It has been awhile since I have just shared a history story with you for a blog post…so when Jo sent me the ‘story behind the story‘ of the expression “Kilroy was here” I knew it was a story that needed passing on to all of you.
Even though, as a “Baby Boomer” (born after World War II was over)… thus not growing up with this expression…I told Jo that I remembered being asked about it by an enthusiastic WWII history buff student one year and together we discovered the story behind the expression.
My feeble brain slightly remembered some (but not all of the story)…so when Jo later sent it…I thought it was time to work it into today’s post… a great patriotic story to tuck away in our treasure chests of stories to tell our children and grandchildren.
Since the story is pretty long I am going to try to condense the main ideas with a few important excerpts….Hope you enjoy a little history trivia on this last weekend in April!
He is engraved in stone in the National War Memorial in Washington, DC-back in a small alcove where very few people have seen. For the WWII generation, it brings back memories…a bit of trivia that is part of our American history. No one seemed to know why he was so well known-but everybody rallied around him. So who was Kilroy?
In 1946 a radio program “Speak to America” sponsored a nationwide contest to find the real Kilroy, offering a prize of a real trolley car to the person who could prove himself to be the genuine article. Forty men stepped forward but only one could provide the necessary proof of his identity – James Kilroy from Halifax, Massachusetts.
The 46-year-old shipyard worker was a checker at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy. His job was to check on the number of rivets completed. (Back then riveters got paid by the rivets. He would count a block of rivets and put a check mark in waxed lumber chalk, so they couldn’t be counted twice. However, once he left, the riveters would erase the mark so they could be paid twice.)
*(Later on, an off-shift inspector would come through and count the rivets a second time, resulting in double pay for the riveters.)
It didn’t take too long for the boss to catch on that something funny was going on in that section of the assembly line and asked Kilroy to check on it…it was only then that he discovered what had been going on behind his back. He continued to put his check mark on each job he inspected, but added “KILROY WAS HERE” in king-sized letter with a sketch of the chap with the long nose peering over the fence.