Kelsey: When and where were you born
Klalo: I was born in
Jersey, [February 22, 1925] and spent a good many
years there, until I married.
Kelsey: What were your parents'
Klalo: My parents had an interior
decorating business, originally in
Denville. And I guess that’s
what brought me to this area.
Kelsey: Did you have brothers and
Klalo: I had two sisters.
Kelsey: And were they older or
Klalo: Younger. I was the oldest.
Kelsey: Did any other family members
live with you?
Klalo: Oh, yes, my grandmother and
my uncle, when I was rather young.
Kelsey: Was this on your mother’s
side or your father’s side?
Klalo: My mother’s—my mother’s
mother and brother.
Kelsey: Describe your neighborhood,
what was your neighborhood like?
Klalo: When I was growing up, it
was, I guess, kind of on the poor side. We didn’t
have much. It was the years after the
and no one had too much, but I don’t think we knew that we were poor. We had love, and I
that was the important thing.
Kelsey: What neighborhood in
did you live in?
Klalo: We moved, I guess a few
times. We lived in the
Clinton Hill section mainly.
Kelsey: Describe the schools you
went to, your elementary school.
Klalo: Oh, I went to two different
elementary schools—actually, three. The one in
Irvington—we lived in
Irvington for two
that was a beautiful school. That was really a nice
Kelsey: This is when you were in
Klalo: Yes. I graduated Bergen Street School in
Newark. It was an old school. I
believe it had four stories, old brick
Kelsey: So this would have been in
the early thirties?
Klalo: Graduated grammar school in
’39. And then I went to high school in
Arts High School, which was
Graduated there in ’43, I was an art major.
Kelsey: Did you have any plans to go
Klalo: I did. Actually, I could
have had a scholarship, an art scholarship, but
there was a war on, and everyone was very
patriotic at the time, and I felt I had to work for
the war effort, and went to work for
shifts, three shifts, changed every
month. So it wasn’t possible to go to school.
Kelsey: So you started working as
soon as you graduated?
Klalo: Right after I graduated.
Kelsey: Did your family belong to
any social groups or organizations, a synagogue or….
Klalo: Yeah, my parents did belong
to an organization, and my father was very active in
unions. In fact, he was at one
president of the
Furriers Union of New York and New
Jersey, and he was one of the original founders of
laundry workers union in New Jersey.
Kelsey: And how did this connect to
Klalo: I don’t know, that’s a good
question! I guess he just decided to change. The
unions then were tough, they were
the mobs, and if
you weren’t on that side, it was always a problem.
And he was one of the “good guys,” so to
guess after a while he just had enough, so he went
into business, initially with his brother and then
dissolved the partnership and he opened the
Kelsey: So what year did he have the
interior decorating store? During the war?
Klalo: No, this was much later.
Kelsey: So then did he work for the
union, or did he work for a company that he helped
Klalo: Yeah, he worked for a company
that he helped
unionize. As far as I know, he never
got any salary from the
Unions were fairly
new back then.
Kelsey: Do you remember what company
he worked for?
Klalo: I remember he worked for some
fur company—Hollander Fur? We’re going back a
long way. And then he worked
for a laundry. That’s, I think, why
he got involved with the
laundry workers union, why
he organized that. I don’t
remember the name of
Kelsey: How were you and your family
affected by the
Klalo: I think like most people. I
know my father was out of work a lot. If there was
work, say, in one of the nonunion
he was president of the
Furriers Union, he couldn’t
take the job because he was a
union man. So that
really didn’t help any. But I remember we
struggled. I remember my mother crying because she
didn’t have any
money to buy dinner. She would go
to the store every day.
Kelsey: Did your mother go to work
Klalo: Not then. Men
couldn’t find jobs. Well, years later, she worked
in the business with my father, six days a week.
Kelsey: And did your grandmother and
your uncle come to live with you because of the
Klalo: I don’t know. My
grandmother, I never remember her not living
with us, so I guess I was quite young. And my
was still in school, so my father helped him get
Kelsey: High school?
Klalo: High school, yeah.
Kelsey: Looking back on how your
family lived at that time in the thirties and
forties, you would characterize your
economic situation as….
Klalo: Not too good. It was a
Kelsey: Do you feel like it got
Klalo: Oh, yeah, it got much better.
Kelsey: In the early forties?
Klalo: No, probably later than
that. Probably later in the forties.
World War II started,
what grade were you in?
Klalo: I guess I was about a
freshman in high school—that I remember.
Kelsey: Did you get married after
Kelsey: During the war, did any of
your friends get married?
Klalo: No, not during the war.
Kelsey: Not at all, everybody waited
Klalo: Yeah. I think we were
probably a little too young.
Kelsey: Do you remember at the plant
that you worked at, did they have daycare centers of
Klalo: No, not at all.
