The City of Ypsilanti has been the site of several motion picture productions film- ing scenes of movies here. Each has been the subject of publicity and great interest. What is not so well known is the Ypsilanti Historical Society Archives has also been the site of a motion picture production. This production was not the work of a Hollywood film company, but the crew of a documentary production company. The company, Signature Communications of Huntington, Maryland, was commissioned by the National Parks Service to produce a film for the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in California.
The purpose of the film was to present a big-picture view of the American home front during the World War II. The time of the war was a period of major and ir- revocable social change that was affected and shaped by everyday people. For this reason the production company wanted to interview people who could provide in- sight into how the Bomber Plant at Willow Run changed Ypsilanti. The company is creating mini-documentaries on a number of themes, including: migration, support of the war effort, and the experience of women workers in the plant.
The company arrived at the Archives early on the morning of Friday, July 1, 2011, to set up their equipment. Tables and chairs were moved from the room, and a back- drop put in place for filming. Lights were set up and the camera made ready. All they needed now was someone to inter- view. The first person to be interviewed was Peter Fletcher (son of a previous City archivist and member of the Endowment Fund Advisory Board), who proved to be the ideal subject. When asked a question, he answered at length and in detail. Peter told his stories, with facts that clearly re- flected what life was like in Ypsilanti during the war.
The next two people to be interviewed were women who had worked at the Bomber Plant during the war. Each was eighty-nine or ninety years of age. The two were not as talkative as Peter had been. The interviewer asked one of the women, “I understand you got married on a week- end, and nine months later had a baby?” The woman answered, “Yes.” Then the interviewer asked further questions, to elicit more details.
The filming was finished by the end of the day, and the crew moved on to the next site. When finished, a copy of the film will be sent to everyone who took part. The ar- chives will have a copy as well.
(James Mann is a local historian, author and a regular contributor to the GLEANINGS.)
Photo 1: The control room
Photo 2: The set
Photo 3: The talent: Peter B. Fletcher