May 9, 2006

66:26 minutes

Interviewed by Ann Kelsey

Filmed by Michael O’Hagan

For the County College of Morris, Learning Resource Center

Randolph, New Jersey

Rosie the Riveter Project

Transcribed by Jardee Transcription, Tucson, Arizona





Kelsey:  When and where were you born and raised?

Buono:  I was born in Port Jervis, New York.  I was raised in both New York and Pennsylvania.

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 sisters?

Buono:  Oh, we had thirteen of us.

Kelsey:  How many brothers and how many sisters?

Buono:  I think there were seven brothers, and six—including me—daughters.

Kelsey:  Did any other family members live with you?  Any other relatives?



Buono:  No.

Kelsey:  How would you describe Port 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 get along?

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 to.

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 the church?



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 Depression?

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 decent job.

Kelsey:  Looking back on how your family lived at that time, how would you characterize your economic situation?

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 a week.

Kelsey:  And all your other brothers and sisters, were they still at home during this time period?

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 Jervis?

Buono:  Yeah.

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 them?

Buono:  In later years, we would correspond, but other than that, we didn’t keep in touch.

Kelsey:  Were you married when the war started?



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 bowling together.

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 army, yes.

Kelsey:  Where was he stationed?

Buono:  Fort Bragg.

Kelsey:  Was he home on leave when you met him?

Buono:  Yes.

Kelsey:  Did he go overseas?

Buono:  He went to Saipan.

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 you weren’t?!

Buono:  Because it was in the New York 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 really do.

Kelsey:  So did you then go and get married again?

Buono:  Yeah, we got married by a justice of the peace in Wharton.  (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 went.

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 Picatinny.  I 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.

Kelsey:  Seniority?

Buono:  Seniority is the word I’m looking for.  They let us go.  Reduction in force, it was called.

Kelsey:  Did you quit working at Picatinny when you went to Fort 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 things.  (laughs)

Kelsey:  Would you say that the war had something to do with that kind of the spur-of-the-moment decision?

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 Picatinny?



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 Port Jervis?

Buono:  No.  Franklin, on Susquehanna Street.

Kelsey:  Franklin …?

Buono:  New Jersey.

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?

Buono:  Rosie the Riveters, yeah.

Kelsey:  You remember seeing those kinds of ads?

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 Picatinny?

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.

Buono:  Yes.



Kelsey:  And so you went right from that to Picatinny?

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 friends at Picatinny.

Kelsey:  And what did you do at Picatinny?

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 understand.

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 working at Picatinny, you got back and forth from work on

             a bus?

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 where 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.  Mase 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?

Buono:  No.

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 your work?

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 your job?

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 doing.

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 army personnel.

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 follow?

Buono:  (chuckles)  On grounds or off grounds?

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 conditions.

Kelsey:  And that’s when you were working on the secret project?

Buono:  Yes.

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 remember really.

Kelsey:  And what was 350?

Buono:  Where they had the fuses.

Kelsey:  That was Building 350?

Buono:  Yeah.

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 there?

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 men, correct?

Buono:  By men, yes.  It was a man’s domain.

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 lives?

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?

Buono:  Sure.

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 supervisors?

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 “marriage.”  (laughs)



Kelsey:  Yeah, the 1944 marriage.

Buono:  Yeah.  No, no difference.

Kelsey:  So they still came on to you the same way?

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.  (chuckles)

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 union at Picatinny?

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 or not.

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 that right?

Buono:  Yes.  When we were working on 210 and 350, we were on assembly lines.

Kelsey:  And that was the black powder and the fuses?

Buono:  210 was black powder, 350 was fuses.

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 segregation?

Buono:  No.

Kelsey:  Did you make new friends on the job?

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 out, and



            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 happened.

Kelsey:  And how old were you then at that point?

Buono:  I was about eighteen, nineteen years old.

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?



Buono:  Yes.

Kelsey:  And did you live in a house, an apartment?

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 started?

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.

Buono:  Yeah.

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 [unclear]?

Buono:  Uh-huh.

Kelsey:  Tell me something about that.

Buono:  I forgot, I did do work for this family up in Lake Mohawk, just before….  I forgot all about that.  The parents were



            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 blackout.

Kelsey:  What about rationing?

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 black 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 Dover, 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 was 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 own name.

Kelsey:  1986?

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 thing.

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 change?

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



            was 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 weeks?

Buono:  Yeah.

O’Hagan:  [unclear]

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 explosions at Hercules.

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 Picatinny?

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 this.”

Kelsey:  How did people learn what to do to avoid—because you were working with very dangerous things.

Buono:  I have no idea what other people did.

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 figure out.

Buono:  By guess and by golly.

Kelsey:  Okay.  How did you feel about the war?

