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Gail Lee Martin in World War II

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

Here's Gail in her uniform for working at Boeing Aircraft during the war.

Here's Gail in her uniform for working at Boeing Aircraft during the war.

WWII - My Mother's Memories

I wanted to preserve my mother's memories of World War II and of working in the aircraft factory. At that time in her life, she was Gail Lee McGhee as she hadn't married yet.

Fresh out of Hamilton High School, she had several jobs before going to Wichita to work in the Boeing aircraft factory as part of the war effort. This was the era of Rosie the Riveter when women for the first time in U.S. history joined the workforce in large numbers.

Fortunately, my mother liked to write and several of her memory pieces covered the war years. It gives people a chance to see what it was like for a young woman in the Midwest during that time.

Gail Lee McGhee (later Martin) - High School Graduation Photo

Gail McGhee (later Martin) high school graduation picture. She was eager to finish school so she could help with the war effort.

Gail McGhee (later Martin) high school graduation picture. She was eager to finish school so she could help with the war effort.

Gail's First Job

She attended Hamilton High School where she met my father, Clyde Owen Martin. They didn't marry until the end of the war.

She graduated in May 1942 and worked as Mrs. Neumayer's nanny for the next school year. It wasn't her dream job and she didn't feel that it was helping at all with the war effort.

Cherryvale, Kansas in the 1940s

1942 postcard of Cherryvale, Kansas

1942 postcard of Cherryvale, Kansas

July 15, 2011 - Gail Lee Martin remembers,

"After school was out I went to an NYA school (National Youth Association) to learn how to be a 'Rosie the Riveter.' My folks drove me down to Arkansas City. The NYA at Ark city was just for girls and we lived at the site where we were being schooled. Your Dad went to Cherryville which was the site to teach boys. Clyde learned welding.

I was unable to do the riveting since I weighted less than 100 lbs. and couldn't hold the heavy rivet gun or couldn't buck the back side of the rivets straight. You had to hold the bucking bar level to get good rivets. I was transferred to electrical wiring.

Then the government shut the school down for lack of money after I had been there for just a few weeks. I went with the other girls by bus to Wichita to find work in the aircraft factories. Boeing hired me."

(the postcard street scene is Cherryvale where Clyde Owen Martin trained with the NYA. It is from our family's collection.)

The brick rooming house where my mother stayed while working at Boeing in Wichita, Kansas.

The brick rooming house where my mother stayed while working at Boeing in Wichita, Kansas.

Brick Rooming House - Wichita during the War

1388 N. Emporia in Wichita--it was a rooming house during WWII when my Mom, Gail Lee Martin, was working at Boeing.

July 15, 2011 - Gail Lee Martin

Scroll to Continue

"I found a room in a castle looking house at 1313 North Emporia and moved in with my suitcase near the end of August 1943 and wrote to the folks with my new address. I was in the second floor and in the north turret. The biggest problem was the communal bathroom was downstairs in the basement.

After a few weeks my parents came to see me. I was sick with stomach flu and my folks didn't like where I was living as no one knew each other, so we found a room for me on South Pattie."


1944 Photo of Gail Lee McGhee

in Wichita, Kansas

Mom said the decorations on the jacket are bunches of cherries. Wish I could see this outfit in color. This is quite a change from the feedsack dresses she wore during the Great Depression.

In that era, street photographers would snap photos and sell them to the person in the photo.

Gail Lee McGhee in 1944

Typical 1940s hairstyle and patterned dress. Gail looked great!

Typical 1940s hairstyle and patterned dress. Gail looked great!

Gail Lee McGhee in Wichita, Kansas During WWII

I think this is a good hairstyle for her face. She's wearing a print dress. Looks like the typical young lady of the war years.

A Glimpse Inside a Boeing Factory from WWII

See what it was like inside the huge factories that built the aircraft needed for the war effort.

I'd imagine for a country girl from the Flint Hills, it must have been a big adjustment. The video gives you an inside glimpse into a Boeing aircraft plant and it is narrated by a woman with a similar experience as my mother's.

See Another Woman's Experience in a Boeing Factory

Another picture taken by a street photographer in Wichita. Gail in a plaid cloth coat.

Another picture taken by a street photographer in Wichita. Gail in a plaid cloth coat.

Gail Lee McGhee - Photo Taken by Street Photographer

in Wichita, Kansas

I tried to get Mom to write down her memories of these times to make a companion book for her childhood memoir. This one could be called Gail: All Grown Up. She did write the above notes about her wartime experience.

Gail's memories of this picture: "My pay check sure looked good but the money disappeared so fast. I had to pay for my room and all my meals plus bus rides to work and back. No matter where I went I had to ride the bus or walk. The winter approached and I had to buy a warm coat, mittens and a stocking cap that would pull down around my ears.

I bought a few things for Christmas presents but had to save money to buy my bus ticket to Emporia in Lyon County. My parents and little sister, Carol drove up from our home in Greenwood County to pick me up. Being with my loved ones was so good that I don’t remember what gifts were given to whom."