Kelsey: Do you know how…. Because
some of the women who were working probably did have
Klalo: Most likely, yeah.
Kelsey: Do you have any idea how the
children were cared for while they were working?
Kelsey: So you were still living in
Newark (Klalo: Yes.) when
you went to work in….
Kelsey: And you said it was
patriotism (Klalo: Definitely.)
that really caused you to decide not to go to
college, to give up a scholarship.
Klalo: Definitely. In fact, when I
was in high school, I was going to art school four
nights a week, plus going to high
school, and that was college credits. But after I
graduated and started to work, there was no way I
going to school.
Kelsey: And you really made that
conscious decision, that it was more important to
help the war effort?
Klalo: Oh, yeah, it really took no
thought at all.
Kelsey: Do you remember seeing
advertising slogans or newsreels of advertisements
that encouraged women to go to
work in the factories?
Klalo: Yes, absolutely.
Kelsey: Do you think that influenced
your decision to do that?
Klalo: No, I don’t think so. I
think I just knew when I was in high school that I
was going to work, help the defense.
Kelsey: Did most of your friends
feel that way?
Klalo: They did, but I think I was
the only one that went to work in the factory. They
worked for the government, doing
various positions. But I believe, of my friends, I was the only one that went to work in
Kelsey: Do you remember hearing or
seeing references to
Rosie the Riveter then?
Klalo: Oh, yes, definitely.
Kelsey: Before you started working?
Klalo: Maybe not, I don’t remember.
Kelsey: Did you think of yourself as
Klalo: No, not really. Actually, I
was not a riveter, but I did work with the
I did many things there, but one of
the things I did was pack rivets. And contrary to
what most people believe,
the rivets that go in an
airplane, you see in ships they’re heated, in an
airplane they’re frozen. So they had to be
delivered quickly before they defrosted. And they
used to deliver them like in little Good Humor [ice
carts. And they were used while they were frozen. I guess
that’s because once they defrost, they expand. And
for some reason, in the airplane that’s the way they
Kelsey: Why didn’t you think of
yourself as a
Klalo: I don’t know. I don’t know
that that was a big thing then. I don’t know if
that came after,
Rosie the Riveter, I’m not
sure. I just worked
making airplanes, and that was it.
Kelsey: Did any of your family go to work in the factories?
Kelsey: So you were the only one of
your family and friends (Klalo: Yes.) who actually
went in an industry?
Klalo: I had one friend that did come to work in the factory later. She
worked where I did.
Kelsey: And how did you select this
particular plant? How did you decide to apply for a
job at that particular plant?
Klalo: I don’t know, I really don’t
remember. I guess I’d heard about it. I’d heard
Eastern Aircraft, and I heard
Picatinny Arsenal. I had
no idea where it
was, or what they
did, other than make munitions, and for some
I decided to go there. And when I applied for the
job, I got it, so I went no further.
Kelsey: So you decided to go to
Eastern. How did you get to
Klalo: Car pool. I used to have—someone picked me up. His
name was Dick. He picked up a few people, and we paid
him, I think, if I
remember, it was a dollar and a quarter [$1.25] a
week. That took care of his expenses.
Kelsey: Did his shifts correspond
Kelsey: So every time your shift
changed, he did too.
Klalo: Yeah. They had a list in the
factory, so that you could get rides back and
forth. The other transportation would
have been two buses, and would have been really
Kelsey: What kind of training did
you get when you first started to work?
Klalo: I don’t remember getting any
training at all. They just told you what to do, and
Kelsey: Did you have a job title?
Klalo: No. Not that I remember, no.
Kelsey: And you mentioned you did
different jobs—the same place, but you had different
jobs. What was the first job
that you did? Describe the first job.
Klalo: The first job I did was
filing. And when I say filing, I don’t mean in a
file cabinet. You had a workbench and a vise,
and you put a piece of metal in the vise that was
scribed, and you had to file it down to the scribe
hours a day. Not easy work.
Kelsey: Filing with a file?
Klalo: With a file, yes—big files.
Kelsey: And so someone showed you
how to do that?
Klalo: Yeah, well, it didn’t take
much to learn how to do that.
Kelsey: And then what did you do
Klalo: I worked with the welders. I
used to stamp numbers on the parts. I worked with
the rivets, packing frozen rivets.
Worked in the stockroom.
Kelsey: When you were packing the
frozen rivets, did you wear
gloves or something?
Klalo: No. And you had to pack,
depending on the size, small ones were like thirty
in a box, the large ones were maybe
ten in a box, and you didn’t have time to count
them. You had to kind of judge how many rivets were
thirty or ten
Kelsey: So if they were frozen,
weren’t they cold to touch?
Klalo: Yeah. But actually, we were
not allowed to wear gloves there, because it was
dangerous around the machines.
Oh, I worked on a drill press too. And you were not
allowed to wear gloves, ever, that I can
Kelsey: Do you know what you were
drilling, what parts you were drilling?
