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Grenada Plants Provided Wartime Jobs

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone,  hope you’re having a good week.  

Some very favorable comments came in regarding the column about the Kraft Cheese Plant, and that’s always appreciated. I had written about the plant in columns years ago but, as I said when I started writing REFLECTIONS,  I would revisit past columns from time to time. I wish I knew the names of more employees back then, but the only ones that come to mind are Henry Forsyth, “Freck” Mitchell, and Curtis Earley’s older brother, who was nick-named “Cheese.”

I remember our running buddy, Kenny Burk, went to work at Rice-Stix after graduation. He was making more money than Jim and I before we found better jobs. His mother, Miss Dovie, also worked there until she retired and she recently celebrated her 106th birthday. My congratulations to you, Miss Dovie.

I remember how she would walk from her home on Boyd Street to visit mother on Jones Street – quite a walk. They were good friends and those visits meant a lot to her and me as well.

I was thinking about several ladies I knew who passed that century mark. In addition to Miss Dovie, there was Mrs. Vester Carter and Ruth Rotenberry.  Mother only made it to 99 so she’s almost in that category. With the exception of mother and Miss Dovie, the rest were homemakers.

Mother worked for the Air Force and later at the Grenada shell plant during World War II and did various other jobs during her life. She had the opportunity of transferring to Keesler AFB but declined as both her parents were disabled.

I believe she may have regretted her decision in later years as one of her friends who did transfer retired with full pension after 20 years.  I think Mother enjoyed her job with the Air Force more that any other she ever had.  

She wasn’t too happy when I enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War, but I think she was secretly glad that if I had to go I chose that branch.

I think it’s great for people to reach that milestone if their quality of life is good, but not if they’re in a vegetative state. I saw the actor Earnest Borgnine on the Bill O’Reilly show and he is 94 and as alert as a  younger person, has fantastic memory, and is still working in films. He also does the voice of Sponge Bob in that popular children’s cartoon  that my granddaughter, Shelby, watches every afternoon after school.

I would say that Mr. Borgnine is really enjoying a quality life, and in a career spanning 60 years he’s never been in the headlines regarding scandals or addictions, which is a contrast to another celebrity who’s been on all the media outlets for over a week.

It just shows that bad news always gets the most coverage.

Since this column has always been about regular people who never got much recognition in life, it wouldn’t be considered news worthy. However. I believe I have the most loyal readers of anyone and I’m justly proud of that.

I was thinking recently about how this country mobilized during World War II, both on the military as well as the civilian front and Water Valley was at the forefront in that respect.

We were just coming out of the depression and nobody had been used to having any money and here were jobs on every hand for the taking.  Grenada was the focal point for our area with the air base, Camp McCain and the shell plant.

The shell plant had converted part of its main operation, which was a hosiery mill, to producing twenty millimeter shell casings.  After the air base discontinued the use of some of the civilian employees, Mother went to work at the shell plant.

That’s how most of the people were back then, they had a job and they did it to the best of their ability.  Many of the mother’s worked at the shell plant as  line inspectors. I asked her once if she every though about how one of the shells she inspected might have destroyed an enemy plane.

Many  workers in Water Valley had no cars or, like Mother, had an old Model A that was too slow to make it to Grenada on  time so car pools were formed. Several people who had good cars took riders for a small fee. Some of the ones I remember were Lawrence Berry, Mrs. Lee, Tommy Christopher, Boy Treloar, Moody Nolen, Mrs. Tucker, and Lynnville Hall from Oxford. I think at one time or another Mother rode with all of them.  

We were on Daylight saving time all during WWII so it meant people had to get up literally in the middle of the night.  Mother had the added problem of bad roads and in really wet weather she would sometimes leave her car at Palestine Church and walk home.

Boy Treloar and Moody Nolen had run school routes and they kept the bus bodies on their trucks and they carried several riders. Those buses were just like the ones I rode to school, no heaters and uncomfortable bench seats but everyone was so glad to have a good job that they never complained.  

Most of the riders were women and like Rosie The Riveter of song they helped win the war, and out of respect for their memory, I dedicate this column.  

My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189, Memphis, TN 38101 and remember your input is always appreciated and have a great week.

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