Promise keeper, 'Rosie' delivers on lifelong commitment serving others

Sadie Holt, a Warner Robins resident of over 70 years, was a former national officer of the American Rosie the Riveter Association, whose national honorary headquarters is in Warm Springs, Ga. (Courtesy photo)

Sadie Holt, a Warner Robins resident of over 70 years, was a former national officer of the American Rosie the Riveter Association, whose national honorary headquarters is in Warm Springs, Ga. (Courtesy photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Working is synonymous with breathing, as Sadie Holt sees it.

The longtime Warner Robins resident and retired Robins Air Force Base employee is a well-known community member. If you don't know her, well maybe you haven't lived here long enough.

After all, she's had a hand in starting and becoming a member of a host of local organizations. Names that grace the front of buildings were people she grew up with; still others she calls longtime friends currently hold leadership positions across the county.

But it was her role as mother and wife, and workforce contributor that she's most proud of.

It seems there was always something to be done. A deep-rooted conviction was that it was a responsibility to contribute to this world in some manner - and she was going to do exactly that.

The early years

Born in Bogalusa, La., and relocating from Port St. Joe, Fla., she was one of six brothers and sisters, part of a family that uprooted and moved from coastal Florida to Middle Georgia in the 1940s.

Her father's work was setting up paper mills across the country. Eventually the family set up housekeeping in Warner Robins in 1943, just on the outskirts of what would become Robins Air Force Base.

The family came at a time when the newly-named city of Warner Robins was incorporated. Just a year earlier the name had been changed from Wellston.

"It was wonderful from the very start because it was all country then," said Holt, 83. "We just grew with the town, and the town grew around us." 

She was 11 years old at the time, learning early the honesty and satisfaction of a hard day's work.

Her mother had operated a grocery store just down the street where the Elberta Road area meets Georgia Highway 247. She'd also worked at F.W. Woolworth's - at $3.50 an hour - worked shifts at a food processing plant in Macon, packed peaches in Warner Robins, the list goes on.

But she always remembered the efforts she and her family, neighbors and friends made to support the war efforts during World War II.

Contributing to the cause

As a young girl living in Florida, Holt remembered the many contributions made in supporting the troops who went off to fight in World War II.

Women from every background worked outside of the home in the munitions industry, in aircraft manufacturing plants, in shipyards, as truck drivers, service station operators, or independent work such as farming or even volunteering.

Whether it was rolling bandages for the American Red Cross, offering a room for the night to nearby base workers who came in from out of town, or collecting endless amounts of leather from shoes, glass and aluminum from just about everything they could, it was a time like any other the young Sadie experienced.

It was this last task that added up, no matter how small the effort seemed.

"At that time everybody worked. Even the little kids would pick up cigarette butts that were wrapped in silver," she said. "Even in our local school we had contests to see who could collect the most aluminum, something our aircraft were made out of."

"We'd pick up toothpaste tubes that had material in the liner that could be used," she said.

At age 11 she remembered being a milk maid. Since her family lived on a farm at the time, their three cows provided milk for the effort. If there was a cow to milk, families had to leave a jug by the house for the local milkman to pick up.

Victory gardens cropped up everywhere too. If you had a piece of land, you'd grow as much of your food as possible. Years later Holt would become a master gardener of 35 years.

"You grew up fast back then," she said. "We were told to always work harder and bring our boys home - and that's what we did."

Food was rationed then. Bubble gum and candy bars were rare. "When we did get something, everyone shared it," she said.

Shoes and clothing were rationed as well. "I even remembered us wearing clothing made out of cow feed sacks. They were right pretty," she recalled. "We'd all look alike, but the only time we got new dresses was when we'd get those sacks."

Family, work and Rosies

In 1949 she graduated from Warner Robins High School. At the time she'd met the man she would spend her life with, Charles Holt Sr., and the couple would raise five children.

She had planned to go to college. Her boyfriend at the time was stationed at Robins.  He was going to be transferred to another base, but instead he and Sadie married later that year.

"Momma had a vacant apartment so we lived there, enabling him to work and help out with anything at the store," she said. "That's where I grew up."

Their first child was born in 1950. She was accepted into college, but learned about an opening on base for card punch operators. She applied for the job since it paid $2,200 per year.

"That was money back then," she recalled. "But I also enrolled and still went to night school. It was very demanding being only 18 years old. Hey, I've done things like this all my life, working three jobs at a time."

In 1990, she retired from Robins working as an item manager. Years later one of her grandsons, Master Sgt. Sami Naja, would work in the same unit she worked in for a time in the 5th Combat Communications Group.

She worked in the 5th CCG during the 1970s as an assistant to senior leadership, admitting it was the "best job I ever had in my life."

In true fashion, she said, "I loved being busy all the time."

When the American Rosie the Riveter Association was founded in 1998, her role with them would extend for many years.

She is a former president of the national organization, whose purpose was to recognize and preserve the history and legacy of working women, including volunteers such as young Sadie, who helped during World War II.

"Because of their efforts, this caused me to be the person I am today, to not sit and worry about things I have no control over ... to be a productive individual in life," she said.  
    
She is currently trying to restart a local chapter in Middle Georgia. Their numbers are dwindling, she said, so it's important to continue the history of women's contributions.

Giving back to the future

It seems there wasn't much Holt wasn't involved in while living in Houston County. She's a former real estate agent (she did this working nights while working on base), and had been involved in numerous community activities.

Her accomplishments are too many to list: charter member of Houston County Meals on Wheels; served on the local Salvation Army; sponsor of a Boy Scout troop; and a charter member of American Federation of Government Employees Local 987. In 1984, she received the national organization's first Randolph-Humphrey Human Rights Award.

A write-up in that year's union paper read, "God is first in my life, but I find no problem in being active in both the union and the church. Both are based on the Golden Rule, and both call for loving, sharing and caring."

"I've just never stopped. Growing up and learning and doing the things I did, you were dependent on the land to survive," she said. "What were you going to do to survive - that's what was taught to us."

"It's been a busy life," she said.