Happy Wanderer: Real-life Rosies are museum’s true treasures


On the long list of Bay Area attractions, this one should be at the top. It’s a waterfront museum where history comes to life — literally — thanks to four World War II Rosies who serve as docents. The women work on Fridays at the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond.

“We weren’t actually called Rosies until the end of the war,” explains 90-year-old Kay Morrison. She remembers Richmond as a bustling town during the war effort.

“It was a beautiful town and it had beautiful stores — ladies clothing stores, men’s stores — it had everything,” Morrison says.

Richmond also had an overflow of workers flooding into the four shipyards that made it a bit like the Wild West.

“It was this sleepy little town and then got a hundred thousand people,” she says. “Where you going to put ’em? They were out there. They created nightclubs and all kinds of different places.”

Next to the museum is the 1931 Ford assembly plant that helped the war effort by building tanks and Jeeps. It’s now the Craneway Pavilion, a beautiful glass-and-brick event center with a farm-to-fork restaurant and an outdoor garden that’s also a tribute to the Victory Gardens of World War II. Other park sites include the Oil House Visitor Center, the Rosie the Riveter Memorial and the Maritime Childcare Center.

Richmond is also home to the SS Red Oak Victory ship, one of only three surviving Victory ships you can still tour today. It was built in the Richmond shipyards and served in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as for six different shipping lines.

Artistically, the story of our women of World War II is captured on quilts, which can be seen online at http://www.wwiihomefrontquilts.com/. Several East Bay quilters have pieces in this collection, including Oaklanders Nancy Brown, Diane Goff and Sara Crystal. There’s also a quilt made by Piedmonter Sonia Callahan.

The Rosie story is special to Richmond, and thankfully, buildings like the Ford Assembly plant have been saved from the wrecking ball and lovingly restored. But the Rosies, themselves, are even more precious. While they’re still with us, it’s important to learn, first-hand, their stories of courage and patriotism.

What are your favorite local adventures? Drop me a line, and I’ll share them with readers. You can reach me at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or online at www.ginnyprior.com.

The sixth Annual World War II Home Front Film Festival runs Thursday evenings in June, July and August, featuring popular movies that were shown on the Home Front during the World War II period.
Hours and information for the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park can be found at http://www.rosietheriveter.org/.
Tour information and a video of the SS Red Oak Victory Ship can be found at http://www.ssredoakvictory.com/.
Hours and information for the Richmond History Museum are on http://www.richmondmuseumofhistory.org/.



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