Mildred Maxine Blackman Phelps
WWII Civilian
Welder - LSTs

One of 11 children, she was born in Stonefort, Illinois. While she was in the seventh grade, the family moved to Carrier Mills, Illinois. Her father, Charles, raised corn, wheat, and beans. From a one-acre vegetable garden they harvested fruits and vegetables for family consumption. All the children had chores, she recalls. Maxine helped cook and wash clothes outside in big pots. At meals, the adults ate first, then the children. Maxine's education at that time ended after the eighth grade. She ran away from home at age 18, donning "two or three layers of clothes because I couldn't take anything with me that they could see," she says of leaving her parents. She departed for Evansville, Indiana, where she met two friends, Wanda Layman and Ruby Nell Walton. On her own for the first time, she worked at a drugstore, and a dry-cleaners before going to work in the shipyards. There she took a week of welding classes and began welding LSTs, working a night shift from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. She was paid $1.98 per hour. Moving to Savannah, Georgia, two years later, she helped repair damaged ships. She stayed a month and worked every day. "The day the dropped the bomb they dismissed everybody," she says. Back home she got a job at Brown Shoe Factory in Anna, Illinois, where she operated a sewing machine for seven years, in the meantime earning her high school diploma. She moved to Detroit, working first for Chrysler, padding dashboards on an assembly line, then for Michigan Bell Telephone for seven years. Maxine married Roy Phelps. The couple moved to Bristol, Tennessee, where she worked for Raytheon. Later, moving to Dallas, she worked for Neiman-Marcus, then Great Commonwealth Life for 19 years. She finished her career with EDS, working at an early computer terminal.