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Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 156098368X, Paperback)"You build bombers!" they howled. "An art teacher and an English teacher!"
In 1943 America's defense industries were so desperate for workers that school teachers were asked to work in factories during summer vacation. Slacks and Calluses is the story of two women--the image of "dignified schoolteacher-hood"--who went to work for Consolidated Vultee Aircraft, building bombers on the swing shift. Constance and Clara Marie traded their linen suits and "swooping" hats for blue cotton factory slacks and sturdy shoes, filled out dozens of government forms, packed up their few tools in what they hoped would pass for tool boxes--"small lunch boxes, the unpleasant color of unripe green olives"--and presented themselves for work. Over the next two months, they learned to use a wide range of tools, climbing in and out of B-24 Liberator bombers performing final installations--electrical wiring, seatbelt brackets, life rafts, bomb bay doors, the works. They also learned to deal with aching muscles and feet, grimy hands, lost sleep, and "dural termites"--slivers of duraluminum from the aircraft walls that worked their way under the skin. Even more trying was the change in the way they were treated--because they were wearing slacks. Female sales clerks were no longer polite, while men no longer offered their seats on crowded buses yet felt free to grab or whistle at them on the street. "Clothes, we reflected sadly, make the woman--and some clothes make the man think that he can make the woman."
Throughout the summer, the women kept pencils and notepads in their toolboxes, Constance noting stories and profiling her coworkers, Clara Marie making sketches. A few months later, in 1944, their memoir was first published. The resulting text sparkles with immediacy and with the women's ebullient wit. With its first-hand look at women war workers and its behind-the-scenes look at the building of the B-24, Slacks and Calluses provides a refreshingly different angle on World War II. --Sunny Delaney
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:39 -0400)
"In 1943 two spirited young teachers decided to do their part for the war effort by spending their summer vacation working the swing shift on a B-24 production line at a San Diego bomber plant. Entering a male-dominated realm of welding torches and bomb bays, they learned to use tools that they had never seen before, live with aluminum shavings in their hair, and get along with supervisors and coworkers from all walks of life. And they learned that wearing their factory slacks on the street caused men to treat them in a way for which their "dignified schoolteacher-hood" hadn't prepared them." "First published in 1944 and illustrated with humorous drawings, Slacks and Calluses is an on-the-spot account of how two women assumed the wartime roles that would change society, coping with traditional attitudes they encountered along the way. Constance Bowman tells of foremen who struggled futilely to enforce a rule requiring all women to wear caps; of young coworkers who wistfully imagined earning their high school diplomas; and of the bruises and cut fingers that she and Clara Marie Allen endured in making final installations to the "Liberator" planes that rolled off the Consolidated Vultee production line." "Bowman and Allen evoke in vivid detail the ambiguities, drama, and comedy of life on the home front during World War II."--Jacket.
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