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,
Kelsey: When and where were you born and
Buono: I was born in
Port Jervis, New York. I was raised in
both New York and
Kelsey: Tell me a little bit about your
family background. What did your parents do?
Buono: Well, I’ll tell you, my mother….
No, I’d better not tell you that. (laughs) My father worked on the railroad, and my
mother was a homemaker, until the
crash, and then we lost everything.
Kelsey: And then what did your parents
do after 1929?
Buono: Well, this is rather
embarrassing, but my father took off, couldn’t face the
fact that he had a family and no money. My mother did
cleaning for other people.
Kelsey: Did you have brothers and
Buono: Oh, we had thirteen of us.
Kelsey: How many brothers and how
Buono: I think there were seven
brothers, and six—including me—daughters.
Kelsey: Did any other family members
live with you? Any other relatives?
Kelsey: How would you describe
Jervis, was it a small town?
Buono: Port Jervis, New
York was a small town, it was a railroad town. I
forgot, my father had worked on the railroad before he
did all this other stuff.
Kelsey: What was your neighborhood like?
Buono: It was a mixed neighborhood. We called it Little Italy, but it was
actually Jews and Polish and Russians and Lithuanians,
and a conglomerate of everyone.
Kelsey: And did everybody pretty much
Buono: Oh, we all got along.
It’s not like it is today. People today are—they’re not
nice to each other.
Kelsey: Describe the schools you went
Buono: I left school when I was thirteen
years old, to go out to work. The school I went to was
just an elementary school. I left in the seventh grade.
Kelsey: What year was that, what year
did you quit school?
Buono: I think it was ’37. Yeah, ’37.
Kelsey: What kind of a job did you get
when you left school?
Buono: I went out and cleaned other
people’s dirt. I mean, that’s the only way to put it.
I did housecleaning; I took care of the children,
whatever mess they had, I cleaned.
Kelsey: Did your family belong to any
social groups, organizations, like a church or….
Buono: Well, we’re Methodist.
Kelsey: And was your family active in
Buono: No, not after all this happened.
I think they were embarrassed and ashamed that they
couldn’t meet their obligations.
Kelsey: Would you say that the fact that
you didn’t go to high school was directly related to the
Buono: I would think so, yes. I think
so. There was no opportunity to do anything, I had to
work. And then when I was eighteen, of course, the war
was on, and then I went to
Picatinny and got a
Kelsey: Looking back on how your family
lived at that time, how would you characterize your
Buono: (chuckles) Very low! Not much
money coming in. What did I get? For a week’s work of
a five-room apartment, taking care of two little kids,
doing whatever they wanted, I guess I got three dollars
Kelsey: And all your other brothers and
sisters, were they still at home during this time
Buono: They went out on their own,
except for my one sister —the only
sister I have left.
Kelsey: So the two of you stayed in Port
Kelsey: And the other brothers and sisters went to other towns or
states to find work?
Buono: I lost track [of] them, actually,
because they didn’t keep in touch.
Kelsey: And you never reconnected with
Buono: In later years, we would
correspond, but other than that, we didn’t keep in
Kelsey: Were you married when the war
Buono: No, I went to
Picatinny when I was eighteen. I think that was 1942.
And then we used to take the bus. We’d go to work in the daytime, we’d take the bus
into Dover, and go to the movies
or meet people or whatever, and that’s how I met my
husband. In the back of Moeller’s
[phonetic] Café on Sussex Street in
Dover, there used to be a bowling alley, and we would
go back there and bowl. I didn’t like going through the
barroom, but that’s how you had to do it to get to the
bowling alley. And that’s how I met him, we were
Kelsey: What year was that?
Buono: I think that was ’43 or ’44, the
beginning of ’44.
Kelsey: Was he in the military?
Buono: He was in the
Kelsey: Where was he stationed?
Kelsey: Was he home on leave when you
Kelsey: Did he go overseas?
Buono: He went to
Kelsey: What year?
Buono: I went down to
Fort Bragg, we got married…. Oh! that’s an
interesting story. Went down to
Fort Bragg and got
married. Shortly after we were married, he was shipped
out. Years later, we found out we weren’t married!
Kelsey: How was that?
Buono: It was one of those wedding
mills. This guy…. (aside about cough drop) Just
outside the base was this supposedly chapel that said
“Married …” blah, blah, blah. I’ve forgotten the exact
words. But anyhow, we were married before this justice
of the peace—so called justice of the peace.
Our daughter was, I don’t know, almost
two years old when we discovered we weren’t married.
Kelsey: And how did you find out that
Buono: Because it was in the
papers that this wedding mill that was there was not
legal. We weren’t mentioned, thank God. (laughs) My
kids don’t know this. (laughs) My kids would die of
embarrassment. (laughs) But I think it’s hilarious, I
Kelsey: So did you then go and get
Buono: Yeah, we got married by a justice
of the peace in
(laughs) But I think it’s the funniest thing,
actually. My husband was always
embarrassed. He didn’t want to tell his family that we
weren’t married. I think Francine was eleven months old
when we got married.
Kelsey: And what year was that?
Buono: In 1946.
Kelsey: So even though the wedding
chapel wasn’t really legal, describe how the wedding
Buono: You just stood up before this
man, he said, “Do you take this man to be your husband? Do you take this woman to be your
wife?” And that’s the only way—you know, I don’t
remember everything. But it was just outside the gates
of the fort. But it was funny! I mean, it wasn’t at
the time—it was very embarrassing. But now
I can laugh,
see. But if he was here, he’d be ashamed if I told the
story. (laughs) I don’t know how my kids would take
it, either, because I don’t think I ever told them.
