My mother was working in Rochester, NY during the 1940s. When America went to war, she joined the Red Cross Motor Corps as a volunteer driver.
Back then, Rochester was known as the “imaging capital of America” because it was home to industries and Universities that specialized in optical science–technologies that became integral to the war production effort. Parts of the Norden bomb sight used in many Allied planes, along with the radio delay fuse and other components used by the military were all manufactured in town.
On my mother’s days off she was called on to transport military or civilian personnel from the airport or railroad station to these companies and industries, or to the Air Force Materiel Command building.
The volunteer drivers were required to attend classes in automotive mechanics. I remember my mother saying that although she KNEW how to change a tire, she was glad she never had to do so. But she almost flunked carburetors! She also recalled that sometimes you were told who you were driving, but sometimes not. If not, you didn’t ask, you just drove. The “loose lips sink ships” rule applied here too. There were also memories of blackouts and possible sabotage threats as some of the Rochester items were vital to the war effort.
In spite of the war, or perhaps because of it, people made friendships they never might have otherwise, and people felt good about themselves for contributing in some way on the Home Front. Life went on, although it changed dramatically.
More about the Red Cross Motor Corps, from the Red Cross Museum:
Nationally, the “Motor Corps consisted almost entirely of women who clocked over 61 million miles answering nine million calls to transport the sick and wounded, deliver supplies, and take volunteers and nurses to and from their posts. In all, nearly 45,000 women served in the Motor Corps during World War II. Most drove their own cars and many completed training in auto mechanics in order to be able to make automotive repairs on their own.”