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 to Africa, Italy.  My brother went into service.  My brother was a regular army man.  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 army that 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 Pentagon 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 Vietnam.

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.

Kelsey:  In Europe?  (no audible response)  What effects did the war and the work you did at 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 there?

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 several years.

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 censored?



Buono:  Of course—blackout.

Kelsey:  So you actually received mail that had portions blacked out?

Buono:  Yes.  Of course even though it probably wouldn’t compromise anything, the army figured it would.  You know, like, “I’m here,” blah, blah, blah, blah.

Kelsey:  Did you worry that the United 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 patriotism?

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 windows?

Buono:  No.  Wasn’t that for people who were killed?

Kelsey:  No, that was gold stars.  Blue stars if you had someone fighting.

Buono:  No, I don’t think my mother put any up.

Kelsey:  What was your most memorable wartime experience?

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 Fort Bragg.”  “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 experience?

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 experience?

Buono:  Oh, during the war, the worst experience:  When Frank went overseas, because you didn’t know what was going to happen.

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 on V-E and V-J Days?

Buono:  Yeah, I was standing in the courtyard at 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 laid off?

Buono:  Well, I was upset that I lost my job, but glad that the reason that we did it was the war was over.

Kelsey:  How soon after V-J Day did Frank come home?

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.

Kelsey:  Yes, V-J Day was August.

Buono:  August, yeah.  He was home by December.

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?

Buono:  Yes.

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.  (chuckles)

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?

Buono:  Yeah.

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 it.

Kelsey:  How did you feel?

Buono:  I was upset, of course, that he wasn’t there.  But that’s life.



Kelsey:  Yup.

O’Hagan:  (inaudible)

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 Saipan?

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 down to 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 long.

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 war?

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 you did?

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 the marriage.

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 that would be an interesting story, that I came to college when I was sixty-two.

Kelsey:  We may actually be working on a project like that, after we’re done with this one.  Seriously.



            Did you then stay home and take care of your children for a period of years?

Buono:  Yes.

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 your life?

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 during Vietnam.

Buono:  Yeah, my son was in the Coast 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 view?

Buono:  I’ve never discussed Vietnam with them, except to say I thought it was a stinking war.

Kelsey:  And they’ve never expressed any opinions?

Buono:  No.

Kelsey:  Did your husband continue to work at Picatinny?

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 powder poisoning.

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 knowledge.  (laughter)

Kelsey:  Now, when the war ended, you were still living in Franklin?

Buono:  Was I in Franklin then?  No.  I don’t remember, either Wharton or Franklin, but I think it was Wharton.

Kelsey:  After Frank came home, where did you all live?

Buono:  In Wharton.

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 am—very uncomfortable.

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



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, 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 viewpoint?

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 to me.

Kelsey:  That’s fine, talk about your volunteer work.

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 RSVP, 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!



Blackouts.............................................. 18

Censorship............................................ 26

County College of Morris......................... 32

Depression............................................ 1, 3

Dover, New Jersey................................. 1, 4, 8, 15, 18, 19, 35, 37

Ethnic Groups....................................... 2, 15


     Brothers.......................................... 1, 3, 23

     Daughter......................................... 5, 14, 29, 33, 36

     Father............................................. 1

     Husband......................................... 4, 5, 19, 23, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 37

     Inlaws............................................. 14, 30

     Mother............................................ 1, 16

     Sisters............................................ 1, 3, 16

     Son................................................ 15, 33

Fort Bragg............................................ 4, 6, 27, 31

Franklin, New Jersey............................. 7, 8, 16, 35

Friends................................................ 8

     Grazia, Phil & Mary......................... 19

Hyatt, Susan....................................... 15

G.I. Bill............................................... 35

Greystone Psychiatric Hospital............. 34

Iraq War.............................................. 6, 22

Lake Mohawk...................................... 17

Mase Mountain.................................... 9

Patriotism............................................ 27

Patton, George S................................. 23

Picatinny Arsenal................................. 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 20, 21, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31, 34, 36

Port Jervis, New York........................... 1, 2, 3, 7, 16

Powder Poisoning................................ 34

Rationing............................................ 18

Rosie the Riveter................................. 1, 7

Saipan................................................ 4, 6, 31

Schultz, Eddie..................................... 23

Supervisors......................................... 12

Susquehanna Street............................. 7, 17

Terrorists............................................ 36


     Bus............................................... 4, 8, 9, 15, 16

     Train.............................................. 27

V Mail................................................. 26

V-E Day.............................................. 28

Vietnam.............................................. 23, 33, 34

V-J Day.............................................. 28

Volunteer Work................................... 37

Wharton, New Jersey........................... 5, 35





The Learning Resource Center at the County College of Morris

214 Center Grove Road, Randolph, New Jersey 07869