Roby Elizabeth Bar Ryals
WWII Civilian
Welder at Chicago Bridge and Iron
Audio Samples

She was born Roby Elizabeth Bar at home in Chatham, Louisiana, as one of five children to Tom and Norma Bar. Her father operated a 160-acre farm where he grew cotton, corn, and vegetables. The family had no electricity, but listened to a battery-powered radio. For transportation they traveled by wagon. Her mother cooked on a wood stove. They slaughtered hogs and preserved the meat with salt and smoke. They kept milk from their cows cool in the well, and bought ice by the block for their icebox. Roby helped out on the farm by picking cotton, milking cows, and performing other chores. She says she plowed, but only once, after her father died when she was ten. Often they fed hobos who passed their house. They looked forward to trips to town (either Chatham or nearby Jonesboro) on Saturdays. "I look back and think about it now every once in a while--how it was interesting for us just to walk up and down the streets and see other people that had come to town on Saturday. We didn't buy a lot because we didn't have the means to buy," she recalls. When she was "fourteen-and-a-half," she married Edwin Ryals on July 28, 1937. At that time he worked in a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) Camp. They would have two children, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Edward was drafted into the U.S. Army in October of 1942. In April of 1943 Roby joined him in Eureka, California, where he was in training. "I had never been further than Shreveport in my life," she recalls. "So I just decided, `Well, I'm going.' It took part of five days to get there. It was three thousand miles and I didn't have a place to stay when I got there. But I started and I made it. Everybody was so friendly to help you." She says she kept her money between her sock and shoe. Roby went to work at Chicago Bridge and Iron Shipyard in San Rafael, California, where she was trained and then worked as a welder, earning about $50 a week. "While I was working there I was able to save a thousand dollars, which to me was a lot of money," she says. Later, she and Edwin used a portion of her savings to buy their first car. Ironically, she found lodging in the home of a couple from Louisiana. "They wanted me to call them Mom and Pop and I did," she says. Edwin would visit her at night when he got off duty. Roby worked at the shipyard for "a little over a year." She followed Edwin when he was sent to Santa Rosa, California, where she found work in the polio ward of a hospital, and rented a room from an elderly woman. After she learned she was pregnant she returned home. Meanwhile Edwin was stationed at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas. Roby took their infant son, Terry, to Fort Hood so Edwin could see him before he shipped out to Europe as part of the 107th Cavalry Regiment. Edwin returned home in August of 1945. The couple moved to Morgan City, Louisiana, where she earned her GED and worked for a school food service for 25 years. Edwin worked for Shell Oil Company until he retired. They returned to Chatham in 1975. Edwin passed away on June 28, 1996. "We just had a wonderful life," Roby says in summing up her marriage.