowed the detailing of Henry J. Kaiser’s role in construction of the Caldecott Tunnel and his pioneering in broadcasting during the 1960s.
We’ve also found material that allowed us to tell tales of Kaiser’s strong personal interest in speedboat racing, and to offer glimpses into his exploits in the manufacture of cars, such as the racing Henry J and the Darrin sports car that caused a stir in the 1950s.
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Fans and benefactors of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park gathered April 13 to get the latest on the park’s outreach programs and additions of artifacts and interpretive displays.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust, which helps support the park, sponsored “Rosies – Then & Now,” a fundraising event that drew about 200 revelers of all ages to the site of the former Kaiser Richmond Shipyards.
Some guests toured the 11-month-old National Park Service Visitor Education Center museum for the first time, and some took in the park’s “Home Front Heroes” film before dinner.
The tone was set early on with the energetic harmonies of the Honeybee Trio, three Vacaville (Calif.) high school girls who performed nostalgic songs from the era, many of those made famous by The Andrews Sisters.
The trio hit the right note with the audience: with five years’ experience on stage, their act is polished and could be mistaken for the original.
In one of their numbers, the Honeybees brought back the irreverent “Six Jerks in a Jeep,” calling on three Richmond girls from the audience to take a seat on stage in an imaginary jeep.
Young Rosies on stage
The selected guest performers are part of “Rosie’s Girls,” a six-week summer program supported by the trust. The program for girls from designated disadvantaged neighborhoods focuses on teaching the students traditionally male skills, such as carpentry, welding and fire fighting, and introduces them to positive female role models they call SHeroes (female heroes).
The girls, Hadassah Williams, 11, Ariel Norwood, 16, and Malaih Ware, 16, took center stage for the evening as modern-day “Rosies,” along with the wartime shipyard Rosies who were honored as well with special introductions.
Another honored guest was Morris Collen, MD, a Kaiser Permanente physician and researcher who started with the medical group in the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards in 1942. Dr. Collen, who spoke a few words at the podium, will celebrate his 100th birthday on Nov. 12.
Lucien Sonder, NPS community outreach specialist, presented a recap of the “Rosie’s Girls” 2012 summer camp; NPS Ranger Matt Holmes gave a report about “Hometown/Richmond,” a year-round park program that helps youth faced with environmental risk factors such as crime, violence and poverty.
Community support for event
The Rosie Trust got support to produce the event from many businesses and individuals in the community. Among the sponsors were: the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders and Blacksmiths, Forger and Helpers, AFL-CIO, and Local 549; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan; Chevron; the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions; Northern California Carpenters Regional Council; The Permanente Federation; and PG&E.
Eddie Orton and the Orton Development company donated the use of the Craneway Conference Center for the evening’s event.
By Ginny McPartland
The California city of Richmond, branded for years as
a community with poverty issues and high crime rates, is making steady progress toward restoring itself as a Bay Area bright spot. Pick any Richmond success story – Urban Tilth, Main Street Initiative, Healthy Richmond – and you can trace its roots to vibrant community groups who see the city’s potential.
One such group is the Rosie the Riveter Trust, a nonprofit association whose focus is to support the programs of the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park established in 2000.
The trust has collaborated with the national park, the city of Richmond, the YMCA, the state of California Cultural and Historic Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, the Richmond Community Foundation, local labor and business groups and others to bring many projects to fruition since the nonprofit’s creation in 1999.
Home front stories highlighted
The Rosie Trust raised funds to obtain recognition in 2003 of Atchison Village, a wartime housing project, as a national historic landmark. The community, built for Kaiser Richmond Shipyard workers in 1942, is still thriving as an affordable housing cooperative.
The nonprofit organization helped arrange funding for the $9 million restoration of the wartime Maritime Child Care Center, which now houses a Richmond College Prep preschool, the Richmond Community Foundation and a national park historical display commemorating the progressive child care available to workers in the Kaiser Shipyards during World War II.
The Rosie Trust has helped to develop educational materials to tell the stories of the home front, including the birth of the Kaiser Permanente prepaid health plan in the wartime shipyards, the role women and minorities played in the workforce, and the development of worker safety principles.
Trust members were integral to the development of the Rosie the Riveter national park Visitor Education Center that opened in 2012 next to the restored Ford Assembly Plant, a popular event venue now called The Craneway. The trust operates the center’s gift shop and book store.
