|The trio eventually arrived in Everett.
Orly got a job the next day, and the family moved into a
new, two-bedroom, partially furnished apartment at Baker
Heights. A day later Lorraine was hired at Boeing, where she
was required to wear overalls and a bandanna similar to
Rosie the Riveter’s. The head scarf was a safety precaution
to keep hair from catching and being wound onto the drill.
She called the uniform her “tux.”
Everywhere she looked, Lorraine saw reminders that she was involved in a serious business. Walls displayed Rosie posters and signs that said “Buy Bonds” and “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Lorraine says, “You didn’t say ‘boo.’ Not a word. No one talked about what was being built or how many worked at the plant or anything else that might be useful to the enemy.”
|Lorraine started out as a bucker. She
explains, “When the riveter goes rat-a-tat-tat, the bucking
bar flattens it on the other end.” It was not glamorous
work, but it was vital to the war effort. Boeing had not yet
built its great complex in Everett. To increase production,
the company opened branch plants in Everett, Chehalis,
Bellingham, Aberdeen and Tacoma. Initially, the branches
accounted for 15 percent of the Seattle Division’s Flying
Fortress (B-17) production, but that number soon increased
to 20 percent.
A monthly branch edition of Boeing News was started and included small articles about the plant, along with personal events such as births, marriages, visits from sons in the military, etc. of branch employees. In the first Everett edition is a photo of former major league pitching great Cy Young working at the Everett plant as a jig-maker. Lorraine is in the background, clad in her Rosie uniform, operating - what else? – a riveter.
Lorraine still has the pay stub from one of her biggest checks from Boeing. For two weeks of work, including overtime, she was paid $77, a grand sum in those days. She recalls that to address the concerns of its “feminine employees,” Boeing added a “women’s supervisor and councilor” for each shift to be available at all times “either for discussion of ‘on the job’ problems or any other matters women wish to discuss.” Lorraine never went to her councilor, but her heart went out to those who did, women who received telegrams beginning, “We regret to inform you...” which meant a son, a husband, a father or a brother had been killed.
|The war was never far away from
Lorraine’s mind. She anxiously awaited the mail and was
thrilled whenever she heard from her intended, even if the
censors blacked out some of the words. Day after day she
toiled, hoping for more mail, dreading the thought of a
telegram. Then one afternoon, shortly after she checked in
at work, an announcement blared from the loudspeaker. The
war was over! “There was just this big celebration, then we
went home” she recalls. “That was the last day we worked.”
She and Gordon married in 1946 and, along with Gordon’s siblings, lived with Orly and Lucy, who had by then purchased Olivia Park Store, until the young couple purchased a house nearby. “I was happy to be a stay-at-home mom,” Lorraine says. “We had been in the Depression, and we wanted better for our children.” She grows quiet for a moment and speaks of her generation: “I think we made it too good for them. There was just too much materialism.”
|Lorraine, who taught sewing for 4-H, wove
fabric and turned it into stunning garments. She has passed
down her giant loom to her daughter. When Gordon died in
1984, Lorraine coped by staying active in church,
maintaining friendships and continuing to travel at home and
abroad. She started a daily journal that she still keeps up
and became active in Widowed Information Consultation
Services. It was at the Eagles Hall after a WICS meeting
that she met John W. Smith. “John said he was going home to
read a book,” she recalls with a smile, “but my friend
Margaret found out he could dance and told him, ‘You are not
going home!’” Being a gentleman, he asked Lorraine to dance,
and in 1988, a year to the day after they met, John and
Lorraine were married.
Among the couple’s interests are fishing and travel. Lorraine belongs to a "Rosies" organization and was honored along with 90 others in 2002 at Seattle Center by Washington Women in Trades Association.
Six decades have passed since Lorraine moved to Everett and first took her lunch pail to work at an airplane plant. Two more stars have been added to the flag. Boeing stopped making B-17s long ago. But the spirit of the Rosies, women like Lorraine Smith, lives on. Rosie’s poster said, “We can do it!”
And they did.
|Source: Personal interview
with Lorraine E. Smith, 2002.
© 2002 Theresa (Teri) A. Baker, All Rights Reserved