June 6, 2006

59:05 minutes

Interviewed by Ann Kelsey

Filmed by Michael O’Hagan

For the County College of Morris, Learning Resource Center

Randolph, New Jersey

Rosie the Riveter Project

Transcribed by Jardee Transcription, Tucson, Arizona





Kelsey:  When and where were you born and raised?

Holmes:  I was born in Waymart, Pennsylvania, in 1922, August 21.  I was the tenth child of eleven.

Kelsey:  And did you live there while you were growing up?

Holmes:  While I was growing up, I lived there.  I went to grade school.  They had a small, one-room grade school that I went to until eighth grade, and then at eighth grade I went on to Waymart High School.  That was a larger school, and it was three miles from my home.  We walked three miles to high school in the morning and home at night.

Kelsey:  What did your parents do, what were their occupations?

Holmes:  My parents had a farm, it was dairy cows.  Originally they started by peddling, and they had chickens that they peddled and a fruit orchard.  They had apples and all kinds of fruit that they peddled to town to make money.

Kelsey:  And you had ten brothers and sisters:  how many brothers, how many sisters?

Holmes:  There were six girls and five boys.



Kelsey:  Did any other family members live with you—grandparents or other relatives?

Holmes:  No.  My grandfather did live on a small house on the farm.  When he retired from Miner’s Mill in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he built a small house and he lived nearby.  I would go up to see him, and he liked to let me shave him.  When he was older, he trusted me, when I was big enough, to shave him.

Kelsey:  What did you study in high school?

Holmes:  I took a business course, and I studied math and English and history and all the usual subjects—health.

Kelsey:  And what year did you graduate?

Holmes:  In 1940 I graduated from Waymart High School.

Kelsey:  Did you think about going to college?

Holmes:  Not at that time.  That was about it.  I went to Michigan soon after I graduated.  I went to visit my brother in Michigan.

Kelsey:  So you didn’t think about—you planned to go to work?

Holmes:  I planned to get a job.  At that time there weren’t very many jobs for girls.  When I went to Michigan, I started by working in a dime store in Michigan, and that was in Hazel Park, Michigan.  Shortly after that, the war had broke out, and I got a job in the factory.

Kelsey:  We’re going to talk about that in just a minute.  How were you and your family affected by the Depression?

Holmes:  Everything was rationed:  the sugar, shoes were rationed, leather was used for people in the war.  They needed the leather.  I think they had plastic shoes, but a lot of times we went barefoot.

Kelsey:  That was during the war?



Holmes:  During the Depression.

Kelsey:  And how else were you affected?

Holmes:  Being that we lived at the farm, we always had plenty of food.  We raised our own vegetables.  There were a lot of things that we could pick.  We picked dandelions and cooked them up there, like spinach.  When you pick dandelions and their green leaves, you cook them up and it’s like a spinach.  Otherwise, we had the vegetables from the garden.  And when my father raised chickens, we would have a chicken on Sunday.  Once a week we would have meat.

Kelsey:  Looking back at how your family lived during that time in the thirties and before the war, how would you characterize your economic situation?

Holmes:  I thought we were rich, but my mother always managed.  We always had plenty of food.  And clothing, we took turns.  When there were shoes to be bought or whatever, once a year we might get a pair of shoes.  And if you were easy—I had a sister that never wore her shoes out, so she didn’t need shoes.  The ones that were hard, once a year we would get a pair of shoes.  And that’s with all the walking.  We had to wear boots in the wintertime, and save the shoes.  Or if it rained, we would take off our shoes and walk barefoot.

Kelsey:  Okay, so then when you graduated from high school in 1940, you went to Michigan.  And why did you go to Michigan?

Holmes:  My best girlfriend married my brother, and she went to Michigan, and when she came to visit, she said she’s



            so lonesome because there’s all men out there.  I had two brothers in Michigan, and the neighbor boys all went to Michigan to work, because they had work there, whereas there was no work on the farm.

Kelsey:  Where in Michigan was this?

Holmes:  My brother lived in Hazel Park, and when I got a job, it was in Ferndale, Michigan, nearby.

Kelsey:  Was that near a city?

Holmes:  Near Detroit, Michigan, very close.

Kelsey:  And the jobs that these boys from the farm went to Michigan for, were they jobs in the automotive industry?

Holmes:  Yes, they worked for General Motors.  My one brother, Raymond, he worked at the brass company, and he worked by the furnaces.  He said it was a very hot job, putting the brass into the furnaces and melting it, clarifying it.

Kelsey:  You said your best friend married your brother?

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  Okay, can you tell me about the wedding?  What was the wedding like?

Holmes:  The wedding was in Waymart, Pennsylvania.  We had a small church in Waymart, and they were married in Waymart.  I remember my sister-in-law, the day she got married, she had a toothache, so she was suffering through her wedding, but she was happy nonetheless.  After the wedding, they came home to the house, and my mother made a big dinner for them, a chicken dinner, and the brothers and sisters all gathered around.

Kelsey:  What year was that?

Holmes:  That was probably around 1940.



