Thursday, July 11, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Slacks and Calluses

Recently (or actually it was several months ago) Solanah from Vixen Vintage recommended a book for all of us vintage-minded gals dreaming of Life in the 1940s.  First published in 1944, Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory, by Constance Bowman Reid, is a spectacular window into that lifestyle. 

During her summer vacation Bowman, a high school English teacher, along with her co-worker Clara Marie Allen (an Art teacher who illustrated the book) decides it is high time to contribute to the War Effort.  Both Bowman and Allen sign up for the swing shift at the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Company in San Diego, California, to learn how to build B-24 Liberator bombers.

What ensues is an enjoyable, easy read about their training, their co-workers, their lack of sleep and copious amounts of greasy clothes.  Bowman is very candid about what it was like not only to be trained by men but also to work side-by-side with them.  She talks about riding the bus to work in her overalls; not a man stood to offer his seat, and several women turned up their noses.  She talks about having to learn the tools and tricks of working on an assembly line.  And she speaks with immense pride at having successfully survived their summer.

"We know that a Liberator was built by many people and many hours; and whenever in a newsreel we saw the inside of the tunnel with the oxygen bottles strapped into place, the belly turret hung down in its hole, the electric wires strung neat and firm along the sides, we saw Joe...we saw Jeff...we saw Blondie and Phyllis.  After a summer on the production line we looked at a Liberator the way you gaze in awe at a great tapestry when the note under it says that it took a hundred women twenty years to make it."

I would highly recommend this book as a wonderful, first-hand account of the softer side of the war effort.


  1. Thanks for the tip--I must have missed Solanah's review. I remember meeting a group of female fighter pilots, veterans of WWII, at a church-basement-type function about 7 years back. Incredibly strong gals with a great sense of humor and fantastic stories of how they did the things that at that time were considered "men's work". NPR did a great story on a similar topic a couple years ago: Female WWII Pilots: The Original Fly Girls

  2. Awesome. I'm always looking for vintage books to read or review, but since you've already reviewed, I'll have to read it! I also have a fictional WWII book, that I'd love for you to take a look at it's currently NOT for sale but you could nominate it for publication, if you think it looks good? Then when they publish it, maybe review??? Until April 30th

    Thanks, Tam

    You can find me at: