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‘Rosie the Riveters’ get standing ovation at Richmond festival

By August 13, 2019 No Comments
Richmond residents Jessica Hayes, 44, and Bianca Albonico, 14, strike the iconic pose of Rosie the Riveter during the fifth annual Rosie Rally Home Front Festival. (Photo by Janis Mara)

Former World War II shipyard worker Mary Torres, 96, jumped to her feet and waved as hundreds of people cheered at the recent Rosie Rally Home Front Festival in Richmond.

Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond City Councilman Ben Choi strike their Rosie the Riveter poses. (Photo by Janis Mara)

This was the fifth year for the festival, which commemorates the iconic, if fictional, World War II female worker known as “Rosie the Riveter.” The worker appeared on WWII posters representing women working industrial jobs to support the war effort.

The event is held at the Richmond waterfront, where Torres and other workers made 747 ships that helped win the war.

Torres, a journeyman welder from 1942-1945, was honored along with about 20 other “Rosies” in attendance ranging in age from 91 to 103. More than 1,000 people were estimated to attend the event at the Craneway Pavilion throughout the day.

“This is a special day for me,” said Torres, sporting the red-polka-dot bandanna and blue work clothes associated with the Rosies. “Thank you all for coming to our day.”

Mary Torres, 96, was a journeyman welder at
the Richmond shipyards during World War II. (Photo by Janis Mara)

Men, women, children and even dogs flocked to the festival decked out in red bandannas and Rosie gear. Among them was California state Sen. Nancy Skinner, who linked the Rosies to current events.

“Henry Kaiser started Kaiser (Permanente) as health care for World War II shipyard workers,” Skinner told the audience. “Kaiser is a great start. We need health care for all.”

John Gioia, chairman of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, also attended, as did Richmond City Councilman Ben Choi. “I spent all day getting dressed like this,” Choi said.

As a jazz band played, attendees lined up to have their photographs taken and made into facsimile shipyard badges, checked out booths for agencies including the National Park Service and chowed down at food trucks.

Richmond’s 2016 Rosie gathering was officially declared the largest ever at that time by Guinness World Records. While the event didn’t go for a record this year, “In 2020 we will try to set a world record again,” said Tom Leatherman, the National Park Service superintendent who was master of ceremonies for the event.

Next year is the 20th anniversary of Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, located right by the Craneway, Leatherman said.

Bianca Albonico, 14, of Richmond, attended the event with a family friend, Jessica Hayes, also of Richmond.

“We wanted to see all the Rosies and maybe learn a little bit more about history,” Hayes said.