Jackson's Own 'Rosie the Riveter'
“All the day long whether rain or shine
She’s a part of the assembly line.
She’s making history,
working for victory
Rosie the Riveter.”
The words are lyrics to a popular World War II tune, “Rosie the Riveter” by Evans and Loeb. The song was part of a campaign to utilize women in the workforce during the war. At the time, the men were being shipped off to war at alarming rates causing an acute deficit of defense workers and factory workers.
A local family contributed several “Rosie the Riveters” to the war effort.
Born in 1923 to World War I veteran William Charlie Batley and his wife Eupalena Lucinda Dame Batley, Mary Lou Batley and her six siblings grew up in the Carson community of Washington County, near Leroy.
Mary Lou Jones in her early years and today.
Mary Lou and her siblings learned the value of hard work at an early age when their father was killed in an accident at a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. He made $25 a month. After his unexpected death, the family had no source of income. They relied on their garden, on hunting and fishing, and on the goodness of family and neighbors to have their basic needs met.
In the early 1940s, Mary Lou’s older sister Willie Yvonne worked at Vanity Fair in Jackson. At the time the plant was making hose for the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and the WACS (Women’s Army Corps). Vanity Fair was one of the few local businesses that hired women locally. When Mary Lou graduated Leroy High School in 1942, she sought employment at Vanity Fair also, but they weren’t hiring then.
Eager to find work, Mary Lou and another sister, Elizabeth “Bessie” Walker went to Mobile to find work. Jones recalled that they lived with a relative in a boarding house at 208 St. Joseph Street in Mobile. Their first jobs were at ASK Entertainment on Dauphin Street.
“There was new technology,” Jones recalls. “People in the restaurant would choose a song on the Rock-Ola and I was in a different building and my job was to make their song play.” Soon, the sisters started looking for more lucrative employment because they were only making 25 cents an hour. Brookley Field was never hiring and the sisters worked at the Malbis Bakery boxing vanilla wafers for 35 cents an hour before being sent into Gulf Shipyard in Chickasaw as a part of the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign.
The Rosie campaign was a recruitment tool used by the government during World War II to encourage women to enter the workforce. Rosie was a fictitious character, but the strong, bandana clad beauty became an iconic image of a working woman during the war.
With most of the men at war, women began taking positions as manual laborers in jobs that were usually performed by men. Mary Lou started out as a beveller. Bessie became a welder.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilber Jones with two of their children, Wilber Jr. and Lanita.
Mary Lou was extremely efficient at beveling the long sheets of steel that would eventually become the outer hulls of ships. Her work was noticed by a supervisor who handed her a torch and pointed to a pile of scrap metal.
“He told me to go practice because they needed a burner in the engine room. So, that’s what I did. I was inside the ships then. If I didn’t do my job right, the welders couldn’t do theirs right, so I had to get it right.” The burning job was a very precise one. Very soon, she had it right. Jones had mastered the task of adjusting the flame to cut the steel without breaking it apart.
Gulf Shipyard operated in eight – hour shifts and the attire for female workers included blue overalls, gloves, steel-toed boots, and hardhats. Like the iconic Rosie the Riveter, women’s hair had to be pulled back in bandanas beneath the hardhat. The cost for work clothing was deducted from the first paycheck.
A fourth Batley sister, Elma, was also a part of the workforce. She worked at the Alabama shipyard and in Pascagoula. Later, Elma decided to go to another facility near Oak Ridge, Tenn. The facility in Oak Ridge was building something extremely important, but none of the workers knew what it was until Aug. 6, 1945. This was the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The atomic bomb was manufactured in the Oak Ridge facility.
By the beginning of the war, Mary Lou had already met the man that she would eventually marry, Wilber Jones. Batley laughed as she said, “The Clarke County boys always came across the river to get girlfriends.” They wrote many letters from February, 1941 to August, 1944 when they were married. Jones was drafted January 14, 1941 and went to training at Fort Riley in Kansas. He eventually was sent to Laredo, Texas where he and his unit guarded the Rio Grande River. He was among the first group of men drafted from Clarke County.
