HARRISON – Some of Michigan’s remarkable history was revisited through a fun and enlightening exercise May 22 at the Hayes Municipal Complex. On that day the Tribute Rosies, representatives of the Yankee Air Museum, brought tools and pre-cut drilled and bent sheet metal to instruct some local Rosie supporters in the art of riveting.
Morning and afternoon classes were designed to accommodate a total of eight students. Conducting the classes, and identifying themselves only by their first names, were Rosies Brenda, Wendy and Debra – all dressed in the iconic navy coveralls, red socks and work boots, and red polka dot bandana headwrap. This event, the group’s first excursion “off base,” began with a brief description of the 3 million women who entered the workforce at the beginning of World War II and their accomplishments. That included turning out one plane every 55 minutes at the Henry Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant.
Assisting was Wolfgang, who was instrumental in getting the Tribute Rosies started on their road to developing the riveting classes. He explained the “totally home-grown kit” was fabricated by the Rosies, with no externally sourced parts.
After some riveting practice using the hand rivet squeezer, Cleco pliers and Cleco temporary rivet clamps, the fun began. Some hand punched holes required extra drilling out, while others required a bit of muscle and finesse to achieve proper fit. And there were the occasional mis-positioned rivets which had to be drilled out, but that deterred none of the aspiring amateur Rosies.
After about two hours, the sheet metal planes all were completed, leaving the builders feeling relieved, satisfied and accomplished. Not exactly a 55-minute fully-functional bomber, but fun nonetheless.
At around 4 p.m., when the second class had completed its planes, participants gathered at Veterans Freedom Park for the unveiling and dedication of the new cut-metal Rosie the Riveter statue. That statue, made possible by the generosity of Stan Lewis, is mounted in the Rosie the Riveter Memorial Rose Garden just outside the fence and adjacent to the park entrance.
The event was particularly special in that Rosie history truly was alive that day in the person of Irene Pudelek, an original Rosie the Riveter who was 18 years old when she began her home front war work in 1943. Pudelek embraced the honor of cutting the ribbon and pulling down the polka dot wrapping to unveil the statue. The Tribute Rosies heaped admiring attention on Pudelek, along with a gift bag full of commemorative museum items. They also seized the opportunity to do a “We Can Do It” fisted arm pose with one of the ladies whom they and the nation hold in such reverence and esteem.
This statue recognizes the supportive efforts of Americans on the home front and provides a fitting welcome to those entering the vibrant-yet-peaceful living memorial the park provides.