Kelsey: And then he shipped out to
Saipan, and what did you do then?
Buono: Let me see, what did I do? I
still worked at
was pregnant at the time, and then I had to…. Oh, the
war ended, and the reduction in service, they let the
new people go, because they had no longevity, but that’s
not the word I want. I don’t know the word I want.
Buono: Seniority is the word I’m looking
for. They let us go. Reduction in force, it was
Kelsey: Did you quit working at
Picatinny when you went to
Bragg to get married, or did you just
like take a leave and go down there and come back?
Buono: Oh, no, no, I just went on the
weekend. I went down to visit him, and that’s how we
got married. I had no intention of getting married when
we went down. We just got married on the spur…. Don’t
tell the kids that. They’re not supposed to do those
Kelsey: Would you say that the war had
something to do with that kind of the spur-of-the-moment
Buono: Oh, course. You didn’t know if
anybody was coming back. It was a terrible time.
That’s why I’m so upset over this Iraq thing—terrible, terrible, terrible.
Kelsey: So you worked at
Picatinny—what year did you start working at
Buono: I believe I started in ’43. No,
wait a minute, that’s not right. I was eighteen. I
started in ’44. I think I did, twenty-four, yes. I was
eighteen when I started, and I left there in ’45.
Kelsey: And were you still living in
Franklin, on Susquehanna Street.
Kelsey:  Franklin …?
Kelsey: And during that time, do you
remember seeing any newsreels or billboards or posters
or things on the radio?
Buono: “Button your lip,” it said.
“Loose lips sink ships.”
Kelsey: Yeah. But what about
encouraging women to go to work?
Rosie the Riveters, yeah.
Kelsey: You remember seeing those kinds
Buono: They had pictures of this woman
with a bandana on her head, and something in her hand—I
forgot what it was—encouraging us to take the place of a
man while he’s off to war.
Kelsey: And did that advertising affect
your decision to go to
Buono: Yes. Well, not only that, but
the pay was good. Gotta remember, back then, you didn’t
get much money. I mean, if you were in a defense plant,
the wages were very poor.
Kelsey: And so before that you were
taking care of children and keeping house for people.
Kelsey: And so you went right from that
Buono: Yes. We used to go to work in
the daytime—this would be like on a Friday night—we’d be
able to…. No, not Friday night. Was it Friday night?
It must have been. Friday night we would go into
Dover, because we could take the bus that took the workers home. We
would take that. Then we’d go in on the midnight shift
and go back and get our ride to go home. For instance,
I lived in Franklin at that time. It was a long day, but it was worth having a
little fun, you know.
Kelsey: Did any of your other family or
friends go to work at
Picatinny when you did?
Buono: No. Well, I don’t remember. No,
not those friends. I made
Kelsey: And what did you do at
Buono: I worked various places. First I
worked in black powder on 210. Then I worked on 350. I
know now that I was supposed to be smelling for a
particular odor, but they didn’t tell us what we
were smelling. They just said, “Smell this.” They
didn’t tell you what you were doing. And I said, “I
wonder how many of those fuses went off as duds, and
some poor soldier got hurt because we didn’t know what
we were doing. People should explain to you when
they tell you to do a job, what you’re supposed to be
looking for. But at that time, I was young and didn’t
Kelsey: So I take it from that, that you
don’t think you had sufficient training.
Buono: That’s correct—as usual. You
should tell people little details because if you don’t
get the little details, how could you know what you’re
doing, and do a good job?
Kelsey: Was there any kind of formal
training at all?
Buono: No. They just take you in there
and said, “Smell this.” And I said, “What am I smelling
for?” “Well, never mind, just smell,” which is
ridiculous! And then of course I worked up on the
back line, which nobody ever talked about, which was a
hush-hush thing, and we still don’t talk about it, but I
worked on a project in ’45.
Kelsey: And the whole time you were
Picatinny, you got
back and forth from work on
Buono: Yes. I have to tell you an
interesting—well, maybe not to you, but it was
very funny to me—taking the bus down, we had to come down
Mase Mountain. You know
Mase Mountain is? All right,
you know how steep it is. And at that time, it was not
double [lanes] like it is now. The bus driver’s name
was Johnny. And we were going down, it was very icy.
This woman kept, (in high frantic voice), “We’re gonna
be killed! We’re gonna be killed!” It’s making him so
nervous, he turned around and said, “Shut that damned
woman up before we go over the side of this cliff!”
(laughs) So we all piled on her. She was hysterical.
You cannot drive like that, and control yourself, if
somebody is screamin’ their head off. Now we can laugh
at it—at the time, we were scared to death.
Mountain at that time was sheer. You’d just go right
off the side. Really, [that’s] the only thing I
remember about riding that bus. “We’re gonna get
killed! We’re gonna get killed!” she said. (laughs)
Kelsey: Did you have a job title?
Buono: Explosive operator.
O’Hagan: I was just wondering what the
work was in the back line in 1945.
Kelsey: You won’t tell us what you were
doing on the back line?
Kelsey: I didn’t think so. My father
worked on secret projects, and he won’t either.
Buono: It still hasn’t been released.
You can imagine what it was, in ’45, but that’s it. To
tell you the truth, I really don’t know. I have an
idea, I have inkling, but we really don’t know.
Kelsey: What did you like most about
Buono: The money! (laughs) And the
people, of course. It was being able to contribute to
the war effort. And then of course when I met Frank, it
meant more to me.
Kelsey: And why was that?
Buono: Because I fell in love. At least
I think it was love.
Kelsey: So why did your work mean more
to you after you met him?
Buono: Because it gave me something to
look forward to.
