Second World War: Girl Works for Copper Mine

Girl leaves school early to work as a clerk in a copper mine during the second World War.

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The open-pit copper mine owned by Phelps Dodge Corporation, at Morenci, Arizona, was a defense plant during the second World War. Trucks hauled the rich ore from the pit to the plant. Rock and other debris was separated from the copper-bearing ore, which then was melted in the smelter and poured out as large, flat slabs of copper mixed with small parts of gold and silver. These slabs were shipped on flatbed railroad cars to refineries owned by Phelps Dodge at another location. 

My employment at the mine began in February 1943, when a request from the mine came to my high school in Duncan, Arizona, asking for a girl who could work in their construction office. I was called to the principal's office and offered the job. Assured that my grades were good and that I could graduate if I left school to work at the defense plant, I accepted.

The building where I worked had several departments. I saw women from them in the central rest room, but I was the only female clerk in my department. Many men were in the outer room. Some stayed at their drafting boards all day drawing blueprints, while others left to do surveys or outside jobs. My job was in the construction superintendent's office, where I typed, filed papers and answered the telephone.

When construction was finished, I took another job as a clerk in the power plant. It was there that I remember women doing men's work while the men were at war.

During that time, I walked through a picket line one morning to go to my job, and a loud-voiced woman tried to stop me. I pushed her hand off my arm and told her, "1 hired out to do a job, and I'm going in to do it." I went on up the steps from the parking lot without any more opposition. I was the only clerk in the power plant that day.

Once someone spotted something high in the sky that seemed to hover in one place. We took turns going to the roof to watch it for several minutes at a time. Was it an enemy spy object? It was too high to tell what it was. Later, we learned that it was a planet closer to Earth than usual.

Then came a day never to be forgotten. The atomic bomb was dropped in Japan! We couldn't listen to the radio at the power plant because of the interference, but when reports were phoned to us, we passed the word to everyone else. Of course, there were no televisions yet, but from the descriptions, it sounded as if the very atmosphere was igniting as predicted in the Bible.

Although that was not the case, it was very sobering; we need to be aware of the horror that even today is locked in those stockpiled atomic bombs.

Soon the War was over, defense plants were not needed; I married my boss, leaving all of that era to memory.

Vivian Skipper
Jamestown, California

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.