Rosemary Elfer was born in Grand Bay, Alabama in 1924 even though all of her ancestors were born in Louisiana. Everybody was poor during the Great Depression. Men could not find work until Roosevelt came along with the WPA [Annotator's Note: Works Progress Administration, or WPA, was one of the programs launched under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal]. People lived on eight dollars per week. Elfer's father died in a workplace accident in 1932. Elfer's mother was paid 80 dollars per month and used the money to buy cows. Everyone in the family had to work milking cows and delivering milk. Elfer was working for the J. Aron Coffee Company [Annotator's Note: J. Aron and Company] making 17 dollars per week when the war started.
When Higgins [Annotator's Note: Higgins Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana] advertised for openings in their aircraft assembly plant Rosemary Elfer applied there. She was hired and worked on the trailing edge of the planes' wings where the ailerons are located. She made 60 dollars a week working for Higgins. Prior to starting work at Higgins she was trained to rivet metal for a couple of days. The plant she worked for was on Michoud. She lived uptown [Annotator's Note: Uptown New Orleans, Louisiana] at the time and the trip took an hour round trip. Elfer worked ten hours a day, five days a week. They could complete a wing section every night. The song Rosie the Riveter came out while Elfer was working for Higgins. The wing section she worked on was the most difficult part. Safety was a big concern. The females had to have their hair tied up and they wore goggles. Elfer does not recall any unions or disputes. Elfer's immediate supervisor was John Moscow [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] who was from New York. The locals thought the supervisor's New York accent was funny. They all got along with him. Elfer does not recall every seeing Mr. Higgins [Annotator's Note: Andrew Jackson Higgins]. Higgins also owned a shipyard and that was where most of his attention was. Elfer made good money working for Higgins and was happy to work there. She made friends there.
At the time Rosemary Elfer's two brothers and a sister were serving in the military. Her brother Edward fought on Wake Island and became a prisoner of the Japanese. That brought out the patriotism in her family. They did not know if he was alive or dead. Fortunately, he came home. Elfer's sister was one of the first to join the women's army auxiliary [Annotator's Note: Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, later the Women's Army Corps]. In 1944 Elfer left Higgins Industries after working for the company for a year to join the Women's Army Corps. She as inducted into the military in New Orleans. Elfer was sent to Des Moines, Iowa for training. They received the same physical training as the men but did not take combat training. They were trained to take the place of men in administrative duties so the men could go to war. Elfer was taught the basics of typing. After completing her training, six weeks of basic and a week or so of typing, Elfer was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. At Fort Lewis, Elfer's first duty was processing the records of the men who were shipping out for overseas duty. She was then assigned to supervise a crew of men who were performing maintenance on the women bachelor quarters and the building in which the Red Cross workers lived. Elfer was at Fort Lewis for more than half of the 18 months she was in the service. Elfer's living quarters were in a building that was shared by three platoons. They were barracks with a couple of common areas. She had a lot of fun in her free time. The females were outnumbered about 30 to one by the men. The girls had a lot of dates. Things were very cheap at the time. In addition to movies they could also go to the USO for dances. Elfer's supervisor was Lieutenant Thawburn [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling]. Elfer got along well with her. In order to be able to give orders to the people working in the building Elfer had to wear an arm band with corporals' stripes on it. They did a lot of work on the building. They did not have any radios at the time and were not able to keep up with the war.
Rosemary Elfer does not recall any instances of discrimination either while working for Higgins Industries or while serving in the Women's Army Corps. She left the WACs after 18 months of service. When her time in the Army was up she was asked if she wanted to reenlist but the war was over and she was ready to get out and got home. Elfer does not see herself as a trailblazer. She thinks it was a wonderful opportunity for women to be able to get jobs traditionally held by men and to make money to bring into the house. A few months before this interview was recorded, Elfer was given an award that made her feel special. The job she had routing mail to servicemen serving overseas was an important contribution. She did not feel that way at the time but realized it when she was given the award.
Rosemary Elfer does not recall having any real issues while she was in the service. One issue that occurred at the end of the war was a request submitted for a postal clerk at Fort Ord [Annotator's Note: Fort Ord, California] that she was selected for. She was happy where she was and did not want to go. She was selected because the commander there had trained with Elfer's sister Marcia who was in the WACs [Annotator's Note: Women's Army Corps] because they wanted to see what she looked like. Elfer does not feel that the war changed her in any way. She does feel that the war gave the United States much status. She feels that other countries like France and England should be grateful for what the United States did. Elfer believes that changes that have taken place lately are more significant than those that happened years ago. She is lost in the world of new technology. Elfer has visited The National WWII Museum. She loves it and feels lucky that it is in the area [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana].
All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at email@example.com if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.
Your browser is out of date!
To get the best possible experience using our website, we recommend that you upgrade or download an alternative web browser. Downloading a new browser will make internet browsing safer as well as more enjoyable.