Kelsey: Did you feel that what you were
doing was helping him?
Buono: Yes. It was…. How do I say
this? Helping some soldier or some
airman—and I think what I was working on was more
airmen—to end the war faster.
Kelsey: What did you like least about
Buono: Working in that black powder was
terrible dirty. Oh! it was awful! And of course
you have people that resent you being there, and would
rather have somebody else beside them, or whatever—you
know, they were older people, and I was just a kid.
Kelsey: So you felt that some of the
older workers resented having the younger people there?
Buono: Well, not just necessarily
me—just the young people. They didn’t think the young
people should be there. We didn’t know what we were
Kelsey: Were these men or women—both?
Buono: Oh, no, mostly women. The men
were very scarce. The only men I remember seeing there
would be the bosses, the people in charge—and of course
Kelsey: And so you felt that the older
women resented the younger women working there?
Buono: That’s my opinion. Now,
whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.
Kelsey: What rules were you required to
Buono: (chuckles) On grounds or off
Kelsey: Well, both.
Buono: Well, you weren’t allowed to talk
about what you were working on. You weren’t allowed
to…. I have no idea, let’s put it that way.
Kelsey: Okay. Did you have to wear any
kind of special clothing?
Buono: Did I have to put a wrap on?
When I went up on the hill, I did. Yes, yes, sterile
Kelsey: And that’s when you were working
on the secret project?
Kelsey: Were you ever promoted or given
a raise while you were working there?
Buono: I got a three cent raise! That
was very good at that time. (laughs)
Kelsey: And did other people you worked
with, did they also get raises?
Buono: I have no idea.
Kelsey: You mentioned your bosses were
men. Were there any women supervisors or managers?
Buono: I think in 350 there were a
couple of women that were in charge, but I can’t
Kelsey: And what was 350?
Buono: Where they had the fuses.
Kelsey: That was Building 350?
Kelsey: And that’s where they were
making the ordnance fuses?
Buono: The ones who I think I sent off a
lot of duds to the servicemen ’cause I didn’t know what
I was doing. Then after I got finished there and
realized what I was doing, I was very upset.
Kelsey: So there were women supervisors
Buono: I believe so. Of course,
remember, this is fifty years ago.
Kelsey: All of you were working at jobs
that before the war had been done pretty exclusively by
Buono: By men, yes. It was a man’s
Kelsey: How did you feel about that,
about taking on a man’s job?
Buono: Well, it was during war. You
do things during war that you would not necessarily
do. A man goes off, and you have to keep the production
up so that we can save lives.
Kelsey: And do you think you were saving
Buono: When I got out of the place where
I didn’t know what I was doing, yes. I have always felt
guilty about that, that I didn’t know what I was doing,
and nobody would explain what I was supposed to be
looking for—which I think is ridiculous.
Kelsey: Did you encounter what we would
now call sexual harassment?
Kelsey: Tell me about it.
Buono: Any men that were there—of course
they were (makes squinching noise with mouth) old, they
would come on to you. You know, this is life. A man is
a man, and they’re gonna be men.
Kelsey: And these are mostly the
Buono: That’s all there was, yeah.
Kelsey: And how did you all handle that?
Buono: “Get lost, buddy.”
Kelsey: And did they accept that?
Buono: Nah. They would keep [on], and
I’d say, “Listen, I told you before, get lost!” You
don’t want to really hear what I told ’em. No, I
won’t tell you what I told ’em.
Kelsey: Did you notice….
Buono: One of the things I told ’em,
“I’ll tell your wife!”
Kelsey: After you got married, did you
notice any change then in their behavior?
Buono: I don’t know if I was still
working then. No, that’s right, I worked from…. I got
married in March…. You’re talking about the first
Kelsey: Yeah, the 1944 marriage.
Buono: Yeah. No, no difference.
Kelsey: So they still came on to you the
Buono: Well, they didn’t know I was
married, see. I didn’t tell ’em. It was secret. I
didn’t dare tell ’em, because his family didn’t know.
Listen, I have to tell you something, now that we’ve
come back to that. I wasn’t Catholic, I wasn’t Italian,
I wasn’t whatever, and I wasn’t accepted. If I was
Italian and Catholic…. Oh, another thing, I was
blue-eyed and blonde hair. (laughs) The whole thing
was until the kids were born, then I was okay.
Kelsey: How long after the war ended did
you wait to tell his family that you were married?
Buono: Oh, let me see, he came home
in…. We went down in…. When he came home in December,
just before my daughter was born, and I was big like
this. Well, you don’t want to hear what they said.
Kelsey: But they became more accepting
after your daughter was born?
Buono: Well, in a manner of speaking.
You know, I was his wife. They really didn’t like me,
because I was blond hair, blue eyes, not Catholic. If I
had been Catholic, it might have worked in my favor.
You know, these Catholics, they think they’re the only
ones on earth! (laughs)
Kelsey: Was there a
Buono: I don’t think so—not at that
time. I don’t think
unions are allowed on military
grounds, military facilities. I don’t know if they are
Kelsey: Tell me a little bit about the
other people you worked with.
Buono: And before I forget, I have a son, also. I mustn’t forget him.
Kelsey: No, no, we won’t forget him.
Buono: You’ll get to it.
Kelsey: We’ll get to it, yup. You said
that there were mostly women who were working. (Buono:
Yes.) And you were all working on
assembly lines, is
Buono: Yes. When we were working on 210
and 350, we were on
Kelsey: And that was the black powder
and the fuses?
Buono: 210 was black powder, 350 was
Kelsey: Some of the other people that
were working there, were they different ethnic groups, different races?