Kelsey:  So the same year you graduated from high school.

Holmes:  Right.  They got married just before, and she went to Michigan, she moved with my brother.

Kelsey:  So you were in Michigan when World War II started?

Holmes:  I think it was on for a while, because I started to work in 1943.

Kelsey:  In the defense plant.  But you mentioned before, that when you first went to Michigan, you worked in a dime store?

Holmes:  Yes, I did, in a Woolworth.

Kelsey:  Did you just stay in Michigan?

Holmes:  I lived with my brother for a short time, and then later on I moved to an apartment with a girl who came down

              from Northern Michigan to live.  So we had one room that we lived in.  Her aunt had the apartment house, so

              we had our meals with her aunt.  We would go downstairs and have our meals with her.

Kelsey:  Did you go right from the dime store into the plant?

Holmes:  Yes, I did.

Kelsey:  Why did you decide to go to work in the plant?

Holmes:  Everyone else was patriotic, they said it was patriotic.  They also paid more money than the dime store.

Kelsey:  Do you remember seeing at that time advertising or on the radio or maybe a newsreel in the movies that encouraged women to go to work in the factories, or join the military?



Holmes:  I didn’t hear too much of that.  I did know that the men were being drafted, and there was a need.  Yes, they were hiring many people in this factory.  That’s why I went there.

Kelsey:  And how did you hear about the jobs?

Holmes:  It probably was the radio, and then it was by word of mouth.  Mostly you learned by word of mouth.  The neighbors worked, and they said, “Come on down.”

Kelsey:  Do you remember hearing or seeing any references to Rosie the Riveter then?

Holmes:  No, I never did.

Kelsey:  And so did you think of yourself as a Rosie the Riveter?

Holmes:  No.  I never heard of that.

Kelsey:  Did any of your other family go to work in the plants at that point in time?

Holmes:  All of my sisters went to work.  One stayed on the farm, and she did farm work, which they considered was a necessary thing, because they supplied food and milk.  All of my other sisters went to work for General Motors.  One sister worked in Simpson, Pennsylvania, which is near Waymart, and she made parachutes for the army.  My other two sisters went to Harrison, New Jersey, to work in General Motors.  That’s three of them, one is on the farm, four.

Kelsey:  And what about your brothers?

Holmes:  My two brothers were working in jobs that were sort of to the war, were supporting the war at their jobs.  My brother Joseph, he tried to get into the service, but he was turned down.  I remember when he was turned down,



            he came home crying because his friend was going in the service, and he couldn’t go.  But he got a job which was related to the war.

Kelsey:  And what about your other brothers?  You had five brothers.

Holmes:  Five brothers.  My brother Ray worked with the brass foundry.  My brother Joseph got a job in a factory in Michigan also.  My brother Francis stayed on the farm.  And my brother Thomas, at that time, was still young.  He stayed on the farm.  So I had two brothers on the farm and three in the factories.

Kelsey:  Why was your brother that tried to join the military, why was he [turned down]?

Holmes:  They said he had flat feet.

Kelsey:  Did any of your other brothers at any point during the war either volunteer, or were they drafted?

Holmes:  They were not drafted.  Because of the jobs they had, they were not drafted.  They were considered necessary to stay and produce materials.  My brother on the farm wanted to go in the service, but he was not taken either.

Kelsey:  Was he also 4-F?

Holmes:  Flat feet.  And my brother Tommy was too young.

Kelsey:  How old was he then?

Holmes:  He’s younger than I am, so he was about six years younger.

Kelsey:  When you were working in the plant in Michigan, how did you get to work?

Holmes:  I went on the streetcar.  There was a streetcar running down, and also buses.  I would take a bus and a streetcar to get to work.

Kelsey:  What kind of work did you do?



Holmes:  When I went in, I started working on a grinding press, and it was making small parts for the airplanes.  It was called a roller bearing.  I worked with roller bearings when I first started.  But after that, I changed.  Wherever they needed someone to work, they would send you on a different job:  drill press, which was standing up and drilling holes in parts for the airplanes.  And grinding—I said that.  That’s hazardous, because a lot of sparks fly, the hot sparks.  I still have some marks from that.  They would burn through my flannel shirt, the hot sparks.  So I do have some marks from that.

Kelsey:  You have some scars from it?

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  Did you have a job title?

Holmes:  Well, it varied.  If you were a drill press operator, it was drill press.  If you were on the grinding machine, it was grinding.  They didn’t change the salary for different jobs, they all were the same.

Kelsey:  What was the salary?

Holmes:  I really don’t remember.  I really don’t remember, but I know it wasn’t very much.

Kelsey:  Did they give you any kind of training before you started to actually do the work?

Holmes:  Yes, there were a few men working in the factory when I started, and I thought, “This is wonderful, because I’m going to meet all these boys.”  But I soon found out that they were all being drafted, all except one who was a native Indian.  He was an American Indian, and he was not drafted.  And another man was an older man that



            would not be drafted.  He was the man that showed me how to work on the drill press and other machines, and started me out.

