Summer of 1942: Dressed for Success

By Lorraine Larson

April 2016

I first arrived to work at the Boeing factory along Marginal Way South wearing my best slacks and turban in the summer of 1942. I felt very fortunate to have my college degree, as not many women had a college degree in those days. I was very proud to begin work on the B-17 program in the Receiving and Inspection group. In those days, we arrived to work wearing slacks and turbans.

After just two short weeks I was transferred to Precision Inspection, located right off of the machine shop. This new job was very interesting, as I was tasked with inspecting and adjusting the precision gauges for the B-17 Flying Fortress. I was assigned to work on a machine called an optical comparator that looked like a little, old-style television. This technology was very new and dramatic for the day. It had a screen and many dials the operator would adjust to check the height and depth of the many machined parts. To use the optical comparator you felt special because you had to gain access to a little dark room.

The big exciting aircraft during those days was, of course, the B-29. I did not know anything about this big, beautiful airplane until the disaster struck. I will never forget the day the secret aircraft crashed into the Frye Meat Packing Plant, just north of Boeing Field in 1943.

Now at age 97, I look back at the time spent working at Boeing with very fond memories -- I enjoyed working on the optical comparator. Everyone was very kind and generous.