Buono: I would imagine so. At that
time, I wasn’t particularly—how do I say this?—aware?
You know, I just take people as they come. Now, I right
away know—or mostly—what somebody’s background is, just
by looking at them, appearances and things like that.
Kelsey: But did you notice any kind of
Kelsey: Did you make new friends on the
Buono: Yeah. There was a girl
named Susan Hyatt [phonetic], who
lived up in Little Washington. And that’s how I started
going into Dover on Saturday
nights, because I was a very naïve kid at that time. I
wasn’t really aware of things. And she said, “Come
on.” And I said, “Well, how am I going to get home?”
And she said, “Well, we’ll take the bus down to
Dover, and then we’ll
take the other bus back, and then we….” So we would go
then we would go to her house on the bus in Little Washington, and then we’d go back to work the
next day. Her name was Susan Hyatt. I have no idea
where she is or anything. After the war we lost track
of each other.
Kelsey: Were there any people that you
worked with that you didn’t particularly like?
Buono: Oh, you don’t like people to get
on your back all the time. I can’t tell you who they
were, because I don’t remember their names.
Kelsey: And were these the older women
that you mentioned earlier?
Buono: Because I was a kid! You know
yourself now, when you’re a mature person and a kid
comes in and doesn’t do what you think a kid should do,
you tell ’em, and you resent that. So that’s what
Kelsey: And how old were you then at
Buono: I was about eighteen, nineteen
Kelsey: And how did you respond to them?
Buono: Told ’em, “Bug off!”
Kelsey: And did they?
Buono: I don’t let people boss me around
if I think they’re wrong. I just tell them, “Look, mind
your own business. I’ll do mine, and you do yours.”
Kelsey: Were you always that way?
Buono: Uh-huh. Not just because I’m
older—and I am old.
Kelsey: Now, you had moved from Port
Jervis to Franklin. Did you live by yourself, or
did you have roommates?
Buono: No, no, I lived with my mother and my sister.
Kelsey: So you all moved?
Kelsey: And did you live in a house, an
Buono: We lived in a house on
Susquehanna Street. I’ll never
forget that name.
Kelsey: Did the war change your
activities and your routines?
Buono: Oh, I grew up, sure. Before
that, I wasn’t aware of quote, unquote, “the world.”
After the war, I, you know…. Or during the war.
Kelsey: How old were you when the war
Buono: I was…. 1941, I think I was
sixteen or seventeen. What is that? Seventeen, I
think. Yeah, because I went to work when I was
eighteen, so I was seventeen when the war started.
Kelsey: And you already were working,
you weren’t in school.
Kelsey: And did anything change in
relation to the work you were doing, or the family you
worked for, when the war started?
Buono: I told them I wasn’t coming in
any longer, I was gonna go work for the United States
government, “Because,” I said, “the boys are going off
to war, and somebody needs to work in their places.”
That’s what I told ’em—or words to that effect.
Kelsey: Do you remember any things like
Kelsey: Tell me something about that.
Buono: I forgot, I did do work
for this family up in
just before…. I forgot all about that. The parents
out or working or something, and the sirens went
off, and the blackout warden, (shouts)
“Lights out! Turn those lights out! We’re having an
air raid!” You know? (laughs) That was the first time
I’d heard that.
Buono: So I turned out the lights and I
lifted the corner of the shade, and I said, “What’s goin’
on?” He said, “Can’t you hear those sirens? Turned
those damned lights off!” (laughs) That really brought
home the fact that there’s a war on, you know. That’s
the first inkling that I really was aware that the war
was going on. I mean, I knew it, but I wasn’t
thinking of it.
Kelsey: Can you remember any other
things like that, that changed?
Buono: That stands out. I don’t know
why I had forgotten it. That’s the only thing that I
remember, we had that
Kelsey: What about
Buono: Oh, well, of course we had
rationing. I’ve still got some stamps
somewhere at home—unless they got thrown out when I
moved—sugar stamps, gas stamps. That was time…. The
thing that really got me, though, there was a
market. And if you knew somebody who knew somebody who
knew somebody, you could get stuff. And that’s
not right. Everybody should be equal. I was in an Acme
on Blackwell Street in
and I was shopping, and I heard this woman say, “And
I’ll have a half a pound of butter.” He reaches under
the counter and gives her the butter.
And I said, “And I’ll have a half a pound of
butter, too.” He said, “We don’t have any more.” I
said, “Well, you had it for her, I want it too.” So I
got a half a pound of butter. (chuckles) That’s what
you call being feisty. You speak up for yourself.
Kelsey: Did the kinds of things you did
for recreation change after the war started?
Buono: What recreation?! I
didn’t do any recreation. I had to work, or we
went home and slept. But no…. I, as I say, went
bowling. We would go in on a Saturday night to
Dover and bowl. Or after I met my
husband, I’d say to him, “Take me
dancing!” He’d say, (growls) “I don’t dance!” I said,
“Well, you have to learn to dance.” (growls) “I don’t
dance!” So we would just go walking or if we had a car,
we’d go for a ride, stuff like that. He never learned,
all the years that we were married—and we were married
the first time from 1945 until he died in…. What was
it? 1968, I think it was. Was it ’68? No, he
sixty-eight when he died. Figure it out, from 1918 to
sixty-eight is what year? I’ve forgotten what year.
Isn’t that awful? I know it just as well as I know my
Buono: That’s exactly right. He died
two days before his sixty-eighth birthday, in February
of ’86. (chuckles) All the years I would say to him,
“C’mon, let’s go dancin’.” (growls) “I don’t dance!”
