Louise Himes
Louise Himes

Service Record

Civilian • Elkton, Maryland

Transcript

Thomas Healy:
Okay. Okay. Tell me your full name and where you live now.

Louise Himes:
My name is Louise Himes, and I live in Milford, Delaware, 26 Valley Forge Drive.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. Now, you’ve got to be — now, you just stop it.

Unidentified Speaker:
Well, actually —

Thomas Healy:
What?

Unidentified Speaker:
I hate to do this to you, but you cannot really walk. I hear that.

Thomas Healy:
Oh, okay. I’m sorry. You know what it’s doing here —

Unidentified Speaker:
If you just — can you — it can rock — maybe if you just close the lid because it was just rubbing —

Louise Himes:
Now, you shut up, Al.

Unidentified Speaker:
No, make yourself comfortable.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. All right.

Unidentified Speaker:
Thank you.

Thomas Healy:
So, tell me — tell me when it started, you know, when — where you were — where you were born — okay. What you’re going to do is you’re going to tell me where you were born.

Louise Himes:
Okay.

Thomas Healy:
Sort of, you know, how you grew up. Did you go through high school there?

Louise Himes:
I went to junior high school. I finished — I didn’t finish high school.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. Tell me a little bit about where you were born and raised —

Louise Himes:
Okay.

Thomas Healy:
— and your parents, what they did.

Louise Himes:
Okay.

Thomas Healy:
And then how — how you got involved and you came over here in 1942.

Louise Himes:
Okay.

Thomas Healy:
So just tell me the story.

Louise Himes:
Okay. That’s where you want me to start?

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. Just tell me I was — I was born —

Louise Himes:
I was born in what they call Dixie, West Virginia, which is in the mountains. I don’t remember the county, in 1919. We moved from there, as a baby, to what they called Hughes Creek, which was coal mines. And my father was a coal miner. And I grew up there until I was — I lived back and forth with a sister, older sister of mine in Whitesville when I hit 15, and I worked odd jobs here and there. And when I became in my — 20 and they were recruiting people for jobs, they recruited us to go to Alton, Maryland to make powder — in the powder plant to make detonators or shells of some sorts, and we — I think we were only there a few months when they had a huge explosion. We were — we worked shift work, and they had a big explosion. There was a lot of people killed, but it wasn’t advertised, and then after that, they wouldn’t let us take another defense job. So we headed back to West Virginia, just the two of us, and I had to stay 30 days. And after 30 days, we returned and went to Dravo’s. And they took us on right away and we went to school and learned how to weld, and we had to be an apprentice for so long. And then I finally got up to be a first class welder and met my husband, which was an electrician foreman, and he decided he liked me, so he had his people to drag my — my lines and things onto the ship when I used to have to do it myself. And then we got — became friends and started dating and ended up getting married. Well, he was called in the service first, and he — I think he was gone only a few months when the war was over because he — he was drafted. And after — after I — after I was laid off from Dravo’s, I joined him in Florida. He was stationed in Florida, and where did we go from Florida? We —

Thomas Healy:
Well, let me stop you, and, you know, we’re going to talk a little bit about Dravo for a while.

Louise Himes:
Oh, okay.

Thomas Healy:
So tell me about — what happened to the plant — tell me about the bus — tell me how you were — how you were recruited back when —

Louise Himes:
Oh, okay.

Mr. Himes:
Nineteen hours on a bus.

Louise Himes:
Yeah. Well, they — they came from — from Delaware, I guess, and recruited groups of women and men that wasn’t fit for — for service and not only West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, all over the place, you know. The women weren’t in the shipyard and things like that back then. And they — we had to go to these — get permission from several different people, not only my — my father was dead at the time, but my mother and the dignitaries and people, whoever you could get ahold of, which it was a small town, you know. And my — the closest town was Montgomery, which they had a few stores, you know. They had a five and ten, a movie theater, and things like that, and I had to go to a couple of those people there and get them to sign an oath or something that I was a citizen or whatever, you know. And then they came around and they picked us up, different places, you know, several of us, and had a whole bus load of us. I don’t know where I got money to eat on, because I didn’t have anything, and then — but when we got — they brought us to Delaware. We ended up in Newark, and they had a two-story house, or a three — it could have been a three-story, I don’t know, but they had cots up in the attic and there were six of us girls that slept on these cots, and everybody shared and had to go on the second floor to use the bathroom. And then after — after we got straightened up and we left the powder plant and went to Dravo’s and got some money ahead, you know, we rented a room in a private home. There was two of us that was always together, and we stayed in this private home. We had to eat out all the time. Oh. One night when I was on the second shift, we used to stop at this restaurant and have something to eat before we went to bed at night. Somebody drugged me, and I slept for 24 hours. I don’t know what they put in my soda or whatever I was drinking, you know. They drugged me and I was asleep for 24 hours and didn’t know what was going on. Where do you want me to go from there?

