It was the summer of 1942 and World War II had engulfed the globe. Sisters Jackie and Sug (as in “Sugar”), my great-aunts, had recently finished training in Rayne, Louisiana to work in the newly built Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant outside Fort Worth. They would be helping to build “bombers,” — the new B-24 “Liberator” bomber, as well as the C-87 Liberator Express Transport.
The B-24 was to become the most produced military aircraft in American History with over 18,000 being produced in several plants around the country during the course of the war. This aircraft was an updated design of the B-17. The Liberator’s improvements would give it a farther range than its predecessor.
Always an independent spirit, 17-year-old Jackie never had any qualms about moving that far away from home, even though she had not traveled much while growing up. She had recently lived in Abilene, TX for a while with her seminary student brother while she went to Parson’s Beauty School. She went out there at age 15 after she graduated high school in 1940.
Although she liked Texas, Jackie’s plan was to return home and become a beautician like one of her older sisters. But after being home for only a few weeks, she heard that an aircraft company was building a plant back in Fort Worth. Within three months she and Sug were in training at Rayne, LA with other women from across the state to work in that plant. With America having been in the war for over six months and many men now overseas, the company would be training young women in the various jobs needed to build aircraft for the war effort. This opportunity was more than Jackie could resist — a chance to be off on her own and at the same time help the boys in the war!
After being sent to Waco, TX, the two sisters were then sent to Fort Worth. She and Sug began work at the plant along with hundreds of newly-trained women. There were three women to every man working at the plant. They were excited and nervous at the same time. Women would be doing nearly every job that had recently been done only by men – hence the popularized nickname given to these women of “Rosie the Riveter.” Women across the country built planes, tanks, produced ammunition, and other war supplies.
The plant was huge! The main hanger area was able to house almost 40 aircraft in various stages of assembly. Jackie’s job was to check-out tools at the Tool Shed where workers came to get tools that were needed for particular tasks. She was responsible for keeping track of which tools went with whom and making sure she noted their return. A worker was charged for any missing tool. She was also responsible for keeping up with the amount of money charged each worker.
Sug worked in the Tool and Die section where templates for the parts of the aircraft were made. After 6 months of working at her new job, Sug decided that this kind of work was not for her. She eventually made her way back home to Louisiana. But her time in Fort Worth had not been a loss. She met an Army sergeant there who proposed to her not long after they met. They married later and moved to Virginia near Washington, D.C. after the war.
But Jackie enjoyed her independence. She continued working at her job at the plant until the war was over. She also attended business school toward the end of the war while still working at the bomber plant. When her job there was completed, she used her business education to work in a wholesale jeweler, in a drug store doing bookkeeping and payroll, and in a beauty shop on the weekends.
She never moved back home to Louisiana. In fact, except for the last couple of years, 90-year-old Jackie lived in Fort Worth, TX in the same house she purchased back in 1962, until today when she passed away — June 24, 2014.