So finally the year I didn’t say to him, “Let’s go,” he
said, “When are you gonna sign me up for dance
lessons?” I said, “You’re kidding!” I went to the
phone and I called. This was at Morris Knolls High
School where you had this after-school stuff. I don’t
know if you know the name Phil Grazia and Mary Grazia [phonetic], but they were
dance instructors. And he happened to know Mary from
going to grammar school with her. But he shook like
this. She said, “What’s the matter?” He said, “I can’t
do it, I can’t do it.” He was so nervous about
dancing. And he knew Mary. It was
funny. It wasn’t
funny, but it was funny, you know, because he was so
nervous. I said, “You know you can do it.” So it took
him all those years, before he died. This was like….
He died in ’86. This was like about in ’75, that we
finally took lessons. Of course I always danced. I
don’t necessarily follow the steps that’s supposed to be
stepped—I just follow the music, you know. I love
to dance. You know any eighty-year-old men who like to
go dancing who don’t want anything else? I would
love to go dancing.
Kelsey: If I meet any, I will let you
know for sure. (laughter) Getting back to
Picatinny, did you do shift work?
Buono: Yes, and that was the hardest
Kelsey: What shifts did you work?
Buono: Mornings and afternoons was
fine. I always blew myself up on the midnight shift. I
forgot what we were working on—it wasn’t up on the
project, it was something down below. Black powder, and
you’ve got this little like cartridges, I think they’re
called. I think that’s what they were. And
along about three or four o’clock in the morning, I
don’t know about you, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
I’m going…. (snores) And fortunately for me, I only
blew the machine up, and not my fingers. I fell asleep
momentarily. That’s the worst thing that
happened to me during the war.
Kelsey: And how often did your shift
Buono: Every three weeks. That’s just
that one time I just was beyond staying awake. I told
him, “You’d better give me something….” “We can’t, you
have to work the machine.” But it was so scary when I
realized what I’d done. I
so fortunate. You
have to put this powder in, you have to do this, and you
pull it down. Fortunately my hands weren’t in there
when it happened.
Kelsey: And what were the hours of each
of the shifts?
Buono: Well, you would go from 7-3,
3-11, 11-7, I think it was.
Kelsey: And that shifted every three
Kelsey: Did you know women who were
injured that way, falling asleep or….
Buono: Not to talk about, no.
Kelsey: Did the army not want to talk
about injuries at the plant?
Buono: Not that I’m aware of.
Kelsey: But was there gossip about
people getting hurt?
Buono: Well, you know, people talk.
Whether it’s true or not, they talk. Or they want to
make something out of whatever they do know.
Kelsey: Because there were some
Buono: Oh, at
Hercules, yes, it was
terrible over at
Hercules. That was beyond belief.
Kelsey: But as far as you know, there
weren’t any incidents like that at
Buono: Only up on the hill maybe.
Kelsey: Would you say that the army had
safety measures in place to prevent a lot of accidents?
Buono: Yes. If you were careful, and
you followed what you were supposed to do. Otherwise,
the whole place would go up.
Kelsey: But you said before that you
weren’t given very much training. So how did you learn
these safety rules?
Buono: I’m not talking about up on the
hill now. I’m talking about down where the fuses were,
we weren’t told anything.
Kelsey: But you were given some safety
training in other places?
Buono: We were told what we should and
should not do up on the hill, yes. And I can’t talk
about that, I’m sorry.
Kelsey: Yeah, okay. But you weren’t
given that kind of information on the line?
Buono: No. Just, “Do this, do this, do
Kelsey: How did people learn what to do
to avoid—because you were working with very dangerous
Buono: I have no idea what other people
Kelsey: Did people share information
with each other?
Buono: They didn’t share it with me, so
I don’t know.
Kelsey: So you just kind of had to
Buono: By guess and by golly.
Kelsey: Okay. How did you feel about
Buono: That war? We needed it. We
needed it to protect ourselves. We were attacked by a
bunch of…. Well, anyhow, we were attacked by the
Japanese, and we had to protect ourselves. Those men
are still down there in the
Arizona, that they
couldn’t get them out. And I cry when I think
about it. And this war today is worse than
that war then, because we shouldn’t be there.
Kelsey: Did you have any—well, maybe not
your family—but friends, besides your husband, who were fighting?
Buono: Oh, yeah. There was a fellow
named Eddie Schultz, that I knew
before I met my husband. He went
Italy. My brother went into service. My
brother was a regular
He went in when he was just two days shy of his
eighteenth birthday. His birthday was March 29, and he
went in on March 27 of 1941, was it? I think. Right
after the war. No, before the war. Before the war or
after the war? ’42, excuse me, he went in. He was in
until 1970, I think it was. He was a regular army man.
He was there when Patton slapped
that soldier. Patton thought the guy was faking. My
brother said he wasn’t faking, he was really sick. But
Patton said he wanted him to get up out of bed and go.
Kelsey: So he stayed in the
was his career?
Buono: Yes. Just before he retired, they wanted him to be—between master sergeant
and lieutenant there’s another, like a warrant officer.
I don’t know if that’s the right phrase or not.
(Kelsey: Yes.) They wanted him to go into the
and do something. First they wanted him to go to
Vietnam. He said, “You can keep your
grade, I’m not going, I’m retiring.” They said, “Oh,
come on, we want you, we need you.” He wouldn’t go. So
he retired, he wouldn’t go over there to
Kelsey: And what year did he retire?
Buono: He retired, I think it was ’69 or
’70. I can’t really recall that, but I think that’s
when it was.
Kelsey: Were any of your friends or
family killed or wounded?
Buono: Well, a couple friends were
killed, but I don’t want to talk about it.
