Saturday, September 06, 2008

Met today with the "Uppity Ladies" of the International Red Hat Society. What a hoot!

They arrived in full regalia (meaning purple-garbed and red-hatted) ready for an official Betty-led walking tour of the Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay Park. I loved it!

There were three veteran "Rosie's" among them, plus one very interested young man who happened by and joined the party. There were also two women I've known for many years from Seniornet, an online AOL cyberspace community each had wandered into years ago. For Liz and Dee and me it was particularly meaningful. I knew them far better as virtual friends -- and by their user-names, but this was so much better. Learned today that Liz had worked for the Key System rail lines during the war. They'd both materialized into live bodies when we joined others from nearby communities for lunch from time to time, but we've not been in touch for a very long time.

90 year-old Julia had worked for 30 years in the defense industry in a sub-contracting firm in Stockton, California. Her work had to do with electrical wiring of the vessels that were later brought to Richmond's Kaiser Permanente shipyards for assembly. She told her story proudly about having worked on 100 PT boats, one of which carried President John F. Kennedy into battle. She was a delight and was as animated in the telling of her stories as anyone could have been at half her age. She's in this photo in the grandest red hat of them all (seen here at the far left). Her little stories enlivened the walking tour considerably.

The most exciting aspect of these experiences at the Memorial is when an invisible light turns on behind aging faces and frail and halting "Rosies" remember and are young again and re-living those days when the world needed them and when they'd responded and proven their worth as workers. Young again for just this single moment in time ... They'd "done it!" And someone has finally remembered ... .

Re-living those years with my contemporaries carries a special pleasure, and though I'm doing far less interpreting now than before, I thoroughly enjoy doing so when someone makes the request for me as guide. I'm far more involved these days in public speaking and field work, with occasional writing and committee work, but these human contacts with the women of my era are the most rewarding.

My favorite moment in today's experience was when a 4 year-old "pink hatter," who came along with her grandmother and who'd hung in as much as she could during the more formal parts of the guided tour. (She was far more interested in the countless geese who own those greens.) As we gathered at one of the picnic tables after walking the time-line -- for a short summary lecture, she stood by very quietly. I'd forgotten that Emily was there, actually. As we ended the question and answer period she came up beside me and said quietly and very seriously, " sure tell a good story."

Not sure anything can top that, folks!

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