Evelyn (Easley) Reed

Evelyn Reed in 1943 and 2004

Evelyn worked out at the Spokane Air Depot, commonly known as Galena as a clerk in the Tool Crib. As a teenager in Newport during the war, provides an interesting perspective of what it was like for a teenager during the war years.

Evelyn was 14 years old when the war started, and like many was coming home from church when she heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and rushed home to listen to their radios. Even though the events in Hawaii seemed terribly far away and in fact little of it made any sense, within a week the seriousness of the situation was made apparent when classmates and other young men in the area began to leave for war.
Evelyn felt that she too should be doing something for the war effort as she watched the boys in her class volunteering or being drafted, so when she found out she could finish up her schooling at summer school in Spokane she did so, graduating on her 17th birthday. Within 2 weeks of graduating, she was at work out at the Spokane Air Depot, more commonly known as Galena.
Evelyn mainly did secretarial work while she was out at Galena, even though many that went to work out there would have rather been working at a riveter or on the B-17 and B-24 engines. However, she had just completed 6 weeks of typing classes and the like at summer school, so this is what she was slated to do. She spent much of her time in the Tool Crib, signing tools in and out.
I was a typist that was, that was almost unusual, everybody wanted to be riveting and doing all of these, making more money and things, and because I had just finished all of these typing classes and so on, they gave me a typing test. And so I went in and the first job was so boring that I just wanted to quit and so they gave me a different job, and it was really quite, quite a neat job for a seventeen year old. I worked in the Tool Crib. Each of the four large hangars had a center deal that was called the Tool Crib, and it was upstairs and they checked their tools in and out, and I signed clearances for people that were returning things or whatever, and I did filing and some typing so I did a type of office work most of the time I was there.
Working out at Galena was quite different for a young woman that had grown up in a small town, as Evelyn describes:
Well it was all pretty cool for a seventeen year old that had grown up in Newport and here were all of these people out there and the officers were young and so on, I mean it and you got acquainted with totally different people. The lady that was office manager of the office I was in was, I thought she was an older woman, she was probably thirty-five, but she was I think her last name was Novotney. I think it was Hungarian or something, and she was the first person I met like that. She had a wonderful sense of humor, and a different type of family life and so on, and she used to bring little treats that were different, you know, like poppy seeds in a roll and things like that, sweet rolls and stuff but meeting her was one of the things and the fact that I can remember her name now is something because it's been a long time ago. And meeting, the course that happened a lot with Farragut and so on but we met young people from all over the United States, so it was just, it was kind of an eye-opener for someone who had grown up, I was born in Newport you know and I, the only schools I ever attended were in Newport, so it was different.
Evelyn's parents also helped out the war effort, her mother by working at the Alcoa Aluminum Plant in Spokane with some others from the Pend Oreille Valley, and her father by working for the US Forest Service as the operations manager for the Kaniksu Forest, where he had a great deal of contact with the Italian detainees that were used by the Forest Service in the woods after the Civilian Conservation Corps boys all went to war.
my mother was getting up and leaving 5:00, 4:30, 5:00 in the morning to drive into Spokane to work at the aluminum plant and they could get gas. They carpooled and there was, I don't know probably more than one, but the car she went in on, there were five or six people that went in everyday, and that was the dirtiest, she worked in the carbon room and it was filthy but she did it all through the war so, so that I think there were a lot of people, she was far from alone and there were a lot of people that were involved in things like that. [My dad] he worked at what was then the Kaniksu Forest and he became operations manager of the Kaniksu Forest during the war, which meant that he bought or ordered all the supplies for all of the camps and the fire deals and all that stuff, and so he was hardly ever home, they were running those camps up there and especially during fire season with kids up to sixteen I think, or maybe it was that one year 'til sixteen or seventeen or eighteen, before they went into the service and men that were up to their late thirties or forty years old, something like that were not available for being in the service and when they had the prison camps, I guess they called them, the detainees or whatever. You know they had the Italians and the Germans that were here that were kept, and they had to be agreeable to working on these various jobs and so on, and he had camps of those up there too.
Evelyn like many recalls that the rationing of meat and sugar were a problem for many housewives, her mother being no different. She also remembers that getting decent shoes was also quite difficult, especially for a young woman.
Well all the restaurants had food but there were things that were cooked I suppose on the base, maybe we did but then the base food was nothing to write home about. But the restaurants in town I can remember like probably nobody has seen rabbit in a restaurant for years, but rabbit wasn't rationed so about once a week they would have, that would be one of their main courses. I think, I'm not sure if chicken was, I know beef and pork were rationed and meat always was a big thing, I think, although I can remember my mother agonizing over sugar because she did so much canning, and the main thing I can remember at that time was shoes and by the time I started working out at the base, they had come up with a man-made material that was not rationed so that you could buy like dressy-looking shoes. They weren't good quality...