Europe? (no audible
response) What effects did the war and the work you did
Picatinny have on your
physical and mental health?
Buono: I don’t know, I think it made me
stronger, because you had to grow up. You really had to
grow up back there. And I imagine the families now are
going through the same thing: they have to grow up.
It’s tough, war is tough.
Kelsey: Did you feel like you were
physically challenged by the work that you were doing?
That is, was it heavy work?
Buono: It wasn’t so much that it was
heavy—it was tedious, but you had to pay attention to
what you were doing. You know, explosives, if you don’t
know what you’re doing, you’re in trouble.
Kelsey: And how did you figure out what
you were supposed to be doing, and make sure that you
did it so that you didn’t blow yourself up?
Buono: It was so long ago, I can’t
recall that. I really can’t. I mean, you knew you were
told to do this, and if somebody next to you banged,
like me with that press and I almost blew myself up.
You know, you learn by osmosis, by watching.
Kelsey: Were you scared?
Buono: Of course. Very much frightened.
Kelsey: All the time?
Buono: I think most of the time. You’re
frightened for yourself, you’re frightened for your
country. You know. Those were despicable people at
that time that were fighting this country, and you had
to, you know….
Kelsey: And what about working on the
line? Do you remember being scared because of what you
were working with?
Buono: I was frightened all the time in
the beginning—afraid I was going to blow up myself, or
blow somebody else up.
Kelsey: And then that changed?
Buono: Yeah, you get used to it. “You
do this, you do this, you do this. You don’t do that!”
Except the time I fell asleep. (laughs)
Kelsey: And did you feel fatalistic?
Would you say you were fatalistic?
Buono: What does that mean?
Kelsey: That means did you feel like,
“Well, if something’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,
so no point in worrying about it”?
Buono: Yes. I think so. What will be,
will be, yeah.
Kelsey: Do you think that was kind of a
general attitude for all the people who were working
Buono: I really can’t speak for other
people, but I assume that’s what happened.
Kelsey: Looking back on that now, and
thinking about what you were doing, and feeling that
way, how do you think that affected how you look at
things now, how you look at life?
Buono: You grew up. You were no longer
a little kid playing with dolls. You grew up, you were
aware of the world. You may not know people over
there, but you knew there were other people in the
universe, and you grew up. It wasn’t just you anymore,
you had to think of other people.
Kelsey: And do you feel that that was a
change?—because you didn’t go to
Picatinny out of high school. You had been working for
Buono: That’s true.
Kelsey: So you might think that you felt
grown up anyway, because you had had to work.
Buono: Even though I was out cleaning
other people’s whatever, I was still a child. But when
I went to
Picatinny, I grew up.
I became an adult. And there’s a different atmosphere.
You grew up.
Kelsey: How did you communicate—or
did you communicate with your family and your
friends who were fighting overseas?
Buono: Write letters. We had, I don’t
know, I forgot what they’re called—this big sheet of
paper that they folded over and made an envelope out
of. And inside (chuckles) the army side, “Miss you,” he
checked a mark. “Be home,” checked a mark. Someplace I
have one of those letters that my husband sent me. (laughs) He wrote to me,
but just when he first met me, he would say, “Dear …”
and he’d write in the name. You know, like “Harriet.”
And then “I’ll be home” it says, “8 p.m. Wednesday,” or
whatever. That was the silliest thing.
“V” mail, I think it was called. Yeah. I know I got
those there, unless I threw ’em out when we moved.
Kelsey: And did you get those kinds of
letters from other people you knew, besides your husband?
Buono: Well, not that kind of letters,
no. (chuckles) Just letters, ordinary letters.
Kelsey: Do you remember if they were
Buono: Of course—blackout.
Kelsey: So you actually received mail
that had portions
Buono: Yes. Of course even though it
probably wouldn’t compromise anything, the
it would. You know, like, “I’m here,” blah, blah, blah,
Kelsey: Did you worry that the
States or the Allies might not win?
Buono: I said “We will win! We
have the perseverance, we have the guts, that we won’t
let anybody take advantage of the United States.” And
[unclear]. Same way today. I know I keep harping on
today, but I’m very upset over what’s going on.
Kelsey: What did patriotism mean to you?
Buono: Patriotism? First you honor your
country, you honor your fellow man, and you honor God.
Kelsey: And how did you show your
Buono: Oh, that’s a hard question. I
worked, I didn’t spread rumors. If I didn’t know
something, I didn’t say it.
Kelsey: Did you have blue stars in your
Buono: No. Wasn’t that for people who
Kelsey: No, that was gold stars. Blue
stars if you had someone fighting.
Buono: No, I don’t think my mother put
Kelsey: What was your most memorable
Buono: Going to
Fort Bragg and getting married. (laughs) I went down on
this train. Of course
they’re full of military. And this young kid, I think
he was flirting with me, I don’t know. He said, “Where
you goin’, Babe?” I said, “I’m goin’ to
“What are you gonna do down there?” I said, “I’m going
to meet my boyfriend down there.”
He said, “Oh, come
on, run away with me.” (laughs) Just a kid. “Can’t do
that,” I said, “Frank’s waitin’ for me.” So that’s my
memorable one, getting married.
Kelsey: And what was your most humorous
Buono: Humorous?! Well, it wasn’t
really humorous, but now it’s humorous, is the fact that
we found out that we were married in a wedding mill,
that the guy had no business marrying people. But see,
the army was at fault, they should have checked him out,
instead of letting him set up outside the gates.
Kelsey: And what was your worst
Buono: Oh, during the war, the worst
experience: When Frank went
overseas, because you didn’t know what was going to
Kelsey: Do you want to take a break now?
