Claire Pritchett Memoir
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Claire Pritchette Memoir P939. Pritchett, Claire b. 1926 Interview and memoir 1 tape, 60 mins., 19 pp. SANGAMON ORDNANCE PLANT PROJECT Pritchett discusses her work at the Sangamon Ordnance Plant at Illiopolis: safety, security, female and minority employment, closing the plant, restoration of land, and effects on the community. Interview by B. David McCarthy, 1989 OPEN See collateral file Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1989, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface 'Ibis manuscript is the product of a series of tape-rec::orded interviews on the 8an;;JaDa1 Ordnance Plant which was operated near Illiopolis,Illinois durfn:J Word war II, cxniucted by B. D!vid M::Carthy for the oral History Office, Sang'alJa'l state University in the fall of 1989. Margaret Reeder also transcribed the tapes am Kay Johansen edited the transcripts. Claire Pritchett was bom February 12, 1926 in Litchfield, Illinois. She 1tOVed to Illiopolis, Illinois while in high school and has spentthe remainier of her life there. She and her hus1Jimi fann south of Illiopolis on lam that was part of the 8an;;JaDal Ordnance Plant. Her father was enployed as a minister and as a director of first aid trainin;J at the plant. Mrs. Pritchett was enployej as a 'WOrker at Sang'alJa'l Ordnance and related her experiences there in this interview. B. David McCarthy was bom am raised in central Illinois, where he eamed a :M in hist.oJ:y in 1976 fran western Illinois university. He has been enployed as a t:eaci1er at Illiopolis am #12 since his graduation. Mr. M::Carthy recently cc::mpleted his MA degree at Sang'alJa'l state university in histol:y. His thesis tc:pic was the Sang'alJa'lOrdnance Plant. He is mazried am the father of three children. Readers of the oral history memoir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken word, am that the interviewer, narrator alXl editor SCllght to preserve the infcn:mal, ocrNel:'Satialal style that is inherent in such historical sources. 8an;;JaDal state university is not respa19i.ble for the factual aocuracy of the memoir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. IIhe manuscript may be read, quoted and cited freely. It may not be , rep1:odn.ced in whole or in part by arJ¥ means, electronic or medlani.CCU, wit:hcut ~imin writin; fran the oral History Office, ~ state trniversity, Sprin;Jfield, Illioois 62794-9243. Claire Pritchett, Jamm:y 4, 1990. David McCarthy, Interviewer. Q: Could yru tell us a little bit about ycursel.f, Claire? A: I was bom in Litchfield, Illinois a1 Febrwu:y 12, 1926. My father ani 1tDther were Revererri an:l Mrs. Paul Rhoades. My dad was the minister of the Disciples of <llrist <llristian Cll.urdl. So I've been a preacher's kid all of my life. We have lived in rrumerous towns, mainly the central part of Illinois. I erxJed up in Illiopolis, Illinois the sumer before I ~my junior year in high school ani my dad before that time had gotten a job at the ~ordnance Plant at Illiopolis am he was the First Aid Director of the Scm;Janrm Ol:'dnan:le Plant. He taught first aid to the police ani the fireman of that plant, while we went to school in Illiopolis, my brother ani I. I finished durin;J the time that we lived in Illiopolis. 'Ihe war waa on, which Itf':J brother was in. He went in at Ncmnan:iy Beachhead ani he was~in the war ani since there was just the two of us it kind of devastated em-family. But he came haDe safe ani sourr:i. My father was the minister of the Illiopolis <llristain Cllurdl ani durirg the surmner between the time I was a junior an:l senior in high school, I had bJrned eighteen an:i I went to worlc at the Ordnance Plant an:l because of my brother l:Jeil'g in the service, my DDther worked CAit there, my gran:hnother worked CAit there, I had two urx::l.es that worked out there. So it was kind of a family affair. Q: Which partic::ular line did yoo. worlc on at the plant? A: I worked on K-line, the main part of it. I worked several pl~ durin;J that summer J::ut I worked a1 K-line and I made pl1..1n3f!l:' lxdies , for 48 fuses. So I have no idea what they were, I just knew that's what I did. I also worked p.ztt.i.rq little screws into a part of, I really oa.lldn't say what it was because I was in a cage all by myself ani there was sanea1e else in the cage ani she pit the pc:7Nder in ani the screws in ani then I sa:ewed it down with the electric SCJ:'E!Wdriver which was veey nerve rac1d..rg because :ya.1r life or the life of your bards at least were depEn.tin;J em the persa1 in the next caqe. BeirJ:J eighteen years old it ra:ther upset 111!, so I was DrJVed to the K-line, which my DDther, at the same time, she an:l I worksd together em K-line. Blt at cna time I was 'WOrkin;r in a warehalse an:l we were un1oadin:J boxcars because there were so many m:n=e wauen than there were men ani we had to unload the boxcars of the lazge wooden boxes that held the small bclltiS or part of the anm.mi.ticn ani w threw than out of the boxcars down the conveyors ani of oaJrSe this was in the SUDmBr because I was still in sdlool. Arr::l since Daddy had a little bit of p.Ul, he got me out of that job, I Enied up en K-line. other Claire Pritchett than that I had quite an interestin;J experience durfn;J the Sl.1l'lU't'Sr between JJ.rf junior and senior year. Q: Did you feel the work was c:larJ}erous, did you get the general feelin;J that there was sane darJ;Jer involved and that the workers were concemed about the dargar? A: 'lhere were sane workers that were concemed and there were sane jobs that were extremely dargel:ous to do, or I felt that they were. '!hen of oourse of hearin;J JJ.rf dad say of different t:hin;Js that had happened CNer the entire area which we were nat even alla.r.led to go into. You had to have your badge m before you OCJUld even go into the plant to begin with except where his office was. 