Thomas Healy:
Okay. Tell me about what happened — what — why didn’t they want you to — when this powder plant blew up, the explosive plant, why wouldn’t they let you work any place else?

Mr. Himes:
Because they quit.

Louise Himes:
It was a defense — called a defense job.

Thomas Healy:
Right.

Louise Himes:
And in order to go back to another defense job, which was Dravo’s, they — you had to take 30 days off.

Thomas Healy:
Was it a security reason?

Mr. Himes:
Because of the explosion, they didn’t want to work there no more.

Louise Himes:
We — no, we quit because — because of that.

Mr. Himes:
They were scared.

Louise Himes:
Yeah.

Thomas Healy:
Oh, okay.

Mr. Himes:
They wouldn’t give them another job for 30 days.

Thomas Healy:
Oh, I see. Okay. It wasn’t anything like security or —

Louise Himes:
No. No.

Thomas Healy:
Okay.

Louise Himes:
No.

Mr. Himes:
She had five brothers in the military.

Louise Himes:
Yeah, I had —

Mr. Himes:
Yeah, the kids.

Louise Himes:
My mother had thirteen children. She had fifteen, but two of them died early, you know, but I had five brothers and all five of my brothers was in the service. Now, all of them was overseas duty. I don’t remember where. Two were in the Navy and one Army and one Marines, I think, and I wanted to go in so bad and my mother wouldn’t — just would not adhere to it. She said, I have five sons, why should I give up a daughter? So when the time came around, I wanted to get out of West Virginia. Now, that’s my main reason because we were — we were poor people, and when my father was killed, we lived on a farm. And then after that, we were just scattered all over the place, and —

Thomas Healy:
How did your father — he was in the coal mine?

Louise Himes:
(Nods head.)

Thomas Healy:
Did he die in the coal mine?

Louise Himes:
Yeah, ? ?. He and his first cousin. He was 58 years old. My baby sister was 11 months old, and I was one in the middle — I was in the middle, you know. I still have five sisters left. But —

Thomas Healy:
How many men died in that?

Louise Himes:
Two, at that time, but there were several of them every so often, you know, from the mines, but that’s all my father knew. And all my brothers worked in the mines, but after — they didn’t stay too long. I only had one brother that retired from the — from the coal mines and that was my youngest brother. They’re all dead now, and he was the only one. The others — I had one brother that — well, his thumb was cut off, but they got out and got better jobs, you know. I had one younger brother who worked for General Motors, had a good job with General Motors and he retired from there, and —

Thomas Healy:
Now, tell me about — so you went to Dravo. And how did you get picked as a welder or how did you start —

Louise Himes:
We signed up for that.

Thomas Healy:
For welding?

Louise Himes:
Yeah.

Thomas Healy:
And tell me about you went — how you learned how to do it.

Louise Himes:
We went to school.

Thomas Healy:
Where? Just tell me —

Louise Himes:
On the — on the premises.

Unidentified Speaker:
Can you get closer to the camera?

Louise Himes:
On the premises.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. So just tell me — now tell me you’ve now gone to Dravo and you’re going to do welding.

Louise Himes:
Yeah. We went to school and — in a special building that was set up just for welding, and they had instructions there, and after, I think, six weeks, they put us out on the job as trainees. And then after so long training as a — as a welder, I think I started out tacking little electrical things on the bulkheads, and then I did — I did a lot of different welding, but the hardest I ever did was getting down in the engine room — one of those big pipes and laying on my back and welding around that big ole pipe. But I took the test for the Navy and they — and passed it, and, you know, worked until the war was over and they laid me off.

Thomas Healy:
Did you ever do any welding after that?

Louise Himes:
No. I tried a couple times.

Mr. Himes:
Tell him how much money you made.

Louise Himes:
Oh. I — we started out — I think it was 69 cents an hour, and when I went up to the — to — I think it’s on there. When I got up to be first class, I think it was $1.69, wasn’t it? Is that what it says there? $1.69 an hour. That was a bit low. That was good money back then, and after we left — after I left there and I met my husband in Florida — you want to know any more about Dravo’s?

