Frances Arcement was born in 1926 in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. She graduated from a vocational high school in Minneapolis in 1942. In 1944, she moved to Renton, Washington where she worked for as a riveter at a Boeing manufacturing plant, helping to assemble B-29 Superfortresses. Frances remained at Boeing until the end of 1944, when she returned to Minnesota and took a position at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant in New Brighton. In May 1945, Frances married Norman “Bud” Arcement, then serving with the U.S. Navy submarine service, and moved with him to New York City. When Bud was discharged in November 1945, the couple returned to Minneapolis. In 1949, Frances began working for Honeywell, remaining with the company until she retired in 1984.
In this interview, Frances Arcement talks about her work in manufacturing plants during the war. She describes her average work day at the Boeing plant as well as the social life available both during and after shifts. She also discusses the impacts of rationing and her experience being married to a young man in the U.S. Navy. This interview was conducted less than two months after the September 11th attacks, and, at the conclusion, Frances offers thoughts on the attacks and the ensuing War on Terrorism.
Trading Ration Stamps
Well, I could remember where we would have rations stamps, and we would trade some of the guys so we could get stockings and they could get cigarettes.
TS: So, you swapped the stickers?
TS: Was that legal?
It was legal, and we’d have to go into Seattle to get that. We’d have to take a bus in there. And yeah, we’d stand in line to get our nylons, and the guys would go get their cigarettes.
TS: Do you remember standing in line for lots of different things?
I think nylons, and mostly with us it would have been sugar, because we did a little cooking at our place. Gas we didn’t need, because everything we did, we walked or took a bus.
Bowling with Coworkers in Minneapolis
When we were finished at the Ordnance Plant, even when we’d pool a ride we went bowling. We had a league. We’d either go downtown, East Hennepin, or Hennepin and 7th—there was a bowling alley there. Or we went to Elsie’s, which was Northeast, and we bowled there. We had leagues, so we always went out. Especially, you see, third shift we’d go out right after work, early in the morning, and bowl, a bunch of us. Have breakfast, go home, go to sleep. And then get up in the evening and you were ready to go back to work again. That seems like that was our thing, was bowling.
Working with a Rivet Gun
TS: How big is a rivet gun, by the way? Is it a big thing?
You could handle it, because I had to learn how to rivet on the side of a plane. It had to be something we could handle.
TS: So it was a two-handed thing there?
Two hands, yeah.
Yeah, like a rivet gun.
TS: How would you describe that sound to someone who has never seen a rivet gun?
Well, to me it sounded like a “Rat-a-tat-tat” by the time you got it in, then you go on to the next one.
TS: You put this thing—there were little holes you had to put the rivet gun up to and then it made this sound, and then put the rivet in?
Yep, and then you’d move to the next hole.