‘Rosie’s Girls’ go to summer camp
For the past four years, the Rosie Trust has supported a six-week working summer camp for Richmond middle school girls who – due to their environment – might take a risky path without guidance. As “Rosie’s Girls,” they spend their summer engaging in activities meant to expose them to positive female role models and to learn traditionally male skills such as carpentry, plumbing, self-defense, and fire fighting.
The camp is free to girls from Richmond neighborhoods that have been designated as disadvantaged. The program has limited space. If interested, contact Lucien Sonder, National Park Service, 510-232-5050.
The camp sponsors include the Rosie Trust, the city of Richmond, the YMCA, the national park and the West Contra Costa County School District, as well as Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente East Bay, Safeway Foundation, Chevron, and Mechanics Bank.
Dinner supports park initiatives
The Rosie Trust Board of Directors hosts an annual dinner each spring to raise funds for its various park projects. This year’s event, “Rosies – Then & Now,” will be held Saturday, April 13, in the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 South Harbour Way, Richmond. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. in the national park visitors’ center; dinner will follow at 7 p.m. in the Craneway Conference Center.
Tickets are $150 per person; sponsorships are available. For more information or to reserve tickets, go to the Rosie the Riveter Trust site and click on “Rosies — Then and Now” or phone the trust office at 510-507-2276.
By Ginny McPartland
It’s not quite ready yet, but a group of proud fans of Richmond, California, got an early tour of the resurrected Ford Company Oil House on the Richmond waterfront Saturday. The industrial brick building that once powered the Ford motor vehicle plant has been morphed into what promises to be a gorgeous visitors’ center for Rosie the Riveter national park. The center is scheduled to open to the public next month.
Evidence that construction crews planned to return after the party to finish their work was everywhere in the three-level renovated space, but no one seemed to care. Partygoers sipped sparkling wine and relished the fulfillment of a decade-old dream.
The Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park was established by an act of Congress in 2000. The National Park Service (NPS), the Rosie the Riveter Trust and many community groups have been working toward the opening of the visitors’ center since that time.
The park encompasses the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards and other World War II sites in the area. The restored Red Oak Victory ship, which houses a museum and gift shop, can be seen across the water from the old Ford plant.
Modern design for historical structure
The Oil House was constructed in 1931 as part of the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant Complex (where tanks were manufactured during World War II). Although not shown in the complex original plans, the style of the building indicates it was designed by Albert Kahn Associates. “The construction, brickwork, industrial metal sash windows and detailing of the building clearly indicate that it was designed by the same architect,” explained the Rosie the Riveter Park Chief of Interpretation Morgan Smith.
“The function of the building was essential to the assembly line operation, housing multiple large oil tanks that fueled the boilers that, in turn, ran the steam powered conveyer system and equipment of the plant.” The lower level of the Oil House was only accessible through a tunnel from the main plant building and from a narrow enclosed ladder from the upper levels.
The Visitor Education Center to open in the refurbished Oil House will feature a theater, classroom and traveling exhibits. The park service’s goal was to create a modern facility yet retain the historical integrity of the original construction.
The reception at the Oil House was a preliminary to the annual Rosie the Riveter Trust Annual Dinner, a fundraiser for the national park. A number of Kaiser Shipyard workers attended the dinner and were recognized from the podium by Diane Hedler of Kaiser Permanente, vice president of the Rosie Trust board. John August, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, was the keynote speaker. Jane Bartke, president of the Rosie Trust board, was chair of the event.
The dinner was staged in the Craneway Pavilion, formerly the Ford Assembly Plant, which was converted into an event space in 2008. Developer Eddie Orton and architect Marcy Wong won an American Institute of Architects national award in 2011 for the restoration of the 40,000-square foot Craneway, which also houses the Boiler House Restaurant.
Photos by Joe Paolazzi
By Ginny McPartland
The Bay Area community of Richmond – birthplace of Permanente medicine – has been bustling this year with activities related to the commemoration of the California city’s role as a World War II shipbuilding hub. The economically depressed and high-crime community is pulling together to create positive change in its image and livability. Recent achievements give its diverse population reason to be proud and to celebrate.
Two major developments – renovation and reopening of the stellar Maritime Child Development Center and significant progress on the conversion of a shipyard oil house into a visitor’s center for the Rosie national park – can be called milestones in the city’s quest for its place in the sun.
These successes are putting smiles on the faces of Richmond’s movers and shakers who have worked for years to bring them to fruition.
The $9 million renovation of the child care center, built in 1943 by Henry Kaiser with federal funds, was a collaboration of many community groups – The Richmond Community Foundation’s Nystrom United Revitalization Effort (NURVE), the city of Richmond, the Rosie the Riveter Trust, Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, Richmond College Prep Schools and West Contra Costa Unified School District. (For more on the preschool program, see “Sounds of children return to Richmond historic child care center” posted here on August 25.)
