Second World War: Both Parents Worked at Defense Plant

Maryland woman recalls both her parents entering the workforce at defense plants to help the US prepare for the Second World War.

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Prior to the start of the Second World War, we children weren't really old enough to pay attention to the rest of the world.

"It's time to get up, Shirley!" How I hated to throw back the covers and run through the cold room and downstairs to the living room. I wanted Mother to braid my hair before she left for work because it had to be just right - I was an extremely tidy child. 

Mother and Dad worked in Chestertown at the newly opened defense plant. Before they left for work, Sallie, our sitter, would come. "Call your sisters," she would say, "or you all will miss the bus." We had to be at the end of the short driveway, or the driver would go right by without stopping. He was elderly, and had very thick glasses; nowadays he wouldn't be permitted to drive. We had to cross a railroad track, and all the children knew they had better help him look for the train.

We arrived home one afternoon to find Mother and Dad both home early. They told us a storage shed had exploded, killing several people at the plant. They and quite a few others had quit that day. Mother did assembly line work that involved capping explosive devices. Dad probably had a similar job. Soon after that Dad went to work at a shipyard in Cambridge, and Mother stayed home and became a housewife again.

School was no longer routine. Any hour of the day the air-raid siren would sound and the teacher would say, "Line up children, and be quick." We would be herded across the street to a garage

and squeezed in with mechanics, tools and several cars to wait for the" all clear."

We could purchase savings stamps, and when our books were filled they were exchanged for a U.S. Savings Bond.

Once a week we rode our bicycles five miles to a farm near Queenstown where Mother was a volunteer plane spotter. She had to call in and identify every plane that flew over her territory.

The day Pearl Harbor was attacked I remember vividly. I walked home across a field between my house and my grandparents' farmhouse all alone. I wanted to listen to my favorite radio program. It was interrupted by a speech by President Roosevelt telling about the attack by the Japanese. At the age of 9 I knew exactly what the president meant when he said, "This day will go down in infamy."

Shirley Daffin
Easton, Maryland

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.