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My Momma Is A Welder

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My Momma Is A Welder_8534

My Momma Is A Welder – Opal M. DeLong Warren served as one of the welders in the Todd Houston Shipyard, in Houston, Texas, during World War II. Momma encouraged me to refine my welding skills when I took vocational agriculture in high school.  And, now, Ramon, in Leyte, is using his welding skills on the farm.   Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

My mother, Opal M. DeLong Warren was a welder in the Todd Houston Shipyard, in Houston, Texas, during World War II.

Today, February 28, 2012, is momma’s birthday. She was born on this day in 1920, the year the Show Me State gave women the right to vote.

Born in Peach Tree Holler, near Reeds Springs, Missouri. She rode a horse called, “Shorty,” to the Bear Den school.

She grew up on the farm in southwest Missouri. During World War II, momma and a friend got on a Greyhound bus and decided to see where it would take them. They did it on a whim. The girl got off the bus in Dallas. Momma didn’t like the looks of Dallas so she got back on the bus. When the bus stopped in Houston, she decided she liked the looks of Houston and got off the bus.

She knew no one in Houston.

She would often tell me the money she had in her pocket only allowed her to eat bread and drank water until she got a job about a week later. She saw an ad in the newspaper for welders.

She didn’t even know what a welding machine looked like.

First Day Of Welding School Story

Todd Houston officials sent her to welding school. “The first day of welding school all I had to wear was a white satin blouse. The sparks from the welding rod burned several holes in my blouse. I had to ride the bus back across town home. I was so embarrassed,” said Opal Warren.

Momma loved to tell her “First Day Of Welding School” story, especially years later when I took welding in vow-ag in high school.

She said she was proud of the U.S. Navy ships that she welded on, but admitted that it was sad when they launched because with the war on she knew “some of the boys that served on the ships probably wouldn’t be coming home.”

Momma would have been 92 today.

“Momma’s Boy”

But, she left this life Friday, June 11, 2004 in Springfield, Missouri. Being a “Momma’s Boy,” her spirit lives on. Today in Leyte, Philippines, my wife, Christy and I talked about momma to her brothers, sister, nieces and nephews. Now, The Legend Of Opal Warren will live on – on two continents – the United States and the Philippines.

In the United States, I had adopted the Filipino Death Anniversary custom to observe my mother’s passing each year. But, since her passing, Christy and I usually just talk about Momma and light a candle at 6 p.m., to honor her memory.

SANTA NINO_8550

The Death Anniversary Custom involves placing a favorite drink, a plate of food or a favorite food, by a candle.  If the person smoked a pipe or cigarette then the custom suggest that tobacco also be placed by the food.  This year, the candle burns, in front of a small Santa Nino and a larger Santa Nino.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In her lifetime, momma always commented, “I’m too old to celebrate birthdays, so, I just quit having them.” Still,if it looked like we had forgotten momma’s birthday, then, she would get solemn. Of course, when the guests started showing up, a smile would come to her face. Regardless of what she said, momma did enjoy celebrating her birthday and she truly enjoyed friends and neighbors stopping by to share her day.

Beyond Birthdays

My mother was always important to me. She still is. And the lessons she tried to teach me, I now pass on in the form of Stateside wisdom to my nieces and nephews.

We went to the open air Tacloban City Public Market, the Palo Public Market and shopped in Tanauan today.

A LANTSA BOAT IN PEDRO BAY AT TACLOBAN CITY LEYTE PHILIPPINES_8121

A  Lantsa boat is tied up in the waters of Pedro Bay in Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines.  The Tacloban City Public Market is in the background.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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The Tacloban City Public Market Fish Section is located beside the bay.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

ONE SECTION OF THE PALO PUBLIC  MARKET_8277

Stroll along the corridors of the Palo Public Market to shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, rice and other merchandise.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

When we returned home, Christy, her sister, Marife, cousin, Pina and Ann Ann prepared supper : Pork sticks, pancit bihon,pancit canton, rice, sweet and sour fish, cake and ice cream. At dinner, Christy and I talked about Momma.

 

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Pina Gempis

MARIFE SALDANA ROA SERVES THE CHOCOLATE CAKE_8548

Marife Saldana Roa serves the chocolate cake.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I’m convinced Momma’s spiritual presence showed up early this morning. Yesterday, we bought a welding helmet and Ramon rented an arc welder. Today, was the day he placed together pieces of pipe to weld a gate for his hog pen. In my childhood, momma raised 25 head of hogs on 10 acres and each one of the old sows usually had a litter of 8 to 17 pigs. Momma had Yorkshire, Hampshire and Duroc hogs.

Here in Leyte, Ramon has a Yorkshire sow that has six pigs, (or piglets as they are called in the Philippines). I can imagine that when Ramon was welding the gate today there was probably a presence looking over his shoulder and whispering, “Not so fast. Take your time. Make small circles with the molten metal. Concentrate and you can run a nice bead.”

After all, My Momma Is A Welder.

Happy Birthday, Momma.

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