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Martha Wittman on Dance Exchange's Portsmouth Project
It was hearing some of the stories and I think that was what immediately affected me in everything the Dance Exchange did, uh, was this sense of personal story and some of the stories we heard there. And the submarine that we danced on was actually a memorial to a disaster that happened, an early nuclear submarine had gone its first voyage and sank. And a lot of the families were still there whose husbands or brothers or sons had perished on the Thresher. So that was, um, incredibly moving. But we worked with school children, wonderful stories, and the other little group was very small I worked with Peter DiMuro, on was a group of WAVs from the women who were in the NAVY in World War Two. And that was pretty amazing to hear their stories.
How wonderful it had been for them in the forties to feel they had such meaningful work and then they had to leave it when the war e––because the men were away at war they took over a lot of the male jobs. And uh, I think it was, well it was a very liberating time for them. They were very sad, when the men came back (laughs) unfortunately to loose their jobs, but they had some wonderful stories.
They loved working––living together in what sounded more like a barracks, I mean it was just a total change of life from them, and certainly for the 1940s, where women were at home and didn’t work and took care of their homes and families and never had the chance to travel much, uh so…I think that’s remained in my mind what a huge life shift it was for them and how exciting, and a different kind of education in how they could be in the world. Those are my main memories––and the Thresher, there was a young husband probably in his late 30s early 40s and he told of a, watching the submarines go out to the sea there was a bridge where he could wave to his father from. His father went out on the Thresher and never came back.