It’s been 76 years since our iconic Rosie the Riveters jumped in to help with the war effort, and today is a special day. I thought I would share a story about a Rosie who was living in Barberton, Ohio in 1943. My mother, Veronica Kubanis, worked as a Rosie the Riveter at Goodyear Aircraft.
My mom still recalls those days when she worked on the Martin B-26 Marauder twin-engine bomber. She just turned 96 last August, so here is her story.
When Did You Decide to Become a Rosie?
I was working as a nurse’s aide at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron. There was an ad that was running in the newspapers that put out a notice for women, and I went. They needed planes to be built, and all the guys were over there fighting, and they had nobody to build them. I’m not sure if it was called Rosie the Riveter back then, but there was an ad that said good jobs were available.
I don’t remember how old I was, but I heard the government was paying so much more at the time, and there were these big posters everywhere. I think they had them up in all the stores. Everyone my age was working there, and a group of girls I ran around with kept saying, “C’mon, you gotta work there!”
My good friend, Betty, told me that the government jobs paid real good. I said, “I don’t know anything about drilling or machines or anything.” And she said, “That’s OK, they teach you how to do it.”
So we went to Goodyear Aircraft and they said, “Sign your name.” There were no instructions or anything. You didn’t even get any training. We had to have our hair tied up in a babushka, I do remember that part. They would say, “This is a number 2 drill, can you lift it? This is a number 3 drill, this is what you will be using. Then they brought us a box of rivets and taught us how to shoot the drill. Then they handed the drill to me.
What Kind of Work Were You Doing?
We were working on pieces of aluminum for the Martin Marauder, so I had to shoot rivets. A supervisor came by to make sure they weren’t crooked, or that my rivets covered the holes, or they weren’t on a slant. They would point out the problems if they saw them.
We knew what we were building. They told us this was the bomber that was going to end the war. There were other women working on Corsairs in another building, but that happened at the tail end of our work. People with blueprints and drawings were always walking through the building, and you’d see groups of people walk by us. Of course, you didn’t want to be fooling around then. Betty would say, “Here comes the troops,” and we would be on our best behavior.
There was a bunch of us that went by car to get there, and we had a whole carload. Agnes, who later became the mother of comedian John Belushi, was a Rosie who worked with us. And then there was Cortesi and Betty, and we all worked on the trailing edge.
Was it Hard Work?
I had to stand a lot. It was more mentally challenging for me, but the drill wasn’t heavy.
I liked this job, but I was nervous around the supervisor. You would work on one big aluminum panel, and then they would raise it up, and it went to another room. We just made them every day and that was it. You had your babushka on, you grabbed your drill and went to town. I remember carrying a tool box and you had your own drill. It was my patriotic duty, and they gave you this talk, that all these guys are out there, and they need a plane to get there.
We were working on the trailing edge of the plane, so you would have to have that done at a certain time. But if you had X amount of bad rivets, they made you re-do them. They would mark them with a black marker. I had a couple of bad rivets, and I had to take them out. They would allot a certain number of bad ones, but if you did too many, they said it was unacceptable. That’s what kept you on your toes.
They gave us breaks and we did get a lunch. We were in this big room, and there was a cafeteria upstairs. I brought my own lunch because I couldn’t afford to buy it. A man kept asking me to lunch, and I didn’t want to go because I found out he was married.
Did You Think All of This Was a Big Deal Back Then?
It was a patriotic thing, that’s all. Like rationing our panty hose. They needed the silk threads for parachutes, and that affected me because I was at that age where I wanted to wear high heels and hose.
It proved, we can do this, if you just teach us how. Women I think are better workers anyway. We have this thing in our head, that this is my job, I’m going to do the best I can, whereas guys are like, this is my job, I’m going to put in 8 hours and get the hell out of here. Women have this inborn thing, I’m going to do a good job. But there again, if someone would have told me, you will be working on an airplane, I would be the first one to say, that’s crazy. No way I would have believed it.
Did You Work There for Long?
While I was there, the government put out a call for women to become cadet nurses. I had been a nurse’s aide before Rosie, and my mother thought it would be a good opportunity for me, since the government offered to pay for my education. I quit my job as a Rosie to be a cadet nurse and served as a veteran on the home front. All the registered nurses were called off to war, and they were being recruited to go into the Army to help the war effort. There weren’t any nurses to take care of the sick back home, so that’s what I decided to do here in Akron. One of my rotations was working with Sr. Ignatia in the AA ward at St. Thomas Hospital. That was hard work. No one knew how to treat them – it was just after the time that Dr. Bob started Alcoholics Anonymous.
As for the others, we ran around with each other, but after awhile, we went our separate ways. Betty went into a secretarial job, and I don’t know what Aggie ended up doing. Then of course we got married.
Do You Have Any Favorite Memories?
I can’t remember what I made as a Rosie, but I must have made enough money because I gave my mom some of it. My dad had died when I was younger, and my brother Steve was playing in the Army band, so he was traveling all over the world. I remember his band landed in Sicily. That’s when the war ended with the Martin Marauder plane and those rivets!