Rosie the Riveter and Tweard Blackhurst’s work come to Opera House
The Pocahontas Opera House again takes center stage during the Smithsonian Exhibit’s “The Way We Worked” this week.
On Thursday, October 6th at 7:00 p.m., students from Pocahontas County High School will perform a theater reading of W. E. Blackhurst’s book “Of Men and a Mighty Mountain.” The book, written in 1965 is a set of interviews with all classes and types of people from a lumber town. “Tweard”, as he was known, spent nearly his entire life close to the lumber industry, and knew the intricacies of this industry like few other people. “I think people will like what we’re doing,” says project coordinator Emily Newton. “It’s a little different take on things although we’ve been true to the book.”
The West Virginia timber industry grew rapidly towards the turn of the 20th Century. In the early 1900s, Cheat was extensively timbered by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company and their Cass operation, West Virginia Spruce Lumber Company. By 1905, the summit had been reached by loggers and by 1960 the mountain was virtually barren. The timbering of Cheat has been chronicled in many books , most notable is Blackhurst’s Of Men and A Mighty Mountain which details how difficult life was on the mountain for the mostly immigrant workers of the lumber operation.
On Friday night October 7 at the Opera House starting at t 7:00 p.m., acclaimed film maker B. J. Gudmundsson will preview the first time in Pocahontas County her most recent film We Pull Together – Rosie the Riveters, Then and Now.
The film was written, produced and directed by award-winning West Virginia filmmaker, B.J. Gudmundsson. The 90-minute film brings to life the personal stories of women who were employed in factories and facilities across the country as the nation struggled to replace the men that left to fight the war.
Hundreds of thousands of women filled these jobs. They learned new skills and to perform men’s work. Most of them worked far from home in order to supply aircraft, ships, ammunition and other necessary materials needed by the armed services overseas.
America has long referred to these women workers as “Rosie the Riveter.” And they did indeed drive and buck rivets. They also operated machinery, inspected parts, trained pilots, harvested farm crops and made rockets. Their work opened the nation’s eyes regarding a woman’s role in society. Their film reveals an important reason for their sacrifice. They believed that by doing excellent work they would help to win the war and bring the men home.
Drawing from miles of video footage, Gudmundsson takes the Rosie story a step further as she follows her subjects into the here and now. She shows that the film’s Rosies, who are now around 90 years old, are actively participating in preserving their legacy in their own words.
“The sacrifice that our women made during the war goes far beyond our image of Rosie the Riveter. While they were working, their brothers, boyfriends and husbands were on the front lines of a terrible war. When the men came home a lot had changed. I hope that this film helps us to understand more about the human spirit. I know that making this film has taught me a lot about being a woman,” said Gudmundsson in a recent interview.
Both programs are free to the public and are part of the Smithsonian Institute’s traveling exhibit, The Way We Worked, sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council.