Klalo: Yeah, they were small parts.
There was one part, it was 1060-1 and –2, two left
and right. And there were
numbers on all the parts. That’s when I stamped the
numbers on parts.
Kelsey: Did they teach you how to
use the drill press?
Klalo: No, not really.
Kelsey: Or did they just show you
and say “do it?”
Klalo: What they showed you was you
had to wear a cap and have all your hair covered.
And what they did show us
was every once in a while they would pass around a
big batch of hair that was pulled out of someone’s
was the training, “Don’t do this! Keep your head
Kelsey: Did you wear any other kind
of special clothing, other than….
Klalo: Yeah, they gave us kind of a
jumpsuit kind of thing. It was sort of a gray
plaid. And a cap.
Kelsey: Did you wear these over your
street clothes, or did you change your clothes?
Klalo: No, we didn’t have time to
change our clothes. You barely had time for lunch.
We had twenty minutes for lunch,
because we worked three shifts.
Kelsey: And how many hours was each
Klalo: Eight hours.
Kelsey: So you would just pull these
coveralls on over your regular clothes?
Klalo: Or put them on at home.
Kelsey: So you wore them back and
forth (Klalo: Oh yeah.), you didn’t leave them
Klalo: No. Also, we were supposed
to wear shoes with steel toes. Very few people did,
I think, but you wore a closed
Kelsey: Did you wear steel toes?
Klalo: No, but I wore a closed shoe.
Kelsey: Do you think that working in
the factory paid better than other jobs you might
Klalo: Oh, it paid well; there was
no question about it. And when you worked nights,
there was a 10% bonus. I think I
started with $1.09 an hour. They paid, they were
one of the best-paying factories, I think, on the
Seaboard. But you
worked hard, and they did not have coffee breaks for
women, you worked straight through.
Kelsey: They didn’t have coffee
breaks for women?
Kelsey: Did they have coffee breaks
Klalo: No. Oh, and I also worked on
a conveyor belt for a while.
Kelsey: What did you do on the
Klalo: I don’t remember, just
passing parts down. That was short lived.
Kelsey: And how long were you
there? From 1943 ’til….
Klalo: [Until] ’45, I guess. The
day the war was over, we were told the war was over,
go home. Middle of the day.
Kelsey: Did you feel like your job
was important, that what you were doing….
Klalo: Yeah, I did. I really felt I
was working to help the war effort, making fighter
planes. And I believe one out of every
ten planes we made for
used to fly them over. Actually, they had the
English insignia on the
plane, and they used to cover it
over with the
American insignia, so when the plane
got there, they just ripped the
one off, and they were all set to
Kelsey: So it was the
RAF [Royal Air Force] insignia underneath?
Kelsey: Were you ever promoted or
given a raise?
Klalo: You got raises
automatically. I think I went up to $1.49 an hour.
That was an automatic raise.
Kelsey: And so everybody got a
Kelsey: Was it all women working
there? Were there some men there?
Klalo: No, there were some men.
There was a number of men, yeah.
Kelsey: Were any women supervisors
or managers, or were [unclear].
Klalo: Not that I know of. There
might have been, but not to my knowledge.
Kelsey: But everybody that you
worked for was a man?
Klalo: Was a man, right.
Kelsey: Did they have an exemption
for…. There was a reason why they weren’t in the
Klalo: I would imagine, yeah.
Kelsey: What you were doing—before
the war, only men would have been doing the work
that you were doing, is that
Klalo: Yes. I don’t think they had
any women employed there. I doubt it.
Kelsey: Did you think about that?
How did you feel about doing a job that before only
men were allowed to do?
Klalo: I don’t think I gave it any
thought, really. I just felt it was something that
I had to do. I didn’t like working there,
and it was hard work, but it was something that I
just felt I had to do, and that was it.
Kelsey: Did you ever think about
going to another—like applying at
Picatinny, if you weren’t that happy with….
Klalo: Well, actually, you couldn’t
just leave your job. If you left, you had to get a
release, for whatever reason, and they
were not easy to come by. So if you wanted to
transfer elsewhere, they had to release you first.
Kelsey: I see. Even if you were
going to another …
Klalo: Yes. I never tried.
Kelsey: … business that was directly
related to war work (Klalo: Right.), you still had
to be released (Kelsey: Exactly.)
from there. Do you know anybody who did get a
Klalo: You’ll laugh when I tell
you. My driver, who died. After he died, a release
came through. (chuckles)
Kelsey: He had asked for a release?
Klalo: No, I don’t know that he
asked for it. I think that was just the way of
saying he was no longer employed there.
think that was it.
Kelsey: This was Dick, the driver?
Kelsey: Then what happened to his
riders after he died?
Klalo: Oh, we got someone else.
There was always someone you could get a ride with.
