Clarene Killingsworth Talton
WWII Civilian
Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant

Clarene came of age on the home front in World War II. She was born as the third of five children near Ringgold, Louisiana. Her father, a World War I veteran, worked at a sawmill and drove mules in logging operations. Her mother raised chickens and sold eggs, cooked on a wood stove and made lye soap. With the girls helping, she boiled clothes in a wash pot in the yard, hung them on clotheslines to dry, and pressed them with a flat iron. After school the children changed into "every day clothes" for chores and play. The girls fed the cows while the boys took care of the mules. She "got her lessons" at night by kerosene lamp. Clarene took lunch to school, usually consisting of a "biscuit sandwich" (with a slice of ham) and a fried pie. At home they ate vegetables they raised and meat, usually pork, which they butchered. "We wasn't used to having a lot. But we had everything," she says. She attended Bienville High School and then dropped out in early 1945 to work in an ammunition plant. "I was just delighted to even get to go to work. This is the first job I ever had, outside of picking cotton for the neighbors for seventy-five cents a day," she recalls. "We were all women, but one guy," she says of the work crew. "There was a lot of teasing going on. There was a lot of singing. We did a lot of things to keep everybody up." Living with her sister in a barracks at the plant, Clarene worked many hours of the day. "You couldn't stay awake," she says of the four a.m. to noon shift. When she returned to classes, Clarene graduated from Heflin High School in 1946 as valedictorian. She married and stayed home for several years to raise children. Clarene returned to work at the plant in 1966, and then finished her career in a position with Social Security. After her first husband died, Clarene married Albert Talton, a widower. Today she and her husband raise their own beef.