Kelsey:  Was this like an organized training, or he just kind of stepped in and did it?

Holmes:  Well, he showed us how to do it, so that we could go out and work on the machines.

Kelsey:  What did you like most about your work?

Holmes:  I loved it, because it was good to make money and be able to buy a pair of shoes.  At that time, though, you couldn’t buy leather shoes—they were making them out of plastic or something else.  I could buy a coat, and I kind of liked that, that I was independent.  And my mother didn’t have a bathroom at home, so I said, “Mom, I’m going to send you money for a bathroom,” and I did.  I sent her money.  Every week I would send her money.  She finally told me, “We have the bathroom now, you don’t have to send money.”  (chuckles)

Kelsey:  That was a pretty nice thing to do.  What did you like least about your job?

Holmes:  The least?  I loved it!

Kelsey:  There was nothing you didn’t like about it?

Holmes:  Nothing I didn’t like about it.  It was working a midnight shift, also, which was kind of unusual.  We’d go to work at night.  And then I met other girls that would ride on the streetcar or the buses with me, and we all worked the midnight shift.  We seemed to be having fun.  It was a different life.  In fact, the company thought we should have a beauty parlor, so that when we got finished with work on the midnight shift, we could get our hair done.  So we



            could go downstairs and go into the beauty parlor and get our hair shampooed, or if we wanted a perm or whatever we wanted.  We paid for it, but it was there.

Kelsey:  That’s really nice.  Did you always work the midnight shift?

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  Or did you rotate?

Holmes:  I always worked the midnight shift.

Kelsey:  The whole time you worked there?

Holmes:  The full time, yes.

Kelsey:  Did you wear any kind of special clothing, or uniform of any kind?

Holmes:  We wore a flannel shirt, mostly, for protection.  And then there were coveralls.  Nowadays a lot of girls are wearing them now, that have suspenders.  They were kind of nice.  And we wore a hat that had a snood [i.e., hairnet] on the back of it.  It had a peak in front, and it kind of protected you down over your eyes, enough for you to see, but the snood covered your hair.  Your hair was always covered up so it didn’t get caught in the machine.

Kelsey:  Did you buy your own clothing, or did they buy it?

Holmes:  We bought our own clothing, but they had them there, we bought them right at the factory.

Kelsey:  Oh, there was like a factory store where you could get them?

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  And did they fit, or were they men’s clothes that you had to alter?

Holmes:  Well, they kind of fit.  I never complained, I thought they fit.

Kelsey:  Were there special rules that you had to follow, safety rules?



Holmes:  Yes, at that time the shades had to be down at night when you worked.  We didn’t control the shades.  When we went to work, we knew the shades were all down.  We worked in the basement.  They had a factory upstairs and downstairs, and most of the machinery was downstairs.  It was dark.  We had lights inside, but you couldn’t see it from the outside, because it was dark.

Kelsey:  Did you feel your job was important?

Holmes:  I thought so.  And then I might add they had the slogan, “Loose lips sink ships,” so we couldn’t talk about what we did, and everything was secretive.  If we knew something, we couldn’t talk about it.

Kelsey:  Were you ever promoted or given a raise?

Holmes:  I don’t think so.  I think we had the same rate always.  And it was nice for me; I never had a salary before like that.  To get a paycheck every week, that was something.

Kelsey:  How many years did you work in the factory?

Holmes:  It was three years, ’43, ’44, and ’45.  The day the war ended, they closed the factory.

Kelsey:  Were there any women supervisors or managers where you worked?

Holmes:  When I first worked there, there were men supervisors, but they were all drafted.  So then women, only women, worked in that factory, except for the one man that was an Indian and the one man that was older.

Kelsey:  So even the managers and the supervisors were women?

Holmes:  All women, uh-huh.



Kelsey:  What did you think about that?  Did you think that was kind of unusual at the time?

Holmes:  I felt sorry for the boys all having to be drafted.  That kind of made me sad.  No, I didn’t think it was different, I accepted it.

Kelsey:  All of the women in this plant were doing work that before the war had been done pretty much only by men, is that correct?

Holmes:  Absolutely.  The women said they could do anything, and they did, and we did.  I remember when I went on the drill press I thought that’s a big machine to be running—and it was, it was something that women did not do.

Kelsey:  And how did you all feel—you and the other women that you worked with—how did you all feel about needing to do this kind of work, and being able to do it—how did that you make you feel?

Holmes:  I think we were all happy to do the work, because we didn’t have a job before.  And we did feel patriotic, we knew someone was making the airplane parts.  And we were always careful to follow the specs so that we didn’t make mistakes on it.  We knew that if we made a mistake on a part, the airplane would fall down.  I think on the whole the women were happy to do it.  And a lot of them came from Depression, so they didn’t even have a job where they made any money at all.  So they seemed to be all happy.  There were some women who had their husbands in the service, and there were other women who had sons in the service.  I don’t recall too many daughters in the service at that time, but that happened later, when more women went into the service.

Kelsey:  Was there a union at that time in the factory?