Thomas Healy:
Yes. Tell me more. I want to know — I want to know more about the — the shifts, how that worked. I want to know, you know, how many ships that you actually worked on.

Louise Himes:
I think I worked on four, and — it was about four, wasn’t it? I don’t think you remember. I’m sure I worked on at least four, but I worked in the north yard. I didn’t work in the south yard. That was where the bulkhead was, right? And I don’t remember which ones was which, but my husband went out on one of them that I worked on, you know, when they put them out for a test run to drive or whatever. He went out on that. Of course I was married to him then, and —

Thomas Healy:
So where was the north yard? The north yard was up towards the railroad tracks?

Louise Himes:
Right where that — where the — all those trains and things are, that was the north yard, and that — what they call that shopping center they have there?

Thomas Healy:
Right, that’s the south yard?

Louise Himes:
No, that’s the north yard.

Thomas Healy:
Now, where was the other — where’s the south yard?

Louise Himes:
It was farther south. You didn’t see any part of that on the — on the 50th anniversary, you didn’t see any of that.

Thomas Healy:
That was all down the other end?

Louise Himes:
It was down on the other end, yeah.

Thomas Healy:
Now, what did they do down there?

Louise Himes:
That was where the ships were put together. That’s where — that was the beginning of them. I wouldn’t — I don’t think — I was only down there one or two times. I didn’t do that much work down there, but that was where the — that’s where they started out.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. And then tell me the process.

Louise Himes:
Oh, my God. It’s several years ago.

Mr. Himes:
You built modules, separate modules and then brought them into place. Prefabricated a lot —

Thomas Healy:
Right.

Mr. Himes:
— of the stuff.

Louise Himes:
Yeah.

Mr. Himes:
She was in assembly, not — I mean, in — not in the final assembly.

Louise Himes:
No, I — no, I wasn’t — I didn’t help assemble them, you know, in the south yard. That’s where they were assembled was down in the south yard, and I — I did — most of my work was up in the north yard, and I did — I did a lot of different welding, but after my husband got ahold of me, I didn’t do much after that because I was only welding for the electrical department, so…

Thomas Healy:
Where did they launch the ships?

Louise Himes:
In the south yard. I saw them launch about four of them. I — what woman was it? Because she couldn’t break the bottle of champagne, but — I can see her, but I can’t remember her name. Oh, gangs and gangs of people, a lot of people.

Thomas Healy:
How many people worked at Dravo do you think?

Louise Himes:
Oh, I have no idea. My God. There was a lot of women there. I have no idea how many. I guess 4- or 500.

Mr. Himes:
Oh, no.

Thomas Healy:
No. Thousands.

Louise Himes:
Thousands? I don’t know.

Thomas Healy:
It had to be thousands I would imagine.

Louise Himes:
Yeah, I’m sure. Mostly — mostly girls. Women.

Thomas Healy:
Now, did — did you see any other ships being built along the river then? I mean, didn’t — who else had them down there?

Mr. Himes:
Pusey and Jones builds the foremen.

Louise Himes:
Yeah, Pusey and Jones had —

Mr. Himes:
The — the landing crafts, and I don’t know what Pusey and Jones built. I think Harlan was building landing crafts.

Thomas Healy:
And Jackson and Sharp also.

Mr. Himes:
Yes. That’s right.

Louise Himes:
I —

Thomas Healy:
Jackson and Sharp was down right alongside of you. I mean, that south yard — or the north yard. I think they were the next one around the bend there.

Mr. Himes:
I — I — I don’t remember.

Thomas Healy:
Or Harlan and Hollingsworth was I think around that same —

Mr. Himes:
Around that area. Well, they were all along the —

Louise Himes:
They were all along the river there, but I didn’t see them up close. I could only see them from the — from the road, you know, but I know there were ships built.

Thomas Healy:
What was it like? I mean, were lots of people around?

Louise Himes:
A lot of people around all the time.

Thomas Healy:
I mean, it was going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, right?

Louise Himes:
Yeah. There was three shifts, um-hum. I worked day, but some of the girls worked second shifts. Some worked third shift, you know. There was — there was a lot of different goings on, you know.

Thomas Healy:
How long were the shifts?

Louise Himes:
Oh, God.

Thomas Healy:
Were they 8-hour shifts or the 12-hour shifts?

Louise Himes:
Oh, no. They were — oh. I thought you said how long was the ship?

