Posts Tagged ‘Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park’

San Francisco Bay Trail turns walking/bicycling into cultural experiences

posted on May 23, 2014

After 25 years, 500-mile project
boasts 355 miles of trekking track;
celebrates milestone Saturday

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

sf-bay-trail-richmond-2

San Francisco Bay Trail, Richmond

Walking is good for just about everything that ails you, whether you’re young, old, or in between. Tomorrow (May 24) the San Francisco Bay Trail celebrates 25 years of encouraging residents and visitors to get out and use their feet to see the bay and all its natural treasures up close.

The Bay Trail celebration coincides with the unveiling of new exhibits at the Rosie the Riveter National Park’s Visitor Education Center. The joint party will be on the waterfront in Richmond, Calif., beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Fittingly, the Bay Trail organization is releasing its new smartphone application, Point, simultaneously, The mobile app will allow visitors to log in and get a narrated tour of 17 points of interest along the 2.5 miles of the trail adjacent to the Rosie park.

The Richmond Bay Trail smartphone audio tour, first in a series to be released for Point this summer, starts at the Visitor Education Center at 1414 South Harbour Way, Richmond, and ends at the Shimada Friendship Park.

Mobile interpretive tours will be released for trails along the Napa River near American Canyon and for Alviso and Novato sites.

The San Francisco Bay Trail Project, begun in 1989, is a planned 500-mile walking and bicycling trail. When completed, the trail will encircle the entire San Francisco Bay and will link the shorelines of all nine Bay Area counties, 47 cities and all seven major toll bridges in the region.

So far, 355 miles have been completed and provide access to points of historic, natural and cultural interest, as well as 130 parks and wildlife preserves totaling 57,000 acres of open space.

One of the new exhibits in the Rosie the Riveter visitors center: Rosie takes a break for lunch. Photo by Ginny McPartland

One of the new exhibits in the Rosie the Riveter visitors center: Rosie takes a break for lunch. Photo by Ginny McPartland

After the ceremonies, beginning at 11 a.m., visitors can enjoy a tour of the new Visitor Center exhibits, and participate in a scavenger hunt with great prizes and a WWII-era costume contest. Food will be available for sale and there will be live music.

For directions to the event, see this link: www.nps.gov/rori/planyourvisit/directions.htm

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VP Biden plays host to women who worked in wartime shipyards

posted on March 27, 2014

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

Marian and Loyd Wynn, 1944

Marian and Loyd Wynn, 1944. Marian worked as a pipe welder in the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards during WWII.

Six San Francisco Bay Area women will represent female World War II defense workers across the nation when they travel next week to Washington, D.C., to be honored by Vice President Joe Biden.

Thousands of American women, as teenagers and young adults 70 years ago, stepped out of their traditional roles during World War II to build ships, aircraft and other war materiel crucial to Allied victory in 1945. Like the men who fought the war, the ranks of defense workers are thinning out more every day.

Phyllis Gould, 92, a welder in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards in the 1940s, resolved six years ago to arrange for a group of Rosies to go to the White House. Following Gould’s relentless letter-writing campaign, they’re leaving Saturday and will meet Biden in his office on Monday.

Here are brief biographies of the women making the trip:

Priscilla Elder, 93, an electrician in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards, was the third of 11 children raised in Iowa. Priscilla followed her older sister to Richmond after her husband was drafted and sent to fight in Europe with the Third Army under Gen. George S. Patton.

Her twin sister followed Priscilla to California, and they both were hired as electricians to wire circuit boxes on troop transport ships built at Kaiser Shipyard No. 3. Priscilla’s 22-month-old son attended the Maritime Child Development Center, which was renovated in 2010 and reopened as a preschool.

Journeyman welder Kay Morrison, 2014

Journeyman welder Kay Morrison, 2014

Kay Morrison, 90, a native of Chico, Calif., came to Richmond with her carpenter husband in 1941 to find work. Her husband Ray was hired right away in Shipyard No. 2. She wanted to become a welder but at first she couldn’t get a job because the Boilermakers Union was not yet accepting women.