Holmes:  I think it’s funny that you should mention that, because I recall I went on vacation for a week, and I went back to the farm.  And one of the girls came with me, but she said she knew a secret but she couldn’t tell me.  And she said it was very secret.  All during vacation, I thought, “Well, maybe she will say what it’s about.”  But she said, “No, it’s a secret.”  I later found out that they were organizing a union, or they were going to try to.  But they never did, because by the time they got it going, the war was over, and the plant closed, so they never did have a union.

Kelsey:  And was it women who were trying to organize the union?

Holmes:  Well, she was the only one that I knew.  She knew about it, but apparently it had to be mostly women, because that was what was there.

Kelsey:  Do you know what union it was?

Holmes:  I think maybe CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations].  I think that’s what it was.  I recall my sisters that worked in Harrison, New Jersey, they were trying—the people in Harrison were trying to get a union in, and that was the CIO.

Kelsey:  Do you know why they were trying to bring a union in?

Holmes:  They thought the wages were low for women, and they thought the men were getting more money before they left.  They really thought the women were working and not getting what they were due.

Kelsey:  What year was this when you went back to the farm with this woman?

Holmes:  It was probably 1943.

Kelsey:  So they tried for almost three years to….

Holmes:  One or two years, that I knew of.



Kelsey:  What kinds of blockades were put in the way of bringing the union in?

Holmes:  I think they could lay you off if they knew about it—I think they could.  I don’t think there were any laws against it.

Kelsey:  Did you know anyone who was laid off because they were….

Holmes:  No, I don’t.  It was a strange time.  They needed the girls, so I don’t think that came into the picture.

Kelsey:  But they were never successful in actually getting [a union]?

Holmes:  No, the war was over, it just ended it all there—except for my sisters at General Motors.  I don’t know if they ever got a union.  I think they may have later on, because after the war was over, General Motors in Harrison, they continued to work there.

Kelsey:  Your sisters did?

Holmes:  Yes, they did.

Kelsey:  They weren’t laid off at the end of the war?

Holmes:  They weren’t laid off, no.  General Motors is a big company.

Kelsey:  And when the guys came back, your sisters were actually able to keep their jobs?

Holmes:  They kept their jobs, although a lot of women did get laid off, or they left [on] their own.  They had families, and they decided to leave.

Kelsey:  But that was pretty unusual, for women to remain in their jobs.  Most of the women were laid off, weren’t they?



Holmes:  I think so.  Like we said, “We’re leaving because the boys are coming back and we’re going to give them their jobs back.  We’re going to go home and have families and raise our families instead of working.”  Yes, women did leave.

Kelsey:  Why did your sisters decide to keep their jobs?

Holmes:  That was a situation where their husbands came back or….  My sister  Laura, she met her husband at work, and he had served in the service.  My sister Erma, she kept her job until she got married, which was shortly after ’41 or so.  In 1941, I think she got married.

Kelsey:  In the beginning of the war?

Holmes:  No, it was toward the end—maybe 1943, when Erma got married.  She married an undertaker, so he wasn’t in the service.  He had already served time.  He studied embalming on his G.I. Bill, and then he became an undertaker.

Kelsey:  So maybe this was more like at the end of the war, around ’45 or ’46?

Holmes:  Yes, after they had served their time.  And my sister Dolores married a fellow that had been in the army, so he had served his time, and then she got married.

Kelsey:  So your one sister that married the undertaker, after she got married, she quit working?

Holmes:  Yes, she did, she had a family after that.

Kelsey:  And what about your other sister?

Holmes:  My sister Dolores never had any children, but my sister Margaret that lived on the farm, she had two children, a boy and a girl, Frieda and Karl [phonetic].  And my sister Mary Ann that made the parachutes in Simpson, Pennsylvania, had seven children.  She had one set of twins and the rest were single.



Kelsey:  So your sister Dolores that got married but had no children, did she continue to work?

Holmes:  She continued to work, and so did her husband, at General Motors, until they retired.  And that was quite a few years.  General Motors continued to keep people working.

Kelsey:  That’s very interesting.  How did you feel about unions and unionization?  Were you for them, against them, neutral?

Holmes:  I was kind of in between.  I wasn’t for it, but I wasn’t really against it.  I didn’t go out and seek a union.  As it happened, we never did get one in the factory, because the war was over, and there was no job anyway.

Kelsey:  Did anybody approach you at any point to join a union?

Holmes:  No, even the girl that I went on vacation with, she kept it a secret, she never said anything, so I didn’t know they were having a union.  But my sisters that worked in Hyatt [phonetic], I think they joined the union, in Hyatt Roller Bearing.

Kelsey:  Where was this?  Was this in Michigan?

Holmes:  Hyatt Roller Bearing was in Harrison, New Jersey.

Kelsey:  This was Harrison, this was General Motors?

Holmes:  Yeah, Harrison, New Jersey.  There is a General Motors in Michigan also.

Kelsey:  The women that you worked with in the plant, were they multi-racial or of different ethnic groups?