Local champions play major role
Richmond City Councilman and local architect Tom Butt has been a constant cheerleader for the project for the past six years. Rosie Trust leaders Jane Bartke and Diane Hedler, Kaiser Permanente’s representative on the trust, among others, have been relentless in efforts to secure federal financing for restoration of the national historic landmark. The trust hired its first executive director, Marsha Mather-Thrift, this year to help with its continuing fundraising work to support the park.
The restored center’s future will be celebrated with a grand reopening 10 a.m. Thursday, September 29, at 1014 Florida Avenue (on the corner of Harbour Way). Host Joan Davis, president and chief executive officer of the Richmond Community Foundation whose office is in the center, has invited the public to come to see the jewel of a school inside and out.
The renovation features the reuse of many of the original materials, including the transforming of bunk bed wood into office partitions. The inside also features: the original redwood on the stairways, double banisters – one at a child’s level and one at an adult’s level – as well as the preservation of a fire escape chute intended for the children in the event of a fire. (It was never used and has been closed up at the outdoor end.)
The Maritime center is considered a part of the multi-site Rosie the Riveter national park, and park service curators have created a time warp for visitors to get a glimpse of how the original preschool classrooms looked. The center was the site of an exemplary child care program for the children of Kaiser Richmond Shipyard workers and was considered way ahead of its time.
National park visitor’s center on the horizon
The Rosie park visitor’s center – in discussion stages for several years – is under construction and scheduled to open to the public early next year. With interpretive exhibits, a theater, offices, and a place to meet for tours, the long-awaited center will provide a focus for the far-flung national park.
Established in 2000, the park consists of the Rosie the Riveter Memorial on the Richmond waterfront, the Red Oak Victory ship docked at the former Shipyard 3 off Canal Boulevard, an office in downtown Richmond, the Atchison Village housing tract and community center, the Ford Assembly Plant, known today as the Craneway, and now the Maritime Child Development Center.
The oil house/visitor’s center is adjacent to the beautifully restored Craneway Pavilion, originally the Ford plant designed by the great industrial architect Albert Kahn in 1930. The cavernous structure that once housed a World War II tank factory today hosts weddings, wine-tastings, conferences and festivals. Its owner, local developer Eddie Orton, has won a number of architectural awards for the integrity and impeccability of the restoration.
More good vibes out of Richmond
A number of other developments in the city of Richmond have to be considered positive harbingers for its future:
The Richmond Museum of History, in the old Carnegie Library on Sixth and Nevin, has a new director, Inna Soiguine, who was formerly with the centuries old Russian State Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. Ms. Soiguine has brought wonderful exhibits to the museum, including the current Richmond Day at the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 exhibit and a show of Dorothea Lange World War II Richmond photos opening on October 8. http://www.richmondmuseumofhistory.org/calendar.htm
Revitalization efforts continue
Even though this project was completed in 2009, it bears mentioning for those who haven’t been to Richmond in a while or at all. The bold brick structures known as the Richmond Civic Center have been revitalized and brought up to seismic standards. The remarkable part is that the renovated center, originally imagined by local architect Timothy Pflueger who also designed Oakland’s Paramount Theatre, looks exactly the same as it did in 1949.
The Main Street Initiative, a dynamic Richmond group working to revitalize historic Macdonald Avenue, is always promoting the downtown area and bringing cheerful and uplifting events like the recent Spirit and Soul Festival to the people of the city. The group encourages downtown business development and sponsors workshops for entrepreneurs. http://www.richmondmainstreet.org/
The Macdonald Avenue “Main Street” commercial area has also benefited from the city of Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency’s 2009 streetscape renovation project, including new sidewalks, curbs, light stands, and the placement of “Macdonald Avenue Landmarks” monuments commemorating historic sites on five downtown street corners. The city and other agencies have also helped downtown residents with funding to renovate the Nevin Community Center, which reopened to fanfare in March.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the public is invited to join in a celebration of Richmond’s rich past from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Craneway Pavilion at the south end of Harbour Way. The Fifth Annual Richmond Home Front Festival will feature exhibits sponsored by the National Park Service along with many other historical groups, such as Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the National Archives, Pacific Region staff. Festivalgoers will also be treated to a wide variety of music, food and fun activities. Admission is free. http://rcoc.com/current-events/home-front-festival/
Photos by Ginny McPartland
By Ginny McPartland
The stomp of little feet can again be heard in the halls of the former Maritime Child Development Center in the World War II Home Front city of Richmond, California. After a $9 million restoration project, the hammers have stopped and the children again populate the school whose walls housed a progressive child care program for the pint-sized offspring of Kaiser Shipyard workers.