Wilber Jones became a marksmanship instructor in Laredo. He credited his upbringing in Gainestown during the depression for his excellent shooting skills. “It was a time when you had to kill animals for food,” Mary Lou explained. After their wedding at the base in Texas, Mary Lou returned to Leroy and commuted to Gulf Shipyard. “I didn’t want to miss work. I wanted to do my part. It was a scary time. You could be working next to a man one day and then the next day he’d be gone. That’s how we knew when somebody was drafted.”
The couple’s agreed-upon separation only lasted a short while. Once Wilber had secured housing for the couple, Mary Lou headed to El Paso where the couple started their family.
They settled in Jackson when the war was over and raised three children, Wilber Jr., Lanita Jones Steiner and Sally Jones Beverly.
At 94, Mary Lou Jones continues to drive her car to town and her truck to tend her cattle. She lives independently and is observant and adventurous. Jones attended the 20th annual Rosie the Riveter Convention, along with 30 other “Rosies” from across the nation June 1-3 in New Orleans, La. “I enjoyed all the stories and there were people from everywhere. We all have stories to tell from that time. There’s been a lot of changes since then.”
There have been so many changes since the World War II era, but one thing that has remained constant is Mary Lou Batley Jones’s resolve and patriotism. As she looked over her photos from years past and mementos from the convention, the petite Rosie chuckled, “I’ll bet I could still burn.”
Without a doubt — she could!
Thoughts on a 4-day tour
Last week, I spent four days on tour with the concert choir of Mobile’s Singing Children. The 29-member auditioned choir traveled through Mississippi and into Memphis, performing at five different venues along the way.
The director, Susan Hoitt, whose intensity and passion for the children and the music, has been compared to a certain Alabama football coach by my husband, is in her 12th year with the organization. Her commitment to the organization has earned the respect of each of the 40 members of all four combined choirs and their parents.
Five other chaperones assisted with the trip, including one very brave dad who knew that he and the five guys in the choir were vastly outnumbered.
As we were leaving Springhill Presbyterian Church, the much-appreciated host church for MSC, last Sunday, Hoitt took the microphone and addressed her captive audience. “Just a reminder, guys. Tour tests us. It is going to test each of you. I need each of you to take care of your voices, to take care of yourselves, and to look out for one another.” I pondered her words as I quickly scribbled them into my notebook.
With 29 amazingly talented children ranging from fifth graders to rising juniors, six female chaperones, one brave dad, a director, and two musicians all on one bus, I knew there would be some adversities and some logistical challenges and there were a few. However, the choir members pulled together each day to ensure that each performance was the best that they could offer the lovers of the arts who came to listen. I’d like to share some things that I learned from the choir kids this week.
First, each of these performers realize that they are gifted musically in some way. Not every one of them will volunteer to sing solos, but each of them knows that his or her voice is significant. Because of this knowledge, no matter how exhausting a day may have been or how many steps Fitbit recorded, each child showed up eager to perform each night.
Secondly, each venue, mainly stately southern church sanctuaries that were built at the turn of the 20th century, was different from the next in layout and in acoustics. This choir uses a piano, some percussion, and an occasional woodwind. Microphones are not employed. The students had to be aware of the sound quality and floor plan of each venue. They were flexible enough to adjust themselves artistically and physically so that the audience could relax and enjoy each concert.
Another lesson that I watched unfold was determination. These kids were determined that no matter what, their audiences were given the full show. At the last minute, the group’s only bass voice could not go on tour. This posed a problem because one of the group’s signature pieces is a male quartet. Not to be deterred, the other three came to the front of the bus to convince the director that not only could they rearrange the parts to make it work; they were going to (with her permission). All five crowds loved the tenacious trio.
Another performer prone to sea-sickness did not fare well on a riverboat ride. An hour before the concert, she was green, but until she physically could not stand any longer during rehearsals, she gave it her all. She missed singing in the first two pieces of the repertoire that night, but slipped into her place as the third piece started. “I needed a little rest, that’s all. My section depends on me and I depend on them.”
The final lesson learned from tour is a reminder not to sweat the small stuff. Forgotten shoes? You’re in Memphis, wear blue suede shoes. Not a fan of ghost tours? Focus on architecture and historical facts instead. Sickened by the motion of a riverboat? Make up a song that will entertain your friends and take your thoughts away from your plight, “Jesus take the paddlewheel.” Annoyed and ill at everything around you because you are too tired to even deal?