Holmes:  They were mostly white.  Like I said, there was one man, I knew he was an American Indian, but that’s about
   it.  We didn’t have the different groups that we have today.



Kelsey:  The two men that were in the plant, the American Indian and the older man who was too old to go to the war, do you know if they were being paid differently from the rest of you women?

Holmes:  I don’t know for a fact, but I think it was so.  I think that they would have been.  It didn’t even concern me what I was getting paid—I thought that was wonderful, whatever they paid.

Kelsey:  I was just going to ask you how you felt about that!  (laughter)

Holmes:  I think I was getting paid, I was satisfied.

Kelsey:  But you think that that might have had something to do with why there was talk of unionization, that these two men may have been making a better salary?

Holmes:  I imagine that was the case.  They knew something I didn’t know.

Kelsey:  Did you all do the same kind of work?  Did the two men and all the women—were your jobs interchangeable?

Holmes:  Absolutely, we did everything.  Even—they had degreasers to take the grease off the steel parts.  It went through a machine which is called a degreaser, and it took all the grease off the parts.  So then we would polish the parts.  It came back to where we were working, and they used Crisco to polish the parts.  I thought this was cute, you could make a lot of pies with Crisco, but they had these little cans of Crisco, and they’d put it on and polish with it.  They had sandpaper that was very, very fine, and it put on a big shine—with Crisco.

Kelsey:  Did you make new friends while you were working in the plant, while you were working there?



Holmes:  Yes, we made friends.  Yes, we did.  I’m not in touch with anyone now, because they went back to their homes and so forth.

Kelsey:  Where did they come from?  Where were they from, a lot of them?

Holmes:  They came from all over.  A lot came from the South.  I don’t know which towns they were from, but they were from the South.  A lot were from Northern Michigan, from the Upper Peninsula.  Yes, they came from all over.

Kelsey:  Were there any of your coworkers that you didn’t really like very much?

Holmes:  No, we were always a friendly bunch.  We always had fun.  I meant to tell you, on Saturday night, before we went to work the midnight shift, we would stop at the USO and dance with the servicemen.  We would dance with the soldiers and the sailors, and that was the highlight of our week, if we got to go to the dance before we went to work.  But 11:30, we had to leave, like Cinderella, and go back to work.

Kelsey:  And you had a roommate?  You and the other girl [unclear].

Holmes:  Yes, Ruth Johnson, Ruth" , from Upper Michigan.  She worked with me a couple of years, and she lived with me for a couple of years, and then her mother got sick up in Upper Michigan, so she went back there, back home to take care of her mother, and she had brothers and sisters to take care of.  So I often think I would like to get in touch with her, but I haven’t yet.

Kelsey:  Did you have another roommate after she left?

Holmes:  No, I stayed with—her aunt had the apartment, so I stayed in the one room by myself.

Kelsey:  How did your activities and routines change during the war?



Holmes:  In what way?

Kelsey:  Well, I guess, for example, you started working the midnight shift.

Holmes:  Oh, I did go to church.  I had church on Sunday, and I always tried to go to church.  We had a group at church that would go bowling together, and we would go bowling when we had time.  So that was about it, just the bowling.

Kelsey:  And the dances?

Holmes:  And the dances, the USO.

Kelsey:  Did you meet your husband before or after the war?

Holmes:  After the war.  I came back, the job was finished, and I came back to my sister’s in Harrison, New Jersey, —had an apartment.  So I thought, “I’ll come back and try to get a job in Harrison.”  And I met my husband as soon as I got there, because he’d been in the navy, and I met him on a bus.  He was from Pennsylvania also, so we were both going back to Scranton, Pennsylvania, on the bus, and that’s how I met him.  He was from Jessup,Pennsylvania.

Kelsey:  After your roommate left and you were living by yourself, then what kinds of things did you do?  Describe a typical day.

Holmes:  I did the same things.  Her aunt had the apartment, so I would go places with her aunt.  I think we did the same thing.  I met another girl at work that I was friends with—Pauline.  Her name was Pauline Holmes, the same as I have now, Holmes.  We were good friends, and for a young girl she was pretty terrific.  She had bought a house for herself.  I guess they weren’t too expensive, because it was a small house in Michigan, so with her salary



            she put all of her money into this little house.  So I would visit her once in a while.  I never went to live with her, but I did visit her during that time after my other friend had left.

Kelsey:  So you would work the midnight shift, and you would get off at what, eight?

Holmes:  Seven-thirty, eight o’clock in the morning, yeah.  Go home, go to sleep, and sleep and get up in the afternoon.  If we had time, we’d go to the USO, and then we would go to work.  So that’s what we would do.  But we went to the USO mostly on a Saturday night.  A lot of times we just went home and slept, and then when we woke up, we went back to work.  So we didn’t have entertainment every night—it would have been too tiring.  (chuckles)

Kelsey:  How did you feel about the war?

Holmes:  We were all very patriotic at that time.  We didn’t know that it was….  Now I have a different idea about war, I don’t like war at all, of any kind.  But at that time, we thought it was a necessary war.  We were proud, we thought that was the way it was.  So we thought we did what we had to do to win the war.