Buono: No, I’m looking at the time, and
it’s 10:30, so I haven’t got much more time.
Kelsey: All right, so you want to just
keep going. We’re almost done. Okay. How did you feel
when the war ended?
Buono: Wonderful! Elated! We went out
and yelled outside. Of course I was still working at
Picatinny and I got my notice
that said, “Reduction in force, we no longer need you,”
blah, blah, blah, blah. You know.
Kelsey: Do you remember where you were
Buono: Yeah, I was standing in the
Picatinny, and the
major or general or whatever he was, came out and said,
“I have good news for all of you! We have signed the
armistice, the war is ended!” So we all cheered.
Kelsey: And you’ve already mentioned
that you didn’t keep your job. How soon after that were
you laid off?
Buono: I think it was probably less than
two weeks. I don’t think they kept us longer than
that. It may have been, but I doubt it.
Kelsey: And how did you feel about being
Buono: Well, I was upset that I lost my
job, but glad that the reason that we did it was the war
Kelsey: How soon after
V-J Day did Frank
Buono: Frank came home…. That was in
June. Wasn’t it June? Or April? I’ve forgotten. No,
it wasn’t either, it was August, I think.
V-J Day was August.
Buono: August, yeah. He was home by
Kelsey: And when was your daughter born?
Buono: My daughter was born December 19,
1945. And my son was born June 5, 1947. I have to get
him in there!
Kelsey: Was your daughter born before
Frank got home?
Kelsey: How many days before?
Buono: When was it? Sometime in
December. She was born the 19th. I think it
was the 27th that he got stateside.
Kelsey: And did you know he was coming?
Buono: No! No, I didn’t know.
O’Hagan: He just missed Christmas?
Kelsey: And he just showed up in the
door one day?
Buono: He went to his family’s home first, because they didn’t know about me, see.
(chuckles) He still can’t get over it!
Kelsey: Did he know that he had a
daughter before he got home?
Buono: He knew that I was pregnant, he
didn’t know that we had a child yet.
Kelsey: So how did he act when he….
Buono: He was tickled. He was pleased.
She looked just like him. He couldn’t deny her.
Kelsey: When you were working at
Picatinny, did you know that it
was going to end when the war ended?
Buono: Oh, I knew it was temporary. Of
course, when they hired you, they said, “This is a
temporary position. When the hostilities”—is that what
they said?—“are over, then your job will be finished,”
words to that effect.
Kelsey: Then they actually told you that
when they hired you?
O’Hagan: (inaudible, something about
Frank just missing Christmas)
Kelsey: Getting back to Frank coming home, did he feel badly? How
did he feel about just missing being home for Christmas,
and just missing the birth of his first child?
Buono: I don’t remember. I don’t
remember that. I mean, I imagine he felt badly about
Kelsey: How did you feel?
Buono: I was upset, of course, that he
wasn’t there. But that’s life.
Kelsey: When was the last time you’d
heard from him before he suddenly appeared?
Buono: I think October or November. He
was in the island, you know.
Kelsey: He was on
Buono: Yes. I think it was then.
Kelsey: So about a month before?
Buono: I think so, yeah.
Kelsey: I guess it would have taken him
about a month to get back, to float back.
Buono: I would think so, yeah.
Kelsey: Did you look for another job
right away, after you were laid off?
Buono: No. I was pregnant.
Kelsey: So then you became a homemaker?
Buono: You see, the thing is, I went
Fort Bragg. I must have been
very fertile, because we got married, and within a week,
I think it was, that I was pregnant. So….
Kelsey: So did you decide then that once
he was home, and he was…. How long after he got home
was he discharged?
Buono: I don’t remember. It wasn’t too
Kelsey: And what did he do then?
Buono: He went back to
Picatinny as an explosives operator.
Kelsey: Oh, so he was doing the same job that you did?
Buono: Well, more or less, yes.
Kelsey: That’s very interesting. So you
had done similar work to what he had done before the
Buono: Well, I don’t know if I did
exactly the same kind of work, but he was an explosives
operator. There’s various components to that. And I
mean I can’t tell you what the components are, I just
know that there’s various components.
Kelsey: So given the fact that you had
both worked in the same place, and done similar kinds of
things, did you ever share experiences?
Buono: No. He didn’t bring his work
home with him.
Kelsey: And you never talked about what
Buono: No. Of course on 210 and 350, it
didn’t matter. On the most important project, I could
not talk about it.
Kelsey: Yeah, I understand that. So
have you ever talked to your son and daughter about what
you did during the war?
Buono: Just in passing, but not in
depth. Only recently did I tell them (chuckles) about
Kelsey: And how come you haven’t talked
to them about it?
Buono: It was [unclear]. Why would I
want to tell them about the wartime? It wasn’t that
interesting. There was nothing outstanding about it. I
really don’t understand why you want to interview me
either! except that I went to college here. (chuckles) Now
be an interesting story, that I came to college when I
Kelsey: We may actually be working on a
project like that, after we’re done with this one.
Did you then stay
home and take care of your children for a period of
Kelsey: And how long was that?
Buono: I haven’t worked since then,
except as a volunteer.
Kelsey: How do you think the war changed
Buono: I think it made Americans more
aware of what goes on in the world, and how you have to
take care of what you have when you have it, and be
aware that there are many people out there who don’t
like what this country stands for, and they’d just as
soon bomb it to hell as to…. You know. So I think we
have to be aware of what’s going on. People resent us
because we’re free. You know? It’s terrible.
Kelsey: And how do you think your
children feel about that?
Buono: About the way I feel?
