Along with the contracts to build minesweepers in 1943 came money to publish a professionally written and photographed newsletter. Aptly named “The Minesweeper,” it was published weekly on payday starting Jan. 8, 1943. The final issue was published Sept. 14, 1945.
The four-page paper’s objectives: “To Build Ships; To Defeat the Axis; To Win The Peace.”
The publication promoted safety, discouraged worker absenteeism, and encouraged workers to buy War Bonds.
Chuck full of names and photos of workers, it is a goldmine for today’s genealogists and historians. And, thanks to the efforts of the Bainbridge Island Historical Society, original and digitized versions are available.
Some of the information is humorous — the slang of the period and the fact that every male worker had a nickname. Other information is more socially revealing. Reading through the issues, one can see “gals” move from pushing paper in the front office and beauty queen contests, to staffing the warehouses and, finally, working side-by-side with the men in the shipyard.
Nancy Cooper was the first woman shipyard worker to be recognized in the newsletter. The paper said she had a number of other firsts to her name. She had been the first streetcar motorwoman in San Francisco, and she had been at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 1941.
Racial jokes also vanished over the years, and photos suggest that there was at least one African-American working at the yard by 1945.
Workers put together a band to play at dances and launchings, and sports were huge. The 160 homes built for worker housing in Winslow was big news.
— Terryl Asla is a reporter for the Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tasla@sound publishing.com.