Another House Where My Mom Boarded

Another of the rooming houses where Gail lived while working at Boeing.

Another of the rooming houses where Gail lived while working at Boeing.

Wichita Rooming House During the War

July 15, 2011 - Gail Lee Martin

"I had a room in this house with Mrs Dixon and her two sons on South Pattie. I lived there until the war was over and I went home and finished my marriage plans."

Gail remembers that it was rather spooky walking home from the bus in the dark. The houses all had blackout curtains and the street lights were off.

More about Women Working in Aircraft Factories During the Second World War

Read More about Gail Lee Martin's WWII Experience at My Blog: Discovering Mom ~ Gail Lee Martin… gone but not forgotten


Special Memories of Her Time at Boeing

by Gail Lee Martin

Gail wrote " I was lucky and got a job with Boeing helping build the B-29s in the electrical wiring department. I was thankful that Boeing was not union! After all the Phillip's employees trouble with City Service union guys, I didn‘t want anything to do with unions. (Gail's father worked for Phillip's Petroleum)

After working in the electric wiring department for several months I became unhappy when the inspectors ran a slight charge to see if my work was OK. They didn't tell me when they were going to do it and I became scared that the charge might get stronger so I asked to be transferred to another department.

The next department was in the tool shed, where the employees checked out tools they needed to work with. I enjoyed this after learning what each tool was called and where each was stored. It was kinda like working in a library only at the end of the shift all tools had to be checked back in and I had only a short time to get them put where they belonged before I could check out."

Gail remembers that she earned two different E pins for outstanding effort. She felt really proud of those and also pleased to receive a B-29 pin for working and helping make a bomber that did a good job overseas.

Another souvenir of her time at Boeing is an aluminum bracelet made in the sand blasting shop. She had one made for her sister with the letter "C" on it.

Women's Roles in WWII - The war years changed America's perception of women

Although most of the women returned to being housewives after the war, their participation in the workforce laid the groundwork for women to enter the working world in the 1960s and 1970s.

Photo of Boeing Aircraft - WWII - Signed by my mother and her co-workers

Boeing plane WWII photo signed by workers at the Wichita, Kansas, plant.

Boeing plane WWII photo signed by workers at the Wichita, Kansas, plant.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Virginia Allain

I Hope You Enjoyed My Mother's Memories of WWII on the Homefront

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on April 24, 2013:

@anonymous: I'm glad to hear about your mother's experience. Unfortunately my mom passed away in January so is no longer here to answer the question. We are both missing our moms, but hang onto the memories and pass them along to your children.

anonymous on April 24, 2013:


Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on January 19, 2013:

@marigoldina: I do encourage others to save their family memories online. Then all the family can enjoy them.

Heather B on January 19, 2013:

It is so wonderful you've preserved your mum's memories in this way. Thinking of you at this tough time. xx

Paul from Liverpool, England on January 19, 2013:

RIP Mrs Martin

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 19, 2013:

Thinking of you and know you are so thankful that you created this page with your mom's memories.

patinkc from Midwest on January 28, 2012:

We need women's stories about WW2.

Joan4 on January 07, 2012:

This is a delightful treasure of memories. I totally enjoyed your mom's stories.

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on January 07, 2012:

I love reading about Miss Gail's experiences during the war. I hope we will hear more from her!

anonymous on January 07, 2012:

how interesting, my mother was a nurse through the 2nd world war, unfortunately I don't have any photos of her.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on January 07, 2012:

Very interesting! I love the old photos. The book looks good too...

Loretta from United States on January 07, 2012:

This is a beautiful tribute lens. Thank you for sharing these memories and photos with us :)

anilsaini on September 15, 2011:

nice way to salute your mom... good lens

seedplanter on September 15, 2011:

My mother used to tell me about her friends who worked in factories during the war. I remember her showing me a box of memorabilia, including gas coupons and "stamps" for nylons, which were hard to find. She and my dad met right after WWII. This lens is a wonderful tribute to your mom.

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on September 13, 2011:

What an adventureous spirit your mother shows! Bravo for Gail! :)

anonymous on September 13, 2011:

Lovely tribute to your mom!

jseven lm on September 12, 2011:

This is a nice lens about your mom. I wish I would have gotten more details of my mom's life before she died. This is a great family treasure.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 12, 2011:

This is a great tribute to your mother and to that era. My mom worked in a steel factory during WWII.

Gayle from McLaughlin on September 12, 2011:

How special that you have preserved her memories in this way. You make me want to write my parents memoirs! Thanks!

Joan Haines on September 12, 2011:

Happy birthday, Gail Lee! I can see a resemblance of you and Virginia especially in the head shot of you in the flowered dress.

Ann Hinds from So Cal on September 12, 2011:

What an adventure for a youngster just out of high school. I love to read Gail's stories.

pkmcr from Cheshire UK on September 12, 2011:

A really charming tribute to the Birthday Girl! Happy Birthday and many blessings

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