Kelsey:  Did you ever worry that we might not win?

Holmes:  No, I never thought about it ending or whatever.  I thought surely we would win.

Kelsey:  Your immediate family was mostly engaged in war work?

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  Did you have any family members, more distant ones, or friends, who actually went into the military and went overseas?

Holmes:  I knew one fellow that I dated that went overseas, and he was killed, parachuting from an airplane.

Kelsey:  Where was that, where was he?



Holmes:  I don’t recall what it was.  It was the early part of the war, and he was shot down when he exited the plane.

Kelsey:  What does patriotism mean to you?

Holmes:  It’s a good feeling about the country, and defending the country, and doing everything to preserve what we have.

Kelsey:  How did you show your patriotism?

Holmes:  By doing my part.  If we were told to be rationed, I didn’t feel it was a hardship, I thought it was a good thing to be rationed on the food, sugar.  There were stamps on everything.  I thought it was a good thing.

Kelsey:  What was your most memorable experience during the war?

Holmes:  I had a close one with a drill press when the piece got caught on the drill bit, and the machine started dancing around.  The machine was not anchored properly in the factory, and I’ll always remember that drill press spinning around, and I was going with it.  And I thought, “This is the end!”  The fellow that was the Indian was working in back of me, and he reached over and turned off my machine, which I don’t think would have been done, I couldn’t do it.  I was taken with the machine, I was going around with it.

Kelsey:  It must have been scary!

Holmes:  It was scary, that was memorable.  I have one other thing that is memorable.  I had a little nephew that lived in Michigan.  I think he was about five.  He adored me, so I always took him places.  I said, “I want to take him out to the farm so he can see his grandmother.”  My brother and his wife, my sister-in-law, said “Okay, you can take



            him.”  And we went on a train to Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Well, he loved the train.  And all the soldiers and all, because I was young, they helped me with them—they all wanted to help.  Of course I guess I was a pretty young girl, and they wanted to help the girl, but they did everything with the little boy.  So when we got to his grandmother’s, I was going to take him up to the farm, and his grandmother lived across the field that you have to walk.  So I walked this little boy up through the field, and I got halfway to his grandmother’s house, and all the whistles started to blow.  My father on the farm, he had a whistle.  It was attached to a machine that he used for plowing the roads and stuff.  He started up this plow, and he was blowin’ that whistle like mad.  It was like a train whistle.  And when I heard that whistle blowing, I knew the war was over.  So I took the little boy by the hand—we hadn’t reached his grandmother’s—I took his hand and I started running back to the farm, and I was crying, and I told him, “The war is over!  The war is over!”  And he could see me crying and pulling him down.  He tells me today that that was the scariest time of his life.  It was the end of the war.

Kelsey:  It was the end of the war?

Holmes:  It was the end of the war, and all the whistles that anybody had, they were banging and making noise.

Kelsey:  Wow.  And he remembers that?

Holmes:  He remembered that.  He said, “You scared the life out of me, Aunt Florence!”

Kelsey:  What was the funniest experience you had?  That might also have been the funniest.



Holmes:  Funny?  I can’t recall anything really funny.  I think we enjoyed all the time at the farm—that was fun, growing up.  In the winter we did sleigh riding, we had a lot of fun.  Always fun.  We would fish at the pond—they had a pond with fish in it.  And we could fish and we could fry them.  We’d start a little bonfire and we would fry the fish right at the pond.  My father was clearing the land, so he was taking down old trees and planting new trees.  They would stack up all the old trees, so once a year it was a lot of fun, he would light off that big pile of old trees that was in the field.  We put potatoes in ’em and roasted potatoes out in the field.  That was fun.

Kelsey:  It sounds like fun.  So when you were walking with your nephew across the field, was that V-E Day or V-J Day?

Holmes:  It was strictly the end of the war.  I don’t know what they called it.

Kelsey:  Was it in August?

Holmes:  Yeah, it was summertime.

Kelsey:  So it was Japan.

Holmes:  Yes, I guess.

Kelsey:  Do you remember where you were when the war ended in Europe?

Holmes:  No, I don’t.

Kelsey:  So then you went back to Michigan, to your job, even though the war was over.

Holmes:  Yes.  So that was when the factory closed.  I didn’t have a job much longer.  I think it took about a week to close it.  They lost their jobs immediately.  They didn’t need the parts anymore.

Kelsey:  What had they manufactured in that plant before the war?



Holmes:  I think it was a new plant.  It was N. A. Woodworth, and I think he did it strictly to make parts for other factories.  He was like a sublet for other factories.  When the war ended, his plant was no longer needed at all.

Kelsey:  So it started up as a result of the war?

Holmes:  It did.

Kelsey:  And then ended when the war was over.

Holmes:  Ended when the war was over, yes.

Kelsey:  Did you try to find another job?