Thomas Healy:
No.

Louise Himes:
No, they were eight hours, um-hum, and we got a certain time off for lunch, but I don’t remember how much, you know.

Thomas Healy:
And you were there from?

Louise Himes:
’43 ’til the end of the war, ’47. ’47?

Thomas Healy:
’45.

Louise Himes:
’45?

Thomas Healy:
So you were there two years?

Louise Himes:
Yeah. I guess I was.

Thomas Healy:
You must have turned out more ships than four ships in two years?

Louise Himes:
Well, I was there for at least two years. And I really don’t — you know, I can’t remember that far back. I wish I had the pictures of them. I — there must have been — must have been six or eight. There had to be. Because, like I said, I had the pictures of all of them and what they were and where they had been and where they — which one was destroyed and what have you, but I don’t have them. I can’t find them.

Thomas Healy:
Did — did you really like what you were doing then?

Louise Himes:
Oh, I loved it. I got out of West Virginia.

Thomas Healy:
War or no war?

Louise Himes:
War or no war. I — no, I didn’t — I hated the war, you know, being in war, but I liked my job. I was happy where I was, and I was — I wasn’t a bad person — never was a bad person in my life, you know, but there was some — really some rough gals on that — in that shipyard, I’ll tell you, but they were mostly at the south yard, you know. They’re drinking, carousing, and carrying on with the men in the shipyard, but, no, I wasn’t one of them.

Thomas Healy:
Did — how tough was it with the Navy, passing the test?

Louise Himes:
It wasn’t — it wasn’t hard, no. I just had to do it — do some welding for them, you know, and to make it — make it right. It had to be right, you know, but I had to do a lot of chipping and rewelding and things like that, you know, but it wasn’t — it really wasn’t that hard from what I can remember.

Thomas Healy:
That was a big bump in pay, once you got that classification or that —

Louise Himes:
Um-hum. Yeah. Well, sure, from a dollar — from sixty — about 69 cents to $1.69, something like that, yeah.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. Pascal.

Unidentified Speaker:
I think it’s really interesting for me to know what — was it a mix — was — were girls and men mixed?

Louise Himes:
The girls —

Unidentified Speaker:
Just answer this way.

Louise Himes:
Oh. The girls more or less stayed in their own areas, you know, unless they had — had to work for one job — on one job. Like, when I was down in the engine room, you know, I was down there more or less with one person just to supervise, you know, welding a big pipe.

Thomas Healy:
What do you think the ratio was with the men and the women, I mean, working? Do you think there was more —

Louise Himes:
Well, there was more women than men, and I don’t — I don’t remember any trouble. It was — if there was any trouble, it was girls fighting.

Thomas Healy:
What — Pascal.

Mr. Himes:
They built DEs, too, you know.

Thomas Healy:
Yeah.

Louise Himes:
Yeah, I worked on the DEs.

Unidentified Speaker:
Did you have a relationship to the ship — oh, yeah. And you said they broke a bottle of champagne. Did they, in war times, even do that —

Louise Himes:
Oh, yeah.

Unidentified Speaker:
— on every single ship got —

Louise Himes:
Oh, yeah.

Thomas Healy:
So what you want to do is you want to say —

Unidentified Speaker:
Even the girls that worked on it, did you go and see it?

Louise Himes:
Yes, we got to go see it, um-hum. Yes, they used a bottle of champagne. Well, they said it was champagne, I don’t know.

Thomas Healy:
So what you would say is, when they finished the ship, we all — tell us about that. So just tell us like a question.

Louise Himes:
When the ship was finished, it was up — it was brought up on dry dock, I think it was called. Right, Al?

Thomas Healy:
Don’t answer. Don’t —

Louise Himes:
Well, anyway, I’ll say it was brought up on dry dock because it was finished. It was — we worked on the water.

Thomas Healy:
Right.

Louise Himes:
And it was christened and put into the water right there in the south yard, and everybody got to see it, I guess. Anybody that wanted to see it.

Thomas Healy:
So tell us about the christening.

Louise Himes:
The christening was — was a — the ones that I remember, was a female, and — but some dignitary that I can’t remember her name, could have been the mayor’s wife or the governor or somebody, you know, but usually a woman did christen the ships, and she did have something to say, but I don’t remember, you know, what she said.

Thomas Healy:
I mean, did you guys feel good — I mean, was it —

Louise Himes:
Oh, it was a happy time when — watching that ship go in that water. And, you know, the Christiana River is not that wide, and that big ole ship going down there, it was — it looked like it was going to wash all the water up on them banks.