Kelsey: Did you or other women that
you worked with ever encounter what we would call
now sexual harassment?
Klalo: I don’t think so. But there
was a lot going on there, though.
Kelsey: There was?
Klalo: Oh, yeah.
Klalo: Used to hear rumors. Married
women whose husbands were away, some of the men that
were there. We used
to hear rumors about that.
Kelsey: How old were the men?
Klalo: There were some that were
fairly young, but mostly maybe middle-aged, so
possibly too old for service, probably.
Kelsey: So, too old…over the
Klalo: Yeah, but there were some
Kelsey: Was there a
AFL, Automobile Workers
Union of America.
Kelsey: Given your family
background, with your father being part of the
infrastructure, did you join the
Klalo: I don’t think you had a
choice. Or if you didn’t, they would make it pretty
miserable for you. I did join. In fact, I
brought in my old
Kelsey: So you say they would make
it pretty miserable for you?
Klalo: I don’t know of anyone that
didn’t join the
Kelsey: So all of you felt that it
was something you had to do?
Klalo: Yeah. And they did protect
Kelsey: So even though you mentioned
before that there was a lot of mob infiltration into
Klalo: Well, that was in my father’s
day. That was a little earlier.
Kelsey: Did you feel that the
was a good thing?
Klalo: Yeah, I’m sure, because I was
raised knowing about
unions, because of my father’s
Kelsey: How many people worked in
Klalo: I believe there were 10,000.
Kelsey: And they were split into
Kelsey: So there were a little over
3,000 working a single shift.
Kelsey: That must have been—I mean,
the footprint of the plant must have been huge!
Klalo: Yes, it was a large plant.
Kelsey: Were there all different
ethnic groups, races, that kind of thing, there?
Kelsey: So there were blacks and
whites? And did they all work together?
Klalo: I don’t remember many blacks,
to be honest with you. In fact—I’m not sure I
should say this—but I understood I
was their token Jew. I don’t know if you want to
Kelsey: No, I don’t think so.
Klalo: And I don’t remember any
blacks working there.
Kelsey: But there were different
Klalo: Yes, definitely.
Kelsey: Eastern Europeans?
Kelsey: From the neighborhoods in
Klalo: Yeah, I think all the
surrounding towns. I think we even had some people
from New York that I remember, that
Kelsey: They commuted over from
Kelsey: As far as you know, did men
and women get paid the same?
Kelsey: They did, there was no
Kelsey: If you were doing the same
job, you were paid the same?
Klalo: You got paid the same.
Kelsey: Did you make new friends on the job?
Klalo: Yes, I did.
Kelsey: Tell me something about
Klalo: I became very friendly with
two of the women that worked there. They were both
married. One, her husband was
in service. The other one, her husband was not in
service. But I became quite friendly with both of
Kelsey: Were they approximately your
age, or were they older?
Klalo: A little bit older.
Kelsey: Did they have children?
Klalo: No, neither one had any
Kelsey: What kinds of things did you
do? Did you socialize outside work?
Klalo: At times, at times. I
remember the one whose husband was in service, we
Atlantic City, New Jersey
once for a weekend. And with the one
that was married, I would just visit at her home.
We would sometimes go
out with her whole family.
Kelsey: Where did they live?
Klalo: They lived in
Kelsey: In your neighborhood or near
Klalo: Not too far.
Kelsey: What did you like most about
Klalo: That’s a tough question.
General Motors was not an easy
company to work for. In fact, in the restrooms they
had beautiful furniture in
the restrooms, and you were not allowed to sit down
on the furniture. So that if you went
up to use the restroom, they
had—we used to call them prison matrons—would come
around and check to see if
anyone was sitting down. So
that the girls would close themselves up in the
stalls, just to get off their feet. It
was difficult even
trying to get into one of the stalls. Not an easy
company to work for.
Kelsey: Okay, so I guess you told me
what you liked least.
Klalo: Did not like working there,
to be honest with you. Really, not at all. I don’t
know if it had one redeeming feature.
Kelsey: Except that it contributed
to the war.
Klalo: It contributed to the war,
Kelsey: Did you live with your
family the whole time that you were working at the
Kelsey: So you were in the same
environment that you had been when you were going to
Kelsey: How did the war change your
routines or your activities, things that you had
done before that you couldn’t do
Klalo: Well, of course I didn’t see
my old friends, friends I went to
school with, because when I worked nights, they were
all working days. So I really got
to see very little of anyone.
Sometimes I didn’t see my father
for a month. When you worked shifts, it made it a
little difficult to get to see
Kelsey: How did the shifts work?
Klalo: We worked 7-3, 3-11, 11-7.
Kelsey: How often did you switch
Klalo: Once a month.
Kelsey: So you were on one shift for
a full month?
Kelsey: And then you would shift to
Klalo: And you worked six days a
Kelsey: Monday through Saturday?
