Early Life and Engineering Courses

Working for the Curtiss-Wright Corporation

Results of World War 2


Betty Masket was born in Cullowhee, North Carolina in 1923. The Depression did not affect Masket as much as it did others because her father owned a general store and they had a boarding house. Her sister had saved money to go to college but when the banks closed she lost the money. Fortunately, she was able to get a loan from a friend of their father. They only suffered when people would not pay their debts. Masket's father was very kind hearted and would lend money to everybody. Masket attended Western Carolina Teachers College. It was a small school with only about 400 students. Masket took a lot of math and science classes which she really enjoyed. In some of her classes she was the only girl and considered herself smarter than most of the guys. Masket stayed for about two and a half years. After she heard about the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, she went to Atlanta for an interview. Masket had never been away from home before. Masket got the job and was sent to Purdue University for a course of study. She did not care for the drafting class but loved the math, aeronautical engineering, and machine shop. In machine shop she built a hammer out of steel on a lathe. The program lasted ten months. Some of the engineering courses Masket took were very challenging. The professors were very supportive of the girls. The program was a full paid scholarship. Masket was frugal and put aside the ten dollars a week she got and bought a watch with it. There were not many females at the college and the guys loved them. One thing they had to do was build a model airplane that flew. Masket's did fly. It was made using a rubber band to spin the propeller.


After completing her course work, Betty Masket went home for a couple of weeks. She then went to the plant [Annotator's Note: the Curtiss-Wright Corporation aircraft manufacturing plant] in Louisville, Kentucky where she had been told she would be working. When she got there the plant was closed and when she contacted the company's office she was told to go to the plant in Columbus, Ohio. There was no other spot for Masket when she got to the plant in Columbus, so she was put on final assembly inspection, inspecting airplanes as they came off of the line. The plane Masket was inspecting was the SB2C Helldiver [Annotator's Note: US Navy dive bomber]. Masket's job was to inspect the ailerons [Annotator's Note: flight control surfaces attached to the edge of the wing] and the wires that controlled them. She made sure that the wires cleared the holes in the wings to get to the ailerons and did not rub against the rib and break. She found one where the line was rubbing against the rib and she stopped the whole line. The plane could not go anywhere until she signed off on it. She did see some other problems but nothing major. After about three months on the line, Masket was sent to the drafting department. She did not like drafting. She was assigned to work in the handbook section on the pilot's handbook. A girl on the line, who had been in the cadet group at Purdue with Masket, put her arm on an aileron and nearly had it cut off when the girl in the cockpit opened the flaps without warning her. Masket saw what happened and went with her to the hospital. The girl was able to return to work after she healed up. Masket feels that the girl should have been compensated for what happened, but does not know if she was. Masket remembers three or four girls who were inspectors who had not been in the cadet group with her. Masket does not remember much about the handbook. She recalls that that was where she learned to edit which helped her out in later years. She also learned a lot about how the plane was flown. Masket worked with a lot of very nice people. The older guys would watch over them and would not let them get into trouble. It was a nice work environment. She was happy to work there. Masket worked for Curtiss-Wright for about a year and a half. When the war ended they fired all of the girls. Masket returned to Western Carolina [Annotator's Note: Western Carolina Teachers College]. While she was working, Masket took Calculus at night at Ohio State. She learned a lot in that school. She was intent on getting her degree when she finished working. When she went home she returned to college and got her degree in chemistry and math. Masket got credit for some of the courses she had taken at Purdue when she went back to school. That helped her to graduate quicker.


Betty Masket started back in school in September [Annotator's Note: September 1945] and graduated that year or the year after. This time, college was not very hard except that there was a requirement that she have a foreign language. She was told that if she could pass second year French she would be given credit for it and for first year French. It was the hardest thing she ever did in her life, but she passed it. Masket finished at Western Carolina right at the end of the war when all of the GIs were coming home and going to school on the GI Bill and teachers were needed. Masket was asked to teach mechanical drawing. She agreed and taught at Western Carolina for a year. After that year the school told her that they wanted her to continue teaching, but she had to have more education. Masket went to University of North Carolina for her MA in Analytical Chemistry. While at school, she had met a physics professor who she ended up marrying. They lived in Chapel Hill for ten years. Masket feels like she was somewhat of a trail blazer who helped pave the way for women to get out into the work force. Masket was the only woman in some of her classes. Math was not a very popular subject. In one class the only students were Masket and two guys, so she learned a lot. In the Chemistry Department at the University of North Carolina Masket and three other girls were the only candidates there for Master's degrees. Masket learned a lot from being at Purdue then at Curtiss-Wright. She had come from a tiny village in North Carolina and had never been out in the world. Her friends taught her how to dress and how to wear makeup. She credits her friends with helping her out. To Masket, World War 2 was a time when ever body worked together for the war effort and felt that it was their responsibility to help our neighbors overseas and to help bring peace back to the world. She hoped that the war would have caused a more peaceful coexistence than it has. It is important to have The National WWII Museum. During the war, Masket and five other girls rented a house and lived together and took care of the house and each other. One of the girls cooked and another helped her. Two of the girls kept the house clean and did the laundry. It was a life changing experience. Had the war not taken place Masket believes that she would still be in Cullowhee, North Carolina working as a teacher. She was forced by the war to go to school and finish college.

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