'n1e administrative office and the hospital, where his office was located, was open to the plblic, you OCJUld go tut ycu OCJUldn•t go th:ral;Jh the gate lmless you had a certain badge and then you had to have a certain badge to go into different areas of the Ordnarre Plant. Q: Did you ever hear of your father talk of aey specific accidents that you OCJUld tell me about? A: No, not aleS that was really caused fran-there were people that had firgers hurt and arms lmrt tut I carmot remember really of any horrible accident that did J:lal:pen. I do :knc:M that there were a couple of men that were elec:trocuted and my dad worked on them for hours an:i hours to try and keep them wann. . He kept them wann for a lCDJ time which really upset him when he lost them, tut ather than that it was basically of them try:i.rq to take care of themselves, that• s what his jc:b was, to o:::Ner their skin because they were bein;J exposed to the different chemicals that would tum their skin different colors am their hair different colors if they didn't wear the protective clothin;J that they were S\JRlOS&d. to wear ani a lot of people didn1t want to take the time to p.zt on this protective clot:hirg. Basically he taught t:hin;Js like this ani first aid to all the new police and the guaJ:ds that came out. Q: Do you think the plant operators attenpted to ensure the workem1 safety or was the maJd.n;J of the quotas :mre illp:>rt:ant to them? A: I would say they were very much oancerned. At least .in the area Where I always worked they were very concemed about the people• s safety. I know that when I was workizq in that cage, at that particular time that we had a man that would stani and he was SUR;X'EE!d to inspect everyt:h.irg that came CNer fran the one cage to JJ.rf cage ani when he wasn1t there that is what upset me because it OJUld cane over with the little pellets p.zt up the wrag way and if it did and I put the screw dam it wtW.d have blown JJ.rf hand off. llit they seE'BliOd to be pretty 11llCh at the beam. Because there was different tilDes, there was a lot of fun. we had a lot of fun when we worked on the line. '!hay would s~. Am I worked em a CX1tN8'jOr belt ani I picked up about four or fJ.ve different thin;Js and it would cane and I would have one little t:hi1g to take out of the four ani I would p.zt on different little tb.i.rJJs en it and then p.zt the cap en it an:i then screw it over an:i p.zt a little pellet t:hin:J .in it. sanetiJnes they wtW.dn1t fit ani we would have a whole pile of them that our supervisor wtW.d take Claire Pritchett away. But they never slmt down the lines. I mean you took. it away and it was fixed but they wouldn't slmt down the lines. But when visitors 'WI:IUld OCil'B th:rough. there was a little~ down at the enii which everyone was just a little skeptical aboUt beirY:J there and they would blow off one of these tJ:rl.ngs which wculd just absolutely upset the visitors to no end. But they thought it was funny, which it was, it kin:i of made your day except when you didn't know one was qoi.nq to qo off. Q: Did they have a lot of people to OCil'B through to inspect and vi4!W thelines? . A: Yes. Q: wet."e they military pet'EICI'll1el.? A: I assumed that they were 1:lecause the other people were nat allowed unless you had a baci;Je. Because if you had lost your badge you didn't go to work that day. Q: '!he entertai:nment at the plant, were there arrz fa1.1nlS people that came out to the plant that you knew of? A: I wasn't really that DlCh involved in it at that particular ti:mfl :because like I said, I was still in school and this was just my S1.llllller jab. By the time then that I had graduated by the next year the war was aver. An:i this I think did happen l:.ut at that particular tillle I think when they had the entertainments out but I don't think there was the ent:ert:ainment like there was for the troops or anyt:h.irg to that effect. But there wre people that had apartments or rocms right on, well it was on the ordnance q.rcun::lS so to speak, but nat in the area to lihere you had to have a badge to get in and people would stay there like their hu.sbarx'is would be in the service the Wt'll'lei'l wculd live there in the rocms. Q: So there was scme l'laJsin;J on the plant grcun::ls but rm. within the area of shell manufactu.rin;;r itself? '!bey were sort of like dormitories or apartments? A: Scme!What, yes. Q: Did they have any daycare facilities for worki.nq mothers at the plant? A: I believe they did, l:.ut like I said, I was just in high school and I didn't pay too much attention to th.i.rgs like that at that particular time. But I'm sw:e that they did because of th.iJ'Igs that I have heard and have read rec:eutly. You know there is sane of the infcn:mtion that w have in paper form that we have seen shclws different peoples children being cared. for, you know, when they were there. But th.era were doctors and nurses and such as that in the hospital proper. 'lhe're were several doctors and nurses to take care of people that wre ill or got hurt on the lines or just became ill. An:i they had a · hospital cut there. Q: Did they have arr:t recreatie11 for the employees, like softball leagues or anythin;J like that that you krlc:M of? A: Now' again I <XIUldn't say because when I \<iiB1t back the sec:x:n1 tUva after I graduated fran school, I \<iiB1t back to work for the ordnance· Plant but at that particular time it was-t worked for ~Rani men I went back and I think I worked for three different ones. Between the tiJne. I was a jtmior an:i senior, I worked for the Ordnance Plant itself makil'g the Jxanbs and the different thin;Js -we had, the ammunition. 'lhen I went back after I had graduated fran high school and I went back into the teleptooe office because when I was in higb school I worked in the local telepxme office after school ani such. so I had trainin;;r am I worked in the telepxme office. '!hen there was a jab became available, it was in the payroll department they were makin:J a new payroll department that would check up Cl1 the other payroll department an:i -we had to have our two deparbnents had to be within a certain amc:unt of ll'OI1eY together. so -we setup an:i I was one of the basic ones to go in am a man by the name of Mr. Easter was my boss at that time am he and I set up all the thin:Js ani we made the addressograpl plates and such as that arx1 set up this new office and that is l4'lere I worked basically. '!hen after a year or so then we had-I still cannot think of the name and they still have it, cormected with the fannin;J grourd, there was a lady there that worked for several years and if I had arr:t time on Dr:f barDs I wculd go up and work for her l:Jut for the life of me I can•t remember the name. Q: CDlld you tell me nDre a1xut the security at the plant? 