What Happened to Doreen?
Max Hughes has stories. On a Sunday night we swapped tales of odd characters over coffee.
Max called last week to tell me that “Doreen” had been found and was home at last.
In the middle 1940’s over six hundred B-29 bombers were produced at the Bell plant in Marietta, GA.
Rickenbacker Air Field became the Marietta Army Air Field. The Bell bomber plant was at that airport. It’s now Lockheed.
Doreen Boyer was a tall, angular young beauty with mysterious slightly upturned eyes. She and her sister, Marie, signed on as unskilled, 70 cent an hour workers, doing ten-hour days at the bomber plant. Minimum wage then was 40 cents an hour.
The Boyer parents were dirt-poor survivors who looked at a ten-dollar bill as if it were a bar of gold. They had no vehicle to contribute to a car pool from Stilesboro, so they chipped in what few ration coupons they could spare and helped pay the expenses.
Within a year the company work force grew to nearly 40,000, and a company bus collected and returned workers as far as fifty miles away.
Doreen worked in an electrical harness shop located in a corner of that original two million square foot building. The Yankee bosses from Bell headquarters in Buffalo, NY, hovered from offices in a loft above the back wall with windows that looked down on the assembly floor.
Doreen began socializing with one of those Yankee bosses. This didn’t go down well with her family and friends who noticed that she had begun to change, dressing differently, said “you’uns” for “ya’ll,” and started sounding the “R’s” and “ings” at the ends of words.
One Sunday morning with the family at church, a neighbor saw Doreen walk down the two-track dirt lane to the highway with a suitcase. A shiny dark car arrived, Doreen got in on the passenger side, the car pulled away and Doreen was never seen or heard from again.
Her family was frantic; her mother cried and twisted her apron in her hands. Her father cussed the Yankee bosses from Buffalo and made a few threats. Nothing.
The plant closed after the war. Marie married a boy from Cartersville and settled in Rome. The parents grew prematurely old waiting on the front porch and were buried at the Methodist Church. Their pastor spent years looking for Doreen without luck.
Marie had a house full of kids, mostly girls, and they must have wondered what happened to Aunt Doreen.
Nearly every family has someone go missing. My family has one, and yours probably does, too, if you look back far enough.
I could hear Max rattling papers in the background as he read the obituary.
Doreen wound up in Buffalo, NY, but to her farm-bound family she might as well have been in Timbuktu.
You’re right, it was one of those Yankee bosses, but what happened in the middle, between her leaving and returning, is quite a story.