Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Erma Frances

My dear Gram...the most wonderful woman I've ever known...
would have been 87 today!
I'd like to share with you an excerpt from her hand-written autobiography:
In the summer of 1943 "people were moving to the west coast to work in the shipyards and aircraft factories and many other kinds of defense plants.  Jobs were a dime a dozen.  you could walk off one job and go to work somewhere else the same day.  Wages had started to go up some and everyone was going to get some of it"
My grandma lived in Ft. Scott, Kansas with her family.  She was married to a bum...and had to be the breadwinner.  In 1943!  My mom was born in December of 1942 - so here she was with an 8 month old moving to Portland, Oregon on a train.
"...Anyway, that first night on the train, the air-conditioning went out.  The train was packed.  There were people sitting on suitcases, laying in the isles."
My grandma's sister Wilma was with her.  Aunt Wilma and my mom both got very sick on the train.
"It was a miserable trip but we had hopes that things would be better out here.  I was pregnant when we left Kansas.  Just a month or six weeks along.  The evening after we arrived, or the next day, I had a miscarriage."
How heartbreaking!
"We went and got on at Vancouver Shipyard.  We rode what they called cattle cars to work, they were big old busses with a trailer like pulled behind with seats and they were usually full and people standing.  At that time there was still some chivalry left in the world.  Men would give up their seat for a woman sometimes.  Not always."
Can you imagine?  They rode in a trailer behind a bus!
"I swung from a rope more than once across that old Columbia River to work"
"We were in welding school...and I think I went out on production in about three weeks."
Here is my grandma with her welding crew:
(click on the photo to make it bigger)
* * *
My grandma got pregnant right after they got settled in Portland.  She worked until she was about 5 months pregnant.  She ended up having twin boys in April of 1944. 
She said, "I was as big as a barrel before they were born." 
The crazy thing was....SHE DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS TWINS!  I guess the doctor thought he felt two babies, but he could never hear the second heartbeat.  After one baby was delivered and contractions started again...the doctor decided there was another baby in there!
Aaagh!  I can't imagine going to the hospital to have a baby...and going home with two!  They were so poor.  Her husband was an alcoholic and didn't provide at all.  I don't know what would have happened if she didn't have her family that had moved out west to help her!
Her story is incredible.  Good enough to be published in my opinion! :)
There is a story I want to share, but I can't find it right now.
Stay tuned...


Heidi Case said...

My dear friend, Cassody has an identical twin sister and it was the same way, her mom went in to have 1 and came home with 2! plus they already had a 1-year-old boy, and a year after Cassody and her sister were born, they had ANOTHER girl! 4 kiddos under the age of 3!that would be enough to drive a woman INSANE!!
Your grandmother seems like she was a trooper! cant wait to hear the rest of the story.

Verna said...

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Gramps...Love ya more then words can convey! Miss you to to much...Shi~