In 1943, she was hired as a welder and worked the graveyard shift in Shipyard No. 3 with her husband. The couple lived in San Francisco and commuted to Richmond by ferry. After three months, she took the test to become a journeyman (proficient) welder.

After the war, Ray continued his work in shipbuilding and Kay eventually went to work at Bank of America where she was employed for 30 years and retired in 1984 as bank manager.

Priscilla

Priscilla Elder, electrician in Kaiser Richmond Shipyards during World War II.

Marian Sousa, 88, a draftsman in the Engineering Department, is Phyllis Gould’s younger sister. She came down to Richmond from Eugene, Ore., to take care of Phyllis’s young son. After graduating from high school, she took a drafting course at UC Berkeley and was hired to make blueprint revisions at Shipyard No. 2.

Another sister, Marge, arrived later and got a job as a welder; the girls’ mother, Mildred, followed later when her husband, a career military man, was posted to Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg, Calif.  She put her youngest daughter in child care and went to work at the shipyards as a painter.

Phyllis and her husband bought a house in San Pablo that, though small, housed the whole extended family. The beds were in use around the clock as family members alternately slept and worked a shift at the shipyards.

Marian Wynn, 87, like Priscilla Elder, was the third child in a family of 11 raised in the Midwest. Her father migrated from Minnesota to Richmond, Calif., in 1942 to become an electrician lead man in Kaiser Shipyard No. 3. She wanted to follow her father right away but agreed to wait until she finished high school.

After graduation, she traveled by bus to Richmond and was hired as a pipe welder in West Storage in Shipyard No. 3. After the war, she didn’t return to Minnesota because she met and married her husband, a Navy man stationed at Treasure Island near San Francisco.

Journeyman welder Agnes Moore, 2014

Journeyman welder Agnes Moore, 2014

Agnes Moore, 94, grew up on a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, the sixth of seven children. She came to California in 1942 to visit her brother and sister. While driving in San Francisco, she heard a radio advertisement for shipyard workers.

“Women, do something for your country. Go to Richmond shipyard and become a welder,” she recalls the radio announcer saying. The ad spurred her to drive over to Richmond and apply. She was hired in 1942, and in 1943 she passed the test to become a journeyman welder. Agnes worked in the shipyard until the end of the war in 1945, longer than the average Rosie.

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Interned Japanese artist’s work shown at Rosie the Riveter national park

posted on February 19, 2014
Sunset, Water Tower, Topaz, March 10, 1943, by Chiura Obata

Sunset, Water Tower, Topaz, March 10, 1943, by Chiura Obata

Kimi Kodani Hill, granddaughter of artist Chiura Obata and author of a book of his paintings, will show Obata’s work and tell his story in a special event at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park this Saturday, Feb. 22.

The free event begins at 3 p.m. at the Visitors Education Center at the former site of the Kaiser Shipyards on the waterfront in Richmond, Calif.

Obata and his family were among the Japanese-Americans removed from their homes and incarcerated during World War II under Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.  The Obata family was interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Central Utah.

The national park event was scheduled to coincide with the 72nd anniversary of the Executive Order’s issuance, marked as the annual “Day of Remembrance” for the Japanese-American community.

Obata taught art at UC Berkeley

The artist was trained in Japan in the traditional form of sumi-e (ink painting). He came to California in 1903 at the age of 18 and made his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He taught in the art department at the University of California at Berkeley beginning in 1932 and after the war until 1955.

Obata cultivated a life-long reverence for nature as a powerful spiritual force that inspired both his art and his life. He has gained recognition among art lovers and art historians, especially during the past several years.

His paintings are in collections of the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

His two distinct bodies of work have been published in “Obata’s Yosemite” (1993) and “Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment” (2000). Executive Order 9066 empowered the Secretary of War to “prescribe military areas . . . from which any or all persons may be excluded. . . .”

This broad power enabled the forced removal of more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent living in California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

Immigrants from Japan, as well as their American-born children who were citizens, were subjected to forced incarceration in desolate camps for the duration of the war.

The Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, Richmond.

For more information and directions, you may call (510) 232-5050, ext. 0 or visit our Web site.