'Ih.e security procedures and the guards etc? A: Like I say, you had to have ytllr badge before ya1 <XIUld enter. It was fenced off, the entire areas were fenced. Like if you would gothree or fcm-miles away fran the administratiCXl buildi.rq which was open to the plblic you still <XIUld nat get in because they had horse patrols with the guards even as far as the river to the salt:h and basically1 fran Illitp)lis, you oculd get into the administratiCI'l buildin;J, to the aparbnents, to the hospital, thin;Js like this but then just a very short way datm into the plant area there was sane big gates that you could nat get into. '!hey definitely had it fen:Jed off to where you oculdn•t get in. Q: were you in the Illicp:>lis area at the time the plant was antnltD!d or did you arrive after? A: No, I was nat. I arrived after. It was basically b.rll.t when we lt¥JVed into t:C1tm because my father had worked for them. when we lived in Sprin;field. Q: Did you qet saoe feelin) a1xut llc:M people felt, fanners for example that had lost their larxl'? Do you have any experiences to relate abalt that? A: Bein;J a fanner's wife l'lC1t\f I can probably relate to it a lot easktr than I could have when I was in high sdlool when all this was ~. Because they came in an:i said, ''We•re goi.n) to make an ordnance plant here am yoor grami has to be part of it," am 5 basically fran What I 'l.ll'Darstani, it was because that it is rich grourrl aJ:'OU1'D. in the Illiopolis area. It was rich farmin;J grourrl am people hated to give up their bane, I mean they ware uprooted ani tllle fanners aJ:'OU1'D. the Illiopolis area, basically the west ani north ancl south of Illicplis was the aleS that were affected. Q: Now" they took these people's bane, did they tear them down or did they make sane use of them? A: No, they did nat bealuse in later years, Jir:i 1:nlsbard ani I pJrdlased one of these haDe but you cxW.d see fran What we had gone into that the pecple were liiJVE!d rut against their will because of things that were left in the bane. I mean they were nat cleaned as if they were goirq to be left for anyt:.hirg. Because there was like catalogs ani old shoes ani old clothes and anythi.rg that they didn't want was left in the haDe. Q: were any of the buil.din;Js or banes used for anyt:.hirg the plantmight do, like headquarters or anyt:.hirg like that? A: NOW" that I oculdn't say. I do know that there had been, well likein our upstairs roans for scme reason they llllSt have used it for target practice, the guams or sanet:hi.rq, because there had been a lot of gunshots in the upstairs roans. 'Ihen too we had What they callecl,it was not oannectecl to the grourrl that we had received but for a period of I wcul.d say DDre than twenty years, there was a fencecl off area that was right next to cur haDe ani then there was another one awrox;imataly a mile away. 'lhat was fenced off for a good twenty years after the war because they had destroyed things a1 that particular grourrl ani they wculd nat let them farm it until it was released by the government. Q: What type of thin;Js? CCilpJnents for the amounitia1 that theymade? A: I aesnme because I think it was DDre like to get rid of thingseither that had failed or the baJiJs were JXJt cx:mpleted or saoet:1'lirg to that affect. Q: Were these blried things a1 this site? A: I assume they were, I don't know. I really don't, I just know that this was a fenced in area that people were nat supposed to go into. It was posted as gcvemment p:opeu.ty yet a:rd you cxW.d nat J::uyit. Q: Do you know who C7tii1S those pieces of property rDII? A: '!he people that it was aJ:'OU1'D. their bane, they lx:u;tlt it when it came up for sale finally. I know it was a good twenty yearsafterwards that when it came up if you wanted to J::uy it you CXJUld b~d on it. And they do farm it l'lC7II over the one particular area. · Q: was this timer grourrl or farm fields? A: No, it was fcmnirg grami, :both spJts that I know of was farmirJf groun:l. axt there are an awfUl lot of concrete. well Where their :big warehouses were, Where the t:hirgs on the lines were, they did not bather to tear these t:hirgs down Wi.ch at one t:ime I know that there are several farmers aroun:i that had sane of these t:hin:Js turied but it cost anywhere fran two to four thousani dollars to bw:y this concrete, just so they CXJUl.d fann aver it am wcul.dn•t have to fann aroun:i it. 'lhere are an awful lot of igloos, an awful lot igloos. In fact the storage of these igloos I think were supposed to be at approxilnately 55 degrees the year :rourn ani of course they were secure to Where they could secure the lx:rribs in them ani there are a lot of them :because at one time, oh When we had the scare of fallout am different t:hirgs like this, they had even eplken, sare of the people fran Sprin:Jfield might want to cane aut am :t:uy these am make them into a shelter. You knoW Where sare people were tl:yirq to build the shelters in their banes arxi :make it safe, oh there are so so many of them aut around the DeKalb area because they were never destroyed because they are extremely hard to destroy. I know at one time nrt 1:rusban:l was farming sane groun:l that had these oo them am they'd stored their grain in it because they're dJ:y am thatIs what I think a lot of the farmers ~t have them on their grourn do with them beca11se there1s security ~ on them you know. Q: You mentioned earlier there were an awful lot of~that worked at the plant, were the~in positia1S of authority? Were there ~supervisors? A: Nat as m.teh as there were the men. Q: SO even t.1'lcu;Jh there were mxe wt'IIBl employed, JtDSt of the l«::DE!f:l employees were cm the lines? into the administration buil<iirq after I had graduated fran school. A: on the lines, yes. Q: A: 'lhe supervisors ani bosses were nv:sYes, I dal't ever remember havirq a tl.y men or all men? ' wcmm boss except when I weht Q: What about minority groups, were there many blacks that worked at the plant? A: Yes, quite a few. Q: Mostly men or WCIIIBI'l? A: 'lhat's kin:l of bud. to say, I really didn•t pay that m.teh attenti.at to it ate way or the other. I had worked with bath. Q: Ani they did the same jabs or were they doin;J jabs other than work:in3' on the line? A: '!here were sane a'l the lines but not like the Wites because ~ in 1943 t:hin;s like this didn1t exist as lll.1ch as they do 110W'. . . _, 'l'. 