Thomas Healy:
Did it make you feel proud?

Louise Himes:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Thomas Healy:
Well, tell me that.

Louise Himes:
Well, I was — I was proud to be a part of it, and enjoyed every minute of it, you know. I don’t — it was just a happy time, but when the war was over, I was much happier, and then, of course, then meeting my husband, you know, and marrying him.

Thomas Healy:
Would you do it over again?

Louise Himes:
Yeah. If I was able, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I would go into the service in a heartbeat if I was younger. In a heartbeat. Yep, I’d go in the service.

Thomas Healy:
What did you want to do — what did you really want to do if you — if you could have gone in the service?

Louise Himes:
I would have went either in the Marines or the Navy. I would have. My mother wouldn’t absolutely adhere to it. And I would — but I was — I was ready for it. I was ready to get out of West Virginia. I don’t know why I hated West Virginia, but — you know, coming from a poor family and —

Thomas Healy:
Did they make you wear shoes down at Dravo?

Louise Himes:
I wore shoes. I had some kind of shoes all my life. Only in the summertime I had to go barefoot. No, we had to wear shoes. We had special shoes, hard-toed shoes, you know, steel-toed shoes.

Thomas Healy:
So before your husband came along and helped you with — helped this crew drag all your equipment around, tell me about that a little bit.

Louise Himes:
Before I had — when I had to do it myself?

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. Tell me about that.

Louise Himes:
That was a hard job, and you had — sometimes you had to fight to get in lines to the — see, the welding machines was on deck — on the dry dock, and you had to go out and find a machine and the equipment that went with it to drag it to where — on that ship somewhere, and that was a job dragging that — all that — those lines around, and you had to do it yourself, unless you —

Thomas Healy:
Did the crane operators help you at all?

Louise Himes:
No.

Thomas Healy:
They didn’t lift —

Louise Himes:
No, they didn’t do nothing for us. No. We — everything was done. You had a boss. My boss was named — his last name was Fisher, but I can’t remember his first name, and he told us where to go every morning. We met with him and he told us where to go. Of course, I was already spoken for when I went to work with my husband, but he was my husband at the time, and he told us where to report, but we had to take care of our own equipment. We were supposed to put it back, you know, where we got it, but it was — they was strung all over the ship, and dirty. Oh, God, that was the dirtiest water I ever saw in my life.

Thomas Healy:
Did — where did you eat during — I mean, they had a cafeteria. How did you eat — how did you guys eat?

Louise Himes:
You carried your own lunch.

Thomas Healy:
I mean, did you just eat? Did they have a big mess hall that you ate in or —

Louise Himes:
I don’t remember no mess hall. We had big buildings that we could go into for rest periods, and there was bathrooms and what have you, and that’s where we ate, unless you ate on the ship.

Thomas Healy:
Now, we don’t live in Florida and the war went on through summer, winter, spring, and fall. What was it like there during — during that winter with that cold —

Louise Himes:
Colder than heck. Cold. But, you know, being young, you didn’t pay as much attention to it. But it was cold on those ships, and I used to make — make coffee for the group with a gas — what do you call it, hon?

Mr. Himes:
Torch.

Louise Himes:
Torch, and I made coffee in a — in cans and things for the men. Oh, yeah. And they liked it. We had no — had no cream or anything, but, you know, I made coffee.

Thomas Healy:
Do you remember any big snowstorms and stuff that were down there then? Did — did any of that kind of stuff hold up operations at all?

Louise Himes:
No, not that I remember. I don’t remember no heavy snowstorms at all back — back then. There was — there was a lot of ice, I do know that. On the Christiana River there was ice. I don’t think —

Thomas Healy:
Was there any bad accidents when they were trying to get these things out?

Louise Himes:
Not to my knowledge, no. Not to my knowledge.

Thomas Healy:
So they had a pretty good safety record?

Louise Himes:
Um-hum, I think so. As far as I remember. I don’t remember anybody being hurt badly or banged up, burned, you know. I had — I had my own hood and leather jacket.

Thomas Healy:
Okay, Pascal.

Unidentified Speaker:
Yeah.

Thomas Healy:
What?

Unidentified Speaker:
The profile.

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. See, that didn’t take long. Just — don’t move. We’re going to do a profile on you. He’s just going to take some — The big guy’s chomping at the bit to jump up here in this chair. Thank you. (END OF DVD.)

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