October 20, 2005

7:23 minutes

Interviewed by Ann Kelsey

Filmed by Michael O’Hagan

For the County College of Morris, Learning Resource Center

Randolph, New Jersey

Rosie the Riveter Project

Transcribed by Jardee Transcription, Tucson, Arizona

Kelsey:  Where were you born, Mary?

Lesniewski:  In Newark, New Jersey.

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

Lesniewski:  Yes.

Kelsey:  Where did you live when World War II started?

Lesniewski:  I lived in Newark.

Kelsey:  Were you married, or single?

Lesniewski:  No, I was single.

Kelsey:  When did you go to work in a defense plant?

Lesniewski:  I believe it was in 1940, at RCA in Harrison, New Jersey.

Kelsey:  What did you do there?

Lesniewski:  I was a tube tester.  We used to have the miniature tubes at that time, and I was a tube tester.

Kelsey:  What were the tubes used for?

Lesniewski:  Communication.  They didn’t have computers then, so you communicated with radios.  Without transistors

             and all that, you needed the tubes.

Kelsey:  How long did you work at RCA?

Lesniewski:  Around five to six years.

Kelsey:  When did you leave?

Lesniewski:  I believe it was 1946.

Kelsey:  Did you resign, or were you laid off?

Lesniewski:  I left because I was pregnant.  I was married then.  I got married in ’46, the beginning of ’46.

Kelsey:  When did you meet your husband?

Lesniewski:  I met him before the war, but we broke up, and then we communicated while he was away.  And then when

             he came back, that’s when we got married.

Kelsey:  After you left RCA, did you go back to work again?

Lesniewski:  No, I was a stay-at-home mom.

Kelsey:  Did you stay in Newark?

Lesniewski:  Well, we were in Newark, and then we lived at Elizabeth for a while.  Then we came back to Newark.  Later

             on we came up to Morris County, to Parsippany.

Kelsey:  So working at RCA was the only work outside the home that you did?  Or did you work later on?

Lesniewski:  No.  I did work a few times down at the Hall of Records in Newark.  It was very interesting.  But I quit that,

             too, because all the offices that closed at four o’clock, at five o’clock there was hardly anybody left in Newark. 

             It was pretty dangerous then.

Kelsey:  Why did you decide to go to work at RCA?

Lesniewski:  Well, at that time we were all patriotic.  We all wanted to do our duty.  Everybody wanted to do war work.

Kelsey:  Did you enjoy the job?  Did you like working?

Lesniewski:  Well, I did like working, but the main reason [was] everyone wanted to be patriotic, and everybody was

            looking for a wage, because before that, [it was] very hard times.  It was hard to get a job—you had an

            education, and you couldn’t get a job.

Kelsey:  Do you think that working there had any effect on your life after that?

Lesniewski:  Well, it just showed you that if you work hard, that’s the only way you’ll earn a living.  If you don’t work hard,

             you’re not going to have anything.

Kelsey:  What were some of the other ways that people—or women, especially—that were interested in, because they

             were patriotic and they wanted to do something—what other things did women do?

Lesniewski:  Well, they volunteered at hospitals and different places where they needed volunteers.  But of course when

            you’re so busy working—and then too, my mother had passed away, so I had a lot of work to do at home, so I

            couldn’t be involved with a lot of different things.

Kelsey:  How many hours a week did you work?

Lesniewski:  Well, we worked ten hours a day, five days a week, and then about five or six hours on Saturday—that was

            considered a half a day.

Kelsey:  And did you do shift work?

Lesniewski:  Maybe once or twice, but I didn’t want it, because you would get out after twelve, and my last bus going

            home was 12:30, so I said, “I can’t do that.”  I was taking a cab.  I said, “I don’t go to work to ride in cabs.”

Kelsey:  So you worked mostly day shift?

Lesniewski:  Yeah.  They were saying they were going to put on a third shift, and I said, “Forget about it!  You’ll have to

            let me go.”  Because Newark was buzzin’ with work, you heard noise all over, drills going, hammers going, and

            everything.  You know, these big machines.  Everyone was working.  After the war, everything died down.  The

            men came home, they could hardly find jobs.  While the war was on, they spent the government’s money. 

           (laughs)  After that, it dried up.

Kelsey:  That’s an interesting….

Lesniewski:  Oh, they put on plays, we had parties galore.

Kelsey:  Was this at RCA?

Lesniewski:  Yeah.  We had our own gym building, we had a pool, and we had a girl that was a life guard.  Everything

             was girls.  And upstairs they were putting on plays.  And then they were charging people money to buy a ticket,

             and they would put the show on.  Years ago it was called the Monson [phonetic].  I think it’s the Jersey

             Foundation, or something.  So money was being spent then, the government’s money.

Kelsey:  That’s a very interesting comment.  Nobody’s mentioned recreation before.

Lesniewski:  Yeah, we had that, it was very nice.  We had to have a ticket to get in.  At that time, you’ve heard of the two

            guys that had the store—two guys, they held it up.  Well, they started off in a little diner in Harrison, two guys

            from Harrison.  And they came in to deliver sandwiches to the people that were working on the show, and I

            wouldn’t let them in because I said, “You don’t belong here, you don’t have a badge.”  And years ago, when they

            went prosperous, I went to buy a washing machine, when I was married, and he’s walking around in a suit to let

            me see, “Look who I am!”

Kelsey:  (laughs)  That’s pretty funny.  Okay, well, thank you very much, Mary. I really enjoyed talking with you.

Lesniewski:  Thank you, me too.






The Learning Resource Center at the County College of Morris

214 Center Grove Road, Randolph, New Jersey 07869