Punch drunk laughter is the best medicine, at least YOUR chaperone did not make you ride a camel at the zoo. Hey, chaperones get to have fun, too!
Thanks for the reminders and the memories, MSC. See you next year! Well, I hope I will.
My daughter may still be a little annoyed about the camel rides.
A member of a National Championship equestrian team and a college junior majoring in psychology living independently three hours away from her family, Sara Claudia Tillman of Carrollton, Ga., was confident, focused and ready to take on the world. While she was surrounded by friends and enjoying college life, Sara Claudia was plagued by recurring bouts of tonsillitis and had been for most of her life. At the end of the school year, she decided to have a routine, outpatient tonsillectomy. What should have been a fairly easy recovery from a common surgery turned into an event that changed the trajectory of the young woman’s life.
On May 5, 2015, Sara Claudia’s mother, Sally, slept in her daughter’s bed so that she would be close by if Sara Claudia needed assistance with anything as the anesthesia wore off. Sometime in the middle of the night, Sally tried to wake her daughter in order to give her water to moisten her throat. Sara Claudia was unresponsive. An ambulance was called; the young woman was taken to a local hospital and intubated. Soon, she was transferred to Emory University Hospital, still unresponsive.
Pepper Stubblefield listens as Tillman reads from a popular children’s book in Braille. (SA photo by Shannon Courington).
After nearly five days at Emory, she began to regain consciousness and realized that she could not see. Soon after, she also realized that she had lost hearing in her left ear. “I never had a panicky moment. I credit my foundation. I was raised to turn to God.” Sally Tillman verifies her daughter’s unexplainable peace throughout the initial uncertain days, during many treatments, and in learning how to become independent again. “She’s amazing. She is inspiring and she does not give herself enough credit.”
Indeed, the young woman speaking at First Baptist Church in Jackson on July 16, seemed to be the epitome of poise, peace and perseverance. She spoke of her losses quite frankly, and she spoke of her triumphs freely. Not to be deterred from her goals, Sara Claudia began planning to return to school. Prior to this, she would begin working with a mobility trainer in order to relearn basic skills to help her function safely in her home and in the community as a visually impaired person.
An orientation and mobility specialist assisted Sara Claudia as she learned to use a mobility cane to navigate from her dorm room to her class rooms at Berry College in Rome, Ga. While learning this, she was also learning to read Braille, to use technology for visually impaired individuals, and to operate her computer and her phone. “Learning the technology was the most frustrating,” Sara Claudia admitted.
Ironically, Sara Claudia’s father is an eye doctor who continues to research various treatments for his daughter. Before she returned to school, the Tillmans spent three weeks in China as Sara Claudia underwent treatment in hopes of returned sight. The treatments did not yield immediate results; even so, Sara Claudia remained adamant that she return to school.
In January 2006, just eight months after the life-altering event, Tillman returned to campus. She was independent, but extremely isolated. “Most of my friends didn’t know how to react. Thankfully, I found a Prayer and Share group for women and I met new friends.”
In the midst of meeting new people and learning how to be a student again, Tillman also flew alone for the first time when she traveled to Michigan for comprehensive mobility training. Here, Tillman learned to use tactile maps and her memory for navigating the unfamiliar streets.
A defining moment in Tillman’s resiliency was her older sister’s wedding on May 7, 2016, just over a year out from her near fatal surgery. While she had accomplished so many things in the 12-month period, Sara Claudia longed to see her sister, Beth, walk down the aisle. “It was a turning point. I wanted to see her, but more than that, I wanted everyone to be happy and to enjoy the day. I had to decide if I wanted to be sad or if I wanted to enjoy this time with my family.” Tillman stated that she relies on her other senses to experience events to the fullest of her ability.
Tillman and her family went to Germany for another treatment and then to Florida for more. Sara Claudia soon decided that the treatments were overtaking her life. Her parents respected her decision to continue her education. She changed her major to special education and returned to Carrollton to attend University of West Georgia. Here, Tillman moved into her first apartment and learned to cook and do laundry. A current senior at UWG, Tillman finished her student teaching last semester .