Holmes:  I thought I’d like to go back to New Jersey, so I moved back to Harrison , where my sisters were, and I took a job doing housework.  There really wasn’t any jobs.  I mean, it was a hard time.  I got a job taking care of a little boy for a doctor and his wife.  That was when I met my husband.  When I was going to visit my sisters, then I’d get on the bus.  Or if I was going to Pennsylvania, I’d take a bus.  So that’s how I met my husband.  It was about the same time.

Kelsey:  Did you meet him on the bus?

Holmes:  On the bus, yes.

Kelsey:  Did you really?!

Holmes:  Yes.  He was going to Jessup where he lived in Pennsylvania, and I was going to Waymart.

Kelsey:  So you actually met him on the bus ride.

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  And you just got to talking?



Holmes:  Absolutely.  We sat and we talked.  It was kind of like a night ride, because when we got to Jessup , he said, “I want you to meet my mother and father right away,” and all this and that.  I stopped in Jessup, which isn’t Waymart, but it’s the closest place from the bus.  It was a Sunday morning, and his mother was in church, and I remember meeting his father, and his mother coming home from church, and I met her.

            Then we got married at the farmhouse.  My sister made the chicken dinner, and I got married in the little church that I was raised at, St. Mary.

Kelsey:  So how long after you met did you get married?

Holmes:  Just a few months.  That was August when I met him, and then married in April.  Eight months we got married.

Kelsey:  So you met him right after you went to New Jersey?

Holmes:  Yes.  He was out of the navy.  In fact, I don’t think I saw him in his navy outfit, but he was very handsome.

Kelsey:  He still is!

Holmes:  We fell in love immediately.

Kelsey:  I could tell.

Holmes:  We’re married sixty years now.

Kelsey:  That’s wonderful.  So you got married in early ’46 then, is that right?

Holmes:  In 1947.

Kelsey:  And then where did you live?

Holmes:  We lived in Harrison, New Jersey.  My sisters had an apartment, and then we had one room upstairs from their apartment.  Like I did in Michigan, we would have our meals down with my sister, instead of the lady like in



            Michigan.  He was working at M&M Candy, so he had an apartment with his father in Newark. That’s how we met, and that’s how we lived close together.

                        When we got married, we lived with my sister until I had one little boy.  That was in December of 1947, my son John was born, and we moved out of my sister’s.  We moved to an apartment.  At that time, there was no place to live.  You could not rent an apartment.  And we went through a period of time where they would not rent an apartment to anyone that had a child, because they always thought a child would destroy it.  So we had this thing, and we finally found a place to live in a basement apartment, with our little boy.  We lived in there for about a year, and then I was pregnant with my little girl.  My husband said, “This is no good, living in a basement.”  So he found a house, and he had just enough money saved to put a down payment on the house.  In fact, when we went to the closing, he was short $300.  They said, “You have to pay for the oil in the tank, and you have to pay some kind of closing fee.”  So my husband said, “Forget the house.  I don’t have the $300, so forget it.”  So there was an attorney there, his name was Sellantino [phonetic], and he said, “Mr. Holmes, you need a house for your children, and I will lend you the money.”  So he gave my husband the $300 and he said, “Pay me back five dollars a week, or whatever you can afford,” for that $300.  So we got a house in Clifton, New Jersey, and it cost $9,000, so we had a home.

Kelsey:  Was he still working for M&M?

Holmes:  He was still working for M&M.

Kelsey:  So did you have more children then?



Holmes:  I had a son and daughter, and then about six years later we had another son.

Kelsey:  How long did you live there?

Holmes:  We lived there about ten years, and M&M Candy moved out of Newark, and they moved up to Hackettstown, New Jersey.  John was driving from Clifton, New Jersey, where our house was, up to Hackettstown in the morning.  He hit a deer with the car.  I remember him calling me and he said, “I hit a deer, and it was carrying a doe.”  I thought, “How in the heck could a deer be carrying a doe?!”  But it was pregnant, and he hit a pregnant deer [carrying a fawn].

Kelsey:  So then did you move further west?

Holmes:  We moved to Randolph, New Jersey.

Kelsey:  How do you think the war changed your life, or did it?

Holmes:  I’m still very patriotic, I still believe in this country.  I would do anything.  I would do it again.  I met my husband that way, that’s something good.

Kelsey:  And what about the work you did, do you think that changed you, changed the way you thought about yourself?

Holmes:  I feel that growing up on the farm and doing farm work, I could do anything.  After my children were born, I decided to—I wanted to do something else, so I went to Dover Business College and got a degree.  And I took up legal secretary work at Dover Business College, and graduated.  The first job I got was in Morris County.  I was legal secretary in the courthouse in Morristown.  So I had that job for quite a while.  And then I thought maybe I’ll work in a company, and I went to Warner Lambert for a few years, and worked with Warner Lambert



            International.  Everything was by air mail—International was all over the world.  International moved out of New Jersey and went to Canada, so I was laid off.  Then I went to the unemployment office in Dover, and they sent me to Rockaway Township and I got a job with the clerk in Rockaway Township, and I worked there for forty-three years, ’til I retired.

Kelsey:  Forty-three years?

Holmes:  Yeah.  So that was my third life.  Rockaway Township with the juveniles.

