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92-year-old recalls time working as a ‘Rosie the Riveter’

When World War II broke out, Carmella Wood, 92, wanted to do her part.

“They attacked Pearl Harbor. Before you knew it, all the boys were going into the service,” said Wood, a Summerlin-area resident. “I wanted to go, too, to do my part for this country. My father — he was from Italy — he said, ‘There is nothing like this country. This is a wonderful place.’ ”

She tried to join the Army. But at 4-foot-11, she was too short. So, she became a Rosie the Riveter instead. Training lasted about two weeks.

The factory was about 20 miles from her family’s home on the East Coast. She took the bus each day. If there was too much snow, the bus stopped about a half-mile short and she had to walk the rest of the way. She and her fellow Rosies — though they would not be called that until the term was coined years later — built three configurations of the Corsair bombers, the F4U, FG-1 and F3A-1, at Chance Vought in East Hartford, Conn.

“We worked in teams of two,” she said. “My partner was on one side, and I was on the other. She would hold the rivet in place, and I’d use the gun (power tool), vroo, vroo, like that,” she said, demonstrating.

Wood downplayed the dangers of working in a factory but said the requisite bandana every Rosie wore was a must, “so your hair didn’t get caught in the machinery.”

No one told her she couldn’t do what had been deemed a “man’s job,” she said; she just knew her country needed her and that she wanted to do her part. Wood and her partner got one break in their eight-hour shift, about a half-hour to eat the sandwich she brought with her each night.

“The supervisor would come around and check your work,” she said. “If one of them (the rivets) was wrong, he made you take it out and replace it, make it right.”

She now attends Rosie the Riveter conventions, annual four-day events held through the American Rosie The Riveter Association. Wood learned about them roughly 20 years ago and has been flying off to attend them each June, ticking the cities off on her fingers: Atlanta, Detroit, Washington, D.C., etc. When it was Las Vegas’ turn to host one about 10 years ago, she helped plan it, including the Rosie skit they put on. Her employment after the war had her working as a seamstress, so she made Rosie hats for everyone who attended the convention.

The next one is set for June 12-14 in Berkeley, Calif.

Wood’s granddaughter, Linda Weyl, has attended the last couple of conventions with her. She is trying to locate more people to join Nevada’s Rosie chapter, of which she is the director.

“If not for (Rosie the Riveter), I probably wouldn’t have the job that I have,” Weyl said. “I work in construction. Back then, women were, you know, supposed to (stay home). They did a lot for us, paved the way for us.”

She didn’t realize her grandmother had been a Rosie until a few years ago.

“I was all excited when I heard that because it’s part of our history,” Weyl said. “A lot of people don’t known what it is. … I officially signed up, so now I’m a Rosebud.”

Although Wood was a Rosie for only a couple of years, Wood recalled that time with pride in her voice. Her northwest home is filled with plaques and framed letters of commendation. Her family finds Rosie-inspired novelty items and give them to her. She has a lunch box and a Rosie pin, showing Rosie with her sleeves rolled up and making a muscle.

“Wherever she goes, she likes to dress up in her Rosie the Riveter outfit,” said Wood’s nephew, Julio Schembari. “She was in the Veterans Day parade a couple times. … She’s a member of an elite group, and they’re all going to be gone very soon.”

For more information about ARRA, visit rosietheriveter.net.

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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