(no audible response)
Klalo: No overtime. That was a
normal work week.
Kelsey: And you worked eight hours?
Klalo: Yes, because the other shift
was coming on, and they were supposed to be at the
work station, I think ten
minutes before the shift started, in order to get
their equipment ready.
Kelsey: Yeah, that would be….
Klalo: We’re going back a long way.
Kelsey: Did they have any kind of
social or recreational activities at the plant at
Klalo: I remember once or twice we
did have something. We had some speakers and music
and a little entertainment,
but that was only once or twice. Must have been for
a special occasion that I really can’t recall at
Kelsey: Did you ever go to
Klalo: Yes. Actually, it was part
of a group that was not part of the
we did go to
Newark Airport where they
soldiers stationed. In fact, they used to pick the
girls up in a two-and-a-half-ton truck. (chuckles) And we’d
bring doughnuts. Actually, they liked us better
USO, because we used to bring snacks. We’d bring
candy, cake, and…. It was fun.
Kelsey: And this was just a group of
Klalo: Someone got together this
group. Must have been about twenty women, and we
would go down and just dance
with the boys. I remember there used to be a guard
at the door. Once you were in, you couldn’t walk
Kelsey: And this was at
Kelsey: The old
Newark …where the North terminal is
Klalo: The old
Newark Airport, with the
Kelsey: And the soldiers would send
a two-and-a-half-ton truck into
Newark to pick you up?
Klalo: Yeah. For some reason, they
were allowed to do that.
Kelsey: And you would just jump in
the back of the truck?
Klalo: Well, they had to help us
O’Hagan: [2 or 3 words, unclear]
Kelsey: [unclear], yes. What did
you do when you were by yourself?
Klalo: Actually, it didn’t seem like
I had that much free time. I had a younger sister
at home - much younger, seventeen
years younger - so
I’d play with her when I was at home. And write
letters. Took up a lot of time. I had a quota, I
would write three letters a day to servicemen.
Kelsey: And were these guys that you
knew personally from high school?
Klalo: Well, one I wrote to—the man I eventually married—I wrote to
him every day. And then I
would write to friends, a couple of servicemen that
I didn’t even know, never met, but I guess weren’t
Kelsey: And how did you find out
Klalo: Through other servicemen.
[They’d] say, “How about writing to my friend? He
doesn’t get a lot of mail.” So I
wrote on the average of three letters a day.
Kelsey: So you had met your
Klalo: Before he went into service.
Kelsey: Before the war.
Kelsey: Did you meet him in school?
Klalo: No, we were neighbors,
Kelsey: So had you dated before he
went into the service?
Klalo: Yeah, a little bit.
Kelsey: What year did he go in?
Klalo: Oh! I don’t know.
Kelsey: Right after
Klalo: No, it was a little bit later
than that. He went in probably about ’41. Yeah.
Pearl Harbor was in December ’41, so….
Klalo: No, then he went in ’42.
Kelsey: So you had a sister who was a lot younger than you were, and
then you had a sister in the middle?
Klalo: In between, uh-huh.
Kelsey: Was she in high school
during the war?
Klalo: No, she was in grammar school
Kelsey: So the two younger ones were
Klalo: Eleven years apart.
Kelsey: Eleven years between the
youngest one and the middle one?
Klalo: Yes. And then, well, the
middle one, she probably—I guess she was just about
going into high school then.
Kelsey: How did you feel about the
Klalo: How did I feel about the
war? You know, when you’re young, you just don’t
look at things the same way. It
doesn’t hit home
like it does when you’re older. I mean, I knew we
were in a war. I think I knew every airplane
flew overhead—I could identify them. But of course
I felt that I was working towards an end. But I
when you’re young you feel it the same
as you do when you’re older. I think this is a lot
why they like young men
and women in the service.
Kelsey: Did anybody you knew die or
Klalo: The one friend that I had that worked in the
Eastern Aircraft, she had five brothers and four
of them came back
either—well, I mean two were
killed and two wounded—and I knew her family.
Kelsey: When that happened, did that
make you feel more, understand more, the
Klalo: Oh, absolutely, sure.
Kelsey: Than you might have before?
Klalo: It was very tragic.
Kelsey: Did you feel that you were
treated any differently at work because you were
female, or because you were Jewish? Did you feel
that there was any….
Klalo: I think a little bit because
I was female—by the foreman. I think a little bit
Kelsey: And was that just you, or
was that kind of just a general thing? Because most
of the people working there were
Klalo: Yes. I think it was probably
Kelsey: Had these men worked at the
plant before the war?
Klalo: I believe so. I think they
Kelsey: So this was a big, massive
change for them, instead of being in a factory
working with all men, all of a sudden
they are in
Kelsey: Do you remember what kinds
of things, interactions that occurred that made you
feel like this foreman was not
particularly happy to
Klalo: He would always critique your
work and say, “That’s not acceptable,” and things
like that. And I think because I
artistic background, there was one particular piece
that I used to work on, that should have been done
the machine shop, but it wasn’t. And no one
else—I shouldn’t say “no one”—it seemed that they
it right, and when he gave it to me
to do, I was able to do the piece to the
satisfaction of the men.
