During World War II, when many of the men were involved in the fighting over seas, a group of women stepped up and filled the gap as welders working in the bomber plants. They became known as Rosie the Riveter, and there were thousands of them. It really became a movement of female empowerment, and I don’t know how the war would have gone without them. It was a movement of solidarity. They worked to keep the American Army Air Forces in much needed bombers. There were men who were riveters too, including my Uncle Bill Spencer, who was turned down for the service because of flat feet and a hernia, but most of them were women, and they included my Aunt Laura Spencer and my Aunt Ruth Spencer. It was a time when it was all hands on deck…our fighting airmen needed our help and support. One of those fighting airmen was my dad, Allen Spencer, brother to Laura, Bill, and Ruth. I’m sure it seemed to them, the best way they could help their brother, and all the other airmen.
The other day, I came across an article in the paper about the Willow Run bomber plant in Willow Run, Michigan. It would seem that this little slice of history is set to go on the chopping block. I suppose that not every historic landmark can be saved, but it seems such a horrible shame to tear down a building that marked such a heroic effort by so many people, to stand behind a nation at war, by meeting such an enormous need. Between 1942 and 1945, crews numbering tens of thousands built roughly one B-24 Liberator an hour…8,685 in all. There were women all over the country performing the work that had always been done by men, but at the Willow Run plant, one Rose Will Monroe worked alongside 40,000 other workers…mostly women…and soon she became the trademark…Rosie the Riveter. Before long, all those women were known as Rosie the Riveters…and they considered it an honor to bear the title.
Now, the Willow Run bomber plant is in peril. Those who remember the trademark Rosies, want to keep their history alive, but in order to do so, they need 8 million dollars. They don’t have much time to raise the money. They are at a remarkable 7.23 million dollars right now. To me it would be a horrible shame to let this little slice of history be destroyed. I feel like it is so uncharacteristic of this nation to forget the efforts of our heroes in any area of American life. It is my hope that this historic landmark can be saved, so that our children, and our children’s children can see what can be accomplished when we work together. More information on this can be found at Save The Willow Run Bomber Plant.
My Grandma Spencer’s photo album contains a number of pictures from the days when the family lived in International Falls, Minnesota, and worked in the lumber business, and I assume, the paper mill there in town. If the family didn’t work there, then I would assume that she was simply interested in all the changes that were taking place in the area. At that time, the big man around town was a man named Edward Backus, who owned a vast empire of lumber and paper mills. Oddly, he originally got into that business as a young college student in need of money to finish his university program. He took time off from college to earn that money, took a job in the lumber business, and bought into the business, before finally buying out his partners to become the sole owner. He later brought in a partner, William Brooks, and together they incorporated, and their company Backus-Brooks Co. bacame the parent company for for numerous subsidiaries that came into being with developments at International Falls, Fort Frances, Kenora and elsewhere. The little sawmill in Minneapolis that started it all, was sold in 1906 because by then, the owners were devoting much of their efforts into the developing industry in the north, which is where my grandparents’ families came into the picture, and my interest was founded. As a side note, as far as I can tell, Mr Backus never went back to finish his university program, but then I suppose there wasn’t time for that with everything else that was going on in his life.
As I said, my grandmother had numerous pictures of a paper mill, in several stages of its construction. This got me started wondering if that paper mill still existed. I began my search looking for paper mills in International Falls, and came up with a current paper mill owned by Boise Cascade…a name most of us know quite well, which came back into the news just recently when they announced the layoff of 265 workers on May 2, 2013. They plan to stay open, but will focus on the successful lines of their production, and close out two unsuccessful lines. I wondered if this paper mill could have started with the one my grandmother’s pictures to me so much about.
In my research, I found not only the information on Mr Backus, but a picture of his paper mill…Falls Paper Mill…and it was indeed the one in my grandmother’s album. So, not only does the paper mill still exist, it is still in use today. So many buildings that were built in the early 1900’s are crumbling or have been demolished, but this building is still there, still standing, and still useful, although it appears that there have been some improvements and buildings added to it and around it. I guess that goes to show that good workmanship will stand the test of time.
When you have known someone all their life, it is easy to think of them always as a kid. Then one day you find yourself startled to find that they are all grown up, and while you were around them all their lives, you feel a bit like you don’t them at all. That is how I feel about my nephew, Eric sometimes. When Eric was a baby, my daughter, Amy babysat him and his brother, JD, so I saw a lot of them. Eric was a cuddler, and when we were in church, he would just snuggle up and go to sleep. He was such a good baby. I loved holding him when he was sleeping. Sleeping babies are always so sweet to watch…like little angels.
I don’t suppose most people would use the term angel for Eric any more, as I think he can be quite a teaser these days. During his years of growing up, Eric’s interests turned to things like BMX bikes, motorcycles, cars, and of course, girls. Eventually there would be just two girls in his life, and that’s just perfect if you ask me. He found and married his sweet wife, Ashley and they have a beautiful daughter, Reagan, who looks a whole lot like her daddy.
I guess you could say that Eric’s life has made a few twists and turns. He went from being a little snuggler to tearing up the track to a different kind of snuggling, and finally to a different kind of tearing up and a different kind of building. Eric and his wife, Ashley are in the midst of remodeling the house they bought next door to her parents place, so Ashley can be near her beloved horses, among other things. Ashley calls the remodeling job “building the dream” and I think she is right. Eric and Ashley have a dream life, living out in the country, near her horses, with plenty of places for Eric to ride his motorcycle, and plenty of room for their daughter Reagan to run and play, and sometime in the future, to get Reagan a little brother or sister to play with.
Today is Eric’s birthday. I hope you’ll take a little time off from the building to play today Eric, but if not, I guess you’ll be doing what you love anyway…building the dream. Happy birthday Eric!! We love you!! Have a wonderful day!!