“Student teaching was a learning experience for everyone involved. It took a lot of ingenuity and creativity on my part because it takes so much to do every single thing.” Tillman referred to the stringent, timeconsuming process of labeling everything in Braille and the time required to write lesson plans using assistive technology. Another lesson that Sara Claudia had to learn was to ask for help. Although she is fiercely independent, she learned to ask her family and friends for help, but she also deepened her prayer life. “I have to continually ask God for help. He has given me this peace from the beginning and I want to always remember that.”
Sara Claudia Tillman looks forward to becoming an educator and believes that her student teaching was beneficial not only to her, but to her students. “I’d like to think that when they saw me teaching, they saw hope for themselves to overcome and succeed.” Tillman certainly has empathy for her future pupils because of her own experiences.
With a maturity and insight that most young people often lack, Tillman chooses to reflect on what she has gained since May 5, 2015; rather than what she lost. Discernment, deeper relationships and determination are a few of the acquisitions she has made. Sara Claudia says that her relationship with God changed, also. “He is my foundation. I knew all about Him prior to becoming visually impaired, but when this happened, I began to truly know Him.” Tillman also does not let the fact that modern medicine has not been able to pinpoint a cause for her losses concern her. It is only her optic nerves that are damaged.
While Tillman continues to achieve and look forward to her future, she laments the friends who did not know how to react to her sudden impairments. “All I needed was for them to treat me the same,” Tillman shrugged. She encouraged those attending the service to relax, ask questions, and get rid of the awkwardness that they may feel when in the presence of a visually impaired person or anyone with any type of a disability. “If you are an old friend, treat me like you used to. If you are a new friend, get to know me. I am so much more than my disability.”
Indeed, she is. She is a homeowner, who has photographs hanging on her walls, just like any seeing person would have. Hers are labeled in Braille so that when she touches them, she can remember the events and people in the photograph. She is a future educator, following in her mother’s footsteps, but blazing her own trail in special education. She is a warrior, intent on destroying the stigma and awkwardness that accompanies perceived disabilities.
“Through all this, I feel that I have been given a message to share, a message of hope. Don’t give up whatever the situation. Turn to God. Seek His will. Take one day at a time.”
The house that love built
A quiet, unique home on College Avenue has recently received new attention when the well-known Jackson floral and gift shop, Bloomers, moved from its downtown location into it.
The Love Pugh home is a Jackson landmark framed by tall pines and pecan trees. It was built in 1910, long before modern businesses made their home on College Avenue. At the time, Isaac Love Pugh was a farmer who owned and tilled the land surrounding the house on both sides of what is now College Avenue, at that time, a dirt road. His acreage began near present-day Hardees and stretched south to where the High Acres subdivision is today.
Love Pugh and his wife, Catherine, along with their 12 children, lived in the five -bedroom farmhouse. Several of the Pughs’ children were born in the home, including Dacy Pugh Espy. Dacy, the youngest of the Pugh children, was also married in the front parlor of the home.
Additions were made to the home through the years. When indoor plumbing became available, bathrooms were added. In the 1950s, the back porch was converted into an apartment.
In 1997, Pat Espy, the grandson of the late Love Pugh, began restoring the home, which had been used as a rental property. The farmhouse took on new life as fresh paint, new windows and a tin roof were added.
As time passed, land around the home was sold for the growth of the city of Jackson, but the lot on which the Love Pugh home sits is still serene and unassuming. The Bloomers’ staff has placed rocking chairs on the large front porch and the aroma of fresh rosemary welcomes visitors to the home that seems the perfect setting for a southern floral and gift shop.
Opening day at Bloomers brought in repeat shoppers and curious onlookers who wanted to see the house that Love Pugh built. No one was disappointed to see the beautiful home teeming with life. Bloomers’ owner, Terri Mc- Connell, and her staff have embraced the farmhouse’s existing charm and style and invested time, love and energy to establish their business within the historic walls.
An antique rhyme states, “A house is made of wood and beams. A home is made of love and dreams.”
The dreams and affections of Isaac Love Pugh built the house which was made into a home by the love expressed by the Pugh family in the early part of the 20th century and now contains the devotion and hopes of a well-loved and ever blooming local business.