But he would complain that it would
take me too long, I spent too much time on it.
Well, maybe that’s why I did it
correctly. So he
complained about that a lot until I finally said to
him, “That’s fine, give it to someone else. I won’t
do it anymore.” And that stopped it. But yeah, he
would criticize me a lot. But I think that was just
because I knew I was doing a decent job of
what I was supposed to be doing.
Kelsey: Did you ever worry that the
Allies might not win the war?
Klalo: No. No, I don’t think that
ever occurred to me.
Kelsey: What did patriotism mean to you?
Klalo: It was just a feeling that
you had. People no longer have that. I remember in
’76, when we had the tall ships, and
came back, that feeling of patriotism. I’d
forgotten what it felt like. It was something
special, and you
just don’t always have it. I mean,
you may feel patriotic. I know I’m 100% patriotic,
but it’s not quite the same. I
mean, people were
willing to die for our country. I don’t think most
people feel that way anymore, unfortunately.
Kelsey: What was your most memorable
Klalo: Well, I don’t think it was
just one thing. I think it was working for
Motors, writing letters, being
I was young, I felt cheated, there were
no men around. In fact, when I graduated high
school, we never even had a
prom, because we had
gas rationing, and most
of the nightclubs and places that
you would normally
attend, were closed. So I felt kind of cheated.
Kelsey: And that was true probably
for the duration of the war.
Klalo: Yes, definitely.
Kelsey: How did you cope with
Klalo: You just coped with it. I
think you were allowed two pair of shoes a year, and one of them went for my
shoes. Had to stand in line for
sugar—a lot of things. I guess my mother did a lot
of that. Cigarettes—
and so many people smoked
then—were hard to get. Silk stockings. But you
Kelsey: I guess a good portion of
free time was spent standing on line.
Klalo: I guess my mother did a lot,
for the food. I remember standing in line for
cigarettes and stockings. That was
Kelsey: What was the
Klalo: You just couldn’t get them.
I think the silk was going into parachutes. So you
couldn’t get them.
Kelsey: So what was the substitute?
Klalo: They had, I think, the Lisle
hose. We painted our legs. (chuckles) So that was
one substitute. So when the
weather was decent, you
painted your legs, because the stockings that you
could get were not real attractive.
Kelsey: So you used like makeup on
Klalo: Right. Yeah, there was leg
makeup. And if you were creative, you even put a
seam up the back of your leg,
because they did wear
stockings with seams then.
Kelsey: That’s right.
Klalo: I think that’s probably when
stockings without seams came in. But if you were
creative, you made a seam, and
hoped it was
Kelsey: Did you have a
Klalo: No, not at the time.
Kelsey: Did you live in a house in
Newark, or in an apartment?
Klalo: In an apartment.
Kelsey: And there were, what, six of
Klalo: Yeah. (counts) Seven, for a
Kelsey: There were seven?
Kelsey: Three sisters, your
Kelsey: And how many rooms did you
Klalo: The one place we lived in, I
think we had three bedrooms.
Kelsey: Oh, so a good-sized
Klalo: And my uncle slept on a cot
in the foyer. I remember that.
Kelsey: Did your uncle eventually go
into the service?
Klalo: Yes, he did.
Kelsey: And where was he stationed?
Klalo: He went to the
Kelsey: What branch of service was
Klalo: He was in the
Kelsey: And I guess he came back?
Klalo: He came back. And he was married with one child when he went in.
Kelsey: You mentioned earlier, when
we were walking in, about scrubbing to get all the
junk off your skin after you
worked a shift.
Kelsey: You kind of described what
that was like.
Klalo: Actually, I worked on a
sander also—I don’t know if I mentioned that—a belt
sander. It’s a machine with this big
belt that goes
around and around, that’s like sandpaper. And it
has a little table, and you have a piece of metal
that’s scribed, and you have to get the metal down
to the scribe line, so you push it up against this
the sandpaper. And every once in a
while, the piece of metal would slip down inside the
slot that was there, and
you go “zoop!” and no
knuckles. That happened every now and then. And
actually, on that machine, there was
always a white
milky liquid that came out of it. That was so that
the metal wouldn’t heat over, it would get too hot.
Kelsey: It wouldn’t get too hot.
Klalo: Right. So the metal from the
sanding—you’re sanding metal—or when I was filing,
was little particles of dust,
metal. They would get
into the pores of my legs, my thighs. I actually
had to scrub my thighs with a brush when
I got home.
