A high school friend wanted to join the Army in 1941 at the start of World War II and asked Lydia Solis Duarte if she wanted to join too.
As patriotic as Duarte was, and as much as she thought it was a great idea, she told her friend she would need permission from her mother.
"My mother said, 'What are you crazy? If you want to help the war effort, go to work at Lockheed and build airplanes,'" said Duarte, the oldest of six children raised solely by her mother and four brothers. Her father, Jesus Solis, was buried young in a Chatsworth cemetery.
Thus began the three-year career of the now 86-year-old Mission Hills resident who went onto become one of the "Rosie the Riveters," – a national icon during World War II as women entered the workforce and took on the jobs the soldiers left behind when they joined the service and fight for their country.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Duarte, then 17 years old, was a senior at San Fernando High School and expecting to graduate the following month.
"We were all very patriotic," said Duarte, a petite grandmother of six. "All of the men, too, and they were signing up. Women were needed to fill in for the men."
The aerospace company, now known as Lockheed Martin Corp., sent a bus to San Fernando High School to recruit students.
Duarte and her cousin applied.
When they were hired, Lockheed picked up the new recruits at the high school and bused them to Burbank for training and where they eventually built transport airplanes.
Duarte started as an assembler, moved up to a journeyman position and within six months was promoted to structure assembler in building B1, one of three on the site.
She was in the money, earning 90 cents per hour, building transport planes.
"My partner riveted and I bucked. Then I riveted and she bucked," Duarte said. "There were six to eight women working on a plane at the same time. We enjoyed the work and helping with the war effort."
The term, "Rosie the Riveter" was first used in a 1942 song that became a national hit and portrayed "Rosie" as a tireless, assembly-line worker doing her part by building B-29 and B-24 bombers for the U. S. Army Air Forces
Although real-life "Rosies" took on male-dominated trades during WWII, women were expected to return to their everyday housework once men returned from the war. While a large bulk of women did just that, others continued working the factories.
Later many women chose to return to traditional administrative work, while others continued working in the factories.
"When the war was over and the men returned, I was happy. My boyfriend was coming back alive," Duarte said. "That was exciting, although I did lose friends in the war."
Out of the 18 other women on the assembly line, Duarte and her cousin were the only were the only Californians. The rest of the crew came from across the United States.
"We all got along very well," said Duarte. "Women were laid off as the men returned. On the last day of work, our boss gave us a send-off party and we cried and cried and hug."
Duarte said she was the youngest and smallest among her coworkers. She remembers her partner, Marie Lehr, was tall and lanky and used to call her "Pill."
"She was 10 years older than me. Up until last year, we exchanged Christmas cards," Duarte said. "She must have passed away, because I didn't hear from her last year."
After Lockheed, Duarte landed a job at a fruit and vegetable stand in downtown San Fernando and eventually married an Army soldier, Ernest Duarte of Moorpark. Over the 60 years they were together, the couple built a home where Lydia had a new job: raising a family. Duarte is now the proud mother of three children and six grandchildren.
"I loved working for Lockheed," Duarte said as she held a thin, brown leather belt with Lockheed spelled out in gold-colored studs. "I used to love (my belt) and used to wear it all of the time. I didn't want to lose it for nothing. And when I look at my belt, it just brings me memories."