Each week, I say to myself, my co-workers, my husband and anyone who will listen, “I need something good to write about.” So often it is hard to find good in the media, but because I truly believe that there is good in the world, I want to write about it.
This week it’s a little difficult to find. During the course of the week, two celebrities have taken their own lives. These deaths have sparked discussions about mental health and the importance of checking on your friends. Social media has been flooded with shocked reactions and messages of hope to others struggling. As much as I love social media, I believe that it has isolated us as much as it has connected us. I have more than 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, but only a handful that I actually talk to on a regular basis.
As much as I enjoy the use of social media to keep up with people from all phases of my life, I fear that it causes some of us to forget that life is complex and that problems cannot be solved by mere strokes on a keyboard.
Real life is messy and requires real reactions to real problems. Life on social media can be whatever a person chooses to make it. Problems can be hidden by the perfect selfie and busyness makes us seem important both in our own eyes and in the eyes of those many “friends” on the other side of the screen.
As has been shown time and again, sometimes the people who seem to have it all together, actually don’t. Be a person who is willing to go beyond the screen. Instead of texting or messaging, actually call someone. Drop a card in the mail. Look up from your device and smile as you make eye contact. You may never know what a simple, intentional act of kindness may do for a person.
I need to take my own advice. As connected to others by social media, I am also isolated. This is because most of the time, I simply watch what’s unfolding on the screen and don’t take any action. Although connected, many are still struggling. While things may seem like they are going well, the truth of the matter may be vastly different.
Let’s be intentionally kind, purposefully aware, and acutely responsive to the people we love.
Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People put it this way, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
I think the world would be immensely different if every person realized that he or she is someone’s priority.
Live intentionally. Let them know.
Also, I still want to meet you and to hear your stories: email@example.com
Wit and Whittling
John M. Alday of Leroy is a man of many talents. A naturally gifted storyteller and a preserver of the past, Alday and his wife Jan have built a life in his hometown of Leroy. In 1960, due to the lack of employment in the area, Alday joined the Army. He served for two years in Germany during peacetime. It was an eye injury that occurred while in the Army that changed the trajectory of his life. Due to this, he was not drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.
Instead, Alday found steady employment on a tugboat that carried freight up and down the Tombigbee River where he had grown up fishing. From the boat, he watched the building of the Allied Paper Company, now Packaging Corporation of America. While life on the river was good, Alday longed for stability and more time at home. He was hired at Allied in 1964 during the startup. From October 1964 to October 2006, Mr. Alday supported his family by working in one of the Pine City’s well-known industries. He spent a total of 42 years at the plant.
Whittling was a common hobby during Alday’s formative years, but he did not try it until much later in life. This simple hobby involving a block of wood, a knife, and an imagination turned into so much more. Always willing to challenge himself, the small figurines that he whittled soon turned into larger pieces of folk art and required larger tools. Since retirement, Alday spends much time in his very modern woodshop. He fixes wooden furniture for neighbors, and crafts beautiful wooden bowls from a variety of wood types. When I entered his workshop, he was repairing a violin.
In 2015, the man who was always active and busy had to have a serious surgical procedure. His recovery was difficult, especially since he did not enjoy sitting still. To channel his very active thoughts and to somewhat escape from the mundane of recovery, he began to write down his memories from childhood. To further challenge himself, Alday then turned the memories into poems.
In a two-year period, Mr. John Alday composed 133 poems and divided them into two sections, neatly typed in a three-ring binder. The first section, “Memories of Youth” is a collection of poems about growing up in Leroy in a time prior to television and indoor plumbing. Memories of dinners on the grounds of area churches and rolling stores are shared. The second half, titled “Other Poems” is a mixture of the author’s thoughts and creative wordplay. With rhyming schemes in the style of Shel Silverstein and country experiences that could equal those of Jerry Clower, Mr. Alday’s poems will definitely bring a smile to one’s face.
At the conclusion of our interview, Alday stated, “Memories of the past are still my pride.” This shines through the stories he tells, the poems he writes, and the love he shows for the simple way of life.
One Man's Trash
I have a wonderful friend who lives in a border town in South Dakota. She can literally walk across the railroad tracks at the end of town and be in North Dakota.
