Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Generation Before Mine

by Pa Rock
Personal Historian

There was something in the news from back home this week that saddened me. The Munitions Plant at Parsons, Kansas, is being deactivated by the Army. Don't get me wrong, I'm not pining over the demise of a bomb-making facility - any fool knows that there is no shortage of arms manufacturers or weaponry in the world today. But the Parsons Munitions Plant is different because it was a component in my mother's personal history, a significant part of her life that I heard her discuss on many occasions.

The Kansas Army Ammunition Plant was opened at the beginning of World War II to supply munitions for our nation's greatest war effort. My mother, then known as Florine Sreaves, had graduated from high school in Seneca, MO, in 1939. She was still a very young woman, and single, when the war began.

The young men were, for the most part, incorporated into the fighting forces as quickly as they came of age - with many volunteering to serve even before they were out of high school. The role of the women was not as readily defined, but many found ways to be active in the war effort. Tom Brokaw would later refer to the youth shedding their innocence during World War II as "The Greatest Generation."

My mom chose to do her part making bombs at Parsons, a job that could be, and often was, dangerous. Later during the war she moved to El Paso, TX, with her sister and brother-in-law, Christine and Bob Dobbs, where Bob went through his basic training at Ft. Bliss. During that time, if memory serves, Mom worked at the base Post Exchange (PX). (My dad, Garland Macy, graduated from high school in Neosho, MO, in 1942, and fought in the European Theatre with the newly formed Army Air Corps.)

I made a long audio tape of my mother telling stories about her life shortly after she was diagnosed with brain tumors. It was one of the last, lengthy sentient conversations that we ever had. We talked all morning, and enjoyed each other's company. That has been nearly twenty-five years ago, and those memories, and others, have grown dusty with time. But occasionally something happens to shake off the dust and bring back that ache that comes when someone important is missing from your life. The news of the closing of the Parsons Munitions Plant caused me to glance backward, if only for a moment.

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