Ellie Noble was nine years old and living in Annapolis, Maryland, when World War II broke out. Carefree and independent, she felt as though the war tended to completely ignore her as a young child. Ellie discusses how the city of Annapolis was integrated fully with the Naval Academy. She also speaks about her parents’ jobs throughout the war. Her father was the head of the Maryland branch of the rationing services led by the Office of Price Administration (OPA) and her mother was the executive secretary for the Comptroller of Maryland, Louis Goldstein.
Father’s Soap Business
[My father] had his small business in Annapolis. He started out working at the Evening Capital newspaper. But then, he moved on for various reasons. Oh, the Depression came along, and jobs were coming and going. And he ended up starting his business.
He had a small soap company. Up until that point, you would buy your laundry soap in a carton about the size of a Wheaties box. And his idea was that he would sell larger packaging. So he sold soap in ten and twenty-five pound boxes, and it was quite successful.
And his soap was from Proctor & Gamble in Baltimore, right by Glen Burnie. [He] bought it in big barrels. He was the middleman. It got delivered. But he had customers in Baltimore, so then, after he repackaged it, a lot of it got delivered in Baltimore. And Annapolis and the surrounding areas. He hired ladies to sell it, and so that was a commercial enterprise, too. It worked.
Then, the war interrupted everything. I don’t know what happened. I guess Proctor & Gamble is still there. No storefront; he did it out of the house. We left that house twenty years ago, but I’m sure if you hosed down the basement, it would still smell like soap and probably get sudsy.
At that point in time, the Naval Academy was an integral part of what young people did. You could ride your bike through the front gate and nobody questioned it. And go down there and collect chestnuts in the fall, and nobody ever—there was no security whatsoever. I could’ve walked into the superintendent ‘s office.
In fact, at one point our dog did. The dog was free to roam, too. They called my father and asked him to come and get him. That’s how small a town it was. It was actually the chapel right next door to the superintendent’s office. [The dog] made his way around town, that’s for sure.
Martin Marietta Plant
Martin Marietta Plant was building airplanes and they all of a sudden needed a big influx of manpower. And that’s when they built all those little houses in Harundale. Just like that, there was a whole community built up overnight. A lot of the workers came from other states they were using manpower wherever they could find it. Not in downtown Annapolis, no. But surely in the Baltimore area. Because it was a commercial center, it had trains and ships.
Ellie’s Mom Gets a Job
My mother went off to Europe with an aunt who paid her way, so that she would have a companion. And while she was there, she taught herself shorthand. And when she came back, [Ellie’s Husband’s] mother was about to get married and she said, “You can have my job.” And so, that was before you had to have all kinds of exams and stuff. So his mother gave up her job at the state, and my mother took over and took it from there. And was very good at it.