'I ....... ~ ..·· '' ....... -'. Claire Pritchett Q: So you think there was prd:lably sane discr:im:ination because of their race then? A: Yes, I really do. Q: What kind of jabs did the a'lEIS 'Who didn•t work on the line have? da'l't go anyplace else. A: Oh more or less the janitorial type. Q: Were there arti white janitors? A: I couldn't say. You knc:M you're only in one spat. When you go in you're on ane line an:l that's it, ~ When. we went in of a Dmnin;J we had to go into a roan an:l p.zt on our oovera.J.ls ani that's what we worked in, they were lightweight ooveralls. Ani' a lot of them had the steel toed shoes because you didn•t kncJw' what you were goin:J to :nm into. NCM there walld be supervision by white because I renember ane \\bite lady that was aver that department, so, to speak, of where you got your clothes. Q: Did you clock in at that place also? A: No, there was a usual clock house ani you usually had to stani p.n line to clock out. Q: was there arti kind of search dale before or after you went in to work or as you were leavin; work? A: Not to Ilr;l knowledge, I don't ever remember beirg seardled. Of course you couldn't take it in to begin with. Where we dressed was not where we went out. I mean you couldn•t take your t:hi.rr3s, you l'Dd your locker ani you couldn•t take anyt:hi.n:J with you. Q: was there cancem about metal, say jewehy or anythin;;J like tlldt bein:J 'WOrn on the line? A: You didn't wear arti except your rirgs, your wedr:iirq rin;J you cx:W.d wear. Q: was that because of the darger of explosion? A: well there were machines, like nrt nw:rt:her had a machine where you worked it with your foot bit the machine was up m the table ani she would p.zt these little, well I was liiBkiDj p.JIJJer bodies for 48 fusas which like I said I didn't realize what they were, rut nrt 11Dther was on datm the line fl::an me so apparently she worked CXl the same thi.rg because it came on down. BUt she pit sanet:hin;J in it that walld blow up on her because me did blCM up Cl'l my mather's hand bit apparently it was not gzeat enough to take her hand off b.lt it did blCM and it blackened her hand and such as this bit it walld go un:ier scme sort of a pressure type of "t:lliDj that would oaoe doWn Cl'l it ani it was by her foot that would make it cane down en her hand. She held it •nv......... this part of the machine. BUt like I say, I have no idea lt.lhat were. Claire Pritchett Q: Do you really think it was by design that they didn't want the workers to :krJcM all the different facets of the llne they worked on or was that just the workers' safety aspect of it? A: No, you c:xJUld walk around all aver on the K-line, like on your break, you could go in your b.rlld:in;J am see what was goirg an as far as that part goes. art I don't think an.yt:hiir;J was ever finished in one build:in;J. NeW that's my own suppositicm, I do not :krJcM that to be a fact but I Wtllldn't say so because they made so many different sizes of th.in:js. You :krJcM -we had well like these big boxes that I took out they held 20 millimeter thi.n:Js. I could just barely reach fran one en:l of that box to the other to throW it down the cx:JrNfi!'jOro art mainly the wanen did a lot of the hard work where men clidn't because there ware really a lot of wanen out there. Q: Did you receive a lot of tra.inin;J before you went em the jd::l or did they just hire you one day am :p.tt you on the line the next? A: 'lhat's what it was but they u::::uld shc:1ll' you what you -were doi.rq but basically each job didn't sean to require :much knc:Mledge as far as knc::Jwirq is oancemed, you just had to have the agility to be able t() take your one out of the four thirgs that was cc:aniig down your comrsyor belt am you had four or five different thirgs to put into it before you got to it am then I picked up mine am I put it on a little t:hi.n;J in front me like a nail ani I put a couple of other thirgs in it am put a little pin in it am set it down goirg the other way so you had oo time because that CXJT:MEjCr belt never stepped. Q: was this a ver:t tediws jcb, was it ver:t l:Jori.rg? A: No, not really. I mean you could talk to the perscn across frQn you, it wasn't a:rrJ farther than the di.n.irr;1 roan table ani you'd talk to the people on each side of you ani across fran you. You could 1q:!ep a conversation up am still keep your work goirg. Q: What ldn:i of salaey were you paid? A: Heavens, I have oo idea but to me it was a good salary, I mean caoparatively to what :people were eamin; outside the plant. It had to be a p%etty good salary because I Jmew of people that were c::cminJ oh probably, -we live in cenb:al Illioois here in Illic:p:>lis, am :people cane up fran Litchfield, they came fran as far as Beardstown, fran aver aroun:i the Havana area. 'lhat's a len; way to go, scme of them had a two hour drive before they ever came. so they had to make pzetty good lll::lhE!Y or they li«:Ul.dn't have. Q: Did your family live in Illic:p:>lis then, in town? A: Nat at the first when Dad first started out at the plant, we lived in Spri.n;Jfield. '!hen we DDVed out in AlJ;;JUSt. of 1943. Q: ltlat effect did the plant have on the town that you saw in the jor three years that you were here after you DDVed to Illic:p:>lis? Claire Pritchett A: I don't knew', I was always, because nrt dad beirg a minister here, he was the minister of the clrurch but with the stipllation that he could work out at the OJ::dnanoe Plmtt. SO I was not an OJ::dnanoe Plant child, so to speak, because I think that a lot of the people in the town resented the people in the ordnance Plant ani they lived here. see we have two areas. 