Early Life and Family

Working for the Ford Motor Company



Jane Biestek was born in January 1925 in the Lamport Hotel Bear Creek, Montana. Her mother was working in the hotel and was taken to one of the rooms to give birth. She grew up in a small town near Bear Creek, but spent all her time in Bear Creek. She had a sister and a brother. Biestek's father was a coal miner. She walked to school every day. There were bad winter storms in Montana. Biestek would have to walk through the storms because the family did not have a car. While in a movie theater, they shut the movie off so people could get home before a bad storm hit. Life was hard because the town was very rural. The family had an outhouse, and Biestek had to get water from a nearby creek. They grew their food in the garden. Her father received a 100 dollar check for a month of coal mining. Her brother had to work at the mine as well. He ended up enlisting in the Coast Guard and was killed off Guadalcanal [Annotator's note: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands]. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery [Annotator's Note: Arlington, Virginia] with 250 other men. Biestek lived in a small town. Her brother was brought home when their father died in a mine accident. There was a court case over the accident, but the town lost. One night, her father came home covered in dust, and the next morning the mine blew up. After her father died, Biestek moved to Detroit [Annotator's Note: Detroit, Michigan] to work at Ford Motor Company and her mother remarried. Her mother did not get to tell her son about the marriage and she was forced to give back the pension the mine company gave her. Biestek's brother-in-law was also a miner until the accident that killed her father. Her sister and brother-in-law moved to California and he started working at a saw mill. Her father died in 1943 and her brother died in 1945.


Jane Biestek worked at Yellowstone National Park when she in Montana. Her father would log there during the summer when the mine slowed down. She would make him lunch and bring it to him on the log trail. Biestek was listening to the radio with her dad when they heard about the attack at Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. She remembers hearing Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States] on the radio. Her parents tried to keep her brother from going into the military, but he decided to enlist anyway. Her brother and cousin were station in Ketchikan, Alaska and her brother volunteered to work on an ammunition ship. Her cousin tried to stop him, but failed because he wanted to see action. His ship was blown up. Biestek remembered life being very hard during the depression [Annotator's Note: Great Depression]. When she got to Detroit [Annotator's Note: Detroit, Michigan], her uncle told her to start working at Ford Motor Company. She became a riveter working on the cockpit of B-24s [Annotator's Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber]. She worked on scaffolding, allowing her to relax a little more than other people. She was very fast and good at her job. At lunch, she would sit by a river to get away from the work. There were not that many men working at the factory. She was at work when news came that her brother was missing in action. She was sent home and there was a priest talking to her mom. A week later they found her brother's body. Before he died, he sent home his ring. Her family was all around the country. Biestek married her husband when he returned from service. He had a brother that also worked at the Ford factory and another brother that died in the war. After the war ended, she continued working at ford helping make cars. She worked there until 1949 when she got pregnant. [Annotator's Note: Biestek and interviewer discuss other riveters they know.] Biestek and her soon to be brother-in-law sat at the same bus stop for work. One day he was not there and she was later told he died of a heart attack. She would go on double dates with her friend who was dating a Marine. She believes everything happens for a reason.


Jane Biestek remembers buses of sailors passing by the window of the Ford factory. She would dance with them at night. She enjoyed that. She thinks a memorable moment was when she was told to go home because her brother was missing. At Yellowstone [Annotator's Note: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming], she cleaned the cabins. One time she left a cabin and there was a big bear standing there. The bear scared her. She also worked in a hotel in Mackinaw City [Annotator's Note: Mackinaw City, Michigan]. [Annotator's Note: Biestek and the interviewer discuss wildlife around the country.] She joined the war effort for money. There were no jobs in her home town. Biestek understood how important her work was. She would tell her brother about a plane being completed every hour. She was eating at a diner with her daughter when she and a waitress began talking about her war time service. After the waitress walked away, a man walked up and told her that his father flew B-24s [Annotator's Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber] during the war. He introduced Biestek to his mother, who started crying. She was able to meet her husband because of the war. She knew the war was bad, but important. People treat her like a star because of her service. Biestek was invited to an event honoring Rosies [Annotator's Note: Rosie the Riveter]. She believes The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] is important. She thinks it is important for kids to know about the suffering of war. Biestek remembers the last time she saw her brother. He had to dig his own father's grave. She waved at her brother as he pulled away in the bus, which was the last time she saw him. His ship was the USS Surpens (AK-97). When she visited Arlington [Annotator's Note: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia], she could not find his grave. A guide picked her up and brought her to it. She thinks The National WWII Museum is wonderful. She does not like it when people do things for her, but likes to give to others. Biestek helped disabled veterans because her brother could have come home disabled. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer explains the draft to Biestek.]

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