This Mother’s Day, we are honoring Bonnie’s mother, Mabel, with a visit to the Rosie the Riveter National Park in Richmond, California. The park is a memorial and testimonial to these gallant women who risked life and limb to help save our country.
Mabel was in her mid-twenties during World War II. In those days, things didn’t look good for the country and the world. Militarists had taken over in Germany and Japan – and they were winning. Copper was in such demand for the war effort that by 1943, pennies were made out of lead! Fighting in Europe and in the Pacific had taken many of the able-bodied men overseas. Much of the job of arming our side was left to the women. Mabel was one of over 20 million women who supported the war effort at home. Paid 30% less than men doing the same job, these women felt it their patriotic duty to help win the war. Many historians have pointed to their ability to simply out produce the enemy as the key factor in our eventual victory.
Mabel was a shipbuilder in Portland, Oregon. Every day she would show up at the shipyard with thousands of other young women outfitted to perform every job necessary to build an entire ship from the ground up – and launch one every day! She was a welder and specialized in seam welding; over, under and straight ahead. Huge cranes would lower massive plates of steel that she would maneuver into position and weld to other huge plates to create compartment after compartment on the new ship.
Because she was able to withstand the noxious acetylene fumes, she was assigned to some of the toughest welding jobs – below deck. Even though it was over a half of a century later when she passed away from lung complications, she was still a casualty of World War II.
When Bonnie and I first got together, we would visit her mom at her organic blueberry farm in Sandy, Oregon. We asked her to come live with us in California where it was warmer and drier. But she wouldn’t come because she didn’t want to be a burden. When we started Barefoot Wine, we told her we were overwhelmed and needed her help. She was on the next plane.
As her health improved in the warmer climate, she threw herself into whatever she could do to help us out. She would fold t-shirts, organize and distribute promotional materials, and even planted and maintained a full organic garden. She was a real salt of the earth type and everyone called her Mama Mabel.
She brought that “We can do it!” attitude into our business with encouragement and a wonderful sense of humor. Like so many other women who supported our troops, Mabel was a real team player.
One especially trying time, when Michael had come home empty handed from a grueling two-week sales trip, she said, “What’s got you so hang dog?”
Michael said, “It’s the Holidays, Mabel. Everybody wants Champagne, and all we have is wine.”
To which Mabel quipped, “Well, why don’t you have a Champagne then?”
Michael said, “Look Mabel, I can hardly sell the wine! And besides, what would we call it anyway?”
She answered in her matter-of-fact way, “Why, I’d call it Barefoot Bubbly!”
A few years later, Barefoot did produce a Champagne, and Mabel was toasted with Barefoot Bubbly on her 80th birthday.
So here’s a toast to Mabel on Mother’s Day for her winning spirit, and to all the Rosie the Riveters who encouraged us with that “We can do it!” attitude. Happy Mother’s Day Mabel! You really did do it!