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Reeders Memorial Home resident shares memories

May 29, 2008|By JANET HEIM

BOONSBORO -- Marjorie Griffith has long been interested in rocket and space shuttle launches. As she followed news stories of the wayward satellite stopped in its path by the air-defense missile system in February, it triggered memories of her past.

"I've seen a lot of history," said Griffith, 95, who was born in Luray, Va.

She said she has vivid memories, even though she was only 5 years old, of watching the "war train" leave Luray in November 1918 loaded with soldiers.

"I saw nothing but people crying. I didn't know the meaning of it, but I'll never forget it," she said.

Griffith has been a resident at Reeders Memorial Home in Boonsboro since June 2007. Her family moved to Sharpsburg when she was 13, where her father, who previously did construction work, took up farming.

The family already owned cattle, horses and chickens. Griffith tells of how they had to herd the cattle and horses across the Shenandoah River to reach their new home.

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Griffith, whose maiden name is Abbott, said she was a farm girl. She worked in the field, milked cows and took care of the chickens on the family's 200- to 300-acre farm.

She had two sisters and four brothers. When she was 5, she and her youngest brother, who was 3, both got pneumonia and diphtheria. She survived, but her brother didn't.

Griffith said she attended high school in Hagerstown for half a year, but quit to work on the farm. When she was almost 18, she married Harry Griffith.

She and her husband had two sons and a daughter. Marjorie Griffith worked odd jobs while the children were small to supplement the earnings of her husband, who worked on the Works Progress Administration.

The family moved to Baltimore and Marjorie Griffith got a job as a sheet metal worker at Bethlehem Steel during World War I. She worked on airplanes, doing wiring, and was trained as an electrician.

She then took a job at a shipyard in Maryland, where she did some electrical work, then worked as a security guard.

The next job, at Martin Marietta, was "very tedious" because zero defects were allowed, Griffith said. She said she worked on the rockets that took astronauts Alan Shepard and John Glenn into space.

When Griffith found herself a single parent, she saw an ad for government work at a California shipyard. She said she moved her family to California and for more than three years, she worked on ships in the outskirts of San Francisco.

Griffith said a lot of women worked on ships during World War II. She recalled reading a news clipping that said if women hadn't been working in the war effort at home, the U.S. wouldn't have won the war.

"I was born for a purpose," she said.

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