Around the same time Rosie the Riveter was championed in a hit song and was plastered on posters all over town, Milaca’s own Rosie, Delores Dee Olson, was producing munitions and machinery in 1942 for the war effort.
That was 70 years ago, but the memories came flooding back recently when Olson went to visit her granddaughter, Melody Boberg, at her White Bear Lake business. And along with the name of affection, “Dee,” Olson is also known as Rosie the Riveter around the shop.
“My granddaughter gave me that title,” Olson said laughing while sitting in her Milaca senior apartment. “I went to visit them and they put me to work.”
Olson has always had an eye for machinery and how mechanical things work. Boberg thought the family operation could benefit from her years of experience and talents.
“She really is our own Rosie the Riveter,” Boberg said. “I’m so proud of her. She’s my inspiration. She has this ‘can-do’ attitude, and I believe her experiences have made her into this person.”
At the age of 23, Olson went to work for Twin City Arsenal. With two young boys at home and on the heels of the Great Depression, she did what many women at the time had to do.
“In those days, it was kind of like it is now — you needed the extra income,” Olson said.
Car pooling with her father from Milaca, the two would work all week in the cities and stay at a relatives’ home. They would come back on the weekends when Olson would take care of the mounting laundry and reconnect with her sons.
“It was a great sacrifice,” Boberg said.
She started out as a machine operator, making the added revenue the family needed. Then an opportunity arose.
“They were short of adjusters, so I watched what they did and started fixing my own machines,” she said.
Granddaughter Melody, who has heard the story a thousand times and never tires of it, takes it from there.
“Her boss brought her down this long corridor and opened up these double doors,” Boberg said. “And on the floor was this huge heap of parts. And together, they assembled an entire machine.”
From then on, Rosie the Riveter became Rosie the mechanical engineer.
“I really learned those machines from on end to the other,” Olson recalled.
For the full story, see the Thursday, Aug. 16 print edition of the Times.