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Bobbie Kaiser: Carrying on Kaiser family community traditions

posted on November 14, 2013
Bobbie Kaiser, widow of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., in "Rosie's Corner" at 2010 Home Front Festival in Richmond, Calif.

Bobbie Kaiser, widow of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., in “Rosie’s Corner” at 2010 Home Front Festival in Richmond, Calif. Photo by Ginny McPartland

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

I want to say goodbye to a gracious and remarkable woman who helped carry the Henry J. Kaiser legacy forward into the 21st Century. Barbara Kaiser, the widow of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., passed away in late September.

Barbara “Bobbie” Kaiser was married to Henry J. Kaiser’s second son, Henry, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1944 and died in 1961 at age 44 despite his father’s best efforts to find a cure.

Bobbie, as she liked to be called by everyone, survived her husband by more than 50 years.

In those years, she continued the Kaiser involvement in community affairs, helped to found a thriving Episcopal congregation in Oakland, Calif., and supported the celebration of Henry J. Kaiser’s epic history of shipbuilding during World War II in Richmond, Calif.

She also branched out on her own as an apprentice architect studying in the 1970s at the famed Frank Lloyd Wright school at Taliesin West, Arizona.

Getting to know Bobbie

Bobbie and me blog

Bobbie Kaiser and Ginny McPartland. Photo by Karen E. Lyons

For a few months in 2010, my life intersected with Bobbie’s, and I shall always remember her as the woman who – accustomed to a chauffeur-driven limousine – didn’t mind riding in my VW Beetle, invited me for lunch and explained to me how Cobb Salad came about.

She knew about Cobb Salad’s legendary origin at the famous Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles because she was there, along with others who moved in Hollywood circles.

Barbara Preininger was working as a stewardess and assistant to entertainer Dennis Day when she met Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. They married in 1947. At the time, Henry was managing the Kaiser-Frazer division of the Kaiser Motors Corporation.

The couple lived for a time in one of the Kaiser Community Homes in Panorama City. In 1951, they moved to Oakland and Henry was responsible for the Kaiser Companies public relations program. In 1952 they had a son, Henry J. Kaiser, III, who has become a musician and filmmaker.

I met Bobbie through Kaiser Permanente Heritage Director Bryan Culp who knew her from the St. John’s Episcopal congregation. He suggested I contact her about the upcoming Home Front festival in Richmond to invite her to come along as our guest. She was delighted.

As it turned out, Bobbie and I were neighbors, so I just had to swing by to pick her up from the senior citizens building where she lived. When I got there, the doorman escorted her out to the car. She was dressed fabulously.

In a lovely, rich red wrap, black pants and top with beaded fringe about the bottoms and stylish shoes. She was sporting a gorgeous straw hat – a trademark for Bobbie – and her face was beaming from underneath it.

Betsy and Bobbie manhattan 11-2010

Elizabeth Sandel, MD, and Bobbie Kaiser in 2010 with the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan at the Kaiser Permanente Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo, Calif.

At the festival, the National Park Service rangers greeted her with reverence and invited her to sit in “Rosie’s Corner,” an area approximating a 1940s parlor, for photographs. Later she browsed the festival booths on her own, seeming to read every word on historical displays. She took every opportunity to speak to festival-goers and staffers throughout the day.

Relishing the fruit of her labor

A few weeks later, the Heritage team, led by former director Tom Debley, and Elizabeth Sandel, MD, took Bobbie on a tour of the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo, Calif. Sandel was chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the center, which moved in 2010 to a new, totally updated building.

Bobbie’s visit to the rehab center could not have been more relevant. She played a significant role in the development of the early techniques used at the first center, which was established in 1946 to treat her husband and others who had neuromuscular diseases.

With an opportunity to speak with the rehab staff, Bobbie described the regimen she used every day to help her husband get through the day. “Every morning, we would fill the bathtub with ice and Henry would get in . . . it really helped,” she recalled. “If we were traveling we’d ask the hotel to bring us buckets of ice.”

Again, Bobbie illustrated her keen curiosity by viewing up close many of the art pieces in the center. She talked to patients and told them the story of her husband and her familiarity with rehab therapies.