'lhe <X> lived in a haDe that is outside of Illiopolis ncM ani then we haVe what the Illiopolis people still call the north ani south staff area. AM this is where the guards ani things lived in their haDes arrl these haDes were built back in that time arrl they have all been basically re!IIIJdeled ani different t:hings like this but they were the haDes of the higher ups of the guards, so to speak, CXJUJ.d live out there. Q: were these militaJ:y personnel in these haDes? A: scma of them were. Now the co, I think he was a oolcmel. that lived out here ani the heme is still st:arJ1i.rq ani it's still beirq used. Q: 5aDe of these :peq>le may have been euployees of the cnrpmies tbat ran the ordnance Plant do you think? A: '!hey could have been because like I said, I worked for Remin;Jton Ram ani I worked for the ~Ordnance Plmtt. I worked for War Assets Administration but this was in the years I worked in the plant for the years they made the bartbs, I worked for the Navy when they were tearin;J it dc7.rm ani the War Assets Administration ani I worked for the people who carried it away. Q: You mentioned the Navy tore it dCJim? A: It was the latter part of it, ncM DP.f checks didn't oc:me fran the Navy ani why that the Navy was ever involved in it I have no idea because I can remember that 'When they were tearirq dCJim the warehc:.lufJes that the things that were tom cic:Mn, like they would tear dc:Mn the offices that they would have, well oor office when I worked for war Assets Administratioo was in a big warehouse out there am it had all the typewriters arrl ~in one roan ani tables ani basically all the office naterial, office equipuent, ard things like that ani they were tearin;J it down. When they wcul.d brin;J it aver we had to list all of them by rnmber ani it seens to ne like that was for the Navy but still I think it was still u:rxJer war Assets Administration. Like I said, that• s been a few years ago. Q: 'ttloee things were transferred to the Navy then? A: '!hey were retumed back to saneane, I have no idea to whan. Q: You stayed around Illiopolis after the plant closed then, your family remained in town? A: 'lhey did until after I was married. Q: AM you married • • • A: I married in 1947. Q: You ani your husban:i, you menticme:i bought one of the houses t.hat had been part of the lani taken, can you tell me :mre abait that? A: When I was still out in the Administration Buildirg, the groun;i or the farms that had been originally taken as a war plant area, if the basic C7tll'ler did not want them back or they had died in the meantime, these farms were put up for sale. '1he only ones that were available to have them were veterans, lfbich my husbarxi was a veteran. And he was oriqinally fran Niantic, lfbich is a small town to the east of Illiopolis ani he had been a fanner all of his life until he was in the Air COJ:ps ani he came back am after we'd been married he didn't particularly want to go back to Niantic to farm because he had a brother that was f~the g:r:ouni. so when this farm became available he thought, ''Well we might as well put our name in for it." 'lhey drew lots for it ani they drew out, well it must have been nine names, because there were ally three farms available. 'lhey were different sizes ani you did not knc::Jw what you were goin;J to be bi&itng on until your name was drawn. 'lhey drew the farm ani then they would draw the first name ard if he wanted that farm he oc:W.d l:uy it ani if he did not then the seoc:n1 man got the chance am the third man got the chance ani then they went a1 to the seocni farm etc. My l'rusba:nlti happened to get #7 ani he would be the first man em. the third farm that was offered. SO we J:xu#lt the farm lfbich was not a large fann, really can't tell you hc:w large it was because we bought sane other g:rourD right after that fran saae of the people that had just eight or ten acres arcmrl it you knew. But basically it was only abcut a l1un::lred acres that -we had bought fran the gcvernment and what we paid for it I have no idea, I really dcn't, but it was a very small anomt cxmparativel.y, they really did nat cheat you when they were sellin;J the grourxi back. Like I said, the house that we reoelved fran it you cx:W.d nat go in ani live, of OOIJJ:'Se it had been sitti.n;J enpty with broken wirr:k:MI am such as this durin;} the tiJDe ani the people left it dirty. I mean we started in with a soc::xJp shovel. It was a frame wcrk and that was abait the extent of it, well we p.It in wirdcwpanes, nat new 'Wi.mcws ani we have mt eight roan bane with a basement ani a walkin attic, so there's a lot of house there but basically we had to do an awful lot of work. Arrl there was no runni.n;J water ani no electricity. Q: Had there been before the war or was that d.i.soonnected? A: It must have been-well I don't knew because I knew my husbard is one of these harxlyman type of people ani he wired the house ani it had to be passed by REA so I really oc:W.dn't say, maybe it didn't have electricity to begin with. I knew it did have a fumaoe, but it was a coal f'Ul:nace ani they had pllled out, I assnme just to keep people if they did get in they could nat live in the haDes, because they'd pulled out all the fumaoes out of the floors. '!here was no facilities to use at all. so basically we had a shell of a house that1s what we started out with. Q: Do you feel like DJSt of the fanol..ani was returned to it's original a.mers after the war? You said there were three fanns that -were available to the veterans. A: Now this was my~,l::ut like I have heard since then, if there was a tenant an that grc::urD am they wanted it, that they had first choice. lllt I did not know this but this very well oould be true, I don't know. Q: so really lard that was available went to the faJ:.'lDBrS or the tenants who'd had it. Do you feel like not that many sm:vicemen got the q:portunity to buy? A: No, there weren't that many. I think there were twenty-eight or twenty-nine sm:vicemen that were after the three fanns. Q: