Sheila "Janice" Wright
Sheila “Janice” Wright was born in 1927 in South Charleston, West Virginia. After graduating high school, she worked at the Charleston Ordnance Center as a riveter during World War II. Janice walked to work each day and riveted tailfins onto Tiny Tim rockets. Her husband, who was exposed to radiation while serving in Japan during the war, died of cancer later in life. After the war, Janice also worked as a radio dispatcher.
In this interview, Janice speaks about her upbringing and early family life in West Virginia during the Great Depression. She recalls raising chickens and her father’s work managing the locks on local rivers. She goes on to describe her wartime job as a riveter, her experience living with rationing, and her marriage. Janice concludes the interview by offering advice to young people today.
Rationing and Victory Gardens
Well, my dad had a garden. And I think we had stamps. Did we have some kind of food stamps that we got?
AM: Rationing stamps, right.
We could buy so much and that was it. But my dad had a garden, so we was never hungry.
Growing Up with Chickens
Yeah, my mother would buy the biddies, and she’d put them in the bathroom where it’d be warm. And then when they could go outside, she took them outside and had a fence around them. She took those chickens and cut their head off with an axe.
Giving Sandwiches to the Troop Trains in Charleston
My aunt had five children in service. They would get together and fix the nicest sandwiches and put ‘em in bushel baskets. I caught the streetcar to get to Charleston, and then I’d walk across the bridge. When the troop trains came we had them in a bushel basket, and boy, were they glad to get something to eat.
AM: And so the train would slow down—it wouldn’t stop, it’d slow down—and you handed them it in to them?
It did stop, oh yes. And I loved to go up there and help my aunt. She had [five] children in service and she needed some help, and I said, “I’ll come!” And I did. I’d take the bus to Charleston, walk across the bridge, and then be there when the troop train came. And you talk about some happy people—they were happy.
AM: You’re talking about now the troops were happy to get the food, is that what you mean?
Oh, they sure were. And they were good, too.