As many know, the contribution women made in the war effort of WWII was invaluable. While the men, for the most part at least, served overseas, there were roles that needed to be filled back home. In addition, many men who were not called up for myriad reasons also served at home in numerous ways. For the next few weeks, we will pay homage to the men and women of this nature who have connections to our community.
One of those people is Mary Theola Etheridge, mother of our own Joyce Peacock Bendele. Mary Etheridge, one of eight children, was born in 1924 into a tenant farm family living in Erath County. “In those times, when you were old enough to leave home,” says Joyce of her mother, “you did.”
Mary Etheridge moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and was able to “make ends meet” while living in a small apartment with five other young women. Her opportunity to make a difference in the war effort came when, in the fall of 1940, the Air Corps created the Liberator Production Pool to produce an extra 100 B-24s Liberators per month. The main plant was in San Diego, but the new Fort Worth plant, Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, would supplement the production of this B-24 heavy bomber, which saw action in both the Pacific and European theaters. Eventually, the Fort Worth plant would produce the complete B-24D aircraft.
Because Mary was not old enough to apply for a job with the Consolidated in 1942 and since she did not have a birth certificate, her oldest brother lied about her age, and she got the job. Being a “sturdy built” and hard-working farm girl, and “very pretty,” Joyce proudly adds, Mary got a job as a riveter. “Yep,” Joyce shares, “Mom was a ‘Rosie the Riveter’”.
Mary worked on the crew that worked in and on the wings of the aircraft. They took turns, sometimes crawling into the interior of the wing, then trading places and working on the outer parts of the wings. Over 3,000 B-24 aircraft were manufactured, assembled, and modified during the war.
In 1944, Mary married serviceman Perry Peacock, who was out to sea in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The coupe left Texas to follow various Navy base assignments. When the war ended, they moved back to Texas. By that time, aircraft needs had changed. Consolidated had changed ownership to Convair, then to General Dynamics. Perry Peacock was hired as a tool designer for General Dynamics, and it was at that time that production of the B-24 had stopped. Eventually, General Dynamics was purchased by Lockheed Martin, and production focused on fighter jets.
As it turns out, Mary Etheridge helped “start” the production plant, Consolidated; and eventually, her husband, Perry Peacock, would help at the end of its production.
According to the “Wreaths Across America” website, wreath-laying ceremonies occur at Arlington National Cemetery and over 2,500 additional locations in the 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad, on December 17. Our local Current Events Club has adopted this mission and will be laying wreaths in the St. Joseph’s and Evergreen Cemeteries on that day.
The purpose of this mission is to Remember, Honor, and Teach: Remember our fallen U.S. veterans (from the Revolutionary War to this day), Honor those who serve, and Teach our children the value of freedom and its cost to families. Anyone who feels drawn to support this mission and thus provide a wreath for the December 17 ceremony, please contact Current Event Club members Martha Wall at 210 213 5620 or Linda Kreinhop, 830 665 6377.