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home : columnists : columnists August 23, 2017

Rosie the Riveter" (Katheryn Thompson) Celebrates 100 Years!

By Paula Dunn
From Time to Thyme

Believe it or not, we've got another Notable Ninety turning 100! My cousin, Rosanna Dunn, alerted me to the fact her friend, Katheryn Thompson, will be 100 next week.

Katheryn, who was born in the Zionsville area, but spent most of her life in Sheridan and Noblesville, has some interesting tales to relate about her 100 years.

Some of Katheryn's earliest childhood memories are of walking to her one-room schoolhouse out in the country. She says in those days the roads were narrow and paved with gravel, and there were few cars. Horses and buggies were still a common sight.

She graduated from Sheridan High School in 1936 during the Great Depression when times were really tough. That year, in an effort to keep costs down, the teachers decided caps and gowns should be worn at the graduation ceremony.

That didn't sit well with the girls in the class. All 30 of them rose up as one and demanded to be able to wear the new dresses they'd been promised by their parents.

Eventually, the teachers gave in and Katheryn got her graduation dress, a green satin floor-length number from the Sears and Roebuck catalog which cost a whopping - Are you ready for this? - $4.00. (Another girl spent $10 on her dress, an amount considered "extravagant" by her classmates!)

Three years after graduating, Katheryn heard the Schacht Rubber Company in Noblesville was looking for workers. She applied and was thrilled to be hired - and to get her first paycheck for $16.00.

(Although the factory had been sold to the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in 1936, it continued to be referred to as the Schacht Rubber plant for several years.)

Katheryn went on to work at Firestone for 38 years, a job which enabled her to live a good life and to travel the world extensively. (She's visited 65 different countries and seen such exotic sights as the Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru.)

World War II was a very intense time at Firestone. Katheryn says the employees often worked eight hours a day, seven days a week, in support of the war effort and no one was allowed to remain at home for any reason. One man who stayed home for the birth of his child was fired.

A real "Rosie the Riveter," Katheryn's job during the war was to help build half-tracks for the army.

Normally, the vehicles were tested in an open field, but on one occasion Katheryn and her partner turned their half-track over to an inspector who decided to test it by driving to Sheridan on State Road 38. Since both Katheryn and her friend were from Sheridan, they asked to accompany him.

Upon their arrival, they drove the half-track right down Main Street, which created quite a stir. The following day a story ran in the Sheridan newspaper about the military vehicle and "military personnel" that had visited town.

In Katheryn's words, "Mary (her friend and co-worker) and I chose to keep our big mouths shut and not blow their exciting story all to heck."

Katheryn's friends are invited to an open house celebrating her 100th birthday. It will be held at the C. W. Mount Community Center, 341 W. Jefferson Street in Tipton from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 8.

No gifts, please - just come for the cake and punch, and to hear more about Katheryn's 100 years!

Notable Nineties Update: Congratulations to Mary Sizelove on her 100th birthday! She's been added to the list.

Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com

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