She had a chance to see the two gyms for rehab patients and the outdoor patio with steps for patients to practice their mobility skills. She posed with the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan automobile that sits on the grounds and is used to teach patients to transfer from wheelchair to car.

Bobbie with husband Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., son of industrialist and co-founder of Kaiser Permanente

Bobbie with husband Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., son of industrialist and co-founder of Kaiser Permanente Henry J. Kaiser, Sr., circa 1960.

Dr. Sandel confirms that the icing method is still used in the rehab center. A trained oral historian, Dr. Sandel, now retired, planned to interview Bobbie but never had the opportunity due to Bobbie’s recent illness.

The last time I saw Bobbie it was pouring rain. She invited me to visit her home for an interview. I went with her to the hairdresser’s shop in her building and then to the dining room for lunch. She was kind and non-demanding of all the people we encountered and before I left, she realized the gift shop had closed before she could get a fellow resident a birthday gift. “Oh, I guess I’ll just walk over to (the market),” she said frowning at the rain.

Every day as I walk by Bobbie’s long-time residence I think of her – her wondrous hats, her smiles, her curiosity – and I wish I’d met her sooner.

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Rosie the Riveter’s tough image morphs to fit the times

posted on October 11, 2013

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

This poster, developed by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Electric in 1943, hardly saw the light of day until rediscovered long after the war ended. Wikipedia photo

This poster, developed by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Electric in 1943, hardly saw the light of day until rediscovered long after the war ended. Wikipedia image.

Iconic ‘Rosie’ poster gets new life as a symbol of empowerment of women in 21st century

The “We Can Do It!” poster depicting the no-nonsense woman wearing a red polka-dotted bandana with her arm raised and flexed is a familiar sight in 2013. It’s been so embraced in recent years that you might assume it to be the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter that was known and revered during World War II.

But your assumption would be wrong.  This poster, created by Pittsburg commercial artist J. Howard Miller, enjoyed limited circulation during the war and only emerged from obscurity recently as a symbol of women’s empowerment.

For recent generations, the image has represented the quest by women for equal rights and pay at work, equal status with their male counterparts at home, as well as equality under the law.

Rosie the Riveter was the idealized, patriotic woman who gave up domestic life to face the hard knocks of the heavy industrial workplace. More than 6 million American women took traditionally male jobs in the manufacturing of war machines, weapons and munitions to replace the male workers who were called to the battlefield.

War information office creates first image

Rosie is a legend and, as with most legends, her character is a blend of various inspirational women, real and imagined. During World War II she was the “Liberty Girl,” “Their Real Pin-up Girl” and the patriotic girl who produced battle materiel, gladly purchased war bonds to support the Allied forces, and did without rationed items, such as sugar and nylon stockings.

The powerful female image of Rosie was developed under the auspices of the War Production Board to inspire patriotic behavior. The government circulated thousands of posters and fliers that enticed all Americans to take a part in supporting the war effort.

Giving the female war worker the name of “Rosie” probably started with a newspaper story about Rosalind P. Walter, an aircraft factory worker in New York.

Rosie song spawns fascination

The Rosie the Riveter song inspired Norman Rockwell's version of Rosie. Wikipedia image

The Rosie the Riveter song inspired Norman Rockwell’s version of Rosie. Wikipedia image.

Rosalind (P. Walter), today a philanthropist behind many PBS programs, came from a wealthy Long Island family, and went to work on the night shift right out of high school.  The daughter of Carleton Palmer, the president of the pharmaceutical company E.R. Squibb, Rosalind work life inspired songwriters Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb to tell her story in song.

Their creation, “Rosie the Riveter” included the lines: “She’s making history, working for victory,” “That little frail can do more than a male can do.” The Four Vagabonds and swing band leader Kay Kyser both recorded popular versions of the song.

Norman Rockwell, the darling of pop culture illustrators at the time, selected dental hygienist Mary Doyle as the model to give a face to the girl in the song. Rockwell’s healthy, muscular “Rosie” appeared on the cover of the 1943 Memorial Day issue of the popular Saturday Evening Post.

With this exposure, Rockwell’s image of Rosie captured America’s imagination. On the other hand, Miller’s “We Can Do It!” was not associated directly with Rosie the Riveter and was seen by only a few, mostly workers in Westinghouse Electric Co. factories.