Kelsey: And this was through the
Klalo: Through an apron. We wore
Kelsey: And you were wearing long
Kelsey: So this metal just actually
pushed right through the material, two layers of
Klalo: And we never thought of what
we were breathing in. We never thought what was
happening to our lungs. It just
never occurred to
Kelsey: Was there a lot of noise?
Klalo: Very noisy. Very, very
noisy. Extremely noisy.
Kelsey: And no one wore ear plugs,
Klalo: No. And there was no such
thing as—the ventilation was not good, we didn’t
wear masks, nothing like that.
Kelsey: So in the years after that,
was there any attention paid at all to health issues
arising out of that, or even in
case of the men who went back to work in that
factory doing the same thing after the war,
anybody raise any issues about
Klalo: I don’t know. They probably
were just not conscious of it. Probably no one gave
it a thought. I never did. I think
about it now.
Kelsey: How did you feel when the
Klalo: Everyone was elated! We went
berserk. We really did. It was just such wonderful
Kelsey: Your husband was in
Kelsey: How did you feel on
Klalo: It was just wonderful.
People were screaming and carrying on, celebrating.
Kelsey: Did he come home before
Klalo: No. He came home, oh, about
six months or so after the war ended.
Kelsey: Do you remember when you
heard that the war had ended on
V-E Day, when you heard the war had ended in
were you? Were you working?
Klalo: At work.
Kelsey: What time of day was it?
Klalo: I believe it was in the
afternoon when they said, “The war is over.
Everybody go home!”
Kelsey: How did you find out?
Klalo: They announced it over the
Kelsey: They told you to go home on
V-E Day? Or
Because there was a few months’ time difference
Klalo: Yeah. I don’t remember.
V-J Day was
the end of the summer. I don’t remember the exact
day, it was like late August.
Klalo: I think it was
V-E Day, I think.
Kelsey: So when they dropped the
atomic bomb, you had already stopped working?
Klalo: I’m not sure. You’re asking
me hard questions! (laughter) It was a
Kelsey: Okay, but at some point, one
of those announcements, when the war was over, they
just told you to drop what
you were doing and leave?
Klalo: Go home, right. “You’re
fired, that’s it.”
Kelsey: Did you get a paycheck for
the time you’d worked up to that point?
Klalo: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah, we
did. They didn’t owe me anything.
Kelsey: So they laid off the
entire…. Did they lay off the men as well?
Klalo: I think probably until they
changed over again. I guess everyone was laid off.
Kelsey: Did they shut the plant
Klalo: I would imagine so, I’m not
sure. In all probability. Because they were no
longer manufacturing airplanes.
Kelsey: What had this factory
manufactured before the war?
Kelsey: And then did it go back to
Klalo: Yes, I think they’re still
Kelsey: It’s the
Kelsey: After you were laid off, did
you look for another job right away?
Klalo: Not right away, I think. At
the time, I don’t think there were too many jobs to
be had, so everyone collected
unemployment. And the
line would go all the way around the block.
Kelsey: All of these people were
laid off from war industries. And were they mostly
Klalo: Yeah, mostly women.
Kelsey: And how long did it take you
to get another job?
Klalo: I think it was close to a
year. But of course I was living at home, so it
wasn’t anything drastic.
Kelsey: And when you did get a job,
what were you doing?
Klalo: I went into sales, selling
women’s sportswear, in
Kelsey: At a department store?
Klalo: No, it was in a small store.
Kelsey: How did your salary compare
with what you had been making in the factory?
Klalo: Oh, it was less. It was
less. But I didn’t work as hard, so it was okay.
Kelsey: How many hours a week did
Klalo: I guess I worked forty-eight
Kelsey: So you worked five days a
week, instead of six?
Klalo: Right, exactly.
Kelsey: Then at what point did you
and your husband get married?
Klalo: We got married in 1947. I
guess it was a little while after he got home, a
couple of years after he came home.
Kelsey: And did he have a job
waiting for him when he came back?
Klalo: No, he did not.
Kelsey: Had he worked before the
Kelsey: So he hadn’t gone into the
service directly out of high school?
Kelsey: And what did he do before he
went into the service?
Klalo: You know, I’m not quite
sure. I think he was working in a machine shop.
Kelsey: Was he discharged right
after he came back?
Kelsey: When did he come back?
Klalo: I believe it was in ’45, the
end of the year.
Kelsey: And how long did it take him
to get a job after he was discharged?
Klalo: I don’t think it was too
Kelsey: What was he doing?
Klalo: He got a
job then working for a glass company, and he stayed
with that for a while.
Kelsey: Did he get home before
Klalo: Well, I remember Christmas at
his parents’ home. He was one of five boys, and he
had a sister, and it seemed
that everyone was there
with their friends, and all my first Christmas home
in four years, my first in three years or
was a joyous occasion.
