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During World War II, Rebekah Givens became a “Rosie the Riveter” when she and her late husband, Beecher, moved to Detroit for work.
Rosie the Riveter was the name given women who took over the war-effort factory jobs left empty by men who had gone to fight.
“I have been right up there with the big old gun with the rivets,” said Givens. She made wings for the Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver, a scout-bomber that began rolling off the assembly lines in 1942.
Givens, who turned 100 last month, grew up fast.
She married at age 15 while living in a coal company town in Kentucky.
“My mother was running a big company boarding house. My husband came there to board, and I met him there,” Givens said.
Beecher, nine years her senior, somehow managed to procure a marriage license.
“I was just a little past 15, and a month and one day from the day I met him, I was married,” Givens said.
They waited until her father went to work and told her mother what they planned. Her mother begged them to change their minds, but the couple said they would leave and find a way to marry if prevented from marrying at home.
“She said if that is your mind, I don’t want you to leave home,” Givens said.
Her father was furious at first, but after Beecher said he’d gotten a few of his friends to say they witnessed her parents sign the certificate, her father never said another harsh word.
“My husband and dad were good friends, played checkers together,” she said.
The couple lived in the boarding house and stayed in the coal town until they learned of job opportunities up north in Detroit.
“Everyone was going North for work,” she explained. But the prosperity didn’t last.
“After the war they started laying off,” Givens said.
The Givenses ended up in Rockwood, where Beecher was from. There, her husband joined the Rockwood Police Department.
“He was on the police force a long time,” Givens said.
She worked at a hosiery mill and a number of restaurants and businesses.
She managed the Peggy Ann Truck Stop during the city’s heyday, before Interstate 40 diverted travelers to and from Nashville off of Hwy. 70.
She also worked at Rockwood Hotel.
Later, the couple purchased a farm in Cumberland County.
“We bought a big flock of chickens. I sold eggs. I had two cows there on that farm. I milked the cows and sold milk and butter,” Givens said.
It wasn’t long before they moved back to Rockwood, where she lives today.
Givens credits God for her longevity and getting her through tough times.
“When I didn’t know how to take care of myself He took care of me and watched over me,” Givens said.