Thursday, May 18, 2023

Laura, The Riveter

This Blog was originally published in the Sleeps Two Blog in 2011  
The blog is not really about camping, it is about my Grandmother
It should be here instead.

George  May, 2023

After several months of car shopping and driving all sorts of SUVs that could comfortably haul our new KZ Sportsmen 202, we finally traded our trusty, venerable 1999 GMC Jimmy for a newer, 2005 Toyota Sequoia. We simply wanted more towing power to haul our new 21 foot travel trailer than our six cylinder Jimmy offered. We wanted a comfortable vehicle we could use whenever the travel trailer was sitting dormant, waiting to be once in again connected and hauled somewhere exotic.

We test drove GMC Yukons, Toyota V-8 4-runners, Chevy something or others, and Fords with hoods so high I couldn't see the road in front of me. We drove just about every combination of pick-up truck or SUV that could haul the new trailer and still give us a vehicle we could use “off-duty.” We finally decided on Toyota's big V-8 SUV and drove several Sequoias before finding the dark blue unit we really liked. It only had ninety-five thousand miles on it, and other than a couple of cosmetic issues, was in great mechanical shape. I was surprised to find there were very few used Sequoias with less than 100,000 miles on them.

My dad never kept a car beyond the 60,000 miles. He traded every car before the fenders might fall off or the floor board might rust out, but that was then, and this is now, since Detroit has been slapped up against the side of their corporate heads by foreign competitors. Our American-built, Japanese designed SUV looked like new, except for the floor mats, which we replaced. I added a new brake controller and was pleasantly surprised to find the necessary wiring was already in place, all I had to do was take off the existing plastic caps from the wiring coiled up under the dashboard and plug in the new controller. Nothing like planning ahead.

I had the Sequoia safety checked and all the inspections brought up to date, from spark plugs to brakes. When we test drove the SUV with the trailer attached, we knew we had a great combination. Only one thing needed to be resolved: The ride height difference between the two vehicles. The trailer hitch had to be lowered to keep the travel trailer level.

The two-inch box hitch receiver is fixed on each vehicle, but the shank on the trailer ball assembly for the load equalizer was adjustable. All I had to do was move the shank down and we once again had a level travel trailer. But I had a problem: I didn't have any regular wrenches that even came close to big enough to fit the nut on the hitch.

However, using the Ford wrench from my grandmother, yes, my grandmother, I made the switch effortlessly. You see, my grandmother used to build bombers. B-24 Liberators, to be exact.

B-24 Liberators being assembled at Ford's plant at Willow Run, Michigan
1943 Ford photo from Wikipedia Commons

Laura Corns Mindling, my grandmother, worked during the war for Ford Motor Company at the Willow Run Aircraft Plant, just outside Detroit, Michigan. She was originally hired as a stitcher, working on seats and strapping, but was soon promoted to the machine shop, or production floor as a press operator. She was so good Ford kept her after the war, moving her to the River Rouge plant, near Dearborn, where she worked as a press operator until 1956.

Assembly line at Willow Run, 1943
 Any of the women could have been my grandmother, Laura,
who worked as a drill press operator for Ford until 1956.
Wikipedia Photo

She slipped on an oily floor in 1956 and broke her wrist in the fall. When she was finished with her medical leave, she took medical retirement, and eventually moved to Miami. 

From Left: Daughter Ruth, Laura with Grandson, Dick; her Husband Louis, Son Glen, my father,
home from Italy, and me. Detroit May 1945

She and her husband, Lou, first with her son Glen and us for several years, then moving not far away in their own efficiency apartment. 

Laura lived alone for several years in Miami after Louis, my grandfather, died in 1966, then moved to live the rest of her life with my Aunt Ruth in Denver. After Laura's death, my brother and I received several artifacts and family mementos. I received a few items, including a heavy, wrapped bag.

Included were two wrenches used by my Grandmother at Ford, oh so many years ago. I like to think she used these tools to help win a war, or build a car that perhaps someone she knew may have driven. 

Today, those wrenches helped me change out a ball hitch and a trailer shank that had me absolutely stumped. Grandma would have been proud.


This Blog was originally published in the Sleeps Two Blog by the same author in 2011. It deserves to be here as well.

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