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Glencroft's Rosies

When Arkie Huffman was a senior in high school, Pearl Harbor was bombed. Many of her male classmates enlisted during their senior year or were drafted immediately after. Since Arkie’s name is unique, she received letters from all branches of the military asking her to join up. When she graduated from high school she worked for Ma Bell as a telephone operator in Pratt, KS.

While visiting her brother, who worked for Beechcraft, Arkie became smitten with a young US Coast Guardsman, Bill Patterson, while he was on leave. It was January 1943 when Arkie Wing, (a fitting name for a person working in aerospace), decided to stay in Wichita and started working at Boeing. At 18, she became a Rosie the Riveter and made 60 cents an hour plus a bonus for working the night shift. The plant ran three shifts and never stopped. Arkie worked her way up to the final assembly line and climbed into the wing sections of the B-29, the largest bomber made at that time, where she drove and bucked rivets.

Arkie and Bill married in 1943 while he was on leave and they moved to New Orleans, where he was stationed. Arkie found a job at Higgins Aircraft, which had just received some air contracts. Meanwhile her husband had gone back to sea and Arkie got homesick and moved back to Kansas. In 1944 she started working for Coleman Stove & Lamp. Most machine shops were involved in working on parts for airplanes, ships or vehicles during World War II. Arkie was involved in building a support unit for auxiliary gas tanks that were fitted in the B-24 bomb bay during long flights. The auxiliary tank would be used on the flight to Germany and then dropped out of the bomb bay when empty so they could keep on flying. At Coleman, there were three shifts, 10 hours a night, 7 days a week. They would work for two weeks straight and have some time off, and start the cycle again. Arkie worked with a smaller, tight knit group and enjoyed her time there more than at Boeing. She also received a higher wage and was able to pay her rent, buy groceries and have money to purchase one or two war bonds with each paycheck. The only men working there held the positions of government inspector, foreman, and crewman.

In 1945 Bill was “shorted” from the destroyer escort convoy duty that travelled to North West Africa and was stationed near New London, Connecticut at the Coast Guard receiving station when the war ended.

Furn Baskin was 19 when she started as a Rosie at Ford, Bacon and Davis in Jacksonville, AR by the Air Force base. The plant was an ordinance plant and she filled anti-aircraft shells for the four services. It was a dangerous job and one day the lady next to her made a small spark, which set off a container of gun powder. The explosion sent her coworker to the wall and injured her. Fortunately, the entire plant did not explode. The workers were sent home that day but told to report back to duty the next day. Furn went back to the plant but couldn’t go back in. She returned to her parents.

Three months later Furn then traveled with a friend, who needed help with her baby as she moved to Arizona to be near her husband’s parents while he was stationed in England. They arrived on a Thursday and Furn started working at the Goodyear plant on Monday. She worked as a Rosie, riveting on the wing tips for two years. Furn and her partner became the speed team getting jobs done on the planes and worked their way up the ladder fixing mistakes done by other workers.

Furn’s boyfriend, David Baskin, was an Air Force Tech Sargent in California. In September 1945, President Harry S. Truman, called for David and his team to come to Washington DC and take apart the Liberty Bell, the first long distance airplane, to check it over and see what damage was caused from the long flight. After they completed that task they were to be shipped overseas. On his way to DC, David stopped to see Furn and they got married while he was in Phoenix for 3 days.

David and his team finished the job on the Liberty Bell in December and the President was so pleased that they had finished the job so fast and done a quality job, that he gave each an honorable discharge and sent them home on Christmas Eve, 1945.

Years later, Arkie and Furn joined Arizona’s first chapter of Rosies, started by Happy Sargo in Sun City, AZ. Arkie has attended numerous Rosie conventions across the US and Furn has attended one that was held in Arizona. Both women have been included in books about the Rosies. Arkie is also in The Voices of Freedom, a DVD that is shown at the Americans in Wartime Museum in Fairfax, Virginia. Furn said, “I’ll always be proud to be part of the ‘We can do it’ gang.”

Thank you Arkie and Furn for your contributions to the war effort.