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Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber…

Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory

by Constance Bowman Reid

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We are probably most of us aware of Rosie the Riveter and that women joined the workforce in large numbers in WWII to build the materials needed to win the war. This is a look into what it actually felt like to go work on the line building the machines of war. And how did society react to women in the workforce like never before?

You can tell that the author would be delightful to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about her experiences with. A warm and engaging tale of two friends working in a factory over their summer break. A fairly short book but worth the read. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Generally I avoid WWII histories and memoirs, as I have little more than a passing interest in any historical event fresher than mid-renaissance. However, this account is so charming and clever, while at the same time self-deprecating, that I couldn't pass it up. It helps that the authors approach the war not as a trumpet-blaring, flag-waving adventure in patriotism nor a soul-crushing, blood-mired slog through the lower reaches of hell, both of which attitudes are part of what has turned me so thoroughly off on other WWII accounts. Instead, these two fine ladies approach the entire war as only a backdrop, a constant dull noise which one is constantly aware of, but that is easily ignored in favor of more workaday concerns.

This book gives a wonderful firsthand account of the daily life of the workers who built the B-24 Liberators. The grinding repetition and occasional pettiness of the bureaucracy, the colorful and occasionally dramatic personal relationships, and the unforeseen hazards of the job (how did we get this dirty in only 8 hours?!) make this more of a human-interest piece than a war-history. Still, I think it would make a good addition to a reading list about the war and it's effect on the people who were not sent overseas. Recommended. ( )
  Literate.Ninja | Feb 20, 2013 |
I absolutely loved this book. I had juststarted to get into WWII and the homefront issues and this was the best window into the minds of females at the time. Very brave, courageous women who did what had to be done and enjoyed life to the fullest. Wish I could have met them. ( )
  BevyAnn | Aug 18, 2011 |
Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory is the true story of two young teachers who decide to do their part on the WWII homefront by spending their summer vacation working the swing shift building B-24 bombers. They bravely enter the male-dominated world of a production line, pick up their welding torches, and learn to deal with the grease and aluminum shavings that become a part of their daily wardrobe. Slacks and Calluses offers a unique view into the lives of unconventional women and their contribution to the war effort. It is a quick and enjoyable read, full of both humor and accurate historical detail. ( )
  jubilant_joy | Feb 23, 2010 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:07 -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.… (more)

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