Miller used a wire service photo of Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a temporary metal presser in a defense factory in Inkster, Mich., for Rosie’s image. The poster was on display for only a few weeks in February 1943.

Variations of Rosie emerge on Home Front

Other variations of “Rosie” appeared on the Home Front, including Rose Will Monroe, a riveter in Ford’s B-24 Liberator bomber plant in Willow Run, Mich. She was discovered on the job by actor Walter Pigeon and became the star of a government war bonds promotion film. Monroe, a poor widow from rural Kentucky, became a pilot after the war.

Norman Rockwell's version of Rosie as strong, muscular and proud. Wikipedia image

Norman Rockwell’s version of Rosie as strong, muscular and proud. Wikipedia image

Miller’s straightforward depiction of Rosie was later recognized by art historians as they researched material in the National Archives, long after America’s love affair with tough working women ended and Rosie returned to the kitchen.

In 1982, it was featured in an article on patriotic posters in Washington Times Magazine, on the cover of Modern Maturity in 1984 and the Smithsonian Magazine in 1994.

In 1999, a U. S. postage stamp featuring Miller’s image seemed to cement the connection between Rosie and “We Can Do It!”

In 2000, the National Park Service opened a historical park in Richmond, Calif., on the site of four of Henry J. Kaiser’s wartime shipyards. Thousands of women of all races helped to build 747 ships between 1942 and 1945 in the Richmond yards.

Appropriately, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park staff chose the “We Can Do It!” image for its promotional materials and recently added a new version that features a black Rosie.

In recent decades, feminist writers and historians have identified women’s wartime work as a great precedent for the role of woman in the modern workforce. They’ve rediscovered Miller’s formerly obscure poster and grafted the powerful “We Can Do It!” visual to their cause.

 

All Rosies will be honored on Saturday, Oct. 12, at the 7th Annual Home Front Festival in the Craneway Pavilion at 1414 South Harbour Way on the Richmond (California) waterfront. Anyone who worked in war industry is welcome to the Rosie the Riveter Reunion and Photo Shoot at 1 p.m. in the pavilion.

The Home Front event includes live music, historical displays, artisan booths, activities for kids and families, free duck boat rides, tours of the restored SS Red Oak Victory Ship and food and drink. Admission is free.

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Image of Rosie broadens to embrace African-American women

posted on August 2, 2013

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

Black women find new opportunities to elevate work status on the World War II Home Front 

black-rosie-cropped

The National Park Service has adopted this updated image of “Rosie the Riveter” for a poster and T-shirt.

The colorful portrait of a strong, confident and savvy black woman on an updated version of what has become known as the ubiquitous Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” poster packs a powerful message about African-American progress.

The actual image of “Rosie the Riveter” appeared on a Norman Rockwell cover of a 1943 Saturday Evening Post. This is more accurately the “We Can Do It!” image, which also featured a strong working woman, originally a poster by J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse.

Like all American women who charged into munitions and war vehicle manufacturing, black women took advantage of the opportunity to improve their lot. Many left the cotton fields of the South and the domestic service of well-off white families everywhere to answer the call to staff the war industries.

They got jobs in every industry, every region, and at almost every level of expertise.  Educated black women took part in technical aspects of building and repairing precision instruments and performed other skilled tasks.

Of the 1 million African-Americans who entered paid service for the first time during World War II, about 600,000 were women.

Gender barrier difficult to breach

It was tough for “the gentler sex” of all races to break through the gender barrier to perform heavy industrial jobs that were well paying, albeit temporary, during World War II. For black women, whose work status was even lower than most other women, racism made the row even rougher to hoe.

But in the end, they could proudly assert: “We did it!”

Kathryn Blood, a researcher for the Department of Labor, studied the contribution of black women to the war effort and issued her report in April of 1945.

“Working with men and women of every other national origin, the contribution [of black women] is one which this nation would be unwise to forget or evaluate falsely,” Blood wrote.

Black women excel in technical roles

Black women made up a large proportion of the female work force during World War II. They handled many technical and skilled jobs in America's war industries.