Kelsey: Uh-huh. And how do they feel
about…. How old are your children?
Buono: Well (laughs) I’m getting old.
My daughter just had her sixtieth
birthday. ’45, yeah. She was born in ’45. And my son will be fifty-nine, I think, in June.
There’s seventeen months between them.
Kelsey: Okay, so they were your age
Buono: Yeah, my son was in the
Guard, and my son has just retired from a school’s
business administrator; and my daughter is a teacher of
preschool. She taught the older kids, and she didn’t
care too much for that until she went to preschool.
Kelsey: You’ve said how you feel, how
your point of view was changed by
World War II, and how
World War II affected you. Do you have any idea how
Vietnam affected them and their point of
Buono: I’ve never discussed
Vietnam with them, except to say I thought it was a
Kelsey: And they’ve never expressed any
Kelsey: Did your husband continue to work at
Buono: He worked at
Picatinny for a few years until he got poisoned from the
powder—powder poisoning, you know, got in his system. And then he went down to
Greystone [Park Psychiatric] Hospital as an
electrician. So he worked there. He retired from
Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in 19…. See, I’m not good on years. Nineteen what?
Ninety-something. Well anyhow, he retired from there,
as an electrician.
Kelsey: Did he get any kind of
compensation from the government for….
Buono: For about fifteen years, for
O’Hagan: What was that?
Kelsey: It was from handling the powder,
and the powder seeping through the skin?
Buono: I would imagine so. I really
don’t know, but powder poisoning in his system.
Kelsey: What kind of symptoms did he
have? How did they diagnose that?
Buono: I don’t know. I can’t answer
truthfully, because I don’t know.
Kelsey: But he was compensated?
Buono: Yeah, he got a monthly small
stipend each month—not much, but a little bit.
Kelsey: And this was from….
Buono: U.S. government.
Kelsey: From the government, not from
the Veterans Administration?
Buono: No, from the government.
Kelsey: Did he use the
G.I. Bill at all after
World War II?
Buono: No. He hated school, he didn’t
want to go to school. Me, I thirst for
Kelsey: Now, when the war ended, you
were still living in Franklin?
Buono: Was I in Franklin then? No. I don’t remember, either
Franklin, but I think it was
Kelsey: After Frank came home, where did
you all live?
Kelsey: And did you live there for a
number of years?
Buono: We lived there until ’48, I
believe it was, and then we bought a house on Penn
Avenue in Dover, and we lived
there for the rest of our lives, until two years ago,
when I moved out. And I made a big—this is a message to
those who listen to this tape—don’t sell your house just
because you’re old. I’m serious! It’s the worst
mistake I made in my whole life. I’m going to be
eighty-two years old, and I should never have sold my
house, because I’m very uncomfortable where I
Kelsey: Is there one thought about your
wartime experience that you would like to share with
Buono: Oh, my goodness! I just think
pay attention to what’s going on around you. If
somebody does something that’s suspicious, report it to
those in charge—even if you’re not sure that it’s
illegal. It’s your country that you have to protect.
Once the country is gone, you can’t get it back again.
But I really believe that you have to be aware. Because
nowadays, there are terrorists that
want to destroy this country, and you have to be aware
of…. For instance, you sitting there, I have to be
aware of what you’re doing, so that I might
notice something. Even if you’re not sure, report it,
tell somebody what’s going on. It’s very important,
Kelsey: Okay, one last question: Did
the work that you did during the war at
Picatinny, change your feelings about the kinds of work
that women could or should do, and what they could do
outside the home?
Buono: It freed women up to be what they
wanted to be, not what they are perceived to be. We
used to be just mothers and homemakers. Now you can be
anything in this world that you want to be.
Kelsey: And do you think that that
change in attitude that you perceive from what you did, do you think that affected your daughter’s
Buono: Well, I think so. [She’s] a very
strong person. She’s married many, many years—I don’t
know, thirty years or more. She adopted two children.
From that she has two grandchildren. She goes out to
work as a teacher. She’s a very religious girl. I
think it helped her to be aware of things that are going
on around her. She should speak for herself.
Kelsey: Is there anything else you’d
like to add?
Buono: No, I’m just pleased that you
would want to interview me, because I don’t understand
why you want to interview me, because I’m not
that [much of] an interesting person.
Kelsey: Well, that’s certainly not the
case, Harriet. And we do thank you for taking the time
to do this.
Buono: Did you tell them about my
volunteer work? That’s important
Kelsey: That’s fine, talk about your
Buono: I volunteer five days a week. I
work at the Dover Christian
Nursing Home, which is now called Regency Grand. I’ve
been there thirty-four years. I go every Friday. If I
don’t come in, my patients say to me, “Well, we worried
about you. Where were you?” It’s important for them to
have continuity. I work at the soup kitchen in Dover called Lutheran Faith Kitchen. I’m
down there twenty years. When my husband died, I had to find things to do, so I went to Faith
Kitchen, and I went to Dover General Hospital. I’m there twenty years. Dover General, I work on Thursdays. I go
in at 6 a.m. in the morning, and I work until 12 noon.
I work three hours down in the office until other people
come in, and then I go upstairs and do one-on-ones in
the dwelling place. And I’m eight years now at the
Retired Volunteer Senior Service. And so it
gives me a reason to get up, get dressed, and get out of
the house and not feel sorry for myself because I’m
alone now. There’s always people out there who need
somebody to talk to. And that’s my life.
Kelsey: That’s wonderful.
Buono: Over and out!
[END OF INTERVIEW]
County College of
Dover, New Jersey.................................
Franklin, New Jersey.............................
Grazia, Phil &
Port Jervis, New York...........................