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Gail Lee Martin in World War II

Updated on August 22, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

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 McGhee (Martin) high school graduation picture
Gail McGhee (Martin) high school graduation picture

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)

NYA Training in World War II


Cherryvale, Kansas in the 1940s

1942 postcard Cherryvale Kansas
1942 postcard Cherryvale Kansas | Source

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.)

The brick rooming house where my mother stayed while working at Boeing in Wichita, Kansas.
The brick rooming house where my mother stayed while working at Boeing in Wichita, Kansas. | Source

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."

gail lee martin mcghee wichita kansas
gail lee martin mcghee wichita kansas

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 1944
Gail Lee McGhee 1944

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.

Places Mentioned on This Page - Hamilton, Ark City, Cherryvale & Wichita KS

show route and directions
A markerGail graduated from high school here -
Hamilton, KS
get directions

B markerGail worked in an aircraft factory here -
Wichita, KS
get directions

C markerGail trained with NYA here -
Arkansas City, Kansas
get directions

D markerGail's sweetie, Clyde Martin, trained with NYA here -
Cherryvale, Kansas
get directions

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 Martin McGhee Wichita Kansas street scene
Gail Lee Martin McGhee Wichita Kansas street scene

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

WWII era house Wichita KS
WWII era house Wichita KS | Source

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

Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory
Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory

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.


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

Boeing plane WWII photo signed by workers
Boeing plane WWII photo signed by workers

Preview Gail Lee Martin's Book about Her Childhood - My Flinthills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas


© 2011 Virginia Allain

I Hope You Enjoyed My Mother's Memories of WWII on the Homefront

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: I'm glad to hear about your mother's experience. Unfortunately my mom passed away in January so is no longer here to answer the question. We are both missing our moms, but hang onto the memories and pass them along to your children.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago


    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @marigoldina: I do encourage others to save their family memories online. Then all the family can enjoy them.

    • marigoldina profile image

      Heather B 4 years ago

      It is so wonderful you've preserved your mum's memories in this way. Thinking of you at this tough time. xx

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 4 years ago from Liverpool, England

      RIP Mrs Martin

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Thinking of you and know you are so thankful that you created this page with your mom's memories.

    • patinkc profile image

      patinkc 5 years ago from Midwest

      We need women's stories about WW2.

    • profile image

      Joan4 5 years ago

      This is a delightful treasure of memories. I totally enjoyed your mom's stories.

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I love reading about Miss Gail's experiences during the war. I hope we will hear more from her!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      how interesting, my mother was a nurse through the 2nd world war, unfortunately I don't have any photos of her.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Very interesting! I love the old photos. The book looks good too...

    • retta719 profile image

      Loretta 5 years ago from United States

      This is a beautiful tribute lens. Thank you for sharing these memories and photos with us :)

    • profile image

      anilsaini 6 years ago

      nice way to salute your mom... good lens

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      seedplanter 6 years ago

      My mother used to tell me about her friends who worked in factories during the war. I remember her showing me a box of memorabilia, including gas coupons and "stamps" for nylons, which were hard to find. She and my dad met right after WWII. This lens is a wonderful tribute to your mom.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      What an adventureous spirit your mother shows! Bravo for Gail! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Lovely tribute to your mom!

    • profile image

      jseven lm 6 years ago

      This is a nice lens about your mom. I wish I would have gotten more details of my mom's life before she died. This is a great family treasure.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This is a great tribute to your mother and to that era. My mom worked in a steel factory during WWII.

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 6 years ago from McLaughlin

      How special that you have preserved her memories in this way. You make me want to write my parents memoirs! Thanks!

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 6 years ago

      Happy birthday, Gail Lee! I can see a resemblance of you and Virginia especially in the head shot of you in the flowered dress.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      What an adventure for a youngster just out of high school. I love to read Gail's stories.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 6 years ago from Cheshire UK

      A really charming tribute to the Birthday Girl! Happy Birthday and many blessings