A neighborhood charter school program designed to radically improve educational success of low-income minority kids opened a new site this month in the renovated Maritime structure. Richmond College Prep Schools, chartered for kindergarten through Grade 6, welcomed two classes of first graders and two classes of kindergarteners on August 11.
The two-story, 1943-built school is located at Florida Street and Harbour Way, a short distance from the former shipyard sites. Richmond College Prep Schools serve families in the Santa Fe and Coronado neighborhoods in the Iron Triangle, an area including Central Richmond known for its high rate of crime.
As a joint venture among Richmond Community Foundation, the Rosie the Riveter national park, and the fundraising Rosie the Riveter Trust, the center also features a museum memorializing the original character of the center. The National Park Service staff has gathered and preserved child-sized tables and chairs, art easels, wooden toys and other artifacts from the World War II Richmond child care centers to re-create an authentic classroom environment.
The interpretive exhibits honor the female shipyard worker – the iconic Rosie the Riveter – and her male counterparts whose efforts contributed vastly to the war effort. The exhibits will also address California’s role in World War II and its impact on civil rights, health care, child care and labor. The park service will offer public tours of the museum beginning this fall.
Renovation project not that smooth
The $9 million restoration of the historic Maritime Child Development Center was funded with federal grants and donations through the Rosie the Riveter Trust and with contributions from the city of Richmond and the West Contra Costa County school district. Rehabilitation, including the use of green techniques to preserve the building’s historic designation, began in the spring of 2010 and was expected to be completed in the spring of 2011.
Unfortunately, the almost 70-year-old building offered unexpected problems. The 17,000-square-foot center was described in 2004 as: “Threatened and endangered, vacant and abandoned, with water damage, not seismically safe, with mold, asbestos and lead-based paint to remove, and not compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.” Add to these problems rain delays and utilities issues and it is no wonder the completion was delayed.
Child development center a historic treasure
At stake was one of the first federally built child service centers to be funded by the U.S. Maritime Commission. The center was established at the behest of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser who ran the four Richmond Shipyards. The workers in Kaiser’s West Coast shipyards in Richmond, California, and Portland, Oregon, set records for building war ships faster than any other yards. Richmond workers completed 747 Liberty and Victory ships during the wartime emergency.
To keep up the pace, Kaiser needed every worker he could get, including women and men of all ages and abilities. For the first time in history, women were performing industrial jobs formerly only done by men. That meant someone needed to take care of the children of the workers, many who had migrated away from their extended families in other regions of the U.S.
Henry Kaiser was not happy with mediocre care for the children. So he hired child care experts from UC Berkeley and elsewhere to develop an educational program and nurturing care program, including medical care, for the children. He funded the centers with federal Lanham Act money allocated for community services for war industry boom towns, such as Richmond, which had grown from a sleepy town of 23,000 people to more than 100,000.
The centers were designed with the advice of Catherine Landreth, a child development expert at UC Berkeley. Landreth recommended indoor and outdoor space for children to get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Music and art were incorporated into the educational program. Children who attended preschool at the Kaiser centers enjoyed warm meals, warm beds and plenty of attention throughout the day. Parents could leave their children while they worked any shift at the shipyards, and hot meals could be purchased at the center and taken home for the family.
Maritime center stayed open for six decades
When the war ended in 1945, federal funds were withdrawn for child care, and most centers across the country closed. In Richmond, however, the parents pleaded with the school district to keep the about 30 Richmond centers open. In the end, the state of California and the local school district funded the centers for many years after the war. The Maritime center and the Ruth Powers Child Development Center nearby on Cutting Boulevard are the only two remaining World War II child care facilities in Richmond. They continued to operate until 2004 with funding from the state of California Department of Education.
Richmond College Prep Schools, run by a private corporation called Richmond Elementary Schools, Inc., continues the tradition of progressive early childhood education at the site. “(Our) educational philosophy is centered on preparing students, beginning at four years of age, to succeed academically and emotionally in a college educational environment. This philosophy requires nurturing the expectations of academic success in families as well as students,” according to the school’s web site.
The Maritime center renovation is part of the Nystrom Urban Re Vitalization Effort (NURVE) that includes the Nystrom School modernization and a new athletic field for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Both projects are around the corner from the Maritime building on Harbour Way.