Kelsey: I’m sure it was. He wasn’t
Klalo: No. And his one brother was
Pearl Harbor when they were
bombed. He was called for conscription. Actually,
then they were only to serve for one year, and was
shipped home. His year was up in January, and of
December 7 was
Pearl Harbor, so he didn’t get
home for four years.
Kelsey: Was he in the
Klalo: No, he was in the
Kelsey: You got married in 1947.
Did you keep working after you got married?
Klalo: Yes, for a little while.
Kelsey: Did your husband take
Klalo: Somewhat, yes he did.
Kelsey: Did he go to school?
Klalo: Actually, he went on-the-job
training, so he did that for a couple of years, I
Kelsey: When did you have your first
Klalo: In 1951.
Kelsey: That’s your daughter who’s five years younger than me.
Kelsey: Did you have any more
Kelsey: How did the war change your
life? Looking back now, how do you think it changed
Klalo: Well, I went an entirely
different direction. I might have continued on in
the art field. I was studying costume
illustration, and I probably would have continued on
Kelsey: Did you think at all about
going back and trying to do that after the war was
Klalo: No, I didn’t.
Kelsey: Do you remember why you
Klalo: Probably financial reasons.
I think when I was in high school I could
have gotten a scholarship, but then I was out
school. That was probably part of it. But no
regrets. I made a decision, and that was it.
Kelsey: After the war, you lived
with your family until you and your husband got
Klalo: Even after that.
Kelsey: So he moved in?
Klalo: Yes, because apartments were
not available. And we lived with my parents about three years.
Kelsey: And was this the same
apartment where you all were living during the war?
Klalo: Yes, it was.
Kelsey: The one where your uncle was
sleeping on the cot [in the foyer]?
Klalo: Well, my uncle at that point was married and gone, and my
grandmother had passed
Kelsey: And how long did you live
with your family?
Klalo: About three years, a little
Kelsey: So until just before your
daughter was born?
Klalo: Yeah, it was before my
daughter was born.
Kelsey: And then when you moved,
where did you move to?
Klalo: We got an apartment in
Newark. Apartments were very hard
to come by. And we had to pay the super $350 to
the apartment. It was a lot of money at the time.
Our rent was $42.50 a month. So that was a lot of
but it was a nice apartment.
Kelsey: Where was it, what
Klalo: I don’t know whether the
neighborhood had a—I guess
Clinton Hill area.
Kelsey: Still that same area you
Klalo: Yeah. A little further away.
Kelsey: How long did you stay in
Klalo: Until my daughter was ready
for school, and I said, “It’s time to move.” So we
bought a house in
Kelsey: So late fifties, then?
Kelsey: And then you’ve lived in
Klalo: Ever since.
Kelsey: Same house?
Klalo: No, I moved two and a half
years ago, but otherwise, it was in the same house.
Kelsey: Did the work that you did
during the war change your feelings about the nature
of women’s work, and what
women could or should do
outside the home?
Klalo: I don’t think so. I think
it’s up to the individual.
Kelsey: And you felt like that even
Kelsey: And you never had any
thoughts that you couldn’t do that job?
Klalo: No. No, I didn’t.
Kelsey: What is your daughter’s viewpoint? Does your daughter know what you did
during the war?
Klalo: Yeah, she does. I don’t know
that she has had much to say about it, but she
knows, and she knows her dad was
in service. As I
think I mentioned, she made this lovely collage for
him, with some medals and ribbons and
Kelsey: Have you and your daughter ever talked, or do you think
your daughter realizes that what you were doing then
was something that was out of the ordinary?
Klalo: I think she knows that.
Kelsey: It wasn’t just the normal
thing for women to do.
Klalo: Yes, I think she knows that.
Kelsey: Is there anything else that
you’d like to share about your wartime experiences?
Klalo: Nothing I can think of
offhand. I think you’ve covered everything quite
Kelsey: Okay, so nothing else you’d
like to add?
Klalo: That’s when women started
wearing slacks. We never wore slacks before that.
We wore dresses all the time. In
fact, even after
that, when I worked, I never wore slacks. You just
wore dresses, suits.
Kelsey: Into the fifties?
Klalo: Oh, yeah, even later. But
that’s when slacks became popular, I guess.
Kelsey: Couldn’t run a drill press
in a dress.
Klalo: No. Not at all. (laughter)
Kelsey: Okay, thank you very much.
Klalo: Oh, thank you, it was a
Kelsey: Is there anything you would
like future generations to know about what women did
World War II, and how
important it was, from
Klalo: Well, I think people realized
then that women were not just homemakers, that we
could do other things. And we
worked, and I think
we made a big difference. And I certainly do think
women do make a big difference today.
Kelsey: Probably because of what
women did in the forties.
Klalo: Exactly, exactly. They took
over the jobs that men were doing, and did it well.
And I think that made a big
Kelsey: I agree.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
Atlantic City, New
Automobile Workers Union
of America..... See
Newark, New Jersey