You l+IOrked an what was knc7tm. as the southside of the plant? A: Yes, I worked. an the northside for a little mile. Q: What did you do an the northside? A: 'lhat's where I unloaded the boxcars. I unloaded boxcars but I also pit in these large boxes, we wa:ald ptll a1 to a conveyor belt arxl there was sane little trough type of t:.hin3s that I wa:ald pit a wire thral.gh am there was SCJ'DF!l"'1e that wa:ald ptll these dc7.m onto the table ani then I'd pit the wire through the trough ani I would twist it once or twice then it wa:ald go an further to where that they p.zt a machine on it to tighten it. lllt like I said, I didn't l+IOrk CNer there very lag. Becalwe my dad had a little bit of ptll am he c;pt me off of there. Because my DDther was world..n;, they p.zt her up m a boxcar in the middle of August and I said, "I'll go up there, you cane down here because I •m a lot ycu1'J38r than you are." so they didn•t really care who they p.zt where as far as saDethin;;J like that. Q: Did you ever hear any talk of the possibility of the l+IOrkers joinin) a mlion or start.irg a mlian at the plant? A: No. Like I said, I was high school ani I didn't pay too 1l'll.1dl attention to~like that. Q: :r thought maybe after you were in the Administration • • • A: No, I dan't ra•!!f!ll'lt!er any type of anyt.hin;J like that. Nc:Jw maybe there was, you know because like I say, you are in your a.m little -world when you're in the large Administration l:uil.<iilq. (pause) Q: At the time that you graduated fran high school, in the sprirg of 1945, shortly after that you went back to 'WOrk at the ordnance Plant again? A: Yes. Q: Now the war was over in August or by early september 1945, the facility had ceased to produce shells after that time, is that correct? A: Yes. Q: Naw the offices remained open ani you worked in those? A: Yes, I did. Q: What did you do? A: I was in the second payroll department that we had started after a time. Now why they started a secx:n:i ate, I don't knc::Jrl. But I do 1qlOW that we had to c:::aoe within a certain amunt of m:>ney as the first~· so we had to make up all payroll sheets, make new adressc::Jgnq:h plat:$!6 and we had pages on everyone that was out there and we kept our "tilt$ cards and thin;Js to that cn:der. '!hen this gentleman by the name of' Mr. Easter and I set up the entire department and I made the addressographs and he would do his type of work, he was 11rJ boss ani it erded up that there were seven of us in the department by the time that we had gotten it set up. '!hen if I had any time after seven of us started workin;J, I would go up and help a lady by the name of Miss Henry1 up in the Federal I..ani Bank Department. 'Ihey had, well turned up to have the rental of the fann grourxi, before it was given back or the c::JR)Or'bmity to buy, before it was given back to the farmers. Q: Even before the plant was closed then there were farmers allowed to fam sane of the plant grourxi? A: Yes, my husbani l'laR?ened to be ate of them. I mean he wasn•t m,yhusbani at the time but he came into rent grourxi and they were rentin:] it to the local farmers arcA.D'Xi and he and my brother-in-law came in to rent saae of this gl."'CJll'Xi and it was fran the Federal r..am Bank that they rented this gl."'CJll'Xi. In fact that's where I met hiln. Q: Abclit hclrl laq after the war was it before all the offices were closed dawn and the majority of the land except for those areas you've mentia1ed earlier that were fen:Jed off had been retumed? Did it take a year or six 1lD1ths or • • • A: well my husbani came after his grourxi right after he got out of the service which was Februazy of 1946, in the early part of Februazyof 1946. I think he came, it was possibly that next 1'la1th to rent sane grourxi. so I krlcJirl that they had started ren:tirg it then. He am I were married. a year later ani I was still workin;J for the various ones that were out there. I worked for war Assets Administration after that but we were denDted fran the Administration buildirl) dc:Mn to warehouses to just whenever tliey would tear up sanethiJ'q, we were denoted dctm to another biq brlldirl) until they didn't have too manyof the buildirgs left, except sane of the big warehouses. Q: Are m::st of the brlldi.n:Js that DeKal.b uses, or mai'JY of thel::Juildin:Js arrzway that Dekal.b uses, left over fran the war Plant? their poulb:y halses and sane of those? '--· ----"".:"!'. "!-,_., Claire Pritchett 13 A: I think so. Basically they used to be. NCM I think that theyhave upgraded a great deal :tut there are an awful lot of the concrete left fran all of these warehaJses ani ~. Q: Do you recall when DeKal.b came to the area? A: No, I'm sorry I dal't. Q: Hc:1...7 about Borden Chemical? '!hey c:bviausly must be a1 !ani that was included? A: Yes, that was just aJ::x:J.It where the old fire deparbnent was. '!he fire deparbnent of the Ordnance Plant is where the Borden Chemical Ccltpmy sits nc::M'. AID that was the main road, right in t:hrough thefe. It was the main road qoin;J east ani west where you oould get in. ~ I think the apartments were l:uilt to the east of the Borden Catpmy if I'm not mistaken. Because I think they were p:etty close to Illiqx>lis. Q: '!he apartments? A: Yes. Q: 'Ihe Borden catpany came to the area in n:ughly what year? A: I knc:1.,r it's been at least twenty-five years ago, so I reallyoouldn't say. Q: Do you think they pn:'Chased the land for the plant fran the government or was the !ani pn:'Chased for the Borden Plant made fran fanners who had gotten their lam back or :peq:»le who had bought land that had been part of the plant? ErD of side ane, Tape one Q: I was aski.rJ;J you if Bordens b:Jught the land fran the governmentafter the plant was closed or if they ba1ght it fran fanners, do youremember? A: well like I say, I knc:1.,r it's been awraximately twenty-five yearsthat Bordens have been here but that 'Wall.dn•t make it. Q: 1965 or so, that 'Wall.d probably mean that they b:lught the lard fran pecple who had gotten the lard back fran the ~then. I was just curious to see if Bord.ens had moved to this area because of the qp:rtunities presented by the war plant. A: