Kelsey: When and where were you born
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
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
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
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
Holmes: In 1940 I graduated from
Waymart High School.
Kelsey: Did you think about going to
Holmes: Not at that time. That was
about it. I went to
after I graduated. I went to visit my brother in
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
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
Kelsey: And how else were you
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
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
Holmes: My best girlfriend married
my brother, and she went to
and when she came to visit, she said she’s
lonesome because there’s all men out there. I had
two brothers in
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
Park, and when I got a
job, it was in
Kelsey: Was that near a city?
Detroit, Michigan, very close.
Kelsey: And the jobs that these boys
from the farm went to
were they jobs in the automotive industry?
Holmes: Yes, they worked for
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?
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
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
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
Kelsey: Did you just stay in
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
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
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
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
Pennsylvania, which is
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
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
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
Holmes: They were not
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
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
Michigan, how did you get to
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
Kelsey: What kind of work did you
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?
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
Kelsey: Did they give you any kind
of training before you started to actually do the
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
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
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
Kelsey: What did you like most about
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
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
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
Kelsey: That’s really nice. Did you
always work the midnight shift?
Kelsey: Or did you rotate?
Holmes: I always worked the midnight
Kelsey: The whole time you worked
Holmes: The full time, yes.
Kelsey: Did you wear any kind of
special clothing, or uniform of any
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?
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
Kelsey: Did you feel your job was
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
Kelsey: Were there any women
supervisors or managers where you
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
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
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
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
Kelsey: And was it women who were
trying to organize the
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
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
Kelsey: Do you know why they were
trying to bring a
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
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
Kelsey: What kinds of blockades were
put in the way of bringing the
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
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
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
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
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
Holmes: Yes, she did, she had a
family after that.
Kelsey: And what about your other
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
Holmes: She continued to work, and
so did her husband, at
General Motors, until they retired. And that was quite a
General Motors continued to keep people
Kelsey: That’s very interesting.
How did you feel about
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
Kelsey: Did anybody approach you at
any point to join a
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
union. But my sisters that
worked in Hyatt [phonetic], I think they joined the
Hyatt Roller Bearing.
Kelsey: Where was this? Was this in
Hyatt Roller Bearing was in
Harrison, New Jersey.
Kelsey: This was Harrison, this was
Holmes: Yeah, Harrison, New Jersey. There is a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
Kelsey: How did you feel about the
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Kelsey: It was the end of the
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
Kelsey: What was the funniest
experience you had? That might also have been the
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,
V-E Day or
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
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
Kelsey: What had they manufactured
in that plant before the war?
Holmes: I think it was a new plant.
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
Holmes: Ended when the war was over,
Kelsey: Did you try to find another
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
where he lived in
Pennsylvania, and I was going to
Kelsey: So you actually met him on
the bus ride.
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
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
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
was working at
M&M Candy, so
he had an apartment with his father in
That’s how we met, and that’s how we lived close
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
Holmes: He was still working for
Kelsey: So did you have more
Holmes: I had a son and daughter, and then about six years later we had
Kelsey: How long did you live there?
Holmes: We lived there about ten
M&M Candy moved
Newark, and they moved up to Hackettstown,
New Jersey. John was driving from
Jersey, where our house was, up to
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
Kelsey: So then did you move further
Holmes: We moved to
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
Lambert for a few years, and
Everything was by air mail—International was all
over the world.
International moved out of
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
Rockaway Township with the juveniles.
Kelsey: Did your husband use the
Bill at all?
Holmes: Yes, he did take courses in
radio and different courses, but he had such a good
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
Kelsey: Did he work for
Kelsey: So he went back to his old
Holmes: Yes, they called him up. In
fact, he was in the
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
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
waiting for him. They liked him—up the ladder.
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
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
Kelsey: You did it, too, didn’t you?
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
Coast Guard Academy about three years ago—a
young man was being inducted into the
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
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
Kelsey: It’s an honor for us, too.
[END OF INTERVIEW]