With stockings just not available, most women, Evelyn included resulted to painting their legs to make it appear that they had stockings on, even going so far as to paint the seams up the backs of their legs.
...and the stockings were not rationed, they just weren't available. If you saw a store that had nylons, there would be a line a block long and we wore rayon stockings, which were neat, when you'd stand up the knees would bag and so on. Well it looked a lot like liquid make up, facial make up, a little bit thinner I guess, you had different colors, and I don't know, I heard a lot of people saying you know, that it ran and so on, normally I only did it in the summertime, you know, it was too cold in the wintertime. I didn't play around with, some of 'em tried to paint, the stockings nearly all were seamed then, and some of them would try to paint the seams and stuff. I couldn't get my stocking seams straight half the time, I thought that was the best invention when they came up with seamless nylons. It was just, it was something that a lot of people did or didn't do. I don't think I know I didn't do it all the time, but if I was going someplace and especially in the summer when it was hot anyway, and I didn't want to wear those old rayon stockings and I think I had one or two pairs of nylons that I had saved for very, very special occasions. And silk stockings maybe if some people had a few silk stockings left, but I had nothing that hadn't worn out totally, so leg paint was a better alternative than white legs or something. Course we also tried to get our legs tan and that, but I never did have very much luck, I never laid out in the sun very much, it always made me a little kinda nauseated and so my tanning always happened just as I was doing activities outside and so on.
We [girls] would be, well in the drugstore or whatever, and somebody would come up and say that there's a troop train coming in, and we would go down. And you'd walk up and down and talk to the guys and stuff and it was just a kinda like a miniature USO thing in Newport [laughs] but they would be here, see in those days those trains had to fill up with water. There was a big water tank out here, and they would be here for awhile and I don't think they were ever allowed off, I don't remember anything except windows down and all these heads out of the window and so on, but yeah we use to, there would be you know whoever what downtown would probably come in that age group [high school age]. I don't remember adults coming much for that it was kind of something that high school girls did.
Many young women in Newport would also write to those that would give them their addresses on these trains. These pen pals would circulate throughout the high school, and many including Evelyn found themselves writing to boys from as far away as Louisiana or Minnesota, and would find that they could help out the war effort in even these small ways, keeping up the moral of the soldiers.
Oh probably one of the things and that just came up a short time ago, uh when Billy Heath was killed. Uh, Billy had been home on his last leave and uh, I was several years younger than he, but there was nobody around that he'd gone to school with, and I happened to be here and he took me out to Diamond Lodge for dinner. And we didn't even write or anything, it just, knew each other and it was a nice evening. And that was such a nice place in those days, you know the white linens and stuff, and uh the next thing I saw was his picture in the paper and he was missing. [She started dabbing her eyes, and was visibly upset] And it's still really tough. [she was crying softly now] Let's see was that, I think it was sixty years last summer or last fall.
But I think that was one of the most, biggest impact, because it's really hard when you're that young, you know you think you're invincible and everybody and I know that I'm sure he had known before he had left that these things could happen and certainly when he got over there and saw it happen to other people and so on, but, but especially the guys in the Air Force were kind of [chuckle] devil-may-care kind of thing and my own husband was uh, of course I didn't know him yet, but he was in quite a long time in World War II and he told stories about the things they did, they wouldn't even wear their parachutes and stuff. They came home and he was home for about a year and in the reserves, and they called him back for Korea. And he said he grew up so much in that period that by the time he went back and served over a year there, and flew quite a few more missions and he said that again; you know he had enough sense to do everything you should do. [laughs] But he said, you know they were all so young in that first one that they just didn't think it could happen, even though you saw it happening everyday, it wasn't going to happen to you, you know and so on, and so that was kind of the way we thought too. And I can remember you know, how hard that was when I heard about that, and there was a couple that came back that were very badly wounded, and you didn't know what to say and so on you know, that was tough. I think maybe, if I had been either younger or older it wouldn't have made quite so much impact, but I was at an age where it really, really did hit home.
V-J Day. Oh boy, I happened to be in Spokane. Which was good [chuckle] and I was no longer working at Galena, but I was going to go work at the telephone company. And I'd been up there for an interview, and another girl that was going to start with me, and we came out onto the street and it was absolutely unbelievable! It looked like the pictures that you see with all the, everybody from every, every part of the military, you know the sailors, and the soldiers, and what not were out there, and everybody was hugging and dancing up and down the street and so on. And after awhile we tried to get into a restaurant and most of 'em weren't even serving, everybody was out on the street [laughs] and it was, it was uh it was a big, big party. And uh it I had no idea who some of those people were, never saw 'em before or since, but we celebrated together. It was, uh that was the big day.


Copyright © 2004 by Kristen Cornelis