Black women made up a large proportion of the female work force during World War II. They handled many technical and skilled jobs in America’s war industries.

Blood described the recruiting of black women in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942: “A [black] girl received a grade of 99, the highest rating of any of the 6,000 women who took the civil service examination for navy-yard jobs. She and another [black] girl who also showed special aptitude for work with precision instruments were assigned to the division where binoculars, telescopes and range finders are reconditioned.”

Blood called out the black women who were assigned to the technical laboratory jobs in the Army Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Md.: “The girls employed in the ballistics laboratory were college graduates, and all had a background of high mathematics. . . .The [black] girls in the Aberdeen laboratories ‘proved very satisfactory.’ ”

A foreman in an electrical-repair department of a large eastern airline field told Blood, “One of the best men in my shop” is a [black] girl.”

1942 Rosie poster gets a facelift

Updating of the Rosie the Riveter poster, originally designed by J. Howard Miller in 1942, is the work of Richard Black, artist for the Shotgun Players of Berkeley, Calif., who in 2009 presented a play about black women who worked in Henry J. Kaiser’s Richmond (California) shipyards during World War II.

Besides changing Rosie into an African-American, Black also gave her a welder’s shield over her bandanna, like those worn by many female workers at the Richmond shipyards.

Richard Black designed this poster as a promotion for a 2009 play presented by the Shotgun Players of Berkeley, Calif.

Rich Black designed this poster as a promotion for a 2009 play presented by the Shotgun Players of Berkeley, Calif.

Black revised the poster to use as promotion for the work titled “this world in a woman’s hands.” The play was written by Marcus Gardley, whose grandmother was a “Rosie” in Richmond.

Gardley, a native of Oakland, Calif., is a graduate of the Yale Drama School and has taught playwriting and African-American studies at Amherst University in Massachusetts. He is a visiting lecturer in playwriting at Brown University.

T-shirt honors black Rosies

In 2009, the Shotgun Players gave special performances at the Nevin Community Center in Richmond as a gift to the children of the Iron Triangle, a section designated by the city as “disadvantaged.” Many children of the Iron Triangle are descendants of the original black Rosies.

Recently, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park made the updated poster into a T-shirt that is sold in the park’s Visitor Education Center gift shop in Richmond. “They are just flying out the door,” says park ranger Betty Reid Soskin, who worked in a Jim Crow union office at the shipyards during the war and consulted with Gardley in his research for the play.

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Rosie the Riveter patrons pay tribute to WWII home front “SHeroes”

posted on April 17, 2013

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

The Honeybee Trio, an Andrews-Sisters-style singing act, bring three Richmond, Calif., “Rosie’s Girls” on stage to perform WWII-era favorite “Six Jerks in a Jeep.” From left to right: back row, Sarah McElwain, Karli Bosler, Natalie Angst, front row, Malaih Ware, Ariel Norwood, and Hadassah Williams. KP Heritage photo.

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.

The Honeybee Trio, from Vacaville, Calif., is made up of three Will C. Wood High School girls: from left, Sarah McElwain, Karli Bosler and Natalie Angst. KP Heritage photo.

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.

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Spruced up SS Red Oak Victory ship comes home to Richmond

posted on November 16, 2011

Old Shipyard No. 3 Ford truck comes
back home to Bay Area waterfront

champagne-burst

Marian Sauer, matron of honor, cracked the champagne bottle across the replica bow of the Red Oak Victory.

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

Plenty has been happening lately at the site of the World War II Kaiser Richmond Shipyards where the decade-old Rosie the Riveter national park is taking shape. Maybe the most exciting event for the community and history buffs was the recent return and the ceremonial relaunch of the SS Red Oak Victory ship.

The ship, built in 1944 in the Richmond shipyards, was greeted by a small enthusiastic crowd when it returned from BAE Systems dry dock in San Francisco where it got a major facelift. The Red Oak was towed back across the bay on Oct. 14, just one day before the annual Home Front Festival, an event celebrated both on the ship and at the Craneway Pavilion just across the channel.