New if I •m not mistaken the water plant l:uildin;J is still out there east of the Borden catpany am I think that was there durin;J the war or durin;J the time the Ordnance Plant was there. Q: 'Ihe water plant and the wells that were associated with it? 14 A: Yes, where they had the water plant for the Ol:dnance Plant, I think it's still stamin;J rut there. Q: And Bol:dens make use of that as well as the village of Illiopolis? A: No, I OJUl.dn't say. No they have their wells. In fact one of the Borden, well in fact we have four wells of the DeKalb-Borden deals down on our grourXl, on our own fanni.rg grcuni. Q: So the wells that are on yrur property were drilled for the war1 plant? . A: Now I couldn't say that either, I do know that they drilled one: in just the last fs years on our grouni. ot:hel:wise these others were milt when we :r;urdlased the grouni. Q: 'Ihey were already in existence? A: So it very well c::x:W.d be because it is the village of Illiopoliswells that are c:lcMn on our fannin:J gramd. Or basically, I mean there is a road that goes down there, they are not right on the fannirg groun:l itself. 'Ihera is cna I think that ya.1 have to farm arourn bUt other than that mst of them are right on the little t:ald that goes through that river bottan area. Q: You were fairly yaJ1'J3' at the time that you worked at the plant,being in high school or ~ust a recent graduate but do you know of anyprcblems that the situation at the plant caused in people lives in terns of marital difficulty or anythirg? A: '!here wre a lot, there wre a lot of problems that were caused, I mean even though yoo.•re yaJ1'J3' you can see ~like this that goes on that you know is not S1.JR;XISEd to be goirg m. I do know that mydad had ocunselled sane people that were havirg problems because a lot of the wcmen that worked rut there, their .husban::Js were in the service. In fact I can re•etter when we 'went down to see my brother in Wichita Falls, Texas after he had gotten in the service, that we were eatin;J in a restaurant ani a waitress came up ani recognized my father an:i asked if he was fran Illinois. Dad said, ''Well yes, we were," an:i she said, ''Well you walldn't have hzqpmed to have worked at the Ol:dnanoe Plant would you?" And Dad said, "Yes." She said, "I knew' it," b.1t she reoognized him fran l:lei.D:J at the Ol:dnance Plant am she was da.m there but at that particular time she had had prcblemswith her husban:i ani such because there was a great deal of that going an. Q: 'lbe plant serrei to ~a lot of qpxtunities for the CCJI!DI!mity, l:ut do ya.1 think there were many in the CXIII!IImity who would just have socn not had it a:r:cun:i? A: 'lhe:r:e were a lot in the CCIIDll'li.ty :really I think that didn't want the plant. But like I said, basically a lot of their problems was dane when the plant was bein;J milt you know, which I was not here I •ve heard about. Because there were so, so many people, there trailers all aver the town. I mean in every available spot, there Claire Pritchett a trailer or people had liElde large yards into trailer courts ani people had rented the roans of their haDes. In fact, even my mother-in-law had two people livin;;r at the haDe, const.nlction workers that "M:Jrked. here ani had ga'lB six or seven miles away to firrl a place to live ani she rented roaDS to two of them. But Bob was in the service at that time arxl she had sane extra roans, so she did. But I think a lot of people took advantage of sane of these thiigs that they could make sane extra liD'lBY by rentin:J rut because there were a lot of these people that had a lot of avertiJne arxl they were lll2lkirr:J good m:mey. I mean for the times, I mean the wage scale nr:M it wouldn't be but back then it was. Ani I think the blsinesses thrived, the bank was ro1:iJed at a1e time but I think blsinesses really thrived at that tilDe ard it had to be good for them. I can remember when I was a jm'lior in high school there was a restaurant cut in the area that you could get to it without havin;;r to have a badge ani usually wa would go cut there after ba.llgames arxl different thiigs like that because the focxi was good but it was en the Ordnance Plant area. Q: Now was this bank :r:a1:iJery directly related to the fact that the plant was here? A: I think so, I think it was in broad daylight, you know' it was when they were transfez:rirl} Da1BY ani I illlagine that they Jmew there were a lot of people goiri;J to be cashin;J dlecks ani they thought it was one of those days. Q: Was this a Sl..l.O:eSsful rcbbeey or did it fail? A: '!hat I can't remember, I just had heazd about it, l:Jut that happened before I DDVed to tam. I knew a man perscmally that was involved with it, I mean that was there at the time that it was happenirr:J ani there was no ale lrurt or anyt.h:in:;r l:ut it did mqpm. Q: were there artt ether stories or remarks you'd like to make about the plant, or either ya1r work:in;J there or the effects at the OCIDIIIJllity or anyt.h:in:;r that I haven't asked you about? A: I dal't lalo!rl, I met saoe very nice peqU.e When I was there ani I met sane peqU.e that were t:ak:irg the government. I had cme boss that really took people, really, to be basically troe, he didn't do enough, but I think that's in artt work field if you don't watch it. But basically he took advantage of them because he was an alcx:tJOlic and he came to -work just as drunk as he was the night before he left. But that was alx:IUt the worst experience I had as far as that. I mean there were advances made, there were advances made to a:rtt of us, you know there were advances made to all of us you just had to lalo!rl how to handle it. :aut basically I met a lot of nice people. 