Young teen Harry Hendricks learned the meaning of hard work during World War II
A chance conversation among teenagers in an ice cream parlor led Harry Hendricks not only to contribute to Americas war effort, but learn lifetime job skills.
It happened in 1943, when Hendricks barely a teen himself struck up a conversation with another teen working at the bustling shipyards run by businessman Henry J. Kaiser on the north side of the Columbia River, where thousands of workers were churning out U.S. military vessels during World War II.
Hendricks told his parents about his interest in the shipyards, then went about forging a copy of his birth certificate so it appeared he was older than his 14 years. I was a big kid and had a lot of guts, he says.
It worked, and Hendricks went to a hiring hall where he was assigned to the graveyard shift 11:55 p.m. to 7:55 a.m. It meant a grinding daily schedule that involved working at night, sleeping during the morning, and attending McLoughlin Junior High School from 1 to 6 p.m. After school, he ate dinner and caught a couple more hours of sleep before boarding a bus back to the shipyards.
Hendricks, now 88, isnt the only one in his family who has a connection to the shipyards, which were built 75 years ago. His wife, Ramona Hendricks, 86, was a young girl when her mother also went to work at the sprawling facility east of downtown Vancouver, one of many women who entered the workforce as men fought overseas. And Harry Hendricks mother worked at the shipyards cafeteria until the shipyards closed with the end of the war.