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Mondays with Melitas – July 11, 2011

World War II Years
After the Goodwill Tour to the Orient with the All-Star Softball Team for three months in late 1938, I was undecided as to what I was going to do to continue my agenda of life. I was 20 years old, and Softball was the big thing for me at this time. I was still on a high from the tour, so the sport won out, and I continued playing the game and having a wonderful time doing it. Our team, the Orange Lionettes were World Champions, and we were on a roll, riding high.
Then it hit me that I had better get busy and have some purpose instead of all this play, play, play. Maybe I was getting bored with all the play and no work. So off I went to UCLA to finish getting a degree in teaching – Phys. Ed, English, or History. I had 2 years of Junior College in Fullerton where I had taken classes in typing along with the required courses for my majors.
And what do you know, along came December 7th, 1941 that day of infamy, and so my plans were derailed. I immediately wanted to go into the service, but had enough sense to finish out the year in June of 1942. Thoughts of joining the Navy kept stirring around in my brain; besides those ensembles they wore were absolutely the cutest uniforms around. So now, to break the news to the family, and it was my Mom AND Aunt Mae who were the big bosses, I started my spiel and before I had gotten half-way through, the iron foot of each came down at the same instant with such a crash my head was spinning. Then in unison, “No Navy for you, young lady.”

I was crushed because, in my dreams I had it all planned out how great it would be. Naturally, I would be stationed in San Diego. On weekends I would be able to drive up to San Juan, in the 1941 Packard 120 Convertible that Aunt Mae had so generously provided me with. I would visit around with friends and family, then back to the base. Now that would be the life!

But with this turn of events, and no convenient Navy service for me, I had to start figuring on something else to help with the war effort. A flash came to me, and off I went to recruit some of my softball pals. Before you could say “Kamikazi,” I had 5 of us standing in a huge, long line at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica to offer our services. They had to be pretty desperate for workers because all 5 of us were hired. Lois, the softball pitcher I used to catch for, was hired as a riveter – her strong-looking arms must’ve swayed the interviewer in that direction. Jean, an outfielder, also was taken as a riveter; while Fran was put in the parts department working in a cage; and Betty went into parts assembly, also a confined area. It was nice that Fran and Betty didn’t look as strong as the other two because riveting was no snap. Now you ask, What became of me? Yours truly was given the “piéce de resistánce” – a cushy Department Clerk job out on the production line. Remember me mentioning earlier about having taken typing classes back in Junior College? That fact was in my application so they seated me in front of a typewriter. I just typed my little heart out. Their test showed I was typing 80 words a minute! C’mon now, I never, ever typed 80 wpm, not ever, ever, ever. But I was not about to question this obvious mistake, and I was certainly a happy and joyful employee as I whistled off to work.

My department was out on the production line in the section of the plant where B-20 Bombers were assembled. In the other section of the huge plant the assembly of C-53 Cargo Planes took place. My employee name tag gave me run of the plant, and you can bet I took advantage of it. I would get my little reports all typed up, (remember I could type 80 wpm!) and then take off, stopping by to see my riveter and parts pals, then roam the entire place. Now one would wonder how I managed that routine. Well, it was easy – I had my boss, Supervisor Mosby, snowed 5 minutes after I met him. He was a great little guy, and as long as I had my reports done, he was probably glad to get rid of me for awhile. He was maybe 35 years old, but to me at 24, he was ancient. We became great friends, and along with his little wife (both very short people) they would have me come over for dinner every once in awhile. They paid attention to me as parents for the children they never had. Mrs. Mosby would even give my Mom a call to mention how I was doing. Mr. Mosby had 3½ fingers missing on his left hand. He was quite a craftsman, however some electric saw had won the battle earlier in his life.

I always loved poking around that plant to see everything there was to see. It was always so awesome to be a part of it, and watch this massive production going on. (Even though my contribution was typing a few reports now and again.) It was still mind boggling.

Now I must describe my office, so picture this: if you are old enough to remember the erector toy sets years ago, and you would build buildings, bridges, or whatever idea you had at the time – except you can see through them. This is what my office structure looked like. Someone with a mammoth erector set had been there. It was two stories tall, and maybe 20 ft x 20 ft square. The office (and I use the term loosely) was on the 2nd floor. We were up there because we had to be on the same level as the B-20’s pilot compartment where our inspectors could walk into the plane and take care of their inspections. On the main floor below other inspectors were checking out the belly of the plane. We had a couple of desks, a few chairs, and a filing cabinet, a wood plank floor, and still remember that people down below could look up and see right into my office.

I started this job working on swing shift, and after awhile, I got restless (and probably a little bored typing away at 80 wpm) so I asked Mosby, Boss Man, would he mind if I tried the graveyard shift for awhile. No, he didn’t mind, he filled out the transfer and there I was on graveyard shift. That turned into a disaster. I hated graveyard. I never could figure out when to sleep. So back to Mosby. Later, I asked him if I could try the day shift, and there I was for awhile working for one of the big bosses this time. Still preferred swing shift. So back to Mosby. For one thing, there was a bowling league in Santa Monica at 12 midnight on weekends, and after my absence of about 6 months, those bowlers probably thought I was dead and buried. Little did they know….

To end this saga of my participation to help the war effort, I lasted long enough to receive a 5-year pin with a teeny weeny diamond, and which I do not know where it is these days.

5 Comments to “Mondays with Melitas – July 11, 2011”

  1. Melitas these postings of your memoirs are so well done – what a fabulous life you live! I’ll look forward to next Monday’s story! See you in the Fall.

  2. HEY MELI, ANOTHER SAGA DOWN MEMORY LANE PROVIDING SUCH SCRUMPTIOUS DETAILS. WHAT AN OUTSTANDING RECOLLECTION YOU HAVE, OF THE PAST. BET YOU CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT YOU HAD FOR LUNCH YESTERDAY! KEEP IT UP.

  3. Loved your story. Can’t wait for next week.

  4. Your stories are awesome! I love them. I’m still laughing about last weeks “football” story! I love them all! Looking forward to next week!

  5. Melitas,
    Alba was right your stories are GREAT. I really enjoyed them. I’m glad i finally found them. See you soon.

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"Because of Tammy I have found confidence in my writing and feel blessed to be honored in such a way. I have found my voice. I have found freedom! I recommend anyone for whatever reason to expand their life and sign up for her writing workshops or classes. You'll be amazed at how good you are and how everyone has a story worth telling. Sign up and set your voice free!"
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Tammy L. Coia is an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press.


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