The Home Front festival honors workers who helped build ships in Henry Kaiser’s WWII Richmond shipyards. The shipyard’s medical care program for workers and their families was the genesis of today’s Kaiser Permanente Health Plan.

Old recovered shipyard fire truck part of the fun

Arriving almost simultaneously on the Red Oak dock was a newly recovered shipyard wartime fire truck found by chance in Spanish Fork, Utah. The Richmond Museum of History, savior of the Red Oak from the Mothball Fleet 13 years ago, is also sponsoring the restoration of the long-lost Ford fire truck, which the museum purchased and volunteer Anthony D’Ambrosio of Potenza Transport towed back to Richmond.

The fire truck still sports the original, yet time-worn, shipyard designation: “Kaiser Co. Inc., Richmond Shipyard No.3, but the interior, engine and other moving parts are in pretty bad shape. Lois Boyle, president of the Richmond Museum Association, estimates the relic can be restored for about $5,000, funds the association hopes to collect from donors.

The community excitement over the Red Oak’s restored grandiosity gave rise to its Veterans’ Day rechristening attended by an audience of about two hundred. Guests climbed the gangplank to the deck and descended the steel ladders to squeeze into the ship’s former cargo hold that today houses a gift shop and museum.

truck front

Shipyard No. 3 fire truck has been towed back to the dock from Spanish Fork, Utah

The crowd made up of veterans, former shipyard workers, museum volunteers, local dignitaries and lovers of history were entertained by color guards, World War II singers and a reenactment of the ship’s blessing.

Marie Sauer, a Rosie and the day’s matron of honor, shattered the ceremonial champagne bottle over a flag-draped replica of the Red Oak bow, exploding the bubbly over herself and revelers standing nearby. Chevron Oil Company, whose wartime role in Richmond parallels the shipyards, hosted a buffet lunch following the ceremony.

More chances to visit park

If you missed the recent doings at the Richmond waterfront, you still have a chance to experience the Rosie park and the Red Oak Victory ship in upcoming events. A Vision for Victory ship tour, conducted by museum volunteers, is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3. You can also take a bus tour of the far-flung historic park with ranger Betty Soskin on Saturdays, Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.

Park rangers also conduct Wednesday and Saturday afternoon tours of the newly restored Maritime Child Development Center at Florida Avenue and Harbour Way in Richmond, also part of the Rosie park. An upcoming tour is scheduled for Dec. 17.  You need to make a reservation for the school tour and the bus tour. For more information, call 510-232-5050, ext. 0, or go to www.nps.gov/rori.

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Photos by Ginny McPartland

For more about the Red Oak Victory go to: http://www.richmondmuseumofhistory.org/.

 

 

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New novel tracks lives of fictional Kaiser Shipyard Rosies

posted on October 11, 2011

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

Dorothea Lange photo on the cover of “Wax”

At first glance, one would think the newly released novel “Wax” is about women working in the West Coast shipyards during World War II. Famed photographer Dorothea Lange’s powerful photo of proud, bold “girls” stomping through the yard implies a story about their struggles and triumphs in that setting.

Once inside, however, the reader pretty quickly understands that the stories to be told play out far from the shipyards. Three young women who met in Henry J. Kaiser’s Richmond Shipyards in 1943 formed friendships that endured for decades. The “Rosies” earned a bit of freedom and independence that they would refuse to relinquish when they returned home.

First-time novelist Therese Ambrosi Smith says she wrote the book about “Rosie the Riveter” to spark an interest among today’s young people, especially girls. Rosie national park Ranger Elizabeth Tucker turned Smith on to actual Rosie oral histories, and the would-be author was off on her quest.

World War II’s sociological impacts explored

Smith proclaims the novel’s premise on the front cover: “Pearl Harbor Changed Everything.” Historians know this fact, and they have written millions of words about the social, economic and political effects of World War II.

Author Therese Ambrosi Smith

Smith’s approach is to place a spotlight on personal lives. She creates three main characters, Tilly Bettencourt from a small town near Half Moon Bay, California; Doris Jura from Pittsburg, PA, both in their early 20s; and slightly older Sylvia Manning, 32, from Kansas City. She shows a smattering of their shipyard employment experiences and then places them back in their peacetime lives. These war-time experiences will color all they do from then on.

