Point Marion woman keeps town's WWII scrapbook
Noelene Packrone, 88, of Point Marion was more than just a "Rosie the Riveter."
She worked in a factory during World War II and was part of a family and a community effort that supported the troops.
Packrone's late father, Noel Houze, opened the family home up to all of the 118 Point Marion men and seven women going off to war.
He took pictures to remember them by that have since been collected in a scrapbook that includes a signature section with all the soldiers' names and memorabilia such as ration books, stamps, and recruiting brochures.
There are also letters from the GIs.
"Dad wrote to every one of them, inviting them to stop by after basic training. You can see how many letters they received in return," Packrone said. "Most of the pictures were taken in our back yard while the soldiers and sailors were home on leave."
Packerone reminisced about the home front as she leafed through the scrapbook one recent day with her neighbor, Mario Turco. He is an Army Air Force veteran who served in both the European and Pacific theaters during the war.
"Everybody went right to work doing something. And everybody shared. If you needed something and I had more than I needed, we traded things, like stamps, coffee and the like," Packerone said.
"I just remember the patriotism," Turco said. "It's not like now. Today it seems more artificial with a lot of flag-waving. Then it was deep. My mom needed treatment in Pittsburgh and we had trouble getting gasoline stamps. We gave away a lot of coffee stamps to people. Barter became the thing at that time. "
The pictures in the scrapbook brought back the memories for Turco.
"They just show the depth of feeling about things. When I came home on furlough, they had a big bond drive at the school and not just one day. Also, when kids had 10 cents, they'd go to the Post Office and buy a war bond stamp," he said.
Looking through the album, the two friends pointed out those who came home and those who died.
"There's Charles Stewart and his cousin Ralph. They were among the first killed in the war," Packrone said.
"There's Tony Torti," said Turco. "When he came home, he and his wife moved to California but he returned for our Point Marion class reunion. Paul Stewart came back and he was killed picking up a hot wire here in town. There were a number who died in accidents like that. And there are the four Kleins, Bernie, Harold, Jerry, and their sister Ruth. They were all in the service.There's Eugene Paul. He was a full colonel. When he returned he married the daughter of New York's Governor Lehman."
Noelene Packerone didn't live in Point Marion for much of the war.
When the war started, she and her husband, the late Gene Packrone, lived in Brownsville. After Gene Packerone was rejected for military service because of a bad heart, he went to Akron to take an office job with Goodyear Aircraft, which made the Corsair, a single-engine fighter airplane.
Packerone later joined her husband and became a Rosie the Riveter.
"Believe it or not, I cut out airplane parts," she said. "They later trained me as a scribe. A scribe had to draw perfectly straight lines on metal. If you deviated ever so slightly, they threw away the piece. But my main job was cutting out the parts. We worked three eight-hour shifts. The machines never shut down. We women had to wear slacks and keep our hair tied down."
Turco point out that the Houze Glass factory in Point Marion, owned by Packerone's family, also contributed to the war effort. Turco worked there until he joined the Army in 1943.
"Houze made sun goggles for the fliers. We had a special format for the lens, which cut out glare while keeping the ability to see colors. We also made parts for the military. We were a glass factory during the day and made machine parts at night. They sent me to school for electrical training," he said.
Packerone's mother, Pearl Houze, also made personal contributions on the home front.
"Mother was a good worker for the town," said Packrone. "Al Klein asked Mom to raise money for an honor roll so she organized a committee that built the one across from the school. I have this picture of the committee and there's only one man in it."
Noelene Packerone saved all the pictures of the soldiers, the letters and the war memorabilia.
The impetus to collect the material in a scrapbook came about after the flood of 1985.
"My house was flooded up to the windowsills," Packrone said. "When I was cleaning up I found this box of pictures. Then in the bedroom I found a whole new set of pictures so I said 'I have to do something with these.' "
Packerone also said that there are five men and three women from Point Marion currently serving in the military: Debbie Hawkinberry, Drider Coburn, and Janice Nichols in the Navy; Robert Baker and Josh Cordwell in the Army; Michael Hunnell in the Marine Corps; and Eric Veugeler and David Packrone, her grandson, in the Air Force.
"Let's not forget them," she said.