Rosie the Riveter and Valentine’s Day: A Trainer of Riveters Looks Back

by Matilda Butler on February 14, 2017

Post #78. Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

[NOTE: Many of you may remember the World War II stories Bill Thomas has shared with us. We especially enjoyed those from the time he was training the women who would collectively be known as Rosie the Riveters. Recently, Bill sent me the following reminiscences that we thought you'd enjoy.

Thanks Bill. And keep on writing your life stories.
--Matilda Butler

PS Scroll down to the bottom for news about an exciting new Rosie the Riveter product -- coming soon from us.]

Valentine’s Day Reminiscences

Bill Thomas

The Fascinating Origin of Valentine’s Day

Legend has it that in the third century Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage. Valentine, a Catholic priest, disobeyed these orders and performed marriages in secret.

The Emperor had Valentine put to death on February 14.

Not sure if you believe that story? Well here’s another one. Possibly Valentine wasn’t a priest at all, but a prisoner who fell in love with the daughter of his jailer and sent her letters signed, “From your Valentine.”

Either way, Valentine’s Day holds many memories for us.

Valentine’s Day and England

We have the English to thank for many of our Valentine customs. For centuries, the English have exchanged small token gifts and cards or verses professing love on Valentine’s Day.

The red heart, the ancient symbol of love, is most often pictured on cards and other Valentine-inspired gifts.

Valentine’s Day and America

Beautiful Valentine cards became popular in 1850’s in America when Esther Howland, a Massachusetts woman, created her own with lace and expensive papers and sold them.

My “Valentine Tribute” to Women

Although I’ve written about my experiences training Rosie the Riveters before I joined the military during World War II, most of my previous “VETERANS VOICES” articles have been written about male veterans, and this being “Valentine Time” I decided to write about the WOMEN who keep life alive, from one generation to the next.

It is WOMEN who give birth to each of us. They are the MOTHERS who nurture us through our growth years, and their SPOUSES in their maturity. WOMEN have always been caregivers.

I remember the 1920’s when I was born, and the loving care from my parents, especially my MOTHER, working at two jobs, helped us survive through the “Great Depression.” One job she had was in a “chili factory” where she worked on the night shift. She was paid in cash, and many large cans of chili and beans. Our family thrived on beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There is no way that I can possibly list ALL the numerous ways WOMEN have participated in our country. WOMEN have always worked strenuously on farms and dairies in rural areas.

And millions of WOMEN came into the cities in the 1940’s to fill the men’s jobs when the men went into the military services. They also cared for their families at home, and they labored on day and night shifts in their work places.

I remember some of the thirty WOMEN I personally trained who became known as “ROSIE, the RIVETERS” while we worked at a war defense plant before I joined the Army.

Millions of WOMEN worked in many professional and business offices, retail stores, factories, etc., and they volunteered numerous hours to collect tin cans; and they gathered various types of items that would help win the war effort. WOMEN sold War Bonds to help pay for the war.

AND many WOMEN also served in the various branches of military service. Some female pilots flew airplanes from aircraft factories to land them on airfields close to combat areas.

A great number of WOMEN prepared medical supplies such as bandages; many others constructed airmen’s parachutes.

Thousands of WOMEN served as nurses and helped our wounded in “field hospitals” and actual operating rooms near combat zones. Unfortunately, many WOMEN were wounded or died while overseas.

WOMEN took the time to write and send many letters to their relatives and friends in the military services. Millions of those letters became known as “V-mail.” They were reduced in size to save storage space on cargo and troop ships.

Dozens of letters and packages were delivered to the troops at daily “Mail-Call” sessions. Untold numbers of letters and packages were never delivered if they had been on the ships that were sunk by enemy submarines. Numerous correspondence items arrived many days or weeks after they had been sent. Nevertheless, all items, including candies, cookies, etc., were greatly appreciated by the men who received them, and shared some with their buddies.

Unfortunately, some men received “Dear John” letters, informing them of romance break-ups and/or divorces. Many guys received appropriate birthday, anniversary, and/or holiday greeting cards and letters, including sincere VALENTINES; and some were humorous “spoofy” types that were more typical at the time.

Many WOMEN musically-entertained the troops, both stateside, and overseas. I especially remember one day in North Africa, after the rain had stopped, and while we sat on our helmets on a muddy hillside, and LENA HORNE sang “STORMY WEATHER” to our troops. (The lyrics in that song, such as “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, since my man and I ain’t together…” were most inappropriate for many of our comrades.

Back in civilian life again, I must thank my wife of sixty-five years. Soula has borne our three healthy, brilliant kids. She has lovingly nurtured each of us through some rough times and through many very happy years. We’re all blessed to have her love and caring.

I also extend my heart-felt THANKS to all the hundred or so WOMEN who have participated in my health recovery including the WOMEN doctors and nurses at Kaiser hospital, AND the WOMEN physical therapists at the various physical rehab centers I have been in, especially the female Registered Nurse caregiver attending to my current needs.

I still have a few letters and Valentines in a box in our garage that I haven’t looked at for over fifty years) that I received from previous girlfriends over seventy years ago. I wonder what they look like today; both, the letters and the “girls.” They all became WOMEN, and if yet alive, they’d be in their 90’s as am I.

Luckily for multi-millions of us, so many women became teachers in all grades and levels of schooling. (I don’t remember the teacher who taught me my first A,B,C’S. I do remember Miss Darling who taught English and grammar.) And I want to pay tribute to Miss Weldon who taught me how to play my violin, and allowed me to play in the school orchestra.

WOMEN, WOMEN, WOMEN!! What would the world be like without WOMEN?

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ALL.

News About Exciting Rosie the Riveter Product

March, as you all know, is Women’s History Month. Each year, Kendra and I celebrate this important month in a different way. After a great deal of research, we have created an exciting new Rosie the Riveter product that will be offered in a limited edition.

I’ve promised Kendra that I won’t announce it quite yet, but I couldn’t resist letting you know that we’ll have something really special for you soon.

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