Kelsey:  Did your husband use the G.I. Bill at all?

Holmes:  Yes, he did take courses in radio and different courses, but he had such a good job at M&M, he just continued with that.  He continued to get better jobs.  He worked at every department, and he finally got a job as supervising manager at M&M.

Kelsey:  Did he work for M&M before the war?

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  So he went back to his old job?

Holmes:  Yes, they called him up.  In fact, he was in the navy, and M&M got in touch with him and they said, “You know, if you want to come home, we have a job for you here.  We’re making M&Ms for the servicemen.  We could get you deferred from the navy if you want to come home.”  And John said no, that he wanted to stay.  So he stayed in the navy until he got out and the war ended.  He got out, and M&M was waiting for him.  They liked him—up the ladder.  (chuckles)

Kelsey:  Did the work that you did in the factory change your feelings about the kinds of work that women could do, and

            what women could do outside the home?



Holmes:  Definitely, yes it did, because like I said, there were men working in that factory, and they did everything.  I thought, “This is something! working with all these men.”  But they were all drafted, one by one, and every time somebody was drafted, the women did that job.  It just automatically happened; the women were able to do everything they did before.

Kelsey:  And how do you think that what you did, and the fact that you just stepped up and took over jobs that the men had been doing, as a matter of course, do you think that that had any effect on your own children and their idea of what women can do—especially your daughter?

Holmes:  Yes.  Yes, she’s very confident at what she can do.  She sells commercial real estate now, and she’s always had a good job.  My boys all have good jobs.  My youngest son is in commercial real estate, his name is Kevin.  Or no, he’s not in commercial, he’s in regular real estate, he sells houses.  He’s near Princeton, New Jersey.  My daughter Pat sells commercial real estate here in New Jersey, mostly in this area.  My son Jack three years ago—he worked for Power and Light, he had a good job—he died two years ago.  He had cancer.

Kelsey:  Is there one thought about your wartime experience that you would like to share with future generations?

Holmes:  The main thing is “Rosie the Riveter, We Can Do It!”  I think that was a good motto.

Kelsey:  You did it, too, didn’t you?

Holmes:  Yes.

Kelsey:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?



Holmes:  I don’t think that women should limit themselves.  I feel that women should do anything they want to do, because it’s open.  When I see on television, the women….  I went down to the Coast Guard Academy about three years ago—a young man was being inducted into the Coast Guard—and the admiral was a woman, and I was very happy to see her dressed up and so successful in what she was doing.  And that was down in Cape May, New Jersey, at the Coast Guard Academy, and I was very proud of her.

Kelsey:  That’s great.  That’s because of what all you did.  (Holmes laughs)  It is!  Okay, thank you very much; it’s been a wonderful interview.

Holmes:  Thank you.  I appreciate you giving me this honor—and I think it is an honor.

Kelsey:  It’s an honor for us, too.




American Indian..................................... 8, 16, 21

Blackouts.............................................. 11

Church.................................................. 19

     St. Mary........................................... 25

CIO...................................................... See Union

Clifton, New Jersey................................ 26

Depression............................................ 2, 3

Dover Business College.......................... 27

Family.................................................. 1, 4, 6, 20

     Brothers........................................... 4, 6, 7

     Daughter.......................................... 26, 29

     Grandfather...................................... 2

     Husband.......................................... 19, 24

     Mother............................................. 9

     Nephew........................................... 21

     Sisters............................................ 15, 26

     Sons............................................... 26, 27, 29

Friends................................................. 4, 5, 9, 18, 19

     Holmes, Pauline.............................. 19

     Johnson, Ruth................................. 18

G.I. Bill................................................ 15, 28

General Motors..................................... 4, 6, 14, 16

Harrison, New Jersey............................. 6, 13, 14, 16, 19, 24, 25

Hazel Park, Michigan............................. 2, 4

Hyatt Roller Bearing.............................. 16

Jessup, Pennsylvania............................ 19, 24, 25

M&M Candy Company.......................... 26, 27, 28

Michigan.............................................. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25

Morris County, New Jersey.................... 27

Morristown, New Jersey........................ 27

Navy................................................... 19, 25, 28

Patriotism............................................ 5, 12, 20, 27

Randolph, New Jersey.......................... 27

Rationing............................................. 2, 21

Rockaway Township, New Jersey.......... 28

Scranton, Pennsylvania........................ 22

Sellantino............................................ 26

Simpson, Pennsylvania......................... 6, 15

Supervisors.......................................... 11


     Bus................................................ 7, 9, 24

     Streetcar........................................ 7

Uniform............................................... 10

Union.................................................. 12, 13, 14, 16

USO................................................... 18, 19, 20

V-J Day............................................... 22

Warner Lambert................................... 27

Waymart, Pennsylvania........................ 1, 2, 4, 6, 24, 25

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania................... 2

Woodworth, N. A.................................. 24

Woolworth........................................... 5





The Learning Resource Center at the County College of Morris

214 Center Grove Road, Randolph, New Jersey 07869