5ate of these people I •ve had for friems for the years in the past that we•ve kept up frierdships. '!his lady that I worked for -we kept up friemsb.ips when I was "M:Jrkirg for the Federal I..an:l Bank ani -we'd kept up aJr friemsb.i.p even after Bc:iJ ard I were mani.ed until she passed away. It was a very nice frietXIship that we had ard I kept in contact wi the boss that I had, that he an::i I had started the cme thin:3'. But basically, there were a lot of the Illiopolis girls that worked cut there. so we kral eadl other the rest of our lives. Basically it quite an experience, it really was an experience because I •ve worked at various place, like the school here, I •ve worked at the school for alJoost twelve ~. It's different fran workin;J in a place like that b.It I enjoyed ~t saaetimes am then there -were other times when I'd just as soon not been "WOrki.rg out there b.It like I said, you couldn't drive to Sprin;Jfield to get a joo am make the ll't:JlVey that you could make out there an:1 Btaf at bane. Ani I stayed at bane until I was twenty-one so it made ~t nice to be at haue ani to have a gcx::d job right in this area. Am I'm sure that's the way a lot of the others felt because there were girls that had worked out there before I ever started ani then when DeKalb came alc:n; they transferred kirx:i of over to OeKalb and they made a good livin:J. But D:ld had a lot of experiences cut here too, b.lt t:hrt:.ugh him we knew" of a lot of experiences with people and the doctors were very very good. If sanething wcW.d haJ;:pen to SCIIIfQ1S in t:am, even if anyone knew of anyone fran the plant area, I knc:Jw that there were a couple of doctors that were genercus enc::ujl to help these people in town that they were good to do this. I mean that they would go out to the plant if they were sick or sanething. I knc7A that when llfJ brother came back that he had been shot and they let Dad take x-rays or have x-rays taken just to see haw thi.rgs were tom up m the inside. It was an experience and I'm sure there's a lot more people here in town had wo:rse expe.rierx:es tJvm what I had am a lot had a lot better. Arxi if I were one of t:hoee fanners after we've lived in our haoe for aver forty years, I wculd resent it too if sc:mec:11e wall.d c:x:me up an:i sa¥ to me, '"''aam:rc:M you have to be out here in thus and so len;;rth of tllllB, " with no place to go. Like Bc:b ani I have fazmeci !'lOW' for al.D:Jst forty-three years ani it would be hard to start aver, unless you're ready to retire, but it wculd basically be really hard for these people to start aver. Ani people, sane of than, had just renmeled their fam banes an::l then to have them taken away ani nat have anyplace to go, it wculd have to be hard. Because they were uprooted, saue of them had to go to different ta..ms too. But it has its advantages an:i its disadvantages I guess, that's the way life goes. Q: '!hank you. A: You're JOOSt wel.ccme, I oc.uldn't help in a lot of ways that a lot of other people could. My dad could have told you an awful awful lot of good stories. Ern of Side '!Wo, Tape one
|Title||Pritchett, Claire - Interview and Memoir|
Sangamon Ordnance Plant, Illiopolis (Ill.)
Women--Roles, Occupations, etc.
|Description||Pritchett discusses her work at the Sangamon Ordnance Plant at Illiopolis: safety, security, female and minority employment, closing the plant, restoration of land, and effects on the community.|
|Creator||Pritchett, Claire b. 1926|
|Contributing Institution||Oral History Collection, Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Contributors||McCarthy, B. David [interviewer]|
|Digital Format||PDF; MP3|
|Relation||SANGAMON ORDNANCE PLANT PROJECT|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
|Title||Claire Pritchett Memoir|
|Source||Claire Pritchett Memoir.pdf|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
University of Illinois at Springfield
Norris L Brookens Library
Claire Pritchette Memoir
P939. Pritchett, Claire b. 1926 Interview and memoir 1 tape, 60 mins., 19 pp.
SANGAMON ORDNANCE PLANT PROJECT
Pritchett discusses her work at the Sangamon Ordnance Plant at Illiopolis: safety, security, female and minority employment, closing the plant, restoration of land, and effects on the community.
Interview by B. David McCarthy, 1989 OPEN See collateral file
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1989, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
'Ibis manuscript is the product of a series of tape-rec::orded interviews on the 8an;;JaDa1 Ordnance Plant which was operated near Illiopolis,Illinois durfn:J Word war II, cxniucted by B. D!vid M::Carthy for the oral History Office, Sang'alJa'l state University in the fall of 1989. Margaret Reeder also transcribed the tapes am Kay Johansen edited the transcripts.
Claire Pritchett was bom February 12, 1926 in Litchfield, Illinois. She 1tOVed to Illiopolis, Illinois while in high school and has spentthe remainier of her life there. She and her hus1Jimi fann south of
Illiopolis on lam that was part of the 8an;;JaDal Ordnance Plant. Her father was enployed as a minister and as a director of first aid trainin;J at the plant. Mrs. Pritchett was enployej as a 'WOrker at Sang'alJa'l Ordnance and related her experiences there in this interview.
B. David McCarthy was bom am raised in central Illinois, where he eamed a :M in hist.oJ:y in 1976 fran western Illinois university. He has been enployed as a t:eaci1er at Illiopolis am #12 since his graduation. Mr. M::Carthy recently cc::mpleted his MA degree at Sang'alJa'l state university in histol:y. His thesis tc:pic was the Sang'alJa'lOrdnance Plant. He is mazried am the father of three children.
Readers of the oral history memoir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken word, am that the interviewer, narrator alXl editor SCllght to preserve the infcn:mal, ocrNel:'Satialal style that is inherent in such historical sources. 8an;;JaDal state university is not
respa19i.ble for the factual aocuracy of the memoir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge.
IIhe manuscript may be read, quoted and cited freely. It may not be , rep1:odn.ced in whole or in part by arJ¥ means, electronic or medlani.CCU, wit:hcut ~imin writin; fran the oral History Office, ~ state trniversity, Sprin;Jfield, Illioois 62794-9243.
Claire Pritchett, Jamm:y 4, 1990.
David McCarthy, Interviewer.
Q: Could yru tell us a little bit about ycursel.f, Claire?
A: I was bom in Litchfield, Illinois a1 Febrwu:y 12, 1926. My father ani 1tDther were Revererri an:l Mrs. Paul Rhoades. My dad was the minister of the Disciples of