Gail Lee Martin in World War II
WWII - My Mother's Memories
I wanted to preserve my mother's memories of World War II and of working in the aircraft factory. At that time in her life, she was Gail Lee McGhee as she hadn't married yet.
Fresh out of Hamilton High School, she had several jobs before going to Wichita to work in the Boeing aircraft factory as part of the war effort. This was the era of Rosie the Riveter when women for the first time in U.S. history joined the workforce in large numbers.
(photo from the family album of Gail Lee McGhee in her Boeing uniform)
Gail Lee McGhee (later Martin) - High School Graduation Photo
She attended Hamilton High School where she met my father, Clyde Owen Martin. She graduated May 1942 and was Mrs Neumayer's nanny for the next school year.
(photo from the family album)
Cherryvale, Kansas in the 1940s
July 15, 2011 - Gail Lee Martin remembers,
"After school was out I went to an NYA school (National Youth Association) to learn how to be a 'Rosie the Riveter.' My folks drove me down to Arkansas City. The NYA at Ark city was just for girls and we lived at the site where we were being schooled. Your Dad went to Cherryville which was the site to teach boys. Clyde learned welding.
I was unable to do the riveting since I weighted less than 100 lbs. and couldn't hold the heavy rivet gun or couldn't buck the back side of the rivets straight. You had to hold the bucking bar level to get good rivets. I was transferred to electrical wiring.
Then the government shut the school down for lack of money after I had been there for just a few weeks. I went with the other girls by bus to Wichita to find work in the aircraft factories. Boeing hired me."
(the postcard street scene is Cherryvale where Clyde Owen Martin trained with the NYA. It is from our family's collection.)
Brick Rooming House - Wichita during the War
1388 N. Emporia in Wichita--it was a rooming house during WWII when my Mom, Gail Lee Martin, was working at Boeing.
July 15, 2011 - Gail Lee Martin
"I found a room in a castle looking house at 1313 North Emporia and moved in with my suitcase near the end of August 1943 and wrote to the folks with my new address. I was in the second floor and in the north turret. The biggest problem was the communal bathroom was downstairs in the basement.
After a few weeks my parents came to see me. I was sick with stomach flu and my folks didn't like where I was living as no one knew each other, so we found a room for me on South Pattie."
1944 Photo of Gail Lee McGhee
in Wichita, Kansas
Mom said the decorations on the jacket are bunches of cherries. Wish I could see this outfit in color. This is quite a change from the feedsack dresses she wore during the Great Depression.
In that era, street photographers would snap photos and sell them to the person in the photo.
Gail Lee McGhee in Wichita, Kansas During WWII
I think this is a good hairstyle for her face. She's wearing a print dress. Looks like the typical young lady of the war years.
A Glimpse Inside a Boeing Factory from WWII
See what it was like inside the huge factories that built the aircraft needed for the war effort.
I'd imagine for a country girl from the Flint Hills, it must have been a big adjustment. The video gives you an inside glimpse into a Boeing aircraft plant and it is narrated by a woman with a similar experience as my mother's.
See Another Woman's Experience in a Boeing Factory
Gail Lee McGhee - Photo Taken by Street Photographer
in Wichita, Kansas
I tried to get Mom to write down her memories of these times to make a companion book for her childhood memoir. This one could be called Gail: All Grown Up. She did write the above notes about her wartime experience.
Gail's memories of this picture: "My pay check sure looked good but the money disappeared so fast. I had to pay for my room and all my meals plus bus rides to work and back. No matter where I went I had to ride the bus or walk. The winter approached and I had to buy a warm coat, mittens and a stocking cap that would pull down around my ears.
I bought a few things for Christmas presents but had to save money to buy my bus ticket to Emporia in Lyon County. My parents and little sister, Carol drove up from our home in Greenwood County to pick me up. Being with my loved ones was so good that I don’t remember what gifts were given to whom."
Another House Where My Mom Boarded
Wichita Rooming House During the War
July 15, 2011 - Gail Lee Martin
"I had a room in this house with Mrs Dixon and her two sons on South Pattie. I lived there until the war was over and I went home and finished my marriage plans."
Gail remembers that it was rather spooky walking home from the bus in the dark. The houses all had blackout curtains and the street lights were off.
More about Women Working in Aircraft Factories During the Second World War
I ordered a copy of this for my mom. She said some parts were similar to her experience. These young women worked at a factory in California.
You can click through to Amazon to see my review of the book.
Read More about Gail Lee Martin's WWII Experience at My Blog: Discovering Mom ~ Gail Lee Martin… gone but not forgotten
- Boeing | Discovering Mom
Posts about Boeing and Gail Lee Martin written by Virginia Allain
Special Memories of Her Time at Boeing
by Gail Lee Martin
Gail wrote " I was lucky and got a job with Boeing helping build the B-29s in the electrical wiring department. I was thankful that Boeing was not union! After all the Phillip's employees trouble with City Service union guys, I didn‘t want anything to do with unions. (Gail's father worked for Phillip's Petroleum)
After working in the electric wiring department for several months I became unhappy when the inspectors ran a slight charge to see if my work was OK. They didn't tell me when they were going to do it and I became scared that the charge might get stronger so I asked to be transferred to another department.
The next department was in the tool shed, where the employees checked out tools they needed to work with. I enjoyed this after learning what each tool was called and where each was stored. It was kinda like working in a library only at the end of the shift all tools had to be checked back in and I had only a short time to get them put where they belonged before I could check out."
Gail remembers that she earned two different E pins for outstanding effort. She felt really proud of those and also pleased to receive a B-29 pin for working and helping make a bomber that did a good job overseas.
Another souvenir of her time at Boeing is an aluminum bracelet made in the sand blasting shop. She had one made for her sister with the letter "C" on it.
Women's Roles in WWII - The war years changed America's perception of women
Although most of the women returned to being housewives after the war, their participation in the workforce laid the groundwork for women to enter the working world in the 1960s and 1970s.
Photo of Boeing Aircraft - WWII - Signed by my mother and her co-workers
© 2011 Virginia Allain