From the Memoir of Laura Mae Dunscombe Baker,
Born December 6, 1926
Recorded by Jacki Kellum, Born 1950
If you have read other of this series of posts, you will remember that my mother actually said what I will share–[that is not in square brackets]:
“Then after I graduated from high school that year, I went back to St. Louis. The girls [with whom she had roomed before]…had never left….They stayed up there and worked. They were working in defense plants. That’s where the “big” money was, so that’s where I applied. I lied that I was 18, but in fact, I wouldn’t be 18 until December, and that was June. Indeed! I may not have had to lie at that point in time. They needed help so badly that they hired me and forgot about the birth certificate.
“This job was something else and was my growing up. We all worked swing shifts (3 of them); and it was nothing to come in off those streetcars at midnight or leave on them at midnight. I was scared to death at first–not so much that someone would attack me but that I wouldn’t be able to find my way here or there. And the job was horrid.
“We had to load shells (about 5 inches long and as fat as a cigar) into a hopper that fed them through to an assembly line. If they were not perfect enough to go through a gun barrel or some other ammunition barrel, they would be rejected. The shells were heavy when we got them. They had been filled at that time so the first two days my hands were torn to shreds. They outfitted me with bandages and gloves but it was torture for weeks.
“Finally, about quitting time for me, months later, they were healed and toughened up to where I could stand it. Rosie the Riveter I was not. I was by that about like I was about playing baseball. I think I was born a weenie.”
Copyright Jacki Kellum October 18, 2015
As I have also said before, I have begun a 3-Way Memoir, where I’ll record some of my mother’s responses to some questions that I asked about her life. I hope to have the memoir published for my mother’s 90th birthday on December 6, 2016. It will be my grandmother’s story, my mother’s story, and mine–all told about our lives in the now very dusty and boarded-shut Bootheel of Southeast Missouri.
You can find excerpts from that memoir in various places on my blog, by searching:
What My Mother Said, Calico Cotton, Cotton Child, and When Cotton Was King
Read More about the upcoming book: https://jackikellum.wordpress.com/2015/10/17/it-is-time-for-the-world-to-hear-from-3-strong-women-from-the-missouri-bootheel/
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