Veteran Stories:
Dorothy Lutz (née Hendsbee)

  • Dorothy Lutz welding in the Halifax Shipyards, Nova Scotia, in 1943.

    Dorothy Lutz
  • A welder's reunion in 1987. From left to right: Helen Rice Poliska, Dorothy Lutz and Bertha Roche.

    Dorothy Lutz
  • An newspaper article on Dorothy and the women who took on traditionally male roles during the war.

    Dorothy Lutz
  • Dorothy Lutz in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2010.

    Historica Canada
  • Dorothy's welding glasses.

    Dorothy Lutz
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"They said that this is the first time for anything like this and that you realize that you’re making history and they sort of pointed at me and said, especially you, you’re only 16, you’re the youngest that ever took a welding course."

Transcript

I came to the city [Halifax, Nova Scotia] and I was looking at the advertisements [posted in 1943, calling for female labourers] and not too sure what it meant but I went anyway;it was down the technical college on Spring Garden Road. There were 35 of us girls and we were given a plain piece of paper and a pencil to draw lines. And so a few of us said we need a ruler, no, no, you don’t get a ruler, you have to draw a straight line this way, that way and some other way. So we did. And left our name and phone number and address and that was it. And in three or four days time, we got a letter that said we had passed and would we come down a certain day and see what this was all about because you’re going to be trained for three months under War Emergency Training [Program] and become electric welder. There was only five of us picked out of 35, so we went. And we took this course for three months, which wasn’t very long to be electric welder, now they have to go two or three years. But regardless, it was really pushed. And after three months, we went to the Halifax Shipyards to work. First I was doing pipes that was like put on the ship to put the ammunition through and using bare rods, and it was terrible because I’d get that stuck and I’d have to turn it off and all this. And then they sent me up to the plate shop, which they had coated rods and it was much better. But we all had long hair so they were really under our neck about that, get that Veronica haircut [a reference to Veronica Lake, an American actress who trimmed her signature long hair to encourage female war workers to adopt shorter, safer hairstyles]. But we didn’t, we kept it pushed up under our helmet and got along alright. And everything was going fine until came December [1944] and I was asked to go down in the hold of a ship to weld, which I did, but there wasn’t any air in there or nothing and I had a cold and with this terrible smoke, two things together, I developed pneumonia and I just got too sick to work, so I had to go back down to Guysborough [Nova Scotia] with my mother and stepfather. And when I came back, my job was gone, that was one of the things that we had to sign when we went to the shipyards was when a veteran came back that was qualified, we had to give our job up. So I wasn’t there at the time but they also told me I was the youngest, so I had to go first. It was kind of disappointing in a way but I didn’t forget any of my days there. They told us, they said that this is the first time for anything like this and that you realize that you’re making history and they sort of pointed at me and said, especially you, you’re only 16, you’re the youngest that ever took a welding course and yet today, I read something not too long ago that I’m still the youngest woman in Canada that took the electric welding course.
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