Author Smith takes the theme of women’s independence full bore as the young women return home and establish a candle factory on their own. (Yes, that’s where the book title comes from!) Such a bold move had seemed impossible before the war. Despite obstacles, Doris and Tilly’s dream comes to fruition.

Life lessons learned in the shipyards

Other life lessons are to be learned as well. At the shipyards, the girls awaken to the idea that blacks should be treated equally with whites. Smith writes of Tilly’s encounter with a caring black coworker who helps her to the clinic when she receives a serious eye injury and is temporarily blind.

Later, Tilly ponders the experience: “I don’t know why,” she (Tilly) told Doris, “but this whole thing has rattled me. I mean being helped by a colored.” Smith as narrator explains: “There weren’t any coloreds in Montara or Moss Beach; she had no history with them.”

Tilly then comes to the realization: “The work was dangerous and difficult, and everyone who did it, regardless of color or background, was helping to win the war. They were all in it together.”

Doris chimes in with: “I feel like we are seeing the world up close here. It looks different.”

The racial theme doesn’t play out when the girls return home after the war. But another issue – sexual orientation – looms large for Tilly. Feeling attraction to other women, the beautiful Tilly has to fight off the eligible bachelors of her home town. She lives in her own personal hell as her parents and others push her toward marriage. In a 1940s world, she has no idea where to turn for help or understanding.

Although this book is fairly light on the historical significance of the Rosie experience, I enjoyed it. The characters are creditable and the description of the settings took me there. At times, I felt like I was sitting in Tilly’s uncle’s comfortable café perched on the coast near Half Moon Bay.

The Red Oak Victory has been renovated and will be open for the Home Front Festival Oct. 15

More about Rosies at the Home Front Festival Saturday October 15

Learn more about the Rosie experience from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday at the Fifth Annual Home Front Festival in the Craneway Pavilion at the southern end of Harbour Way in Richmond, California. Admission is free.

Area historical societies, the Rosie national park and the Pacific Region of the National Archives will have exhibits and information to share with visitors. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources will have displays highlighting the pioneering medical staff who launched the Permanente Medical Care Program in the Kaiser Shipyards during the war.

The Red Oak Victory, a World War II ship built at the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards, will be open on Saturday for visitors to tour. The ship, owned by the Richmond Museum of History, is just returning to the shipyard Friday from dry dock where it has received an extensive renovation.

Lena Horne helped launch the SS George Washington Carver in Richmond, May 1943

Historian Steve Gilford will debut his new book on Saturday aboard the ship. Gilford will be signing the book, “Build ‘Em by the Mile, Cut ‘Em off by the Yard, How Henry Kaiser and the Rosies helped Win World War II,” from 2 to 4 p.m. on the ship. Shuttles will ferry visitors between the Craneway and the Red Oak.

Lena Horne tribute at USO Dance Friday, Oct. 14

The Home Front party actually starts on Friday night with the Rosie the Riveter 1940s USO Dance, featuring a tribute to Lena Horne, also in the Craneway Pavilion. Robin Gregory will play the role of the legendary singer. Also on the bill are the Singing Blue Stars, Junius Courtney’s Big Band and the dance group Swing or Nothing!

 

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Richmond rejuvenation champions enjoy fruits of their labor

posted on September 24, 2011

Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

 

Rosie park curator Veronica Rodriguez explains the set up of the child care center’s dining area.

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.

The renovated Maritime Child Development Center rear view. Note portholes. The bottom was the end of the fire escape chute for kids in the early days.

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

Colorful play equipment is part of the center’s new look.

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.)

Note double bannisters, one for children, one for adults.

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.

Child-sized sinks shined up for the new kids.

 

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 Municipal Natatorium, also called the Richmond Plunge, an indoor swimming pool constructed in 1926, has been renovated and reopened with community funding. (You can actually go swimming there like I did in the 1950s and 1960s before it fell into disrepair.)

View from inside the indoor fire chute.

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.

Richmond Civic Center off Macdonald Avenue. Designed by Paramount Theatre architect Timothy Pflueger in 1946, the center was updated in 2009.

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

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