Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Inspirational History just across the Bay

Today I got to visit one the of the Bay Area’s newest and I must say, best museums.  It’s the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park.  The park is still a work in progress, but in 2012, a temporary visitor center/museum opened with exhibits and short films.

The museum helps tell the story of the women and men who worked building ships as well as worked in other war industries that kept our forces overseas well supplied in the fight to preserve our freedom.  They remind you at the museum that, in part, the war was also won right in Richmond, California.  It’s an amazing story of a town of 23,000 across the Bay that was a mix of industry and truck farms in 1941.  It quickly mushroomed to 130,000 people plus all those who came in to work from surrounding communities.  Their contribution to the war effort included 747 ships built in Richmond during World War II, some in just a few days.  It was an amazing feat and it happened all over the Bay Area and throughout the country.  Even my own great grandmother was part of the effort.  She worked assembling radios for the military back in Buffalo. 

After the visiting museum we went across the way to the former Ford Assembly plants that ceased making private automobiles during the war and switched to making tanks.  It’s now a nice restaurant.  But the day wasn’t over. We drove to the other side of the harbor (past lots full of newly delivered cars from Japan).  We were given a tour of the SS Red Oak Victory, one of the few remaining cargo ships built during the war at Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards.  Our guide was a World War II veteran who served on a similar victory ship.  The final stop of the day was at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial.  It’s in a waterfront park that was part of the shipyard.  The memorial is laid out along a walkway and short dock the length of one of the keel’s of a victory ships built by the workers in Richmond.

One of the highlights of the day was getting to meet Betty Reid Soskin.  She is our nation’s oldest national park ranger at 92 (she has held the job since she was 85).  Recently she came to the America’s attention when she was featured in news reports about the federal government shutdown.  Meeting pop celebrities is of no interest to me, meeting a star like Ranger Soskin (pictured below) was both an honor and inspirational. 

I’ll be going back, and anyone who visits is going to be taken to up to Richmond, this national park is as important for Bay Area visitors to see as Muir Woods or Point Reyes. 

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