Sally the Welder

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I was just finishing the weld when the whistle blew. But there were still 4 more inches to go, so I bit my lower lip and continued along the bead, knowing that it had to be absolutely perfect. People were counting on me after all.

I finally finished it, and turned off the torch, lifting up my face shield and looking at it with my bare eyes. No bubbling, no carbonization, it looked perfect. I smiled and looked a second time, still perfect. “Hmmmm, that looks perfect Sally!” came the voice from over my shoulder, and I looked back at Mrs. Weller, who was leaning over my shoulder. I grinned at her, and she patted my shoulder as she reached out and with a piece of chalk in her other hand made a mark with her number on the rudder, noting the time and date.

“You've come a long ways in the last 6 months, and you should be proud of that. That is fine work. Now let us get down off of here, whistle blew 15 minutes ago.”

“Yes Ma'am,” I said. “But I did not want to leave it half-finished like that, the night crew might have had to do it all over again, and better done right than done twice. And I ain't gonna have any of our boys in trouble because I did a sloppy job.”

I racked my equipment and saw I was the last one. Mrs. Weller locked the cabinet and together we walked to the office, where I grabbed my time card and stuck it in the machine and punched out. But I was surprised when she grabbed it from me, and signed it, and put a note saying that the 30 minutes of overtime was authorized. “You deserve it my dear, and I am going to turn this in myself so there are no mistakes in getting it taken care of. You go ahead and take off, and have a good weekend Sally.”

“Thank you Mrs. Weller, you also Ma'am,” I said, and walked over to the lockers. I went into the one set aside for us and sighed as I took off my jacket, and grabbed two of the gray towels off of the stack, and went to the sink. I removed my thick blue cotton work shirt and bra, and got one towel wet and washed off my face, arms, and torso. Watching the wavy steel mirror until I was sure all of the dirt was off of my face, I used the other to dry off, then tossed them both into the hamper before putting my bra and shirt on again.

One good thing in addition to the extra money, being late meant I was one of the tail end waiting for the train. I got in line, and climbed into the last car and leaned against the rail as we swayed our way north and east away from the Kaiser shipyard and towards home. A fairly new housing development in Berkeley called Codornices Village. Of course, it was not my home, it belonged to my sister and her husband. While California was nothing like South Carolina had been, it also was not really open for a single woman of color. But there was a war on, and when Kay told me her husband could get me a job at the shipyard, I did not even ask ma and pa, I just told them I was going. And 2 weeks later, here I was.

I was hired almost on the spot, and after 2 months of mostly doing everything from picking up trash to moving around carts full of parts, I was assigned to training as a welder. I was among the best in my class, and thankfully assigned to Mrs. Weller's crew. We mostly worked outside the hull of the Liberty Ships we were building, which would be bad I know come winter. But here in summer it was nice. A cool breeze off of the San Francisco Bay, and during breaks I could sit on the scaffolding and look out at the water. The same, but so different from that at home.

I finally got home, and Kay smiled and kissed my cheek and said dinner would be ready soon. I went into the bathroom and stripped off my clothes. At least there was plenty of hot water, and once I was clean I put on my robe and went into the living room. “Steak and mashed potatoes, Kay?” I asked, in a teasing voice.

“Heh, not likely! Canned ham and corn. But I did get 5 pounds of grits, they are already soaking for breakfast tomorrow.” I made the right lip smacking noise, and dug into my chow. Murray was working the night shift, so it was just us talking as I ate, and she asked me what I was planning for the weekend.

“Well, some of the girls said they were going to the Rialto, that new movie with Lena Horne and Cab Calloway is playing. After that, I might go to the Victory club.” Sis smiled at me, and said she hoped I had a good time. I ate the last of dinner and headed back to the bathroom.

I put on my makeup and fixed up my hair. It was still scrunched up a bit from the cloth cap I wore under my hardhat, but that was a good thing now. That and the lighter stripe where the band rested against my forehead showed I was working for the war. I went into the bedroom and selected my blue and white pinstripe Georgiana Frock Dress. It was quite daring ma would have said, barely coming to my knee. But there was a war on, so we had to save fabric. I considered putting on my stockings, but I only had 1 pair left so shook my head and sent without. And grabbing my nightshirt I slipped into my shoes and went back to the living room. I put my nightie on the chair near the couch, and after hugging Kay I grabbed my purse and headed out.

A short walk later and I was on the Key Line to Oakland. While some were not happy they were allowing coloreds to live in Berkeley, they could not stop us. They needed the workers to build the ships, and we had to live somewhere. However, there were few businesses that catered to us so most of us went to nearby Oakland for entertainment.

I got off the train and walked to 7th Street, and stood and looked around. It was just starting to get dark, and there were a lot of people on the streets. I walked to the theater and checked the time, and saw I had 20 minutes left. So I got my ticket, and lit a cigarette and watched the people. Almost all of them were colored also, but one or two Mexicans in Zoot Suits were wandering around also. I still thought on most of them it looked silly. Especially since most wer

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Written by mushroom0311
Uploaded November 27, 2020
Notes Everybody knows who Rosie the Riveter is, one of the tens of millions of women that went to work helping the US win WWII. This is about Sally, a young woman who worked welding Victory ships in the San Francisco Bay Area. During a weekend off she meets a man, and her entire life changes because of it.
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