My children and I call her “Grandma Cindy” and she is definitely a Great Plains’ cowgirl. One of her favorite things to do is to tease my “southern-ness”. By that, I mean my love for hydrangeas, pearls, monograms, China, grits, and of course, front porches.
She recently called me and said, “Hey. I was just in a thrift store and found an old, hardback copy of that bird book that you love. I paid a dollar for it, but it will cost me five dollars to mail.” I chuckled at her practicality and honestly forgot about the package to come. I honestly didn’t even consider what the “bird book” could be, because I love all books.
Imagine my surprise when I received my package earlier this week. The “bird book” was a first edition of Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, a 1960 publication by J.B. Lippincott & Co.
I could hardly believe my good fortune and I quickly Facetimed her to thank her and let her see my excitement. She humored me and said, “Well, I hope you learn something from it. Up here, it might be mistaken for a hunting manual.”
I tried again to convince her to read it to no avail. At 78, she’s still making caramel rolls in the local café and when she finishes there, she heads over to the deli of the grocery store to work a second job, all the while learning to effectively manage an iPhone. She will never sit still long enough to soak in the wonder that is To Kill A Mockingbird.
As I carefully handled my copy, I couldn’t help but wonder about who had purchased it, if they had read it, what they had thought of it and WHY in the world was it in a thrift store?
I guess the old southern saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is true. Someone packed this treasure and dumped it at the thrift store. Maybe they just saw it as an old book in a world where Kindles and phone apps are used for reading. Maybe they had heard recent reports of it being banned in certain school districts and didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.
Most likely, someone was faced with the daunting task of cleaning out an elderly relative’s home before putting it on the market. Those old books probably just had to go. There was likely not a lot of thought given as it was tossed into a box, but the book nerd in me will always wonder how many other “treasures” they sent to the thrift store in that same box.
Back to my bird book, I have done all the possible verification that this is an original, first printing of the first edition of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning, critically acclaimed, coming of age novel of life in the 1930’s south.
It appears that it is legitimate. It was valued at $1 by a rural South Dakota thrift store, but to me, it’s priceless. Its value doesn’t come from what the Internet says it’s worth or what a book store marks as its cost. The value comes from the tall, silver-haired cowgirl who found it and thought of me, nearly 2,000 miles away on a random Thursday.
At the age of 18, Curtis “Dan” Outlaw registered with the government in hopes that if he was drafted, he would get into the Navy. However, Outlaw is color blind and because of the Navy’s use of colors and flags, he wasn’t accepted.
Outlaw, now 91, recalls, “The Army took me though. I was proud to serve, even if I didn’t get to see many battles.”
By the time Outlaw finished training in California and was shipped to the Philippines, the war only lasted 21 more days.
Outlaws’ unit patrolled Manila, the capital city of the Philippines on a peace-keeping mission for nearly a year. His next stop was Yakama, Japan and Tokyo. These were also peace-keeping/reconstruction missions.
Outlaw smiled as he recalled the camaraderie within his unit. “I was with a bunch of boys from Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Those boys loved the rodeo and they missed it. So they decided we were going to have a rodeo right there in Japan. Not just any pony would do. They wanted Hirohito’s white pony and they got him!”
At right, Japanese General Hirohito astride his white stallion. Outlaw ran into “Mac” Mc- Clamy at a rodeo in Japan featuring the famous horse after World War II.
Japanese General Hirohito’s white Arabian was legendary and images of the general atop the stallion were used for war propaganda. Lt. Dick Ryan was credited for riding the famed horse into the arena.
While watching the antics of the rodeo, Outlaw noticed a familiar face in the crowd. It turned out to be a fellow Jacksonian — H. M. “Mac: McClamy, who had also been drafted.
Outlaw laughed, “It’s a small world, even when you are a world away from home. Somebody knows you somewhere.”
McClamy would go on to be a long-time Jackson pharmacist after the war.
“I might not have seen much fighting, but I met people I will never forget. I saw things I won’t forget and most importantly, I got to serve my country. I’m proud of that.”
Outlaw returned home and married the former Dottie Boone and had raised five children in Jackson where he worked for Boone’s Hardware and Liberty National Insurance.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.