Slacks and Calluses

Constance Bowman

Clara Marie Allen

Slacks and Calluses.

It seemed somehow appropriate to review a book about war, since the United States finds itself involved in yet another. The reading matter for this month's review takes place in 1943, when two spirited young teachers decided to do their part for the war effort by spending their summer vacation working the swing shift on a B-24 production line at a San Diego bomber plant. Subtitled Our Summer in a Bomber Factory, Slacks and Calluses is an on-the-spot account of how two women assumed the wartime roles that would change society, coping with traditional attitudes along the way.

"After I got my tool box, I felt much more professional because people stopped looking at me curiously as if I were carrying my lunch box from ship to ship (the term used for the bombers). When I found out that the box was useful to sit on, I felt more kindly toward Mr. Billings. But I did have much difficulty climbing up the ladder into the tail with my motor in one hand and the tool box in the other. This, if I had realized it, was not a difficult feat at all because a few days later I was climbing the same ladder with not only the motor and the tool box but also a small stool, an electric light enclosed in a little wire cage, and assorted parts of the most awkward shapes the engineering department was able to design.

Sometimes now I wonder that in my ignorance and awkwardness that second night I didn't kill someone. Once I did ingratiate myself with the administration and endear myself to my fellow workers when I dropped my drill motor down the hatch and narrowly missed the assistant foreman's head. Slightly shaken, the assistant foreman picked it up and handed it back to me. I said that I was sorry while I wondered what I would have said if it had actually landed on his head. The other people working in the ship were mightily pleased. The said that the assistant foreman was a slave driver, and it was a pity I had missed him. That was before I learned that "slave driver" was practically a synonym for "foreman" in the vocabulary of the workers on the production line."

Constance Bowman and Clara Marie Allen evoke in vivid detail the ambiguities, drama, and comedy of life on the home front during World War II. Slacks and Calluses illuminates the history of defense work in which the authors and thousands like them participated. It's a humorous and very human look at a time when the world was changed forever. Be sure to read all about it.

Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.