The women did the best they could with their limited funds, buying a few Christmas gifts for each other.

"But it wasn't much fun shopping back then," Margaret DuRand says. "There wasn't much stuff to buy and besides we didn't have much money."

"Back then" were the days of World War II ... back when Margaret was working in a defense plant in California helping turn out an airplane that was a big player in winning the war.

She made do with little, but there were fringe benefits ... like standing next to a handsome guy who later would take on an important governmental position.

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The tip for this column comes from Donna Ellig, Moorhead. She'd seen a story here about a local woman who was a "Rosie the Riveter" during World War II, which prompted the note about Margaret, who is her mother.

Quick background on Margaret: She was born in 1921 in Steele, N.D.; graduated from Guelph (N.D.) High School in 1939; worked in the Penney's store in Oakes, N.D., from 1939 to 1943, then, with a friend, went to Los Angeles to seek a job in a defense plant.

"Twelve girls from the Oakes area went out there at different times," Margaret says. "We were just two of them."

Margaret applied for a job at North American Aviation, was hired and sent to a training center to learn how to rivet.

She must have learned rapidly and well, because they named her an inspector and kept her there for a year checking on how other trainees were doing.

Then she was transferred to North American's main plant in El Segundo.

Coming off its assembly line: the famed P-51 Mustang fighter planes.

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"It was a wonderful airplane," Margaret says. "They say it won the war."

She was named a roving inspector. "I'd work in whatever department was needed," she says, checking on the work being done.

She worked the 10-hour night shift four nights a week, although she often worked overtime.

She started at 65 cents an hour. Raises came periodically. When she left in 1945, she was making $1.05 an hour.

But expenses were low. Example: The apartment she shared with Helen Ratz, of Verona, N.D., was completely furnished, included sheets, towels and dishes, and rented for $30 a month.

Margaret was able to buy a $25 War Bond each week to send home to her parents.

But Christmases were meager in terms of the usual trappings.

"A few of us girls would get together and maybe have a potluck and exchange gifts. I sent a few gifts home, too.

"My roommate and I didn't have a tree or decorations in our apartment. But you had a hard time finding decorations to buy, anyhow, even if you had money."

Her weekends were free, so then she and the other women took buses ("Nobody had cars," she says) to places like the Palladium to dances, to movies and to the Coliseum in Los Angeles where she once stood next to a man she says was "the best-looking guy I ever saw." His name: Ronald Reagan.

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The plant Margaret worked in was "huge," she says. "Everything was camouflaged at first, until near the end of the war, and of course there were blackouts at night."

The women had a favorite routine there. "The finished planes would sit at the end of the line," she says, "and we girls would crawl up and sit in the cockpit and imagine what it was like flying them and all sorts of things. We left notes there, too, but we never heard from anybody. Not one."

With the end of the war, Margaret returned home and married Robert DuRand. He'd been a radar man in the Army Air Corps in England.

Robert and Margaret owned DuRand Electric in Oakes for 38 years. Robert died in 1996. Margaret, 83, still lives in Oakes.

They had three children and a grandchild.

Margaret, you never told your husband about Ronald Reagan being the handsomest guy you ever met, did you?

"Yes, I did," she says. "In fact, I told him if we ever had a son, I'd name him after him."

Yes, they had a son.

And yes, his name is Ronald.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or

e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com