HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — It was a celebration like no other at the Hagerstown Aviation Museum for one of the original Rosie the Riveters who is celebrating her 103rd birthday.
The Hagerstown Aviation Museum, which now resides in the former Fairchild Aviation factory, welcomed back Mary Clever, one of the first female Fairchild production line workers, to celebrate her incredible milestone.
“It means a whole lot because just reminiscing what we did years ago,” Clever said. “To come here and see this, what we actually worked on, it means a lot to me.”
Mary Clever started working at the Fairchild Aviation factory as a riveter in September of 1941, at the height of World War II. She worked on the production line for 17 years. She recalls the painful memory of learning about the bombing of Pearl Harbor which occurred just three months after she started at the factory.
“Oh the first day, we cried and cried all day. Everybody was so upset when that happened. It took time to adjust after that,” Clever said, sadly. “I had a few coworkers that had family over there and it was hard on them.”
Clever could not be more proud of her work and even built parts for the PT-19 which were used by United States Army Air Forces, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Clever brought her bucking bar which she used on the production line to set rivets into place on the aircraft rudders. She explained that it was the only memento that she had from her time on the production line.
Clever was just the 6th woman hired for the production line at Fairchild Aviation. It paved the way for other female industrial workers including her sisters. Clever is one of 17 siblings and often found herself working alongside her sisters on the production line. However, because of her years of experience on the line, her daytime shift was almost set in stone. She explained that her sisters sometimes found themselves working the night shift at the factory. Clever also had four brothers that worked as welders at the factory as well.
“Women can do a whole lot along the production lines. Sometimes women were needed where the men couldn’t get into, especially when they started to put them together,” Clever said.
Clever’s birthday celebration was the first time she was able to visit the museum as well as see one of the planes she helped to build. She has also never flown in any of the planes that she made parts for. Aside from the PT-19, Clever also worked on the Fairchild C-82A Packet Flying Boxcar which she was able to walk through with her great-grandson. Although she did not take to the skies in one of the two PT-19’s, lovingly named Miss Fairchild and Miss Kelly, Clever said that she would consider taking a flight on one at a later date.